Saturday 24 December 2011


Okay, so I'm over the nightmare bit, I've enjoyed the Radio 4 Carol service this afternoon, we're just having a cold buffet this evening. NOTHING of interest on the tele but luckily we've got plenty of good previously recorded films to choose from, the wine is chilling nicely so all is well. So, I hope you all enjoy this Christmas and my best wishes for 2012. From a very chilled out Maggie.

Monday 19 December 2011


THAT IS IT! I started my Christmas preparations in good cheer and with kindly thoughts but it has now become a long, arduous process rather akin to a difficult child birthing experience. Each time I think I'm nearly there and all I need is another final long push, I receive cards I hadn't bargained for and more presents to be wrapped than expected.

I have totally had my fill of unruly wrapping paper, Sellotape that wraps itself into knots and Christmas tree baubles that fall off when I pass by the tree. There is, I believe, some dark, deep evil force at work which is out to drive me totally out of my mind.

I know that something is wrong when I find myself shouting at yet another roll of wrapping paper that has decided to move from the place I'd put it. The dog is in hiding and John is keeping a low profile. And I am NOT DOING ANY MORE.

If anyone knows where to buy those lovely simple single sheets of wrapping paper and some kind of gadget that cuts Sellotape beautifully PLEASE LET ME KNOW. I'm thinking, of course, about next year although at the moment I'm not sure that I'll get past this Christmas.

And by the way, a Merry Christmas to you all.

P.S. Thank you for listening. I feel so much better now after this little rant.

Saturday 10 December 2011


For the last year I have listened to Woman's Hour on BBC Radio Four every morning between 10 and 11 o'clock. I curl up in bed with the dog curled up next to me (on his own blanket I should add) and the radio next to me. And if it's gloomy outside, I have a light box facing me from the end of the bed.

And although they don't know it, the presenters, Jane Garvey and Jenni Murray have become two of my best friends. I just love their voices and their interviewing and presenting skills. They sound kind and interesting and informative and full of good humour and compassion, and wonderfully down to earth.

The show is unashamedly for and about women, although many features can just as easily apply to men, and there is a strong male following. And since a recent survey revealed that the majority of presenters on the radio are male, the occasional male quips that in this age of equality such a programme is unacceptable are, I believe, too futuristic.

An incredible variety of topics are covered ranging from interviews with singers, actors, authors, businesswomen and cooks to 'ordinary' women with a story to tell or a view to express.

As far as feminist issues are involved, there was a feature on the role played by women in the recent strikes and how women in particular are coping or not with the declining financial situation. But interviewees don't get an easy ride. Both Murray and Garvey ask searching questions. For example, Jane Garvey took to task a female police officer who was advocating special working hours for female police officers with small children, suggesting that they shouldn't work on Friday evenings or at the weekend. "I don't want to get mugged on a Friday evening or weekend because female police officers won't work then," she said or words to that effect. "You can't demand equal rights with men and then claim special working conditions."

It certainly is difficult for women with children who wish to work and to progress in their chosen field of employment. I was a working mother for many years so I understand the demands and problems of being overstretched but the recent trend for young mothers to job share or work part-time can impair the services that they provide, particularly in such fields as dentistry and medicine, where patients are relying on them to be available for more than just a few days a week. So, I appreciated Garvey's comments.

I have certainly learnt a lot by listening to the programme. For example, Woman's Hour is following three women who have set up businesses. They feature them from time to time with the mentors who are helping them. They discuss how the businesses are going and how they can move forward. I find it fascinating stuff.

And last week, there was an entire programmes devoted to a phone-in with the cook Mary Berry, who was answering questions about cooking for Christmas. So, I now know how to cook the perfect turkey and how to prepare chestnuts for roasting so that they are easy to peel.

There is also a slot called "How to cook the perfect…" with a cook preparing the dish in the studio with all the lovely cooking sounds and obvious delight in the tasting of the food. And by the way, the cook is sometimes male so no bias there.

And it was by listening to Woman's Hour that I first heard of the Danish TV thriller "The Killing." The feature was about the jumpers that the lead detective Sarah Lund wears. I was so intrigued but I bought the box set and watch the whole thing, often several episodes at a time because it was so enthralling. And just recently there was another feature about Lund's jumpers, one of the interviewees being a man who had me laughing out loud as he described the bobbly jumper that a girlfriend had knitted for him. Unfortunately it was too small for him. I used to be an avid knitter so I enjoyed this immensely.

Plus, there is often live music after musicians have been interviewed and that's an unexpected plus from a mainly talk programme.

And finally, the best part of the programme for me, as a writer and reader, is the fifteen minute book adaptation at the end of each show. It used to be that the book was just read aloud but for some time now, far longer than a year, the books have been serialised as mini-dramas. For the last two weeks I have been captivated by Anne Brontë's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" and just recently there was an adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms" which not only had me weeping copiously at the end but also prompted me to buy the novel.

So, thank you Woman's Hour and thank you Jenny Merry and Jane Garvey. Jenni Murray has just been awarded an OBE and surely Jane Garvey should get one too for broadcasting services to women in general (and men) and for me personally.

Tuesday 6 December 2011


The main action in this novel, although it could hardly be called action, takes place in the bedroom of a private clinic. Hence the title, although it could also refer to those dark parts of the brain which some call rooms, closed off and not wished to be accessed. For this is a psychological thriller and dialogue is key.

The occupant of the room in the clinic is Zinx, a young woman who it would seem has tried to commit suicide by crashing her car. But she can't remember and, most importantly, she does not seem the suicidal type. She is strong willed and highly intelligent. The daughter of a ruthless, ex-underworld boss, now businessman, she seems terrified of him and despises her drunken step-mother and irresponsible step-brothers.

Add to this, her recently ex-fiance, Leo, and her best friend, Meg, who is now engaged to Leo, are missing, supposedly in France, there are two unidentified bodies, beaten to death, plus violent attacks on prostitutes, and you begin to get a picture of one hell of a complicated mess which the police are having difficulty in resolving. Not to mention the fact that Zinx's husband was also so beaten to death. So there's a lot of beating and battering in this novel although, thankfully, not described in detail.

As Jinx talks with Adam, the clinical director of the clinic, we strive to unravel the truth and to distinguish between what she can remember and what she chooses to forget.

I have to say that I enjoyed listening to this audio book although at times I found it somewhat pedestrian and there was far too much talking and not enough action. There wasn't sufficient change in pace and I felt that more could have been made of the young couple who found the two bodies and Walters didn't make use of building suspense and menace in the attacks on the prostitutes. At the end, after we discover the identity of the perpetrator, which came as no surprise, events were explained through telling and not showing, which all writers are advised not to do.

Strange, then, that I enjoyed it but I'm certainly glad I only paid my 6o pence at the library to borrow it rather than pay to buy it.


If you want to be listened to, stop talking – Maggie Knutson