Hadlow Down BIG Macmillan Coffee Morning

 One week to go before the Hadlow Down Macmillan BIG Coffee Morning.
A fabulous way to meet up with old friends, make new ones, for those new to our community an opportunity to meet established residents, to find out what may be going on in our drama, horticultural, book and other clubs.
A chance to chat about who’s doing what and what’s going on.
Chat about anything and anyone over a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy a piece of cake by the renowned bakers of our village.
Oh, and of course, when you have your coffee and cake you’re helping the wonderful Macmillan Cancer Relief Charity!

Love is Blind by William Boyd

‘Life without complications isn’t really a life’

Our choice in July was ‘Love is Blind’ by William Boyd. Like many of Boyd’s novels (e.g. ‘Any Human Heart’) it follows the protagonist’s life, in this case ten years of Brodie Mancur’s life at the beginning of the 20th century as he flees around the world from a pursuer bent on revenge. It is therefore a picaresque adventure story owing much to one of Boyd’s heroes, Robert Louis Stevenson, as well as to Chekhov – another influence on his writing.

Brodie is a short-sighted piano tuner , but no ordinary piano tuner – he has the ability to adjust, fine- tune, play with the piano to produce the best sound for any particular pianist and in addition he has a good business sense. He is therefore recruited to work for a piano-making firm of high repute, and then to travel with a famous concert pianist, John Kilbarron, an alcoholic who is past his best but still attracting audiences. Music therefore plays an important part in the novel on many different levels.

As the title suggests, this is a love story as Brodie starts an obsessive affair with Kilbarron’s beautiful mistress, Lika Blum, while Kilbarron’s sinister brother, Malachi, lurks in the shadows. The novel becomes a chase from city to city, as the lovers and Lika’s little dog,escape from one catastrophe to another, with disappointments at every location. As such it is a page turner; we want to know what happens to Brodie as he travels around Europe. Boyd strongly evokes character and place, from the hum and filth of everyday life to the life-style of the very rich of St Petersberg. It is, however, a carefully plotted book – meticulously crafted as the pianos were and framed within the beginning and ending on the Pacific islands of the Andaman. The shadow of Brodie’s consumption hangs over the novel .

On one level this can be enjoyed as an adventure story, but there are other layers for the discerning reader. Boyd is a disciple of Chekov and this is strongly reflected in the novel. Chekov also has a blonde mistress named ‘Lika’ and the title of one of his short stories is ‘The Lady with the Little Dog’. There are many allusions to Russia and Brodie meets a fellow patient, surely Chekov, in the sanatorium in Nice. The underlying themes are also reminiscent of Chekov – Brodie is at the mercy of the gods of love , time and death in a life which is a lottery – the novel has been described as a game of snakes and ladders . This results in a tension between the randomness of life and the formal nature of art, reflected in the mechanics of the piano as well as the careful plotting of the novel.

Boyd has other literary and cultural references half-hidden in the text ,such as the man in the overcoat in the park, an allusion to Proust; the conductor of Mahler’s symphony who is Mahler himself, and many others. Brodie’s benefactress is surely a ‘Miss Havisham’, and the grim Scottish home recalls Stevenson’s ‘Kidnapped’. It is as though Boyd is playing with us and adding such discoveries to the pleasure of the novel. It is also worth paying attention to seemingly trivial details such as Brodie’s cigars and the Scottish folk tune which come to have such importance in the plot.

Most members of the Book Club enjoyed the novel. They raised such questions as why Brodie’s tyrannical preacher father hates him so much and is Brodie what he seems to be? Does Lika betray her lover, or worse? One member found what she called ‘the Easter Eggs’ in the text, i.e. those half- hidden references that give delight when we find them. There are times when the plot doesn’t quite convince, and some found the characters not entirely sympathetic and lost patience with what happens to them. However most of us found it a rewarding read and worth rereading – ‘readable,engaging and frequently funny’.

Our next book is ‘Paris Echo’ by Sebastian Faulks

Heather Mines

‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama – ‘wife, mother, dog lover’

‘Becoming’ opens with an anecdote that sets the tone of warmth throughout the book. She tells how, having left the White House, and hungry in the night, she goes down to her own kitchen and makes a cheese toastie to eat on her back doorstep, suddenly becoming aware of her newly-found freedom to do something that would be impossible in the White House. So starts the memoir of a woman who grew up in a humble black-district in the south side of Chicago and rose to become America’s First Lady with many achievements in her own right.

Michelle Robinson was born in 1964. The book traces her life from a happy childhood and a highly successful education culminating in Princeton University and Harvard Law School. Then came a successful career with a prestigious law company, where she met a young intern named Barack Obama, followed by a number of community and university jobs where she demonstrated her organisational skills at a high level. Marriage followed and political campaigning and then her role as First Lady where she continued to set up projects working for the under-privileged and the community.

Thus it can be seen that the book covers a lot of ground and much of it is in some detail. Its strength lies in Michelle’s warm storytelling style. Although it perhaps lacks the eloquence of her husband’s writing, I found that her direct style really drew me in. I particularly enjoyed the account of her childhood: her parents love, support, wisdom and aspiration clearly laid the foundation for the strong woman she became. I was interested to read what it was like to grow up in a humble black neighbourhood and then to excel at school and college as one of a black minority.

Michelle accomplished so much in her own career and with so many people that I did find myself skipping sections here. However it was interesting to read of courtship and marriage – there were some marital problems between two such driven people. Obama had to be away much of the time and at one point they sought marriage guidance to help her find her own role as a mother and as a professional woman. These are problems many of us can relate to. What was fascinating was learning what it was like to be the First Lady. Michelle does not gossip, but she has a woman’s feel for interesting detail. So we read about being taken round the White House by Laura Bush and seeing where the Bush girls st up their slides on the shiny floors; what it felt like waiting to go onstage at Obama’s inauguration, never mind the ten balls she had to attend that night.

The level of security she now had to endure was amazing: if she wanted to take a cup onto her private balcony, she had to notify security who then cleared the neighbouring streets. When she and Barack went on their first and only date night, they were taken in armoured cars and a helicopter, the streets were cleared and other diners and theatregoers had to be security-checked, so that the show started late.

Her impressions of London and meeting the Queen, both formally and informally, were interesting. There appears to have been a warm relationship between the two women despite Michelle’s much publicised breaches of protocol in wearing a cardigan (designer I’m sure) and putting her hand on the Queen’s arm. It seems that the Queen was not too bothered as on a later private visit she insisted that Michelle rather than the President sit beside her in the back of the Range Rover while Barack sat beside Prince Philip who was driving. With the wisdom of hindsight, this may not have been wise.

Throughout the book, we learn how they succeeded in maintaining a warm family life, passing on the values she herself had learned as a child. Some members of the book club found the book inspiring, others became bored by sections of it – often a problem with memoirs. I would recommend it for its interesting insights: it is a good read if you are prepared to skim read occasionally.

Heather Mines – next book to be decided.

Booking Secretary Required for Hadlow Down Village Hall.

The Village Hall Committee are looking for a replacement for our bookings secretary, who is stepping down from her position. This is a salaried post and requires approximately 10 hours per month. The bookings secretary is responsible for taking bookings over email and phone, managing the online diary, updating the website, putting a user check list sheet in the hall at the start of each week, monthly invoicing sent out via email.
For any queries regarding this post, or if you would like to apply please contact Sally Blyfield on villagehallchairhadlowdown@gmail.com

Charity Quiz Night

Come and support your local charity Engage in their annual fund-raising quiz. All proceeds go to running the TN22 Clubs, which helps to combat social isolation and loneliness and provides a vital resource for carers.

Ikarus Inc.

The Rude Mechanicals Theatre Company has now cancelled tonight’s performance on the Playing Field.
We are told that due to the high winds they were unable to erect their tents.

Hastingford Lane Closed

We are getting reports that Hastingford Lane that runs between Hadlow Down and Crowborough is closed  due to a RTA and police say it may be closedc for the rest of the day.
Other reports suggest that going via Stonehurst Lane past KIt Wilson and then via Rotherfield may be an option.
Villagers are currently updating on the Village Facebook page