Has anybody else been listening to Daniel Barenboim's 2006 Reith lectures? I've tended to overhear sections but haven't listened all the way through yet (there's listen again and transcripts on the website). What I have heard has been fun and interesting.
I've finished one of my holiday reads: Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth. Basically, someone at church recommended this to Mum, I bought her a copy for her birthday last year. She hasn't read it yet so I "borrowed" it.
I find the thriller style a little annoying, although compulsive reading. At least there was ample time (1000+ pages!) to get to know the characters in this, although some were a bit flat. However, what I did enjoy was the description of what is was like to build a cathedral. The action takes place between the years 1123 and 1174, during which the cathedral of Kingsbridge is constructed, and what really comes across is the difficulty in constructing such an enormous building and the simplicity of the tools available. It was such a contrast with today; imagine spending the whole of your working life making something and knowing that, even then, that might not be enough time to finish it. I like the idea of that, leaving something your descendants will be able to appreciate rather than living totally in the "now".
I also liked the mixing of fact with fiction. Kingsbridge and its inhabitants are fictional, but the description of the cathedral has clearly been inspired by such places as Lincoln. The background to the book is the death of King Henry I's son in a shipwreck, the ensuing years of civil war between Stephen and Matilda and then the early years of the reign of Henry II, culminating in the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. All of this made the story much more "real", as did the details. For example, at one point in the book some of the characters travel to Lincoln, where it is obvious Ken Follett visited and researched. Some of the areas then that were outside the city and castle walls (some of which still exist) are reflected in modern street names.
So, a good read, perfect for taking on holiday!
Meanwhile, on a more prosaic level, I'm attempting to buy a house. I want to live in Newark (ideally) and have just started looking so if anyone either knows anything about Newark or wants to recommend nice estate agents or warn me about evil ones please leave a comment!