Reading List – 2016

Books I’d like to read this year, in no particular order, and by no means complete…

  • The Lives of the Artists by Vasari
  • Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
  • Midnight in Sicily by Peter Robb
  • Lost Illusions by Honoré de Balzac

I have also updated my reading list for the year so far, see the Books section.

Quarteira, Portugal

Five days in the Algarve.  After a delayed start due to an aeroplane tyre change, we finally left the breezy isle to get to the breezy coast.  This is my second visit to the Algarve, the first being Lagos in 2014.  I continued to find the Portuguese to be polite and friendly.  It takes me only a single visit to a coffee shop to adjust my pace to their way of living.  Being a delayed flight, and arriving at 11pm, the coffee shop had to wait.  The transfer was quick and comfortable, if a little eventful.  Waiting in the arrivals, a fellow countrywoman had inadvertently booked a transfer to Quarteira, when in fact she needed to go to Portimao.  After a minor argument, the tears started to flow, and the transfer company relented and agreed to take her and her two teenaged children.  In typical ironical fashion, it was our bus she joined.  I made a point of asking the driver how long before we’d get to the hotel? He fully understand my underlying point that Portimao was the last of his stops.  Finally arrived and greeted by a friendly smile and a glass of Super Bock.  The room at the Praia Sol hotel was basic, but clean.  A losing battle with the air conditioning left me exhausted and I collapsed in to bed.

Quarteira itself is a small town in comparison to others on the coast, but being so close to Vilamoura marina, this helped in making the stay a little more culinary diverse.  All types of eateries can be found wrapped around the picturesque marina, many of which have both an inner and outer seating areas.  In my short time here I managed to sample an Italian restaurant, for a creamy cheese tagliatelle, a steak restaurant, for a 10oz fillet and of course I had to try the filleted sardines on cracker bread with crushed black olive paste.  All of which were cooked to perfection and very tasty.  I realise my choice of food does not represent in any meaningful way the Portuguese menu, but I had limited time to find and sample the back street restaurants, where I am certain I would have found a more local offering.  I did however insist on locally sourced red wines, which were subtle and matched the food perfectly.

It’s only in the Algarve that I can spend any reasonable amount of time on a beach.  The constant cool breeze coming in off the Atlantic is a saviour in an otherwise unpleasant experience.  This meant for many hours of reading and snoozing, without the usual over-heating and grogginess.

The walking and exploring I did manage to do took me around the streets of Quarteira where I found the fish market and the lazing locals sitting idle and saying little to their neighbouring resters.  I decided to join them and sat on the bench overlooking the ocean, reflecting on my trip and trying to find some inspiration for a painting or a piece of writing, which never came.  I need to spend more time researching the areas I visit as I failed to find much in the way of culture in this section of the Algarve, but I’d suggest that was my lack of local knowledge rather than a dearth.

Before I knew it, it was time to leave.  The trip being an enjoyable one, right up to the point of landing in Bristol and standing in a queue of 40 minutes to get through security.  My pace soon returned to the pre-Portugal levels.

Would I return? Probably not, it didn’t offer enough for me over and above the breeze and short flight, both of which can be found in many other parts of Europe that, as yet, I have not had the pleasure to visit.



John Sargent (National Portrait Gallery)

I was fortunate enough to have a weekend to myself recently and decided to make the trip to London to see the Sargent exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery.  It followed a suggestion by my art tutor, Phil Watkins, who had already visited and implored us all to make an effort to see it.  I was not disappointed.  Many of his pieces I recognised through study and it was a great thrill to see the paintings face to face.  In total I spent almost four hours staring at the seventy or so canvasses, making notes as I went, to the detriment of my aching back and legs.  The area of his work I was most struck by was the pieces painted during his period in Venice; he captures the waterways and gondolas beautifully, giving the subjects a true sense of animation.  I could almost hear the lapping of the small waves on the side of the narrow vessels.

From a student’s perspective, most notable for me was the lack of detail in some of his work.  This I’d suggest was deliberate as the pieces benefit greatly from the work the eyes has to do to really appreciate it.  That, and some of the stories associated with the paintings, especially the one of Sargent learning that his patron didn’t think his efforts were a true likeness.  Subsequently, Sargent scrubbed out part of the painting and started again!

I found myself exhausted by the end of it, but in a very satisfied way.

Dear Reader by Paul Fornel

Dear Reader
Dear Reader

I ordered this book directly from Pushkin Press, as I like their cover designs and the quality of the book construction.  I was not disappointed on that aspect.  Unfortunately though, the book didn’t really live up to my expectations.  I found the book clunky to read and a little on the boring side.  Nothing much happens.  I think I may have to read this one again, as I’ve received other comments, from a like-minded reader, that makes me think I may have missed something.  I did envy Robert’s situation at the end of the story though!

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

The Red Notebook
The Red Notebook

This is the second book I have read by Antoine Laurain, the first being the bestseller, The President’s Hat.  With a similar premise to his first book, the story builds around the loss and return of, in this case, a red notebook.  The story is predictable, and a little too fluffy for my liking, but the characters are likeable and engaging.  Well before the end of this book I realised I would need to change my original expected genre of being a mystery to one of a romantic adventure.  This is unlikely to replicate the success of his first novel, but I like the author’s style and will look out for his next book.

The Boy Who Stole Attila’s Horse by Ivan Repila

The Boy Who Stole Attila's Horse
The Boy Who Stole Attila’s Horse

At only 112 pages, this book more than punches above it’s weight.  Easily read in a single session, you’re left with mixed emotions on how to take this book.  It’s a story that tells of two young brothers left in a well.  We don’t know why they’re there, only that they were put there on purpose.  As time passes, the brothers endure much and have to battle with the elements, their relationship and their own state of mind.  But there is always hope!