It’s a mad world, my masters

From the Saturday (10 February) Times news briefs, page 36:

Unforeseen glitch

The Psychic Museum in York has shut because it failed to attract enough visitors. It was opened in 2003 by the astrologer Jonathan Cainer [who he, ed?], who intends to reopen it. He said: "if you  are asking me when it will open up again, it is hard to say. I don’t believe you can make predictions about things you are close to."

Mistaken identity

Mohammed Ali, 11, had to miss school to appear before Bradford magistrates on charges of driving without a licence, test or insurance certificates and failing to produce documents after police wrongly logged him as the driver when his father’s car was hit by another driver. The case was dismissed.

(The above is verbatim, so address any comments about the grammar direct to the Times.)

I am tempted to muse about the Bradford police perhaps being better suited to running a psychic museum and the astrologer being better suited to run a police force, but I’ll just draw a veil here.

Things you learn when you are evicted

As we’ve been reading on many blogs and in many newspapers during the past week, Stef Penney won the 2006 Costa Book of the Year award for her "remarkable debut novel" The Tenderness of Wolves. Formerly the Whitbread Awards, the winner was announced on 7th February 2007. Congratulations to her for what sounds like a remarkable book.

What the judges said: "The Tenderness of Wolves stood out from a very strong shortlist. We felt enveloped by the snowy landscape and gripped by the beautiful writing and effortless story-telling. It is a story of love, suspense and beauty. We couldn’t put it down." One of the judges, novelist Adele Geras, has written an entertaining piece in the Guardian book blog about the selection process.

What has this got to do with being evicted, you might ask? Last night, Cathy was entertaining several friends round to celebrate her 16th birthday, which occurred last Wednesday (same day as the Costa award announcement, in fact). Jenny, Malcolm and I didn’t want to cramp their style so we went out for dinner. Jenny chose Wagamama’s, which pleased me, not only because I like the food there but because it is next door to Borders, which stays open late on Saturdays. So (after a bit of Petrona arm twisting) we popped in after the meal. I bought some books, including The Tenderness of Wolves. But can anyone tell me why on 11 February, having won the prize on the 7th, the book’s cover stated: "Winner of the 2006 Costa first novel award"? (This question is to a large extent rhetorical as it isn’t too difficult to guess the answer — unless the book has won two separate Costa prizes, that is.) And why is the paperback on sale at all when the Amazon listing says that it is published in March?

Incidentally, I share Adele Geras’s irritation with the extent of the media coverage that has been given to the fact that Stef Penney has never been to Canada, in comparison with discussion of the book itself. Since the invention of the papyrus and parchment, people have written about events and places that they have witnessed only in their imagination. It is interesting to be able to write convincingly about somewhere you have never been, but not overwhelmingly so.

Out, damned blidget

Several readers reported that the blidgets and widgets were making Petrona  load very slowly, so I’ve removed them. The Petrona blidget can be seen (and subscribed to, if you wish) on the Widgetbox site, and can be reached by clicking on the "my links" section of the sidebar to the left.

Thanks to the visitors who let me know about the problem. I’ve left up the Google search widget and the Brainiads ad, but can remove them too if loading is still slow.