“Can You Run Away from Sorrow?” by Ivana Bajić-Hajduković 

To mark the International Migrants’ Day, RBKC libraries are organizing the talk that explores how emigration affects those left behind. Ivana Bajić-Hajduković, the social anthropologist and author will be joined at this talk by her colleague and friend, Dr Julie Botticello, an expert on migration and health and a Senior Lecturer at the University of East London.  This event is taking place on Friday 18 December from 6.30 to 7.30 pm and you can book your place here.  

 

“Can You Run Away from Sorrow?” is an anthropological study by Ivana Bajić-Hajduković.  The subtitle – “Mothers Left Behind in 1990s Belgrade” – tells us more about its content and I was intrigued to see how the 1990s collapse of Yugoslavia was presented. I agree with Ivana that it had “a profound impact on everyone, regardless of age, social status, or wealth”. I was personally involved, as well.  I lived in Yugoslavia for 32 years, struggled to survive one year in new Croatia, and came to London with my twenty-months old daughter from Croatia, in October 1992.  So, I can certainly relate to the context and issues the author researched.  

It was very interesting to see that she focused, not on those who left, but on those who stayed, mainly mothers left behind during their children’s exodus. Ivana Bajić-Hajduković’s book “highlights the poignancy and struggles of this invisible side of migration. The loss experienced by mothers left behind, their coping mechanisms, and their everyday practices are explored through the study of material culture. The study of everyday practices and engagement with the material world reveals incredibly rich and at times surprising insight about the relationships between mothers left behind and their migrant children. The gifts from children that mothers hold on to, the food they send to their migrant children, and the everyday rituals performed around their homes tell us more about how ordinary women experienced the collapse of the country than any history book documenting the unravelling of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.” 

I wondered why Ivana’s research concentrated on mothers. Why not on the wider family – fathers and siblings? She pointed out a significant gender imbalance she faced; as in most cases, the wives outlived their spouses, so the gender bias gave her research a different perspective. 

Reading “Can You Run Away from Sorrow?”  inspired me to rummage through my own memories – old photo albums and letters, that I still keep. It’s funny (perhaps ridiculous) to mention, but in winter 1992/93 the most precious and most sought-after food for me was, actually, real coffee. There were scarcely any proper coffee shops in London at that time. I will never forget how I was struck by the scent of coffee by Baker Street tube station. Like a cartoon character I drifted, levitated, following the smell. Everything else stopped! Whenever any one of my friends received a parcel “from home” containing ‘Minas’ or ‘Jacobs’ coffee, we shared it like medicine between us. 

The link between food and the past, memories who you are, or who you once were, are so powerful. Even stronger than how Marcel Proust describes. The food shortages in Serbia in 1990s did not prevent mothers to squirrel the favourite food of their children and send it in parcels to London, to Canada… As long as they could send something to keep the memories alive, not because their children were hungry. 

Ivana wrote: “A common theme throughout these cases is the relationship between memory and kinship. We mostly see mothers’ efforts to instil certain memories in their children and grandchildren through food. In these cases, eating food from one’s homeland was the closest one could get to ‘tasting home.’  Food in the context of nostalgia for home has been a subject of some excellent anthropological studies. However, in this particular case, we see how grandparents use food as a medium for conveying a specific kind of memory, not necessarily of themselves as individuals but of the extended family to which their children and grandchildren belonged, as well as memories of the tradition and culture of their ancestors.” 

Have you heard of ‘Embargo Cake’, ‘UNPROFOR Cake’, ‘Crazy Dough’, ‘Cake of nothing’…? The handwritten recipes were shown to the author as many informants told sad and funny stories from the 1990s, showing how resourceful the people were. The chapter is even more interesting, considering our own short-term food shortages this spring, during the first lockdown, when Jamie Oliver suggested some “lockdown” recipes. Nevertheless, bigger problems were caused by gradual change in interests in home-food. That rejection and acceptance of new habits, meant to mothers more; like losing their children for the second time. 

While doing her research, Ivana Bajić-Hajduković saw how the material culture of the home revealed more about the relationship between mothers and their migrant children than any conversation or interview ever could. Remembering Christmas fairs and fundraising events in my daughter’s primary school in London – sharing the memories, customs and traditions, favourite recipes, tasting food from Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, Turkey, Ghana, the Balkans, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, China…, I have realised how this anthropological study resonates with people from many different countries, nationalities, races.  This book extends geographical and disciplinary boundaries making it universal, genuine and relevant. 

 Zvezdana, Chelsea Library 

 

Book Review: The Clutter Corpse and Other Murders

Simon Brett photo
Author Simon Brett

Over to Zvezdana!

Simon Brett’s new leading character is Ellen Curtis, an amateur sleuth and decluttering expert. She even owns a decluttering agency, SpaceWoman, in Chichester. Her business grew from a casual favour, but when she finds a corpse in the old house, her world will change its course forever.

Glancing around my living room, God forbid peeping into the wardrobes, I feel that Ellen would be quite in her environment if she suddenly wandered into my flat. As many of us did during the lockdown, I attacked the clutter very fearlessly, at least for the first few days. Afterwards, the Proust effect took over and I was left almost choking on madeleine biscuits. Wherever you look, the ghosts of the past are waiting for the right time to ambush you.  I do not call myself a hoarder, but the idea of a professional declutterer sounds very appealing to me. Going through anyone’s accumulated belongings would make a good detective story, perhaps with the rosebud effect; even without hidden corpses. So, from the start I have been captivated by even the idea of Simon Brett’s new heroine and book. 

Ellen’s personal problems, her family history and how she deals with depression, make her very likeable and believable.  The backstory of The Clutter Corpse is almost as interesting as the main who-done-it thread.  Ellen joins other Brett’s famous amateur sleuths – a widow Mrs Melita Pargeter,  aging actor Charles Paris, and the Fethering ladies, Carol and Jude.  They are not flawless detectives; they gossip, they cheat, usually drink too much, have considerable memory baggage. They are mostly middle-aged people who frequently do not know how to deal with personal and other issues. That is exactly what makes them real; sometimes I like them and other times I just want to argue with them!

Humour and irony lace all Brett’s novels and characters. Be aware. It is hazardous reading Brett’s novels on public transport, especially now – with masks on and shaking with laughter.

I look forward to more in this series and expect to be delightfully entertained, as usual.  

If Zvezdana’s recommendation has piqued your interest, check out our (free!) Simon Brett event! Hear the author speak about his new book, The Clutter Corpse and Other Murders, and ask him any burning questions you may have! Tickets can be booked at the link here.

Clutter Corpse is available to download from our cloudLibrary here.  All you need is an RBKC library card and if you are not a member, don’t worry,  just click here – it’s completely free to join and use our resources. 

Ollie’s Big Surprise at Notting Hill Gate Library

Laila El-Boukilli, Senior Customer Services Assistant at Notting Hill Gate Library, writes: 

It’s been a storytelling season here at Notting Hill Gate Library- we’ve had Michelle Sami, who enlightened us with her animated, creative and charismatic stories, aimed at our younger readers; Sarah Deco, who  spooked us out with her winter storytelling, along with friends; and recently Marcel Feigel, who read his book, Ollie’s Big Surprise. Marcel delighted us with a fantastic reading and all the children met Leo the mouse and found out about his love for cheese!

 

Ollies Big Surprise
Ollie’s Big Surprise by Marcel Feigel

His enthusiasm filled the room and he encouraged everyone to participate in a competitive game of matching the cheese with the country (sounds delicious!)

MarcelFeigel

Marcel proved to be a popular man: children and parents were lining up to get a signed copy of Ollie’s Big Surprise, with their complimentary Hummingbird Bakery cupcake.

We are very grateful for Marcel taking the time to do this event and appreciate all the effort and wish him the best of luck for the future. We had a brilliant time with Ollie’s Big Surprise and we hope to see him again at Notting Hill Gate Library soon!

We would also like to thank The Hummingbird Bakery for all the cupcakes they have kindly donated to our library and for all the support they have given us for our events this year.

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Nour Festival Event – Syria A Recent History

John McHugo
John McHugo, author of Syria – A Recent History

John McHugo headlined Kensington Central library on Tuesday 20th October with a talk based around his book ‘Syria: A Recent History’ as well as addressing both current and future concerns for the country and putting them in a wider context.

130 people attended this inaugural event of the Nour Festival which concluded with an intensive and thorough Q&A before John signed copies of his book. It was all made possible through partnership working with Saqi books who also sold copies on the night and Nour who continue to have an excellent range of events and provided assistance on the day.

Syria A Recent History Audience
Syria A Recent History Audience

We were especially pleased to invite John McHugo back after his appearance in 2013 as part of The London History Festival. This year’s festival runs for 10 days and commences on 16 November with the line-up including Marc Morris, Jessie Childs, Max Hastings, Tom Holland, Helen Castor, Dan Jones and more.

Our next event at the library which was also part of the Nour Festival was on Saturday 31st October, entitled ‘Site Unseen: Safeguarding MENA (Middle East and North African) Cultural Heritage.’ It was a panel discussion with 4 academics about the ongoing crisis of preserving Middle East heritage, looking at the current state of archaeological sites and artefacts, the laws on the protection of heritage during conflict, the illicit trade of artefacts, and rescue and educational remedies in the field.

Chatterbooks Event

Chatterbooks, as we all know, is the national reading group for children and this year 11th – 18th October is Chatterbooks Week.

Chatterbooks
Chatterbooks

We got in a few days early with a great event from the very popular children’s author Steve Cole. Steve is the author of, amongst other things, the Astrosaurs and Cows in Action series, has taken over the Young Bond series from Charlie Higson and has also written episodes of Dr Who.

Steve Cole, Author playing ukele
Steve Cole, Author playing ukulele.

Over 100 KS2 pupils from local schools witnessed the most energetic author event I’ve ever seen, with Steve leaping on and off the stage and running up and down the aisles taking questions. When I asked the Reading Agency if he’d be bringing any equipment with him (I was thinking laptop, usb stick) I was told no, just his ukulele! His songs had the children screaming along with the choruses.

Steve Cole standing and engaging audience
Steve Cole standing and engaging audience

Steve was really strong in exemplifying the role of imagination in storytelling, improvising stories from the names of children’s (and teacher’s) pets, playing with words and making it all such fun.

The Chatterbooks reading groups are a great forum for children who enjoy reading to meet up and talk about their reading experiences, recommend books to each other and maybe do some fun activities related to reading and books like word searches and quizzes.

They are held monthly at most of the RBKC libraries – check here to find the nearest to you.

Author event with Sangeeta Bhadra

Senior Customer Services Assistant, Nahid, writes…

Cover page of children's book, Sam's Pet Temper
Sam’s Pet Temper, illustrations by Marion Arbona

Both children and parents were delighted by a reading of “Sam’s Pet Temper” by author Sangeeta Bhadra at Notting Hill Gate and Kensington Central libraries on Saturday 30 May.

In the story Sam’s temper is initially great company, and so he decides to take it home as a pet. Before long, however, it becomes too hard to handle and he begins to wish it would leave him alone…

Author Sangeeta reading from her book
Sangeeta reads from her book

Sam’s temper in the story is a real life naughty creature adorably illustrated by Marion Arbona. At the end of the reading, the children were invited to take part in a fun creative activity where they imagined and drew their own tempers.

Sangeeta visited Notting Hill Gate and Kensington Central libraries as part of a whistle-stop libraries tour with her debut children’s book, which has been published in Canada, in English and French, and will soon be published in Italy and South Korea. Sangeeta kindly presented Notting Hill Gate and Kensington Central libraries with signed copies of the book for our readers to enjoy.

Sangeeta's signature on the inside cover of 'Sam's Pet Temper'
Sangeeta kindly gifted us signed copies of ‘Sam’s Pet Temper’

Many thanks to Sandeep, Gaynor and of course Sangeeta for a great event!

Celebrating World Book Day with Jeremy Strong

Stephanie Webb, Lending Librarian, writes:

Now in its 17th year, World Book Day is a celebration of authors, illustrators and books and most importantly reading. Across the Triborough area it is a major event in the school year and we at Kensington Central Library were privileged to host the multiple award-winning children’s author Jeremy Strong. His titles include the “My brother’s famous bottom” series, the “Hundred-mile-an-hour dog” series and his latest title, “Romans on the rampage” He had an audience of over 250 people roaring with laughter when he visited the library on World Book Day, Thursday 5 March.

Jeremy Strong ,by Justine Stoddart
Jeremy Strong ,by Justine Stoddart

The interactive sessions were attended by 8 school classes, teachers and volunteers from Hammersmith & Fulham, Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea.

Jeremy kept everyone amused with tales of his childhood and the inspirations for his bestselling books. He explained why all writers need a fridge and shared with us his very first reworking of the legend of Jason and the Argonauts (written at the age of about 8 and complete with spelling mistakes and the castle door with no handle!). He also answered a range of burning questions and signed copies of his books which were available for sale.

Jeremy Strong at Kensington Central Library for World Book Day, March 2015
Jeremy Strong at Kensington Central Library for World Book Day, March 2015

As has become traditional on World Book Day, many pupils and teachers came along dressed as their favourite book characters so we had several Matildas (Roald Dahl), several Dr. Suess’s and a Captain Underpants (but, thankfully, no characters from “50 Shades of Grey”!)

As an encore, Jeremy kindly signed two books which will be the prize for an upcoming competition. Watch this space!

A big thanks to Jeremy and everyone who turned out to see him on that breezy morning.

The Brompton Blog – December 2012

Brompton Library
Brompton Library

Welcome to our fourth blog post from Brompton Library!

Reading Aloud

 

A Little Loud book cover
A Little Loud

On Sunday I was preparing supper and listening to Radio 4. This group of Irish poets were reading out their poetry and discussing it amongst themselves. It immediately brought me into their environment, their history and above all, their imagination. I do hope that our display does offer something a little bit different to our reader’s here at Brompton Library.

Katie Collis
Katie Collis

Katie Collis

Senior Customer Services Assistant

Christmas plans at Brompton Library

With only a few days till Christmas you would think that the amount of people using the service would be reducing, but our lovely library is still full of users borrowing books for the Christmas holiday period (including Christmas themed cookbooks, fiction and audio books to curl up with on the cold winter evenings, Christmas themed children’s books and our selection of festive audio CDs and DVDs for all the family). There are also lots of people making use of our computer and study area, completing end of term coursework assignments, booking flights, and exchanging seasonal greetings with friends and family members via social networking sites and email.

So we will be running a full service until Christmas Eve when we will close for three days and open again the day after Boxing Day (27 December).

Brompton Chatterbooks

Chatterbooks
Chatterbooks

 Chatterbooks is a very popular reading group for children in Brompton Library. It is fun and free. The group focuses on reading and talking about books, but some sessions include word games, quizzes, plays or other book related activities. The children love reading and it is an ideal opportunity for them to enjoy books. The group meets once a month after school on Mondays. There are eight regular members of the group. There is generally a theme for each month. This month the group met on 17 December and the theme was Christmas.

Chatterbooks is an ideal way to promote a love of reading. Sessions are designed to give children confidence in speaking, writing and reading in a group, choosing books for themselves, and talking about what they like to read. It is fabulous to hear them enthusing over their reading and recommending books to other children.

 

Bitter Truths – Author Event

Bitter Truths author event at Brompton
Bitter Truths author event at Brompton

On a bitterly cold evening on 29 November Brompton hosted its first author event (in my living memory, anyway!). One of our reading group members has published her first trilogy of novels, collectively called the Samurai Revival, and gave a very professional presentation relating to the first in the series – Bitter Truths.

We had an audience of ten who were very appreciative and I think for our first venture into author events which was great.

Stephanie Webb
Stephanie Webb

Stephanie Webb

Lending Librarian

TextTribe- Our New Online Reading Group

Text Tribe logo
Text Tribe logo

Calling all readers in Kensington and Chelsea! Get involved in TextTribe, our new online reading group brought to you by us and our Triborough library partners Hammersmith and Fulham and Westminster.

 Haven’t got time to go to a book group but always wanted to join one? Whether you’re at home looking after the kids or working long or unsociable hours, whether you want to discuss books with like-minded people or hear the views of a wide range of other readers – this group is for you. Once you’ve read the book we’re discussing, make your comments or join in with the discussion on out TextTribe site.

Our first book was ‘Sleepyhead’ by Mark Billingham, the first novel in his successful ‘Thorne’ series (and inspiration for the 2010 TV drama).  As part of the launch of the group, Mark discussed this book at a live event in earlier this month at Kensington Central Library.

  Don’t worry if you missed the event as videoed it especially for those who were unable to attend, and those who sent questions in via Twitter. Hope you enjoy watching them!

In the video he talks about how he became a crime fiction reader (being introduced to Sherlock Holmes at the age of 11 by a teacher), how he moved from being a TV writer and stand-up comedian to first reviewing (for the Ham & High newspaper) and then writing novels, and how Jean-Dominique Bauby’s ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ inspired the plot of ‘Sleepyhead’, his first book.

This video consists of Mark being introduced by David Ruse (Director of Libraries) and Mark’s talk. After his main talk he read a passage from ‘Sleepyhead’ (not filmed) and answered lots of questions.

Here are the four (short) videos of the Q & A sessions with Mark Billingham.

In Pt I, Mark talks about doing the research for his books, the nature of crime writing and the crime series genre, and how he is ambivalent about – and fond of – ‘Sleepyhead’, his first novel.

In Pt II, there are questions and answers about the writing process, why authors need publishers (and editors), and why Mark recommends John Connolly’s ‘The Book of Lost Things’.

In Pt III Mark Billingham talks about genre snobbery, Scandinavian crime writing, setting books in London, naming his characters and how he manages to write a book a year.

Pt IV includes his views on the common features of stand-up comedy and crime writing, how we are all capable of murder, and why he thinks that writer’s block is a myth.

Mark was an excellent guest many thanks to him.

Next Book for TextTribe?

We asked Mark to nominate the next book for the group, and he suggested ‘The Book of Lost Things’ by John Connolly, saying “It’s the last book that made me cry” and adding that it’s the sort of book that you press into friends’ hands, and if they don’t like it you don’t want to be friends with them any more! An excellent choice, and an interesting change – not a crime book, but written by a crime writer.

The Book of Lost Things
The Book of Lost Things

There will be copies of ‘The Book of Lost Things’ in all Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster Libraries, so get hold of a copy now!

Author event at Brompton Library – Bitter Truths

Bitter Truths
Bitter Truths

Brompton Library is proud to be hosting an author event of its own on Thursday 29 November 6.30-7.30pm. Local author Rheagan Greene has written a fantastic urban fantasy trilogy called the Samurai Revival Trilogy and she will be talking about the first volume, “Bitter Truths”, and her extensive research in Southeast Asia and Japan

Rheagan says of the book:

“It’s been an incredible journey; several lengthy research trips to Japan, including meeting a maker of Samurai swords, and learning how to use one in a specialised sword-fighting school. But all this attention to detail was not only as a result of my engineering background, it was also because I firmly believe that even if a story is fiction and the reader understands it is set in a world of fantasy, that’s no justification for the story not being grounded in reality. So, throughout the trilogy the action takes place in essentially real places and frequently exotic ones, not only South Kensington, Germany and the Orkney Islands, but also Japan, Thailand, Cambodia and Burma.”

Rheagan would love to talk to you about her book and her research so do come along for what should be a fascinating evening including photographs of her travels.