Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Glimpses of Butrint

We had two glorious weeks in Corfu - with all three daughters - in a villa with a lovely terrace, swimming pool and views over Kalami Bay. In the distance you could see blue mountains that turned out to be Albania! The villa book said on a clear day we could expect to see Butrint, which is an archaeological site connected with Aeneas. I bet it's just what Eddie Izzard says all such sites are - "a series of small walls."

Corfu seems very light on antiquities so it wasn't that kind of holiday - unlkie Crete last year. What it does have is pebbly beaches with incredibly clear turquoise water, very buoyant. I bought waterproof beach shoes and swam in them - an odd feeling - but the serious 20-minute swims were all done in the pool. The only drawback was the mosquitoes - three of us had to have medical treatment. We were up on the NE coast, which the doctor cheerfully told us had the most road accidents on the island - one fatality every summer. Not surprised; the road was precipitous, bendy and unpredictable and the Corfiot driving reckless. Though at least they don't honk their horns all the time like Cretans and Italians.

We came back brown and relaxed, which was just as well, since we have currently five different kinds of insurance claim on the go. One of them is for the little cat, who is now out of her cage and must live in my study for a couple of weeks. She'll have to have another operation in two or three months, to take the screws and plate out of her leg.

I read Ann Tyler's Digging to America, Ruth Rendell's The Water's Lovely, Mary Renault's The King Must Die, Labyrinth by Kate Mosse and Arundati Roy's The God of Small Things. I love reading Ann Tyler but was disappointed that her new book went off track from the different lives of two adopted Korean babies and became a sad story about love between widowed seniors. The Ruth Rendell was better than the last but a bit predictable. Not even someone as in love with Theseus as Renault was could make a passable excuse for his behaviour to Ariadne. Labyrinth was dire, dire, dire! Spectacularly bad: the religious bits all tosh, the characters stereotyped, the plot hackneyed thriller stuff. People always being clubbed on the head and never knowing where they were when they woke up in the morning, the sex embarrassing... And it was as if she'd been given a large crate of cliches with a sell-by date of the end of the novel and just had to use every single one. Number One bestseller - phooey! What a relief to read the Roy afterwards. I think it could have done with a bit more editing on the verbal fireworks but it was pretty good.

I saw my new nephew, George Garcia, born while we were away: totally delightful and yet quite unlkie his brother Freddie, now one and a half. We had great fun choosing a water play present for Freddie, who loves pouring, splashing and measuring.

I saw Hay Fever in Bath, with Stephanie Beacham as Judith Bliss. She was splendid, though she did adopt a new voice, very deep and affected, for the role.

I saw the latest Doctor Who, with John Barrowman - much better than the earlier episodes. I was going to giove up on it after the ghastly Shakespeare one, complete with homage to J K Rowling. I ask you!

This is my 100th blog.

We picked up a Times as we got off the plane that told us George Bush was being rapturously received in Albania. Maybe that accounts for the forked lightning we saw over the mountains. The old gods are not quite dead. Only ten days before Blair goes - "Blow winds and crack your cheeks, ye hurricanoes!"