236. Humankind cannot bear very much reality…

“At the age of twenty seven, copper-haired Maggie Hope had already foiled a plot to assassinate Churchill and blow up St Paul’s, saved Princess Elizabeth from being kidnapped, rescued a captured pilot from Berlin, taught at a school for Special Agents in Scotland and prevented First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt from being implicated in a lesbian murder scandal which would surely have led to America refusing to join in the War.”

I think it’s the gritty realism of the Maggie Hope novels that most appeals to me.

Actually, in truth, it’s the opposite.  There’s no shortage of gritty realism in the world at the moment so I escape by downloading an audio-book from the library, popping it onto the iPod and listening while doing something practical: gardening, decorating and the like.  I generally go for detective books or familiar writers – Wodehouse, Miss Read – as I have a dreadful tendency to zone out from time to time while listening.  Literature of any depth would be impossible.

Poirot looked around the cousins gathered in the library… Blow, there’s some black-fly on the beans… But first, I want to tell you how I arrived at my conclusions... I wonder if I’ve still got some soap to spray them … So that is how I knew the murderer is … there’s been a murder?!

My current listen is the most recent book in the Maggie Hope series by Susan Elia MacNeal – The Queen’s Accomplice.  You’ll have gathered that our copper-haired Maggie is quite a girl and the books are always action-packed.  But the latest jumps around so much that – even accounting for my lapses in concentration – I was starting to think that Ms MacNeal had been converted to dadaism.

One moment, Maggie is arranging her copper locks in preparation for having tea with the Queen; the next, she’s at the autopsy of the latest victim of a Jack-the-Ripper-copy cat murder.  One moment,  her prime-ballerina housemate is being sent to spy in France; the next, she’s arranging a surprise party to mark Maggie’s house being repaired after the Blitz.  I was struggling to make any sense of the story and decided to start again from the beginning.

It was then that I found that I’d left my iPod on shuffle.


Last weekend ActorLaddie led a guided walk round some of the City’s green spaces, as part of the Open Garden Square weekend.  I trolled along incognito: I like to listen in on the walkers discussing how interesting he is.  Which he is.

We ended up at the spectacular roof garden of Eversheds, a legal firm in Wood Street.  We admired the deep beds, looked at the bee-hives, tasted the honey.  We were just about to leave when St Paul’s started a peel in honour of the Queen’s Official Birthday and moments later, there was a flypast, Red Arrows and all.

And very dramatic it was too.  Some of the planes were flying so low, you could almost shake hands with the pilot.  In fact, there was something familiar about the copper-haired woman who was flying the central Red Arrow.  It couldn’t possibly be … could it?


You’ll remember me mentioning the devastating news of the death of Tom Isaacs.  The Cure Parkinson’s Trust website now has a full tribute to him.  It’s an inspiring read for Parkies and non-Parkies alike and you can find it here.

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