Dr Goldenberg, I presume?

Yesterday I set out at dawn and, using a paper map, braved the streets of North London and miraculously encountered fellow blogger, Dr Howard Goldenberg. Since Howard had circumnavigated the globe from Australia via New York to London, his journey was a little more impressive than mine.


This was in every way a delightful encounter, from the detailed description of how to make cholent, via the gift of a large slice of fruitcake, beautifully decorated by grandchildren and plaited bread with sesame seeds – challah – I hope I have that right? (do not forget the cake and the bread, O Best Beloved), to a very happy couple of hours in a nearby café. We talked. We drank our coffee, and we talked some more. I re-parked the car and we talked even more.

DSCN6969_2We talked about families, editors, book groups (see Howard’s recent post) and our own writing. I had enjoyed Howard’s complex, multi-layered novel, Carrots and Jaffas vDSCN6983 - Version 2ery much and am now captivated by his memoir of his relationship with his father; it shines with honesty and love. This is an appreciation, but not a blind worship, of his father’s forceful and engaging personality. We signed each other’s books (me with British reticence, he with warmth and generosity). Then we snagged a passing waitress and posed for a wholly blurred photo (I hope yours are better, Howard). It is an encounter I will cherish and we could have talked for many more hours.

Then I set off with my little map and reversed my route through London. I reached beginning of the Northbound motorway feeling smug at having made no wrong moves… and found it CLOSED. Forced to travel South, I then used the sun to head first East and then North through the outback of Essex in search of an extremely elusive motorway.

I stopped at a farm shop to ask where I was. The natives were extremely friendly and willing to help, but unable to use my primitive equipment (a road atlas), though they pointed me in the right direction. As I meandered down lanes no wider than the car, I was attacked by hunger and remembered the generous gifts from Howard and his daughter. I tucked into my Challah and fruitcake. They were delicious and saved me from starvation.

I made it home in time to see the tree surgeons who had been trimming our giant fir trees. They went from this, via this, to this.


We finished this wholly inspiring day by going to Cambridge for an entertaining lecture, in the Darwin Lecture series, by the rower Katherine Grainger on the Development of the Athlete.


Carrots and Jaffas – a book for big minds

Carrots and Jaffas by Howard Goldenberg opens with the heart-stopping scene of a child being stolen. The child is one of twins. While the story of the twins, their birth and their fates, is central to the narrative and binds the reader by a need to know the outcome, the book ranges over many other stories as it takes us there.

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Actually, it doesn’t just range, it digs deeply into these other stories. As the twins narrative progresses, the reader has a sense of entering several books in parallel. With each character, comes new subject matter and, personally speaking, new and fascinating information. The book manages to be both deeply moving and matter-of-fact. This is meat for the curious, manna to the open-minded and satisfaction for the intellectually hungry. It is packed with poetry, fantasy, humour and fact and I enjoyed every word.

Howard has set the book in his native Australia, and offers a depth of intimate knowledge about the continent and both its modern and indigenous peoples. This is a revelation to the non–Aussie reader (and you might need a map). He draws on his decades of work as a doctor with all these people. I am now happily anticipating reading his memoir, My father’s Compass, and Raft, his account of life as a doctor in remote, indigenous Australian communities. He also blogs entertainingly and with passion at http://www.howardgoldenberg.com.