Saturday, November 24, 2007


Could you all check your desks, and look down the back of the sofa, because the Government desperately needs the second disc which has also been mislaid.


I’ve just finished reading the first novel written by Truman Capote which was only published a couple of years ago. He wrote Summer Crossing when he was just 19 years old, and for whatever reason set it aside and forgot about it and the manuscript was only discovered in 2005, two decades after Capote had died.

It is very short, really little more than a novella, and is fascinating to read, as the main character Grady McNeill is very much the precursor to Holly Golightly of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Grady is the spirited, beautiful 17 year old daughter of a rich and important man. In the late summer of 1945 her parents are travelling to Europe on the Queen Mary to see how their villa in Cannes has fared during the war, and for her mother to visit the great Parisian couture houses to get gowns for herself and her daughter to wear at Grady’s social debut later in the year.

Grady refuses to go with them, and her parents are persuaded that she can remain in the family’s New York apartment on her own.

As any parent of a teenage daughter will know, this is a recipe for disaster and what follows is every parent’s nightmare.

In seeking life beyond the limited social confines of her own class, and revelling in the freedom of her parent’s absence, Grady meets and falls for Clyde Manzer, a hunky young ex-service man working as a parking attendant at a car park on Broadway. He is a few years older than her, far more experienced, and – horror of horrors – Jewish and from Brooklyn. She has a close male friend from her own milieu, but Paul, who dresses unconventionally and is portrayed as sexually ambivalent is no match for Clyde. Grady is convinced she is in love with him and embarks on a passionate affair. As the hot summer progresses Grady, who has now been introduced to the charms and dangers of booze and marijuana, sows the seeds of her own destruction.

The character of Paul seems a rather crude depiction of Capote himself, but in many ways Grady, the ingĂ©nue, is the real Capote – trying to break away from their home background, making mistakes and uncertain of the future.

Although the plot is very simple, in many ways this little book is a gem. Capote shows how even at such a young age he was a brilliant observer of the social scene. Some of the passages describing the heat of a New York summer could not be bettered – even if the author had years of experience.

Well worth reading if you love New York, or if you know Capote’s later writing.

Rated 4.5


Can you believe this? I am spitting with rage and disgust at the behaviour of two extremely stupid, crass and selfish women. The British Army’s main rehabilitation centre for amputees is at Headley Court in Surrey, but it only has a small hydro-therapy pool. The Leatherhead Leisure Centre is nearby, and one lane of the main swimming pool was roped off for a weekly swimming session of some of the soldiers who had been injured on duty in Iraq and Afghanistan

Two women at the pool demanded that the wounded veterans be removed because “they haven’t paid to use the pool and we have” and because “their appearance might upset our children”.

These men were injured in the service of our country, (whether or not you agree with us sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan is a separate issue) it is appalling that anyone could treat them like this. Who do these women (I was going to write bi*ches but restrained myself) think they are? We owe all our injured service personnel a duty of care and compassion, they should not be expected to hide away in case their scars frighten or upset folk.


Even in winter I like to eat salad, and I don't mean the boring old lettuce/tomato/cucumber combo. Some of the vegetables available at this time of year make the most delicious salads and I'm always up for trying a new recipe. Recently I tried this one, which is really a variation on the famous Waldorf Salad, in fact I think it is superior. Whatever; I am practically addicted to it at the moment. It is divine with home-made hamburgers, with cold roast beef, and with grilled lamb chops. So far I haven't tried pairing it with fish, but I plan to do so very soon.


Serves 4

½ a large celeriac root, peeled
2 crisp, fairly tart eating apples (I use Braeburn or Cox’s)
2 handfuls broken walnut pieces, lightly toasted in the oven for 4-5 minutes
4 heaped tablespoons good quality mayonnaise
1 tablespoon hot horseradish sauce
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Shred the celeriac into matchstick sized pieces on a mandoline, or grate it very coarsely.

Quarter and core the apples but do not peel them, then shred them in the same way as the celeriac. Mix the celeriac and apple together and add the toasted walnut pieces.

Mix the mayonnaise and horseradish together and stir it into the celeriac apple mixture making sure that everything is well coated. Taste to check that you have enough horseradish in the dressing, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with the chopped parsley.


Teuchter said...

I have a few celeriac still in the veg patch. If the frost hasn't done for them, we'll be enjoying your recipe tonight.

Stewart said...

I didn't think much of Summer Crossing. It felt like there were chapters missing but the publisher decided not to mention that.

herschelian said...

T: hope you enjoyed the salad!

S: Welcome to my blog. Interesting to find someone else who has actually read Summer Crossing! I found it very much a curate's egg, but given his age when he wrote it I thought it had a lot of merit.