Howl’s Moving Castle: Diana Wynne Jones

I asked my girlfriend what her favourite film was ages ago and she told me about Howl’s Moving Castle, a Studio Ghibli/Disney presentation. We watched it together and I really enjoyed it! The way that anime and fantasy combine intrigues me, along with it’s animation and very interesting story lines. Howl’s Moving Castle, of the Ghibli releases comes a very close third, behind The Wind Rises and Spirited Away. When I realised it was a book. I had to read it!

The book lacks the traditional Ghibli approach of combining time periods and fantastic flying machines but that isn’t a bad thing. What I did love was how the oldest of time periods merged with modern day Wales. I was pretty gobsmacked when Sophie ventured through the castle door, black blob facing down and found herself in modern day Wales! I loved how she was mortified by the noisy, horseless carts (Cars) and fascinated by the picture frames of moving pictures, connected to the wall by a white, flexible cord (TV)!

Reading the book took a little getting used to at first, as I had just finished Romeo & Juliet, with it’s totally different focus on audience and, obviously, totally different style of writing. Howl’s Moving Castle is a children’s fantasy book so the language was much less complex and the sentence structure very punctual. Even so, though, it was very easy to be whisked off into the worlds she was describing.

It’s actually difficult to explain what the book is about without giving the plot away, because of the interconnecting worlds, time periods and characters so here is the blurb from the book itself:

“Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl – and herself – than first meets the eye.”

I highly recommend this read!


Rules For My Son

Some gems in here!

Aaron Conrad

1. Never shake a man’s hand sitting down.

2. There are plenty of ways to enter a pool. The stairs ain’t one.

3. The man at the grill is the closest thing we have to a king.

4. In a negotiation, never make the first offer.

5. Act like you’ve been there before. Especially in the end zone.

6. Request the late check-out.

7. When entrusted with a secret, keep it.

8. Hold your heroes to a higher standard.

9. Return a borrowed car with a full tank of gas.

10. Don’t fill up on bread.

11. When shaking hands, grip firmly and look him in the eye.

12. Don’t let a wishbone grow where a backbone should be.

13. If you need music on the beach, you’re missing the point.

14. Carry two handkerchiefs. The one in your back pocket is for you. The one in your breast pocket…

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Romeo & Juliet: William Shakespeare

It’s been great to take on reading again, now that I’m getting the train to and from work. I started this reading challenge to get me going. My first book was Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding and today I completed the infamous Romeo & Juliet by… Do I even need to name William Shakespeare?!

Two things struck me as I read the play. The first was that I never knew Shakespeare actually re-told a previous story by a writer named Arthur Brookes and secondly I realized the drastic difference in reading this story again, now aged 37.

When I read Romeo & Juliet, going through school, I was learning. I had exams to take. Romeo & Juliet was part of a stepping stone in life. This time around, things were slightly different. I saw things that I’d never seen before. I understood the relationships between people better and it was easier for me to understand the position the characters played against the backdrop of their 1500s Verona setting.

Understanding the relationships between the characters on a level I can now relate to gave me a primary standpoint. Or, at least a question anyway. Would the story have been complete had Juliet shared a closer relationship with her parents?

As was custom of the class and period, Juliet was raised by a nurse. She was 14 and had been raised by someone who tested her social boundaries as well as her employers, with her dry wit. She also would have been focused on her job security. Between this and the aristocratic carry-on of her parents, Juliet was a product of convenience, necessity and arrangement. When she woke up from her induced sleep, in her family tomb, Romeo was the only real love she knew. To stab yourself takes a real dark place and real desperation. As the only love she knew lay dead, I can only imagine the emptiness she felt, understanding that we all crave genuine Love.

My key thought, having read Romeo & Juliet at this point in life, is on the education system.

Books, unlike TV screens, encourage thought. Reading through this play, I had to use my imagination to picture physical settings, personal attire, voice tones, physical appearance. Secondarily, I could also imagine the disparity of the audience. Where they would sit and how they would react to different scenes and characters. I pictured the masses under a cool 1500s London sky. I feel that I was able to take so much more from this book because of my life experience.

Books like Peter & Jane have their place and one must learn to read but how much knowledge is left untapped in the human mind because we force kids through school and homework from a young age, with the consequence of an incomplete life should they adhere to the set-up? I feel that kids should be allowed to be kids and enter into education later in life, when they are past that stage of kicking their legs under the table, labelled with ADD, etc.

I feel that we are so shaped, during our lives, to benefit the system, that we have become mere minions and totally miss the beauty and poignancy of books like Romeo & Juliet.

Treasure Your Present Blessing.

I’m definitely guilty of being one of those individuals who can become so task oriented that there is little-to-none thought given to what’s been achieved. I’ve started to see how this leads to a life where the glass is always half empty.

I’m typing this, having been convinced to stay in this Friday night. It’s a weird fallout of not taking time to appreciate the blessings of present moments, where I instinctively feel that I HAVE to be doing something. But tomorrow is never promised.

Focus on the relationships you have now and share the progress you’ve made with those you have around you now. You may need them when you take your next step.


New York Times Article. “London’s New Subway Symbolized the Future. Then Came Brexit.” – 7/31/2017.

I found this article to be a good read. You can find it HERE.

My personal opinion is that Brexit signals the end for a lot of things and, even though it may signal the beginning of a few good things, those few good things are so short-sighted and temporary. It’s almost as if the voters were giving some forgetful drug or some social ADD. Brexit will never make sense to me, excepting the part where corporate greed takes over and reduces a proud society to obedient robots.

Picture Credit to New York Times.