Book Review: Let’s Compromise and Say I’m Right


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Let’s Compromise and Say I’m Right, by Mel Calman, is a book of cartoons depicting, with equal degrees of humour and pathos, the nuanced insecurity, self delusion and malcontent to be found within relationships. It gently mocks the sexes expectations of love and marriage, but with wit and insight.

This selection has been chosen by the late artist’s daughter, Stephanie, who also writes the introduction. After a forward by Michael Palin, the minimalist drawings are given space to eloquently convey Calman’s observations of the human condition.

It is an easy little book to flick through, evoking a wry recognition of familiar foibles. I laughed at the picture of the woman standing at the Information desk asking the staff member, “Could you tell me if I’m attractive?” Oh, that we could be brazen enough to ask and honestly answer such questions. The couple sitting at the table where the man asks, “What do you really want?”, to which the woman replies, “I want you to know without my telling you” reminded me of too many couples of my acquaintance.

And this is the appeal of the book, that it takes familiar concerns and irritations, and condenses them into simple pictures which each say so much.

As the book progresses the couples become more confrontational. The man and woman stare angrily at each other as she demands, “Please don’t interrupt me when I’m interrupting”. The man suggests to the woman on a date, “Pretend I’m not your husband and enjoy yourself”. A man opines to his drinking companion, “Your trouble is that your wife understands you”.

After the cartoons on courtship and marriage comes the breakup. The wife stands beside her suitcase asking her husband, “If you’re so perfect why am I leaving?”

And then, gluttons for punishment or eternally hopeful, they try again leading to further complications. The woman on the phone tells her listener, “We’re going to rent a villa with my kids, his kids, and our kids – to get away from it all”.

In recognising the small failures depicted there is the offer of a chance at redemption. The pompous self importance falls away when shown to be ridiculous; the silent reproach can be laughed at when its futility is understood.

Recommended for anyone who has ever wondered at the insensitivity or idiocy of their partner. However, be warned, readers will likely learn something similar of themselves.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Souvenir Press.

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Book Review: Once Upon A Flock

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Once Upon A Flock, by Lauren Scheuer, is the perfect read for those of us who keep hens, those who are considering doing so, or those who are simply curious as to why back garden hen keeping has become so popular. It is a humorous account of the author’s decision to acquire a small flock of hens, and how she then came to love and care for her feathered friends.

Illustrated throughout with photographs and sketches it is a visually appealing book as well as being an entertaining read. It also provides some great insights into the challenges that keeping hens presents.

The adventure begins when:

“one day, totally without warning, Sarah grew up. She retreated to her room and began morphing into a teenager – the sedentary, electronic type.”

Having lost her outdoorsy playmate, the author decided that her daughter’s place in the garden could be taken by chickens. Lauren already had a chicken keeping friend. She also had impressive carpentry skills so could make her own coop. When I was contemplating my own hen keeping adventure the initial cost seemed the biggest hurdle. Lauren could offset this by making everything from scratch.

Her initial flock were purchased as day old chicks which Lauren raised inside her house under a heat lamp. When the cute and fluffy chicks had grown and developed enough to become feathered they were relocated to the yard. Lauren describes how she regularly moves them to fresh ground, and keeps them safe while they free range. Training the family dog not to attack the birds was just one of the challenges she faced.

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Over the course of a couple of years she deals with sickness, changes to the pecking order, re-homing, a broody hen, death, and the integration of new birds. There is also a proliferation of eggs, extremes of weather, and the need for hen sitters whilst on holiday. The book reads like a story but manages to cover the basics of looking after a back garden flock in a useful but always amusing way.

Chickens each have their own quirky little characters and are great company in the garden as well as being entertaining to watch. Lauren obviously adores her birds, but she doesn’t shirk from describing the difficulties they can present.

The writing flows and the illustrations help bring each new challenge to life. This book was a pleasure to read and I will be recommending it to all my chicken keeping friends.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Souvenir Press.

Lauren blogs about her chicken keeping adventures over at Scratch and Peck.