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Posts Tagged ‘family life’

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In this enjoyable memoir, journalist Phil Hewitt tells how he took on the challenge of running a marathon for charity, and ended up falling in love with marathon running – at the time of writing the book in 2012, he had run 25 marathons, and this book charts his progress (or lack of) in some of his more memorable ones.

Each chapter concentrates mainly on one marathon, and just as in actual life, some days are better than others. Phil Hewitt has run marathons in some amazing cities – London (several times, including his first ever marathon), Dublin, Berlin, Paris, New York, Amsterdam and Rome, to name just a few. In an engaging and chatty style, he discusses the highs and lows of each of these, and also talks about friendships he crafted along the way, as well as lessons he learned about himself and life in general.

As a runner myself, I found his obsession with finishing times entirely understandable – I also totally identified with the way he used little mind games to get himself round the course when the going got tough. I laughed along with him, and felt his pain, and also completely understood why someone would want to put themselves through such a gruelling challenge when, lets face it, there is absolutely no real reason to do so!

I definitely recommend this book, but especially to running enthusiasts.

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In 2009, journalist Susan Mauhart came to the realisation that her three children – and herself – were over-consuming screen media (tv. computer games, and predominantly the internet). In fact they were positively inhaling it. Fed up of conversations with the backs of their heads, and not being able to do anything as a family because all they all wanted to do was get back to their screens, she imposed a six month moratorium on all screen related media. This book is a journal of those six months as well as studies and observations about the effect of media – particularly social networks – on individuals, and the knock-on effect on family.

The effect on the family are perhaps not unexpected. After the initial shock, the family began to spend more time together, enjoyed lingering family meals where they would talk – genuinely talk – about their day, and they took up new interests (or resurrected old ones). But despite being able to guess pretty much how the family dynamic would change, this book did make it’s point very well. And bear in mind this experiment was in 2009!! Facebook was big but only five years old – and MySpace was still hugely popular. Twitter was just three years old, and neither Instagram nor Pinterest had even been invented. So as obsessed as Susan’s three teenage children – Anni, Bill and Sussy – seemed to be, it was probably nothing compared to the kind of thing you see everywhere today – people of ALL ages walking round, head down, glued to the phone. People sitting in restaurants together, but both distracted by their own screens. Even the rate of people getting knocked over in traffic has risen year over year since 2013, because of what is known as the ‘head-down generation’ – people crossing the road while looking at their screens instead of traffic.

So this book does provide food for thought, taking into account the effect of too much screen time on babies and toddlers as well as older children and teenagers. I personally found Maushart’s writing style to be witty and engaging, and this made it an easy read. As she herself observes, when writing about social media, everything is out of date almost as soon as it’s printed, and this is writing about something that happened eight years ago, but the point it makes is still valid.

For anyone interested in the effect of social media, I would recommend this book.

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Gregory Peck stars as Tom Rath, the ‘man in the gray flannel suit’ of the title. The title was a metaphor for the corporate culture in America post-World War 2, and Rath is just such a man. A veteran of the war which finished ten years earlier, Rath has trouble coping with his life as a white collar office worker, and with a wife who wants him to be more ambitious and earn more money. He suffers with flashbacks to his time in the war, and memories of the Italian woman he fell in love with when he was a soldier – and their romance may have lasting repercussions.

About twenty minutes after I started watching the film, I considered turning it off, because I was expecting it to be boring. I did stick with it though, and I’m glad. Gregory Peck is one of my favourite actors, but it could be said that he didn’t have a great deal of range. He’s pretty perfect for this role though, and you could feel his frustration at trying to satisfy a demanding wife, connect with his uninterested children, hold down a good job (while coping with a colleague who seemed determined to put him down), deal with his past coming back to haunt him, and on top of all that solve a dispute regarding his late grandmother’s estate. Jennifer Jones was good as Tom’s wife Betsy, although I didn’t thnk she was a particularly sympathetic character.

There was quite a lot going on, and I felt that at least one subplot – where Tom is trying to settle his grandmother’s estate and is challenged by a former member of her staff, who claims that the old lady left the house to him – was probably unnecessary. Nonetheless, it was worth watching these few scenes if only for the excellent role played by Lee J. Cobb, as a sympathetic Judge who helps Tom (and later features again, helping with another problem). If Cobb had had a bigger part, he might well have stolen the whole film! Frederic March also played a superb part as Tom’s new boss, who has family problems of his own – a wife who he barely sees, and a daughter who is ashamed of him.

The ending does perhaps wrap things up a little too conveniently, but it was nice to see a clear resolution to the story.

Overall, while the film is slightly overlong (2 and a half hours), and possibly could have benefitted from some editing, it is definitely worth watching, especially for fans of Peck or March. I wouldn’t exactly call it enjoyable – it’s not supposed to be a happy film – but it did get under my skin somehow, and I would recommend it (it certainly made me think).

Year of release: 1956

Director: Nunnally Johnson

Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck

Writers: Sloan Wilson (book), Nunnally Johnson

Main cast: Gregory Peck, Jennifer Jones, Frederic March

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