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The City

According to the BBC, York has been voted the best place to live in the UK. Having been here for a few years since the age of 18 (Yes ok so technically I’ve been here a couple of decades rather than a few years but let’s not split hairs!) I would agree on the whole, although maybe not for the same reasons.

According to the highly trustworthy BBC (unless it’s the weather forecast which is always wrong) York is the perfect mix of heritage and hi-tech. Heritage yes but hi-tech? I am clearly missing something! I know that we have the the National Railway Museum but I’m not sure World’s fastest steam engine could be classed as hi-tech nowadays? The mystery plays are a fantastic thing to watch and this year they will be featuring a movable stage which of course is quite hi-tech I suppose (or at least it was when it was first done back in medieval times!)

What wasn’t mentioned in the report of course was one of my favourite things about York – no not the pubs and bars before you think it – but the libraries. We have a fantastic library service which puts on some great events. For example last week I went on a course to learn how to make notebooks. It was a fun day although I suspect Paperchase may be a bit worried about a fall in their profits now I can make my own. Stationary being my second favourite purchase after books.

York library also has a high crime rate. Not people walking off with a Winsey Willis biography under their arm, or pilfering the drawing pins from the notice board, but crime fiction events. Last year we had some big hitters talking including Val McDermid and Sophie Hannah. There was also Mark Billingham and Chris Brookmyre. This was a hilarious evening, made all the better personally by the looks on the faces of some of the attendees. Clearly two women behind me thought the event was going to be a talk by the WI about jam making rather than one involving frozen chickens in public toilets and dead bodies.

Coming up next month is another exciting sounding event called CSI’s in York – from the writing duo Margaret Murphy and Helen Pepper better known as Ashley Dyer. They are spending the afternoon showing us how to lift fingerprints and identify shoe evidence (you never know when that might come in handy)

Whilst I may not agree with some of the reasoning behind York being voted the best place to live, I certainly agree with the sentiment. Where else could you learn how to investigate a murder, see the only memorial in the country to women who lost their lives during the First World War and drink in a Viking bar all in the same afternoon? Not necessarily hi-tech but pretty amazing all the same.

Tickets for CSI’s in York are still available https://www.exploreyork.org.uk/event/csis-in-york-the-truth-about-forensic-investigating/https://www.exploreyork.org.uk/event/csis-in-york-the-truth-about-forensic-investigating/

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Final Curtain

Despite the fact in my head I’m still a young mid-twenties person there are occasions when you realise you are getting old (and not just when I look in the mirror before you say anything!) For example when you realise your tv taste is turning into that of your parents. Countryfile is no longer something you would bolt your tea in the hope of being let off having to sit through. It is now an important Sunday afternoon view otherwise how will you know what the long range weather forecast is?

The other big problem I have is that your tolerance level seems to shrink considerably as the years go by. For someone like me who is already starting from a pretty low threshold, this is quite a worry. Irrational things drive me bonkers. Net curtains for example, I hate them. I’ve always disliked them but figured what people choose to do was their own business. Now though an annoying placement of a net curtain drives me mad. The other day I was walking back to the train station along a lovely riverside path in Oxford, admiring all the wonderful houses with big windows looking across the water. One house however had huge net curtains completely blocking the view. This then started a ten minute internal conversation between myself and the unknown owner of offending curtain about why they would have it. Was their life really that interesting that they needed to hide what they are doing from preying eyes? Luckily by the end of it I had won the argument. The offending piece of cloth was going to be removed and I had wasted my entire walk thinking about something that was of absolutely no consequence to me.

A grown man on my train reading Harry Potter is another example. Now I’ve not read Harry Potter as I’m not a young child. I have nothing against Harry Potter itself; however grown adults should not be reading it in public. There’s loads of books out there specifically for us adults, let the children have the young boy wizard. It does of course worry me that my own book tastes will change as I get even older. Currently I thrive on a book diet of crime, murder, blood and guts and misery. Yet how long is it before I start reading Readers Digest, and enjoying a nice Catherine Cookson. Maybe it’ll be even worse than that. Maybe I won’t have time to read at all, I’ll be too busy watching Songs of Praise and then writing to points of view to complain about misplaced net curtains in the vestry. Something to look forward to then!

 

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First thrills

This weekend I was very excited to write my first ever guest post which was featured on the wonderful cleopatra loves books site.

My post was part of a series she runs called put a book on the map. I was discussing Eva Dolan’s series of books which are set in my home town of Peterborough.

I really enjoyed writing the post, however it is very nerve wracking to see your own words on someone else’s blog. I knew when it was going to be published but I was almost too scared to look. When the comments started coming in I had to turn my tablet off and didn’t dare read them until I had a couple of wines in me. This was absurd as I don’t worry about posting on my own blog in the same way. I usually type them out and post after a quick spell check. For my guest post I wrote it and read it and rewrote it and read it and rewrote it again. I know Cleo has a much bigger following than my blog does, but honestly I spent more time on this than I ever did on any of my university essays’. Mind you this was much more interesting than anything I ever did at University.

This series is a great way of finding out about new books and brings to life the places where the novels are set. I think I even managed to make Peterborough sound like a place you should visit. Judge for yourself here. https://cleopatralovesbooks.wordpress.com/2017/04/01/put-a-book-on-the-map-bookonthemap-peterborough/

Whilst this was my first guest post I hope it’s not the last, and next time I might not be quite so worried about the response!

 

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The Missing

A lot of book bloggers create a list of their top ten or twenty (or more) books of the year. I’d love to do the same but I have two problems with that:

1) I can’t remember all the books I’ve read and have to admit that due to time constraints I probably only review about half of what I read.

2) I would really struggle to narrow down all the books I loved to only five or ten and would get myself very worked up about what I was missing.

Therefore I’m going to do a slightly cheating version and instead pick my top lists that other bloggers have created.
First on my list is the excellent blogger Cleopatra loves books. Her top ten included a couple of my favourite books of this year including Val McDermid’s Out of Bounds which I had as an audio book and as with all her books it completely drew me in. Cleo’s list also includes the Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish which I have heard nothing but good reviews of and is high on my list of books I want to read.
A blogger who always astounds me with how much reading and reviewing she manages to fit in is Linda’s book bag. Her top books of 2016 include the excellent Valentina by S.E Lynes which I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend. Valentina also makes an appearance on DampPebbles book blog  alongside Black Eyed Susans which was another cracking read this year
Of course it wouldn’t be a post of other people’s top books of 2016 without mention of one of my favourite and most prolific bloggers Raven Crime Reads. Whilst we disagree on Gone Girl, as I know she wasn’t keen and I really enjoyed it. We complete agree about Pierre Lemaitre’s Blood Wedding which was a fantastic novel. It was the first of his I read and I was lucky enough to meet him at last year’s festival.
Finally the blogger with the list that most closely resembles those I’ve read is Tracey’s book blog.  Her top ten includes 6 that I have read and really enjoyed.
Obviously this is by no means an exhaustive list of bloggers I follow, there are way too many to mention but these are some of my favourites. One of the great things about being part of a book blogging community is the sheer volume of blogs out their relating to crime fiction (and any other type of hobby you might have)  Of course the biggest problem I find with looking at all these blogs is that they mainly just end up adding to my own tbr pile. As always it is a case of too many books and never enough time. However it would be a very sad state of affairs if I ever ran out of books to read, luckily I’ve got lots of book bloggers top ten lists to keep me going for a while.

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Mud, Muck and Dead Things

So this weekend was finally the dawning of Mr F’s big challenge. As you may know in his wisdom he had decided that he wanted to raise money for a charity he is involved with. Mr F thought that cycling the length of the Leeds to Liverpool canal and back in two days would be a good way to do this. Of course this meant that being the selfless kind of partner I am, I jumped at the chance to drive the support van. Apparently I’d find lots of lovely café stops along the way, have loads of time to enjoy reading in the sunshine and generally find it a thoroughly relaxing couple of days for me. Well Mr F talks utter nonsense. 

After months of planning and training (Obviously Mr F concentrated on the cycling side of things, my contribution was to make sure I had enough books packed to keep me entertained) things started well. 4.30am the sun was almost shining, the van was full of energy drinks and sandwiches and I had a pre-programmed satnav telling me where to go. Skipton was the first stop for me and an early morning Costa Coffee plus the magic toilet key from the Canal Trust meant it was a nice leisurely start in the sun with a new book (Death in the Dales in case you are interested)20160630_185455

If I now tell you that 4 days later I am reading that same book and some of its pages are still damp, you might guess that it wasn’t the leisurely couple of days I was hoping for.  The weather was horrendous, rain was heavier than I’ve seen it for ages, there was thick mud everywhere, journeys took much longer than they should have done, there were mechanical failures, a crash and at no point were feet dry.  I don’t think Mr F had much fun either!

muppetsThe first day was definitely the worst. The weather meant that everything was running behind. Even when the sun came out there was so much mud that it was dangerous to ride it. Two hours I stood with Mr F Sr. on a bridge waiting for the cyclist to appear, we looked like we were auditioning for the parts of Statler and Waldorf. At least on this stretch Mr F did learn that sometimes it’s best to go round puddles not through them, and flying over the handlebars headfirst into them is definitely not a good plan.

Some of the parts I visited were very pretty, there were some lovely canal moorings and if you managed to see through all the rain it was probably very beautiful. There were some lovely people we met on the way and the fried egg sandwich that Janet and her baps provided on the Friday morning was possibly the best one I’ve had for years. However all in all this was quite possibly one of the most stupid ideas that Mr F has ever had. It does just prove how stubborn he is though as he did the whole 255 mile journey and finally got back to Leeds very wet, very cold, very muddy, but having raised over £2500 for Africa’s Gift which made it all worth while (probably!)

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Body of Evidence

As you all hopefully remember a couple of weekends ago the clocks all went backwards an hour. This meant that for one day only everyone had an hour extra in the day. I very smugly used this extra hour to go for a run, although this meant in reality I was in bed by 9pm that night. Of course the clocks changing cause it to be pitch dark by 5 at night. Which means our street is even quieter than normal as when it’s dark older people do not venture out. At least that is what I always thought.

They do say it’s the quiet ones you have to watch, and on the surface it doesn’t get any quieter than our street but I’m now convinced this just hides a dark secret. As I’ve touched on briefly before there is a real element of Stepford Wives living down our street. The lawns are all mown to stripy perfection and the windows are always shiny. However I’m beginning to think it’s even more sinister than that. I suspect there is an entire criminal underworld operating down my street, the Stepford Wives of Apple Drive is just the cover up. Apple Drive is actually the ‘go to’ place for body disposal.

Once you look for it, the evidence is there for all to see. Despite the fact we live on a cul-de-sac with very little traffic all day,  suddenly at 4am you’d think we lived next to the M25 there are so many cars going up and down in the middle of the night. Then there is the chap up the road, who always carries a carrier bag with him. He walks up and down past our house at least five or six times a day. Firstly nobody needs to go shopping that often, and secondly his bags are always full on the way out, and empty on the way back. He is the main ring leader, The Chopper. The bodies get dropped off early morning, he chops them up and then buries body parts across the city. It’s the obvious explanation.

He’s not in it on his own, it’s a full street effort. The old couple over the road with the daily deliveries are receiving the cash payments. Why else would they get so many parcels delivered? Howard 2 is the driver for when they need to move heavy torsos. He comes across as deaf as a post, as he shuffles round with his walking stick. Yet once a week he goes out in his car in the middle of the night. The only way we know he’s been out is because invariably in the morning the car will be parked at some random angle across the drive way, or one night he’d backed it straight into his garage door.

Betty up the road disposes of smaller parts that it’s not worth burying. These she just puts into the wheelie bins around the street. You’ve never seen someone so keen to put other people’s bins in and out. As soon as the bin collectors have gone she’s off like a rocket putting everyone’s dustbins back, so she can check all the body parts have gone from inside. Mr Emmerdale Farm Extra cleans up after The Chopper, that’s the reason for the wellington boots and wax jacket. Even the grandkids of the old couple over the road get involved, the young boy looks like he’s innocently kicking a football around or riding his bike, but in reality he’s acting as look out and messenger. How else does The Chopper know how many bodies to expect?

Once you look at it like that it all fits. It also explains why the street is so quiet during the day, everyone is worn out from all the night work. I know the publicised reason behind the clocks changing is something to do with farmers, but I’m not sure that’s the real reason. I think it’s to help out body disposal groups. More darkness in an evening gives more chance for them to get bodies delivered. I’m definitely going to stick to early morning runs in future, less chance of me getting caught up with The Chopper.

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The End of the Wasp Season

Well the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is only two weeks away. Therefore the 2015 Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Challenge (try saying that quickly after a couple of glasses of wine) is very nearly at an end.

By my reckoning there are 56 authors appearing during the main three days of the festival. Of those there are 28 authors that I haven’t read. That is a pretty poor show by anyone’s standards. I’m actually beginning to think that this might be an impossible challenge. I think I need to join forces with some of my fellow bloggers who are attending. I’m sure if we all put our heads together and combined our reviewing forces we’d be able to cover all the authors. Maybe I should arrange for us all to meet for a coffee at Harrogate and we can see if we’ve managed it?

On the positive side however, the TOPCWFC2015 Lite as I’m now calling it is much more manageable. The aim of this one is to read at least one author in every session. Again by my own calculations removing things such the dinner, and the reader awards there are 16 sessions. Currently I have read at least one book by an author in 15 of these sessions. I think with two weeks to go that is pretty good going, so it’s just one more book to go.

Of course the actual blogging is very far behind the reading
I had an interesting conversation the other day with someone who was saying they used to write a book review blog, but found that they read more than they had time to review so gave it up. I completely understand what they mean, I definitely read alot more books than I actually review. I suppose it depends on what you like doing most. If you let yourself get bogged down in it, the reviews start taking over your life, the unwritten ones becoming as annoying as a wasp round your glass of wine. I enjoy writing this blog and I like to think that occasionally someone other than my family actually read it, but for me it’s always the actual reading that is the best part. The blog is just an added bonus. On that note, time to stop writing and get on with some more reading I think. Challenge completion here I come.

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