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Under the knife

Well as the eagle eyed amongst you may have spotted there has been another break in the blogging and reviewing here at acrimereadersblog. Unfortunately this time it wasn’t due to anything exciting or involving sunshine. I can however say that I’ve found somewhere that provides even more opportunity to read than a delayed East Coast train, a hospital waiting room.

I’ve recently had the dubious pleasure of a hospital trip. Now obviously that’s never going to be seen as a good thing but looking on the plus side it does provide the gift of time due to the endless waiting around.

As everyone reading this knows I’m a huge book fan. I’ve always thought there is no situation that can’t be improved by ignoring it and reading instead. Well it turns out I was wrong. Despite the saying ‘lose yourself in a book’ no matter how good a story you are reading, it’s not possible to completely disregard the surroundings you are in. This was especially true of the hours I had to spend waiting around for my operation. As if sitting around in paper pants and a back to front gown wasn’t bad enough things went rapidly downhill when across the room came the cry of ‘Can we watch Jeremy Kyle?’ Sadly the nurses refused my request to knock me out then and there.

Unfortunately things didn’t improve much after the actual operation either. I’m sure I’d been cast as a silent extra in ‘Carry on nursing’ When the nurses weren’t discussing whose turn it was to make the tea, they were pushing people round the wards in beds seemingly trying to recreate the Olympics Opening Ceremony with little success. Hearing nurses wandering round in the middle of the night asking if anyone has seen patient x does not fill one with complete confidence. In fact at some point in the middle of the night when I was accused of stealing my own notes (technically even if I had moved them they were surely mine anyway) I was convinced that I was actually taking part in some brand new reality tv show and any minute now I was going to be asked to vote off whichever non-celebrity was pretending to be my nurse (Simon Cowell – if you are reading this and want to buy the rights to Nurse Factor then do get in touch)

Of course it wasn’t all bad. I should be grateful that the hospital stay coincided with the winter Olympics. At least I was saved from the slippery slope that is day time tv by a new found interest in housework on ice. Who knew that watching people sweeping the ice whilst their friends played marbles, or a woman hurtling down a slope on a rather small tea tray would be so fascinating. 

Luckily my stay in hospital was short lived and I’m now enjoying a few weeks of recuperation surrounded by piles of books to read and enough flowers to make Kew gardens jealous.  Fingers crossed therefore that normal service has now been resumed and I can use this unexpected spare time to catch up on my book reviews (although a trip somewhere sunny also wouldn’t go down badly!)

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So just in case you missed it, last week saw the start of 2014. This year on New Year’s Eve I did something I haven’t done for about 10 years and headed to York Minster for midnight. We stood with a few hundred other people all looking slightly bemused as there was no countdown or fireworks or party to acknowledge the date change. There were of course chimes at midnight and it was a lovely evening nonetheless.

So 2014 begins and it’s time for everyone to start making their New Year resolutions. As those of you who were reading this blog last year will know, I’m not a fan of the New Year resolution (and for the rest of you if you want to know you can find it here) but that doesn’t seem to stop the rest of the human race. Once again people are vowing to lose weight, get fit, save money and start doing fun things.

Giving up chocolate seems to be a big one this year (well at least til February when people can then devour the hundreds of half price selection boxes they’ve bought in the sales, before announcing to everyone that they’ll be giving it up again for lent) Chocolate may have been the death of many in crime novels as Margot Kinberg eloquently puts here. Yet whilst I’d hope there are not too many poisoned chocolates floating around. I’m not sure the whole feast and famine approach is a particularly healthy way to go either.

Apparently the latest craze in resolutions is having a dry January. Now this is one I was all in favour of when someone told me about it. I hate getting wet, and rain really makes my hair go frizzy. However further investigation shows they apparently meant they were giving up alcohol for a month. That soon put a dampener (no pun intended) on that plan. We are in a recession you know and pubs rely on the likes of me to keep their businesses ticking over. Even more ridiculous is the idea that you can get sponsored for not drinking for a month in a dryathlon. Are people seriously trying to say that giving up their favourite beverage is on a par with running a marathon or hiking across the Himalayas? Maybe it would be if you were Harry Hole or Homer Simpson, but otherwise surely it’s not really much of an achievement.

Apparently coming in at number ten of the top ten resolutions people make is the wish to read more books. I read this on a website that had asked people to fill in a survey on what resolutions they were going to make. Well there’s one of the problems straight away, rather than filling in the survey people should just have picked up a book and read that instead. That way rather than have to make a resolution saying they are going to do something, they can actually do something.

I, of course, don’t need to make a resolution to read more, I just pick up one of the numerous books I have hanging around. I haven’t yet had a tally up of the number of books I read last year which I should do. I do know however, that I’ve read many more than I’ve had time to review. Therefore maybe my resolution should be to write more reviews. I’m not calling it a New Year one though, that’s just asking to fail.

Anyway Happy New Year All.


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The keys to the street

Well as you may know, last week was the big move, so it’s now all change for me. This may come as a surprise but I don’t embrace change well. Challenges are fine, I like trying new things, but actual change causes untold bouts of tears and tantrums. Therefore I am officially calling the big move a challenge not a change (Keeping in mind my previous sentence I suspect Mr F would agree with my terminology, it’s a good job I’ve found a patient boy!)

Anyway the challenge is now complete with the help of one man and his van (which was actually two men but one van) It is incredible the amount of stuff two grown adults can accumulate without even realising it. The first van load consisted mainly of books, which have now filled our spare room. I suspect even Mr F was rather shocked by the amount of books I have. Mind you he couldn’t really complain, at least not once I saw the extent of his Tupperware collection. I should point out here as I wouldn’t want to ruin his reputation, his Tupperware collection was second only to his booze stash – we all know which one I’ll be making the most use of.

Of course a new street means new neighbours. I’m pleased to say we have moved into a very nice quiet area. Mainly because I suspect we have accidently accepted the role of wardens in a sheltered housing project. The average age so far looks to be around 112. Our neighbour on the right seems nice, and luckily if we decide to have any wild parties there will be no complaints from him as he is deaf as a post. I’ve not yet met the neighbour on our left, although he did have a rather long chat with the man from Sky Tv. Apparently he wanted to know how he could get a security system installed like ours. Obviously he thinks that our sky dish is actually used for detecting ballistic missiles rather than just picking up Coronation Street.

As always, at least on every street I’ve ever lived on, there are the usual parking wars. On this street it seems that the instigator is Mr Van Man (no relation to our removal firm) Usually Mr Van Man parks opposite our house, which is annoying in itself. Sunday morning we heard him up and about early getting into said van. I’d assumed he was off to work, until closer inspection revealed he had actually just moved it to park in front of his own house. Why I hear you ask (unless you are a member of my family and you will therefore no doubt have guessed the answer) Being a long standing observer of parking wars, it was a standard tactic of obstruction. Their neighbours were having visitors and obviously at some point in the past had dared to park in front of Mr and Mrs Van Man. Therefore Mr Van Man must get his van there first to ensure that it can’t happen again, thereby in his head winning the battle that week.

It just goes to show that it really doesn’t matter where you live as nothing changes that much. The same petty squabbles go on in street after street. I may have swopped the Hilda’s for the Harold’s but I suspect that the gender change is the only real difference (that and I now have enough Tupperware to freeze the entire cake production from a Great British Bake Off)

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The Final Account

Well I have to start this blog with some very sad news. I’m sorry to announce that tthis will be the final account of life on the street. Acrimereadersblog is moving house and the Howard’s and Hilda’s of this rather odd cul-de-sac crew will be left behind.

It’s frankly rather a daunting prospect all round. The street is noticeably upset and I’ve been ostracised even before I’ve left. It’s understandable of course, they have to deal with the possibility of a new neighbour which is always concerning. They might end up with someone who rather than spend their evenings reading books will be more the type to get drunk and fall in the lavender bush, or hold wild parties in the front garden (a garden which holds approximately 4 people so not really sure how wild that could be) They might get someone who is much less polite than me and rather than pretend that they are actually interested in what Mother Hubbards kids are doing, the new neighbours might just ignore her. There is also the worry that me leaving brings the average age of the street up to approximately 107, fingers crossed I get replaced by someone younger or they’ll have to think about getting in some kind of neighbourhood warden scheme.

Of course it’s even more daunting for me, not only do I have to live with a boy and a cat (one of which is housetrained, not so sure about the other) but before I even get to that stage I have to do the dreaded packing.

I last moved three years ago and a friend put up some lovely book shelves for me which I carefully placed my books on and even had some space spare. However three years later not only are those bookshelves filled, so are the ones in my bedroom, and the ones downstairs, plus there are piles of books on my dressing table, on the stairs, there are even some still in bags in the wardrobe. It’s going to take days to pack them all and then there is the unpacking at the other end. I’m not sure there is going to be space for me, the books, the cat and the boy (boy free to good home if anyone is interested?)

Whilst the new house isn’t exactly far from the old house, its definitely on the wrong side of the tracks and I get the feeling there will be no nosy neighbours. The houses are all proper grown up houses and have driveways for a start so there won’t be any parking wars (see a stain on the silence) I imagine that Sundays are spent mowing the lawn in unison, creating nice perfect stripes.

There are even issues I’d never thought about, where are my jiffy bags going to get sent? (winterfrost) At least with the Hilda’s there was always someone to take in a parcel, on the other side of the tracks we’ll end up having to collect them from the post office like normal people.

Things change and the home of acrimereadersblog is moving, although one thing that won’t be changing is the reading. It may just have to be postponed slightly until I can actually find all my books!

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Blood and Chocolate

Now usually this blog is restricted to books and Hilda Street updates however I’m making an exception today. Last night thanks to the fantastic York Cocoa House I was invited to see the final dress rehearsal of Blood + Chocolate.

Blood + Chocolate is a play with a difference. Rather than being a static performance in a normal theatre it’s a ‘promenade’ performance, which is basically a posh term for walking around. The description on the Theatre Royal website states ‘this production will offer audiences theatre on an epic, cinematic scale’. Now those of you who know me and my incredibly limited cinema experience know that I usually avoid things described as epic due to it normally just being a code word for long. However in this instance I’m incredibly glad I put that to one side. The only way to describe this performance (play doesn’t do it justice) is stunning.

The inspiration for the writing came from the fact that at Christmas in 1914 the Lord Mayor of York sent out a box of chocolates made by Rowntrees to every York citizen who was fighting. Obviously York is famous for its chocolate making heritage, not only Rowntree’s and Terry’s but both Cadbury and Fry also completed their apprenticeships here so York was the perfect setting for a play inspired by the stories and letters that were sent from the men and women in York during the war.

Starting at Exhibition Square you are given headphones to wear as you watch a mixture of filmed scenes being projected onto the De Grey Rooms and actors speaking from windows. From here you are led by wardens, through cheering crowds towards the Minster where soldiers are leaving for battle. The Guildhall is next where women are packing chocolate, then you are taken via Parliament street as a war zone, before ending at Cliffords Tower. Throughout you get the feeling that you are listening into private conversations between soldiers, workers and families.

York is obviously known for its history and its lovely buildings. However this play showed them all in a new light and was the perfect backdrop for the sometimes funny and always moving stories of those who went to war. We were lucky with the weather as the whole performance is outside, and there is a lot of standing however it was completely worth it. There was apparently over 200 actors playing parts as soldiers, conscientious objectors, chocolate workers, nurses, mothers and children yet the whole thing ran smoothly from start to finish. The logistics behind the performance must have been a nightmare but all worked perfectly.

I would recommend this play to anyone, however sadly for those who haven’t yet got tickets I believe it is sold out. It was truly a unique York experience and complemented perfectly by a cup of hot chocolate at half time courtesy of York Cocoa House.

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The Forgotten Garden

After a rather busy few weeks, hopefully normal service can once again be resumed at acrimereadersblog. Having been working on a big event down in Brighton, time has very much been of the essence. Working weekends and evenings does tend to eat into time for other more enjoyable things such as seeing friends, and drinking wine.

However everything is back to normal now and as well as having wine dates booked in with friends, I’m fully up to date on the street antics.

Bringing in a hire car is always a spectator sport in our street and as soon as I pulled up the jungle drums were playing and everyone was out asking about it. As anyone who knows me will confirm, patience is not one of my strong points. This was evident early on in life when I was banned from playing with jigsaws as apparently you are meant to spend time looking for the bits that fit, not just use brute force. What I lack in patience I usually make up in manners but sometimes my street really does push even my polite smile to the limit.

Hilda1 and Hilda2 were the first on the scene to welcome me back. Before I’d even managed to drag my ridiculously large suitcase out of the car I was being regaled with stories from the past two weeks. This included high drama over the road where it turns out Marina has walked out on her husband and moved in with a woman. With winter fast approaching there is deep concern as to who is going to keep the ice at bay as this was previously her role (Winter Frost) There has also been a return of the mythical gangs which have been back out in force tearing up the street.  Apparently their latest attack (Previous can be found here) ended in them cutting down some of my buddlea. Handily for the Hildas this was also the piece that was overhanging the path and getting in their way. It of course also gave Hilda1 and Howard an excuse to point out that my garden was looking a bit forgotten. Well frankly if they spent less time twittering (and there are no computers involved in their version) then maybe I would have time to do something.

One thing that doesn’t stop no matter how busy I am, is of course reading (although my ability to find the time to actually write the reviews has been seriously compromised – have I mentioned I’ve been busy?) No matter what else is going on in my life I can always find time for books which is why it always amazes me when people say they don’t have the time to read. Of course this has its own problems when writing a book review blog as my ability to remember what each book was actually about tends to dwindle with every new book read. Luckily as a collector of notebooks I usually have one to hand and I’ve managed to make copious notes of most of them and hopefully I’ll catch up on reviews soon.

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A time to kill

Acrimereadersblog is moving into the modern age (albeit temporarily) This post is being written on an iPad leant to me for a recent trip away. Now it’s incredibly good fun using it, however I’ve already found one of the biggest problems with this kind of gadget, it’s way too distracting. I downloaded a book on it and prepared to start reading, but then I suddenly thought of a discussion I was having at the weekend and decided I’d find out more about it. Had I been at home or using my own first edition kindle I would have had a fleeting thought about looking it up but quickly realised that getting out my laptop and waiting a good ten minutes for it to boot up was just not worth the effort so I’d have gone back to my reading. However with the cleverness that is an iPad the Internet is right there at my fingertips without any waiting.
Of course that means that whilst I’m on the internet I might as well check my emails, and if I’m checking my main account I might as well check my other one too. That account is the one I use to sign up to things with, so it’s full of exciting looking special offers. There is one for a Greek restaurant that sounds nice, I’ll have a look at that. The restaurant is not the one I’m thinking of and is miles away. I’ll have a look at the menu anyway. It’s got stuffed vine leaves on the menu, these have got mince in them. I thought stuffed vine leaves were made with vegetarian  rice, I’ll have a look. Turns out stuffed vine leaves can be made with either mince or rice, although in Greece they are usually vegetarian. 
I’m hungry now after all that searching for food, so I wander what I should have for tea. I’m away at the moment so it’s restaurant time. Which one though, I’ll do a search. I’ve found one that looks nice, ah but I see it’s described as bohemian. I don’t think anyone would ever describe me as bohemian. Although what does bohemian actually mean? Wikipedia again, Bohemian means either a native of Bohemia which I’m definitely not, or someone who acts with no regard for conventional rules. Well that’s certainly not me, I don’t even cross a road without a green man showing.
I wander when green men were first invented? 1969 apparently to replace the panda crossing. A friend of mine likes pandas, I bet she doesn’t know there used to be a thing called a panda crossing, I’ll have to tell her. What were panda crossings? Good old wiki tells me they were meant to replace the zebra crossing. Why are they all called after animals? It’s not like it’s even one species of animal, there used to be something called a puffin crossing I think as well. Puffins are birds aren’t they? They are on the RSPB website  so they must be birds. Puffin is the name of a childrens book publisher, I don’t remember what they published, luckily it’s all too hand. Ladybird books were the other one I remember from childhood. We had an infestation of ladybirds when we first moved into our new office, but come to think of I’ve not seen any for ages. Maybe ladybirds are seasonal? There must be a ladybird website out there. Someone once told me ladybirds have sex for hours, According to ladybird facts they can have sex for 9 hours at a time. My friends had spent a very productive afternoon watching a pair in their back garden, hopefully not for the full 9 hours. Surely there are better ways to spend an afternoon? 
That’s a point what are we going to do this weekend? I wander if there is anything interesting happening, it’s only the beginning of the week but no harm in planning ahead. There must be an online what’s on guide. Hang on did I decide what I was having for tea? What was I meant to be doing again? Oh yes reading a book, but somehow the whole morning as gone and I’ve not read a word of my book yet. This iPad lark is just way too distracting.

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