On Wednesday it was national Winnie the Pooh day. Winnie the Pooh has always been one of my favourite children’s characters. However unfortunately my celebration of this national day didn’t include a nice cuddly bear, I had an encounter with a completely different type of poo.
I like the outdoors. Other than reading, most of my pastimes are based outside. I go horse riding, and jogging in the great outdoors, and I try and go for a walk every lunchtime. I’m lucky in that I work near a racecourse so there is always somewhere nice and green to have a wander round.
I was enjoying one of these lunchtime walks on Wednesday, until the nice quiet contemplation of nature was rudely interrupted – by a huge seagull poo landing on my head. Sadly this isn’t the first time this has happened to me, in fact it’s starting to become a bit of a habit. Most people go to Scarborough and their only concern is whether the seagulls are going to steal their chips. I spend the time looking upwards trying to avoid walking under any suspicious looking gulls flying overhead.
Why don’t more people get pooed on by birds? It doesn’t seem to happen to other people. You never read in a book about so and so finding a body covered in bird poo. DS Roy Grace is never casually walking along Brighton sea front catching criminals only to have to stop to wipe bird poo off his head. Even Tippi Hedron was bird poo free despite having hundreds of birds trying to kill her. You would think it would be a common occurrence really bearing in mind the numbers of bird around. Yet it seems to be only me that gets targeted. I think it is some kind of game the birds all play. There is probably some kind of national league that the birds join. They get given a score card when they sign up and it has a big picture of me on it. Extra points every time they get a strike.
Apparently it is meant to be good luck but that is a load of nonsense if you ask me. All it means in reality is you have to wash your hair and/or jacket depending on the site of the aforementioned strike. I think it may be wise to give up my delusions of being a country girl. Next year I am just going to stay inside and read Winnie the Pooh to celebrate rather than venture outside.
I have recently started watching The Zoo on TV. For those of you who don’t know, this is not as the name suggests, a nice family show about zoo keepers and their charges. Instead it’s a series based on the James Patterson novel of the same name where animals are essentially taking revenge on humans in the most gruesome ways they can find.
As someone who has often thought how I much prefer animals to people (although I wouldn’t want to be confronted by a grizzly bear in my kitchen especially if I’d just opened a bottle of wine) this is the kind of programme that gives me a slightly satisfied feeling, animals fighting back. It also rather terrifies me though as it may already be happening. I can’t look at a crow without thinking of the Hitchcock film the Birds which I thought was really scary. I don’t think it helped that for the first few times I watched it, back in the days of the good old video tape I never got to watch the end. Either the film was overrunning so it didn’t record all of it, or the video ran out before it had finished. I even once bought a copy from the local charity shop and the tape mangled before I could watch it all the way through (anyone under the age of 40 reading this will have absolutely no idea what all that is about!) That just made the film even creepier if you ask me, did they get away from the birds or not?
Living near a field I often take the nice route to work which involves walking through a herd of young cows. I like the cows, yet as I walk through them carrying my leather bag I’m sure they are watching me. They can sense that I’m using their grandmother to carry my sandwiches to work (It’s ten years old and was made from recycled leather so it may actually be more like their great great grandmother) I’ve never actually seen them following me, but I know they are. Every time I turn around they stop and pretend to just be going about their business chewing grass but I think it’s all an act they are just trying to plan their next move.
Squirrels are another one to watch out for. I hate spiders and once heard that if you put conkers round the edges of rooms they give off some kind of odour that puts spiders off coming in. So I like to collect conkers for decorations. Yet there I am happily walking along, eyes on the ground, and suddenly get hit by said conkers. These didn’t just fall they were launched from the tree. Exactly at the spot where a nice little squirrel sat smugly grinning away, clearly warning me off of his nuts.
I think we should just be glad that we don’t live in a country where there are crocodiles and bears, and all we have to worry about are squirrels and cows. Just watch an episode of Zoo if you don’t believe me.
I must confess to not normally being a sports fan, much preferring to sit around and read a book. Therefore usually the Olympics passes me by. Only marked by the noticeable lack of Casualty on the TV due to the BBC’s continuous Olympic coverage. However this year due to a) living with someone who is utterly sports obsessed and will watch absolutely anything and b) my newly rekindled love of horses, I have actually watched quite a lot.
One of the things that really struck me was how easy all the sporting people made things seem to look. Take the equestrian sports for an example. I go riding and recently I’ve been learning both jumping and dressage techniques. Neither of these things are even slightly easy. Attempting to jump a cross bar approximately two inches off the ground at nothing faster than a trot still feels as though you are being asked to jump the Grand Canyon. As for dressage, well my riding style is more windmill like than calm and serene so trying to get a horse to smoothly trot in a circle is neigh-on impossible (see what I did there?) Yet the fantastic Charlotte DuJardin made dancing horses look very cool, and Nick Skelton barely broke a sweat as he took his horse over impossibly high jumps.
I suspect that writing a novel is another of these things that on the surface looks really easy, yet in reality is the exact opposite. It’s not only the writing, but also the coming up with ideas. Last weekend we spent a lovely evening having a dinner party (how very grown up!) with some friends. The conversation as it often does turned to books. This on the back of a conversation about our dream jobs, led to the suggestion that I should write a novel. Clearly due to my love of reading it was seen that the next logical step was for me to write one myself. However that lead to the first stumbling block, the idea. I think coming up with an original idea is harder than winning gold and silver in the Olympic Triathlon, unless you are the Brownlee brothers of course. One suggestion for an idea was that a group of people at a dinner party agree to murder each other’s enemies. Hmm where have I heard that before?
Even if you do then come up with an idea that hasn’t already been done to death, you have to get round to the actual putting of pen to paper, or fingers to keys in this day and age. Whilst it may seem that the hardest bit is starting and that once you begin the rest will follow I’m pretty sure this isn’t the case. The likes of Mark Billingham and Val Mcdermid may make the whole process of writing a novel seem easy as they put out hit after hit, yet I’m sure in reality just like in sport the hard work that is put in behind the scenes is monumental.
I like most readers would love to have the ability to write a novel, however I’d also like the ability to win a gold medal for dressage at the Olympics, or take the winning trophy at a triathlon yet considering my best 10k race time is 1 hour 4 minutes, and Alistair completed his Triathlon with a 10k time of 31 minutes, I suspect I might be somewhere off, especially when you add in the fact I am actually inherently lazy. In fact I think I’ll stick to reading books and complaining about the lack of Casualty, it is certainly much less exhausting.
So this week I’ve turned 40, which I have to say did not turn out to be the momentous occasion I thought it would be. In my head for some reason turning 40 was a huge deal. It’s half way through my life (although I have a 90 year old grandmother so I’m hoping I’m not quite there yet) and I thought this would be marked somehow. I don’t know how, maybe the Taj Mahal would appear in our garden, a troop of dancing elephants would shimmy down the Close singing happy birthday, I’d start wearing matching underwear and always carry a handkerchief. In reality, other than which box I tick on official forms absolutely nothing changed. I had a lovely day and thoroughly enjoyed myself but I didn’t change. I still haven’t brought about world peace, or done a handstand on the top of the Eiffel Tower, or anything particularly noteworthy.
This did cause me some consternation, and I was rather miserable when I woke up on my second day of my 40th year. Luckily I met a friend for lunch, who gave me just the kick up the backside I needed. She’d even bought me a book of things to do now that you’re 40. Her very good suggestion was to write a list of 40 things I want to do, and then actually do them. I’m a big list writer, although I’m not so good at the actual doing of the items. They don’t have to be big things like walking the Camino de Santiago as someone I know is doing (You can follow his blog here) They can be small things.
Another very good suggestion from a friend, was not just to write a list of things I want to do but also a list of 40 things I’ve already done that I enjoyed or am proud of. Both of these are excellent suggestions that I am going to be taking up.In fact by the end of the day I’d already knocked off one item from my list. I went to a lovely restaurant called Rattle Owl which I’d wanted to go to for ages and a friend took me as a birthday treat.
The day also reminded me that although I may not yet have found a way to stop slugs eating my cabbages or written a best selling novel, I have an awful lot of good friends which already means I have something to show for 40 years. So today after making 30 cupcakes for my party on Saturday I have begun my list. I still need lots more ideas but its a good start. Turning 40 may be just another number but doesn’t mean I can’t make this a momentous year (or at least a momentous list)
My 40 things to do
- Eat at the Rattle Owl
- Complete the TOPCWF 2016
- Afternoon tea at the Grand (My friend has already volunteered for that)
- See Orangutans in Borneo (actually a possibility as I’m going to Thailand at the end of the year)
- Eat a pizza in Italy
- Learn how to take good pictures
- Learn how to ride a bike
- Learn how to crochet
- Do a park run in at least 4 different cities (I was going to say 40 but thought that was rather excessive)
- Go on a wine tasting course and actually put it into practice (no more ordering ‘red wine, whatever is cheapest’!)
- Bluebell walk
- Horse ride on a beach (I do ride horses so its not such a long shot)
- Grow sweetcorn
- Ride in a hot air balloon
- Visit Blackpool
- Visit the Tower of London
- Go on a Jack the Ripper walk
- Visit Cromer
- Go on a pony trek
- Paint a picture
- Make a chinese meal from scratch
- Visit 4 news National Trust Houses
- Ride on a steam train
- Do an open water swim
- Take 4 different pictures of Roundhay Park across the 4 seasons
- Run 4 10ks
- Row a boat
- Visit Yorkshire Wildlife Park
- Go to the Manchester Sealife Centre
- See an Opera
- Go to the Horse Trials
- Collect pine cones in a wood
- Go on a bat walk
- Have a picnic
- Visit to the seaside
- Watch a sunrise outside
- Glass walk over Tower Bridge
Thursday was world book day. This is quite possibly one of my most favourite days. I’m gutted it’s not something we get to celebrate at work. I might suggest next year we take a leaf out of the local schools book and all come dressed as a character from our favourite novels. I’m not sure who I’d choose though as dressing as a detective is a bit dull. I suppose I could don a wax jacket and pair of wellington boots and go as Vera, or a pair of white overalls and be Kay Scarpetta. The local school had a huge array of costumes I spotted on the way to work. As well as the usual Harry Potters there was the Gruffalo, a Gangsta granny, and even a little red dragon.
More exciting than just getting to wear a fancy costume apparently all the children got given a book token. Am I only the person who thinks book tokens are one of the most fantastic presents ever. Every time I suggest to people that it would make a good gift for someone I get laughed at. How can people not think that book tokens are great? It’s almost like two presents in one, you not only get a free book you get the joy of choosing it yourself.
I was very excited the other day when I realised that national book tokens still exist. I remember getting these as a child and it would take me weeks to decide what I wanted. It hasn’t changed as I’ve got older. Whenever I get a token the ability to decide what I want suddenly disappears. Give me cash and I’ll buy the first book I find off my wish list but as soon as it comes to a token I’m a dithering wreck. It’s the most important decision in the world and making the wrong one thereby wasting my all important book token is catastrophic.
I haven’t actually seen a book token for a long time, and sadly I suspect they are no longer paper based things. They are no doubt credit card style items that get ‘topped up’ which isn’t quite as exciting in my mind but still book tokens are book tokens and the thrill of choosing books never goes away.
I hope that those who celebrated world book day enjoyed spending their book tokens. I wonder if I organised the day at work I could persuade them to let us have book tokens too. I would need to come up with a better character to dress up as though.
Now that the Viking invasion of half term has finally departed, this week I treated myself to a trip into town to partake in one of my favourite pastimes – browsing round Waterstones bookshop. I like to head straight to the back of the shop avoiding all the gift buyers and get stuck into the crime section. As usual I start with the tables in the middle of the shelves which are piled up with books displayed by theme. Then I head to the start of the crime section, which is where my plan fell to pieces. It seemed they’d moved the section. I looked around in a panic, what’s a book shop after all without a good stock of crime fiction? This would be a complete torment for me to live in a city without a crime section in the bookshop. Yet it soon became clear that whilst the initial panic was unfounded, there was still crime novels galore, there was a new problem. The crime novels were now all just mixed in amongst a general fiction section stretching round the store.
This was not good for me. I don’t like change. I also like to be able to go into a bookshop and head straight to the crime section knowing that whatever I’m picking up is crime. I like to know I’m not going to pick up a book and end up with a mills and boon (which I was a big fan of when younger, mainly because Jilly Cooper was a lot harder to sneak past the parents but the sex scenes were just as good) or much worse something dungeons and dragons based. My reading matter rarely deviates from anything that isn’t classified as crime. This new layout therefore really seems to be rather at odds with what I like, so it was time to express my annoyance.
Clearly nowadays the idea of writing letters to the local newspaper is practically akin to sending smoke signals. Outraged from York has long been in retirement. Therefore I did what all modern annoyed people do and I took to twitter to express my disgust. Rather surprisingly I swiftly received a reply to my tweet from one of the most high ranking authors in crime fiction. Once I’d come down off the roof thanks to the excitement of getting the tweet, I actually read it. Suddenly rather than seeing the concept of all fiction being in one big pile as a negative thing, I was open to the idea that this actually was a good way to ‘broaden your horizons’
I do love is discovering new authors. One of the best things about both writing this blog and of course attending the festival is the joy of discovering new writers and styles that you wouldn’t necessarily pick up yourself. I have also in the past read non crime fiction and really enjoyed it. So I completely agree that mixing the books altogether could potentially mean I discover new authors which is obviously a good thing.
However there is still a part of me that is a little bit sad about this change. I always loved the fortnightly trip to the library and this hasn’t disappeared as an adult. The difference is now I always look for the little blue sticker with the handcuffs on it so I know I’m a getting a crime novel. Which leads me to the biggest issue that this is going to cause me, and that’s one of time. Whilst I’m looking forward to discovering new authors the sheer time I’m going to need to browse through all those books is scary. I wonder if part time working is feasible? Or maybe rather than seeing it as a Saturday morning treat I should just get a job in a bookshop.
When I’m out walking or running I like to listen to books. My latest ‘listen to’ audiobook has been Splinter the Silence by Val McDermid. As with all of her novels this is a great book. It even includes a character called Tamsin which I like to think she has named after my sister having seen her name on one of the numerous yellow post it notes that follow us round at the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writers Festival. One of the discussions between characters in Splinter the Silence is about the best way to follow people without being detected. Apparently when tailing someone it is best to always stay in front of the person and work out where they are going next.
Well the other day whilst out for a jog I thought I’d try this out, as the The Chopper appeared just as I was leaving my house. For years I’ve been watching this man walking up and down the street with a walking stick in one hand and a carrier bag in the other wondering where he is going. Therefore I decided to follow him to find out once and for all where he buries the bodies. We live next door to a small moor and field so there are plenty of places he could use but it is surrounded on all sides by streets and houses so I thought I’d easily track him.
As he set off slowly walking I jogged past the Chopper then stopped to tie my shoelace whilst surreptitiously watching which way he went. He went left so I ran straight on over the moor, coming out at the end of the road in front of him. Next he went right, not towards the shops as one would expect for someone carrying a shopping bag but heading as though to go out on the moor. I took off again this time along the path, ready to cut onto the moor. I turned the corner and saw him in front. Yet rather than turn he suddenly changed direction, heading along the path besides the field. I doubled back on myself and got behind him, as he took a swift last minute right turn away from the fields.
I was determined not to lose him. I’m out for a run after all, so how hard can it be to keep up with an old man with a walking stick. By this stage it was safe to say I may have been spotted (the fluorescent stripes down the side of my jacket were not doing me any favours here) but suddenly out of nowhere as I approach the entrance to the Moor, he appears on the other side of the gate. Skidding to a halt we are eyeball to eyeball. Now would be a good time for me to just simply say hello and run off, pretending I wasn’t following him after all. Yet I can’t do that, I’m on a mission.
He heads off again this time down the street towards the shops. Now in danger of losing him I speed up and cut through some houses to meet him at the other side. Just as he came into sight he turned again, this time heading back towards the moor. I took off back on myself towards the same Moor. But suddenly he’s disappeared. I know I’m a very slow runner, but how on earth can I be outrun by an old man with a walking stick?
I carried on for a few minutes but he had completely vanished. Heading home I rounded the corner and there he was. Seemingly just leaving his house and going shopping. Unless there are some secret passages I’m not aware of I have no idea how he managed to give me the slip and make it back so quickly. I’m beginning to think the Apple Drive body disposal gang goes further than first thought. I refuse to be beaten though and am going to try again, although next time I might have to ditch the fluorescent running jacket.