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.
So once again another new year has rolled around along with the inevitable new year resolutions. As regular readers of my blog will know I don’t really have a lot of patience for the New Year’s bandwagon of giving things up for January. It’s good that people make changes if they wish, but if you ask me they would be more realistic being long term goals rather than go hell for leather in January and revert to normal in February. I also think that the January trends always seem very negative, social media is awash with people giving things up or losing things. Last year rather than giving anything up I gave myself three challenges for the year (not resolutions of course) One was to read 50 books – tick, one was to run 5 10ks – no tick but that was courtesy of a dodgy knee, and the third was to swim twice a week – almost a tick.
Challenges as opposed to resolutions are a good thing I think, as long as they are positive challenges. Yet like everything there are two sides to them. There has been a lot of recent discussion in the world of book blogging around whether or not it is good to have reading challenges. I understand how sometimes it can get overwhelming. I enjoy reviewing on this blog but I do also just want to read for fun not always to review. The good thing about both reading challenges and book reviewing is that you get to read things you wouldn’t normally choose. I’ve read new authors that I probably wouldn’t have picked up on without the blog, I’ve also read novels from established authors that I wouldn’t have tried without the TOPCWFC.
I think that’s where most New Year Resolutions fall down. They always seem to be about giving things up. Maybe resolutions should look to be about trying new things. There would certainly be more chance for me to actually complete them if that was the case.
Most years I try and do something new. Last year I went on a sewing course, previously I’ve done courses on all sorts of stuff including cake baking, jewellery making, and criminology. I’ve taken up new hobbies including jogging, horse riding, and of course blogging.
View of the flooded racecourse
However last year I didn’t do anything new (unless trying a glass of prosecco with sloe gin counts?) so rather than make a whole bunch of new resolutions that I probably won’t do, I’m only going to do one. That’s to make this the year to try something new. Not sure what yet but it won’t involve giving anything up for January. Having recently seen the devastation caused by the local floods which affected not only people’s homes, but also small businesses in the city including the lovely little bar where I had the aforementioned drink, rather than give things up I’m going to make this the year of new things. Starting with trying some new drinks in some of the local cafés and bars that are trying to get back on their feet. Trying my hand at horse racing might need to be more of a long term challenge though at least until things have dried out a bit. Whatever your resolution or challenge – happy new year to all my readers and here’s to a positive 2016.
Last weekend turned out to be very horsey. Apart from my usual Sunday morning riding lesson, I spent Saturday at the races (and even won a whole £2.50) then Sunday afternoon I went to watch some eventing at the local equestrian college. I’ve always loved horses, in fact I love pretty much all animals apart from spiders, wasps, and Mr F’s cat. Don’t get me wrong, on the whole I would count myself as a cat person. Just not with this particular one. If it’s not whinging for food, or throwing up, it’s shedding hair everywhere or spreading litter all over the house. You can’t do anything in our house without the cat getting in the way. If you try and read the paper she has to sit on it as soon as you put it down, if I get my laptop out she’ll try and walk across the keyboard in an attempt to stop any work being done. Every time you move somehow she manages to get in the way.
Now before anyone calls the RSPCA on me I should point out that this dislike is entirely mutual. Since Mr F’s cat became part of the household, me and the cat have tolerated each other. However it is definitely an mutual tolerance not a friendship. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the
night and the cat will be sat on top of me just staring. I recently saw a book called ‘How to tell if your cat is planning to kill you’ and I’m pretty certain it must have been written by Mr F’s Cat.
A few months ago we really thought she was on the way out. She had stopped eating and could barely walk. She couldn’t even climb the stairs let alone jump up onto the bed. This of course was a blessing for me (although Mr F was obviously rather upset) so with a bit of a spring in my step, we once more dutifully tramped along to the vet where we are regular visitors. The waiting room was full of yapping rats (they may have been dogs), but rather excitedly there was a nice large poster advertising kittens needing good homes. As I say it’s only one cat in particular I don’t like, so I made a note of the number and started planning what we’d need for the new pet.
Of course what I hadn’t planned on was the deviousness of cats. It took thirty seconds from the Vet placing the cat on the floor to her making a miraculous recovery and leaping up onto the table in a jumping display that William Fox-Pitt would have been proud of. You could see the smugness in her eyes. Not only did we now look stupid in front of the vet who clearly thinks we are some deranged mad couple that just like taking their cat out, she’d managed to get my hopes up just to dash them down again. To make matters worse we seem to have found a Vet that won’t even take bribes – I didn’t specifically say I wanted her put down I was just sounding out the scene when Mr F was on holiday but the Vet was having none of it.
I suppose the problem is animals are like people, there are some you like and some you don’t like. One of the horses I ride has clearly got a moody side and has been known to take a chunk out of people she doesn’t like. Yet at least with animals like horses they are kept outside and you are safe from any murderous tendencies they may have. With cats you can just never tell. I think it’s time to start sleeping with one eye open.
This year at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writers Festival Eddie Izzard was special guest. Whilst his link to crime writing might have been tenuous (he is friends with Mark Billingham and appears in the TV version of Hannibal) he turned out to be really interesting and quite inspiring. One of the things that he says is that he tries to learn a new skill every year which I think is something to aspire to. His examples included running 43 marathons in 43 days and learning Arabic so he can give his stand up routine in the language.
Last year I started horse riding again after a gap of approximately 20 (and a bit!) years. As a child I spent most of my time mucking out and going out hacking round the fields rather than actually learning properly. This time round it is all a bit more serious and I’m actually learning how to ride properly. The past couple of weeks have been very exciting as I’ve been learning to jump. Admittedly I suspect people would say I was just staying on top of a horse rather than actually jumping but the thing is I don’t care because I love it. I have probably lost my chance at riding in the Olympics therefore it doesn’t matter that I’m not very good because it’s all just for fun.
I think a lot of the reason people don’t learn new things is fear of failure or embarrassment. As a child we are constantly learning and it’s seen as the norm. Clearly as a child we are expected to not know most stuff therefore we can accept that we have to learn. As an adult we spend so much of our time at work pretending that we know everything about our jobs (or is that just me?) that I think people forget that they don’t know things and it’s ok to learn.
I’ve always enjoyed learning new things, and am happy to admit that I don’t know a lot of stuff. I think it is helped partly by the fact I have very little in the way of competitive spirit. Even as a child I had no interest in competitive sports – when I was in nursery (or primary clearly I can’t remember that far back) apparently during a race in school sports day I was in the lead but stopped to wait for my friend ultimately losing. It’s probably a good job I haven’t got pushy parents who forced me into sports I would have been such a disappointment.
I think that all adults would be happier if they accepted the point of learning something new is that you are not supposed to be any good at it to start with. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve not done something because I might not be any good or might be embarrassed. Running is a great example that I put off for ages in case everyone laughed at me as I jogged (or walked) round our local park. It took me a good while to realise that no one is looking. The only people who look at other people trying to run are those that are runners and without fail are remembering a time they started out and were not any good. Therefore I think it’s time to all embrace our inner Eddie Izzard and learn something new and not care if we are no good at it. As long as we enjoy it. I may give learning Arabic a miss though.