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.