Category Archives: Holiday

Alone

Well I’ve been abandoned for two whole weeks whilst Mr F goes on holiday. Whilst he’s off planting trees, or fixing schools, or some other worthwhile activity (He’s actually gone to Lesotho with a charity called Africa’s Gift  find out more here) I’m left behind all alone cleaning up cat sick and sorting out the recycling bins.

Now clearly I would not admit this to Mr F as the truth sometimes gets in the way of a good sulk over my abandonment (where he is there is limited internet access and electricity so I can get away with this admission) However there is a small part of me that is actually looking forward to a couple of weeks on my own.

Whilst of course I love him to bits, I do find men have a habit of getting in the way sometimes. I am someone who quite likes just pottering. I can potter in the garden planting seeds, watching birds, pruning something that I don’t really know what it is. I can potter in the house tidying things up (which actually just means putting anything I find in a big box as if you can’t see things then they don’t exist) or sorting things out. I can even potter round town looking in bookshops, or wondering round the market. However it’s hard to potter properly when there are two of you, as one is always wanting to do something.

I have a theory that the only reason sport was invented is to give people time on their own to potter. If I said to Mr F one Saturday morning, today I’m going to spend sorting out my bookshelves and reading my latest book he’d huff and puff a bit and come up with a list of activities he wanted to do. Clearly none of those would involve anything to do with books. That’s where football comes in. Never in a million years did I ever think I would religiously plot in my diary when the football was going to be on. Yet there I am with each match marked down knowing that no matter what else is going on in the world the football will keep him entertained for a while.

Being on my own for two weeks also means I can eat what I want without having to consult anyone. At the risk of sounding about 90 the first thing I bought after dropping Mr F off at the train station was courgettes. Although he’s not a fussy eater he does have some strange vegetable aversions including courgettes which are one of my favourite vegetables. I have tried to encourage him to eat them, I once made a three course courgette themed meal starting with courgette fritters, then courgette pasta finished with courgette and chocolate cake, yet he’s still not keen.

As well as all the time I’ll get to read books and potter round whilst eating courgettes, I finally get full control of the tv remote. The timing couldn’t be more perfect with the new series of criminal minds back on the television, and Masterchef having started again.

Also in terms of good timing, his departure has coincided with one of the most exciting things of the year. The release of the programme for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. This is a thing that takes time to digest properly. It has to be read through a couple of times, before lists are created of which authors I’ve already read, and which I need to start reading. The sessions have to be planned to see if there are any we could stand to miss to give a bit of breathing and reading space during the weekend. All of this takes time, and I’ll have lots of it on my hands.

Of course saying all that I am obviously going to miss Mr F loads, and am very proud of him, but somehow I think the time is going to fly by and I’ll no doubt wonder where it all went once he’s home.

 

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The October List

The blog has been a bit quiet for the past few weeks. Yet again work has gotten in the way of blogging, plus there was the small matter of a couple of week’s holiday in the good old USA to take up my time. Long distance travel is always a good time to catch up on reading as there isn’t much else to do on an 8 hour flight, especially one that didn’t even provide a tv (considering even the squirrels are obese in America, their planes are surprisingly small!)

However as much as I do love reading crime novels I like to start a holiday with a good selection of guidebooks, and lists of must see places. So with New York, Boston and New England to research in one trip the novel reading was put to one side for a bit. I’ve realised I do become a bit obsessed with ticking things off lists though, in fact I’ve been known to write things on lists just to tick them off. New York therefore became one long blur of tourist attraction after tourist attraction, punctuated occasionally by the search for a good pint of beer in order to keep Mr F happy. Luckily with the American’s love of all things Halloween there were plenty of festive themed ales to choose from.

It’s easy to understand how some of the authors of the best novels in recent times were inspired by America. We stayed in a motel at Weir’s Beach, which was a lovely seaside resort. I can imagine at high season the place would have been packed. However arriving the day before Columbus day things were rather more subdued. In fact other than the woman who checked us in, we didn’t see another sole. Apart from a bloke chopping what I hope were logs in the morning, I didn’t catch his name although it did sound suspiciously like he said it was Norman. Robert Bloch had probably signed in the visitor book if I’d looked closely.

During a session at the festival a couple of years ago there was a discussion around why so many crime writers hail from Scandinavia, and although I’m paraphrasing a bit they said it was because the Scandinavian countries had such a low crime rate and were so pretty that they had to make up scary things themselves. The same may be said of Portland, Maine. From my experience of a short drive to Portland, it’s a beautiful place and the views over the sea from the lighthouse we visited were stunning. Certainly not the stuff of horror, however it doesn’t stop the output of prolific horror writer Stephen King who is based there.

Probably the best views of the holiday (apart from seeing a baby black bear walking along the side of the road) came from a visit to a place called Castle in the Clouds. Although I was very disappointed to find it wasn’t a castle at all but just a big house built in 1914. I used to live in a flat that was built in 1620 so something 100 years old isn’t really that impressive. The view over the Lake was stunning however, and whilst not crime related was apparently where some of the film ‘On Golden Pond’ was set.

In between New York and New England we spent a couple of nights in Boston. One of my favourite authors is Tess Gerritsen, who sets her Rizzoli and Isles novels in the city. As a fan of the TV show as well I was quite excited about the prospect of finding the police department where it is filmed. Until Mr F did a quick internet search and found the show is actually filmed on set miles away from Boston. We had to content ourselves with following the freedom trail instead, which came with a handy painted line on the road to follow so no map reading necessary.

 

After a final night back in New York it was heading home time, and back to reality. It’s potentially given me an idea for a new challenge though, to read a crime novel set in every city I’ve visited. That sounds to me like its time for a new list to be created, and my train journey back from working in Manchester might be a good time to start.

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A Christmas Tragedy

Its Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid. A classic line sung first by Paul Young and then latterly on the much ignored Band Aid II by Kylie Minogue. However judging by my trip into town yesterday I would disagree and say there is much to be scared of, and not just the fact I seem to have been forced to listen to that song every time I’ve set foot inside a shop since mid September.

Never mind the fact that at this time of the year the world goes mad and suddenly everyone is buying up brandy snaps as though their life depended on it. There is another recently discovered scary issue around. Namely the tragedy that is the complete destruction of the humble colouring book. I braced the mad rush of final shoppers yesterday to try and find two colouring books for presents. A simple task you might think? Well you’d be wrong.

Firstly all I wanted was a normal standard picture book for young children to colour in. Just the normal colouring books I had as a child with pictures of dogs and cats and houses. I didn’t want stickers or activities or doodles (that must be the cleverest money making idea since the shampoo companies started putting the words rince and repeat on the bottles, just put some blank paper together, call it a doodle book on the cover and charge twenty times the cost of the paper)

Secondly and most scary of all, when did colouring become a gender specific activity? Everywhere I looked the only colouring books I could find were labelled either girls colouring books and were full of pictures of princesses and castles, or boys colouring books full of cars and tractors. Talk about pushing gender stereotyping. Why do simple activities such as colouring need to be ruined? I realise it is a money making scam and people will unconsciously fall for it. I also know that in the scheme of things it’s quite a minor issue but it really bugged me. It is as stupid as the pink lego thing (read about them here) Well it didn’t work on me, and I walked away without purchasing any of them.

I realise that people have to try and reinvent the wheel. Essentially that’s what crime writers do all the time. There are a finite number of ways to kill someone and also motives for doing so, yet writers are able to take this idea and revamp it thousands and thousands of times. That’s a good thing for someone like me, who wants to read this revamped idea over and over again. Yet surely this revamping wasn’t needed for colouring books, to a six year old a picture to colour is about the actual act of colouring rather than the picture itself. I don’t think they really care how it is packaged. I bought a gift for a friend’s daughter this weekend and she was more interested in playing with the wrapping paper than the actual gift. (It was very nice wrapping paper though) There is certainly no need to give children different pictures to colour depending on whether they are a boy or girl.

Anyway despite my mini strop with the woman in Waterstones who asked if I’d found everything I wanted. All is not lost and the receivers of the colouring books are not to miss out. Luckily the sister works for a large retail brand (in the interest of not advertising let’s just say, think of a posh pound shop where you can buy a full size dancing Father Christmas and you’ll know where I mean) and she saved the day with some nice general colouring books with no stickers or activities in sight. She can therefore now be known as the Sister who saved Christmas. Of course is she could also work out a way of banning shops from playing Christmas music before the 23rd December then she really would be a superhero.

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The murder room

Well this week acrimereadersblog has been on tour (that sounds better than admitting to another holiday) and has spent the past few days in Rome. As always a trip away no matter where to or for how long is always a good opportunity for reading, and thanks to the joy of the kindle I have no shortage of books to choose from. My choice for the flight this time being Lynda LaPlante, who it has recently been announced will be attending the festival next year.

With a bit of creative licence the P of Plante also continues the theme of the holiday which turned out to be things beginning with P. We saw Putin, the Pope, a political rally, a police museum and paid preposterous prices.
Of course we covered the usual well known sites. We walked round the Vatican, we saw the Sistine chapel with all the artwork and it’s amazing ceiling (I bet Michelangelo was gutted he couldn’t just have nipped to B&Q for a tin of magnolia) we admired the Coliseum and we forgot to throw coins into the Trevi Fountain.

However alongside the many stunning sites of historic significance we also covered the aforementioned 5 P’s. We caught Putin arriving at the Vatican surrounded by armed police. We waved at Pope Francis as he travelled round in his little popemobile before he made his regular address to the crowds. We then accidently got caught up in a Furza Italia political rally, with lots of flag waving and coloured flares. Of course not understanding any Italian we weren’t aware that had we waited for a bit longer we would actually have seen Berlusconi himself talking to his supporters. We visited the Police museum (otherwise known as the Museum of criminology) which was essentially a storage area for all the torture devices and murder weapons collected by the police force over the past few hundred years. Then to round off our 5Ps we also paid preposterous prices. Two cakes and two coffees cost us 39 euro’s, luckily they were very nice but you’d hope so for that price.

Rome was a lovely place, although one thing that seemed strange was the lack of seats in coffee shops. It seems that most Italians simply neck their espressos stood at the counter. I don’t think we saw anyone just sitting down leisurely in a coffee shop and reading a book. That did seem a bit sad, the coffee was lovely and therefore its a shame to not be able to enjoy it. Then again maybe different cultures enjoy books in different ways. We certainly saw a lot of bookshops during our visit and so I don’t doubt that the Italians love to read. Maybe they just keep it for travelling, certainly the Italian next to me on the plane was very interested in my kindle and how ‘esoteric’ (his word not mine) the range of books available were. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that mine doesn’t really contain anything but crime novels!

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Cue the Easter Bunny

The eagle eyed amongst you may have realised that the blog has been pretty quiet over the past few weeks. Sadly life does often have a habit of getting in the way of the blog and with so many other pressures on us things that you really enjoy doing sometimes have to be put on the back burner. In my case those pressures involved two weeks on all inclusive in the Caribbean with friends, and then a rather extended birthday celebration (I sense I may have lost any vague sympathy I was garnering at this point)

Whilst the writing may have been rather quiet, the same certainly can’t be said for the reading. In fact on the two week holiday I managed to get through 13 and a half books (yes I’m annoyed I didn’t make it a complete 14. I blame being introduced to electronic Sudoku on my phone which became highly addictive)

It just goes to show that if there is a desire to read then the time will always be found.  It wasn’t as though there wasn’t a lot of swimming, kayaking, chatting, eating and drinking to be done. Not to mention the nightly rounds of tequila shots, vodka and cocktails. Still I somehow went through a book a day almost. Of course sitting on a beach is much different to real life, it’s the first time I’ve ever spent Easter Sunday on a beach reading a book, drinking champagne surrounded by men dressed in easter bunny suits, but as I’ve said before if you want to find the time to read then you will do.

Holidays are often the only time that people do read and this is where the kindle really does come into its own. The luggage allowance on our flights was tiny. There was barely enough allowed to carry my shoes and sun tan lotion (plus cardigans) so had I had to include 13 books I would have needed to buy an extra seat just to be allowed to take them with me.

It is not just the weight or the space, having to have picked just 13 books to take with me would have been impossible. At the last count my kindle had around 60 books I’ve read and another 50 waiting to be read, the only way to carry them would have been to travel round in my own mobile library. Whilst I think that would have been great fun it wouldn’t be quite so easy to get the Caribbean in.

This does obviously now mean that I am very behind in my review writing, and to top it all off I’ve just heard that the full programme for the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival 2013 is being released on Friday. So although the blog may have been a bit quiet whilst I was topping up my tan (yes ok hiding under an umbrella covered in factor 50) It’s about to get a lot noisier, with the start of the TOPCWFC 2013!

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Lazy Bones

Happy New Year to all, I hope you have had a good festive break.

As always the start of another New Year brings with it the inevitable question of ‘What are your New Year’s resolutions?’ Personally I don’t make them, mainly as I don’t believe in them. Just because the year is one number higher, why does that suddenly mean you are going to stop being lazy and actually do the things you’ve talked about?

I’m a great procrastinator (at work anyway), and nowadays blame the internet. I suspect that there is a direct correlation between people who say they don’t have enough time to do things, and those who spend the most time surfing the net and playing on facebook. Maybe everyone should make a New Year’s resolution to go cold turkey and give up the internet one day a week for 2013. If we all did that, and then spent that time buying and reading books, we would make James Daunt and Waterstones very happy!

Apparently (well according to Wikipedia, the font of most of my knowledge) resolutions originally stem from the ancient Babylonians who made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. Well that sounds like a silly resolution to me, returning all the books I’ve borrowed and accidently forgotten to give back would take me til 2015 to do.

Of course sometimes resolutions do have their place. Take the Hilda’s for example (for new readers this should explain them) Hilda1 is having teeth implants next week to straighten her wonky teeth. After this she is going full out for a makeover with a new hair style and some new clothes. Whilst Hilda2 was talking about going on holiday to somewhere snowy so she could go bottom boarding whatever that is. Never mind that 1 is in their 80s and 2 is in their 60s, its a new year and they are going do something. As  Du Plessis says in Wild at Heart ‘Its how you live your life, not how long you live it for that counts’ which the Hilda’s would obviously agree with (although they seem to be going for both how and how long).

Whilst I don’t do resolutions, I do like ‘to do’ lists which I suppose in a way are mini resolutions. Lists of things to do over the holiday, lists of housework that needs doing, lists of tv programmes I’d like to watch. My favourite list is my list of books to read, which is a list I’ve never yet completed. For every one I finish I usually add four more. Maybe I should make a New Year’s resolution to actually finish one reading list before starting another. But thats the thing with resolutions apparently 88% of them fail anyway, so why waste time making them!

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Black Coffee

Well the two week holiday is over, the suitcase is unpacked, and the summer clothes have been swopped for thermals. Hong Kong was an amazing city, although the problem with having such a busy couple of weeks is that there wasn’t much time for reading.

In fact I only managed one and a half books which is less than I normally read when working full time. The book I managed to complete was called Gweilo: Memories of a Hong Kong Childhood by Martin Booth. This recounted his childhood in the 1950s which he spent in Hong Kong.

Obviously this along with two big guidebooks was required reading for my holiday. It was a fascinating book that was brought to life by being able to visit the places he talked about. He lived in both Kowloon, and at the Peak on Hong Kong Island so many of the trips we took, he had been there first. Although I didn’t follow him in trying a 1000 year old egg, unidentifiable balls of gluten was as adventurous as my food eating got. I did however have the best cup of coffee I’ve ever tasted, not to mention the most expensive, drunk whilst gazing into the window of Tiffanys (how the other half live!)

Hong Kong was an amazing place, with some real contrasts of culture and scenary. We had a non stop two weeks from Big Budda’s at the top of a cable car ride, to light shows across the Harbour. From hiking up a mountain, to riding the worlds longest escalator. From sampan rides through a floating fishing village, to an express elevator to the 47th floor. Hong Kong really does have it all, including my very cute Goddaughter dressed for Halloween.

Whilst I would happily have stayed in Hong Kong a lot longer, its now back to reality (not to mention the cold and dark weather which was a bit of a shock after the sun and heat) At least dark nights mean more time for reading so normal crime blogging service will be resumed shortly!

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