Category Archives: Reading

The Office of the Dead

I am a very lucky person to have a job I enjoy. One of the things I really enjoy about my job is the fact that I’m often out of the office. Now of course this is great for a reader like me, hours either sat on trains with a book, or driving round in a car with an audio book blaring are never time wasted. The other big bonus about my job, is I’m often out of the office.

Yes I know that is a repeated sentence, but frankly it is such a bonus it is worth repeating. Offices are funny things. People who have never worked in offices will never understand the day to day resentment that builds up amongst normally sane people. Those that outside the shackles of the 9-5 would normally be nice people inside those hours become like extras on The Walking Dead, out to drink the blood of anyone that dares to get on their nerves. Little things take on huge significance and can take up whole days, first with the discussion around the perceived misdemeanour and then the inevitable policy that will be introduced to attempt to put a stop to the war.

Take for example the phantom porridge bowl leaver in our place. Every day someone has their breakfast in the office. This is of course the first gripe, should it be allowed? Some say yes, some say no, some say this is akin to treason and should be dealt with as such. When finished with the bowl it then gets left in the sink rather than put in the dishwasher. The dishwasher is next to the sink, is it really so difficult to put it in one rather than the other? Of course like all good office workers no one actually works out who the offender is and confronts them. Instead people write big notes which they hang over the sink to be completely ignored by the phantom porridge bowl leaver.

The latest scandal to hit the office however relates to toilet roll. Someone is taking the nice big industrial toilet rolls that I purchase for the office bathrooms, removing them and replacing them with cheap lidl versions. Why would anyone do that? Maybe they have a cat related to mine that likes to ensure all toilet p20180817_045849.jpgaper is in as tiny pieces as possible and preferably laying on the floor. Yet unless they have an industrial sized toilet roll holder in their toilets how are they even going to hang it up? Maybe they are getting ready for Halloween and are going to throw it over houses that don’t have good enough sweets. Yet we are a bunch of middle aged women, not American children! Of course what I should do is calmly call a staff meeting and explain that the toilet roll is for staff use and shouldn’t be replaced with cheap tracing paper. However that would not be proper office etiquette. Oh no, I’m going to write a big sign to stick in the toilets, and if that doesn’t work I think I might write a policy about correct toilet paper usage. If that doesn’t work I’m thinking of installing CCTV in the toilets to catch the offender, surely there is nothing wrong in that?

Luckily for both me and the rest of the staff I am not currently in the office. Therefore I shall stick to reading my book and hope that by the time I’m back in Halloween will be over and the need for industrial size toilet rolls will no longer be a problem. Like I say the big bonus in my job is I’m often out of the office!

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Wellcome Book Prize Blog Tour

As you know I usually only feature fiction books on acrimereadersblog. I don’t read an awful lot of non-fiction. However there are some exceptions to this, and The Butchering Art was one. Author Lindsey Fitzharris was talking at the York Literature Festival but unfortunately I was unable to attend. So when I was invited to take part in the Blog Tour for the Wellcome Book Prize I jumped at the chance to read a copy of her book.

The Wellcome Book Prize celebrates the best new books that illuminate our encounters with health and medicine. The Butchering Art tells the story of Joseph Lister. In the 19th Century operating theatres were known as ‘gateways to death’ over half the people who had surgery died on the table. Lister was one of the first to believe that germs caused death and that antiseptic could kill them. This was a shocking claim in an era where surgeons didn’t even bother washing their hands before cutting people open! With lots of graphich detail, The Butchering Art is a fascinating tale of Victorian hospitals, where the cleaners were paid more than the surgeons.

The following extract gives a flavour of the book which is available on amazon.

Lister escaped many of the dangerous medical treatments that some of his contemporaries experienced while growing up, because his father believed in vis medicatrix naturae, or “the healing power of nature.” Like many Quakers, Joseph Jackson was a therapeutic nihilist, adhering to the idea that Providence played the most important role in the healing process. He believed that administering foreign substances to the body was unnecessary and sometimes downright life-threatening. In an age when most medicinal concoctions contained highly toxic drugs like heroin, cocaine, and opium, Joseph Jackson’s ideas might not have been too wide of the mark. Because of the household’s dearly held principles, it came as a  surprise to everyone in the family when young Lister announced that he wanted to be a surgeon— a job that involved physically intervening in God’s handiwork. None of his relations, except a distant cousin, were doctors. And surgery, in particular, carried with it a certain social stigma even for those outside the Quaker community. The surgeon was very much viewed as a manual laborer who used his hands to make his living, much like a key cutter or plumber today. Nothing better demonstrated the inferiority of surgeons than their relative poverty. Before 1848, no major hospital had a salaried surgeon on its staff, and most surgeons (with the exception of a notable few) made very little money from their private practices. But the impact a medical career might have on his social and financial standing later in life was far from Lister’s mind when he was a boy. During the summer of 1841, at the age of fourteen, he wrote to his father, who was away attending to the family’s wine business, “When Mamma was out I was by myself and had nothing to do but draw skeletons.” Lister requested a sable brush so that he could “shade another man to shew the rest of the muscles.” He drew and labelled all the bones in the cranium, as well as those of the hands, from both the front and the back. Like his father, young Lister was a proficient artist— a skill that would later help him to document in startling detail his observations made during his medical career.

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Children of the revolution

As you all hopefully know, today is World Book Day. In fact it is the 20th anniversary of the day. I can imagine for parent’s the joy of this day is slightly tempered by the need to suddenly create an entire Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory out of an old washing up liquid bottle, an egg box and some sticky back plastic, but to me it’s a really positive day.

Everywhere you go people are talking about books. On the radio, in the papers, even people in the office are showing off pictures of their nephews and nieces dressed as book characters and discussing what they read as a child. Books are such exciting things.  Therefore I was rather surprised to read in the paper that last year 25% of children between eight and 11 had used their £1 book token to buy their first ever book. Don’t get me wrong I think it’s great that the day allowed all those children to buy books. I just can’t imagine not having bought a book by the age of eight.

Admittedly I don’t actually remember buying books when I was eight, that was what parent’s and adults were for. Yet I remember books being everywhere, and I was a child before Harry Potter had even been thought of. We still had Enid Blyton, lots of books about girls with ponies, and of course what is still one of my favourites today, Winnie the Pooh. Even if we weren’t buying books, there were regular family trips to the local library or at one point there was a mobile library which came to us, books on wheels. Libraries were a great way to encourage us to read. Even the Father would come with us and pretend to read a paper whilst sat in the corner.

More disturbingly for me however, the article went on to say that one in 10 people within the UK did not own a book. One in 10 people did not own a book. That’s so shocking it deserves repeating twice.  I suspect Mr F would rather I owned less books, as it is getting close to a choice between my books and space for him, and that is a tricky choice. However to not own even one book I find very sad. The article doesn’t specify what type of book. I assume it means only fiction and therefore doesn’t include things such as cook books (everyone has to own at least one cook book don’t they, even if it’s just a Delia Smith how to boil an egg?) However still that to me is quite a shocking statistic. It makes me want to go and find all these people and give them a book. To be fair I probably do have enough to help out quite a lot.

That’s why I think something like World Book Day is so exciting and is starting a new revolution of readers. If all those children who are buying their first book continue to love reading, then books will be everywhere. Plus it will mean the next generation of parents have something to do whilst they are waiting for the superglue to dry on their child’s Harry Potter costume in 20 years time.

http://www.worldbookday.com/

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Finders Keepers

It has been said to me that I’m quite a nosy person. I don’t think that is true, but I must admit to a complete fascination with other people’s bookshelves. There is nothing better than a nicely organised wall of books. I love walking around at dusk when the lights are on but people haven’t yet shut their curtains and seeing what people have on their shelves.  (That statement sounded better in my head than written down!) That’s why I was really interested to read the recent post by Cleopatra loves books ‘On my bookself‘ and her inspiration Snazzy books.

As you can imagine I have quite a large number of books, although I can’t say they are particularly well organised. I think how a person categorizes their books says a lot about their personality. I imagine some people have a full a-z system going with excel files detailing everything they own and what shelf it is on at any particular time or who is currently borrowing it (that reminds me I must ring my sister)

I’ve seen others who shelve them by colour, others by size, some people don’t keep books in the house donating them straight to charity as soon as they have read them. I imagine there are others of the kindle generation who think bookshelves are all flat screen images.

Clearly none of those enviously organised systems are me. I’m definitely a bit of a hoarder when it comes to books, but whilst I wouldn’t give dewy decimal a run for his money I do try and keep a vague system and always aim to store books by category. By far my smallest category is travel books. 20150602_205254Obviously these are on pride of place by the door – let’s be honest we all put our guidebook selection where it can be seen by guests, unless of course the only travel that’s ever been done is a caravan to Skegness for the weekend.

20150517_130446My next shelf is cookbooks, this is quite a large shelf. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I do love a good cook book. Clearly the majority of my books are vegetarian ones, and I do like to waste a bit of time reading through nice looking recipes whilst waiting for the pizza to be delivered.

By far my largest category of books, is crime novels. Even in here there is a vague system. 20150602_205329The top shelf is full of those books I’ve got signed, there is then a section for those I’ve not yet read, and there is a special section for those I wish I’d read but never going to try which is hidden behind the curtain.

Of course I do wish I was a bit more organised. Over the years I dread to think, not only how many books I’ve acquired by ‘borrowing’ from others and simply forgotten to return, but also how many I’ve lost by lending them and completely forgetting about them. It’s most definitely a case of finders keepers when it comes to books in my house, but I have to admit that to me that’s what books should be about. Whilst I do love seeing the lovely organised shelves of other people, there are not many readers who come to my house and go away empty handed. Although I probably won’t remember what they took the following day, so if you are looking for  a new read pop round!

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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 black ice

The ice is out in full force at the moment which means my walk to work takes on a whole new challenge, where just staying on your feet becomes a task equivalent to reading war and peace. This takes on an added dimension when the ice is combined with the fun that is recycling day, where it is not only the invisible black icy patches that have to be avoided.

This being York, nearly everyone recycles. Down our street where the average age is about 152 the recycling boxes are mainly just newspapers, with the odd plastic container that probably contained Horlicks thrown in. We obviously have a few more glass items in ours, although this week I was incredibly embarrassed putting out the bottles. There was only 4 in there, what must people have thought. I promise I’ll try harder this fortnight.

Obviously down the main street there is a much wider variety of recycling coming out of the big houses. Despite the obvious dangers of tripping over escaped caviar pots or rolling champagne bottles I must admit I find the chance to see what people are buying fascinating. Before recycling became popular the only way to know what complete strangers had for tea was to go through their dustbins which is borderline stalking apparently. However now just walking down the street allows those of us with a keen interest in the human race (some people call it nosy, I just like to think I am interested in my surroundings) access behind closed doors.

Of course the problem with that is you don’t get the full picture. It’s easy to see what people had for tea with the abundance of organic M&S ready meal wrappers. There is one house that I swear must buy the same ready meals from waitrose every week. It’s good to have a routine I suppose although personally I prefer a bit more variety in my food.

The ones that really frustrate me are the abundance of amazon parcels, especially the book shaped ones. Short of actually picking them up and hoping the delivery notes have been left inside (which I would do if I thought I’d get away without being seen) there are no clues from the outside as to what was inside. I’d love to be able to see into people’s houses and look through their books. There should be a website where people could post up pictures of their bookshelves for me to peruse. It would be like Waterstones but without the impossible to resist temptation of actually buying books.

Unfortunately until then I’ll just have to continue trying to spot peoples bookshelves through their windows and trying to guess what the latest purchase is. At least once the ice has gone it’ll make the walk a bit safer and I can concentrate on looking at the recycling rather than trying to spot patches of ice.

 

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The Never List

Recently my friend Mr T sent me a link to the British Library classic crime collection (full list here if anyone is interested) As someone who likes to think of herself as a bit of a crime fiction fanatic I was quite surprised to realise I hadn’t actually heard of most of them. This ‘golden age of crime’ had passed me by. Having looked through the list some of them sound excellent, which means there are even more books to add to my never ending ‘to be read’ list.
I was thinking about this the other day, as when wondering around Waterstones I lost count of how many books I picked up that I really wanted to read. Walking round a bookshop can take me hours and that’s when I’m not even buying anything. It was actually quite overwhelming. There were so many books that sounded good, it is just an impossible task to read them all. I wonder does anyone ever actually get to read all the books they want to read?
I have a target of 50 books this year on the goodreads challenge, yet I probably have more than that just sat either waiting to be read on my kindle or in the pile currently teetering in the spare room. Sometimes I think life might be easier if I was one of those people to whom reading is just a chore not a pleasure. Then again life would be a lot duller and what do people who don’t like to read do with all their spare time?
Don’t get me wrong, I do have other hobbies other than just reading which I enjoy doing. Me and the aforementioned Mr T will be attempting to complete the Muddy Boots 10k in Ripon at the beginning of next month (He’s promised to keep my coffee warm whilst he waits for me to finish, although that may be more due to me having the car key than any desire to see me finish!) I recently attended a sewing class and practiced my skills on what turned out to be a rather wonky Christmas stocking for Mr F. I’m a school governor and mentor a teenager. Plus, as people who know me may already know, I also like to spend a considerable amount of time each week helping support local businesses by sampling their wares of an evening. Yet reading will always be my favourite pastime.
Some of the above can of course be combined with reading. Going for a jog is always better with an audiobook to pass the time. In those moments such as last night in Manchester when I’m on my own I like nothing more than sitting in a bar – I mean supporting local business – with a glass of red wine and a book. However, I think sitting in a governors meeting and reading a book at the same time might be a step too far.
Oh well I shall just have to continue adding books to that ever growing list and of course supporting that most favourite business of mine, the bookshop.

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