Category Archives: Reading

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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The Accident

As you know I am an avid reader, as I suspect are the majority of people who take the time to read this blog (with of course the exception of Mr F – no Scooby Doo is not a crime book, and the Father – a small paperback should not take four years to read) So we all agree that encouraging people to read is a great thing.

Well I’ve had a fantastic idea as to how to get people reading. Provide books in places where people spend hours waiting around with nothing to do. A and E departments for example. I have been lucky enough to have spent the previous 37 years never having been near a hospital apart from birth and work related trips. Well this year I certainly seem to be making up for it. In the past couple of months I’ve had the misfortune to have to visit A and E twice (neither time for myself I hasten to add) Two different departments, neither of which I could fault. However one of the things they both have in common is the waiting around. I have spent literally hours sat on very uncomfortable chairs, surrounded by ill people with nothing to do.

I, of course, in true brownie guide style am always prepared and one of my most favourite things about an android phone is the kindle app. Therefore I can spend a few hours sat around with nothing happening and happily entertain myself with a good book. Yet what about those less prepared than myself?

Hairdressers are another good example. As anyone who ever gets their hair coloured will know there is alot of sitting around. On the whole if your hairdresser is anything like mine the magazines on offer will be ten years out of date and mainly concerned with either weddings, or diets. If neither of those things floats your boat, without a kindle app its a pretty long hour.

There must be loads of other places like this, airport lounges, doctors surgeries, waiting to be served at Morrisons cheese counter. I think there is a whole market out there for short story writers. There could be a specific compendium of short stories for specific places, the 4 hour short story for a&e, the hour long stories for the hair dressers, the never ending short story for the cheese counter.

Of course my great idea might not be altogether practical judging by the state of some of those in a&e on a Friday night, but for the rest of us it would be a great way to get reading, although fingers crossed I won’t be needing the a&e short stories again anytime soon.

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The Swimmer

I went swimming yesterday. That in itself is nothing to write home about, as I go a couple of times a week. Yesterday however I went to a nice posh outdoor pool courtesy of Mr F’s gym, which as you can imagine being a foggy November morning in Leeds was extremely quiet. This made a nice change from my usual tiny pool at a local hotel, which recently I seem to have been stuck sharing with an escaped warthog doing breaststroke. It’s not that I mind sharing the pool, in fact there are some lovely women that go to my gym and we’ll often pass the time of day whilst getting changed. However I suspect the new woman has watched a humpback whales guide to swimming. Everytime she surfaces it is as though she is trying to spout water through a blow hole. It wouldn’t be so bad if she actually made any progress, but despite her goggles and speedo swimming costume every time she does a stroke she bobs down and surfaces practically in the same place.

In the lovely empty pool of this morning’s swim it occurred to me that pretty much all my hobbies have one thing in common. They embrace the peace and quiet of solitary life. Obviously my main hobby is reading, which is done preferably without the interruptions of outside life. I also enjoy running (well walking mostly but I like to call it a run) This usually consists of just me and my latest talking book plodding slowly around a very quiet moor, with the occasional good morning shared between fellow exercisers. I also like horse riding, which is currently occupying my Sunday mornings and this is just me, Timmy the horse and my instructor so again lovely and quiet.

Of course there are exceptions to this idea, music being one. I like my music loud and heavy, and I enjoy concerts with the throngs of people milling around, but on the whole I’m a big fan of peace and quiet.

At the risk of sounding much older than my current sprightly young years, in my opinion that is one of the worst things about mobile phones. The destruction of peace and quiet. You can’t even go on a nice train journey with a good book without being subjected to someone else’s phone calls or having to listen to their music through annoying tinny ear phones. It is always rubbish music as well, I wouldn’t mind so much if they played a bit of Slash or Foo Fighters but it is always some imitation Take That, disco, house music ( whatever that is, I’m never really sure) As for people talking on their phones, unless they are a doctor and talking through a major operation until such time as they can arrive and save someone’s life, then I’m pretty certain their call just isn’t that important.

I suppose at least with other people’s phone calls or music I can try and block it out with another audible talking book, unfortunately there is no such luck with the warthog doing breaststroke. If only there was a waterproof phone and headset.

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