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 On the whole if your hairdresser is anything like mine the magazines on offer will be ten years out of date and mainly concerned with either weddings, or diets.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.
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.
I have recently taken up running again. Now I’m never going to be a marathon runner, but I would like to be able to run a full 10k eventually. Therefore I started small and downloaded a couch to 5k programme on my phone, got myself a new audio book (Jeffery Deaver, the skin collector) and started pounding the streets.
I do like the idea of being a runner, the whole running along the beach with the wind in my hair looking carefree and gorgeous really appeals to me. However the reality is not quite like that. Apart from the short hair not really blowing in the wind, more times than not I run for five minutes and turn into a red faced sweating machine unable to string a sentence together whilst cursing the blisters on my feet. I know all the theory, I buy the magazines and I’ve read umpteen books on running however I’m just not very good at it. I know that like anything it takes practice and in order to become a runner you have to actually put the effort in but sometimes I’m not sure the effort is worth the outcome.
I suppose my problem is willpower, and I’m the same with reading. I love reading and always have a few books on the go. However there are some books that although I really like the idea of having read them I never actually get to the end. Take Jane Eyre, I roughly know the story but if I was actually quizzed on it I don’t think I’d know the answers. Pride and prejudice is another of those classics that it seems the majority of the world says they’ve read, but I haven’t. I have read the story of Charlotte Bronte’s life, but not her actual books despite part of me wanting to. Its the effort I suppose, and like with the running I often start but never quite finish.
I don’t think it’s because I lack stamina, I’ve posted 131 times on this blog for example so obviously I can keep up with some things. Although even with this I’ve read many more books over the year than I’ve actually reviewed on here. I suppose its just about effort level.
Sometimes things just click, for example I have read Gone with the Wind which would come under the long classics bracket, and I really enjoyed it. Equally last week I had a lovely run along the canal and although there was still alot of walk breaks being taken actually I felt like a runner, but other times things just don’t seem to work.
I suppose it’s all about how much you want the outcome, and accepting that maybe you just don’t want some things quite as much as you think you do. Therefore I’ll keep reading crime and reviewing, I’ll keep attempting to run and ignoring the worried looks of passer by’s as I run up behind them and they suspect a herd of elephants has got loose, but I may just have to accept that marathons and the complete works of Shakespeare are just never going to happen.
So just in case you missed it, last week saw the start of 2014. This year on New Year’s Eve I did something I haven’t done for about 10 years and headed to York Minster for midnight. We stood with a few hundred other people all looking slightly bemused as there was no countdown or fireworks or party to acknowledge the date change. There were of course chimes at midnight and it was a lovely evening nonetheless.
So 2014 begins and it’s time for everyone to start making their New Year resolutions. As those of you who were reading this blog last year will know, I’m not a fan of the New Year resolution (and for the rest of you if you want to know you can find it here) but that doesn’t seem to stop the rest of the human race. Once again people are vowing to lose weight, get fit, save money and start doing fun things.
Giving up chocolate seems to be a big one this year (well at least til February when people can then devour the hundreds of half price selection boxes they’ve bought in the sales, before announcing to everyone that they’ll be giving it up again for lent) Chocolate may have been the death of many in crime novels as Margot Kinberg eloquently puts here. Yet whilst I’d hope there are not too many poisoned chocolates floating around. I’m not sure the whole feast and famine approach is a particularly healthy way to go either.
Apparently the latest craze in resolutions is having a dry January. Now this is one I was all in favour of when someone told me about it. I hate getting wet, and rain really makes my hair go frizzy. However further investigation shows they apparently meant they were giving up alcohol for a month. That soon put a dampener (no pun intended) on that plan. We are in a recession you know and pubs rely on the likes of me to keep their businesses ticking over. Even more ridiculous is the idea that you can get sponsored for not drinking for a month in a dryathlon. Are people seriously trying to say that giving up their favourite beverage is on a par with running a marathon or hiking across the Himalayas? Maybe it would be if you were Harry Hole or Homer Simpson, but otherwise surely it’s not really much of an achievement.
Apparently coming in at number ten of the top ten resolutions people make is the wish to read more books. I read this on a website that had asked people to fill in a survey on what resolutions they were going to make. Well there’s one of the problems straight away, rather than filling in the survey people should just have picked up a book and read that instead. That way rather than have to make a resolution saying they are going to do something, they can actually do something.
I, of course, don’t need to make a resolution to read more, I just pick up one of the numerous books I have hanging around. I haven’t yet had a tally up of the number of books I read last year which I should do. I do know however, that I’ve read many more than I’ve had time to review. Therefore maybe my resolution should be to write more reviews. I’m not calling it a New Year one though, that’s just asking to fail.
Anyway Happy New Year All.
With less than a week to go until the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival its time to take stock of how the TOPCWFC2013 has gone.
Unfortunately however it looks like I’m definitely more Novak Djokovic than Andy Murray. Even for a reasonably fast reader like me there are just so many authors at the festival it’s impossible to read them all. By my calculations I counted 43 at the beginning of the challenge. That’s nearly a years’ reading at my normal one a week rate, and as much as I do love reading sometimes other distractions just get in the way (a visit to the Great Yorkshire Show this week for one) There has also been a big difference this year in that I have more blog followers, which in turn means I’ve actually been asked by people to review their books. This is not a complaint at all as it is still very exciting to be asked to read someone’s book, and I’ve discovered some very good authors that way. It does mean though that the challenge has come somewhat unstuck.
However when it comes to looking at the ‘TOPCWFC2013 Lite’ then things are a lot more rosy. There are 17 sessions not including the opening party, the quiz (at which we did rather well in last year, our team PTCK came third) or the dinner. Of these 17 I have read authors in all but two of the sessions.
Unusually for me the missing authors are actually two of this year’s ‘big hitters’. Someone recently accused me of sounding like a frog when in a bookshop ‘read it, read it, read it’ and so to admit that I have never read either William McIlvanney or Lee Child is rather embarrassing.
Crime itself is such a huge genre that it can be difficult sometimes to work out which authors to try. Often the easy option is to stay with the tried and trusted such as Val McDermid and Mark Billingham as you know you are going to be getting a great book, and straying away can be disappointing. It can also be a great experience though. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy doing this challenge, sometimes it may take over my life but its also addictive. The more I read the more I want to read and the festival provides such a plethora of new writers it is impossible not to want to try them. It is not even just about showcasing brand new writers such as those in the New Blood session, the festival is also about discovering writers that have been around but somehow slipped through my net, such as Lee Child.
Therefore with a week left to go, its down to the break point I’ve got a William McIlvanney book in my bag ready for a train journey this afternoon, and then I just need to fit in a quick Lee Child next week and its game set and match for the TOPCWFC2013 Lite.
I’ve been having a closer look at the programme for the Harrogate Crime Writers Festival today, there are 17 sessions across the three days not including the dinner or the quiz. Having looked through them all, so far I’ve read at least one author from 11 of the sessions. Therefore if the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writers Festival Challenge (TOPCWFC for the purposes of my new readers) is this year to ensure that I read an author from each session then I’m pretty much on track.
However sadly, those of you who have been reading this from the start will know that the initial TOPCWFC was actually to read a book by every author appearing at the festival. By my calculations there are 43 authors (not including those who are chairing or interviewing people) and so far I’ve read a rather paltry 14. I think even by my standards the main challenge is over before its even really begun, somehow I doubt I’ll find the time to read 29 authors in the next eight weeks but never one to shirk a challenge I’ll give it a go.
In order to start properly as I was in town earlier today I decided to pop into Waterstones. I think one of the saddest things over the past few years has been the demise of the bookshop. I’m not one for shopping but put me in a bookshop and I can spend hours browsing round but I fear that sadly I’m in the minority and bookshops are only going to become more scarce. This time I went into my local Waterstones with my copy of the festival programme dutifully annotated to ensure I don’t end up duplicating authors. I figured I’d try and pick up a couple of the books from sessions I’ve not yet completed. That however is where I hit the fundamental flaw when it comes to bookshops, their lack of books.
I understand that bookshops can only stock a limited selection of books due to shelf space but when you go in wanting something specific its very frustrating. Obviously the idea with a bookshop is that you can go in and browse around and then decide what you fancy reading which is good normally. Today however I was to be disappointed. Therefore I can see where the benefits of amazon come into play (and in true bbc style all other good online retailers this is not an advert for amazon) shopping from the comfort of my own front room and every single book you could possibly want certainly has its advantages.
The problem is, online shopping in itself can be annoying. The endless waiting for delivery and then in my case the knowledge that no matter what size the parcel is, it will still have been intercepted by Hilda next door. That means an extra 30 minutes discussion about the latest parking saga on the street before I can get my hands on my book. Patience has never been one of my strong points and this can certainly test it.
Some of course may say that all this annoyance could be circumnavigated by simply purchasing items for my kindle. I do agree to a point, and a kindle really is one of the best inventions since the creation of BT Vision in my opinion. No luggage limit is likely to allow me to carry the 14 books recently read on my holiday. However I still like to have a proper book to read at home which takes me back round in full circle to having to visit a bookshop.
Luckily in order to continue the TOPCWFC un-interupted I did find one book I wanted in the bookshop, so its time to start some serious reading.
Last weekend I was lucky enough to sample the delights of afternoon tea in Bettys in York. It was all very civilised. We bypassed the usual never ending queue into the main café, and were led straight to our table in the previously unseen upstairs. We then spent a very nice afternoon eating salmon sandwiches, scones, cakes and drinking tea. Well ok, as a coffee drinking vegetarian I’d already put my special request in so I had Betty’s posh coffee and very nice avocado sandwiches.
The first Betty’s cafe was opened in the home of the ‘Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival’ The lovely spa town of Harrogate back in 1919 and still remains its most popular café. Me and the Sister went in last year for coffee and cake and were surrounded by people excitedly discussing the festival and carrying goody bags. I’ve no doubt this year will be no exception.
The programme for the event has recently been released and once again it looks a fantastic few days. There are some great special guests, including Ruth Rendell being interviewed by Jeanette Winterson which I’m especially looking forward to. I’ve always been a big fan of Ruth Rendell. Although I’ve not read any of Jeanette Winterson’s books apart from ‘Oranges are not the only fruit’ which as a child I had to keep hidden under my bed as it would most definitely not have been classed as suitable reading.
I’ve not yet been through the entire programme in detail, or indeed planned my reading list for the next few months but at first glance it looks an excellent programme. Some of the speakers are old favourites from last year, whilst some are brand new such as William McIlvanney who I hadn’t even heard of until I saw he was being interviewed by Ian Rankin so will be looking out his novels.
This year’s TV tie in panel is Vera. Ann Cleaves (star of last year’s murder mystery themed dinner) is going to be joined by those who are responsible for bringing her novels to tv, including actor Brenda Blethyn. Another interesting sounding session features forensic anthropologist Professor Sue Black OBE. I’m always fascinated by how far fiction actually mirrors real life, and how much artistic license authors have to employ to keep the story moving.
One of the special guests this year is Lee Child, I have to confess that I’ve never actually read any of his books, so he will definitely be an author I put on the top of my list. He’s being interviewed by Comedian Sarah Millican so that should be an excellent session. Special guest on Saturday evening is York born Kate Atkinson, whose Jackson Brodie novels have recently been turned into a tv series. As a York dweller myself I’m always happy to hear from local people.
The one thing that really did stand out of the programme was that there was not one session I would want to miss. Last year me and the Sister did skip a couple, mainly to give us time for food and of course Betty’s cake. This time Betty’s will definitely have to wait until the show is over!