Despite the fact in my head I’m still a young mid-twenties person there are occasions when you realise you are getting old (and not just when I look in the mirror before you say anything!) For example when you realise your tv taste is turning into that of your parents. Countryfile is no longer something you would bolt your tea in the hope of being let off having to sit through. It is now an important Sunday afternoon view otherwise how will you know what the long range weather forecast is?
The other big problem I have is that your tolerance level seems to shrink considerably as the years go by. For someone like me who is already starting from a pretty low threshold, this is quite a worry. Irrational things drive me bonkers. Net curtains for example, I hate them. I’ve always disliked them but figured what people choose to do was their own business. Now though an annoying placement of a net curtain drives me mad. The other day I was walking back to the train station along a lovely riverside path in Oxford, admiring all the wonderful houses with big windows looking across the water. One house however had huge net curtains completely blocking the view. This then started a ten minute internal conversation between myself and the unknown owner of offending curtain about why they would have it. Was their life really that interesting that they needed to hide what they are doing from preying eyes? Luckily by the end of it I had won the argument. The offending piece of cloth was going to be removed and I had wasted my entire walk thinking about something that was of absolutely no consequence to me.
A grown man on my train reading Harry Potter is another example. Now I’ve not read Harry Potter as I’m not a young child. I have nothing against Harry Potter itself; however grown adults should not be reading it in public. There’s loads of books out there specifically for us adults, let the children have the young boy wizard. It does of course worry me that my own book tastes will change as I get even older. Currently I thrive on a book diet of crime, murder, blood and guts and misery. Yet how long is it before I start reading Readers Digest, and enjoying a nice Catherine Cookson. Maybe it’ll be even worse than that. Maybe I won’t have time to read at all, I’ll be too busy watching Songs of Praise and then writing to points of view to complain about misplaced net curtains in the vestry. Something to look forward to then!
The programme for the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writers Festival has been released and as always it’s looking very exciting. Steve Mosby is the programme chair and he’s ‘played a blinder’ as they say up North. There look to be some really exciting sessions and the programme covers everything crime related from family based novels or ‘domestic noir’ as it is labelled, to writing plot twists, through to science and forensics. There are of course some usual staples including the TV session which this year is Broadchurch (sadly David Tennant isn’t attending) and the New Blood panel which is always one of my favourites.
The release of the new programme of course means the start of a new challenge. I’ve printed off a copy and the highlighter has been out. It looks like I’ve a lot of reading to do if I’m going to be anywhere near completing the TOPCWFC 2014 (for any new readers that stands for Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writers Festival Challenge, more details can be found here)
There are 17 sessions not including the opening ceremony, the dinner or the quiz (all three of which we shall of course be attending despite not being able to recreate our beginners luck with our quiz team last year!) Within those sessions if my highlighting and counting is correct there are currently 52 authors.
This being the third year of the challenge however things are getting a little more complicated. For example can I only count authors where I’ve read their latest book, or can I count any I’ve ever read? Do audiobooks count or only those actually read? Can I count those I started but didn’t finish? Can I count an author if I’ve only read something they wrote under a different name?
Well as it’s my challenge, it’s my rules. Therefore in answer to the above, I can count authors if I’ve ever read anything by them (although I will try to read the latest one if I get chance) I can count audiobooks (although obviously they are tricky to get signed) I can’t count authors if I didn’t finish the book and I can count those where I’ve read something they wrote under a different name. For those of you who are wondering, I am not referring to JK Rowling in this particular question as I’m afraid The Cuckoo Calling actually falls into the previous category and I don’t think I’ve read any Harry Potter. However Martyn Waites will be appearing who also writes as one half of Tania Carver whose books I have read.
Therefore taking into account the new rules I’ve just made up, my current author count as of today is 18. Not a bad start really, however it looks much more promising if I count sessions. Of those 17 sessions I’ve read at least one author in 14 of them. I think that’s an excellent start, with 12 weeks to go I am pretty confident that I’ll complete the TOPCWFC 2014 lite. Therefore the big challenge this year will be to try and complete the full thing for the first time. This may be a stretch as I’d have to read 2.83 books a week which could be tricky especially as I return to work full time next week but what’s life without a few challenges and as they say third time lucky.
Apparently only one in eight men are the main reader to their children according to a survey by Booktrust (a great organisation dedicated to getting people to read) so they have started a campaign to try and get men reading to their children more.
I think that the ability to read for enjoyment is one of the most important life skills that can be passed on, and anything that encourages this is a great initiative. However I think that making it a gender issue is not necessarily the right way to go about it and takes the focus off the real problem which is that some parents don’t read with children full stop.
Apparently people site a lack of time as a key reason people don’t read but I bet all those parents find time to check their emails every five minutes and update their social media status. My Mum would have been the one to read to us, mainly because as soon as we moved on from Jack and Jill frankly Dad would just have been slowing us down. We were lucky, Mum read with us, Dad built rabbit hutches and took us swimming and every night at 5.10 on the dot we all sat down for tea and pretended to have a conversation whilst secretly just trying to watch Grange Hill.
When me and my sister were young, computers were not common place and we had to make our own entertainment. We only had tv in very short bursts (as according to my mother the tv would blow up if it was left on for longer than 30 minutes) and shock horror there was only 4 channels. Kids nowadays have more distractions than ever and the idea of sitting down and reading is an alien concept. Equally if they don’t see their parents sit down and read for enjoyment, they will sadly never do it themselves. The problem with making it a gender issue is that Dad’s will feel forced to do something that they might not actually enjoy, and therefore that pressure is going to be passed onto the children. Who remembers the BT commercial with the Dad who passed the phone straight to the Mum when the kid rang? That commercial is solely responsible for hundreds of hours of conversations about the weather and latest council tax bills as Dads are forced into keeping children talking until a suitable length of time has passed (as dictated by Maureen Lipman) and they can pass the phone on.
The same thing will happen with reading, Men will force themselves to read two pages of Harry Potter and kids will grow up believing that reading is a chore rather than a pleasure. I was in a primary school yesterday listening to kids read and was amazed not only by the range of abilities but also by the enthusiasm they all had for reading to me. Reading is one of the best, cheapest and fun hobbies there is, and we should all be encouraging children to enjoy it, not just men!