According to the BBC, York has been voted the best place to live in the UK. Having been here for a few years since the age of 18 (Yes ok so technically I’ve been here a couple of decades rather than a few years but let’s not split hairs!) I would agree on the whole, although maybe not for the same reasons.
According to the highly trustworthy BBC (unless it’s the weather forecast which is always wrong) York is the perfect mix of heritage and hi-tech. Heritage yes but hi-tech? I am clearly missing something! I know that we have the the National Railway Museum but I’m not sure World’s fastest steam engine could be classed as hi-tech nowadays? The mystery plays are a fantastic thing to watch and this year they will be featuring a movable stage which of course is quite hi-tech I suppose (or at least it was when it was first done back in medieval times!)
What wasn’t mentioned in the report of course was one of my favourite things about York – no not the pubs and bars before you think it – but the libraries. We have a fantastic library service which puts on some great events. For example last week I went on a course to learn how to make notebooks. It was a fun day although I suspect Paperchase may be a bit worried about a fall in their profits now I can make my own. Stationary being my second favourite purchase after books.
York library also has a high crime rate. Not people walking off with a Winsey Willis biography under their arm, or pilfering the drawing pins from the notice board, but crime fiction events. Last year we had some big hitters talking including Val McDermid and Sophie Hannah. There was also Mark Billingham and Chris Brookmyre. This was a hilarious evening, made all the better personally by the looks on the faces of some of the attendees. Clearly two women behind me thought the event was going to be a talk by the WI about jam making rather than one involving frozen chickens in public toilets and dead bodies.
Coming up next month is another exciting sounding event called CSI’s in York – from the writing duo Margaret Murphy and Helen Pepper better known as Ashley Dyer. They are spending the afternoon showing us how to lift fingerprints and identify shoe evidence (you never know when that might come in handy)
Whilst I may not agree with some of the reasoning behind York being voted the best place to live, I certainly agree with the sentiment. Where else could you learn how to investigate a murder, see the only memorial in the country to women who lost their lives during the First World War and drink in a Viking bar all in the same afternoon? Not necessarily hi-tech but pretty amazing all the same.
Tickets for CSI’s in York are still available https://www.exploreyork.org.uk/event/csis-in-york-the-truth-about-forensic-investigating/https://www.exploreyork.org.uk/event/csis-in-york-the-truth-about-forensic-investigating/
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.
So once again another new year has rolled around along with the inevitable new year resolutions. As regular readers of my blog will know I don’t really have a lot of patience for the New Year’s bandwagon of giving things up for January. It’s good that people make changes if they wish, but if you ask me they would be more realistic being long term goals rather than go hell for leather in January and revert to normal in February. I also think that the January trends always seem very negative, social media is awash with people giving things up or losing things. Last year rather than giving anything up I gave myself three challenges for the year (not resolutions of course) One was to read 50 books – tick, one was to run 5 10ks – no tick but that was courtesy of a dodgy knee, and the third was to swim twice a week – almost a tick.
Challenges as opposed to resolutions are a good thing I think, as long as they are positive challenges. Yet like everything there are two sides to them. There has been a lot of recent discussion in the world of book blogging around whether or not it is good to have reading challenges. I understand how sometimes it can get overwhelming. I enjoy reviewing on this blog but I do also just want to read for fun not always to review. The good thing about both reading challenges and book reviewing is that you get to read things you wouldn’t normally choose. I’ve read new authors that I probably wouldn’t have picked up on without the blog, I’ve also read novels from established authors that I wouldn’t have tried without the TOPCWFC.
I think that’s where most New Year Resolutions fall down. They always seem to be about giving things up. Maybe resolutions should look to be about trying new things. There would certainly be more chance for me to actually complete them if that was the case.
Most years I try and do something new. Last year I went on a sewing course, previously I’ve done courses on all sorts of stuff including cake baking, jewellery making, and criminology. I’ve taken up new hobbies including jogging, horse riding, and of course blogging.
View of the flooded racecourse
However last year I didn’t do anything new (unless trying a glass of prosecco with sloe gin counts?) so rather than make a whole bunch of new resolutions that I probably won’t do, I’m only going to do one. That’s to make this the year to try something new. Not sure what yet but it won’t involve giving anything up for January. Having recently seen the devastation caused by the local floods which affected not only people’s homes, but also small businesses in the city including the lovely little bar where I had the aforementioned drink, rather than give things up I’m going to make this the year of new things. Starting with trying some new drinks in some of the local cafés and bars that are trying to get back on their feet. Trying my hand at horse racing might need to be more of a long term challenge though at least until things have dried out a bit. Whatever your resolution or challenge – happy new year to all my readers and here’s to a positive 2016.
This year at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writers Festival Eddie Izzard was special guest. Whilst his link to crime writing might have been tenuous (he is friends with Mark Billingham and appears in the TV version of Hannibal) he turned out to be really interesting and quite inspiring. One of the things that he says is that he tries to learn a new skill every year which I think is something to aspire to. His examples included running 43 marathons in 43 days and learning Arabic so he can give his stand up routine in the language.
Last year I started horse riding again after a gap of approximately 20 (and a bit!) years. As a child I spent most of my time mucking out and going out hacking round the fields rather than actually learning properly. This time round it is all a bit more serious and I’m actually learning how to ride properly. The past couple of weeks have been very exciting as I’ve been learning to jump. Admittedly I suspect people would say I was just staying on top of a horse rather than actually jumping but the thing is I don’t care because I love it. I have probably lost my chance at riding in the Olympics therefore it doesn’t matter that I’m not very good because it’s all just for fun.
I think a lot of the reason people don’t learn new things is fear of failure or embarrassment. As a child we are constantly learning and it’s seen as the norm. Clearly as a child we are expected to not know most stuff therefore we can accept that we have to learn. As an adult we spend so much of our time at work pretending that we know everything about our jobs (or is that just me?) that I think people forget that they don’t know things and it’s ok to learn.
I’ve always enjoyed learning new things, and am happy to admit that I don’t know a lot of stuff. I think it is helped partly by the fact I have very little in the way of competitive spirit. Even as a child I had no interest in competitive sports – when I was in nursery (or primary clearly I can’t remember that far back) apparently during a race in school sports day I was in the lead but stopped to wait for my friend ultimately losing. It’s probably a good job I haven’t got pushy parents who forced me into sports I would have been such a disappointment.
I think that all adults would be happier if they accepted the point of learning something new is that you are not supposed to be any good at it to start with. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve not done something because I might not be any good or might be embarrassed. Running is a great example that I put off for ages in case everyone laughed at me as I jogged (or walked) round our local park. It took me a good while to realise that no one is looking. The only people who look at other people trying to run are those that are runners and without fail are remembering a time they started out and were not any good. Therefore I think it’s time to all embrace our inner Eddie Izzard and learn something new and not care if we are no good at it. As long as we enjoy it. I may give learning Arabic a miss though.
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.