Posts Tagged ‘books’

If I were the Queen

A few days ago was my 600th blog post. I feel quite strongly that this makes me some kind of member of the royal family. Obviously. So soon I will be the queen? I would hate to get the call and be unprepared for my duties as head of the country/world. Therefore I have made a plan for how things will be when I am queen.

1. I will build loads of castles. I feel that we are sadly lacking in new castles.

2. I will say to people, “Bring me truffles from the deepest darkest woods in the Italian countryside – now. Right now. Immediately.”

3. I will order Michel Roux Jr to cook them for me but I will tell him to stay away from that crazy boiled veal’s head dish he made on TV the other week.

4. I will have a holiday home on Capri. This one, in fact.
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5. I would not have those silly dogs that the queen has. Or at least, I would not have anything to do with them. I would just let them run around next to me if I had a photo shoot so that the public thought I was all soft and lovely and animal-loving.

6. I would sleep a lot. My goodness, I would sleep a lot. And alarms would be forbidden.

7. Danda would like to request a golf course and a Chelsea season ticket. I have told I will look into it for him. I can’t go around acting as I please and spending the country’s money on just anything. I have a duty to the public, don’t you know?

8. I would close Richmond Park to the public and have it as my back garden. I would make my gardeners plant all the things I wanted to eat, like fig trees and lemon trees and bay leaf trees.

9. Every so often, for publicity purposes, I would let a poor person come and talk to me and I would be nice to them and everyone would think, “Gosh, that queen sure is nice. I saw she was talking to a poor person the other day and being nice to them.”

10. I would make everyone give me any new books they had written so I could read them first and if I liked the book, I would send them some chocolate. If I didn’t like it, I would throw it on the floor and stamp my feet. That’s how they would know. By the foot stamping.

So I’m waiting for them to call me. Maybe I should send them this list so that they can rest assured I’ll do a good job. Maybe they’re waiting to see my plan before they get in touch?

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Unfinished books

It’s Wednesday and Rambler5319 is taking over to talk about a few (!) books he is reading….

 

I wonder when you look at your bookshelf do you see a book you never finished reading? Do you see more than 1, more than 10? Do you perhaps not put unfinished books onto your bookshelves in case they get forgotten? Perhaps like me you have a “not finished section” or maybe a whole shelf dedicated to them so you know that every one in that part is a not-finished book. Have any defeated you as it were? Any that you just gave up on for some reason?

I usually have more than 1 book on the go at any one time – my average is about 4 or 5. However recently I noticed there seemed to be quite a number which I haven’t got round to finishing. I thought I should do something about it so first off, as well as emptying the “special” shelf, I went round the house and collected ones I knew I hadn’t finished. Then I made a list and here it is (in no particular order):

1. A History of the World in 100 Objects (Neil MacGregor)

This one was a present and is very well written & illustrated and as I often listened to the Radio series of the same name was a great present. The difficulty has been that because the individual objects are a personal choice by the author & his colleagues there is no particular connection other than the historical timeline. (Neil MacGregor is the Director of The British Museum (since 2002) and was previously a director of The National Gallery.) The objects are grouped into “fives” (which relate to one period for each set) to fit the radio series as there was one broadcast each week day. It is rather like reading 100 short stories so I dip in and out. It will probably take a good while yet to conquer this one but I am over half way and heading towards 2/3 finished.

2. The Elizabethans (A.N. Wilson)

Well written by an author I have a couple of other books by. However the tiny print has made it a hard one to finish. Am almost ¾ through but have just stuttered a bit and it’s proving difficult to get going again.

3. And Now On Radio 4 (Simon Elmes)

It’s about a radio station I listen to a fair bit but not a normal chronological or biographical account starting at Day 1 up to the present although it does do various bits of the history. The text is interspersed with interesting short articles on particular subjects or people but it does mean continuity is interrupted as you break off from the main text to read a short article on the page above. Less than half way on that one.

4. God’s Undertaker – Has Science Buried God? (John C. Lennox)

It tackles the really big questions: Why is there something rather than nothing? Why does the Universe exist? Where did it come from? And where, if anywhere, is it heading? Anyone who believes the Big Bang Theory does have to answer the question, put by a child, to a scientist who after speaking on the subject asked for any questions. Hands went up and a child said: “But what went BANG?” You see the Big Bang does not explain how that original matter which went “bang” came to be there and it doesn’t claim to. Obvious really but something which is glossed over by many scientists. This book is a current one (“on the go”) being read but only just started. It’s worth remembering that Lennox is a distinguished Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University not some whacky theory protagonist and that he’s publicly debated with Richard Dawkins & Christopher Hitchens. He presents a very compelling case for looking at the alternatives to the commonly accepted theories of our time on the world and its origins. Love him or disagree with him you have to admit that the questions he raises (and which have been raised for hundreds if not thousands of years) will not go away. You may disagree with his answers but I reckon you’ll be hard pressed to come up with an alternative that will ultimately satisfy you.

5. The Language Wars – A History of Proper English (Henry Hitchings)

This is one about the way English has developed over the years. Have words come in via the Anglo Saxon influence or the French, Scandinavian, Latin or Germanic? Which is ‘right’? There are some writers who want to use only English words of a particular origin in their writing rather than those imported from other sources. It’s a current one and progress puts me just under halfway on this one.

6. Red Roses on the Veldt – Lancashire Regiments in the Boer War 1899-1902 (John Downham)

Covers some of the famous names associated with the period. We read of Cecil Rhodes founder of the Rothschild-funded De Beers Diamond Company and later founder of the country named after him, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Then there is General Sir Redvers Buller KCB VC who was present at the relief of Ladysmith & the defeat at Spion Kop. Incidentally the “Kop” after which Liverpool Football Club named their old standing terraced area of Anfield was because the sloping area resembled the hill outside the town of Ladysmith. The author has researched his subject very well and there are brilliantly detailed accounts & photographs of the various battles and personalities involved. However military history takes a bit of ploughing through and I’m finding this one a toughie to get into although the subject is of interest due to a family ancestor who was involved in one of the Lancashire Regiments mentioned in the book. (If any of you know the film Zulu about the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, that was 20 years earlier in 1879.)

7. Albion – A Guide to Legendary Britain (Jennifer Westwood)

This is more like a dictionary than a readable book just because of the way it’s presented: legends by shire county or area of UK. Probably not one I’ll end up reading cover to cover but have already dipped in for areas I’ve visited over the last year or so.

8. Fitzroy (John & Mary Gribbin)

Am just under 2/3 way through this one. It’s a current one and making good progress. Robert Fitzroy is the reason why today we use things like barometers to predict the weather. He took readings of the air pressure and noticed how when it went up or down so the weather that followed displayed certain characteristics. He introduced the idea that you could therefore attempt to predict what might happen weather-wise. He was also a surveyor of hundreds of miles of coastline around South America. One of his voyages saw him & the ship away from England for 5 years! The guy was amazing at what he did. The Shipping Forecast which is part of the fabric of British maritime heritage has been broadcast for many years and is a direct result of Fitzroy’s work. In 2002 the forecast area called Finisterre (NW tip of Spain) had to be renamed because Spain was already using it for a more local area on the coast. The replacement name chosen was very fittingly – Fitzroy.

The Shipping Forecast has inspired some rather odd things. Would you, for example, go as far as the two sisters who named their children Shannon, Bailey & Tyne after those three areas in the Forecast? (Perhaps the fact that their husbands worked at sea at the time had something to do with it although initially they did not think much of the idea.)

One book I’ve read on the Shipping Forecast areas is Charlie Connelly’s Attention All Shipping. Really worth a read even if you don’t know about the areas themselves as he makes the info presented very interesting by finding curious people, things and events associated with them. I like his style, as they say, and actually have 3 of his other books.

9. The Chronology of Words & Phrases – 1,000 years in the history of English (Linda & Roger Flavell)

This is a really original book. The authors pick a year, give a brief paragraph on what was going on at the time and then list words which came about in the period around that time. They also go into detail about how words have come into our language and even how they’ve developed and changed spelling over the centuries to the modern day. It’s a fascinating insight and I’m really enjoying this one. It’s only a recent purchase so am barely 20% into it.

10. Motson’s National Obsession – The Greatest Football Trivia Book Ever… (Adam Ward & John Motson OBE)

Does what it says on the tin – it gives loads of info on really odd things about the game of football. By its very nature, being a collection of facts, it’s a dip in and out one.

11. Atlantis Found (Clive Cussler)

Now I like Cussler. He’s a great story teller. There’s always a twist and usually it’s a good twist in that you’re not expecting it. It’s one of a series with a kind of detective/James Bond type of hero in called Dirk Pitt and his colleagues from NUMA (National Underwater and Marine Agency).

12. Song of Redemption (Lynn Austin)

It’s historical fiction so the main facts are as per the written records but the characters and some events may have bits added to enhance the story. I’m sure the genre helps people learn more of historical figures but it runs the risk of people who don’t know the history just accepting the fictionalised bits as fact. I suppose it’s similar to films about history which make up bits to produce a good story on the big screen but may not have a basis in real fact.

You’ll notice these last two are the only novels I’m reading at the moment which I suppose says a lot about my choices and preferences.

There are a few more. I’m doing some research on 3 Old Testament prophets and have two books covering them. Both of these are only just started. There’s also the Dictionary of British Place Names which I wrote about in my post on 2.1.13 called Toponymy. Obviously as a dictionary it will never be a cover to cover book but it’s been well used so far.

(Oh, and almost forgot another 2 or 3 on the Kindle takes me to a total of about 15.)

As I’m not a “corner of the page folder over” each one of these has a bookmark in which is how I know they’re all still uncompleted. I do worry that the pile is growing and wonder if it’s my lack of perseverance that’s to blame. Perhaps it’s my need for variety.

One last question – do you have a bathroom (toilet?) book? Are you willing to let us know your bathroom book? There’s always one in there for me, otherwise what does one do? Do you stare at the towels hanging on the back of the door? Do you meditate on things to be done when you’ve finished? What do you think about for those 5, 10 or even 15 minutes? Me, I pick up my book and off I go – I’m in that very special place – “bathroomworld” – where the body does one thing and the brain something completely different. The only disadvantage is that if I get to a really good bit I might end up staying just a bit longer than I expected. Oops.

I’m determined to get the pile down so want to finish at least half of them by the end of the year. I hope to be able to report on progress between now and then.

400!

Good morning everyone. Today is quite a significant day in my blogging career. It’s half way to 800. It’s two times 200. It’s one more than 399 and one less than 401. Not guessed it yet? Well, let me tell you.

It’s my 400th post today!

Now you’re either thinking one of two things about this fact.

1. Wow, that’s impressive. What a lot of interesting things she has to say.

2. Omygoodness, that’s a lot of nonsense.

To mark the occasion, I debated a few different possibilities. The favourite amongst my friends was to stuff 400 mini marshmallows in my mouth and photograph it. As I am sadly lacking in mini marshmallows and the shops open late on Sundays, I shall have to shelf that idea until it’s time for another significant post, 500 maybe?

The next idea was do something with 400 of my worms, I’m not sure what. Put them on a plate and photograph them maybe? But as the worms have only just been put in their new home (a proper worm bin as opposed to their previous home, a saucepan) and they were very naughty before then, I feel they need a bit longer on the naughty step before being allowed to join in the blogging fun. Honestly, it’s like having hundreds of naughty little schoolchildren. I’m like a babysitter. The other night I came home from an evening out and they had escaped and were everywhere – the kitchen floor, the outside toilet, the garden, some were even hiding inside the mop. Naughty worms.

I thought about climbing 400 steps but I’m quite comfy here on the sofa.

I thought about drinking 400 cups of tea but I’ve heard that you can drown yourself if you drink more than 26 in a day.

I thought about reading a page from 400 different books but it’s my first day at Ham House today so time is limited.

So I thought I’d refashion a post I did ages ago, called Things I Have Learned. For the following to make sense, you’re best reading the original first. And, if I’m clever, I’ll make it exactly 400 words. Look, it’s Sunday morning and it’s the best I can offer. Get over it.

Here goes…

1. My post is never as big as I think it is (or rather, ‘hope’ as I look longingly at other blogs and their posts filled with wisdom and then at my little silly ones about Taylor Swift).

2. Most people are a little bit bored by blogs about how to blog. As a new blogger, I lapped them up. Now I’m not really so keen. I don’t get anything about the blogger in these ‘advice’ blogs.

3. People like to shorten words (e.g. ‘NaNoWriMo’ or ‘NaBloPoMo’ or ‘NeeNorNeeNor’)

4. Missing a typo is horrible. Especially if the typo is talking about someone you did yesterday instead of something.

5. Writing a post that people notice is a fine art.

6. Most bloggers thrive off the drama in their lives. Cause then they can blog it.

7. Blogging makes you feel better.

8. Sometimes, blogging all your problems is the worst thing you can do.

9. Making your own chicken stock is more trouble than it’s worth. (No, I know this doesn’t relate to blogging but it’s still a fact.)

10. If you can’t make it good, don’t post it. Save it til later and sort it out then.

O! And one more…

11. Denying the existence of a rubbish post doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Umm. It’s not 400 words. It’s way more. O well. Shoot me.

The contents of my handbag

I’ve heard men say that the contents of a woman’s handbag is a mystery to them. Well, let me tell you something. They are a mystery to me too. Even the contents of my own handbag puzzle me. Check it out. In my bag I found….

Two books – Pondlife by Al Alvarez (very good) and What Are You Looking At: An Anthology of Fat Fiction (not yet started)

One dark chocolate covered rice cake

3 unposted letters to friends

A pack of hair bobbles

3 plastic shopping bags

5 pens

My purse

Germolene antiseptic ointment

Headphones and a phone charger

Keys

A strip of throat sweets

Wage slips from last March, last November and this January

A bill from March 2012

A card saying ‘One in a melon’ and a picture of a melon (who knows why this is in there? Not me)

A copy of a magazine called TTG. (I have never read TTG, have no idea what it’s about and am vaguely confused as to why it is there)

2 hand creams

Red nail varnish (I very rarely wear nail varnish)

2 packs of tissues

Vaseline

7 receipts

Face wash (I don’t know why I would be carrying this around with me)

A pair of big thick mittens I haven’t worn in months

A hairbrush

That bracelet I lost a few weeks ago! Brilliant!

The shopping list I wrote when buying stuff for making a Valentine’s meal

A tea bag

A faux Oyster card holder which in fact has a mirror in one side and a little book of discounts for a nearby hairdressers in the other (I’m as puzzled as you are on this one)

A purple swimming cap which says ‘IRONMAN’ across it. (O, the hilarity. As though putting on the cap might convince people I’m in that category of sportsman)

Elizabeth Arden 8 hour skin cream (probably used it once in the past few months)

5 pence

A map of London’s top ten attractions

An unopened pack of nail files

A loyalty card for a shop I barely go in

3 Oyster cards (no, I don’t know why either)

Some flu medicine

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I don’t know, everyone! I don’t know! I don’t know why I carry around so many ’emergency’ things, like the gloves in case it suddenly gets freezing. I should know myself well enough to know that I consider myself far too invincible to need gloves. Why so many receipts? And pens? Surely one or two would do? And a teabag?

O well. I guess I’ll put it all back in my bag and go on as though none of this ever happened. I’m too confused at myself.

New Year

Ok, I was up until 2am and just woke up (at 11.30am) so am feeling a bit out of it and sleepy so I can’t promise that this post will be the most inspired I have ever written!

New Year’s Eve itself ended up being a lovely mishmash of friends from different areas of my life who had never met. One friend brought her pet sausage dog so, obviously, we all giggled and cooed and bonded over that.

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After a lot of sitting around, we finally started cooking, using my favourite Michel Roux cookbook, and produced an extremely tasty dish called ‘poussin scented with ginger and lemongrass.’ I liked it because it sounded a bit Mastercheffy.

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The poussin was with steamed broccoli, fried rocket leaves (tastier than it sounds) rice and a sauce made from the ginger and lemongrass and leftover chicken stuff.

For dessert, we made poached cherries with rice pudding, which I cooked on high speed, as it was getting late, so wasn’t quite up to Michel’s standards. I imagine he’d eliminate me from the semi finals for my speedy cooking methods. O well. It was tasty anyway.

We then got our warm coats on and drove to Richmond Park, parking outside and walking inside, to a point we knew was quite high so we would have a fabulous view over London for the fireworks. We found ourselves a good spot and waited for the celebrations to begin.

It was fantastic when they did start. In almost every direction, in any gap between the trees, we could see fireworks displays happening in all different parts of London. We had a view to our left towards the park gate and saw, occasionally, fireworks going off in different places across Surrey. In front of us were the fireworks at the South Bank in central London, and behind us were displays in other parts of South West London. They went on for a little while and we cracked open our bottle of prosecco and passed around the single glass I had grabbed in a hurry when leaving the house, like poor students sharing bad wine before a night out.

After the fireworks displays had finished and the sausage dog had calmed down (there were lots of other dogs in the park and she had become very excited), we wandered back home and watched a bit of TV before giving up for the evening. It was all very lovely and civilised.

And now, time to make some new year’s resolutions, mainly so they are recorded somewhere so that I am obliged, sort of, to keep them. Ok, here goes.

– Plan a trip to Namibia
– Plan a trip to Asia
– Eat more ethically, especially with meat
– Finish all the books I’m in the middle of
– Revamp the wardrobe a little
– Say yes to social engagements (instead of my default setting, which is no cause I’m lazy)

Narnia and I

Our relationship goes way back. Anyone who knows me well, knows about my Narnia-love.

I had probably read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at some point as a child but then my dad got me the box set in my teens and I read all seven chronicles. It took over my existence for a while. I rejoiced when they defeated the White Witch, when Caspian beat his uncle and reigned over Narnia, when Jill and Eustace broke Prince Rilian free from his spell and when Peter triumphed in the last battle. I despaired when Aslan was killed on the ancient table, when Nikabrik tried to overthrow Caspian and when Edmund and Lucy were told they had to leave Narnia. And I wept for the second half of the last book because I knew the end was nigh.

When in the Narnia zone, it becomes a very real place to me. It is the pleasant background to my normal day. Things are just generally nicer and more storybook, even when I’m just at work.

Right before going on our gap years, my friend Joe and I had walked from his house into Reading, which had taken about four hours. We had talked about Narnia a lot. It was one of those lovely days, early in our friendship when everything we said or did became a nice memory, stored up to take away with me. He left for his gap year before me so I sent him all seven books in the post to China and, miraculously, nothing happened to them along the way. I took a copy of the books with me to Africa and we started to read them on the 16th December, countries and oceans apart, to prepare for Christmas.

In fact, one day, whilst discussing Narnia with a bit of alcohol in our systems, two friends and I jumped into the rather big wardrobe we had in our room in Namibia, and searched around in the back for some snow or trees. We found neither.

Every year since then, I’ve started reading them on the 16th so I’m usually on book 4 or 5 by Christmas Day, and I keep reading till I finish them.

When my friend, Jay, started basically living on our sofa when we were at uni, I had started reading them as usual and I would always stay in the front room with her, on the other sofa. And we used to read the books to each other, a chapter each, until she got tired and I would keep reading until she had fallen asleep.

So last night, a few days later than usual, I picked up The Magician’s Nephew and started to read. All the lovely feelings of being on familiar ground and being in for a great read were ignited and I sipped my cup of tea and smiled.

“This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child. It is a very important story because it shows how all the comings and goings between our world and the land of Narnia first began….”

The Eclectic Word Club

Good morning. It’s Wednesday again and time for my guest blogger, Rambler5319 to take over….

 

Are you a member of a club? If you are, why are you? I suppose, logically, you like the activities they do. It might be: a football club because you like football, a tennis club because you like to play tennis, a chess club because you like to play chess, a film club because you like to watch films and so on. These are all clubs where you know what they will be doing by their title.

However I wonder if you’ve ever thought of yourself as being in a club that you didn’t know you were a member of. Bit strange, eh? How could you be in a club or clubs but not know it? I think we all are! Thousands of them. How so? I hear you say.

To find out let’s go back to the clubs I mentioned at the start. People in those clubs have certain words they use which are particular to their activity. They will have special words which those in the “club” know but perhaps those outside don’t: a one-two in Football, roughing and trumping in Bridge, castling in Chess and so on. Some of us, who are not members of that club, may know these terms because we know people who use them or they’ve become used in everyday life but the more technical ones we probably don’t. You only learn them if you need to use them. So far so good.

Each person has a vocabulary of words they use every day in order to communicate. This vocabulary will vary depending on how many words you’ve learnt and whether you know their meanings. It will also depend on your age: young people use words older people don’t and vice versa, scientists use words non-scientists don’t. Words do come into and go out of fashion. You may use particular words to sound trendy (“right on”, “boss”, “cool”, fab etc) or maybe even to sound deliberately not trendy (“spokeshave”).

It’s important to use the correct terms otherwise you will not be able to communicate. Would you expect a mechanic in a garage where you take your car to refer to “the thing under the bonnet”? No, I think you’d expect him to say “the engine”. If there’s a right word use it but to use it you have to know it! And that’s where the learning comes in: get that dictionary out! Now you’re in the club that knows the word “engine” and so on up to the more complicated ones. You can communicate with other people who know the same word but not with those who don’t. Do you see what’s going on here? We’re in lots of these “clubs” but we may not be in all the same ones as our friends.

At the end of the day words are about communication so why use words that most people don’t know unless it’s to sound or look clever? For instance in the 1840s people would not have had a problem with Emily Bronte’s use of words like “asseverate” & “orison”, in Wuthering Heights, but how many of us today know their meaning? In this case you have two options: go and look them up in a dictionary so you know what they mean next time or just try and guess from the context (in which case you’ll never know for certain). If you don’t look them up – why don’t you? In fact why don’t you write them down so you’ll remember them. Now you’re in the “club” that knows what they mean.

The title of this blog gives a further clue. Eclectic is a word which crept into everyday use through music journalism and writers referring to people having “an eclectic taste” in music or an album having an “eclectic mix” of styles. You either look the word up or you don’t understand what they’re talking about. You will tend to pick the words you use based on the situation you’re in: are you speaking with customers, friends or work colleagues? In the container business, for example, you will hear words like Reefer (meaning a refrigerated container or trailer), High-Cube (meaning a container which is 9’6” high instead of an ordinary height of 8’6”) and Flat Rack (meaning a container with no sides or roof, so it just has the base and two ends). Each branch of the armed forces has special words and phrases they use. Each trade or craft also has specialised uses of words. You just have to learn them if you’re going to be able to communicate with others in the same business. You become part of a word club where particular words and language are used. You will also begin to use words that those around you use especially when moving (or travelling) to a new area or country: our cars have bonnets – American cars have hoods, our cars have boots – American cars have trunks, we put petrol in our cars – Americans put “gas” in theirs and so on.

I’m reading a book at the moment (about The Elizabethan period in English history) which, just this week, has given me six words I’ve not come across before: Scabrous, Tanistry, Gallowglasses, Seneschal, Rymor, Self-Exculpation. (My notebook which I’ve mentioned before that I write words in that I don’t know the meaning of is close to the 800 mark now.) So that’s six new clubs I’ve joined because, along with the author, I now know what they mean. And no I’m not telling you what they mean! If you don’t know them……. You know what’s coming next……go and get that dictionary! Find out!

One of the best investments I made was to purchase a dictionary app for my phone. It’s the same dictionary as the hardback paper version I have on my bookshelf but it cost one-sixth of the price and it is with me all the time. It’s also quicker than me at looking up stuff. Those of you with Kindles probably don’t need an app as it includes a dictionary. It’s just a matter of being prepared.

Being in word clubs is a lifelong experience because there are so many of them and new ones come along all the time. Will you join them (by getting that dictionary out) or will you walk past maybe just guessing what’s behind the door? The choice is yours. Have you come across any words you don’t know recently that you could share with us?

(Guest post by Rambler 5319)