BookPileI love to read. Not a day goes by without me sitting down to read, unless it’s forced upon me by circumstances, such as illness or … something … and I can’t think of the last time it happened, actually.

If you want to torture me, put me in a waiting room for hours with nothing to read. I’ll read the posters, I’ll read the information leaflets, and then I’ll climb the walls to read the small print telling me who made the clock and how to replace the battery. I’ll read the labels on my clothes, the washing instructions on the curtains, and the badges on people’s lapels. Heck, I’ll even read their tattoos if they have any.

I was very lucky because learning to read came easily to me, and I found the whole process of getting words off the page and into my brain quite magical. When I was old enough to join the local library, I remember badgering my mother on a Saturday morning to hurry up and take me down there to change my books so that I could get new stuff to read. We were only allowed four books each week. Four! How mean was that?

In those days, I would read one book at a time, but now I tend to read several books at once, keeping one or two in the bedroom, and others dotted about the house (OK, yeah. In the bathroom too …), so that there’s always something handy.

Here’s what I have on the go at the moment. I’m not going to review them, you can follow the links if you want to know more about them -

Representing non-fiction: Beau Brummel, The Ultimate Dandy (Ian Kelly) and Every Living Thing (James Herriott).

Three works of pure fiction: One for the Money (Janet Evanovich), The Witching Hour (Anne Rice), and Honey Moon (Amy Jenkins).

Okay, I know I said I wasn’t going to review them, but I have to tell you that I’m about to give up on The Witching Hour. It is so slow. So. Slow. I keep waiting for it to warm up and get going, but since I’m halfway through now, I think I might be onto a loser.

I have others waiting – I’m particularly looking forward to Making Money, (the latest Terry Pratchett ‘Discworld’ novel), My Horizontal Life (Chelsea Handler) and The Knife Man (Wendy Moore) which is all about a famous 18th century surgeon.

I’ve read pretty much all genres, though I don’t care too much for horror these days, I seldom read science fiction anymore, and politics bores me. I also read blogs, of course, and what got me started on this post was Gemmak telling us that she considers herself a ‘literary lightweight’. So what exactly is that? Does it matter if we don’t read ‘worthy’ books? What is a worthy book anyway? Personally, I read for fun, for information, and for escapism, and I don’t much care what anyone else thinks of my choices.

Here’s a couple of thoughts to leave you with. According to the Literacy Trust, 40% of adults in Britain never read books. Also, the last time I heard an estimation, the average British household contained only five books. OH and I read all the time, and have upwards of two thousand books in our house. Good grief. How many households does that leave with no books at all?

Oh, and Confident Writing has a kind of meme going about her ‘Summer Reading Pile’. I don’t do Technorati, but if you do, and want to join in, tag your post with those words.

Posted on July 23, 2008 in Conversations, Johnny Depp by Jay22 Comments »


Driving to the shops yesterday, the following conversation took place.

OH (out of the blue): ‘He’ll go suddenly, you know. One day he’ll wake up with all the wrinkles, and a pot belly’.

Me: ‘Huh?’

OH: ‘Your bloke*. He’ll go suddenly. He’ll go to bed one night, all youthful, and next morning he’ll wake up wrinkley. Bags under the eyes, you know. Pot belly. It’ll all be there.’

Me: ‘Ah. You mean someone will have found the portrait’.**

OH: ‘I’ll give him a year. OK, maybe five. Five years. Then one day … he’ll go. Wrinkles. Suddenly.’

Me: ‘And you know what?’

OH: ‘What?’


OH: ‘Oh. Yeah. I know what.’


OH: *Sigh*

Me: *Snigger*

OH (mutters): ‘But I’ll laugh. On that day, I’ll laugh’.


* Johnny Depp. Who else?

** As in ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Oscar Wilde

Posted on July 21, 2008 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay18 Comments »

FeteNoticeI guess we’ve all seen it – people go around and put up signs and notices about forthcoming events, and they tie them to lamp posts, and staple them to fences, etc, or they use a little stake to put them into verges where passing cars can read them. I don’t mind that, actually. We don’t buy a local newspaper or listen to the local radio station, so it’s handy to know what’s happening and when, around our village. Sometimes, it’ll be something interesting, and I’ll pop along and even spend a bit of cash, which is what it’s all about really, isn’t it?

So, no worries about that damn great piece of painted hardboard that someone tied to the lamp post across the street from our house. It’s kinda pretty, actually, and big enough to be easily read by anyone who had the slightest interest in doing so. It’s even a good cause, since pre-school groups seem to need to raise pretty much all of their own funding, so hooray for the pre-school fete! I hope they do well.


Notice the date on that? I believe it says ’6th July’? I took that picture this morning, and today is the twenty-first. That is a whole two weeks later. So, having put up the notice, and got what they wanted – ie, lots of people trolling along to spend their cash – the organisers of this event have just abandoned the sign, and basically said ‘fuck it’ to the community – and not in a Good Way.

Is it not incumbent upon those who care for our kids to set a good example to them? Mmm. I thought so, too. But in this case, the group seems to be saying ‘Do what you have to in order to get what you want, and then don’t worry about cleaning up your mess, because Someone Else will do it’.

NoticeDitchOf course, they’re not the only ones who fail to collect what is now, in effect, litter. This other picture is of a poster for a plant sale at the village hall, and it’s now nestling in a ditch. But I have to say, the pre-schooler’s one sets a very bad example.

And that pisses me off. It really does.

Posted on July 19, 2008 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay24 Comments »


‘What I did on my holidays’ always seemed to be the title of the English essay we were asked to write on our return to school after the long summer break. Were our teachers imaginative, or what? Anyway, that was what popped into my head after reading ‘Let the children play’ on Demob Happy Teacher’s blog last night. It seems that some idiot has paid another idiot great wads of the folding stuff to come up with the idea that it’s actually quite a good idea to let children play freely instead of organising all their time down to the last second and filling it up with worthy activities. Well, well. Quelle surprise!

Anyway, I was taken right back to those happy days when school had finished for the summer and us kids were just told to ‘go and play’ and ‘get out from under my feet’ or ‘stop bickering and go outside’ and other such affectionate motherly things. And go out we did, and no-one watched us, and we had no mobile phones, and if we hurt ourselves we ran home. Or crawled home. Or perhaps were carried home. Whatever. And we survived and Learned Things.

So what did I do on my holidays?

Before the age of nine, nothing much. We lived in the middle of London, and as the youngest child, I was not allowed out by myself – not even down to the grounds of the flats, unless I had one of my brothers with me, and they were usually too busy with their own stuff. So I did jigsaws and drew pictures, and read voraciously. And I played with Plasticine. Do you remember Plasticine, anyone? It was that modelling stuff that came in a flat pack of seven or eight different coloured corrugated stripes and it made your hands ache trying to get it warm enough to actually model with. After a few days of forcing it into misshapen horses, brightly clad people with one leg shorter than the other, and little garden scenes with blue ponds and tiny flowers, it all became that unique colour known as Plasticine Brown. No matter how hard you tried to keep the colours separate, it always happened, didn’t it?

After the age of nine, everything changed. My father was made redundant from his job at the Hackney Gazette and we moved right out into the countryside of Essex. My mother took a part-time job, and suddenly the summer holidays were a great, wide-open vista of opportunity with no-one to supervise little old me. And I took full advantage.

We’d moved onto a half-built housing estate, and nothing delighted me more than roaming through the half-built houses and piles of breeze blocks and scaffolding with my new friend from across the way – you see, there were no fences and stern warning notices in those days, so we figured it was OK. We climbed half-built staircases, we leaned out of unglazed upper windows, and we played jacks in the raw concrete dust out in the yards. We made dens in the piles of bricks and sat in our rickety and unsafe eyries waving to passers by. And I’m ashamed to say, we half-inched planks and nails and random bits of (extremely sharp) metal and nameless objects to make into go-karts to career down the local hills with and crash into hedges. But it was fun, though, huh?

Obviously we could only do this once the workmen had gone home for the day, so we also used to walk for miles, either through farmland (where we’d help ourselves to apples, plums or raspberries in season) or along the dusty roads. Sometimes we’d hang out in the local playing fields, making daisy chains or playing on the swings and roundabouts. Incidentally, that playing field was where I got injured. Not on the building sites, or walking along the roads, or climbing trees after stolen fruit, but in the totally legitimate, and very local playing field. I had a crashing fall from a trapeze bar, biting my tongue so badly that it bled all the way home and was still bleeding when I got there (whereupon my mother lied to me and said I had a ‘small blister’), and on another occasion, I misjudged a jump from the roundabout and landed badly with one foot trapped under the still spinning edge. That was a nasty sprain, I can tell you. But you know what? I learned from the experience, and I didn’t drop dead or anything. AND I didn’t sue anyone, and nor did my parents.

I can also remember doing things like rounding up the stray dogs and taking them home. They were never really strays. In those days, some people used to turf their dogs out when they went to work in the morning and open the door for them when they got home, leaving the dog to roam the village at will during the day, but even so young I knew that was wrong. Sometimes I’d take a puppy home with me, where it would promptly pee on a rug and get thrown out. Once I found a hedgehog sitting terrified in the middle of a road and took that home wrapped in my hat only to have both hedgehog AND hat thrown out.

Occasionally, we’d go around someone’s house and play exciting things like darts, outside in the garden! I guess I could have written about that in the essay, but it would have sounded a bit lame alongside the more fortunate kids’ tales of the Costa Brava, or being travel sick on the way to Devon. But in the end, that’s the sort of thing I did write about, because, well, that’s what I did. Oh, I don’t say I admitted to the scrumping of apples and filching of wood from building sites – I wasn’t daft – but apart from that, my essays on ‘What I did on my holidays’ tended to be a pretty good model for the ‘new’ thinking about letting children play.

They’d all have heart attacks about the harm I could have come to, though. And as for the trespass and petty theft, I suppose I’m lucky I grew up when I did, or I might have ended up with an ASBO. And see? Despite all that, the solid guidance of my parents won out in the end and I grew up honest and moral and law-abiding.

Funny old world, innit?



Photograph courtesy of Annika of