2018 reading review, including my book of the year

In 2018, I was aiming to read 52 books. I hit 80 this morning on 28 December, I’ll explain why I posted this early at the bottom of the post.

For one of my “19 in 2019” I want to get to 100 books, which means less time on social media (can only be a good thing) and broadening my reading repertoire (can only be a good thing). The hardest part of getting to 100 books will not be turning books I love around to promptly re-read them – I will be strong! This year has been a period of growth for me, mostly thanks to two women:

  • Mel Robbins, The 5 Second Rule I read this twice and listened to it twice this year.
  • Brené Brown, with Daring Greatly and Dare to Lead which I promptly brought for the Management Team at work. Yes, seven additional copies. Mine is already dog-eared, highlighted all the way through. Both of these got listened to and read at least twice as well.

As you will see from the list, I’m also addicted to Agatha Christie, with a penchant for audiobooks Joan Hickson reading Miss Marple and Hugh Fraser reading Poirot. Agatha Christie has been a companion for 30 years, I don’t see that changing any time soon. I also finally got round to reading His Dark Materials trilogy, Book Club gave me a couple of books I wouldn’t have picked up, and also one that I could not finish. My rule of thumb is 100 pages plus my age; if I’m not in it by then, I close the book and move on.

Stand out reads of the year include:

  • Uncommon Type, Tom Hanks – damnit, the man can do everything.
  • Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern – a book I hugged with joy when I finished it.
  • Promise Me Dad, Joe Biden – read with tissues, then tell everyone you love that you love them.
  • Not My Father’s Son, Alan Cumming – I listened to this, then went back and watched his Who Do You Think You Are episode, which prompted the book. Glorious but heartbreaking and his Scottish burr in your ears is really rather lovely.
  • Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Samin Nosrat – I think I’ve watched the Netflix special eight times (see a pattern here when I get excited about something?) I ordered this for my Christmas present, to me!

Book of the year though, has to be Osher Günsberg’s Back, After The Break. I cannot stress how well this book captures what it feels like to live with ‘a different brain’ as Osher puts it. The book also addresses via Audrey his wife, what it’s like to live with someone who lives with a different brain. I’m up to my fourth reading of it, it is now a permanent fixture on my bed side table.

Thanks to the book and subsequent media attention, Australia is now, (at last), catching up with those who’ve been listening to his podcast and had heard from the man behind the TV presenter persona. Sharp suits and counting roses is one thing, but Osher is also proud about sharing his mental health and sobriety journey. I really recommend his podcast; Osher is a skilled interviewer, not being afraid to go ‘there’ in conversations. Also as they are long-form interviews, the conversations are wide-ranging, intimate and every single one of them brings an “a-ha!” moment.

What I really love about the podcasts though is Osher still getting goofy talking about his family, Audrey and Georgia. Audrey recognised how scared he was in one of his fragile moments and told him “It’s ok, because I’ll be there with you” which started leading him towards the light again. Here’s Osher talking about that moment with Todd Sampson – when Todd interviewed him after the release of the book.

I’m so bluddy proud of him. It has been an extraordinary year, Men’s Health cover and all. Here’s me, bursting with joy to meet him back at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival.

Happy Second Anniversary to all of you. I was going to post this review on 31 December, with my final number but brought it forward to today after he popped a wedding photo up. There was no doubt what my book of the year was as soon as I’d finished reading it.

Osher

 

Father’s Day, weekend redux

Had an odd Saturday, on the one hand – excellent as I got to meet one of my favourite humans; on the other sh!t-house because of a poorly managed night out that left me in the middle of a room on my own staving off anxiety. C’est la vie.

On Friday night Osher Gunsberg shared on Instagram he was whizzing into the Melbourne Writer’s Festival, and was doing a signing in the Atrium at 12:30pm on Saturday. I told Hubs I wanted to head into the city to get my book (re) signed, as I’d brought a signed copy from Booktopia.

We headed into the city to watch Archie play hockey, his last session of the season, which means no more running by the Yarra for me on a Saturday for a few months. But I  spent a half an hour there doing the VA thing, supporting a project I’m passionate about. We drove into the CBD proper from South Yarra; driving past Melbourne Football Club training in a park, watched by fans from the sidelines. No extra security in sight, you can’t imagine any club in the Premiere League doing that.

We parked up, and went to get coffees from one of the coffee shops in the Atrium. I ordered a croissant for the boys to share, and a pear and almond friend for me. Both came out cold, which we weren’t expecting (#brrrr), but they were tasty. The boys headed off into the city to a model shop, I sat on a chair and started to read Osher’s book. I’d been saving it since I knew I’d inhale it, and I must say it’s been a PITA having to go to work and do stuff.

Then suddenly there he was. I’ve got an odd relationship with him, he’s a major party of my life, even if he has no idea who I am. I’ve been listening to his podcast since he was still living in the USA, so we worked it out that was five years. I think I was also the only person in the queue who doesn’t watch the Bachelor(ette), if anyone tries to get anything other than sport or cartoons on our TV at home – good luck.

Osher was as sweet and as gracious as he is to his guests on the podcast; he came round the other side of the table to meet us, when I got my phone out to take a photo, whoever was with him (his manager Lauren maybe?), offered to take a picture. For a nanosecond, I hesitated, then put my arms right round him and leant my head against his. We talked some more, he signed more in my book and after saying ‘Give my love to the girls’, I kissed him and left so other people could get a chance to spend some time with him.

I would so love to talk to him for hours though. It’s not like my schwarm for Tom Hardy or George Clooney; it’s more like how I feel about Stephen Fry, Oprah, Cmdr Hadfield, Brené Brown or Mel Robbins.

—o0o–

In the evening, I’d been invited to an 80s night at the RSL with some of the school mums. I brought my ticket from someone I’d never met and arranged to meet people in the foyer at 7:30pm. I arrived to find no-one waiting, and when I posted in the event on Facebook, I then found out that two separate dinners had been organised without anyone asking if I wanted to join either of them.

Okaaaay.

One school mum rescued me, introduced me to a friend of hers who arrived shortly after me and went back to finish her meal. We made small talk, two more people arrived that this lady knew, but I don’t follow the VFL so a lot of the conversation I watched. We went upstairs, I stood there while we tried to work out where to sit or stand, as there was nowhere free.

Texting my running buddy that as it was Father’s Day, I wouldn’t be able to meet with her as we normally do on Sunday mornings; having said that I then messaged ‘I’m not sure how long I’ll be out for. I’m standing here like a lemon with no one talking to me‘ As I typed it, my anxiety bubbled up and within three minutes over the text conversation, I was out the door and heading back to my car.

I wouldn’t mind, but I’d been updating Instagram stories with my exploits as I was so excited about going out with new people. Sigh. Bless her heart, she checked in on me first thing in the morning to make sure I was ok.

I was ok once I got home and talked it through with Hubs. We sat up in bed and read together like the old married couple that we are; I’m currently on American Wife, which is frickin amazing.

Sunday morning we were up and at ’em, outside of bacon and eggs and on the road to Werribee Zoo, we got there early, arriving in time to hop on the first bus heading off on the safari at 9:50. Archie wanted to show Hubs around as Hubs had never been there before. We got up close to the animals, walked round the African part, had a coffee and were out the door in two hours flat. Perfect timing as it was getting busy as we left, we had parts of the zoo to ourselves, talking the whole way round. We saw so many birds too it was wonderful. From Superb Fairy Wrens, to honeyeaters, eagles, kites and little Red-browed finches who look like they’re wearing superhero masks.

I also have perfected poached eggs, I think I’d done them once or twice before this weekend, but Archie and I did some serious YouTube research, cracking the eggs into a tea cup is the way to go folks. It’s amazing how you can learn stuff online so easily now.

Round two of antibiotics…

…and I’ve graduated from a Swallows and Amazons to a Poirot (After the Funeral). Small, but not insignificant progress, as I’ve not been able to hold a train of thought in my head for days on end now.

Chief Brody has been like velcro since I took up residence in the spare room, only leaving my side to keep up with his social networks. Thankfully we’ve not had a mouse brought in this week to feed us.

Hubs and Archie had a birthday party yesterday; at an outdoor adventure golf, not an indoor play centre, as that would have push Hubs over the edge. I took Archie to get the present on Friday afternoon and it nearly broke me. I collected him from school, walking up the hill instead of driving as it’s always chaos – coz that was sensible. We then got stuck in the school traffic for 20 minutes on a 5 minute drive to the plaza. I had to puff up the slope from the car park and as we got into the shops, BossMan called me. I answered as he never rings me unless he needs to.

By now I was feeling faint and sweating like I’d been on a run, (he said later he could hear how stuffed I was in my voice). I explained where I was, that I’d ducked out to get a present with Archie, we talked over the latest crisis at work and he made me laugh till I coughed so we concluded the conversation. I went to get some more cold and flu tablets, Archie and I headed up to K-Mart where he chose what he wanted to give as his present and we got back in the lift to go back to the car. I was leaning against the glass wall, (sheer bliss at it’s coolness) when I got talked to (I always get talked to). “The weather is a bit like that isn’t it?”

I shut the conversation down with ‘I’ve got bronchitis’ leaving the lady making the ‘o’ face like a fish out of water. The man in the lift with us winked at me and grinned. I left a hot and sweaty outline on the glass. I drove home, got Archie a snack and sat on the couch under a blanket as I’d now gone cold while we watched a DVD.

I just felt tired out at home, so I thought I’d be ok ducking out for half an hour. If the traffic hadn’t been so bad, it would have been just that but an hour was too much for me to cope with. Lesson learnt.

On a brighter note, Archie has been ploughing through the original Morph cartoons with Tony Hart on kids youtube. He was a bit non-plussed when I said that my form teacher at high school had gone to art college with Tony Hart, but was more impressed when I told him I’d had a picture in the gallery on the program. I’m trying to get a video of him laughing at Morph, Chas, et al, because it’s a glorious six-year-old giggle of pure joy.

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Back to Basics

I have issues with Facebook, I need it in my life (apparently), but I hate it. I am out of alignment with it. I find myself comparing myself to others, wondering why when I am doing the exact same things, I am not getting the same results.

I am out of alignment with it because, I would rather sit with others and talk with them. Hold their hands when they’re struggling, laugh till tears stream down our faces, hug hello and goodbye. I love that I can see pictures of people I care about from here when they’re there. But I hate that I have to plonk myself down in front of a computer to do it. Most often, I use my phone. Which means, it is with me all. the. time.

I listen to audiobooks, podcasts and music on my phone. Check emails. The bluddy thing is ruling my life and I am all out of whack. I’m out of flow. I need it, but it’s running me. Not the other way around.

I took Facebook off my phone. I’m about to take other things off too. Go back to using my laptop, so I have set times and boundaries on the phone. Get my chi back.

Stream of consciousness I know, one thing I’m going to do is blog more often. Get the words out my head :D see what happens.

What’s happening next??

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Picture credit

A year of reading, January redux

Four days into our second month of 2016 and I’ve read eight books already, go me!

After such a dismal selection towards the back end of last year of over-long, clunky, badly edited books; to start off this year with four out of the eight as new reads, all of which I’d read again, that’s not a bad start. Here are some random thoughts on the books, only by order of reading:

Magda Szubanski’s Reckoning was truly life-changing, I still am thinking about it over a month after finishing it. It’s visiting a friend from work who was looking forward to reading it, I don’t usually lend books. I’ve had too many not come home, but I know L will take good care of Magda and return her when she’s done.

Ghost River split our Book Club, some have really struggled to finish it, I think only two of us have completed it. I quite enjoyed it – although not being Australian, I didn’t pick up some of the cultural nuances through the story line. On Monday we spent more time discussing where along the Yarra it was set than the story.

The Little Paris Bookshop was glorious. It was a book I didn’t want to finish. A mixture of The Collected Works of AJ Fikry and The Elegance Of The Hedgehog as well written as All The Light We Cannot See; I am going to be making room for this on my annual re-reading list. A lot of books can lose something in translation from their native tongue to English, I’m glad to say this book was divinely French throughout.

On The Move was ordered not long after the death of Oliver Sacks was announced, along with Gratitude which is waiting patiently to be read too. Dr Sacks was a hero of mine; the way he writes is so intimate, but at the same time explicitly clear and scientific. He never dumbed-down for us layman types, Dr Sacks wrote to share his knowledge and findings with us, lifting our understanding in the process.

I absolutely inhaled Brooklyn yesterday. I wanted to turn it around and re-read it straight away as well, which for me is always a good sign. I think like Snow Falling on Cedars, now I know the story, the next time I read it, I will get more out of and marvel at the language Colm Tóibín has used.

What is coming up?

I’ve collected our next Book Club selection of The House of Hidden Mothers, by Meera Syal at the library on Tuesday, which is a book I’m looking forward to reading. At the same library visit, I also checked out the only Oliver Sacks book on their shelves, Hallucinations. I finally succumbed to Paulo Coelho and checked out The Alchemist and a Neil Gaiman audiobook, Neverwhere.

Our other Book Club selection was The Mysterious Affair At Styles, introducing several book club members to Mr Hercule Poirot, I have him on my bookshelf. I adore Agatha Christie, the ridiculous plots, the overwrought emotions, the ‘of an age’ language, they’re great fun. Next week I’m meeting with Book Club 2, where we are provided with a pack from our library, so I never know what we will be reading (Brooklyn was for that group).

Happy reading!

 

 

Ten on Tuesday – Community edition

Carole has a corker of a list this week, what makes your community interesting? I wasn’t sure how to approach this, then had a flash of inspiration in the shower. Libraries these are the very symbolism of ‘Community’ for me. Before I’d even moved to Australia, (Hubs had left the UK before me and found a house for us), I looked at what was going to be our local library and enrolled online, collecting my ticket and first books two days after I arrived.

Libraries a hub for people for a variety of reasons, and it is maddening to me that governments think they’re only about books and rental figures. Here are some arguments about why they’re so important to me.

Seaside Library

  1. Free or heavily discounted activities for all ages. From baby sing-alongs and story sessions, to showing how use tablets and computers, to language classes, to keeping chickens and researching your family history, there is something to do for everyone. If a session isn’t being run, have a look at the notice board, there will probably be something advertising a group or meeting you may be interested in. Sometimes, getting out the house with Peanut and going to a reading session was all that I achieved that day, but it meant a walk there and back, a reason to shower and some adult conversation, with the possibility of a coffee afterwards!
  2. A place to study. Even before I got to high-school, there were reference books that were permanently onsite that I used to refer to complete homework at the Seaside Library in my hometown, see above picture. I can still smell the room now, parquet floors and wooden floor to picture rail shelving, with moveable shelves, tables and desks in the middle of the room, the librarians had a central desk towards the front of the room, where your books were stamped in and out. I could probably still direct you to my favourite books in my mind.
  3. Access to more books than I could ever afford. Books are not cheap. When you devour them as quickly as I do and with a birthday not long after Christmas, my main book buying binge was usually in the sales in January with book tokens (remember them) and gift cards to WH Smith. I can remember carrying a stack of a mixture of Arthur Ransome and Sweet Valley High (oh my) to the counter, for the lady on the till to say “I think you like reading!” My mum fell about laughing.  Through the library, I was able to borrow books, read them, try them on, if I loved them, I could renew them, then put them on a ‘to-buy’ list. It also widened my sphere of reading, (way over and above Sweet Valley High), I’m still an eclectic reader now.
  4. A thirst for knowledge. If I want to learn about something, I read about it. Despite it being a digital age, (and loving my kindle), I love the tactile feel of paper. Most of my books have pen or pencil marks and notes in the margins. I love following the breadcrumbs of a subject, when a book point to another title or topic for me to lose myself in.
  5. Knowledge of how to research properly. Long before Google, there were microfiche readers and images of newspapers on reels. Standing up in front of a bank of cards, rifling through, taking the number of the tape or sleeve you needed to the librarian, waiting while they dug it out. Hoping a machine would be free. Another smell that is still there as I type this: the hot, dusty, celluloid, chemical tang. Going back and forwards over your tracks, making notes of where you were so your references were complete and correct at the end of your assignment. Kids these days…
  6. A place of refuge. In Eastbourne we also the ‘Central Library’, a concrete and glass monstrosity, but right by the train station. So if it was piddling it down with rain, you could make a made dash across the road and wait for the rain to stop. It also was a place I could spend hours in when my mind was struggling. Finding solace in Dewey, the smells of the books and stacks, people watching, writing endlessly, throwing the notes away and starting again.
  7. Librarians. A font of knowledge, support when you’re struggling to make a decision if you’ve accidently chosen too many books. I heartily miss the clunk-clunk of the stamp and my own little cardboard wallet with the tickets from the books I’d taken out in it. While Peanut loves scanning his books to take them out, it ain’t the same. Plus, we can take out 30 items at a time, so no quandary over what book to leave behind, wondering if I’d left the wrong one there.
  8. Meeting place. I cannot stress this point enough. Libraries are not just about books, they provide a safe, clean and welcoming place to meet. For mother’s groups, for play-dates, for friends, study-groups, you name it, you can meet there. You can also hire rooms out for meetings proper if your group needs somewhere, or for a change of scenery if you need an off-site work meeting.
  9. Resources for use/hire. I saw a picture of a bake pan library yesterday! See, I told you it is more than books. Catalogues now include DVDs, CDs, audiobooks, magazines, reference and text books, knitting patterns, board games. Our library is a networked group across different municipalities, there are nine sites in total. You can browse across the entire catalogue, ask for what you want to be sent to your local site. This arrangement is fantastic as the Councils can pool resources, to provide a truly excellent service.
  10. They help give back to the community. This leads off all the previous points, when you’re new in town, head to your local library. They will be able to help you get settled with lists of activities, doctor and dentist surgeries, more local historic information than you can shake a stick at.

I don’t think I will ever get off my soap-box about libraries. They are a necessity. They are precious and should be cherished, with funding secure. They’re a lifeline for many people, including me. I take Peanut to one of our local three every month, we check out a bag full (or two) of books, each time. He loves it as much as I do.

 

What I read in 2015

In line with the intention to ‘Read More’, here is the list of books I completed in 2015.

  1. The Strays, Emily Bitto – book club selection
  2. The Darling Buds of May, HE Bates – re-read
  3. A Breath of French Air, HE Bates – re-read
  4. The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer
  5. When The Green Woods Laugh, HE Bates – re-read
  6. Oh! To Be In England, HE Bates – re-read
  7. A Little of What You Fancy, HE Bates – re-read
  8. The President’s Hat, Antoine Laurain – book club selection
  9. At Home, Bill Bryson – audio book (this counts, right?)
  10. Perfume, Patrick Suskind – book club selection
  11. The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, Neil Gaiman
  12. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
  13. Nora Webster, Colm Tóibín – book club selection
  14. The Collected Works of AJ Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin; book club selection and an absolute joy
  15. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John Le Carre. Re-read, love it still.
  16. One Wild Song, Paul Heiney.
  17. The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo
  18. Riders, Jilly Cooper. Gloriously, well-written, funny, trashy, re-read.
  19. All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr. Book club selection, magnificent.
  20. Being Mortal, Atul Gawande. It was a privilege to read this book. I’ve already brought it as a gift for someone else.
  21. Bonkers, Jennifer Saunders.
  22. Lord Edgeware Dies, Agatha Christie.
  23. The Body In The Library, Agatha Christie.
  24. In The Unlikely Event, Judy Blume. Book club selection. Bitterly disappointing.
  25. Halloween Party, Agatha Christie.
  26. The Two Of Us, Sheila Hancock. One of the haul I found in a second hand bookshop. A previous owner had dropped it in the bath, it’s been well loved! Unusually I have it as an audiobook too.
  27. A Lotus Grows In The Mud, Goldie Hawn. Loved it. Am loathe to give it back to my friend until I buy myself a copy!
  28. The Truth According To Us, Annie Barrows. Book club selection.
  29. Five Little Pigs, Agatha Christie.
  30. Body of Evidence, Patricia Cornwell. Borrowed from work, started it over lunch, finished it before bed.
  31. Postmortem, Patricia Cornwell. Got it out the library today, started it at lunch and finished it.
  32. Lyrebird Hill, Anna Romer. Book club selection. I don’t know, maybe I’m expecting too much, but the most recently published books we’ve been reading could really do with tighter editing.
  33. Farewell To Arms, Ernest Hemingway. (I joined a second book club, hereafter BC2) Loved it, although would have quite cheerfully smacked the characters into next week, as for the alcohol consumed… How did people function if they were drinking that much?
  34. Lunatic Heroes, C Anthony Martignetti. Found this on my kindle, finished but I hadn’t logged it. 
  35. A Spool Of Blue Thread, Anne Tyler. Book club book, loved it. I read 2/3 yesterday, finally finishing it about 10:30 last night. I’m a tad jaded this morning. I either love Anne Tyler or hate her, nothing in between with her books. This was one of the books I’m going to wear out, I can tell already.
  36. Did You Ever Have A Family, Bill Clegg. Oh dear me, this was stunning. Heard about it on Radio4, downloaded to kindle there and then and inhaled the first half. I had to put it down as my heart was breaking, but picked it up and finished it in two sittings after that.
  37. Wild, Cheryl Strayed. Book club selection. What a crock of shit. Deleted it from my kindle as soon as it was finished.
  38. Lake House, Kate Morton. Book club selection. This was terrible. Far too many adjectives. It was also repetitive, when you’ve described the location once, you don’t need to keep telling me what it looks like.
  39. Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins.
  40. Wait For Me! Deborah Devonshire. Loved this, a real glimpse of history over the C20th and also a ‘who’s who’ of London. JFK is also a feature, and a side not usually seen to the family.
  41. The Turning, Tim Winton. BC2 selection, collection of short stories. Beautifully, concise writing. Some stories were only a few pages long. Heartbreakingly dark at times, I skipped a fair few and finished up with the last one.
  42. The Descendants, Kaui Hart Hemmings. Another audiobook, but I loved it. One of my favourite films of the past few years too.
  43. Adding Lib, Kathryn Elliott. One of the people I met through twitter, very funny book about families, generations and consuming empty calories when stressed – right up my street.
  44. Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher. Re-read in one sitting.
  45. Decoded, Mai Jai. Recommendation from Radio 4, very good.
  46. Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found, Rebecca Alexander. Found it on my kindle last night, I vaguely remember reading about it, but don’t remember ordering it! Read it in one sitting, and a nice book to finish the year with.

And to balance the list out, books I could not finish:

  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt – for the love of god, talk about waffle
  • Woman King, Evette Davis – clunky, badly written and nothing happens

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Baggage

A few things collided over the past few weeks, as they do when you notice connecting dots. I read an article on the difficulty of clearing and cleaning a relative’s house when they’ve passed on. How do you know what is important and not, when all you can see is stuff?

Diana Athill (one time editor of books, now a revered author of blisteringly good books) said moving into a home into her 90s was a difficult decision for her too:

I came home, sat down in my little sitting room, looked round at the magpie’s nest of beloved things accumulated in a long lifetime, and felt: “But this is me.” The extent to which a personality depends on the space it occupies and the objects it possesses appeared to me at that moment overwhelming. How could I perform an act of what amounted to self-destruction? The answer was: I can’t! I can’t and I won’t, I’d rather die.

She expands on the decision further than that one paragraph. It reminded me of both being an Army Wife and emigrating from the UK. Since 2000 I’ve had (hang on *counts on fingers*) twelve addresses(?), I think.

Packing up the flat in Portsmouth to move to Melbourne took a while, Hubs and I slowly worked our way through our belongings, selling, gifting, donating. We eventually shipped to Oz around 20 boxes, carefully cataloging what was in each in case the boat sank on the way over, (most reassuring when you’re packing prized possessions). At the bottom of each box was a layer of books, amongst my treasures: a boxed set of Arthur Ransome Swallows and Amazons series, a boxed set of Harry Potter, books my grandparents had given me.

Before I even started packing my books, I culled and culled and culled. Had I grown out the book? Had I finished with it? Had it finished with me? Over a period of months, I got my book pile down to what I simply could not bear to be without. Knowing I could always replenish books if they found me again, a good example: Perfume, brought once, lent, never returned; brought again, put in the discarded pile from the UK; brought again for Book Club, so now firmly hanging onto it. Mind you, that’s not quite as bad as finding a book in the Oxfam charity shop in Winchester that I’d picked up as I’d not read it in ages; opening it up to read on the bus on the way home, I found my name in it.

Any-hoo, a few weekends ago, Hubs and I had words. Nothing major, but given the cleaners had only been two days earlier, instead of dusting or vacuuming to clear my head, there wasn’t anything to clean. Dang, looks like I won’t get any cross cleaning done for the foreseeable future. Looking for something to work through, I turned to my bookshelves, my magpie’s nest. Reaching up for books I now needed to pass on, I cleared almost a shelf. Continue reading “Baggage”

Books I’ve read, six months in

Twenty four books over six months. Averaged out, even I can do the maths on that. Around a book a week, which ain’t bad. It’s more than I thought, but still not as many as I’d hoped. I’m very glad about my book club, as I’ve read a much more eclectic selection because of our choices.

I’m still re-reading lots. When I moved to Australia, I had to get rid of about half the books I owned, so as I find those I had to leave behind – I’m loving them. I brought a pile of second hand books in a shop the week before last, and was pleased with my haul. Books are so expensive here, $30 as oppose to £7 for a paperback –  which doesn’t even compute on any currency converter.

Currently on my bedside table I have Catch 22, which I’m dipping in and out of, The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, I’ve got so many books on my kindle it’s not funny, but hey – I’m reading more, which was the point in the whole thing :)

Ten On Tuesday – Pleasures edition

Carole has asked for Ten Guilty Pleasures this week.

Can I just say, that anything that gives you pleasure should not have any connotations of ‘guilty’ around it? All day long I listen to women discussing food, what they’ve been good with, what they’ve been naughty over, what they should and shouldn’t eat. If they do eat too much, what exercise should they then do to compensate for it. I’m a little bit over people punishing themselves for eating or drinking something they enjoy I can tell you.

I digress and am verging on a rant too. Here are ten things I take great joy in:

1. Lazy weekend mornings; these are so rare with a three and a half year old boy in the house, whenever we can get one it is to be savoured. I love reading the papers, drinking my tea, not rushing over breakfast, not clock watching having to keep an eye on the time to get to where we’re going on time.

2. Reading in bed; I cannot tell you how much I love retreating to my bed to read. The second house we lived in in Australia had a balcony off the main bedroom, I could open the door, take a pot of tea upstairs and read with daylight and fresh air coming in, snoozing should I feel so inclined. I love reading full stop, but particularly propped up on pillows, with a cat nearby, is just bliss.

3. Walking; I love walking, preferably somewhere green; but when I want to clear my head, I’ll drive to Luna Park and walk to Port Melbourne, have a cup of tea and walk back, all up about 10km by Port Phillip Bay. I’m proud that Peanut walks alongside us, not wanting to be picked up and carried, when we go to the zoo, we can often cover 4-5km looking at all the animals, he doesn’t complain once, just carries on happily, then falls asleep before we’re out the car park!

4. Running; Let me caveat this. I am not sure I like running, but I like the feeling when it’s over. Does that count?

5. Uninterrupted sleeping; see number 1. As any parent will tell you, you’re permanently tired. Talking with a colleague at work yesterday whose daughter started school this week, she was following a discussion on Facebook about other families bed-time routines. Most of the families that commentated said they eat dinner anywhere from 4:30 – 5:30 pm, with their children heading -to bed at 7:00pm. As we both work until 5pm, and both of us try to eat dinner as a family, we thought that eating at 4:30pm was – well, odd for one thing, and secondly impossible for us to achieve. We both aim to get our children to bed as close to 7:30pm as we can, but last night it was 8:30pm before Peanut settled, he had one of those fighting it to the last second nights. Dropping Peanut at nursery on Monday this week, I watched a lady in full make-up serenely taking her three children in the door. I’d just about managed a shower and got dressed. While I know there will be days when she’s sporting yesterday’s mascara and bed-head, while I’m in a co-ordinated outfit, this week I am running on empty and it’s only Wednesday.

6. Going to the cinema on my own; if you’ve not done this yet, can I please urge you to try it? I love being able to watch what I want to watch, I don’t have to share my popcorn (if I want any, but most often I don’t), I know I will adhere to the Wittertainment Code of Conduct and most importantly, I don’t have to worry about my companion not enjoying the film. It’s all about me.

7. A good roast dinner; not much to ask for, I know, but it’s one of my most favourite things. When I found a recipe for gluten free Yorkshire puddings to have with my roast beef, the mouthful of beef, pudding, gravy and horseradish sauce made me weep.

8. Red wine; I’d be tee-total except for this. And Hendricks Gin.

9. A deep tissue massage; alas I’ve moved away from my favourite massage therapist who took such wonderful care of me when I was pregnant. My osteo now does a bit of massage as part of any treatment, but I love a good pummelling.

10. A decent pot of tea; again not much to ask for, but sometimes impossible to get.

There we have it, I’m a woman of simple tastes!