Five Minutes Peace

April 7, 2012 at 6:19 am | Posted in books, Childhood, Children, insomnia, Literature, London | 2 Comments
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Blog, I have neglected you. This ends now. I did do well by you in January, but now you lie abandoned in the great internet orphanage/Battersea Dogs’ Home/some other appalling metaphorical place of forsakenment. (Apologies for the antiquated word: but it is rather fitting considering yesterday’s date).

I woke suddenly this morning about five after having a recurring nightmare (I won’t share details, but it involves murder). Too restless to sleep again, I read some blog posts by this lady and this one too. Both made me realise how much I missed writing up my own adventures.

I’ve not had a laptop for ages since my brother ‘borrowed’ mine (hey, at least my diary is password protected), and although I’m hoping to get one, I rather like this funny little QWERTY IPhone keyboard. Sure, the screen is somewhat ambitiously tiny for my shortsightedness, but that’s part of the fun (or something).

The silence this morning is so delicious. I can hear nothing whatsoever apart from, well, that slight buzz of soundlessness you get when you are somewhere very still. Here comes The Desiderata bit (apologies for the link to THAT website, but it was that or businessballs.com…). So much of our lives are consumed by busyness that sometimes we forget how easy it can be to find quietness in the midst of madness. Get up an hour earlier (not easy when you’re knackered, I know), or take ten minutes out of your lunch break to find peace (not of the inner or world variety, just peace, pure and simple). Where I work in Tenterden, it’s amazing how quickly I can find silence just a few minutes after walking out of my shop, even on the high street. You seem to enter a whole new universe which runs in parallel to the craziness of the usual world. The same thing happened to me a few weeks ago in Richmond: a friend and I were en route to a lovely pub, and the further we walked up the hill, leaving the bustle and Bugaboos of the main town behind, the more the soft sounds of nature descended. You have to walk up this hill at least once in your life: the views are absolutely amazing. Plus perving on the abodes of the rich and famous is such an enriching activity.

There’s something so wonderfully expectant about a Saturday, particularly when it is very early and still (not, I should add, when you are rolling out of bed, dry-tongued and hungover). When I am up very early on my favourite day of the week, I always think back to walking over Kew Bridge as the sun comes up, or of sitting outside Waterstones Thanet as a probational bookseller, and reading the terrible eponymous book.

That’s all for now. Je Reviens, as Rebecca’s boat said. And remember: go placidly, folks…

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Are you goin’ to Tenterden Book Fair?

February 25, 2012 at 8:04 am | Posted in books, Literature | Leave a comment
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I have very fond memories of Tenterden Book Fair, although my memory is undecided as to when I first went there – some time during university? Before then? Anyway, like parties, I was always going for more than the Book Fair itself. I was going for Waitrose; I was going for the magnificent journey through the Kent countryside, which takes in an isolated house surrounded by poplar trees; I was going for the independent gift shops. I was going to feel posh, basically.

And the meatloaf. Oh, the meatloaf. After browsing round the stalls, it would be time for a cup of tea served from a Brown Betty pot, and a slice of meatloaf smothered in gravy and accompanied by mash and greens. It was as if I’d stumbled into an HE Bates novel.

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My favourite purchase is a signed Iris Murdoch, which is in storage at the moment, but I also found this beauty at the Book Fair one day:

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You can misquote me on that

February 20, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Posted in Journalism, Literature | Leave a comment
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Fellow Twitterers, family and friends will know that I appeared in Good to Meet You in the Guardian on Saturday. I was thrilled to appear in this column; it’s one of my favourite parts of the Saturday Guardian.

I wasn’t so thrilled, however, to discover, when my insomnia nudged me awake at 3am Saturday morning, that my photo had been posted sideways on the Guardian website. Yes, I admit to being vain, but reader, I resembled, and do still, as they’ve failed to align it correctly yet, one of those feature-distorting fairground mirrors. Luckily, I look reasonably sane in the print edition.

What’s more, not only did they make out that I’d said that my father had stopped buying the Times (I didn’t; I said only that he subscribes to the Guardian now), they also quoted me as saying that J. B Priestley came from Deal. I never said that: I mentioned only that he had lived here.

Now, I’m not a journalist, and apart from having an aptitude for writing, I know nothing about how to produce a newspaper. (I did start a journalism course, but I quit it because learning shorthand bored me.). However, I do know that media content, whether it is online or printed, should be as professional and accurate as possible. Is it too much to ask that the Guardian responds to my request to align my photo correctly? Apparently so, as I still look as though the photo was taken sideways about an inch away from my face.

I love the Guardian, but I’m not very happy with it at the moment. And you can quote me on that.

P-p-p-p-pick up some lovely Penguin proofs and people…

February 2, 2012 at 8:24 am | Posted in books, Literature, Penguin, Reading | Leave a comment
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Last night I spent a wonderful evening at Penguin Towers.  The view from the 10th floor was beautiful – the Oxo Tower and even the National Theatre look stunning at night – and I had a wonderful time speaking to authors as diverse as Alain de Botton, Phil Earle, Ben Masters and Robert Macfarlane.  I came away with some brillliant literary booty too:

1) Daughters by Elizabeth Buchan

2) Noughties by the precocious, but not pretentious, Ben Masters

3) The Murders in the Rue Morgue and Other Tales by Edgar Allan Poe

4) Time Riders by Alex Scarrow

5) The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane

6) Into the Valley of Death by A L Berridge

7) Some lovely Penguin notebooks.

My only regret was not speaking to the editor of Vogue about making her tea and coffee until the end of time, just to be near the mothership of that hallowed publication…

Chick lit? Sick lit, more like…

January 23, 2012 at 7:32 am | Posted in books, Literature, technology | 2 Comments
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I’ve just read a fabulous article by Helen Rumbelow about the decline of chick lit on Times Online (it’s so freshly pressed that no Google result exists for it yet).  The way we read is clearly changing, and it is obviously no longer acceptable to female readers to be targeted in a patronising and divisive fashion. WH Smith would’ve cheerfully continued to have a section labelled Women’s Fiction, had two offended young women not complained about it.

What I found most interesting about the article was the male chicklit authors suggesting that men rather than women formed the greater part of their readership. Moreover, the invention of the ereader has enabled these men to read these chick lit novels in secrecy, safe in the knowledge that no city boy will laugh at their reading matter on the Tube. One massive disadvantage the ereader creates, however, is a loss of community in the act of reading. If you can’t tell what a stranger’s reading, how can you ask them if it’s any good?

Blue Monday indeed

May 24, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Posted in books, Boredom, Literature, Reading, sleep, Uncategorized, Waterstone's, work | Leave a comment
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I want to be doing this:

but I also yearn to feel inspired (that sentence makes me sound as if I need to read Women Who Think Too Much, or an equally cringeworthy read, but hey).

The fact is, my friends, that after work, which I love very much and don’t want to do less of (bad Amy – you ended a clause in a preposition!), Dooby feeding, bathing, dressing and entertaining, and sleep (mmmm, sleep, come to me), there really isn’t much time for anything else.  Yes, I know that their not being enough hours in the days is not exactly a new idea, but that’s not quite what I mean.  What I want is to feel interested again.  It’s been too long since I finished a book; I managed about six in Florida this March, where the hell is the next novel which makes me let my coffee sink to arctic temperatures?

I’m not depressed; I don’t think so, anyway.  It’s true that boredom is often just a mask for the black dog, but I don’t think that’s my problem.  I just want something to stun me.  Is that too much to ask?

P.S.  Yes, I know I sell books and should be able to find one which takes my fancy quite easily, but I can’t.  So there.

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