Posts tagged ‘books’

April 23, 2012

World Book Night

It’s World Book Night! I’ve been looking forward to this day for ages. World Book Night is a joyful celebration of books and reading and Book Givers will be handing out free copies of one of 25 books within their communities. In addition to this, copies will be handed out in places where accessing books is difficult such as care homes, prisons, homeless shelters and hospitals.

Why is reading important? A recent report  Literacy: State of the Nation found that one in six people in the UK struggle with literacy; a quarter of young people do not recognise a link between reading and success in later life; and men and women with poor literacy skills are least likely to be in full-time employment at the age of thirty. I cannot imagine not being able to read or not being confident in my reading abilities. No matter what real life throws at me, a great novel always provides a means of escape and of transportation to other places, worlds and times. Not to mention how useful these skills are at work and in real life, when dealing with grown up things like banking or politics, or even when doing fun things like using the internet for research.

I’ve been chosen as a Book Giver this year, which means I have 24 copies of my favourite novel, ‘I Capture The Castle’ to give away. Because of the statistics above, I decided to give my books out at the local primary school. I handed out most of them this morning. I think that one of the most important gifts you can give a child is the love of reading. I wanted to give books to parents who perhaps don’t read very much or don’t have time to read like they used to. Just reading in front of their kids will make an impression on them and hopefully help to create a culture of reading in the family. I got a really good reception and it was so great to share my love of this particular book with new people. I hope that some of them love it as much as I do.

So, I’ve given out most of my books ( and I’m going to leave one on the bus on the way into town for serendipity to take) and tonight I’m heading out to two events. The first is a quiz hosted by For Books’ Sake at  Cafe 164 in Leeds. Based in Munro House, Cafe 164 is a lovely, relaxed and informal cafe with great coffee and cakes and is rapidly becoming a particular favourite meeting place. I’m taking a couple of copies of my book here to swap and also some of my own books to give away.

Later, I’m going to the Leeds Brewery-run  White Swan pub for ‘Books, Buns and Booze’, which is being hosted by Leeds Book Club. I’m especially looking forward to more cake eating! It’s going to be a lovely, book-swapping event and there will be lots of folk there that I’ve only met on Twitter, so it will be a good chance to meet some more people in real life. I’m genuinely excited by today, both as a bibliophile and cake lover! I just need to remind myself that I am giving books this year. I need to make sure I don’t come home with an equally large stack of reading material to add to the piles of books already filling my house.

If you get the chance to get involved in World Book Night today, then I really recommend it – and if not, there’s always next year!

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February 27, 2012

Dirty Dozen: twelve questions.

I’ve been tagged twice with this meme, so I thought I’d do one lot of questions this week and one lot next week! All I have to do is answer the twelve questions they asked me. This time around I’ve been tagged by some of my favourite online friends at More Than a Mum.

I’m not going to pass on this meme, because I’m fairly sure everyone I know has done it by now (which I think is why I ended up getting it twice) but if anyone out there wants me to set twelve questions for them to answer, all you have to do is shout!

Here we go:

1)    What song can’t you listen to without crying? ‘Tiny Dancer’ by Elton John. I have no idea why. Literally, no idea… I also cry quite often at ‘Everybody Hurts’ by REM. But then I usually play it when I’m in the mood for a giant cry and it always makes me feel better afterwards.

2)    Which book changed your life – or at least made you think a lot? The book ‘What Do I Do When I Want To Do Everything?’ by Barbara Sher changed my life completely. It made me come to terms with, accept and actually thrive on the personality traits I have that make me incapable of being a specialist!

3)    Which of your personality traits do you most hope your children will inherit? Curiosity about the world and an endless desire to learn.

4)    Which of your personality traits do you most hope your children will NOT inherit? My inability to stick to a budget…

5)    Why do you blog? It’s really just a place for me to put all of my life’s plans, experiences and thoughts. Although I am a mother, so by default it’s a mummy blog, it is not a ‘Mummy Blog’ by design. I wanted a place for all of me, not just the part of me that is a mum. By accident, I’ve realised how much I love to write, and now I miss the process if I don’t blog for a few days in a row.

6)    What do you wish you’d known before becoming a parent? How scary, exhausting and expensive it would be! Most of all, I wish that I’d realised the compromises I would have to make. The minute you become a parent, you cease to be the most important person in your own life, and for me, that has taken some getting used to. These days I work really hard to balance being ‘mummy’ with being ‘me’. I think it’s vital to retain a sense of yourself as an individual and to make time for the things you love to do too – a happy parent makes for happy kids. I also wish I’d gone to Japan and New England before I’d had the kids. Although I did a fair bit of travel beforehand, those two places are on the top of my Bucket List, and it’ll be a while before I get to either of them. It might have been nice too if someone had warned me about the horrors of ‘In The Night Garden’ on repeat…

7)    What is your top ‘me-time’ tip? One of my very favourite things to do is wander round a bookshop or library, without a particular book in mind and just stumbling across something great to read. They’re great places for the mind and soul, but also, they’re pretty quiet! Finding time to read is the greatest luxury and it does make me sad when I hear that people feel as though they don’t have the time. I know that it can be easier at the end of a hard day to watch television, but switching it off and opening a book can transport you out of your daily life in a way that nothing else can.

8)    What can’t you live without? See above – books and magazines form the backbone of my personality. From as early as I can remember, I have always, always carried a book or magazine with me, whenever I have left the house. I even take one with me to the cinema. You just never know… I would also find it very difficult to live without tea. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I adore tea. My iPhone would be the piece of tech I’d rather not be without these days either. On a more serious note, I couldn’t live without my incredible family and network of friends.

9)    Which of all your blog posts are you most proud of and why? I like all of them, but there isn’t one that particularly stands out – you tell me which is the best! I think I’m proudest of the ‘Who are Margot and Barbara?’ page most of all. It underpins what the whole blog is about, and that authenticity is the thing I strive for the most with the blog. Which is why my subject matter can range from fashion to Antarctic explorers…

10) Have you ever met a famous person? Who and where? I’ve met quite a few people who I would consider to be famous, but only really in the equine industry. I once worked for a website company at Bramham International Three Day Event, and during that day I met and worked with Mark Todd, Ginny Elliott and Capt. Mark Phillips (father of the now-more-famous-Zara!) They were all amazing, and proved to me that sportspeople at the very top of their game can be genuinely great ambassadors and generous with their time. Although it didn’t help that when I was with Capt Phillips, my mum was there and she spent quite a lot of time doing terribly loud stage whispering about how old he was looking…

11) What is the best thing about parenthood? Cuddles; the giant guffaws of laughter when my kids are being funny; the pride when I see them doing something new for the first time, or being kind to each other or someone else; the way they smell; the singing and dancing; the fact they think I’m awesome; the excuses to buy and then eat tonnes of Haribo. Revisiting my own memories of childhood experiences and passing them on – especially the books! Teaching them to bake cakes and eating the cake mixture. Finding Nanny Plum from ‘Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom’ – she rocks. Overall, sharing the world with them and seeing it anew through their eyes. It all makes up for my answers to number 6! Being a parent is the hardest and yet the best thing ever.

So, that’s my twelve for this week! I’ve been tagged with this again, so I will do another twelve questions next week. I rather like feeling as though I’m being interviewed…

February 3, 2012

Little Luxuries.

I’m saving up for holidays, paying off debts and trying to keep myself cheerful just by thinking of the sunshine and beaches to come. These long grey January days, with no sunshine in sight, can leave me pretty gloomy. I’ve been trying to come up with ways to cheer myself up, without spending a lot of money. All too often it feels as though you have to spend money to indulge yourself, but really time and effort are more important.

Some of my favourite little luxuries:

  • A walk in the woods, especially now the snowdrops are in bloom. Even when it’s cold, they lift the spirits.
  • A crisp new edition of a favourite magazine.
  • Spending some time on the sofa with a newly chosen novel from my local library.
  • A small posy of flowers. I’ve tidied up my bedside cabinet and bought a small bunch of pink tulips. Just looking at them every morning cheers me up.
  • A few, good quality chocolates – these ones are chocolate BAFTAs! I went into Hotel Chocolat for my usual treat of Florentines and got distracted by these. At the moment, I cannot bear to eat them. That feeling won’t last…
  • A bubble bath without interruptions. A bit of peace is a huge luxury when you have small children.
  • A proper face to face chat with a friend. Preferably with the addition of cake or wine.
  • Making time to watch good quality television programmes. My current favourites: Borgen, Stella and New Girl.
  • Giving myself a manicure or pedicure with a bright, cheerful polish.
  • A home spa using all the little samples I’ve been collecting – I’ll have even more of these now I’ve signed up to Glossy Box and I will enjoy taking time to use and review everything they send me.

What are your little luxuries? I’d love to compile a list of things to choose from when I’m feeling gloomy and in need of cheering up without spending a fortune…

January 25, 2012

Career Books for Girls…

I’ve been part of More Than a Mum’s (@More_Than_A) Twitter book club since it started and our online chats have been a really fun way to talk books with people. It’s been one of the highlights of my time on Twitter, and I love that it’s hosted by a pair of women who feel very much the same way as I do about women who are mothers retaining a sense of themselves, rather than just being consumed by ‘mummying’. They’re currently moving their on-line home, but take a look here for links to their Facebook page to be kept updated with their move – and if you’re in London, take a look at their More than a Mum course!

Last month’s book choice was ‘How to Be A Woman’ by Caitlin Moran, which spurred a brilliant and thought provoking discussion about modern feminism. On this very tenuous thread, I’m going to share yet another of my book collections with you. You’re beginning to see why my little house is heaving with books now, aren’t you?

Published by The Bodley Head in 1955, these books are part of a series of Career Books for Girls. Although they are novels, they are also designed to publicise a series of career options thought suitable for girls at that period. These two are ‘Clare in Television’ and ‘Sarah joins the WRAF’. Other titles in the series include ‘Air Hostess Ann’, ‘Pan Stevens: Secretary’ and ‘Molly Hilton: Library Assistant’.

‘What happens if you want to marry? asked Sarah. “You can still stay in the service, and I’ve known cases where it works very well. 

‘More than anything she wanted to have a job in television. It was the newest, most exciting and powerful of all mediums, reaching closely into the homes of the people, bringing them entertainment and information, bringing friendliness to the fireside of the old and the lonely’

Although these stories are focussed on the career choices of the main character, in both cases there is a romantic thread running through them too. Clare in her television career, ends up engaged to her producer whereas Sarah in the WRAF chooses to take up her posting in Singapore rather than get married.

Another series published by The Bodley Head during this period follows a similar path. The series is described as being the story of ‘the life of Sue Barton as a student nurse to her eventual marriage’…which probably explains the alternative title for this whole genre of books as ‘career romance’ novels.

I find them a fascinating record of that period. On the one hand there are signs of new career opportunities opening up in the decade after so many women worked while the men were away at war. On the other hand, there is still the assumption that a woman only worked until she got married, settled down and presumably had children.

Whatever the statement they are trying to make, I am very fond of them. Even more so because of my recent discovery, which is that although I paid £4 each for these first editions, they are now being listed on Amazon and Abebooks (best book website EVER) for between £25 and £50 each…proof that sometimes my curiosity and insatiable book-collecting habits pay off!

January 9, 2012

3 Books

The wonderful Emily at A Mummy Too wrote a post recently about 3 Books – a favourite book from childhood, a favourite adulthood book and finally a favourite parenthood book. I thought it was such a great idea. Finding the time and head space to read anything these days is a challenge, although one that I am doing my best to address. I am presently a member of three book clubs in various guises for a start…which doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m reading more books, but I am chatting to people a lot more about the potential to read more books!

Finding only three books is a challenge, and if you asked me again next year I might give you a completely different set of answers but for now, here goes.

Childhood: My childhood book choice is an Enid Blyton one. Considering how popular she is, it’s something of a foregone conclusion. However, my book is the lesser known ‘The Children of Cherry Tree Farm”, one of a series of books following the lives of four children, Benjy, Rory, Sheila and Penny, who are sent to live on a farm with their aunt and uncle to recover from illness. They meet a hermit called Tammylan who knows all about the natural environment and he teaches them what he knows.

This series of books is far slower than the more adventurous of Blyton’s novels and really seem to exist to extole the virtues of country life, rather than having any major plot. Through ‘The Children of Cherry Tree Farm’ is a description of the British countryside  through the seasons, with many wonderful things and the occasional nasty truth (usually the conflict between nature and farming) to make sure that the image of the countryside isn’t always idyllic.

However, despite the lack of gripping adventurous plot,  it is because of them that I became obsessed with self-sufficiency legend John Seymour. It’s because of them that I have always wanted to keep chickens, and have a list of breeds I would choose. It is because of them that I have an allotment and my own little fruit orchard. It is because of them that I know so many things; bats don’t get stuck in your hair, a hare will jump sideways to stop its scent being found by a predator, the difference between a stoat and a weasel. It may even be because of these books that I ended up where I am today, working for an environmental organisation.

So, although I will read many different Enid Blyton books with my children as they grow older, I do hope that these become a favourite with them too. They made such a big impression on me that I’ve never forgotten as I’ve got older.

Adulthood: I struggled a bit with my second book. Those of you who read this blog regularly, will know that I have two favourite novels – ‘I Capture The Castle’ and ‘War and Peace’. For the sheer reason that I re-read it when I am glum and it comforts me like a cashmere blanket, I am choosing Dodi Smith’s ‘I Capture The Castle’ here. It is a beautifully written and bittersweet coming-of-age story that I adore. The subjects of unrequited love, growing up with eccentric and difficult family members, struggling for money, the desire for beautiful things and the bloody difficulty of being in that moment, no longer a girl but not quite a woman either, bind together with poignancy and the odd moment of sheer comedy. I know every time I turn to it and read the opening line: ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink‘ that I will fall in love all over again.

The difficulty with choosing an adulthood book is that these are my favourites so far. Although they have both been long-standing choices, the beauty of literature is that you never know what you might read next!

Parenthood: This one is even more difficult! My kids love books and I mean LOVE books. It’s like Junior Waterstones at our house and we could probably set up a library. Even though they have so many, we often find ourselves reading the same ones over and over again, something that will be  familiar to those of you with kids. There are many that I can recite without being anywhere near the book itself. Mostly Julia Donaldson ones…

Anyway, the book that I am choosing for this is “My Naughty Little Sister’ by Dorothy Edwards. Although written in 1952 and therefore relatively dated (which means I take the liberty of changing a word or two) I have chosen this book is because it was the first book that we read to Eve that wasn’t a picture book. Originally we were lent an old copy, which we took thinking that she wouldn’t be interested, and she proved us completely wrong by wanting to read the whole thing and we now have the full series. I love that she completely surprised me by being so much more grown up than I’d thought and that she (along with her little brother) shares my love of books.  We still do read lots of picture books, alongside more grown up stories like these, but my husband is already counting down the days until he can introduce them to The Hobbit…

Now it’s your turn. Choose your #3Books and add them to the linky at A Mummy Too !