Posts tagged ‘Ruby Ferguson’

June 20, 2012

A Day in Alnwick

I took the day off work for my birthday treat and we drove up to Alnwick in Northumberland. My main aim for the day was to pay a visit to Barter Books, one of the largest second hand bookshops in the country and certainly one of the most interesting.

It’s located inside an old train station, complete with a great little cafe in the old waiting room and a small model railway whirring around a track above the bookshelves. There are good stocks of many specialist non-fiction books alongside a comprehensive collection of old and contemporary fiction and a children’s section. I was there on the hunt for Ruby Ferguson first editions, vintage Penguin paperbacks and books on Antarctica, although the joy of pottering around a second hand bookshop never diminishes for me, so even if I had come away empty handed, I’d still have loved every minute.

After a long, and fairly extensive search around the shop, and a little talking to myself about how I couldn’t really buy anything that cost over £100, I ended up with a History of the Royal Navy (for David) a map of North Yorkshire and a copy of ‘The Worst Journey in the World’ by Apsley Cherry-Garrard. This book ticked two boxes, being both a vintage Penguin and a book about Antarctic exploration. I’m quite excited about this, having seen the notes that would form the original manuscript in the Scott Polar Research Institute in May. The old Bartholemew map is in three pieces, but will be getting cut up anyway and used as backing for some of the spaces in my letterpress drawer, a birthday gift this year. This will be put on the wall of my bedroom eventually for holding little trinkets and mementoes.

Our other stop in Alnwick was at the lovely Bari Tea. Now, I know that I’ve written about coffee on this blog before, and I will do so again. But as much as I flirt with coffee, my heart really belongs to tea. And if you’re a tea lover as much as I am, there can be no better place to spend some time than in Bari Tea. Impeccably clean and with great cakes and customer service, the crowning glory is the almost-overwhelming list of teas. To make your decision easier, little jars of each of them are available for inspecting and if you tell them what you’re going to eat, they will recommend a tea that would be particularly suitable. I love the ritual of the tea making, complete with a little timer to tell you when it will be perfectly brewed and ready to drink. A great place and one I will definitely return to on my next visit to Alnwick.

After a really lovely and tranquil day, we drove back home along the coast road, stopping in Craster for a blast of sea air and the for a supper of fish and chips.

A lovely birthday. Only four years until my fortieth. Perhaps I’d better start planning that one now?…

June 8, 2012

My New Plans.

After a year of challenge, there was no way I could just stop, so I’ve spent quite a long time thinking about what I want to do next and so quite a few things on this list are a natural progression from my 35:35 Challenge.

I’ve realised that although I enjoyed the rather haphazard nature of my last challenge, I actually need a bit more structure. I want to do a few more tangible things in my 36th year that should hopefully show definite results, so I’ve grouped my plans into four main categories and I’m going to record my progress for the year in each of them. There is obviously going to be crossover between them, but broadly speaking, they’re as follows:

Food: From Allotment gardening to Michelin starred restaurants.

Jam making. Allotment gardening. Cookery classes. Michelin starred restaurants. Street food. Apple Day. Agricultural shows. Cooking with my kids. Bee project. Exploring new food. Pop-up tea rooms and restaurants. Cheese making. Patisserie. Market shopping. Discovering new local food producers.

My main plans:

  • Cookbook Challenge. A continuing challenge to cook something from each of my 64 cookbooks and record each one on my Tumbr account.
  • Developing the ‘Leeds Cookbook Collective’ (this is a new project that I’m starting with a friend and something I’m quite excited about)

Outdoors: Being Active in the Natural Environment.

Cycling. Horse riding. Walking. Climbing. Running. Camping. Sailing. Kayaking. Teaching my kids about wildlife, nature and the seasons. Picnics in the park. Walking in the woods. Sandcastles in the summer. Snowmen in the winter.

My main plans:

  • Riding – I’m going to get back on a horse again this summer. If I enjoy it, I plan to re-learn to ride again from scratch. This is a huge undertaking, as I’ve not been in the saddle for three years and if I’m honest, I have in the way of little natural ability so it’s hard work.
  • Train for an event. Probably a walk/run/climb of some kind. I want to do this with another person. You up for it? (This is possibly the Leeds Half Marathon with @wandapops. There, I’ve said it…)
  • Get back in a kayak. Much like getting back on a horse, this is something I need to do. Preferably in calm, sunny waters!
  • Cycletta. Complete this on my new Pashley Princess. Which means I’m unlikely to beat my old time, but I’m going to enjoy it nonetheless. Come and say hello if you’re doing the Tatton Park ride too!

English Adventures: From Northumberland to Lands End.

Exploring the parts of England that I’ve never visited before. Sharing the Isle of Wight of my childhood with my children. Traditions, seasons and special events. Day trips to the seaside. Pony trekking in the Dales. Camping. Festivals. County Shows. Steam railways. 

Main Plans here:

  • A weekend away in the autumn much like our Cambridge visit. All ideas for places to visit will be very much accepted.
  • A family holiday to the Isle of Wight.
  • Making the most of weekends to visit somewhere we’ve never been before.
  • Taking the kids to Countryside Live.
Reading some of  the Classics. Penguin book collection. Vintage Vogues. Ruby Ferguson First Editions. Second hand book shopping. World Book Day with Eve. World Book Night. Leeds Big Bookend Festival. Ilkley Literature Festival.
Main Plans here:
  • Complete my GoodReads Challenge to read 52 books in 2012.
  • Search for the missing books in my Ruby Ferguson collection.
  • Top Secret Project. This is a big project and one that is definitely Top Secret because it’s self indulgent and a bit ridiculous. Apart from the fact that I’ve already told loads of people. Mostly because I need their help. You know who you are…
So there we are. A busy year, but one that is definitely more focused on fewer subjects in more depth than last year. I’m also feeling as though I want to spend more time at home and re-visiting things that I’ve loved for a long time, so that is definitely reflected here. There is something about this time of year that always makes me a little rose-tinted about being in England. I’m also enjoying setting goals from one birthday to the next instead of from one January to the next. It feels like a better way of recording my own life. So, the next thing to work out is how I’m going to get all of this done…
April 2, 2012

Book Shopping.

I seem to have accidentally boycotted Amazon. No great announcement has been made that I will never shop with them again. Far from it, I know that I will, and that I’ll be happy about it, but I’m still on my one-woman campaign to shop at real book shops instead of always buying them online and to be more mindful of my book buying.

This has happened for a number of reasons. I realised that if I stopped shopping in my local book shops, there might come a time when they could not survive. That’s not to say I spend a fortune on books, but I admit, in the past, I’ve looked at a book in the shop, decided that I want it and then gone to buy it cheaper from Amazon. I suspect I’m not the only one who has done that. If we all did the same, my city would be without a book shop at all, which is a prospect I even hate thinking about.

I have also reduced the number of books I buy. I used to buy cheap paperbacks from Amazon, or, back in the days when I shopped in large supermarkets, throw a couple in with the food shopping, barely giving them a second thought. Although most of those choices were the easy reading novels that I get through in a couple of days, I see now that they deserved a bit more consideration than I was giving to them. I’ve ended up with stacks of books littering the house, which I still have to get around to reading. Proof that I’ve bought more than I can cope with. I’m now on a self-imposed challenge to read through everything I’ve bought – and then pass on those that I won’t read again. Book swapping at World Book Night will come in handy!

So, those easy to read books now come from the library. My twice weekly library visits are a pleasure and I hope my patronage will help keep my small local library open. Lets ignore the truth that I could have bought some of the books with the amount I’ve spent in overdue fines. (As an aside, the staff in my library are wonderful, great with my kids and really friendly and helpful.)

This leaves the bigger purchases. Things like cookery books, travel guides, coffee table tomes, bigger and more important works of literary fiction, beautiful editions of classics and vintage books for my various collections. The kind of book that should be purchased, not in a supermarket dash, or with the half-focussed click of a button because it was cheap, but after a joyful time spent browsing, picking things up and making real, considered decisions. These things matter to me. A new book should be a thing of joy and beauty, preferably not just something that you buy when you get your bread and loo roll. I say this, having stopped my trips to the supermarket though. How easy I’d find it to give up if I still went in them remains unknown!

If I was going to buy more books online, then the place I’d like to spend my money is Hive – this is an online collective of independent bookstores, worth taking a look at. Books can be bought online or you can arrange to collect your purchases at your local independent book shop if you’re lucky enough to have one. The other place I look is AbeBooks  for vintage copies of old favourites, like my Ruby Ferguson ‘Jill‘collection.

For now though, I’ll continue to work my way through the backlog of books I still have at home, and make time to linger awhile in the real bookshops around me for new ones…

Where do you buy your books? Do you have a favourite local bookshop? I’d love to know…

November 30, 2011


I didn’t really know how to title this post. It’s not that I’m anti-Kindle or (insert other e-book device here) it’s just that I’m pro-books. Actual books. The smell (from sharp new academic texts, to fusty old, mouldy ones) the feel of the paper, the design of the cover, the choice of typeface; cannot be beaten.

Growing up, my love for the library was so great that when everyone else wanted to play dress up as doctors or super heroes, I pretended to be a librarian. I used to stamp my books before loaning them out and kept a fiercely updated list of who had taken which book.

My favourite books were pony books, and as a grown-up, I collect first editions of the ‘Jill’ series by Ruby Ferguson; my ultimate rose-tinted memory of that period.

Pony Books

In contrast to this, I recently enjoyed a completely new experience. My first Twitter book-club discussion, run by the lovely people at @More_Than_A. It was lovely to chat through a recent shared read (One Day, by David Mitchell) and hear other people’s views on such a popular book. A great discussion was had and it felt like a lovely way to share the love of reading and meet some new people online. I am already looking forward to the next one!

Although I still pay a couple of visits each week to the library, I have indulged in my love of books through the mighty Amazon. Like so many of us, I find the combination of choice and discounts irresistible – which, unfortunately has resulted in something of an overwhelming stack of books waiting to be read.

Ploughing through that stack of books has taught me that I need to slow down in my purchasing. To savour the buying of a book like I used to, instead of buying them in great swathes because they are cheap. It also struck me that if everyone shops like me, buying their books online, then the bookshop where I live would bear the brunt. So, this week I went to the bookshop instead. I spent a good long hour having a browse around, before choosing something purely because it felt right. (The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, by Pulitzer Prize winning author Michael Chabon, in case you’re interested.) Returning to the bookshop gave me a sense of pure, unadulterated joy. I will be back, and be spending more of my time and money in a proper bookshop, rather than just online. After all, a city without a bookshop is not a city I want to live in…