Friday, August 31, 2007

holiday reading........

my last holiday- only a short while ago, one week in Maldon in Essex- consisted of get up around 6.00-6.30 explain to Arran - (4 years old and knows what he wants)-that no, there is no television set here. The next couple of hours are spent playing with him having the family breakfast then going to the swing park, water park, bouncy castles, giant pirate ship climbing frame, really big swing park, walking along the river, giant sand pit etc etc (Maldon does have a shed load of things for a 4 year old to do!). Then lunch before Lara (one year old- doesn't know what she wants unless it is food, drink, clean nappy or, and this is quite cute, a hug) implodes/explodes. Then we're back to the swing park/water park etc etc then tea, then kids to bed, then cook our tea, talk about the day then read until fall asleep- approx 25 minutes! It was a great holiday but I've realised holiday reading as I knew it left my life pretty much when the second child entered it.
I had been pretty pleased that I'd actually finished the Harry Potter (which I enjoyed, and thought she'd made a pretty good fist of ending the series in a satisfying way, a not especially common occurrance in books or tv) and Damned United by David Peace (highly recommended- almost like James Ellroy died and almost went to football heaven but landed in Leeds circa 1974 and this is his report back) but reading other bookshop holiday blogs I now hang my head in shame.

Anyway- the second part of our holidays begin tomorrow- a week in Bruge but this time the Grandparents are coming, so with babysitters on tap I'm going to tempt fate and take 3 books- although I may have to take/buy a forth as I've done that dumb thing where I'm 3/4 through a book (Jason Goodwin's The Janissary Tree- absolutely brilliant depiction of 19th cent. Istanbul but I'm not to sure about the 'whodunnit' aspect, which is pretty much what the reviews had led me to believe so hurrah for them) so it's going to be dead weight after my first bath/escape to coffee house(did I say coffee house-I think I meant bar)/ lie-in etc but is too good to leave behind. I'm also taking the book that's rapidly turning into book of the year- Catherine O'Flynn 'What was lost' partly as I dipped into it and it looks fab and partly as it's setting- a shopping mall, is- I guess- the antithesis of Bruge (like most people I always used to take something that had a relationship to my destination but I've gone the other way- partly after carrying Perfect Storm to a house on the coast of Arran for Christmas, on the boat crossing to Ibizia, a desolate stretch of Suffolk shoreline and the Cape of Good Hope and still never reading the bleeding thing- I don't expect I will now). Also Storm and Conquest by Stephan Taylor about the battle for the Indian Ocean 1809- it may not be everyone's cup of tea but if you're a Patrick O'Brian fan- and I am- the Mauritius campaign was the setting for one of his best books.

wish me luck

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

feeling lucky

bizarrely I find as I get older I'm getting more superstitious. I, rather stupidly when on a bike, salute magpies, I don't tend to walk under ladders, I never open an umbrella indoors nor put shoes on a table and I don't much like the new isbn configuration (international standard book number, the figures by the bar code that uniquely identifies any book- has now added a further 3 numbers to it's previous 10!), it's odd, however, that on days when I do come by train I don't really mind travelling on the one that best suits getting me here for 2.00pm- the 13.13)
Anyway, the weirdest manifestation of all this was herons. Now, I'm a fan of herons and over the last few years I've got into the habit of taking a 'longcut' into work so that I can cycle through Battersea Park or along the embankment, I slow right down and just enjoy the view and the proximity to trees and water but what always makes me happiest (as I've said before) is seeing herons. This being happy at seeing herons gradually worked its way to becoming - Hah, I've seen a heron- it's going to be a good day' which then even more disfunctionally morphed into 'oh no, I didn't see a heron today - it's going to be a bad day' this led to ridiculous interior monologues over whether certain routes could reasonably be expected to provide a view of a heron and therefore counted.
Although it could, quite reasonably, be taken that all this is proof that I am going mad I chose to take it as a sign of an overactive imagination and mind that had got bored cycling down the south circular for the 1,000th time and resolved to think about other stuff instead- or, even better, to pay more attention the road.
despite all that, however, I was very pleased to see 3 herons looking especially fine in the early morning sun, along the Thames embankment on my way to work this morning- I don't think it will make my day any luckier but it makes my morning much richer.


Friday, August 24, 2007

sense of proportion

I know this post is a tad late but I think the point still holds...this was posted on the Richard Charkin blog just after the Harry Potter 7 launch- the author is Seth Godin ('holds an MBA from Stanford, and was called "the Ultimate Entrepreneur for the Information Age" by Business Week.'- actually, he does have the credentials and sales records to back this up)

'By now, the Harry Potter hype machine has told you all about the pre-shipped copies, the scanned book and the spoilers. No doubt it'll sell a few copies, and no doubt the reported $20 million on security (not to mention fedex expense) was both useful and ineffective.
The interesting thing for me is how the Net changes what it means for something to be a secret. Five hundred year old technology (books) is just too slow for the Net. The act of printing, storing and shipping millions of books takes too long for a secret to ever be in a book again.
My solution? A hybrid. Publish the first edition of the book without the last three chapters. Take your time, save the $20 million. Every purchaser then gets access (hey, everyone gets access) to the last three chapters on launch day.
Books are souvenirs. No one is going to read Potter online, even if it's free. Holding and owning the book, remembering when and how you got it... that's what you're paying for. Books are great at holding memories. They're lousy at keeping secrets.'

now, I finished it by, about the Wednesday after publication- during that time I listened to a fair number of news programes and went to 2 children's parties where a lot of adults were standing around desperate to have something to talk about- my partner finished it by the following Wednesday- she is a civil servant and is glued to her computer most of the day and for a ridiculously large amount of her time at home as she does extra work, my neighbour, a teacher read it by the Wednesday too, my friend, a Psychology professor was also reading it the last time I spoke to him, two colleagues are reading it at the moment, one works in two different book stores and the other works three days a week but listens to the radio a great deal and reads the guardian everyday. A large number of my customers have also or are in the process of reading it.

and what do we all have in common

none of us, absolutelty none of us, knew the ending.

I'm not trying to sound like a Luddite here- just keepng that sense of proportion- if you did not go directly looking for the ending it was pretty easy to avoid (and if you were looking for the ending- why not just open the end of the book)
I admit I got caught out on The Half-Blood Prince but that was because some idiot (who shall remain nameless but is an ex-member of staff, currently resides in Bath and has just done a guest spot on this blog!) followed a link saying it would tell you who dies in the next Harry Potter duh! not content with this being the solitary activity it should have been he called my name as I was passing and I could not fail to see the image on the screen and it did spoil my enjoyment of the book but it was exceptional circumstances and could have been avoided.

Anyway, I guess my point is that yes the future is arriving like an express train etc etc but when it come to wants rather than needs and we are talking about, for want of a better word, hobbies- what you do to fill up your spare time as opposed to work or just the retrieving of information (important, I know) then just about anything you do is a minority pursuit. I like the idea of books being repositries of memories but they can still hold their secrets too.

(ps I know a recent survey said 75% of adults use facebook or another social networking site, now, I heard this on the Today programme and if there is anything Today is poor at it is giving an idea of the questions asked or samples used for 'a survey'- the last time I heard them give this information it was just after they told us that, something like, 95% of nurses were dissattisdfied with their job but the question was, again-, something like, 'could anything be done to improve your job?' Well the only surprise there is that some people did answer in the negative. Ok now I sound like a holocaust or global warming denier(which i am not) but I think, as said at the top of the page, the point stands.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

another tony wilson memory

This is probably the second, sort of, obituary in the last five posts- what's going on!

but Tony Wilson was important to me for a few reasons- so bear with me- I'll do Harry Potter and holiday reading tomorrow.

Tony Wilson was the biggest single reason I left Billericay, Essex and the south of England and went to Manchester- (although the fact the university -almost uniquely- didn't require an O level in a foreign language to do do an English degree helped enormously too)
why, because So It Goes was the best music programme I'd ever seen- in a whole list of great moments I think I finally decided I wanted to be Mancunian after Wilson, walking towards the camera says something like- I'm often asked what punk will sound like in 20 years and I play them this- and Magazine came on doing Shot by both Sides (although it could have been motorcade- this was a long time ago)- and how prescient was that?

I also love the fact that everything involved with Factory records had a catalog number- so while the mighty Temptation is Fac63, Fac61 is the lawsuit with the equally brilliant and important Martin Hannett

Tony Wilson also got me to read Proust- after the Alain de Botton event for How Proust can change your Life at the shop I was at Tony Wilson was in the staffroom telling anyone who would listen- which I think was only me at that point- he was being quite loud- that everyone should read Proust and that actually it was very funny in places. It was, and as in so many other things Tony was right and my tribute to Anthony H Wilson will be to, finally, finish it!!