Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Year In books 2015

Hello, it's that time of year again. The end of the year in fact, when it's time to round up those book lists and reveal my year in books.

It's been a varied year, a year of firsts and seconds and final parts and farewells and classics and re-reads. January 2015 saw my first book ever read on the kindle, which subsequently led me to pilfer Andrea's kindle, whilst he bought a new one. I know, I thought I would never be corrupted into it but when you have shit all book shelf space, a kindle comes in handy. And especially when you read copious amounts of trilogies and series, it's good to have a virtual book shelf where they can sit quite happily but take up little space and they don't weigh a tonne. This year also saw my first audio book and I managed to smash my intended 100 books read in a year. So here goes nothing. 2015, my year in books:


  1. A Clockwork Orange: Anthony Burgess
  2. The Bane Chronicles: Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan and Maureen Johnson
  3. Animal Farm: George Orwell
  4. Earwig and the Witch: Diana Wynne Jones
  5. Half a Creature from the Sea: David Almond
  6. Cold Spell: Jackson Pearce
  7. Coming up for Air: George Orwell
  8. The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1): Marie Rutkoski (1st book on the Kindle, ever!)
  9. The Monster of Billy Dean: David Almond
  10. 1984: George Orwell
Wow, what a start to the year. This list included 7 from the library, one borrowed, one gift and my first Kindle purchase. Obviously, there are quite a few classics in there. Finally I got around to the dystopian terror that is 1984. I also finally delved into the wondrous mind of David Almond. I think choosing a favourite of the month is horrendously tricky here, so I'm going to go for two favourites: 1984. I mean, wow. Not much more to say on the subject other than this is shit scary. And the YA wonder that is Marie Rutkoski's debut, the Winner's Curse. This book has everything and is incredibly written. You do not put this book down lightly. 

  1. Rosehead: Ksenia Anske (Kindle)
  2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: J.K Rowling. (A re-read. Obviously.)
  3. The Castle of Otranto: Horace Walpole
  4. All Our Names: Dinaw Mengestu
  5. Love Hurts: Malorie Blackman and others
  6. Heart Shaped Box: Joe Hill
  7. Insurgent (Divergent #2): Veronica Roth
  8. Siege and Storm (Grisha #2): Leigh Bardugo
  9. The Darkest Part of the Forest: Holly Black
Another varied month with four from the library, three treats to myself and one re-read to mark Harry Potter Reading Night. February 2015 was about the second books in two trilogies I was reading. It was about exploring new horror writers and supporting a fellow writer whom I'd been following on twitter for some time. I had also been to the Love Hurts event at Waterstones Piccadilly to see Malorie Blackman, Patrick Ness, James Dawson and others speak about the YA compilation book of the same name. Again, choosing a favourite is tricky, but I think my first foray into Joe Hill's writing wins this month. A great book, so well written. I look forward to reading more. 

  1. Trust Me: Malorie Blackman
  2. The Sin Eater's Daughter (The Sin Eater's Daughter #1): Melinda Salisbury (Kindle)
  3. Shadow Forest: Matt Haig
  4. Half a King (Shattered Sea #1): Joe Abercrombie
  5. The Enormous Crocodile: Roald Dahl
  6. The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy #2): Marie Rutkoski (kindle)
  7. All Fall Down: Ally Carter
  8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: J.K Rowling (Re-read of course.)
  9. The Boy who Climbed into the Moon: David Almond
  10. Damned: Chuck Palahniuk
  11. Silver Lining's Playbook: Matthew Quick
  12. Skin and other stories: Roald Dahl
  13. My Friend's a Gris-Kwok: Malorie Blackman
This was a great month in terms of YA and Children's books read. Another great haul from the library and two books on the Kindle this month. Joe Abercrombie's Half a King is an outstanding book, and was closely followed by The Winner's Crime and The Sin Eater's Daughter in terms of my favourites, but I think he definitely deserved the title of best book of March. He doesn't so much insert you in his fantasy world, he drowns you in it. And what's more, you're quite happy about that. Highly recommended. 

  1. Shift (Shifter Series #1): Kim Curran (Kindle)
  2. Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief (Percy Jackson #1): Rick Riordan
  3. There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom: Louis Sacher
  4. Only Ever Yours: Louise O'Neill
  5. Room: Emma Donoghue
  6. Just After Sunset: Stephen King
  7. Control (Shifter Series #2): Kim Curran (Kindle)
  8. This Book is Gay: James Dawson
  9. Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest: Amos Oz
  10. Where Angels Dare to Tread: E.M Forester
April was a fab month as Kim Curran's Shifter series was released at the end of March all in one go, which meant some fab shifting treats throughout April and May. I treated myself to Louise O'Neill's award winning and absolutely terrifying book, Only Ever Yours, and I got another fantastic haul from the library. You may be small Kentish Town Library, but you're pretty mighty too. The hands down winner of best book this month though, was the incredible: Room by Emma Donoghue. It was one of those books I'd been meaning to read since it came out, and boy am I glad I did. This book is written so carefully and beautifully, the plight of its characters weigh heavy on you and you cannot stop reading. I hope they get the film right because the book is amazing!

  1. Rock Wars (Rock Wars #1): Robert Muchamore
  2. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha: Roddy Doyle
  3. Delete (Shifter Series #3): Kim Curran (Kindle)
  4. Moral Disorder: Margaret Atwood
  5. The First 15 Lives of Harry August: Claire North
  6. How I Live Now: Meg Rosoff (Kindle)
  7. Trouble: Non Pratt (Kindle)
  8. Grasshopper Jungle: Andrew Smith (Kindle)
  9. Brokeback Mountain: Annie Proux
  10. Poldark - Ross Poldark (#1): Winston Graham
Lots of treats this month in the way of a Kindle hoard of YA gems, a continuation of my slight Margaret Atwood obsession, the culmination of Kim Curran's Shifter series, and some great finds in the library. This month's favourite title had to be Grasshopper Jungle. This is utterly bonkers, funny, gross, diverse and full of fabulous characters and carnage. Wicked book. 

  1. Tell All: Chuck Palahniuk
  2. Tinder: Sally Gardner
  3. Night Shift: Stephen King
  4. Rebel Heart (Dustlands #2) Moira Young (Kindle)
  5. Pygmy: Chuck Palahniuk
  6. Manifesto on how to be Interesting: Holly Bourne (Kindle)
  7. Born Weird: Andrew Kaufman
  8. Heap House: Edward Carey
Definitely a treat month as I finally got around to organising my Reading Spa Christmas present from my wonderful friends, and I came away with six books from there, two of which are the last two on June's list. More treats on the Kindle and from the library, and this month Chuck Palahniuk takes the favourite book award for his Hollywood Tell All. A deliciously sneaky look at the Hollywood underbelly and what happens under all that fame and make up. 

  1. Dreams and Shadows: C. Robert Cargill
  2. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: Ransom Riggs
  3. The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam #2): Margaret Atwood
  4. Raging Star (Dustlands #3): Moira Young (Kindle)
  5. Gone with the Wind: Margaret Mitchell
Not quite as extensive this month, but to be fair, Gone with the Wind took two of the four weeks of this month, to get through. Another two this month were from my Reading Spa, there was a Kindle treat to finish the Dustlands Trilogy and two absolute stonkers from the library. Hard to pick a favourite, but I think for its sheer epic nature, tiny print and over a thousand pages, I'd have to go for Gone with the Wind and the joy that is Scarlett O'Hara. What a great literary character.  

  1. Stone Mattresses: Margaret Atwood
  2. Live and Let Die: Ian Fleming
  3. Ruin and Rising (Grisha #3): Leigh Bardugo
  4. Department 19 (Department 19 #1): Will Hill
  5. We all Looked Up: Tommy Wallach (Kindle)
  6. California: Edan Lepucki
  7. The Girl with all the Gifts: M.R. Carey
  8. The Rest of us Just Live Here: Patrick Ness
This month saw my first Bond novel, some quality YA and more Margaret Atwood - of course. But winning the favourite book of the month had to be Patrick Ness. I ate that book for breakfast, lunch and tea. Plus, I love that guy! His words can do no wrong for me. A fabulous book. 

  1. Sabriel (Abhorsen #1): Garth Nix (Kindle)
  2. Fluent in 3 Months: Benny Lewis
  3. Ready Player One: Ernest Cline (Audiobook)
  4. Gone (The Gone Series #1): Michael Grant (Kindle)
  5. The Blind Assassin: Margaret Atwood
  6. Apple and Rain: Sarah Crossan
  7. Over to You: Roald Dahl
  8. Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3): Laini Taylor
September was definitely a good haul in terms of library books. It also saw the beginnings of some series, the end of another and my first ever audiobook. Oh, and a non-fiction book - I know, almost unheard of - that may one day help in my approach to learning Italian. The Blind Assassin gets the best book award of this month, because let's face it, it's amazing and it's written by an absolute legend. 

  1. The Library of Unrequited Love: Sophie Divry
  2. The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me: Roald Dahl
  3. Prisoner of Azkaban: J.K Rowling (Re-read)
  4. Factotum: Charles Buckowski
  5. The Haunting of Hill House: Shirley Jackson
  6. Kill Your Friends: John Niven
  7. Astray: Emma Donoghue
  8. Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam #1): Margaret Atwood
I hadn't realised earlier in the year when I read Year of the Flood, that I was actually reading a trilogy out of sequence. But the way they are written means they are completely stand alone novels and they work singularly as well as they do together. It did not hamper my understanding or enjoyment of the series by reading them out of order, and Ms Atwood once again wins best book of the month, for her epic dystopian world. 

  1. The Hundred-Year-Old Man who Climbed out the Window: Jonas Jonasson
  2. Revival: Stephen King
  3. Uprooted: Naomi Novik (Kindle)
  4. Half a World (Shattered Sea #2): Joe Abercrombie
  5. Odd Apocalypse (Odd Thomas #5): Dean Koontz
  6. Mad About the Boy (Bridget Jones #3): Helen Fielding
  7. Red Queen (Red Queen #1): Victoria Aveyard (Kindle)
Some new authors for me this month, and some golden oldies too. I'm never too far from a Stephen King novel and reading Bridget Jones took me back to my teens. I'm slowly getting through the Odd Thomas series and still treating myself to a couple of Kindle books a month. Joe Abercrombie wins again as book of the month. Once again he drowned me in his shattered sea barely giving me a second to bob up for air. I need book 3 in my life. 

  1. Cat's Eyes: Margaret Atwood
  2. Lady of the Shades: Darren Shan
  3. The Incident of the Dog in the Night Time: Mark Haddon
  4. Blood and Ink: Stephen Davis
  5. Lorali: Laura Dockill (Kindle)
  6. Winter's Bone: Daniel Woodrell (Kindle)
  7. My Name is Mina: David Almond (Kindle)
  8. The Bell Jar: Sylvia Plath
  9. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Jane Austen and Seth Grahame Smith
What a month of literature to finish on. Such a variety and some absolute classics. I'm so glad I finally got around to reading The Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and the Bell Jar, long overdue. This was a tricky month to pick a favourite but in the end David Almond's wonderful creation: Mina, had to win. 

The final tally for the year was 105 books! Whoop! I smashed my intended 100 books. 2015 was a great year in books. And I can't wait to see what 2016 has me reading. 

Happy New Year everyone! 


Friday, December 25, 2015

Whilst Your Dinner Settles.......

Merry Christmas rantees of the world. If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you've had a lovely day with family and friends. If you were unfortunate enough to have to work, then I hope it wasn't too stressful. And if of course you don't celebrate Christmas then I hope you've had a relaxing break.

So, whilst the turkey settles and the fuzziness of whatever tipple you've been troughing like it was going out of fashion, takes over, why not sit back and take in a blog. 

Random tidbits.

This year I managed to avoid the John Lewis advert completely. Win!

This year I managed to not eat a Mince Pie until 13th December, despite them being in the shops before Halloween. Win!

This year I could not be arsed at all with tags on presents. That was my ultimate can't be faffed item of this year's Christmas prep. I enjoyed wrapping, but ribbons and tags and all that shit when you know people take one look and rip it to shreds just didn't appeal. Besides, I did splash out on awesome paper this year a la Paperchase, so who needs tags and fancy shit when you've got sprouts with googly eyes on the wrapping paper and a Sharpie pen?

Festive Observations

This year I noticed how much kids really don't care about eating. They want a meal to last for roughly ten minutes and then 'playtime'. They don't care about multiple courses and after dinner chats. Eating is just an excuse for adults to not play with them and to sit around wasting valuable game time chinwagging and stuffing their faces. 

This year I realised just how difficult it is to buy books in another language for presents. Most of the books you want to buy aren't translated and then even if they are they cost about triple what they would in the UK. I decided to use Italian amazon and one book came in German - though granted that could have been my mistake - and one was bashed to buggery, so I had to spend half an hour queueing at the Italian Post Office to return the items, and they were not available to replace in the bookshops. So then I had to just buy any random books and hope the recipients didn't already have them. Urgh!


I'm not sure I've ever regretted something quite as much as not getting the anti glare coating on my glasses. Talk about seeing things. Lights, shadows, movements. Evil opticians actually make this a £30 extra. But it should be included with the lenses because, fuck, no one can deal with this extra world at the side of their glasses. Peripheral vision simply consists of the glare of all the things you can already see, but they hang around and move and blur and interrupt your vision. What a mistake. Can't wait for my two year check up and new glasses in 2016. I'll be getting all the coatings. Two years seeing things is quite enough. 

Done for another year.

Well that's it, Christmas done for another year. Food having taken hours and hours of prep - or in the case of the Italian family, days and days, possibly weeks - devoured in mere moments. Presents opened. Crackers cracked and terrible jokes read out. Washing up lining every surface and most of the family asleep on the couch. Enjoy an evening of crap TV and some leftovers even though you're so full you couldn't possibly eat another thing...............oooo, Christmas Cake. 

This blog had no particular rant value or purpose or direction, but hopefully it at least aided your digestion. Merry Christmas and enjoy the last few days of the year. 


Thursday, December 10, 2015

It's That Time of Year.......

Ah, it's that time of year when everyone starts showing the pictures of their kids dressed as a shepherd with a tea towel round their head, or a king with a crown, or a little white dress and tinsel. I always wonder where the photographs of the sheep or singers or narrators, are? No? Was everyone just lucky enough to get a big part? No one's kids had a shitty bit part? Well good for you and your amazing kids. Clearly no one is made to be a narrator because they have a loud voice, are slightly overweight and not blonde, any more. Clearly, I am still bitter about this. And always will be. I hold on to that bitterness forever, because it's a part of who I am. And to be honest, I quite like it.

It's that time of year when you hate crowds, and all the people in them, and all you want to do is get your shopping done before a reasonable date, so you have time to wrap everything and leisurely write your cards, without having to do them on the freakin' plane or train, or in the car as you're travelling to wherever Christmas is for you this year.

It's that time of year when you just want to curl up and never leave the house and just watch heart-warming movies and wait for the snow that will inevitably not arrive because it's so freakin' mild out there. Come on December. Happen!

It's that time of year when all the reports are due for music class, and I spend hours and hours of my life - unpaid, I'll add - writing about the kids and what they've been up to, which sucks all the time out of writing and editing. I don't need to do this. I chose to do this, which makes it even worse, as I only have myself to blame. Damn it!

It's that time of year when you just want to see all your friends in one room at the same time and just hug and dance and drink and eat and exchange presents, when in reality, you'll be lucky if you even manage to see them all due to the spreadage of adult hood. All your friends are in different parts of the country, or different countries. They all have their own Christmas schedules which of course all conflict, because life's never simple and you end up spending Christmas zooming around trying to see as many people as you can, in the short time you actually have, whilst never fully consuming as much crap TV as you want, or watching all the Christmas specials you want until the New Year, when you watch them on catch up, which is so not the same, because it's January and January is dull as fuck!

It's that time of year when lots of people go a bit nuts on the festivity, and then some of course go the other way and complain about everything. I don't know why you're pointing the finger at me, this is a rant, not a complain, and I haven't ranted in so long it's overdue. And I don't have to explain myself to you.

It's that time of year when you consume so much sweet stuff, without even thinking about it. You put on weight without really noticing - until the spillage over the belt - and you end up fearing for your teeth, as they start to ache. They are literally screaming at you to suck on a carrot.

It's that time of year for everyone to go on their Christmas parties and post their pictures everywhere so you can see how much fun their having, but when you're self-employed and mostly work with kids under the age of 7, you don't really get a fun, booze-filled festivity, you get a slobbery kiss if you're lucky and a hand-made gingerbread man that probably has equal ratio of smarties to snot buttons. Okay, I'm being slightly harsh there, the kids make me some awesome stuff I just sometimes miss people a little closer in age to me. Not that I don't appreciate the humour and conversation of a 6/7 year old, we talk about all sorts of crap, but it's just not quite the same and we definitely can't chat over cocktails.

It's that time of year when time goes faster than usual because you have 50,000 more things to do a day, and the world thinks it's funny to watch you fail.

It's that time of year for watching Love Actually - don't care what anyone says, I love that film - the Nightmare Before Christmas, especially if you didn't manage to watch it over Halloween this year, which we didn't, and one of my favourites: Grounded, about a load of kids that are stranded at the airport without parents. Cheesy, but good.

It's that time of year when you think, I want to get a tacky Christmas jumper, but then you see lots of other people wearing them and think, they look a bit twatish, so instead you just pop on your Christmas tree earrings, and headband - which sings and lights up - and you think, sidestepped a hole there.

It's that time of year when you make a mistake when writing a note in a card and you think, why didn't I just do the obvious Happy New Year? Why did I have to embellish? And then, even though you've written a nice long note, all you can see in that card is the glaring mistake, that you either try to cover up with a Christmas sticker, or you cross out - last resort - or you go over it and try to make the wrong letters into the right ones, something which never works no matter how much you wish it would.

It's that time of year for bad jokes and paper hats, with crappy plastic items of little use nor ornament, and yesterday I had a couple of pun intended. I lie. It was totally intended!
So one of my kids yesterday was trying to tell the classic: Why did the chicken cross the road? joke, but basically only knew the question and not the punchline. Bless her, she's only two, almost three. So I told her the whole joke and explained it to the slightly bemused children. Then one of the other kids pipes up, 'I've got a joke.' Here we go.
'How did the whale fly?'
'I don't know, how did the whale fly?'
'Because he was bouncing on a trampoline.' The kid pissed himself laughing. I forced a giggle or two and resumed the lesson. But later when he was leaving, he said he would give me a joke instead of a high five. Oh dear, here we go again.
'How did the elephant fly?'
'I don't know, how did the elephant fly?'
This time the kid was laughing the whole way through the delivery of the punch line as though it was so funny he couldn't get the words out:
'Because he was bouncing on the trampoline with his friends.'
Hilarious, I'm sure, if you've just turned four.

Well, as it's that time of the year when I have 50,000 extra things to do a day and I'm failing miserably, then I'd probably better skoot off. I hope your run up to the Christmas break is relaxing and enjoyable. Ha ha. What am I saying, you're not five. Enjoy it as much as you can.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Last Night on the 46

Ha ha.

I begin with laughter, because sometimes laughter is all we have to get through the day. This is a statement that could only be enhanced by some contemporary dance, or at least some expressive hand movements. Anyway, I digress.......

So last night after babysitting, I left around 9.45 pm and had the choice of:

  1. Wait twenty minutes at Farringdon for the next Thames Link service.
  2. Get the tube, changing once at Kings Cross. 
  3. Or, get the 46 bus and have a bit longer to read my book. Other pros of the bus are that it takes me to the end of my road, whereas the other two options involve a ten minute walk. 
So, I went with option 3. Mistake!

The bus came around 10pm, the standard waiting time for a 46 is anywhere between ten and twenty eight minutes - this figure will become clear later. And so, headphones in, head in a book we set off. 

Five minutes later, we are in the third lane of traffic somewhere along Greys Inn Road, stuck in a jam with a bus as full as rush hour - why? Was everyone babysitting? - when two young lads appear at the door, having weaved through the traffic. But what was even weirder was the two middle aged women that appeared behind them, having traversed the cars and buses. Now, I didn't realise at first, but the lads actually opened the doors themselves from outside the bus. I just thought the bus driver had done it, but it seems the bus driver actually tried to close it back on them. Anyhoo, they got into the bus and zapped their passes and then words were had with the bus driver. 

I have to interject here as to the hilarity of the situation. I'm not making any of this up but it will seem like a comedy sketch. So, the bus driver had a really thick Indian accent, the two teenager lads were both black, and the two ladies were white, one of them over sixty and with a super posh accent. This is when the headphones came out and the book closed. 

So the bus driver is yelling that they had 'no right to open the doors of the bus.' The teens didn't say anything, just shrugged. But the posh elder lady pipes up, 'What do you mean we've no right? We've been waiting twenty eight minutes for a bus and you didn't stop at the stop, you pulled out into the third lane to go around the other buses that stopped.' Then the bus driver hit back with another, you could have died sentiment, and again the lady threw back, 'but we didn't. And you had no right to skip our stop.'

This went on a couple more minutes and then they got on, sat down and the bus began to move. All good, right?

So, he then pulls into the next stop, opens the doors - front and back - and refuses to go anywhere. The women are still going on about how out of order the bus driver was and are threatening to call the bus police or something, whilst the bus driver sticks to his guns and refuses to leave until the young lads get off. They are stood, arms crossed, shrugging, no words and of course refusing to get off. I mean, they had paid their fares, so it's fair enough. 

A younger lady tried to talk the bus driver around but he was sticking to his story of, they had no right and someone could have died, blah, blah, blah. And still we weren't getting anywhere. So this younger lady then asked the lads if they would get off so the rest of us could get home. Older lady pipes up, 'Why should they? They've done nothing wrong. They protected us. They shouldn't have to get off the bus.' Small argument between the two ladies, with lots of comments thrown in from other bus users, who just wanted to get the fuck home. It was now about 10.10 pm.

Meanwhile, another posh 60+ lady tries to ring the number on the bus, for complaints, but can't get through. Someone shouts out about calling the police, but then someone else shouts out that would waste 999's time. Lots of shouting back and forth and nothing happening. I just sat back and took it all in. Thankfully, there didn't seem to be any drunks on or anything, so the situation didn't become violent or aggressive. 

The bus driver continued to say no to every one's protests and said, 'it happens every day.' Then posh 60+ lady gets the funniest line award of the evening: 'Well get another job.' Ha. Love it. But you have to imagine it in a beautifully posh accent. Amazing. I burst out laughing as did another few of the passengers. Then she continued: 'I'm 65, I've got Parkinson's, I'm ill and I just want to go home. I've worked for 45 years and I'm fucking tired!' Yes! She dropped the F bomb. Legend. Bus driver pipes up: 'language.' Ha ha. So much laughter. 

Then more women and men came up to plead, some with no money to get another journey, others with children at home, others with elderly relatives with them, and others just wanting to get feckin' moving! But the bus driver was like a defiant toddler having a tantrum. He could not be moved or persuaded or coerced, and he refused to move until 'we' removed the boys from the bus. As one lady rightly said, 'How can we just throw someone off a bus? We can't do that.' And as many others said, 'we have paid for a service, and you are supposed to provide that service.' But we were just hit again with the refrain, 'I'm not going anywhere until the boys get off.' it's about 10.20 pm now.

Then, another 46 pulls in behind us, and most of the bus vacates. If I'd been thinking clearer I would have stayed on, because the boys had jumped off and our bus could have left, without me having to pay another fare. But I forgot, in the absurdity of the situation and so I leapt off and joined the rest of the gang - bit of stranger bonding going on - and of course the bus driver wouldn't let us on for free even though he'd seen us all get off the other bus. He wouldn't listen to an explanation either, so we all just muttered under our breath and paid again. One guy did make an argument and the new bus driver wanted us to get transfer tickets - as if the other bus driver would have given them - but he had already driven off. 

And as posh 60+ lady - of F bomb fame - rightly put it, 'Of all the bus routes in London, it's always the 46. There is always someone being thrown off, or it stops to change drivers, or stopping at every stop for two minutes.' I feel your pain love, I really do. How much of my life is spent waiting for that thing, let alone the time I'm actually on it?

So, as I eventually arrived at my bus stop, I jump off to find the other bus - the bus I should have been on - trailing behind it. Ha ha. Beat you by thirty seconds. I could see some of the dejected passengers still on there. And it took me one hour to get home. 

Next time, I'll take option 1 or 2, me thinks. 

Safe travelling out there. You literally never know what's gonna happen. 


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Book Rants and Bad Decisions

You know when you say yes to something, and already you're not a hundred percent sure it was the right thing to do, but then with each subsequent email you regret your decision more and more? That's where I am right now.

But enough about me, how are you?

Okay, so I've joined the twenty first century by accepting my partner's old kindle and trying to read one book a month on it, but how distracting is the percentage? Do you not find yourself constantly looking at it? I keep telling myself, it's not a page number, it's not going to move with every page click, but that doesn't help. I can't stop looking at it. And it feels like it's mocking me. It also feels as though you're never going to reach the end and I find this sort of thinking tends to distract from the story. I've tried covering it with my finger, but then it's so easy to uncover. I then get this weird feeling that builds in me, which is a combination of the desire to finish the book and the notion that I'm not going fast enough. It feels like it turns reading into a race against.....yourself? The book? The percentage gods? Whatever it is, it's highly distracting. When I finished the book I was reading on it, I couldn't wait to get back to a real book that I could touch and that whose page numbers increase with every page turn. Ah, paper and black text, how I love to escape into you.

Although - here comes another bookish rant - when you're reading a 'classic' and they put all those numbers linked to appendices at the back, that is just as distracting. Every other line has a number and you try to skip past it, thinking, I know what that means so I don't need to read your stupid appendix, but then you think, what if I've got it wrong? What if I don't actually know what it means? What if I'm getting the wrong gist of this four word sentence? Perhaps the word will end.

Okay, so slight melodrama, but it is highly distracting and mostly unnecessary, especially when it's not even footnotes that you can see right there and then, but a separate appendix at the back of the book, that you have to keep flicking between. And reading something in this stunted way is so detrimental to the story and I'm pretty sure not what the author had in mind when he or she wrote it. I gave up after about three pages and just read through all the numbers, and, I didn't even go and read the appendices at the end. Ha! I can make sense of the book in my own way without ripping it to shreds, Thank you very much.

As always I'm doing my best to avoid all things Christmas until December, so no mince pies, even though they look delicious, no Christmas markets, no music, and definitely no bloody John Lewis advert. Even when it was shown on The Russell Howard show the other day, I turned my back and busied myself with something else. Blah, blah, blah, some cute message that tries to tell us all to love our neighbours and be kind to others and....wait, it's a super expensive shop where only relatively rich people can afford to shop. Hmmmmmm. Relatable to the people? Perhaps not. And, to add insult to injury, they've released some hideous pink pencils 'for her', because we need 'female' pencils don't we? And each pencil has on a different message which sets women back decades. Yippee!  And do you know what makes it worse? That they're designed by a woman. Damn it! I think this article sums it up perfectly: written by Hannah Dunleavy. Well said.

Oh, and one more thing, the waiting room of the ballet school is not a great place to read a book. People are chatting and there are kids changing and people coming in and out, and people moving chairs around and toddlers toddling about waiting for siblings. And I can't really drown them out with music because I have to be vaguely alert in case my charge comes out needing the toilet  - which happens nine times out of ten. I should be enjoying an hour of sitting and reading, but instead I'm distracted by sounds and movements and conversations and I just want to read! Wah!

Okay, so I should probably be writing or editing or something and now the rants are out it might be easier to do that. It's like passing a large.......Well you get the idea. You feel a whole lot lighter, put it that way. And with that I'll leave you. Happy Tuesday!


Friday, October 30, 2015

Half Term/Stuff Kids Do

When kids try to make out you're stupid........

Z (7 year old I look after): Helen, do you know David Presley?
Me: No. Am I supposed to?
Z: I can't believe you don't know who David Presley is.
Me: Well, I know an Elvis Presley, but not David Presley.
Z: Oh yeah, that's who I meant. I always call people David by mistake.

When kids try to make out you don't know where you're going.......

Me: We just need to walk down this road and then we'll be on Caledonian Road for the bus home.
Z: Um, I don't know. This doesn't look like the way we came this morning.
Me: That's because it's a different road, love.
Z: I know, doesn't look the same.
Me: How could it? It's a different road.
Z: Yeah, but still. I think I'll just check this map over there.
(We cross the road to look at a housing estate map.)
Me: That's just for a housing estate Z, but you can see this is the road we're on now and we just need to go this way.
(Turns his head in the other direction, rubbing his chin. I can see him deliberating that I've taken us completely wrong.)
Z: It doesn't say Caledonian Road on here.
Me: That's because it's the map of a housing estate and doesn't go as far as Caledonian Road. Trust me, it's this way.
(I start to walk off. He lingers behind a bit, still umming an' arring. I'm getting slightly annoyed at this point.)
Z: I'm still not sure. It all looks different.
Me: (Volume increase.) That's because it's a different street. You didn't come along this street this morning, you took another one. We are going the right way, now could you just keep moving and stop doubting me, please.

When Parents giving them instructions can annoyingly backfire..........

Me: So here we are at Caledonian Road. (I think I was a little shocked and relieved at that point. He had me doubting myself.) Now we just need to find the bus stop.
Z: Oh yeah, I remember this road, we came this way with daddy this morning.
(Strong urge to pull a face and sing neh, neh, neh, neh, neh. I resisted - out loud.)
Me: Great, now I'm pretty sure the bus stop will be this way.
Z: Daddy says it's bus stop C, so we have to find that one.
Me: Well I don't know, we'll just have to check the bus stop when we get to it, and if the 17 goes from there, then it's fine.
Z: No, daddy said it had to be C.
Me: Well, I don't know where all the bus stops are, and this one here says B and has the number 17 and it goes the right way, so it's fine.
Z: But daddy said we should go to C.
Me: (Again, slight volume increase.) Okay then. Fine. We'll walk down to the next bus stop. Look, you can see it down there. Come on.
Z: (He comes trailing behind me.) No. It's okay, we can go to this one.
Me: No. No. If it has to be C, come on, let's go and find C. (I march off.)
Z: No, really, we can just go to this one, it really doesn't matter.
Me: I know. That's what I said all along. (Ahhhhhhhh.)


Friday, October 16, 2015

Renovations 2.0

So, you thought it was over. You thought the renovations were done, but that was just the Bathroom, Hall and Living Room. Now comes the Bedroom.

 A little pondering with Rants. 
Mouldy windows. (Before.)

Mouldy windows. (After.) Ta-da. 

We waited a couple of months, as we needed that time for the trauma of the last renovations to heal and be put behind us. This time we set apart three whole days to do the one room. Sounds good, right? One day to box up and move everything out. We also got rid of four pieces of furniture on gumtree, to make room for new exciting stuff. One day to paint everything. And one day for the Ikea delivery and hopefully the subsequent assembly of the furniture. Eh-Er (Hopefully that came across as the sound made in Family Fortunes when they got an answer wrong and that big cross came on the screen. That's what I was going for.)

Bye Malm, you did us a solid and now you're going to another home. 

The first two days actually went to plan, with minimal hatred of the world or each other. Mainly just tiredness and sore arms from all the carting around and painting. Just when you think, this is going well...........Then came Sunday. Ikea were set to deliver between 8.30am and 12.30am. Not a bad slot really and we'd still have ages to put stuff together. But then Ikea failed to deliver, in fact, they actually lost our order in the warehouse somewhere. Yay! And when did they tell us this? Early, so we could do something about it? No. A was on hold for 25 minutes with them after the delivery time. They never called us. Even more of a slap in the face.

 When the bedroom comes to live in the living room. 

So guess where we went? To Ikea, to get the freakin' stuff ourselves. Of course they didn't have exactly everything we wanted, so we had to compromise a few things and make changes. They also have the least helpful staff, who know nothing and can't tell you anything. But at least they are cheap. So we got all the stuff and a very nice man with a van to pick us up and take us home. But this was now 5.30pm, half the day gone.

That evening we only got the corner wardrobe assembled, as it was a lot of work. And we couldn't get the door to sit straight or close properly. Honestly Ikea, in all these years you can't make it so a door just fits straight. What's that about?

Bloody corner wardrobe. 

But then Monday arrived and further disaster hit. In our haste in Ikea, we had actually picked up the smaller wardrobes. Ooops. And we started assembling them before we cottoned on. Disaster. I assembled the drawers but then I had to go to work. And poor A had to go back to Ikea to replace the wardrobes, and return some of the hinges and runners we'd bought the day before, because nowhere does it say the drawer packs come with runners. Some things are separate, others aren't. Make up your mind Ikea.

When I got home from work, one wardrobe was already assembled and I helped with the second one. We managed to get the drawers and wire baskets in, leaving Tuesday for the doors - great more doors - and the final shelving unit.

It's finally coming together.

Okay, so now you're thinking, well that's not too bad, you're only two days behind right? Er, wrong. What about all the boxes filling the living room? What about unpacking all the clothes? What about the fact that my partner's parents are coming to stay with us for two nights starting tomorrow? Oh fuck. Pretty lucky we're both self-employed and relatively part time, otherwise this saga could have gone on far longer.

So when I came home from a full day of teaching on Wednesday, I still had twenty or so boxes and a whole myriad of other crap to sort out, move around and hopefully discard some of. Needless to say, the boxes were hidden or placed out of the way wherever we could find space for them, and it's Friday and they still need unpacking. Urgh.

Top tips:

  • Finish one thing and take it to fruition before starting another project. (I still haven't unpacked all the boxes from the Living room renovation. Eek.)
  • If using Ikea, add at least another two days to your schedule, expect to be fucked around, and make a contingency plan. 
  • Pick up the right things when you go to Ikea, and always check the boxes, not just for the code numbers, which seem to be different from online to in store, but the actual dimensions. 
  • Don't have people staying that week, though in a way that could stop you dawdling. Deadlines can be useful, but not always in DIY projects. 
  • Thinning out and streamlining your furniture can have a knock on effect on your clothes and shit. Meaning: you're going to have to cull like crazy. 
  • You are always going to forget something, so just prepare yourself for the inevitable. For us it was the door handles. Doh!
Ha ha. Can you believe we still have the kitchen to do and a mega book shelving project in the living room. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!

Happy renovations to anyone else out there improving their homes or simply testing their sanity. How's that working out for you?


P.S Consider your recycling possibilities, as you will be left with a whole mess of cardboard and packaging to discard of. Our recycling collectors are ridiculous. They won't take anything that's not in the recycling bin - and we only have one for the entire building - even if it's clearly cardboard beside the bin that needs recycling. So we unfortunately had to half fill the recycling bin minutes after it had been emptied, with a whole week until it would be emptied again. If you have a car, then great, you can pop to your local recycling hub, but A ended up taking a cab with a load of cardboard.

Our wrong sized wardrobes found a new home and we were compensated with a full refund from Ikea - for the lost order - and additional cash and voucher compensation, which we will be using to buy door handles. Ha ha.

Rants out. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre

Okay, so this isn't a rant exactly, it's more of a general shout out to an awesome museum, only 40 minutes outside of London, where you can take a lovely day trip and get inside the mind and life of one of the world's greatest writers: Roald Dahl.

Being extremely lucky in the partner-for-life department, this was part of my birthday present, but yesterday was the first time we'd been able to get out there and explore. You take the train from London Marylebone to Great Missenden and then it is well signposted from there and only about a five minute walk - the village is very small, but also beautiful and completely charming.

From the website you can download a village trail to wander and see the sights that have inspired many of his books - this is a very short trail and is basically a walk along the main streets. Very easy going. There is also an hour long walk through the surrounding fields and woodlands, which requires a bit more thought and fitness, but we're not talking much. Wheel chairs and buggies would find it tricky in the wooded areas, due to the kissing gates and narrow muddy paths, but it is fine for a gentle stroll. These trails are also available in a hard copy at the museum.

Entry prices are cheap, with kids' prices and concession prices also offered. There is a tremendous shop, a quirky cafe and plenty of events to keep adults and kids happy. There are two main galleries giving insight into Dahl's early life and lots of information and tid bits that you probably didn't already know, but I won't give them away, you need to see it for yourself. And a story centre and craft room, to get your creative on.

For entry prices and what's on in the coming months, check out the website:

You are graced with seeing Dahl's writing hut, which they removed from his garden and put back together piece by piece, beautifully preserving the interior as it was the last time Dahl wrote there. It feels like it is waiting for him to sit back down and cook up another gem. We wish! I was pleasantly surprised to hear of his work ethic: two hours in the morning, then lunch and a nap, then two hours in the afternoon. He believed two hours was the maximum time you could work without losing productivity. Thanks Mr Dahl. I agree!

One of my favourite bits was the height chart where you could compare your height to that of his characters and his rather giant self (almost 6ft 6"). I'm at Miss Honey height, which suits me fine.

There are loads of hands on activities, especially in the story centre, which will keep the kids - and adults - busy for hours. There is also an emphasis on nurturing writing talent in youngsters. Dahl himself and other authors have left advice and pointers on how they work themselves, to give kids the confidence to go away and try something new and to not be afraid. Children are given a story ideas book at the entrance and encouraged to jot things down, doodle and experiment with words and rhymes as they go along. There are regular story times in Miss Honey's Classroom.

Magnetic verse making. 

We were also extremely lucky to go on an archive day. Once a month, they open the archive up to small groups of people, who can see and touch some of his original letters, book drafts, some of his clothes and some memorabilia from films and TV. I cannot stress how much you have to go on archive day - check the website for details and book in advance. Oh my word. I saw the box with the original manuscript of Matilda in it. Ahhhhhhhh! Sadly, the focus of the archive this time was not on Matilda, so I didn't get to see it or handle it, but to even see the box with it in, to know that his hand pencilled that and it is in this box next to me. Wow!

Boxes of Matilda. Matilda holds a special place in my heart as being the first non-school book that I ever read by myself, aged 5. 

So yes, back to the archives. Well worth the extra £1 you pay to go to it. Really, £1. Craziness! I would pay much, much more. We managed to see and read some of his old letters to his mother. We read some of his old school reports, and saw his old school shirt. Wow, Dahl was huge even aged 17. So very tall. We got to see the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, well the second draft, which was actually called: Charlie the Chocolate Boy. We saw The Enormous Crocodile manuscript, all pencil written, and finally The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me, which is celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year, and was the main focus of the archive talk. We were lucky enough to be the only two on the archive tour, which made it even more special and I got to hold Dahl's old sandal, which became an inspiration for the BFG and his footwear. Wow.

We even got to choose some chocolate from Dahl's own chocolate box. 

Okay, more amazing things about the museum include: A wrist band so you can come and go as you please over the opening hours on that day. Cafe Twit offering fizzy lifting drinks, hot and cold snacks and some monstrously delicious cakes. And of course, the shop full of so many fun things. I behaved myself though, just buying a couple of birthday gifts for other people, but it would be easy to go wild there. Of course all his children and adult books and collections are on sale, as well as stationary, mugs, magnets, t-shirts and more.

 Mmmm, Ginger slice and Gluten free cheesecake at Cafe Twit. 

If you have the time, take the short walk to the church where Roald Dahl is buried. The memorial tree and bench, and gravestone, are such a celebration of his life and such a wonderful way for him to be remembered. The church and graveyard sit in quiet contemplation looked after by the BFG and all Dahl's characters.

We also did the woodland trail and enjoyed wandering around the village where he lived and brought up his family. He took his inspiration for characters and situations and landscapes from all around him and the events of his life, and it was lovely to walk where he would have and think about all those characters. What a man.

The village boasts some lovely home shops and high end gift shops, as well as a couple of pubs, French, Indian and Thai Restaurants, and a lovely local coffee house and cafe. You can also see the library, which is seen as Matilda's library and it is a truly great day out. So what are you waiting for?


Monday, September 21, 2015

A Fortnight of Firsts

So it's taken me a week of recovery, after a fortnight's holiday, to even remotely have the brain capacity to write this. And what a fortnight it was; exploring walled cities, coastal towns, desert, cedar forests, hills, gorges, museums and palaces. You tend to think as you get older, your list of 'firsts' would become smaller, but there are always new experiences and new things to try.

So here's my list of firsts over a fortnight of fun in Morocco - can you tell I'm enjoying this alliteration?

  • Okay, easy one to start: My first time on the continent of Africa. 
  • My first time in the country Morocco.
  • My first time in a predominantly Muslim country. 

Okay that's the geography covered. 

  • The first time we've been stopped by the police, for speeding. No comment. 
  • The first time we've almost been mugged - little shit had my partner's bag open, but luckily we noticed and he didn't take anything. Watch out in the main square in Marrakesh! He was a right cocky little shit as well. The shrug he threw me afterwards, just said, well, you've gotta try. We were super paranoid after that, and I'm usually paranoid anyway, I mean, come on, I live in London. 
  • The first time the battery in the hire car failed, due to the lights being left on....oops. But luckily the kindness of the general Moroccan public gave us two attempts at jump starting from two different cars, which sadly failed. But then, the last trick of pushing the car up the hill, to let it down the hill to see if that would start the engine, worked! Oh and our hire car was a Dacia Sandero, so we called it James May. If you don't get that, I'm sorry. 
  • The first time we had to cross a river with the car in order to get to our accommodation. And at the end of a very long day my partner was not particularly in the mood. 

Okay, so that's the more car related stuff out of the way, now for the more personal firsts. 
  • The first time I'd been mistaken for being Spanish. Wow. Thanks. 
  • The first time I slept in a cave - albeit an executive cave with lovely bathroom and bed.
  • The first time I leapt over a running waterfall. Eek. If you hike the falls at Setti Fatma, take a guide with you, they will pull you over these death defying gaps and are pretty strong. They know what they're doing, but it doesn't stop you thinking, why the feck did I agree to this? 
  • The first time I'd ever been in a desert, the Sahara to be precise, at Merzouga. Wow. The silence, the stars, the darkness, and the fear of desert beasties. An amazing experience. 
  • The first time I took a ride on a camel into the desert. It was a one hump and I named him Brian. He was a good boy, but sadly the mosquitoes kept biting him, so he kicked his legs about a lot. Hold on tight and beware some ass/crotch discomfort for a couple of days afterwards, though to be honest it wasn't half as bad as I'd originally thought.
  • The first time I actually witnessed a tremendous lightning storm - our last night, in Midelt - and the elusive mammatus clouds. Wow!

 The mighty mammatus. 

Also in this fortnight of firsts was our road trip entertainment. 
  • The first time listening to a serial podcast, in fact, the Serial podcast, which if you haven't checked out the first season yet, you should go for it, as the second season is due to start any minute. Not that they will follow on from one another, but it's just so good.
  • It was also the first time I'd ever listened to an audio book. We got about half way through Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, which is really fun. I enjoyed the experience of the audio book, but I still find it a little strange as I am quite disconnected from the book. I can't touch it or see the words, I just have to wait for them to be spoken. But it certainly beats trying to find a radio station or listening to the same music over again. I can understand why people who commute long distances, especially in cars, prefer to audio book. We should finish it off in the next few days.
Well I think that's most of our firsts, not bad for a mere fourteen days away from the comfort zone of home. Have you experienced any firsts recently?

Thanks for reading.
Oh and here's a picture of me and my camel Brian. 

 Outward journey. Hello Brian.
Return journey. Farewell Brian.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


Pondering the questions of life......

Why do two satsumas - tangerines, easy peelers, whatever your supermarket calls them - from the same pack, always taste the polar opposite of each other? There's always one - and usually the first one you eat - that is so sweet and so close to perfection you can't quite believe it's real. And then the second one contorts your face so much you could challenge the world gurning champion.

Why are braids so hard to do? Attempting to teach yourself French braids and fish tails and Dutch braids is supremely difficult, especially when you have uncooperative hands. You have to do it all behind you, unable to see what a mess of crap it looks like. When I see people with perfect braids, I hope they had help otherwise I would like to yank out said braid. *jealousy*

Why do muggy days make kids go crazy? My Wednesday classes were all out of sorts and squirmy and fidgety and irritable. I guess it's probably the same reason it makes the adults crazy and irritable, because it's all hot and sticky, but not sunny, and it's uncomfortable, sweaty and gross at times. And most of the time you wish for it to break and rain, just for a hint of relief. I realise I've just answered that one myself. But really, it does make the kids wilder than usual.

Why does my brain decide it's fully on board to edit my novel, three days before we go on holiday, when it's been avoiding any work on the subject for at least a month? This really does baffle me. But hey, I'm rolling with it at the moment, and hoping to get more done - maybe even reach about half the book before we go. #amediting

Why does it always rain on me? (Ah, Travis.) Well the answer to this is just: August. Britain. There is no other explanation.

Why do I insist of making all these 'to do' lists, when I barely ever complete them? Sometimes it just feels good to write stuff down, even if you end up ignoring the list, or discarding it. Just the action of pen on paper is an event - wow, I really am sad. But the inevitability of completing all the things I write on a list is nothing short of impossible.

Why do I keep forgetting to take my damn library books back? Probably because I ignored the 'to do' list which told me to take my damn library books back.

Why can I never think of anything to talk about in the lift with the neighbours, other than the weather? Am I in fact a Brit Bot, programmed only to talk about the weather, queues and my own personal space? Perhaps. But you can't really discuss personal space in a lift, can you? I'll stick to the weather I think, less likely to say something stupid.

Why are sports bras so difficult to take off? I've probably asked this before but really with all the technology out there and all the advancements in stuff and things, you'd think they would be able to have a stab at making a sports bras less scary to take off. You do worry sometimes, that you might have to live in it forever.

And finally, before I leave you: why is there never enough time to read books? This one sucks the most. Really sucks. Because unfortunately there are times when you have to sacrifice your reading time to other pursuits and that's rubbish, but sometimes necessary. Boo.

I will now leave you to ponder your own whys of life, whilst I ponder why I wrote this blog.


Friday, August 21, 2015


Ah. D.I.Y. Do. It. Yourself. Three words that instill fear into the wise and excitement into the bat shit crazy. They'll tell you, 'It's so rewarding. It's so great to know that you did that in your own home. No one can take that achievement away from you.' But what they fail to tell you is how much time it leaches from you and how grumpy and tired it makes you. No one can give you that week back. And they fail to tell you that it's not easy to make your painting look professional. You will have streaky bits, and the bits where you went against the grain - as it were - because you couldn't be arsed doing the Mr Miyagi up and down motion, you just wanted to cheat and go across with the paint brush. No of course we never did that anywhere. Don't look at the bit above the skirting boards, don't look at it!

But do look down your radiator. Turns out it makes a pretty good shot. 

Granted these renovations were long overdue and we have lived here for over six and half years. So a re-paint and some new carpet was in order. But still. Having to box everything up and take all of the furniture apart and off the walls, just to put it back on again after we've painted, was a ridiculously tiresome task. And don't get me started on carpets. A wonder of the universe, they may be, but they are on the floor, underneath everything, which means all that heavy furniture and shelving needs to be moved. But where? You live in a one bedroom flat which has no spare room to dump stuff, no additional storage facility. Nothing. So it all goes in the bedroom and then you can't sleep there for four nights. Leaving you with the couch - now luckily ours is comfy - and the smell of paint. Yay!

There ain't no way we're getting in that room to sleep. 

Come on. Where's Mary frickin' Poppins when you need her? Or Hermione Granger? I'm sure she could just Wingardium Leviosa the furniture off the ground - with all the stuff in - and hey presto the carpets would be down. That way it wouldn't take a day to box everything up and then another two days to un-box all the stuff you had to box up in order to be able to move the furniture in the first place. And you would also diminish the chance of forming Madonna arms along the way from carting around all those ridiculously heavy boxes with copious amounts of books in. Come on Hermione. We needed you.

Personal hygiene becomes a long forgotten ideal. If you manage to brush your teeth, then you're king of the cleanly. Because your shower is full of paint rollers and brushes, either washed and drying, or waiting to be washed. The rags you used to wash down the walls are strewn up dripping into the bath, and if you're not careful you might trip over a paint can and ruin your new carpet.

You'll also be privy to some very new experiences. At least I hope these are new experiences for you. Like, peeing with the door open, because there are four sets of shelves leaning against the bathroom door and nowhere to put them. So you make sure your partner is as far away as possible and you tell them to sing, whilst you're having a tinkle.

Then there's painting with the light of the iphone because the natural light has left you and you can't see a feckin' thing. That was fun. I think there was a midnight paddy and eventual surrender. 'Did I miss that bit, or is it just a shadow?'

There was also painting the ceiling whilst wearing sunglasses, in order to keep the paint out of our eyes. Again, see above for the shadows issue. It all goes kinda dark when you wear sunglasses, but it's either that or risk further sight problems.

We also had a huge problem when we were painting the hall and living room, as we had the paint mixed especially for us due to our original colour of 'marble white' being unavailable. But when it was opened, to say it had a pink tinge, was a slight understatement. Pink on my walls? I don't think so. Cue another taxi ride to the paint shop and back. Stupid paint machine. We settled for white.

Oh and at some point when you're D.I.Ying, I hope you experience the sleep deprived, absolute exhaustion giggles. Something small and probably not all that funny will set you off and you'll be unable to stop. There may even be tears. Ideally, avoid painting at this time. Spill factor: high. But savour these moments, because as the works go on, you may get less and less of them, as the grump slump takes over.

Okay, now to some tips for that D.I.Y project, whatever it may be. These may just about keep you sane.

  • Try to stay aware of the location of your screwdriver at all times. Or better still, attach it to you and have a batman utility belt. Or even better, have multiple screwdrivers. This tip also applies to that pesky roll of masking tape that you keep putting down, and those damn screws.
  • Be creative with your labelling of boxes. Try something that will make you laugh when the end seems impossible and you just want to give up and live in a hotel. 

  • Be realistic with your targets. If you know something should take you X amount of days, then always account for an additional two or three days on top of that. Don't set yourself up for failure and subsequent guilt. It's just not worth it. Painting takes time, but more than that it's the moving everything before you paint, and wiping the walls down and making sure the dust sheets are down. It's not an easy process, so don't rush it, and don't be grumpy with your partner if it's not quite going to schedule. 

  • Try and get in enough food for each day, or if it's a big project, stock up for a couple of days to stave off any chance of hunger anger. You certainly don't want that on top of the exhaustion and general grumpiness of your house being upside down. 
  • But do try and get out into the world, if only for a bit of fresh air and a leg stretch or two. Otherwise you might just go doolally. 
  • Prepare to cull. This is a great opportunity to thin out your stuff and give to charity, re-gift or just recycle. We have filled up the recycling bin two weeks in a row - sorry rest of the building. We have also sent about five boxes of stuff to various charity shops and have got rid of a lot of crap we've been hoarding for some time. Unfortunately this also takes a heck of a long time, so plan appropriately. 

  • Finally, try to have fun with it, if at all possible. And try and be proud of your work. But most of all, be grateful that you won't have to do it again for another few years. And just be thankful there was no way you could do the carpets without professional help. 
Playing my bass guitar - which is actually a decorative gecko normally on the wall - whilst surveying the sea of stuff. 
 Cleaning brushes once again. 
Enjoying the new carpets and the space without all the furniture.

Good luck with all your D.I.Y endeavours.

Rants out.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

I shouldn't complain, but............

As the title suggests, I shouldn't complain, but then if I didn't complain and rant, then I wouldn't be able to call myself Rants of a bitter northerner, or a Brit, or a woman. And besides, sometimes you just have to.

Bond - Oh Dear!
So I am currently reading my first ever Bond novel. That's James Bond, 007, Licence to Kill, brought to life by Ian Fleming and a British institution. I took Live and Let Die out of the library and was quite excited to get going on it, being brought up on Bond films, since a young age as every bank holiday weekend they would show at least two of them, and my mum and dad loved them. I mean, come on, who doesn't?

But oh dear. I mean, you often forget when they were written - this one 1954 - especially with the modern Bond films incorporating more women in lead roles - Dame Judi Dench for instance, as M - and not just "Bond girls" there for his amusement. Also, there is more diversity in the characters, people of different nationalities etc. But then you read one of the novels and you physically cringe. The amount of sexism, racism and presumably lots of other isms that are used is hideously cringe worthy and anger inducing.

Women are nothing but play things and objects to look at or sleep with, and most nationalities are written about with disgust and ignorance and general stereotypes. And yes Mr Fleming can be defended by saying that was 60 years ago and times were different, but I was still shocked by the use of a word I will never use in print or otherwise - if you've read this book you'll probably know what I mean, and if not you'll just have to guess because I'm not writing it - as it featured so heavily especially in the opening few chapters.

But, I will say that it is well written, has good pace and a certain addictive quality, despite my feminism and racism alarm sounding frequently. And I find Bond to be way less womanising and sleazy. In fact they give him a lot of very human feelings in the book. He shows fear and sweats in his sleep and really cares for his colleagues. I think in this respect perhaps the recent Daniel Craig films pull it off best, making him much more real and rounded.

Cake Vs Music Class
Okay, so I'm used to being made to feel like a slight inconvenience when I teach in some of my schools. Its part of the job I guess. Teachers don't like you going into their classroom and the kids really enjoying their time with you. They also don't like the slight disruption to their daily routine - heaven forbid there should be some flexibility in their days - even though it's not really a disruption any more when it's written into the Wednesday schedule and I've been going for 18 months.

And I've had to compete with all sorts of obstacles, such as outside play, releasing butterflies - yes this did actually happen - and Easter egg hunts. At these times I am once again made out to be the cruel person who is keeping the children from these things, when it should be more like I'm the nice person coming in to give them a music class, something not everyone in the class gets to do. Woo hoo! But no, they schedule all these things to coincide with the lesson and then I have to deal with the wandering kids who just want to hunt Easter eggs, or play in the ice - this was when it was really hot a couple of weeks ago.

So yesterday was a new challenge: Birthday Cake. One of the children was having a birthday and also her last day at the nursery, so I walk in at 10.30 to do my class and I find them all sitting down singing happy birthday, ready to have cake - At 10.30! Feeding kids cake! At 10.30! - when they know it's music class because I've already been in the nursery an hour teaching two other classes.

I walk in and all the children say hello and all the staff ignore me. I go and sit on the carpet and they still ignore me. They are cutting up cake to give out to the children, whereas the usual policy is to send cake home in case anyone has allergies or doesn't want their kid hyped up on sugar at 10.30 in the morning. Anyhoo, I have to ask if I can start the class and of course it's all shrugs and sighs - again, what an inconvenience I am - and then we have to prise the first group of children from the table because they want to have cake with everyone else.

Not fair. I shouldn't have to compete with sugar and sponge cake. I shouldn't have to compete with anything. I'm providing a service, a service paid for by the parents of the children, and I should be supported not hindered. Fuckin' cake. Luckily there were only a couple of irritable kids, the rest really enjoyed my class because they knew they would be given cake afterwards, and of course, they love music class. Of course. It's awesome!

Baby cards - Enough of the freakin' gender colours.
This is an issue I know I have brought up before in a rant, but as more and more of my friends are reproducing, I know this will continue to be an issue and something that really riles me up.

Some friends of mine have just had a baby girl, I wanted to get a card to congratulate them, but I hate pink and under no circumstances will buy a card with pink on. Now that is my choice, I understand that, but the fact that the only options you get are pink or blue then this is not only assigning gender to colours, which I hate, but it is once again society throwing the idea of pink and girls and femininity down our throats. Babies should be able to be brought up without the pink or blue bubbles around them. They are little people and should be exposed to all colours and ideas and concepts. No colours are girlish, no colours are boyish, they are just freakin colours!

Unfortunately, the cheaper card shops just have the pink and the blue sections, so I wrote them off early on. Paperchase is usually my saviour as they tend to have a pink and a blue section, but then also a section called 'new baby', which unfortunately removes the gender of the child, but at least offers more colour choice. I mean, why can't you buy a beautiful blue card or red card or green card that says 'congratulations on the birth of your daughter'? What the feck? Or a pink card that says 'congratulations a new baby boy?'

I have in the past bought blank art cards that happened to have nice pictures on, like a rainbow, or a caterpillar, and given them as birth cards as I've been so disgusted with the choice on offer. But I did manage to find a nice one in the 'new baby' section - I found a few nice ones actually - that is black and white with an elephant on it, and the elephant has red bits on its feet and ears. Perfect. No push towards any sort of gender stereotype and also a contrast of black and white, which is something that attracts babies in their first few months, as they can't really see much else or many colours. That's why they have all these baby books that are black and white with maybe one other bold colour, and it is all about pattern and contrast.

Well done Paperchase, but there is still a long way to go. And as I know about four people currently pregnant, I'm pretty sure I'll be having more and more issues on the same subject. Can't buy them all the same card.

Abolish the pink and blue sections! And remove gender association from colour. Let the colours be free! Let the children be free.

Jeans for Giants
I found a pair of flared jeans yesterday, very exciting prospect, you don't see them very often and they were very reasonably priced. They had different waist sizes, but only one length. And that length was Giant. I tried them on and there were literally six inches of unnecessary denim. I am short, but not that short, an average short if you will: 5 foot 4 and a half inches.

I remember a time when jeans were organised in length and waist - as they still are in men's jeans - but in this particular shop, it was made for women of at least 5 foot 10 inches, the rest of us can go to hell. Sort his out H and M. Sort it out.

I was tempted to get them anyway and have them altered, but by the time you do that, you've lost half the flare and that's the whole bloody point. Jeans rage!

Ordered a UK 6, why not send a UK 4? That'll work
So I ordered some sandals in the sale from Hush Puppies. Free delivery, free returns and half price. I'd been eyeing them up for a while but didn't want to pay full price, and thought they would come in handy for Morocco in a few weeks' time.

So when I get home on Tuesday and the parcel is there, I'm giddy, until the point when I look at them and think, they're pretty but look quite small. And yes, they've sent me a freakin' size 4 instead of a size 6. Bit of a difference there. And now I have to faff around with returns and shit. URGH!

End thoughts....
Okay, I think I'm possibly ranted out there for a day or so. Got to get back to Bond, only 62 pages left. Let's hope I can finish it without too many racist or sexist comments. Fingers crossed. My cringe quota is way over loaded.

Thanks for reading and I'm sure I'll be back soon.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

YALC 2015 - Day 2

So, following on from yesterday's blog, here's what happened on Day 2 of YALC 2015:

Saturday 18th July 9am-6pm
Hooray, another day of YALC. Another day of amazing authors, talks, panels and even a wander into LFCC, to spy some film and TV celebs. And today I had my partner in life and crime with me, so even better!

Lovin' our YALC wristbands, though the guy took the piss a little with how tight he fastened mine.  

I expected higher numbers today, especially with it being the weekend and huge draws like Cassie Clare, Malorie Blackman, Holly Smale, Patrick Ness and Judy Blume, to name a few. I know. Wow!
So my slightly paranoid status had us sat in the main arena half an hour before the first panel. Well, you wouldn't want to chance it would you?

1st Panel 10.30-11.15 YA: The Next Generation

When the chair of the panel comes on and starts complaining how she feels old at 23, you know this could seriously harm your almost 32 year old self, especially as the panellists ranged from 15 years old to 24 years old and are all successful and published, and you haven't even any agent interest. The chair feels old? I could have mothered the youngest panellist. *Throws up a little*

Okay, so enough of my vomit. This was a fantastic panel, if somewhat terrifying that you can be so successful so young. Yet, why the heck not. If your writing is great then it should be recognised no matter how old you are. Side note: I would really like to be published before I'm 40 if at all possible. *Appeals to YA Literature Gods and Goddesses*

Chair Samantha Shannon and panellist Lucy Saxon who couldn't sit down due to her amazing cosplay. Good effort, I think all would agree. 

Left to right: Samantha, Lucy, Helena, Taran and Alice.

Alice Oseman: Author of Solitaire. Published at 19, now 20. 
Lucy Saxon: Signed with Bloomsbury at 17, now 20. Author of Take Back the Skies.
Helena Coggan: Author of The Catalyst, published at 15, still 15. 
Taran Matharu: Published after 3,000,000 reads on Wattpad. Author of Summoner: The Novice. 24.
Chair Samantha Shannon: Author of The Bone Season, now 23.

1st Question: How did you come about being published so young?

Lucy: Lucy told us that she had a lot of time off school after being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. It gave her a lot of time to focus on her writing. Her parents knew an agent and within eight months she had a deal. 

Helena: Helena told us of entering writing competitions from the age of nine and that she wanted to write a book before she was thirteen. That didn't happen, but once she turned thirteen, she decided to do it. Her parents knew a non-fiction editor who sent it on to someone she knew and within a month she had a deal. 

Taran: Taran had a really interesting story, in that he had taken part in NaNoWriMo and then afterwards was uploading a chapter every day to Wattpad - a social platform where writers can share their work with other writers and readers. After only a month he had 100,000 reads, and after four months over a 1,000,000 reads. He talked about Wattpad being a great service due to the motivation it gave him, and of course that readers can share their comments. A journalist from NBC interviewed him about his success on Wattpad and then he was contacted by an audio book publisher. He sought advice from agents he followed on facebook and pretty soon had three US agents and 3 UK agents to choose from. He has already been translated into around ten languages. 

Alice: Alice too had started NaNoWriMo but had never finished, and deleted the story. But she started writing it again, as the story wouldn't go away and she realised, 'I really believe in this book.'
After five months she had finished writing it, then researched the traditional submission route, and once she had found her agent, they spent six months editing together. 

2nd Question: Has age affected your experience?

Lucy: Lucy admitted to having been 'seventeen for three years,' in the media. 'The younger you are, the more impressive it sounds.'

Helena: Helena told us that 'they pay attention to you quite a bit,' and expect lots of media coverage and interviews, which she admitted was very daunting. She also said she felt they 'judge you less harshly.'

Taran: He said that it has been a lot of fun, being a young published writer, as a lot of your readers are a similar age, so you meet a lot of people. He also told us that he was often asked if he was a 'proper writer,' or if he was just someone that bums around the house not really doing anything. He is proud to be a full time writer. 

Alice: She feels as a young writer that she is sometimes not taken a hundred percent seriously, but that since being published, 'the positives have outweighed the negatives.' She also agreed with Lucy that it can be a high selling point for a publisher, to have a young writer on their books. 

3rd Question: If the target age of YA is 12-18, does the author's age matter?

Alice: Alice said she found it easy writing about people her own age. 

Lucy: 'I'm gonna write the story I would like to write and I would like to read.'

Taran: 'I wrote it for myself.' He also added that the author's age doesn't matter and that the formative years stick out in any one's mind. 'Everyone has been a teenager.'

Helena: At thirteen, Helena felt that two years ahead - her main protagonist is fifteen, her current age - is all she could manage. She also posed a question of her own: Can teenagers write adult characters? 'If you're good enough to write, you're good enough to write.'

4th Question: How much of an influence is social media, and what is your favourite platform?

Taran: Wattpad. He talked of the motivation you can feel to give the readers what they want and to take into consideration their comments. He feels it is a very social experience, whereas now he is writing in a more solitary way, but admits that this does give him more time to reflect. He talked about being a role model for aspiring authors, giving advice and interacting with fans and other writers. 

Alice: Tumblr. This is Alice's favourite as it has its own culture, its own jokes and feels like quite a young website. She likes that you can share your real life too, post photographs and make it more personal. 

Lucy: 'All of them.' Lucy admits to spending way too much time on the internet. She's a huge fan of cosplay, she used to write Harry Potter fan fiction and then branched into original fiction. She uses Tumblr to feel connected to other authors. 

Helena: Helena is pretty much absent from social media. She said she likes twitter and facebook, but is not actually present on them. She says she 'doesn't want to get addicted.' And says maybe in a couple of years she would join up. She wants to get through school without the distractions, but also is worried that she could say something stupid and it could be immortalised forever. 

If only more people had that sense....

5th Question: Diversity and Feminism: is there anything you would change in your books?

Lucy and Alice both talked about the 'white washing' in their books, but also see ways to change in the future. They have been educated in the issues and know they can do better next time. Lucy would also like to explore more gender and sexuality roles in her work. 

Taran: He told us there is actually a lot of diversity on Wattpad, but then this wasn't backed up with the published books that are out there. He talked of the publishers and retailers not being diverse in their choices and acquisitions. He talked again about the role model he can be on Wattpad and that everyone needs to feel represented within literature otherwise it can be a very lonely place. He also told us of a lot of Muslim romance on Wattpad, but that there is none out there in the book shops. 

Helena: Helena told us of the three types of girls in YA: The ugly duckling, the naive duckling and the anti-social duckling. All three of these 'types' end up falling in love with a more knowledgeable male love interest. The end. She admitted that a lot of writers default to their demographic and find it difficult to break out of that. But she also agreed with Taran that to have nothing in common with anyone in fiction, would be horrendous.

6th Question: Any advice for writers out there? 

Lucy: 'Practise.'
'Keep writing.'
'Have faith.'

Taran: 'Don't keep it a secret. Share it.' And when reading, Taran urged us to analyse it and learn from others. 

Alice: 'Write something you want to read.'

Lucy: Lucy said, if you find yourself not represented in literature, then 'write yourself represented. You write you!'

Helena: Helena told us not to wait for a whole novel to form itself in your head like J.K Rowling and Harry Potter. She told us to work on our ideas, and try not to think about endings and what happens on the publishing side. 

Now for the audiences turn with the Q&A:

Why aren't there more young men published?

Helena: Helena sort of flipped this and answered from the point of view of the girls and why there are so many girls published in YA. She thinks it is down to role models for girls - young men have loads - but often girls have to make them up and YA is a great platform to do that. 

Taran: Taran thinks is could be that YA stems from children's which is 'almost entirely female.' but then he also talked about how publishing is still a male dominated world, with YA and children's being the anomalies. 

What about disability in YA?

Lucy: 'I've got plans.' But she also stated that she didn't want to bring her personal struggles with chronic fatigue into her writing. She also feels disabilities are misrepresented or unrepresented in all forms of media. 

Taran: Taran believes mental illness and disability need to be further represented in YA. He talked about one of his characters being a female warrior who had lost both legs but gets about by riding on a Griffin. 

Helena: Helena said that mental illness definitely needed better representation, and that often disabilities are something authors might need to work around, especially in fantasy writing when a lot of battles take place. 

A great opening panel, really interesting to hear how they started their journeys. I have to say I was slightly terrified of Helena. And only because, to be so poised and articulate at such a young age, is just out of my realm of thinking. I couldn't be so poised now and I'm double her age and a bit more. So really I'm just jealous of them all, but then you have to take a step back and say, it will happen in its own time. This was meant to happen for them at this time in their lives, and that is wonderful, but I just have to be patient and keep working my ass off. 

2nd Panel 11.30-12.15: Shadowhunters

As the last panel was so long, I'm going to keep this brief. I love the Shadowhunter series. I love Cassie Clare and the characters she creates, and so I was particularly excited about this. 

Our interviewer, the wonderfully colourful and hilarious Sarah Rees Brennan.

Cassie and Sarah really getting into the questions. 

Cassie was kind enough to tell us about her new series: The Dark Artifices, set five years after the end of City of Heavenly Fire. And she also gave us some insight into the sequel series to The Infernal Devices called The Last Hours. Cassie then treated us to some tales from the Shadowhunter set, talking about her favourite actors and characters. 

I felt a little bit sorry for Sarah at points, as she was so pumped up and probably used to an equally pumped up American audience. Why are us Brits so reserved? I'm certain most of the audience were screaming inside, but on the outside probably came across as dazed or uninterested. Bless her though, she kept going and never let that enthusiasm falter for a second. 

Here is a brief selection from the audience Q&A:

If you could choose one bloodline, what would it be?
Cassie: Blackthorn
Sarah: Sarah didn't want to be a shadowhunter, she wanted to be a downworlder. 'And also a panther.'

Which downworlder would you be?
Cassie: Warlock. They live forever, don't have to drink blood and can still go outside. 
Sarah: Vampire, so she can be 'super foxy forever.'
'I'll drink Jace like a smoothie.'

Which character would you be stranded on a desert island with?
Cassie: 'Magnus Bane as he would find a way to magic us out of there.'
Sarah: Gideon Lightwood.

Which rune is your favourite?
Cassie: Fearless, because you're not just fearless in battle but in all parts of your life. 

Is it difficult to switch points of view when writing?
Cassie told us the hardest thing was matching up all the times. So if it is such a time in Idris, what time is in in New York, and of course, 'what time is it in hell?' She said the logistics were often the hardest part as she actually enjoys adding points of view and writing from different angles. 

'In hell it's always 5am.'

A really fun author interview. Now I just have to figure out how the hell I'm going to fit all the new series on to my dwindling shelf space. Damn you Cassie and your large books and long series. Have pity for the folks in tiny flats in London. ;-)

3rd Panel 12.30-1.15pm: Being a Girl

An eagerly awaited panel on my behalf, I just about had time to stand up and have a walk around, to stave off the numb bum, before Feminism in YA.  And what a treat we had with such an array of fabulous female writers to talk us through it:

Chair of the panel: Anna James
Malorie Blackman: Author of too much stuff to mention. She is the former Children's Laureate.
Holly Smale: Author of the Geek Girl series.
Hayley Long: Author of teen fiction titles and new non-fiction: Being a Girl.
Laura Dockrill: Author of MG fiction and new YA book: Lorali.
CJ Daugherty: Author of the Night School series.

 From left to right: Malorie, Hayley, Holly, Laura, CJ and Anna. 

1st Question: What do you think is a feminist book and how do you make sure your book is feminist?

Holly: Holly doesn't believe there needs to be purely feminist books, she believes that women should be treated as equally as men in everything, as that's what feminism is: equality for both sexes. Holly tries to write girls, 'as amazing as they are in real life.'

Laura: Laura suggested that feminism in YA could also explore tight knit groups of girls, looking out for each other and lending support. 

CJ: CJ said often in her books she tried to take away from the notion that girls get into trouble and boys rescue them, and make it more about girls rescuing each other, or one character rescuing themselves. 

Hayley: Hayley said it was important to create three dimensional characters with good roles for girls, 'not just stereotypes and supporting roles.'

Malorie: Malorie talked about writing 'girls I grew up with. Girls I thought I was.' She also stated that these girls 'don't have to be superheroes.' They should be flawed and they should be realistic. We shouldn't be promoting 'one view of girls.' We should be exploring all facets of what it means to be a girl and not trying to put girls into a box.

Holly: Holly added that it was about honesty and truth.

2nd Question: It's very topical at the moment, but is the term feminism still needed?

Hayley: Hayley thinks it is something at her very core and she doesn't feel the need to call herself a feminist, despite being one. She said, 'It's about being me.'

Malorie: Malorie talked about the term being very much relevant and needed.  She said, 'There's still not that equality. That's why we're still talking about it. There's a way to go on this.' Malorie mentioned how the media is still hell bent on projecting women as merely something to look at, rather than showing believable characters and qualities. 

Laura: Laura talked about the fact that women are still judged on their ability to be a woman, by motherhood and how well they will raise children. 

Holly: Holly talked about dispelling any negatives against the term feminism. And that it is not about angry, men-hating women. It is about equality. She mentioned anti-suffragette posters that were used as anti-feminist propaganda. And she also revealed how the main two questions she is asked at events are still: 'Are you married? Do you have children?'

CJ: CJ talked about teens learning about gender roles and hopefully absorbing these ideals.

3rd Question: When you write are you consciously thinking about gender?

CJ: CJ told us that she started out wanting to write a boy character, but soon gave up and decided it had to be a girl. She also told us about giving her characters roles that they don't currently have in the real world: 'My first act was to admit girls to Eton.' And in literature you can do this. You can have the first female prime minister, and then girls are reading about these things and thinking, I could do that. 

Holly: 'I've been an angry feminist since I was four. It's inherent to me. It's part of my voice.'
She admitted that of course one book won't change anything, but that we have to keep chipping away with every book. Comedy plays a huge part in Holly's writing and she feels that 'humour is inherently feminist,' as you are using your brain, your voice and your strength. 

Hayley: Hayley told us feminism 'is in my blood.' She talked about fighting against the rules when she was younger: 'That's not fair. I want to wear trousers. I want to be noisy.'

Malorie: 'Don't let anyone pin their labels on you.'

4th Question: How do we challenge the stereotypes?

CJ: 'Male characters are allowed to be flawed.' CJ told us that often her female fans are hardest on her female characters, especially when they make a mistake, but that they forgive the flaws of the male characters.

Hayley: 'Girls can be too hard on each other.'

Anna: Anna added that it is often, 'how we've been taught to see other women.'

Laura: Laura spoke proudly of her mother and how strong and supportive she has always been. She talked about it being important to write 'real girls.'

Holly: Holly talked about how society has created feminine and masculine and that we are all mixtures of both. She talked of words used in the media to describe books written by women, as being derogatory and literally meaning, 'without weight.' 

CJ: CJ also added that a big struggle for female writers if there is a female protagonist or a female on the front cover of the book, is that often half the population of YA readers - the male half - won't even pick it up.

Holly: Holly also added the point that when J.K Rowling released Harry Potter, she was advised not to be Joanne, but J.K, as they thought it might alienate the boy readers. 

Say what?

5th Question: Where can YA go next in Feminism?

Malorie: It has to 'keep challenging and keep talking about it'. It has to 'challenge perceptions.'

Laura: 'School visits,' are a good place to start. Introduce these ideas to them young. 

Hayley: Hayley spoke of often the boys enjoying her school trips the most, as they are given the opportunity to read something not always accessible to them, something which may even be seen as taboo to them. 

Holly: Holly then turned that on its head and made the point that girls wouldn't bat an eyelid at reading male characters. 

Now over to the floor for some audience Q&A:

Young Girls are starting to reject the term feminist, asking is there anything left to fight for in feminism?

Holly completely kicked ass here, so much so that I didn't even manage to write anything down. I just had to stop and listen. She was on fire!
Holly kicking ass!

Hayley: Hayley thought that maybe it could be the label that confuses people. 

Malorie: Malorie talked about women never being equal until childcare is free and women can actually go back to work after having children without having to sacrifice their jobs, their positions or their training. She also said that most CEOs and heads of companies are still predominantly men. 'We are not equal!'

Do you think the next big thing in YA could genderlessness?

Laura: Laura talked about us all being 'cockatils of men, women and beasts.' She said we should celebrate our differences. 

Holly: She doesn't feel gender needs to be taken away, but the ideals of femininity and masculinity need to be thrown out as they were made up by society. They don't really exist.

Malorie: 'Make sure boys and girls have access to everything!'

What kind of male characters do you want to write about, and how do you go about writing male characters?

Malorie: 'Half my books have male protagonists.' She reiterated that we should be writing 'realistic men, like the men I've encountered.' She talked of getting your facts straight and 'finding the truth in your characters.'

Hayley: 'Males are not aliens.'

Laura: You don't ask this question about fantastical creatures: 'How did you get into the brain of that zebra?' 

Holly: They should be written with a 'mixture of masculine and feminine qualities.' 

Thank you to all the ladies speaking in this panel. Lots to think about there and just thinking about some of the points raised here, makes you realise how much society and media influence the way girls and boys, women and men are seen and heard. Lots to consider. Thank you again!

Tried to get in on the official photo op. Not quite. It's off centre, but every one's smiling. 

After three straight panels in a row, we had to go for a walk, and we headed for LFCC. Refusing to queue for the stairs - yes queue for the stairs - we took the lift. 

  •   Coming out of the loo behind Malorie Blackman, who then bumped straight into Patrick Ness.
  •    Being in a lift with Judy Blume
  •    Getting to see, and photograph two of the Musketeers from BBC Musketeers. Oh my. 
 Tom Burke AKA Athos
Luke Pasqualino AKA D'artagnan
  • Jodi Lyn O'Keefe from The Vampire Diaries and Prison Break totally busting me for taking a sly picture of  her, by taking one of me. 
 Jodi Lyn O'Keefe
Busted! I did actually strike a pose for her. I'm sure she'll treasure it. Ha ha.

  • Sneaking a little peak of Neve Campbell, 90s legend. 
  • And various Game of Thrones sighting: Pod, Red Lady and Hodor. 
Now back to business, and don't worry this is the last event now: the author talk between Judy Blume and Patrick Ness. For this we were transported downstairs to the Super Stage which had just had a talk by Michael J Fox. 

Again, I'm going to keep this brief, and use my favourite quotes and questions from the talk, as well as some nice pictures:

Patrick losing his shit. 

Hunting for YALC freebies for Judy Blume. ;-)

My favourite quotes and answers from the talk: 
  • (When dealing with expectation) 'You just have to get rid of it. When you write, you have to get everybody off your shoulders.'
  • (On Forever) 'I wanted to write a book where two kids do it and nobody dies.'
  • 'I love bad language. It's satisfying, like tap dancing. (Judy then tap dances.) It feels good.'
  • Patrick talked of Judy's books being very personal to him and being a 'ladder to adulthood.'
  • Her new book is published as an adult title but some of the main voices are teenagers. It is based on a true event from 1951 in her home town.
Q&A from the audience:

What was it like when you were first published?
'I didn't know anything. I didn't know anyone. I just did it.' She talked about her belief that she would die young, which spurred her on and she had all this creative energy and a 'renewed zest for life.'

What did you read as a teen?
'Anything I could get my hands on.' Judy told us of raiding her parent's book shelves. 

Who do you read now?
Judy told us that whilst she is writing a book, she doesn't read anything, as she starts to have self- doubt that she couldn't possibly write something that good. She did tell us that she recently read: We are all Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler. And urged everyone to read it. 

How did you feel when your books were banned or censored?
'I was mad!'
She talked about 1980 being the big turn around in banning books and that she works closely with the National Coalition Against Censorship. She also mentioned how books are often only banned after they become popular and they realise the kids like them. 

Why haven't your books been made into many films?
'I have a bad rep in Hollywood.' She said, 'it is too easy to get it wrong.' She also talked about child actors often being 'cute instead of real.'
But she did admit to being quite open to her books being made into films. 

It was such a pleasure to see both these authors in conversation and to have one author - Patrick Ness - so totally shell shocked to be in the position of interviewing one of his all time favourite authors. Books you read as children and teens tend to stay with you for life. The voices of the authors, the characters they create, and how they make you feel, never really leave you. 

What an amazing two days of YA love. Sadly I couldn't make it to Day 3 - hooray, you all cry, I don't have to read another one of these obscenely long blogs - as I ran the very sweaty 10 Km in Olympic Park and finished in the stadium, which rounded off a jam packed and very exciting weekend, nicely. Thank you to the organisers. Thank you to The Olympia for letting YALC move there. Thank you for YALC's separate floor and queue - long may that continue. And no doubt, I'll see you next year.

Thank you for reading.