Archive for the tag 'books'

A whole new world

NS November 21st, 2010

Tonight, my daughter, you entered another world without me.

Right there at the dining room table, while your brother slept and your father was at work, you sat beside me, your face alight with concentration and joy, and jumped down the rabbit hole with both feet. You never got frustrated or scared or said you couldn’t do it, never sighed or tutted or acted as if your work was a chore.

You sounded out each letter, then each word, on every page in that 6-page book. You did it all by yourself, with only the tiniest prompts from me. You even stopped to comment on and empathise with the dog in the story with the wounded paw on his way to the vet. You can now READ the words ‘dog’ and ‘vet’ without help from me.

I’ll say it again because I believe they are the most wonderful words that have ever come out of my mouth: YOU CAN READ.

Though you perhaps don’t realise it yet, a whole new world so vast and magical and mind-blowing is opening up before you. Like a stone rolling down a hill or a room with endless doors, the potential within you is gathering speed, waiting to burst forth and transport you to places you could’ve never possibly dreamed of before.

And I am so proud I could burst.

One day soon, when you’ve got your nose in a book and aren’t really listening to me, when you don’t need my help at all, I will recount my life-long love affair with books, starting, as you have, with a simple story about a dog. I will try to convey to you how much comfort, knowledge and confidence I acquired through reading and how it changed me forever. I will remember all the times in my life when reading helped me,  sheltered me, saved me.

Hopefully you won’t pay me any attention because you will be too busy reading.

Welcome to the rabbit hole, my darling girl. I hope you enjoy the free-fall as much as I have.

Cunning linkage

NS September 17th, 2010

Don’t try saying that three times fast.

So here’s what’s been on my mind:

– My oh-so-dreamy, clever boyfriend, Stephen Fry. I love him more and more each time I read something by or about him. And today he won me over once again with the gleeful revelation that he enjoys being hated by the Daily Mail. This line in particular* caught my attention: “I don’t read it of course: like anyone of education or sense or moral decency I wouldn’t have such a purulent creepy production in the house.”

If Stephen ever decides he’d like a baby with his partner and needs to find a womb pod, I’d volunteer mine for free. Anyone who is that hated by the Daily Mail is a hero in my book. I think we all know how much I despise that rag.

– Jonathan Franzen (of The Corrections fame) has apparently kissed and made up with Oprah after their ‘spat’ nine years ago. In a nutshell, Franzen dismissed Oprah’s Book Club as “schmaltzy” and “one-dimensional” and expressed concerns that male readers would be alienated by the Book Club logo because they associate it with ‘chick lit’.

Now, while I can understand Franzen’s reservations about his novel appearing on such a mainstream book list and think his point about reaching male readers is important (women read far more fiction than men), I still bristle at the idea that because it was mainly women buying Oprah’s suggested books that this meant said books would be taken less seriously. The message seemed to be that either a) female readers are not a desirable fan base, b) a book club by and for women is mainly about light, summer reads and not ‘serious’ fiction, i.e. it is all ‘chick lit’, or c) men being turned off from reading a novel based on a sticker on its cover from a (mainly) women’s book club is a problem with the book club itself, not the men’s (or at least the macho cultural idea that a book promoted by women is less-than and inferior to ones widely read by men).

I’m sure purist book snobs will disagree, but I’m glad to see that he’s embracing the publicity and welcoming the legions of readers he will gain from Oprah’s endorsement. Even though I don’t personally watch or even like her show, I do have a lot of respect for some of the things she’s been able to accomplish, the Book Club among them. Anyone who can get people reading deserves praise and kudos as far as I’m concerned.

– Only one newspaper out of the top 50 in the US had any mention of the winners of last night’s WNBA championship on the front page, and that was in the winning team’s home town. Sigh. Women’s sports and respect…that’s a thin leaflet.

– I’m disappointed that an op-ed on closing the wage gap in the Washington Post today by Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Obama and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, did not mention the words mothers, maternity or parent(ing) once. Are there really still people who don’t realise that the gender pay gap is mainly a mothers‘ pay gap?

– The pointy-hatted one is here. Yawn.

Finally, this, which I can’t stop watching and listening to, even if I am more than a little jealous of how fabulous this woman looks throughout her pregnancy. Catchy little ditty though!

Magic- A Belly Grows from The Panic Room Videos on Vimeo.

Enjoy your weekend, folks.

*hat tip to NH

Absorbing

NS August 26th, 2010

Summer draws to a close

Perhaps my introspective period too?

Words don’t flow from me but to me

Books upon books upon books

Words of others, my need

Words of mine, few

Too busy absorbing

like a sponge

The knowledge and the beauty

The wisdom and the love

The skill and the art

of living in the moment

Absorbing words

Absorbing life

Absorbing her before she goes

off to school

No longer my baby

But a girl in uniform

Headed into the brightness

of her future

Destined to absorb

like a sponge

All of the words

that made her mama who she is

Absorbing her smell, her cuddles, her touch

Like a sponge, I soak her up

take her into my pores

The line between mother and child

blurred once more

Independence Day

NS July 5th, 2010

I picked up my bag, kissed my sleeping husband on the cheek and slipped out of the silent house just before 7am. The children were still at their grandparents’ house, there for an overnight stay. No teary goodbyes, no last-minute reminders to NH, no prying of clinging fingers from my legs.

Fresh air and sunshine hit me full in the face and I smiled to myself as I walked towards the station. I would not be returning for 36 hours.

At 1pm (after an unexpected and expensive taxi ride from Hereford) I arrived in Hay-on-Wye, a small village-like town just over the border into Wales, home to nearly 40 second-hand and independent bookshops.

I browsed, I walked, I bought, I read. I had lunch at a table outside a cafe and watched a local parade of children dressed in outfits representing cultures from all over the globe in honour of the World Cup. I had many coffees and a scrumptious ice cream. I dined alone at a gourmet gastropub that evening and listened to the conversations in that wonderful lilting Welsh accent all around me as I pretended to read my book. I read in bed until my eyes were heavy (which was relatively early) and had a full 8 hours sleep, uninterrupted. It was bliss.

And the books. Oh, the books! I couldn’t get enough of them. Second-hand book shops are my biggest love after my family. The musty, ancient, knowing smell, the haphazard organisation, the creaking wooden floors and the wise, silent, grey-haired proprietor watching over his or her precious wares — I love every single aspect of it. If I’d had a car or a pack mule with me, I’d have bought way more than I did. As it was, I had to settle for 3 small paperbacks (one on my current fascination with Marxism, one volume of obscure poetry and one children’s book for Noble Girl) and 1 hardback pregnancy and birth book to add to the collection I am trying to amass so I can lend books to my doula clients.

Visiting a second-hand book shop is like going to see old friends.

In addition to only running three buses a day, which was a bit of a shock to this London girl, the town of Hay is trusting.

It was such a positive, uplifting experience, being in a small, close-knit community again. In fact, the only bit of negativity I ran across the entire weekend was this childish scrap of cruelty tucked between two books.

Poor Jessica Smith. Sounds like she knows a right bitch, with poor grammar and spelling to boot.

On the journey home, which took a little over 7 hours on a Sunday, I met a couple travelling around the UK on their honeymoon. They were from the States too so I wished them a happy Independence Day, seeing as it was the 4th of July. They asked where I was headed and, not lying, I said ‘back down to London’. They assumed I was a fellow travelling tourist and I didn’t correct them. For just a small part one journey, I did feel like a lone tourist, visiting places and spaces in my head I hadn’t explored in a very, very long time.

I put my headphones back on and slid down in my seat, watching the rain lash the windows and sheep frolick in the green hills. I closed my eyes and smiled, needing nothing and no one needing me for just a few hours more.

Happy Independence Day indeed.

Exciting news and a free smell

NS April 14th, 2010

I have a few items of exciting news to share. Well, they’re exciting to me. You? You’ll most likely yawn and say ‘Is that all? This woman needs to get out more.’ And to that I would say you’re right but avoid saying that to my face, especially if I’ve been drinking red wine or whiskey. I’m a pacifist in theory but we all know how theories pan out in practice. Like that communism one that was supposed to make all the world one, big, happy, altruistic family but instead led to people queueing up for miles to get their hands on a McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese, extra onion and pickle, in Red Square. Need I say more?

Anyway.

Exciting item #1: Inspired by Gappy’s post, with accompanying photographs, about her trip to Hay-on-Wye, I’ve booked myself in for a train ride and overnight stay there, a few days after my birthday this summer. I’ve been dreaming of going away on my own just to read and relax and I knew right away that this would be the perfect place to do that. Second-hand book stores in which there are comfy chairs to sit and cats to stroke? I’m sold.

Exciting item #2: I’ve booked into a doula training course for the end of May. After I’ve completed the course I have to attend four births to become fully qualified. I’ve already got one lined up in August (a good friend’s) but need to find three more. If you, or anyone you know, are due this summer and live in the South West London or Surrey area, and are looking for an inexpensive doula, do let me know! I’m quite excited about this new career path, really. Not only will I get to help women with something I’m passionate about but I can earn a more reliable income from home which will take some of the pressure off of needing my writing to become a paid venture right away. A win-win situation, really! Besides which, I think I’ll be good at it and enjoy it.

Exciting item #3: I’ve entered into the Race for Life to benefit Cancer Research UK, in which I will run 5k a the end of July in Clapham. Me. A woman who has never been a runner and hasn’t done any form of exercise (other than walking loads and chasing the children) for a good four years. I’ve been getting up at 6am and running twice a week (and once or twice at the weekend) for a couple weeks now. I’m feeling good about it. If you’re so inclined to want to sponsor me (thus blackmailing me giving me more motivation), there is a button on my sidebar that will take you to my sponsorship page. Watch out, Clapham! There will a woman huffing and puffing her way through your streets and commons come July 31st, and she will likely be tripping over her shoelaces as she Tweets about it at the same time.

Exciting item #4: My first guest post, in which I give my thoughts on the term ‘mummy blogger/blogging’  is up at Gappy’s ‘Single Parenthood. Tales from the front-line’ blog. In five years of blogging I have never been asked to do a guest post so I was very excited and flattered to be invited into someone else’s space, especially by Gappy whom I greatly admire and like immensely. She’s a real talent and a new blogger so if you haven’t already got her on your list of must-reads, go check her out!

And finally, a sniff. I’ve managed to capture my favourite smell (line-dried sheets) and convert it to HTML. If you move your mouse rapidly over the blank space below, the scent should release itself. You’ll probably have to lean in quite close and give your screen a good sniff but it’s there, I promise.

 


 

Lovely, isn’t it?

Photo credit