Wednesday, 31 March 2010
Sunday, 28 March 2010
Hardback or paperback?
Paperback, probably. I have nothing against hardbacks, but I like the noise when a paperback's spine breaks, which you don't really get with hardbacks.
Waterstones, Borders or Amazon?
Borders has folded in the UK, and Amazon scares me with its uncanny ability to make me spend more money than I can spare (although I do use it for the wishlist) so I'm going to say Waterstones. Although my favourite is Foyles in St Pancras station, because it's posh and often full of fashionable Parisians.
Bookmark or dog-ear?
Dog-ear, I have no time for all this bookmarking stuff, and as you'll gather I quite like the look of a bashed up book.
A-Z by author, or A-Z by title, or random?
No order whatsoever, although I do like to keep books with the same colour spines separate.
Keep, throw away, or sell?
Keep it. Keep it forever and never let it get away.
Short story or novel?
Novel - I don't mind the odd short story but prefer something I can sink my teeth into, like a dog with a big fat steak.
Buy or borrow?
I like to underline bits in books that I like (see: Lines I Like) so never really borrow books either...
Tidy ending or cliffhanger?
It depends - I think a cliffhanger is sometimes better than trying to tie off hundreds of loose ends in a few paragraphs right at the end, which can sound a bit rushed.
Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading?
I only really read when I'm commuting, so in the mornings and early evenings. If I'm really into a book, I'll read at night as well.
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. Couldn't put them down.
Favourite children’s book?
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis.
Favourite YA book?
Erm...Twilight, ashamed as I am to admit it.
Favourite book no one has heard of?
Ariosto's Orlando Furioso - it is actually quite famous but I think most people who have heard of it have studied it. It's fantastic, a medieval romp with dragons and wizards and damsels in distress (and damsels in armour killing dragons - I'm no chauvinist!).
Favourite books read last year?
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie blew my tiny little mind.
Favourite book to re-read?
I don't often re-read books. I know it's a waste, but I never enjoy a books as much as I did the first time.
Do you ever smell books?
Yes, always. When I was at university, I studied Magic in the Middle Ages - the books from the occult section in the library smelt like no others I've ever smelt. Because they were old and never opened, not because they were enchanted or anything...
What are you reading right now?
Amnesia Clinic by James Scudamore, I'm just getting into it.
What are you reading next?
I'm unsure, I have many titles to choose from and what I choose will depend on my mood the day I finish this one.
That's me over and out. I do hope you can forgive my laziness, and that everyone had a ruddy good weekend.
Thursday, 18 March 2010
An Evening At The Scala
After my Night of Shame last Saturday, I couldn't shake the hangover until Monday evening. Oh, how I struggled at the office. I drank so much water in an attempt to end the misery than I spent most of my working day in the toilet.
Tuesday was marginally better; I went for a few drinks after work (I know - I never learn!) which were rather funny. We've started recording the funny things we say in a quote book, which makes great reading, but is not for the faint hearted.
Wednesday, however, was very good. I met N after work and we went to see Tom McRae at the Scala. I don't know his music at all - it was N's birthday present - but it was bloody brilliant. I think also, because he's not as well-known as he could be, he's developed a scarily devoted fan base. I'm not joking - it's like they all know each other - they know when to sing along and when not to, they have little jokes with him and all sorts. The only downer was that we went for an all-you-can-eat buffet meal at Kitchin beforehand, which limited movement later. Luckily, we found a perfect spot right at the front of the top balcony - meaning we could see everything. I felt like Prince William, looking down on the paupers squashed in below. I really like the Scala for that reason; it's full of corridors and stairs and balconies, it's quite easy to get lost in. One of my favourite gig venues I think. Especially the mosaic floors in the stairwells.
Thursday was a lowpoint - despite not drinking on Wednesday, I felt bloody awful all morning. I was struggling so much I went home from work, and missed the Fulham vs Juventus game that everyone's talking about. My dad says it was the "best atmosphere he's ever seen at Craven Cottage". N was 'so happy he felt dizzy'. I was at home alone. HOW IS THIS FAIR? I am so full of regret. And woe, I am also full of WOE. Still, well done Fulham for reaching the quarter finals. C'mon you whites!
I ended up taking Friday off too (although this was less because of my cold and more because of the intense depression missing Thursday's game put me in).
So it's been a week of highs and lows. I'm in Italy next week, with work, so I'm off to buy some new stuff to wear now.
I hope everyone has a great weekend!
Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Sunday, 14 March 2010
I woke up this morning covered in mud. My head was throbbing and I appear to have bruised my rib. A morning of toilet hugging began.
I'm no stranger to hangovers, but this one's a bit of a brute. What makes it worse is that I remember very little. Most of the night is a complete blank. In the few episodes I do recall I'm sitting on the sofa, making pleasant small talk with one of N's friends. However, it's unlikely that I continued in this vein for the rest of the night - in fact I know I didn't. I know this because I woke up to three texts telling me how 'awesome', 'on form' and 'sweaty' I was. These aren't adjectives you'd use to describe my usual, softly-spoken, 'I'm going to chat in the kitchen' party persona, so I imagine I was making a massive arse out of myself. N explained why I was covered in mud - in the 20 second walk from a cab to his front door I managed to fall in a ditch. This could also explain the rib. The Jack Daniels is accountable for the headache and toilet-hugging.
It's a horribly uncomfortable feeling this - I have absolutely no idea what I was doing and I know that in a few hours the photos will start appearing on Facebook. I'll have to wait until then to find out what level of foolishness my behaviour reached, and swiftly detag.
Friday, 12 March 2010
I should admit that 'just finished' is a bit of a lie, I finished it about a week ago and am already halfway through my bloody brilliant new book.
I can't remember for the life of me where I heard about the Masque of the Red Death. I do know it was referred to in a book, a reference that flew unimpeded straight over my head. To ensure I grasped the full meaning of the sentence, I looked it up and thought "Hang on one minute - that's sounds a bit interesting!" and so added it to my list of books for 2010. Being a man of a short attention span, I didn't really read into it too much and as such I was unaware that this is a book of short stories. This is a good thing; had I known, I probably wouldn't have picked it up. I've never really been a big reader of short stories, and the words "And Other Stories/Tales etc" normally cause me to put the book back on the shelf and walk on by. I like to get into a story you see, to get to know people. However, as I said, it was a good thing I didn't know, because it meant I gave the book a chance.
And it was worth it, I'm pleased. Poe is obviously a rather large deal in American literature, and it's not hard to see why - the stories were wickedly gothic, twisted and dark, which is just how I like it. They do seem to follow a quite rigid, almost predictable formula*, but I suppose the man knew his art and his audience and, well, if it ain't broke - don't fix it.
- Beginning - "you won't believe me/I'm mad"
- Middle - "Something funny's going on here old chum...events have taken a rather odd turn!"
- End - someone dies.
They don't all follow this pattern, and I like I said I do understand that this has a purpose; each piece is finely tuned to shock or to spook, but after a few stories it had almost the opposite effect - I started to feel like I knew what was coming. I think I read, however, that at least some of them were originally published in magazines and I reckon that if you were reading them monthly or quarterly this wouldn't be a problem - it's because I was reading each one immediately after finishing another that I became acclimatised to Poe's writing style.
I won't bore you with all of the stories, but here's my top three:
- The Mask of the Red Death - while a plague ravages his country, a nobleman locks himelf and his friends in his castle for a giant rave up. However, bricks and mortar can't stop the Red Death, and events take a worrying turn. There's also a very odd clock.
- The Pit & The Pendulum - a prisoner is tormented by the clerics of the Inquisition who use a series of imaginative methods of torture in attempts to kill him. One of the stories that breaks free from the formula above, but is spooky nonetheless.
- The Cask of Amontillado - lulls you into such a false sense of security you forget the beginning, and are shocked by the ending.
Overall I'd say this was a rather enjoyable read. I like most things gothic, Poe is obviously a master craftsman and I got to experience a form of prose I wouldn't normally consider. However, I'm heading back to not-so-short stories for a while now, I need something juicy to get my teeth into.
Now reading: Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Thursday, 11 March 2010
...and most of all, I'd like to thank Kisekae @ Diary of a Doll - not just for passing on the love, but also for introducing me to the mad world of chatroulette, which has provided much merriment since I first discovered it through her blog.
And, following her lead, I'm going to list 10 things that make me happy;
1. GIVING PEOPLE NICKNAMES. If I meet someone and we become friends it's rare that I'll call them by their first names. Most of the people close to me have extra special names, just for them. These nicknames might not make the people they're intended for that happy, but it's all in the good name of Banter, and thus excusable.
2. VIOLINS. It doesn't matter what genre - play me a song with a violin solo in it and the chances are I'll play it on the Pod for weeks. I'm not sure where this started - I've never played a violin, it just strikes a chord (good one...) with me that other instruments don't. Patrick Wolf's Damaris, for example, is currently my most played song, followed closely by the Langley Sisters' Sing for My Supper.
3. WAKING UP EARLY, really early, and realising I can go back to sleep for ages before I have to drag myself up. Alas, this happens rarely these days - it's a wonder I ever make it into work on time (despite having my alarm go off every ten minutes from six until half seven...)
God this is hard. I'm struggling at four - does that make me a miserable person?
4. GOOD BOOKS. The books that make you look forward to the long commute, or the ones you can't put down when you get home, and especially the ones that colour the way you look at the world after finishing them.
5. DECEMBER. It's my birthday, and everyone is full to the brim with festive cheer. It gets dark early, which I like, and everything is sparkly. This is a good month.
6. STRONG COFFEE. Without it I'd barely be able to function, and it tastes so nice...
7. STRANGERS FINDING THE SAME THING FUNNY. Recently I was on a train, a late train back from the City. The man sitting opposite me was dead to the world, snoring like nothing I've ever heard before. Out. Of. This. World. At first it really grated on me, I considered moving seats. But then I caught the eye of the person sitting next to him. She was trying to stifle a laugh. Seeing that put my irritation into perspective, and by the next station I was caught in a giggle loop.
8. POINTY SHOES. I love them. My brother bought me a shiny black pair for Christmas, and although they literally cut my ankles to pieces I don't care. They look to chuffing cool for that to matter.
9. BUSY PLACES FULL OF PEOPLE. In particular, I love stations. Big stations, like Kings Cross and Paddington. Not because I'm a trainspotter, honest, but because of all the different people going their different ways, journeys starting, ending or just continuing. I could sit in a station for ages and people watch.
10. SHARING A HANGOVER. There's a unique bond created by two or more people suffering at the same time after a night of excess. At university we'd gather round the tiny TV and watch T4 over a massive fry-up and tea by the gallon, piecing the night together with photos and text messages to supplement the little we could actually remember. It's even funnier if there's a journey involved.
So, they are my ten happy thoughts for today. I hope they're not too bizarre. I'd now like to pass this little ray of happiness onto the following:
London Girl @ London Town & Me - on a quest to make London smile, one hug-needing stranger at a time (although she's literally just posted a 'things that make me happy' post. Spoil sport).
Patti @ For When My Head Gets Full. - who has a lot to be happy about now she's off for like, ages...?
Monday, 8 March 2010
I found myself in an unusually charitable mood this evening, so when N picked me up from the station after work, I suggested we go out for a bite to eat. He chose an Italian down the road. We went in, were shown to our table and ordered our drinks. All was going swimmingly - I even bumped into a friend in there, which made me feel like I was in Cheers.
The waitress, a friendly Italian woman, left it just the right amount of time before asking whether we were ready to order our food. The starters were ordered without a hitch. For my mains, I chose an unadventurous Spaghetti Carbonara - I was in the mood for something simple. N, however, wasn't;
"Can I have the pasta marinara..."
'Good choice,' I thought - but alas, there was more.
"...but I'd like a carbonara sauce instead of the tomato sauce please."
The waitress was speechless - and it wasn't her level of English, which was impeccable - nothing could have prepared her for this. I sat there in silence, aghast. It got worse. She had to check with the chef. Check. With the chef. I implored N to chose one, or the other, and not to insist on this mash-up, but he was adamant. She was gone for what seemed like ages - a time probably spent forcing the chef to cast aside his culinary pretentions and cook whatever pig's swill this mad customer wanted. She came back to tell us that the chef could prepare the meal but...wait for it...he wanted us to know he would not be held responsible for how it might taste. Too right - if my career was built on cooking good meals for customers, I'd have N banned from my restaurant and distance myself as much as humanly possible from his insane gastronomic inventions. The meal arrived and N ate it. He made it out it was delicious, but I'm not sure I believe him.
The situation exposed a difference between us - I am of the opinion that menus are not lists to mix and match with. Of course if you have an allergy or other dietary requirement, or would like a meal without mushrooms, for example, go for it. But I draw the line at pick n' mix pasta. If someone has gone to the trouble of creating a menu of fine food - with ingredients carefully selected and included in the right proportions, who are we to waltz in and crap all over it? Would it not be more...proper to choose one of the options offered? (Proper - another word I love. Proper). Surely that's part of the experience of eating out?
N, however, is of an entirely different viewpoint, i.e. you're paying for the meal, so you should be able to have exactly what you want. While I do see some reasoning behind this, I refuse to change my allegiance. I will forever belong to the 'You-get-what-you're-given Camp'.
I'd be interested to know whether I'm alone in this. Am I being a food snob? Should I try to ditch this reliance on the menu and create-my-own?
Sunday, 7 March 2010
I've not been exceptionally busy, so I don't really know where this has come from. Perhaps it's a symptom of growing up. Quite a lot of the blogs I read have touched on nostalgia of late, and it's got me thinking. Have I left my best years behind? Am I passed my peak?
I remember hearing my dad complain that there didn't seem to be as much time between Christmasses and birthdays as there used to be, and dreading the day it happened to me. Well, I think it's here. I think I'm now officially grown up and my hopes of being a real life Peter Pan are crushed. Weeks and months are flying by, bringing with them new worries linked to all the responsibilities of my adult life, more grey hairs and the awful realisation that I'll never, just never, be able to pull off an Emo haircut.
However, I refuse to let the rest of my time, no matter how fast it's moving, be spent looking back. I did have immense amounts of fun at uni, and when I lived in Italy, and at school even - but did I have more fun then than I do now? I'm not convinced that I did - in fact, my nostalgic daydreams are often tinged with a kind of guilt or regret at opportunities missed or difficult situations.
True, I don't have a collection of traffic cones in my living room anymore, and my time spent frolicking under the Meditteranean sun is well and truly over - but at the same time I don't have to lie to people about who I am now, I do tend to remember nights out and don't need a cigarette to wake me up in the morning. My early twenties were brilliant, but I'm not sad to see them go. They both taught me and amused me, and thanks to those hectic, fast-living years I'm going into my late twenties a more sane, sorted and stable person than I've ever been before.
So here's to growing old disgracefully - without an emo haircut.