Judging Books by Covers, & Why Duvets Are the Blankets of Satan

2016-01-03 08.42.49

The latest addition to the mug family: would you have a cuppa there??

Starting 2016 with two 12 hour days has its stormy and silver sides: up til now, I’ve not written more than a paragraph that wasn’t client notes. On the silver, I’m employed in a job I enjoy. That wasn’t the case for approximately 23 years of my working life.

This year I hope to celebrate 30 years in GreenandPleasantLand. I’m still discovering new British words and phrases: for example, did you know that “Rosy Lee” is Cockney rhyming slang for “cup of tea”?

But, why oh why oh why – new year, same whinging me – can I not get the hang of 1) switches on wall sockets, in particular, the ones which help operate kettles, and 2) the damnation that is duvet covers?

A bed, Castle Howard, Sept 2015. I bet the owners don't piss about with duvets.

A bed, Castle Howard, Sept 2015. I bet the owners don’t piss about with duvets.

Get a blanket, Britain. Better yet, several. It is highly embarrassing that at my relatively advanced age, I cannot successfully negotiate a duvet into a duvet cover. It took me three tries to get a blasted duvet into its benighted cover yesterday, and even then it looked lumpy, and kind of, well, stupid.

As for kettles, I’m fine with ones which are known and loved (1). Faced with a new kettle, particularly in a strange kitchen (2), I inevitably switch on the kettle, but not the wall socket. Result: no tea (the horror, the horror!) Further result, I become convinced I haven’t switched the spocking kettle on properly, so I then switch the thing off. Result: no cup of tea. And on and on, into exhausted, befuddled, uncaffeinated abysses I hurtle, til some clever clogs who lives or works there sorts it it.

As for books and covers, this year I was lucky to receive three books for Christmas, plus two lovely notebooks. I do like a nice notebook, and I’m sufficiently American – that is to say, sentimental – to write on the first page who gave it to me, and when.

The hare one is made for the Woodland Trust; I’m not sure about the butterfly notebook:

Lovely notebooks for Christmas 2015, to be filled - I hope - by or before Crimbo 2016

Lovely notebooks for Christmas 2015, to be filled – I hope – by or before Crimbo 2016

As for the books, they are “The Ladybird Book of Mindfulness”, one of the adult Ladybird books which have recently hit the bookshops; “A Spool of Blue Thread” by Anne Tyler, and “84 Charing Cross Road” by Helene Hanff. “84” was originally published in 1971. The version I have is a Virago Press hardback.

It is a gorgeous book, so beautiful that Helene Hanff – a bibiliophile if ever there was one – would be proud to own it, and would have written a letter to Frank Doel of Marks & Co., Booksellers, in a flurry of literate excitement.


A shelfette of lovely books

A shelfette of lovely books

I can already recommend “84 Charing Cross Road”, if like me you enjoy reading lively letters between writers and book lovers. “The Ladybird Book of Mindfulness” is a riot: my favourite section so far is about someone achieving “inner peace – even though he has been kidnapped by swans”. The illustrations remind me of the “Dick, Jane and Sally” books of my childhood, including the hated “Think and Do” series.

Meanwhile, on my Kindle, I have several books, including “Messandrierre” by Angela Wren. It’s a mystery set in France, a country Angela knows extremely well. I had the pleasure of listening to her read out sections of this novel at a local writers’ group we both attend, so I’m looking forward to reading the completed book.

Also in the e-book queue are “Pagan Dreaming” by Nimue Brown. A complete departure from so-called “dream dictionaries”, it instead looks at sleep, dreams and rest from many different, thoughtful angles. Then there’s “The Heart of Life”, a book about health and shamanism by Jez Hughes, and “Heval: A Soldier’s Account of the War on Islamic State” by Jorgen Nicolai, which should be fascinating and informative.

I need to spend more time this year reading on the settee, and in bed, and less time worrying about switches, duvets, and work. Not only is reading good for my mental health, it’s a great excuse to put the kettle on.

Our kettle, which I know how to switch on.


Mug, with strange pencil topper: rhino? with a mane??

Mug, with strange pencil topper: rhino? with a mane??

(1) What, doesn’t everyone love their kettle?
(2) As in, unfamiliar. Our kitchen is frequently strange, mainly because I hang out there a lot.


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