Books, Life

books. packing. travel. decisions

Next week, I return to Eastern Europe for five months. I want to pack as simply as possible. And by that I mean ‘pack as many books as I can possibly jam into my bags’.

Here’s a handy little guide for you so that you too can fill your bags with as many books as possible …

i’ve done this before #noragrats
*** DISCLAMIER ***
I know, I know – just take a kindle, you can take hundreds of books that way. Sure. Do that. I have done and will do … but I also take physical books with me.  BECAUSE I HAVE TO OKAY???

HOW MUCH SPACE DO I HAVE?

  • a carry on case
  • a laptop bag

CRITERIA:

THE BOOK MUST NOT BE A STOOPID CHOICE

Weight and space are limited in your bag, so you need to take books that will be useful, that you can reread or that will take absolute yonks to consume.

For this reason, I’m taking two books on teaching and grammar and a book with creative writing exercises.

THE BOOK MUST NOT BE TOO HEAVY

… or it can be. (Rules are made to be broken, or so the saying goes.) I’m taking a 500+ page hardback about Calvinism with me. I’ve been wanting to read it for years and now is the time.

But – if you can – try and avoid hardbacks. If the book is thick – having it in paperback could be the way to go. I’m doing this too – taking The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore with me (600+ pages. Also I’ve just sniffed them and is there anything better than the smell of books?)

i just REALLY love books, okay?

THE BOOK MUST NOT BE PRICELESS

though i’ve just learned that i’m missing one so OOPS

Travelling with your books is dangerous – for the books, at least. Though you try your very best to keep them in a pristine condition … it’s quite impossible sometimes.

So choose a book you’re not happy to be battered, but you’ll at least be okay with it turning up a little worse for wear.

I’m bringing a paperback set of the Pit Dragon Chronicles by Jane Yolen. I paid a dollar a piece for them so if they get a little worn, I shan’t be too concerned.

THE BOOK MUST BE A HEYER

Because OBVIOUSLY.

I nearly considered leaving her behind as I have many on my kindle HOWEVER … this moment of profound foolishness has since passed and I’m taking Frederica with me. (Cotillion may slip in or replace it, I’m not sure.)


I may not actually finish all these books – I will be teaching, after all, and life will be moderately busy. But having my books about me is the same as being surrounded by friends. And I adore my friends.

Also, I’ll be taking my Bible, a book I borrowed from someone, and a few notebooks.

… I don’t have a problem. I just have priorities. And who needs clothes anyway?

Life

2018 – not all the things but some of them

I haven’t finished a Dickens yet but I’m on the way. I’m a couple of chapters in and actually … I’m really enjoying it. Dickens writes well – who knew? 

(Me. I should have done.)

travel

  • Canada – came home in July
  • England – home
  • Moldova – taught for three months
  • Various Airports – Vienna, Frankfurt etc
  • Gotham – not yET BECAUSE 1) HOW DANGEROUS WOULD THAT BE AND ALSO 2) IT’S FICTIONAL. LIFE IS HARD.

writing

HAHAHAHAHA.

It has been a bad year for my writing, to be honest. No books have been finished. A handful of short stories have been completed. One or two have been submitted to competitions. (One honourable mention, but that was all.)

In short: for someone who considers herself to be a writer … I’ve done a poor job of being one.

But on the plus side, I’ve really started to deep dive into the ‘behind the scenes of writing’. Usually, I just go by instinct: sit down, and write. BOOM! Story done. (Or not.) But now … I’m really pondering what goes on with characters, with plot, heck – even with grammar. It’s really fascinating and for the first time in a long time I’m getting excited about writing.

I’ve always been excited about stories and consuming them but writing? Yeah. I’m a bit chuffed and looking forward to what I can do in the New Year.

reading

This was always going to be more successful than my writing. Goodreads lists only a fraction of what I’ve actually read. I’m kind of awful that way.

I’ve read a lot more factual books this year – and I’m glad that I did. Particular highlights were a book on the history of China and a history of eclipses (I really enjoyed that one!)

personal

  • haven’t solved any murders
  • haven’t captured a dragon (and trained it. obvs)
  • haven’t fulfilled my destiny and brought about MAJOR prison reform (I shouldn’t have read Narconomics, should I? NO RAGRATS!)
  • haven’t learned how to function without spell check
  • haven’t become a black belt in ballroom dancing (this was never an ambition but I haven’t done it so I thought I should list it here.)

what i hope for the next year …

  • more writing projects completed (maybe a novel! Maybe several short stories!)
  • finish teaching in Moldova
  • find a job back home (post-Brexit BAHAHAHAHA. Oh gosh. So doomed.)
  • learn how to say ‘no’ to things (it’s harder than you’d think.)
  • more blog posts per month

happy reading, God bless, and happy new year, everyone!

also, if anyone has read a dickens this year then … please let me know which one it was and what did you think and what was your favourite quote etc etc ALSO HOW WAS YOUR YEAR?????

I think I just rambled, Life

things that didn’t happen on my adventure

I think I did something wrong on my last adventure. According to my extensive research, I should have, at the very least, stumbled across a puzzle which would have led to a treasure map which would, in turn, have led me to El Dorado. This … did not happen.

THERE WERE NO DEAD BODIES

I’m not really going to complain about this, though my readings in the world of Elizabeth Peters, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy L Sayers led me to conclude that it was an inevitable fact of life:

  • Gravity: what goes up must come down.
  • Life: you live, you find a dead body, you solve a murder mystery.

Nope. Didn’t happen.

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I saw a dead groundhog though. It was on a road. The poor thing was squished. The butler probably did it.

THERE WAS NO WHISKING OFF INTO ANOTHER DIMENSION

There was no Narnia hidden in a wardrobe. Or even a kitchen cupboard. To be honest, Canada had quite enough snow to make you think ‘oh my gosh someone kill the evil witch already IT’S SO COLD’ but alas, there were no furniture gateways into other worlds.

This would probably be a good thing. In stories, what you’re supposed to do sort of falls into your lap. In actual reality, you’d probably end up working as a maid in a tavern while the prince you were supposed to save was slain by the evil tyrant you were supposed to defeat.

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THERE WAS NO ROMANTIC SUB-PLOT

There was no pirate, lumberjack, detective, prince, villain-waiting-to-be-saved-by-the-love-of-a-good-woman, tormented artist, time traveler, or dinosaur trainer to sweep me off my feet.

I know.

Life is tough.

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I started to develop the sneaking suspicion that book heroes (*cough* clichés *cough*) don’t actually translate well to real life. For a bookworm, this is a hard – nay, DEVASTATING –  truth to face. This could mean that there are no Radcliff Emersons, Heyer leads, or Mr. Rochesters about.

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But … that’s okay. It’s all okay – I didn’t solve a murder mystery. I didn’t fall into another world. I didn’t get swept off my feet by a brooding hero.

Some adventures are full to the bursting with startling events, and quick things that trip over themselves in their haste to happen (if it doesn’t rain, it pours).

… but some adventures are quiet, where no big earth-shattering events occur, but where subtle little things steal in unannounced, one after the other, building up and up and up until you look back and think yes, what an adventure that was.

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Books

there were no dragon illustrations

Glorious news! I can now spell ‘prejudice’ without the help of spell check. It – and this will blow your mind – doesn’t have two d’s.

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ALICE IN WONDERLAND

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I can’t read Alice In Wonderland right now – the artwork in my library edition is off-putting.

It’s just not pretty and my books must have:

  • epic dragon illustrations
  • pretty illustrations
  • no illustrations

… but I’m going to push through. Probably. Or I’ll put it on my kindle and read it without any drawings whatsoever.

SHADOWSONG

30694168.jpgOnce upon a time, I read Wintersong. The front cover was pretty. The sequel has just landed in my kindle because I rather thought that though I disliked the first quite intensely, it made me think about validation and where we draw it from.

Perhaps this sequel would give me an issue to ponder, was my line of thinking. But then I read the introduction and it had a trigger warning for suicide ideation, and said that this book was the author dealing with her monsters.

It’s not that I have anything against authors fighting their demons through the written word, it’s just that I never think ‘well, gee, let me read about someone fighting their demons in a book duology that I liked just as much as I like liver and onions.’

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LADY JANE GREY: NINE DAY QUEEN OF ENGLAND

388656Fun fact: I once saw the back of the author’s head. (It was, I rush to assure you, attached to the rest of her body.)

Now, I have a reread of My Lady Jane planned for this year, but it is comparatively flippant to the actual reality. (Flippant, but hysterically funny.)

I rather hoped the ending would change, but apparently history is set in stone and you can’t change it.

Lady Jane’s letter to her sister had a quote that quite struck me:

‘Live still to die … and trust not that the tenderness of your age shall lengthen your life; for as soon (if God call) goeth the young as the old: and labour always to learn to die …

She was sixteen years old, and that letter was the last she ever wrote.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice before. Yes, yes – I’ve watched the movies, the T.V shows … all of that jazz, but I’ve never read the actual book.

But it has now been consumed, and it is with great astonishment that I discovered that it was quite wonderful. Just as good as everyone said it was. I am now eating enormous quantities of humble pie.

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Behold, my pride – it has toppled! My years of prejudice have taken a bruising fall! And yes, I shall admit it: Mr. Darcy is very romantic.

(Is it better than Georgette Heyer’s books though? Hmm …)

Books

traumatised by books

Words are powerful. Books are powerful. (I would love to say that’s the reason I called my blog ‘of words and books’ but it isn’t; I was just trying to keep my bases covered. I know. Genius.) They can give hope, inspire us, change us, aid us in rising above the ordinary to perform the extraordinary.

They can also install a crippling – crippling! – fear of everyday objects.

THE WITCH

My uncle and aunt’s copy of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a well-worn and battered paperback. I read it, in the quiet, sitting on the attic stairs. A dedicated bookworm, even at a young age.

Was I entranced? Did I fall in love with Narnia and the adventures of the Pevensie siblings? I’m not sure. I grew fascinated with Turkish Delight, I remember that. I still am a little.

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i mean, i wouldn’t betray my siblings for it, but still

Usually, I think, after reading about Narnia, you’d want to open every wardrobe door ever. Just in case. Just to see. You’d hold your breath a little and reach in, past the coats … just to make sure. Maybe, just maybe, adventure was waiting for you, just beyond your fingertips.

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But me? OH HECK NO.

Coming into the room? The doors are open?! Close them. You know. Just in case.

Open the doors to retrieve clothing? Better make sure those doors are closed.

Going to bed? CLOSE DEM DOORS!

The illustrations … they’ve stuck with me too

I can still almost see what I feared the most – the White Witch, bursting through my white wardrobe doors on a chariot drawn by snarling creatures, arm raised with whip in hand, her expression most terrible.

I thought she was waiting behind the wardrobe. Waiting for me to forget to close the doors. Waiting for that sliver of light to appear. Waiting for me.

So the wardrobe doors were shut, lest worlds seep through and threaten my very existence.

THE CORPSE

One would think that one fear from the literary realm would be enough; one burden to haunt a little girl was sufficient. An active imagination is somewhat of a curse and a blessing … and occasionally a hinderance to visiting the bathroom.

At night, I wasn’t afraid of the toilet, or of the windowsill, or of the mirror from which my dark reflection would glance back. But rather, what might be laid out in the bath, waiting for me, morgue blue, eyes wide, and really quite dead.

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As the audiobook was playing, I’d stare at this cassette cover. Slowly, a fear of the possible contents of a bath sprung forth

Whose Body? is a delightful book – I’ve since reread it. I wasn’t terrified in the least. But to a young girl who listens avidly as an innocent person walks into their bathroom and discovers a A RANDOM CORPSE IN THEIR BATHTUB … well it didn’t take long to connect the dots.

  • My house had a bath
  • My house had a roof
  • Ergo, my house could have a corpse

[LOGIC STRIKES AGAIN!]

It was terrifying. Answering the call of nature at night became a fraught experience. Even when it wasn’t night-time, a suspicious glance at the bath first just had to be given. To make sure, you know.

I knew how it could be done, you see. Someone could – quite legitimately – drag a corpse over the rooftops and dispose of it in our tub: they would, perhaps, start at our next door neighbour’s roof with the body and then jump across to our’s. Then with gymnastics worthy of an Olympian, they’d climb through the narrow slit of the bathroom window with the body and deposit the body in our bath.

And there I would find it.

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Gradually I grew up and forgot to be afraid, but I shan’t forget those nighttime trips and those quick, fearing glances at the bathtub, and that moment when you’d hopped into bed, well you’d better get out again – the wardrobe doors were cracked slightly open.

Sticks and stones may break bones, but words will invoke wardrobes and bathtubs and they will always haunt you.

Or at least, they will until childhood slips away little by little.