Tag Archives: reading

Resting, Reading and Recuperating

One of the horrors of old age that I have observed is that at a certain stage people stop reading. My father, despite everything, is still hanging in there. He’s never been a massive reader but he’s always done crosswords and puzzles and, although they may be getting simpler, he’s still doing them. This, I feel, is a good thing.

Ever since I had tonsillitis. in around 1964, and my mother suggested reading as a hobby, I have been a lost cause. She bought me a copy of Biggles of The Special Air Police and the rest is history.

I still have the book – it’s within feet of me as we speak. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if she’d bought Jane Eyre, as she later did. Would I have grown into a sophisticated professor of English Literature? Or would I have given up reading? I suspect the latter. Having been persuaded to read several classics in my early reading career I then gave them up until recently when I thought I should give them another try.

It didn’t really work out well. You may have seen my comments on this previously – that Don Quixote would be much better if it was half as long and had a murder on the first page, preferably Don Quixote himself. My feeling on a number of other classics is similar.

The nearest I’ve been to a classic in the last twelve months is  John Buchan. I’ve managed The Thirty-Nine Steps, Greenmantle, Mr Standfast and The Three Hostages but I’m having a rest for now. There comes a time when casual racism wears a bit thin, even if it is authentic contemporary racism.

I moved on to Dr Thorndyke but after four of them I started searching around for some variety. Having read a book on Q Ships I’m now on Nature Cure by Richard Mabey.  Clare Pooley recommended it to me when I came out of hospital. I broke one of my normal rules and paid £4.99 for a Kindle edition, but it’s been worthwhile.

Clearly the man is marching to a different drummer, even when he isn’t suffering from depression, but it’s a relaxing and informative read. I looked forward to his account of male urology, as this is one of the points where our lives converge. He likens it to a mythical linking of his internal water with the water of the Fens. That’s why he’s known as an elegant and spiritual writer.

I have never thought of it as mystical in any of my three stays in Male Urology, I just use it as a source of broad humour. My internal water is linked to the water in my kettle.

That’s why I’m not known as an elegant and spiritual writer.

Finally,  moving back to the point. It’s surprising how much energy it takes to read and concentrate. I struggled in the days after leaving hospital, and I’m still not fully back in the swing of things. With the sort of time I’ve had on my hands recently I should have seen Nature Cure off in short order, probably in a day. It’s only 240 pages in the paper edition, which is not a long book.

I didn’t have the energy to start it for a couple of days and I’ve been doing a section each day. I still have a bit left, though to be honest I’m now able to read faster and I’m just trying to prolong the pleasure of reading.  I’m doing puzzles now and looking at the web, though still not up to full speed.

Has anybody else noticed that reading can be such an effort? Or am I just getting old?



Time to Sit

I’m having a rest now and feeling virtuous. This really should be the action of a man who has filled his day with industry and is now taking a well-earned rest after a hectic day of cooking, shopping, polishing, dusting, hoovering, gardening…

I’ll stop there. Just thinking about it makes me feel tired.

In reality I dropped Julia off at work, came home, went back to bed, read more of The Most Perfect Thing, wondered why the author decided to have a quick pop at battery cages (as so many people do), then cooked three fish pies, two vegetable curries and Sheep’s Hearts with Plums.

I’m just starting to get my head round tonight’s tea – carrot, cabbage, broccoli, sweet potato (for the topping)- that should about do. I already have onions, peas, sweetcorn and mushrooms in the pie. It’s not easy, this ten a day.

Just about to start reading  A Corner of a Foreign Field. Guess what it’s about? Yes, war poetry, how original. It looks quite good, with some poems I’ve not seen before, so I’m looking forward to it. It cost £2.50 from a charity shop in Whitby on Friday. I’m telling Julia it’s part of an economy book project I’m doing for the blog.

She may believe me…



In praise of bloggers

On Sunday, as I was leaving the house for my weekly of watching the laundry turn round in a machine I grabbed a book. I tend to read books when I’m out because I’m still slightly ashamed of having a Kindle.

I thought I was grabbing Bill Bryson’s One Summer: America 1927.  I’ve had it for a couple of years and thought it was time I got round to it. I found, on settling to read, that I’d actually picked up a copy of A Short History of Nearly Everything by the same man. I didn’t even know I had that and judging by the state of it I’ve had it knocking around for a while – probably since the 2004 publication date.

Now, this isn’t an advert for Bill Bryson – he’s famous enough, successful enough, and probably rich enough without any input from me. His name came up earlier today when I was commenting on another blog and I thought I might use him as the subject for this one. Thank you to Derrick J Knight for the inspiration..

The last Bill Bryson book I actually bought was The Road to Little Dribbling. It’s a book that purports to be a journey through the UK some years after his Notes from a Small Island. It’s an easy read with much humour and some interesting detail. However, he’s definitely grown more curmudgeonly over the years, even a little peevish, and I wasn’t entirely comfortable with some of the incidents he writes about.

Then there’s the question of geographical coverage.

As far as the North of England goes the coverage is dour and the coverage of Scotland is positively miserly. Both, I suppose, are in line with geographical stereotypes. There’s a great condensation of this book in The Guardian.

Their one line synopsis is ‘Stonehenge cost an extortionate £12.80 – and most of the stones had fallen over’

Meanwhile, back at the other book, it’s proving to be a bit longer than the word “short” would imply. Over 500 pages in fact. It’s also, according to various reviews, not always accurate. I’m getting round the first part with determination, and dealing with the second part by forgetting most of what I read as it comes along. View my mind, if you will, as a short bookshelf: when you put something on at one end something else falls off the other.  I can’t take too much in about the origin of life and sub-atomic particles in case I forget how to breathe.

So, for me, it’s DJK all the way. True, if he moves any further south he’s have to write in French,  but apart from that he’s as good as BIll Bryson in every way, apart from the two where he beats him hands down. One is that he comes in easily readable instalments, and the other is (at the risk of sounding like Bill Bryson), is that he is free.

There are other bloggers out there that I could say much the same about, and one day I will, but for today it was DJK and Bryson that coincided – let’s see what tomorrow will bring.

For reasons why I don’t abbreviate to Bill Bryson to BB, see here.









The World Turned Upside Down

I was a bit rushed yesterday, so sorry about forgetting the title. It won’t happen again.

The big news is that as my swollen finger turned black I decided that it was time to join the number of people who treat the Accident and Emergency Department as a drop in centre. My reasoning was that they’d be empty on a Monday night, and as my doctor or the drop in centre would send me for an X-ray anyway I may as well cut out some of the waiting. Cynical? Yes. Good time management? Also yes.

So, there I was, with Neil Back talking about rugby on wide-screen TV. If this was a rugby blog I’d expand on this to tell you why I consider him a role model. But it isn’t, so I won’t. There were two people in with police escorts (one a rambling drunk and one a rambling drunk with a bare torso) and a group of lads who should probably have had one, plus the general mix of bewildered-looking people with limps, pained expressions and varied degrees of impatience.

I had a couple of books with me, and managed half of On Guerrilla Gardening by Richard Reynolds in the time I was there, making it time well spent. He has a very easy style and I may well write a review later, particularly as he mentions Gerrard Winstanley, one of my favourite historical figures.

Here’s a picture to be going on with. When this blog link appears on Twitter it always looks better with a picture.


Anyway, to cut a long story short, after explanation, manipulation, phlebotomy and a couple of X-rays it turns out that the reason for the debilitating pain, the swelling, the blackening and the embarrassing cries I emit when shaking hands is a total lack of cartilage in the knuckle of one finger. I’m guessing that it’s not a very big bit of cartilage, so I’m feeling like a complete wimp. In my defence I must point out that it’s not just arthritis, but man arthritis, which is a lot worse.

When I finally got to the farm today it was raining and a man came to call.

“Hello,” he said, “I’m from the Council…”

To be continued