I ♥ books…

This isn’t news, but it struck me on the tube this morning just how much I love to have my nose stuck in a good book. Today I got a seat immediately (a bonus of running late), opened up a brand new book – the last of the gorgeous books – and got stuck in.

Immediately, I was in heaven. The pages felt just as the pages of a book ought to – heavy, textured, full of promise; the jacket was firm in my hands; the story unfolded before of my eyes…84 Charing Cross Road has been on my ‘to read’ list for a good number of years, and because it was the only one of the pretty books I’d come across before, I’d left it till last. I’m barely 30 pages in, but it’s a beautiful tale told simply via correspondence, I’ll probably review it properly when I’m done.

Leaving my seat in something of a daze at Baker St (always a sure sign that I’ve been completely immersed) I congratulated myself on having such a nice way to spend 20 minutes at the start of the day. Making myself read ‘proper’ books on the tube as opposed to trashy free papers was my advent mission the year before last and as a general rule I’ve stuck to it. Without this 40 minute daily haven, I’d probably end up reading next to nothing which would be a travesty. [My handbags therefore always have to be large enough to hold a book comfortably, I couldn’t bear to be stuck somewhere with nothing to read!]

It’s not just the act of reading I love, it’s the books themselves. One of the reasons I’ve immediately connected with today’s new read is that it’s the tale of an American woman searching out specific editions of books. The discovery of beautiful publications sends her into ecstasy. Of one first edition, she writes:

The Newman arrived almost a week ago and I’m just beginning to recover. I keep it on the table with me all day, every now and then I stop typing and reach over and touch it. Not because it’s a first edition; I just never saw a book so beautiful. I feel vaguely guilty about owning it. All that gleaming leather and gold stamping and beautiful type belongs in the pine-panelled library of an English country home; it wants to be read by the fire in a gentleman’s leather easy chair – not on a secondhand studio couch in a one-room hovel in a broken-down brownstone front.

A few months ago, I found myself sat at a lunch table with a bookbinder and got incredibly excited. (She probably thought I was fantastically weird.) Coming from France, she said that she found British books to be a lot more interesting in terms of their style of binding and beauty – I think my contribution was to ask whether she got upset (as I do) when people leave books open spine down, as it can damage their binding beyond repair – can’t remember if I got an answer, but I felt as though I’d found something of a kindred spirit.

I love meeting people who work (or have worked) with books. Whether it’s bookbinders, those in publishing,  fellow booksellers or even authors, it’s a joy to have the opportunity to share a passion. Despite all it’s frustrations, I can still honestly say that I was incredibly happy during my bookselling days. Crap wages it’s true, but at least I spent the days surrounded by piles of books.

Lately, I’ve discovered a few book-related blogs – enough almost to have a ‘literary blogs’ tab on my google reader. They’re all a little different, some written by writers, others simply by book lovers, but each is a great source of potential new reads. So, just to spread the love, here’s my selection:

Tea Stains – A British woman, living in Bangkok who’s currently writing her first (?) novel. It’s not solely about writing or books and can generally be relied upon for amusement. [I actually discovered her because she was one of the people who commented after my unfortunate remark about a Bravissimo on Mrs WF’s blog!]

Sassymonkey Reads – Canadian woman who reviews tons of books (also writes a non-book related blog too). She also sets herself interesting book-reading goals relating to the colour of books…

Nose in a Book – a new blog by a friend of a friend who I first met at New Year. So far it seems to be a source of well-written, thoughtful reviews and I highly recommend it. (Fabulous name for a blog too!)

Abidemi’s blog – I couldn’t write about literary blogs without mentioning the esteemed Abidemi, author of several novels, most recently Eyo – short listed (Africa’s best book) for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Although she didn’t win, I would like to state publicly that I’m fantastically proud of her & next time we do lunch, the Argentinian red will be on me… Excellent destination for tips on writing and other wise gems.

And my conclusion – do I even have a conclusion? Or a point?

I suppose I just wanted to share a little of my specialness, (friends know that I’m an utter geek when it comes to books, it’s one of my endearing characteristics!) as well as some book love. In this day and age of 24/7 multimedia entertainment, it’s easy to forget the humble book – God forbid they should ever be completely replaced by e-readers. They’re art, both inside and outside, and deserve to be appreciated as such.

All I want now is the prospect of a lovely holiday, somewhere relaxing, where all I’m expected to do is lie somewhere pretty reading book after book….bliss.

Bad hair day

This morning I was rather late for work. [Actually, I’m pretty much always late for work to the extent that it’s stopped being late and is now the time I arrive.] Today’s lateness was proper lateness, partly the result of turning off my alarm before I was properly awake (thus returning swiftly to sleep, re-awakening at 8.15 – the precise time I ought to leave to be at my desk by 9am) and partly thanks to unwieldy hair…

Women will understand this predicament. It’s a regular occurrence, no matter what you try, your hair just will not cooperate. My hair hadn’t coped well with a curly hair day yesterday and spring showers – it was wild, bushy and virtually untameable. But, inspired by a video on one of my random blog feeds, I thought I’d try a new ‘do.

The video below is genius, illustrating a wide variety of styles at speed – very clever. (Rather addictive background song too.)

I was hoping to accomplish the first, except I’d forgotten about my swept fringe (which thanks to yesterday was just frizz) and also didn’t have hair long enough to hold one side in my mouth whilst twisting the opposite. That would be another pro in the reasons to grow my hair long again list, but I’ll try again on another occasion when my hair’s a little happier. Because of my failure, 9.03 this morning saw me giving up on any kind of hairstyle other than the emergency ‘pile it up on top of head, stick numerous hair pins in, add Alice band and pray that it holds’ technique. At least it looked moderately dignified/fairly intelligent on a day that was ending with another important meeting!

This woman’s blog is an inspiration. With three boys aged three and under, she manages to have a phenomenal amount of fun. I’d like to be a mother like her when I grow up (hmmm, she’s younger than me, oh well) – lots of fun and craziness.

An anonymous dilemma

I have a little bit of a dilemma…

A little while ago I think I mentioned that the organisation I work for was writing a social-media policy, relating to the use of blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc in work contexts. Fair enough and actually quite a wise idea – we all need to be sensible about what we put online and into the public domain. We also should remember that nothing on Facebook is private and that slagging off our employers via status updates is not a good idea.

Last week it went public in the run-up to a governance meeting this week. I read it (and the online debate that erupted around it) with great interest, being as I am an avid user of social networking. By and large it’s eminently sensible (though long-winded). It bans tweeting from confidential meetings (something of a no-brainer perhaps) and ensures that those writing about the organisation make it clear whether they’re an official spokesperson or not.

As far as my blogging’s concerned, I’m in the clear. I make a point not to mention my employer by name – even though many of those who read this know where I work because they’re my friends. I also generally don’t write or post stuff on Facebook that I wouldn’t want colleagues (especially those who are senior managers) to see. [Though I ought to have thought more about posting the 1940’s glam photos as I got quite a few comments from older, male colleagues about them today…]

However, the new policy makes a point about anonymity and the web – stating that no one should do anything anonymously (or under a pseudonym that isn’t linked to your real name) anywhere online, whether it relates to work or not. This I have an issue with, on two levels.

(i) Sometimes it’s more appropriate to make anonymous comments or use a pseudonym. For example, if I was commenting on the Guardian or Gizmodo, I probably wouldn’t use my real name because they’re massively popular sites and I wouldn’t want to put myself out there. Making malicious comments anonymously is cowardly and I would never do that, but sometimes anonymity is handy when you don’t want your identity shared with the web.

(ii) I write an anonymous blog. It’s not libellous or defamatory. Nor does it mention work at all (except in the context of “I was at work and…” or “I was really happy when I got my new job…”) or the organisation I work for. I write under a pseudonym that’s not connected to any of my regular blogs or e-mail address. You can’t find it via Google and everyone mentioned has their own pseudonyms too. I’ve mentioned it before, it’s just my ridiculous ramblings (yes, more ridiculous than this stuff).

The other day, I asked the author of this report (half seriously) if the new policy meant that I had to name my anonymous blog and he said yes. I tried to explain that it had nothing to do with work and that putting my name to it would effectively mean ending it, but it did no good. In actual fact, this was a hypothetical conversation because the policy hasn’t been approved yet, so doesn’t apply to staff at the moment, so I don’t *have* to do anything.

But really, should I have to? There are other anonymous blogs out there which are really good and have to be anonymous in order to serve their purpose – like the dating blog I mentioned a few months ago. Or the infamous Belle de Jour? (Though I imagine that the Church might have something to say if one of their employees turned out to be making ends meet by becoming a call girl!) It can’t be anything but anonymous, because of its subject matter. If I have to, I’ll put a disclaimer on here, that’s fine. But change the other blog? I really don’t see why I should.

What are your thoughts? Should I do as the policy suggests? Do I just wait and see what the re-drafted policy says? Or, do I find a new job…

Frozen Friday Fun

The bonus of two major holidays falling on Fridays (and thus scuppering Friday fun blogging) is that it means I’ve got lots of nice/interesting/faintly amusing things saved up for you… (I say ‘lots of’, that might be a slight exaggeration.)

Starting from this afternoon, I will be engaged in my own (or rather, my friends’ own) brand of wholesome fun. It’s Girls Weekend #3, we think we’re all going to make it through the snow, and have a whole host of entertainment planned. Tomorrow we’re doing Christmas again – who wouldn’t want another Christmas dinner just 2 weeks after the last one?

It’s also been my responsibility to generate some very exciting/pathetic (delete as applicable) amusement in the form of a quiz. It includes two picture rounds, one of which relates to the Clutterbuck International Nativity Collection (in my defence, this wasn’t my idea, it was requested). There’s a missing lyrics from musicals round and a Buzzcocks-style intros round – if this concept is lost on you, check out this clip of Amy Winehouse’s attempt and one of my favourite moments of the last season in which Michael Ball & Phil Jupitus camp it up, Hairspray style (at at about 6mins in – confession, I thought this was the intros round, it wasn’t, it was next lines, but it’s too good not to share!) Oh, and there’s one more round – all about me and my sister. Again, this isn’t simply narcissism, last year’s quiz writer had a round about her. I’ve tried it out on my mother and she got one question wrong, so it may be tricky…

Anyway, I digress – why boast about the fun I’ll be having when I’ve not given you anything fun (aside from two comedy clips). Having two weeks off work gave me an excellent opportunity to read tons of mindless stuff online, discovering new blogs which will keep me entertained whilst chained to my computer for the next few months.

First off, The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” quotation marks. It seems to be mostly an American issue, with signage including spurious and utterly out of place “” – you see it from time to time on Cake Wrecks too. Here’s an example:

Secondly, a blog of passive aggressive notes. I’m a big fan of passive aggression, as I’m a coward when it comes to confrontation. Being quite a fan of written communication (and having lived with a passive aggressive note leaver at university – on purple post-its!) this is quite the diverting blog. It’s not just the notes, it’s the stories that go with them and the responses – like this one, about a supposed peeping tom…

It’s still frozen round here, so why bother trying to go out and do anything (unless you’re a girl coming on the Girls Weekend Away) – just sit at home, read amusing blogs and watch random youtube clips. That’s a fun weekend, right?

Hiding behind anonymity

Yesterday I made a blogging discovery courtesy of a spot of Friday afternoon blog hopping, following links to a friend of a friend’s blog (actually, we have several mutual friends, none of whom know each other, it’s very odd) where I spotted a link that intrigued me…

It turned out to be an anonymous blog (gosh how I love those) chronicling the travails of a 30 something Christian singleton in London who decided a couple of months ago to spend a year online dating – trying out a different site each month. The result is The Girl Glory’s Shark Infested Water and a jolly good read it is too (especially if you happen to be a 20 something Christian singleton in London who happens to have dabbled in online dating…).

I’m also jealous/annoyed. It’s exactly the kind of thing I’ve intended to write for ages – ever since I found Jerusalem’s blog (sadly no longer updated) – but can’t write on here. One of my motivations for writing a candid diary in blog form was that I could do it anonymously without anyone finding out it was me. Unfortunately, I shared one too many of the pseudonyms used in my anonymous blog with dear Annabelle who (thanks to Google) found it – resulting in shrieks of horror from me. Now it’s very firmly hidden and no one but me can read it, which is probably oh so slightly pointless.

This blog is not the place to write about dating’n’stuff, it’s not really fair to do that to men – not to mention who might read it. I’m increasingly aware of my diverse readership, from my mother (who still drops in occasionally despite my protests), to colleagues (very dangerous), male friends (with and without history), onto friends near and far, to complete and utter strangers…you get the picture. Plus (and this is something The Girl Glory has discovered to her cost) the Christian world is very small – everyone knows each other, so telling stories in public can have ramifications.

Anyway, good luck to her! I hope it has some success and perhaps I’ll pick up some tips along the way.