Literary blog hop results & a gift to all bibliophiles

Last week’s giveaway is now closed.

I love blogs and I love books, so really what could go wrong with visiting 70ish book blogs and commenting in the hope of a free good read? Along the way I’ve found several that I’ll be returning to and it’s been great to hear that some fellow participants have been pleased to discover this one.

On to the subject of winners. The first commenter picked by the random number generator left their e-mail address, but it came back undeliverable, so I had to try again – and it came up with Louise, who doesn’t have a blog and who I think (judging by her e-mail) lives in the UK. Apparently 84 Charing Cross Road’s been on her wishlist forever so I’m very, very pleased to be able to send a copy her way!

As a gift to all the bibliophiles that didn’t win anything during the hop [incidentally, anyone else think that ‘blog hop’ sounds like a 1950s dance craze??], I’d like to share a rather wonderful site I found last night. Bookfessions gathers together fellow book lovers’ deepest, darkest secrets into an aesthetically pleasing Tumblr. Below are the ones that struck a chord with me, but there are hundreds…


Bookish bits & pieces

I have a review brewing of the night I spent with Mr Schuester last night, but I’ve not got the energy – so instead, I have a few bookish gems I wanted to share…

Thanks to Twitter, my attention was drawn over the weekend to a bookseller blogger who has composed a series of posts on the topic of ‘weird things customers say in bookshops’. As anyone who’s ever worked in retail (especially in a bookshop) will know, the customer can come out with the most bizarre things at times.

For example:

Customer: Do you have that book – I forget what it’s called; it’s about people with large, hairy feet.
Me: Do you mean hobbits? The Lord of the Rings?
Customer: No…. erm – The Hairy Bikers.

Customer: Did Beatrix Potter ever write a book about dinosaurs?

Customer: I read a book in the eighties. I don’t remember the author, or the title. But it was green, and it made me laugh. Do you know which one I mean?

Once upon a time I led a happy life as a bookseller – I can get terribly nostalgic for it sometimes. I worked with great people, had a 30% discount on stock, plenty of opportunities for freebies and proofs and spent my life surrounded by books – fabulous. Then there were the customers… For a while I wondered if it was the location of the shop – Gloucester is a special place generally – but then I worked in London and, as the examples above illustrate, eccentric customers appear to be drawn to bookshops like staples to a magnet… 

A few years ago I fell into a moment of bookselling reverie in which I recounted some of my favourite moments and shared a truly disgusting story I’d heard from former colleagues – if you’re not eating right this minute, I’d recommend it for a bit of light (but gross) entertainment. 
Jen – the author of the amusing blog – also happens to work in the shop which is officially my favourite second-hand bookshop in the world – Ripping Yarns in Highgate. It’s where much of my Chalet School collection was purchased and was a regular haunt during my formative years in Muswell Hill. Any time I’m in Highgate during shop hours I pop in and browse for as long as I’m able. If ever you’re in the vicinity, I highly recommend it – oh and it’s not just children’s books, it sells pretty much anything and everything.

As an aside, I realised today that I seem to have a reputation for being massively anal about keeping my books in good order. A friend returned a book I’d lent them with the caveat that I was more than welcome to insist they bought me a new copy, implying that it wouldn’t be up to my standards. It was fine – clearly read – but the spine wasn’t cracked (ok, I may be a tad anal about that) and none of the pages had been folded over. I’ve bought worse looking books in Oxfam. Am I really thought of as being that much of a Monica when it comes to books?? 

Making noise (and cake) on a Friday

As I am back at work, there is no escaping the fact that today should be the first Friday Fun day of 2011. My Friday revolves around two things (ok, three – if you include work) – firstly, that this weekend’s the London A Cappella Festival and I’m off to see the Office Choirs of the Year (including my singing chum Annabelle) perform with the fabulous Swingle Singers tonight. Secondly, Friday is cake eating day.

So, the first bit of fun is something to watch, listen to and try out for yourself. It could become a bit of a new year’s project for you. In the previously mentioned T Mobile ‘Welcome Home’ advert, the Swingles (and other similarly talented a cappella people) demonstrated a variety of their skills. Subsequently, the producers of the ad decided to produce a few videos showing these skilled people trying to pass on their talent to (of all people) The Hoff.

First up, we have Jo demonstrating a vocal violin:

Then we have Tobi teaching The Hoff how to sound like a muted trumpet:

There are a few other (non Swingle) lessons, including ‘gorilla bass’, and beatboxing. There’s got to be one of those that captures your attention – surely?

If you’re really not interested in making weird noises with your vocal chords, could I interest you in some cake? Over the holidays I discovered a considerable number of new blogs (it’s amazing what you’ll read when lying in bed with only your laptop for company). One that’s proved to be a mouth watering hit is The Caked Crusader, a blog of recipes for all levels and palettes. Its most recent post tickled me so much that I figured it could count as fun enough for Friday.

Yes, the recipe in question is for a prune cake, but I was less interested in the cake and more intrigued by the recipe book it had been found in. Entitled What’s Cookin’?: A Teen Age Cookery Book, it appears to be something of a 1940s gem, combining Enid Blyton escapades with Mrs Beeton and etiquette lessons. The photo below gives something of an indication of the book’s content, but do check out the original post to hear more gems from its pages.

One final cake tip, faithful friend the Hummingbird Bakery launched a new daily specials range last week – reviving some old favourites. As I’ve been on a post-flu recovery diet I felt entitled to two cupcakes in five days, and can therefore recommend both Friday’s Pumpkin Spice and Tuesday’s Nutella – especially the latter, as it has a gooey Nutella centre. Yum.

In my head…

…I’m a cyclist.

Well, I’m cyclist in the same way that I believe I’m a Mac user. [I’m possibly delusional.] I’d never dare cycle on the streets of London, but I have enormous empathy for those that do and desperately covet a gorgeous Dutch bike that I could glamorously swan about on. (It would have a wicker basket full of tulips at the front and wonderful leather panniers, plus a delightfully shiny and tuneful bell.) 
London’s currently awash with wannabe cyclists thanks to Mayor Boris’ latest initiative – public bikes. I’ve not had a go yet, but will (I have a theory that they might aid my journey to pilates, I’m just a little apprehensive about actually cycling on one). I’m not sure the hard core cyclists are happy about this development, but then it can simply be another valid concern hard core cyclists can add to their lists.
Like the abuse female cyclists suffer at the hand of male drivers and pedestrians – last week I discovered a rather fabulous blog written by one such bike user entitled: 101 Wankers. (To be honest, I’m sure the total number of such people in London is far higher than 101!) In it she details her awful encounters with utter idiots, including drivers who simply like to make a game of toying with cyclists and yelling abusive comments at them, oh, and the biggest w*nker of all – the one who stole her bike! 
Continuing the bike theme, as I mentioned, I covet Dutch bikes. For some months (actually years) I’ve loved one that’s often parked outside my office as it’s pink and particularly pretty. Witness:
It took me quite a while to notice that this bike is actually sponsored – observe:
Not only is it a beautiful bike – it’s educational too! And yes, I’ve looked the site up – it’s bona fide. I just can’t quite understand how it’s taken me two years to get round to taking a photo, or why I didn’t think to use my actual camera when I took these last week (the fact that I was on the way home from the pub may explain the latter). 

Blogging love

Blogs are funny things – essentially a narcissistic pursuit (unless they have a worthy cause to share) and self indulgent – it’s a wonder that anyone ever reads them. Except of course, for the fact that humans are naturally inquisitive and love a bit of gossip and/or entertainment, which is generally what blogs consist of.

Thanks to following a variety of blogs found through a diverse range of random connections or stumblings-upon, I’ve built up quite a network. Amongst my little group of friends who also read blogs, we have a few shared favourites. Mrs WF and I love crafty ones as well as some of the more ‘Mommy blog’ American variety. In fact, we have been known to text each other in excitement when a Mommy’s given birth or (in my case) when one of our favourite bloggers left me a comment on here – honestly, I’d have squealed out loud had I not been in a large meeting and surreptitiously browsing. It’s a weird world.

Along the way I’ve made a few ‘blogging friends’ – people I’ve never met but whose blogs I’ve come across and commented on, or vice-versa. Is it odd that I’m rooting for a relationship to work out on behalf of a 40 year old woman I don’t know? Or, that I was super-excited to discover a girl my age on the other side of the world who loved Chalet School as much as me? My theory is that such friendships aren’t strange – they’re affirming and generally warm and fuzzy, which is always a good thing.

Sometimes I’m a little unsure about comment etiquette. Obviously, the original point of blogs was that you could comment and generate discussion, but I wonder if these days some bloggers forget their ramblings are visible to the entire world. Occasionally, I fear revealing my ‘lurker’ status, feeling a little stalkerish in my anonymous enjoyment of their writing and life – but surely they want people to read it, else they wouldn’t have created it?

I most definitely enjoy and appreciate random visitors. I love checking my stats and discovering how they found me. I generate wild and ridiculous fantasies about some of my more exotic regular visitors, and only very occasionally do I reject comments that I’m not keen on.

All this is a rather protracted preamble to my telling of a rather geeky moment that took place last week and is most definitely in my top 10 highlights of the holiday. One afternoon while enjoying a pleasant bbq I met the author of a blog I’ve been reading on and off for the last couple of years. Being fellow residents of the impossibly small Christian world, it was perhaps inevitable that this would happen – before you factor in my knowing her sister (something I didn’t fully realise for quite a while) and having a couple of mutual friends. It was all the more amusing/cringeworthy that this encounter took place in front of a select band of friends and acquaintances, at least one of whom has since mocked me for my geekiness.

It essentially consisted of me introducing myself with “Hi, we’ve never met and this sounds really geeky, but I read your blog…” – I felt like such a nerd! However, it was followed by their realisation that they’d also read mine sporadically (thank the Lord yet again for my highly unusual surname). Some mutual blogging love was shared in slightly high pitched, giggly voices and the world became a happier place. Honestly, on days when life is feeling a bit rubbish, the compliment I was paid will be remembered and I will smile…

Moments like this people, are why blogging’s most definitely a good thing.