Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Book, books, books

As I said in the last post, we are trying to de-clutter our life, dumping all that stuff we are never going to use again, just like those programmes you see on TV.
There is an awful agony about throwing away books. In theory, our rule is that if we think we are never going to read the book again then Oxfam is a better place for it; but how does one know?
What should we do with the books that represent the passage of time, my old anatomy book for example? When I went to medical school, I had something to prove. I'd slid through school doing just enough and happy to use a variety of excuses for not doing better. We lived miles away from school and I spent about four hours each day travelling, a good enough excuse for skimping on Latin homework. At medical school, the first thing we did was anatomy, so I set out to be good at it, trying to find out how far I could push it. I bought the best books at the beginning of term; I had to manage on whatever money was left. I've kept those books for almost 50 years, simply because there is so much personal discovery somewhere between those pages, but why keep them? I'm the only person who knows it's there and I never open the book. Who knows what Oxfam will make of it?
Other books have different issues; this week's task is to try to get to the point where all the books are in the library and only the library, which means a lot have to go. Everything on photography goes, mostly because chemical developing and darkroom techniques are no longer relevant.
Winemaking is easier to look up on the web, so there goes another batch, along with a bunch of other how-to-do-it books.
The tough decisions come down to novels I should have read, biographies I have a soft spot for, and, for example, the collected works of Dorothy Parker. Before it goes on the pile, I can't resist reading a few pages and then it's back on the shelf. The trouble is I may not read it again until the next time we decide to have a clear out.
What about signed copies, do we apply the same rules? Signed books have more memories attached but I suppose they might also fetch more money at Oxfam, or where ever they end up; though the actual content is no different, apart from what the author wrote that evening.
Oddly, I have a book where the author wrote something that would help with the current exercise, but I propose to ignore their advice. A few years back I managed to attend book launches by Niel Gaiman and Terry Pratchett in successive months. I bought another copy of Good Omens and got it signed by both of them. Terry wrote 'burn this book'  I think not, that one stays on the shelf.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Why am I not blogging?

Why am I not blogging? This needs a complicated answer, which in turn is significantly influenced by other bloggers. I read about 40 blogs, through various subscriptions and mostly via Google Reader, which I have patched into an app called Flipboard on my iPad. I learn a lot from these other bloggers, and I would like to acknowledge that. Some of that learning has had an effect on how I use my time and that in turn impacts on blogging – that and other things.  
For example, Lexi Revellian ( has several times recommended Autocrit ( on her blog and I finally took the plunge. One way and another it has made me examine every sentence in a new way, very time consuming in a 95,000-word novel. I’m almost there, and I think it’s down to 90,000.
Second problem Teresa Ashby ( posted a comment giving me a stylish Blogger award, great, but it comes with a price – you are supposed to post seven things that no one knows about yourself and also recommend a load of other blogs. One way or another, that threw me into a tailspin. Did I want to accept this award, and if I did, was I prepared to post seven things, if I could think of them and then was I prepared to inflict this particular set of dilemmas on other bloggers.
As I have little idea what other people think of me, finding the seven things is either simplicity itself, or almost impossible, depending on which way you look at it.
The third little problem, or cluster of problems as it happens is that my house is getting rebellious. One of the power ring mains has decided to stop functioning, probably because a mouse has eaten into a cable – or at least that was the cause last time this happened. The fact that this is the ring main that normally powers this computer gives another clue to the blog reduction problem, but it’s worse than that.
When we moved here, a while back, we replaced all the electric circuits and I very cunningly ran all the wires though ducts that would enable me to easily trace faults should they occur. Since then, we have other rather more elegant work done by professional builders who saw fit to cover over my ducts in order to produce a much nicer finished look. I will now have to find some way of tracking the fault without turning the house into a building site. 
I paused for thought and got the computer, printer, WiFi etc. working via extension leads from another circuit. This has obviously upset the house demons who must have some objection to me writing all the time.  The upshot being that a radiator in the bedroom, actually the newest one in the house, sprang a leak and I spent a day yesterday buying a new one and getting it installed.
Clearly, something or someone wants us to move house. Thinking such thoughts is of course a bad idea, because it is hard to un-think them. Suddenly Lois and I find ourselves thinking about life in a modern flat, with no mice, no acres of grass to mow, no fruit to pick, no swimming pool to clean.
Such thoughts are disruptive because we begin to realise just how much clutter we have accumulated in fifteen years, how many hobbies and projects are scattered about the place. With these thoughts a terrible realism is pressed in on us – it would take several lifetimes to finish all the things we’ve started, and even more to deal with the stuff we never began, but which is occupying space in our heads.
One hobby, time wasting activity, pastime, treasured memory maker, is taking pictures. In a previous house, I had a darkroom and as a result, many boxes of old slides and negatives. These ought to be digitised or thrown away, so as I write a scanner is working it’s way through these, using software to remove dust specs and scratches et. Slightly faster than watching paint dry, though similar in many ways.  I include one picture because it shows another hobby, sailing. Add to that boat building, because I actually helped design and build the dinghy in the picture, two of them are sitting out on our back yard waiting to find out what we eventually decide to do with them. I’m getting to old for that sort of thing and too old for the surfboards and windsurfers too.

The end result of all this musing is that I am realising that I prefer writing to most of the other things I do, have done, or dreamed about doing, and I don’t need an old farmhouse with two barns, a pool, garage and workshop, plus four acres of grass, in order to write.
The first drafts of two of my books were written on ski holidays and another in a small flat in London. The possibility of swapping the country pile for a modern flat, ski apartment and a big campervan begins to loom large.
Watch this space.
For a slightly different take on these life changing thoughts see Lois’s blog (TUESDAY, 15 MARCH 2011 Why people with food-intolerances need enormous house - on

Does that little diatribe include seven things about me? Close enough I think.
Now to spend a few happy hours trying to decide which other bloggers to suck into this stylish web.