Wine and Books!

This is horrendous.

I have neglected the blog for the entire month of June (and most of May).

By way of an apology I give you wine, books and a bag all in one – from the Literary Gift Company….


End of January – the results are in…

Okay, so the resolutions are underway, but how am I doing?

Resolution 1 – Get fitter: I will do at least two exercise sessions a week

Absolutely cracked this. Just gotta keep it up. Week is pretty much made up of Monday lunchtime – swimming (40 lengths in about 30 minutes), Monday evening – Zumba, Tuesday lunchtime – spinning, Wednesday lunchtime – spinning, Thursday lunchtime – Abs, Thursday evening – Zumba, Friday lunchtime – spinning, Sunday – walk.

I’m not beating myself up too much if I miss one or two of these as I think I’ve got a lot going on. I would like to swap out a Zumba or a spin for a combat-type class but have yet to find one.

I’ve lost 2 inches off my waist and 1 inch from my bust. Need to do more in this area as I bought a dress for a hen night that’s about two dress sizes smaller than I am. I have until March 24th.

Resolution revisited: Get fitter: I will do at least four exercise sessions a week.

Resolution 2 – Lose weight: I will lose three stone by the end of June 2012 *edit by the end of September

So I revisited this resolution within 24 hours of setting it! I think 5lbs a month as an average is very sensible – so aiming for September (and a likely trip to Greece) seemed like a good idea. Though this month I’ve lost:  10.5lbs. 

I can already fit into smaller clothes 🙂

Resolution 3 – Blog more: I resolve to blog at least eight times a month

In the words of Glee’s version of Don’t Stop Believin’….. “Ta-Da”!!!

I have to admit to not being great at sourcing blog entries or having them ready to go: I’m sure I could achieve more than eight per month.

Resolution 4 – Read more: I will read at least one book every two months

Examining John Taylor under the table was an eighties hobby of mine.

I actually finished a book of short stories called End of the Line edited by Jonathan Oliver. The book was free with a horror/haunted magazine. The stories are a mixed bag, but there’s a Christopher Fowler in there which is always good value. They are all set around underground/subway systems. Siding 13 by James Lovegrove was particularly creepy.

I have also finished another book: Talking to Girls about Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield.

Thrifty Gal picked this up when we were last in New York and pressed it into my hand as she finished it telling me I’d love it. And I did. Each chapter has an eighties song as its title which acts as a great device for Sheffield introducing a memory. I particularly enjoyed the Morrissey chapter where Rob uses lines from songs to provide an ongoing discussion with his idol.

Of course, the fact that the book is peppered with eighties references means that you’ll find yourself veering alarmingly from New Kids on the Block to Paul McCartney. Yes, I did post ‘No More Lonely Nights’ on Facebook the other night. It’s all Rob Sheffield’s fault.

When travelling home from a gig the other night (the remarkable Cornshed Sisters) I ended up eavesdropping on the conversation happening beside me. A man was having a conversation with a woman about the relative merits of Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf. Talking to girls about Duran Duran is the past, present, and undoubtedly, the future. Buy it now 🙂

So that’s like two books in one month – go me!!

Fitter, slimmer, blogger who enjoys a good book: my resolutions for 2012!

Okay, so I’ve faffed about not making resolutions and instead creating blogs on what I did last year, so now, time to bite the bullet and actually decide what the hell I’m going to do in 2012.

I’ve read and been thinking about Richard Wiseman’s Blog Guide to keeping your New Year’s Resolutions; it’s no secret to friends that I think his approach to, well everything, is amazing.

I’m currently reading Luck Factor, his book on changing and improving opportunities in your life. Don’t worry though, I’m not putting ‘must talk to more people in bus queues’ down as a resolution, but please don’t run away if I do speak to you.

In his blog, he suggests that you should go with one resolution and try not to repeat resolutions from previous years. I’m going to go against this. But what I am doing is reducing the number of resolutions (four instead of last year’s 10 – find out how I did) and taking on board his suggestions that you should:

  1. Break your goal into steps
  2. Tell people what you plan to do (that’s what this blog is about!)
  3. Remind yourself of the benefits of what you’re doing
  4. Reward yourself as you reach each step (I like this part)
  5. Keep a progress map of how you’re doing

So, in the interests of keeping Richard Wiseman partially happy…

Resolution 1 – Get fitter: I will do at least two exercise sessions a week

Carrying on from last years’ vague ‘get fit’ resolution, I’m specifically planning to do at least two pieces of  exercise a week (this might be swimming, spinning, zumba, abs, or simply more walking).

Each Monday I will plan in my exercise sessions to ensure work/nights out don’t ruin my plans.

Resolution 2 – Lose weight: I will lose three stone by the end of June 2012 *edit by the end of September

This is averaging at about half a stone a month, so difficult, but not completely impossible. Healthy salads, soup and an aim to cut alcohol down from ‘yes, please’ to a couple of nights a week. The exercise will help.

*After properly thinking about this, I fear the three stone by June might be a tad optimistic. I have a social life. I am not doing some stupid faddy diet. I need more time. So, on that basis, aiming for an average of 5lbs per month which takes me to mid September.  If I get there quicker, then great, if not, at least I’m not starving myself. 

Each Monday I will weigh in and measure recording the details in my diary. I will record my food in the same way, planning my week so as not to be scuppered by pesky socialising!

Benefits of both these resolutions are happier, healthier, slimmer Linda and the opportunity to wear all the clothes currently hidden in a case under the bed. New wardrobe – no cost!

Resolution 3 – Blog more: I resolve to blog at least eight times a month

Look, I’m doing it!

Step 1 – Develop a blog plan for the year. All too often I go to see a show or read a book and I think “I should review that or comment on it”, then life gets in the way. If I plan when key events are coming up and plan to blog about them, the idea is that blogs will happen.  Part of the plan will take into account seasonal messages – I missed a whole range of opportunities to blog about grammatically inspiring Christmas gifts.

Step 2 – Have some blog entries ready to go – if it’s a slow week or I’m really too busy, I’ll be prepared!

Benefits of this will be to increase my blog readership, increase my writing skills and prepare me for being lead blogger for the Live Theatre for a month this year. Eek!

You, dear readers, can assess my progress!

Resolution 4 – Read more: I will read at least one book every two months

I probably read about 15 books last year. That’s not a total failure. But I can sense Thrifty Gal over at E for Envelope shuddering as she reached 100 in October.  I tend to read in concentrated bursts: five books in a week long holiday, one book on a transatlantic flight. I feel like I should be a bit more consistent in my reading and not have huge gaps between each book.

Step 1 – Reduce the amount of TV watching, Facebooking and faffing I do. This time could be better spent with a book in my hand.

Step 2 – Make sure I have a book with me at all times and choose to read that rather than a magazine, newspaper or facebook on my phone.

Hey if I read all the books I have in my pending pile – I can then buy myself more as a reward!!!

So there it is…

There’s a whole raft of other things I could include in this. But things like improving love life, moving house, moving job etc I haven’t had a chance to think about yet.

The things I’ve chosen, I believe, will make me fundamentally happier, more organised, and thus more likely to tackle those other things along the way.

Happy 2012 everyone – what are you going to do?

Holiday reading: Room by Emma Donoghue

Hmn, my huge plans for a week of holiday reading and writing were scuppered by a lovely pool, hot sun and an over attentive barman. I mean that in the ‘providing lots of drinks way’ not in any other sort of way, y’understand? So, most of the time when I should have been devouring the many, many novels I took with me, I was actually devouring food to soak up the alcohol of the day before, or beginning the next night of drinking around 2 in the afternoon…

I managed to read Room by Emma Donoghue though. This book had in turn been recommended (indeed on Amazon, it is highly rated) and mildly disliked by a number of my friends so I was prepared for a potential disappointment.

I read the book on my flight to Zakynthos and finished off the final few chapters on the first day of my holiday. Speed reading is not necessarily a good thing. In this case, particularly, it was a case of I’ve started so I’ll finish, but please let it end quickly.

(My friend K had actually admitted to having skipped a good chunk of the book as she’d got bored of the tale of life in the room.)

So, what’s wrong with it exactly?

**(er I guess this contains spoilers so don’t read it if you plan to read Room – though obviously I’d suggest you read this and not Room…)**

It’s basically the story of 5-year-old Jack and his ‘ma’ who are kept prisoner in a room by a man. It transpires that his mother was kidnapped and that Jack is the result of the constant sexual abuse and rape she suffered. Jack has never left the room.

With its reference point in real life accounts of abduction and imprisonment from the last few years, it is an interesting investigation of what the day to day horror of living with this might be. Yet while Room has at its heart a harrowing reality, the delivery and plot leaves a lot to be desired.

It’s written from the point of view of Jack, who as a 5-year-old has limited vocabulary. The use of names for things in Room like Wardrobe, Rug, Meltedy Spoon (with capitalisation) was jarring and interrupted the flow of the prose. It just didn’t ring true to me that in one sentence Jack could be stringing together a coherent description and understanding of his world, yet in the next be speaking in short, sharp disjointed phrases.

His appeal as a narrator was limited, and indeed, limiting: the reader gets no real sense of any emotion. His descriptions of his Ma made her a strange and quite flat character: things she does are difficult to empathise with, she often comes across as selfish and quite brazen with her son’s safety which I’m sure should not have been the intention. Having a bad day? She ignores him. Planning the great escape? Put him in the hands of the abductor, he’ll be fine. I get that she’s full of desperation at this point, but the whole plot surrounding the escape plan was lunacy. Lacking suspense and highly unbelievable: things just happened. Jack’s blank, simplistic narration did nothing in what should have been a terrifying, heart-in-mouth moment. I am sure that had the mother been given a voice the emotion of the novel would have been richer and stronger.

Once away from the room, the author’s investigation of the aftermath was flat. Jack’s introduction into a new world could have been magical and highly imagined, but was again quite bland and uninteresting. Donoghue seems to have tied herself in knots over Jack’s delivery, presenting an unreliable narrator with limited linguistic and story telling ability.

In the end the plot sort of petered out, almost as if the author was saying ‘well they’re out now, what do you care?’ And care I didn’t. Disappointing.