A Book Lover’s Post

I think it is safe to say that everyone who writes, loves to read. Yet,  I am not sure if this is the same vice versa. My collection of books keeps growing and growing and I have just noticed that my new Xmas reads will not fit on the book shelves. My boyfriend has tried to aid this problem by buying me a Nook this year. I love it and it is a modern gadget that can make searching for books and reading them exciting. It is also just plain easier at times as you can hold it with one hand… it holds hundreds of books so you don’t have to carry them. However, I have told him, and I will tell you that I will not stop buying real books by my favourite authors. I love to look at them on the shelf and love the process of selecting one to read. Buying books is also a hobby, as I love to search old book shops and charity shops for books I have not heard of or ones I have not read by favourite authors. I love the smells of old books (and new books), the different covers (I have 4 different versions of Pride and Prejudice) and I just feel my house is not a home without a multitude of bookshelves… even though, I am not sure my boyfriend agrees with this!

I have a book diary. As I mentioned yesterday (https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/scared-of-a-word), I love notebooks and writing thoughts in them. Well, I also like diaries. As a teenager, I used to write in a diary on a daily basis with all my thoughts and observations of the day. (See my post: https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/to-my-14-year-old-self/). As, you have gathered, I also love books. So to have a diary to record my thoughts about books is just genius. My friend bought it for me a couple of years ago and I love it! I record various lists of books I have read in my life so far, that year, need to read, want to read and books I should read before I die. Only a true book lover will understand the use of the verb should. How can you call yourself a book lover if you haven’t read the works of Austen, Shakespeare or Dickens? Some may disagree and think that reading should be about what you want to read. I agree in a way and I do, mostly. But there are these works of fiction that I just feel I need to have an opinion on  – can’t believe I’m about to mention this in the same paragraph as Dickens and co, but that is why I read 50 Shades. I wanted to know what all the hype was. So, some of these famous (or infamous) books may be on my ‘to read list’ for many years to come (for example War and Peace –  I mean, it’s just so long isn’t it?!) But hopefully I will get there one day.

This is the copy I own… a beautiful way to record your passion for reading….

I definitely recommend a book diary. You can also record notes about the books you have read, who recommended it to you and who you then recommended it to. You can note down good book sites, shops and reading groups. In mine there is an A-Z of books you have read so you can add to it from year to year. It is also full of quotes about reading and books and I read them again and again whenever I come to use it.

Here is one of my favourite quotes from The Book Lover’s Diary:

‘There are 10,000 books in my library, and it will keep on growing until I die. This has exasperated my daughters, amused my friends and baffled my accountant. If I had not picked up this habit in the library long ago, I would have much more money in the bank today; but I would not be richer.’

(Pete Hamill, D’artagnan on Ninth Street: A Brooklyn boy at the library.)

This is me… or it will be one day! Long live books in all forms! Happy reading… and recording!

XSXS

Scared of a word?

I was looking though some old writing today. I love the thought of having special notebooks that collect my thoughts and are tightly packed away between crisp pages and a decorative cover (not that we should judge by said cover). In modern society, it doesn’t always work like that though. Sometimes, I will be mid Ebay bid or mid Facebook update when I am on the laptop and I get a thought or an idea. I could scramble around for my special notebook and then a pen (that works) in order to put these thoughts into visible words…… or I could just click and open a Microsoft Word document. I know, I know, this saddens me more than anything. But the things is, all my blogs are straight from a plastic keyboard too. I wish that I had the time and patience to write my blogs by hand in a lovely notebook beforehand so that they would survive generation after generation (if people actually wanted to read it by then!) but it just isn’t always feasible.

So yes, even though I do have pretty notebooks – and I do use them for poetry mainly – it was my Word documents that I was looking through today and I had much fun creating new files of ‘stories’, ‘articles’, ‘blog posts’ (yes I don’t completely trust one site to keep all my work so I do copy and paste sometimes – if there is an easier way, let me know!) and ‘random rambling and extracts’. It is from the latter file that I want to share with you today. Sometimes I just think of a topic, or a theme from a book, or a feeling. It doesn’t become a poem or a story – it doesn’t always need to  – it is an undeveloped, baby of the writing world if you will. A rambling. An extract. This particular one was about a word… or a genre depending how you look at it. See what you think:

Horror

‘Horror. Oh the horror. Even the word sounds like the meaning in a kind of onomatopoeic way. The sound of a breathy voice, releasing fear from its lips. Hanging in the air like a shivery mist. A bit like horrible and terror combined. And the ‘o’s in the word are like open, wide mouths screaming for their life. Also, as the ‘r’s face to the right; they look as if they want to run away.  To escape. From something. From the horror.’

Yes, it’s short and I’d like to develop it more really. You could describe a whole series of words. With things like this, too, I am going to add them to my pretty notebooks – call it a New Year’s Resolution 😉 you’ll be hearing more off me about resolutions, too, as I love the whole turn of a new year and the self reflection  we can do and improvements we can make within our self.

But for now, we need to not be scared of the written word and not just type. But write. In flowing ink. Let it run away with you… just like the horror 😉

XSXS

A Stupid Free Christmas (Day)…

Lately, I have a done a lot of really silly things. Not major, life changing things but annoying things that have really made me angry with myself.

These include:

– Getting a rash from a Christmas sequin necklace (not really my fault but I should have known to be carfeul due to my sensitive skin.)

– put my MP3 player in the washer

-crashed my car into a trolley bay in a supermarket (this is the biggy and happened the same day as the above 2 – not a good day!)

– got a flat tyre (not really sure that’s my fault but it was that I didn’t notice it for ages!)

– some how managed to break the Tv (the sound went really screechy – when I showed my boyfriend, it worked perfectly – don’t you hate it when that happens?!)

– Lost a Christmas present (to find in its original packaging ‘in a safe place.’)

– Wrapped up 2 presents together, not realising (then having a go, via email, to eBay user that I hadn’t received this ‘2nd present’)

I think that’s it and it all seems quite comical when I think of them all together like that. I have just  this minute finished writing  grovelling apologetic email to the eBay user! I am also waiting for the garage to ring about my damaged car. They said ‘Thursday morning’ and I was gloatingly waiting for 12 noon to arrive so I now have the right to phone them – god I am my Mother’s daughter! Ha.

Yes, the last few days I have not been my best friend and at times I was also thinking that the universe was trying to send me some sort of signal and I had done something wrong and needed to be punished! This is a tad dramatic yes and I think these things do come to test us… yet my usual belief is that they come in Threes – so I think I have had more than my fair share of incidents now (fingers crossed). Yet, again, we have to put things in perspective and nothing too badly has happened (and I hope it doesn’t – no foreshadowing of things to come please!)Facebook can also make us do stupid things!

My point for telling you all this, was that even though all these annoying things happened, I had a near-perfect Christmas Day (apart from the moment when my boyfriend’s brother and girlfriend opened up the ‘2 eBay’ present s and I had to awkwardly explain that one wasn’t for them!) We had a lovely day with my boyfriend’s family and my family. Breakfast with one and dinner with the other. I made canapes (which turned out and given the previous few days, I had no faith that they would!) The first Christmas dinner my boyfriend and I ever cooked went well too and I was very proud how well we worked as a team! We played games, watched a funny films and everyone opened lovely presents. Very nice day.

So even though my incidents weren’t life changing or the end of the world or life or death… I am trying to say that we can all make the most of what we have and enjoy a lovely family Christmas. I know families that have lost loved ones this year and Christmas was going to be hard, they still had a nice day. We have to make the most of what we have and our version of ‘perfect’ is different – for me it was me getting through 24 hours without doing stupid things!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and no matter what is going on in your life at the moment, you still managed to have at least one ‘near perfect’ moment this Christmas Day….. if not, it’s just one day, and there are 364 more days to have perfect moments. 😉

Bring on the New Year – I have a feeling what a few of my New Year Resolutions will be 😉

XSXS

Christmas: The good, the bad, the funny and the damn right inhumane!

Well the world didn’t end and Christmas 2012 is going to happen. I want to share with you my views on Christmas and what it means to me. I also want to tell you various stories that I have heard this festive period… the good, the bad, the funny and the inhumane – you can decide which is which 😉

I’ll start with one that was to do with the end of the world because it really made me laugh. Someone told me that they had a friend who completely and utterly believed that the world was going to end at 11.11am on Friday  – like some others I am sure. The person decided to test this belief and said that their friend should buy a sex toy for their Dad and have it ordered and delivered to his address ready for Christmas Day – because if the world was going to end like they oh so believed, it wouldn’t matter would it?! I think the friend took up the challenge and I now think he will have a very awkward present opening session on Christmas Day. But not to worry, it’s not the end of the world 😉

So yes Christmas is going to happen. Christmas is, in literal terms, the birthday of Jesus Christ but as time has passed over centuries, it is not just the Christians and other religions who celebrate it. Some people think it is wrong and that we should remember this actual meaning. Being a non-Christian and un-religious individual myself, I don’t think you have to believe in Jesus in order to appreciate Christmas and I don’t think that you should have to believe in order to celebrate it. As for believing in Santa – well that is a whole other issue! I think Christmas has evolved and it is now about what it represents to each of us. For me, it is about family and friends and having time off work and very good reason to spend quality time with these groups of people. Not that we need an excuse but I am sure you know what I am trying to say….

Christmas has become commercialised and it shouldn’t be about the presents – well in my opinion it shouldn’t be about expensive ones. People who get into debt because they feel they have to spend money to keep people happy are just ridiculous. It is a little bit about the presents though, treating your loved ones, giving and, if you’re lucky, receiving some in return. One of the things I look forward to the most on Christmas day is people opening the presents that I have bought them…. very exciting. So it is about being generous yes, but you should only ever spend what you can afford. My boyfriend’s mum told me a great story. She does a lot of work for the Border Collie Trust and goes to pet shops in order to fund raise. She noticed this one woman at a store she was at and she went round the store with a huge trolley. She filled it with dog food, blankets, toys. She then paid for it all and gave it all to the charity. Now that is an example of a season of goodwill.

Another good will story I heard was about a homeless man.  Someone posted on Facebook that he walked past a homeless man and then felt such guilt as he saw him shivering in the Decemeber weather that he walked straight to the market and bought gloves, a scarf and a KFC meal for the homeless man. He was overjoyed and touched and asked the generous man to sit with him while he ate. He told the story that he was on the streets because he had a drug problem and he was getting over it before he returned to his family. I don’t know a lot of details and I won’t judge. Naturally, some people did and called him a ‘waster’ or whatever but we don’t know the background and I hope he gets over this and his family accepts him back in time for Christmas. The man who bought the items and and gave up his time is compassion personified in my opinion.

Food is something we all go crazy about this time of year and it does make you think, when you hear of people on the streets who don’t have any, let alone luxury and an endless supply of chocolates and snacks. I am the same, I admit. Being whisked into the buzz of western society, I am conditioned to believe that we need to have all these special foods in order to make Christmas perfect, when really that is nonsense. Friends and family will do that, like I mentioned above. But anyway, yesterday I sent my boyfriend to the supermarket with a long list of food to get. I added little notes next to it so that it was just right. I talked him through it before he want (control freak, moi?!) He came back with the shopping and I couldn’t find the Chocolate log for Christmas Day. I also found a couple of bars of chocolate that weren’t on the list. He explained that he thought ‘chocolate log’ was in fact ‘chocolate 10g’ so he bought me a bar of chocolate so I could get my 10 grams! Ha! He said he wondered why I wanted just 10 grams!

I also read a story about a young woman who dropped a bottle of wine at the entrance to the supermarket. We can all picture the scene. Shopping done, paid up and juggling all the bags as you stumble out to the car, dying to get home to put the kettle on. The bottle smashed to the floor and did anyone help?! No. They complained about her being in the way, made jokes about needing a straw  or just shuffled by. My friend, who posted the story, went to help. She seemed shocked – says it all really. My friend also said he thought humans are ‘such twats’. From this story, I tend to agree.

Like this young woman, I am not so fond of supermarkets myself at the minute. I crashed my car into a trolley bay yesterday and I have a huge dented and scratched door on the passenger side. I don’t blame the Christmas rush, I don’t blame the mad Christmas shoppers and lack of parking spaces, no I blame myself and the fact that I didn’t even need to go to the supermarket anyway oh and my awful parking skills! Happy Christmas to me! But it was all put into perspective when I thought that at least I wasn’t in an accident, I wasn’t hurt and  I have a home to go to (not like the people in the floods). So, it’s nothing really – not that that stopped me sobbing, shouting and swearing at myself for the whole morning!

Today, has been a lot nicer. I have spent the afternoon with friends exchanging gifts, playing games and listening to Christmas songs. I also received a lovely bunch of flowers and a card from my boyfriend’s rowing club. This was to say thank you for supporting my boyfriend, not complaining (too much!) about him being away a lot and a general thanks. My boyfriend received a card and a sat-nav for his efforts too 😉 So that was a very touching thing to happen today.

So there you have it… many festive moments and they are all what life is about I guess. Christmas can mean lots of things to us and it is interesting to see what it means to you. Oh and …. ‘Remember, if Christmas isn’t found in your heart, you won’t find it under a tree.’

Merry Christmas readers, visitors and bloggers!

My lovely flowers that gave me some Christmas cheer….

It’s a Party and I’ll Analyse if I want to….

It is the party season, as we call it. We celebrate with work parties, christmas parties, family parties and it got me thinking of all the meanings of the word ‘party’. Of course there is the political party – which really is no fun, but like a social party could probably be improved with some alcohol! In this case, it is just a gathering of people then. Is this loosely what a party is?

This weekend, I am going to two parties. Both christmas parties, but one is at a rowing club and one is at an old people’s home. I thought to myself, ‘When did my life get this odd?!’ The rowing one is an annual one and we celebrate with all the rowers and partners at my boyfriend’s rowing club. To look a little more closely at the party it is actually 40 odd local sports men and women sitting eating buffet food in a small wooden building! It is fun though and luckily so many people come and generously, in addition to food, give body heat so it isn’t too cold! As for the party at the old people’s home, I am not sure yet! It will be my first but since my Grandad is now at one, we are going to it. I’ve heard there is food and raffle so should be similar to the rowing one but just with a different party of people!

I have also, this week, had two work parties. They were meals in town though and even though we referred to them as department ‘meals’ they are still classed as the generic ‘work christmas party’. Very nice meals and company. But miles apart from a ‘house’ party full of spilt drinks and fumbled snogging til the early hours. Over the holiday period we will be having an ‘after’ party at ours after our annual pub eve – where everyone we know meets at the same pub and we all get very merry in the name of Christmas. Our ‘after’ party is pretty much a place to go to when the pub is closed and we have boozingly eaten take-away food and are ready to begin drinking again!

We will also have a New Year’s Eve party and in the sense of the word this is what I think of as a typical ‘party’. People will turn up with booze and food (I hope) we will chat, dance, play silly drunken games and eat various food and drink some really weird drinks. Guests will then ‘crash’ and stay over after the party has finally fizzled at 3am (ish). The then next day because it will then be morning it is no longer called a party but we will all have a lovely hungover fry-up breakfast together! To me that is part of the party really and has become part of the tradition just as much as the alcohol and silly antics.

As a final mention there are Tupperware parties (or there were in the 80s) that have now been replaced with Ann Summer’s parties or Body Shop or Avon parties, which let’s face it exist because they combine women’s favourite things of wine, chatting, laughter and shopping (and sex in the Ann Summer’s case!). Maybe any kinds of social gathering that we enjoy, we call a party. It makes it sounds more fun doesn’t it? Would you like to come round for an Ann Summer’s eve? Nah, not the same. It has to be party.

So yes different kinds of parties all make up our party holiday season. They all differ for other reasons too. Like which music we are into, how many friends we have, what food we have in, how much money we have, what mood we are in…. but if friends and family are there and we having a good time, then who cares what kind of party it is?!

So enjoy partying this Christmas and remember ‘Nobody looks back on their life and remembers the nights that they got lots of sleep!’ 😉

XSXS

An Optimist sees the Doughnut; a Pessimist sees the hole!

We all know if we are one of those people who looks on the bright side of life or if we revel in doom and gloom. Some people may even claim to be somewhere in the middle – a realist perhaps. I am, I fully declare, an optimist through and through. My glass is always half full (in fact it is always full  – because why wouldn’t you want it topped up?!) and the answers are definitely not at the bottom of that glass or bottle. We make ourselves happy and a lot of that is positive thinking. (See my previous post on Buddhism too: https://samanthagray9.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/a-happy-soul/).

You find especially at this time of year, that the pessimists and the optimists really stand out. There are the people who embrace the upcoming celebrations. They happily shop early before the mad rush, put up and decorate their trees whilst sipping a mulled wine or baileys (again the glass is full!) with christmas tunes on in the background. They will be excited and counting down the days and enjoying all that leads up to it. They treat Christmas as a whole period and not just a day. Then there are the people who moan and groan at the thought of the tree being erected and avoid all the Christmas cheer. They moan about the expense and the fact that they haven’t done their shopping yet. They also, don’t count down to the day, but say things like, ‘oh, in 4 weeks time it will all be over!’ Whereas, the optimist won’t mind because they have enjoyed the whole process of the Christmas period and don’t pin all their hopes on that one day. The optimist will then look forward to New Year’s Eve and January sale shopping. But the pessimist? Well, they will grunt about presents to return and complain how much weight they have put on (yet they chose to eat that 4th mince pie) and that it is all over for another year…. but they didn’t even want it to start with! So which one are you this Christmas time?!

Some people say that is better to be a pessimist because if you set your sights low then you can never be disappointed. You won’t have your hopes dashed because they weren’t high enough anyway. I strongly disagree with this because if you always look on the bright side of life then even when things go wrong, you can look on the bright side of that too! You can put a positive slant on anything if you want to and it makes life much happier. Yes, I am one of those ‘happy people’ but not naturally. I have taught myself to positive think. I used to be a real worrier and feel negative about lots of little things when I was a teenager. Admittedly, that was probably mostly teenage angst and insecurities but now I know to think ‘oh it was meant to be’ or I’ll learn from it’ and I move on happily. Possibly part of growing up but some people grow up and become increasingly cynical and negative. The most negative thing I heard lately was a status on Facebook. I think it was meant to be a little sarcastic but I imagine some people would mean it seriously. This man said, ‘I hate Fridays. It means that we are nearly at Monday again.’ I commented and said it was the most depressing thing I had ever heard! I mean, we dread the good things because it means the horrible looming Monday is coming again. It’s like dreading a holiday because it will soon be over anyway or hating a child being born because they may grow up too soon to be a nightmare teenager or not wanting to buy a house because it may fall down! Surely, we have to make the most and appreciate the good things, even if they don’t last long?

So stay positive and you may find yourself enjoying the annoying things in life 😉 But don’t be too much of a ‘happy’ person and  to quote one of my favourite Friends lines you may be described as, ‘Santa Claus on prozac…. at Disney Land… getting laid!’  Haha.

Keep looking for those silver linings….

XSXS

Women rabbit, witter, waffle, chatter…. Men talk.

Well I am resurfacing. I have to confess that Christmas has bitten me, chewed me up and swallowed me whole! I have been engrossed doing the whole preparation lark like putting up the decorations, buying presents, wrapping them and generally thinking what needs to be done. Being a woman and all, I like this and feel I have to do this whole process. Whereas, my boyfriend says he is not involved with anything christmas present related until the week before. He is lucky I buy all our family presents.

I have always been interested in the fascinating differences between the genders, as you can probably tell by previous posts. At university, I did my dissertation on how men and women communicate. I recorded conversations and looked in particular at how women are cooperative in conversation and men and competitive as these are two stereotypes often applied to the genders. This all came screaming back to me today as I recorded some conversations on my phone for some spoken language studies we are doing at school. I had to transcribe them too. Luckily these were short ones but back in the Uni days it could take a good ten minutes to transcribe 10 seconds of speech! I spent many an hour until 1am transcribing all women, all men and mixed gender conversations that I had got from recording my course and house mates.

It was really interesting stuff and I discovered that men tend to swear more. Especially in mixed gender groups. I think I linked this to the fact they could be trying to ‘show off’ in front of the opposite sex. The same went for insults and jokes. Men definitely tell more jokes and to take my feminist hat off a minute, I think men tell jokes better. Sorry to all the female comedians out there! But men are good at being straight to the point and talking little, meaning a good gag with a punch line is usually delivered well. Women are good at telling funny stories because they tend to use more hedges and fillers and ‘pad’ out their speech. Meaning a ‘joke’ becomes a bit long winded!

Naturally, this all comes from the stereotype that women talk more. My title above is actually from a poem called Men Talk  that I used to begin my dissertation. It says how women have all these different ways of communicating: chattering, waffling, nattering, wittering, tittling, rabbiting etc. What do men do? They talk. They do it to communicate for a purpose a lot of the time, whereas women like the process and use it as a past time. I researched this as the time and found it can be said to stem from the cave man days. Men used few, key commands to hunt. Women stayed at home and chatted to each other, supported each other and comforted each other. To some extend, don’t you think these stereotypes still exist today? When I recorded the conversations earlier, I did one with me, my mum and dad and one with me, my sister and her boyfriend. The male/female ratios were in favour of women yes, but boy did they dominate the conversation! Each male had one utterance and that was interrupted by a female each time! So is it just that the men can’t get a word in or do they not want to?

Women use 20,000 words a day on average, compared to a man’s 7000. Are they being sparing and choosing key words?! Apparently, as well, I looked at an article for my dissertation and it said than when a woman communicates, pleasure centres in the brain are activated. Major levels of dopamine and oxytocin are released  – which apparently is the fastest neurological reward you can get apart from an orgasm. Explains those 20,000 words doesn’t it?

Right, I’m off for a chat – even if it is with myself!

XSXS