Saturday 27 July 2013

My reading routine

My reading for the day sometimes starts at around 6-7am, when on a good day (ie. I've slept well and am up early) I'll make a cup of chai tea and take it back to bed.  This reading, however, is likely to be a handful of pages at most, and occasionally not even that (the 'staring into space until the caffeine kicks in' mornings...).  

My reading usually begins in earnest over breakfast.  This inevitably means a warm chocolate chip muffin (Sainsbury's finest, microwaved for a few seconds) and a big mug of coffee.  I generally sit on the floor, between my sink and the bedside table (a handy breakfast storage device), with my back to the radiator, and read until it's really time to get up and finish getting ready for work.  I'm tend to be half-ready by this point (teeth brushed, washed, semi-dressed) so on a good day I can keep reading until about 9am before I need to put my book down!

The reading then continues at work.  I tend to be most efficient first thing in the morning, so I try to get any book orders, book pricing and shelf-filling done as soon as we open.  Then it's time to catch up on a few blogs.  After that it's right back to my book, as much and as often as the customers allow!  If my eyes are getting a bit tired I might stop and play a game of Spider Solitaire, and at this time of year there are plenty of customers to serve and shelves to be refilled - but generally I can squeeze in a good few pages if I just settle down and make the effort.  This is my reading spot, behind the counter:

And this is what the shelf under the till often looks like!  Graze snacks, a tub of Vittoria vine tomatoes, a stack of books and notebooks (all lugged to work every day in a Bodleian Library tote bag), my Paperblanks diary, plus all the regular shop paraphernalia!

After work, or on days off, most of my reading will once again happen sitting on the floor, coffee or tea on the bedside table, occasionally supplemented by pizza or toasted teacakes or whatever else I'm using as reading fodder that day.  I love to read while I eat - I actually read with more focus if I'm eating or drinking, I don't know why - and only make an exception for a 'proper' meal or something a bit messy, like garlic bread.  Something that requires two hands and would probably end up coating my book!  That's when I catch up on programmes on 4oD or iPlayer, or watch an episode of Nurse Jackie or Gilmore Girls on my laptop instead.

If my bum's getting a bit numb from all that sitting on the floor, or if I just want to stretch out somewhere where I'm less likely to get unexpectedly spidered, then I shift up onto the bed.  I have the rather bad habit of lying flat out on my front like a little girl, book on my blanket, feet on my pillow, which probably does my back no good but DAMN it's comfy for reading! 

Sometimes one of the cats will join me, offering a handy back massage service, eagerly reading over my shoulder, or just zonking out in a ball within stroking distance.

I don't really read downstairs much, even though my two awesome chairs from the flat are now sitting in our living room awaiting moving day.  I do like to read in the garden though, either flat out on a sunlounger on a hot day, or perched on our wooden seat as the sun goes down after work, with a mug of coffee, keeping ever-vigilant for the wasps that like to come down and strip the wood for their nests.  It's peaceful and relaxing, and it gives me a focus I don't always get inside with everyone bustling around.

Aaaand that's my reading life!  Obviously I've not covered things like occasional train or plane travel, holiday reading (roll on October!) and other miscellaneous reading opportunities, but I think this pretty much covers my general reading routines...

Do you have particular places, snacks, times or other routines that have become reading habits for you?

Thursday 25 July 2013

15 Bookish Confessions

1.  My book-buying has all the qualities of a bona fide addictive behaviour.  If I haven't been book shopping for a while, I start to get twitchy and obsessive about what I might be missing in the charity shops and remainder stores.  I sometimes hide the fact that I've bought things (that time I wedged a copy of Naked Lunch down the back of my jeans so Mum wouldn't see it was a particular low point).  And once I start buying, I can't stop - by the end of a shopping trip I'll be dropping cash on as many books as I can carry!

2.  I hate how slow I am at reading these days.  Until a couple of years ago, I could sail through books, no matter where I was or what was happening around me.  While singing along to music.  While someone was watching telly.  Late into the night.  Whatever.  Now I get so easily distracted that this has become impossible, AND I often have to read a book under my breath in the right accent to make sure it all goes in.  Despite my best efforts to start to fix this, by reading inspiring bookish memoirs and how-to blog articles, and trying to read silently as much as possible, 2013 has been my slowest year of reading since... well, probably since I started reading.  It's so frustrating!

3.  I once tore a page out of a school library book on the 60s because there was a glossy picture I desperately wanted for a big collage I was making for my wall.  I still feel a bit sick about that.  What makes it worse?  I was in one of my weird manic obsessive phases.  The picture was... I can't believe I'm telling anybody this... the picture was of the frickin' Osmonds.  Because I'd picked up on the fact that my mum loved Donny as a teenager and got really obsessive about it.  *runs away and hides forever*

4.  When I visit someone's home, I can't help but zero in on their bookshelves.  If there are shelves in the hall, I WILL look en route to the bathroom.  While you put the kettle on, I WILL be perusing the bookshelves in your living room.  In your bedroom, my curiosity about what's on your bookcase will always need to be satisfied before my curiosity about your photos or pretty trinkets.  I can't help myself - other people's shelves just sing to me.  Which leads me to...

5.  While we've been house hunting recently, my feelings about a house and its owners have been influenced by their bookshelves.  My gut feeling about a place has correlated directly with the contents of the current owners' bookcases.  A good mix of books, and lots of stuff I've read or own or have wishlisted?  YES.  A couple of ramshackle shelves of condensed volumes and Danielle Steel novels?  NO.  Like, for me, part of the whole vibe of the place is set by books, even though those books wouldn't be there by the time we moved in.  Ridiculous, moi?

6.  I'm ridiculously bad at buying books that "I must read, now!" but then not reading them for five years.  This is particularly stupid when I've pre-ordered a book months ahead of its release date - I've got a bunch of those still sitting on my shelves.  Since I discovered Ariel's devastatingly truthful video about TBR books, I'm trying to remedy this by either not buying the books yet, or at the very least, by keeping my newest books near the top of Mount TBR so that I can read them while my enthusiasm is still strong!

7.  I match my bookmarks to the books I read.  I mean, not EVERY SINGLE time, but enough to make it a notable habit.  Cheerful chick lit novel?  Gerbera daisy bookmark!  Serious non-fiction?  Map and compass bookmark!  Funny non-fiction?  Tree frog bookmark!

8. As soon as you say the words, "I only read..." or "I never read..." we're not going to get on. People always seem to say this as a way of sneering at OTHER books and genres, but to me it just shows how closed-minded they are, and it gets on my nerves, big time. "I don't really read much fiction," fine. "I read mostly paranormal romance," fine. But as soon as you say "I ONLY read X genre" or I NEVER read Y genre", I don't like you. Deal with it.

9.  I'm really looking forward to being back on the OTHER side of the counter.  I've done my stint behind the desk, but I've got to be honest - all the fun's on the other side.  I like exploring a bookshop, I like discovering what's on their shelves, I like the new and shiny and the second-hand and well-loved...  Soon enough, when I visit a bookshop I'm going to be visiting without trade-weary eyes, and I'm going to treat the person behind that counter like frickin' ROYALTY.

10.  I find it really hard to visualise characters.  Quite often they'll either appear like a person in a dream - a kind of faceless shape in an appropriate outfit - or I'll automatically picture them as a particular famous person.  Most often it's an actor or actress, especially if I've seen them in something recently, and once I've settled on someone no amount of physical description will change that character in my mind.  If I know the book is being adapted for the screen, my mental cast is created for me!  A bunch of characters in the same book can be a mixture of actors and dream people.

11.  I have a love/hate relationship with dust jackets.  I love a beautiful dustjacket, particularly on those lovely smaller-format hardbacks.  These days publishers are putting so much work into creating gorgeous dustjackets, particularly for literary fiction, and they're usually much more striking than the paperback covers that follow.  That said, I CANNOT read a hardback book with the dustjacket on.  I have to take it off and stow it safely until I'm done reading.  The only exception is library books, because they're covered and usually already 'broken in', so they feel more like an organic part of the book and less like something to be ruined.

12.  I can never decide how I want to shelve my books.  By colour or size?  Should fiction be divided into genres THEN alphabetised?  Should non-fiction be alphabetised or just shelved by subject?  What kind of bookcases or shelving do I want?  Does it matter if the shelves start neatly but get messier?  Should they be casually messy from the start?  Should the books just be mixed up and stuck on a shelf, so that I have a complete mishmash of subjects, authors and genres to explore on each shelf?  Am I more likely to read 'outside the box' and pick up something random this way?  And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I spend so much of my life sitting on the floor, surrounded by book piles, rearranging them...
13.  School/university texts and ARCs aside, I've only ever annotated two books.  One was An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison, which I wrote in and underlined before I passed it on to my mum to read.  It was when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder; I was seeking validation, and she was trying to understand what was happening!  The other book was The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, which had such wonderful little moments in it that I couldn't NOT respond in the margins, even though I felt weird about it!  Both were annotated in pencil so I can change things next time I read them if I want to.

How I felt when I wrote my first margin note in Perks.  What a revelation!

14.  Sometimes when I'm reading something really exciting, the urge to know what's going to happen just gets too much.  If I'm reading the page on the left, I find my eyes flicking across to the page on the right, instinctively seeking answers.  Maybe this is a bad habit brought about by too much fast skimming of information online, who knows?  Occasionally I will flick forward a few pages or even towards the end of the novel.  Sometimes this is because I'm tempted to give up on the book and want to know whether to read on; sometimes it just stops me wondering long enough to enjoy the story without my mind racing too far ahead.  Either way, it never ruins anything for me!

15.  I love watching movies and TV shows that are based on books.  I will always try to read the book first, on principle - though I occasionally break this rule for epic novels and classics where it can be easier to have people and plots roughly in mind before you tackle the original.  I inevitably look for my favourite scenes and lines in an adaptation, but other than that I'm very easy-going about them.  I prefer to see book and movie as source material and interpretation, two different incarnations and experiences of the same vision, so it doesn't matter to me if things are chopped and changed and shifted around a bit.  You can't cram a 500-page novel into a 2-hour movie without making compromises.  If a movie sucks, it sucks - but it won't be because I've relentlessly compared it to the book.

Soooooo, those are my fifteen bookish confessions!  Some of them are more like bookish habits, but either way they offer some insight into my reading life, I think!

Friday 19 July 2013

What customers say vs. what they really mean

They say:  "I'm just here to browse!"
They mean:  "I'm not going to buy anything."

They say:  "Oooh, a 10p box!"
They mean:  "If I can buy something and get change from 50p, it doesn't matter if the book is unreadable."

They say:  "I do like a book with a good story."
They mean:  "I only read Maeve Binchy and Mills and Boon novels."

They say:  "Where are your true stories?"
They mean:  "I only read misery memoirs."

They say:  "Do you not have any non-fiction here?"
They mean:  "I'm surrounded by non-fiction but I have no idea how a bookshop works."

They say:  "Is this the price inside the cover?"
They mean:  "I don't like the price inside the cover."

They say:  "I've never read a book in me life!  Waste of time..."
They mean:  "I prefer to spend my time perusing The Daily Mail, and I watch Jeremy Kyle religiously."

They say:  "Can you knock me anything off the price?"
They mean:  "I'm so rich that I'll be paying with a £20 peeled off a huge roll of notes - but I'm also a tight bastard."

They say:  "Have you got one of those Daphne du Maurier books?  The Laurence Olivier one?"
They mean:  "The movie was showing on Yesterday last night."

They say:  "I was just wondering, do you buy books?"
They mean:  "I've never been in here before, and I never will again, but I've had boxes of books in the garage since 1976 and I'm too lazy to have a car boot sale."

They say:  "Do you give a 10% discount for paying cash?"
They mean:  "I last went shopping in 1943."

They say:  "They're too good to just give to a charity shop."
They mean:  "I have inflated ideas about my books and I'm going to be loudly and righteously horrified by the amount you offer me."

They say:  "They're in pristine condition!"
They mean:  "I have no idea what 'pristine' means but I heard it on Antiques Roadshow and I thought it might get me more money."

They say:  "Look but don't touch, darling!"
They mean:  "I'm just going to be round here ignoring my child while she picks up every single thing in the shop and tries to get into your stock cupboards."

Did I miss anything?

Saturday 6 July 2013

Carnival Day: The Live Blog

It's Carnival Day here in TouristTown.  One of our busiest and most bizarre days of the year, and one that this year I've been dreading because Vaguely Manic Ellie + An Entire Town in Noisy Chaos is not a happy mixture.  Soooo, in an attempt to keep my sanity more or less intact, I've decided that it would be a stellar idea to live blog the day.  If it gets too boring I'll just delete it!  Enjoy... 

9:45am - At work.  Coffee made.  Feverishly listening to Gary Numan and Amanda Palmer in an attempt to calm my nerves a tiny bit before we open.

10:15am - The first glowering old man has stood in the doorway, glared around the shop and huffed away again.  I do so love it when people do that.

10:40am - Ahhh, it's not only me that gets the James Bond theme tunes stuck in my head every time I go near one of our JB cover Penguin mugs.  A lad's just scared his mum to death by twirling round the corner and singing "LIVE AND LET DIIIIIIE!" at full volume, with a kind of air-guitar riff to finish it off.  Nice.

11am - My coffee tastes very faintly like mint.  Weird.

11:05am - The first parade float has done an early tour of the town.  Mary Poppins flying above what looks like the top half of a garden shed (nope, no clue), complete with rock music hastily switched to the annoying 'Um diddle-i' section of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.  It's good to have advance warning of which irritating songs are going to be stuck in my head for the rest of the weekend.  Plus, it's also a good indicator of which float... personnel?... are going to be struggling to walk in a straight line by show time.

11:30am - I can hear ethereal music coming from somewhere.  Reminds me of last year, when a little old couple wandered into the shop looking puzzled.  "Is something going on in town today, love?" asked the woman, "only... there's a space shuttle parked outside the pub down there.  So we just wondered."  I know southerners often THINK we're from another planet, but really?   

11:45am - Wiggling around the bathroom upstairs, singing Cars to myself.  Much more fun than being downstairs in the shop.  I love 'bathroom breaks' on busy weekends.

12:10pm - Three Oompa Loompas have just wandered past pushing their float, with 'Kitkat' painted up the side of it and The Candy Man Can blaring out.  I approve.  "Who can take a sunrise?  Sprinkle it with dew?  Cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two?"  All together now!  "THE CANDY MAN CAAAAAN!"

12:30pm - The Oompa Loompas have teamed up with the Mary Poppins chimney sweeps to get pissed outside the pub over the road.  At the moment we're alternating between Step in Time, hip hop and dance music, Pure Imagination and pop cheese, all played at eye-watering volume.  It's keeping some of the grumpy biddies away (YOUTH MUSIC!  NOOOOOO!) and me and Mum are dancing and singing along in the privacy of the shop.  Brilliant.  I think I may have pulled something trying to do 'Kick your knees up, step in time!' WHILE keeping my ballet pumps from flying up onto the top of a bookcase.  The kid in blue's dancing like a boss, occasionally while wielding a chimney sweep's brush.  OH MY GOD MICHAEL BOLTON.  My day is made.

12:50pm - The chimney sweeps have moved off, presumably to go join the rest waiting near the park.  A big white truck barrelled past a few minutes ago with three 'princesses' sat up high on the back.  I'm fairly sure they were blokes, but they went past too quick!  The Oompa Loompas have marshalled the troops and are heading out with their float, entitled "Willy Wonka and the Giant Kitkat."  THIS IS WHERE I WORK EVERY DAY AND THEY WONDER WHY I'M MAD.

2:30pm - All quiet on the carnival front...  A couple of bizarrely decorated cars have gone past, but everyone will be gathering across town to get organised for the parade now.  More customers around though, especially folks on their way back to their cars to get out before the roads close.  People will be starting to line the pavements soon - scoping out a good spot then wasting a little time in the nearest shops until around the time the parade starts at 3 o'clock.  Could be busy! 

2:35pm - Oh goody, my favourite kind of customer.  A gentleman who can't find anything for himself and needs me to literally walk him to each section and point at it expansively.  NOT ONLY THAT, but we don't have the particular book he wants on cars, we don't have anything on or by D.H. Lawrence, nor do we have anything on fairgrounds or circus skills.  All of the above are grave personal faults of mine.  Obviously.  Dickwad.

3:05pm - The parade should be on the move!  One question: why do people come to town on Carnival day if they're going to stay stubbornly in the shops during the focal point of the whole Carnival week?  It pisses us all off something chronic when we all want to shut up shop for a bit and go out with everyone else!  Oh, and here's another one.  Please, do, come in...  It's not like there's sunshine and music and fun out there or anything... I'LL JUST SIT HERE IN THE SHOP SHALL I?  No point going out now, I'm too short, I won't be able to see.  And I can't see from in HERE because some charming individuals have arranged their children along every windowsill so all I can see is a row of small arses wiping against the windows we cleaned this morning.  DICKWADS.

3:20pm - BREAKING NEWS!  The town brass band have FINALLY switched up their repertoire!  For the first time since we opened, they're not playing Mucho Mambo Sway on our corner!  I think their rendition of Is This The Way to Amarillo is very jaunty, and I'd rather have the latter stuck in my head than the former, I think.  Good call.

3:25pm - Oh, and hey, the blue-coated Musketeers from the next town are sounding awesome too!  I do love me a good old-fashioned band.

3:35pm - Well, I can HEAR the Mary Poppins float, even if I can't see it!  Lots of whooping and cheering going on from the roadside.  There are grumpy-looking people wandering in and out of the shop (presumably people who didn't know about the carnival and are allergic to fun of any kind.  And smiling).  And a fully grown man is now STANDING on our windowsill taking photographs.  If he comes through the window I think I'd be justified in finally flipping my lid, right?

3:40pm - This is the first year I've not been on the edge of the pavement with pockets full of change and my camera.  I feel weird.  Like the whole town's having fun and I'm the kid stuck inside doing her homework or something.  This is the view from our doorway right now, but I can't even stand there now because a delightful couple have let their children go in here and I have to keep an eye on our stuff.  I want to kill them a little bit.  Okay a lot.

3:45pm - It's a Long Way to Tipperary, played on something that sounds like a xylophone.  Or maybe a really clever triangle.  Hmmmm.

3:50pm - Jailhouse Rock, that's more like it!  I'm going to sing along a little bit EVEN THOUGH THERE IS A WOMAN IN THE SHOP.  Fuck 'em.

4:00pm - My favourite Highland band have been and gone.  A giant wheel has rolled past, no idea how or why.  And these STUPID OLD WOMEN keep coming in and complaining that the town's too busy.  In fact this one woman has just said to me, "Oh, is there a parade?"  FOR GOD'S SAKE WHAT DO YOU THINK IS HAPPENING OUT THERE?!  Here's an idea folks - don't come to town on Carnival day if you don't want it to be hot, noisy and busy.  Hey, hey, did you see where my 'let's dance to all the things' happy mania switched to 'let's kill all the tourists' angry mania?  Isn't this fun?

4:05pm - An entire float filled with people riding inflatable ponies, to the tune of Crazy Horses, blasted out at decibel levels roughly akin to a fighter jet flying over.  Now there's something you don't see very often...

4:07pm - Aaaand a giant John Deere tractor attempting to manoeuvre an articulated lorry-style float around the tight corner.  Always a highlight of the parade, watching it squeak round about an inch from the toes of the children on the front row of spectators.


4:20pm - God, we're so British.  The parade is over, therefore a third of the crowd have instantly started a stampede for the car park.  Another third are charging into the nearest pubs to refresh their plastic beer glasses.  And the final third, it seems, have poured into our shop.  There's a kid moaning, "Can we gooooooo?" over and over.  Everyone who's got too hot outside has come in here to take it out on us.  This is where every last vestige of my happy mood drains away and becomes jittery, unpleasant, "Oh my god please go away now and take your children with you" panic.

4:40pm - Why yes, this DID used to be a charity shop, thank you SO much for mentioning it!  I had no idea!  We've only been here four years this weekend!

5:00pm - The gate is officially SHUT.  Now I just need this last couple to twig that we've closed, finish time-wasting and go home, and we can cash up and do the same.  It's oooooooooveeeeeer!

6:00pm - Home.  Safe.  Showered.  Show's over everyone... off you go... DON'T CAUSE A STAMPEDE TO THE BLOGGER CAR PARK PLEASE, YOU'LL ONLY GET STUCK IN TRAFFIC ON YOUR WAY OUT!  :)

I survived.  One more weekend day to go, and then it's my appointment, and THEN I can concentrate on the readathon and my day off and packing and everything else.  READATHON!