Joining a Book Club

It has finally happened. I have conceded. I have joined the ladies-who-lunch brigade and have been accepted into what is, by all accounts, a rather smart book club on 5th Avenue.

What was I thinking? I have yielded to my vanity!

This is not an opportunity for a bit of Joanna Trollope and a girly natter over chocolate biscuits squeezed into someone’s cosy flat. No. This book club is for grown ups. Smart women with multiple degrees, serious careers and a penchant for reading Virginia Woolf. Shall I be caught out on day one as an imposter and fraud who loves the merry romp of a Jilly Cooper rather than anything marginally, even fractionally heavier? Quite possibly.

Well, I shall just have to stop ruminating and clutching madly at my hair with tremulous hands and go to the bookshop. I have to purchase not just one, but two books which need to be read within 3 weeks. I’ve made my bed and now I shall lie in it, with the books no doubt.

Just a teensy thought, I wonder what one wears to a book club meeting on Fifth Avenue? Hmm … my book shopping might need to include some clothes shopping …

Think I’m going to nail this!

Katie x

Any experiences of book clubs?? Help me please!

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Finishing The Book …

Writing.

Editing.

Rewriting.

And repeat …

If we were to travel back thirty years, I would have been daily banging my fingers on the typewriter keys making a click, clickety click as the type bars struck the inky ribbon and left their imprint of blackened letters onto a white sheet of paper. And when the words in my mind refused to flow, I could rip the sheet of paper out with a forceful and resounding whoosh of the roller, scrunch it up between my hands with fury and hurl it into the waste paper basket across the room.

In today’s modern computer-abundant world, just holding down the delete key doesn’t give that same painfully exquisite release of frustration. It’s a shame really. Of course I could simply throw the iPad at the window or indeed the nearest person, but somehow the repercussions of that would most likely not be proportional to my momentary frustration.

So, I continue to write, edit, rewrite and drive myself mad with trying to create something that is, in my mind, not perfection, but the very best I can do. After all, isn’t that what we should do … our very best?

Katie x

Any tips or suggesstions for getting through over the last hurdle?

Road Trip!

Where do you go when teased with the lure of the white sands and balmy climes of the Bahamas, Cuba or the British Virgin Islands being only a mere hop, skip and a jump of a plane journey away?

Well, you pack up a tent and go on a road trip instead. Err, of course.

America is big. Vast. However, in a week we covered well over 1000 miles and popped into 7 different states. I say popped because at times it was somewhat unintentional what with the Colonel’s driving and perhaps more relevantly, my map reading. We popped in, and with a little oops, popped out again.

In truth, his driving is irritatingly good; I am simply a poor passenger with a habit of yelping and clutching white-knuckled onto the door handle if I think we’re either going too fast or are going to crash. For me, the two go hand-in-hand. So, this being a regular occurrence led at times to a fairly high stress journey (more so when driving in Manhattan where my fears were completely validated looking at the number of dents in the cars. Did you know, they actually have bumpers over their bumpers for protection here?)

However, and back to the road trip … We wiggled our way along the smaller roads, avoiding the pot holes, cracks, lumps and bumps which in the U.K. we appear to have considerably less of and I consequently shall never complain of again. We googled some road signs, delighted to find that sometimes one can actually turn right on a red light. It does leave a rather large margin for error which is perhaps not entirely sensible, but I didn’t make the rules. And rules they like. Oooh they are strict. But it keeps things in order, mostly; and we like order.

And then we drooled.

Fresh, bright white clapboard houses stood proudly, their slatted shutters painted varying shades of greens and blues framing the huge Georgian-style windows; colonial pillars supported the grey roofs covering verandas which themselves were filled with pots of flowers and plants and tables and chairs, offering a peaceful place to sit and watch the world go by. Wide wooden steps led down to the gardens and with no hedges or fences indicating where one plot started and another ended, they seemingly merged into one another allowing for clear uninterrupted views.

The gardens themselves were simple but perfectly neat. Manicured lawns with flowerbeds planted up close to the houses. Hydrangeas with their huge pom pom flower heads, hibiscus, hostas without a slug to be seen, box balls in abundance and lots and lots of trees. Nothing too taxing for the gardeners, but everything colourful and wonderfully healthy. With a hot climate and plenty of rain, everything flourishes there and yet surprisingly very few grow their own vegetables and fruit. Not an apple espalier or raised bed in sight.

There were no overgrown jungles of front gardens there. No black, brown and blue overstuffed bins spilling out their contents onto the weeds on the driveways. It was perfection and it was beautiful. I suspect I would struggle to keep up with the Jones’.

Towns with names like Great Barrington and Lennox offered shops for the wealthy where a cushion would cost well over a hundred pounds, but always the service was impeccable as if that should take the sting out of the tail. We looked, we touched, but rarely bought.

The campsites were clean and quiet and only once were plagued by mosquitoes, but the local pharmacy offered more anti-mozzie sprays and more importantly, soothing anaesthetic creams than you could shake a stick at (at a cost of course).

The beaches were litter-free and the sun shone. What more could we have asked for? So whilst the glamour and glitz of the Bahamas will no doubt beckon again another time, this time we have saved our pennies and enjoyed the beauty of another little world for a short while.

And, as I type and watch my sunburn begin to peel and scratch madly at the line of bites from some little blighter of a bug which starts at my ankle and heads towards my bottom, I do wonder if there are mozzies in the Caribbean …

Katie x

Food Glorious Food!

As I typed the title of this post, the song from ‘Oliver’ burst from my lips making the Colonel leap up from his slumber in bewilderment. It was, after all only six o’clock in the morning.

“Sorry darling. Got a bit carried away.”

He made a harrumphing, grumbling noise to make his displeasure known and then settled back under the bedcovers.

Back to the original point … Food.

Food in Manhattan is monumentally expensive. For my lovely British friends let me tell you that a can of baked beans is $3.49 which in today’s exchange rate equates to £2.87 … two pounds and eighty seven pence for a can of sodding baked beans. We no longer eat baked beans.

Meanwhile, a loaf of bread last week was priced at the equivalent of two of those cans of baked beans! We don’t eat bread now either.

However, whilst I scrabble around in my purse for the last few pennies, there is a little glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Or should I say, a Costco. Indeed, it is at the end of the tunnel because the nearest one means taking two subways, or to get the biggest and best Costco, a subway, a boat and a walk. Take your pick.

Costco means buying in bulk. Costco means buying in bulk but extremely cheaply.

Now, each and every cupboard in our apartment is filled to the gunnels with vast vats of gloopy washing liquid, a bin bag full of pineapples, enough loo rolls to keep every Andrex puppy in England happy for months, and more tin foil than you can wrap a dozen turkeys in. I shan’t bore you with more detail, but you get the picture.

The Colonel however, is happy. Always one to enjoy a good deal, he smiles at our over-filled cupboards, content and dare I say, a little smug in the knowledge that should Manhattan ever have a power cut again and we are stranded, we shall at least be able to get a grip on the washing … oh, except last time all the water cut out too.

Nevertheless, the sun in streaming in through the windows and although I won’t be having toast for breakfast, we do still have four rather large pineapples in the bathroom cupboard that need eating up …

Katie xx

The Audio Book

I am now a modern woman. I have an App and it is called Audible.

I have precisely one book in my Audible library and of the twelve hours of listening that is required before I can pronounce I have finished it, I have completed just one hour, thirty-five minutes and a smattering of seconds.

Presumably, I can only imagine that because the book is about various women, it is therefore being read by a number of women, one of whom has a rather irritating voice. Nasal, whiny, like a cat in a fight. I don’t enjoy her chapters very much and thus far she has read a lot of them.

The issue I have is one of multi-tasking. I had imagined that I could walk around New York listening to my book whilst running a few errands, window shopping, picking up the groceries. No. It simply doesn’t work like that.

I find myself walking aimlessly in the wrong direction clutching at my ears trying to stop the earplugs from falling out, yet again; I stand, endlessly staring into shop windows, seeing nothing, just listening to the story; I gaze at displays of fruit for so long that I am asked by random strangers if I need help; and all the while I am trying to concentrate on a book, a plot, numerous different characters and all delivered by a nasal, whiny voice.

Perhaps I should persevere. Perhaps I should revert to a physical book with lovely pages to touch and feel. Perhaps I am simply too long in the tooth for this audiobook malarkey. And yet, when I heard of people who by June had already read fifty books that year (were they showing off?) I question how on earth they managed this. Do they too have audiobooks and spend their days plugged into their phones, whilst simultaneously running their multinational conglomerates? Or do they read through the night with a torch under the duvet?

I shall, for the time being, persevere. And if I reach the stage whereby I want to bludgeon the nasal voice to death, I shall revert to a proper book with proper paper pages. I shall hide with it late at night under the bedcovers, with a torch and its undoubtedly dying battery, just like I used to as a child. After all, isn’t that what normal people do?

Katie x

Do you use audiobooks? How? When? Where?

The Joy of the Theatre!

Yesterday morning I stood in a queue with dozens of others, waiting to see if I could get any ‘rush’ tickets for that evening’s performance of King Kong.

I did, we went, I cried, it was wonderful.

Many years ago I went to see West Side Story at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. I went ten times, partly because it was utterly magical and partly because I rather fancied the leading man. As it turned out, said leading man sadly preferred men to women, however on a positive note, I did learn all the words to every song. Happy days.

I’m a bit stuffy these days and rather preferred it when in the past we used to dress up to go to the theatre. Yes, I know, times change and bah-blasted-humbug I need to move with them. But still, despite a change in attire and the request for mobile phones to be switched off, nothing has remotely altered the pure magic of the theatre. The red plush velvet seats, the high ceilings, the glittery chandeliers, the excited chatter before the lights dim and the curtain rises … heaven! The applause, the standing ovations, the squeals of terror, the laughter … bliss!

In truth I also enjoy the cinema, but am too easily distracted by crisp packets being incessantly rustled, people getting up and down to go to the loo, the smell of tacos and hot dogs being eaten, the crunching, the slurping, the rustling, and finally having to wade my way through the spilt popcorn and half empty drinks littering the floors. Somehow it’s not quite the same, but, I grant you, a fraction of the price.

So I shall save my pennies and be prepared to stand once again on the steaming hot street corners of New York. Not to earn money for those of the more smutty mind, but in the hope of securing more cheap tickets to the theatre. Yes, a two hour slice of utter heaven without a crisp packet, carton of popcorn or slurpy drink to be seen or heard. Bliss.

Katie xx

P.s. Any recommendations for shows gratefully received, and apologies to any noisy popcorn eaters.

Is Being Happy a Choice?

Some would say categorically not. They have a disease, it’s a part of their makeup (genetic or otherwise) and they have no control over it.

Others might argue that yes, how we feel is our choice. We have a mind of our own and we can control it (using various methods).

It is also often debated whether depressive thoughts are addictive, in the same way that substances like alcohol, or behaviours like gambling are addictive. And when we are not using these substances or behaviours we feel out of control largely because in a (self-destructive) way the familiarity gives us an element of comfort. In a similar vein, it is often noted that women (and men for that matter) in unhealthy relationships are mimicking those they had with their parents in childhood. It might not be healthy, but it is familiar.

So, if using by these theories, we fight the urge to believe that we have no control over our minds and we fight the urge to fall back into the dark, warm but comfortable well of depression, ( Read my post on Depression – A Multi-Pronged Attack ) can we overcome it?

My view, for what it’s worth, is yes. But it’s no walk in the park.

It’s curious how whilst I was cycling through France last summer, I had never been so happy or so at peace. Perhaps it was something to do with … the daily exercise (ok it was a brutal 60 – 90 kms a day); being in the sunshine (yup, it hit 41 degrees); a challenge each and every moment (wait til the book comes out, then you’ll understand); social interaction (albeit mostly in a different language apart from on meeting one couple who when I exclaimed how delighted I was that they were English, they replied, “Nah! We’re from Birmingham.” Right; No alcohol, but gallons of water and my weight in croissants; No toxic people to be around and no social media …. And so on and so forth.

Yes, all those things that we’re supposed to do daily to help ourselves (granted, perhaps not in quite such an extreme form), nevertheless, whilst I’m not suggesting that anyone heads off for a 1200 km cycle ride, it’s funny how happy one can be with just a bicycle a tent and the winding road ahead.

So what do you think? Depending of course on the severity of the anxiety or depression, do you believe we actually have a choice to be happy?

Katie xx