I am currently halfway through my Easter read-a-thon and bang on schedule: I’ve finished three of the six books I’m hoping to read before the end of Monday. But I am also full of cold and feeling a little rubbish, so the Netflix and Youtube breaks have been getting longer…
Much like this bank holiday weekend, March as a whole has been a mixed bag. It snowed twice, which was pretty but the one time we went out in it further than the local park I twisted my ankle. And that meant I didn’t run for almost a whole month, which makes me worry a little bit about that pesky 10k race in six weeks’ time.
On the plus side we did an awesome gyoza cooking class arranged by a local cafe called Eatchu last weekend and now our freezer is full of tofu, mushroom and spinach dumplings. Surprisingly it seems to be the cooking them part that is defeating us so far but that might be because they require a 100% non-stick pan, not ones where not only the non-stick but all the materials appear to be peeling off in places. I think we need new frying pans.
It’s almost gone already, but we had a couple of proper snow days here for the first time in years. For those of us who don’t need to drive and can work from home, it wasn’t especially disruptive, and was fun and beautiful. I particularly enjoyed walking around our local park and seeing it packed with people having fun sledging, building snowmen, generally enjoying the holiday atmosphere.
Brrr. Storm Emma has well and truly hit Bristol and I am cold, even huddled on the sofa under a blanket. The snow has been falling non-stop all day and is expected to keep it up all through tomorrow as well. We’ve changed our weekend plans from going away and seeing to art to hunkering down and maybe venturing out to take some photos – making our own art.
February was a pretty good reading month for me. I finished Anna Karenina and followed that up with a few short books to give myself a refresh. And then I read one of the best books I’ve found in a few years: My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal. I loved that book so much. Eventually I will write a proper review, but you can see my initial thoughts below.
Thankfully our local chippy is still open so we have loaded up on fat and carbs to see us through the frozen night. Any excuse gladly taken!
I’ve spent years hearing about Zooniverse, right back to its origin in the Galaxy Zoo project, but it occurred to me that outside of academia and science journalism, maybe it’s not so well known. Zooniverse is a citizen-science platform, where anyone can register and help to sort through the types of data that are easier for humans to classify than computers.
That might sound dull, but most projects involve looking at photos and ticking a box for each one. You can choose between dozens of projects to find something that you will enjoy looking at photos of. There’s Cheetahs of Central Namibia, where the photos are from a camera trap in a Namibian national park. There’s the Weddell Seal Count, where the images are from a satellite pointed at sections of ice in the Antarctic. There’s the Milky Way Project, with images from the Spitzer Space Telescope and WISE satellite observatory.
One I got a little obsessed with last year is Penguin Watch, where you click on every penguin in each photo. I love penguins and it’s reassuring to see photos of hundreds of them just getting on with their quiet little lives.
I would like to cut down my TBR without it feeling like a chore. I currently have 133 books that I have bought and not yet read, which is massive. And I know I’m never going to get it down to 20 or 30 books, neither do I want to, but under 100 would feel more manageable, maybe even under 80.
Then again, that would mean almost a year of reading without buying new books. It seems unlikely. And new books always seem more exciting than ones that have been sitting around for a while. (See, for instance, the fact that I started reading my new copy of Anna Karenina as soon as we got back from holiday. Not that I regret finally embarking on this classic, but 822 pages of one book means not tackling four normal-sized books.)
I’ve already blogged quite a bit about Japan, including my holiday highlights, but the one glaring omission from that highlights list was the food. Because food was both a highlight and – well, maybe not a lowlight, but certainly stressful on occasion.
First: the highs. Tokyo has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city on Earth, so it’s pretty foodie. Before we went on holiday we did a bit of research and picked out two restaurants we really wanted to eat at that allowed us to book via e-mail. (One of them specified on its website that its staff was bilingual so we were able to book in English. For the other, Tim asked a Japanese friend to help us out.) Those meals turned out to be two of the best meals of our lives (albeit two of the most expensive).
I am so behind on blogging. Isn’t January meant to be a down month, with plenty of free time sat at home? I think we’ve been avoiding post-holiday blues by doing lots of stuff – pub quizzes, film nights, weekend outings (even in the rain), plus lots of catching up with friends and family we didn’t see over Christmas and New Year. I even went to see The Dark Side of the Moon as a visual show at Bristol Planetarium. That was pretty awesome (and also made me feel a little queasy – the mind can play funny tricks when you’re sat still).
I have also done a fair amount of reading – more than the list below might suggest, because three weeks ago I embarked on Anna Karenina, which in the Oxford Classics edition I’m reading is 822 pages (not counting the introduction). I’m halfway through and really enjoying it. Definitely not a slog like Dostoevsky was for me, at least to begin with.
Even though January included the second half of our awesome Japan holiday, and my birthday, I’m still a little bit glad it’s over and spring is edging closer. I’ll be glad to wake up in the light again, especially if I’m going to force myself to run more often in preparation for doing the Bristol 10k again in May.
I know it’s more than a month since I posted a book review, and I will get caught up on that soon. But I have been spending my free evenings going through the thousands of photos I took in Japan, so that I can give holiday slide shows to friends and family who visit. They may or may not want a holiday slide show, but they’re getting one!
Now we’re getting to the real holiday nitty gritty! Well, actually, this was a low-on-reading holiday, despite basically spending four days just travelling.
You see, as part of our almost-everything-going-wrong outward journey, my Kindle broke. At some point between the third flight and arriving at our hotel, the screen was damaged so that the bottom third or so was just a grey rectangle. Which made it unusable. And I had packed ZERO physical books. So that sucked.
I thought about buying a new Kindle there and then, but I decided to just download the Kindle app onto my phone and look out for a book shop. Which initially seemed really smart, as there were LOADS of book shops in Tokyo. They were everywhere! On our first proper day of holiday we walked a couple of miles from Roppongi to Shibuya and went into at least four book shops, while passing another half a dozen or so. But I quickly learned that even in foreigner-filled Roppongi, the only English-language books were those about learning Japanese. Handy, but not quite what I had in mind.