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.
Does every month fly by when you get older? I can’t remember the last time it didn’t feel that way. Time passes too fast. Then again, it’s been another reasonably busy month. I’ve kept up the running, on track to run my first 10k in British Science Week as part of Run the Solar System. Once I have the virtual race under my belt, I’ll be all set for the real thing in early May.
On the cultural front, I went to see Othello at the Tobacco Factory Theatre, which I thoroughly enjoyed. And I went to Bletchley Park, which has left me itching to learn more about life there in World War II, if I can only choose between the hundreds of books written about it over the past 20 years or so since it became public knowledge.
Speaking of science and engineering history that had been relatively hidden, tonight I watched the film Hidden Figures about black women who worked as computers at NASA in the 1960s. It’s a remarkable film, a stark reminder of how recently widespread discrimination not only existed but was the norm, and what a fight it was for talented women such as Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson to do their work every day. I now really want to read the book behind the film, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, though I understand it’s rather different, taking a wider look at the historical context and less of a personal story of those three women.
Tim and I have just got back from four days in London. We saw lots of art, mostly photography, hence the new purchases below. I highly recommend the Malick Sidibé exhibition at Somerset House. And I have loved Philippe Halsman’s work ever since being prompted to seek him out after reading a novelisation of his life, called The Jump Artist, five years ago.
But the eagle-eyed will spot that not all the below books are photography-related. We also bought the script of Lazarus, the musical written by David Bowie and Enda Walsh in 2015. The main reason for our trip to London was that my Christmas present to Tim was tickets to the production of Lazarus in London. It’s the Broadway transfer, so we got to see its original star Michael C Hall, AKA TV’s Dexter. That was pretty exciting.
One of the things I like about having my birthday right at the beginning of the year is that I always get to start the year with new books. Whether that means I’m given books (I generally am) or I buy them for myself because I’m allowed to treat myself on my birthday (I often do), new year equals new books. Which is awesome. Here’s this year’s haul.
I bought some books in Berlin. Because, of course. I feel a little guilty because I read less than half a book while on holiday, but on the other hand, lovely new books! They’re all translations from German and all look great. I only knew of one English-language bookshop in the city before our holiday, but we did stumble across a few more bookshops with small English sections.
While in Cornwall this past week, I read two books and bought five, plus I talked Tim into buying another three that I kinda want to read too (all our purchases are pictured above). I don’t really do book bans, and any vague notions of one that I do have are always suspended while on holiday, but five books in a week feels like a lot. Then again, we found some lovely bookshops, and I always want to support great bookshops.
For most people, January is pretty quiet. You might be drinking less so you maybe cut down on socialising, when the booze might get tempting. You might be eating more healthily after Christmas indulgence so you don’t go out for meals. The weather is nasty and the evenings long and dark, so walks and other outdoor activities are kept to a minimum. Which makes it a great time for catching up on reading books and watching films.
On the other hand, January is also traditionally time for a fresh start: a new exercise regime, a new project at work, an honest look at all those DIY projects that need finishing. Which isn’t so good for the ol’ leisure time.
Happy New Year! For 2016 I have set my Goodreads challenge to 80 books (I don’t really use it as a target so much as a counter to check against my spreadsheet. Last year I was somehow 6 books out, so I either read 85 books or 91. Or maybe a number inbetween!). I have already made a good start on my primary aim to reduce my TBR by giving it a good old clearout.
For my birthday my Dad bought me a set of shelves for the master bedroom, which gave me the perfect opportunity to collect my unread books from the spare room and give them a thorough sorting before re-shelving them in their new home.
I thought I would struggle to discard any of my books so I gave myself the rule that I would remove anything I’ve had for more than 10 years. I’m not sure if I quite stuck to that but I actually found it fairly easy to set aside no less than 35 books! These are mostly older classics, with a handful of freebies and other books I’ve tried once and decided not to give a second chance to.