Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Nice last day of 2011

I’m getting to quite like my bread and jam breakfast, though today I added tea as well. There’s a cluster of museums up the hills a bit by some Roman ruins, so I wandered down Rue Jean Medecin to Place Masséna, then along to Place Garibaldi where I thought I might find a bus up into the hills.
La Place Masséna
Both these squares are surrounded by tall coloured buildings with French windows (of course), and if you squint a bit and ignore the tram bell you can imagine you’re in the eighteenth or nineteenth century.
La Place Garibaldi
Much of central Nice is apartment blocks, but as you drive further into the hills (at least, along the route the bus took) you find larger houses and mansions and gigantic hotels. I got off next to one of these gigantic hotels dripping filigree and looked around to see which way were the museums and Roman ruins.

Ah. Large amphitheatre to the southeast. That way.

The amphitheatre was pretty cool. You could go right into the arena, under one of the archways, and stare in awe at the remains, building the rest of the amphitheatre in your mind’s eye. It once had four levels and could hold four thousand people, and I think it would be a good place to stage ancient plays, with the ruins backlit and people sitting on the remains of the encircling seats. Though archaeologists mightn’t like their ruins being used in such a way. Imagine the coke cans and chip packets left behind.

The museums are around the edge of a park full of olive trees. The first I came to was the Matisse museum, which is a plain (but large) old villa done up with trompe d’oeil so that it looks like it has balconies and carving everywhere. Some of the rooms inside were also done like this, with trompe d’oeil plaster work over Matisse’s drawings and paintings and sculptures. I spent a while admiring the works and deciphering the French information panels, then descended into a huge modern addition below ground level with even more drawings and paintings and sculptures as well as some photography.
The Matisse Museum
The museum of archaeology was just next door, and I’d seen some ruins out the window of the Matisse museum, behind some people doing Tai Chi on the balcony. I’d expected a few ruins, maybe the size of a tennis court or two, and that’s what greeted me when I left the main museum building. And then I turned a corner and there was more... and more... and more...

One of the buildings was pretty much still standing, albeit without its roof, and you could easily follow the walls and canals of the rest of the compound, imagining the Roman baths (one complete pillar still standing) and trying to figure out if the canals were only for water, or if they were ever used as secret passages. A cat adopted me just as I was going back into the main museum but refused to pose for a photo in front of the ruins, preferring to woggle in the dust or dart towards me for a pat.
Observe Cat to the right
The third museum was a Franciscan monastery, but had unfortunately closed for the year about forty-five minutes before. I visited the adjoining church instead, which looked like it belonged in Spanish California (or how I imagine churches in Spanish California might look) and was covered in beautiful paintings inside. Those on the roof depicted divine scenes towards the altar, drawing into scenes of Franciscan monks near the main door and all lit beautifully.
Monastery gardens
Next on my list for the day was lunch, for which I was determined to have socca. The kiosk café in the park did not have socca, so I took the bus back into central Nice and stood in line for my socca at the German market. Socca is a Nicois speciality made from chick pea flour and olive oil and cooked in a wood oven. I sat beside the ice rink to eat, noting that the skaters in Nice were not as accomplished as the skaters in Monaco. The socca was very good, but the lady gave me rather a lot and by the time I finished I was ready for something else.

Pomme d’amour! This is what toffee apples are called in French. I sat eating mine on the beach with book in hand, trying to see if I could finish the book before the new year so I can add it to my books-read-in-2011 list. (I still haven’t finished the book... but still a few hours to go!)

The Russian Church was my next stop. It, too, was closed, but I got some very good photos of the onion domes against the blue Nice sky, then set off back to the hostel.
I’ve just had galettes (savoury crepes) in the old town with a very nice Finnish girl, and we’re planning to go to la Place Massèna for midnight. The old town has many small alleyways and we got a bit lost looking for restaurants that were open at 1830. While walking down one alley, some nearby church bells began to ring, reverberating through the walls, and down another alley we were distracted by the smell of a chocolaterie/patisserie and had to buy some macaroons before we could go on.
Last sunset of 2011, looking along the Promenade des Anglais
Happy New Year everyone!!!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Mon coeur à Monaco

Today I arose slightly earlier and braved the luke-warm shower before breakfasting on tartines de confiture d'abricot (bread and apricot jam). The plan for today was Monaco, but I spent rather a long time trying to figure out where to get the bus from and how to pay, and ended up walking around the point between Nice the town and the old Port. More luxury yachts here, and one of those stone harbour enclosures with a lighthouse at the end.

Finally I found the bus and used my day pass (which I'm pretty sure wasn't actually meant to go all the way to Monaco) to get on. the bus was packed, but I managed to get a good spot to take pictures from as we wound our way along the coast.

The scenery was spectacular, with dry mountains plunging down to meet the sea and villages clinging to the rocks high above perfect beaches. The road was very familiar, either from James Bond or Grand Turismo or maybe both. We went through a few tunnels that I'm sure I've driven a virtual Elise through, and arrived at last in Monaco - a very small country within France. I took the bus a bit further and had to walk back and then get a bus through Monte Carlo and up to Monaco-Ville.

At least I've done my walking for the day.
Harbour and Monte Carlo from Le Rocher

Nice was once an independent state, but was conquered in the nineteenth century by France. Monaco still stands as an independent state today, and to see its position you can understand why. The main town itself, with palace and cathedral and shops and apartments, is set high on a rock jutting out over the ocean. If anyone ever tried to attack you, you could just retreat to the main town and close off the access route, then laugh and throw stones as the opposing army tried to get at you. The palace itself is a hodgepodge of ancient castle and more modern additions perched on the land-side of le Rocher (rock), and has a guard standing in a booth outside, like many palaces do. I walked all the way around the edge of the town, staring down at the waves crashing on the vertical cliffs, and found a pohutukawa tree in flower in the jardin exotique. Christmas tree!
CASTLE!

View from the edge of the Rocher down to the sea

There was another German market down in the valley, so I wandered through that and considered the ice rink, but decided to save skating for another day when I don't have a large bag to carry. German markets, by the way, are 'German' because the stalls are done up as little wooden houses like you'd expect to find in a Bavarian forest. I have yet to find any stalls selling Bavarian sausages, however.

I'd seen a little church set in a chasm as I went by in the bus (foot of the chasm being at sea level), so I went to take a closer look. The church looks like a toy, framed by cliffs on either side with bridges spanning the chasm behind and in front. In any other place it would be a smallish church, but here it's dwarfed by the scale of its surroundings. Quite incredible.
I had another long search for the bus, a long wait at the bus stop (where I managed to take a few more pictures of the castle) and then a ride back along the coast on the packed bus.
MORE CASTLE


Back in Nice, I was determined to take advantage of the day pass I'd paid 4 euros for, so took the tram the entire length of its route just as the sun was going down. There's a very impressive, very modern building at one termnius (Las Planas) that looks to be entirely for the trams but seems like it should have some much higher purpose as an exhibition centre or opera house.

So now, after a nice rice-rocket-chorizo-tomato dinner (works really well if you slightly burn the chorizo and create large clouds of smoke in the kitchen), I'm getting to know my latest room mates and thinking I should really get to sleep...

: )

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Un séjour à Cannes

(To add from yesterday: There's a waterfall at the top of the chateau hill too! It's man-made, cascading over the remains of buildings, and has rainbows!)

Still tired. But today I saw dolphins! I think. I didn't have my glasses on...

My day started with breakfast with a Turkish girl at the hostel, where we attempted a conversation en français (or rather, I attempted and she succeeded). I shied away from the pâté for my French bread, but realised when my friend slathered it over hers that it was not meat pâté but CHOCOLATE pâte. Must try tomorrow.

I wandered down the main shopping street and looked through le FNAC, which sells entertainment - movies and books and computers and televisions. They were selling a mini arcade game housing which turned your iPad into an old arcade machine, so I had to try it out with Pacman. On the top floor I found a huge range of bandes dessinées (comics) and manga, taking up as much floor space as the children's section. I was looking for a good YA book set in France that I can add to my round-the-world-in-80-books collection, but many of the books I picked up were translated from the German or Italian or English. The best was set in China, written in German and translated into French, which I would attempt to read as an English speaker.

After a quick look in the cathedral (beautiful gothic arches and a mix of stained glass windows ranging from ancient to bold modernist), I took a train to Cannes, about half an hour down the coast. This was when I saw dolphins: two fins slicing through the water beside the train. By the time I retrieved my glasses and camera they were gone.

Cannes is full of rather expensive shops, palm trees and apartments. There were lots of tourists taking photos of the red carpet at the Festival theatre (Cannes has a little-known, not very important film festival, fyi), so I joined them, and then took pictures of Whoopi Goldberg and Julie Andrew's pavement handprints.

I walked around the waterfront and found a marina filled with extremely shiny luxury yachts. Behind them on the hill I spied what looked to be a castle. Castle? I thought. I'm there!

Well, not quite. I had to get lost first, wandering around to the next bay (which, by the way, afforded me an excellent view of the mountains coming down to the sea) and up some pretty streets.

I realised I'd forgotten my phone, so could not even rely on Googlemaps to lead me to my destination. Instead I followed a sign promising 'Panorama', and ended up at the summit of the hill right by the site of the old castle, which is now a museum.

Some of the buildings, including an eleventh century 22m tower, are still standing, and house things like an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus, bits of Greek and Roman statues, Inuit hunting weapons, Polynesian fishing hooks and paintings of the French Riviera. The former great hall, with huge vaulted ceiling, contains hundreds of musical instruments from around the world. It was strange to be in this great, silent space, surrounded by so many things meant to make music and yet hear nothing but the sound of your own breath.

The tower was definitely worth the climb. You could see the remains of the former staircase/climbing wall running round the inside of the tower, much steeper than the current stairs (and those are pretty steep themselves). Windows at intervals let you gaze out at the vistas as you climb. It is true about the light of Provence - there's something different about it. Everything seems a bit misty and golden, softening the landscape and making you feel like you're in an impressionist painting. I tried to take photos to capture this light, but my camera doesn't understand and won't comply. As I reached the top, the nearby clock tower chimed three. I was a bit disappointed - I'd wanted to hear it chime while I was at the top of the tower - but then it chimed three again! Slightly confused clock...

There's a church at the top of the hill that looks very beautiful, but unfortunately it's closed for renovations until at least 2013. I had to make do with taking pictures of the outside, then made my way back down the hill via several tiny alleys between shuttered buildings.


There was a market here too, and I wandered the stalls before deciding the time was right for my first proper French crepe. Unfortunately the crepe was not up to the standards I've come to expect from crepes (the Wellington crepe shop really is very good), and I think I would only give it a 4/10. I shall have to try again when I go to Paris, or even Brittany (this is where crepes come from originally).

Before I left Cannes, I had to buy a can of tomatoes (my inner punner made me do it).
The can from Cannes

The can of tomatoes ended up in my dinner, which was much improved.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Et je suis à Nice!

Et très fatiguée.

I’m on holiday! So you are treated to a blow-by-blow account (I’ll try to make it interesting). I considered doing this entire post in French, but it would take about three times longer than it needs to take and no one would be able to understand it (including people who speak French, because I’m sure the remnants of my French grammar do not make much sense). So you get it in English :)

I got up this morning at 3.30am, to catch the bus to another bus that would take me to the train that would take me to the bus that would take me to the airport. I packed my sneakers in my little tiny suitcase and wore my awesome pink cowboy boots to save space, and then had to walk very carefully past the sleeping suburban houses (I’d forgotten that the awesome pink cowboy boots, hereafter the APCBs, click satisfyingly on the pavement and would not be suitable for sneaking anywhere). Each interchange was successful and lowered my stress levels, and I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare (i.e. at 6.20am).

After check-in, I experienced security at Luton airport. The security machines were all lined up on one side of a large room that someone had strung with queue guides, back and forth, back and forth. There wasn’t much of a queue, thankfully, but I and all my fellow passengers spent about five minutes walking back and forth, back and forth at a fast pace and dragging our hand luggage behind us. It was surreal, so many people in this one room, walking and walking but never really getting anywhere.

The flight to Nice took nearly two hours, the first hour of which I suffered through with the two small children behind me alternately trying to kill each or attack my seat. Happily they calmed down when we got near the Alps, and I was able to stare uninterrupted at the vista out the window (I scored a window seat! Hurrah!). I’m pretty sure I saw the Toblerone mountain off in the distance, so I took lots of photos of it. Not sure what it’s actually called...

Nice itself is breathtaking. The Alps have become tall hills this far south-west, and they step down to the long swathe of beach and the city itself. The airport is right by the sea at the west end of the main beach, so you get an amazing view of all the buildings on the hills and the sparkling sea as you come in to land.

The bus from the airport (numéro quatre-vingt-dix-neuf) drives into Nice along the Promenade des Anglais, which is lined with old and new hotels and apartments on one side and the Mediterranean on the other. Many of the apartments were shuttered up, and I guess they’re only used some of the year. You get a sense of remembered grandeur, with the paint fading and shutters peeling colour. The buildings have character – you know they’ve seen a lot.
I dropped my bag and coat at the hostel (too warm for a coat – around 15 degrees Celsius and not a cloud to be seen) and went for a wander, finding an ice rink and German market, a giant ferris wheel and lots of interesting statues. They have seats all along the Promenade des Anglais where you can sit in the sun, so I did that with a chicken and gruyere panini. Bliss after London winter, where the sun if you see it is watery and incapable of producing any heat.

I was feeling a bit tired by now, so I took a bus back towards the town, but was attracted by a large tower on the hill. Flights of steps led up to it, so I ignored my fatigue and started out, pausing at every turn to take a picture back across the beach and town and mountains. Helpful information points in French, Italian and English told me that this hill had once been home to a large castle, and bits of it are still visible today along with 19th century romantic reconstructions. The top of the hill (90m above sea level) is now a public park, and there were lots of people walking their dogs and rollerblading and taking pictures of the incredible view.

From up there you can see snow-capped mountains in the distance and all the hills surrounding Nice, east along the coast towards Monaco and down into the town with all its reddish roofs and narrow streets. I tried to order a granita (having heard the word before, but not being able to remember what it actually was) and the kiosk guy stared at me with a funny expression, so I changed my order to coca, and managed to do it all in French. Hurray. After some thought, I’m pretty sure a granita involves shaved ice and is probably only available in summer.

My bus pass from the airport was an unlimited day pass, and I was determined to use it on the trams. On my search for the tramway, I found a little café and ordered a coffee entirely in French (even asking if they had soya milk!), but had to ask for English when the waitress gave me the price. Somehow I’m never very good with numbers...
Translation: 'Chinese Takeaway'
I wasn’t sure if you could take coffee on trams, but I did anyway and received a look from a lady, though that may have been because the ticket machine said something about ticket invalid when I entered my pass. The trams and buses run somewhat on an honesty system – you stick your ticket into the machine, but there’s no one to see if you actually do or not. It was getting dark and I was getting tired, so I didn’t go all the way to the end of the line as I had planned. I’ll save that for tomorrow.
Back at the hostel, I found that the combination lock on my suitcase had magically changed its code, so I spent about ten minutes cycling steadily through the numbers. I’d set it originally for 9-2-0, and was just about to give up hope when it opened at 7-1-2. Who’d have guessed? I don’t think I will be using that lock again...

So now I’m sitting on my top bunk bed with an awesome view out the window, typing diligently away before I go down to the kitchen and make my rice-goat cheese-salad-chorizo dinner. Should be good...

Update: I don't much like goat's cheese. Hmm. The chorizo is good though :)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas! Lights in Oxford Street and Regent Street.

Merry Christmas everyone! I went to Oxford Street a few evenings ago and attempted some photos while battling the crowds of shoppers. Some of them are modern-artistic (i.e. fuzzy). Enjoy!!!
Oxford Circus
View down Regent Street - there were gigantic stars hanging above the road all the way down

Said Gigantic Star
Debenhams Oxford Street, with ghostly bus
How I 'd love a sparkly umbrella...

View east down Oxford Street
Getting as many lights as possible in the shot

Hope you have a wonderful Christmas :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Plodding along....

I think it was a few weeks ago that I said I was nearing the end of my present revision, and had five more pieces of story left in my Scrivener sidebar until I finished.

So how far have I come in a few weeks? Well, I still have five more pieces of story left in my Scrivener sidebar. Actually, it’s six. I have done quite a bit of work on it, but it all seems to have been swallowed up. It’s difficult when you rewrite one bit and then have to go back and rewrite an earlier bit so it matches nicely.

I’m having fun, though, which is the main thing. There’s lots of action and adventure in the current bit, and one of my main aims is to make it exciting. Which I hope it is. I’ve also been trying to niggle out the tricky bits in plot during tube journeys, but I find I get too distracted and start reading the backs of other people’s newspapers and trying to see what books people are reading and subjecting the advertisements to in-depth critical analysis. Even if I don’t get distracted, I'm likely to almost miss my tube stop (I’m sure my train this morning made a jump through the time-space continuum and skipped three stops) and forget everything I’ve been thinking about in the rush to squeeze out the doors before they close.

So, I thought, maybe I should get a tablet so that I can brainstorm and write while on the tube! (I hear from others that it is quite useful to do this.) Let’s ignore the fact that I could do the same thing on a bit of paper.

Hmm. Maybe I should try the bit of paper idea first. It’d be a lot cheaper.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Counting down to Christmas

SNOWW!!!!

Well, kind of. When I looked out the window yesterday morning, snowflakes floated past even if they melted as soon as they reached the ground. I was very excited, and wrapped up warm and ventured out to catch my bus. I got to the bottom of our steps and realised that, yes, you do need an umbrella when it's snowing, especially when the snow isn't really snow bu sleet. So I had to go back and get my umbrella.

It's definitely cold, and I'm enjoying wrapping up in my coat and boots and scarf and hat and gloves and standing staunch against the winter. This morning I stood out on the front step and sprayed my ugg boots with protector stuff, at first leaving them on the step but picking them up once I saw the spray outline of my boot. I had horrible thoughts of the spray forever staining the concrete, but it dried off and had completely disappeared five minutes later.

I returned after a sejourn to the post office in the rain, and found the dry outline of my boot on the step - the spray is waterproof, and so is visible when it rains.

I'm now considering spraying an invisible smiley face on the front step.

The holidays are getting closer... Today I bought myself a very cute brown tartan cabin-baggage size suitcase for 10 pounds, which I am very proud of, and I will take it to the nice place I am going for New Year. I will have a nice new year. (For those who have asked where I'm going, these are clues).

Now I just need to wait for real snow. I just hope it won't stop the trains and buses running, or I'll be stuck...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book #20: Czech Republic - Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

And I'm back with Round the World Wednesday! (It's still Wednesday for me. Really.)

The book for today is Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. While some of the book is set Elsewhere, the main character Karou lives and attends school in Prague, so it counts as the Czech Republic.

I love Karou as a character. When first you meet her, she's up against an incredibly annoying ex-boyfriend who descends on her in a most inconvenient situation. She has access to wishes - very small ones - and while you don't yet know exactly what the ex has done, you feel she is completely justified in using her wishes to get back at the ex. Yes, she knows it's wrong. Yes, we know it's wrong. But when she's told off for it later, you're completely on her side. And you wish you had wishes like that too.

Taylor does a great job of unfolding pieces of the puzzle and building up the picture until everything fits and makes sense. Things don't always happen in chronological order, and the clues are highly controlled - you'll read something and then realise when the next clue comes along that the first clue was actually something quite different to what you thought.

I loved hearing about Prague as if from a local's point of view - the favourite cafe, the alleyways, the actors dressed as ghosts to scare the tourists, the school with gruesome war stories. You really feel the atmosphere and vibrancy of the city.

I want to go to Prague. As I was reading the book, I was in the midst of deciding where to go for New Year. Prague was extremely attractive. The book mentions snow and fairy-tale buildings. I like snow (there has not yet been a snow-fall here, and the last time I actually had to walk in snow I was fourteen) and fairy-tale buildings. I can deal with cold, surely. It's been down to freezing level here, almost.

Going to Prague would mean buying a few more winter clothes, because I don't think my coat of Electric Blue would be up to it. Not even my Kathmandu jacket would protect me. In the end, for a variety of reasons I've decided to go somewhere slightly warmer, a very nice place with nice weather and nice beaches and nice buildings and nice people, where I will have a very nice time.

Enough about my holiday plans (mwa ha ha). Do you know and love any books set in the Czech Republic?

Monday, December 12, 2011

A sojourn in Suffolk

I've been away near Ipswich over the weekend, braving near-freezing temperatures under absolutely beautiful blue skies. I'm liking the blue skies, but why don't they happen in summer?

Ipswich is a little over an hour from London by train. You start out at London Liverpool St Station (where I got an almond croissant for breakfast, and it had some kind of cream custard stuff in it. I was not impressed. I should have gone with a muesli bar) and pass houses and offices and the Olympic Stadium and Park and the Westfield Mall and houses and offices and houses and shops and parks and houses and houses and shops and factories and shops and houses and a few more houses. London goes on for a long, long way. You never really think about how far you're going when you jump on the tube and pop up again forty minutes later - at forty miles an hour, even with stops you could be twenty or twenty-five miles away. But on an overground train, you can see just how far you're going and how much of the world you're passing.

Finally we got to fields and little villages and trees, skeletal and strobing early morning light through the carriage. A few more stops at towns along the way, and then I was meeting my lovely host at Ipswich station.

We went on a tour of the country while the sun was still in the sky, down to the largest port in England. There were some pretty big ships parked like they were in parking spaces, but apparently there are some really really big ships/behemoths that come in during the week with their three crew and load and unload their thousands upon thousands of containers. A bit further along the coast is Felixstowe, with its arcade and fish and chip shops and little beach huts right on the shore. I saw lots of cabbage trees and toitois, which I still find funny (they're NZ natives, but you see them everywhere here as decorative plants, along with NZ flax).

After a drive along the promenade, we took a road up to the main town, which is set on a promontory and looks out over the sea. As you walk down the main street you can look straight down the road and see the straight blue line where sea meets horizon. It feels like the town is floating high above the ocean, and it was especially beautiful as the lights came on.

It was a great weekend. Now all I need is snow.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The End is in sight

2012 is coming!!! Gather all your canned food and hide in a bunker!

Well, actually, not that end. I'm getting near the end of my current revision, and there are just five more pieces of story glinting at me in the binder down the side of Scrivener. Five more pieces to go through with a fine-toothed comb (or else hack to pieces) and then I will be finished! Ish.

There is a temptation at this point to just go 'well, it's kind of ready enough, why don't I just leave it how it is and sit back and eat gummi bears instead?' (gummi bears are good). And then there is also the side of me saying 'you know you are a perfectionist! Give it up, it has to end some time! Why not now?' But no, I shall continue to hack my way through the jungle (the current scene I'm stuck on was only written last revision, and is proving rather thorny).

(oh! she says, looking at the back of the gummi bears packet. There are actual flavours, not just random colours!)

I will forge through, in the company of my gummi bears, with my back to the wall/radiator, and finish this revision. Then I can get back to my other works in progress...

(They put SPINACH in these gummi bears. SPINACH.)

Are you trying to finish anything and being tempted to cut a few corners?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

It's cold. Not cold enough for snow, but cold enough for me. My coat and my hat are two of my favourite items of clothing, and when I get my gloves (the pair that is winging its way towards me) the set will be complete.

Christmas lights make much more sense in the Northern Hemisphere. It gets dark at about 4pm at the moment, which seems really strange to me, but it means that all the Christmas lights are twinkling away when I walk home from work. What will happen after Christmas and New Year, though, when it's colder and there's no Christmas to look forward to? The lights will come down, we'll go back to work in the dark depths of January and there will be nothing sparkly until the sun comes out in July. Sigh. I'll just have to make a quick trip to Turkey or somewhere.

People keep telling me that, this time last year, there was snow everywhere and the tubes and the airports were closed (I heard some theory about why, in many other countries, snow does not stop the subway trains, but in London it does. Something about privatisation of some sort). I'd quite like some snow, I think - it would validate winter, and be a good chance to strut my ugg boots. I think I'll enjoy the snow for about two days and then wish I was back in New Zealand at the beach, where I feel one should be in January.

There might not be snow at all, of course. I might have to go to Scotland or Sweden or Latvia.

I might go anyway.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Unput-downable

I’ve been reading a few non-YA books (i.e. ‘adult’, though that sounds dodgy) recently, because I feel I should expand my reading horizons and not read solely in one genre.

Then I read another YA book (Flip, by Martyn Bedford, if you want to know) and remembered why I like YA so much. I have been limiting my reading to during my commute (which, being a London commute, takes up almost two hours a day). Two hours a day is a very respectable amount of reading to get done, but when I was reading Flip, it wasn’t enough. I kept reading in the evening, while stirring my dinner (pumpkin soup, stirring with my left hand and spattering orange over the stove), while watching TV with my flatmates, and then until past my bedtime. I counted it an achievement when I actually managed to put it down and turn  off my light.

I know lots of adult books must be unput-downable, but I don’t seem to find them as often as unput-downable YA books. Maybe it’s just my personal preferences, or maybe I’m reading the wrong books, but I’m going to go with a gut theory here.

YA books tend to be shorter, so there is more of a chance you can finish in one sitting. The pace and language (broooad generalisation) tend to be faster, meaning you can read (and want to read) the book quicker. They deal with themes of identity (who doesn’t deal with that in their own lives?) and explore issues. They can end bitter-sweet or happy, but they don’t take themselves too seriously. You can have serious issues and jokes and fantasy and reality and adventure and mystery.

What books can’t you put down?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weird Christmas shopping :)

I've had an awful cold this week, which kept me within a radius of a metre from the tissues and made me sleep a large amount of Friday. The UK has a whole different set of bugs to the ones I've built up immunity to so things affect me more.

That is my theory. Yes.

Anyway, when I haven't been in bed, I've been out Christmas shopping. I'm doing it a bit before the Christmas crowds, which is nice, but there were still lots of people struggling through the shops and dodging the salespeople who stand in the middle of the mall and try to attack you with hand lotion. I went to the new Westfield within spitting distance of the 2012 Olympic stadium and checked out the wares, which included Marmite chocolate, real elephant poo and advent calendars for cats (with little cat treats behind each window).

I wondered if they'd let elephant poo through customs, even if it was properly labeled and came from the National Geographic shop.

I think I like the design of the Shepherd's Bush Westfield better, but this one was a bit easier to find your way around. There were a few sales on, and I was sucked into one store to buy a half-price Electric Blue coat (cut like a soldier's uniform, where you can't lift your arms to surrender. I suppose I could have got the size up, but this one looked better). It is nice and warm and does up all the way to my neck, which is an improvement over the black and red Camden coat.

Now I just need to package everything up and send it halfway around the world...

Have a good week!