Thursday, 6 December 2012

A book at bedtime

I used to read a lot when I was a child/teenager. We'd go to the town library, I'd check out the full allowance of books (which I think was 8, but may have increased to 12 later on) and by the next time we went back to the library (probably the following week), I'd have read them all. Now that I have to do things like go to work, feed myself, wash clothes etc etc, I probably don't read that many books in a year. (Although I do read the newspaper on my Kindle most days).  This may also be influenced by the fact that if I really get in to a book I find it hard to tear myself away from it to do anything else, such as sleep, and end up knackered and living in a bit of a mess. (Moderation...what's that?!
So rather than watching stuff on BBC iPlayer at bedtime, I am going to start reading, but limit myself to 10.30pm lights out to try and impose this 'moderation' thing on myself. (If I am really tired or it is a boring book, I may fall asleep with book on face, and wake up at 1am, wondering why it's still light).
Leaning tower of DVDs...
Although I have a Kindle, I still have a reasonable number of 'real' books which I have never read/ never finished, and quite a few 'specialist' books from my history degree. I have already got rid ofboxes full of books, but there are still plenty. Also, having given away a massive Ikea book case that was half empty, the remaining two bookcases are a little'd be nice to dispense with the massive piles of precariously balanced DVDs (all of which the bf deems necessary) so the plan for the rest of 2012 and for 2013 is to read through the books in my collection that I am not certain about keeping, and donating the ones that I don't want to keep. (Or perhaps selling the 'specialist' ones...) If I'm forcing myself to finish something, it's probably a good sign that it can GO. There are some definite keepers, such as a very battered copy of Jane Eyre that I have read endlessly, and a book that my great-grandmother was given as a prize in 1895. [Edit- mum says this was not a great grandmother, but a great aunt...still...] Plus any current reference books (mostly horse related).


I also used to make massive lists of books that I wanted to read, and diligently worked my way through them. I remember when I was at middle school, I read the list of suggested reading very quickly (probably within a month) and so compiled my own, much bigger list! So, I have made a list of all of my books, and will read through them- not as fast as middle school me would have managed, though! Some of the academic ones have been shamefully under-used, but I am expecting to find some of them interesting now that I am not desperately trying to cram information into my brain and form an opinion for an essay (the writing of which I usually did in four hours on the day of the deadline, without checking through before handing in- how did I get a degree?!)

In no particular order:

1. Mean Time- Carol Ann Duffy (poetry, studied at A-level, many notes)
2. 100 Best Loved Poems (teenage poetry phase)
3. Poetry Please
4. More Poetry Please
5. The Selfish Gene- Richard Dawkins (just realised that this can go, as I bought it on Kindle for the princely sum of 99p. Probably not worth selling on Amazon)
6. The God Delusion- Richard Dawkins- started this on holiday but didn't finish.
7. Discovering Life on Earth- David Attenborough. Child's edition, which I have had for years. Not sure I ever read it cover to cover though...
8. Edge of Blue Heaven- Benedict Allen. Pretty sure I read this cover to cover in 2002/3..time to revisit..
9. Long Way Round- Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. Read this too, revisit.
10. Planet Earth- BBC?
11. Tea Lover's Companion- this one is being given away unread, as I got quite bored.
12. Behind Closed Doors in Georgian England- Amanda Vickery. Loved the TV series-it's still saved on Sky+, but didn't progress far with the book.
13. Britain in Revolution- Austin Woolrych. Uni book, read small parts of it.
14. An Elizabethan Progress- Zillah Dovey. Work, not uni.
15. Tudor and Stuart Britain- John Morrill
16. Tournament- Crouch
17. Armies and Warfare- Prestwich
18. Medieval Warfare- Keen
19. NT Book of Castles
20. The Suffolk Landscape
21. History of Bury St Edmunds
22. Haunted Bury St Edmunds
23. Diary of John Longe
24. Savage Fortune
25. Suffolk Committees
26. Six Wives- David Starkey
27. The Tudors- A Short Introduction
28. The Family, Sex and Marriage- Lawrence Stone
29. Chivalry- Keen
30. Renaissance in Europe- King
31. Early Medieval Europe- Collins
32. England Under the Normans- Bartlett
33. Chapter of Kings
34. How to read buildings
35. Emma Darwin
36. English Civil War- Diane Purkiss
37. The Stuart Age- Coward
38. Medieval Women- Henrietta Leyser
39. Proceedings of the Short Parliament
40. Constitutional Documents of the Puritan Revolution
41. Stuart consitution
42. The Three Edwards- Michael Prestwich
43. The book of chivalry of Geffroi de Charney
44. Conflict in Early Stuart England- Cust and Hughes
45. Puritanism and Liberty- the Putney Debates
46. Anne Boleyn- The Lady in the Tower
47. Witchfinders- A Seventheenth Century English Tragedy- Malcolm Gaskill.
48. Newton and the Counterfeiter- Thomas Levenson
49. Elizabeth and Mary- Jane DunnThis book has been lurking on my bookshelf for years- maybe ten years or more. I should have read it sooner, as it was a fairly easy read, and very interesting, especially in the contrasts between Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, due in part to their very different upbringings.
50. Complete Shakespeare (facsimile of 19th C illustrated copy) (I've read some plays, but would like to read them all eventually).
51. A Street Cat Named Bob- James Bowen Got this for Christmas (thank you Santa!) and read in in about two sittings. Not the most well written book in the world (perhaps because the author is a former homeless heroin addict- the story is not always totally coherent, and he is not a professional writer) but it contains a very interesting cat...and I am now looking at my three cats and saying 'why don't you lot ride on my shoulders?!' I can't imagine mine choosing to go busking in central London- they hide on the wardrobe as soon as I get the vacuum out, so I doubt that they would cope with all of the noise! 52. Wendy- Karen Wallace I was given this recently, and read it all in one go. Quite short, but I really enjoyed it. May in fact be a chidren's book,but never mind! Now, must get on with reading books that have been sitting around for a while...
So, pretty much all light reading there, then!

I also have unread Kindle books (yes, I am BRILLIANT at finishing things...) which I may read between the above to give a little light relief (ha!)

These are:

1. Dracula- Bram Stoker- never read
2. David Copperfield- Charles Dickens
3. Beowulf
4. Frankenstein- Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly
5. Lorna Doone- R.D. Blackmore
6. Oliver Twist- Charles Dickens
7. A Tale of Two Cities- Charles Dickens
8. Nicholas Nickleby- Charles Dickens
9. Crawford- Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
10. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall- Anne Bronte
11. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating- Elisabeth Tova Bailey
12. The China Bird- Bryony Doran
13. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother- William Shawcross
14. I used to know that- History- Emma Marriott
15. A Journal of the Plague Year- Daniel Defoe
16. Delusions of Gender- Cordelia Fine
17. Bats Sing, Mice Giggle- Shanor and Kanwal
18. The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin- Masha Gessen
19. A Brief History of the Third Reich- Martyn Whittock
20. The Selfish Gene- Richard Dawkins
21. The Universe Inside You- Brian Clegg
22. 50 Facts that Should Change the World- Jessica Williams
23. The Diamond Queen- Andrew Marr
24. Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the Lunatic Asylum- Mark Stevens
25. The Borgias- Christopher Hibbert
26. As Good as God, as Clever as the Devil
27. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China- Jung Chang
28. The Portable Atheist- Christopher Hitchens
 29. Map of a Nation- Rachel Hewitt
30. Written in Stone- Brian Switek
31. God is not Great- Christopher Hitchens
32. Bird watching with your eyes closed- Simon Barnes
33. Bad Science- Ben Goldacre
34. A Short History of Tractors in Ukraine- Marina Lewycka

So... will be editing this to update what I have read/given up on and what I think of it.

Have you read any of the books on my list? Anything that is fantastic and I should really start with?

Thursday, 22 November 2012

20%, 80% of the time (or: how many clothes do I actually need?)

I thought that I didn't have many clothes (3/4 of a wardrobe and two small drawers), and so when one of my friends started this blog earlier this year about her wardrobe and clothes buying habits, I smugly thought to myself 'I'll count my clothes, I bet I have about fifty items.' I was SO wrong. I had 118 clothes/bags/pairs of shoes etc, 80 of which were clothing, 11 bags and 27 pairs of shoes. I may have forgotten to count dressing gown and coats. I've got rid of some stuff and added some stuff since then, but it's probably a pretty good estimate. Anyway, lest this descends into a weird counting game (which, as this this blog post points out, is a somewhat pointless obsession in some parts of the internet), I'm going to move on from the, err, percentages.

Apparently, 80% of effects come from 20% of causes (the Pareto principle). This has been applied to many things, not least clothes- you will wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time. You can test this by putting clothes to one end of the wardrobe once they have been worn and washed, and after a month, six months, a year, see what you have actually worn. I've never actually bothered, because it is pretty obvious that I wear about ten items of (outer) clothing. Jodhpurs, t-shirt, leggings, dresses. Pyjamas.

So, I've been thinking about the idea of a uniform. Not quite like my old school uniform (thankfully I quite like purple) but expanding on the fact that I already wear one dress to work most of the time (a hand-me-across from my friend at work- too big, but that can be sorted with a belt). It strikes me as being much more simple*, and would eliminate any remaining 'what shall I wear' staring at the wardrobe time. Plus, I just hate having excess stuff and a wardrobe that involves fighting with hangers. Bleurgh.

So- aside from what I shall loosely term 'sports clothing' (yoga, horse riding, 'running', swimming), I can't think of a situation where I would need anything other than leggings and a dress. (And underwear, of course).

I'm not planning on being quite as extreme as this, although the idea is tempting.

So, after the removal of one big ol' sack of clothes, the wardrobe looks like this:
Big ol' sack of clothes, with Tinkerbell for scale

Everything from left (other than naval uniform which snuck in) to the gap is 'sports clothing' and pyjamas, i.e. where my nice clothes go to die. The stuff from the right to the gap is everything else, which consists of:

The 'work' collection. Hand-me-across dress on left, summer dress in middle (this may prove unnecessary, as we no longer have summer) and black dress for work or smart ish black dress occasions.

'Party' dresses. Blue on left is pretty multipurpose. Don't totally love the others...

Stuff that does not entirely fit into the 'dress and leggings uniform' thing. But would fit into 'trousers and jumper uniform'.

More jumpers. The brown and cream one is invaluable as I work in a very cold house
Err...collection of *totally necessary* formal dresses. Unfortunately the black one and the blue/green one are too short for military functions as I might show my knees (gasp!) so the ballgown must stay.
And finally...clothes which will be hibernating before being rehomed. Jeggings. Yuck. But I am not totally confident that my leggings (which I didn't bother to photograph) won't all get holes in them within about a month.

I feel some sort of challenge coming on...I think I might be inspired by Cat's idea for her blog (ok, I will just steal it) of not buying anything clothes related until my birthday (April) and getting rid of anything that I don't wear between now and then. (Other than the 'just in case' ball gown and 'going to weddings' blue and green dress). Because my wardrobe still looks full to me...

I'm not promising to post an outfit every day though, as she did, as a) that might get boring to read and b) I'm pretty good at procrastinating as it is...(which is definitely not obvious from the fact I have spent an evening photographing most of my clothes...)

My mum once made a New Years Resolution not to buy any clothes- and succeeded. Have you ever made clothes-based resolutions/taken clothes-based challenges?

*Any of you who know anyone in the military will know that uniform can also be made HORRENDOUSLY complicated. OK, you have little/no choice about what you wear, but I am fairly sure a week or two of basic training must be devoted to knowing the subtle differences between Number Ones, Number Twos (which can also come in Alpha, Brava, Delta, Gamma Ray flavour), Number Threes.. numbers 1-3 Tropical..camouflage in case you are in the jungle..oh, and civvies. Which is not technically a uniform, but appears to be chinos and NO JEANS.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Infinite growth in a finite world?

I really don't understand economics. If I try and think about it for any length of time my brain starts to hurt. (Despite watching Stephanie Flanders' series on Marx, Keynes and...erm...the other one).

But what I really, really don't get is why everyone seems to expect growth to continue forever. Given that we live in a finite world with finite resources (other than the sun's energy, which whilst technically finite, is probably beyond the power of humans to use up. Probably.) it doens't make sense that everything can continue upward, if growth relies on us consumers consuming more.
Apparently, we are already using 1.5 Earths worth of resources- using resources faster than they can be  replaced. (  )How is this sustainable?!

And 'the news' tells me that people might have a to face the fact that their standard of living is not better than the standard of living of their parents. I'm pretty sure that I can cope with having the same standard of living as my parents- house, food, water, healthcare, enough spare money for some leisure activities. Why do we have to feel that we can afford more or better stuff than the previous  generation?! Or is this just the noooos telling me things that people are not really thinking?

In case this is getting too serious, here is a gratuitous cat picture:

This is the Merl. He is both serious and solemn. He probably understands economics too.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Hello- and what do you think? (Snappy title, eh?)

On a whim I'm jumping on the blogging this may be the only post that ever gets written. I have no plan and no this may degenerate into photos of the menagerie doing 'cute stuff'.

Anyhow, I was watching Sky News paper review this morning, and one of the guests (whose name I  can't remember) picked this story to talk about:
 The guest was very unsympathetic to the view in this article- which I am too. Not so much because as a non-child owning person I resent paying for other people's children (which was the view of lady on t'telly) but because I am flabbergasted that you could perceive that you need an extra £1,700 per year when you earn £100K. I'm not sure I could manage to spend £100,000 per year! (Ok, that is a lie- I would have a horse and a great big shiny horse box).
If we accept the premise that we as a country need to spend less on benefits (which I am sure not everyone does), a cut like this seems like a reasonable way to do it- providing that make it means tested does not cost more in admin than it saves. Also- it would possible be fairer if it was done on household income, rather than there being a cut if one parent earns over a certain amount.

I may be totally alone in this- if Eamon Holmes is to be believed- as he seemed to think that 'the nation' would agree with Jackie the sports presenter who had 'some sympathy' with the author of the article. (Although said sports presenter thought that having a MacDonalds in the athletes village at the Olympics was not at all weird, so I reckon I'm not going to agree with her very often!)

Is my idea of a resonable income completely off? Or should I just stop watching Sky News...?