Well, it’s been lovely to wake up each morning and check the WordPress website which shows me how many people have visited my humble blog. It really makes me want to write more, and more regularly, knowing that people may read and enjoy it.
The good news is that, having been a wee bit sick this past week or so, (I think I got a virus from the internet…), I’ve done little but sit at home and read, (except on the occasions when I’ve laid at home and read).
Even when I went out to my local GP to get checked up, I turned down a lift because I love walking and reading. This is something I’ve became fairly well known for in each of the places I’ve lived: I rarely make the journey from A to B on foot without a book or magazine to read, and it astonishes people. I’m not sure if it’s a skill I’ve learned over time, or if I was just born lucky, but I pretty much never walk into people or obstacles. (Except for once when I may have collided with a lamppost…but I don’t remember too much about it…)
What are my tactics, you ask? At times, I will walk with the book raised slightly, so I can see any oncoming obstacles around it, but generally I adopt the ‘3 second rule’ taught to learner drivers: I will read a line for a few seconds, and immediately glance up to ensure a collision-free path in the immediate future, before returning to the next line. When learning to drive, this rule never seemed to make sense to me: checking your mirrors every three seconds surely meant that you spent 1/3 of your time not looking at the actual road, which always sounded a tad dangerous to me, (admittedly, this is coming from someone in the middle of explaining how he spends 2/3 of his time not looking whilst walking, but I feel myself to be less of a threat than my old Fiat Uno). But for perambulatory literary digestion, it works just fine.
It could be the years of this practice which has imbued in me a possible sixth sense which I have come to consider my (not particularly impressive) SuperPower: on picking up any book or magazine I am reading, I invariably begin reading from the last place I had reached. I usually glance back over the text to see if I’m in the right place, but seemingly more often than not, that is exactly where I had left off. I’m not sure what SuperHero this power would make me: BookBoy? KnowWhereYou’reUpTo Man?
I made a decision this week to keep this blog regularly, (I’m thinking once a week, despite protests from some that it should be practically daily, and probably from others that it should only be annual), partly because I’m enjoying writing it so much, partly because some readers have let me know that they are enjoying reading it, and partly because otherwise I can see this becoming like the diary I (very) occasionally keep, whereby I write so infrequently that it intimidates me to remember and find the time to write everything down, so I leave it, and there becomes even more to write down, and an entire day needed to do so, meaning I put it off again, etc.etc.
One fun result of this decision is a return to a passion which I have neglected for a while: notebooks.
Over the years I have taken to always carrying a notebook with me, either to sketch out ideas for articles when I was writing for the local magazine in Japan, or to jot down questions when I used to run weekly pub quizzes, or more often just to write down some of my beloved Lists, (‘Books to Buy’, ‘Countries Yet to Visit’, ‘Lists to Make’…). I have been carrying the same notebook for almost exactly a year now, a sure sign that I haven’t written enough lately. It opens with a list of music and movies to download, moves onto a list of chinese food we ordered from a takeaway one evening in Buenos Aires, and continues with notes for a possible book on my time living in Denmark. Now, with all of the books I am reading needing to be remembered, key points noted down, and even quotes remembered, my notebook has found a new lease of life and, even better, I will soon finish it and get to dirty the pages of a virgin one.
My current notebook is a wonderful Penguin ‘Fake Bookshelf‘ notebook, featuring side views of eight different books from Penguin’s classic colour-coordinated range. As someone who considers himself fairly well-read, (and one of whose dreams is to be able to walk into a bookshop, pick various books off any shelf with his eyes closed, and be able to say that he’s read all or most of them), I’m ashamed to say that I have only read one of them, E.M.Forster’s (excellent) ‘A Passage to India’. I had got excited by ‘A Short History of the World’, but this was the H.G.Wells version, not Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything,’ or E.M.Gombrich’s gorgeous and endearing ‘A Little History of the World’, both of which I could have claimed. Perhaps worse than my miserable reading record is the fact that I’ve only heard of one of the other authors on the fantasy bookshelf, Ernest Hemingway.
I also have a soft spot for Moleskine notebooks, (who doesn’t?), even more so since they released a ‘Little Prince’ edition this year, followed by a variety of PacMan, Star Wars and various other limited editions. These were my notebooks and diaries of choice a few years ago, with their lovely simplicity and expensive leathery smell, (not to mention functional envelope incorporated into the back cover!…which I never used…), but have been ousted in my affections ever since I was first mesmerised by a carousel of PaperBlanks in a bookshop in Oxford maybe seven years ago.
What’s so great about PaperBlanks? Well…
Covers that look like centuries-old leather bound books?
Artwork from medieval cultures?
Traditional bindings methods?
Reproductions of the handwriting of Enlightenment and Cultural heroes from Shakespeare to DaVinci, Mozart to Darwin?
you got it!
Paperblanks are my default annual diary, as well as journal notebooks, although their size and beauty make them less suited to my daily jottings for which the Moleskines and Penguins are my usual choice. Either way, I have a cupboard full of notebooks picked up at various shops and markets over the years which may now, hopefully, get dusted down and used. Allowing me to buy even more of them.
One other purchase I made yesterday to equip myself for the literary odyssey ahead was a pack of Post It notes, (or, to be precise, their cheaper, Trademark-less equivalent. It Posts, maybe?) This was the result of trying to remember in my memorybrain for the past week the page numbers of amusing, relevant, or deep quotes, (or quotations, as I believe their official title should be), which I was coming across during my reading and which I wanted to share with You. This is a habit I began over a decade ago, when I began keeping a ‘Quote Book’, noting down in a lined school-notebook all of the best lines from the books I was reading at the time. I think I had some vague notion of being a journalist at some point in The Future, and of keeping a Computer Database of great literary quotations with which I could begin an article on any subject. Who was going to upload and cross-reference all of the quotations was never specified.
So, I have my notebook, I have a stack of books read over the past week, and , hopefully, I have you attention.
Unfortunately, I also have a slight headache from staring at my Mac for the past hour or so, and I have decided to split this blog in twain, (a great word, I must remember to use it more often in daily conversation), and to dedicate the next entry to Books, and nothing but Books.