Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Wot I lurn from boox

"How do you KNOW that?" - "I read widely." - a sample conversation that I have had, ooh, every day for most of my life. I make a great pub quiz team member (not that it's my favourite way to spend an evening, but I'm always willing to help out) , since I know all kinds of stupid and pointless facts like the collective noun for geese (it's different if they're in the air or on the ground), the capital of Mauritania, why shops selling jet jewellery have higher insurance premiums than other jewellers, etc... One of the best things about reading is the vast floating plankton mass of trivia you drift through, like a whale with its mouth open, and accumulate, if you're not bogged down by petty considerations like the plot or the characters. The fantastic John le Carre has taught me how to spot someone following me and how to put them out of action if necessary without actually killing them - I'm unlikely to ever need to use this but there you go, it's all useful information. The problem is that the magpie instinct is self-defeating - you acquire the knowledge for its own sake, because it's SHINY, but the chances of it being put into use are few and far between. If I ever read a novel whose central point involved balancing a cheque book or how to drive a car, my life might well have been easier and more efficiently organised. But if I ever get attacked by a shark or the KGB, I'll know exactly how to react, and that goes for not ordering Bushmills in a pub full of Rangers supporters too.

Friday, 18 January 2008


One of the advantages MySpace has over FaceBook (yes I am on both - what a whore) is the total absence of cold-call "invitations" you get - every time I log into FaceBook I have a page and a half of junkmail. Most of it is stuff like "What Seinfeld Character Are You?? Add application to find out!!!" or "Want to get in touch with old work colleagues?? Add application ..." etc etc. As someone whose Friends on both sites are all, well, actual friends, I can't think of anything worse than trying to guess what Seinfeld character my ex-boss from Air France is, or even getting in touch with her again (actually, she's dead, so no real likelihood there unless they're offering a "Want to contact The Other Side?? Add application.."). When I first started this malarkey I had a bit of a kid-in-a-sweetshop moment, and I can tell you with confidence that while it SAYS that I am Wolverine, Elaine Benes, Peter Petrelli and Jack Shepherd, I am in fact, sadly mundane though it is, me. So I've been ruthlessly ignoring invitations to Be Rated For Hotness, To Build A Christmas Tree, To SuperPoke people, and To Find Out How Gay I Am. I did join a group called "I steal ketchup sachets everywhere I go" though, because it's true.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Behold My Domain!!!

One of the more fun projects for this year is the creation of a website for the bookshop, although like most long-range plans this consists of afternoons spent doing "research" trawling other peoples' websites and trying to come up with a name that's neither twee ("Book Nook" or vomitous similar) or offputtingly elitist and literary ("Lacunae" or other name whose swotty creator you'd gladly punch). the tiebreaker was "Uncommon Reader" which makes it sound like the sort of site you might find something unusual or previously unsung - which does what it says on the tin really. Don't rush off to check it out - so far we've just bought the domain name, at the vast expense of £6 for two years, and are practically wetting ourselves with excitement. Oh the thought of the swanky Aladdin's cave of beautifully-presented yum we will be attempting to foist on a public grown tired of the big chains. Oh the joy still to come of terminally falling out with my boss over whether to use Bookman Old Style or Book Antiqua for the default font... Sigh. Expect some form of online ribbon-cutting ceremony in maybe, ooh, June or whenever the kinks have been ironed out and we're no longer speaking to each other through politely gritted teeth ("The pop-ups were YOUR idea!!!").

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Back on solids

I know the New Year has pretty much set in for good (in terms of "phew it's all over let's start again") when I change what I'm reading... During periods of extreme stress, like Christmas and, say, being tax-audited, I find my reading matter becomes like comfort food - lots of Stephen King and kids' books. But finally HURRAH I found myself starting to drool slightly at the thought of a novel that apparently is written in the form of a crossword puzzle. Or one that is written as three encyclopedias so you have to leap from one cross-reference to another to follow the plot. This is a bit like a convalescing invalid saying weakly "I think I could manage a little toast today rather than that gruel..." - but, y'know, as long as she's actually back on solid food again...

Monday, 7 January 2008

What's your name? Hmmmm not enough letters...

OK here we go. A true confession from the very depths of my heart. Some of you know this but (deep breath, eyes welling up): My name is Lucy and I'm.. I'm a bit OCD. God, I said it! Damn that feels good. Thank you, (sob) thank you, I couldn't have faced it without you guys.. I'm accepting this 10-day chip not just for me, but for everyone whose name contains exactly 10 letters or any multiple of 5...

Now the tragic thing about OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as you rookies out there may know it, is that everyone has it. EVERYONE. ALL OF YOU. It may manifest itself in something as seemingly innocent as alphabetising your CD collection ("Well, it makes it easier to find Chris de Burgh! Now is he D or B??") or feeling unaccountably cross when "your" traffic light isn't green when it usually is at 7.07 am as you drive past, or perhaps over-zealous handwashing and hating raw bacon to a point approaching psychopathy (you know who you are) - or your tics may be less obvious, and I admit here to being unable to watch subtitled films without counting the letters in the subtitles on my fingers and having to add them up to a multiple of 5, to the extent of cheating and adding in an extra "oui" or "da" to achieve the right total. I often sit on my hands to stop people noticing. My worst one is any film that has windows permanently in the background, where I have to draw the rectangles over and over again until I've drawn every one from every corner in turn, and then ALL OVER AGAIN in the opposite direction. As you read this and shake your heads nervously, I urge you, nay, implore you, to examine yourselves. Do you have to rush back to check you've locked the front door, not just once but several times, not just once in a while but EVERY time you leave the house? Do you adjust pictures that are hanging at an angle? It's all OCD, my friend, and we all have it. The autism spectrum is a wide-ranging and all-encompassing one, and while at the far end you have Rainman, at this end here you have the rest of us. Embrace your inner weirdo! Get slightly grumpy that your other half puts the knives the wrong way up in the dishwasher BECAUSE IT'S JUST BLOODY WRONG!!! And I can't tell you what an effort it was not to go back and count all the letters in this blog. Do punctuation marks count?