Thursday, 30 April 2015

30 Day Book Challenge

30 Days of Books Blogging Challenge

I apologise to all the great books I've no doubt forgotten. You can also check out my post for World Book Day.

01 – The Best Book You Read Last Year

Wild Swans: Three Daughters Of China by Jung Chang. We did a charity thing in work where you were given a book you'd (likely) enjoy in exchange for a donation. Wild Swans is easily one of the best books I've ever read.

Wild Swans - Three Daughters of China

02 – A Book That You’ve Read More Than 3 Times

The Mennyms by Sylvia Waugh. Rag dolls which come to life - it might sound like the plot of Rosie and Jim but, trust me, this is one kids' book worth reading!

03 – Your Favourite Series 

Jeeves & Wooster, the brainchild of P. G. Wodehouse. Nothing is ever mundane in the whimsical upper class world of Bertram Wooster, as his man Jeeves quickly learns to his peril.

04 – Favourite Book Of Your Favourite Series 

Okay, so I went with another series to be able to cram more books in: The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend. Adrian Mole is one of the truly great characters of British literature. I love the whole series, but this one is my absolute favourite.

Adrian Mole

05 – A Book That Makes You Happy 

Grasshopper Island by Joy Whitby. Based on the 1970s ITV kids' show about three brothers who run away in search of an uninhabited island, I read the old paperback (the label pasted in the front informs me it once belonged to one of the schools I'm now on the governing body of...) at my grandparents' house until it literally fell apart. After that I took it home and rebound it with sellotape. I've put it on Marianna's book case now - maybe one day she will enjoy it as much as I do.

Grasshopper Island

06 – A Book That Makes You Sad

Clan of the Cave Bear by J. M. Aule. Ayla might constantly balance on the Mary Sue knife edge, but I love her anyway. When she has to give up Durc I always cry like a baby.

Clan of the Cave Bear

07 – Book Are You Reading Right Now

Today I'm reading Brief Encounters: Lesbians and Gays in British Cinema, 1930 - 1971 by Stephen Bourne.


08 – Most Overrated Book

Anything by Dickens. Reading Dickens is like wading through treacle in my opinion! Plus he is indirectly responsible for the 1984 made-for-TV film version of A Christmas Carol. My mum made us watch it every year. I still have nightmares...

A Christmas Carol

09 – A Book You Thought You Wouldn’t Like

Harry Potter. There was so much hype I stubbornly refused to read any of it until after Chamber of Secrets hit the cinema. When I finally caved and read Prisoner of Azkaban I was an instant convert.

Harry Potter

10 – Favourite Classic Book

Tess of the d'Urbervilles (A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented) by Thomas Hardy. One of the greatest books of all time, and a must on any recommended reading list.

Tess of the d'Urbervilles

11 – A Book You Hated 

An Inspector Calls. There are no words for how much I hated that play. We're supposed to feel sorry for Eva / Daisy, I know, but by the time we had spent months dissecting the book in class all I could feel was that it was a shame she hadn't died sooner...

An Inspector Calls

                              12 – A Book You Couldn't Put Down

The Absolutist by John Boyne. An exploration into how war can turn the best of us into monsters - you know it's going to be painful, but you have to keep reading and find out anyway...

13 – Your Favourite Writer

Jane Austen. From the moment I first picked up Pride and Prejudice I was hooked, so much so that I even chose Marianna's name as a spelling variant of Sense and Sensibility's Marianne Dashwood.

14 – The Scariest Book You've Read

The Dirty Old Teddy - Enid Blyton. Okay, so the book itself isn't scary, but the cover used to creep me out as a child. I had it facing spine inwards so I wouldn't accidentally come across it when rifling through my book shelf!

The Dirty Old Teddy

15 – Favourite Male Character

Dr John H. Watson. The first time I read a Holmes story I wrote Watson off as something of a sycophantic fanboy. But before the next book I watched an episode of the Granada adaptation and my opinion totally changed. Give Watson a sarcastic inflection and they become the quintessential married old couple.

Sherlock Holmes

16 – Favourite Female Character

Sara Crewe from Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1905 novel A Little Princess. No matter how bad things get she keeps going, and keeps her principles. Her strength is an inspiration to us all.

A Little Princess

17 – Favourite Quote(s) From Your Favourite Book(s)

Jerome K. Jerome was a man before his time. Strip back that late Victorian prose and he was as great an observational comedian as any you'll find on late night Dave. In his Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow he has a brilliant piece on babies:

"There are various methods by which you may achieve ignominy and shame. By murdering a large and respected family in cold blood and afterward depositing their bodies in the water companies' reservoir, you will gain much unpopularity in the neighborhood of your crime, and even robbing a church will get you cordially disliked, especially by the vicar. But if you desire to drain to the dregs the fullest cup of scorn and hatred that a fellow human creature can pour out for you, let a young mother hear you call dear baby "it." 

Your best plan is to address the article as "little angel." The noun "angel" being of common gender suits the case admirably, and the epithet is sure of being favourably received. "Pet" or "beauty" are useful for variety's sake, but "angel" is the term that brings you the greatest credit for sense and good-feeling. The word should be preceded by a short giggle and accompanied by as much smile as possible. And whatever you do, don't forget to say that the child has got its father's nose. This "fetches" the parents (if I may be allowed a vulgarism) more than anything. They will pretend to laugh at the idea at first and will say, "Oh, nonsense!" You must then get excited and insist that it is a fact. You need have no conscientious scruples on the subject, because the thing's nose really does resemble its father's—at all events quite as much as it does anything else in nature—being, as it is, a mere smudge. 

Do not despise these hints, my friends. There may come a time when, with mamma on one side and grand mamma on the other, a group of admiring young ladies (not admiring you, though) behind, and a bald-headed dab of humanity in front, you will be extremely thankful for some idea of what to say. A man—an unmarried man, that is—is never seen to such disadvantage as when undergoing the ordeal of "seeing baby." A cold shudder runs down his back at the bare proposal, and the sickly smile with which he says how delighted he shall be ought surely to move even a mother's heart, unless, as I am inclined to believe, the whole proceeding is a mere device adopted by wives to discourage the visits of bachelor friends."

Three Men In A Boat

18 – A Book That Disappointed You 

Lord of the Rings. I loved The Hobbit but could never get into its sequel. It was so long, so boring, so full of Tom Bombadil. I was 30 pages from the end when I just gave up. (That's all I can stands, and I can't stands no more.) I still haven't finished it to this day.

Tom Bombadil

19 – Favourite Book Turned Into A Movie 

Pollyanna by E. H. Porter. Too sickly sweet for some, but I try to take Pollyanna's message to heart as much as I can - if you search hard enough you will always find something to be glad for.

20 – Favourite Romance Book

I don't read a lot of romance novels, outside of the 'classics'. I love those but the romance generally leaves a lot to be desired - Darcy is rude, Heathcliff's a brute, and Jane could have done so much better than Mr. Rochester. I did enjoy Bambi by Majorie Benton Cooke though. Forget the deer, this Bambi is a spirited New Woman determined to earn a living in her own right. It was even serialised for the radio in 1936.


21 – Favourite Book From Your Childhood 

I have a particular soft spot for Five Little Kittens from the Ladybird Animal Rhymes series.

Five Little Kittens

22 – Favourite Book You Own

A fancy looking old copy of Harriette Wilson's Memoirs. Harriette Wilson was one of the most famous regency courtesans; one of her protectors was the then Marquess of Worcester who was, by all accounts, completely obsessed with her. His father, the Duke of Beaufort, had him dragged off to war weeping and wailing to remove her influence. Harriette just moved onto her next conquest.

Harriette Wilson

23 – A Book You Want To Read

Will the Real Mary Kelly...? by Chris Scott. Kelly is the most mysterious of Jack the Ripper's victims, but I hear this book goes some way to shedding light on her.

Mark Kelly

24 - Paper or Ebook, Discuss.

I like both, honest! Paper books are lovely to have and to flick through, but ebooks are so convenient. I do most of my reading these days on the Kindle app on my phone.

25 – A Book You've Read In Another Language

I've been reading Marianna some fairy tales in German - her frown as she realises that's not the way my words normally sound is the cutest thing ever.

26 – A Book That Changed Your Opinion About Something 

The Bank Holiday Murders by Tom Wescott. I consider myself something of an amateur Ripperologist and this book really changed my thinking towards to the early murders in the series. I could never understand why the police had ever felt Emma Smith belonged in the Ripper's tally when, by her own admission, she was the victim of a gang. Wescott's thesis offers a very believable answer.

Jack the Ripper

27 – The Most Surprising Plot Twist Or Ending

Memory of Water: A Novel by Emmi Itaranta. I won a proof copy of the English translation of this dystopian YA story from Goodreads and couldn't stop thinking about the ending for days. Of all the books I acquired throughout last year - I'm guessing that figure was well over 100 - it's one of only a handful I haven't passed on. There's no higher praise considering my tightly packed bookcases!

Memory of Water

28 – Favourite Title(s)

Krark: The Story of a Carrion Crow by Kenneth Richmond. It's a children's story about Krark, a carrion crow who pecks his brother's eye out and learns to do all the things crows do. It walks the tightrope between horrifying and strangely compelling...

29 – The Last Book You Read

Best Wishes, Sister B by Fran Smith. Written as a series of letters from a nun in East Anglia to a missionary sister in deepest South America it was so heart warming it felt like I was actually getting a hug. Highly recommended!

Best Wishes, Sister B

30 – Your Favourite Book Of All Time

I've already talked about a lot of my favourite books, but one which sprang to mind that hasn't been mentioned yet is Berlie Doherty's Children of Winter. It's about a time shift, and I blame it for my ongoing obsession with the phenomena. While googling for a picture I found out the BBC had made a short film of it. Off to YouTube we go...

Children of Winter

For more of what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads. :)

30 Days of Books Challenge

#01 – The Best Book You Read Last Year
#02 – A Book That You’ve Read More Than 3 Times
#03 – Your Favourite Series
#04 – Favourite Book Of Your Favourite Series
#05 – A Book That Makes You Happy
#06 – A Book That Makes You Sad
#07 – Book Are You Reading Right Now
#08 – Most Overrated Book
#09 – A Book You Thought You Wouldn’t Like
#10 – Favourite Classic Book
#11 – A Book You Hated
#12 – A Book You Couldn't Put Down
#13 – Your Favourite Writer
#14 – The Scariest Book You've Read
#15 – Favourite Male Character
#16 – Favourite Female Character
#17 – Favourite Quote(s) From Your Favourite Book(s)
#18 – A Book That Disappointed You
#19 – Favourite Book Turned Into A Movie
#20 – Favourite Romance Book
#21 – Favourite Book From Your Childhood
#22 – Favourite Book You Own
#23 – A Book You Want To Read
#24 - Paper or Ebook, Discuss.
#25 – A Book You've Read In Another Language
#26 – A Book That Changed Your Opinion About Something
#27 – The Most Surprising Plot Twist Or Ending
#28 – Favourite Title(s)
#29 – The Last Book You Read
#30 – Your Favourite Book Of All Time

For more blog tags, memes, and challenges, click the picture below:
blog tags, memes and challenges

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

It's Election Time, Baby

It's Election Time, Baby! The realities of standing for election with a baby.

There's an interesting article on BBC news today about campaigning with a baby. Your own baby, that is - the politician kissing infant routine thankfully being consigned to the past, more or less.

George Bush with crying baby
It has way too much potential for disaster.

Obviously council is a much lower level of elected politics, but some of the same problems still apply. Although council business itself takes place in the day, most of the outside bodies (school governors, charitable boards, etc) meet in the evening, which is also the preferred time for party business. On the one hand this is good as it accommodates people who are working during the day. On the other, it's bad because it's the time when your children are returned to your care from nursery, school, or their frazzled grandmother. I don't think it's in any way surprising that the majority of people who are active in local politics are either retired or male (or both).

Marianna with my mum
Marianna plotting what mischief to cause Nanny next...

A quote from Sarah Richardson highlights another aspect covered by the article: "I think it's the selection process rather than the campaigning process where the reaction is different. If a male candidate turns up with heavily pregnant wife, everyone thinks he's a family man. Whereas if a woman turns up heavily pregnant, there are questions about how she's going to cope." By no means is that attitude limited to politics, of course, but I do think it has traditionally been exacerbated by the sub-par maternity rights. Without official maternity leave your seemingly unjustified absence is just making the institution and your party look bad.

Because while politicians are making laws (or enacting them) on working rights, the idea that they are all - or perhaps all should be? - middle aged men of private means has meant that politicians themselves have often slipped through the gaps. It's all well and good that Sarah Richardson was back on the campaign trail within three weeks of giving birth, but what happens when nothing goes to plan? In my case three weeks in I still needed help to stand up half the time, and Marianna was still on SCBU (the special care baby unit). There has been change in recent years (e.g. Jo Swinson took six months leave, but still attended many votes - though that wasn't enough for Daily Mail readers, naturally), but I really hope MPs' parental rights get dragged into the modern age during the next parliament.

Jo Swinson and Duncan Hames MP with their baby son, Andrew
Jo Swinson MP and Duncan Hames MP with their baby son, Andrew. Comments in the press suggested if she couldn't cope with going back to work full time within weeks, she should step down - if a MP told any working mother they should quit their job if they weren't willing to be back at work within a month of giving birth there would be uproar!

Back to things which affect those involved in politics across the board, the BBC article talked about those who take their children out canvassing with them. It's lovely in theory, but in practice perhaps not so much. Don't get me wrong, I've taken Marianna out leafleting, to seminars and to advice surgery without any problems... but she's still a baby. Would I be as happy to do it when she's old enough to understand what's happening? I really don't know. People on the doorstep can be aggressive, abusive, and sometimes downright disgusting. From the man who effed and blinded and ranted, to the guy who told me the best thing for the children of socialists was to be culled at birth, they make you question why on earth you're bothering. Why on earth anyone else should.

At it's core it's this assumption that all politicians are scrounging scum, so their children, friends and spouses must also be guilty by association. But in a world where we routinely blame all women who leave their children exposed to public scrutiny - by whatever means - I fear it's going to take more than properly codified maternity leave to entice mothers into politics.

A Bit Of EverythingAnd then the fun began...Life with Baby Kicks

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Review: Jumperoo

Fisher Price Rainforest Jumperoo

I had heard loads of good things about the jumperoo, so was thrilled when my cousin offered to get her daughter's rainforest one down from the loft for us. FP don't provide an age recommendation to start from, just that the baby needs to have good head control. Marianna certainly does, and with her number one favourite activity being kicking (preferably a person...) it seemed just the kind of thing she would enjoy.

The jumperoo is so bright and colourful her face lit up as soon as she saw it. And when we swivelled the seat around to the lights and sounds workstation she looked positively amazed. She's too young to bother much with reaching out for things, but she enjoys watching the lights and when the more up-tempo tune comes on she likes to kick a bit. I'm sure that she'll work out the joys of actually bouncing in it over the next few weeks!

Full shot of Jumperoo

As the above picture shows, the jumperoo is a large and sturdy structure. To my mind it's safer than a door bouncer, and has the added advantages of letting us a) shut the door and b) not getting us into trouble with the landlord for marking the door frame. Marianna's not quite big enough to be able to reach the floor whilst in it, so we put her mat and blanket underneath it. The jumperoo is suitable for babies up to 25 lbs so she will have plenty of time to grow into it.

Close up of Marianna in Jumperoo

I really have to go with the vast majority of reviewers on this one, it's great. There are lots of colours, lights, noises, and things to reach for. There's dangling toys, and spinning toys, and the ability to bounce. It's safe and secure, and even at this age Marianna is happy to sit in it for 20 - 30 minutes before wanting out. You can expect to pay £80 - £115 (Amazon vs. Mothercare) new, but if you're able to collect you can pick them up for around £10 on eBay.

Boo Roo and Tigger Too

Monday, 27 April 2015

Magazine Monday: Photo-Love, March 31st 1979

This week we have the very first issue of teen magazine Photo-Love. Photo love stories - romance told through the medium of photo strips - were wildly popular back in the 1970s and Photo-Love promised a veritable 'photo-novel'. It was aimed at older teenagers and young women, and lasted into the mid 1980s before disappearing from the shelves.

Offerings in this issue includes a story about a bridesmaid who snogs her sister's groom on their wedding day (#20), the start of a serial about a pretty nurse named Ann Wilson (#25), and an informative piece on anorexia (#31).

Click on the thumbnail pictures below to enlarge. (If it just goes into picture viewer mode, right click and opt for view image in a new tab so you can enlarge it to its fullest.)


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