Monthly Archives: January 2015

A wee bit woolly

I went to warm up my feet the other day. My intention was to buy wool for more warm socks. Our new home town is that strange creature; a town with a wool shop, which not only exists, but which is large and well stocked.

I’d been before, at which point I’d made a mistake, so this time I wanted to make sure I didn’t make the same one again. Under my breath I muttered the words ‘I want 4 ply’ and ‘4 ply is thinner than double knitting.’ I mean, how illogical is it that the number four is thinner than something that implies two whatsits?

So last time I got the DK wool. It was wrong. I almost bought more DK this time, despite my mutterings. It just cries out and wants to be bought, does DK.

I wanted pink 4 ply. It was hard to find all wool pink 4 ply. Pink is for babies. Not my feet. And babies do not want all wool. Itchy. So I went to assistant and asked. He was a he, and fairly young. He immediately found me a female helper. She in turn had to ask someone one else.

The wool she pointed me to was a mix, so I said I was looking for wool. ‘Oh, as in all wool?’ she asked. That’s when I realised that wool* to her mind didn’t mean a yarn 100% from a sheep. It simply meant yarn. Could be acrylic, or cotton, or whatever. And once we’d established that, it was easier to work out there was very little 100% ex-sheep yarn in pink. Unless DK, obviously.

But I did find one I liked, and then it dawned on me that I had made three people work hard at helping me, and I was intending to buy only one ball of wool…

I’ll work out a script next time. Probably also get a label that says ‘No DK!’ to stick on my forehead.

*In Swedish we say ‘ull’ for the sheep product, and ‘garn’ for yarn. I can’t help it if it’s all wool here! Except when it isn’t.

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The Devil’s Angel

I mentioned Kevin Brooks and his new book with Barrington Stoke some months ago. It’s great that they invite and are accepted by all these good, mainstream authors. Luckily it seems that both sides consider it an honour to be working with the other. That’s the best way.

Kevin Brooks, The Devil's Angel

The Devil’s Angel is as scarily bleak as Kevin’s other writing leads you to expect. To be perfectly honest, it is not my kind of thing. At all. I prefer a rosier outlook on life, but recognise that this will appeal to countless teenagers, and I can’t see why dyslexics should be any different in that respect.

This is good stuff if you want edgy fiction. As described on the cover, The Devil’s Angel is about Dean, who ‘just walked into the classroom. Sat down. Smiled. Then beat another kid to a pulp.’

Dean befriends the fairly average John and they have an unusual and unforgettable summer, doing the kinds of things we parents would prefer teenagers not to do.

It can’t end well.

Gun Street Girl

Finding Adrian McKinty’s Gun Street Girl – his fourth Sean Duffy novel – in the post was like Christmas coming early. It was unexpected, and all the more wonderful for it. I would like to think it’s still not the last Duffy, but couldn’t say, other than he doesn’t die…

Gun Street Girl is Belfast in 1985, and I’d forgotten most of the big news, like the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and a couple of other ones that help make up the plot, so I won’t name them. But it’s so incredibly interesting to read about it ‘from the inside’ as it were, even if Adrian is helped by hindsight, since we now know how things developed afterwards.

Adrian McKinty, Gun Street Girl

A double murder followed by the – maybe – suicide by the murderer, and another death and some more attempts to kill is enough to make Sean want to solve the crime he can see while others don’t want to meddle too much. They have a new boss in Carrickfergus, as well as two brand new detectives, who are thrust into the mayhem as they learn on the job.

Sean seems lonelier than before. There is a hilarious chapter when he tries a dating service (seems no one wants to get romantically involved with a – possibly – shortlived police officer).

Gerry Adams is back in a cameo, Thatcher is pulling strings in the background and those pesky Americans think they are the boss. (They probably are.)

Gun-running, politics, love and murder. You can’t ask for more when it’s Adrian doing the writing. Personally I want more Duffy, but maybe he has been beaten up too many times for that to be likely. And I was going to say that perhaps it’s not good for me to have all I want, but I felt fantastic reading Gun Street Girl. Just saying.

Depressingly familiar

The Resident IT Consultant suggested we watch a Swedish film (because us dinosaurs have now got access to Netflix), but no, not that kind of Swedish film. He had read a review of it and thought it sounded good.

I lasted half an hour before I asked to be excused. It was simply too painful to watch. While I’m not claiming to have led a life like the girls in the film, it still felt very close to home in a not-so-good way, and to me it wasn’t entertainment. It was revisiting days I’m relieved are over. The characters in the story were not my kind people.

A day or so later, I was scanning the book reviews in my Vi magazine. They are generally never for books that I know (of) so unless the actual writing of the review is riveting, I tend not to spend time on reading them.

But what hit me was much the same feeling as I’d had with the film. I’m glad I’m no longer part of the kind of life that features in these often highly praised novels (all adult books). Somehow it just feels very alien. I like nice, and I like familiar. If I’m to step on to new ground, it has to be the best of new grounds.

Even the new non-fiction collection from Henning Mankell failed to interest me. Perhaps it’s because they made much of his illness, which is depressing. I don’t know what his health is like right now, but assume that the Swedish press have got it covered. The one story that is mentioned in the review is about a ‘leaving’ in Salamanca, of all places. And I have one of my own, so didn’t need reminding.

Sorry to sound so grumpy. I reckon that Britain was just waiting for me. I like the books here better. Or is that because I didn’t go to school here? Not so much for me to cringe over. I don’t know. But thank you for putting up with me.

YAY! YA+

And they have gone live! I might have whispered about Kirkland Ciccone’s grand YA plans before, but now the website is publicly available and it’s actually got stuff on it. Not too much dust yet, either.

Kirkland Ciccone

We can’t let London have all the fun, and not even Edinburgh or Glasgow. It makes sense to take Scotland’s first YA festival to Cumbernauld. It’s where it’s all happening. (Secretly I’m hoping for Craig Ferguson.)

Keith Charters

But if I can’t have Craig, then Kirkland has put together a lovely list of YA authors from, or living in, Scotland. They are Catherine MacPhail, Linda Strachan, Barry Hutchison, Theresa Breslin, Keith Charters, Matt Cartney, Victoria Campbell, Lari Don, Roy Gill and Alex Nye. As well as Kirkie himself. There could have been more names on the list, and by this I mean that there are more YA authors in Scotland. Many more. Some were busy. And then I gather Kirkie and his Cumbernauld theatre venue ran out of space. (The answer would be a second day… Or a third.)

Theresa Breslin

The day we do have is April 24th and I’m so looking forward to it. I have demanded to revert to being 14 again. If that’s not possible, I’ll have a press pass (which will probably be home made by Kirkie, but hey, as long as it gets me in).

This time round it will be for schools only. It’s a good way to start, and will mean larger audiences than the old-fashioned way with organic ticket-buying individuals. But I would say that if you are of the organic persuasion, I’d pester. Like crazy. Or there is always gate-crashing.

Linda Strachan

I’m quietly hoping this Yay! YA+ will be a success, and that it will grow into something big, and regular. Because, as I said, we have lots more authors were these came from. This year’s list contains lots of my favourites, and erm, no one that I hate, plus a couple of unknowns (to me).

So that’s all pretty good.

Cat Magick

Di Toft’s Cat Magick is the perfect book for readers who like talking cats. And witches. (But then, who doesn’t?)

Pye is a cat prince, and he meets up with witch-to-be Suki under dramatic circumstances. Life in England post-Cromwell is not good for either cats or witches. They are blamed for causing the plague, and are caught and strung up at the nearest tree.

Di Toft, Cat Magick

Talking cats are obviously more suspect than most, but Pye is such a chatty boy that it’s hard for him to shut up. However, he is brave(-ish) and cares for Suki and he wants to help her, and also the country. Possibly. He needs a little urging to do the right thing, but he is  brave.

The hellcats are a problem and so is dark magic. The rat population is growing rapidly, until we have rats who have never seen a cat, and are not scared of them.

So the question is; how are Suki and Pye going to solve the problem of this hate campaign against them, and the little matter of them being caught by some nasty creatures?

Read Cat Magick and find out. It’s quite interesting to see how a small (cat-) tweak of real history brings home so much better what it was like back then.

Green peace?

I’m pretty good at avoiding chuggers in town. I either ‘don’t see them’ or I get away from them as politely and quickly as possible. But with Amnesty International and Greenpeace it’s a little harder. I have been a member of both and support their work, but not to the extent that I will sign away my money in the street.

Their chuggers are generally nicer to chat to than others. That’s why last week I didn’t avoid the nice young man on the street corner, but said I only literally had a minute (dentist’s appointment), so if he could cut to the chase, please?

He tried. He really did. And he was lovely. But really, I don’t need an explanation of what Greenpeace do or be told about palm oil. If I did, I’d probably not want to give money anyway, and as I do know, we can save several minutes.

I suppose what gets to me is that I now look so old and stupid and unfashionably uncool, that I ‘need’ the explanation.

In the end I got away by promising to look their current project up online, and pointing out that I had been a member before he was born. (It’s like sex, isn’t it? The young always think they invented whatever it is, and that old people have no idea.) I even got the bath towels (no, not the t-shirt) with the rainbow lettering.

I thought of mentioning I was around when the Rainbow Warrior sunk. But that might have given the wrong impression.