Monthly Archives: November 2018

R u 2 l8?

In the last week I un-chose a potential book for review when I discovered it was full of emails/text messages/tweets and whatever else. It was a book that – judged by the press release – had looked fairly promising.

I don’t actually mind a book containing a lot of these modern ways of communicating with people. I just don’t want the pages to be full of different fonts, formats and ‘pretend’ real tech conversations. They make my eyes hurt.

So when in doubt and having too much to read, that is a do-not-pick criteria for me.

Text messages in themselves are of course not bad. But what about the text message shorthand, that was invented at a time when texters were in too much of a hurry – or needed to look cool? ‘Shorthand’ like the stupid title of this piece, ‘r u 2 l8?’

Because when I started pondering the latest ways of keeping in touch, I realised that this way of ‘typing’ in text messages is no longer necessary. With predictive typing and better phones, we can afford to use proper words in full sentences if we are so inclined.

And I have to admit that I am. I always was, insisting on labouring through and typing ‘Are you too late?’ even when texting involved keys with three letters per key plus whatever you did for numbers. Because it looks better and doesn’t take much thinking about when deciphering, and didn’t save me any time, as I’d have had to have a long think about what to replace those ordinary typed words with. And just generally because I’m OCD.

The thing is, the latest smartphones notwithstanding, textspeak still appears in YA novels. Recent ones, even. If the authors are out of touch, or simply didn’t stop to consider the issue, then surely editors might have suggested editing this out? It was a pain to read in short texts on a mobile, but it is far worse when it’s  a whole novel.

Or, it could turn out that I am the dinosaur here. Maybe it’s so cool, that u still want 2 use the shortcuts?

Spending in my time

I was feeling a little bit smug. Just a little, because that sense of witchiness I wrote about the other day, stops me from complete, outright smugness. I know about karma and how quickly it arrives.

As a foreigner, I’ve never been quite sure what it means when friends, or strangers for that matter, ask if I’ve done all my Christmas shopping yet. I mean, what counts as Christmas shopping? Is it any buying before The Day, or does it have to be Christmassy, or do they mean the presents? I tend to play it safe by muttering something indistinct and look as if I’m in pain. (Just like any other day.)

So I thought about the possibility of being asked this some time soon and felt I could reply ‘yes’ to the question. There were going to be few presents and I wasn’t unprepared. And I’d more or less decided no one wants to know if I’ve got my Brussels sprouts in yet.

This is where karma in the shape of Dodo struck. She and Son are hosting Christmas, and by the sound of the preparations – yes, we can hear them all the way here – they are doing great. Which will be why there were instructions about presents.

Which will be why the very next day I headed into town to shop till I dropped. It was all right, really. Very clear and sensible instructions left me scooping ‘stuff’ into a basket in next to no time. I even went home and wrapped it all.

Which will be why I feel I’ve almost bypassed the karma and can yet again reply ‘yes.’ Should I be asked.

I also popped into Waterstones for a little look. Was gratified to queue behind a lady who had brought a copy of the Guardian Review, folded to reveal the crime review page, from which she requested various books, carefully spelling out any odd names. Very sensible.

Also in that shop, I discovered Harry Potter rucksacks. There was a nice red one from Gryffindor, and a black one for Hogwarts. I am relieved that I am both sensible and not in need of more rucksacks, so I was – mostly – safe. They were cheap, by which I mean they cost nowhere near the price of a real Kånken rucksack from Fjällräven, the style of which they were sort of copying.

I saw a similar copy in St Andrews earlier this year at the Students’ Union shop, so if you’re not going for a real Kånken, the thing to have is clearly a fake. I have used the real thing for about forty years, and have gone through a great many of them in that time.

This is where I get confused about my behaviour. Because I’ve been nowhere. I looked at bags in John Lewis a week ago. I saw how much they cost now – the same as in 1980 plus lots and lots of inflation and currency exchange rates. And soon after (last week, I mean, not 1980) I told my companion about the price, as we stood looking at someone carrying a Kånken. Who promptly turned round and looked at us and my whispering. But who was I with? I’ve not been anywhere, and not in company…

Killing me

I don’t know if you noticed me mentioning Fleshmarket Close last week, and how I avoided walking down it with Helen Grant? It pays to be careful around someone like her. Helen likes horror, and kills quite a few people – characters – in her writing.

Some time last year, I think, I might have moaned a bit on social media. I wasn’t bad, but Helen must have thought I felt worse than I did. Which was kind of her. To notice, I mean. And she then asked if I’d ‘feel better’ if she put me in the short story she was writing just then. Which was kind of her.

Not one to turn down an opportunity to feature in fiction, I agreed. Helen made it quite clear I wasn’t going to survive.

Rosemary Pardoe, A Ghosts & Scholars Book of Folk Horror

Well, last week Helen handed me my own copy of the anthology where her story is published. It’s called A Ghosts & Scholars Book of Folk Horror, edited by Rosemary Pardoe. That’s why I felt that avoiding dangerous-sounding narrow alleys in the dark might be at least a little sensible. Just in case.

There are many more stories in this anthology, but I dived straight in to read ‘mine’ first. And I feel it needs to be mentioned separately.

The Valley of Achor is of course not about me. It is far more about Helen herself, or someone like her. Someone who likes old ruins and who doesn’t mind crawling about in the cold and the mist, actually touching ancient stones and other weird things.

The only thing I’m sure about is that I have stayed in the B&B where ‘I’ stay in the story. Minus the whisky, of course.

And just like you should never walk up those deserted stairs in that haunted house when you’ve heard an odd sound in the night, then I’d not have…

Oh. No.

On being a witch

I was asked about being a witch recently. The how and the why. Luckily I found this explanation in Terry Pratchett’s Maskerade soon after, and it describes my situation so well: ‘Sometimes she knew things that were going to happen, although always in a sufficiently confused way that the knowledge was totally useless until afterwards.’

That’s me. I just didn’t know how to put it.

I see things and I know they will mean something, sooner or later. They will usually be meaningful when combined with one or several more such observations. I tend to know that ‘it’ will be part of something, which I suppose is why I remember it. Just not what.

It’s been like this for many many years. 1962 might just have been the first time.

So witchhood did not happen as Daughter fondly remembers from the time Son’s friend Polite Boy called me a witch. That was an accident. I was telling the group of boys wanting to play – in the mud, would you believe – for longer. It was Son’s 15th birthday party and I felt the neighbours had been enjoying the screams for long enough, and put my foot down. (Not in the mud. Obviously.)

‘I’m a witch,’ I said, by way of explanation for my unpopular decision. Polite Boy had already been very polite, in order to achieve more mud time, and uttered the words ‘I quite agree’ in the belief that he was agreeing with something far more suitable. But since I said it first, there was not a problem. There was also no more mud.

Soon after this I wrote my first fan letter to Meg Rosoff, and felt compelled to explain why I knew she’d win the Guardian prize. She took it well, and seemed to have an understanding of ‘minor’ witches.

After this, I clearly couldn’t be anything but a Bookwitch when I went public with my skills. And while seeing book awards in advance is fun, many of the other things I see are not.

Messages and mannequins


After so many moans about all the peddling in the world, I have been rewarded with a [Guardian] headline using the word pedalled. Wrongly, but at least they used it. ‘How to monetise your home – the ugly message pedalled by Netflix.’

No, I don’t know what it means, either. Also not sure what Netflix actually looks like, but I am trying to visualise it – them? – on a bike. Even several bikes. If they were in Scotland, they just might be getting the shopping by bike.

In the days after Halloween, I read about Susan Hill’s childhood in Scarborough (also in the Guardian). I find Susan somewhat scary anyway, and the time of year didn’t help.

I asked the Resident IT Consultant if I’d misunderstood the meaning of the word mannequin. He thought the same as I did. I then asked Google, who also seemed to be on our wavelength. But I don’t know Scarborough at all, and not as it was in the past.

So, little Susan often spent mornings with her mother and her mother’s friends having coffee in the posh department store in the town, where ‘mannequins paraded through the restaurant.’


(It’s a bit Doctor Who, wouldn’t you say?)

Scott’s been. And gone. With the bin.

I must start by saying I have a generally favourable opinion of DPD. Rob and John and David and all the others have delivered many parcels with great success.

But… yesterday as 13.46 drew near, I went to track Scott and his van, and his two deliveries before me. A puzzle, that, but still. At 13.47 or thereabouts he drove past my study window – which for clarity’s sake is the address he was aiming for. Tracking system said he had one delivery before me, across the road. He didn’t stop, and it did seem unlikely.

Around 13.50 the tracking system had Scott outside no. 4 of the next street, which has a very similar name to ours. Another minute or so, and the email pinged to say DPD were sorry to have missed me. Not as sorry as I was, seeing the photo Scott took of the house where I wasn’t in. I’m usually not in in houses where I don’t live.

Your witch even ran out to see if van and man could be prevented from leaving the wrong house, but they’d bin and gone.

Noticed DPD have chat, so decided to chat – scream, really – at them:

Explained what had happened. They explained that outside the allotted time they can’t redeliver. I explained again. They ‘were really sorry they were unable to help through this channel.’

Then they welcomed me back to chat (!) and asked if I still needed help with my parcel. I said I wanted a response to what I’d told them. ‘Can you try asking it a different way?’

I replied that since they are a machine, I didn’t believe this would have an effect. ‘Although I am not human, I am well trained and am able to help.’

‘Send the van back here then, before it’s too late.’

‘I’m sorry I don’t understand that. Could you re-phrase the question or choose one of the options below please?’

I was uncharitable enough to end chat at this point. They wanted feedback. I gave them one star.

And I’d so looked forward to welcoming the new bin to the Bookwitch household.

Cumbernauld’s Coolest Son

I wonder who came up with that heading?

It’s Book Week Scotland next week, and there are events at some venue near you. There’s bound to be. Assuming you’re in Scotland, naturally.

Book Week Scotland, Kirkland Ciccone

Good authors will be traipsing all over the country to appear ‘everywhere’ from Glasgow to Kirkwall. Many of the events are free. Such as the one featuring the cool Cumbernauld chap, aka Kirkland Ciccone. He will be appearing in Grangemouth, of all places. For free. (It’d have to be… 😉)

On Thursday First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and author Maggie O’Farrell will be in conversation at Stirling Castle. I’m afraid this is sold out, but you can join the event online. The First Minister and Maggie O’Farrell will discuss what being a feminist means to them, and how their reading lives have shaped their identities.

And according to Scottish Book Trust, super-author Joanne Harris will visit McLaren High School in Callander on Monday 19th November, at 16.30. Free, ticketed, event.

There is lots more happening. I found a few things I liked the look of, at a reasonable distance from Bookwitch Towers. Unfortunately they are in the evenings and in a week when the Resident IT Consultant is spreading numeracy throughout Central Scotland. So I will simply sit back and pretend I’m there, and don’t anyone feel sorry for me! I won’t allow it.