Author Archives: bookwitch

Read in Geneva

I have trained her well. If Daughter sees something she feels could make a blog post, I might discover she has emailed me some photos that I can use. In this instance it’s the Geneva bookshop she happened to walk past a couple of weeks ago.

Booked in Geneva

Having time on her hands, she entered, and found they had a largish section of books in English. These are the teen books, so I’m guessing that were we to add adult books and picture books, there would be a great deal more of them.

It would be unfair to compare this kind of offering with the equivalent French section in Waterstones. I mean, I don’t even know if they have a French section. But books in English are easier to supply anywhere in the world, as they can be bought and read by many more people than are native English speakers.

I’d still say this is a good selection of books, for those who can afford them. I understand they were quite expensive. Whether this was with domestic UK book prices in mind, or what Swiss residents can afford on their higher salaries, I’m not sure.

Booked in Geneva

It’s good to see this kind of thing. Even if the shelves do seem to be bending over backwards.


The lollipop man

Following on from Sita Brahmachari’s book about the lollipop man the other day, I was interested to find this link to an article about another road crossings helper; one who has been banned* from high-fiving the children he helps to cross.

I’m of an age where I’ve not really been in a position to enjoy the services of a lollipop person. Except, in the last few years in Stockport, when I devised a new regular route for my daily walks, I remember coming up against all the traffic one afternoon, and wondering how I was going to get across.

That was until I spied a high visibility coat further along and realised I had arrived just as the local lollipop man was warming up for his afternoon shift. I stalked up to him, looked hopeful, and was immediately ushered across. I repeated this on many occasions.

Anyway, this article I mentioned. It had a photo of a lollipop man standing in front of a dilapidated red brick wall. I found it interesting, as that wall made me think of the one on the road I mentioned above. I thought that it’s funny how all brick walls look the same.

Lollipop man

And then I read the article. It was my brick wall. Possibly my lollipop man too, but I can’t claim to recognise him.

I clearly know my brick wall.

*The ban has now been lifted.


We simply had no idea how out of touch we were.

The Swedish ladies of Manchester used to meet roughly once a month, usually on a Friday evening, at each other’s houses. There would be a lot of noise, because when 15 to 25 ladies have something to say, you can hear it. We would eat sandwiches – the classy, Scandi sort, obviously – and cake. Lots of cake. And there was coffee with that, until the day I joined and quietly asked for tea. There were moans, because Swedes drink coffee.

Within a few months most people drank tea.

Anyway. At some point a few younger, more recent arrivals joined us. I had been at the younger end until then, with our oldest member having arrived in England the day after Prince Charles was born… So, these were younger still, and several of them were married to Swedes, which meant less mixing of traditions.

Basically, we were doing what had been natural a few decades earlier. The newcomers couldn’t possibly come to gatherings on a Friday! And they asked what to bring, and when told ‘nothing’ asked if they couldn’t at least bring wine. Wine with cake? Perish the thought.

But the Fridays were a problem.

It seems that they had to sit at home with their families every Friday evening, enjoying some Fredagsmys. Except we didn’t know what this was. It took me a long time to realise that it was the modern equivalent to eating special food in front of the television on a Saturday evening, as we did in my time.

So OK, I got it then. But how were we to know? After all, when most of us were still in Sweden, we went to school or worked on a Saturday morning, and any happy frolics had to wait until after that.

Apparently – and I have undertaken A Lot Of Research – these days they eat crisps, and/or tacos and watch bad television, en famille. Mother-of-witch and I ate either some tinned mushroom goo, or prawns in white goo, on toast or with crusty white bread, and maybe shared a 33ml bottle of fizzy drink between the two of us. There might have been a few sweets. We watched the ‘latest’ BBC children’s half hour instalment of whatever they had, followed by Hylands Hörna, which was the show everyone watched on a Saturday.

Hence, our newcomers knew what they really couldn’t do. It was just that us oldies had few inklings of how things had moved on.

Zebra Crossing Soul Song

Lollipop man with soul. Sita Brahmachari’s latest dyslexia friendly book is different. It’s an unusual topic; the friendship between a young boy and the local lollipop man. But also the way it’s been written.

Otis the lollipop man is West Indian, and Sita has him speak in his own accent, which could potentially be hard to understand, if you don’t know how he might sound. On the other hand, I can see that this makes it even better from a point of view of including many readers who have never found themselves in a book.

The other thing is that Otis communicates with young Lenny through songs, and not just any songs, but ones from the ‘olden days’ i.e. my youth. At least I knew the songs.

Sita Brahmachari, Zebra Crossing Soul Song

There are more issues covered in this story. Lenny has two dads, and one of his old school friends has two mums. Lenny is also having to re-sit his A-level in Psychology, which means he’s a year behind his friends, and he is struggling with revising and keeping on top of things.

As he’s doing all this, he also puzzles over what happened to Otis the last time he saw him. We are kept guessing all through the book.

There’s a lot of depth here, and it feels pretty grown-up. I’m hoping Zebra Crossing Soul Song will find many fans, especially among those who don’t read much.

‘Sittin’ on the dock of the bay…’  🎵

Words and your heart

‘Let’s make our world a happier place!’ That’s what it says on the cover of this rather Valentine-ish picture book by Kate Jane Neal. It’s more about kindness to others than any kind of romantic love, but it fits in so well today.

Kate Jane Neal, Words and your heart

It’s about ‘the little bit inside of you, that makes you, you.’

We should look after each other’s hearts, by saying things that will make those hearts happier, rather than hurt. When good stuff happens, our hearts feel better. And when not, they don’t feel so great.

You know that, don’t you?

Kate Jane Neal, Words and your heart

It’s about words. Words can change how you feel. It’s important to choose to say words that will make another person feel good. They are just words, but they go into your ears, and then into your heart.

Somewhere, through the rainbow

In the line of work, Daughter was listening in on a conference kind of event, on the other side of the world. I asked what it was about, and it seems it’s for another way of finding heavenly bodies up there in space.

For some inexplicable reason she wanted to explain in more detail. Maybe I appeared to have one of my ‘slightly intellectual’ moments.

So first she briefly mentioned what she normally does when hunting, which I knew about. Then she asked how far I’d got reading the book that the Resident IT Consultant bought for us, which is all about this kind of thing. I admitted to only a couple of chapters.

This was when Daughter mentioned spectrums and maybe even rainbows? And do you know what? It sounded awfully familiar, even to me. I had read it. In that book. It comes at the beginning, and my recent reading in the dentist’s waiting room had been on this very topic.

So I said that rainbows and the Doppler effect sounded pretty familiar, and I did ‘know’ about it.

Maybe I’m not as hopeless as I thought?

Hands off

It was some years ago. Offspring and I were in a [Swedish] taxi, on the way to the station. Like ‘all’ Swedish taxi drivers, this one got a call on his mobile, which he took and he chatted for a long time. I think he was trying to agree to book a holiday. You know, important stuff.

Then came the need for him to make a note of something, and he got his notepad out. And a pen. Until then he’d had one hand on the steering wheel, which – while I didn’t feel it was good enough – I put up with. But juggling phone, pad and pen needed at least two hands, so he took the last hand off the steering wheel.

While not seeking to antagonise the man, I told him to either put one hand back to steer, or to pull up immediately until he’d sorted his holiday out. His choice. He put the phone away. I reported him to the taxi company, who were simply baffled. And of course, you tread carefully when angering someone who knows where you live.

Soon after, in another taxi, in another part of Sweden, I was pleased to find my driver looked like he’d virtually just left the farm. No mobile phone, I thought. Silly me. All Swedes have them. Had them, even then. So, at full speed down the motorway he discussed the bullocks with his caller. But he did keep one hand on the steering wheel.

This has made me a lot less keen on using taxis over there.

Anyway, all this came back to me when a friend emailed a link to say that from February 1st it is illegal to read your ebook while driving [in Sweden].

Yeah. Shame, really.

Although, it seems the law is about handling any mobile phone or similar, while driving. The ebook idea was from the book magazine which published the article in question, where they merely deduced that the new law must mean a stop to reading while you drive.

It is, however, legal to have your passenger read aloud to you.