Category Archives: Audio books

Paul Temple was here

Be still my beating heart!

When my curtain rail next falls down (requires attention, or whatever) I want Paul Temple to come and assist me. It would be a much more refined experience than what I’m used to.

As I was getting ready for Bloody Scotland, enjoying an unexpected brief meeting with the Sister of Grandmother, who had also made it to Scotland – if not the Bloody one – for a visit, the curtains failed. Actually, they failed before I arrived, but they needed dealing with.

So that’s why the Grandmother called in her old pal Paul Temple. (Anyone who clicked on the link above will have discovered he’s an actor.) He was a little taken aback to turn round on the ladder to find two little ladies watching him, Sister of Grandmother and your own Bookwitch. Perhaps his normal curtain rescuings are audience free.

But oh, the joy of hearing his voice doing a running commentary on what might be wrong with the curtain rail! And most ‘handymen’ never exclaim ‘voilà’ or address bystanders with ‘Mesdames et Messieurs.’ And never in a voice like that.

Afterwards we had to prevent him from leaving through the airing cupboard, herding him firmly but gently towards the actual door.

Those trains

Never underestimate the early impressions you provide your child with. Twenty years ago we had a three-year-old whose vocabulary was still not as extensive as that of his peers. But he could talk about Bangalore.

The Resident IT Consultant spent a couple of months between jobs, and diligently went to the library to borrow videos to keep himself and Son entertained. I forget how many train videos made it to our house, and I hope they weren’t worn blank after having been watched over and over again.

I’m not sure if there was more than one Indian train film, but the ‘train to Bangalore’ went down a treat. Far more popular than Thomas the tank Engine, even then.

Train to Bangalore

And now Son has gone and won a pair of plane tickets, and he and Dodo flew to Amritsar (of all places!) on Monday. (I know. It’s not Bangalore. But this plane didn’t fly there.) I’ve got the itinerary here on my desk and there are going to be a few train journeys. Have you any idea how hard it is to book train tickets in India from home?

How did I end up with a Son who knows where the Indian sleeper train was built? He has bought tickets to places I had no idea existed.

I blame Kim. After the Bangalore train, it’s been Kipling’s Kim who has had a disproportionate influence over Offspring number one. I got him (us, perhaps?) the audiobook years ago. Son has listened to it so many times I’m not surprised he had to download another copy. Those tapes can only last so long.

Rudyard Kipling, Kim - read by Sam Dastor

Sam Dastor (whoever he is) reads Kim extremely well. I know, because Sam and Kim have helped me iron an awful lot of shirts in the past. But since I only listened once, I don’t know the story by heart. But I know a boy who does…

So, I suspect Son and his Dodo are on a sort of Kim and Bangalore treasure trail.

Myself, I’ve felt almost inspired by all this talk of staying with Maharajas and stuff, and I do believe I will look at a few ‘Indian’ books now. Going to see the ‘exotic marigold’ the other week didn’t help, of course.

(Anyone here with an interest in the Delhi metro service?)

Bookwitch bites #52

Could really do with an Emergency Labrador right now. Not sure what it would do for me, but feel  it’s a reassuring concept. I noticed the sign for one on the train a while ago. When I looked again, it appeared that all they had was an emergency ladder.

Fiction Express - Stewart Ross, Soterion Mission

From the train it’s not far to Fiction Express. This is interactive e-fiction where you control the plot. (Has to be better than losing the plot.) Different authors have written first chapters, which you can access free online (assuming I’ve got my facts right) and then there is a vote on what direction the story should take. Sounds like fun, unless of course you’d rather the story went somewhere different from what others have voted for.

More online writing for readers can be found at 247 Tales. This month’s author story is by Gennifer Choldenko, and it might be just a couple of hundred words, but they were quite scary words. Unlike Fiction Express, you don’t get more than 247 words, and there I was, all ready to read on. Last month’s winner is a pretty good one. Nice to see the future of writing is safe.

If you’re not sure you can write without help, I found just the thing for you: Writing a novel, six month curse, starts October. Or should that be course? If anyone wants to try it, I’m sorry but I can’t remember where I saw the ad.

Me, I’m surprisingly bad at both the writing and the remembering. As you know, I don’t set out to upset, but an ambition like that is never 100% water tight. And if I intended to insult, I wouldn’t actually send the ‘victim’ a link to the post. I had a response to just such a link recently, which I will share with you: ‘Thank you. Are all your blogs negative? It doesn’t have anything positive to say.’ Polite. If I had meant it to be bad, I’d have come up with something far juicier. Even without the help of the October curse.

Mitchell Library

To end on a much pleasanter note, I do wish I was in Glasgow this Thursday! I will be in Edinburgh on Friday, but it just isn’t the same. The lovely Bill Paterson will be doing an Aye Write! event at the Mitchell, reading from his own Tales From the Back Green. I must have one or two readers in the Glasgow area? Go! Enjoy!

Bookwitch bites #51

Are you people ready for more things I’ve not done?

This week I had hoped/intended/planned to attend the launch of the anthology Panopticon, published by Pandril Press. I thought it’d do me good to get out and rub shoulders with the Manchester literati. But there was the election and the tonsillitis and all sorts of things.

Iris Feindt at the Pandril Press Anthology Launch

I met Iris Feindt at the Manchester Children’s Book Festival in the summer and she had just written a children’s book which I read soon after. The reason you haven’t heard about it is that it’s still unpublished. But what has been published is this anthology, of which Iris is one of the contributors. She’s not alone, but I have chosen to illustrate the launch with a picture of her, since she’s the only one I would have known there. Had I made it.

But it looks like a good time was had by those who were there. The venue seems interesting, so one day I will investigate. There is so much I don’t actually know. (Admitting that didn’t hurt as much as I thought.)

The Pandril Press Anthology Launch

Also did not attend the Waterstone’s teen book club, and there is a gold star (sticky paper variety, obviously) to be won by whoever can work out why they didn’t want me there. The reason for my interest was their guest Annabel Pitcher, whose debut novel is My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece.

No prizes for guessing I haven’t read it. There is a very good reason for that. When I found out that David Tennant had agreed to read the audio book, I knew I just had to ‘read’ it with my ears. And I am, right this very moment. Almost. I’ve been sitting down with dear David whispering directly to me. It’s lovely!

Many thanks to Orion’s super efficient Nina for supplying me with Mr Tennant. Even if it’s ‘merely’ his voice. And I’m not too jealous as it seems she didn’t get to meet him…

The paracetamol

Hang on, it’s not me who’s the DT fan! It’s Daughter. Must be contagious.

She was. Possibly. Tonsillitis in never fun, but making your own ‘calpol’ was. Although we hadn’t quite expected the explosiveness of mixing soluble paracetamol with blackcurrant squash…

That’s science for you.

And whoever knew that the Royal Institution hosts discos? In my email inbox the message read ‘tickets still available for RI chairman’s disco. The full message, however, mentioned Sir Richard Sykes giving his inaugural discourse. Oh, the difference a few letters make!

Bookwitch bites #45

Or what the husbands said.

I frequently get asked ‘is there anything worth reading?’ when the Resident IT Consultant hasn’t got a clue what to do with himself. (Another maths book, maybe?) I always – nearly always – reply that ‘no, there is absolutely nothing to read in the house’. After all, what can I say? Sometimes I take pity on him and lead him to my secret stash and let him choose a little something.

One that was published earlier this week  is Prophecy, a crime novel by S J Parris. The Resident IT Consultant has read it, and he particularly liked the fact that the detective is/was a real – if dead – person. This being a historical crime novel, you know. He kept wondering what was real and what was made up. And as always he feels it was written with the film in mind. But then that’s what he says after almost any book. And it needs a map. He says that after most books, too. This being a proof, I wouldn’t be surprised if the real book does come with a map.

Adèle Geras also has a husband. Norman Geras recently blogged about his experience with Booker winning The Sea by John Banville, which I’m now awfully relieved not to have tried. It just goes to prove what I’ve said for so long, that so-called ‘real’ literature can be like the Emperor’s new clothes. Let’s not linger awhile with the utterly utterly or the bicycle asprawl. I have other things to do with what time I have.

With my luck it will turn out to be one of the books chosen to be given away tonight. It is tonight, isn’t it? World Book Night. I’m always unsure of which night counts as the 5th of March, seeing as nights of necessity almost always have two dates. But anyway, none of the really deserving books that I had in mind will be handed out for free tonight. However, if you don’t mind paying for the postage, then Declan Burke has a few free books littering his house. He, too, is a husband and his wife might appreciate it if you could take a few copies off from wherever they keep their spare books.

But it’s better than road fill.

The Selfish Giant

I rarely respond well to offers of books through my contact page. Usually people are either offering perfectly fine books, but not what fits in here. Or the books seem anything but perfectly fine.

This one however, being a fairy tale written by Oscar Wilde himself, sounded quite promising. And no, Oscar didn’t email me. Dan Goeller did. He’s an American composer, who has put music to Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant. Chris Beatrice made the new illustrations for the story, and then they roped Martin Jarvis in to read the audio version with music.

I thought the concept sounded OK, so said yes to the offer of a book. I read it and enjoyed it, which is hard not to with a tale featuring giants and ogres and sweet little children.

What makes this new book stand out, though, is the CD and the music. It is absolutely fantastic! I’m no expert, but the music (played by members of the Nashville Symphony) sounded just right. And I would guess that this could easily become a real favourite with young children. Parents may read bedtime stories the best, but I have to say that Martin Jarvis read this one even better.

If you’re looking for fairy tale entertainment, then The Selfish Giant is a good place to start.

Hitchhiker history

Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent

Who needs it? The history. The background to one of the funniest ideas in – well, in what? – literature? Broadcasting? Television? Film?

I started at the wrong end, if there is one. I read the books first. Though, come to think of it, since the radio series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a lot better than the books, it would have been more disappointing to go the other way. OK, maybe I did it the right way. In fact, I have a feeling I may even have watched the television series before getting to the radio. It was on just as I met the Resident IT Consultant, and I recall us watching it in the early days.

I looked on in fascination as the trilogy grew to five books. That’s British humour for you. It’s why I like my adoptive country so much. It has stuff like H2G2.

Fast forward to the unfashionable end of the last century, when I came across the radio series on audio cassette in the mobile library, and borrowed it for Son. I thought he might like it. He did. It wasn’t exactly news at the time. Nobody much – other than nerds – talked about it, so Son was educated in something vaguely historical and dated. Who cared, as long as he laughed and learnt a few new good quotes. It turned out useful, too. How his leaders at Pilots at the local church could even begin to think that children his age would be able to answer any questions on this subject in their fun quiz, is beyond me. Old-fashioned Son could, but his friends had never heard of it. Very handy, too, when it came to dressing up for World Book Day at school. We just needed to send Son to school in his dressing gown, holding a ‘book’ which said Don’t Panic.

From then on I’d say that H2G2 woke up again. More stuff on the radio, a film, and now the sixth book, written by Eoin Colfer. He is not Douglas Adams, but since we can’t have him, Eoin is a good second. I hope.

Anyway, that history. Who needs to know? I mean, who doesn’t already know about it? There was a long description/history thing in the Guardian a week ago, and I just wondered what the point was. As a fan, I do like reading about what I like, but there was something not quite right about this article. And I don’t just mean the fact that facts were wrong. Ford and Arthur did not hitch a ride with Zaphod when Earth was demolished.

The point of the new book is surely to educate a new generation of readers, and anybody old who happened to miss it the first time?

Marmite is truly horrid

We have a cellar full of Marmite. Luckily it’s fully contained in those nice jars that Marmite comes in. It’s only unlucky, because we don’t really need to buy any more Marmite for the foreseeable future.

I don’t like Marmite. Neither does Horrid Henry, which rather surprised me. Silly of me, as I’ve already mentioned what a sensible boy he is. Why should he fall for that ridiculous notion that Marmite really is much nicer than its smell would lead you to believe? That’s for his silly brother to do. Perfect Peter does like that foul-smelling, dark brown substance.

By now the people at Marmite and at Orion will be up in arms, and probably Philip Ardagh, too, although he has nothing to do with Henry. But I will admit that Marmite and Orion have come up with a good idea. You buy Marmite – if you must – and then you can download a total of five free Horrid Henry audiobooks. If you buy five jars, that is, which sounds a little OTT.

Horrid Henry's annual

There has been no end to Horrid Henry in these parts. As if the story collection I mentioned the other day wasn’t enough, Marmite-hater Henry has an annual, too. Naturally.

Horrid Henry’s Annual 2010, illustrated by Tony Ross as usual, has a lot in it. I’d say that any Henry fan would enjoy the tricks, jokes, quizzes and whatnot. Even an old witch feels all twitchy when eyeing the wordsearches and the things to make.

Halmstad library

Library view through the sun screen

Don’t remember why I didn’t feel a new library in Halmstad was a good idea. I liked the old one, of course, and didn’t want it replaced. But I’m not the one who decides on these things, and that’s lucky. It also seemed somewhat mad to build it hanging out over the river Nissan. But, why not?

Now that it’s been here for a few years I can’t se why I was so negative. It’s almost exactly in the same place as the old one, so there is not even a need to change where you go. It’s beautiful, and large, and lime green. Colour accents only, I hasten to add, before anyone has an allergic colour reaction. Suits me, as I have strayed into lime green as my blog colour.

We used to go to the library to use the public computers, but I always struggled with the unknown PCs. Now Son has started a new trend in taking the baby laptop along and simply using their super fast internet. You do have to be a library member, but a club that will have me in it, should be easy to join.

Chess at Halmstad library

So the other day Daughter and I carried our little toys into town and surfed happily, sitting on comfy limey chairs, with a view over the river. The only slightly disconcerting thing were the seagulls. I could have sworn they were in there, so loud were they. I lifted my eyes up to the ceiling to see if there really were gulls, but I expect it’s a trick of the sound entering somewhere.

They have a café, too. The library, not the seagulls.

Halmstad library toilets

And I apologise for my fascination with toilets, but they are great. And they look nice. (This is a direct message to the unfriendly, toilet-free Stockport library.)

I have yet to attend any of their special events, but I’m sure I would if I lived here all the time.

Ex Libris K B Bjering

This week I enjoyed their exhibitions of book cover art and Ex Libris designs. Being a small town, I knew several of the Ex Libris owners. I could have offered mine if I’d known they were arranging this exhibition.

Do go and have a look if you’re in Halmstad.

Last night I dreamed

that I sat next to Ann Pilling. My dream was set somewhere holiday-ish where the whole witch family had gathered, and there were loads of children’s authors. I ended up sitting next to someone by the name of Ann, but it took me ages to find out who she was.

I wouldn’t be telling you about my dream, if it wasn’t for what Daughter did next. She needed occupying, so being a bookwitch I suggested reading. Of course. I also suggested Michelle Magorian’s A Little Love Song, but sadly it has turned into one of these suggestions where Offspring have to say no, just to keep up tradition. So she went off to see what else there might be and came back with Vote For Baz, by none other than Ann Pilling. Witchy.

I don’t know the book myself, as it’s one of the review cast-offs from Librarian Husband of Cousin, which has been hanging around for a few years. But it was good enough to result in Daughter not doing anything else for a whole day. But she would like it known that the cover sucks.

When Son and Dodo arrived, they proudly mentioned they’d brought a copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, with a view to reminding themselves what it’s about. I told them they were idiots, as it’s the only Harry Potter we already have here on holiday, so a waste of a kilo of luggage allowance. They remedied this by reading a copy each, side by side. Then they went to the library for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The library had no other Harry Potters in English except The Deathly Hallows, and they even had two copies of it. So they have side-by-sided HP7 as well.

The library has been useful in other ways too. Daughter had to have some more audio books to listen to at night, so she found an Alex Rider and Philip Pullman’s The Scarecrow on CD. It’s free and you can keep them for four weeks.

Other than this, we have tidied the book collection a very little. Over the years we have carried spares and jumble sale books for those desperate days when you just have to have something else to read. But unless we are to hang on to lots of old books for any grandchildren we may have, we have quite frankly outgrown some of them. They are now sitting in the Salvation Army bag, waiting to go.

Holiday shelves

Daughter wanted to relieve the Salvation Army of a second-hand bookcase to put them in, but I felt we didn’t need more shelves. We need fewer books. I prune and re-order every now and then, and we have a passable collection by now. In fact, my former neighbour used to let herself in with the spare key and borrow books every winter. Well, I always wanted to be a librarian.

One book that is going nowhere, is I Am David, which Daughter read a few days ago, at long long last. She asked about the title, which she thought she had overheard when her brother listened to the audio book. They are the last words of the book, and just thinking about it made me want to cry a little. She finished the book and then told me she could find nothing sad…

What’s a witch to do?