Category Archives: Christmas

Chai and crime

Still trying to get my head round being ‘back to work’ properly.

One of the many interesting books the Resident IT Consultant was given for Christmas – not by me – was the one about Dishoom, which some of you will know is a chain of rather tempting ‘Indian’ restaurants in the UK. It’s both a travel book and a recipe collection.

As I was idly looking through it, I noticed the map of Mumbai folded into the inside hard cover. Once unfolded by me, it revealed place names I recognised.

They were from another book, or rather, series of books. Vaseem Khan’s crime novels are set in Mumbai and his retired Inspector Chopra drives around his city, taking in these places. I realised I’ve just never had a visual idea of how these places relate to each other, or indeed, what Mumbai looks like at all, apart from the odd photo.

So that was nice; two different genre books having this in common. Both are about food, in fact, since Mrs Chopra always cooks and always makes me hungry. As does Dishoom.

Then I finished off by reading up on how the divine chai at Dishoom is made. I will have to make it, although I will use less sugar.

Another new decade

My eighth, it would seem. No, I’m not that old, but I discovered somewhere that if I counted decades – and I did – I’d be able to tot up eight of the things. No wonder I feel done in.

But, I hasten to add, in a terribly catty way, I have far fewer wrinkles than Jamie Lee Curtis. (You can tell I went to see Knives Out, can’t you? I wasn’t impressed.)

It went fast, that last decade. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing what others have done on social media, and list ‘all’ that I did during those ten years. Just not sure I can remember, or that I have the time. I have some hoovering to do, and bits of food to see to.

The last ten days have also gone far too fast. But at least we’ve enjoyed some time with further flung relatives, and had a hilarious morning coffee over which we discussed how hard it is to get out of Texas, and meeting the Benedict Cumberbatch ‘lookalike’ at no. 10. Not that I have personal experience of either.

I visited the place I can only think of as Butcher’s Corner, where I asked the lady behind the cheese counter if she could tell me which cheese I bought there last Christmas. Before the straight-jacket came out, I worked out it must have been Fat Cow. Memorable name. I’ll have to remember it.

Our quiz books still come out most afternoon tea-times, and in the evenings we’ve sat down to Christmas University Challenge, where it seems I can’t support both Jo Nadin and Lucy Mangan. Just let it be said that children’s books make people particularly able to deal with Jeremy Paxman.

Let’s see what the next weeks and the new decade have to offer.

The Bookwitch and Pullman screen adaptations

This time twelve years ago I was full of the latest Philip Pullman adaptation on BBC television. It was The Shadow in the North, and I loved it. I loved it so much that I persuaded the Guardian to let me blog about it for them. There was a lot to like, and I went on and on.

The Shadow in the North - Guardian blog

And now? I still like the various televised Pullman books. But the recent His Dark Materials I have almost managed to push from my mind. Not actively, but I’ve been surprised at how little I’ve thought about it. I never went back after the first two episodes, preferring to do other things when the Resident IT Consultant sat in front of the television for another six Sundays.

I’d happily watch the Sally Lockhart films again, not to mention I Was a Rat. ‘All’ we need now is The Tiger in the Well. Except I guess Billie Piper is too old. The Tin Princess might work, though, as Sally is older in the last book. And dare I say it? There was meant to be another book or two, or so Philip said a long time ago.

Little Women

I was about eleven, maybe twelve, and I thought it was a stupid title. Unga Kvinnor it was called in Swedish. But it was a gift – most likely from the Retired Children’s Librarian – and in those days I combed the shelves at home for possible books to read, so I read it. Despite the title.

It didn’t take many pages before I was hooked and I loved it and I read everything about the March girls, like generations of other young females.

Little Women

We went to see the film this weekend and on the way home Daughter and the Resident IT Consultant ‘fought’ over who’d get to read it first. It’s probably a reflection on them having enjoyed the film… As did I. The director, Greta Gerwig, is quite possibly a genius.

Starting at the end made a tremendous difference. If nothing else, it created a sort of Schrödinger’s Beth; you never knew whether she was still alive, or not. At times it was a little hard to be sure where in the story we were, although the length of Jo’s hair helped.

I hope lots of young readers will see this film, and not just us oldies who know what to expect. I hope it means they will read the book, and that it will change many lives. Apart from my early dislike of the title, I grew up at a time when classics got the attention they deserve. Now, I suspect most younger readers stick with new fiction [because there is so much of it]. Emma Watson has helped, by hiding/leaving copies of the book in London, as well as thousands across the UK as a whole.

Find it, read it, and leave it for someone else to discover.

Louisa May Alcott, Unga kvinnor

Book presents

Book parcels

It’s your lucky day! A better photo has been unearthed, showing a good selection of book parcels. Plus the odd other parcel. But mostly books.

We had a somewhat hairy moment in the run-up to Christmas. I had written a little wish-list for the Resident IT Consultant to, well, consult, if he needed inspiration. On it I had put a book I’d been promised a couple of months earlier, but which I’d finally given up on as a free review copy.

And then it turned up, just before Christmas! Probably someone tidying up their inbox before taking off for some festive leave. What to do? Had the Resident IT Consultant bought one too? Should I be discreet? Should I warn him not to buy in case he hadn’t already, and save £12?

I mentioned my conundrum, but it wasn’t until Christmas Eve that I finally knew he hadn’t. He’d bought the other books on my list.

As for him, he was showered with books. Daughter had found loads for him (he is hard to buy for), and after a conversation we had a few weeks ago about graphic novels and whether they were proper books, you can guess what happened, can’t you? Yes, I went shopping for those very books… And Son gave him one of his own [translated books].

But there was no puppy under that tree. Probably just as well.

Book parcels

What with Boxing Day fast approaching, I thought I might mention a few different ways people have of giving me books.

There is the traditional way, wrapping paper and ribbon under the Christmas tree. Apologies for the dreadful picture; I was under the impression I took a useful photo of a couple of gifts under the tree… But you know the drill; book, paper, maybe ribbon and label.

Book parcels

I have already opened mine, so you’d have to wait another 363 days for another – better – picture.

Usually books arrive either in a cardboard packet from that rainforest online shop, or in jiffy bags from publishers. The inner contents of the jiffies could well look like this:

Book parcel

Reminds me of the candle and wax I used to be simultaneously fascinated by and scared of as a child. (That was before I had a job that consisted of putting bank notes into envelopes before placing the whole thing dangerously close to a ‘bunsen burner’ thing. Never set fire to any money, though.)

Book parcel

Or, the book could arrive in a pizza box. Admittedly this doesn’t happen every day. Actually, so far, only once.

Book parcel

The 2019 Christmas card

Christmas tree

Oops, that very nearly turned into 2029…

Happy Christmas from your Bookwitch, who loves you.