Sunday, 28 February 2016

Dickens versus Insomnia

Life is stressful in our house at present. Work stress for both husband and me; GCSEs for Kate.  And uncertainty about next year's plans too. Kate has to choose A levels and a new school for September and there are decisions to be made for all of us.  As a result there is a fair amount of grumpiness and, for me, sleep problems as I tend to wake at night and worry about things.  I've written about my battle with insomnia before and my attempts to deal with it have had limited success.  I'm now bored with the Mindfulness book audio tracks I used for a while to help reduce stress.  It does work in helping me switch off, but it sometimes seems such a waste of time lying there thinking about 'just this breath in and this breath out' when there are more interesting things to do. ( I kind of feel the same about 'relaxation' in yoga)

So I have a new weapon. I recently discovered audio books, thanks to Christina who has blogged about her love of 'reading' this way.  After a few technical hitches I succeeded in downloading to my phone Dickens' 'David Copperfield' for 99p, choosing this mainly because of price: if I didn't like the audio book experience, I wouldn't have wasted much money.

One of the problems with my insomnia is that it affects everyone else.  If I get up and go downstairs, it's cold and it disturbs my husband; the Kindle 'Nook', my birthday present last year, which is designed for reading in bed, actually emits quite a bright light which disturbs my husband and my neck gets sore after a while.  Listening to my phone with headphones is less annoying for him. (Although not when I fail to put the headphones in properly, as I did last night, waking him up with a blast of DC!) And I can stay cosy and warm, lying down fully relaxed with my eyes closed as I listen.

So I'm loving listening to 'David Copperfield', a classic I never quite got round to. It's narrated by someone called Peter Batchelor whose voice is fairly inoffensive although he attempts a squeaky voice to convey David as a child which is a bit annoying. So, instead of visualising nightmare work scenarios or rerunning things in my head at 3am, I'm picturing Aunt Betsy riding her pony trap through Canterbury or Uriah Heap rubbing his hands, or Mr Micawber telling David of his latest financial problems.  Brilliant.  I don't sleep any more, but at least I am relaxing and,
after a hour or sometimes two, I go back to sleep.  It's 32 hours long. I have 23 left so it was well worth the 99p.  And plenty more Dickens to go.  And then I might start on Hardy.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Half-term Holiday Catch Up

Half term is nearly over and my plans for the week thwarted by  a nasty cold virus which has wiped me out for the last few days.  So the outings we'd planned were cancelled and chores remain unfinished. Still, at least there was time to relax, read and watch a bit of television.  I even summoned up enough energy to clean the oven yesterday.

Kate and I had one day out earlier in the week.  We went to Ness Gardens to see the snowdrops.  I've blogged about this before but make no apologies.  I love snowdrops as for me they signal the end of winter. They are so fragile and delicate yet seem to survive frost, wind and rain to appear in the bleakest months of the year.  As a child I always loved finding the snowdrops in the same neglected corner of the back garden. We picked some and put them in jars on the windowsills but they didn't last long and are better enjoyed where they grow.  And later, dad planted a whole host of them in the front garden where they are probably flowering right now with none of us there to see them.  We don't have any in our own garden - you're supposed to buy and plant them nowish after they finish flowering and I've never got round to it.  Must make an effort this year.

We also found some brave primroses tempted out early by the mildish winter.  I bet they regretted it as it was freezing on Monday: as you can see above I am fully wrapped up in sheepskin.

And there were some other winter flowers on show.  I'm no gardening expert but I think the pink one is a camellia and the other is a hellebores.  Correct me if I'm wrong.  I'm not so concerned about names and varieties but I do love a garden visit and Kate indulged me in return for lunch before returning to her history coursework preparation. A lovely day out.  And if the rains hold off today, perhaps we'll manage another half term outing.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

The Year in Books: Binge Reading

I'm not sure the Year in Books link up is still there but I wanted to write a books post to share what I've been reading recently.  I've written before about 'The History of the Rain' by Niall Williams, a book I read last summer and then reread right away - I read it quickly as I was desperate to know what happened to the narrator so there was a lot I didn't fully grasp first time as it kind of meanders, back and forward in time and there are so many references to other books.  It's been hard to find something to match it since.

I read and admired 'A God in Ruins' by Kate Atkinson, which also jumps back and forward in time. But I found it a bit disappointing after all the hype and preferred her book 'Life after Life'.  It was obviously very well researched and I should have been interested with all the detailed descriptions of what it was like to be a fighter pilot.  But it felt like homework, improving reading, at times rather than the escapism I like my reading to provide.  'A Place Called Winter' by Patrick Gale, who I usually love, didn't grab me either.  All that bleak landscape and hard work.

I enjoyed 'Number 11' by Jonathan Coe, for its humour and portrayal of modern Britain, particularly the chapters which make fun of celebrity game shows, but, again, it lost pace towards the end.  I also read a book 'One by One in the Darkness' by a writer called  Deirdre Madden who was born and brought up near me in Northern Ireland.  She'd obviously drawn from her own experiences of growing up in the 70s and it was interesting to read about the Troubles from a different perspective.

Last week I indulged in a bit of binge reading, having found one of those elusive books that absorbs me so much I don't want to put it down.  It was passed on to me by a friend who has excellent taste. It's 'The Girl in the Red Coat', a first novel by Kate Hamer.  Reading it reminded me a little of 'Room' by Emma Donoghue as it's about the abduction of a child. Some of the chapters are narrated by the 8 year old child, the others by her mother.  Even though it was a very busy week at work, I ignored marking, housework, family and lost sleep until I got to the end within a couple of days.  Highly recommended and better than the other recent thriller books with 'Girl' in the title (The Girl on the Train' didn't appeal me much.)

Highly recommended.  Now I just need to find another to match it.  Any ideas out there?

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Celtic and Other Connections

If you read Christina's Colourful Life, you'll know where I was at the weekend.  We went to Glasgow to the Celtic Collections music festival.  My husband goes every year and this time I managed to join him, escaping from school early on Friday afternoon. I enjoyed the concert, but what I enjoyed just as much was meeting Christina who lives in Glasgow. Even though I suggested the meet up, I was a bit uncertain.  Would it be awkward? Would we have anything to say to each other in real life?  Well the answer is, yes we did - she was friendly and chatty and I felt like I'd known her for ages.  Before the concert we met her in a pub on George Square, a former bank which was very impressive.  We recognised each other straight away - she was wearing the blue duffle coat she'd made herself and blogged about.  So we talked about our families and books and work and all sorts really.  I already knew a lot about her as I've been reading her post regularly for a couple of years.  Then we went and had a meal in the fish restaurant we always go to when in Glasgow, Gandolphi Fish, and chatted some more.  I'm convinced now of the value of blogging - you can actually make friends online.  No time to write more now - need to get ready for work.