Done and Dusted…Commuting Gems

This week, about 10 weeks ahead of schedule, I smashed the 50 Book Challenge.

That’s right peeps – I’ve read 50 books this year.

(Actually this morning it stands at 51 but who am I to quibble over such a detail?)

Along the way, I unearthed some real Commuting Gems, writers that will continue to feed my long and literary journey to and from work every day. Douglas Kennedy made the grade early – I have read three of his books this year – closely followed by slightly off-centre crime fiction from Chris Brookmyre (I’ve read two of his). More recently, I discovered the joys of Jonathan Frantzen, Jo Nesbo and Scott Mariani and have already started my next Ben Hope Adventure (Mariani’s protagonist).

I have also travelled far and wide from the comfort of my reading spot(s) – through the post ‘et tu Brutus?’ period of the Roman Empire (Colleen McCullough) and in a black cab across America with the incomparable everyman himself, Stephen Fry. I have immersed myself in the cultural melting pot of a Russian community in China with Kate Furnivall and stood in awe of the great and mighty Vesuvius with Robert Harris.

Let’s not forget the little bit of star-spotting l managed either. I rubbed literary shoulders with Sir Elton, Alistair Campbell, Billy Connelly, Jane Austen and young Queen Victoria!

The stalwarts of my literary days gone by were there too – Lionel Shriver, Michael Connelly and Dick Francis (although after three of the latter, I might say nay – neigh, geddit? – to a Francis horse-racing extravaganza for a while).

I’ve also dropped in on old favourites like Heathcliff & Cathy and Meg, Jo, Beth & Amy. I read about risk and danger, and about a girl who played with fire and then made things worse by kicking the hornet’s nest. 

I’ve even managed both a trip back to old Melbourne town (courtesy of Christos Tsiolkas) and a joyful celebration with fellow expat Bill Bryson, of the fabulous place I now call home.

Who knew that commuting four hours each day could bring such joy!

Not all was smooth sailing (or commuting if you prefer). Three made my ‘Disappointing’ List – number 6 from Margot Berwin, number 15 from David Gibbins and 39 from Dawn French. Not so marvellous. But 3 out of 50 (that’s just 6% says she, whipping out her trusty calculator to double check her mental maths) ain’t bad. And look at all of the things I have experienced and discovered.

So if you’ve been inspired at all by my bookish banging on, or are looking for some great reads to add to your own (e)bookshelf, you can see them all – along with what I thought of them – at The Book Nook which, in the spirit of encouraging readership and literacy, I will continue to update.

Happy reading peeps!

Sleeps To Go…On A Small Island

I have been reading Bill Bryson’s Notes From A Small Island during my commute this week and this morning, I read a page that really struck a chord.

One of the things I am asked by every second (or maybe third) Brit the minute they hear my accent is ‘what are you doing over here?’  Well, let me refer you to page 46 of Bryson’s tome:

“It has more history, finer parks, a livelier and more varied press (nowadays lively in a sinister, phone-tapping kind of way it would seem), better theatres…leafier squares…and more courageous inhabitants than any other large city in the world.”

He also talks about the ‘incidental civilities’

“cheery red pillar boxes, drivers who actually stop for you on pedestrian crossings …lovely forgotten churches …sudden pockets of quiet like Lincoln’s Inn and Red Lion Square…black cabs, double-decker buses…polite notices, people who will stop to help you when you fall down or drop your shopping, benches everywhere.”

 
It inspired me to think about some of the things I love about London and as I was gazing out of the window of the number 57 bus tonight, here are the first five that sprang to mind:

  • the light – it’s soft and beautiful and drapes itself gently over great expanses of countryside within 30mins of London
  • the fabulous place names – I am just dying to get on the bus to see what Seething Wells is all about and St Martin In The Field overlooks not a field but Trafalgar Square

  • the squirrels – skipping across the railing along my front garden, in the tree overhead, the little ones daring to venture a little way along my front path towards my open door before scurrying away at the behest of the bigger ones
  • the sun worship – with the merest hint of sunshine, Londoners appear from every nook and cranny and cram themselves along river banks, in parks and all sorts of public places to bask at lunchtime, after work, on weekends and any available opportunity
Source: Metro.co.uk
  • the irony – the Brit’s do that dry, dry wit better than anyone else – and really know how to poke gentle fun at themselves (and others) as a result.

There are loads of other things and I could go on (and on and on) but this post was inspired by someone else’s vision of the place I call home.  So what about you?  I’d love hear what you love about London, whether it’s your home, your home-away-from-home, a memory captured for holiday posterity or a trigger for the nostalgic yearning of days gone by.

What do you consider worthy of note about this small island? 

ps…there are 20 sleeps to go peeps…that’s less than 3 weeks for all your Gidday shopping and shipping. Just as well I’m super-prepared with my wishlist at the ready should any of you need a little helping hand.  I mean let’s face it, who has to have a wedding to partake of one of those Bridal Register thingies?