Which is better – giving or receiving gifts? I think they’re both great.

My family does Secret Santa now at Christmas – excluding my youngest brother and nephews who give and get individual presents. Last Christmas I was really pleased because all the gifts I received from family and friends were really personal and brilliantly chosen – no generic gifts. That’s special and it makes you feel that you have deep and meaningful relationships with those people, who know you well enough to choose something you’ll appreciate.

Boyfriendface has 3 kids. Their birthdays all fall within a few weeks of each other.

Child 1 is 17 and has autism and learning difficulties. I’d prefer not to introduce him in that way, as if those define him, but what follows won’t really make sense without that context. His favourite activity is watching Youtube cartoons and trailers on Youtube. He also watches DVDs, plays with his trains, and there are a handful of x-box games he enjoys. He likes to join in if boyfriendface and Child 3 are play-wrestling so I got him Twister, thinking he might enjoy a game with this type of physical contact. I think he would have been more invested if not distracted by the PC (which he’d been temporarily removed from to join in) but he did seem to enjoy it. Getting him to move the correct right/left/hand/foot was difficult but I figure not too important. He introduced an additional challenge to the game by leaning shamelessly on other people, and then purposefully dragging folk to the floor to wrestle with them instead. Non-computer group game they can all join in with; enjoyment; success!

Child 2 is 15. She spends a lot of time on her ipod or Child 1’s ipad, and likes gothic stuff, vampires, computer games, Marvel superheroes… I would describe her as a reluctant reader. I asked a friend for recommendations on graphic novels that might appeal and got her a couple. That evening she sat on the couch reading one while the others played on the computer and watched TV, and when she went to bed sat up reading the other one with the lamp on while the others watched DVDs. Reading; gift-ideas for subsequent birthdays/christmases sorted; success!

Child 3 is 11. He loves computer and x-box but also Lego, and is young enough to still enjoy playing with his toys. I got him a Minion (from Despicable Me) themed version of the board game Operation. It has a minion instead of a person, and the items you surgically remove are things like a Very Fluffy Unicorn, or a Fart Gun. It also comes with 4 rubber minion figurines which you earn by successfully extracting certain parts. This present was bought on the premise that I thought Child 3 would like this game, also thinly veiling an ulterior motive of I WANT THIS GAME! WE SHOULD GET THIS GAME FOR THE HOUSE. Child 3 and I had a couple of games last night while boyfriendface was out (instigated by him getting the game out); Minion Operation is great; success!

Be Christmas before long. What gifts can we give and get next?


Project Read My Bookcase

Since I started my new job in April I’ve been reading more, which is great. One of the best things about working (particularly in a junior position) as opposed to studying, is that leisure time can be proper leisure time unburdened by residual feelings of ‘I should be studying’ guilt. This is especially true of reading time, which can be proper reading-for-pleasure time unburdened by feelings of ‘I should be reading course-work’ guilt. One of the great things about working in a library, is that I’m working with people who also love reading – so recommendations and book-lending are constant.

When I started this job and simultaneously reduced my commute and expenses by moving back in with my parents, I unpacked all of my books onto my bookcase in no particular order (with the exception of series, which were kept together) and decided I would read/re-read them all in the order they were now on the shelf. In so doing, I would also cull my books by ruthlessly deciding after reading which books should be kept and which given away – through application of the ‘will I ever read this again?’ test. Thus far, project Read My Bookcase has been almost utterly unsuccessful. In six months I’ve only read about 6 books from my bookcase, because other books keep getting in the way!

Firstly, as mentioned above, people at work keep lending me books.
Also, I joined the book club at work. We meet every month/six weeks or so and discuss either one or two assigned books.
The book club books I try to get from the library (either the Glasgow library or the Perthshire library van, depending on whether I’m at my parents’ or boyfriendface’s house), so that I’m not wasting money on the book (and sabotaging the bookcase weeding agenda) if I don’t enjoy it.
Whenever I return a book to the library van, I feel bad if I don’t borrow another book.
Book club reading, library loans, and books borrowed from colleagues all need to be read by a certain date/within an acceptable time-frame and thus take priority over project Read My Bookcase books.

Then there’s the commuting factor. Mostly I now drive to work, but initially from Glasgow I was taking public transport – which I still do sometimes if I don’t want to drive. This means 15 mins on the subway, 30-50 mins on the train (depending which train I catch), and then 15-20 mins on the bus. And then the same in reverse to get home. From a reading point of view, this commute is great (apart from the bus, which makes me travel-sick if I try to read).
There is, however, Commuter Reading Problem 1: duration of commute vs. time required to finish current book vs. how big is my bag, and can I be bothered carting a ‘spare’ book around?
The obvious Solution A = e-reader, but then that wouldn’t help project Read My Bookcase.
I think maybe Solution B = bigger bag.

Of course what frequently happens is that I finish my book on the outward journey, and acquire another book for the return journey. This is even more problematic when it occurs on a journey into town (Glasgow) because thanks to Waterstones’ deals the book (singular) for the return journey generally multiplies into books (plural). (Incidentally, the biggest danger of implementing Commuter Reading Problem Solution B (bigger bag) is that it will involve a trip into town to purchase a big bag, which will mean being in town in the vicinity of Waterstones with an empty bag big enough to fit ALL THE BOOKS IN THE WORLD!!!!!!)

Most of these books bought in Glasgow end up at boyfriendface’s, which essentially means that I also have a book-collection there, albeit a far smaller one. The ‘living between two places’ complication means that frequently when I finish a book I’m at boyfriendface’s and take my next book from there, thus delaying progress onto the next project Read My Bookcase book. In fairness sub-project Read My Books at Boyfriendface’s is progressing at a far swifter pace, and I actually do have a wee pile of ‘unlikely to read again’ books to be taken to the charity shop.

So, project Read My Bookcase is progressing at snail’s pace; however general reading is at it’s highest point since my undergrad (English) degree. I’ve been keeping a list since March(ish) and have read 32 books (39 if you split up several multi-volumes into the individual works, which I haven’t done on the list).

P.S. – I’m probably going to start blogging mini book reviews in order to combat ‘read it 2 months ago; can’t remember anything about it’ syndrome.

Extreme Ironing

The other day I set a small personal record. In the ten minutes before I had to leave the house I ironed: 1 shirt, 1 top, 1 skirt, 3 pairs of trousers. Speedy Gonzales, me.

N.B. Fiona’s definition of ironing:
Ironing: The act, exclusively reserved for work clothes, of using a steam iron to remove approximately 60% of crumples, lessen the appearance of wrinkles, and work in several brand new additional creases.
Not to be confused with “The Award-Winning Parent” or “The Good Houswives'” definitions of ironing.

Ironing is a preliminary stage before my clothes are carefully folded stuffed into a gymbag so I can wear them after my pre-work gym session.

That’s right – I am now a gym-goer.

N.B. Fiona’s definition of gym-going.
Gym-going: A means of killing time before work starts, having arrived early in order to avoid encountering other cars on the roads. Involves ambling on treadmills, footering on cross-trainers, and generally trying not to fall off equipment.
Not to be confused with Dad’s definition of gym-going, or any other definition involving the phrases ‘workout’, ‘intensity’ or ‘fitness routine’.

The first few times I attended the gym, I set the treadmill to Rolling Hills. I very quickly got angry whenever hills appeared, and since the answer to my repeated question of, “who the *expletive* put this hill here?” was consistently, “me”, and I couldn’t really find anyone to else to blame, I decided to remove the hills. Now I can happily close my eyes and imagine I’m jogging in the Netherlands. (Only joking – I most definitely cannot close my eyes while on a treadmill, as I would most assuredly fall off.) So, yeah – I tried the Rolling Hills thing; but until such times as they see fit to add a Gentle Undulations setting onto the treadmills, I’ll stick to the flat.

And from these musings I conclude that in any upcoming pursuit of new sports or activities, I can safely rule out Extreme Ironing as an option!

horsey horsey don’t you stop ever grow up

I’m horse-sitting this weekend, as mum and dad are away. It’s been a long time since I’ve done any hands on work or care with the horses. Also, these two horses (Palha and Tchã – half-sister and brother) have been in Wales for the past few years and I haven’t seen them at all during that time. Grey horses (the correct term for “white” – but not albino – horses is ‘grey’) are born with black hair, and as they age their hair goes through various stages of charcoal and dappled grey, eventually turning white. The last time I saw Tchã he was still pretty grey; but now he’s 13 and very white.

One might think that this outward sign of ageing would be accompanied by a degree of mental maturation.

One would basically be wrong.

Tchã looks so SO like their mum, Ruça. When you looked into Ruça’s eyes though, you saw a brood mare’s years of experience; trust in familiar people tempered with caution; all her instincts and actions geared towards the safety and protection of her foals. You saw wisdom in those eyes.

One would need a degree of optimism more correctly known as delusion to find wisdom in Tchã’s eyes. Instead you see friendliness; incorrigible curiosity; a recklessness borne of having lived in happy security all his life, never having shouldered responsibilities of parenthood or leading a herd. In Tchã’s presence one his left with a distinct impression that this is a horse no less likely to fall down a hole or walk into a tree while staring at the moon than he was as a yearling.

Princess Palha has been angelic this weekend: standing quietly without trying to run off anywhere; manoeuvring efficiently around gates; not farting on me while I clean out her back feet. Tchã has thus far attempted to devour a headcollar; tried to walk through a fence instead of the massive space created by the opened gate; and seemingly decided that his enjoyment of eating hay will be enhanced if he stands with one hoof planted in his food bucket at the same time.

The path between the stables and the field is very overgrown, so they both like to have a munch en-route. Having turned round to usher Palha along – who lifted her head up with a mouthful of grass and followed; I turned back to Tchã and was met with his face inches from mine, a sizable plantation’s worth of foliage protruding from either side of his mouth. Naturally, he choked on it and coughed for a while before looking at me quizzically to see what we were doing next. I’ve missed Tchã.

New Job Highlights

As initially predicted, the likelihood of me maintaining regular posts was slim. Operation? Interviews? Starting a new job? Moving house? Not having internet in the new house? Would such trifling matters interfere with regular weekly blog-posts??? In my case, yes. Yes they would.

I started my new job – Library Assistant with the Content Management Team at University of Stirling. It’s great – good people; learning lots. We do a 3 week rotation: acquisitions, serials and e-journals. I’m still getting my head around different processes and routines, but here are my favourite things about the job so far:

I get to date stamp and RECEIVED stamp things. A lot. I love it. It has been suggested that this may be due to the fact that I didn’t have a Post Office set as a child, and therefore never used up my enthusiasm for stamping age 5. It has also been suggested – after confessing an overwhelming urge to ask if I could stamp my own loyalty card when getting coffee the other day – that I may have a problem. (In my defence, the coffee people have adorably tiny stamps for this task.)

Buying Books: On Acquisitions week I’m basically getting paid to find and buy books. Not that I get to keep them, but I do get to unwrap them which is one of the best parts. E-books involve a lot less unwrapping….none in fact. (And less stamping.) Pfft, technology.

Entertaining titles and author names: The two best so far have been Carl Death… “Haha, Mr Death – that’s brilliant! Wouldn’t it be great if he had a PhD and was Dr Death…[cue internet stalking- I mean, research]….OH MY GOODNESS, HE DOES!!!!” and Avoiding Errors in Adult Medicine written by a Dr Ian Reckless.

Stirling Uni campus: It’s so green, and you can (just) see the loch from our room. The ducks, swans and coots don’t have a regular route past our window but there’s a bunny that makes a regular appearance, and also Ninja Squirrel. He was actually called Killer Squirrel (apparently after serials librarian commented that squirrels eat meat) but a few Thursdays ago when we didn’t have our team meeting (manager on leave and serials librarian off sick) I called an impromptu meeting to vote that Killer Squirrel be renamed, as it seemed a bit libellous when noone had any evidence of his having killed anything.

Book Trolley Zoo: I have my own book trolley. I asked if I was allowed to decorate it. I was told, “yes”. (Although it is distinctly possible that this may have been an ‘anything to shut her up’ response). After much deliberation, Panda Book Trolley was born:

pandatrolley face

pandatrolley rear

Next on the cards are Tiger Trolley and Welsh Dragon Trolley.

On knowing when to keep your mouth shut!

I tried to do something with the last two posts which didn’t really work, and after several edits just posted the two separately. Apologies if that caused any confusion or bombarded anyone with update emails….

I mentioned the other day that I had two successful job interviews recently. The job I have accepted is as Library Assistant in the Content Management Team at a University library. The other was an NHS post which involved cataloguing artefacts and objects marked for archival across the NHS hospital sites. The interview consisted of a presentation I had prepared on ‘The advantages and disadvantages of storage of historical information within the NHS’ followed by the interview questions. The presentation went very well (much to my relief and delight) and the interview was very relaxed and almost enjoyable, if an interview can be described in such terms. One of the interviewers had mentioned how they thought they had uncovered a Raeburn, but it turned out that it wasn’t actually a Raeburn. His optimism and hopes of finding a Raeburn in one of the hospitals popped up at various points to the interview until I, somewhat confused as to why there would be, asked ‘are we talking about Rayburns….like – the stove?’ ‘No! No! Haha – Raeburn – the painter!!!!!’ Ah. Right. Now where did I put my I know nothing about art history badge…..?

Oh well, what can you do? Didn’t do me any harm, and I’ve learned something new!

Happy Tolkien Reading Day!

Many thanks to the Interesting Literature bloggers for alerting me to Tolkien Reading Day (see re-blogged post below), of which I was previously unaware. In one of those happy incidents of coincidence (which I do so enjoy), I came across this blog post while logging onto the computer specifically to kill time until the Lego Lord of the Rings game finishes downloading on boyfriendface’s Xbox. (Many thanks to boyfriendface for buying me the game.) I do appreciate that this is a bit of a stretch as far as ‘Tolkien Reading’ goes, but I’ll make up for it by taking The Hobbit to bed with me tonight.

Interesting Literature

Today is Tolkien Reading Day, an annual event launched in 2003 by the Tolkien Society. (The date of 25 March was chosen in honour of the fall of Sauron in the Third Age, year 3019, in Tolkien’s fiction.) The reading day promotes the use of Tolkien’s writing in schools and library groups, and is celebrated in numerous countries. To mark the occasion, we’ve put together ten of our favourite quotations from John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. The first quotation, about Beowulf, is especially timely because of the recent announcement that Tolkien’s translation of that epic poem is finally going to be published!

On Beowulf and myth: ‘The significance of a myth is not easily to be pinned on paper by analytical reasoning. It is at its best when it is presented by a poet who feels rather than makes explicit what his theme portends; who presents it incarnate in the world of history and geography, as our poet has done. Its defender…

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