The wicked hegemony of the duvet in Northern Europe

Dear blogging friends, Ofglassandbooks and family spent a few exciting weeks driving around Europe over the summer, more exactly from our home in England to the coast of the Adriatic Sea in Northern Italy. I’ll write about our adventures in a few posts in the future. Today, in full Ofglassandbooks style, I am all about denouncing the wicked hegemony of the duvet in Northern European countries.

Blogging friends: “Pardon?”

Ofglassandbooks: “Oh yes. I’ve had my share of wicked, domineering, bossy and utterly incongruous duvets on each and every hotel bed in Northern Europe over the SUMMER.”

Blogging friends (unwritten comments): “OK, let’s humour the travelling woman for a few more lines…”  

Ofglassandbooks: “Picture the scene: a hot night in continental Europe. And yet thick duvets  – the same thick duvets on offer in the winter – await you at bedtime. You embrace the custom, and wake up in a cloud of vapour, steaming more profusely than  Chinese ravioli. You kick the oppressor off the bed, and end up lying awake and a little chilly, in need of some sort of cover, but wary of inviting back the feather furnace scrunched up on the floor. The solution? To strip the demonic duvet off its cover and hide it on the top shelves of wardrobes, where it belongs until, say, December. The duvet covers alone do the job, and they do it well. Thick cotton in the shape of a sleeping bag is what any tired traveller needs when visiting Northern Europe in the summer. A quiet word with the puzzled cleaners in the morning saves you the indignity of being regarded as a thief, or a practical joker. So far, no cleaner regarded the stripping of the domineering duvets as assault, nor eccentricity. Clearly, they all thought it perfectly acceptable, and clearly, management in hotels does not listen to staff on the ground.”

But this, my blogging friends, is a matter for a separate post, picking up the additional threads of a sociological nature and denouncing the deafness of senior staff in the travel and accommodation industry in Northern European countries.

Any good ideas to improve the quality of sleep when travelling will be published on this blog throughout 2014 and 2015 in readiness for next summer!

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Bookmarks for the sentimental kind

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Join the Ofglassandbooks campaign to SAVE THE MEMORIES-FILLED BOOKMARKS!

 

 

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Ode to Bookmarks: the new endengered species?

I love my e-reader. It’s light; it’s powerful; it holds oh so many wonderful reads in one stylish rectangle of intelligent plastic. But I have a confession to make. Each night I feel daggers of pain shoot through my mercenary soul when switching the lights off and reaching for one of my many, and now increasingly redundant, bookmarks:

that postcard my sister sent me from a far-away country; the entry ticket to the Mauermuseum on Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin, with accompanying business card from the Starbucks Coffee House Checkpoint Charlie kept as a souvenirs; a quirky bookmark acting as publicity for a glorious Pizzeria visited on our holidays to Italy where the dough crisps up to perfection in wood-fired ovens. This particular bookmark comes complete with motivational quote to pull you through the dark days of winter: “Good wood does not grow easily: the stronger the wind, the more resilient the tree”; a clever magnetic clip that sticks to real pages with a quote (in German) from Virginia Woolf and her delicate profile in sepia tones; a cardboard label from a cool clothing brand in Italy (who needs Superdry when you can buy – preferably on a sale – Napapijri?); a business card from an Agriturismo in the Italian Eastern Dolomites, offering guests a holiday to remember with the clean conscience of eco-tourism.
The list goes on to include bookmarks created as ordinary bookmarks, and elevated to extra-ordinary status by collecting them in extra-ordinary locations: a free City Lights Bookstore bookmark celebrating the 60th anniversary of the bookstore on Columbus Avenue, San Francisco; a bookmark with a photo of Schloss Neuschwanstein, Germany, bought from the castle’s souvenir shop (remember the Disney princesses castles? Well, here is your original!); a bookmark celebrating the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2014, again with motivational quote from Kate Mosse, novelist and Chair of the prize. I could go on: an owl carved out of fleece hooked on a branch, received as a present; a delicate bamboo Japanese print bought at a Japanese exhibition in England.
And as I touch the cold screen of my e-reader to instruct it to shut down, I am safe in the knowledge that when firing it up again the next day, it will present to me the exact page I said goodnight to, no questions asked, no further instructions needed. A clinically perfect execution of my wishes. An equally perfect execution of my lovingly collected souvenirs, with more memories, inspiring quotes and bundles of sentimental reminiscence than one thousand Gigabytes could ever hold.
Blasted progress!!!

Yours always,

Ofglassandbooks

Posted in bookmarks, books, motivate, reading, reviews, women in fiction | Tagged | 15 Comments

Shhh, don’t tell my husband!

Going out with my hubby is a rare occasion I look forward to. Take our cinema outing a couple of week-ends ago. We led the military operation of arranging childcare to perfection and jumped into our car, on time. And then the voices started: ‘How credible is the twist in my novel’s plot? You know, the one where the German librarian reveals himself as a charming American? Was he, called Karl, impersonating the German philosopher Karl Emmanuel Kant whilst in reality being Karl Popper’s grandchild? Or even Karl Popper himself? No, how could he, he is too young to be the Karl Popper. Why not just write him up as a regular guy, nobody’s famous grandchild, and nobody even remotely interested in philosophy and sociology. Would that be a safer bet? Why complicate things? Or am I being a chicken, running away from the challenge of making this work?…’

Whilst indulging in my own inner thoughts, I heard a familiar and rather more real voice. ‘Did you hear what I just said?’ my husband asked.

‘Uh? Oh, I guess not, sorry.’

‘Are you ok? You seem distracted.’

And I was. Before I explain, let me remind you that this post is top secret, one of those liberating secrets published on my blog with the understanding that none of my loyal blogging friends will spill the beans. EVER. By following me you have unwittingly agreed to keep this and other revelations to your ethereal selves.

The legal detail over and done with, let me resume my story. I was distracted because work and other commitments have kept me away from my novel. The less I am able to write, the more I am drawn to thinking about it. Each and every droplet of free time is novel rummaging time. When this happens, story line, characters, future trajectory take my free will hostage and for the duration of the mental kidnapping I shut the real world out whilst assuming a contented and slightly idiotic expression. If NaNoWriMo were permissible as a mental undertaking, I’d be a clear winner.

Still in the car, direction cinema, I looked at my husband and did the right thing: I kept all this to myself. Like a reformed smoker, I reluctantly wiped the cloudy and intoxicating thoughts of my novel off my mind. ‘Nothing important, just stuff at work,’ I said. ‘What was that you wanted to tell me, darling?’ a wry smile breaking up the line of my lying face.

 

Dear amateur writing blogger, this is your chance to reveal your terrible secrets. I won’t tell, I promise. After all, this is the world wide web we are posting on, not a gossipy office corridor!

 

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She’s done it again! Patricia Cornwell’s Dust – a review

I have been an afecionada of anything Patricia Cornwell has published for longer than I’d like to admit. I’m in Waterstones (the UK booksellers) first thing on a Saturday morning to buy her new books, hardback and all (Waterstones stock Cornwell’s latest books promptly upon publishing date and offer a lovely discount on them too, so why shouldn’t I plug their business? I love you Waterstones!)

I like the fact that lately she’s adapted a dialogue inside the dialogue technique that I adore: a primary conversation takes place between two characters, with a secondary conversation happening in parallel in their own minds telling us what the characters’ spoken words are not. We all do it, don’t we? We say something whilst thinking something else. Woody Allen used this in a few of his films, with subtitles revealing the true thoughts in his characters’ heads.

Dialogues’ technique aside, what do I think of Dust? I must think a lot of it, since I haven’t even finished it, and yet I am already writing a review about it – I just couldn’t wait to talk about this book with you, blogging friends.

It’s not a perfect piece of fiction though, and whilst enjoying it, a couple of things are bothering me. The blurb tells us that fine red dust was found on a young woman’s dead body, and yet it takes a good one hundred pages for Cornwell to tell us about it. I kept on reading the book’s sleeve to double check that it was the right one. So for those of you who enjoy a faster action type of books, hang in there, I say, you won’t be disappointed…eventually.

What else bothers me? It’s Cornwell’s recent habit of going over events set out in some of her early books in the Dr Scarpetta series. It’s as if she’s realised that so much time has passed since launching the forensic pathologist’s book series that perhaps her loyal audience might have forgotten about Benton (her husband) being an FBI profiler whose death the FBI faked to protect them both. Or the ever present resentment of copper friend Marino towards Benton. Marino: hot headed working class guy versus Benton’s looks, sophistication, elegance, intelligence, old money, not to mention being Scarpetta’s husband. (He gets the girl too? Soo unfair).

Did Cornwell’s PR company conduct a survey revealing a brand new audience for her latest crime books? Am I really this old? That must be it. There are new and younger readers out there who are buying Cornwell’s books without realising that the full story of Dr Scarpetta was told over dozens of books written over dozens of years. They don’t know because they probably were not even born when this was happening.

Feeling old apart, I am really enjoying Dust, and would thoroughly recommend it to both her loyal readers of many a year and the new generations of wrinkle free youngsters, the type who don’t require reading glasses and who benefit from a re-cap of Dr Scarpetta and Benton’s love affair.

Has any of you felt irritated by their favourite writers summarising earlier books for the benefit of new audiences? If so, join the club of the old and crabby. We are still the best reviewers in town though.

All the best,

ofglassandbooks

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The joke is on me! – Installment 2 of the ‘Just when you thought this could only happen in fiction’ mini series

Some of you, my blogging friends, may remember a post (http://ofglassandbooks.wordpress.com/2013/08/) about our cat, a hunter of prime quality. He brings live mice into our home, gets bored of the chase and sets the tiny creatures free. We debated whether to say goodbye to our hunting cat. We opted to keep it and try our best to manage the influx of mice instead. The discovery of live mice hiding in the utility room, where our cat sleeps at night, is a frequent occurrence. I no longer freak out: cool as cucumber I arm myself with a plastic bag, grab the mouse, run to the door and set it free.

So what’s the joke reference in the title, I hear you ask? Can ofglassandbooks no longer remember the premise of her posts? There is a joke, but not of the funny ha ha type. You see, some mice are creatures of superior intelligence, and the grab and bag technique is clearly inadequate for some. Take a few mornings ago, when whilst still in my PJ I thought I caught the furry visitor, only to realise that it had escaped. Where though? I spent a few frantic minutes looking in the kitchen, living room, under our bookshelves, behind the sofa, inside a pair of old boots left by the door. No sign of the mouse. There was a lot of bending, stretching and flexing involved and every now and then I felt as if a butterfly was fluttering behind my knees, my back, my neck. A quick glance in the mirror exposed the butterfly for what it really was: the runaway mouse, who had managed to climb up the legs of my PJs, and up again my PJ top, clinging to the fabric despite my frantic moving and searching. A scream and a slap later and the mouse was out of my top and on the run. I got it in the end, and it was then that I saw the funny side of it all. The joke was on me, as well as the mouse.

Could this have been a scene from a fiction book? Yes, I think it could have, both a comedy type of book and a sci-fi story of mice coexisting with humans, surviving on sections of fabric first, and entering the human body next, giving rise to a new super intelligent species that takes over the world and beyond.

See? I did say that it wasn’t going to be the type of funny ha ha joke!

If your life events turn out like pages from a fiction book, you’ve come to the right place. I sure don’t like being the only woman who looked for a mouse whilst the mouse in question was clinging onto her and laughing its little whiskers off.

All the best,

ofglassandbooks

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Sequels, blasted sequels

My seven year-old daughter skedaddles into our living room and perches herself onto one of the settee’s arms. I’m sitting on it, typing, editing, reading, thinking. ‘What are you doing?’ The dreaded question every parent fears hangs in the air. I’m still typing, interrogating Windows’ thesaurus and weighing my words’ options.

‘Muuuum, what are you doing?’

‘I’m writing my second novel. It’s not for children though. It’s for young adults, basically kids just a little older than you but still a lot younger than me.’

‘You mean there will not be a book 2 of the first book you wrote?’

‘Should there be?’ This girl reads far too much. I make a note to myself to eliminate box sets from her Christmas list.

‘But of course! At the end of the first adventure your main character sits down.’ She slums on the sofa, acting out her words,’ and says: “what a good adventure that was!” Dot dot dot!’

She looks at me, expectantly. I say nothing.

‘Yes, he sits down and says: “I wonder what the next adventure will be?” which is your book number 2, and then the next one, book number 3 and so on. All good adventures have more than one book, everybody knows that!’ She skedaddles out, taking my ten minutes of peace with her. Worse still, she takes away my well intended plan for this year (remember my Resolutions, resolutions post? http://ofglassandbooks.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/resoutions-resolutions-who-are-we-kidding/), which is to focus on novel 2, for YA, and novel 3, for little ones, as well as giving my new sister blog Barking at the wrong tree some loving care and experimenting with short stories.

Should my plans be revised? My daughter has a point. Adventures are made for sequels and children expect them. Looked at it this way, they are tough customers. One single book doesn’t cut the mustard. On the other hand, the opposite is true. Think of creating a popular story and managing to come up with a second, third, and many more follow up adventures. No need to squeeze your creative brain for anything new to dazzle the world with. Your first idea won the hearts of so many, why diversify? My son is devouring the Cherub series. He’s on what seems to me and my purse to be book number 134 and he’s still hungry for more….OK, it’s more likely to be number 8 or 9, but you get the point.

Are you a sequels fan or are you happy to settle for one timers? Your thoughts are, as always, gratefully received.

All the best, OG&B

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