Friday, 22 May 2015

Tottenham Court Road.

Every couple of months I meet up with a friend who moved away from south London a few years ago to the 'burbs. This time she suggests we meet in Heals because she wants to look at cushions. I love mooching round Heals and they have a lovely coffee shop, so we arrange to meet there. 

In fact I love all furniture and interiors shops. In particular I like fabrics and lighting and crockery and cushions and jugs. Our house is stuffed with it all, especially jugs. There's so much crockery displayed in the kitchen that there's not space for anymore. Sadly.

I get the Northern Line, of course. Where's Heals? I think, as I sit on the tube with my new Kindle. Oh yes, on Tottenham Court Road. I haven't been there in years. They've been working on the station and it was closed for ages. It's all different round there now.

I'm absorbed in my book (sorry, my Kindle. No, sorry, my eReader) so I  get up automatically at Tottenham Court Road tube stop. It's only as I feel my feet hit the platform that it occurs to me that Goodge Street is much closer to Heals, and then the doors slam behind me. Too late. Never mind. The walk up Tottenham Court Road will do me good.

I go up the escalator, and then another one. Some man ascending on the parallel escalator looks at me, turns away, looks back. What? I think. Do I have dirt on my face? What? What! 

I try to avoid him at the top as I exit the barrier. I turn left in a hurry to get away and because that's what I always used to do at the top of the escalator at Tottenham Court Road if I wanted to walk north.

I walk. Gosh, it's changed a lot round here, I think. On the opposite side are two very old building facades, held up with nothing but scaffolding, no actual building behind, just empty space, quite eerie actually, and disconcerting. I pass a few of those London tourist shops selling tat: I Love London hats and mugs and key rings. Then a few music stores. Then a Primark. 

There's a Primark on Tottenham Court Road now! Wow, I must tell V (the friend I am meeting) and there are far fewer music shops than there used to be. Amazon has so much to answer for.

Eventually I see a tube station coming into view up ahead on the left. Goodness, I've reached Goodge Street already! With no sign of Heals yet. In fact there's a new Top Shop, a huge one, on the other side of the road, where Heals should be. Where is Heals? 

I can't read the name of the tube station from this angle but I can see that the tiling around the top. It says: Oxford Circus, Oxford Circus, Oxford Circus, Oxford Circus.

Blimey, I think, Goodge Street tube must once have been called Oxford Circus, like Tooting Bec tube was once called Trinity Road and then re-named. Strange, because how could they call it Oxford Circus when it's so far from, you know, actual Oxford Circus? 

Then I stop dead in my tracks. People walking behind me narrowly miss smashing right into me. People coming towards me have to take sudden evasive action to avoid a collision. I'm not on Tottenham Court Road. I am on Oxford Street. 

The sudden, complete disorientation this causes in my brain is a shock. I am not where I thought I was. Not metaphorically this time, but actually. 

There is not a new Primark on Tottenham Court Road. The music shops are most likely still there. I turned the wrong way when I left the tube and did not notice my mistake until now, nearly at Oxford Circus. Not only that but I was prepared to believe TfL had wrongly labelled their own tube station rather than accept that it was I who had gone the wrong way. I think there's a name for that sort of delusion, and it's not a flattering one.

My brain has to do some fast realigning and for a moment, a fraction of a second, it struggles. Right, I will have to strike north east to get back to Heals if I don't want to walk the length of this street again, back to Tottenham Court Road tube before turning LEFT.

I'm mildly panicked. I consider jumping in a taxi. How late is this going to make me? I'm a long way from Heals now. Then I calm down. A taxi will probably take longer and I have a text from V saying that she's going to be late, her train was delayed. I text back: "Don't worry. Also late. Got lost!"

I start to walk again, using The Post Office Tower to navigate. I know that when standing in front of Heals you can see it before you. 

Okay, I think, so I may well have early onset Alzheimers but don't they recommend getting lost as a way to test your brain? To stave it off? I was lost, in a way, at least I wasn't where I thought I was, so now I will correct myself. Not using Google Maps or ringing Husband (who has a much better knowledge of central London than I do) or by asking someone. I will work it out myself.

I turn around, take a few steps back, turn left off Oxford Street, walk for a while, turn left again, go straight, look up to check the position of The Post Office Tower, turn left again and eventually find myself on Charlotte Street. I know this! And there's a sign for Goodge Street pointing ahead, which I follow. A busy road comes into view. This must be Tottenham Court Road. It is! I come out almost exactly opposite the shop, relieved, elated, and not even particularly late, only ten minutes.

I walk through Heals. The lighting department is stuffed with lovely retro lights like the ones I have in our kitchen. The crockery department has a complete set in a design I have recently began to collect, including a large jug. 

I go up to the coffee shop. It's closed for refurbishment. I text V - "And now the coffee shop is closed for refurbishment!" Then I go back downstairs and buy the jug.

Love E x


Friday, 15 May 2015

Old Age.

I've started volunteering for Age UK. This is for a mixture of altruistic and self-serving reasons. Starting with the fact that I have an opening since I resigned as a school governor late last year after our beloved primary head teacher - of 14 years - was forced out by the local education department following a critical OFSTED inspection. Incidentally no one saw that coming, least of all the Chair of Governors, who is still there. (That's Wandsworth education department btw. Bless 'em.)

Anyway this means there's a gap where governors' meetings and school visits used to be. I can do some other sort of volunteering, I thought, put something back, not spend all my time just thinking about me and mine. So I thought of old people. Why? Again, more than one reason. 

Because we will one day all be old (if we're lucky). Because the thought of being old and alone is a frightening one. Indeed a friend of mine suddenly asked the other day: what is your greatest fear, Elizabeth? My children predeceasing me, I replied, without hesitation, what's yours? Being alone, he said. And it seemed extraordinary to me that he should fear this since he has a busy life with a large family and lots to do. To be old and alone, I concluded, is a universal terror.

Because we're meant to live in groups, aren't we? Villages essentially, with young and old together. Or all under one roof like the lovely Patel family next-door to us, three generations, with old Mrs Patel still going strong in her 90s, cooking chapattis for her family, and sometimes for us too. 

We're not meant to hide old people away in homes where they sit in hard-backed chairs in rows in front of the telly. Or worse (arguably) leave them to rot alone in their own homes after their beloved spouse has died. Loneliness kills. Remember that Times campaign at Christmas? Silver Line. Half a million old people will spend Christmas alone, they said... 

I remember being taken to visit my great-grandmother as a child, this was in Birmingham, where all my family originally hail from (my parents tend to keep this quiet, I come from York because they moved there in the 60s when my father was offered a job at the brand new university), and she seemed so tiny and vulnerable and alone. I was deeply affected by the experience and wrote a short story about it when I was a teenager. It wasn't much
 different in essence to that novel du jour Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey, about an old lady living alone, a bit addled in the head, getting confused between past and current events.

And if you have ever been a mum at home with small children, as I have, you will have had a glimpse of what loneliness is, and what it could be in the future. There are moments, sometimes whole days, when the offspring have gone off to school or nursery, when you are completely by yourself, left behind to contemplate the mess: the full dishwasher, the spinning washing machine, the empty silence… 

Which brings me to the self-serving part because in volunteering I will get out of the house, meet new people, feel connected to my community. In Denmark, where women over 65 are the happiest people in the world apparently, according to recent research, they do lots of volunteering and it's thought to be one of the things that makes them happy. And lately my work has all been at home, which is isolating. Coffees and lunches with friends are all very well, but too many of them makes me feel like a spoilt housewife. 

So now for the altruistic reasons, apart from the desire to help alleviate loneliness. We have a new government, one that's planning 12 billion pounds in welfare cuts which will hit our most needy and vulnerable, and which also plans to increase the age at which you are entitled a state pension. It's already tough out there for elderly people surviving on a meagre pension. We've heard how many food banks there are, Jeremy Paxman helpfully furnished us with that information, in case we didn't know already: more than 400 at the last count, with 163 percent increase in food bank use according to figures from The Trussell Trust. Charities such as Age UK are going to be more important than ever. I can either sit quietly at home for five long years with my fingers crossed in the hope that this lot finally get voted out, or I can get off my bum and try to do something to alleviate the damage in just a teeny tiny way.

So far I've only done a few mornings for the charity, not being a friend to an old person as I had imagined, yet, but working in the office. This is because their faces lit up when they heard I had "office skills". "And you don't know how to do Twitter?" asked the lady who interviewed me.

"Er, just a bit," I replied.

Love E x


Related articles to cut & paste to links.

Why are Danish people so happy?

Food Bank Use Tops Million Mark

Thursday, 14 May 2015

More exam stress...

Lovely Mumsnet contacted me on Monday, asking if I wanted to write a guest post about exam stress similar to last week's blog: 700 words. 

Always tricky to try and condense what I want to say into so few words. Writing for newspapers and the rest is rarely what you think it's going to be - even when it was you who pitched the idea. So often there's a low word count or a very specific brief or, in the case of writing in for The Daily Mail, a right-wing agenda.

Of course I said I would love to write for Mumsnet, who wouldn't? I love them. I'd love to write more for them, lots more, and for some money would be nice if they ever have some spare kicking around. (Why is it that writing is so undervalued as a profession? If I'd worked as a professional lawyer for the past eight years no one would ask me to do a bit of lawyering for free, but I think I'm straying off topic.)

As it happens there's a great deal more I'd like to say on the subject of children and exams: that we test them too much, that schools pile on too much stress, that exams can always be retaken but childhood can't (I read that somewhere yesterday, good isn't it?), that it's important to keep the household calm and relaxed, running smoothly while exams are in progress, and that being attentive to the poor exam-taker is paramount but take care that attention doesn't tip over into added pressure through constant nagging and dictating how much revision they should do.

And then I turn to page two of The Guardian this morning and there's a headline: "Surge in young people seeking help for exam stress," going on to describe a 200% increase from Childline in children approaching them specifically with exam stress, adding that the NSPCC also report 87,500 visits to their website over the same issue. "My parents won't let me do anything apart from revision," says a quote from one child.

How many of these parents, currently piling on this sort of pressure, put in the amount of revision for their own exams that they are now expecting from their children? And even if they were incredibly conscientious themselves, that was their decision, taken about their own life (presumably), their child's life is equally their own. Or it should be. 

It's just not reasonable or healthy to expect a child - anyone in fact, let alone a child - to work all the time. Having free time to do other things, read something unrelated to school work, play a musical instrument, watch a movie, go out with friends, is incredibly important in order to achieve some sort of balance and some much-needed perspective. 

Anyway, I could go on and on, in the meantime here's the piece I wrote for Mumsnet in case you missed it, which you probably didn't because they tweeted it a lot. I'll be blogging on another subject tomorrow. Promise.

Guest post: "How to *really* help your child during exam season"

With exams looming large, Elizabeth McFarlane - whose son is taking his GCSEs - shares what she's learnt
Elizabeth McFarlane
I don't know how she doesn't do it
Posted on: Tue 12-May-15 14:39:13
Lead photo
'I can't do it for him, but I can be his roadie offering backroom support'
Exam season is upon us and with it comes the stress: sweaty palms, palpitating heart, the constant need to pee… and that's just me, not the actual child. As it happens, my GCSE-taking son seems fine. I may have been through it all before with the eldest, but it's no less terrifying second time around.

Rewind a few years and a friend with children lagging slightly behind mine in age exclaimed in wide-eyed innocence: "Surely it won't affect you? They're his exams aren't they?" How I laughed a year or so later when I overheard her describing the revision timetable she was drawing up for her son because: "He just hasn't a clue!"

It does seem to be the mothers of boys who particularly struggle, possibly because on the whole they're a conscientious and organised lot who probably approached their own exams with a colour-coded efficiency they're now expecting from their sons. Disappointment looms, because here's the rub: in my experience most boys aren't much fussed. My sons don't seem to measure their self-worth against academic success in the way I did, and mum whinging on day and night about doing some actual revision just gives them something to rebel against. I'm sure that goes for plenty of girls too, I just don't have any of those.

I heard tell of a boy banished to his room to revise, laptop and games console confiscated, who texted his mother the minute she'd gone out: "Ha! I still have my phone up here. I'm playing games on that!" While another mum I know hid outside by the front window and leapt out, catching her son red-handed going straight for the PlayStation, when he'd promised to revise. If they're determined to fritter away study time on displacement activities like playing the guitar, or suddenly becoming incredibly politically active (my Year 11 has just joined the Liberal Democrats), they will. On the plus side middle son has, at the last minute, implemented an impressive revision system - unlike his older brother, who approached studying in a frustratingly haphazard manner.
My sons don't seem to measure their self-worth against academic success in the way I did, and mum whinging on day and night about doing some actual revision just gives them something to rebel against.

There's obviously a balance to be struck here. It's lying somewhere between constant policing and going through the entire curriculum with him piece by painful piece, and not caring a jot. I've concluded that middle son needs only a few things from me at this stressful time: to know that it is an important time, that his future will be affected by the outcome, but also that we are here for him and that we will help in any way we can. Above all else, he needs to do this by himself. It's his performance - he is the one about to step out on to that stage. I can't do it for him, but I can be his roadie offering backroom support.

So here are a few dos and don'ts from my experience the first time around, not all of which I've managed to stick to…


1. Be anxious or over-dramatic: "So you want to fail ALL your exams not doing ANYTHING with your life, do you?” Bad.

2. Pop into their revision sanctum every five minutes for an update.

3. Write out a revision timetable for him. That's your plan, not his. He has to own it.

4. Provide a constant countdown of months/weeks/days/hours left: "You only have a week to go you foolish child, you had better get on with it!"


1. Be supportive, interested and sympathetic. Murmur comforting things like: "It's a rough time" and "Poor you."

2. Provide revision guides, paper, pens, Post It notes, highlighters, a quiet place to study away from siblings and distractions. Then stay away.

3. Provide snacks, treats, favourite meals, and a good breakfast on the day.

4. Pin the actual proper exam board timetable up so he knows when they are.

5. Encourage him to plan his revision a few days ahead at a time. Huge plans are hard to maintain.

6. Suggest keeping a tally of all the revision achieved. This accentuates the positives. Good.

7. Encourage fresh air and exercise: both great for dealing with stress.

8. And above all else remember it's his life not yours. (Good luck with that one.)
By Elizabeth McFarlane
Twitter: @doesnotdoit

Love E x 

The piece in The Guardian to cut and paste -

Friday, 8 May 2015

Exam fever

Forget hay fever, the mums around me at the moment are suffering from exam fever, and they're not even the ones taking them. It's especially afflicting the mothers of boys, I notice. 

Exam season is upon us and I've been through it all before with Eldest so I could come over all a bit weary and smug now if I felt like it, but I don't, because it's stressful every time - although some children do seem to cope better than others. This time it's Middle One's turn, GCSEs, starting next week.

I remember one of my friends, a mum herself, with children just lagging behind mine in age, saying: "Surely it won't affect you, they're his exams aren't they?" When Eldest was approaching his GCSEs. Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha, how I laughed. And how I laughed even harder when it was her son's turn and I heard her telling a mate about the revision timetable she was drawing up for him. 

Another mother of a boy I know even told me she was "teaching her son how to revise". If she's cracked that one then she could earn a fortune hiring herself out. And then there are those mothers who actually sit next to the boy and go through the curriculum with him, piece by painful piece. You know who you are. 

But even if you fully intend to stand back and let him sort out his own life, as I do, schools just don't let you. The GCSE evening 'Helping Your Child Through GCSEs' a few years back (I didn't go to it again this time around) was two hours long. TWO HOURS of being lectured at in a draughty school hall on a hard wooden chair about how stressful it's going to be and that you need to make sure he gets a good night's sleep before an exam day. Durr. 

The thing is that so many mums I know are highly conscientious and no doubt approached their own exams with colour-coded efficiency. Now they are expecting the same from of their sons. Disappointment looms. Because this is the rub: boys just aren't all that fussed, well, most of them aren't. Yes, plenty could get A*s if they put their minds to it, but they can't be arsed. They don't measure their self-worth against academic success in the same way that girls appear to. They don't get all lathered up by what their friends are up to. They don't really care. And mum whinging on at them day and night about sorting themselves out and doing some, you know, actual revision, just gives them something to rebel against. 

I remember a story about a boy banished to his room to revise, his laptop confiscated so he couldn't play games on it, who texted his mother the minute she'd gone out - 'Ha! I still have my phone up here. I'm playing games on that!' If they are determined to fritter away their time on displacement activities (improve my guitar playing, anyone? Suddenly become incredibly politically active?) they will.

So here's some random advice below gleaned from when Eldest took his exams, not all of it stuck to by me at the time I should add…

1. Do be supportive, interested, sympathetic. "It's a rough time." "Poor you." "How are you feeling?" all GOOD.

2. Don't be anxious and over-dramatic: "So you want to fail ALL your GCSEs and serve hamburgers in McDonalds for your whole life then!" BAD.

3. Do provide revision guides, paper, pens, Post It notes, coloured highlighters, a quiet place to study away from siblings and distractions. GOOD.

4. And do STAY AWAY. Don't pop up to his room every five minutes for an update. "Just thought I'd check how you're doing up here." BAD.

5. Do provide snacks, treats, nice food, their favourite meals, a good breakfast on the day. "And would you like homemade blueberry sauce with that pancake, my darling?" GOOD.

6. Don't write out a revision timetable for him. That's your plan, not his. He has to own it. "I'm not being controlling really, just call me Svengali." BAD.

7. Do pin the actual proper exam board timetable from school up in his room so he knows when they are. "Here you are, darling, just a little info for you there." GOOD.

8. Don't insist he get up early and go to bed early but SUGGEST this might be a good idea. 7 am: "Are you up yet working on your Physics yet?" BAD. 

9. 10 am: "Would you like to come down for your homemade blueberry sauce now, darling?" BETTER.

10. Don't do a constant countdown about how many months/weeks/days/hours there are left until the exams: "You only have a week left you stupid child, so you had better get on with it!" BAD, BAD, BAD.

11. Do encourage other activities apart from revising. Sport and going outside for a nice walk or a run, all GOOD.

12. Don't book a 6 day holiday in Italy when he is meant to be revising, as I did. BLOODY STUPID.

13. Do be around before and after exams to offer food and a friendly ear if you can and, crucially, only if this is desired. GOOD.

14. Remember it's his life. (Good luck with that one.)

15. Some of this also applies to girls but I don't have any of those so things with them may be a little different. I hear tell they revise in GROUPS at the kitchen table in a collaborative and friendly manner. 


Love E x


Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Minor irritations.

Life is full of minor irritations. Here are two of mine from the last week. One: standing, freezing, with wet hair, in a car park after swimming, trying to work the ticket machine. It wants me to key in the last three digits of my car registration so it can calculate how long I've been there from the photo on its CCTV camera, but it doesn't recognise the first three digits and now wants the whole registration. The touch pad is infuriatingly over-sensitive and unresponsive by turns so that I keep keying in wrong letters and numbers and going back to delete them again, having to click between the numerals pad and the alphabet pad every time. And after all that it rejects my car reg completely, plus the code I've been given by the leisure centre for a reduction, saying neither are 'valid'. Finally it charges me 60p for one hour - very reasonable - but then swallows my two pound coin, as well as a good fifteen minutes of my life, without giving change, for either.

Two: taking great care to put groceries away tidily in my new, clean fridge, with a system, only to find when my back is turned Husband empties all the fruit and salad and veg, including an enormous bag of carrots, loose into the salad trays instead: "Because they will rot in that plastic otherwise" he says. "Not at the rate we use it all up," I reply, exasperated. Now every time I open the fridge I'm confronted by a riot of higgled-piggeldy produce and have to wade my way through to find what I want.

But none of this really matters, does it? Nothing really matters very much at all, except for family and health and being warm and dry and fed. I really have nothing to feel irritated about, my life is fine, more than fine. I know this at the time these minor irritations are occurring. I know this now, on reflection, and in particular I know this a day or two after these events when I am sitting in a huge, cold, packed church at the funeral of someone who took his own life.

There will be no minor irritations for him anymore, no major ones either, and also no spring, no summer, no autumn, no winter, no family, no health, no warm, no dry, no wet, no cold, no hungry, no fed. No Christmas, no birthdays, no holidays, no family landmarks; like seeing his own three children grow up, marry, have children of their own. There will be nothing. And for his family left behind there will be a lot: unimaginable pain and sorrow reverberating through the years and down through generations.

I came home from the funeral and I talked to my children about suicide. Not perhaps a subject many people are comfortable talking about with their children - with anyone - but I had also seen the Panorama programme on the subject of male suicide only a night or two before, and read articles in the paper about it recently, as I'm sure you have. 

Almost everyone I know has a story to tell. Husband's friend from home killed himself many years ago now, just before we got married. The elderly father of someone I know also took his own life. Both were men, and I have sons; sons who will day be men too. And suicide it is the biggest killer of young men in the UK. The statistics are shocking: 

* suicide is the most common cause of death in men under the age of 35. 

* 4.858 men killed themselves in 2013. 

* The suicide rate amongst men now is the highest it's been since 2001, 

* Three times that of women. 

* The use of anti-depressants has increased fivefold since 1991. 

* Today, around 13 men in the UK will kill themselves. 

* Today.

It is likely that someone has killed himself in the UK in the time it has taken me to write this blog. And I know that one mother, returning from one heart-wrenching funeral and talking to her three boys, and then blogging about it, will not make one iota of difference to that, to anything. But if, as they say, silence is a big part of the problem, the treatment of the whole subject as taboo, then my silence on the subject won't help either. 

No one knows what is happening in those final moments in the mind of someone who decides to take his own life. We can't be there, we can't leap in and alter the course of events, we can only look to those who are left behind, our brothers, sons, husbands, uncles, fathers and talk to them, and keep talking to them, and tell them how much they are loved and valued and hope and pray that they are never brought so low that they ever think it's the right answer. Because it's not.

Love E x


Here's a very moving piece in the Telegraph. I hope you're able to cut and paste it. If not look it up, from Feb 24th 2015.

I didn't know what picture to put with this so I used one of my evergreen Clematis at the top, the Avalanche. I think it's really beautiful.


Monday, 20 April 2015


Food. You can't live with it, you can't live without it. Sorry, that's wrong, you can live with it, you HAVE to live with it. The five of us go through mountains of the stuff. As a family we must be at Optimum Food Consumption with boys who are now 18, 16 and 12. Particularly since the 18 year-old is still living at home with us, working full-time during his gap year.

We never have enough potatoes, bread, juice, milk, kitchen roll or shower gel. Don't ask me why the latter two, that's just the way it is. I reckon they stand in the shower, tipping gel bottles upside down while scratching around their nether regions, or something. Either that or they drink the stuff because we never have enough juice. And they must grab whole handfuls of kitchen roll to wipe their hands/feet/noses/unmentionables/spillages when my back is turned.

And guess whose responsibility it is to keep us stocked up with it all? Oh yes, muggins here. The truth is I feel like a failure if we run out of things they particularly need/like/want. I am programmed, like some sort of demented mother blue tit, with a desperate desire to sate their every need.

You want smoked salmon to go in that bagel, darling? Of course. It's an oily fish. It's packed with Omega 3. The instinct to feed the boy a high protein, low fat, super food he is actually requesting virtually tears me from the sofa by itself, as if my feet have been pre-programmed to take my reluctant body with them straight round to Tesco Express. No matter that I am tired because said boy came in at 3 am and woke me up. No matter that smoked salmon costs a King's ransom and that when I mention having to get some to my mother on the phone, she shrills: "Smoked salmon? That's for Christmas!" And she has a point.

In truth I flit from Tesco to Sainsbury's to Lidl to Waitrose, depending on where I happen to be at the time, in a never-ending and fruitless quest to keep the cupboards stocked. One big shop a week on a Friday (in Waitrose) is supplemented by three or four smaller ones during the week (Tesco Express, Lidl, sometimes Sainsbury's). Plus Husband visits the farmers' market every Saturday on his bike to buy meat and eggs. 

I shop til I drop because I dread, DREAD I tell you, the moment one of my fledglings declares his desire for something I cannot supply, especially if that desire is a healthy one. 

At the moment I cannot keep enough plums in the house, or deodorant, or blueberries. Middle One has gone all fussy over breakfast since I substituted the white bread he was using for cheese toasties with half and half (half white, half wholemeal, because white is SO BAD for him). Now he will only eat breakfast if I make him some homemade blueberry sauce to go on his pancake (oh yes, Youngest has pancake EVERY morning because he is skinny and we are trying to build him up, have been trying, as it happens, for about four years). And Middle One must eat a proper breakfast at the moment because he is 16. 16! Work it out for yourself. Exam season looms. He must be at peak performance, race-horse ready.

Right, so I can't linger here blathering on, we need some little gem lettuce for a salad tonight to go with the chicken risotto I plan to make with yesterday's leftover roast chicken. And we've run out of kitchen roll. Again.

Love E x


P.S. And I know kitchen roll is not environmentally friendly and shopping in Waitrose makes us sound obnoxious. I liked what Tim Dowling wrote about Waitrose last week, cut and paste it, it's funny -

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Completely beside myself.

I have the zeal of the convert, the enthusiasm of the crusader, I am born again, bathed in the true light, or perhaps that should be the Paperwhite light? 

I never thought this could happen to me. I was a non-believer, an agnostic at best. I've always eschewed them, some of my best friends are Luddites, it took me years to throw out my leather-bound BBC Filofax, remember those? (But to be honest this was at least in part because I HAD a leather-bound BBC Filofax, from when I worked there millions of years ago). 

But now I have ripped it from its packet at last, from where it was languishing, rejected and unloved since Christmas when I rashly bought it as a present for Husband and it backfired spectacularly: "But you know I hate them, Elizabeth." I have appropriated it as my own, worked out how to use it, bought a book to read on it, read that book, and now I am completely in love with the Kindle. Sorry, the eReader (no branding here).

I know what I said. I know I said they are witchcraft. I know I said I like proper books: the feel of them, the smell of them, the swank of them. But you can't take proper books on holiday with you, can you? Not lots of them. You can't take a The Rough Guide to Herculaneum and Pompeii with you on the train from Sorrento alongside the novel you are currently reading and not have the combined weight of them in your handbag break your arm off as you walk around the best preserved Roman amphitheatre in Europe.

And there numerous other benefits I hadn't even thought of. I can turn up the font size so I don't need my reading glasses. I can continue reading my book even when the Captain says, "Crew, dim cabin lights for take-off".  I can instantly look up words I don't know the meaning of, like ithyphallic, (a prize to the lucky reader who can guess from this clue which book I am currently reading) and incidentally this is all very good news with regards to the book group of which I am currently a member, since recently I had been struggling to keep up with the reading.

This is in part because I had gone off reading books completely in favour of writing books and reading newspapers, which was in turn in no small part because reading books had become such a chore. And this, I now realise, was because of two critical factors: font size and availability. Sort out the font size, make the words HUGE, and it's a lot easier to read them even in the trickiest of conditions. Have the book with you at all times in your bag because it weighs next to nothing  and suddenly you can read it in places you wouldn't ordinarily have done so, like planes, trains and automobiles… or even downstairs.

I just read a book with a lot of fight scenes in it (this is not my usual choice of reading you understand, I was reading my brother's novel) and although I am sure lots of people LOVE books with fight scenes, they are not usually my cup of tea and with the Kindle I found I was able to read these bits quickly, the pages skimming by in a whirr of electronic characters at a speed my eyes and page-turning skills alone could not have managed. 

So now I have high hopes. I'm reading everything much faster. I really might be able to get that mountain of books on my bedside table despatched before next Christmas. I might even be able to get my book group book read in time for the next get-together, and even perhaps that novel a kind friend dropped through my letterbox some weeks back with a sweet note, which read: "the whole time I was reading this I was thinking of you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did." (How lovely!) 

The Kindle has opened my eyes to new possibilities. I honestly can't see a single thing wrong with it, except perhaps that I can't lend out books to friends anymore, but I never liked lending out books to friends anyway.

Now, where on earth has that charger gone?

E x