Monthly Archives

January 2011

Books, Just stuff, Technology, topical, what I think

How do you read yours?

I feel guilty.  I feel guilty because I’m currently reading The Snowman by Jo Nesbo (supposedly the next best thing to Steig Larsson). I feel guilty because I’m reading it on a kindle and not in paperback. And I feel even more guilty because I’m enjoying reading it this way.

I never thought I’d be able to abandon the good old paperback for an eBook. Reading on an electronic device just never appealed and can’t replace the real thing, the smell of a new book, the dog ears as you create as you work your way through it (yes, a bad habit but I like my books to look read) and placing it on the bookshelf when you’re done, creating another addition to your own personal library. I’m proud of my bookshelf, it’s a history of what I’ve read and says a lot about me.

With eBooks there is no smell, no dog ears and when you’re finished no one need know. But it’s not all bad.  Certainly not for Amazon who report selling more Kindles than paperbacks during the backend of 2010.

So, a couple of weeks ago I downloaded the Amazon Kindle app to my iPad and bought The Snowman. It cost me all of £2.92, a tiny saving of around 50p on the current listing price for the paperback version but it was available to read within a few minutes; no going to a bookshop, no waiting for an Amazon delivery. I could start reading straight away. I began reading in bed and find it much easier to hold an iPad comfortably than a book; in fact I can read it one handed (no traditional page turning required) so can snuggle further under the duvet when it’s nippy.

Whether I bookmark my page or not, the Kindle remembers the last page I was reading from so there’s no ‘I’ve dropped the book, shit, which page was I on’ business and I can change the font size for ease of reading. As old age encroaches (I’m all f 31 you know) I find really small type off-putting so making it bigger is a bonus. I can change the screen brightness so I don’t get bedazzled and I can make notes if I want to (good for research when I get back on the novel-writing trail) or link straight to an online dictionary if I want to look things up. I can also pop it in my bag, along with my emails, favourite social media tools, my blog and the wider web, all in one device. And I can see it will be really handy on holidays – no more packing three heavy hardbacks and lugging them around an airport, I can pop them on the Kindle and if I run out of books to read I just download another one without even needing to move from the poolside.

All that said, I do feel guilty. I love books, I love book shops and I love adding to my little library of literature and hope one day to have a home office lined with  shelves housing all the books I’ve read. So to say goodbye to books, the real thing at least, is a bit sad.

I’m far from saying I’m ditching paperbacks altogether but I’m going to give this Kindle business a try. I’ve yet to finish The Snowman and, in fact, have no idea how close to the end I am because I have no dog-eared marker to tell me as I would with a proper book. But technologies move on, times change and I’d like to be at least trying to keep up.  My main concern was that I’d want a break from staring at a screen all day but so far, this hasn’t bothered me; time will tell, I’m still only on my first eBook.

As I said in my last post, I think library closures are a sad but probably necessary thing in these cash-strapped times, but I’d be incredibly sad to think I might read to my children  (if/when they appear) stories off an iPad. I want them to experience real books, to carry them to school in their backpacks and keep their favourite ones on their bedside table.

Are we looking at a future without books as we know them? What do you think? Vote in the poll:

[polldaddy poll=4471527]

Books, Media, Technology, topical, what I think

Is it The End for libraries?

We all know 2011 is the year of cuts, cuts and more cuts; we hear about it on the news approximately five times a day. To be honest, the news is so depressing at the moment it’s a wonder we haven’t all topped ourselves.

Anyhoo, less about death, more about libraries… the public sector is facing some touch choices as the money pots dry up and one such service under threat is that of pubic libraries. Stony Stratford Library, for example, is being targeted for closure and members have made their mark by each withdrawing 15 books and literally emptying the shelves in the Wot No Books campaign. A wicked way to get your point across! There’s also a petition in our local chippy against the closure of what would be my local library, if we used it.                                                

Now then. I’m a huge fan of books and reading and think it’s important for anyone and everyone to have access to them. And libraries, most of them, now offer more than just a free read – DVD rental, computer and printing services, research archives, children’s storybook sessions, crafts etc. But these are all things we can get elsewhere. Are they a “crucial service“? I think not.

I remember visiting the library with my mum when I was a kid and getting so excited that we could choose books and take them home for free as long as we promised to bring them back. And I liked the eery quietness of the place. Fast forward 20 years and I was using the library again, this time in Coalville, Leicestershire. I lived over the road from the library and with no phone line or internet connection in my flat I used the library a lot to conduct my online affairs. I browsed the books and DVDs while I was there and generally liked the peaceful atmosphere.

Another five years later and I haven’t stepped foot in a library for all that time. I have internet connection at home, access to films through BT Vision or I pick them up dead cheap in Asda, there are so many places offering copying and printing services and books I buy via Amazon, either in paperback or eBooks, or I borrow them from my friends. Charity shops are also brilliant for picking up books by top authors for as little as 10p per copy.

So, while libraries offer a great service and one I’d like to think we still need, we actually don’t. They don’t offer anything we can’t get elsewhere. And with most of us already accessing these things via the internet, for those who don’t and can’t – I’m thinking young children and the elderly here – charity shops, car boot sales or fetes offer a great way of picking up books and movies dirt cheap. Not free, but cheap.

And what about starting a book swap scheme in your local area? I have so many books on my shelf and I’ll never throw them out, it’s a record of pretty much everything I’ve ever read and I want it on show. But I’d be more than happy for people to borrow them or swap for books I haven’t read. And for those who need internet access to look for jobs etc, libraries do come in handy, but there are internet cafes out there too.

The country is facing some tough times and deep cuts – as we’re told over and over – have to be made. But I’d rather my taxpayers’ money went on services we really do need and use, like healthcare, support for parents of disabled children, improving public transport etc; not on providing a service that most of us could find somewhere else.

Don’t get me wrong, seeing libraries disappear will be a sad, sad thing, the end of an era. But times are changing and we have to accept that as we move on in life, the services we use and need to use will change too.

Picture of empty bookshelves by Andy Roberts

Books, Just stuff, Life in general, Marriage, reviews, Writing

Welcome to my new blog

Well hello there. Hello and welcome. So, this is it… my new blog. And it seems only fitting that now I have a new surname, my blog should have a new name too.

Last year was a big year for me – got engaged, moved house, supported my other half going freelance, adopted a cocker spaniel puppy, got married and had a wonderful honeymoon closely followed by Christmas. It’s going to be hard to top that.

So in planning for 2011 I haven’t made a list of exciting things to do – bungie jumping, move to India, shave my head or join the local choir. Oh no, my plans are much more hi-tech – So, in the spirit of starting 2011 on the right footing, here’s a new blog. A blog I hear you cry? Is that it? Well, not just any blog… er… well, actually it is just any blog so er… have I told you that it’s a new and improved one featuring posts from guest bloggers (not yet but it will) and a host of book reviews (started this one!)?

I slacked off on the blog front at the back end of last year – pre-marital mania consumed me – but this year the blog will keep me busy. And don’t worry, it won’t be serious. I’ll still be climbing up on my soapbox and ranting about things that matter and some that don’t, I’ll still do my Five for Friday posts, and I’ll still be, well, just me.

Aside from blogging bigger and better in 2011, I also have some other literary projects on the go… finishing my novel Resolution and sending it off to agents; and the Mistresses of Trope blog in which me and my three favourite writer buddies chart our journeys to become better writers. Also this year I want to spend lots of quality time with my gorgeous new hubby and intrepid doggy Ralphie, catch up with all the lovely friends I have and generally try to take pleasure in the simple things. So sorry in advance, you may have to hear about some of that in this blog.

Okay, that should do it for a hello and welcome blog post… feel free to comment on any of my posts – I actively encourage you to do so – or drop me a line if you want to suggest some books for me to review. Even better, if you want to buy me books, I’ll send you a link to my Amazon wish list. Laters!

Life in general, Marriage

Two weeks, two places… and one happy couple

I can see why newlyweds go on honeymoon. Not to spend romantical time together as man and wife, but to recover! Weddings are exhausting, the planning, the arranging, the nerves, the excitement. I can honestly say that when me and my new hubby turned the light off at the end of our wedding and snuggled up to sleep as a newly married couple, I have never felt so exhausted. A day later it’s 6am and we’re en route to Heathrow Airport. 26 hours after that, yes, a whopping 26 hours, and we’re in the hotel room in Turtle Bay, Oahu, Hawaii, and about to fall into bed once more, and again completely and utterly shattered.

But the long journey was worth it. On waking up the next day we were greeted by blue skies and sunshine which eased the aches and warmed our tense shoulders to the bone. We strolled along deserted sandy beaches, spotted the biggest turtles I have ever seen and drank smoothies by the pool. Utter bliss. The second week of the honeymoon was the opposite and the first thing we did when we landed in New York was buy huge furry hats because it was so cold. Brrrr. The next six days were spent walking, walking, walking some more, exploring, sightseeing, shopping, drinking eggnog and watching ice skaters in Central Park.

We very nearly didn’t make it home because of the snow and ice-led chaos at Heathrow Airport but apart from a nerve-wracking last couple of days wondering how we’d get home for Christmas, those two weeks with my new husband were a perfect way to start our married life together. It wouldn’t have mattered where in the world we were, we’d have had a great time, but Hawaiian sunshine was the perfect way to relax and New York holds some magical memories for both of us. We avoided playing the tourist too much, Hawaii was for relaxing and New York, where we’ve both been twice before, was for reliving old memories and getting festive. Here are some of the highlights:

Stumbling across a huge turtle on the beach and watching their little heads pop up in the sea. Amazing. Romantical walks along sandy beaches just rock.

A trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center and a Luau. Hawaiian dancing, a pig roast and a huge dollop of culture to boot. We watched a guy crack a coconut with his bare hands and start a fire using nothing but twigs; a fantastic day.

Blueberry bagels with cinnamon butter for breakfast. Very bad for you but boy did they taste good.

Reading books on the sun loungers by the pool, supping the best fruit smoothies I have ever tasted and exchanging longing looks with my other half, to the sound of Hawaii’s awesome crashing waves.

Watching the surf. Hawaii has the biggest waves I have ever seen, in fact I found the sea altogether a bit scary, but watching the surfers do their stuff was amazing.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed at Turtle Bay and it was fun spotting where all the different scenes took place. An episode of Murder She Wrote – my all time favourite TV series – was filmed there too.

A meal at Ola on the Hawaiian coast, the waves almost lapping at our feet as we tucked into seafood and cockails.

Chilling out on a deserted beach, tucking into a mini picnic, and being surrounded by loads of little crabs.

Eating shave ice, a Hawaiian specialty, which is like a very high quality slush puppy in the most amazing flavours.

Shopping at Macy’s in New York at 11pm.

Drinking the best eggnog New York has to offer, at The Waterfront Ale House.

Three trips to Washington Square Café, which serves the best eggs benedict, carrot cake and coffee in New York. In my humble opinion. We went there a year ago and the food was just the same and just as good.

Walking around Central Park, finding “our spot” by the lake and tucking into hot chocolate with whipped cream and foot-long hotdogs while watching the ices katers at the Wollman Rink.

Eggnog lattes! Yum yum, pig’s bum.

The Christmas tree outside the Rockefeller Center, awesome!

Hooking up with friends Ellie and Greg for the New York Knicks v Boston Celtics game at Madison Square Garden, a super exciting and close-drawn match, and the dodgy Korean meal we attempted beforehand.

Dinner at The National on our last night, scrummy food, great atmosphere and two happy people.

A romantic meal at One If By Sea, Two If By Land in New York. The tasting menu was to die for, and also a tad expensive, but worth it. And I had a Grey Goose vodka and tonic – defo the best vodka I’ve ever tasted. Yum!

Pizza and pasta in Little Italy, New York. Yummers!

Walking past Sarah Jessica Parker’s house in Sex And The City, on Perry Street, possibly the prettiest street in New York.

Admiring the lobby of the Plaza Hotel, where Kevin McCallister stayed in Home Alone 2.

Buying polar bear pyjamas after a wicked and sun-filled trip to Central Park Zoo on our last day.

Buying NYPD hoodies from the Rockefeller Center.

Champagne delivered to our room in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel (where we got upgraded to an amazing suite, yay) and congratulating Mr and Mrs Slingsby, ha!

Couples massages in the wonderful spa at Turtle Bay. Utter bliss!

Life in general, Marriage

I'm Mrs B!

The last time I blogged I was Robyn Slingsby and now I’m Robyn Bateman. It’s been a manic month, hence my lack of blog posts, which has included a shed load of snow, marriage preparations, a wedding, a honeymoon, my birthday, a shed load more snow and threat of cancelled flights, Christmas, ill relatives and New Year. Phew!

So, I have a lot of catching up to do and a lot to report. Starting with my wedding day, Sunday 5th December 2010, the best day I could have wished for. Despite the snowfall the week before, which sent my usually composed self into a semi state of panic, the day itself was everything I wanted my wedding day to be and, most importantly, my best friend and soulmate was waiting at the other end of the aisle for me, smiling like a Cheshire cat.

And I have a lot of thank yous to make, firstly to all my wonderful friends and family for coming and sharing our special winter wonderland-themed day with us and making it so memorable. To mention by name are my gorgeous and glamorous bridesmaids – Mandy, Bloater, Lisa, Karen, Sammy and flower girl Erin. Mandy organised the best hen weekend ever; Bloater stayed with me the whole morning of the wedding, made me tea and steadied my nerves (and also sent me a lovely letter the day before the wedding which made me cry!); Lisa has the patience of a saint and helped me with table decorations and wedding invites; Karen hosted a top bride-to-be themed quiz at my hen do made the coolest name badges ever; my lil sister Sammy was the life and soul of the party and rallied people to sign our guest book on the big day; and three-year-old Erin was incredibly well behaved and certainly provided the cute factor on the day.

Big thanks too to the ushers, my brothers Chris and Ben, and Richard’s brothers – best man Jamie who was a rock on the day and delivered a quality speech – and Douglas who proudly dressed as a snowman to greet our guests.

Huge thanks to our parents for helping and supporting us in the run up to the big day, by not being too demanding, throwing money at us and making copious journeys across sheet ice to help with last minute details. Thanks to dad, in particular, for walking me up the aisle and delivering the most amazing and heartfelt speech ever, and to mum for being there to take car of the little but important things, like putting my earrings in, spending hours attaching baubles to napkins and smothering me in glittery moisturiser at the last minute. Oh, and for the spot cream :0)

Skipping to before the wedding, a big thank you must go to the staff at Vanilla Bridal in Newport Pagnell where I fell in love with my dress, Biba by Ian Stuart. Finding a short wedding dress is no mean feat and Vanilla’s genuine enthusiasm when I popped it on made me smile like I’d won the Lottery. The whole service was great, and Louise McClaren, the seamstress, did a fantastic job making it fit.

Mention should also go to Cedar Therapy in Deddington for providing me and the girlies with some wonderfully relaxing treatments and easing the huge knots from my shoulders (even if I did have to walk back to the car, across snow, in disposable flip flops) on the day before the wedding, and to Bicester Golf and Country Club for entertaining the boys with a hot tub and massages. And it was a pleasure to stay at The Cartwright Hotel in Aynho, which hosted the whole wedding party, because of its lovely rooms, scrummy food and even eccentric manageress who tended to our needs in her own scatty way.

On the big day itself, big thanks goes to the lovely Jenny Buckland for doing my hair and make-up, for listening to exactly what I wanted and giving me just that, as well as easing my nerves with a bit of banter. If you need your hair and make-up doing, give Jenny a call – totally professional, incredibly able and good company to boot. I had so many compliments on the day and Jenny is to thank for that.

Also to Henry and Rachel of 1st Images Photography who did a cracking job with our piccies. I barely even noticed Henry as he snapped away while I was getting ready (wearing my coat and pyjama bottoms most of the time, oh the glamour!) and teamed with Rach at the venue they came up trumps with some excellent and informal shots of us and all our loved ones. It’s a long process getting all the piccies done and Henry and Rach were the definition of professionalism and fun rolled into one. It was genuinely a pleasure to have them there on the day and they captured some amazing shots of our special day, particularly of the ceremony. The bonus of having a two-teamed photographic service is they can be in two places at once and really captured our moments. These guys were awesome.

Next to thank are Caroline and all her staff at The Great Barn in Aynho, Oxfordshire. We picked this as our venue because it was perfect for a winter wedding and very us. The added bonus is that Caroline and her teamed pulled off everything we asked for with complete professionalism and informality. Her staff were fantastic, fun and made our day perfect. These guys know what they’re doing but don’t make a song and dance about it, they were just lovely and I can’t thank them enough. From serving drinks, to setting up our video for the first dance, decorating the venue and pandering to my dad’s obsession for ice cold drinks, they pulled it all off with ease.

Sharon and David Kearney are the caterers at The Great Barn and I have never tasted wedding food quite like theirs. It was scrumptious! So many people commented on the food, from the tasty canapés to the three course meal and evening buffet – it was all excellent quality, served piping hot and efficiently. And Sharon’s personal service in greeting me at the venue when I was a bundle of nerves, to steadying me before I walked down the aisle, to sorting out tables and decorations to perfection and serving up a meal I’d be delighted to eat any day of the week, she was a little trooper.

Also to mention is my florist Lana. When I rocked up at her house over the summer and said my colour scheme was black and silver, that I didn’t want anything conventional and I knew bugger all about flowers, she didn’t look blankly at me but threw a load of ideas my way. My bouquet of black foam roses was to die for, the silver corsages and button holes were sheer class and my bridesmaids’ wands were pure elegance. Lana did a fab job and was a genuine pleasure to liaise with. And the beauty of faux flowers? I get to keep them!

The Astor Quartet, the string quartet hired to provide music on the big day, were truly excellent and drew huge compliments from our guests. They played a host of classics, Christmas tunes and even learned a song on request, On An All Time High, which was played as we signed the register and exited the ceremony. It’s an important song for us and the quartet played a blinder, they really did.

Three cheers for my good pal Tracy Buchanan for reading during the ceremony – and reading something she’d written especially for our big day. Entitled The Apricot Room, it was personal, touching and delivered perfectly. Reading is hard enough but to write it as well… Buchy, you’re a star. And thanks to Rich’s dad Mr B for his lovely reading of an excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit, my favourite children’s story of all time. It was an emotionally charged ceremony and Mr B did well to hold it together.

The registrar and deputy registrar were also fantastic, conducting a really moving ceremony, having tissues on hand just as the mascara decided to head south and for calming my nerves before I walked down the aisle. They also assured me not to worry about the snowfall ahead of the wedding, that they’d be there regardless and that there would be a wedding, no matter what. This was exactly what I wanted to hear and was one stress I didn’t have to worry about. Emma and Tracy were both just lovely and I couldn’t have asked to be married by two nicer people.

Cupcake Cutie provided some tasty and festive looking cupcakes for the big day and Wizard Fancy Dress came up trumps with a snowman suit for one of our ushers, to add something different to the day. So thanks to both.

But most of all, thank you to my new husband Richard Bateman for being you. For the lovely letter you wrote for me on the eve of our wedding day, for making me smile every single day and for looking so bloody handsome as I walked down the aisle towards you. It was the best day I could have asked for and I feel honoured to be Mrs Richard Bateman. Sunday 5th December was one of the best days of my life but I know there are plenty more to come with you by my side. For all my life I am yours.

Pictures by: 1st Images Photography