Wednesday, 29 August 2012

How being surrounded by books has made me die a little inside

Working in a book shop is, in many ways, an ideal job for me. I get to spend time rummaging through boxes of travel guides and novels, I get to scale ceiling-height shelves looking for signed anthologies, I get to have that gorgeous smell of books surrounding me. Basically, I can spend my entire working day nerding out without anyone judging me.

But there is one thing. Working with 20,000 books is playing havoc with how I view the world.

In one way, my faith in hardcopy reading (and therefore humanity) is deepened. I'm stirred into a fuzzy feeling when I see the sheer volume of books that are ordered everyday. Someone, somewhere, is really looking forward to getting that first edition children's book. A book that was printed in Milan, lent in libraries in Sao Paulo, and packed up in a barn in south of France, is now winging its way to Susan in Dorset. Removing bookmarks from well-thumbed novels, reading annotations from people's close studies. The romantic in me is having an absolute field day.

On the other hand, I've realised how crazy people are. Utterly, utterly batshit. People will read anything.

But before I tirade about this, a disclaimer; I hate that snobbery that inhabits people's opinions of literature. You know, how anytime a novel gets a film adaptation, everyone's knickers automatically twist and we all splutter about it not doing the book justice. Or whenever something that The Independent didn't review gets popular, and everyone guards their precious Waterstones loyalty cards like Twihards are going to soil all the "real" literature in the world. Let's just man up about books- people like to read, and are entertained by different things. Get over it. You have more important things to troll than a Fifty Shades of Grey Facebook page.

So I'm really really not being snobby about this. This is unadulterated astonishment.

Yesterday I catalogued a book by a German woman from the seventies, talking about her drawings of cats. Seriously. That's it. Not only does the book exist- and just think what that entails; someone thought the idea of the book sounded neat, someone WROTE that book, and someone else went out and PAID MONEY for it- but the thing is selling for about £20.

It's even stranger when you have to examine these books closer. Think no one would be interested in 700 recipes that solely rely on the use of a microwave? Think again, there's four editions of that bad boy. Couldn't possibly foresee a situation in which someone would want to update a guide to behavioural habits of German Shepards? Wrong. Volume four, now available in shops near you.

The one that really hurt my feelings, though, was the catchily titled "Mathematics in Fun and Earnest" . I swear to God. Google it right now. If anything was going to put a dampener on my definition of fun (and earnest...), it's this book.

Now I know that seeing as anyone is allowed to write books, about anything they want, there is a LOT of crap out there. There's not much I can (or would) do about it. But this really was taking the biscuit. I can't think of anything worse than having to read that book. As Emma Bennett once eloquently put it, "I'd rather sick up a chip". I calmly put the book back onto its pile, and tried to hold back the rush of sheer disgust.

My main rule for travelling has been to always overestimate how many books you'll need. The extra weight in my suitcase will be worth it- I don't want to end up reading taxi leaflets again like on my last day in Turkey, with seven hours to spare at the airport. But just knowing this Mathematics in Fun and Earnest exists has cemented for me what was already core advice. In no circumstances do I want to be left with a choice of MIF&E or staring blankly at an airport wall for seven hours. I honestly don't know which I'd choose.

"For the traveller"

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Things I've done in France (part one.)

My three weeks of French life has officially begun. Since calming down after my brief spell of hysteria, things have been rocking along perfectly. 

The weather is 95% stunning. Obviously, I've brought some of the north of England's weather with me, just to remind me that I do have to come home to the delightful rain at some point. Don't want to get too comfortable and forget I've got the joys of frantic linguistics work to look forward to in October. Luckily, it only really rains very early in the morning, so the biggest inconvenience it poses is the rattle of it wakes me at 6ish, and the hammock is slightly damp. 

I've learnt how to make bread (!). The trick is, beat it up as much as you can. Don't worry if it weighs a tonne, people will politely eat it anyway, and commend your first attempt even if it tastes like someone's baked a rock. (Point of science- how can 550g of flour, two sachets of yeast, tablespoon of salt, and 350g of water turn out as two different weights each time? Answers in the comment box/postcards please, genuinely baffled.)

I've been rockclimbing. Yep. Me. It's the first extreme sport I've done since Sam/Jack/Sara dragged me off to do that bloody wakeboarding thing a few years ago. You can imagine how terrible I was at being flung around a lake on a piece of plastic. Where there is a voluntary situation that could potentially put my life in danger, I know from lots of near misses over my life to opt out. I don't have the best of luck getting up the stairs in a straight line, so when my host, Alex, asked me how my rock climbing was, I had to really resist the urge to openly scoff.

Not wanting to miss out on any fun, I decided to give it a go. I took a book in case I was too afraid to try it out, anyway. Arriving at the rockface with a bunch of Alex's friends, the wall didn't look half as terrifying as it had been in my head. That was until I saw the pro-climber of the group clamber up in order to arrange the ropes. He looked so tiny all the way up there. This didn't seem like a good idea any more.

Too soon it was my turn, and once I'd managed to get the harness on, take it back off, and replace it so that it wasn't upside down, I was off. Climbing is surprisingly easy. Strategically, it was difficult, and when you couldn't find anywhere to place your dangling foot it was pretty strenuous- but over all I enjoyed it. Once you've got comfortable doing it, and got some decent grip, it's just like a weird, vertical crawl. 

Coming down was the scary bit. Your life/spine lies in the hands of the person who is holding a corresponding piece of rope at the bottom of the wall. You have no option but to trust that they can manage the weight, know the pace you want to abseil down at, and aren't going to drop the rope. Lean back, feet flat, and try not to dangle. The rush of being dropped down a foot too fast isn't pleasant, but I guess it's over faster that way.

When I'm not busy scaling rockfaces or being a housewife, I can usually be found in the Best Place On Earth. 


Ah, the hammock. If I end up never returning to England, then this hammock is your best bet of finding me. I've already ploughed through my first Bill Bryson book on it. I've just about mastered not rolling off. I know exactly where to aim for when jumping on. I've not yet figured out how to make it rock slightly without kicking off from the ground, but there's plenty of time to suss that one out. 

my room for one.
When I'm ready to roll into bed after a hard day reading and helping around the house, I just scuttle inside this bad boy and get my head down. It's very bloody different from my camping in Whitby experiences. First of all it doesn't leak. Second of all I don't have to share it with two snoring sisters which is a novel change. Only downside is that I'm on hyperalert for spiders/other creepy crawlies during the night, and spend the first hour before I drift off meticulously checking every inch of the mattress/duvet for hidden demons with more legs than necessary. 

The host is cool, the host's friends are cool, the Czech couple also workawaying here are cool. The guy plays guitar and sings into the middle distance a lot, so I have a nice little backing track to my reading sessions on the hammock. I'm really loving it here.

Pleased as punch.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Bonjour, Perigueux; unexpected & inexplicable nerves.

To put it as politely as possible, I was absolutely beside myself as I boarded the plane to Bordeaux at Gatwick on Wednesday. Hysterically sending last minute texts before having to turn off my phone for the next three weeks- if I'd have received just one message that said "Don't go, Farrah", I would have taken it as a God-given sign and marched right out of the departure lounge. I probably would have passed out from hysteria had anyone phoned me to wish me luck or say goodbye.

Why would you be nervous here?
Having experienced a less than successful workaway situation before, perhaps you might naturally attribute this overwhelming desire to sod the plane tickets and wedge myself firmly between my duvet and sheets for the upcoming three weeks instead is down to my little drama in Turkey.

But I'd have to disagree with you. My new workaway placement had excellent reviews (more than can be said for the Turkish one), and I'd spoken to my new host a handful of times on facebook- which relaxed me (and mum) to no end. The place looked gorgeous from the pictures, I was pretty much completely prepared- as far as I ever "completely prepared" for anything- and was looking forward to my French adventure.

So why the nerves? I'd never been this way about anything like this before. I wasn't afraid of flying- I was with BA, not Jet2 this time, far too many rich people to risk crashing or anything silly like that. I wasn't particularly afraid my new placement would turn out to be rubbish. I'd done ample catching up and spending the highest of quality time with the family and friends. I was to return to a newly boxed up house somewhere in Holmfirth (yes- moving again- don't mind me) and then straight onto York, where I'd return to my part time job, which I missed, frankly, and back to another year of linguistics and The Yorker business.

Honestly? I don't know what brought it on. I was shaky and brimming with dread- though I have no idea what of. In fact, it took until I entered my stopover hotel in Bordeaux for the nerves to subside. The receptionist gave me my key and I pottered off to bed a calmer and much more normal version of myself.

It's the first time I've ever felt that unsure of my plans. I genuinely felt nauseous, and utterly convinced something terrible and scarring was going to happen to me. From a rushed farewell at Clapham Junction to the shabby lift of Hotel Clemenceau, I was 100% certain that I was going to either throw up or run away. Maybe it was because I didn't feel as prepared as I had been for Turkey- and look how that ended. Though maybe it's because Taken is set in France.

The barn...
As quickly as the dread came, it filtered away as the lift rose to premier etage. Possibly because I hadn't been kidnapped yet. Probably because the receptionist was gorgeous. Either way, when I woke, I ambled down to the train station and made a nuisance of myself trying to find my platform, boarded my train, and sped towards Perigueux, happy and excited.


It looks like no decent pictures for my French adventure- the camera I've borrowed is inexplicably shouting at me to turn it off every time I try and take a picture. Bit like when people try to wake me up early really, so I have some sympathy. Though I'd usually use much more colourful language than Panasonic have chosen. Anyway, yes. My iPod's camera quality will have to suffice. Sorry!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Twenty things from twenty years

As a homage to the loss of my teenage years, and equally as a convenient round-up of all the life lessons and wisdom I've worked hard to earn over the last two decades, I'm listing twenty things I've learnt over the last twenty years. I assume I've learnt more than twenty things in total (totally still remember every word of my essay on the law of theft from two and a half years ago), but I'm procrastinating enough right now as it is. Twenty will have to suffice. Enjoy!
  1. Mum is always right, and also knows everything. Not only about whether it's going to rain, whether you look ridiculous in that outfit, but about the big stuff too. The university choice, relationship advice, what's going to happen on Corrie. It kind of sucks when it's not what you want to hear, because it's definitely going to happen. 
  2. Charity shop books. They're basically life's way of allowing me to fund my reading habit despite the recurring problem of not actually having any money. 
  3. Charity shop haul
  4. Everywhere south of Manchester is "Down South" and masses as one big place that's next door to London. The Midlands are just southerners attempt to join us, and I for one am not fooled. 
  5. On a completely unrelated note, I have no sense of direction. Learnt the hard way, many, many times.
  6. Always ask for your spicy food to actually be spicy. For some reason, people in restaurants always assume that despite ordering a hot madras, I'm not going to be able to handle heat. It's cool, I'm kind of a snob about it anyway guys. Don't skimp on the chilli powder.
  7. Don't publish embarrassing things online, because the internet is forever.
  8. Moving house is kind of fun. It's definitely useful that I think this, considering I've moved in and out of ten, with another on the way. It's less fun if you have to do it on your own, resulting in hysterical phone calls to your mum.
  9. Hangover cure= banana milk, trashy TV and lying down. 
  10. Nothing will ever entertain me in the same way as scrolling through my little sister's Tweets. Personal highlights include "Disappointing bowl of cocopops." and "I can't find Wally".

  11. People that enjoy studying syntax should be treated with suspicion and ultimately ostracised from society, for our own protection.
  12. Don't play drinking games with Sam Dumigan.Or rugby teams. Or jagerbombs.
  13. There's a difference in being unprepared and disorganised. I'm usually both, but the difference exists.
  14. Verve, nine o clock, Friday night.
  15. I suck royally at games of any kind. Don't know what happens if you win at Pacman. I drove carefully on Grand Theft Auto. I never completed Pokemon because I couldn't figure out how so just imagined Pikachu was my pet and all the other battler-people were my friends. 
  16. Boys: don't expect them to remember who you are.
  17. If you're friends with guys, don't expect them to turn up on time/at all/remember your birthday/remember to invite you to stuff. They will sheepishly love you forever though, so that makes up for it.
  18. Take pictures of everything, because you never know when you might need a stock photo for The Yorker.
  19. If someone makes you a crap brew, tell them before it becomes part of their routine to turn up at your bedside every morning with a cuppa.
  20. How to weave around busy city centres with suitcases, while on the phone, drinking a coffee, running late for a train.
  21. Putting something down usually means I'll never see it again. Especially if it's my glasses, phone, keys, essays, treasured jewellery, train tickets, umbrellas. This is because a) I have a terrible short term memory and b) my things are conspiring against me.
  22. Key to happiness is sitting around reading a book listening to Noah. Or it's reunions with friends. Or it's car journeys with mum. Or getting top marks in something you've worked hard for. Or it's getting drunk on beaches. Or it's those little family arguments about who has the most cushions. Or it's conquering a to-do list. Mostly it's Geordie Shore.
These guys.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

I'm old, all of a sudden.

I don't know how this has happened. In fact, it seems just yesterday I was blogging about how I didn't feel like an adult. But something has changed, and I'm not sure I'm happy with how this whole "getting old" lark is going so far.

I turn twenty on Friday- and rather than being all excited about a birthday (read: having an excuse to throw a party), I'm turned numb at the thought of leaving my teens behind. I don't think I've accepted it, even now, with three days to go. But regardless of whether I'm prepared to leave nineteen behind, the rest of world seems to be heaping extra age on top of me.

My ideal man, Norris.
Camping with the family this weekend- I had very little signal and very few opportunities to charge my phone. I don't particularly use my phone all that much, so it's still pathetically exciting when I get a text. This excitement is then doubled by the fact that it provides a momentary distraction from sitting in a soggy field. So imagine my disappointment when my phone lights up, not with a message from a loved-one, or an invitation to a party, but with a text from Mecca Bingo, asking how I am. The insult to my injury arrives only ten minutes later, when Optical Express text me asking if I'm interested in a free laser eye surgery consultation.

Not convinced I'm weirdly middle-aged before my time? I spent (and thoroughly enjoyed) last Friday night in Sainsbury's with my mum, debating whether to get frozen or fresh corn-on-the-cobs. (We went for fresh, jsyk). In a game of "who would you invite to your birthday party" played recently with my family, I, without shame nor hesitation, plumped for Norris Cole of Coronation Street fame. I've asked for an alarm clock for my impending birthday.  If that hasn't persuaded you, nowt will.

SO. What should I do? Accept my twenties glumly, start investing in some good blankets and sign up to online bingo? Sod that. I'm going to carry on holding my youth dear, and make the big two-oh something to remember. Forget the quarter-life crisis!

I've had a trip to France booked for quite some time. As it's coming closer, I'm starting to panic, as I always do with this kind of thing. I'm in a horrid amount of debt courtesy of the unexpected turn my Turkey trip took, so a pretty easy way of cutting costs would be to cancel the trip.

But that's what boring, middle aged 20 y o Farrah would do. And I'm going to be exciting and interesting 20 y o Farrah, and pull my tongue out at the idea of cancelling. I have savings that I've worked hard to earn, and a trip to south France working on an eco-farm-come-antique-bookshop is exactly the kind of rainy day I was saving for.

It mightn't be the most financially wise thing to do, but I have a year of hard work ahead of me at university, and a wonderful part time job to help get me back on track once I touchdown in York again in September. This is me treating myself, in a way. Proving that my twenties are going to be as stunningly cool as possible, and not a one way road to knitting magazines. Though I might hold onto my Corrie infatuation for now.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Snap happy in Turkey...

I'm no pro with a camera, unfortunately. Doesn't mean I can't eagerly point and shoot, though, so here's a smattering of pictures from my little Turkish seaside adventure. Click to enlarge/start the fancy viewing screen!

Aquarium bay

Fethiye harbour

Mediterranean sea! 

Sunset fishing on Fethiye harbour

Safety warning at Saklikent Gorge
Tip box at Yakapark
Looking up at Saklikent Gorge
Sunset at Fethiye harbour

Colours at Fethiye market
Watermelon display at Fethiye market

Life reminder in Kayakoy!