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Well, I’ve finally finished wading through Bleak House by Charles Dickens. Wow what a hefty read! It sure took a long time to get through it – even though I read as quickly as I could and picked it up as often as I could – just to get through it.

Well, now I’ve finally turned over the last page, let the last sentence wash over me and closed the book for good. So, what did I think of it? Nothing in particular. It was an ‘ok’ read, it never really gripped me and kept me wanting to read to the end. I failed to become engaged with any of the characters – and I found some scenes/outcomes fairly predictable.

Did I enjoy any of it? I did enjoy the humorous satire on the world of the courts, of the characters of lawyers/solicitors, and legal processes.

But on the whole that was about it.

Why did I bother? I’m currently reading through the top 100 books on the BBC Big Read list created in 2003. Seen as this book is on there at number 79,  I read it – as I’m determined to read them all.

In hindsight, if I wasn’t determined to read all the top 100 books on this list, I’m pretty sure I would have put it down. It wasn’t that it was badly written or anything, I just felt that the storyline ran pretty flat and while some interesting characters had been created, I didn’t feel engaged with them.

Oh well, sorry Dickens, but didn’t really ‘feel’ this one.

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Only ten more to go…


For one of my 30 things to do before I’m 30, I wanted to read the top 100 books on the BBC Big Read from 2003. And now I only have a further 10 to read.

So far I’ve enjoyed most of the books on the list, some more than others – others much less.

But even if I am enjoying the majority of them, I’m still looking forward to the day when I can cross the final one off the list.

I’ve not read them in any particular order – many I was able to cross off the list before I set myself this challenge – still plenty remained though before I started it.

There are various lists out there on ‘books to read’, so I decided that it’s high time that I tackled on and read them all. It’s been fun at times – and other times I would have put down the book if it weren’t on the list – but I powered on through these ones.

But for the majority of them – it’s clear why they made the list.

When I have come across these ‘books to read’ lists, I always like browsing through them and counting how many I’ve read – which is why I decided to finish one – perhaps only for the vain and boastful reason that I have completed one of the lists. Who knows it may inspire me to finish other lists similar to this. Amazon has one similar – so you never know it may end up featuring on a list (if I make one) of things to do before 40. Or I may just tackle another one anyway – I’ve read countless books I may not have picked up in the first place but did because they featured on these lists and I’m glad I did so.

These lists are a great way to read books you may not consider reading.

But despite all this – I’m glad to say that the end is in sight for this reading challenge – in a sort of pat myself on the back sort of way.

The only down side perhaps is the ‘obligation’ that can occasionally be felt to read books just because they’re on the list and putting books that aren’t on the list onto the back burner until I’ve finished. Not that I haven’t read books I’d wanted to in between – but now the end is in sight I’ll concentrated on the ones I have left first.

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Just. One. More. Edit.


Just one more edit. Just one more read through. I’ve said this to myself half a dozen times already concerning my current/nearly finished project. Just one more edit. And I still find myself saying it.

It’s great to want your writing to be the best it can be and free from any silly typos, spelling mistakes or grammatical errors; and it’s great to want to make sure that every chapter, every page, paragraph and sentence is the best it can be. To make sure there are no holes in the plot or when a sentence doesn’t quite make sense to correct it. But it’s one thing to want to keep reading your work through – but at some point you have to put faith in your work and in yourself that your project it finally ‘there’; right where you want it to be.

If you keep reading it through, if you can wanting to make changes if you need to, then you’ll find changes to make. Any change – and you may end up losing something of the original thought that you put down on paper all those months ago. You may lose something of your own voice. Ok this is if you keep editing and editing and editing.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t edit; that you shouldn’t cover the page with red pen with corrections, no writer should neglect the editing stage if they want it to be the best work they can make it.

But at some point you – and I’m telling myself this too – you have to – to borrow a phrase that is now associated with a much-loved Disney movie – ‘Let it Go’.

Let it go, let it breathe and let it fly.

Still I’m telling myself this, and I think “Yes, I know, I will do, but just after one more edit and then one more read through – then I’ll be ready!”



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Forthcoming Release!

I’ve mentioned a fair few times that my current project is nearing its end and will be published soon! [date to be confirmed]

I’ve been working on a non-fiction project; So what’s it all about?


A Show Called Empire

“They say a picture paints a thousand words. So what picture does a movie paint?

From pith helmets to scarlet jackets, to tiger hunting and cigars and brandy, to the darker side of Empire, with its imperialism, its paternalism and bald faced racism, the story of the British Empire has many chapters. Chapters which have been immortalised by film-makers across the globe. So how do these films represent the British Empire in all its vastness?”

“Including discussions of well-known – and lesser-known – movies spanning from the 1940s to the present day, it details the pictures painted of empire and the awakenings of burgeoning nationalities. It contains glimpses into the changing societies as time progressed from the final days of the empire and how this has affected the movie world and how it perceives and portrays the British Empire, the rulers themselves and those they ruled over.”


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Noughts and Crosses


Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses is a surprisingly thought-provoking read. For a novel aimed at teenagers/young adults it is exceptionally dark and at times deeply disturbing given its undertones of historical, political and social relevance. It is much than a take on Romeo and Juliet, it is much more than a forbidden love story.

It is wonderfully gritty, yet surprisingly subtle. The reader is never slapped across the face with the racial overtones running throughout, and Blackman does amazingly to weave the prejudices into the story, so it shines through naturally and never appears forced, or commented upon for the sake of it. A book that I wholeheartedly recommend not just for young adults but for adults of all ages. I defy anyone not to find some moral relevance in its pages that makes them sit up and take notice of this modern masterpiece.

Highly recommended.

Absolutely fantastic.


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R.I.P. School Libraries?


It seems again that school libraries are facing the risk of closure.

With one head teacher deciding that ‘all reading can be done on iPads’, it seems that school libraries, like public ones, will face an uphill battle to stay open.

All evidence suggests that libraries are a must for a community and international research has found that a ‘good library provision boosts pupil attainment’.

But with the seeming increasing derision for the humble book, too many schools are viewing books as obsolete.

Yes, it is important for children to read. But encouraging them to read on an iPad or other such device is not the answer. Getting children interested in reading in the first place is key; and this must predominantly done by allowing the individual child to find genres or authors that interest them.

Too many children already, in this day and age, spend too much time staring at computer screens; whether this be a PC, laptop, or tablet computer or even the TV. We hear reports that children and young adults are spending four hours or more on average a day in front of a screen. I see it all the time, children and YA with their phones glued to their hands, taking ‘selfies’ every five seconds; slouched watching TV, or hours spent chatting to ‘friends’ on Facebook, or SnapChat etc. And an answer is to let them use another screen to read. No thank you!

[I’m not against using an e-reader device, I have a Kindle myself, but I still read ‘paper’ books too. But then again I’m no longer a child.]

And so it seems that school libraries sadly may be seeing the beginning of the end, with a third of secondary school’s library budgets slashed by 40% or more, in which they have faced reduced opening hours, cuts in staff hours, and the replacement of trained, dedicated and knowledgeable library staff with support staff or teachers.

Dark days are ahead for the life of the school library.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We want all children to read widely and well and believe school libraries can play a vital role in fostering that love of reading.’


Because of course, their local council-run library may have been closed too! As another BBC report only two weeks before << http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-35707956 >> reveals to us that libraries have lost a quarter of staff as hundreds close, with real fears over the future of the profession.

This annoys me no end anyway. I spent a lot of my childhood at the local or central council run library in my home town of Doncaster; my local one now incidentally isn’t there anymore. And I also spent lots of time in the school library too. I grew up with my nose in a book, and I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for that.

But what really irritates me is when reports and stories come out which highlight that UK pupils are lagging behind in English, or when they leave (primary) school and find it difficult to read or write; that they struggling with spelling and grammar; that they don’t feel confident to take part in class because they struggle with the basic skills. It makes me want to tear my hair out.

I’ve seen it first-hand when I worked in a local village library; children unable to spell (and unable to use a dictionary!); children who can barely write their own name; children whose speech is hindered by their limited vocabulary: all of which can be helped and improved by reading. And where better to read – a library, whether it be local or school.

‘They’ realise that in the UK we have a real problem with the literacy level of primary and secondary school children, and yet ‘they’ seem more than content to let the things that will help face cuts and closures.

I fear one day we will wake up and realise that our children or in fact anyone at all does not have the privilege of being able to borrow a book from a library.

Is it then a stone’s throw away from books being obsolete altogether?: Ray Bradbury predicted that sad day.

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It’s All Relative, Relatively Speaking

It was Albert Einstein who determined that time is relative.


[Well he determined something much more complex than this but I’m not a physicist, so not only do I not fully understand the concepts of his two theories, I am also in no way qualified to try to explain it here. However…]

How do you measure time? Is it day to day? Hour to hour? Or working week to the weekend, looking forward to getting that Friday feeling and dreading the Sunday evening feeling?

Is it from pay check to pay check?

From month to month?

Is it a measurement of when we get to eat again?

Or is it through life events and momentous occasions? From the seemingly never ending struggle to save money for that ever elusive deposit for a house (you can tell what stage I’m at, no?); to owning your first home; to getting married; to starting a family; to up-sizing your home; to watching the children fly the nest; to down-sizing; to retiring; to grandchildren?

It is all and every one of these things.

This all came about talking with my other half about work and retirement. The road ahead seems (thankfully, I guess) long; but the road to retirement seems even longer with governments and advisers predicting people will be easily working far into their seventies. What a depressing subject. And so with so much time left to go working (and no matter how much you may love your job it still seems a long, long time to work) it could be easy to get bogged down in the passage of time of living only week to weekend, getting through the Monday to Friday to look forward to two days and then back to it.

But I – we – must shake this negativity off. Time and therefore life cannot be lived dreading the working week – we’ll have a lot of them in our futures.

But time like most things runs according to our moods. Time flies when we’re having fun. And when we venture into the long working road ahead, we sigh.

We must find the balance of looking forwards; with time passing according to life events. And we also mustn’t look too far ahead; we must appreciate each day as it comes; learn to love every day; and learn to be spontaneous from time to time; because what would life be without any spontaneity?

But yet time flies. As each sun sets and as each new dawn breaks, time is fleeting. It runs, skips and jumps and before you know it another month is over, another year, another decade.

We all know this but we still count down the days, to the weekend, to holidays, to days out, to birthdays, to Christmas etc.

And so time is relative. Relative to our moods, our current ages, and our current stages in life events or to whether or not we like our jobs; time is indeed relative.