Bless my Kith and Bless my Kindle – Part 2

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Yes. ¬†It is backward ūüôā

Okay, Hub has gone to work and Gap Boy is horribly awake having slept all day – he did a 30k bicycle ride this morning (it was actually 27k but he has managed to increase his stats whilst asleep – exaggerate? GB? Never!).

I spent a good hour and a half being woken intermittently by¬†his thundering feet as he stomped up and down the (wooden) stairs this morning. At one point I was convinced that he had invited several friends in to tap dance in his (laminate) floor.Or perhaps they were rehearsing for ‘Strictly’. Hub and I laid that flooring so I suppose it is our fault really – who am I kidding EVERYTHING is our fault!

Neighbours from across the road woke me up at 0150 hours – why do they feel the need to stand out in the street and yell at each other? To be fair, the couple that were arguing were young and probably the offspring rather than the house owners. ¬†I’ve a feeling that the male was out there a couple of weeks ago, wandering around the cul-de-sac in a drunken haze yelling ‘Dead! Dead! Dead!’ at¬†the top of his voice.

I checked the local news for a couple of days after that but there was no sign of any gory murders in the locality.

Anyway, thanks to them – they had a poor little shivering dog with them too – some people are REALLy thoughtless – and GB, I got about five hours sleep last night.

When I staggered to the bathroom at 0730, GB passed me on the landing in his cycle attire – he has inherited my latent desire to be dressed appropriately for the occasion.

This is something of a handicap as he is reluctant to organise any more motorbike lessons at the moment because he doesn’t possess the right gear for wet weather.

When I pointed out that having lessons in inclement conditions would be very useful with regard to handling his motorbike whatever the weather, he gave me one of those horrible superior looks that both my boys are SO good at, and told me that I knew nothing about motorbikes and it was none of my business.

Once he had ridden off into the red sky yonder (I¬†was praying that the shepherd’s warning wouldn’t start just yet), Scoob and I did have at least one quiet hour before he came roaring back again.

Whilst out on his mammoth cycle ride this morning, GB managed to collide with a stray bramble branch and perforate the side of his ear.

Much blood!

Fortunately it had dried off by the time he got home but  the sight of a blood soaked youth seemed to have put the frighteners on the mad mothers driving past to school as he rode up our road.

Like all good mothers, I cleaned him up with an antiseptic wipe (I knew I had one somewhere and the bleeding had stopped by the time I found it).

As is his habit, GB texted me a shopping list but said that he would like us all to go shopping once Hub had finished his breakfast.

Hub was rushing his scrambled eggs on toast in order to take me to my appointment with the osteopath, after which we were going to town to do some banking, sort out Hub’s motorbike helmet visor and maybe take in a spot of lunch somewhere.

We did not want to go food shopping, especially for a loud, sweaty, bloody and demanding GB.

There was a frank exchange of opinions and as a result, we went to the osteopath and GB went to bed – grumpily.

Result! Oh Go us!

After the initial ache had worn off from the pummeling delivered by the Phizard (my osteo is a wizard with physio) I felt spry enough to accompany Hub to the motorbike shop -a¬†huge place with a Biker’s Bistro on the top floor. The smell of fresh cappuccino alone¬†was sufficient for me to agree to¬†a return trip when Hub gets paid next week.

Thence to town and a pleasant lunch at Caffe Nero watching the wage slaves rush back from their lunch hours.

Tee Hee.

This afternoon I flopped on the sofa with Scoob and got my daily Jezza fix; some very bad hairdos  and missing teeth today!

Eventually we shopped for us – and¬†the deeply ungrateful GB – who emerged from his mancave just as we were watching ‘Only Connect’ and didn’t take kindly to being shushed.

Victoria Coren Mitchell or GB? No competition.

So here I am burning the midnight oil up in my back bedroom office, tappity tapping and eventually getting around to writing about me and my Kindles.

I have five Kindles – yes that probably is rather extreme but then I have always been something of a gadget girl and don’t like to think that technology is leaving me too far behind.

I always had a Walkman; moving through audio tape to CD player to MP3.  I even have a special MP3 player that lives in the bathroom and has its own peacock-blue speaker so that I can listen and sing along whilst in the shower.

Uni Boy and Gap Boy are very scathing about my gadget prowess. They both feel that their abilities and knowledge are hugely superior compared to mine. I feel that UB has the edge because he did actually build his own water-cooled computer with his birthday money last summer, whereas GB seems hell-bent on breaking his computer¬†judging by the number of replacement bits he orders on his dad’s Overclockers account.

I would never admit this to either of them.

You will note that Hub does not even enter the running in the gadget knowledge stakes. He knows what he needs to know about his computer and his mobile, what he doesn’t know, he asks me and if I don’t know, I’ll check the Internet and only ask one of my frightfully knowledgeable children if there is no other option.

This is one of the reasons why Hub won’t have his own FaceAche page but piggybacks onto mine. As a consequence we have a curious but hugely entertaining pool of friends between us. There are times when Hub’s paintball friends want to tag him in pictures or invite him to games, and have to tag me instead.

No, I don’t play paintball and I’m not an air traffic controller but I know a very lovely man who is.

Back to the Kindles.

Hub and the boys bought me my first Kindle for a birthday present. It is a first generation Kindle without a touch screen. I eagerly filled it with free e-books, cheap Kindle books and audio books. Being a prototype, Kindle no 1 has some features that the later models don’t have, particularly the text to speech feature.

It means that I can put my scribblings into a PDF, load it onto Kindle no 1 via a USB and then have the excitement of hearing my own words spoken back to me (rather haltingly) by a male or female American voice.

Having filled up Kindle no 1, I bought a Kindle Touch and transferred all the books onto it, leaving Kindle no 1 purely for audio books and my own stuff.

I was quite happy with my two monochrome Kindles; one audio, one visual.

Then Amazon brought out the Kindle Fire.

A dinky little full colour sweetheart that I could use as a tablet; I could even watch TV programmes and films on it, and play games.

I should have been content.

I would have been content.

Then Amazon brought out a big brother for my little Fire; full tablet size, HD and even more goodies on board. Christmas was coming and Santa brought me a big Fire for being SO good.

Then came the Paperwhite Kindle.

I had to have it. It makes reading remarkably easy on the eyes.

On a train journey to visit Best Mate a couple of months ago, the train operator put on two carriages with no lighting.  They very kindly supplied us with guards at either end of the carriage wielding torches in case anyone should decide to panic when we went through a tunnel.

Cue a very smug me, continuing to read my Paperwhite when the dark engulfed my fellow travellers.

¬†I look after my toys. All my Kindles have covers; no 1 has a nice black and white flowery padded pouch, the Touch has a more utilitarian leather book cover and so do the two Fires. The Paperwhite has a beautiful 50’s lady cover that attracts attention in the strangest places.

The Big Fire and the Paperwhite went to Amsterdam with us and came under particular scrutiny at security in case I had concealed explosive devices inside them Рor so I thought.

Security at Liverpool seemed particularly interested and I started to panic a little when I was beckoned over.

The security guard wanted to know where I bought the cover because it was ‘gorgeous like’.

During the period of enforced immobility caused by a large object falling from some height onto my toe, my Kindles saved my sanity. So wonderful to be able to search through the works of Shakespeare (free), the collected novels of H P Lovecraft (also free), wallow in Robert Frost and Wilfred Owen, and renew my acquaintance with the authors of my youth; Austen, Bronte and yes, even good old Zola – all for free.

The Kindle library at Amazon is expanding daily. ¬†I’ve managed to acquire some much-loved (and lost in a house move) books that are now out of print and would cost a fortune if I tried to track them down in hard copy.

In a fit of nostalgia I downloaded all the Enid Blyton school stories that Lizzy and I revelled in at primary school. They were not only very cheap but had been put into collections covering the various terms.

Bliss!

Whatever my mood, if I have my Kindles nearby I can read books, poetry, listen to my own words and those of others, check out FaceAche, look at my photos, watch TV and films and yes play games of endless patience.

Packing to go away is much easier too; courtesy of Amazon’s Cloud, all my book purchases and audio books are nestling nicely in metaphorical fluffy cotton wool stuff and I can download whatever I want to read before I go. Hub is enjoying not having to take a separate bag because of of my holiday reading matter.

My Kindles don’t stop me buying books however.

There are some authors – especially my much-loved cousin Ali Sparkes – whose books will always need to be a tangible presence on my bookshelves.

So now that

Bless my Kith and bless my Kindle(s) – Part 1

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Kith comes from the Old English ¬†“knowledge; known, familiar country; acquaintances, friends.”

I love reading.

Anyone in my family could tell you how much I love reading.

Hub, Uni Boy and Gap Boy have all been known to make less than kind comments about the number of books in our house Рto be fair to them my books have taken over the house somewhat.  There is no more room on the bookshelves and strategically placed book towers earned my humble home the title of Haemorrhoid House (full of piles Рgeddit?).

I have always loved reading and from an early age, could be seen with my nose stuck in a book, a magazine or newspaper, or even a cereal packet when all else failed.

The discovery at age eight years that I was very short-sighted meant that I could move further away from the printed page courtesy of my pale blue NHS spectacles and not spend so much time rubbing my weary eyes.

I read my way through the small local library; I moved from having two library tickets to four,  and finally to eight Рthe maximum number allotted to junior readers.  On wet and miserable days I  would often be found choosing the second set of eight books mid afternoon.

My brother unwittingly introduced me to the delights of Willard Price and his seemingly endless ‘Adventure’ series. ¬†Very obviously aimed at boys, the exploits of Hal and Roger Hunt were sheer escapism for a girl from a council estate in the South of England, who had never ventured further than Bournemouth to the West¬†or Hayling Island in the other direction.

Because Enid Blyton’s books were banned from the library, I had to use my pocket-money¬†to buy paperback copies of ‘Malory Towers’ and ‘The Twins at St Clares’. Luckily, my best friend at primary school was also addicted to them. Her father was the principal at the local tech college, her pocket-money and her collection were both¬†larger than mine, but as we were the only Blyton fans in our class, the financial disparity ¬†between us didn’t seem to matter.

I don’t mean to imply that my classmates¬†were reading more highbrow literature than us, ¬†or that Lizzy and I were limited purely to the Blyton catalogue. ¬†We had already¬†read our way through Austen and Bronte to Zola – well maybe we skipped a few booka here and there – whilst our schoolmates were content with the colourful pages of Bunty and The Beano.

Because my mother insisted on good manners and speaking politely, as did Lizzy’s parents, ¬†we were both considered ‘snobs’ by many of our¬†peers. ¬†Sometimes I would lapse into colloquialisms for the sake of a peaceful school day but the strain of having to remember where I was would often lead to a slip of the tongue ¬†and my mother’s disapproving frown.

Mine and Lizzy’s¬†prior knowledge of boarding schools was non-existent; we truly believed that we were deprived because we hadn’t been sent away to some marvellous educational establishment ¬†near the sea where midnight feasts were the norm and lithe young women played lacrosse and rode horses.

It was this fantasy that led me to nagging my parents into letting me enter the exam for a place at a private senior school. ¬†I dreamed that – although it wasn’t a boarding school – it might have the¬†Blytonesque elements that appealed to me more than my current school. Perhaps my mother’s desire to move me away the glottal stops and dropped aitches of my peers played an important part in this too.

I passed the exam and was kitted out in a uniform which included a pale blue polo shirt and navy¬†culottes for games. The whole uniform had to be ordered from a particular store and was very expensive but just like St Clares, we wore felt bowlers in the winter and straw boaters in the summer. I didn’t stop to think how my parents were going to afford all this additional expense or the fact that the school was two bus rides away from our home.

The school lunches were wonderful.

I liked the art teacher.

I got very sick on the bus journeys.

The snobbery I encountered from my new schoolmates confused and confounded me.

I cried.

I cried a lot.

How could I have gone from being a ‘snob’ at one school because I read books and spoke politely, to being ‘common’ because I came from a council estate and my mother sewed blue braid onto a cheap black blazer instead of paying out for one that cost five times as much?

I missed Lizzy too.

After six weeks of endless crying and travel sickness, it was decided that I should leave.the school for the sake of my health, and go back into local authority¬†education. ¬†I didn’t want to go back to my old school; Lizzy had left and so had my favourite teacher. I felt embarrassed and unable to admit that I had made the wrong choice. ¬†My mother got me into another school but my final year of primary education was not a happy one.

Like a small but very hungry bookworm, my thirst for knowledge and escapism knew no bounds Рuntil I got into my teens and discovered other forms of entertainment. Even then I found time to read and the travel sickness disappeared almost magical once I went to senior school Рwhich was just as well as my next school was on the other side of town too.

The long bus journeys  provided the ideal environment for uninterrupted reading; my satchel usually contained more lightweight material than the books that the school syllabus recommended.

In my early teens, romantic and vaguely historical paperbacks were my daily diet. The prolific Barbara Cartland fuelled my adolescent dreams; I knew that they were trashy, formulaic and only a teeny step up from Mills and Boon, but I could lose myself in them in much the same way that the stories of Darrell and the Twins had done when I was younger.

Real romance pushed fiction into the background and my mother’s influence and encouragement caused the rebel in me to emerge like a stroppy butterfly from my awkward teenaged chrysalis.

I carried ‘The Little Red School Book’ in my satchel together with contraband copies of ‘Oz’ and ‘Fat Freddy’s Cat’. It was only my ability to hand homework in on time and the kindness of a teacher who understood that this was just my anarchistic phase, that kept me from expulsion.

She sent me off to drama classes at the local tech as an outlet for my histrionics, she encouraged me to work my way through Shakespeare, and thereby diverted me from being the naughtiest girl in the school. I fell in love with the poems of Robert Frost. Thank you Mrs Skett.

I even took my English Language ‘O’ level a year early – and passed well.

Lizzy’s father left the tech college the same year that I started there in order to take my ‘A’ levels. I hope it was a coincidence. New literary doors opened up for me; Thomas Hardy, James Joyce and Chaucer’s very naughty Wife of Bath. Ibsen, more Shakespeare and the discovery that I had a strange talent for writing rhyming couplets – not always printable!

I continued to read anything and everything I could lay my hands on and stuff into my bottomless student bag. I had left the satchel – stuffed with half-empty rough books covered in doodles – in the waste paper bin when I left school on 13th May 1975. I wish I’d kept it now – it was a good satchel and I could probably sold it for a small fortune on eBay.

There have been times in my life when reading has been the only available option; the late stages of pregnancy, illness, accidents, waiting rooms and green rooms, my bed, my sofa, someone else’s bed or sofa. I worked my way through crime novels when I was pregnant and had a Harry Potter reading competition with Uni Boy as each new book was released. My consumption of autobiographies reached epic proportions, crossed referenced with more salacious gossip from the glossy magazines, and latterly the Internet.

Although I can recall my childhood memories with great clarity ,together with  audition pieces and poetry, social care legislation and adult protection policies, I also have the facility to forget the endings of my favourite books, so that I have shelves of novels that I can read and enjoy all over again.

That doesn’t stop me buying new books however.

My set of Terry Pratchett novels is much cherished, together with several books by Maureen Lipman.

Nor does it prevent¬†me from browsing through musty second-hand bookshops for dog-eared tomes, their margins covered with some other student’s scrawl.

The men in my house have put their collective feet down regarding my library.  Every now and then I am subjected to a book cull; a box is packed up and taken off to my favourite musty bookshop. I stay in the car for fear of going in and buying more books than I have contributed. If I dare to object, Hub very gently reminds me that there are three large boxes of books in the garage that have been sitting there since we moved into the house sixteen and a half years ago.

The men in my house thought that they had found a solution.

They bought me a Kindle.

More of that in part 2……..