The Beauty of Words

When I was researching about the use of words, I found an English Language and Culture Blog, it’s so fascinating to look at your native language (and one that you often take for granted) through some-else’s eyes. Words do have real power to express feeling. Their meanings shape our beliefs, drive our behaviour and create our world. When we read, speak or hear certain words it can stimulate our emotional responses. In fact, some of the most beautiful English words evoke feelings of happiness like Serenity which is a sense of calm and peacefulness.

I have been improving my skills in Spanish and French during the lockdown period. I find that Latin-based languages sound so beautiful, at times they almost flow along. I fully understand how French is said to be the language of love. The English language has borrowed from more traditionally beautiful languages such as French, Italian and Spanish and some of English’s beauty does come from its relationship to other languages. My Spanish friends add words like estupendo and magnifico into every day conversation. Yet in English conversation, more flamboyant language is generally only used by Thespians, Artists and enthused drama teachers. Other-wise it regarded as a bit eccentric. I found myself chuckling after reading a blog about learning to speak English and encouraging the use of, shall we say, more descriptive words. As I can imagine how mixed the responses to this would be!

But perhaps adding more beautiful words into our everyday speech is not such a bad thing. We do after all, have a truly beautiful language but don’t always use it, to its full advantage.

Here are some of my favourites, now I’m not fully sure how I am going to introduce these into my conversations, but a challenge is always good!

Quintessential from a Latin word describing something in its purest form.

Sumptuous from a French word meaning something that is lavish or wastefully expensive. Today, it describes something that is magnificent or seemingly expensive.

Cascade from the Italian cascare meaning to fall. Refers to water falling over a cliff or a similar situation.

Ethereal means something so beautiful that it simply cannot be from this world.

Succulent from a French word meaning juicy. (Cacti are called “succulents” because of how much water they hold)

Iridescent from the Latin word iris, meaning rainbow.

Serendipity refers to something positive that happens completely by chance. It was coined by writer and historian Horace Walpole in the 1700s and based on a Persian fairy tale.

Evanescence comes from the French word évanescent, meaning something that disappears to the point of becoming invisible.

Solitude: a state of seclusion or isolation.

Eloquence the art of using language in an apt, fluent way.

Aesthete is one having or affecting sensitivity to the beautiful especially in art.

Euphoria from the Greek word for healthy, is now used to describe an intense feeling of happiness or elation.

Cherish to hold dear or cultivate with care and affection.

Dulcet pleasant to the ear; melodious and soothing

Tranquillity being free from agitation of mind or spirit.

Who says English is not a beautiful, poetic language, with words like these. Eloquence is surely the only way forward.

The Happiness of Words

I have talked about positive words and there are many words of happiness in different languages and cultures. There are expressions to be had of positivity, joy for others and of happiness in the moment. Happy, was first used in the 1520s, the word originally referred to good fortune and prosperity. The word for happy in most languages came from the word for lucky. This suggests that perhaps our ancestors believed that happiness was largely a by-product of luck. Words and expressions that mean extremely happy include ecstatic, elated, euphoric, jubilant, in seventh heaven, on cloud nine and over the moon. Over the next few months, for example, we can hope to delight in respair the unsung enemy of despair and which in the 16th century meant fresh hope and a recovery from despondency. And there is always confelicity the unselfish joy in someone else’s pleasure. And we should all aspire to be goodwill, which is well-disposed and benevolent towards others.

Tim Lomas, a lecturer in positive psychology at the University of East London and the writer of Happiness- Found in Translation, collects expressions of happiness from other languages. These words have no direct English equivalent, but they represent very precise emotional experiences that are at times neglected in our language. Many emotion words are already borrowed from other languages like French and Spanish but there are many more that have not yet found their way into our vocabulary. Do other languages talk about happiness better? Certainly, those words of the Mediterranean sound as sunny and soothing as their blue skies, sun and oceans. Perhaps, it’s a reflection of our national tendency towards pessimism and of a lifetime of rain and grey skies. A riffle through a historical English dictionary would suggest that the melancholy has always had the edge, linguistically speaking over happiness. But if this pessimism finds ample expression in the dictionary, the proof that exists that positive language can bring its own luck, has to be a sign to use more words of happiness in our life’s!

 I have listed some interesting examples of words from other countries below:

kǔ qù gān lái, the Chinese word describes the journey through pain to sweetness and relief. (We all need a dose of that at the moment) Happiness and melancholy do tend to go hand in hand in many cultures, the bitter-sweetness of a happiness that is destined to fade.

Mbuki-mvuki is the irresistible urge to “shuck off your clothes as you dance

 Kilig is the jittery fluttering feeling as you talk to someone you fancy.

Uitwaaien encapsulates the revitalising effects of taking a walk in the wind

Tarab from Arabic is a musically induced state of ecstasy or enchantment

Desbundar from Portuguese is to shed one’s inhibitions in having fun

Shinrin-yoku from Japan is the relaxation gained from bathing in the forest, figuratively or literally

Gigil is the irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze someone because they are loved or cherished

Yuan bei is Chinese for a sense of complete and perfect accomplishment

Iktsuarpok (Inuit) is the anticipation one feels when waiting for someone, whereby one keeps going outside to check if they have arrived

Sukha (Sanskrit) is the genuine lasting happiness independent of circumstances

Fjaka from Crotiais the sweetness of doing nothing

Sprezzatura– Italian for nonchalant effortlessness      

All these words both enrich and expand people’s own emotional worlds bringing positive feelings and experiences, showing the importance of language. And at the end of the day, who wouldn’t be interested in adding a bit more happiness to their own lives and why not I say?

Words Do Matter

The words we use can literally change our brains. Great leaders have used the power of words to transform our emotions and to shape the course of destiny. When Winston Churchill spoke of “their finest hour” or when Martin Luther King, Jr. described his “dream”, we clearly saw that their beliefs were formed by these words. But what about our own ability to use words to ignite change, to move ourselves to action and to improve the quality of our lives? We all know that words provide us with a way for expressing and sharing experiences with others. But do you realize that the words you choose also affect how your brain reacts on a physiological level? In the 2012 book, Words Can Change Your Brain– Dr. Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman state that “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.”

So, using positive words more often than negative ones can kick-start the motivational centres of our brain’s. This can alter how our brain functions by increasing cognitive reasoning and strengthening areas in our frontal lobes. On the other hand, when we use negative words, we’re keeping certain neuro-chemicals from being produced which contribute to stress management.This increases the activity in our brain’s fear centre, causing stress-producing hormones to flood our system. Angry words send alarm messages through the brain and they partially shut down the logic-and-reasoning centres, which allow us to think clearly.

Words are extremely powerful tools that we can use to uplift our personal energy and improve our lives, we’re often not even conscious of the words we speak, read and are exposed to. The words of others can easily affect our personal vibration. Spend a few minutes with a chronic complainer (or drainer) who uses all sorts of negative terms, and you’ll feel your personal energy instantly drop. Words do have great power, so choose them (and your friends) wisely! Ancient scriptures tell us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. As it turns out, that’s not just a metaphor. Some of us are in the habit of using the same negative words over and over again out of habit. The problem is that the more we hear, read, or speak a word or phrase the more power it has over us. This is because the brain uses repetition to learn, searching for patterns and consistency as a way to make sense of the world around us. We never think that the words we use in everyday life can bring negative energy into our vibration and affect us on a physical level, but they do. Most of the time we just don’t notice.

Speaking positive words leads to positive thoughts and the opposite is true. From our current perspective we all need as much positivity as possible and signs that there are brighter days ahead of us. Every time, I watch the news there is yet more doom and gloom and disagreements, many of the TV shows we watch are full of conflict and harsh, negative language. My Spanish friends tell me that the English lack passion, as I have told them, I don’t think this is actually true, but we are more likely to say everything is fine rather than or great or even fantastic in England. So, by ramping up the volume and using wonderful rather than ok, we can increase the positive energy, feel much better and generate a bigger energetic response in the body. You have the power to change your world by using words consciously is one of the quickest ways to shift the energy you bring into your life.

It feels a bit unnatural and a little bit Pollyanna… ish. (An excessively or blindly optimistic person) To start saying everything is just wonderful, in particular when its most likely not. But it’s a simple and easy thing to rephrase in a more positive manner to make you and those around you feel more uplifted.

Why not give it a go!

Reading in Lockdown 2021- World Book Day

On 4th March 2021, World Book Day was held, just like everything else, this year it was very different. With events adapted online as most bookstores are still closed for business. World Book Day sends a powerful and positive message about books and reading in particular for children and even more so in lockdown, when reading is a powerful tool for all ages to cope with the stress, isolation and boredom. This year, authors talked about what World Book Day means to them, and how storytelling can be more important than ever in challenging times like these.

I read a lot, I have since childhood, it was through my grandfather that I came to have a love of reading. But as a family, we have always encouraged bedtime stories and bought books as gifts. Children follow the example of their parents and families, so if they see someone reading, they want to try it too. I owe my sanity in Lockdown to the written word, as the chance to escape to a different world and to learn something different. Life-long learning is essential to all of us, in keeping our brain cells active and staying interested.

The mission of World Book Day is to promote reading for pleasure, by offering every child and young person the opportunity to have a book of their own. Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success, more than their family circumstances, their parents’ educational background or their income. Changing lives through a love of books and reading, it aims to see more children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, with a life-long habit of reading and the improved life chances this brings them.

Designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading World Book Day is marked in over 100 countries around the globe.

Thousands of bookshops and supermarkets took part in World Book Day. This charity brought together the UK’s leading reading and educational charities: Book Trust, CLPE, National Literacy Trust, and The Reading Agency, children’s publisher Egmont and Nielsen Books, in a collaboration providing insights into the impact of the last year’s Lockdown on reading and the improvement to a child’s life chances. Together, they found that many children and parents embraced reading at the beginning of the pandemic, with huge benefits for their wellbeing and development. (Although this was to decrease slightly as the pandemic continued)

The research found that many children embraced reading at the beginning of the pandemic. The majority looked on-line for reading inspiration on YouTube and with social media. Books have provided a valuable resource to support children’s wellbeing. Young people reported that it helped them relax and made them feel happy. 82% of Teachers found ways of reading aloud to their classes during the pandemic because it provided an emotional support as well as developing literacy skills.

The latest research for the National Literacy Trust shows the positive impact World Book Day has had during the pandemic in 2020. With 3 in 5 primary children saying that they had read more books as a result. Over half had talked more about books with family and friends. A third had also read more books with their family. One surprising fact was that 3 in 10 of the children receiving a World Book Day token in 2020 said it was the first book they ever had of their own. So, it’s wonderful that they get to own a book which is something they can treasure.

Thanks to National Book Tokens and lots of lovely book publishers and booksellers, World Book Day, in partnership with schools all over the country, distribute over 15 million £1/€1.50 World Book Day book tokens to children and young people (that’s almost one for every child/young person under 18 in the UK and Ireland) every year on World Book Day.

During the pandemic, access to books remains a serious issue, particularly amongst disadvantaged children and families. Despite many schools implementing quarantine schemes and delivery services, 40% of primary-level children were unable to take books home. However, many local libraries have offered online free books and audio books, although a tablet or android phone is necessary. Libraries have been using mobile units to deliver books to the sick and elderly. Also, in the second and third lockdowns some library offered collection services, a bit like click and collect. I am a big fan of the work local libraries do for the community at large and we should all try to continue to support them. In part so they are able to carry on offering us a service.

A selection of free audiobooks for all ages is available from the World Book Day website as well as a full range of reading and learning resources for the rest of the year. Visit the website for details

Libby is the local library app and free online library cards are available if you don’t have a card, just visit your local library website for details.

I do hope you get chance to read a little, either a physical, kindle or audio book, I am sure you will enjoy it!

National Writing Month in November

I was watching the local news yesterday and they featured the National Novel Writing Month, which takes part in November of every year. It’s the first time I have heard of this competition, but what a great idea, its too late this year but perhaps next time! Like most people I have always said I would like to write a book or a novel but have never really got round to making a start or known how to actually begin and writing courses can be costly.

National Novel Writing Month began in 1999 as a daunting but straightforward challenge: to write 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days. Now, each year on the 1st of November, hundreds of thousands of people around the world begin to write, determined to end the month with 50,000 words of a brand-new novel. As far as I can see its open to everyone and free to take part. It’s for anyone thinking about writing a novel. To take part all you need to do is commit to writing 50,000 words of your novel in the 30 days of November. Which means writing 1,667 words per day. Which doesn’t sound that bad as a daily total.

I feel sure that writing a novel alone must be be difficult, even for seasoned writers. The website- NaNoWriMo helps you to track your progress, set milestones and connect with other writers in a huge community and even participate in events that are designed to make sure you finish your novel. There is a website where you set up a profile, which has incentives in the form of badges and a supportive social media community to cheer you on as you strive to meet your daily word targets.

NaNoWriMo officially became a non-profit organization in 2006 and their programs support writing fluency and education. Their website hosts more than a million writers, serving as a social network with author profiles, personal project libraries and even writing buddies. Hundreds of NaNoWriMo novels have been traditionally published which includes: Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and Hugh Howey’s Wool. Started by Chris Baty, the author of No Plot, No Problem, in the first year 21 writers took part in the challenge, which has grown every year. In 2017, over 400,000 people participated and this continues to grow.

So, if you’ve ever wanted to get that story out of your brain and onto a page, this could be a wonderful chance to do just that.  NaNoWriMo helps to provide all kinds of support and tools to help you accomplish your writing goal. The competition allows you to do some basic groundwork, but the novel has to written in the November period only.

So, for writers and want-to-be-writers visit for additional information.

Best of luck!

Paul Noble and Collins Books

If I need a dictionary or phase book then I always turn to Collins books. They have now joined forces with Paul Noble, the highly acclaimed English linguist with a language school in London.

Collins has been publishing educational and informative books for 200 years. Throughout this rich heritage they have held an impressive record in creating market-leading products across various sectors. With a database of over 4.5 billion words, they constantly monitor text from publications, websites and transcripts around the world to ensure their dictionaries are up-to-date. There is a free online dictionary at which provides a snapshot of world languages. Collins is the home to bilingual dictionaries and language learning products and now the Paul Noble audio courses.

Paul Noble acts as the instructor on his products, which are published through Collins. the languages are: Spanish, French, German and Italian- Chinese has now been introduced to the range.

My friend has tried the Paul Noble method to learn French and has found this a great way to learn quickly, the reviews are also very good. I saw Paul Noble on TV a while ago, where he was showing people how to learn languages and I was impressed by how easy and fun he made it look. I learnt French at school and have attended a couple of classes as an adult, which were a bit disappointing to be honest. I have also listened to various discs including linguaphone. I am not quite a beginner, but I am certainly no linguist and I would love to be better at these. Learning a language is also supposed to be good for your brain power, which is an added bonus.

Now is it possible to learn a language in just one day? The Express newspaper sent a reporter along to meet Paul Noble to see if this was possible.

This is a short summary of the interview:

Paul shows himself to be as friendly, approachable and entertaining a genius as you could ever want to meet. The Collins people might say he’s a genius but no, he chuckles, it’s actually just not teaching language in a ridiculous way. That is all it is, just doing it in a sensible way. Why wouldn’t you do things so people understand it? Why wouldn’t you teach them the more useful stuff, rather than the less useful stuff?

So, what is he referring to exactly? I always had the feeling that it would be incredibly cool to be able to speak a foreign language, he admits. When we did have any language classes in school, I was never any good. I did history at university but I actually spent most of my time studying languages at home by myself. Paul confesses that he became obsessed with the idea of being able to speak a language and consumed as many different courses as he possibly could. In doing so, he discovered that traditional ways of learning a language just didn’t suit him. Most language courses are terrible, he says. So how does he do it? Well, rather than spending an age learning the nuts and bolts of a foreign language, such as the grammatical terms that we all remember with a groan, Paul’s argument is that if you want to speak a language then you need to do just that. If you want a course that makes you better at speaking the language then the course should be making you speak the language, he argues and after just five minutes, I have to say that he’s right.

I would agree with this myself; it sounds a lot like the courses I tried, I much prefer the sound of his classes!

When asked why he started his training school, Paul says that the most commonly used phrase, uttered in foreign language classrooms across the entire English- speaking world is: I’m no good at languages also frequently expressed as I’m not gifted at languages. Curiously, this is a phrase which is especially common, to the experience of language learning. I don’t think, for instance, that I have personally ever heard it used by anyone learning to drive a car. Whenever I’ve met people who are having trouble learning to drive, very often their response is: I suppose it’ll just take time. Rarely do they suggest that they are simply not gifted at driving.

Having said this, I have never considered myself to be especially gifted at languages. As a teenager, although I was successful academically, I was totally lost with languages, bemused and frustrated by them. I found them so difficult in fact that I probably would never have given them another thought, except for the chance coinciding of my initial failures at language learning and my passing of the MENSA entry test. When I gained entry into MENSA, I did ask myself why it was that I could have a high IQ and yet be appallingly bad at languages. Was there a connection? Or was it just a question of not being gifted as one might or might not be in music, for example?

I did try to learn a language again later but I always met with failure and utter frustration. The explanations given to me by teachers and grammar books bamboozled me and progress seemed impossible. One day, I was wandering through a second-hand book shop, when I came across a very old and extremely tatty French textbook. Glancing inside, I came across a quote, which struck me at the time and which was to change the whole direction of my life. It was by the eighteenth-century French writer, Antoine de Rivarol

Grammar is the art of lifting the difficulties out of a language; the lever must not be heavier than the burden

 I was very much affected and inspired by this idea, that grammar should actually remove the difficulties from a language, rather than being a troublesome subject in itself. I thought long and hard about what de Rivarol had said and with this basic idea in mind I set about self-instructing myself, both in French and German, all the time being guided by this basic notion. I deliberated a great deal about how the difficulties from typical textbook and grammar book explanations could be removed. So as to give myself and others a more usable understanding of foreign languages. During my initial period of self-instruction, I also began to seek out any course or book that was easier for me to understand and to learn the language from, I found very few. Most courses offered much the same as that which I had experienced at school. So were of little help.

A small minority of authors and teachers did exist, however, who had produced books, audio-tapes and CDs that at least hinted at better ways to teach like: Alphonse Chérel, Jacques Roston, Lewis Robins, Charles Duff, Margarita Madrigal and Michel Thomas. Looking back, I can honestly say that each of them changed my life and helped me drag myself those initial steps along the path towards being able to speak a foreign language properly. In spite of this, I was nevertheless acutely aware that they each still suffered from serious weaknesses. Nonetheless, they did each help me to take some of those first steps. On top of this, however, these courses were perhaps most valuable in that they acted as an aid in prompting me to try out some aspects of the instructional viewpoints employed by them, with the hope that they would make instruction easier and more effective. These provoked me into asking the most important question: why it was that, if courses could be fleetingly insightful and useful, they couldn’t be insightful, useful and use real language from beginning to end. This in turn led me into thinking long and hard about what it was that allowed each of their methodologies to work but then, ultimately, to fail at certain points.

Considerable time passed as I considered this during which I came across the works of various authors, each of whom exerted a significant influence on the way I thought about languages or about learning in general. Spurred in part by this realisation ,I decided to try writing a course of my own, one which would be guided by the belief that there was nothing so complicated in foreign languages that it could not be made simple and with the intention that this principle would be sustained throughout the entirety of the course. It would be a course where students got everything they were taught and where everything they were taught was useful, real language, which would allow them to hold a normal conversation with another human being. Finally, it would also be a course where, by its end, each student would actually be able to remember what they had been taught. Eventually, I did write several courses based on this principle. They took a long time to develop and each had to be trial tested for many months just to make certain that they were heading in the right direction.

I found that I was able to get the results I desired and they were quite remarkable. Whereas students might normally spend several years studying languages at school and come out unable to communicate in that language, students were leaving my classes after the first few hours, able to construct complex sentences and to begin communicating in the language they had been taught. Based on the great success of these courses, I eventually founded a private language college. The Paul Noble Language Institute, as it came to be known. The French, Spanish and Italian courses I developed at the Institute were subsequently published by Collins. Since their publication, I have gone on to work exclusively with East Asian languages.

Paul gives 5 tips on learning a new language;

  1. Study at least a little every day. Learning a language is like building a fire, if you don’t tend to it, it will go out. It doesn’t have to be for a long time though. Just 5 or 10 minutes each day will be enough.
  • Stop while you’re still enjoying it. Arnold Schwarzenegger once said that the key to his body building success was that he stopped his work- out each day just before it started to get boring.
  • Use your hidden moments. The famous American linguist, Barry Farber, learnt a great part of the languages he spoke during the hidden moments he found in everyday life. Such hidden moments might include the time he would spend waiting for a train to arrive or for the traffic to get moving in the morning. These hidden moments could include lunch breaks.
  • Forget what you were taught at school. Many of us were told at school that we did not have an aptitude for languages, that we didn’t have a knack or a gift for them.
  • Choose the right language. If you’re going to learn a foreign language, make sure you choose a language that you’re going to have a chance to use. Like going on holiday. Could a particular foreign language be useful at work?

To find out more information, the website is below and the Collins books and audio courses are available through the Collins website or Amazon. I hope you have chance to give it a try!

Independent Bookshop Week

I was watching the local news last week and heard about Independent Bookshop Week for the first time. I have to say that running any Independent retail business is hard. (I have done this for years) But running a book store must be one of the hardest, with Amazon and even supermarkets selling the latest releases at a highly reduced cost it must be very difficult to compete on a level playing field. I meet a lovely lady, who was full of great ideas, at the start of the year at a local networking event who was telling me about the book shop she has been running successfully for several decades, and the many different events and exhibitions that were held throughout the year. I think that indies all need a niche of sorts but with bookshops it is crucial.

Independent Bookshop Week 2020 took place on the 20th to 27th June in the UK, I think the USA version takes place in August. The Independent Bookshop Week is part of the Books Are My Bag campaign and run by the Booksellers Association, it seeks to celebrate independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland. This is organised by the BA and sponsored by Hachette. This annual celebration of independent bookshops across the UK this year has adapted to include online/virtual events to give book- lovers across the country access to authors and books during lockdown.

I think that books and reading have played a huge part in keeping me sane during lockdown, as a chance to escape, when I can’t leave my home for months! I think I’ve reached 80 books so far, luckily friends and family have been dropping bags and boxes of books on my doorstep!

During the week, it was a chance to celebrate the role indie booksellers have continued to play in building a sense of community during the pandemic as well as encouraging customers to support their local high street by shopping local at what is a particularly challenging time for small retailers. I fully support buying local, we all must if the local high street is to survive.

BOOKS ARE MY BAG is a nationwide campaign run by the Booksellers Association to celebrate bookshops. It launched in 2013 and today it comprises of the Bookshop Day and the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards. At the centre of the campaign is the iconic BAMB tote bag. Since the campaign launched, over a million people have worn a Books Are My Bag to show their love for their local bookshop.

Every year over a thousand bookshops around the country take part in Bookshop Day by creating bespoke window displays and holding special events like: reading groups, storytelling, author signings, literary lunches and even face painting! The BAMB Readers Awards are the only awards curated by bookshops and voted for by book-lovers.

Why Buy Books in your local bookshop? Well if you don’t, they will sadly disappear from the high street. But it might be worth also thinking about the reasons below:

You love books

You might make a purchase you’ll value for the rest of your life

You’ll be shopping on your local high street

You’ll be helping create local jobs

You might just find a book you never knew existed

You’ll find great gifts for friends and family

You can talk to real people about books they know and love

You’ll be part of your local book-loving community.

Bookshops aren’t the same as other shops, they aren’t simply a place to go and buy something, they are so much more than that. When people were asked what it was that makes a bookshop so special, the same messages kept coming up again and again. They are different to other shops, they are relaxed, they’re a place of calm and they are somewhere to talk and to hone ideas. You can easily while away hours in a bookshop, knowing that you aren’t going to be rushed and that there are like-minded people around you.

In this day and age, where technology rules all, there is still something very special about an actual book, I love the smell and feel of a book, which is very different to a kindle book. Browsing through shelves, you never know what you will find, flicking through a book can take you into a different world. Books unite everyone that visits, regardless of where they are from and what they do when they aren’t in the shop. Everyone has a love of books in common and that immediately means that we have something to talk about. Visits to bookshop can give much needed ‘me’ time. I clearly remember getting away from it all by heading to the second floor of Waterstones in Hampstead, when I lived a hectic lifestyle in London.

What makes independent bookshops so important is that they are safe spaces. They can become community hubs, a place that can help to ward off loneliness. To visit regularly for a chat and to browse and in many cases have a cup of tea and cake in the attached café. Children are encouraged to look at the books and learn to love them, often there are kid’s book nooks so there is no need for them to worry about being quiet.

As many local libraries have been closed it makes the role of a local bookshop even more essential.

Damian Barr from indie bookshop week said the following “Indie bookshops do so much for readers and writers—they’re the beating heart of publishing. It’s a joy to be able to celebrate a different indie every day for a week, in addition to our Indie Bookshop of the Month feature on Salon.”

Visit their website for more details;

Despite the restrictions of 2020 the event was still a success, Emma Bradshaw, Head of Campaigns at the BA, said: “We couldn’t be more delighted by the enthusiasm for Independent Bookshop Week 2020 from across the book trade. In this immensely challenging time, we hope that book lovers across the country will enjoy the many fantastic online events and exclusive editions on offer from indie bookshops, while remembering to choose bookshops and shop local.”

I do hope this special event can continue to go from strength to strength, and that perhaps during lockdown many people have re-discovered their joy of reading.

Woman Writing a Life of Crime

The genre of crime fiction and suspense was started by men, Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle lead the way, but female writers took the genre and shaped and expanded it throughout the 20th century. Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap play ran on the London’s West-end stage from 1952 to 2020 and she remains to this day one of the best- selling authors. Although there are still popular male crime writers; lee Child and Ian Rankin to name a couple, it does appear to be a women’s game.

Male crime fiction was very much about guns, knives and violence with a male Hero, like a maverick private eye. Women were often written into the plot as secretaries, wife’s or victims, only ever in a supporting never a starring role. On the other hand, women play the leading roles in fiction written by women like Kathy Reich’s, Patricia Cornwall and Alex Cava, the female characters are strong, independent and often in charge! Some popular male detectives like Inspector Wexford by Ruth Rendall and Adam Dalglish by PD James are written by woman but are more well-rounded characters because of it. A women writer, the brilliant Phoebe-Walker-Bridge, the screen writer of Killing Eve, is currently working on the James Bond films. Hopefully her female parts will echo Villanelle rather than the out-dated roles played by Bond Girls.

Rather than been about cops and robbers, the good guys taking on the bad guys, the plots are more physiologically acute in women’s books, often about emotional violence. It can seem lighter in depth but in fact, a nastier and more prolonged death is usually penned by a female writer. Ian Rankin criticised Val McDermid for the graphic depictions of violence in her stories, however her books and the TV show Wire in the Blood based on her work continues to be popular. Some men probably feel that women should not like crime fiction, but 80% of the sales in this market are from women rather than men..

In the last 15 years many of the best selling crime writers are woman, Patricia Cornwall has sold 100 million copes of her books, Minette Edwards has had many of her books used as screenplays for TV series, Kathy Reich’s, has assisted with Bones, the forscenic science drama, based on her books, Paula Hawkins book Girl on the Train, was a big hit on screen and in print. So much so, that some male crime writers have written books with female pseudonyms to break into this popular genre.

Why do women write successful crime? Do women have a better grasp of human complexities, so they can create in-depth characters that are authentic? Do women understand living in fear, do they control more rage, angry and aggression inside, which comes out in their work. It has been said that the writing styles of woman are Killing from the Outside. I guess there is more build-up of plot and suspense. I always love a crime book that gives me a few surprizes, even an odd red herring or two and that I can’t stop reading until the story reaches its conclusion.

There is something thought- provoking about Crime and Suspense fiction, you need to use some powers of deduction yourself, like all the best fictional detectives, male or female. I thought this continues to be the case for a long time yet!

Great British Menu 2020- Children’s Literature

I watch the great British menu every year its always a highlight of my year, the imaginative cooking and wonderful props get better each year. This year children’s literature was celebrated it was a worthy cause and the theme lent itself to some expectational cooking! All the dishes produced for the banquet were based on children’s books, many classics were used such as The Railway Children, the Secret Garden, Willy Wonka, Wind in the Willows and of course modern classics like Harry Potter.

When I think about childhood memories, I do think of certain foods and books and in many ways, these are linked together. Food is expressed in children’s literature often in a special way: An English tea or Birthday party, a picnic, learning to bake, Easter egg hunting, Christmas dinner, a trip out to the sweetshop or to buy ice cream. As a child, I remember going to the sweet shop once a week with my pocket money and sitting in the park with my Grandmother with peas still in their pods in a brown paper bag, I still love popping peas. I often think of these times with much fondness.

Reading is one of greatest pleasure, I have been an avid reader since childhood and believe all children should be encouraged to read from an early age, as it sparks their imagination. So, it’s great to see a TV show promoting something so worthwhile and often over-looked.

The banquet was held for writers, teachers and children, many of whom are book critics or writers themselves. The meal started with a Harry Potter mini bouche complete with a Hogwarts train, followed by a Narnia inspired starter displayed in a wardrobe, then, a fish dish, inspired by Phillip Pullmans Witches of the Northern Light complete with cauldron, potions and spell books, the main dish was Mr MacGregors garden, from Beatrix Potter, with regional food from the Yorkshire Dales and vegetables buried in plant pots in edible soil, a pre-dessert of Lime Green Granita so vibrant it looked radioactive followed by an edible book of rice paper, my  favourite dessert of the season. I loved eating rice paper as a child as it often decorated the top of fairy cakes.

This is still available on BBC player and the whole series is worth seeing as it is really inspirational, imaginative and great fun.

In the UK we have so many talented young chefs who have elevated cooking to an art form. I can’t wait to see how next years Great British Menu can trump this one!

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There is Nothing Quite Like A Good Book

I have read since I was a child, my most memorable present was a full set of classic children’s books. I have always encouraged my nieces and nephews to read from an early age. What would constitute a good book would be entirely personal. I would say not been able to put a book down, without finishing reading, or looking forward to been able to start reading again. Books fulfil different roles: entertainment, education, escapism, relaxation and even maintaining health. The NHS have joined forces with Libraries to promote reading for health because of the huge importance to mental health. I am a great believer in Libraries and the wonderful service that they give, enabling everyone to be able to read even without the available finance to buy books and we all should support them as much as we can.

In our busy life’s taking time to read can seem like a luxury many of us just don’t have but taking even a short amount of time, in your lunch hour or journey home from work, to read is beneficial, so much more than posting on social media or updating your status. Kindle books can be a good way to read when you can’t have a book to hand and companies like Book Bub will send you links to free Kindle books on Amazon. Libby is the online lending library which can be used through phones and androids and is free to use, you just need a current library card.

At the moment we have more time than ever and what a great use of our time to read, but beware when you start this can become addictive. But there are far worse things than to be addicted to the written word.

I do hope you do get chance to try reading. I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad book, if you are entertained and your attention is held then that’s great. Personally, I read lots of different types of books: Historical Fiction, Murder Mysteries, Classics, Travel inspired, Autobiographies, Spiritual, Self-care and Chick Lit. Some books teach me, some help me to live a more fulfilled life, some make me laugh, some make me cry, some take me to brave new worlds and some inspire.  There are so many books its difficult to know what to read, the website Goodreads is a great resource for readers giving lots of book choices, reviews and even the chance to win free books.

Like most avid readers I always have a big pile of books I want to read, and it’s a dream come true to make my way through them.

Happy days indeed!

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