raven: (stock - rock 'n' roll)
Here are some of my Thoughts On Books, you guys. I think books are great. I went years without reading fiction and then in 2009 I rediscovered the art of carrying a novel in my handbag, and now I think I must have been mad for not doing it for so long; so long without that fierce, entirely private joy that there is something special waiting just for me and all I need is a quite place to read. I love books. I think more people do than you think. I worked in a small independent bookshop for years and years and people used to come in and say, apologetically, I don't really read but have you got the latest Tom Clancy, or I don't really read but where's your true crime, and kids would say well I only really like Harry Potter. And I would say, we have those, this is a bookshop, welcome.

(One of my favourite customers was an elderly chap with a cane, always very well-dressed, who would come in and ask me to get volumes of Schiller in the original German. And I would call Penguin and HarperCollins and who knew who else and eventually I'd get them. And then he'd come in for them with his daughter and his daughter's daughter, who'd say things like, "Grandad, there's these books..." and his daughter would say, "Dad, don't you dare, you spoil her", and then she'd run outside to put money in the parking meter, and he and his granddaughter would share a significant look. And a little later he'd walk out of the shop proudly carrying his leather-bound volumes of German poetry and volumes one to four of Rainbow Magic Fairies.)

At school, for World Book Day I used to run the events. There was the book scavenger hunt, when I pinned the invitation to the ball at Netherfield Park to the noticeboard and hung the one ring off the bannister and put a bag of sherbet lemons on the head's door (and was hauled in by said head for unacceptable behaviour, but that is another story) and we ran votes on people's favourites. I used to read the library new accessions for sex and violence, and there are so many good books in the world.


The book I am reading: The Wind's Twelve Quarters, a short story collection by Ursula Le Guin. I am about halfway through and I am really enjoying it. She's so good, Le Guin. So good. Listen to this:

But there was plenty of time. The summer evening would stay light; he could count on it. Lenient and sweet in their length are the twilights of a latitude halfway between equator and pole: no tropic monotonies, no arctic absolutes, but a winter of long shadows and a summer of long dusks: gradations and accommodations of brightness, attentuations of clarity, subtleties and leisures of the light.

Isn't that so lovely, so true? I love her: she can carry me home so easily in so few lines.

The book I am writing: Aha, I am never writing a book. I write fanfic. It's ridiculous how I don't write my own fiction at all. But, okay, here's a book I am not writing. I have in my mind not a story, but a setting: a bar, with mostly red lighting, in a city by the sea, in some future place. It's not a utopia and it's not a dystopia, it's somewhere between. It's in an ordinary suburban district with shops and houses and schools, and they're having parish board elections in this city, and for the first time, non-humans are running, and they're new and they have no campaign offices, so they're in this bar. I never write down the novels that live in my head!

The book I love most: I love so many books. Er, Three Men In A Boat, Jerome K. Jerome. But so many.

The last book I received as a gift: Shim sent me Cleaving, the second memoir by Julie Powell, because he knew I wanted to read it.

The last book I gave as a gift: I sent [personal profile] gavagai a copy of Red Plenty, which I haven't actually read myself (which is not like me - usually I make a point of only giving books that I liked!) but it is by Francis Spufford and she's a fan.

The nearest book on my desk coffee table: The First Amendment: Cases, Comments, Questions. Sad but true. But almost as near: Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Aristotle's Nichomachaean Ethics, and, er, a deck of Rider-Waite tarot cards which have an ISBN which makes them a book for tax purposes. My bookcase is just at eye-level, so I can see about another fifty books. (I came to the US with six. Oh, dear.)

I am going to bed! I am so exciting.


Jan. 26th, 2009 08:33 pm
raven: (misc - thine own self)
I have horrible lurgy and my exams results are still AWOL. However, my day improved from the moment I actually got out of bed and went into town and had a brief holiday of an evening, in the way that such things do happen without warning. The sun came out today, for one thing, in a minimal, muted blue way, and [livejournal.com profile] shimgray and I were wandering around Jericho, pausing for coffee and books (and plotting a screwball comedy novel I could write while we also bought food and many boxes of pink tea). Jericho looks very lovely in that sort of light, and the bookshops were worthy of visiting. The £2 bookshop, which glories in the name of The Last Bookshop, was still open at six o'clock and thronged with people, all who had come in out of the cold with the aura of those who had come across the promised land. The proprietor was a behatted bemused American, who sold us four books and found us unexpectedly interesting. ("Are you together? Good, you have chemistry!") This was followed by another bookshop, apparently so new it still had the smell of paint inside, and this one rejoiced in the name of Albion Beatnik. I am a sucker for anything with "beatnik" in the title. We went inside. There were more books. There was another amused proprietor, this one surrounded by bits of paper. I have said this before, but the art of the independent bookshop is a noble and subtle one. It was good.

(Speaking of books, I signed up for LibraryThing in 2005 and didn't use it very much. Just this week I catalogued all the books I have in Oxford, which I had in my head as about thirty or forty, not very many. Apparently "not very many" is a hundred and sixty-something. Oh dear. I find this a little horrifying.)

It has been a nice week, generally speaking. [livejournal.com profile] hathy_col was here over the weekend, which is worth noting as we have not been in the same place at the same time for faaaaar too long (over Christmas, I went from Liverpool to Edinburgh the same day as she made the same journey in reverse) and she was here long enough for us to at least try to catch up, which mostly involved us being Very Happy about the new Star Trek film (we are both decided that unless the new guy talks! like! this! a! la! William! Shatner! the franchise is doomed) and deciding at one point that there is a necessary connection between people called Vladimir and the scuppering of Britain's chances in the Eurovision Song Contest. (Well, if it weren't for Lenin, there wouldn't be an Eastern bloc; when they show the contest on television in Ukraine, it's on split-screen with Putin holding a sign saying "Vote For Us" in one hand with his other hand poised over a reeeeeeally big gas tap; we're still working on Vlad the Impaler.) We stayed up, we giggled, we slept in, giggled some more, and eventually bought me a birthday cake whilst discussing which films we would show Plato if we brought him forwards in time. (Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure; Mamma Mia.)

In the evening, people came to the pub and were great in my general vicinity, and gave me many many many books, and we finished up in G&Ds and ate ice-cream and people continued to be generally great. They gave me books and fairy lights and more books. It made me very happy.

Now, I am reading fic (Without Song, Merlin, by [livejournal.com profile] foreverdirt, very very lovely) and intermittently watching Little Mosque on the Prairie, a Canadian sitcom [livejournal.com profile] emily_shore pointed out, which is a silly slight comedy about a small immigrant community in a small Canadian town, and is lovely and charming. (And makes me laugh in how right it gets the immigrant tropes.) I guess today and the last couple of days have been a holiday, and I'm going home for a few days this week, which are also a holiday, and after that I am hideously, heinously busy until, well, I'd like to say April but should probably say June. At any rate, I don't seem to have any free weekends until Easter. Which is not bad - I like doing things - but may mean I am somewhat quiet for a bit. We shall see.

Thanks again, guys, for making it a lovely birthday. It was much appreciated.

edited to add It's Republic Day! I entirely forgot. A very happy Republic Day to all.
raven: rosettes on the wall, text: "Philosophy begins with wonder" (philosophy - begins with wonder)
I now have a problem, in that when I stop taking the codeine, I start getting dizzily, drowsily dysphasic. I am not going to list today's spoonerisms. There are a lot.

Anyway. Things not to do when you have a headache and mild dysphasia - try to run a bookshop with one phone line and no internet. It basically meant we were trying to run the place from memory, and this works to some extent, but, mostly, I spent the day shouting at BT. Being themselves, and thus very useful, they had sent out an engineer at half eight at night and wondered why no one was there. Cue several conversations trying to explain certain basic concepts to them - "No, this is a business. A bookshop. A shop with books in it. Yeah, we sell them to people..." - we were left at the end of the day with the strange, uneasy feeling that you get when you pick up a phone and don't hear a dialtone. Part of me, somwhere in the hindbrain, wonders if the zombie invasion has already started.

It was an odd day, all told; mostly a day of miscommunications. They delivered a whole batch of mail that wasn't ours - I chased its real owner down a quarter of a mile, waving it like a madwoman - and then round about lunchtime, I heard a jingly-jangly ringtone and waited for Assistant Book Monkey to do something about it. He, meanwhile, waited for me to do something about it. After the penny had dropped very slowly for both of us, I picked up the phone sitting on the desk and said, in my nice, pleasant, lightly Scouse, not-at-all threatening accent, "Hello?"

There was a long pause, and then the woman on the other end whispered, "...who is this?"

Apparently, this was a mother convinced I had kidnapped her only child. Whereas I could've told her that said delightful only child had left her phone behind on our shop's counter. She eventually reappeared for it, and I gave it to her, but not before telling her, "Call your mum!", and wondering when exactly I turned into my own mother.

(Also, in further developments, I took the time to ask Matt today, "How's your harem?"

He said, rather petulantly, "I don't have a harem. I have a girlfriend now."

Assistant Book Monkey, however, was unconvinced. "Don't let Elizabeth in."

"I don't know anyone called Elizabeth," I said, somewhat irritably.

"You know, Elizabeth. She tried to give him her phone number."

I took a deep breath before saying, "You mean, our boss's twelve-year-old daughter tried to..."

They just sort of stared at me. It was a long and precious moment. Chief Book Monkey, who is a very nice man who has at some point in his life swallowed a thesaurus, is in Spain at the moment, and he is indomitable. Last year, he went on holiday and didn't come back even when the hotel he was staying in was bombed by ETA. He's that sort of a person. I just... yeah.)

By mid-afternoon, there was no phone, there was no internet connection, we had run out of pound coins and I'd had to go next door to buy kitchen rolls, one by one, with a twenty-pound note each time, for the change, and the BT engineers weren't coming, and it was too hot, and then a woman came in wanting "a book, it won a prize, it's about a murder", and I was just fed up. So I kicked the computer, tried to ring Crosby, who said "errrrrr", and then I gave up and rang [livejournal.com profile] shimgray, on the grounds that if anyone knew, he probably would.

...he did. And we had the book. We sold it. Assistant Book Monkey looked at me and said, "What, wait, you rang your boyfriend... I thought - oh, bloody hell, I need a smoke."

"Didn't you give up-"

"Shut up."

By the end of the day, therefore, I was very tired and very very not-compos-mentis and... yeah. I really would like my brain back sometime soon. Tomorrow, I have to get ready for this interview, find something to wear, find out where all my other clothes have got to, refill my prescription(s), find train tickets, addresses, oyster card, etc., send three letters and a parcel, then I go to London, then I go to Edinburgh, then [livejournal.com profile] emily_shore comes to visit, then I move out. (Finally.) In short, I am somewhat harried at the moment. Things to post in the near future - plans, insomnia cures, [livejournal.com profile] loneraven and [livejournal.com profile] forthwritten's Sooper Secret Project O'DoomTM, 10,000 words of fic. Argh.

Pills! Then bed.
raven: (xf - give that girl a gun)
I have a banging monster of a tension headache that has so far not been alleviated by painkillers, enormous glasses of water and therapeutic shouting. I have to be up to get my laundry out. I may sit in the bath until then, having spent the last five or six hours being hugely, grossly productive. (Seriously. I got up. I went to work. I came back from work. I got rained on. I proof-read and got five training contract applications ready to submit. Packed a suitcase. Found tickets, insurance, passport and American dollars. Started work on application to the GLS. Did not cry. Put laundry in. Am now eating ice-cream and waiting for laundry to re-emerge.)

(Pause, as mum wanders in, demands of world in general where all her saris are, she knows she owns them, lots of them, in fact, have I seen them, no I haven't, do I still have that bottle of silver glitter, please can she borrow it, goes off to find it without waiting for answer, cue my father, he didn't know there was ice-cream, where is said ice-cream ("In the freezer, possibly?"), I didn't offer him any ice-cream, do I have any concern at all for my fellow man, clearly not, I will grow up to be the sort of person who reads the Daily Mail. Honestly, I do adore my parents.)

Anyway! Things that are of note, numbered as usual:

1. We can has cat! The landlord said yes. Therefore, [livejournal.com profile] chiasmata, [livejournal.com profile] sebastienne and I are free to become crazy cat ladies as and when we would like. I am quite, quite ridiculously excited about this.

2. Also, we can has... well. I feel that it needs recording that yesterday, due to a sequence of highly improbable circumstances, [livejournal.com profile] shimgray became the vaguely surprised owner of a thirteen-foot kayak. (With no paddles. We are literally up a creek... yeah.) Consequently, I shall be spending part of my Saturday tying it up with blankets and perambulating it home.


3. I met Anne Fine today! I was a big fan of hers when I was small - I have clear memories of reading Flour Babies and Goggle Eyes as they first came out - and she's apparently written about fifty books for children since. Anyway, she was a delight. I did a couple of hours' work in the shop in the afternoon - well, I say work; there were no customers whatsoever - and then toddled along two doors down to set up for the signing, met Book-Monkey-in-Chief carrying two boxes of books, took them off him and went to see what chaos I could bring order to, whilst the poor actual author followed us all down with some bemusement.

But, eventually she sat down, the kids queued up, it was all great. First of all, she can't talk to children. Well, she can't talk to children the way teachers and parents talk to children - she kept on getting halfway through words she possibly ought not to say, and then stopping, and then finally giving up altogether and talking about the bloody publishers at will. And it was more than stopping not to swear - she said to one small child, who had been standing there in front of my box of books for about half an hour, "You are pathologically indecisive." The small child clearly didn't understand but enjoyed the word "pathologically".

And in the breaks between signings, she talked to me, and apparently Book-Monkey-in-Chief had been telling tales, because she asked me about how Oxford had changed in the last twenty years - since her son was a Balliol PPEist. I told her a bit about how I'd found it, especially philosophy, and she fixed me with a gimlet stare and said, "Never forget. You have had an incomparable education."

I said I wouldn't. "No," she went on, thoughtfully, "They teach you how to think, don't they?"

That's the idea, I said. My degree results come out this week, I said.

She laughed and said, "What would you like me to write, darling?" to the front of the queue, and wrote with love to the most indecisive child in the world.

The signing actually went rather well. A lot of young children who had just read The Diary of the Killer Cat, and slightly older ones who had just read Goggle Eyes, and a surprising amount who wanted to read one called The Road of Bones. Now, I remember Goggle Eyes very well; I re-read it as an adult not long ago and realised anew how very, very good it is. (It is the story of Kitty, who does not like her mother's new boyfriend; this very simple plot is interspersed with clever allusions, acerbic wit and, my favourite, a marvellous set-piece involving the late-eighties CND.) This other one was new to me, having been written much more recently, and it was being gripped tightly by a solemn-faced boy named Joseph. "Sweetheart," she said, "you're ten, you don't want to read about Stalinist Russia" - but she ended up signing it To Joseph, who stood his ground.

As we were packing up, I asked her to sign something for me. A poster for The Tulip Touch (which is a horrifying - and horrifyingly good - young adult book based in part on the murder of James Bulger, so quite evocative for me, reading it) that claims it's Whitbread book of the year - which means it's been at the back of one of [livejournal.com profile] triptogenetica's cupboards for twelve years. She was very startled to see it, but signed it happily to James.

In fact, she was very good company. It's weird, but I've been here two weeks and not really seen any of my friends and done nothing but go to work in the morning and come back in the evening, and I've missed good company, which for me is usually defined as people who light up the room with how bright they are. One of the local newspapers was interviewing her, asked how much input she had into the film version of Mrs. Doubtfire (the book was called Madame Doubtfire, if I remember rightly), and if she had any regrets - and she said, not seeing the Beatles in Northampton in 1961.

And that was that. We finished packing, I picked up my wages from the shop, and she disappeared, but not before wishing me good luck for my results and telling me, "Give my very best regards to James, and congratulate him on his fine taste and discretion."

Not bad, I think, for an afternoon's work.

Anyway, I need to go to bed and kill this headache somehow. Tomorrow, I depart from Up North and return to Oxford. At least, for a while. I will be around and about until Wednesday night, at which point I depart for San Francisco. But in the meantime. Argh, my head. Bedtime.
raven: panel from PhD comics, woman with speech bubble: "Wait a minute... I'm the only female in this class!" (misc - ppe)
Quoth [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong: "You're eating mango while you're talking to me, aren't you? You CUNT."

Some time later: "We've spent the last hour talking about kittens, mangoes, and our boyfriends. You know what? I think we might be girls."

In other words, o hai, I miss Oxford like burning, but mostly I miss the people. It is as if this is a surprise or something. Before I go on, some thanks are in order. First of all, I'm a little late in saying this, but whoever referred my post on white privilege to Blogbharti, I'm honoured. Thank you.

Second of all, to all those people who appeared on [livejournal.com profile] slasheuse's love meme and left me furtive love: thank you, thank you, and thank you particularly to the person who made me cry, thank you. And, actually, speaking of my missing Oxford, it seemed somehow natural that so many people on the meme should be Oxonians what I have known and loved, and I had ridiculous fun leaving anonymous and not-so-anonymous love for all of them. It seems quite appropriate, here and now, for it to be recorded that [livejournal.com profile] slasheuse herself is made of greatness; that everyone secretly wants to marry [livejournal.com profile] apotropaios and eat [livejournal.com profile] foreverdirt's brains; that I am not the only person who lusts over [livejournal.com profile] absinthe_shadow's shoes; that [livejournal.com profile] shimgray's most notable feature is that he is "endearingly meerkat-like" and that [livejournal.com profile] magic_doors is destined for greatness, possibly in the manner of CJ Cregg. It would be ridiculous to tell you all again how much I love you, but. I do. I do, I do.

(And, also. The meme is currently at 315 comments. These things max out at, I believe, 5000. There is world enough and time for all of you. Go and demand love. It is, by my time, very early on Monday morning, an excellent time to demand love. Go forth.)

In other news, I went into work today, and, well, the local populace had certainly been eating their crazycakes. I refer you to the woman who came in, looked confused, then said, "I'm looking for a book. It has something to do with the Fonz."

Long, long pause, while I stared, and she pointedly did not tell me the author or title of the book. Finally, I said, faintly, "As in Arthur Fonzarelli?"

Blank stare. I tried again. "The Happy Days character?"

She looked slightly happier. I sat down at the desk computer and wondered vaguely what would happen if I typed "something to do with the Fonz" into TBP. Eventually I did discover that Henry Winkler has written a series of children's books with titles like "The Curtain Went Up, My Pants Came Down: The Mostly True Confessions of the World's Greatest Underachiever". I ordered this book and felt pretty good about life.

Possibly a gesture from the universe to make up for this bout of weirdness, we got a late-afternoon visit from one of my favourite customers, a retired doctor who is endless in his affability and his total failure of recall when it comes to ordering books he wants. (Long-term readers of this journal may remember him as the man who came in and demanded a book called "The Assassin's Boyfriend" - and was delighted when I successfully got him The Time-Traveler's Wife.) Anyway! He bounced in, caught sight of me, drew to a comical halt and demanded, hands on hips, "Well?"

I thought about it for five seconds and said, "I don't know, they haven't come out yet."

"Well, many good wishes for a first - even though you went to the wrong-coloured university, you reprobate."

I thought about it some more. "Dark blue instead of light?"

"Precisely!" he boomed, gave beaming smiles all round and bounced out again.

He's a lovely man, just rather odd. Work this week has been mostly uneventful, as most of the regular staff are on holiday and, er, we don't have any customers. I met the latest of my replacements, a solemn, fluffy-haired boy called Matt, who is plagued by all the other male staff continually referring to "Matt's harem". I found this odd, because a boy less likely to have a harem I never did see. He did the morning shift and I did the afternoon one, so off he went at one o'clock. Watching him pass the window, I saw a girl come out to meet him from next door with an umbrella, and they went off together into the rain. "Oh, you're all being mean," I said, into the relative silence of the shop. "I think he's rather sweet."

Cue rustling and the sound of someone dropping a mug. "How the hell does he do it?" yelled Assistant Book Monkey, storming in and trailing coffee and ash everywhere. "You said, you said you thought he was sweet! He's half your age!"

"He's SIXTEEN!" I yelled back.

"They all said that! All you women! Crazy Al and Deb and Bernie! Even Her Upstairs, and she's a LESBIAN!"

(At which point, the only customer in the shop, a little old lady with shopper, picked up her cane and went out.)

"What..." I started to say, and then saw Matt cross the glass in the other direction, with a different umbrella - and a different girl. "Right," I said.

"If we could only bottle Matt," said Assistant Book Monkey sadly, "that'd solve all our problems."

The shop's problems are pretty considerable at the moment, it must be said. I see it more than the others, because I come back every three months and see the changes, but this time it's really palpable. Every day, the takings are less, every day, the shop gets slightly shabbier because there's no money to pay people to tidy it up, every day, something else breaks and can't be replaced, every day I angst about taking money for a job that I do well. I think this is the last time I'll ever work here. When I come back next summer, it'll be gone. And that breaks my heart, because the cult of the independent bookshop is one of the few things I subscribe to without reservation. I love independent bookshops. I know most of the customers, I know the books, I know the people who come in to deliver, I know the place like the back of my hand. And, well, I've been working there for four years and coming in for ten. It's a long time for something to be a part of your life.

Blah. It's all fundamentally depressing. Once the shop is gone, I have nothing left holding me here at all; all my friends from up here are now in other places doing exciting things, and so it should be, but it makes me feel very remote from everything, a mere transient. I am getting twelve-fourteen-am maudlin. Moving on.

Further things of note. [livejournal.com profile] chiasmata and I are trying to get a cat. We're trying, because we don't know yet how the landlord feels about it, but, eeee, cat. I have never had a cat. I am, in fact, very much a dog person - the only pet I have had worthy of note was a long-haired German Shepherd - but I am open to persuasion on the matter. I shall probably be a lot of a geek-dyke-girl cliché, but. Cats are nice. So are geek girls. [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong and I engaged in something of the Lament of the Monogamous Bisexual earlier. Etc.

Ye gods, I am dull. I leave you to go proof-read an eighteen-page guide to transvaginal ultrasound. (No, really.)


Mar. 12th, 2008 03:27 pm
raven: rosettes on the wall, text: "Philosophy begins with wonder" (philosophy - begins with wonder)
I decided early this morning that if I didn't leave the house soon, I was going to go stark raving insane. So I walked the thirty-five minutes into the village to get a pasty from Sayers - actually, let me have a point of digression here while I talk about how great pasties are. I did not know, until I moved to Oxford, that despite the fact there has been one everywhere I've lived - and there used to be one on the way into school, and I'd pop out during the afternoon and get flaky pastry all over the library carpet - Sayers are Liverpool-based only. I was delighted to discover, therefore, that there are in fact places that sell pasties in Oxford. But. But, these are pasties that you have to pay £2.50 for, that have, I don't know, ingredients, whereas a real pasty is made of indefinable vegetables and something-that-might-be-meat, all covered in astonishingly-bad-for-you pastry and is much too hot to hold, let alone eat, before you have carried it around with you for half an hour and made a glorious amount of mess, and it should be 79p, because more than that would imply that it were made of food.

Enormous digression aside, I bought a baked-bean-and-sausage pasty and a luridly purple fairy cake, and dropped in on the bookshop on the way home. I do like it when people are pleased to see me. At any rate, I stepped in and was greeted with, "Oh, fantastic, Iona, can you answer the phone and tell Assistant Book Monkey to give up smoking?"

I did both, to limited avail, and ended up idly stickering signed copies on the counter while they told me what I've missed through being away for three months. One of the reps has taken up astral projection ("Well, he said he'd spent a month in Birmingham sort of flying around, and people didn't believe him when he said he'd been projecting himself. There were a lot of Jamaican guys in the street selling weed. Yes, that is a funny coincidence, isn't it?"), Assistant Book Monkey is still in love with Her Upstairs ("She's gay, I'm an optimist"), Setch has gone to Loughborough and isn't at all falling into the insanely-sporty stereotype ("He came in the other day and told us he'd named his biceps.").

A customer came in at that point, but I just couldn't resist. "What has he named them?"

They looked at each other, looked at me, looked at the little old lady customer, and chorused, "Pinky and the Brain!"

Also, Anne Fine came in to sign books and, despite her epic amounts of kids' books (including Flour Babies and Goggle-Eyes, both of which I loved), she apparently doesn't like children ("Such bloody shrill voices!") or, indeed, Jacqueline Wilson ("I've been saying that for years, but no one ever listens to me," I sighed at that point); Katy Flynn has written yet another squidgy book of squidge and dedicated it to us; there are so many books exploding through the back of the shop that they've had to fill one of the toilets with proof copies and OS maps.

Situation normal, I said, promised to help out over Easter weekend, and paused to ask, before I went home with my luridly purple fairy cake, "If you could fly anywhere you wanted, would you stick around in Birmingham?"

"He's moved now, anyway," they told me. "In fact, you should look out for him."

("Passing through on a nearby jetstream?" I said, but no, apparently the Bloomsbury Astral Projection Rep now lives a couple of doors down from where [livejournal.com profile] jacinthsong and [livejournal.com profile] potatofiend lived last year. I take all of this as proof that all it takes for my life to get surreal again is for me to step out of the house.)

Anyway! I actually made this entry as an excuse to use this icon - which is great and marvellous, and probably indicative of much talking-about-philosophy I'm going to be doing - and for a meme, seen everywhere but most recently with [livejournal.com profile] glitzfrau:

Everyone has things they blog about. Everyone has things they don't blog about. Challenge me out of my comfort zone by telling me something I don't blog about, but you'd like to hear about, and I'll write a post or comment about it. Ask for anything: latest movie watched, last book read, political leanings, thoughts on yaoi, favorite type of underwear, graphic techniques, etc.

I'm pretty sure I write about everything that pops into my head, but we shall see. And now I go back to doing some actual work, rather than eating cake and babbling.
raven: Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, wearing green and red and looking up (Default)
Last night at twenty-five past five, a customer came storming in and howled: "WHERE'S YOUR MANAGER?"

Assistant Book Monkey and I both looked up, startled, and chorused: "Manchester."

The man took a deep breath and yelled, "My daughter ordered her book and you BLOODY FLOGGED IT!"

cut for me ranting about three days of people shouting at me )

Okay, enough of that. Things about which to be happy:

1. Every time I refresh my flist, another story pops up on [livejournal.com profile] hawkfromhandsaw. So far, this ficathon has been much more painless than the last one (touch wood), unless you count the person who blithely told me to give everyone a week's extension. Er, horribly-rude much?

2. The shop printer ran out of ink today. I rummaged in the tea-and-coffee drawer for the spare cartridges and bemusedly discovered £120 in assorted cash. Some detective work later, it would appear that this is the same money that went missing, presumed stolen, six weeks ago.

3. The horrible books have actually arrived from THE. At least when people come in to shout at me, I'll have books to hand over.

(THE are a book wholesaler. In the continuing saga of my recent stupidity, ABM asked me today, "What's the website for THE again?"

"Why don't you google for it?" I asked.

He gave me his best what-is-wrong-with-you? look and said, "Why don't you try it and see?"

Er. I am stupid. Also today I fell off the kerb.)

4. Contrary to all supporting evidence regarding my intelligence, my LSAT score has apparently leapt by eight points. Whoop.

5. Thanks to a demented three hours last night, I actually have a story for my own ficathon.

6. And, finally, I'm going to Berlin on Friday to see [livejournal.com profile] the_acrobat, in what I am reliably informed will be the Visit of OMG 1.75. I've never been to Germany before. I can't wait.

So, yes, on balance, it was a good day. Hell, it's always a good day when you find money in your teabags.
raven: Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, wearing green and red and looking up (Default)
I'm so tired I'm kind of dizzy. I haven't been sleeping more than a few hours in one go lately, because I'm going through a phase of having lunatic crazy dreams. Usually I reach some state of sheer terror, jerk awake, deliberately keep myself awake a couple of minutes so I don't fall back into the same dream, go back to sleep. And in the morning I recap and wonder where the pulp-fictitious hell my brain is getting this stuff. Seriously, machete blades? Monsters? One particularly lovely detour into someone trying to chop my fingers off? It doesn't even feel real when it's happening.

Anyway, yes. So tired I'm dizzy, and I half-sleepwalked through an utterly ridiculous day at work today. See, there's this book. It's GCSE Business Studies for Edexcel, and its ISBN-13 is 9780340816561. (Yes, I know it. It's been that sort of day.) And there's a local school that has told each of its thirty-two pupils that they all need it, and they should come to the local shop to get it, and in the meantime the book has gone quietly out of print. I explained this patiently to thirty-two people, all of whom want the book, er, yesterday, and I'm trying, I said, really I am. I made a list, I rang publishers, I chased delivery men. Honestly. People are so rude.

After ringing up everyone I could think of, I realised that it's not, actually, out of print - it's just the computer thinks so. And I can get it from a fairly obscure distributor who blithely informed me they can get it for me in five working days. "Isn't there any way I can get it sooner?" I asked through gritted teeth.

"Not unless your order is over £100," was the very prim reply. "Which it isn't."

"What," I said, through grittier teeth, "is our order up to now?"

"Ninety-nine fifty."


Oh, it was just that sort of day. Even when I walked into the shop in the morning, Bernie was on the phone having a fight with a customer, in her having-a-fight-with-a-customer voice (I have one of those too) - a tight, controlled, I'm reciting the multiplication table in my head to keep from strangling you, yes sir how can we help sort of voice. "Street map?" she was saying. "Which particular city?"

A pause.

"Ah, sir, a street map might be... unobtainable. You could get something for Beijing or Shanghai - no, sir, China is a country. I understand it's quite a big one." Another pause. "Yes, yes, Taiwan is too."

After a while I decided I just couldn't listen any more and went out the back to stomp on boxes. I do this every day, really! It's not something you need a particular talent for! You slice the sellotape, pull it off, stomp on the box and throw it into the recycling. So how exactly I managed to hit myself in the solar plexus and end up staring at the bright blue sky from a distinctly pavementesque position, I don't know.

It seemed prudent to just lie there for a while.

At least, until I heard the sound of raised voices from inside and went back to face one of our most annoying customers, a primary school teacher trying to buy sticky-backed plastic. I didn't have a clue what they were fighting about until Bernie asked me, somewhat desperately, "Iona, how many centimetres in a metre?"

"A hundred? Is this a trick question?"

"There's NINETY!" said the woman, and I boggled a bit. She was adamant. I picked up the pair of scissors to cut the plastic and managed to convince her that yes, she's right, the customer is always right, but if we do it my way, she actually gets more plastic for her money. (We sell it by the metre, so help me God.)

After that Bernie and I sat down and, as one person, went for the chocolate biscuits. Three hours and a lot of chocolate later, I was on my own. The minimum you can run the shop with is two, I think - one to deal with customers and the other to answer the phone - and although it was only for about an hour or so, but seriously, it's not good for your mental health. I sat on the counter and tried to keep the customers away through sheer force of will.

And just when Tony was back, we were doing all right, I was counting up the coins in the till, a customer came in with a long, detailed and complex enquiry about a second-hand book she wanted ordering from Canada. God, why do people do this? Don't they realise that it may be the slightest bit impolite to wander breezily in at twenty-five past five and proceed to take their sweet time? At five to six I went in and very ostentatiously picked up the keys to lock the door, but nothing doing.

Anyway. Finally got home about half six, am exhausted, have done nothing in the way of LSAT prep for, oh, weeks, and [livejournal.com profile] hawkfromhandsaw story is still non-existent. Well, no. It's 1845 words of total and utter tripe.

But! Tomorrow is another day! And there is still a half-full packet of chocolate biscuits in the till! Sigh. September really is loony season.
raven: Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, wearing green and red and looking up (Default)
Dear self,

That thing, where you keep increasing Firefox text size? And the way your head hurts in the morning?


yours in breathless stupidity,


Ahem. In other news. I am very stupid. I rolled out of bed at half twelve and only then remembered I had to be in work by one. Following which, I was sitting in the shop in the late afternoon, getting error messages and pressing refresh obsessively when the nice people who run the website rang the shop. "Hi!" they said. "Your servers are down!"

"I know that!" I said chirpily back. "I am trying to run a bookshop! Without a computer!"

"Uh-oh," said Assistant Book Monkey's voice behind me, and I turned around to see our thirty-year-old till creak open, shriek impressively and spew almost an entire receipt roll at the ceiling. "I think I broke it."

At which point two annoyingly loud girls opened the door and demanded to do some vox pops for the local paper about the closure of the local police station. Okay, we said, seeing as we have no till and no computer and no customers and indeed, no purpose in life, we'll answer your questions. Of course, I chose this moment to say, dozily, "Formby has a police station?" and before I was quite aware of what was going on I'd been quoted, had my picure taken and been informed that I was going to be in the paper being idiotic.

Sigh. I went back to the computer, which was still emphatically unfunctioning, and banged my head against the window. Over the noise, ABM told the newspaper girls, "She's not always like this. Actually, when she's not here she's at Oxford."

They looked at me and my head-against-window and yards of till roll and said, "You're kidding."

"Yeah," I said, "he is."

Eventually the till was fixed, the servers came back up, a woman came in and bought £120 of book tokens, someone came in and gave us some chocolates, life got better. Things could be worse: I could be at school right now. But I'm still feeling distinctly frazzled today, and I'm not sure why.

Anyway. Enough of me being weird. [livejournal.com profile] likethesun2 tagged me to come up with seven odd/quirky things about myself, and here they are:

seven things about me )


Aug. 16th, 2007 07:51 pm
raven: Paul Gross as Geoffrey Tennant holding up his hand against a blue background (s&a - feeling a little crazy)
After some not inconsiderable pressure from certain people, I can hereby declare that I'll be in Oxford tomorrow, for the purpose of [livejournal.com profile] foulds's birthday celebrations. I really want to see as many people as possible - [livejournal.com profile] chiasmata and [livejournal.com profile] narahttbbs, I'm looking at you. I'll arrive round about two-ish, trains allowing. I'm only around for a day - got to get back up on Saturday for various boring reasons, but I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone.

In other news, dear book-buying public: telling me that it's a book about "funny things" is NOT ENOUGH INFORMATION. And neither is "that one about the fish".

But I found them both anyway, because I am just great like that. Okay, in the second case I happened to be actually holding the book in question, but still. It made me look like I had ESP, which is always good.

Anyway! In Oxford tomorrow, hope to see lots of you there.
raven: Amelie against a green background; text: "purdue" (amelie - perdue)
The train to London from Liverpool Lime Street is probably the busiest service in England. It's usually on time. So I was surprised when it jerked out of the station on the appointed minute, went approximately six metres and rolled to a stop. After a second there was an announcement, somewhat apologetic: "Ladies and gentleman... er... the brakes have failed."

This is a Pendolino tilting train, for reference. It goes at 125 miles per hour round corners. Um.

After a bit, they decided to reset the train, whatever that means. "It will take five to six minutes," said the man, "and all electrical devices on the train will cease to function. We repeat, all electrical devices will cease to-"

The lights went out. There was a pause, and a burst of laughter. There is, I think, a particular type of Scouse humour, and this is it. (On the way back, what sounded like the same guy made an announcement to say: "To the young lady trying to buy wine with a credit card - I've just given the machine a bang with a hammer! Come and get your wine!")

The train actually made up the delay, and I wandered into Euston a few minutes early. I was in London to do some philosophy teaching for a friend - basically, I was helping introduce a bunch of fifteen-year-olds to the subject for the first time, which has its good points and its bad points. The main bad point is, of course, that no one is actually interested in philosophy. It's not something you do at school or see at television, it's not something that ever gets talked about from day to day, and it's very, very hard to get vaguely bored teenagers to care about the nature of mind or whatever.

The good point is that I get to talk about philosophy to a captive audience. I don't think I'm a very good teacher - certainly the yawning could be blamed on the humidity, but maybe not in so much excess - but still. I do love my subject, which has to count for something.

Yesterday night I did something kind of crazy. Sort of, anyway. I guess I should have asked earlier if anyone in London wanted to meet up, but I completely forgot I'd have a free night. I was kicking myself, because it was a beautiful summer and in the last month I've been dying slowly of loneliness, and I was wandering in solitary fashion down the Charing Cross Road and yes. I don't know if I ever mentioned it, but I tried to get rush tickets for Rent in New York - I know, I saw it already, but I loved it so much I wanted to see it again - and failed. I didn't know if the same idea existed over here, but I wandered into a theatre to find out and sort of bemusedly ended up with a ticket for Avenue Q. (Not rush, apparently - tickets for students and OAPs. I'm definitely not complaining.)

Is it kinda weird to see a musical on your own? I guess so. But I ended up sitting next to a girl who was also seeing it on her own, and we got to chatting, and that was nice. I loved the show. I didn't think it was laugh-out-loud funny, unlike, er, the entire rest of the theatre, but I enjoyed it. (And even a crap musical - which this certainly wasn't - would've beaten an evening sat on my own.) For some reason, Sesame Street only with porn really, really works. I stopped finding the puppeteers distracting and started finding them impressive, and I actually found bits of the story really poignant. The internet is for porn, it's true. (Which is not to be read as an either an enrdorsement or critcism of LJ's current policy, just to be clear.)

One thing about Avenue Q, though - someone, probably Ben, told me that the West End and Broadway versions are different. Why would this be? The only thing I noticed was that the sign indicating a 15-minute intermission had been scrawled over - "-mission" crossed out and "-val" written in, which amused me, as I just had this picked up in a beta last week.

So I'm glad I did that. Today I was helping teach just war theory, which is interesting enough, and talking about PPE and philosophy in general, and the humidity in the room was killing. Afterwards, I didn't know what to do so I went to Forbidden Planet, which probably sums up my entire life.

Er, what else? I spent the beginning of the week with [livejournal.com profile] hathy_col and [livejournal.com profile] tau_sigma, and had just a really lovely time. We watched Heroes, and ate so much pick 'n' mix it was getting silly, and then, because it was a lovely summer's day and we were in Britain, we went to Southport and had an authentic seaside experience. Seriously. We went down the pier! We played on ancient arcade machines that told all our fortunes - apparently I'm a romantic (huh!), Colleen's an expert on everything and Tali needs to make better friends(!) - and ate chips with ketchup and mayo, and ice-cream, and wandered through the crappy rides at New Pleasureland and Colleen extolled the joys of Southport. Apparently, allegedly, Paris was based on it.

To which I say: LIES. But it is on the tourism website, which of course has no reason to lie to attract people to this crappy town full of heroin addicts. So I stand corrected.

But, you know, it really was fun. We ended up eating fruit and cheese pizza (advertised as Vegetable Deluxe - but it had olives, cheese, pineapple, tomatoes and peppers on it, and these are ALL FRUITS OMG, and mushrooms are FUNGI) and looking up rubbish on YouTube and Wikipedia, and trying to find the best bits of the Star Trek movies, and watching Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner in varying states of utter ridiculousness.

(I have this lovely memory of staggering around [livejournal.com profile] likethesun2's flat in Chicago, killing myself laughing at William Shatner doing Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. I like the themes that reoccur in my life.)

And after that, just talking and talking and laughing at rubbish and talking some more. It was lovely. And London was okay, too. I just feel rubbish now, partly because my very busy week is over and partly because I just am rubbish lately. Everything is getting tasteless and plastic again, and the sun highlights everything's edges and doesn't help.

I walked past one of those lovely, antiquated second-hand bookshops on the Charing Cross Road, and went in and bought a battered copy of The Truth, and as I was paying I noticed a sign advertising a job. I thought to myself, I'd have a pretty decent chance of getting that job - I have five A-levels and three years of very relevant experience - and almost asked for an application form. Because wouldn't that be lovely? To just... work in a bookshop. I know I already do. But sometimes I wonder if I haven't already found my calling, and all the rest is silence. Do I need a career? Can't I just work in a bookshop and hide from the world forever?

Clearly it's the part of me that always wants to hide from the world forever that's talking. And I shouldn't spend so much time on my own, because that's how I get like this. But the rest is not silence. I need to start coping.
raven: (hp - remus in light)
There are no spoilers in this post. Please do NOT post spoilers in the comments.

This is me after four hours of work and four glasses of wine, after two hundred people, rampant disorganisation, people queueing around the shop and all the way down the street, hot dogs and Hogwarts hogroasts and the police wandering in to find what on earth was going on.

This is me holding the very last Harry Potter book in my hands, and with no time to read it yet!

embargoed stock - July 21st )

And that's all you're going to hear from me for a while. I don't have time to start reading until tomorrow night, so I think I shall be absent until about Monday. See you all then.
raven: (hp - tonks puff)
This Friday night at half past nine, I am going to dress up in my gown and witch's hat, host a barbecue, hand out drinks, take pictures for the Southport Visiter and then be responsible for a hundred and eighty people getting their copies of Deathly Hallows.

And? I get paid for this. I love my job.

Well, no, I don't get paid - my three hours' work will just about pay for my book. But it's the principle of the thing. Before that, unfortunately, comes the hard work. Today was spent alphabetising most of those hundred and eighty people, dealing with the last minute pre-orders and serving the few customers left in the world who, indeed, want other books. But I still love my job, because, hey, selling books, and every time I come back I'm reminded of how much I believe in the glorious ideal of an independent bookshop. There's a cartoon in today's Metro about the Asda/Bloomsbury fiasco with the caption "...and everyone lived happily ever after, except small bookshops." Cue wry laughter, because it's only funny 'cause it's true. The shop is still making no money, and honestly, it needs to sell those hundred and eighty books at full price. The discount we're doing isn't much, but creative - £15, and a quid off the next seven books you buy. More than the shop can really afford, but the whole event is designed to stop them running off to Tesco's, so we're going with the flow.

Anyway, more pleasant things! A new Harry Potter book does, of course, bring the geeks out of the woodwork - I was flirted with by a sweet indie boy who shamefacedly asked if he could pick up ten copies for all his friends - as well as small children who've heroicially got through the first six just recently. (My favourite of the HP contingent was an old lady who asked me to find a particular name in the notebook I keep the pre-orders in, and then gave me a handful of cash so I'd mark it as paid. "Tell her Grandma's taken care of it," she said, and disappeared.)

We also had a visit from one of my favourite customers today, a retired local doctor. The first thing he did was to park his elderly mother and her wheelchair right in the middle of the space - "She's ninety! Everyone else can get out of her way!" - and then gasp in surprise at seeing me after such a long time. Last time I saw him, I said, he was trying to buy a book when he couldn't remember the title.

"Yes!" he said cheerfully. "All I knew was something and someone's relative. The Assasin's Boyfriend. No, The Time Traveler's Wife."

"Was it the right book?" asked his mother.

"Right book," I said. "Wrong universe, maybe."

Delighted at this suggestion, he chortled his way out. There are lots of customers that I'm fond of, but he's near the top of the list. He wears Descartes T-shirts, which would dispose me favourably towards anyone.

Anyway! I am getting distracted. This seems a good a place as any to set out my Harry Potter spoiler policy, which is as follows: don't spoil me. Simple as, and thanks, everyone, for having used cuts so scrupulously until now. I'm usually not fussed about spoilers, but this time it matters to me that I stay unspoiled. And as this is the last Harry Potter book, this'll be the last time I'm ever worried about them.

Right. I'm going to be away for a couple of days - I'm going to London tomorrow for the BBC Power to the People aftershow party, and I'll be back on Friday afternoon, at which point there are barbecues and local newspapers and Harry Potter will take over my life. So I guess I'll be absent for a wee bit, but before I go, I should say: I've decided to go ahead with both the Slings & Arrows and Altered Mental States ficathons. I'll open sign-ups for both of them after the weekend, once we've got back all the people who are holed up somewhere reading Deathly Hallows. See y'all on the flipside.

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