Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year!

Well, I'm afraid I've not been as good at posting this year as last, and I'm way behind with book reviews. But new year, new start, right? So, what I'm going to do is this. On the basis that I have read a lot that I haven't reviewed, and it's starting to get a bit difficult to write reviews of stuff I read over a month ago, as of tomorrow I'm going to be starting again with book reviews. I'm not going to review anything that I've read this year, with perhaps one or two exceptions, though I doubt it (I've done a lot of re-reading in the past week or so, rather than reading new stuff, and I think I've reviewed some of it already). Anyway, I thought I'd let you know that.

So, New Year's Resolutions?

Keep up to date with this blog. I'm also going to integrate in my other blog, I think, to this one (, but failing that I'll try and keep that one up to date with at least one post a week too.

Write. I'll be doing this anyway, I don't know how I'd survive if I didn't write stories. As for specific goals: I'm pretty fed up of looking for a publisher for Nutmeg Angel. I'm going to try and contact the organisation that runs the musicianaries project, and see if they'll take a novelist too. And if they won't, well, I'll just have to finish editing Winged Fire and try and get that published instead. I'd like to fill up the hole in the Nutmeg Angel series too--it's only one book big now, so that should be okay. And the story that will go in it seems to be going well (watch this, writer's block will now strike). I'd like to do some more historical/semi-historical fiction, and maybe even finish off my monster novel which is over 100000 words already and maybe two thirds through what I expect it to take. I have an ending, I just have to get it there.

Read. Again, I'll be doing this anyway. I want to read the books I've bought and not actually read, that would probably be a good idea :). New books to look out for, that I'll definitely be buying: Five Greatest Warriors by Matthew Reilly. After the cliffhanger ending of Six Sacred Stones (and boy was it a huge one!), I can't wait for this book. It's already out in Australia, but I can't seem to get hold of the Australian edition in England :(. I did wonder whether to ask my cousin who now lives in Australia to send me a copy, but there's only a few more weeks to wait for it. This is a fantastic series, and I'd highly recommend it. Matthew Reilly's thrillers are incredibly fast paced, as in, think of a crazy OTT action film and then stick it into novel format that you can carry about with you and enjoy. Dramatic, gripping, he's probably the best escapist, fast paced thriller writer I've come across. The Sable Quean by Brian Jacques, and yes, Quean is spelt like that. I've been reading the Redwall series for something like eight or nine years now, and my only disappointment was when I couldn't get hold of Eulalia last time a new book came out for ages and ages. I finally managed to borrow a copy from the library and bought the paper back edition. A number of them have been re-read by me 15 + times. Don't be put off by the fact they're about talking animals, Brian Jacques writes the sort of timeless classic that you can enjoy again and again. Good versus evil, it's your stereotypical children's story, with the 'good' creatures (mice, squirrels, moles, badgers, and we mustn't forget the hares), facing off against the vermin (rats, ferrets, weasles, pine martins and the like). Fantastic feasts, great descriptions, and some fantastic sword-fighting, I suspect Brian Jacques is the reason the angels in my stories tend to use swords rather than guns. Also, the final Cherub book, Shadow Wave (provisional title). Again, I've been following this series for a long time, and I love it. Think Alex Rider, only it could actually happen, and the characters are a lot more realistic. I can't wait, although I'm sad that the series will be finishing. There is, of course, still the Henderson's Boys series by the same author, and I suspect I'll be getting the new one of those too. They're reckoned to be great books to get teenage boys into reading; as a teenage girl who already loves reading, I can certainly recommend them.

Models: I don't know whether this counts as getting a goal. Again, I'll be doing it anyway, it's something I love. I would like to do a few more tanks, but they're harder to store and display than aircraft. Having said that, my ceiling is getting rather full. I probably won't get the 1:24 scale Mosquito--it's a lot of money, even if it is a lot of model, and I don't have anything else in that scale. So, probably another couple of bombers. The Short Sunderland I got the other week is nearly finished; it's the biggest in size I've ever done. I've still got a couple of models that I've bought and not built. Actually, maybe more than a few... Two jets (Tornado and Saab Gripen), three more WWI ones, and two of the three club models I got this year.

I think that's about it. College, of course, and my distance learning thing, but again, I'll be doing that anyway. Scary thought: this time next year, I'll be preparing for my second term at university! I wonder where I'll be. Hopefully Cambridge :), but could be anywhere I guess. Well, I'll be off now. Not staying up till midnight--I've done it once but it's not exactly gonna be fun on my own. I think I might go and read--I bought a couple of books yesterday, and they're going to be an exception to the not reviewing anything that I've read this year rule. Cheerio.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

The Pilgrimage of Grace

Hmm. I didn't finish this book. I got fed up. By Geofferey Moorhouse, this is one of those unfortunate books that suffers from too much detail in a dry, boring manner. I have nothing against detailed books. I quite like them. But this was just irritating. I was intrigued to know more about the only aspect of the English Reformation that I actually knew something about. However, the author seemed to feel it was his personal mission in life to act as though it was a completely ignored part of the English Reformation and that he was the only person who had ever paid it any attention whatsoever. Huh? There was a nice section on it in the Dickens book which I reviewed previously, and as I said, it was virtually the only aspect of the English Reformation I had a bit of knowledge about to start with. We'd covered it in oh, maybe Year 8 or something, briefly. If there was one thing this book did not suffer from, it was brevity. And yet, the actual reasons for the Pilgrimage of Grace were, I felt, inadequately covered. The author basically took it as read that they were fundamentally spiritual in grievance, and that was why it happened, making scant reference to the whole history of protest and the fact that the harvests had been bad which always makes things worse. There was an over reliance on narrative and detail about what exactly happened when and what happened next and what happened next on the other side and... you get the picture. It seemed to just go on and on and on, so I'm afraid I got fed up and took it back to the library without having finished it.

Not recommended, as you can see, unless you have a particular fascination with the Pilgrimage of Grace and are desperate to get to know all those little details that you probably won't find anywhere else. But other than for that purpose, it's not a particularly good book.


This book is by Max Hastings, and deals with the Normandy Campaign. It's well written and interesting, though he completely disparages the contribution of the Air Forces in helping to win the battle--he basically claims that the RAF/USAAF cooperation with the ground forces was negligible, played no really significant part, and even suggests that in parts it did more harm than good. Hmm... I know I'm slightly biased on the whole RAF thing because I absolutely love aircraft and aviation history, which would tend perhaps to go the other way and exaggerate the achievements of that branch, but I suspect he was going a little too far. The same was true of my opinions regarding his book on Bomber Command, which basically said exactly the same thing (the RAF/Bomber Command was pretty useless), which I can't agree with. Okay, the bombing did not achieve the results expected, but it sure as heck achieved something. Maybe it should have been more concentrated, maybe there should have been a focus on the synthetic oil plants, maybe a million things, but it's impossible to deny that it did something. You cannot drop that quantity of explosives on something (even if some did miss), without attaining some results. But his complete criticism of the ground/air cooperation seemed a little OTT in this book too. He cited an example where an aerial controller was killed and there was no one to take his place. Well, let's just make a couple of points. Controlling aircraft from the ground is not going to be an easy task. You have to know enough about flying to know what landmarks should be pointed out and which should be ignored on the basis that they won't be visible. You need to have equipment that works, that you can carry around (wireless was hardly what you'd call easily portable), you need training. So it's unsurprising that there was no one to replace them really. Another thing that annoyed me in this respect was the way in which Hastings suggested that things did improve in the campaign, but failed to actually go into this properly, leaving the overall impression that the air domination was utterly useless.

It was, however, quite well structured, and provided a good overview of the operation. It lacked some depth in parts, for example with relation to the use of airborne troops, but on the whole it was a good book. The pictures in the middle bits again were poorly labelled and didn't do much for the story, but this criticism can be levelled at almost any history book. Even D-Day by Anthony Beevor, which I think so far to be the better of the two, has not integrated the pictures very well at all. However, these considerations may come from the publishers on the basis that its uneconomical to put a lot of words onto the picture pages, as obviously the glossy paper is more expensive to use. There were little sections thrown in that gave a sketch picture of a piece of equipment and information about it. These would perhaps have been better in their own section for reference too, with a little note as to which were included in the section when they first showed up, and the quality of the sketches was also pretty poor--it was hard to distinguish much in the way of features, and they almost may as well have been a mere silhouette. Again though, this is a criticism that would perhaps more fairly be directed towards the publisher.

On the whole then, it was a good book, but not spectacular. A good coverage of the subject, but it was by no means comprehensive, and certain aspects were skimmed over with the explanation: these have been well documented in other books. Fine, but this book itself is now pretty old as far as getting hold of copies is concerned, and probably out of print (one sec while I check that...), hmm, seems to be the case. There was an edition came out near enough four years ago, and there's another coming out in a couple of months, but the trouble with that is that the library I live near has a nasty tendency to stick older books away somewhere in the bowels of the library system and you have to go fishing on the computer to dig them out. So while there might have been a spate of books on that particular subject at the time of writing, it's no guarantee that they're still hanging about now. I have to say, I'm finding the Antony Beevor one a better book, but I'll let you know for certain when I've finished (unfortunately, this one isn't out in paperback yet, and therefore on the basis of comparing how much the two books cost, I'd have to go with Overlord as being better value for money as they make very many similar statements and are both well written and equally readable, though D-Day seems to take into account a more balanced picture). One thing it was good on was the German perspective, detailing hte experiences of various groups of Germans in opposition to the Allies--this is something that lacks from D-Day. Both are good books, but if you're getting them from the library I'd have to go on the side of D-Day on the basis that it seems slightly more comprehensive.

One thing I will add: don't read this book if you're looking for a detailed account of D-Day itself. Were Cobra and Goodwood really a part of Overlord? I was always under the impression that was just the initial period, the actual landings. Maybe I'm mistaken here, but it seems as though the book goes a little outside the scope you'd assume from the main title, though beneath it adds that it is about the 'Battle for Normandy'.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Cromwell and the English Reformation

This book was by a guy called Dickens (not, however, the Charles variety who wrote A Christmas Carol), and it was remarkably good. I really enjoyed it, despite the fact it was about fifty years old. Okay, perhaps history does move on and there might be different views put forward about things now, but I enjoyed the style of writing and the informative nature of the book. By looking at the English Reformation as a whole, but with a focus on Cromwell, it cut the information down into a more manageable introduction to the subject--useful as a) it can cover such a large amount of stuff and b) it's something I've never had a proper look at before, other than a vague awareness of the Pilgrimage of Grace and the fact that it happened because Henry wanted a new wife. This book (understandably) highlights the role of Cromwell as organiser and goes to some trouble to stress that he was not personally responsible for the closure of every abbey and that he was not a personally horrible man. It was a fascinating read, and I certainly enjoyed it. It was well organised, and (although it must be borne in mind I don't know a lot about the period so I don't really have any way of judging whether it was of adequate scope on that basis), it was comprehensive in what it covered and did not leave too many irritating unanswered questions. It was clearly written with the fact that the audience may know very little in mind, and for that reason I would cite it as an ideal introduction to the topic and one of the main figures in it.

My only reservation in recommending this book quite strongly lies in its age. I suspect it'll be hard to get hold of, yes, looking at Amazon it appears the most recent edition of this was in the 70s, so that's not going to be much good. Sorry about that. You might be able to reserve it from a library--I think they keep their stocks of older books hidden rather than getting rid of all of them (well, they must have a copy in the Lancashire Libraries because that's where I borrowed it from, through the History Readers' Group in Chorley Library). If you can get hold of a copy, I would suggest that it makes an interesting introduction to the topic, and gives you a bit of an understanding of it, without going into too much detail (which can be off putting in the first book on a subject you read, where you just want to get the basic stuff straight in your head before looking into it more).

Merry Christmas!

Well, I've been a bit useless about posting over the past few weeks, but I'm back here just now. I had a fantastic Christmas yesterday, although I also ate too much... Anyway, had a great Christmas dinner, and lots of fun with a large number of guests and opening presents. Rachael made me an absolutely amazing little aeroplane, I may have to borrow mum's camera and stick a photo on, and it's filled with chocolates too! It shall go and hang on my ceiling when I've eaten them all, or perhaps on the shelf next to my Dakota. I hope you all had as much fun yesterday as I did.

Work's going pretty well. I have to confess, I am enjoying it mostly. Yes, it's a little bit repetitive and it's not challenging, but most of the customers have been pleasant (although let's face it, I have yet to encounter the customers in the sales, which may be a rather less pleasant experience), and I've managed to do a pretty wide variety of tasks, including: bag packing, shelf stocking (I even found a tin can that I took out the packet to put on the shelf and it was empty!), putting clothes back on the rails after people have tried them on, pricing up clothing for the sales, pricing up books and crockery for the sales, and so on. The money's pretty good for what it is, and let's face it, that's the only reason I'm really giving up my spare time. Whether I do end up getting the Mosquito in 1:24 scale I'm still not entirely sure about--it's rather large and three times more pieces than the next most complicated thing I've attempted. I might get a 1:24 scale Spitfire or something instead, or another big bomber to do--they're quite fun. And the 1:48 ones also look pretty awesome, with the added advantage that I've already got two of that scale, so they're not quite as out of place.

I'm still reading D-Day by Anthony Beevor, although I've read another couple of books while I've been reading it, on the basis that after overeating I wasn't feeling well last night and so read an Alaistar MacLean as it's somewhat easier reading than a history book, no matter how well written. There's a limit to how much comprehension you can offer when it's one in the morning and you feel ill, so I figured it was better to read When Eight Bells Toll (which I've read before), than carry on with a fascinating but by no means light book.

You might have seen that Borders UK was closing recently :(. It was one of the better bookshops in Preston--in fact, it was one of two new bookshops that I would actually class as bookshops. I was quite annoyed, although I must confess that I've not shopped there very often, as my dad hates going to Deepdale, which is one of the worst places to get into and out of. So now we just have a Waterstones, although there's also a very good Oxfam Bookshop and a stall on the market which is good for fiction. WHSmiths doesn't count as a bookshop, it's not got a proper selection of books really. There's another two bookshops, one new, one secondhand, but I scarcely ever go to them--they're from the same chain, and I've only ever been in the secondhand one, which is not really a proper secondhand bookshop, but is more a rare one. So although they might have Biggles books in, which I love, they're generally priced too high for me to afford (the same, unfortunately, is true of the Oxfam bookshop, although you can understand why they do it--if they can get the money for them off collectors then they might as well, but it's a shame for people like me who just want to read the things). And the other older books I like--Alaistar MacLean mostly--don't tend to feature as 'rare' books, but nor are they available in the library or new bookshops, except for a couple of re-editions they're gradually doing. However, the one good thing about Borders closing was that I managed to get four new history books which look really good for under £13, and one of them was meant to be £15 and I actually nearly bought it the other day. You can't get them secondhand for that--they're at least £3-£4 from the Oxfam bookshop, and that's assuming they get them (the market guy doesn't sell much non-fiction at all, though he might have one or two history books in at times). Anyway, now I'm done ranting about the state of bookshops in this town, I shall leave you in peace to enjoy the rest of the Christmas season.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

First Day of Work!

Well, today was the first ever day I spent in paid employment--everything else I've done has been volunteer. So it was kind of my fourth separate job (Oxfam bookshop, Bethany House, Museum of Lancashire in the summer, and now this). I have to admit I was a little nervous. My ankle was really sore last night, and I wasn't convinced I was going to manage working. It stopped hurting during the night (or at least, it was fine when I woke up), but as soon as I stepped out of bed it hurt again. Meh. Anyway, I had some painkiller and stuck this bandage thing on it and I was fine. So I did a nine till six day today, though the morning was all training. Pretty much common sense, but I guess they have to make sure, just in case people don't have any common sense. I'm pretty tired now, I'm gonna go and read. I've got the D-Day book by Antony Beevor which is supposedly pretty revisionist, but so far it seems to be saying basically the same things that Overlord by Max Hastings said. We shall have to see. It, did, however, talk about the parachutist stranded in Saint Mere Eglise who got stuck on the bell tower of the church and pretended to be dead. Which may not sound so exciting, until you realise that I stayed there when I went on holiday to Normandy, and the man who owned the chateau we were renting had seen him hanging there! Actually, to be fair, there are a couple of small things that are different, though they're both just as readable. Beevor does point out too that most of the fighting in Normandy was actually killing a higher proportion of men in divisions than the war in the East over the same sort of period, which I found quite stunning. Of course, there were far more troops involved in the East. Anyway, I'll let you know when I've finished reading it.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Halo: Contact Harvest

By David Staten, I just happened to see it in the library and it looked interesting. I didn't realise until I'd read the blurb that it was based on the Xbox game (which my brother happens to quite like), but I was intrigued. Normally, these things are not the sort of book you expect to get a lot of enjoyment out of--most of the movie/game/tv show adaptations I've attempted to read have been pretty poor. But this one was brilliant. I was dubious, so I read a few pages out of it, and it seemed pretty interesting still, so I got it out. And when I got home and started reading it, I found myself hooked. I actually struggled to put it down. I was amazed at how well written it was. The action was brilliant, but so too were the characters. They just seemed so real and alive, and you actually did get a bit worried about them when they were fighting. The aliens were brilliant! I found myself utterly gripped, and really enjoying the little details about the aliens that made them seem so real, so incredible. The society on both sides was well constructed, the incidents believable. It was, basically, great sci-fi, despite the fact it was based on a world from an Xbox game.

I have to say that I'd really recommend this book, strange as it may seem. I had a look on Fantastic Fiction and it seems that the rest of the Halo series is written by other authors--I might try them as well. Unfortunately, it also appears that the man who wrote this hasn't written anything else. I certainly hope he does.

One Minute to Midnight

Well. I was not overly impressed by this book. It was about the Cuban Missile Crisis, and though the author went to great lengths to show that the Americans and Soviets were never really eye to eye in the way commonly envisaged, that did not seem to prevent him engaging in what I considered cheap dramatics. For example: an aircraft was coming into land, the brakes failed, and then... It randomly skipped to something else for a page or two before reverting back to that story to finish it off (the pilot was fine by the way). As that particular 'character' had only just been introduced, it felt rather poor storymanship (if that's even a word!) to skip away from it and leave the reader hanging. Fine, have tension, but please, about someone we actually care about, and have been introduced to with a little bit more than about a page sketching in the details of this flight. It just felt a bit, well, pathetic really. If I was reading a fiction book that did that I'd think it just as cheap and pathetic. Another part of the problem was, the story focussed too much on telling it completely chronologically, which, towards the end of the book when it was getting detailed, tended to fragment it somewhat. Chronologically is not always the best way to do history--it can be better to follow a particular thread to its conclusion, then go back and follow another thread. Provided the reader is kept aware of what's being done, it is a lot easier to follow than switching abruptly between various sets of people.

The other thing about this book that annoyed me was the use of bad language and slang, the way the whole thing was laid out completely like a story. I have nothing against narrative history; I really enjoyed reading Munich by David Faber which is a brilliant piece of narrative history, but it just seemed excessively done. Okay, I'm sure presidents do swear and all the rest of it, but. It was not particularly appropriate, and it rather gave me the impression to be honest, that the Kennedys were more like gangster bosses than people I could show any respect for. In the same vein, JFK and RFK is just about okay, but using nicknames? I know it can be a little tiring to write out full names every time (which would have to be done given that John and Robert both played quite major parts), but surely randomly switching between proper name, 'Jack' and 'Bobbie' is annoying to someone other than me. It felt both unprofessional and as though the author was trying too hard to make it readable. It's an interesting topic, let it speak for itself rather than dumbing things down. Were it not for the fact that the topic was interesting, and I'm reading it for History Readers Group, I would've put it down and taken it back to the library (and been incredibly disappointed if I'd bought it). However, I finished it. And yes, some of the insights it gave were good, and I liked the way the smaller incidents did get some space in the narrative, but that didn't make up for the fact that it just felt amateurish, which would have, no doubt, been even more annoying if it had been fiction! It just wasn't well written.

One final comment: there were a load of photographs in the middle bits of the book, you know how you get some nice glossy pictures. They were all black and white, fair enough I guess, but surely it's not that much dearer to put them into colour (I assume they would be colour, perhaps not I suppose), but the other thing was, the captions were all but useless. A lot of them said 'previously unpublished, found in such and such a place', but didn't really explain what they showed. They just seemed a little pointless, though that, I suppose is a complaint that could be made about the pictures in a lot of history books. They don't always quite fit in with the text, and they're not always explained very well.

On the whole then, it's an interesting topic, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and this book did have one or two interesting things to say (like how things nearly kicked off thanks to a U2 getting lost over Russia, how another U2 was shot down and that really annoyed people but the Russians had actually authorised it etc), but it did not fulfil what it claimed to do. It was not a book that gave you the details of the ordinary people. There was nothing on public reaction other than the odd vague comment, there was nothing other than the fact that some of them moved to Florida on the people who would've formed an invasion force, in fact, there was almost nothing about the 'ordinary people' it was claimed would be represented in the book along with the big decision makers. The only people that really got a mention other than politicians were pilots and missile crews. It was also poorly written, so I'm sure there must be better books on this incident out there. Hopefully the other one I got will be.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

A Job!

Well, I have a job. Yep, I wasn't actually looking for one actively, which my dad unfortunately is, but I got offered one and decided to take it. Marks and Spencers for two weeks over Christmas, about sixty hours worth of work. I got a phone call to say that I'd been recommended for the job by a friend from church, would I come for interview on Friday. Naturally I agreed, remembering that a while ago the friend had mentioned they took extra people on for Christmas, was I interested and I'd said yes. So I turned up for interview, slightly nervous because I've never actually had a real job before--I've only ever been a volunteer. Anyway, I got asked four questions, for which I had to use personal experiences to talk about times I'd shown various qualities (I was pretty glad that I'd done the Duke of Edinburgh, it gave me something to talk about as that was quite a challenge but very enjoyable--we ended up doing our final expedition in February, which was maybe not the greatest of ideas as we got hailed on and were slightly concerned that the trees were going to drop down). Then the interviewers (two this time, one to ask questions, the other to write down what I said), went out the room to confer and left me a sheet to fill in. Then they came back and told me that I had the job, and here were my hours and I have training on Saturday. So I was pretty chuffed. The pay's good, particularly as I'm not actually entitled to minimum adult wage yet but they pay everyone the same regardless of age, though I've a few quite long days. Still, I managed Oxfam bookshop, when I was the only person on the till (somewhat unnerving at times, particularly at first when I didn't actually know exactly what I was meant to be doing and how various things were put in!), and college is hardly easy. I guess I would quite like to have Christmas just to chill, but let's be fair, what would I be doing? Only building models, reading, and spending time on the internet, and it's not as though I'm going to have absolutely no time to myself. I was doing three days a week (though with somewhat shorter hours) over most of the summer and that wasn't a bother--I still had plenty of time for myself. So yeh, I'm actually quite looking forward to it. It'll be a new experience, and they're always useful for stories.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Cambridge! Day 2

Right, as promised, here's day 2...

I woke up really early (about six o clock), and decided that I was fed up of trying to sleep, so I got up and opened the curtains. It was still really dark outside, but there was a vague sense that there was something quite impressive out my window, but I couldn't see any details. I sat on my bed and started to read, and I kept glancing up, seeing a few more details each time I looked up. Eventually, about seven, I got up and found myself drawn to the window. I looked outside, and lo and behold, I was in a magical world completely distinct from the world you find in Preston. It was like being in a castle. I was completely awed at how beautiful it was. There were huge, ancient trees opposite my window, and behind them, a wall. It was a castle-type wall, with great old stones, weathered and strong. Then I looked to my right, and that was what really took my breath away. I hadn't really seen it the night before because it was dark; in the light of the dawn it was incredible. The Fellow's building was there, ivy creeping up the lower half of the wall, an elaborate gate in the centre. The brickwork was old and beautiful and I was so amazed. I felt like I was in another world, like I'd left England and stepped back into the past, to a world where you could see princes and dragons and have a huge adventure. I'm actually going to set a story there.

Then it was time for breakfast. I went off through the grounds, and it was so beautiful. Anyway, had my breakfast and then it was time for my interview! I went into this building further along into the College, and when I got inside I was a bit awed, because it was just so old and amazing. The staircase felt like it was ancient, with the really old wood all shiny and dark. [Wow cool, I just got mentioned on the radio! I'm on the CrossRhythms chatroom and they just mentioned me on the show! Sorry, back to my story...]. I got to this door, and it didn't quite look like an office door, but I wasn't entirely sure. So I knocked on it and there was no response, so I decided that I'd go in, because I was pretty sure it wasn't the actual room. It wasn't. I sat down as it was a sort of waiting room area, and I was about ten minutes early so I read my magazine for a bit, and then the interviewer came out and promised me a passage to read in a few minutes. Came back, gave me the passage, it was really interesting. I was quite surprised by it to be honest, I was expecting something a bit more well, maybe ancient or pompous. Anyway, it was all about propoganda in the German Reformation, and it was quite surprising in a way. I never really thought about it as propaganda... Quite good though, because the last topic at our reading group had actually been the English Reformation! So I did have a bit of an idea of what it was talking about! But I really enjoyed it, and had a great discussion about the passage.

After that interview finished, and I managed to misread the pictures I got shown under the assumption that the artist was a Protestant who would disparage the Catholic excesses (or perceived excesses). Turns out the artist was a Catholic who was probably somewhat peeved about the fact that things had been 'rationalised'. Oh well, I tried my best. Then I went down to this waiting room and got to meet a bunch of other people who were there for interview too, but nobody who was there for history. Then there was another interview, and this one was a forty minute one. Really interesting again. I actually quite enjoyed myself I have to say. All about different 'types' of history eg oral as opposed to source based, objectivity and whether that was possible (no, there's too much chance that some little thing you have in your past is going to influence you--in weighing stuff up different people will naturally give different emphasis to different aspects or instinctively trust certain sources more than others), and using novels as a source.

Next came lunch, and then I tootled off to try and find the train station. Well, I was going to go by bus, but there was a one way street right outside the college, going the wrong direction. So I assumed it would follow about the only piece of logic Preston has managed to incorporate into its roads and there would be a one way street going the opposite direction if I walked off in a parallel direction. As an added bonus, I could go see King's College on the way. However, when I realised that I'd done the whole touristy bit and gaped at King's College (which is absolutely stunning, if you don't know what I'm talking about google it and you'll see why I was quite happy to go off on a diversion), and there was no sign of a road they even let cars down, let alone one going in the right direction, I realised that I'd perhaps misjudged things somewhat. But right at that moment, who should I see but a lady I'd met the previous night at church?! It just shows how awesome God's provision is. I was just starting to think I might have to stop a random passer by when lo and behold someone I actually knew (kind of) was walking past. So I got directions to the bus station where I could catch a bus to the train station. So that's what I did.

Had an interesting experience at the train station though... I misread the boards, went to platform three to catch the Birmingham train, and a train pulled up. I knew that the train wasn't due to leave for a while, and I was a bit dubious about the train. I can't say why exactly, it didn't have a destination on it or anything, it just didn't feel right. So I decided after a little while of reading that I would go and just check the boards, and that's when I discovered that the train was going to somewhere else (I can't remember where, but it certainly wasn't Birmingham), and that I actually wanted to be at platform four. So I managed to get on the right train home, or at least, half way there. I got there and discovered that Birmingham New Street is one of the worst stations I've ever been to. There was nowhere to sit down, and I had no idea what platform my train (in about half an hour) would be going from. I also thought, based on the timetables on the platform I'd got off at, that the train was actually going to Preston, it wasn't, it was going to somewhere else as its final destination. Thankfully, I realised this in time and was able to catch it without a problem. From there, it was a relatively simple matter to get home, where my dad met me at the station. So I had a wonderful time in Cambridge, and even if I don't get in (hope I do though), I can at least say I have slept in Christ's College, which was a fantastic experience.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Cambridge! Day 1

I went to Cambridge on Sunday. It took me four trains to get there, which was slightly annoying. Although the constant changes did break up the journey and stop me getting bored, they also meant that I lost a heck of a lot of time when I'd been hoping to read--I had a brilliant book on the social history of Britain between WWI and WWII with me--because since I didn't know any of the stations I didn't know how long it would be between the station before and the one I was getting off at. As I managed to fall down some stairs in a shop on Saturday and twist my ankle, I was hobbling a bit too so I needed to make sure I had enough time to get coat on, get handbag, and retrieve suitcase from either over my head or on the luggage rack. Not the easiest thing in the world when I'm not all that tall and my ankle was sore. But I managed all the changes without a problem (perhaps half because I was up for up to ten minutes before we arrived at the stations...). Anyway, I got to Cambridge over five hours after setting off from Preston, and the weather was really bright and blue skyed! It had gradually got bluer as I travelled down. I've been reliably informed that it rains nowhere near as much in Cambridge as it does in Preston. To be honest, it would be difficult to find somewhere that rains more than Preston.

So because I had another hour or so before I was due at the college, I got on a random bus (no idea where it was going--there didn't seem to be anythign that told you where they went besides the final destinations that meant nothing to me, so I figured I'd just get on and see where I ended up), and went past Parker's Piece. So I got off and tootled along, since I knew where I was then, and sat on a bench in the park to read until it went dark. The only problem was, that made my suitcase wheels somewhat muddy... I don't think my dad was so impressed when I got back :).

Once it was dark, I went to Christ's College and got the key for my room, and then I rang a lady from a church in Cambridge who used to go to my church but left before we came back from America. So basically, a friend of a lot of friends :D. She arranged to pick me up so I could go to their church, and it was amazing!

It was a little weird being picked up by somebody I'd never met before, but everyone in the church was really friendly and the worship was amazing. I'm not a complete swing off the chandeliers sort of person normally, but it was awesome. And the message was fantastic. All about taking things a step at a time and living by faith, trusting and going for it. And the fact that it's not too late to take an opportunity you thought you'd missed. It was really encouraging, because I certainly feel like I'm going at life without a master plan. Got to college and only decided on the day I was finalising my application complete with results exactly what combination of subjects I was going to take. Realised that history was definitely still my favourite subject while doing at college, and eventually decided that I didn't want to do it with another subject, and which universities I'd apply for. So I think I've worked it out up to the point where I graduate. Then what? Well, does it matter? I'll find out when I get there, which should be soon enough. I've got three years yet.

As this post is getting rather long, and I'm going soon to house group, I'm going to split this up into two posts. Tomorrow (hopefully) will come part two.


I've just realised that I haven't actually posted on here since the end of November... Oops. I never told you how I did with the whole novel in a month thing... Well, I managed an official total of 109,694. Which is the most I've ever written in a month before (my previous record was 108,000 in January. Actually, I just checked that to see exactly, and it's not actually the highest I've ever managed! That would be 117,454 in January, not 108000 as I thought. I never realised it was that much! To be fair though, I did have about a week with nothing to do--I think about half of that was written before I went back to college, I do know that I managed to write an entire story in 2 weeks). Anyway, I'm quite chuffed with that total as you can imagine, especially because I didn't neglect college work or even reading to attain it. I've just discovered off the nanowrimo website that out of the people in Manchester signed up for the Regional Word War (we came 12th--it goes off average words rather than total so that it's fair), I got the highest wordcount! The wordcount there as the highest is mine!!! Sorry, I shall calm down. I didn't know that before. Anyway, nanowrimo went pretty well. I wrote Moonwalker from start to finish, and begun another story which I will hopefully finish at some point which is currently untitled. I'm quite chuffed with Moonwalker, I don't think it's gonna need that much editing. Well, not major major editing. It does need a couple of random off topic injunctions taking out, and there are a few scenes I need to delete and alter, but nothing too major.

Well, I've just started another new story (yeh, I can't help myself sometimes, but it's a story I've been trying to write for a while and I think I might actually get it down this time as it has a totally different start to where my previous attempts went from), and it's another angel one. Mainly focussing on Red, who I think is one of the most interesting characters I've ever written. It'll be the seventh chronologically, although it's the ninth that I've actually written. And I think I should probably do a bit of editing work on Winged Fire (second angel story). Well, rewriting. Anyway, I should go do some work on my Assignment...


Well, on Wednesday after college I tootled off to Manchester along with the rest of the back row of my class in maths--four of us in total. We went on the train (eventually!), and we were supposed to be looking round the German market. However, we seort of ended up looking round about a million other shops first... And then we went for tea. Found a really nice Chinese and had duck and chicken in okay sauce--really yummy :D. However, when we went down to the Christmas Market, it was closing :(. It appears that it closes at nine, rather than at ten as we assumed. So we only managed to get a quick look round, although it was rather magical. Everything was lit up, and there was a huge Santa on the roof of the town hall. I did really enjoy it, although I have to admit I was a bit disappointed we'd missed most of the Market. However, I'm probably going again with my family, so that's okay. And it was quite fun looking in posh shops, because my dad would never go in places like that. So it was a good time, and I enjoyed getting to spend time with my friends in maths, because I don't normally see them outside of lessons.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Murder Mystery!

I went to a murder mystery night on Friday! It was so much fun! And also quite amusing as it was set at the end of WWII, and my parents both had parts as German officers. So they were wearing swastikas and carrying fake wooden guns (which, as my dad had made them himself out of bits of wood were quite obviously fake), and we had to go in that... I went as a land girl. I didn't have a proper role so I decided to go as that, my brother didn't have a proper role either but being a boring sort he didn't bother to dress up. Well, we were a little bit concerned because as I was walking home from college I noticed the police were stopping people to check for drink driving. And there were my parents in German uniforms complete with swastika armbands! We made sure to take the invitation just in case, but it was okay, they'd gone when we went past. But that could've been quite interesting.

It was great fun throughout, although there was rather less improvising and acting involved than I'd imagined there would be. However, the story was quite amusing. Buster made an amazing sausage seller, and my dad was a very convincing German officer (am I allowed to say that???). Frank was also brilliant as Frank Le Orful, particularly as he was doing the whole thing in a broad Lancashire accent (and he was supposed to be a French cafe owner). I was dead chuffed that I managed to guess whodunit before we were told the answer, and I'd even guessed it from a clue right at the very, very start of the mystery. Yay! I had a great night though, really enjoyed myself. If you ever get invited to one, go for it, just completely go for it as much as you can and have a laugh :D.