Reading update

Breakfast reading

So, the plan for reading more is working better than I thought. Breakfast reading tends to happen on the days when I am getting up with the kids but not needing a shower before taking J to school.

After Paula Gooder’s book Body, I tried one of my preaching books, So everyone can hear by Mark Crosby. This didn’t work at all at that time of the morning – it is too discrete and not discursive enough. It needs reading with a notebook and pencil.

Multi-congregation Ministry, by Malcolm Grundy was next. Really interesting theological reflection on the theory of multi-congregation ministry. I need to think further in how to apply it here.

I think the best book so far for breakfast reading was Preaching Women by Liz Shercliffe. This got me thinking about my own way of preaching and preparing. I really had never given any thought to being female and preaching rather than just human and preaching. I’m still not sure how much difference it makes for me although it is useful hearing how other people experience it. One thing that has stuck with me is the observation that men (not all men etc.) tend to have pride at the root of their sin while women (again, not all women…) tend to have a poor self-image at the root of theirs. Again, something that needs more thought.

Current Breakfast Reading is Steel Angels by Magdalen Smith. This is the book that the vocations groups are reading this term. Since I’m stepping in to co-lead a group, I need to make sure I have read it. So far so good. It is written based on the same criteria (or similar) to when I was ordained, and I am finding it encouraging to read.

Book Club

The children’s book club has now had three meetings. We have read The Vicarage Family by Noel Streatfield, which I read as a child and had on the shelf still. I enjoyed this. It was useful to reflect on how my children are experiencing vicarage life. Hopefully, I am not inflicting quite the suffering that Noel went through. It amuses me to think that next year I could suggest the lenten fast with absolutely no cakes for the whole of Lent. I know precisely how well that would go down.

April’s book was Tom’s Midnight Garden, another re-read. I don’t remember when I read it before but I must have done since I remembered the ending. I think there was also a tv adaptation back when I was about 11. Anyway, it is a great read which I will pass onto T and J.

This month we are reading an Allison Uttley, which I have never read, but I can’t go to the meeting so I’m not sure whether to get it.

Bedtime reading

This is less successful as a time for reading for several reasons. First, I often forget to go to bed in time. Really, I need to be heading for bed at 10pm if there is going to be time for reading. Then, I often just want to read whatever trashy fiction is keeping me going. Also, if Phil is also asleep, I am limited to reading on Kindle.

However, there is often a half hour window when I can read a book for a while. I finished the English Murder Mystery book and then did read English Pastoral by James Rebanks. This is such a good book – well written and important content too. The question I have is how to get the farming community to read it. I’ve recommended it to a couple of people I know who are married to farmers.

The latest bedtime read is Dominion by Tom Holland, which takes you through the foundations of Western Civilisation. I like the structure. It is broadly chronological but focuses on various places at particular points in history. I am currently in the chapter set in Lyon in 177AD. I do need to be fairly awake to read this, not least since it is quite a heavy paperback. I have fallen asleep and dropped it on my nose a couple of times. Holland’s voice is quite distinctive and he is very funny.

I tried reading some of Rowan Williams’ simpler writing in this slot but it didn’t work. Too complicated for the brain to process so I dozed off. I think I’ll stick to history or other non fiction in this slot.

Other reading

Various re-reads, including some Gail Carriger. My annual re-read of the Daughter of the Empire trilogy has happened. I remember reading it right near the beginning of first lock-down. It is such a vivid world and reassringly familiar characters. Kathy recommended a trilogy of books by Nora Roberts, which were great.

Still in progress on the Kindle, I have Breaking the Mould: Learning to thrive as a ministry mum, by Jules Middleton. This is excellent and I am particularly enjoying reading the different profiles of people in ministry.

For my birthday I have The first three Bridgerton books on Kindle and the final Trudi Canavan book – Maker’s Curse. I also got Dancing by the light of the moon by Giles Brandreth, which is a book about learning poetry by heart.

Reading – a plan for 2021

My younger self would be aghast at the need for a plan to include reading in my routine. Reading books has been as natural to me as breathing for as long as I can remember. However, various things have brought me to the point where there are some days when I don’t pick up a book at all and that is not a good thing. What interferes? Well nothing bad, just children and a job and crafting. Anyway, I read some articles towards the end of last year which advocate having a plan for reading, so here it is.

My plan is to begin the day well by reading a chapter of a book at breakfast. I’m picking out non-fiction to read but nothing too heavy. I already mentioned my first breakfast read and now I am onto Paula Gooder’s “Body”, which I am very much enjoying. She is very good at explaining complex ideas simply and helping me to see what the baggage is that I have brought with me into my theological thought.

The other half of my plan is for last thing at night. I always used to read loads before getting to sleep but the elimination of caffeine from my system meant that my hours of night time reading were severely curtailed. This is generally a good thing since I never used to be able to tell whether I would take one hour or four hours to get to sleep. Now I rarely stay awake longer than half an hour. So, my current half hour read is “The Golden Age of Murder”, which is a really well written (and laugh out loud funny in places) survey of detective fiction from the 1920s and 30s.

Next up on the list of things to read will be my other Christmas books, probably leading with English Pastoral by James Rebanks.

Alongside this, I’ve joined a new bookclub set up by some clergy colleagues which is going to be devoted solely to children’s literature. We are beginning with Little Women, which I have on the kindle so was a quick re-read. I have gone onto Good Wives as well because it just follows straight on.

2021 – a new start?

Although I have been very lax at blogging over the past few years, I have, in fact, been writing more regularly than ever. It’s just that I write at rather than coming here. That has the advantage of being not for others’ eyes and so much less stressful to write.

I do like writing for a blog though and I had an idea for this year. I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions that begin in January but there seems to be such a sense of transition and hope in the air that it is as good a time as any. My resolutions, or perhaps I should call them intentions, are simple:

  • Read more books
  • Knit more

We’ve recently moved house and the comments from the removal men have left me with a little bit of guilt at quite how many books I made them pack.

This was one of a couple of dozen small boxes in my office/study. I guessed it contained books – I was right.

Not that having too many books in itself is a bad thing but that I don’t actually read or refer to them terribly often. In my new study my desk faces the bookshelves. In my old study they were over my shoulder so I only saw them in my Zoom background. I’m hoping that having them right in front of me will remind me that reading is supposed to be a part of my job.

So, today, I decided to start the year the way I mean to go on. I picked up a book that I bought with hugely good intentions of reading and started it. Well, restarted it actually since it had a bookmark in for about 20 pages in.

The book is Why I Am No Longer Talking (To White People) About Race. I bought it in London about 18 months ago while wandering around Foyles. Since then, it has been sitting in a pile. I’m into chapter 3 now – it is a sobering read. I have read enough about white privilege and racism to know that this is a problem in which I am complicit. What I haven’t figured out is what I am personally supposed to do about it. More work required.

Over the next few days I intend to make a shortlist of books to read in various categories but also to figure out when my reading slots are. Over breakfast is an obvious one, as is early evening now that the kids don’t need me then. I love books and I love reading but it just never seems to get to the top of the list when there is a screen to look at instead. Late at night I just read things on the kindle because I tend to doze off and the kindle at least switches itself off when I do that. I get complaints otherwise.

I think the aim of the year is not to read a particular number of books but rather to read some and consider whether it merits a continued place on the shelves.

Off to knit something now.

Reading in 2017 – first quarter

Rather than repeating the list of reading aims for the year each time, I have built a page that I can keep updated throughout the year.

There are probably more books that I have read or re-read since January, but I haven’t been keeping a very effective list. This is just what I can find from my various electronic devices and from looking around.

Borrowed from the library

  • 1000 Years of Annoying the French by Stephen Clarke – fascinating and very readable whizz through history looking at the differences between how the French remember decisive moments of history and how the British do. Both nations seem guilty of interpreting events to suit their national egos.
  • The Girl in the Spider’s Web – by David Lagercrantz – I held off reading this because of the controversy following the death of Stieg Larson over who owned the rights to his characters.  This book is different in style, with less of the detailed descriptions of journalistic life, but I enjoyed it. Still can’t bring myself to spend money on a copy.
  • Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes: the story of women in the 1950s by Virginia Nicholson – my favourite sort of history book: lots of anecdote and personal stories mixed with statistics to show the wider context. Incredible how much life has changed for women in 60 years
  • Colossus: Bletchley Park’s greatest secret – I only read about half of this, until the technical computer stuff got beyond what I found interesting. The Enigma story is much more interesting to me
  • The Silent Ones by William Brodrick – my favourite contemporary detective is Father Anselm. I was very pleased to find this on the shelves of the library.

My local library is closing for refurbishment in a week or two, after which it will reopen as a volunteer-run library. I overheard the librarian this afternoon explaining that she will shortly be out of a job. Such short-sighted policy from the government, taking so much local authority budget away that they have no choice but to cut library staff. It’s fine for our local town as there is a small army of active retired people there. I can foresee in other places it will be incredibly difficult to recruit enough volunteers. Plus, what does it say to people wanting to become professional librarians if it is implied that anyone can do this with willingness and a couple of hours training. The rate that our kids get through books, we would be stony broke if it wasn’t for the library. I like to think that my library fines, however small, are helping in some way to keep it going! Yes, that’s why I don’t take the books back on time, nothing to do with always forgetting to write down the due-date in my diary.

Bought on Amazon

  • A good year by Mark Oakley – essays on the liturgical year (2nd hand). Not yet read this
  • The Cornish Trilogy by Robertson Davies – 2nd hand, replacing because my copy has gone astray. This trilogy is one of my favourite pieces of literature. Davies is (was?) Canadian, so it is interesting to see a different culture, particularly the first in the trilogy, which is set in a Canadian theological college. I got a lot more from the first in the trilogy (The Rebel Angels) this time, as I understood more about philosophy and theology than I did the last time I read it.
  • Christian Belief for Everyone: Faith and the Creeds by Alister McGrath. Bought for work, not yet read
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman – I got a very good deal on this in the sale, started reading, but got distracted.

Kindle Unlimited

  • Knit Together: Amish Knitting Novel by Karen Anna Vogel – I picked this up on Kindle Unlimited ages ago, as it was one of the first things the algorithm recommended for me. It took a while to be in the mood for it. This winter I’ve wanted feel-good reading, to distract from some challenging work things, so I started reading. This is a rare entry in the ‘Knitting in Literature’ category of blog-posts. What I love about this book (and the other 5 by the same author that I’ve read below) is the matter-of-factness of the way faith and life are intertwined. You might say that the stories of faith are a little contrived and everyone is more inclined to repent and come right in the end than they are in real life. However, it’s interesting to see how reading stories like this helps to keep my faith and life intertwined. Perhaps there is something to be said for St Paul’s parting words to the Philippians:

    Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. […] And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

  • Amish Knitting Circle: Smicksburg Tales 1 by Karen Anna Vogel
  • Amish Friends Knitting Circle: Smicksburg Tales 2 by Karen Anna Vogel
  • Amish Knit Lit Circle: Smicksburg Tales 3 by Karen Anna Vogel
  • Amish Knit & Stitch Circle: Smicksburg Tales 4 by Karen Anna Vogel
  • Amish Knit & Crochet Circle: Smicksburg Tales 5 by Karen Anna Vogel
  • The Midwife’s Revolt by Jodi Daynard – A historical novel set during the American War of Independence. Good story, interesting characters, though they are very modern in outlook. Interesting take on how war affects the women left behind.
  • Our Own Country: A Novel by Jodi Daynard
  • The Pocket Notebook Book by Ray Blake – just including this here for completeness. A very lightweight book with instructions on how to use a notebook effectively. Obviously written before bullet journalling became a thing, but some interesting stuff. Nothing I hadn’t come across before.

On my bedside table, but not started yet

  • The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter – I’m reluctant to read this (and the sequels) because then there will be no more new Pratchett to read. Typing this makes me realise that this is not a logical viewpoint to hold. If I never read it and it’s good, I’ve missed out.
  • Redshirts by John Scalzi

    Borrowed from my sister

  • Grow your own veg by Carol Klein – an excellent book, but it needs to be combined with some enthusiasm for gardening if it is to have any effect. I have very little of this.

2016 Reading Challenge final round-up and 2017 challenge launch

Towards the end of the year,  I stopped checking the challenge list for things to read, so I wasn’t sure how many of these I would have managed. I’ve relaxed my rule on not including re-reads and I’m allowing books to appear in more than one category.

  • a book published this year.
    The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch
    Poison or Protect, by Gail Carriger
    Angel of Storms, by Trudi Canavan (paperback published this year)
    Imprudence, by Gail Carriger
    Virgins: An Outlander short story, by Diana Gabaldon
  • a book you can finish in a day.
    According to Yes by Dawn French
  • a book you’ve been meaning to read.
    The Hunger Games Trilogy
    To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  • a book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller.
    The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett. Recommended by  White Rose Books in Thirsk.
  • a book you should have read in school.
    To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.
  • a book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF.
    Recommended by my son:
    Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
    Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters
    Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse
    Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth
    Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian
  • a book published before you were born.
    I’ve had to go to the re-reads for this category.
    The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • a book that was banned at some point.
    Third entry for To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • a book you previously abandoned.
    I don’t think I ever managed this category. I did try Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell again, but stalled at about the same place as before.
  • a book you own but have never read.
    having wandered round the house looking at bookshelves, I’m not sure I finished any books in this category. I’ve picked up various work books that I have for reference and read the odd chapter.
  • a book that intimidates you.
    I really don’t think any book intimidates me, but these are the closest I can come to this category
    Girl Up, by Laura Bates. More stridently feminist than I am comfortable with, but I found this a really interesting read. Given that I’m going to be the mother of teenagers before too long, this is a good thing to read and understand the world they are growing up in.
    Jerusalem: The Biography, by Simon Sebag Montefiore. I don’t always manage to get to the end of historical books, but I enjoyed this one.
  • a book you’ve already read at least once.
    See here for quite a long list. Towards the end of the year, I’ve also re-read
    The Island, by Victoria Hislop
    The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas

New books read that don’t quite fit any of these categories.
The Pact, by Jodi Picoult
The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
Happier at Home, by Gretchen Rubin
Better than before, by Gretchen Rubin
I really enjoyed these three books. Gretchen has spent a lot of time figuring out what makes her happier and trying different methods of improving her life and her habits. While we are quite different personality types, there was plenty of food for thought there.
Fast Exercise, by Michael Mosley
Vulcan 607, by Rowland White
Prudence,  by Gail Carriger
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson

Over-all, the reading challenge did make me read some books I would never have picked up. The recommendation from your local bookshop category was particularly good. I’ve got into the habit of popping in there and picking up something every two to three months or so.

Here are the 2017 reading challenges from the same person (Modern Mrs Darcy).

I’m not particularly taken with either of them, so here is my own list, taking inspiration from both of them (and last year too).

I’ll include re-reads unless the category particularly excludes them and also allow books to appear in multiple categories.

First, looking at how I spend money on books:

  • A book borrowed from the library
  • A book on Kindle Unlimited
  • A book that has been waiting on your bedside table for a long time
  • A book you own but have never read
  • A book from a second-hand bookshop
  • A book bought in 2017 from an independent bookshop

Second, considering reading that will stretch my mind

  • A book published before 1900
  • A book from a Booker prize shortlist (any year)
  • A book recommended by a friend or family member
  • A historical book (can include biography/autobiography)
  • An academic theological book
  • A book by an #ownvoices or #diversebooks author

Third, including reading that will relax and restore me

  • A Discworld book (re-read)
  • A new book by a favourite author
  • A book I have wanted to read for a while
  • A book that inspires personal growth
  • A spiritual classic
  • Whatever I want to read

As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted

The last three months in brief

  • My thumb is better
  • I got out of the habit of knitting and have had to re-introduce it into my routine
  • Work went crazy for a while, but it is a little calmer at the moment.
  • I’ve been doing huge amounts of reading, but mostly as a kind of warm blanket, so very light reading
  • In June I knitted three pairs of socks for Tour de Sock
  • Since last autumn I’ve been trying to complete 10,000 steps per day using a fitbit. It appears I can either achieve this or knit, not both.

The reading challenge

Bearing in mind my self-imposed extra rule that there should be no re-reads except in the re-read category.

  • a book published this year. The new Ben Aaronovitch is on pre-order, but delayed until October. In the mean time I have have read Poison or Protect, by Gail Carriger. Only a novella, but I very much enjoyed it.
  • a book you can finish in a day. According to Yes by Dawn French
  • a book you’ve been meaning to read. I have shelves full of stuff I’ve been meaning to read, but the lure of the new seems to win.
  • a book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller. The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett. Recommended by  White Rose Books in Thirsk.
  • a book you should have read in school. To Kill a Mockingbird. Amazing book. I see what all the fuss is about now.
  • a book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF. My son has been enjoying the Percy Jackson books, and he has encouraged me to read them too. I’ve read Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse
  • a book published before you were born. Haven’t got round to thinking about this yet. I’ve had Lorna Doone suggested, but I haven’t made any headway.
  • a book that was banned at some point. Not looked into this yet
  • a book you previously abandoned. Ideas: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Gormenghast, or Wuthering Heights
  • a book you own but have never read. Not got round to looking through the bookshelves yet
  • a book that intimidates you. Although not easily intimidated by literature, I sometimes struggle with feminist writing. I have bought Girl Up, by Laura Bates and I’m working my way through it. I like the style and, although I don’t agree with everything she says, I am beginning to think it should be required reading for every parent. This next generation are going to have a tough time.
  • a book you’ve already read at least once. I’m doing very well with this category. See below

Progress at the beginning of July: six complete, one under way, five to begin

Also-read, in no particular order

I did a complete re-read of all my Gail Carriger books and picked up more of them. I absolutely adore her fantasy world. Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, Heartless, Timeless, Prudence, Etiquette and Espionage, Curtsies and Conspiracies, Waistcoats and Weaponry, Manners and Mutiny, The Curious Case of the Werewolf that wasn’t etc.

Another mammoth re-read: most of Diana Gabaldon’s output

Vulcan 607, an account of the longest range bombing mission ever, to the Falkland Islands. I heard a talk by the pilot of the mission and read the book over the next couple of days. An incredible story.

Three books by Gretchen Rubin that don’t really fit into any of the categories above: Happier at Home, The Happiness Project and Better than Before. The first two are all about what makes people happy and how to improve our happiness. The third book is about how people form habits. I really enjoyed these.

Finding a voice: A Lent course on The King’s Speech. This one was for work. Really interesting and provoked a lot of fascinating discussion.

I re-read The Nine Tailors and Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L Sayers.

The Hunger Games trilogy – heartbreaking dystopia – Also did another re-read of the Twilight series.

I read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. It would have been better if it wasn’t plastered in reviews raving about the ‘unreliable narrator’. I would have preferred to work that out for myself.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. Yeuch. I couldn’t even remember whether it was a re-read or just so similar to his other books. From the library.

Tiny Stations by Dixe Wills. Quintessentially British travelogue. Rather like Bill Bryson, but without the sense of the outsider looking in. Loved it.


For Christmas I was given, among other things, a copy of The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde. I came across sketchnoting a few months ago (via a link from the Bullet Journal site I think) and I’ve been following his website and reading about it.

My initial impression was that sketchnoting isn’t really that ground-breaking, just a way of entertaining yourself while taking notes in lectures and talks. I also was sceptical about whether I could draw well enough to make it worthwhile trying.

Today I went to a day conference on rural ministry, over the border in the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales. With four half hour talks in the morning and two seminars in the afternoon, there was plenty of scope for trying out sketchnoting.

Drawing arrows works well
Drawing arrows works well

Of the six talks, here’s the one that looks most like a sketchnote. I still wonder if I could have captured more using traditional notes, but I do think I’ve got the most important things down in a way that makes sense to me. More importantly, I found it easy to concentrate, didn’t fall asleep and found that the quality of my listening was better: I was listening with the question, “what are the most important things I’m hearing” foremost in my mind.

My conclusion is that sketchnoting may well be a fruitful way forward. It relies on the people speaking being well organised and flagging up verbally what they consider to be the most important areas. I think it would be very difficult to sketchnote a poor speaker. I will continue to explore the concept (including finishing reading the book – just chapter 7 to go, which is the chapter that concentrates on how to draw) and see how it goes.

In the past year I’ve really got attached to my notebook. It’s a Moleskine 5″ by 7″ with lined pages. Being a Moleskine, the paper is too flimsy for fountain pens but I use it with a Staedtler triplus ball medium and I’ve found it really useful. Since last February, when I started it, I’ve used 181 pages out of 240.

  • I keep my master to-do lists in there.
  • I use a page per day, when I’ve got a day at my desk, to keep track of all the things I should be doing.
  • It travels with me to meetings and I write down all my action points in there, so I know there’s only one place to look.
  • I’m using a version of the bullet journal system (including
  • I keep notes from lectures and sermons in there
  • the children have used it to draw in when they are bored

I’m now at the point of deciding whether to get another Moleskine or switch to a different notebook. I’ve got a Leuchterm A5 with a dot grid for my longer pieces of writing and reflection, but I think it is too big to use for a notebook that travels everywhere (the Moleskine is just that bit narrower and it makes the difference). I also picked up a Rhodiarama, so I could have a notebook that would take fountain pen ink, but it is the same size as the Leuchterm and I’m not sure that fountain pen would be very practical in the places I use my travelling notebook. The Church seems to have something against the idea of providing tables to lean on in any kind of taught session or meeting.

In other news

There was also a really beautiful window in the seminar room I was in. I tried drawing it in a quieter moment, but it didn’t work out well. Good thing I had my camera handy. There were some green and pink parts to the window that you can’t see in the photo that added to the perfection.

Small but perfectly formed
Small but perfectly formed

I continued with my crochet scarf during the talks – another way to stop me falling asleep is to have a knitting or crochet project that I know off by heart (or nearly) in my hands. Progress: 5/90. I need a spreadsheet to keep track of which colour combinations I have used.

Literary input

I don’t manage to keep much track of what I read but here’s a few of the books I read towards the end of last year.

First the re-reads

  • Mist over Pendle by Robert Neill. One of my favourite novels: the story of a young girl moving to live with a distant relative in Lancashire at the time of the witch trials. You learn a lot about the clothing of the time in this historical novel. The heroine is a lovely character, but rather too twentieth-century to be believable.
  • Snoop by Sam Gosling. I spend a lot of time in other people’s houses and this book is all about what you can tell about character based on people’s living environment. The main conclusion is that you can’t draw as many conclusions from surroundings as you think you can.
  • Lingo: A language-spotter’s guide to Europe by Gaston Dorren – Having read this in the summer, I fancied another go through it over Christmas. The little snippets about rare languages are really interesting. It must be having some impact as I was chuffed to be able to identify some European languages correctly in a University Challenge picture round.
  • Lord John and the… by Diana Gabaldon. After the midnight service on Christmas Eve when it was 1am, I was wired and full of adrenalin, I needed something short to read in order to calm me down enough to sleep so I could be at work again within 8 hours. This turned out to be the first Lord John short story: Lord John and the Hellfire Club. I’ve carried on and read all the others since then because why not?
  • Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde – no, not the book you think I mean. This is one of my favourite books ever, a distopian futuristic fantasy where the level of colour vision people possess is their defining feature. It was meant to be the first in a series, but the series has never been forthcoming. Very clever writing.
  • Soulless, Heartless, Timeless & Blameless by Gail Carriger. First four books in The Parasol Protectorate series, a steam punk setting with vampires, werewolves and accessories. The main character is so pragmatic in a world where no-one else is. I read these a few years ago and loved them. I treat these as a fluffy dessert: no real substance, but a delight to read.
  • The Host by Stephanie Meyer. I read this before I read all the Twilight series.
  • The Railway Children by E. Nesbitt. We went to see the stage production of this in the summer at the National Railway Museum, so I decided to re-read this afterwards.

I did read some new stuff too

  • The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder. I read this during advent and really enjoyed the gentle retelling of the nativity, along with a missing person mystery.
  • Red Moon Rising by Pete Grieg. This was a freebie on Kindle and is the story of the 24-7 prayer movement. I found it really inspiring and a good reminder of the effectiveness and impact of prayer.
  • Gail Carriger – Changeless, The Curious Case (prequel novella), Curtseys and Conspiracies, Etiquette and Espionage, Waistcoats and Weaponry, Manners and Mutiny. Having re-read the first few of Gail’s books (above), I rather binged by buying the rest on Kindle. The four finishing-school books are aimed at a younger readership, but still maintain that glorious cynical tone and balance of frivolity and menace.
  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is the book that inspired my commitment to writing more this year. It probably deserves a post of its own at some point.
  • Final Witness by Simon Tolkien. You can guess why I picked this up. This is written by the grandson of the great JRRT. It’s a while since I read it, but I remember really enjoying the behind the scenes view of the legal world. There’s three more books by the same author that I’m hoping to get to before too long.
  • Longbourn by Jo Baker. Behind the scenes of Pride and Prejudice. This was a Christmas present from my lovely sister. P&P has been a favourite since my teens and this gives an interesting counterpoint to it. The author has taken everything she possibly can about the servants that appear in P&P (actually strikingly little) and woven a narrative around them. This was the perfect antidote to a couple of weeks of overwork.

I found an interesting reading challenge that doesn’t seem too arduous.


  • a book published this year. This shouldn’t be hard. I have the new Ben Aaronovitch on pre-order.
  • a book you can finish in a day. Plenty of scope here.
  • a book you’ve been meaning to read. I have shelves full of stuff I’ve been meaning to read.
  • a book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller. My nearest bookseller is White Rose Books in Thirsk. I’ll go and ask them. Our local library is going to be down-graded to a community-run facility in the coming year. I’ve thought about volunteering there.
  • a book you should have read in school. This one is a puzzling one and I can’t quite get a handle on it. I’m pretty certain I read everything that school required at the time. Following a conversation on Facebook this week, I’ve received several selections from friends of things they think I should have read.
  • a book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF. This won’t be hard. My sister teaches English and is full of good ideas for stuff I might like.
  • a book published before you were born.
  • a book that was banned at some point. Presumably it doesn’t matter where it was banned. Looking forward to this one, although I’ll choose something that was banned for political or religious reasons rather than Lady Chatterley. I’ll go in search of the banned books list from the Vatican.
  • a book you previously abandoned. Shall I give Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell one final chance? It turns out that part of the recent tv adaptation was filmed in our village. My other tip for this category is Gormenghast, but I’ve lent it to someone. If neither of those comes to anything I suppose I could try Wuthering Heights again, although I really hated it (a friend of mine burnt their copy because they hated it so much).
  • a book you own but have never read. There is quite a large choice for this category. I seem to have been born with a gene that fears one day not being able to buy any more books. I probably won’t run out, even if no more books were available from now on. (The same goes for yarn)
  • a book that intimidates you. This requires some thought. I’m not easily intimidated by books.
  • a book you’ve already read at least once. See the section of re-reads, above. This will not be hard to fulfil. I adore re-reading old favourites. It’s like spending time with an old friend.

In order to make this a little more interesting, I’m going to stipulate no re-reads except the final category and the partial re-read for the abandoned category. I wonder how long it will take.

Finished item parade

It’s been a busy summer so far as knitting and crochet go. The spinning is on hiatus, shortly to be resumed as my diary settles down to what passes for normal. The boy goes back to school tomorrow and, by the end of the week, I should have time to myself during the day without being interrupted every three seconds (ish) by a small girl demanding to attach stickers to my clothes, or wanting to play. I’ve taken as much time off work this summer as I can to spend with the kids, but I am clearly not meeting their standards.

Parade of finished objects

Not a large parade, but more than one item, so deserving of the term I believe.

This was my summer holiday knitting, although it is, of course, not knitting at all, but crochet. Fingerless gloves, which wended their way to my Mother, ready for her 60th birthday. I have it in mind to make at least two more pairs of these. These are my August finished item.

Dragonscale gloves
Dragonscale gloves

With September comes Sniper Season. Here’s my first shot, aimed far into the West. I posted these on September 5th, which may even be record time for me. I usually manage to knit them within the first week. 4 days is a time I’m quite pleased with.

Sniper Socks
Sniper Socks

Next comes an item which both is and isn’t a finished item. I’ve completed the Far Into the Forest first sock, but I’ve had enough of the pattern, so I’m not knitting another one.

Far into the Forest sock

Instead I have cast on for another colourwork sock, using the remaining yarn and another pattern: Snow Under Cedars.

Finally, I don’t think this is a finished object, but it was one of the highlights of the summer:

j knitting
J begins her knitting career

My daughter showed an interest in learning to knit. We got some suitably pink yarn and settled down together. She loves learning the knitting rhyme and saying it with me, she’s getting the hang of the movements that go with it but, she would much rather go freestyle. We’ve had a few incidences of a great big tangly mess at the end of a knitting session. Still, she’s nearly caught up with her brother in the length of knitting she’s managed.

WIP round-up

  • No progress on the cotton square a month blanket
  • No further squares added to the sock yarn scarf
  • Rachel Coopey’s Greebo socks in the Greebo colourway from Knitting Goddess.  I’m halfway up one foot, but they are turning out rather large. No-one I’ve shown it to has expressed an interest in wearing it. May need a re-start in a smaller size
  • Ianthine: A Curl from Hunter Hammersen’s book Curls. Still on 2nd or 3rd repeat. Needs some good autumn tv viewing.
  • New item: Color Affection, using some cashmere lace-weight. It’s going well, but the yarn is quite fragile and keeps breaking. This was not helped by it having been nibbled round the edges by a mouse in my knitting bag.

Reading round-up

This has been the summer of the big trashy re-read, mostly on Kindle.

I have read:

  • All the Twilight novels again, plus The Host
  • The Stieg Larsson Millennium Trilogy
  • Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour bookstore
  • Gail Carriger’s Alexia Tarabotti series: Soulless, Heartless, Timeless, Blameless, Changeless. These were a re-read of books I have previously got from the library. They are steam-punk with werewolves and vampires: really funny. I also read the short story prequel The Curious Case and the series Etiquette and Espionage, Curtsies and Conspiracies, Waistcoats and Weaponry, which are aimed more at the young adult market. There’s some crossover of characters. I’ve so far managed not to buy the other series, which is set later on, but it is only a matter of time.

Less trashy reading that has been accomplished is as follows:

  • Jesus Feminist – Surprisingly non-cringe-worthy. A good approach to cutting through all the patriarchal baggage that the Church has gathered over the years, without turning towards the man-hating end of the spectrum.
  • Alan Turing: The Enigma – interesting biography, but it did get tedious in places
  • Lingo: A language-spotter’s guide to Europe – fascinating. Short chapters, each about a different language.
  • Racing Through the Dark: the autobiography of David Millar – I’ve become fascinated by the stories of the dark side of professional cycling. This one is no-holds-barred, introspective and penitent.
  • The new Patrick Gale novel: A Place Called Winter. Heartbreaking, with an undercurrent of menace.

There might be more, but this is what I can remember.


I’ve also read The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District, by James Rebanks. A real insight into the production of wool and lamb in this country. Sobering at times, but also inspiring.


He is risen. I have fallen… asleep

When you are a vicar, Holy Week is a really big deal. This year I’ve upped the number of services slightly, plus we’ve had a big theme of exploring creative prayer during Lent. I’ve loved pretty much every minute of it, but it has been full on.
Today, after two services and a home communion, I kicked my email inbox into a bit of shape, did some planning ahead for the next two weeks then, at quarter to five, I stopped. I relaxed, snuggled up on the sofa with the girl, and let things go.
It turns out that I’m quite tired and have been running fueled on adrenaline for quite a while. It feels very good indeed to relax, although now I have no motivation to make anything happen. I’ve sat in a chair all evening reading about knitting, (yes, still the yarn harlot; yes, I have a problem; no, I am not stopping because I’m at 2012 now, so the end is in sight), unable to make decisions about what to knit, drink or watch.
Of those three things, the only thing I managed to sort out was what to drink: whisky and ginger wine. To my knowledge, it’s the first time I’ve tried that combination, but my Dad drinks it. I think he calls it a Whisky Mac. I’m fairly sure that Mum doesn’t let him use the decent whisky for it, but I’m a whisky snob so there is no poor whisky in the house, just the nice bottle of Tobermory I got in December. I spent a happy couple of minutes tasting various ratios until I got something that was sweet but with a good kick.

On the knitting front, since I last posted I have been creating more stripes on the baby blanket: boring, garter stitch, still lovely colours, nearly at the halfway point.

I’m hoping for a decent amount of actual knitting time this week, but now I’m going to head for bed with a book. I’m wondering about Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. I bought it when it first came out because it was such a beautiful book, but got distracted about a third of the way through. I’m inclined to try again and if it doesn’t suit this time then it is going to the charity shop. That tome is too big to be purely ornamental.