Blog Archive

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Snow x 3, Philip Pullman and Katherine Rundell at the Sheldonian, Selfitis, Quote for the month

Snow x 3

It's no secret that I hate snow. Well I have been well served by mother weather this winter. It snowed 3 times properly (i.e. the white stuff settled and was sufficiently abundant to cause disruption) and it was bloody cold. A good old-fashioned winter. That's the first snow in about 5 years.

There was enough snow for the neighbours to build a large snow bear and for us all to have to spend a day digging out the road. Fortunately our Italian neighbours provided some very decent grappa which kept us going a bit longer. And the grit store that we convinced the council to install 5 years ago finally came in handy!

And of course, what's the other thing most likely to happen when the bitterly cold weather arrives? The central heating breaks down! I couldn't get hold of our regular plumber (he actually popped round later in the day) so I tried ringing British Gas who advertise like mad and try to sell you maintenance plans. I got through immediately and had a long conversation with a lovely lady in their Glasgow Contact  Centre. The earliest they could get somebody to me was almost 3 weeks later!! Unless anybody was ill in the house to which I replied we would most likely be extremely ill by then. Idiots.

No heating at our place!

A proper cold winter. Don't I hate it!

Philip Pullman and Katherine Rundell at the Sheldonian

Oxford authors Philip Pullman and Katherine Rundell shared their storytelling secrets with 750 fans including me and a friend at the Sheldonian Theatre on a very cold February evening.

Philip Pullman, author of the brilliant and award-winning fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials, was at the historic venue to talk about his latest book, Daemon Voices, a collection of essays on storytelling techniques. I have read the first La Belle Sauvage and am looking forward to the second which he told us he has finished writing and is editing down as it's too long.

Katherine Rundell, whose latest children's story The Explorer won the £5,000 Costa Children's Book Award, joined Pullman to explain how she conducted research for her acclaimed tales.

Authors Catherine Rundell and Philip Pullman
Katherine Rundell, also a Fellow at All Souls College, told us how she travelled to the Amazon to research her latest adventure story. Pullman said he was not keen on leaving his study. "I don't like travel - I dread the idea of going to Kidlington. I write the kind of books where you can sit there and make it up" he said.

Rundell, unlike Pullman, researches all of her books by visiting the places they are set, such as the Amazon, and trying the food her characters eat, such as tarantulas! She said, “Children told me tarantulas tasted like prawns – Selfridges sell them dried so I ate tarantulas – they tasted like bad ham, the children had been lying.” 

This inspired me to buy a tarantula for my nephew which I am planning to give him to eat for his birthday.


A recent study suggested an obsession with selfies is a genuine condition, called Selfitis.

An urge to take selfies and upload them on social media more than six times a day is chronic selfitis, according to researchers at the Nottingham Trent University and the Thiagarajar School of Management in India.

I think the jury's still out as to whether this is indeed a real illness, but if some members of the public are anything to judge by it can be a dangerous obsession.

Quote for the month

'God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.' Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

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