Tag: books

Shelves! Glorious Bookshelves!

We don’t have much home decorations in our house.  No expensive vases or sculptures,  save for a few affordable knickknacks like an old wooden figure of a rice god I used to have in my old apartment when I was single, and also my small collection (if you can indeed call “three” a collection 😉 of fertility gods I brought back with me from Africa.  We also have a man and woman figurine a close friend gave us when we got married and about four pinecones I’ve collected over time, each pine-cone has a memory attached to it.  Apart from those mentioned what we have instead are books, shelves upon shelves of them – in the living room, landing upstairs, our bedroom, little T’s room and even our kitchen.  Thank goodness for Ikea shelves, they are fab!  But I’m sure most of you know that already.

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Living room

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Bedrooms

We are seriously running out of shelves.  That’s one of the main reason why we want to sell our house and move into another one, with an extra room.  We need a study where we can just line the whole room with bookshelves and when we’ve filled it up, move to another bigger house.  Yeah right, in my dreams.

You can say that books is the glue that binds our marriage (among others of course).  We really are a boring couple.  When we applied for a small mortgage last year (just when we thought that we managed to sell our house and then the sale fell through, but that’s another story, one I won’t bore you with), the mortgage office asked us about our expenses, how much we spend on stuff like going out, we said we hardly even ate out.  When she asked us about what luxuries we indulged in. we were actually at a loss on what to say to her, but after doing some hair-scratching, we both answered, books!  Books are our only luxury.   She laughed and said that if only all of their customers were like us, you mean boring, I asked.

We’ve been known to spend more than £100 in Waterstones, though we of course, don’t often do that.  But you see, there’s three of us.  Books for my husband, myself and of course little T and when you hardly go out or eat out, you could say we deserve to treat ourselves right?  We are happy that way, it’s all part of celebrating small joys.

What about you?

Do you have any decorations at home?

What kind of stuff do you like to surround yourself with?

Keynko

A Blustery Week

Just when we thought that perhaps, spring is ready to come out, especially since we’ve seen some signs of it like daffodils on the side of the road and they are also being sold at shops too (bought a bunch actually yesterday) and over at Instagram, I’ve seen people post photos of snowdrops too.

We’ve also noticed that there’s still a bit light in the afternoon, when its supposed to be dark.  For awhile, we had our hopes up.  But then of course, winter made it’s presence felt this week.  We may not have snow that’s been falling in other parts of the UK, what we have instead is a cold, and blustery wind.  When Doc and I walk over the headland, I actually have to hold on to my wooly hat, lest it gets blown away.  And at night, I listen to it howling, as if it’s angry about something and is on a maddening rage, perhaps winter is fuming because we all want it to go and it just wants to stay?

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And so it is cold again.  Thick socks are a must, gloves, hat, scarves, you’d be mad to go out without them, especially for our walks by the coast.  Honestly winter, there’s no need to throw a fit, you still have at least another month, so just calm down and chill 😉

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In other news, I received a lovely surprise in the mail today from Britain’s Next Bestseller – Ericka Waller’s new book Confessions of a Mother Inferior, so please watch out for the review here.

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It looks like the cold snap is here to stay for another week, which won’t be so bad, because I have what looks like to be a funny book to keep me company.  Bring it on winter!  You can throw all the tantrums you want and I will just ignore you – I’ll have my head happily buried under this book.  Will also pretend that my pile of books-to-read doesn’t exist (as mentioned on my previous post).

What about you?

Has it been cold on your side of the world?

If you live in a warm country like where I’m from, please be kind and don’t mention the weather 😉

The Reading Residence

Show and Tell

I must have been a “good-girl” this year, because I got what I wanted this Christmas.

We went to Hay-on-Wye last October, during little T’s short break from school and saw Sylvia Plath’s  (one of my favourite poets) book of drawings.  I knew she drew a lot, but I didn’t know that they published a book of her art works, so imagine my delight when I saw the hard-bound book in one of the many bookshops in Hay.  I held the book in my hand for the longest time and stood there, deciding whether to buy it or not.  You see, it was a bit pricey.

In the end, with a heavy sigh, I reluctantly let go of it, especially since I just bought a Folio book-bag, which wasn’t exactly cheap either, especially for a book bag.  Had I seen the book first, I would’ve chosen it over the bag as my husband would say “Yet another bag” complete with eye-rolling.

But I have it now!  See, if it’s meant to be, you will have it!

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I was really surprised when my husband got it for me this Christmas (among other things), but this is no doubt, one of my faves!

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Just look at how intricate that drawing is!

Not only that, my daughter also gave me this:

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It’s a children’s book written by no other than, Sylvia Plath too!  Little T actually asked me to read it to her.  I read her the first story, but I think she’s a little bit too young for it.  And look, she also signed it.

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Well, obviously not Sylvia Plath (she’s been dead more than 50 years), but little T 🙂

These are two of my most-favourite Christmas presents I got this year, what about you?

The Ramblings of a Formerly Rock'n'Roll Mum

A Return: Hay-on-Wye, The Town of Bookshops

Hay-on-Wye is a little town in Wales, just right beside the English border. And you can find bookshops in literally ever corner, or every where you look, that’s why the place is often referred to as the “Town of Bookshops and of course, it’s also famous for its Hay-on-Wye Literature and Arts festival held every year, usually at the end of May till the first week of June.

The first time we visited, was about five years ago, before little T came along.  Since my husband couldn’t take much time off from work, we came here for our honeymoon and ever since, we’ve always wanted to go back and take little T with us, especially since she also seems to have the same love for books, we just hope she won’t out-grow this though.

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This is little T in front of the Castle bookshop which is believed to have one of the oldest towers in Wales, dating back to 1121.  Today, it is a second-hand bookshop known for its antiquarian books. When we first came here years ago, you could still go inside the castle, but now it’s either being reconstructed or they’ve just closed-it off to visitors, because you’ll find the books at the side of the castle.  They’ve also added some little gift shops.  And of course, they still have their honesty bookshop on the castle-grounds.

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And there she is, peering inside the castle which is empty now.

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Inside Addyman bookshop where she bought a “Spooky Book”.

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Browsing through the thousands of books at the Hay Cinema Bookshop.

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And this is the Richard Booth bookshop.  He’s also known to be the “father” of Hay-on-Wye, the town of books and in 1977, he declared it an independent kingdom.

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I love his bookshop.  There are loads of comfortable chairs you can just sit on and read a bit, or even just rest your weary feet as little T is doing in the above photo.  They’ve also added a lovely little cafe inside.

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And upstairs, you will find shelves upon shelves of beautiful Folio books.  If you come and visit, this book-shop must be on the top of your list!

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And for those who love Murder Mysteries,  this is your stop.

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This is mine.  Had a lovely conversation with the bookseller at the Poetry bookshop about the poet Bernadette Mayer.

I love this little town of books, in spite feeling a bit disappointed with a couple of things. 1.  The Kilvert’s Inn where we stayed somehow felt a bit run-down.  The room was lovely though.  Weeks before our trip, we actually had to chase them-up to book our accommodation.  We couldn’t do it online, and every time we phoned, no one seemed to know anything.  As for the food, let’s just say every time we asked for something, they didn’t have it.

The room was lovely though.  It had the beautiful views of the Welsh countryside and the most enormous king-sized bed, the three of us actually fit in – comfortably too!

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Little T reading her new book.

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The lovely view outside our window.

And the other thing we didn’t like was that, some of the booksellers didn’t seem too keen to have little ones around their shops.  One even said, just as we paid and were about to step-out of her shop and reminded little T to use her umbrella because it started to rain outside – “Little girls always make that sound.  I find it really annoying”.   We just looked at her and left.  I was shocked and felt that it was a really rude thing to say to a costumer!

I know there really are some people who really can’t stand children.  That’s why there are holidays with the “no kids policy”, or some restaurants with the no children under 5 rule.  I hate that.  As if kids are vermin to be avoided at all cost.

Anyway, of course we won’t let this little incident cloud our love for Hay.  Would we come back?  Definitely, perhaps when little T is older!  Hopefully, by then that bookseller has retired.

Have you been to Hay-on-Wye?

Would you be interested to visit a town of books?

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Have a lovely week folks!

My Fictional World

This blog-post has been sitting on my draft list for ages and since today is World Book Day, I decided to sit down and finally get it done.

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I love linkys, whoever invented them is a genius!  If you’re a blogger, linkys help you discover other blogs and also helps you reach out to a wider audience.  And a linky about books?  My kind of thing!  As mentioned already, reading and love for books is also the glue that sticks me and my husband together (among other things of course).  Our house is over-flowing with books, we’ve actually ran out of shelves and that’s another reason why we decided it was time to move.  We need more wall space for more bookshelves.  Yay, the idea of more space for bookshelves makes me giddy!

Anyway, imagine my excitement when I saw this linky on the Reading Residence Blog.  I quickly left a comment and promised to link-up.  So here it is – finally!

The Reading Residence

What were your favourite reads from your childhood?

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Narnia Chronicles by C.S Lewis and also A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

There are always those books that defined your teen reads and stay with you – what were yours?

Mine would be Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar and probably all of JD Salinger’s books about the Glass Family.  I know, a bit depressing really.

Who are your favourite authors currently?

Oh loads!  As usual when put on the spot, names fail me, at the top of my head though I can say I love Julian Barnes, James Hamilton-Paterson, and Jeanette Winterson (an old love).

Which 3 genres do you gravitate towards most often?

My husband will probably say that I like books about introspection or as he calls it “navel grazing” or the more depressing, the more merrier for Dean kind of books.

I love fiction and biographies/autobiographies of writers.

Can you choose your top titles from each of those genres?

When it comes to fiction, it’s difficult to choose a favourite.  As for autobiographies, a recent favourite of mine is Jeanette Winterson’s “Why be happy when you could be normal?”  If you like reading her, this is a must!  It is funny, witty and yes, there are sad bits.

Oh and also enjoyed reading Giles Tremlett’s biography of Catherine of Aragon.  Compared to other historical biographies, this one is an easy read and doesn’t depict the tragic queen as some helpless woman who did nothing but pray.  She was smart and cunning too.

And your least favourite genres?

Ghost stories/horror.  I have an active imagination you see and I usually get up more than a couple of times in the night to check on little T and if I read or watch anything to do with ghosts, I’ll be too scared to get up!  And that will mean, waking up the husband to go to the bathroom and he won’t like that one bit.

Of the many, many fictional and fantastical worlds, where would you most like to visit?

Hobbit land – middle Earth! I’m really short and I bet their houses will be perfect for me! 🙂

Everyone loves a villain, right?! Who would make your favourites list?

Dracula.  I find everything about him romantic and of course mysterious and sinister.

Share the books that have had you sobbing?

Most of Marilyn French’s novels had me sobbing and angry at the same time.  Her novels are mostly about women’s issues and dysfunctional relationships with their families etc.

And let’s end on a high! Which books leave a smile on your face, and maybe elicit a few laughs?!

This is embarrassing to admit, but I rarely read any books that leave a smile on my face (yes, the husband is right) however, you might be surprised to hear that at the moment I’m reading Miranda Hart’s book “Is it Just Me”?  I think I’ve mentioned in this blog that she is my guilty pleasure and that she is also my remedy for S.A.D.  She makes me laugh out loud.  The book is witty and funny, although admittedly there are times when it just sort of falls flat.  It’s still best to watch her than read her.  In spite of being a bit disappointed with the book, I am still a big fan.  I still Hart you Miranda, but really, I think you should stick to TV or stand-up comedy 🙂

Do you love books?

What’s the most recent book you’ve read and loved?

Do share.

Hay-on-Wye – A Book Lover’s Destination

As I’ve mentioned in many blog posts, my husband and I love books so it seemed only natural that we would end up “honey-mooning” in Hay-on-Wye in Wales, which is located just along the English border and is also known as the town of books.

After getting married in Bristol, the next day we hopped in our car which we found decorated with lipstick drawings of hearts …

and the obligatory “just married” words  on our car windows.  I remember some cars honked our way, which we translated to ‘Congratulations’, or on hindsight, could’ve also meant ‘Get out of our way!”

So off we drove to Hay-on-Wye with the Blackdown mountains as backdrop, made famous by Tolkien in the Lord of the Rings.  We arrived well before sun-down into the little town that’s known for its two dozen bookshops dotted all over. It is also actually famous for its literary festival in June that brings over 80,000 visitors hoping to catch their favourite authors/personalities or just to browse through its bookshops.

Among my favourite was the poetry bookshop, I was hoping to get a copy of Nika Turbina, the Russian poet known for her haunting poems penned when she was  just ten years old, but sadly, they didn’t seem to have any copy of her books.

And there was also a Murder and Mayhem bookshop, perfect for people who love mystery or crime novels.

As for bibliophiles, they can browse through hundreds of books to their heart’s content at the Richard Booth bookshop.  Incidentally, Richard Booth is also known as the man who wanted Hay-on-Wye to be an independent kingdom, and even declared himself the monarch.

Then there’s the Castle Bookshop that is difficult to miss because it is in the centre of the town and has shelves upon shelves of books in its garden.

And if you can’t find the book you’re looking for at the castle bookshop, you might just be able to find them in the bookshop next door, or the next.

Don’t be surprised to see your favourite characters in the shop, they’re just browsing too and it would be nice and polite if you just left them alone and not ask for their autographs or worse, have your photo taken beside them.  Remember, they value their privacy too 😉

My husband and I left with our pile of books.  We’ve been wanting to go back and introduce little T to this town of books, do you know I don’t even remember seeing a Children’s bookshop there.  But I’m sure they do, there you go, I’ve just found another reason to go back 🙂  And if you haven’t visited, you absolutely have to put Hay-on-Wye on your  list!

This post is linked-up with PODcast’s What’s the Story.

And the Oliver’s Madhouse

Hope everyone has a lovely week ahead of them!

A Book Review: Michael Roux, Eggs

We are an egg family.  We love our eggs.  The husband buys a whole tray from the butcher, 24 eggs about twice a month.  Did I mention that we are only a family of three, discounting our cat and little pup?  There are two adults and one child in our little household.

That’s where we put our eggs, and it’s not even filled-to the brim anymore.

What do we do with all those eggs, you make ask?  I bake a lot you see.  My husband being the morning person, cooks most of the breakfast and I do the dinners mostly.  Little T loves boiled eggs with soldiers, my husband likes poached eggs and I love omelettes.

So imagine my excitement when I received Michael Roux’s Eggs book in the post.  It felt like Christmas has suddenly arrived early!  For those who are not in the know (like me), Michael Roux is a French born Michelin chef who opened a restaurant in the UK which later became the first three starred Michelin restaurant in Britain.

At first though, I was a bit worried that the recipes in this lovely hard-bound book (Did I mention I love books?  Our whole house is filled with books!) would only have posh recipes with ingredients I wouldn’t know how to pronounce let alone know where to purchase.  But no, all the recipes are doable even for a simple cook like me.

And it’s not all about breakfast recipes either, it’s got everything! From dessert, cakes recipes to how-to-make your own fresh pasta, would so love to try that.  For our first try, I asked my husband (he’s the breakfast cook remember?)  to try the following recipe:

Spanish Tortilla with Chorizo

100 ml olive oil

400g Desiree potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 red onions, roughly chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

200g chorizo sausage, skinned

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 tbsp chopped flat parsley leaves

6 eggs

1.  Heat two-thirds of the olive oil in a frying pan, 20-22 cm in diameter and about 4 cm deep.  When it is hot, put in the potatoes and cook over for a medium heat for 10 minutes or so.

2.  In the meantime, cut the chorizo into 2 mm slices.  Add to the frying pan with the garlic and parsley.  Mix well, without crushing the potatoes, and cook for another 2 minutes.  Tip everything on to a plate and leave to cool slightly.  Wipe out the frying pan with kitchen paper, ready for cooking the tortilla.

3.  Lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Heat the remaining olive oil in the frying pan.  Using a spoon, mix the eggs delicately into the cooled potato mixture, then pour into the pan.  Start cooking over a medium heat, stirring gently every few minutes with the side of a fork, as if making an omellette.

4.  As soon as the eggs are half-cooked, stop stirring, and cook over a very low heat for 2-3 minutes, until the underside of the tortilla is almost cooked.  Slide it on to a lightly boiled platter, then inert it back into the pan and cook for another 2 minutes, until both sides are cooked the same and the middle of the tortilla is soft.

5.  Slide the tortilla on to a plate and serve it whole or cut into wedges.  It is equally good served hot, warm or at room temperature, but not chilled.

NOTE:  We made-do with the ingredients we had at home.  On his way home from work, I asked the husband to buy some Desiree potatoes at Morrison’s, but they didn’t have them.  He told them what they were for, and was advised to get baby pearl potatoes instead.  On hindsight, they probably only said that to get rid of him!

Here’s my husband’s version:

He did say that the blog-post ought to be called “How to ruin a Michelin Chef’s Recipe”.  But I disagree, it was yummylicious and very filling.  I’m a happy bunny! 🙂

I’m drooling over this Mussels and Chive recipe:

We are going shopping tomorrow, must make sure all the ingredients are on our list.  I love mussels!

I am so loving my Michael Roux book, another one to add to my collection:

Click on the link for those who are looking for a simple recipe on how to make an omelette.

Do you have a favourite egg recipe?

This is a sponsored post.

A laugh-out-loud read: Cooking with Fernet Branca

The first James Hamilton-Paterson book I’ve ever read was Playing with Water.  This book isn’t fiction, it’s more of an autobiography Hamilton-Paterson wrote about his stay in an isolated little island some where in my home country, the Philippines.  This book made me teary-eyed and homesick.  It’s a lovely book about a writer’s reflection on life and his childhood.  But I digress, this post isn’t about that book, it’s about another one, a laugh-out-loud book – Cooking with Fernet Branca.

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If you’re looking for light reading, but don’t really want to read trash and just want to read a book and be entertained, and maybe even have a few laughs.  This book is for you.

James Hamilton-Paterson is not a writer known for writing comedy or even light fiction.  But when he does, it’s just hysterical.  Cooking with Fernet Branca is the first of a trio of books about a pretentious Englishman who happens to be a ghostwriter of celebrity sports personalities.  He purchases an isolated house in Italy hoping to find some peace and quiet to write his latest book.  The house isn’t as isolated as he hoped it would be as it turns out that he has a neighbour, whom the Italian estate agent swore was only there a few times in a year.  The neighbour turns out to be an East European woman with an indomitable character.

Read about Gerald Samper who considers himself a fine cook and entertains himself (and others) with his singing of arias and invented operas, not knowing that Marta, his neighbour has an impressive background in music.  He thinks that she is a pauper, not knowing that he is actually living next to someone who is considered royalty in her own country.

It is funny.  My husband read the book before me, since I was still busy finishing another book.  He would read this in bed and from my daughter’s room where I would try to put T to sleep, we would hear muffled laughter and giggles.  I would stomp in the room and find him red in the face, covering his mouth to conceal his guffaws.  It is that hilarious.   So yes, cooking with Fernet Branca is a definite must-read… that is, if you want to laugh.

My Latest Book Stash

I am a lucky bunny.  For special occasions, my lovely in-laws either give me a pile of books as a Christmas present (among others) or they send me a book token on my birthday – and the past birthday was no different.  So on the day I turned another year older, I happily went online shopping at Waterstones.  It took awhile for my books to come, but they came today (not all of them though), in spite of that, I am still a happy bunny.

Here’s my latest stash:

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1.  Never Mind by Edward St Auburn

I’ve read his books Mother’s Milk and At Last (the last book of the Melrose saga).  Yes, his books are painful and harrowing to read, but I love his prose.  I love the way he writes, the flow of his words no matter how distressing and horrible they are.  This is the way I choose books to read, if I like the flow and the words used by the author, chances are I’ll most probably hunt down their works and read them all if I can.

2.  Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

I got hooked with Jeanette Winterson ever since I read Oranges are not the only fruit years ago.  I then devoured the rest of her books, Written on the Body, Sexing the Cherry, Art and Lies etc… And then forgot about her, until I came across this book of hers while browsing through books to buy at Book Depository (If you love buying books online, this is a great site to visit, especially since they deliver books worldwide for free!)  In fact, I first learned about this website from a cousin back home in the Philippines who orders a lot of her books from this website.  Anyway, I made a mental note to buy this book on my next shopping spree and now I have it.  Woo-hoo!

3.  The Silent Woman:  Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes by Jane Malcolm

If you’ve been reading this little blog of mine for some time now, you’ll probably know that I’m a big fan of the American poet, Sylvia Plath.  So I try to read anything written about her as much as I can.  I’ve been following P.H. Davies’ blog ever since I came across his blog entry about visiting Sylvia Plath’s house in Devon.  He mentioned The Silent Woman on  this post, I made a note to myself to hunt the book down, now it’s mine!  If you’re looking for an interesting and intelligent read, do check out his blog here.

4.  In the Name of Friendship by Marilyn French

Yes, she’s the same American writer whose quote I use on my blog.  I was a very impressionable teenager when I first came across her book Women’s Room.  For some teens, they identified themselves in Holden Caulfield the main character in J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.  Mine was Mira (and S. Plath), the main character in the book, even though I wasn’t anything like her.  To begin with, Mira in the book was a recently divorced woman in her late 30s, trying to rebuild her life, going back to school in Harvard in a man’s world (the book is set in the 60s, the height of feminism in America).  When I first read the book, I was your typical lost and confused teenager.

In the Name of Friendship, I believe is one of the two works of fiction she’s written before her death in 2009.

ANYWAY, I’m not even done with my Christmas stash yet.  Still haven’t read Julian Barnes essays – Through the Window.  If you’re a parent of a young child, you will know how difficult it is to finish a book while seeing to the endless needs and demands of your little one –

I read standing up while waiting for my daughter’s milk to warm up in the microwave at night.  I read while waiting for my daughter to finish her business in the toilet (good thing it takes her ages to do it!).  I read while my daughter watches her  favourite DVDs one after another. I read while I wait for my husband to finish reading her bed time stories  (thankfully he reads more than one).  If I only I could read while watching over my daughter at play-group without being seen as a neglectful mother, I might just be able to catch up with my reading.

If you are a parent of a young child or just busy with life/work, how do you manage with your reading list?

Calling out Julian Barnes Readers

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For those who love Booker-winner and multi-awarded novelist Julian Barnes, he will make a rare appearance at the Oxford Literary Festival this March 16-24 together with poets like Seamus Heaney, Adrian Mole and author, Sue Townsend.

This is our chance, as lesser-mortals to breath in the same air and be in the same room with writers we admire and hope that their greatness will rub on us.  It’s time for me to start reading Through the Window: Seventeen essays and one short story, one of the many books I received this Christmas.

We haven’t booked our tickets yet, since I’m still hesitant to attend with a toddler in-tow.  Here’s the scenario:  A room packed with people.  It is silent, everyone is holding their breath waiting for The Julian Barnes to speak and then you hear it.  It is inaudible at first, a slight whinging and then the words “I don’t like that!” enunciated very clearly pierces through the air, heads turning and a very embarrassed couple trying to make their way to the exit…

Hmm.  Not a good scene at all.

Then again, we might just go, even if it means loitering outside, hoping to catch a glimpse of him like a stalker or a crazed fan.  And if all else fails, I always love visiting Oxford and its old building, especially the air!, it’s the same with Cambridge.  There is something in the air, the atmosphere, it always makes me want to run through the streets and scream “Take me!  I’m yours”.

To know more about the Oxford Literary Festival, click here.