Cats · Chat

Caturday – Meet Maisie and Willow

Every Saturday, my Twitter feed is full of felines. Half the world puts up a picture of their cat. Why not? It’s Caturday?

Every day is Caturday in my house. We love cats. I’ve had cats since I was born. My life’s ambition is to become mad cat person. Sorry guys. Cats are just nicer than humans. What can I say?

Maise and Willow came to us in October, from Eden Animal Rescue. I would like to make Maisie and Willow more of a presence on my blog. Frankly, they help write the pieces. Maisie’s rolling about at my feet as I type. They deserve some of the credit. Today I’m going to introduce you to their personalities bookish style. Which books sum them up?


Maisie (Maisie Moomintroll, Maisius, McDaisie) : maisie

Favourite Place: curled up on a chair.

Hobbies: Sunbathing, butterfly hunting, opening cupboard doors (then hiding in said cupboard until everyone is worried sick). 

  • Six Dinner Sid – Maisie lives for her food. She sometimes patrols around her food bowl for an hour and half before tea. Maisie is also clever enough to come up with a Sid-like scheme. She would love to fed six times over.
  •  Augustus Gloop, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Is that mean? Maisie isn’t a nincompoop, but she’s definitely on the chubby side. Like Gloop, she lives for food, and not only food. Maisie is obsessed with Dreamies. For the non-feline acquainted, these are the tid-bits which come in brightly coloured packets. Maisie likes these so much, we have to buy the mega-pack. Maisie likes these so much, she parks herself in the porch when it’s clear we are going out, and refuses to go back into the house until the Dreamie bribe is offered.
  •  The Gumbie Cat (Old Possum’s) Our Lucy was also a Gumbie, so we’re well acquainted with them. Gumbies are superficially gentle, passive creatures. Don’t be fooled. If they want to train you up, they will spring into action.


Willow (Willoughby-Woo, Beanie) :willow

Favourite Place: field behind the house

Hobbies: Hunting, Hunting String, Hunting Toes. 

  • Diary of a Killer Cat – ‘for pity’s sake I’m a cat’. That’s Willow. This week we’ve had three live shrews and two dead ones. We don’t count the butterflies.
  • Jekyll and Hyde – I confess, I’ve not read the novel. Willow has a Jekyll and Hyde complex. Her killer cat ego is complimented by her sweet nature. Willow doesn’t do cuddles – she burrows. Under blankets, up your cardigan sleeve. When she is burrowing, she purrs a special squeaky purr. It becomes difficult to believe her rodent head-count.

Ten Examples of Bookish Angst

Most bookworms I know are introverts. Never mistake introvert for passive. All that reading makes us (that might be the royal us) overthinkers. Even so, you would be forgiven for thinking reading is a quiet and carefree hobby. Surely there could be nothing worrying about picking up a book? Here are ten examples I know of bookish angst. Shout out if you identify. I would love to know if you think of any more.

Worry? Me?


  • I want to lend this book to you but you will ruin the spine. I’m super-guilty on this charge. I love second hand books whose spines are marked like tree-rings, but treat my books that way and you’re blacklisted. It is possible to read without wrecking the book.


  • The sequel isn’t out for nearly a year but I need to know what happens now.


  • Worrying about characters as though they are real people. This is also a sign of a great book, but it is mildly concerning that I spend my days agonising over the fate of people who don’t exist.


  • You can never own too many books, but how the heck will I store any more? My shelves are overflowing, there is no space for more shelves. This is worthy of a post itself. My friend Christina has an overstuffed divan, and I’ve seen beautiful bedside tables made of book piles.


  • How can I leave the poor darling here? Joining the bookish community has reassured me that this is not cause for concern, although it doesn’t help the situation discussed in point four. Have you ever seen an all time favourite in a charity shop and found yourself taking it home because you can’t possibly leave it? Turns out I’m not alone. The Fantastic Flying Journey and The Patchwork Cat are books I struggle to leave on charity shop shelves.


  • Why should I join in the real world? The online bookish community falls somewhere between the world of books and the ‘real’ world (a world I find decidedly unreal. All those systems are as fictional as my stories.) Anyways, overthinking aside, sometimes I am invited to partake in the ‘real’ world when I am in the middle of an all time classic. Remember those old invitation slips? There should be a box for ‘it’s very kind of you, but I’m reading’.


  • I’ll never write like Dickens/Almond/similarly prestigious authors. I am better with this one. The big secret is there is one way in which anyone can write like the biggest’n’greatest authors. Everybody who published a book started by picking up a pen. 


  • What if the film spoils it? Let’s face it. I can be a cinema trip bore. If it’s based off a book, I’ll tell you the plot while you’re queuing for popcorn, and bemoan the changes throughout the film. The only two which equal the book are The Hours and Atonement. Three cheers for original scripts like Fantastic Beasts.


  • Loyalty card woes. Loyalty cards were designed to do this. If I buy one more, I’ll get a stamp. Getting-a-stamp has dictated how much I spend on books in 2017.


  • If I walk past the charity shop, I’ll miss something good. Less relevant now I live in a village which has a Post Office twice weekly, and no other shops. In the brief period I lived in Sussex, this was my mantra. I’ve never seen such good charity shops. Not to worry – I got a lifetime’s fill, and shelf’s worth of new books.


Do you identify with any of these worries? Can you think of any more? Do share! Promise it is a secret…


Guest Chat – @goldenbooksgirl finds perfect summer destinations from her favourite fiction

Whether it’s the Leaning Tower of Piza or the Arctic wilderness, this is the time of year when social media EXPLODES with perfect pictures from perfect holidays. Meanwhile, some of us are sat at home making Pinterest boards of places we would like to visit. One way to ‘visit’ a place without stepping foot on a plane is to read a book with a great setting. Sure, you’re not actually there, but you might empathise with a new culture in a way you wouldn’t if you really were running around with a tour group or sipping cocktails on a sandy beach. Handing over to Amy from @goldenbooksgirl, one of my bestest blogging friends. Huge thanks to Amy, who is epic, awesome and all-over lovely. 




Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse (Tokyo)

This book has some faults, but it did such a phenomenal job showcasing Tokyo that I still adored it. It`s the love story of Sophia and Jamie, in Sophia`s last ever week living in Tokyo, and her falling for the city all over again alongside her romance with Jamie. It made me want to jump on a plane immediately.

The Girl Who Rode the Wind by Stacy Gregg (Italy)

This is an utterly lovely contemporary adventure book, which also contains a lot of Italy`s culture and traditions and history (through the form of actual flashbacks to the main character`s grandmother when she was young, if my memory serves). I`m very overdue a reread of this, and I highly recommend it. And, as it`s Stacy Gregg, there`s obviously a huge horsey theme too! If you`d prefer some equestrian fun in Spain and learn more about that country instead, the 6th Pony Club Secrets book (Storm and the Silver Bridle would be perfect for you!

The White Giraffe series by Lauren St. John (South Africa)

While I`m not as big a fan of this series as I am of Lauren`s other books, the Laura Marlin Mysteries, I still really enjoyed them. They conjure up a beautiful, yet simeltaneously horrific picture of South Africa which is very accurate judging from comments made by a friend who lives there. Reading these was tough for me (I don`t do well with animal books, they always make me cry) but if they don`t make you want to go on a safari and experience the wonder of animals in the wild for yourself I truly don`t understand why.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (Paris)

This is one of my favourite romance books EVER (you`ll understand why once you`ve read it). It explores Anna as she moves to an American school in Paris and soon develops a crush on handsome, charming Etienne. The only problem is that he already has a girlfriend…

This book made me desperate to go to Paris; this book created such an atmosphere and an ambience, and the scenes exploring the city were my very favourites.

New York, New York/The BSC in the USA by Ann M. Martin

If you read my blog, I make no secret about the fact that I adore the Babysitters Club series. These are super specials, which means that they`re narrated by every club member and even a few side characters sometimes (which is always super, super fun!). They`re set in New York and on a roadtrip across America and I can basically guarantee you`ll want to explore a few locations for yourself by the time you`re done. My personal favourite narrators in New York, New York are Stacey and Mary-Anne, who have been tasked with showing the children of diplomats the sights and in BSC in the USA I think my favourite location has to be the Grand Canyon.

Stella Etc series by Karen McCombie (British seaside)

If all my exotic picks aren`t your style, why not try this sea-set series with friendship, mystery and a huge dollop of Karen McCombie humour? They feature a fabulous, hugely likeable cast of characters (my personal favourite is TJ) and the historical mystery throughout all seven books is genuinely interesting. These also have the bonus of actually being set in summer, so they are PERFECT reads for a sunny day, especially as they`re quite short and easy to get through.


Have you read any books which make you want to pack a suitcase and jet off? Has a setting actually inspired you to travel? Let me know in the comments bellow.


YALC gave me Pin Badge Envy…

Pin badges? I have previous. During the 2012 Olympics, I worked in the shopping centre next to the stadium. This put me in prime position to accost athletes and sponsors for pin badges. I have about 50 – national badges, sponsor badges and a lovely gold aeroplane from an R.A.F. pilot. One day I’ll take a picture – currently they are lost in one of those boxes which the loft and garage make so ignorable. (Anyone have cars in their garage? Throughout my extended family, garages seem to be accepted as storage space.) 

Currently, I collect RSPB pins. Every time I walk at my local bird sanctuary I buy I couple. I would like to say I recognise the birds. I’m afraid, like most people, I can recognise a robin, a pigeon and a Canada goose. Regardless, the pins are lovely and it is a great way to support a charity. 

All the Tweets about Y.A.L.C. gave me pin fever. Where else could I get bookish pins? Turns out the answer is everywhere! I had already found the Mockingbird pin when I wrote my post about bookish gifts. My pin wishlist has grown.  Y.A.L.C.ers? You’ve got me on to something. If anyone has that STAGS school badge, I’ll swap you for….I dunno….but I’ll swap you.

Do you collect pin badges? Have you got any bookish pins? Let me know in the comments below.  





Chat: Favourite Audiobooks

audiobooks‘Mr and Mrs Dursley of Number Four Privet Drive…’ The immortal words are etched into my mind. Not because they begin Harry’s adventure, although that has to help. I can recite half of Philosopher’s Stone by heart because I have listened to the Potter audio books on loop since the year 2000. My aunt and uncle sent me CoS on cassette, and begun a lifelong habit.

The cassettes half wore-out. I graduated to CDs. They still line my CD rack, in numerical order. When I read Harry Potter, it is Stephen Fry’s voice I hear inside my head. (Except for Snape. Nobody does Snape like Rickman.)

I listened to audio books before Potter. Me and my sister got one in our Christmas stockings every year. Aside from that, our library had a great selection of children’s audiobooks, which (read and learn, libraries,) were free to borrow. Sister played Shelia Lavelle’s Fiend stories when she thought I was asleep. It was her special Big Sister time. I snuggled under the covers and enjoyed special Little One time of listening-in-secret.

My golden rule of audio books is they can’t be abridged. There is nothing more disappointing to a bookworm than hearing half the words missing. Even if you have never heard the story before, you can hear the missing beats. (My Year 5 teacher gave up reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone because I called her out every time she skipped a couple of sentences. She thought it was ‘bad writing’.)

Dramatisation must enhance the story. I like the BBC Tom’s Midnight Garden and The Box of Delights. The Unabridged His Dark Materials dramatisation is a treat, and I have been caught humming the strange songs from BBC’s The Hobbit. 

I have yet to try Audible, although I drool over subscription plans on a regular basis. Does anyone have experience of Audible? Do the audio books live up to the clutter-up-your-home alternative? 


Chat: The Ideal Book Bag

Put me into a car, and I turn into a window-watcher. It’s a product of a childhood spent 350 miles from my extended family, with a father who liked ‘the scenic route’. Drive up and down the UK, and you will realise some things look identical from South to North, East to West and slant-wise over.

One of those things is the primary school book bag. These things came into being 20 years ago. I know, because I was 7 or 8, and everybody in the school was given one. Mine is somewhere in the loft, (those flog-stuff-from-the-attic programmes? You would believe everyone in the UK had valuable treasures hidden between the rafters. My house is filled with priceless stuff, like primary school book bags and gnawed-on recorders. We couldn’t face a wade through before we moved across the country, so we boxed it all up and made sure to buy a house with a decent loft.)  

It’s strange that canvas tote bags are sold in their masses. You can fit a couple of books in, which is all well and good until it rains. Then the books need wrapping in a plastic bag to prevent them from turning to mush. It is easy to spot people with paper wonders in their reusable bags. They’re the ones clutching the tops closed, with a hand under the bottom to keep the books straight.

Those primary book bags did their job. They sealed at the top, kept the contents dry and, so long as you didn’t over stuff them, kept the books straight. Add a shoulder strap and they might have been the perfect bag. Stamp one with the Hogwarts crest and I’d be sold. 

A satchel is another option. Predecessor to the velco-stripped book bag, and definitely higher in the fashion stakes. I’m not convinced about ruck-sacks – overload them with books and you get back ache, and you have to buy a special cover to keep them waterproof.

Here are a some bags I’ve found online. What do you reckon? Have you found the ideal book bag? What makes it perfect? 



Chat: Gerbils on the Library Shelves?

South Woodford Library

In 1998, I found a pair of gerbils on the library shelves. Their names were Oscar and Roo, although I never found a single detail to tell them apart. They lived with me for two-and-half happy years. Being a small child, I thought that was a very long time. 

South Woodford Library was a short walk from my childhood home, (though it felt like a very long walk back up the hill, especially on a sunny day.) My family spent many happy Saturday afternoons in the children’s library, and Mum would often take me and my sister for an hour on the way home from school. I was read to from birth, but there is no denying the library played a HUGE part in forming my love of books. My primary hobby as a child was ‘picking library books’. I remember the library as a cool, quiet space with seemingly unlimited shelves of books.

The library was a place of discoveries. I often followed my sister. When she discovered the ‘big children’s’ (8-12) books in alphabetical order, I followed. Although a relatively small space, it offered endless discoveries to relatively small people. Not only did we read, we learnt to browse books. To choose titles. To scan shelves. By nine or ten I knew the system. If I wanted to search for a book, I knew where to look. We developed research habits -me and my sister found out about gerbils in the pet section, and diligently researched their background and care. My parents probably gave in to the gerbils so the library could have their gerbil books back. When people fight to save libraries, they talk about the damage done to children’s reading, but libraries are about so much more than sitting quietly with a book. They are the first place anybody learns academic skills.

GerbilsGerbils aside, I want to share some memories of a childhood spent in libraries. I’m sorry the pictures are all taken from the internet. I’m a child of the 90s/00s. Libraries were sacred places of hushed tones, and camera phones didn’t come into play in any useful way until my late teens. I wouldn’t change my quiet-in-the-library childhood, but I’m sorry not to have a single picture. A visit to the library was too day-to-day to waste film, (actual fim,) on, yet visits to the library are among the most special memories of my childhood.

[nb. The photograph I found online is reccent. Three or four years ago, a private company took over the library services, and turned the bottom floor into a gym. That gym is my childhood library. My feelings about that gym are neither here nor there for the purpose of this post. (*cough*). ]

Memories of a Childhood Spent in the Library: 

  • When we were tiny, me and my sister caught our Mum tearing pages out of her magazines. We knew books should never be damaged, and we told naughty Mummy off. Mum explained she was tearing out the recipes. Later, she found us tearing pages from our library books. When she asked, we explained: we too were tearing out the recipes. The only time we damaged our own books was library-related. We found sticky dots and turned our books ‘into library books’. There might have been some crayon scrawled returns labels…Naughty libraries. They don’t know how to look after their books. 


  • After rainwater damaged a large amount of stock, the children’s library was moved Crocodiledownstairs, and given a new lease of life. With said new lease of life came Mr Crocodile. I was possessive about ‘my crocodile’. He was just the right size to lie back on with a book. (See what I mean? Life-long habits formed in libraries.) The only time I was told off for making noise in the library involved an exuberant game with the child from next-door-but-two and Mr Crocodile. 


  • Reservations were made by writing a request on a pink slip and pinning it to a noticeboard. When your request was in, a white slip would appear. My sister and I made countless requests for the joy of pinning up pink slips. Even if the book was in. Even if we’d read if 46 times.


  • The library was good for a free bookmark or postcard at the best of times. The postcard is CARBONEL, no less, and the puffin bookmark still glows in the dark. With bookmarkslibrarysummer came the reading scheme. You know the one – it is now a national programme. A noticeboard was taken over with a board-game like display. You got your very own counter – if you the pink reservation slips were exciting, the laminated pictures were in a league of their own. Every time you read to a volunteer/librarian, your counter moved along the board. So many squares meant a bookmark. So many more, a stickyfoot. If you got to the end – as a graduate of the Redbridge Libraries Summer Reading Scheme circa. 1997 I am well-placed to inform you – you were invited to a prize-giving, complete with magic show.


  • One November, children were invited to the library after closing hours to decorate  for Christmas. We made paperchains and paper snowflakes. Our picture was taken for the local paper, (sadly not found in the online archive.) 


Do you have any memories of your childhood library? Did you discover gerbils on the library shelves? Do you have a bag full of free-and-treasured bookmarks? Please share.