Archives for September 2011

To Hell With Nightclubs – Give Me a Book!

Whenever I go to people's houses I make a beeline for their bookshelves. Apart from telling me their real interests (unless they are doing the 'bookshelves-as-decorating-accessory' thing with colour co-ordinated volumes), I am constantly on the lookout for new authors, compelling biographies, fascinating facts and I hope that if I ask nicely they will lend me a copy or two, or ten.

On trips back to the UK the first place I head for is a bookshop. In charity shops (of which there is a real dearth in Italy) I go straight to the shelves at the back of the shop with their tatty treasures, waiting patiently until those already there move on, because selfishly, I prefer browsing freely with no-one breathing down my neck. My heart races with excitement as I scour the piles of books, hopeful for a gem that will keep me spelbound for a few hours.

Then there is the library – don't even get me started on the joys of the library! Yes, this former girl-about-town who used to party until dawn readily admits going weak at the knees at the sight of all those books waiting for me in one place. The fact they are handily divided into categories is even better. Oh yes, happiness is a sparsely populated,well-lit  local library on a winter's afternoon…

Books have their own smell too. New books give off that freshly printed, come-hither perfume, whereas old book shops have a musty and wonderful scent that is unmistakeable and evocative. Maybe someone should capture and bottle Eau de libre, except you might start getting followed by earnest middle aged men in raincoats with Tesco bags!

I once read about collectors of rare books. These tomes can exchange hands for many thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of pounds. There are special exhibitions, shows and trade fairs where people source new additions to their collections and exchange gossip. All fascinating stuff, but for me the most extraordinary thing about this group of people was to learn that they don't read the books. Sometimes they barely even open them, except to check no-one has ripped pages out or faked the age. For them the thrill is in the chase and the discovery. It's like those fine wine collectors who never open the bottles.

To me it is incomprehensible that you would own a beautiful book and never read its contents. Because the real value is in what you discover between the covers. The secret of a good book is what is can do for your mind and your soul,  not how much it fetches at auction or how rare it is.

So when it comes to three wishes or desert island possessions, birthday presents or Christmas gifts I am a pushover. Books, books and more books please. Because they can take you anywhere and teach you everything. What more could you want?



5 Top Tips for a Tidy Desk

There's this idea that if you are a creative person, then your desk will look like an explosion in a paper factory. I have seen some pretty crazy looking desks in my time; I remember a former teaching colleague whose desk was groaning under a collection of assorted detritus which he promised was all essential. I just wanted to clear off all that crap and put it in the wastepaper basket!

I'm creative, but I can't work in a mess. I just love having a clean, tidy desk before I start work each day. If you're like me, then here are five tips to help you:

  1. Before you finish work at the end of the day, tidy up and bin any rubbish cluttering up that lovely desk top space.  It's great to start fresh in the morning knowing what you are doing.
  2. Examine the top of your desk. (Makes a change from your navel!) How much stuff actually needs to be there? There comes a point where inspirational quotations, crystals, photos and CDs of relaxing music can actually start getting on your nerves, which rather defeats the object. Clean out drawers and filing cabinets too – it's still there you know, that clutter, even if you can't see it.
  3. Get into the habit of acting on something, binning it or filing it as soon as it arrives on your desk.
  4. Keep your 'wealth corner' (back left of your desk top) uncluttered and have a leafy plant or something else symbolising wealth on there, not your overflowing in-tray. (Thanks to a feng shui ebook I have just read for this tip – every little helps.)
  5. Keep everything fresh,clean and polished. (I hope you can see enough desk space to polish.) Apparently your computer keyboard has more germs on it than a toilet seat, so keep that clean too and not full of crumbs from your mid morning snack.

A tidy desk has a strong subconscious effect on you, making you feel empowered and in control, even if it's just in that very small area. So go on, get the duster out. You know you want to!



Dear Mr Internet – I’m Sick of You!

OK, Mr Internet, I’ve just about had it with you. I know I may be biting the hand that feeds me, but you know what, sometimes you just really hack me off. So it’s time we had a talk, you and me.

What is it with the Facebook thing? Sometimes, I am so Facebooked-out I want to scream. And as for this new  ‘liking’ palaver, well, I just don’t want to do that any more. I’m not comfortable with it. I don’t want to ‘like’ any more Facebook pages from people I don’t know or  care about. OK?

Now as for Twitter. What were you thinking of? I don’t want to tell the world the minutiae of my life in sentence-sized bites. In fact, while we’re at it,  I don’t want to join any more social networks or hear about the latest hoops you have to jump through to get noticed online. Why can’t things just stay how they were? Maybe it’s time we had a break.

DSCN1908 (600 x 450) I’ve been here before, of course. I expect you remember, don’t you? I decide that I am never going to go online again. I will live a back to basics life and open an animal sanctuary in my garden, tend the vegetables and fruits in my thriving orto (that’s Italian for vegetable patch by the way) and spend my days writing poetry…

The trouble is, that I’m a crap gardener. You know that too of course,  judging by the number of times I have Googled how to grow stuff.  This summer  I have managed to produce just eight tomatoes in a plot the size of Tuscany. And we both understand all too well that I would go round the bend writing poetry.  I don’t think I have the stamina for an animal sanctuary as even my twice monthly stint volunteering at the  dog’s home wears me out. What to do, what to do?

Well, Mr Internet. Having walked around the garden and admired my one remaining tomato, I am going to give you another chance. I am going to remember what you were like at the beginning of our relationship – exciting, surprising, captivating. I am going to remind myself of all those presents you gave me – the chance to work from home, a virtual library at my fingertips, one or two really good new friends, the ability to connect with people all over the world.

I am going to gloss over your more recent shortcomings and get back to what attracted me to you in the first place. Good content, great stories. Never mind your flirtations with social media and your need to get bigger and better and have more, more, more. That’s just what you’re like. The bottom line is that you are good at heart. I know that. You help people connect. That’s good too.

So I will do my best to bear in mind your good points and not dwell on your ‘dark side’. OK?

As I am being so magnanimous I would appreciate some effort on your side too.  It’s not all one-way, you know. So if you can please send me lots of lovely visitors and nice comments, that would be really nice of you.

OK, it’s been good having this little talk . I know you probably won’t even read this as you’ll be off inventing something else to wind me up or adding more complex bits to your already wonderful self. But the bottom line is that I need you and you need me too.  I couldn’t live without you actually.

OK,  I think I’d better get back to work now. Thanks for listening.

Love Fionax