Day of the Triffids inspired me to start reading again

The Alium in my mum's garden which reminded me of a Triffid.

An avid reader as a child, I’ve realised that (despite commuting) I rarely pick up books. It might be that such a large part of my job (as a writer and press officer) involves reading, so I want to give my brain time off from words, or it might be that I’ve got lazy. Either way, I wanted to rectify this. So a few months ago I started a book club.

We meet monthly in the Cornerstone, a local arts centre (so nobody is burdened with tidying or snack buying), we have about 10 members and we each take turns choosing the books. The first month we read Room by Emma Donaghue, and chatted about the book for about twenty minutes before the chat turned to gossip. But last month we read Day of the Triffids.

I’ve never been that much into sci-fi novels, but I’ve also never been that fussy about what I’m reading, as long as it’s engaging. Day of the Triffids is mentioned so often in pop culture that I was quite excited to read it and find out what all the fuss is about!

The book isn’t too long so it’s not that intimidating and I settled in to read it on my morning train journey. Like most end-of-world plots it starts in a hospital, where the main character is trapped after an eye operation, and I immediately drew links to The Walking Dead which we’ve recently been making our way through all four seasons of.

Drawing links to recent shows/films and other books was something I did regularly as I continued to read – it’s amazing how many apocalypse movies and books must draw on Wyndham’s  plot. I know I’ll be that annoying person now watching TV and shouting ‘he stole that from Day of the Triffids!’

I surprised myself in how much I enjoyed this book, and how hard I found it to put down, but it scarred me for life that watching an asteroid shower could blind you as I know I would have been the first one on hearing about a huge meteor shower to rush to the garden, eyes to the sky.

Although a lot of our book club members neglected to read this one, the few of us that did had an engaging discussion for over an hour that drew on all our political, historical and cultural opinions as we talked about the underlying themes of genetic modification and the Cold War which are all still so relevant to today’s society, particularly with the recent disputes between Russia and Ukraine.

More than any of the books I’ve read recently, Triffids really inspired me to start reading again, and has made me rethink what types of story I actually enjoy. I definitely won’t shy away from sci-fi books anymore as it turns out I quite like them, and I’m looking forward to trying other genres I haven’t read in a while.

Have any books inspired you to start reading again? Which books have your book club loved?

 

IKEA KIVIK or KARLSTAD Sofa?

Last Sunday we discovered the new flat has fleas, and that we’ve infected the current flat we rent. Rubbish! After a lot of frantic phone calls, an epic amount of hoovering and a short bout of tears we decided to take our minds off the hideousness and head to IKEA to try and choose a sofa.

Our current sofa in the rented flat is HIDEOUS. Not only is it ugly, it’s also the most uncomfortable sofa in the world, with that weird velvety material that means even if you slouch your clothes stay stuck to it in a very upright position. We regularly choose to sit on the floor as opposed to torturing ourselves on the sofa. In short, we can’t WAIT to get a new one, and we have one criteria – comfort.

I’ve had my eye on the Karlstad sofa at Ikea for a while. After sitting on it at various friends houses and even sleeping on it a few times, i can vouch for its comfort. I also don’t mind the way it looks. There’s just one this I hate about it – the legs. It comes with these awful beech square legs that are just so….IKEA. But, I had already found a website called Pretty Pegs that sells replacement legs for IKEA sofas and could get some to match our mid-century teak dining table. Sofa conundrum solved! Or so I thought.

KARLSTAD Three-seat sofa IKEA A range of coordinated covers makes it easy for you to give your furniture a new look.When we walked into the store on Sunday, Mr Harriet sat on the Karlstad and immeadiately declared it the most uncomfortable sofa he’d ever sat on. Cue panic.

Until we sat on the Kivik. The wider arms, lack of legs, and squatter shape mean I like the style of it a lot less. The 20cm extra width (mostly from its excessively wide arms) will mean it dominates our tiny living room. But boy is it comfy. I mean, we could lie on that sofa through our Game of Thrones box set and not have to get up once to twist our clothes back or find a comfier position. But damn, I just wish it was prettier…

KIVIK Three-seat sofa IKEA KIVIK is a generous seating series with a soft, deep seat and comfortable support for your back.

This has led to all out war in out flat. Boys vs Girls, Kivik vs Karlstad. I’ve even set up a Pinterest board to try and help me decide. What do you think?

UPDATE: WE HAVE A WINNER (And it’s neither of the one’s above!)

sofa

As of July we decided that compromise is the only way this war will end. Enter the John Lewis Bailey – with it’s square shape like the Karlstad and the higher back like the Kivik it’s the comfiest of the three and best looking by far. Unfortunately for us we could have bought both Ikea sofa’s for the same price. But I held out and found one we like in the sale! YAY. It’ll take a few weeks to be delivered but I can’t wait to start watching Orange is the New Black on it!

Oh Matchbox Pinhole Photography!

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The iconic cooling towers of Didcot A power station are due to be demolished this month or next. Now, I know they aren’t the prettiest of things but there’s something really comforting about seeing the red lights in the distance on a long journey and knowing you’re nearly home.

Since we’re buying our first home in Didcot, and I’ve grown slightly partial to their looming presence outside my window, I wanted to memorialise them somehow as a piece of art. I knew I didn’t want just a standard photo of them. I decided I wanted to try and take a pinhole photograph of the towers.

I tried a few pinhole photographs at school, and one of my pictures (of a coke bottle on the school roof – not quite revolutionary!) is up in my bedroom now so I know I like how they look and remembered it being quite fun and easy. The only problem is I don’t have a dark room…

After searching the internet i found this tutorial which talks you through the stages of making a pinhole camera out of two rolls of film (one empty) and a matchbox. This technique allows you to roll the film, once it’s finished, back into the cannister and take it to a place that develops photos. PROBLEM SOLVED! The camera also seems to take quite nice pictures – you can see some examples on the matchbox pinhole group on Flikr — if you use it properly so I thought I could probably get something worthy of my walls out of it.

So I went to Boots, who kindly offered me lots of empty rolls of film, then gathered everything else together and started to make the camera…

photo 1

The process is really simple and the instructions were really clear so when I sat down at 10pm to make the camera I thought i would be an easy project. Here’s the first few steps:

Everything was going swimmingly until I had taped the camera entirely shut and went to wind the film on for the first time… Nothing happened. I had taped the whole thing so tightly shut that not a single piece of the camera could move.

This was quite lucky though as in undoing the tape I found the clicker had ripped my film and so I replaced that (using a ring binder this time that we dug out from somewhere) and then carefully taped the camera back up, checking with each bit of tape that I could still wind it on and hear the ‘click’.

photo 10

 

These were a couple of other problems I came up against:

  1. Even with a sharp knife the hollow nature of the matchbox made it really hard to get clean edges on the square which frames the photo, which means I will have a rough edge to my photos.
  2. It is actually really hard to jab a pin into metal repeatedly. I gave up on the ‘twist and drill’ technique as it wasn’t achieving anything and instead chose to put a cushioned nail file (which I used to file the aluminium so it was quite thin) on top of the needle and gently hammer it through the metal until I saw light.
  3.  I have no idea if the hole i made was big enough. I could see light through it, but i just didn’t trust it when it was eventually taped to the camera
  4. The say you can use any piece of thin circular plastic for a clicker. It’s a trap. Don’t use anything that isn’t a plastic binder. I originally cut the plastic ring off the top of a water bottle (the bit that the lid is attached to so you know it’s secure when you open it) and this tore my film. Loads of the film (ok, about one frames worth).
  5. By the time i’d made the camera I’d exposed loads of the film, so I think my first few shots are going to be white outs…
  6. It’s really hard trying to get the shutter up and down without shaking the whole thing, so my photos will probably be quite blurry.

Anyway, I took my finished camera out on Sunday when we did a 10 mile hike through the countryside to Little Wittenham and The Clumps. I’ve been playing around with my exposure times and making notes of what I’ve done each time so when l get the film developed I’ll know what worked best. I’ve only taken about 15 shots so far, so there’s still lots of film left to use up before I get any of the shots developed but hopefully they’ll look good – I’ll put them up when I get them back!

matchbox camera

 

Oh Campaign Chests!

I’ve been spending a lot of time on a certain online auction site recently, in the hope that we’ll be able to furnish our house beautifully while only spending pennies. Unfortunately, since the house isn’t organised yet this is only window shopping for the moment, but I’ve got an ever-growing ‘Watch’ list that i’m ready to pounce on as soon as we get in (Yes, yes I know i should wait until we’re in so we know what we need and how we ‘use the space’).

Well recently I found this pair of campaign-chest-style bedside tables :

$_3

 

They look a bit battered and I’d be worried they’d look too old fashioned with the rest of our furniture, but i’ve found so many inspirational posts of people using them that I’m not sure i’ll be able give them up.

Although, most of these posts are upcycled Ikea Rast drawers and I’m not sure I could bring myself to destroy these antiques, so maybe I should leave them. What do you think?

campaign chest bedside tables

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Sue Johnson prints

I mentioned before that after visiting the Pitt Rivers museum last week I’ve been scouring their print site admiring the beautiful images in their collections.

I really like the reproductions of Sue Johnson’s paintings. They remind me of those old vintage school wallcharts showing different parts of a flower or anatomy.

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‘Arabesque with black lacquer teapot’