Audiobooks, another night at the theatre and ancient perfumery
As some of you may have read in my recent post for RSPB’s Feed the Birds Day, one of my favourite ways to read books is in the garden, especially on an autumn morning with a hot drink while watching the birds start their day.
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I also enjoy listening to podcasts and would love to be able to listen to audiobooks, but for some reason I can’t concentrate on them at all. I either just completely zone out and find myself not having a clue what’s going on, or fall asleep(!), though that’s quite useful if I’m having trouble dropping off.
Reading Hear All About It by Paula Harmon recently though, I was reminded of the Teddy Ruxpin I had as a child.
Like the Disney stories Paula refers to, Teddy Ruxpin would tell the story (recorded on the tape) while you read along - I had the Airship story shown in the picture and have had an ambition to fly in a hot air balloon ever since. Sadly the closest I got was being bought a hot air balloon ride for my thirtieth, which was cancelled due to three stormy Yorkshire days and then refunded. My later encounter with Dorothy’s failed hot air balloon ride only made it seem more like the best ever transportation, although a magical pair of glitter shoes obviously come a close second, providing I managed to get a pair in a colour other than red - I actually have a tattoo of the slippers and argued for ages with my tattooist about my “bizarre” request to colour them blue…
I can’t remember now how you knew to turn the page for the Teddy Ruxpin stories, but I have vague memories of him blinking or turning his head or something equally impressive to 1980s children.
My next encounter with audio books was also, like Paula’s, associated with France, as I had a number of books and tapes which made the attempt to harness my young and malleable mind to learn French via immersion. I remember two books specifically. One had a section on ice cream in the back where I learned both glace and fraise, and I only remember this specifically due to a disappointing trip to a French supermarket where both my mother and I thought that a batch of plain bread rolls were in fact some type of jam doughnut due to the inclusion of au fraise on the packet - looking back, I’m thinking it was probably a serving suggestion to buy confiture à la fraise to go with them.
This book came with a tape where the narrator read passages preceded by écoute followed by répéte where there was a gap for you to parrot back what she had said.
Much more memorable from my French books with tapes though, was Zozo.
I loved Zozo’s adventure with his pet cat. Obviously the hot air balloon on the front cover helped a lot, but I do remember it being a really fun story which involved at some point a crêpe being stuck to the ceiling (sacré bleu!) and Zozo’s hot air balloon getting wrapped around a washing line.
I love how Paula talks about the experience of audio books and reading books being different. Thinking about this I now remember reading along whenever I was read stories as a child (I don’t have any memories of being read books before I could read, though of course I was), so perhaps the way for me to get on with audio books would be to read along with them. Whether or not that would be worth doing, I’m not sure. It certainly wouldn’t be a safe way to spend a long driving journey or something I could do alongside the ironing like other people I know who enjoy audio books do!
So I think for now I’ll stick with the podcasts, which for some reason don’t send me to sleep, and keep the books for reading, but it’s been nice to remember my early encounters with audio books through my childhood friends, Teddy Ruxpin and Zozo the Clown. Très magnifique!
What He Said
I’m really looking forward to seeing What He Said on stage again, and really happy to be including a preview of the companion show What She Said, which will be performed by the brilliant Geraldine Moloney Judge. Geraldine and the director of What He Said, PJ Murray, recently spoke to Helen Jones on BBC Radio Merseyside and you can catch up with the interview on BBC Sounds now (from 29:48).
Image top L-R James Lawrence, Robert Smith, John Purcell, Rob Keyes, Paul Taylor
Image bottom L-R Christopher Smalley, PJ Murray, John O’Gorman
What He Said, July 2022 - Photography by Anthony McAloon
You can also read previews of the show on Liverpool Sound and Vision and Theatre Reviews North. The performance will take place on International Men’s Day, 19 November, at the Theatre at the Casa, Liverpool and £1 from every ticket sold will be donated to Prostate Cancer UK. Advanced tickets are available now from Eventbrite and tickets will also be sold on the door. I really hope you can make it to see this special piece of theatre which explores the role that gender plays in all of our lives, wherever we fall on the spectrum.
Seventy years of books
On my seventy years of books blog, I am continuing with the Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola. I’m really enjoying exploring Nigerian folklore and am also looking at other tales from Nigeria as well as interesting things that happened in 1952.
Meow. I do not like Halloween. Little children kept knocking on the door all evening and the humans were making such a fuss going out and given them treats. If you ask me, some of them deserved a good trick. There were also pumpkins on my wall pillars where I like to sit and watch the world, and they were glowing and hot. It’s all very bizarre. I did however get an extra treat because the humans knew I was very upset with all the knocking. They were more worried about Bonfire Night and my being frightened, but I just sat on top of my tree where it was safe because the humans were close by and my robin was there to protect me. The humans also played me some classical music which they were told would keep me calm. It was OK and at least it wasn’t that ridiculous musical with humans in terrible cat costumes, so I was happy enough. Purr.
What I’m reading
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo
Things that have caught my eye
Want to Know What Cleopatra Smelled Like? Scientists Believe They Have Uncovered the Pharaoh's Signature Scent An interesting tale of archaeology and perfumery. I love Ancient Egyptian history and particularly enjoy reading anything about what everyday life was like in the Ancient world, and anything that can bring that world to life, like food and scents, is really interesting to me.
Cheshire restaurant cuts gas and electric to protest soaring energy prices A wonderful story about a restaurant hosting a back to basics, off grid evening in protest of rising energy costs. I love this and it’s a great example of how we can think about things in different ways to save energy and help the planet.
Annie Dillard and the Writing Life Alexander Chee’s memories of studying creative writing under Annie Dillard. I studied with two creative writing tutors at uni. One had an unhealthy obsession with Roald Dahl novels, the Matrix trilogy and rigidly following the rules of writing outlined by robot narrated animations on YouTube, and the other was a great man who taught me more about my own writing than I could ever realised on my own. Andrew was a great teacher who showed me that poetry was always worth writing, even if not everyone thinks it’s worth reading(!) and there is a place in this world for short fiction and, more importantly, fairies and dragons. Without him, the Matrix aficionado who thought there was no place in literature for working class people, might have succeeded in his aim of getting me to put down my pen forever.
Become a more observant writer with these 7 tips An interesting list of ways to enrich your writing through observation. I like to think that the error early in the article is a deliberate way to test one’s observation skills before you even start reading…
The Foundling A lovely, creepy little story inspired by the Foundling Museum and Pumpkins! a fun little tale, both perfect for the Halloween season, which if I had my way we’d celebrate 365 days a year.
Handmade gifts! This lovely little robin was handmade by my friend Fiona’s Dad, and is going to make a lovely addition to my Christmas decorations as I did have to put the Halloween ones away eventually. Molly’s also a big fan of robins and luckily she hasn’t attacked this one because her’s is softer and better for cuddles.
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I love audiobook, but I also find it hard to concentrate on occasionally.
However, I find it such a convenient way to ‘read’ that I have it on almost constantly.
If I get distracted I whizz it back to where I can remember what was going on.
Like Andy I think I sometimes have it on to fill the quiet void of empty space. Having the tv on has the same effect but with 2 senses, sight as well as hearing it is easier to become distracted.
Total silence allows thoughts in that I don’t want to think, so I love white noise. Quiet natter that can be dipped into through the day is perfect for me as I’m able to zone in when I’m doing the washing and zone out whist doing the accounts.
For me it’s a god send at night, I set it on timer to go off after 20 mins during which time I go into a deep nightmare free sleep most nights. I would be lost without audible.
What a great article Donna, and thanks for the mention. Yes it’s a strange experience that goes in a different way I think. When I was ‘proof listening’ I was doing so while reading along and yes that does work (although not recommended while driving). I always wanted to go on an air balloon too and never have. Not so sure now. Thanks for book recommendations. I love to read books set in different cultures and have read a few set in various African countries, but keen to read more.