I am an intermittent reader. However, when I get into my stride, I have been known to be seen, constantly, book in hand. It can be in the bath, on public transport, or even walking down the road. Nose in book, and I'm immersed in whatever story or life is taking my fancy at that particular moment in time. I am happy to say that I currently appear to be in a busy period with this particular pastime. I feel that I have now turned my erstwhile obsession into a hobby. I'm not a member of a 'book club', perish the thought. What care do I have for some else's opinion of any book I have or will read? The luxury and beauty of reading is that I can own the character, become the friend, in my mind, of the author and share the real or imagined pleasure, intrigue or anxiety of them or their fictional creation.
I used to share my opinions on books with friends but stopped when I realised that even on, for example, reading an autobiography, my perception of what was being conveyed regularly differed from theirs. So in the spirit of staying friends, we agreed to curb these conversations and settle on our own interpretation. I am aware that this makes me sound a bit closed-minded, but I can assure you it is only in this area...
Let me explain. I don't just read a book. I can get sucked in so much I almost feel like a character in it. An unseen observer, if you like. Just out of focus in the corner of the novel or factual tome. I have just finished Kevin Barry's first book of short stories and his novel Night Boat To Tangier
, both exquisitely written and with such deft detail in introducing and insinuating the reader with his characters. Completion of these two has given me the 'burn', so much so that I could not wait to pick up my next book from what was in danger of becoming a discarded towering pile.
I'm now around halfway into Bob Mortimer's autobiography, entitled And Away
. I know that showbiz type of books can be a load of old tosh, with recycled stories about their showbiz pals intertwined by their supposed life struggle and ultimate triumph. Bob's is different. Yes, he does mention one or two celeb pals, but only on the down low. His book, in alternate chapters, talks about his young life juxtaposed with his more recent health issues. Not in any maudlin sense though: in an open, honest and want to read more, style. Even more importantly, his book made me laugh like a drain one minute and had me holding back the tears the next. Immensely honest in a kind of matter-of-fact way, it feels more like a conversation with a confidant than any kind of vanity project.
I was settled down in a coffee shop overlooking the castle on Princes Street on Sunday as I devoured his memoirs. I sat laughing out long and loud, with no care for how I might have been being observed, such is the charm of the material. I have to be perfectly honest at this juncture and admit that, as I do like Bob as a performer, I wanted to like this book. So far, I have not been disappointed.
I met some old work friends on Friday night for the first time in two years. It was remarked that all but me were now retired, with a couple being only months older than me, which got me wondering what I had missed. Anyway, it was good to see them and it made us all feel a bit nearer to normality, not fully of course, what with the age and all that. We enjoyed some lovely food in a fancy eatery located in a back street off the main drag in the east end of Edinburgh. My ex-colleagues also sunk a few glasses of wine with their meal and a good time was had by all.
As is the case with these type of events, when the bill came, (phone) calculators were out and the divvying up of the bill was attempted. Also, as is the norm, some wished to pay by card and some with cash, and invariably the amount due from each diner was not a round number. The cards were settled and the cash assembled. However, on informing the waiting staff that we had gathered in excess of the amount due, this fact was met with the response that 'we do not have any change'.
On that comment the night turned. We will not be back, after all the age and all that.
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