Stories

The Book Lover’s Tag

The Book Lover's Tag
The Falcon of Siam by Axel Aylwen
The Book Lover's Tag
The Kipling Reader: Selections from the Books of Rudyard Kipling

Every week, on a Thursday, I receive my much awaited blog posts from my friends who live all over the world. The topics they write about are so varied and interesting, it means I get to learn new things all the time. Once such blog was by Sarah from secretartexpedition.wordpress.com who is a talented artist and lover of art, nature, literature and a lot more. Her post was called The Book Lover’s Tag and she had been nominated by another blogger to answer questions about a favourite pastime of hers-reading. Just like Sarah, I love reading, so I thought it would be fun to consider myself tagged and answer the same questions.

Here goes:

Do you have a specific place for reading?

I normally settle myself on the sofa and read a chapter or two at a time. The other place I read is in bed at the end of the day.

Bookmark or random piece of paper?

I used to mark the page by folding the corner in the book but I don’t like to do that, so I have a bookmark that I bought in Goa, it’s simply handmade with a piece of card and colourful string wrapped around it and a longer piece that sticks out the book so I can easily retrieve my place.

Do you eat or drink whilst reading?

I do sometimes but I find eating is distracting because I can’t eat and read at the same time, especially when I’m lying on the sofa. I can just about have a swig of whatever I’m drinking and continue to read.

Music or TV whilst reading?

I can’t read and listen to music or watch TV at the same time. I find it too distracting and can’t concentrate on the words.

One book at a time or several?

In the past, I used to only read one book at a time but now I read more than one. I am currently reading two. One is a paperback and the other is on Kindle.

Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?

I love to read at home and I make time in my day to do that but I also love reading outside in the sun. I go swimming a few times a week and I always take my book with me, so I can read by the pool afterwards. I also like reading on the beach, although I find lying on the beach and reading rather uncomfortable, so a lounger under a tree is more preferable. Whenever I go out and about in my city, I usually end up in a bar having lunch with a couple of glasses of wine, so I like to sit and read there.

Read out loud or silently?

Silently, although if I read something I don’t understand I like to read aloud and slowly, it helps me to process the meaning in my head.

Do you read ahead or skip pages?

I never skip pages, unless it’s a study book or technical book and I don’t need to read everything. I have been known to read ahead but I soon realise I don’t want to know what’s going to happen, so I quickly get back to the point I’m at. I do this when I’m watching TV, read a spoiler and then kick myself that I now know what’s going to happen.

Break the spine or keep it like new.

I love the feel and smell of new books, so I like to try and keep them in that condition. I buy a lot of my books second hand and they can be a little tattered but it doesn’t stop me buying them. So, I’d say that I don’t go as far as breaking the spine but I don’t mind if they get a little wrinkled.

Do you write in books?

I used to write in my study books all the time and all over the place but I don’t with reading books.

What books are you reading now?

The Falcon of Siam by Axel Aylwen.  I am engrossed with this book, it’s such a fascinating tale about a Greek adventurer, working for the British East India Company, who finds his way onto the shores of 17th century Thailand and makes a name for himself working for the Ministry of Trade. It’s a fabulous read which incorporates historical fiction and great storytelling from the author. I can’t put it down.

The Kipling Reader by Rudyard Kipling. Wonderful tales like Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, the tale of a brave mongoose and William the Conqueror, a love story of a girl, called William, during the British effort to provide relief to starving natives in famine-stricken Madras. There are a few more tales from this master story writer but I’ve only read the first three so far.

What is your childhood favourite book?

I enjoyed Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories but my favourite was Ruby Ferguson’s Jill Series. Jill’s Gymkhana, A Stable for Jill etc. There were nine books in the series and I read every one. I was obsessed with horses back then, I still am. Most of the books I read, when I was younger, had horses in them.

What is your all-time favourite book?

This is a hard question to answer because there have been many favourite books of mine and I don’t have an all-time favourite but some of the books I have absolutely loved, in no particular order are:

The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R Tolkien
The Hobbit by J. R.R Tolkien
The Shadow of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Azincourt by Bernard Cornwell

Thank you Sarah for your wonderful post, I loved reading about what books you enjoy 🙂 xx

If you enjoyed this post, I would like to extend the invitation to get involved with the Book Lover’s Tag, I’d love to hear about your reading habits. 🙂

Cecil the Horse

I have written about this day out horseriding in my previous post, Nelson to Queenstown, but I thought I’d dedicate a whole post to Cecil the horse.

I have loved horses since I was a little girl, so this was the perfect way to spend a day in Glenorchy and I was looking forward to it immensely. I arrived and was paired up with a horse named Cecil, who was a magnificent bay stallion. My horse and I spent three hours riding through the Rees Valley surrounded by a landscape of rocks, glacial fed rivers and magnificent mountains. It was an incredible experience as we rode our way passed the Misty Mountains which were made famous by The Lord of The Rings. We spent the whole morning riding and after a break for lunch we rode out again.

Cecil was very well behaved in the morning, I think he was a little sleepy, but it was another story when we got together again. When we left the stables for the second time that day, everything was calm and we rode in silence without any problems. On the way back, I think Cecil got a little excited at the thought of ending his day with a bale of hay and a nice comfy stable because he started to buck his hind legs, jumping for joy it seemed. He didn’t let me know he was about to do that, being a horse all conversation is lacking, and it took me completely by surprise. I nearly came off a couple of times but he didn’t manage to throw me, I gripped as much as my knees would allow me too. Maybe he was just fed up with me on his back for a whole five hours, who knows what goes through a horse’s head!

Back at the stables, Cecil posed with me for a photograph as a memento of our day together and we said our goodbyes.

Activities in Glenorchy
Cecil and I

Afterwards, I wondered how I could spend the day walking over a volcano and another hiking a glacier and not ache in the slightest, but five hours on a horse and it was a very different story. I couldn’t move for the next few days, my muscles had packed up and I struggled to move even a few inches. Now I think about it, it was probably Cecil’s revenge and he was back in his comfy stable sniggering with his horsey pals.

Activities in Glenorchy

Activities in Glenorchy

This story is an excerpt from my soon to be published book.

Break-dancing in NYC

It was the Christmas of 1999, and my boyfriend gave me a wonderful surprise, but when I opened the present, I found an apple and the look on my face said “I hope that’s not all he’s got me!” The clue didn’t register until I was given a hint from his parents; the Big Apple?!  “Oh, wow!” I was off to New York for 6 days. I was one happy girl.

A few days into the new year, we found ourselves in Manhattan. We had a fabulous time there, but one story sticks in my mind. A night we went clubbing.

We got all dressed up and went out for dinner and then made our merry way to a club, called Liquid. It was quite a big club, from what I remember, and the pink and purple colours dazzled as the lights flashed around us. It was early when we got there, so there weren’t very many people there. We made our way to the bar and asked for two red bull and vodkas. We nearly fell over in shock with the reply we received! There was no liquor license! That was the year 2000, and only 10 years after the internet started, so it wasn’t really the norm to check out places before going there. Had we been able to do that, I don’t even know if the club had a website back then, but we would probably have found out that Liquid didn’t serve booze.

We were slightly taken aback, seeing as we were in the city that never sleeps, it seemed that was true, but we would just have to experience a night without our vodkas, after all we had paid money to get into the club, so we weren’t going to leave just because of a minor (in our case, major) detail. So, we ordered red bulls, minus the vodka, and moved away from the bar and found a place to people watch.

What happened next really made our night. As we sipped our non-alcoholic beverages, both of us thinking, “once we’ve finished these, we are outta here and gonna get drunk,” when a circle of people formed in front of us. We wondered what was going on, a fight maybe? But the atmosphere didn’t feel like that, there was no-one sizing each other up or shoving going on.

All of a sudden, music blared and, in the middle of the circle of people, a guy began break-dancing, moving this way and that, head spinning, body popping and getting into seemingly impossible positions. It was thrilling to watch. Another guy, who had been on the other side of the circle, took over and it was his turn to display a variety of gymnastic movements; one-handed handstands, leaping so high in the air and almost defying gravity. The determination and skill these guys had was phenomenal. It’s very difficult to balance you’re body on one hand, while trying to spin (believe me, I’ve tried, I didn’t even get to the spinning part!) yet, these very talented men were doing it with ease. We were blown away and couldn’t tear ourselves away from the action, our eyes not daring to look away in case we missed anything. It was the longest time I’ve ever taken to drink a vodkaless red bull in my life. All too soon, the break-dancing stopped and the crowd dispersed, and we were left to our drinks. It was like it never happened.

What a night though. How fantastic that we were there when they decided to have a break-dancing battle. We left not long after, excitedly chattering about what we had just witnessed, found another bar and got drunk!

 

 

 

 

A Short Tale of Ceviche

Cancun, Mexico
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Beach_Cancun.JPG

In 2000, I took a trip to Cancun in Mexico, with my boyfriend and his family because his sister was getting married and they had chosen the Moon Palace for the venue.

The wedding was fabulous and the hotel was stunning with several restaurants, a huge pool, bedrooms with a hot tub for two, and ocean views. Most of the time we just hung around the hotel, but me and my bf ventured out alone a couple of times.

One day, we were chilling on the beach when we started talking to this Mexican guy who turned out to be a fisherman. As the day progressed he told us that he was going on a fishing trip the next day and would we like to tag along. Yes, of course we would, although the boat didn’t look up to ocean travel, we weren’t going to pass a chance up like this. We agreed to meet the next day and off we went all excited about the prospect of the day ahead.

The following day, we met the guy as arranged and he told us that we couldn’t go fishing because the sea was a little rough and it wouldn’t make for a very successful day’s catch. Although, we didn’t really fancy our chances in the tiny boat he had, we were so disappointed and we resigned ourselves to find something else to do.

The guy said, it’s okay you don’t have to leave, I have some fish that I caught already in the fridge, so why don’t we hang out and I will make you dinner. Our frowns turned upside down and we cracked open some cold beers. The beach was the perfect setting for our little impromptu day, the wind lazily blowing as we sat in deck chairs, watching the blue ocean crashing onto the white sand.

Our new found friend produced a tray of my first ever dish of ceviche, raw fish flavoured with lime, chilli and coriander, with potato crisps to scoop it up, so simple yet very delicious, I can still taste it now.

We had a fab day, ceviche on the beach, cold beer, sun shining, new friend=simple pleasures in life and some fond memories.

Stupid in Lust

Always wanting to try new things, Alex was chatting to her friend one day about on-line dating.

“So, how did you and John meet again?” she asked.

Her friend, Tanya, replied, “I registered on a dating site. I started chatting to this guy, and we arranged to meet. It was that easy.”

“But weren’t you nervous about meeting someone you didn’t know?” Alex asked quizzically.

“Yes, of course I was, but it was exciting at the same time,” Tanya chuckled, “And look at us, we are still together.”

So Alex, being Alex, thought she would give it a go. She had been single for a while and she needed some excitement in her life. So, she set up an account with the on-line dating website and waited.

Now, Alex was normally a smart girl and not at all up front about such things, but she thought it would be even more exciting to specify that she wanted an intimate encounter.

She started chatting to this guy, who lived in London. They chatted for a few weeks and one day he told Alex that he was going to be in her vicinity for a meeting. They arranged to meet at his hotel, a five-star place on the outskirts of town.

Nervous, and excited at the same time, Alex arrived at the luxurious five-star hotel, called him and told him she was downstairs waiting. He told her what he was wearing, brown jeans and sweater, and that he would be down in a few minutes. A few minutes later he was in reception, in brown jeans and sweater, they said hello and went up to his hotel room. He told Alex that he had to finish some work, but it would only take about thirty minutes for him to finish, after which they could go out.

Great! she thought, it’s the first time I have met him and he has to finish work, not exactly romantic! But then she reminded herself that they were both there for an intimate encounter, not exactly wine and roses in itself. Anyway, he offered her a beer and she sat watching TV while he carried on working.

After about an hour he said, “OK, I am done, let’s go eat.”

“Great,” she replied, “Where shall we go?”

They left the room and went downstairs and walked towards the exit.

“I don’t really know this area” he said.

“I do, but all the restaurants will be closed” she replied.

“OK, no problem, let’s go to one of the hotel’s restaurants” he suggested.

So they made their way back inside the hotel. However, by this time it was close to midnight and all the restaurants in the hotel were closed. Even five star hotels have their closing times.

“Never mind,” he said, “we can get room service.”

“Er, OK,” was her tentative reply. Alex wasn’t feeling quite as excited as before. In fact she was rather wishing that she hadn’t put that she was up for an intimate encounter.

But not one to give up, she followed him up to his room and sat down. He offered her another beer and they looked at the menu. They settled on a tuna sandwich each. Not exactly the meal she had had in mind.

They sat there chatting and Alex thought to herself that, after all the weeks they had been chatting, it was very nice to meet him in person. And he seemed like the perfect gentleman, so she started to relax a bit, although she did get a little bored when he kept referring to how much money he made, how much the hotel room cost, how many this he had, how many that he had. Those things held no interest for Alex whatsoever. But who was she to complain? They were both after an intimate encounter, this should not be forgotten.

After a while he blurted out “Do you want a bath?”

Alex nearly choked on her tuna sandwich “A bath?” “Er, no!”

“Oh, it can be quite nice” he replied.

“Oh,” she didn’t want to hurt his feelings, “I don’t really like baths.”

With that he got up and said “OK, am gonna take a shower.” And off he went.

When he had gone, Alex’s courage started to wane. She started to think what on earth she was doing in this random guy’s hotel room. One who she had never met before, and one she certainly didn’t know. So she started having a conversation with herself practising what she was going to say. But then… on the promise of an intimate encounter…What if he didn’t let her go? What if…? What if…?

Alex could feel panic rising.

When he appeared from the bathroom towel in hand saying,  “There are towels on the bed.” She very quickly and calmly said “You know what, I’m gonna go.”

He asked “Oh, why?”

“This thing is just not me.”

“You put on your profile that you wanted an intimate encounter” he stated.

“I know.”

She told him about her friends and how it had worked for them. “But this is just not me” she repeated, and continued with the “It’s not you, it’s me,” line.

She needn’t have worried about anything, because he accepted what she said and, being the gentleman he was, he walked her to the lift, gave her a peck on the cheek, and said, “Am sorry that you have to leave.”

“I’m sorry too” she lied.

And with that, she left the hotel feeling like the hotel staff knew exactly what she had been up to, after all they had seen her arriving, and now departing in less than two hours.

On the way home, Alex realised that what she had done was such a stupid thing to do. To go to someone’s hotel, someone she had never met before.

“Really Alex?” she said aloud.

But, she was one of those people who likes to put her trust in people and, thankfully, this guy turned out to be a gentleman. The night ended happily, sheepishly, but happily. However, it could have gone a different, less than pleasant, way, and she didn’t relish that thought.

Once home, Alex called Tanya and told her about the whole episode. Tanya burst out laughing.

“I’m sorry,“ she giggled, “ I know I shouldn’t laugh, but you ate tuna sandwiches, and he gave you towels?” Not much of an intimate encounter!”

Alex saw the funny side, and even though she could laugh about it, she knew then that it would be something that this smart girl would never repeat.

Author
Gill Morris