[Book Review] The Outsider by Emily Organ

The Outsider by Emily Organ
Emily Organ is a long-time blogging friend of mine and it's wonderful to see her producing such engaging and interesting fiction. The Outsider is Emily's second novel.  

Yasmin and Daniel meet by chance at a business conference in New York. Both are looking for a reason to move in a new direction in their lives but didn't expect it to be with each other. The only problem is that Daniel is a recent widower and his wife's death is shrouded in mystery. 

Back in the UK, the story continues with the growth of their relationship, how Yasmin feels living in Daniel's wife's shadow and the fact that she doesn't really know the full story of how or why Lisa died. To complicate matters, Richard, one of the villagers, was slightly obsessed with Lisa and believes that her death wasn't an accident, even though the inquest ruled otherwise. He is determined to find out what really happened and conducts his own investigation, upsetting and unnerving almost everyone around him... except Yasmin, who becomes intrigued by the discoveries that Richard is making. 

The Outsider is a completely different story structure to Emily's first novel - The Last Day, which I reviewed here. The story takes many twist and turns, leaving you guessing right up until the last few pages.  The main characters are well-written and the number of supporting 'cast' is just enough to feel they matter to the story line.  Occasionally I felt as though there could have been more to the story but that was because I wanted to feel everything that was going on.  Sometimes less is definitely more. 


Today I Was Called A Cunt...

...and IN WRITING, from a PR company that I'm working with, which sort of makes it official, doesn't it? 

For those who don't already know (where HAVE you been?), I'm a bit of a pedant when it comes to the written word. Spelling mistakes leap off the page at me, grammatical errors make my teeth itch, txtspk - even on texts - makes me want to scratch my eyes out and I think we should all just learn to touch type properly slow down a little bit and take more care over the words we are sharing with others.

Ooohhhh deep!!   Anyway...

I'm a little disappointed that I haven't gravitated to the higher echelon of actual 'disco cunt' but it looks like my reputation precedes me and I still have something to strive for. To paraphrase the words of Mark Knopfler: 
"Wanting something is far better than having it."
Onwards and upwards. To Cuntdom...

disocunt, disco cunt, discount,

What *Was* The Green Cross Code?

Green Cross Code

Yesterday, I saw a tweet from 80s Nostalgia which asked what the exact Green Cross Code was (apparently to solve an argument)

Now, as a fully-fledged member of the Tufty Club and proud to be born in the 1970's, I jumped straight in with
"Look right, look left, look right again..."
because we all know that you have to check the oncoming traffic first and the UK is a driving-on-the-left-hand-side minority country, isn't it? And then, just for shits and giggles, I thought I'd check out the retro adverts on good old YouTube.

Well, my ghast is still flabbered!!

tufty badge,
Not anywhere in those three videos does Darth Vader The Green Cross Code Man say those actual words.  Neither does Tufty, although members were obliged to wear their badge on the right hand side to remind them to look that way first, and it's not even mentioned in SPLINK (what do you MEAN you don't know what SPLINK is? Find out here)!

So help me solve the mystery... where did the words, "look right, look left, look right again" come from? It can't be a 1970's urban myth, can it?


What Do I Wear When I Go Running?

What Do I Wear When I Go Running?

When I started running, I pulled on an old pair of joggers and a baggy t-shirt then picked up my fairly well-worn Reeboks and set off for the first session of the Couch To 5K group.  


Because I was wearing "my own clothes" I didn't look or feel the part. Also, when I first started looking for fitness clothes, it was a bit of a minefield - I wasn't sure what was best to buy. However, once I'd bought a proper pair of running shoes and specific garb that I would only use for running I felt much more invested in the whole activity.  Over the past few months I have bought a few more items of running clothes but I've ensured that they fit me properly and are comfy. I've also bought a new pair of running shoes recently which are slightly lighter and more fitted around my feet.

As for the rest of it... have a look at my video where I show you what I actually wear. None of it was expensive (everything, apart from my trainers, is from Sports Direct and Primark) but it feels GOOD to pull on that 'uniform' and get in a proper mind-set to do something that is normally so alien to me.

P.S. Have you listened to any of the Fitbitches podcasts yet?  You can subscribe using your own podcast capture app or find each episode on iTunes, Mixcloud or YouTube.

fitbitches : the podcast


101 Books That Are Classics To Me

I caught up with a few of my favourite blogs this week and saw that a couple of people had been listing which books they had read out of a supposed (according to whom?) "Top 100 Classics".  I will be totally honest and say that I have probably read less than a third of any "Top 100" list and a few of those - like The Bible and Of Mice and Men and Far From The Madding Crowd and Macbeth (ok, I'm stopping now) is only because I was forced to at school!

I have a special bookshelf in my house which houses all my favourite books and when I counted them there was 101.  These books will never be swapped, sold or donated and have been kept for many different reasons.  These reasons don't really matter, but you can ask about specific books in the comments section if you like.  Yes, there will be some crossover between my list and the "classic" list, but not many.  There are a few 'extra's on the shelf but they are not as important as the ones listed.  I could sit here analysing this list for days on end but never come to a conclusion.

I also have boxes and boxes of other books - some in the loft, some in the spare room - from when I was strict with myself and had a really good sort out.  Some were given to the local charity shop, some are still dotted around the house.  Maybe the 'hangers-on' will make it to The Shelf one day?

The List.  In no particular order.  Just that they look nice on the shelf arranged like this.

  1. Maggie and the Roundabout - Jane Hollowood
  2. The Children's Book of Comic Verse
  3. George, Don't Do That - Joyce Grenfell
  4. Children of the Dust - Louise Lawrence
  5. The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler - Gene Kemp
  6. Forever - Judy Blume
  7. Stories of Grandmother Oma - Ilse Kleberger
  8. Lanky Twang
  9. Flat Stanley - Jeff Brown
  10. Barmy - Victoria Wood
  11. Sandgrown - Kathleen Eyre
  12. The Tent, The Bucket and Me - Emma Kennedy
  13. Classic 80s Pop
  14. Life's Little Mysteries
  15. Down The Pan
  16. Complete Snooker - Joe Davis
  17. History of Freckleton
  18. It's A Fact!
  19. Eats Shoots and Leaves - Lynne Truss
  20. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - JK Rowling
  21. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - JK Rowling
  22. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - JK Rowling
  23. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - JK Rowling
  24. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - JK Rowling
  25. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - JK Rowling
  26. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - JK Rowling
  27. How Was It For You - Maureen Lipman
  28. You Got An Ology? - Maureen Lipman
  29. Nothing Lasts Forever - Sidney Sheldon
  30. Vendetta, Lucky's Revenge - Jackie Collins
  31. Lethal Seduction - Jackie Collins
  32. Lady Boss - Jackie Collins
  33. Chances - Jackie Collins
  34. Scarlet Feather - Maeve Binchy
  35. Tara Road - Maeve Binchy
  36. Do You Remember The First Time - Jenny Colgan
  37. The Sharp End - Gabriella Lord
  38. Strip Jack - Ian Rankin
  39. Quentins - Maeve Binchy
  40. Digital Fortress - Dan Brown
  41. Angels and Demons - Dan Brown
  42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
  43. The Hanging Garden - Ian Rankin
  44. Lucky - Jackie Collins
  45. Hannibal - Thomas Harris
  46. Memoirs of a Geisha
  47. Anthology of Short Stories by Famous Authors
  48. Gathering Lies - Meg O'Brien
  49. The Fourth Estate - Jeffrey Archer
  50. Light A Penny Candle - Maeve Binchy
  51. Dublin 4 - Maeve Binchy
  52. Insomnia - Stephen King
  53. Trans Am - Rob Ryan
  54. Trust No-one - Christine Haggen
  55. The Traveller - John Twelve Hawks
  56. Secret Admirer - Amanda Lees
  57. Changing Babies - Deborah Moggach
  58. Unveiled - Mary Loundon
  59. A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian
  60. How Long Have You Got? - Katie Pearson
  61. The Minerva Book of Shot Stories
  62. The Memory Keepers Daughter - Kim Edwards
  63. A Place Called Here - Cecelia Aherne
  64. Double Vision - Pat Barker
  65. British Hit Singles - 1952-2000
  66. Creepers - David Morrell
  67. Twelve Red Herrings - Jeffrey Archer
  68. A Twist in the Tale - Jeffrey Archer
  69. Mistaken Identity - Van Ryn, Cerak, Tabb
  70. The Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett
  71. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold 
  72. The Wedding - Danielle Steel
  73. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time - Mark Haddon
  74. Heaven - Virginia Andrews
  75. Dark Angel - Virginia Andrews
  76. Fallen Hearts - Virginia Andrews
  77. Gates of Paradise - Virginia Andrews
  78. Web of Dreams - Virginia Andrews
  79. The Adventures of the Wishing Chair - Enid Blyton
  80. Where Rainbows End - Cecelia Aherne
  81. Echoes - Maeve Binchy
  82. The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
  83. Seaview - Chris Barlas
  84. Pompeii - Robert Harris
  85. Hollywood Wives - Jackie Collins
  86. Hollywood Husbands - Jackie Collins
  87. Hollywood Kids - Jackie Collins
  88. WOW - Claudia Patterson
  89. The Other Woman - Jane Green
  90. Dinnerladies, First Helping - Victoria Wood
  91. The Fylde Story
  92. A Man in Full - Tom Wolfe
  93. Thrill - Jackie Collins
  94. Wicked - Women's Wit and Humour
  95. Humorous Stories, Vol 1
  96. Humorous Stories, Vol 2
  97. Science Explained
  98. The Fylde As It Was
  99. Jo Verso's Complete Cross-Stitch Course
  100. The Way To Play
  101. Readers Digest Repair Manual 

So, is that what you expected?  Do you have any of the same in your own list of "Classics"?

(First published : December 2010. Republished : March 2015)

What Is The Point Of Uber?

What Is The Point In Uber?
I keep hearing about this shamazing driver service called Uber. It's mentioned on social media all the time with '£10 money off codes' offered on Twitter with increasing regularity. When I look it up it appears to be an uber-expensive (see what I did there?) taxi service and very much a 'city thing'. It feels to be marketed more as a 'private hire' or 'personal driver' type experience with all the Uber marketing being accompanied by pictures of sleek black cars with drivers that are suited and booted to match. 

Here's what happens with Uber...
You open your app, you set your pick-up location (presumably using your phone's location services because what if you don't know where you are?), enter the address of your destination (what happens if you don't know that either?) and the nearest driver accepts the job, After pick-up the driver is provided with your destination and you are shown your route and estimated time of arrival. Because all payments transactions are by pre-registered debit/credit card or PayPal, no cash changes hands.

Here's what happens in my home town...
I ring my local, trusted taxi firm (of which there are many) and order a taxi, a few minutes later the taxi arrives and I receive either a text or a phone call telling me that the driver is waiting for me with the make and model of the car that he is driving.  I am driven to my destination (my own vagueness is not a problem) and I pay in cash when I get there. It generally doesn't cost me more than five quid for a local(ish) journey.

My country bumpkin friends seem to think along the same lines as me:

@Rachel_IRL : Not sure I get it either.
@loveitloveit : Someone I knew was murdered by an unlicensed taxi driver. I wouldn't chance it.

I've also asked a few of my uber-cool (ok, I'll stop now) city-dwelling friends what they think about Uber and there was generally positive feedback:

@markusj75 : I think people like the lottery aspect of it! Will I get some disgruntled, rude boy who charges me though the nose??
@DannyUK : Benefit is that a cab comes to you when you click on the app. You can see estimated fares and where the cab is in a map. It also allows you to see feedback for each driver too.
@HPMcQ : You get all the drivers details up front. You can pay by PayPal so even if in a tight spot with no cash you can get home.
@Jssccaa : Cheaper than local taxis, no pressure to tip as you've already paid, free rides as a new user and for recommending others. It's about a pound per journey cheaper [..than regular taxis..] in Leeds, Downside is there's not always one available. Always go to Uber first, don't have to make a phone call. 
@khloee : I use it. So much cheaper, no cash needed and lower wait times than cab firms.

So, what is the point in Uber? It seems that city taxi firms (un)officially leave you hanging around for ages whilst Uber drivers are hanging around waiting for you to switch your app on. I (now) understand that all Uber drivers have to be registered but as discussed with one of the afore-mentioned contributors to this discussion, there's always the risk of swapping their registration/licence around but that can happen with regulated taxi drivers too. There are countless horror stories about how Uber drivers have turned into stalkers too *shudder*

I'm probably really old-fashioned by wondering if this is something that has yet to filter into an old mill town in the middle of Lancashire or if the latest trend will actually fizzle out before it reaches here. If you're using an app in a city why not crack open Google and search for "taxi in [insert name of city here]" using your location service to find something nearby?

What are your experiences of Uber? Good? Bad? Same as a regular taxi? Let me know in the comments. 

Photo Credit : Angel.Co

What Do You Do With The Books You Have Read On Your Kindle?

What Do You Do With The Books You Have Read On Your Kindle?
Did you know... a full Kindle weighs a billionth of a billionth of a gram more than a brand-new one? That's one of my favourite facts from the book 1227 Facts To Blow Your Socks Off whch I've had on my Kindle for a couple of years now. But what are you actually supposed to DO with the e-books once you've read them? You can't (as yet in the UK) lend them to anyone, you can't donate them to charity, they aren't sitting on a shelf collecting dust and even though you can store approximately 3500 books on one (and even if you read one a day that would take over 9-and-a-half years) they aren't much use sitting on your Kindle.

I love my Kindle. I have the Kindle 4 and it was a surprise present a few years ago. I've never upgraded because there's no real need - it does the job it's supposed to. I've got a couple of hunddred books on my Kindle and that's the beauty of it - there's always something to read whether it be a new book from my "Books To Read" list, a comfort read from my "Favourites" folder or just a couple of .pdf documents that I've uploaded for research purposes.

I'm sure it's just my mild OCD kicking in and me just wanting to have un-read and in-progress books available for me to dip into when I switch my Kindle on.  I was (and still am in some respects) the sort of person who has three or more books on my bedside table, one next to the loo, another by the bath, a couple next to my chair in the lounge and one in my handbag.  The only difference now is that they are all stashed on my Kindle and I cart that around with me wherever I go.

So what do you do with the books you have read on your Kindle?  Do you just leave them there and forget about them? Do you move them into a little folder so that you can find them or refer back to them if you need to?  Do you delete them knowing that you can retrieve them from your Amazon account if you need to?  

Am I over-thinking this?

a full Kindle weighs a billionth of a billionth of a gram more than a brand-new one


Why Am I Not Photogenic?

I look in the mirror and I'm fairly happy with what I see. Given the (no pain) option I'd change a couple of things and I know that losing more weight will change the shape of my body and my face even more so that's a work in progress. But why does the mirror version of me look so different from the camera version of me?

I look at old pictures of myself - the time before I realised about looks, style, angles... I'm a fairly good-looking kid; I'm happy (aren't we all on photographs from the '70s and '80s - none of that 'here's my kid in a dilemma' type Facebook upload)... it's the time before self-conciousness.

I've tried the smiling with my mouth open/closed
I've tried the "drop a hip" method
I've tried turning to the side
I've tried different hair cuts and different make-up looks

I know it's only me that cares and no-one else gives a shit but there's so few photos of me that I'd like at least one or two where I look GOOOOOOOD, y'know? I want to document my life whether that be on or offline. So often I'm the one behind the camera and I still haven't found the best selfie angle and I'm not so sure I'm *that* narcissistic.

Is it true that there are some people just aren't photogenic or can I find my good side somehow? Is it because I've been so unhappy with my body shape for so long that it's affected my confidence? Is the image I see in the mirror so different from what you see?

Edited to add: When I shared this on Facebook it sparked a very interesting conversation - have a read here.

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