Category Archives: Uncategorized

Post 152: In which I again promise to revive this blog

And who knows, maybe this time it will stick.

I’ve not published anything here since the end of May which is ever so slightly ridiculous especially since it seems that there are still people reading what I wrote all that time ago and I even had a recommendation for an Azerbaijani book a few days ago which I plan to look up as soon as I’m done with this post.

It’s true that I have also been neglecting both of my literary challenges as well I favour of a reasonable amount of re-reading and new novels so I’m also getting back on one of those horses: I went on holiday twice this year so I’ve just ordered a book from each of the countries I visited – one from Denmark (Miss Smilla’s Sense of Snow) and one from Czech Republic (The Unbearable Lightness of Being). I also visited Germany and Sweden but I’ve already got them ticked.

I don’t really have anything of note to say beyond that because the main bookish thought I’ve had recently has been discovering that I don’t really like some of my all time favourite books from my adolescence and I’m too sad about that to expound on it right now.

Hopefully I’ll see you soon…

The beginning of the end….

I passed!! My viva lasted for 3 hours 45 minutes and was a very thorough grilling but I now get to tell people I’m a Dr (but not THAT kind of doctor)!

Books on the Tube

I did it! I actually wrote a book!

Not a book that anyone besides me and three other people will read and one with a fairly cumbersome and rather unexciting title that I’m not going to mention here for fear of breaching some kind of code but still, I have written a book by anyone’s standards and here it is:

Thesis!

Yes this is the dreaded thesis that has kept me from blogging on an even semi-regular basis not to mention all manner of social engagements, worry-free evenings and general happiness over the last four years. Alright I might be over-dramatising a bit but it has been a long, painful road and I am unbelievably pleased to be on the home stretch at last.

I have written, bound and printed the thesis. Tomorrow I hope to hand it in (there’s some concern over how easy this will be due to the…

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The beginning of the end….

I did it! I actually wrote a book!

Not a book that anyone besides me and three other people will read and one with a fairly cumbersome and rather unexciting title that I’m not going to mention here for fear of breaching some kind of code but still, I have written a book by anyone’s standards and here it is:

Thesis!

Yes this is the dreaded thesis that has kept me from blogging on an even semi-regular basis not to mention all manner of social engagements, worry-free evenings and general happiness over the last four years. Alright I might be over-dramatising a bit but it has been a long, painful road and I am unbelievably pleased to be on the home stretch at last.

I have written, bound and printed the thesis. Tomorrow I hope to hand it in (there’s some concern over how easy this will be due to the opening hours of the student centre not entirely meshing with a full-time job but I have a very understanding manager 🙂 ) and then in some week’s time (the exact date is not being disclosed to anyone!) I have to face the dreaded viva, an oral exam which can last up to four hours, which is essentially the end of the process. There’ll be corrections after that but with any luck in six month’s time I’ll be a free woman.

And what will I do with myself then?!

My experience of donating stem cells with Anthony Nolan

Deviating from my usual topic slightly (I will start writing about books again soon I swear!) but this is worth it…

If you’re a follower of this blog you may already know that I’m a scientist by day but you probably don’t know that since March I’ve been working for Anthony Nolan, a bone marrow registry in the UK. My job is finding donors for patients who are in dire need of a stem cell transplant and one of the hardest parts of my job is that the register is desperately short of donors. Personally I signed up as soon as I turned 18 (the age restriction recently came down to 16) but I know that the concept is very scary for a lot of people who are concerned about what it involves and have heard horror stories of massive needles being jammed in the back. Well if that sounds familiar to you, this fantastic post should allay any fears – the donation process is the same right around the world and involves a couple of needles in the arm, no different to giving blood.

If you’ve ever considered being a donor or if the thought’s never crossed your mind, please read this post and think about signing up, you could make a very real difference to someone’s life.

Donating my stem cells

Wow – I wasn’t expecting that!

I’m just a normal bloke. I’m married, I have an 8yr old son, I work in a builders merchants, I play guitar in a soul band, I have a passion for cycling and I enjoy spending time with my family and friends.

That’s why the text message I received in April this year was such a surprise! At first, I thought it was just a marketing message but then a few hours later, I received a call from my wife to say that Anthony Nolan were trying to contact me and could I call them.

Being told that I was a potential match for someone in need of a Stem Cell transplant was a huge surprise – I’d actually not given much thought to the fact that I’d signed up to the Anthony Nolan register since sending off my “spit kit” a number of…

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April: Nigeria

Finally I’ve got an African book on my list! In April (yes I know this post is a little backdated) I read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who is a Nigerian author.

AmericanahAmericanah tells the story of Ifemelu who is preparing to move back to Lagos after many years in America. Her decision to move back home prompts her to dwell on life before and after moving to America, the changes she’s seen in herself and the world around her.

When she arrived in the US to attend college, Ifemelu discovered that America wasn’t quite the land of plenty that she had been expecting. She had an exceedingly difficult introduction to live in the states and one of the main issues she struggled with was American views towards race. She says at one point that she wasn’t ‘black’ until she moved to America because race isn’t a thing that exists in Nigeria but all of a sudden she was having to deal with stereotypes and ignorance at every turn. To the extent that she starts what turns out to be a very popular blog about race in the USA, excerpts of which are peppered throughout the book.

I enjoyed this book (although I have to admit that one or two of the blog extracts got me a little riled because they could be very judgmental towards white people and could be somewhat offensive, I do however get the point) and I thought it was interesting to see someone both leave and then return to their own country and the struggles to fit in that go with both scenario. Adiche’s writing is incredibly powerful and her descriptions made me feel as if I know Lagos myself!

A minor quibble would be that this book is sold as a love story between Ifemelu and Obinze and a ‘will they-won’t they’ scenario after their return to Nigeria whereas in actual fact this is a situation that takes up less than a third of the book. Fine by me but if that’s what you’re in to you might be disappointed!

Half of a Yellow SunInterestingly, I’ve just finished reading Half of a Yellow Sun, an earlier novel by the same author, which I enjoyed even more. The story is set in the Nigerian-Biafran war of 1967, a conflict I’d never heard of and is told by three people who have very different experiences – the rich, beautiful Olanna, her house boy Ugwu and her twin sister’s lover, the white man Richard. I enjoyed this book much more, I learned a lot about something I was completely unaware of as well as getting to really know and care for some wonderful characters who I felt much more interested in then I did with Ifemelu. I read Half of a Yellow Sun for my book group (even though I’m probably going to miss this month’s meeting as well) but it was so well timed that I delayed this post so that I could include it at the end.

And now, because I know you guys love this part as much as I do…the graphs!

Note the exciting addition of the turquoise segment!

Note the exciting addition of the turquoise segment!

And of course the map:

April 14 map

Ways to start work

  1. Make tea
  2. Source some kind of snack (twice as long if trying to be healthy)
  3. Sit down
  4. Adjust chair and screen
  5. Choose working music
  6. Roll up sleeves
  7. Take watch off
  8. Open document
  9. Check Facebook/emails
  10. Switch back to document
  11. Roll up sleeves further
  12. Choose more appropriate working music
  13. Adjust sitting position
  14. Roll up sleeves again
  15. Make joke about rolling up sleeves in own head
  16. Laugh and hold head in hands despairing about how everything becomes a way to avoid work and how unfunny internal jokes are
  17. Think of a great idea for a blog post
  18. Publish blog post
  19. Realise arms are too cold because of sleeve position
  20. Spend too long thinking about how to warm arms
  21. Write two sentences
  22. Get stuck trying to think of the one word that perfectly finishes this sentence
  23. Update word count with the 24 words added since starting
  24. Check for comments on blog post
  25. Move figure from left to centre of page
  26. Check Facebook/emails
  27. Look at the time and realise it’s far too late to actually do any work so give up and go home.

Expected thesis completion date: 2063

The Liebster Award

I arrived home from my sojourn to Spain to discover a very exciting thing; Nicola over at View From A Walking Frame has kindly nominated me for the Liebster Award! Nicola’s blog is about living with Cerebal Palsy and her posts (which are far more regular than mine!) always manage to be inspiring, educational and often funny although, given her recent post about compliments she probably isn’t going to be very happy about me saying so. She’s also a regular commenter on my posts and it seems like we have a very similar taste in books, I’m pleased to say she’s another Peter Grant fan!

The Liebester Award

The award comes with a few rules the first of which being that you answer a few questions set by the awarder. So here goes:

What made you start your blog?

I started reading a lot when I moved to London and putting all my thoughts on the internet for people who want to read them seemed fairer than forcing my friends to listen to me ramble. Also people were starting to get a glazed look every time I started a sentence with “I just read…”

What do you enjoy most about blogging?

Comments! It’s great hearing from someone who has an opinion on something you’ve written, whether they agree with you or not and you guys are all so nice! Oh and I also love the stats page – seeing that map light up when someone from a new country clicks onto my blog.

Ain't it pretty?

Ain’t it pretty?

What was your favourite childhood toy?

This is really easy – she’s a beautiful white teddy called Min. Although, at almost 26 she’s starting to show her age a bit. She’s less white and more grey (who gives white things to a baby anyway?!), several outfits have fallen to pieces, her eyes have furled up and one of her ears is distinctly misshapen where I used to hold her up to see the TV. But she’s still the bestest friend a girl could have.

What was the first book you remember reading?

I vividly remember a book I had from school that was very dark red but with a silver spine. It was one of a set of reading books but I have no idea what it was called or what it was about. The reason I remember it so well is that it was from the shelves outside the year 2 classroom and it was when I first realised that I loved reading more than the average 6(ish)-year-old and that I was really good at it. Books I can actually name and remember reading include Charlotte’s Web, The Witches and Carrie’s War because they upset me so much (see this post on more of my childhood reading habits!

What was the first movie you saw as a child?

My memory’s really getting a work out today! I think it was probably something Disney, I remember one year our neighbour gave my brother and I videos of Bambi and Snow White. I also remember watching my mum’s tape of Fantasia which really freaked me out although I don’t remember why and I was a bit older by then.

What would your super power be?

Telekinesis. There’s no question about it. You know when you’re lying in bed but the light switch is on the other side of the room? Or when your cup of tea’s just out of reach? Or someone else has left the TV remote on the other sofa but you know the floor’s cold? Yeah well I wouldn’t. I’ve spent quite some time trying to develop a  telekinetic power but so far no luck. You’ll be the first to know when I do though, through a post I write while sitting six feet away from my computer.

Hot chocolate with cream or tea and biscuits?

Hmmm well generally I’d say tea and biscuits because there is no finer thing than a cup of tea but with winter coming on (not a GoT reference…) and as much as I love tea it’s not quite the same as getting home on a cold, wet day and curling up with a hot chocolate, a dry jumper and a good book. But I’ll swap the cream for marshmallows if that’s alright.

What is your favourite kind of music?

Until recently I would have said indie (The Killers, Maxïmo Park, Snow Patrol, that kind of thing) but I’ve just got really into country music – it started with Brad Paisley and then I discovered Thompson Square, Blake Shelton, Kid Rock, Emmylou Harris and Toby Keith and I’ve still only got a toe in the water really. But my favourite band ever is still The Airborne Toxic Event who have just released their third album and who you should definitely check out 😉

What was your favourite TV show as a kid?

The Magic Roundabout! It wasn’t on TV when I was a kid but we had a tape of it which miraculously survived the 100,000,000 times I watched it. Of TV actually from my generation then Thomas the Tank Engine (but not episode called The Flying Kipper, that one upset me every time). Or Postman Pat. Or Fireman Sam. They just don’t make kids TV like they used to.

What was the first movie you saw at the cinema?

My mum might disagree with this but the first one I remember seeing is probably Aladdin. Or is it The Lion King? I’m not sure actually but I’m certain it was Disney. In fact, come to think of it I can’t remember any non-Disney films from my childhood!

Now I’m supposed to nominate some other bloggers for the award and set them a list of questions as well but my brain is fried after all the questions so I’m just going to point out some other people I think are awesome and tell you to go and see them.

  • First, obviously you should check out Nicola’s blog for the reasons I mentioned above.
  • Storytime with Buffy. Buffy’s blog is full of book reviews with a strong sci-fi/fantasy tendency which I love! She also blogs about the trials and tribulations of novel writing which is always insightful and often something my thesis and I can relate to.
  • The Book Trail combines travel and books to show you where your favourite books are set. I love this idea because knowing exactly where characters have stood and what it is they’ve seen makes a book really come to life.
  • A blog I’ve recently discovered which is of quite niche interest is The Thesis Whisperer. As you may know I’m currently writing a PhD thesis and following a blog which contains posts about how soul-destroying this process is cheering. Misery loves company as they say!
  • Someone else I’ve recently discovered (this time via GoodReads) is Guy Portman. Guy posts interesting facts about authors (who was an alcoholic, who died poor etc.) and his travels.
  • Travels with the Trio – Karen and Ryan are travelling across Europe in search of locations from the Harry Potter series. I loved the Britain posts which had a lot of HP locations in them and I’m also enjoying the photography of all the more exotic places they’re visiting.
  • And last but not least, Books Speak Volumes. Leah blogs about her very eclectic reading habits and is always giving me new ideas for what to read next!

There are many other fantastic blogs out there but check these guys out for now and if you can think of anyone amazing who you think I should have a look out please let me know! (And if any of my nominees do want to answer a load of brain-scratching questions then I recommend the ones I just did to really get you dregding the memory!)