Why I should shop more carefully

Here's what's on my bedside table as I write:

A lamp. It has a dodgy switch and I suspect that one day I am going to electrocute myself trying to put the lamp on. This will be ironic, having your own light put out by trying to put one on. It's also a very short lamp, which means that if I actually want it to shed light on a book I'm reading, I have to balance it on at least three other books for it to be high enough. Sometimes I find that I've balanced it on top of one of the books I want to read. Then I have to get out of bed, find another book in my bookcase and replace the book I want to read with the new one. Sometimes I just can't face any of this, turn the damn light off, thank God I'm still alive and electrocution has been put off for one more day at least, then go to sleep.

A watch. It's a watch I bought about twenty years ago. I am waiting for it to die, for two reasons. 1. The glass is cracked right across the middle and has been for five years. The watch itself is annoyingly efficient, however, making buying a new one seem extravagant. 2. The metal bits on the watch are gold-coloured, and I want a silver one. Since my hair started getting grey bits in it, I have been converting to silver jewellery in the hope that some bits of me will match even though the rest of me is now in varying shades of dull and lifeless. I have two things yet to convert to silver: my watch and my wedding ring. Once the watch stops working and I can buy a new one, I will start working on a reason why I need a new, platinum wedding ring. That will be my transformation complete. No doubt, at that point, I will get jaundice and my skin will go orangey-yellow, so all the silver jewellery will look terrible and gold would have looked great.
A birthday card without an envelope. The other day I needed an envelope of a certain size. I couldn't find any in the house apart from one attached to this birthday card I bought. So now I have a birthday card with no matching envelope. As I'm sure you know, this envelope is never, ever, ever going to materialise. They just don't, like lost socks don't, like calorie-free chocolate doesn't, like men who multi-task don't. I'm using it as a bookmark. (For younger readers, a bookmark is not just a 'favourites' choice on a computer, but a piece of card used to find your place between pieces of papyrus.)

A mug with Isle of Wight jokes on it. You may think that the words 'Isle of Wight' and 'jokes' cannot appear together in a sentence, which probably means you've been there. But the jokes are really quite good. The mug states that in the Isle of Wight there are some Wonders of the World: Needles you cannot thread, Cowes you cannot milk, Freshwater you cannot drink, Newport you cannot bottle, and Ryde where you can walk. You see? You thought the IOW had nothing to offer. And, indeed, all of these places are very boring indeed, but who minds about that when the quality of the mug jokes is so high?

A book called 'Will' by Christoper Rush. This is a novel based on Shakespeare's life which I picked up in the bookshop, looking over my shoulder and hoping that someone would be watching me and admiring my intellectual choices guiltily while buying Sharon Osbourne's autobiography. But I haven't been able to get past the first couple of chapters. The title is a little play on words, because it's about Will's will, and he's making his will at the start of the book, then thinking back on his life. The narrative is littered with so many quotations from the plays and the sonnets that I should know but don't that the reading experience is just an exercise in low self-esteem. I gave up. It's one of the lamp books.

A book called 'The Shack' which everyone else in the world has read and loved, according to all the reviews I've read, but which, again, I found baffling. It's about a man whose daughter is abducted and murdered in a shack. Later, God invites him to the shack for a weekend (a plot shift which took some getting over). Then when he gets there he finds the Trinity waiting for him in guises which surprise him, and did me. Still, whatever floats your boat, to use a Bible-based idiom. Did I like it? Noah, I didn't.

A book called 'Friday Nights' by Joanna Trollope. My current reading. It's good: the kind of good that makes you wish you had nothing to do the next day. It's better than 'The Shack', for sure. And better than 'Will'.

This combination of books on my bedside table gives me a few ideas for new novels:

Friday Nights at the Shack with Will - a woman with an irrational attraction to squatters meets her lover once a week

Will and his Friday Night Shack - A Prince causes scandal at a notorious London club

The Friday Night Shack Will - a man considering a Saturday suicide writes his last requests in an isolated tumbledown cottage

Will the Night Shack Open on Fridays? - a late night coffee bar owner considers ways in which to beat the credit crunch including cutting down on opening hours

Should I Shack Up with Will on Friday Nights? - A woman considers which one of her seven lovers she should meet on which day.

One day, one of these novels could be on your bedside table. Raising the level of your lamp, probably.


  1. I'm glad I am not the only one who hated The Shack. Lots of my friends, including at least one pastor, just raved about it. I think your alternative titles have much more potential!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Lesley. Now I know there are two of us in the world who didn't like The Shack, I feel better. Fancy taking up dancing to R & B Diva CDs in your living room?

  3. Aaah, the Isle of Wight mug. Legend.


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