Archive for December, 2015

My book’s in the shops!

December 23, 2015

IMG_8601…well, one shop anyway.

The official publication date of “Time Travelling With A Hamster” is December 31, but at least one shop – thank you Waterstone’s, Kensington High Street – have received a bunch of them already and decided to put them out in the store, sandwiched – handily – between two David Walliams books.

My son looked up from his phone (itself a good sign) and said, “Dad, your book’s in the shops!”

“Eh? How do you know?”

“Izzy’s just Snapchatted me a picture of it in a bookshop!”

“What?  Let me see, let me see!”

“It’s Snapchat, Dad.  It’s gone already.”

Yeah, I knew that.

Anyway, I tracked it down to the said branch of Waterstone’s and set off to see for myself.  Is that a bit sad?  I don’t care.

I considered lurking to see if I could spot anyone actually buying one, but it seemed a bit creepy, so all I could do was take a picture and leave.  Smiling broadly, obviously.



A tiny little error…

December 14, 2015

I first read this on Twitter a few days ago, and figured it was just made up.  Funny, but made up.


Turns out, it’s true!  Hurray!

The mistake appeared in the Boston Globe & Mail who issued the correction the following day.

I’ve long had a fascination with misplaced apostrophes.  I even wrote a finals dissertation for my BA in English on the history and popular misuse of this punctuation mark.  Friends who know this have been known to call me up for apostrophe advice, or – more likely – try to trip me up with apostrophe-traps.  Which of these, for example, is correct?

I have several 2p’s in my pocket

I have several 2ps in my pocket

I don’t know if anyone has adjudicated on the “right” answer.  Personally, I would favour the first one.  Surely the first rule of punctuation is to aid comprehension?

Lang Lang and Liberace

December 2, 2015

Went to see Lang Lang last night, the renowned Chinese pianist who, it seems, divides opinion.  A rather sniffy review in The Telegraph was typical of Lang Lang detractors: style over substance, too much of a showman, etc.

One comment online amused me: “Lang Lang needs to remind himself that he is a Pianist (sic) and not an entertainer.”

Like, you can’t be both?

Me, I like a bit of style and showmanship and my musical ear is not so sophisticated that I can necessarily tell when it overshadows the substance.  He sounded excellent to me: he played it all without either sheet music or wrong notes and that’s impressive to start with.

When I was a kid, there was still a place on TV for pianists as light entertainers.  Bobby Crush was a a teenager who won “Opportunity Knocks” and was rather like Liberace in his twinkly campness.  And what about Gladys “Mrs” Mills?  She was a jolly piano-thumper, with dinner lady’s arms and a repertoire of end-of-pier singalongs.

Anyway, This (below) is Lang Lang on The One Show about a year ago.  The really fast stuff (Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca) starts at around 7.50.

Last night, Lang Lang’s  main piece was a Mozart concerto in C minor which sounded lovely, but he was more subdued than I was hoping.  His encore was more to my taste: an impossibly fast version of Chopin’s Grande Valse Brilliante, with adornments aplenty, great leaps in the left hand.  Add a few more rings on his fingers and grins at the audience and he could be a reincarnation of Liberace.  There are those who would say that is a bad thing.  Not I.

Here’s Liberace, from 1969.

And, just for fun, a six year old Lang Lang wannabe called Chung Chung:


How fast can you type?

December 2, 2015

When I was a kid, typing was a rare skill practiced invariably by ladies in offices with upswept spectacles who never looked at their fingers.

(My Auntie Betty was one such.  Her fingers would move so fast across the keys of her electric typewriter and she never seemed to make mistakes.)

As a young journalist I became adept at two-finger typing, and I have improved over the years.  I now probably use all ten, but the key I hit most often is the backspace-delete one.

The picture above, incidentally, is what if found when I searched for “man with a computer” on Google Images.  It is not me.

Anyway.  Everyone types now.  So I love this online test:

I scored 40 wpm.  That would be a minimum for temp agencies, apparently. Auntie Betty was at least double that.