10 Books That Have Affected Me

I was tagged on Facebook to lists ten books that have had an impact on me. Actually, the precise instructions on Facebook were: don’t take more than a few minutes or think too hard. They don’t have to be the “right books” or great works of literature, just those that have affected you in some way. Of course, I dutifully listed my books on Facebook. But before that, Angelle had also been tagged for the challenge (except in her version it was 15 books) and chosen to make a blog post of it, complete with explanations. I loved the idea so much that, when I too was tagged, I knew I was going to have to copy Angelle and write my own blog post. Except with ten books, because that’s how many were in my tag…

Here are my ten books (and it was very hard to narrow it down to only ten!). I’m linking the Wikipedia pages for those that have one.

  1. When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson
    I’ve written about this book before, here. I first read this story about a lonely little girl named Anna in primary school, and although I had quite a few friends then, I’d already started to realise I was different to most people so the story really resonated with me. It stuck with me all the way into adulthood, when I finally bought myself a new copy so that I could read it again, and discovered that I still love it.
  2. January’s Child by Jenny Oldfield
    This book is about a 15-year-old girl who is living with a foster family, until said foster family is told they have to either adopt her or put her back into care. The family decide to keep her brother but send her back, whereupon she decides to go on the run until her 16th birthday, when she’ll be able to do as she likes. The story is about everything that happens to her during that year and is utterly heart-breaking. I first read it when I was about 14 and have read it at least once a year since then… and it still makes me cry every time.
  3. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
    I loved Paddington as a child… absolutely loved him! Obviously Winne the Pooh was also a huge part of my childhood, but I think Paddington was my favourite bear. I mean, he his bacon in his briefcase in case he got peckish. How hilarious is that? I recently bought A Bear Called Paddington (no idea what happened to my original copy) so Jan and I could take turns reading it aloud to each other. I’m pleased to report that Jan now loves Paddington too!
  4. The Chalet School series by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
    These are perhaps not the best written books in the world, and if you tried to read them for the first time as an adult I’m sure you’d quickly get bored and give up in disgust, but this series accompanied me through my childhood from the time I first discovered a few that used to belong to one of my aunts at my grandma’s house. I had finished all the Mallory Towers books, and these new (to me) boarding school books came along at just the right time. I then obsessively got them out of the library one by one until they had no more for me to read. These books are 100% of the reason I wanted to live in Austria… of that’s not having an impact on my life I don’t know what is!
  5. So Much to Tell You by John Marsden
    If you clicked on the link under When Marnie Was There you’ll have seen that I wrote about this book in that post as well. I picked this one up in a charity shop when I was 13 and immediately fell in love with it, despite the fact that it was the first book since Black Beauty that had made me cry real tears. I’ve read it many times since then, but I’ve never forgotten the feeling I had that first time (and yes I still cry every time I read it. I’m sensing a theme here… also, note to The Fault in Our Stars. This is what a sad book looks like for me!)
  6. Reise im August by Gudrun Pausewang (English title: The Final Journey)
    This one is also reviewed in the blog post linked above. This is a children’s book, but I read it as an adult when I did a course about Naziism in children’s literature during my year  abroad. The journey that main character Alice is sent on is to Ausschwitz (not really a spoiler, that much becomes clear about 3 pages into the book), and as you can imagine it’s a powerful and devastating story. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be affected by this book!
  7. Brother in the Land by Robert Swindells
    I read this book in English class at secondary school and later bought a copy of my own so I could read it again. This is a distopian children’s novel set England at a time after a nucelar attack. The majority of the adults were killed in the attack or disappeared afterwards, leaving the children to fend for themselves. I think you can understand why this book affected me! Also, towards the end of the book, something happens that makes me cry, even though I know it’s coming.
  8. P.S: I Love You by Cecelia Ahern
    I don’t think I need to explain this story.. surely everyone knows it by now? (The film is nowhere near as good, by the way!). What can I say… I’m as soppy as the next girl and the idea of a dying man writing a letter to his wife for every single month of the year following his death makes me feel both happy (because of the romance) and very, very sad (because he’s obviously dead and doesn’t even get to see the results of his actions). Also, it’s a cancer story and cancer stories are always sad.
  9. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
    I could have listed a number of other Pratchett books here, but there’s something about the glimpse into the life of Sam Vimes as a young man and the insights into the bonds between some of the older characters in the Ankh Morpork/City Watch books (Vimes, Fred Colon, Lord Vetinary, Nobby Nobs, Reg Shoe) that just somehow gets me. I mean the lilac guys. And the spoon! “How do they rise up, rise up, rise up?
  10. Haunting by James Herbert
    This was the first “adult” horror book I read (after devouring the Point Horror books all through my teens). I stole it from my mum’s bookshelf, read the whole thing in a single sitting then had nightmares for about the next four nights. I was only about 12 and I found it terrifying, but also amazing. I’ve been a fan of James Herbert ever since (and was genuninely sad to hear of his death last year at the age of 69).

So, that’s my ten. Books that narrowly avoided making the cut included the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary, Clocks by Agatha Christie (the first “adult” book I was given permission to read), Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (the first book I can remember making me cry) and Summer Sisters by Judy Blume (I think her only adult novel, and another book that made me cry… told you there was theme!). I’m not going to tag anybody here (I already did that on Facebook), but if you would like to join in I would love to see how your version compares to mine… and maybe get ideas for a few more books to read 🙂 Also, I apologise for my overuse of both exclamation marks and brackets in this post. It just seemed appropriate…

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Family… can’t live with them, can’t murder them in their sleep!

So, it seems my Grandma is in hospital with pneumonia. How did I find this out? Facebook! And not in a personal message to me either… I discovered it from my sister’s status. Thanks for letting me know family! The last time I checked, moving abroad didn’t magically make her no longer my grandma…
I admit I’m not the best at keeping in touch (I wonder where I get that from?!) but you would have thought for something important somebody might have found a few minutes to send me a quick text message! Welcome to life as a member of my family people. This, by the way, is about 90% of the reason I’m still on Facebook (the other 10% being I’m nosy and like to see what people are up to…). When I lived in Austria I didn’t have Facebook. In the time I was there, the only person who phoned or e-mailed me on a semi-regular basis was my dad. I heard from my mum maybe twice (in 10 months!) and my sister not at all. No postcards, no text messages and not one single e-mail… Families. Can’t live with them, can’t murder them in their sleep!

(To be fair to my sister, I should add that after I commented on her status, she did message me to let me know what had happened… apparantly she had assumed my mum would have told me.)

On an entirely unrelated note, I had to go to the train station yesterday to buy some baking ingredients. I wanted to make chocolate brownies and had forgotten to buy chocolate! Yes, I am that bright at times… The shop in the train station is one of the very few places where you can actually buy things on a Sunday (the other option is petrol stations), so that was where I had to go. It had been raining and I liked how shiny the autumn leaves looked (those that hadn’t been trodden to mush already, anyway) so I took some photos along the way. Enjoy!

On being a squaddie brat

army lifeI joined a group on Facebook ages ago called “British Forces Brats” then promptly forgot about it.

Recently, for some reason, it has exploded into life and started appearing on my newsfeed every day. A lot of the posts are things like “Who else was stationed here?”, “What regiment was your dad in?” and “How many schools did you go to?” (five for me, in case you were wondering) but there are some posts describing characteristics that I can relate to and that I never even thought to relate to my army upbringing!

  • You are always on time if not early for everything and often end up waiting ages before anyone else turns up – YES! I am always at least on time, and usually way too early. If I have arranged to meet someone, turning up late is just plain rude!
  • You find it hard to make close friends because as a kid everyone you knew always moved away after a mximum of 4 years (or you moved and they didn’t). ALso, you find “civvies” (civilians)much harder to talk to than fellow army brats – Yes, definitely! I thought my complete inability to make friends or strike up a conversation was because there’s something wrong with me, but it’s true that before leaving the army life I never had a friend for more than three years (with one or two exceptions), not becasue we fell out, but because one of us moved and we never thought to exchange addresses. There was no Facebook to stay in touch back then! Maybe I do subconciously still think that any friend I do make won’t stick around for long… And not so much now, but certainly when I started at my first “proper” civilian school up North, people found me weird (the school before that was technically a civvy school, but being in Aldershot – home of the British army at the time – at least half the pupils were squaddie brats and another quarter had some association with the army. And come to think of it, a lot of people there found me weird too… the only people I hung around with had parents who either were still in the army or who had got out and decided to settle down in Aldershot…
  • You get itchy feet every three years or so and want to move – Okay, that one I did attribute to the army. I’ve been in Karlsruhe for over 6 years now (record!) but this flat is the third place I’ve lived within the town. I’m also on my 4th “job” now (I was a language assistant for a year then I did a year-long internship… I can actually hold down a job, honest!), which has probably helped me not get bored. Ironically, I absolutely hate packing up to move house… but you can’t have one without the other. If I want to move, I have to pack…

There were positive aspects to being an army brat, of course and I wouldn’t change it for the world! But reading that other people have had the same experience was like having a blindfold removed from my eyes. Now I get it… I’m not a freak, I’m a squaddie brat! And while I may be no good at making friends, I am open minded and able to adapt to living just about anywhere!

Some suggestions for the before 35 list

life-Quotes-065
(Photo credit: Jeffpro57)

The other day, I mentioned that I’m in the process of making a list of things to do before I turn 35. I had only got as far as number 20 and was looking for suggestions for the final 15. I decided to open the question up to Facebook as well and got quite an interesting response. Here are the suggestions I’ve been given so far, plus the occasional comment from me:

  • Skydive → This one came up twice. I’m considering, but not sure yet.
  • Learn a musical instrument → From someone very musical. I would have to think of something easy to learn. The tamberine could be about my level 😉
  • Take a cake decorating class → I like this one!
  • Start a meetup club (book club, international club, young 30s group, whatever)
  • Travel first class → Done before. Not actually that exciting.
  • Run a 5k (or 10k or half marathon if you’ve done a 5k) → Hmm, I hate running!
  • Go rock climbing
  • Climb the Kilimanjaro
  • Travel down the Yangtze River in China → Probably an amazing experience, but I’m in two minds about whether I want to go to China.
  • Amazon rainforest or the place where the monks look after the tigers → From my sister. The latter would be the Tiger Temple in Thailand, I believe 😉
  • I’d put Russia or the trans Siberian there → A friend who is currently travelling the world. I have the Ukraine already – close enough?
  • Zorbing
  • Soaring → A German writing in English. I’m guessing he means gliding.
  • Australia → From my uncle’s partner. They live in Australia. This one is a possibility.
  • Dive the Great Barrier Reef → From my uncle in Australia. He also comments “one of the best things I’ve done” and he’s done A LOT. Diving though… not sure.
  • African safari → The same uncle. Before Australia, they owned a backpackers guest house in South Africa.
  • The Postojnska cave in Slovenia (click the name to view the website) → This is sooo on the list! It looks AWESOME!
  • Swim the entire length of the River Rhine → I hope this was meant as a joke. Either way it’s not happening!

I think if I actually wanted to do all these Ithink I will  need a better paid job! But one with lots and lots of annual leave… does such a thing exist? I have got a few new ideas now though. Updated list will follow in a few days.

Back after the break

We go to Rome tomorrow. Tonight I shall have to stay at the boyfriend’s place so we can pack our stuff (somehow both of our bags have ended up there!) As always when it comes to going away anywhere I have a tonne of stuff that needs doing first… and me being me I haven’t even managed half of it yet, despite the fact that it’s now 3:45 pm. I did manage to put away most of the clean laundry. Only Jan’s socks left to do now. I hate those. For one thing they all look almost the same, so I spend ages staring at a heap of almost identical socks trying to figure out which ones make a pair. And then he complains that I roll them up wrong(?!) so I have to unroll and reroll them about 3 times to accomplish something that vaguely resembles they way they look when he does them. Takes ages. Grrr! Usually I make him do them but he won’t be coming here again now so it’s up to me.

Other than that I have spent most of the day procrastnating. I read some blogs, played around on Facebook and finished my book. Then I decided to relearn how to make friendship bracelets. This was partly to prove to myself that I can do something vaguely creative, even if it is something a 10 year old could do (and waaay better than me!) and partly as an excuse to avoid a) the dishes (from last night!) and b) going next door to give them my spare key. This is necessary because the man is coming to read the heating metres on Saturday and obviously I won’t be here so I need the neighbours to let him in. Trouble is, the idea of actually going over there and asking them makes me want to cry. From what I’ve seen of them they’re very nice and I’m sure they’ll be perfectly happy to take the key for me, but they’re people and asking favours of people I don’t know (well) scares me. Don’t worry, it doesn’t make sense to me either. So rather than go and face the scary people I learned how to do the basic knot for friendship bracelets. Here’s what I created:
bracelet Yes, I know, it’s stupidly small. And can you tell I used the leftover thread from a new baby cross stitch I made for a friend? Thought so…
Anyway, now that I’ve made my pathetic excuse for a friendship bracelet I have no idea what I’m going to do with it. It’s certainly not long enough to fit round anyone’s wrist and also I’m slightly too old to be giving out friendship bracelets so I’m at a bit of a loss. Ideas anyone?

Well, I probably won’t have the time or the opportunity to blog from Rome so this will be my last post until I get back. Umm, how about some music to entertain you while I’m away? This is by the wonderful Poets of the Fall, a Finnish band who I think I may be in actual love with. Here is a song called King of Fools for you. Just listen to the lyrics ok. That first verse… it’s me. Seriously.

And now to face the scary people from next door…

The year isn’t over yet…

Some of you may remember me mentioning that this year appears to be the year of babies. Everyone’s at it. Family friends, acquaintances, people I went to school with…
Today I found out that my oldest friend’s baby has arrived. Not the oldest person in my group of friends – she’s only 2 days older than me! I mean the friend that I’ve known for the longest. We met when we were three years old, lost touch for a while after she had her first child at 17 and I started university the following year and recently found each other again through Facebook. I know 3 to 18 is only 16, which probably sounds like nothing to many people, but when you’re from an army family and regularly have to leave your friends behind (when they’re not leaving you behind!) 16 years is a bloody long time! Now we’re both 25 and she’s just given birth to son number 2. The 10th child to be born to someone I know this year. Yes, really, 10! Just to emphasise my point I shall list them by name in the order they were born:

1. Jamie
2. Eliza
3. Dylan
4. Isaac
5. Logan
6. Daniel
7. Emily
8. Chloe
9. Imogen
… and of course number 10 is the new one. Named Beau in case anyone was wondering.

It’s not over yet either. A girl from my building was supposed to have her baby on 8th November. As far as I know it hasn’t arrived yet. When it does that will be 11 babies. Eleven! Is it just me or is that a lot? I’m just glad I don’t know anybody else who’s due this year, otherwise we’d end up with an average of one baby a month. Scary stuff.
I do, however, know three people who are due next year. And considering we still have 13 months until next year is over and a pregnancy only lasts 9 there’s still plenty of time for more announcements.

Is this the way it’s going to be for the rest of my life?

And the winner is…

One of my friend sent me a request on Facebook to take part in something called Dragon Wars. The only comment I feel I can make to that is why??? Some people clearly have too much time on their hands…

So today is not Friday. Yes, I’m sure you’re all aware of that. I just thought I’d remind myself. You see I’ve spent all day convinced that it was, then feeling incredibly disappointed whenever I remembered that I actually have one more day at work before the weekend. *Sigh*. I like my job but I could really do with a holiday. A proper one I mean. One where I actually get to relax, rather than a 3 day trip home, complete with 9 hour stay at Dublin airport and 10 billion activities to cram in to 72 hours.

So apart from not being Friday today has been a rainy day in the land of the Deutsch. In my part of the land anyway. Actually it’s been chucking it down since 11 o’clock last night, which was ok when I was indoors. Not so good when I missed the 12 minutes past 5 tram home and had to wait 10 minutes for the next one. Luckily I was catching my tram from the side of the station where the roof doesn’t leak. Unfortunately it was that type of rain that’s so slanted it’s practically horizontal, meaning I got wet anyway. So that was fun.

On a brighter (but not necessarily more sunny) note: I got an award.

Look! Isn’t it pretty!

I got it from the very lovely sleepyjane whose blog you can visit either by clicking on her name or using the link on my blogroll. Go on, go. You really should, she’s very entertaining.

And now I believe I’m supposed to pass it on to other people. Sooo…. Katyboo, Welsh Girl and Hails, this one’s for you. Go share the love.

And now I have to figure out what I’m going to make for tea tonight. Whatever it is there needs to be another to feed me and the boyfriend with some to spare for tomorrow’s lunch…