Are you local?

Strange days.

With a mountain of editing deadlines and a neglected Kimi wagging a finger at me, I decided, before getting my head down, to try somewhere new for walking the Olster, reminding myself, as always, to look out for the weird and wonderful.

Only one mile from home, I chose the village of Yaxley and soon realised that I could have been in Royston Vasey.

First up was the woman in pink. She was jogging, pounding the pavement quite heavily, and at first what I thought were two huge bowling balls in her hands, turned out to be her rather more than ample chest, which she clasped tightly as she ran. With a smile on my face, I could not help think that jogging was not meant for her.

Seconds later I drove past a postwoman just as she was turning from her laden trolley, letters in hand, and stepping onto someone’s driveway. The trolley began to roll – quickly – down the slight incline. In my rear-view mirror the postwoman did not reappear, but I did wonder if the trolley would catch up with the pink jogger. However, I could not slow or stop to find out because suddenly there was an ambulance with sirens blaring coming up behind so I had to put my foot down.

Wondering if there might be hidden cameras and this was all set up, I stopped at the local shop – the woman there had a turned up nose and wore glasses.

She did not ask if I was local but I did hear her talking to an old guy about that `lovely dwarf` and `what a lovely fellow` he is. `yes,` agreed the old guy, `but that Ricky Gervais grates on me`

I didn’t really like to ask, convinced the cosmic joker might be having a giraffe on my behalf, so waited until I got home and asked Google. Sure enough, Yaxley is home to actor Warwick Davis (Star Wars, Harry Potter, and recently: Life’s too Short)

Okay, my day has been made so far: pink joggers with built-in weights, runaway postal trolleys, and a famous dwarf actor for a neighbour. Then I found Ollie in the garden, foreleg raised, snout pointed, and knew that the second batch of starlings had decided it was time to leave the eaves.

So I took a few snaps.

What a great morning.

 Best get some work done.

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I like a good book

A real book.

A Christmas gift, this is the first time, six months later, that I’m taking a look inside. It’s been in a queue on my bedside table. Always a queue.

But before I can even think about the inside I need to devour the outside. This is the hardback version complete with snazzy blue jacket. I always wonder how they can print “BESTSELLER” on the cover when it is a new release. Of course it will become a bestseller, but how can they do that? This is a big book, one that could easily be deployed as a weapon. One whack from this beast and you would be down. Then would come the paper cuts.

Anyway, I read the front, the spine, the blurb on the back, run a finger over the carefully debossed birds, feel the depth and the curve of indentation, consider the quality of the debossing tool and the alignment of tool to print. It looks fine, it feels fine, it’s a good job.

Reading the blurb again I think it could be bettered. No matter. I open up the jacket. There’s the same old spiel about the author, same old photo that really should be new with every book. That’s disappointing. I slip the jacket away and examine the spine. The foldback indents aren’t too solid. Probably the back end of a large run. I lift it to my eye and examine the slight curve and the free-space within that will allow these pages to turn like an unseen rolodex. The construction is solid, I put my nose to it, smell for glue, smell the newness, wonder how long until it smells like leaves and dust and relish the thought of breaking its back and giving it a twist until it cracks and falls open in my hands.

I read the copyright notice, look for errors, find none, read the impressive list of bestsellers. Only one or two old ones that I have not yet read. The next page holds the usual dedication; the next a quote from someone I have not heard of. I look closely at the imprint, can see the ink running into the fibres. I stare and the fibres become palm fronds, old and dry and wispy, they surround a small pond like broken laurels; the ink itself becomes a spill of oil, seeping into the finer threads where the rats or the mites lay in waiting. I take my eyes back and touch the `O` I’ve been staring at and then let my fingers slide down the virgin page. I smell it. Smells good, clean, like dry rain.

Now to start reading the story. I hope it’s a good one.