October 2023 book blog

I was reading the print version of Interzone 295 at the beginning of the month, but I can’t find it anywhere – I must have decluttered it. I do remember a stand out story titled ‘Hollywood Animals’ that deserves to be in a year’s best anthology. Definitely worth buying the issue for.
From the last print issue of Interzone for the forseeable future to a rare foray into non-fiction for me, with ‘Entangled Life – How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures’. This is a fascinating tour of the biology, ecology and cultural history of fungus. We start off by looking at truffles, head off to visit lichens, take a nice long look at mycelia, then finish off with yeast. I learned a lot, and was hugely entertained in the process. I’ll never look at a mushroom the same way again.
After that, I was in the mood for an old friend, so I went to my Stephen King shelf and chose ‘The Dark Half’. A re-read, of course. Probably the third or fourth for this one, it’s never been one of my favourite King stories, but I think I appreciate Thad Beaumont as a flawed protagonist much more this time round. His flirtation with his dark half seems much more understandable now, and adds a bit of spice to the story. So, for those who haven’t read it yet, this is a story of a writer (not Stephen King) who outs his alter ego pen name (not Richard Bachman) who has been the public name of the gorier stories that weren’t quite what he wanted to be associated with. Said pen name turns out to be a bit annoyed at being killed off, even though he was never alive in the first place, and embarks on a journey of bloody havoc.
So, a magazine, a non fiction hardback, and a revisited King – by now I’m in the mood for some new horror, and luckily I had Rachel Halsall’s gorgeous anthology ‘The Grave Bell’ on my tbr pile. This is a very readable selection of gothic goodies from my anthology sister (Hauntings). It is a very pretty book, beautifully and carefully produced, and the stories are a choice and delicious collection of very, very gothic tales. There’s a familiarity to them, as if they’re stories that you always knew, but just needed reminding of. Take one a day and digest carefully.
I moved from Halsall’s full on gothic tales to a closely related anthology of folk horror. ‘The Fiends in the Furrows’ is another beautifully presented paperback, this time a themed anthology rather than a single author one, but with Hallowe’en coming up, what better time to get stuck in? This had been on my tbr pile for months now, and was unusually ‘nicked’ from my pile by my husband, who also enjoyed it.
I was out fundraising, and the customers were few and far between, so I got the chance to read the whole book in one go. I have to say that there were a few confusing moments in some of the stories, where some sentences seemed to be a little jumbled, but on the whole these stories were really satisfyingly creepy. A couple were already familiar to me from Datlow’s ‘Best New Horror’ anthologies, but that made them more fun to read the second time around, if anything.
I started the second book in the series on Hallowe’en, but will review it in November.

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The Decluttering Blog – part five

It’s a constant battle isn’t it? I’ve bought the new Stephen King novel, because that is who I am. I’m the woman who buys the new Stephen King novel as soon as possible. I also have the ‘new’ Pratchett anthology for review, and have very sensibly promised it to a friend as a gift as soon as the embargo lifts. Still, as you’ll see at the end of the blog, the book balance has gone down.  

I didn’t mention the trip to the tip last month. Is it ‘decluttering’ when it’s all stuff that was sorted for the recycling centre months ago and has just been sat around in the garage since then? Whatever, it’s gone now. There was a bright yellow plastic inbox / outbox tray in that batch of stuff, I remember the day I bought it and brought it home. I was determined to get things a bit more sorted (haha) and it was also the day that I first spoke to the young man who is now my husband. A bit of a wrench, throwing those cracked old plastic trays in the skip, but hopefully they’ll have another life somewhere.

I took five old cassette storage boxes to the car boot sale last month. When I say ‘old’, we’re talking decades, as in forty odd years. They were snapped up as soon as the buyers got to the stall, I may have underpriced them, but they’re gone now. They took up a fair amount of space, so that’s a win. I also sold some paper crafting kit that I decided to sell four years ago, and have been carting around to events for the last year.

In an unsurprising turn of events, I then brought home a fair amount of paper crafting stuff and ribbons that had been donated to the charity. Some I will use / have already used, some will go to another volunteer, and some I have paid for as I gave it to a young relative. The ‘Thank You’ cards that I made have now gone to the charity for its use, along with some labels that I designed and printed. The cards count as decluttering, but the labels were in a box that is still taking up just as much room, and will be replaced when it’s empty, so I can’t count them. I can count the plastic wallet that I packaged them in can’t I? This is getting desperate, isn’t it? I’ve also made a start on our own Christmas cards for this year, and I’ve made some cards for the stall. Hopefully they’ll sell. All that cardmaking has made a tiny dent in the envelope stash, as well as the washi tape stash.

Yarn, ah, the yarn. No new yarn in for several weeks, which is good, after the silliness of last month, but then I took about 500g from another knitter. Whoops. Mum took 100g of her cousin’s yarn back, but there’s still a lot of it still in the car, ready to be knitted up. I’m busy knitting hats and scarves as gifts with the Aran wool that I bought last year. Two of the acrylic Aran hats from last month has been gifted, that’s four gone, the rest are in a storage bin, neatly labelled with the size and the fibre content. My next three knitting projects are already planned out! I’ve also been given even more yarn to sell or give to volunteers. Some of it has been sold.

I’ve also washed a mattress protector, sheet and duvet cover for a single bed, which we’ve had absolutely no use for. I’ll give them to a relative, who can use them. That’s emptied a drawer, which is good.

Ebay and other online sales have helped me to get rid of some knitting and crochet patterns and eight books. Also, 700g of yarn, which was donated to the charity and arrived on a Tuesday and was sold and posted the following Thursday, and another 500g which was also sold and posted within 48 hours. I’ve also bought some items off the stall and put them away as gifts, which is more moving things round than decluttering, but they’ll be out of the house eventually.

I took a full box of old books to the charity stall at the supermarket, and I also got rid of three or four at the last car boot sale. That has actually made some space … or it will once I throw the box away.

So, it’s been swings and roundabouts really, with wins on the books and some slight losses on the yarn, but I am getting through old paperwork at a fair rate too. I’m still decluttering!

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September 2023 book blog

The month began with ‘Wonder Worlds’ by William F Nolan. Another farewell read, for a book that’s been on my shelves for decades. It’s been a long time since I read these stories, and only a few felt familiar. This is a collection of dozens of short short stories, some of them almost flash fiction. Some are shaggy dog stories, some what ifs, but they are all of their time. There is humour in there, and some great ideas, but ultimately they haven’t aged particularly well. I think the author must have had a lot of fun writing them though, and I wouldn’t begrudge that of the author of ‘Logan’s Run’.

On to something a little more up to date. ‘The Curious Affair of the Missing Mummies’ is the third book in the Jesperson and Lane series of paranormal detective stories by Lisa Tuttle. I’ve read and enjoyed the first and second books, and thoroughly enjoyed this installment of the adventures of the Victorian detective duo.
The pair have been professional partners for nearly a year now, and the story starts with Jesperson being quite bored by the lack of interesting work, dismissing potential cases with a Holmesian disregard. And then, he spots a young man approaching the house, and deduces immediately that this could be the next big case.
There follows a riveting and rollocking yarn that takes in a beautiful orphaned girl, mummies aplenty, venomous snakes, a possessed tomcat and even a brief non-appearance by the Prince of Wales. Recommended.

My next read was a very welcome review copy of ‘A Stroke of the Pen – the Lost Stories’ which is a collection of early and mostly unpublished short stories by the wonderful Terry Pratchett. My ‘official’ review is in my last blog post, but as this blog ultimately serves to remind me of what I’ve read and what I thought about it, I’ll do a quick summary here too. There are a couple of Introductions that explain how the collection came to be, then a fair number of very short stories. In ‘How it All Began’ a caveman invents fire, and gets carried away, he keeps on inventing whilst his companions wonder what will become of them all. ‘The Fossil Beach’ is a cute time travel story. ‘The Real Wild West’ is a crime caper set in Welshest Wales, but which has more than a hint of Hamish MacBeth. ‘How Scrooge Saw the Spectral Light …’ tells of how Scrooge embraced Christmas and then commercialised it beyond all reason. It’s the first of a run of Christmas themed stories. ‘Wanted – A Fat Jolly Man’ tells the tale of when Father Christmas quit his job and looked for another suitable post. ‘A Partridge in a Post Box’ is one of my favourites from the book, and looks at how a postman deals with someone’s true love sending all kinds of things through the post in the run up to Christmas. The next story introduces us to Blackbury, a town where odd things happen. ‘The Great Blackbury Pie’ is a parable on the importance of understanding the specification before embarking on the project. ‘How Good King Wenceslas Went Pop’ is a story of a well meaning old chap finally getting what he deserves. ‘Dragon Quest’ is a quest with a difference, that lets us know that dragons are people too. ‘The Gnomes from Home’ sees a business minded gnome take over a suburban garden – and a suburban gardener get the upper hand. ‘From the Horse’s Mouth’ is a shaggy horse story about a talking horse, and about learning respect. ‘Blackbury Weather’ has a real Discworld feel to it, and reminds me of the Unseen University stories. ‘The Blackbury Jungle’ is another deft little story about a silly event. ‘Mr Brown’s Holiday Accident’ is a Pratchettesque take on the Truman Show trope, with an added dollop of bureaucracy and 1970s TV. In ‘Pilgarlic Towers’ a haunted house is slated for demolition – but that won’t happen if the resident ghosts have anything to do with it. ‘The Haunted Steamroller’ was another favourite, it made me wonder how we’d be able to tell if an appliance was being run by an AI, or was haunted. ‘The Money Tree’ is literally about a money tree, and perhaps about being a bit too greedy for your own good. ‘The Blackbury Thing’ delves into the world of UFOs and escapees. Finally we come to ‘The Quest for the Keys’. This is the longest story in the book, it was initially serialised and we’re lucky that all the episodes were found. It has strong Discworld vibes, with a dodgy wizard and a hapless hero working through a series of quests to a typically Pratchett ending.

Since I finished the Pratchett collection I’ve not read much at all, I’ve been dipping into Interzone 295, and have nearly finished it. That’s a review for October, methinks.

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A Stroke of the Pen. The Lost Stories – a review by Jeanette Greaves

This one’s for the fans, it’s also for anyone who would like to make a good attempt at being a fan, or those who used to be fans but forgot. Oh, just read it, it’s fun and it’s Pratchett! I count myself as a fan, and loved this chance to explore Pratchett’s early work. A lot of these stories were published under a pseudonym in a local paper, and the story behind the stories is kindly provided in an Introduction by Neil Gaiman.
It was an utter delight to read this collection of early short stories by the man behind Discworld, and to enjoy again his humour, wit and humanity. Themes that will be familiar to his readers soon emerge, there is a good deal of absurdity and silliness, but through it all, his stories tell us that ‘people are people’ in all their glorious fallibility.
Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

The front cover of Terry Pratchett's collection of early short stories entitled 'A Stroke of the Pen. The Lost Stories'
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The Decluttering Blog – Part Four

There are two aspects to decluttering. The first one is the charity stuff, I need to drastically reduce the amount of stock for the stall, and then keep sales ahead of donations. My primary goal is to raise funds for the charity, my secondary goal is to make sure that things sell as fast as possible,
The second aspect is my own, personal journey to reduce the amount of things in the house. A lot of it is books, a lot of it is yarn, and a lot of it is papercrafting paraphernalia. Several boxes contain stocks of my own Ransomed Hearts books. I am happy to give some of the read books away, but will be keeping as many as possible. Once I’ve found out how many books I actually have room for, I will institute a very strict one in, one out policy. Maybe two out, if the new book is a thickie. Oh yes, please buy my Ransomed Hearts books, they’re good.
Destashing yarn, at the moment, is a big NO. I get why I feel that way, it’s under control, in boxes, and there are no hidden piles anywhere. I will use it. I like owning it, I like the potential for creativity and for making gifts for other people, or items to sell on the stall. The same goes, in a big way, for the papercrafting stuff. Right now I have a lot of cards in stock, made by other people, to sell on the stall. They’ve caused a bit of a bottleneck in terms of my own papercrafting, but the volume of cards is going down, and meanwhile I’ve made some space to cut some labels, the lack of which has been niggling for a year or so, since my cutter went into storage. I’ve sold some cards on the craft stall though, which has helped.
I’ve been doing craft fairs on Thursday evenings to try to move more stock, but they’ve not been that successful, and most of the items that I’ve sold have been smaller things. I have moved a shoebox of cards to another volunteer though, which has helped. Happily, the fairs have led to other sales, which has slightly reduced the stock.
Ebay sales haven’t been bad over the last month or so, and I’ve taken several shopping bags full of stuff to the post office. I’ve also priced up some more cards ready for the big sale that we had at the beginning of September, I hadto make sure that all the boxes of greetings cards are full, with priced up, well organised cards. That’s another large box emptied into an existing storage space, so even though the cards are still in the house, they’re taking up a lot less space. I did sell a dozen or so cards on the day.
In a typical craft stall scenario, a lovely friend of mine bought something, and gave me an equal volume of items to sell. I can’t feel bad about it, her cards are beautiful.
I’m continuing to go through files on an almost daily basis, there’s a lot of paperwork around that I’ll never need again, and honestly, I’m not responsible for archiving 21st century daily life. I need to remember that. I filed a bank statement within 24 hours!
I’ve taken some ‘useful’ cardboard boxes and large carrier bags to another volunteer, she’ll make good use of them. I’ve also binned a damaged storage bag. No, it will NEVER come in useful. I also took some ornaments that a neighbour had given me for the charity. I did well, I only brought one hardbacked book back with me, for eBay. Oh, and that twenty year old tote bag, I did give it a gentle wash before donating it to the charity, but it wasn’t as well made as it looked, and fell apart. Maybe the dirt was all that was holding it together, as they say. It’s in the recycling tub now, ready for a trip to the recycling centre. I also took some empty ink jet cartridges for recycling on the day I replaced them. I think that’s a first, for me.
A neighbour is moving soon, we’ve given him a dozen or so large cardboard boxes and have promised him a large box of packing material. We’ve been keeping all that stuff in case it was needed, and lo and behold, here is someone needing it. It’s actually cleared a fair bit of space. I’ve also been to the recycling centre twice and got rid of two buckets full of recyclables.
I’ve used cards from my existing stash for three August birthdays.
Additions – I bought a keyfob from another stallholder, I’ve given it to my husband as a surprise gift. I also bought something from another stallholder as a gift for an upcoming family birthday, which I’ve posted already, along with a lightweight tote bag that I bought last year as a potential gift. I also bought some aran yarn from a fellow volunteer who was selling her late mum’s yarn stash. About 500g, max. Yeah, I don’t have a yarn problem at all. I’ve finished that giant ball of grey yarn and all of the ‘new’ aran, and have now made a start on some beautiful pure wool aran that I bought a year ago. I’ve also found a home for some half used craft kits and associated yarn that I saved from being thrown away, it’s going to a friend of a family member, who will use it. That’s another big carrier bag full of stuff that’s gone. However, it’s been replaced by lots of random yarn that’s basically unsellable because it’s in part used balls, or because it smells a bit from storage. The only option is to knit it up, wash the finished items, and add them to the craft stall stock.
I’ve tackled a box of donated books, several of them are too damaged to sell, so they’ve gone to the recycling centre. I’ve listed fourteen of them on eBay, and sold nine so far. There’s another box to go through when this lot have gone, and then I’ll have some free shelf space in the garage. I have plans for that shelf space! I also gave away the last two books I’ve read. Go me! I also took a box of books to the car boot sale to sell for the charity, and said goodbye to four of them. I brought the rest back, but they will go somewhere. I also added to the book problem by buying a lovely hardbacked non fiction book from a charity bookstall. I’ll make it my next read and let it go when I’ve done with it.
I’m really struggling not to add to the book collection, lots of my favourite writers have new books out, and I’d usually just buy them, but I have more than enough books, including many unread ones, some by those same writers.
We’ve cleared the huge pile of boxes in the ‘spare room’ now, a lot of the stuff in them is either under the bed in plastic storage boxes, on the bookshelves, or in my study. We’ve also gone through our collection of framed art, and hung about two thirds of it. Two or three items have been donated to a local charity shop, and I’ll try to sell the rest of the pictures.
The decluttering has given me the space to do some cardmaking, and I’m making a couple of dozen Thank You cards for the charity. It’s a drop in the ocean, but it’s something.
So, progress is still happening, but it’s slow. More news next month.

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August 2023 book blog.

Some books have just been there, my entire adult life. The Stand is one of them. Along with ‘IT’, this novel is one of the Stephen King books that I can’t imagine being without. Complete and uncut, this is the third time that I’ve read this edition, my readings of the book as a whole is probably in double figures now. I’m definitely getting to the age where a whopper of a book like this is as much a physical undertaking as a mental one, this book weighs a fair bit! Still, most of the time, I didn’t notice the size of the book, because I just fell into the story and stayed there until my eyelids started to droop. The Stand, even this updated version, is showing its age. There are words and scenes and points of view that King probably wouldn’t write now, but they weren’t that jarring back in the late seventies when the original book was published. That aside, this book’s greatness isn’t in its ambitious story telling, or even its politics, the reason I love this book and repeatedly come back to it, is the cast. Stu, Fran, Larry and Nick are part of my life. I know them as well as I know many ‘real’ people in my life, and it was an absolute pleasure to go back and meet them again.
So, from an old friend to something very new, a relatively recently published book by an author I’ve never read before, at least at novel length. ‘Hell Sans’ by Ever Dundas came very highly recommended by several people whose opinions I respect, but it never quite gelled with me. I admire the courage and imagination that went into this book, the changes in perspective in both first and third person are bold and central to the concept of the book. The world building is deft and the plot is intrinsically exciting, but sadly I just could not get into it. I made it to the end, and am glad I did, because this isn’t a bad book. I just need to feel some empathy for at least one protagonist in order to care about the story, and I found both of the central characters very hard to get on with. Four stars because it’s technically very competent and as a writer myself I found a lot to admire in some of the twists in the writing.
And … back we go. If you’re reading my decluttering blog, you’ll realise that I’m saying goodbye to a large part of my book collection. Some have been ruthlessly packed away and sent to a charity shop, others are getting a final read before they go. Clifford D Simak’s ‘Enchanted Pilgrimage’ makes that cut, primarily because I have no recollection of ever having read it. It’ll be a charity shop / market stall buy from years ago that got shelved then lost. I know why I bought it, Simak was one of my introductions to science fiction. My grandma bought me one of his collections at a jumble sale, probably closer to fifty years ago than forty years ago, and I read it avidly and repeatedly for a long, long time. So, here I am, suddenly finding myself with an unread Simak novel, and this is what I thought. This was very much a ‘few pages before bedtime’ kind of book. There were several lovely characters, who got great introductions but then seemed to fall by the wayside and become part of the background. A group of nice people find that they have a range of quests which lead them to the same place, so they decide to travel together. Their journey introduces some great ideas and the plot reveal would make a great fantasy book, but sadly this isn’t it. It’s a shame, I have a soft spot for Simak’s short stories, but this novel felt somewhat stretched. Great ideas, lovely characters, just a bit too fast paced if anything. At times it reminded me of Pratchett, which is, of course, a good thing.
I finished the Simak in early September, but will include it here because a two book month looks a bit sad, even if one of those books was The Stand Complete and Uncut.

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The Decluttering Blog – Part Three

I’ve been keeping notes, and for the sake of brevity, I’ll collate the results. First of all, books. There are a lot of them. I am putting some on eBay, but if they don’t sell fairly quickly then they go to the charity shop to make way for a new listing. I’ve put three tatty old 1960s / 1970s pulp paperbacks in the book recycling box at the local recycling centre, sold two books on eBay, and donated two dozen to charity. That’s nearly thirty books gone in two weeks. I’m not going to pretend it was easy, but it’s done. One of them was a pretty and new hardback from a favourite author that I read and enjoyed, but it’s unlikely that I’ll read it again, so I’ll release it into the world to find new fans.

I paid my credit card bill as soon as it arrived, and filed the statement. Pre-emptive decluttering, or just being a grown up? Not sure, don’t care. I also filed some stray bank statements and some receipts. I now have a specific box for receipts that I need to keep.

A huge ball of yarn that arrived as a charity donation without a label had been taking up space on a shelf. It was going to be hard to sell without an identifying ball band, so I bought it myself and made some beanie hats to give out as gifts. Ironically, a fellow stall holder saw me knitting the last one and asked me to make him one in dark grey, so I then bought a 400g ball of grey aran yarn. I’m making the third and penultimate beanie out of that yarn now, two of them have homes to go to. So, I guess until I give away the original beanies, I have to chalk this down as a failure, I started off with about 350g of yarn and ended up with 550g of yarn and beanies.  

I found a prescription receipt in my bedding drawer. Ahem. It’s gone into the shredding pile. Theatre tickets from a cancelled 2019 event have also gone in the shredder. Also, a four metre strip of plastic ribbon that I ‘saved’ from a hamper, several years ago, has been thrown away.

Another failure, I went recreational shopping with a friend and my mother. I rarely shop recreationally, and when I do it’s for books or yarn. I bought forty cute buttons and 500g yarn. It’ll get used, I’m not worried about it. I also gave away 100g of yarn oddments and some old buttons to my mother for a knit and natter project, not quite balance, but it’s better than nothing.

Four knitting patterns have sold on eBay, they’re not really big enough to be noticeable, but there is enough space in my ‘selling’ folder now to list another small pile of patterns, which are on a shelf and are noticeable. It’s re-organisation rather than disposal, but it still makes the place look tidier.

I had a fairly good weekend at the craft fair, covered the stall hire and more besides, and came home with less stock than I went with. I’ve bought a birthday gift for a friend, and some bird food, which I’d run out of. I managed to refuse an offer of about 2kg of yarn, and am glad I did, for reasons which will become clear later on.

I’ve filed more paperwork, and got rid of a bucketful of magazine inserts and scrap notes. I’ve sorted out some yarn and stuffing for a lady who is crocheting some items for the stall. Then things get cluttery –  we get a delivery of craft related stuff to sell for the charity. There is half a car full. I took two large shopping bags full and will take more as it sells. Most of it is now listed on eBay, including some unopened crafting magazines complete with freebies. I’ve given away a pile of magazines and will give the rest away soon, they’re not something that sells well.

Last week I was feeling glum, for existential reasons as well as having a house full of stuff, but eBay sales continue to trickle in. A drop in the ocean, but the ocean is made of drops, so I’ve been told. I’ve listed four more knitting patterns / booklets today, and put two damaged and unsaleable booklets in the recycling. I’ve also tidied up a crafting kit to car boot selling level, should get a pound for it, and have retrieved some gift tags that may also sell.

I’ve parted with some training course notes from ten years ago, the lever arch file has gone to the car boot sale, the notes in the recycling. The damaged booklets, the tidied up craft kit, the unlabelled yarn and the gift tags are all things that are donated in good faith but need to be worked on.

Sales from the craft stall continue to pay for the stall rent and bring in a few extra pounds. Taking the stall out increases the visibility of the charity, so all sales are a positive. They also reduce the clutter as I move things from carrier bags to the stall boxes.

I’ve sold four smallish blankets online to someone who saw one of my posts on Twitter. That’ll help the charity, and has made room for more blankets in my craft fair boxes.

Addition – I won a nice candle in a raffle at a craft fair, it will make a nice stocking filler for someone.

Years ago, we bought ten rolls of packing tape, and are still working through them. I finished a roll off today.

There doesn’t seem to be any real reduction in the amount of stuff yet, probably because most of it was hidden in a storage unit until last month! I’ll keep ploughing through.

There’s a large box that’s open that had various balls of knitting yarn in plastic bags. I can move them to the main stash. There’s a tote bag that has seen better days, it was a 40th birthday present from a friend, nearly twenty years ago. It has holes in it. It can go. There was also a pebble in that box, it’s been around for a long time, I can’t even remember where it came from. It’s in the garden now. That’s another box emptied.

After the last craft fair I got home to a lovely surprise, my husband had put some shelves up in the garage and reorganized things so there’s space to cut some card for price tags etc. I tackled that old tote bag too, there was a Christmas cracker prize that will go for recycling, some knitting tools that I’ll put in the right place, and lots of bits of yarn. Some I’ll throw away, some I’ll use. I’ll give the bag a wash and take it to the next car boot sale. I don’t need it.

I’ve opened a donated box of hand made greetings cards, I’ll distribute them to other volunteers for fundraising once I’ve priced them up.

I’ve also repaired a damaged pull up banner, it can go to another volunteer to be used. I now have a fairly large amount of stuff ready for redistribution, I just need to get it to the right people.

Finally, I’ve gone through my ‘car’ file, and got rid of several years of service records and a cardboard folder, also an exercise book that I’d filled with notes from my language courses. I don’t need to keep it.

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July 2023 book blog

I finished Babel at the beginning of July, but included my thoughts about it in my June blog.
After finishing Babel, I decided to finish reading Interzone 294, which had been hanging around my ‘currently reading’ list for several months. It’s the first edition of the long running SF magazine to be published in the new format, and for some reason that made finishing it seem more urgent. I have to confess, there weren’t any stories in this collection that made me want to follow up on the authors, but maybe 295 will be more to my taste.

It’s unfair to compare a ‘Best Of’ collection to a single edition of a magazine, so I won’t, but it just so happened that the next thing I read after the Interzone issue was Ellen Datlow’s ‘The Best Horror of the Year, volume 14’. Datlow is THE go to anthologist for horror these days, and this is her fourteenth annual collection. There wasn’t a dud in the collection, but I’ll just mention my favourites here.
To my absolute delight, this collection kicks off with ‘Redwater’ from Simon Bestwick. He’s an anthology brother of mine from the Hic Dragones collections of dark fiction, and his work just gets better and better. This story left me wanting more. Christopher Golden’s ‘The God Bag’ absolutely cries out to be filmed, it is so very visual. I loved it. Gemma Files is always reliable, and her ‘Poor Butcher-bird’ doesn’t disappoint with a story that would fit well in a very dark version of the Buffy universe. Eric LaRocca’s ‘I’ll be gone by then’ somehow manages to be more Michael Marshall Smith than MMS’s own contribution, it’s a story that will linger in my dreams for a while. The last story in the book, Laird Barron’s ‘Tiptoe’ isn’t new to me, I mentioned it in my review of Datlow’s previous anthology ‘When Things Get Dark.’ It’s even better on a second reading.

‘The Red Scholar’s Wake’ by the wonderful Aliette de Bodard gave me everything that I was expecting from this short novel about lesbian space pirates. The Red Scholar is dead. The balance of power of the space pirates is changing, and The Red Scholar’s widow must fight desperately to hold on to the society that she built with her late wife. By the way, the widow is a spaceship, the Rice Fish, and she desperately needs an ally. Enter a young prisoner, terrified and alone, technically gifted and emotionally shattered. Rice Fish sees her potential, and offers her an alliance, a contact … a marriage. Loved it.

I started a re-read of Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ in July, but as I mostly read it in August, I’ll leave it for my August catch up.

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The Decluttering Blog – Part Two

It’s been nearly two weeks, and time for an update. What’s in, what’s out, and what’s lying on a table waiting for a decision? Some of these questions will be answered below.

I took eight thick science fiction books by Alastair Reynolds to the charity book stall at the supermarket. I’ll never read them again, although I enjoyed them when I first bought them. As I left, I saw someone looking through them. I went to the same supermarket later in the month, and they were gone. They have a good home, or maybe someone thinks they can sell them on, either way, they’re no longer taking up space in my home, and I hope that they’ll soon be out of my head.

I’ve listed a few books on eBay and Facebook marketplace, some are mine, some were donated to the charity, all the proceeds from all the books will go to the cat charity. Since my last blog I’ve sold and posted out fourteen of my own books, most of them I’ve had for decades. I’ve also put a donated book in the recycling, it had fallen apart as I was photographing it for sale.

I sorted through a bag of oddments in my study, it was taking up floor space, and had been a dumping ground for things that ‘needed sorting’. Some of it has gone to a fellow charity volunteer for the tombola, some will go on eBay. There are a few of these ‘sorting bags’. As other hoarders will attest, these bags pile one on the other, and have to be tackled one at a time.

I’ve also put a 40th birthday card in the recycling, it was from someone I loved who is no longer with us, but she wouldn’t have wanted me to hang on to it. I compromised, I took a photograph then sent it on its way.

I also photographed my sixth form folders, and shared the images. I’ve decided that they can go too. This is a really big deal, they’re from my late teenage years, but nobody is going to want to keep them when I’m gone, and I suspect that at some point during my London years the mice got at them. I’m finding that photographing and writing about these things helps me to let go of them.

On the negative side of things, I’ve recently been given two large bags of stuff to sell for the charity, I’ve sold the largest item from the two bags, and listed more, but in terms of volume it just replaces the books that have gone. Hopefully I’ll sell it all quickly.

Gift bags aren’t ‘clutter’ are they? They’re useful, I never throw them away unless they’re really far gone. July brought a nephew’s birthday and my husband’s birthday, so we’ve gained, overall, two gift bags and a bottle bag. They’ll be gone soon. I’ve also used approximately as much packaging material as I’ve received over the last couple of weeks. I rarely throw it away. In fact, I’ve just bought some big envelopes, but I do need them for online sales. There is a space for them.

One problem with clutter is that it’s sometimes hard to find the important things, and my phone charger was AWOL for a couple of days. I found it under my knitting, which meant that I could photograph and list things online.

I made a recycling trip, and took a fair bit of sorted rubbish to the recycling centre. This doesn’t really help with the decluttering, to be honest, as I do it regularly. I will, however, claim a bag of polythene from the garage, the metal bars from my sixth form lever arch files, and a dead ink cartridge that has been lying around for years as definite wins. Anything that’s been in the house for more than a year is a win. I also went through my writing group file, and have put ten years of prompts, leaflets and miscellaneous bits of paper in the recycling bin. Maybe fifty sheets of A4? Small gains, but they are real.

Now, this is very cheeky claim – I used a face mask that I’d been gifted. I’m claiming it because usually I’d hang on to something like this, meaning to re-gift it, until it’s out of date. Honestly, every little helps, and now my face feels fantastic.

I’ve sold some of the yarn that was given to the charity. It’s all been around for less than six months, but it’s gone now. About a kilo, I reckon, in three separate lots.

This blog will only be honest if I include additions. I bought a couple of nice notebooks and some washi tape. I’m an absolute sucker for a notebook, and the washi tape is for card making once the spare room is clear enough for me to start crafting again.

My paperwork system is in a right mess, so I’ve started to tackle it. A big wodge of paper has gone in the recycling bin, and another wodge is ready for shredding. I’m going through my box of receipts and throwing away anything that’s more than two years old. My desk now looks reasonable. I mean, a clean freak wouldn’t like it, but I’m fairly sure there aren’t any biscuits hiding in the paperwork (joking …) When I was sorting out my desk, I found two of my missing pairs of tweezers (decluttering bonus!) and I also found a Level 4 Hoarding Tupperware box into which I’d stuffed things ‘out of the way’. Inside it were receipts, which have now been filed or disposed of, and to my absolute horror and embarrassment, a plastic bag that my prescription arrived in. I hadn’t put it for recycling because it had my personal details on it. I’ve destroyed the details and put it in the recycling bag. I think that was about as bad as it’s ever got. Who does that? Who stuffs random stuff in a takeaway tub, slams the lid on, and then pretends it’s not there? I’m beginning to think I’ve caught this problem just in time. Another ‘hide it away’ tub contained a four year old part used asthma inhaler. That’s gone now, and I even managed to put the tub itself in the recycling.

Finally, instead of stuffing a ripped pair of jeans under the bed until I have the time and the skill to repair them and embroider them beautifully (ha ha), I’ve given them to a friend who has a sewing machine and sewing skills, she’ll use the denim to make something nice.

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The Decluttering Blog – Part One

It has been brought to my attention that I may be a hoarder. I’ve been allowed to live in denial of this by virtue of having an obsessively tidy husband and only two rooms in the house that I could hide my belongings in. Two years ago we decided to turn the larger of those two rooms into a guest bedroom / book room, so we hired a storage unit and started to empty the room. To be honest, nothing really got going until about six months ago, when we finished emptying the room, decorated it, and put a bed, bookshelves and a desk in there. It looked fab. Then we started to bring the boxes back from the storage unit.

At some point within the last few weeks, I’ve accepted that I have many more books than I could ever have time to re-read. I have many more books than I have room for. Some of them will have to go. It’s not just books, it’s bits and pieces that we’ve just never thrown away. It’s hard to say goodbye, it seems, so I’ll write about things as they go. It makes it easier, and may assuage the awful anxiety and the sleepless nights. You see, one day I might REALLY REALLY NEED something that I’ve let go of.

Last week was a good week. I managed to relinquish fourteen beautiful, fantastic, amazing books by Adrian Tchaikovsky. I hadn’t had them quite long enough for them to sink into the great mass of literature that insulates the house, so the emotional tug wasn’t too bad. FOURTEEN BOOKS gone at once. It would be a huge success, except for the fact that I’d bought every one of them since hiring that storage locker, so there was no real net gain on the 2021 situation. Still, fourteen books eh? I also said goodbye to a couple of 1980s Frank Herbert Dune books that I’ve been carrying around the country since forever. I think I last re-read them in the 1990s. Sixteen books gone. It’s not just me, a lot of the books are my husband’s, and he decided to relinquish a couple of fairly modern editions of Philip K Dick books. Eighteen books gone. A newly read / newly acquired but ancient and crumbling edition of Brian Stableford’s Werewolves of London has gone to be recycled. Nineteen books gone. And lastly, book wise, I took seven environment / ecology related books to a local charity. Twenty six books gone. Granted, fifteen of them had been in the house for less than two years, but it’s still progress eh?

A lot of the ‘stuff’ is actually stock for the charity craft stall that I run, and I obviously can’t get rid of that, but hopefully I can reorganise it a little better. I rounded up some bits and bobs that have been given to me recently for the charity, washed an ironed a tatty tote bag that I found and had no previous memory of, and unpacked some donated handcrafted items from a jute bag into a half full box. The jute bag and the tote bag half full of toiletries has now gone from the house. A small victory, but still …

One of the boxes to come back from the lockup was in the dining room. Insomniac me took advantage of 3 am decluttering anxiety to do some decluttering. There’s a letter and a graduate list from my Manchester Uni M.Sc, I’ll keep and file that. There are copies of my school magazine, I’ll keep them. There are ring binders from my biology and physics A levels, scribbled over and vastly nostalgic, I’ll keep them. There’s also a twelve inch deep pile of research papers and reports from my working life. They’re going. The actual box was quite tatty, so that’s going too. Oh, and there were four amazingly mucky and faded card or plastic coasters from the 1980s. That’s not me, it’s my OH. He conceded that they were ready for recycling / landfill.

If you’d like to help me, please check out my ebay page – it’s Knit One Purr One. Most of the sales go to help cats in need. At least I don’t collect cats …

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