e17 book clubs – more needed?

ImageYou might have noticed that I post quite a lot of book reviews.  I also post whether I have read the book as it was chosen as part of our E17 Book Club.  I think that this has provoked quite a lot of publicity for our book club as I have received many requests over the last year or so by people who would like to join.

We are obviously a rather literary lot in Walthamstow!

Turnover of members of our book club is rather low indeed – we ‘allowed’ a couple of newbies in when one member left in September, but the number of people asking to join and being turned away is growing weekly.

There are other Book Clubs that I know of in Walthamstow, one that meets at The Mill, the Reading Group that meets at Walthamstow Library and Forest Book Group who meet in Peking Chef.

I am sure that there are probably others, and if you know of them please do let me know.

However, my point for this post was to suggest that maybe someone sets up another Book Club (or two!) in Walthamstow – there are obviously enough people interested to fill them (we have found that about 10 people at any one meeting is kind of the upper limit…and about 14 on the list tends to get 8-10 each meeting).

I have quite a large number of people ‘in my archives’, so, if anyone wanted to set something up, I would be happy to get back in touch with peopel that had contacted me in the past and asked to be put on our waiting list to see if they would like to join.

So, come on, is someone going to stand up to the mark and say “YES! *I* will start organising a new book club in Walthamstow!”.

(PS – we now have no idea who ‘runs’ our book club…once you get a few meetings out the way, the members kind of look after it as one.)

***UPDATE*** Someone has kindly taken on the mantle of setting up a new book club, which will meet once a month at The Chequers.  Let me know if you would like more details.

Also, as per Jenny’s comment below, there is a book club set up that meets in The Castle once a month!

We really, really are a well-read bunch in E17!

american gods – neil gaiman

American Gods

Ever since I have been with The Man, he has been trying to get me to read American Gods, but I have steadfastedly refused (I like finding little ways to annoy him).  Daft I guess, as Good Omens is one of my favourite books of all time, and I have read Neverwhere about 10 times over the years!

This year so the tenth anniversary of American Gods first being published, and we were also looking for a book to reading August for the E17 Book Club, so I thought I would suggest it as it has had such fantastic reviews all over the place – including a massive 4.05/5 on Goodreads (from more than 58k ratings) and inclusion in World Book Night’s Top 100 Most Popular Books.  The rest of the group agreed!

The story starts with Shadow, a convict who is just being released from prison.  All he wants to do is return to his beautiful wife Laura, and get on with carving a better life for them.  However, soon after receiving some disturbing news about Laura, his life seems to take a turn for the more surreal.

He meets Mr Wednesday, who could be a God (if he is to be believed) and is offered a job with some rather strange stipulations.  Feeling that he has nothing to lose, Shadow agrees to the terms of the verbal contract and begins a road trip across America with the enigmatic Wednesday, meeting his ever stranger cohorts on their way, coupled with the intensifying feeling that something bigger than all of them is really going down!

If the book had been about 150 pages shorter, I could have very easily said “I LOVED IT!” – end of story!  But I can actually say that I really enjoyed it.  Shadow was a fantastic character – I really felt for him, and he was extremely easy to like – and when you like a character (especially if they are the protagonist), it makes you buy into the story that much more.  Wednesday was also a fantastic character – extremely visual.

Gaiman is a real story-teller, you get lost in his descriptions and ideas.  You just have to let yourself be taken along by him to where he wants you to be!  There were so many strands to the narrative, so many little incidents that seemed unimportant at the time, and then later became key or even vice versa – whole beautifully written mini stories that were almost seperate from the main text, and were never again referred to within it!

However, there seemed to be a crucial incident about 3/4 of the way into the book that lost a lot of us in the group.  We almost all lost interest at that point, and some found it rather gruelling to get to the end after it.

But don’t let this put you off of reading it, it is a truly magical story, and certainly makes you think about religion, contemporary worship (ie, are we all praying at the altar of consumerism and media?) and the morals of mankind.  Well, it made ME think anyway.

I think we should go back to the old ways, make a few sacrifices. Build more beautiful temples. Have more swordfights. Regain some magic and mystery.

baby sensory group, walthamstow

Baby sensory

After an extremely trying weekend (I had to go to Middlesbrough to see The Man’s mother – more about that another time when I have calmed down…), it was rather a nice ‘break’ to get up on Bank Holiday Monday and go along with my friend Madeleine to one of the Baby Sensory groups that she runs.

As I went back to work about 2 months after The Girl was born, and had never been to an antenatal class or ANY kind of baby class before OR after I had her, this was brand new territory for me.  But anyway, Baby Sensory classes have only been around for about 5 years, so it’s not like I’d have had the opportunity anyway!

Look at the concentration!

Mads used to go to a class after she had her little boy, and was so impressed that when they moved back to Walthamstow, and there wasn’t a class in the area, she decided to run one herself.

There are 100+ classes run across the UK with structured ‘lesson plans’ designed to stimulate babies up to 13 months old with songs, lights, signing and puppet shows etc. You can read more about it on their official website.

The babies loved all the bright colours and different textures

There were two classes (held at Shern Hall Methodist Church Hall) – 10.30 – 11.30 every Monday for 7-13 months and 12.00-1.00 for up to 6 months.  Being a Bank Holiday Monday, there were quite a lot less babies than there would normally have been – but there were plenty that I felt I wanted to steal and take home because they were just so adorable!

The blurred bit was actually a fish!!

I think the thing that most amazed me about it was how much the babies seemed to concentrate.  The ‘lesson’ that I went to was based around Old McDonald’s Farm.  They start every lesson with a song ‘Say Hello To The Sun’ where there are very definite signs for sun, rain, friends, stars, moon.

We then had a ‘pond’ made of a green sheet, complete with seawood, underwater creatures and three little fishes that had their own song.  The songs are all pre-recorded to accompany the lesson plans – and it’s obvious that the babies love them!

One of the babies from the 'little' class

Everything is bright, colourful and really designed to stimulate all of their senses.  There are parts of the lessons where you manipulate your baby’s legs, or tickle them, or massage them, and Mads was great, explaining why certain exercises were particularly good for them, or why certain parts of the lesson are included, due to research results and even what the parents can do at home.

Mads explained he wasn't Big or Bad - just misunderstood!

There was plenty more singing – itsy-bitsy spider (when did it stop being incy wincy that I sang as a kid?), this little piggie, a puppet show for who’s afraid of the big bad wolf and then a ‘Goodbye’ song which is also sang at the end of every session.  The change in the babies during this was amazing – any of them that had been making any noise quietened down and seemed to really relax during the song.

I was talking to some of the parents in the ‘play time’ interval within the session.  Some of them had been going for a couple of months, others were on just their second visit but all of them said that their babies loved it.  A couple of them pointed out that their babies just really love Madeleine – and I have to admit, she was absolutely fabulous!  It was like having your own CBeebies presenter there in real life, right in the room with you – I could see why the babies couldn’t take their eyes off of her, she was so vibrant – almost hypnotic.

Absolutely captivated

So – if you have a baby up to 13 months old I think you should at least give one of the classes a try (anyone can come along for a free taster lesson).  Madeleine runs classes in Walthamstow and Tottenham and has a new one in Leyton starting on Friday.  I know that she is currently looking for another location within Walthamstow.

If you would like to know more about Madeleine’s Baby Sensory classes in Waltham Forest – just check her details. She is even doing a special Father’s Day session on Saturday 18th June which is filling up quickly!

Unfortunately, I came away with no baby, just a severe bout of broodiness…but a brilliant session in Le Delice with many of the Walthamstow Twitterati managed to cheer me up.

“save our cinema!” – the walthamstow protest

UCKG crowd already in, Cinema crowd trying to get in...

Last night, I was extremely proud to be part of my community.

For those who don’t know, Waltham Forest is one of only two London Boroughs without a cinema (the other being Lewisham, I believe).  We had a lovely cinema up to 8 years ago.  A beautiful art deco building where the Beatles and the Rolling Stones had played gigs and where Hitchcock had seen films as a boy.  It is a Grade II Listed Building and the last remaining British cinema with its original Christie organ in situ.

However, in 2003, the then EMD owned cinema was in rather a state of disrepair, seemed to have restrictions on films able to be shown, was starting to smell rather heavily of wee and was therefore not as well-frequented (a bit like the Rose & Crown before that got taken over!).  So, it was sold, to the United Church for the Kingdom of God.

Over the years, we have been told various tales of how the building is unsuitable to be re-opened as a cinema, but this has been challenged at every stage of the way.  For the past 8 years, UCKG have petitioned to change the building use to a place of worship.  Plans have even claimed to use the building as ‘a community meeting place’ with an apparent ability to show films.  Are the majority of local people going to go to church to watch The Fast & The Furious 5?

What we're trying to save (box office)

So, 18th May was a huge day for local residents, as it was Decision Day -the planning committee of local councillors was due to hear the arguments from both sides at a public meeting at the Town Hall and reject or accept the planning application from UCKG.

Being a proud member of the E17 ‘Awesomestow’ Twitterati, I had been really happy that so many of us were empassioned by the plight of the cinema, and arranged to meet up to show our support on the night.

When I got there though, there were even more familiar faces than I was expecting – I saw friends I know from the pub, members of my Book Club, neighbours, and even teachers from The Girl’s school.  Being able to mill around, mix in different circles and just recognise familiar faces in a huge crowd made me feel so ‘belonging’.

And there really was a huge crowd.  But from both sides.

With the meeting originally taking place in the Town Hall, the plan was to meet on the Town Hall steps.  However, the veune was changed, and the meeting took place in the nearby Assembly Rooms.  this meant that the ‘Cinema crowd’ were outside the Town Hall, and the UCKG were outside the Assembly Rooms.  And as they had generally had to come from further afield, they had a large crowd very early, which felt quite intimidating.  Our lot WALKED from home generally and arrived in dribs and drabs, slowly forming a HUGE crowd of support, which was incredible.

UCKG crowd assembled when we arrived

But of course, when the doors were opened, all the UCKG were already there, and got in first.  The hall takes over 1,000 people, but we were still left with about 2-300 people (guesstimate) outside, along with a couple of bagpipers, shouting our support through the windows to those within the meeting.  Luckily, the social bar just outside the building opened and helped fuel our morale as we were there for over TWO HOURS chanting, singing, waiting for the decision, and checking our phones and Twitter feeds to find out what was going on inside.

Photo from @essgee91 of inside - all the UCKG stood up and put on hi vis vests 5 mins into proceedings. Cultish?? (That IS an 'L' btw)

And the result was unanimous – 7-0 to reject the planning application.  It was a fantastic result for all involved (from our side of course!) and puts us one step closer to getting our cinema back.

After chanting “Save Our Cinema” for two hours, it was nice to chant “We’ve SAVED our cinema” and then the police moved in to hold us back as the UCKG people came out.Obviously they all had long journeys back home, buses to catch etc and so we were quite happy to shout”We live HERE, where d’YOU live?” for a while – at which point some of them seemed to want to have a dance-off.

Perhaps the greatest moment of the night was about 1,000 people waving “Byeeeeeeeee, cheerio, safe journey…” as they made their way home, and we all went to the pub.

Of course, UCKG still own the building, but there has been a Trust set up to try to raise the money needed to buy it back and refurbish AND the UCKG are extremely guilty of letting a listed building fall into a disgusting state of disrepair.  It has had illegal raves, has been flooded, has been boarded up and covered in scaffolding for years and they have done NOTHING to look after it.

And they must now know how opposed people are locally to yet another church (I believe we have over 230 already!!).

So, the first skirmish has been won – and now the battle proper shall commence.

Other links:

And – last but not least, my favourite response from the UCKG

The Churchy response...

you get what you pay for…

99p Stores, Walthamstow

…or don’t pay very much for, I guess.  That is how it appears with the customer service I received not even an hour ago from my local 99p Stores.

I have happily frequented 99p Stores in Walthamstow and Camden for a few years (even though I did prefer the Walthamstow one when it was Hammicks Bookshop!).  As far as I’m concerned, if stuff is branded, why not take the opportunity to get a bargain!?

Anyway, I noticed last week that they were doing the conditioner I use in the Walthamstow one, so decided to pop in on the way home to get a bulk load, and to get another few bits and pieces while I was at it (cat food, chocolate if you’re interested 😉 ).

So, there was a HUGE queue, but I REALLY need the conditioner, so I stood in line for ages.  After he’d rung all my stuff through, he pointed at the card machine, I stuck my card in and then he said:

Him:  Oh.  Erm…I’ve pressed cash
Me: OK
Him:  Have you got the cash?
Me:  No, I’ve got my card
Him:  I don’t know what to do
Me: OK
Him:  Can you go and get the cash?
Me:  Erm, no, I’ve got my card
Him:   I’ll call someone

So, he uses his ‘Kill them’ mic and then carries on serving other people.  Another guy comes along and he tells him what’s happened.

Guy 2:  Have you got the cash?
Me:  No, I’ve got my card
Guy 2:  Can you go and get the cash?
Me:  No, I’ve got my card – I just want to pay and go home
Guy 2:  It will be good if you go and bring the cash
Me:  No, it will be good if you can just let me pay with my card as I always intended to
Guy 2:  But he’s pressed cash
Me:  I know

So they use the ‘Kill them’ mic yet again, and Guy 2 goes off to another till to serve more of the hundreds of people now stuck in a long queue behind me.

A guy in a proper shirt that says ‘manager’ without actually having a ‘Manager’ tag on it comes over.  The first guy tells Manager bloke what’s happened and he mumbles something to him, and then points at him and says “Maybe YOU can pay for it”, then barks something at him and stands back while the guy is serving yet another customer.  But then he seems to get bored, and wanders off.

Guy 1 finishes serving the customer and turns around and sayd to me “What happened?  where did he go?” and then spots him, and then turns to me and says again “Can you just go and get the cash – that will be nice for us!”  So I shouted, “No I wont go and get the bloody cash, just forget it!!!” and stormed out like a stroppy little teenager.

So, tomorrow my hair will be badly frizzy and it is ALL the fault of the stupid people in 99p Stores in Walthamstow!!

fasting, feasting – anita desai

Fasting, Feasting

I read this as part of my Reading Group with Walthamstow Library.  It was very definitely a book of two halves – or more like a book of two-thirds and then one third, LOL.

The first part of the story centres around Uma, a (now) middle-aged spinster, living in India with ‘MamaPapa’, her parents who never leave each other’s side, thus seemingly one entity.  Uma is the oldest of three children.  Her thick glasses, plain looks, below-average intelligence and lack of knowledge of how to attract the opp0site sex has meant that she has lived almost her whole life in the family home.

The second part of the story follows her little brother Arun, who has gone to study in America.

To be honest, I wish that the story had never split.  I was loving Uma’s story.  The writing was so colourful, so well-crafted, the scenes drawn so vividly that it kind of disguised a lot of how totally depressing Uma’s life was.

In contrast, we are suddenly thrown into Arun’s life where he is staying with an american family during the summer break.  he is quiet and not exactly likeable.  the family are dysfunctional and he doesn’t really enjoy being there.  everything is based around food – the father who BBQs everything, the mother who decides to be a vegetarian with Arun, the health freak son and the bulimic daughter.  It was all very odd.

I couldn’t care less what happened to Arun, there was hardly any reference to his family back in India and there was absolutely no resolution to Uma’s story which had been far more enjoyable and which I had really bought into!

I would really recommend reading the first part of this book, but would suggest people didn’t bother with the second!

Why it was shortlisted for the 1999 Booker Prize is beyond me.

book group whore

Typical book group? There's no beardy-weirdies at the library one!

I’m feeling slightly slutty.

Tonight, I will be seeing another Book Club for the first time – behind my Reading Group’s back.

I am a little nervous, as this is ‘stranger danger’ as I will be meeting new people, and although according to Twitalyzer I am a ‘Social Butterfly’, meeting new people does always give me a case of the bowel cramps, so to speak.

I am really enjoying being part of the Walthamstow Library Reading Group – and I went along to our meeting on Tuesday and we had a brilliant discussion about That Old Ace In The Hole and I picked up my copy of our next book, which is Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai (which I had never heard of).

However, before I had gone along to my first Reading Group meeting, I had in fact contacted someone from a group that meet at The Nags head in Walthamstow Village – but they break for the summer, and tonight was the first meeting they have had since.

So, I have convinced my friend to come along with me, and we have both read the book (luckily it was a very thin book – but also a very weird one…Andrew Kaufman’s ‘All My Friends Are Superheroes’ – I will review it later).  I am just crossing my fingers that a) other people actually turn up and b) that they’re lovely.

Is it wrong to belong to two groups?

very grown up

I'm happy with my £8 bag thank you very much!

I had to go out on Saturday to buy The Girl another school bag.  I’d bought her a rucksack on thursday, but the first time she went to do the zip up, it broke!  Bad quality from those people over at Head.

So, I took it back, got my money back and decided to wander down the market to look at the bag stalls – after all, what’s the point of living near Walthamstow Market if I don’t make the most of it.

I found a good stall, that I have bought a couple of bags from in the past and ended up buying two bags.

I got home, and was chatting to The Man as I sat down and opened up my haul of goodies, pulled out the first bag and he looked at me with a frown on his face and said “Don’t you think that’s a bit too babyish for her?  She’s just started High school – she’s 11, not 5”.

I looked at him, blinked and said “Erm, no. I got this one for myself!”

He went off to the pub laughing.  I’m not altogether sure he ‘gets’ me!

talking in the library

This just amused me when I was looking for a pic 😉

Seems wrong, doesn’t it –  having a discussion in a library?  But that is what I did last night.

OK, all is not quite as it seems – I decided to go and see whether the Reading Group at Walthamstow Central Library was something I might find interesting.

They meet at 7pm on the last Tuesday of every month, and it appears I went on a night when they had the least number of people turning up ever (probably the summer holidays – everywhere seems to be a bit sparse at the moment).

It’s quite good as they provide the library with the name of the next book they want to read, and the library provide enough copies for everyone, and then they hand it back at the next meeting, and pick up the next lot.

They had just finished reading The Time Traveller’s Wife, which I had read and enjoyed – but when it first came out, so I could barely remember any details at all.  It was really interesting to be able to discuss everyone’s different takes on the book – and especially one person who didn’t like it at all and hadn’t finished reading it – but then she had already decided how it was going to end…and it doesn’t.  After listening to the rest of us discussing, she realised that she might find it interesting after all, LOL.

So, I came home with my copy of Ben Okri’s The Famished Road, which I have to be honest, I had never heard of, but am looking forward to reading.

Just thinking about going again in a few weeks though has made me realise that I am going to tackle the book differently.  Knowing that I am going to be discussing it makes me think I should take notes etc – which seems a bit ‘bookish’ to me, and something I haven’t done since school – which was a LONG time ago!

There’s a Walthamstow Book Club that I am also interested in going along to – but I don’t know when they are next meeting.  Is two book clubs just greedy??

amazing map

Maps are fantastic.  In the highest technical sense, it’s fab to stick my X10’s GPS on and watch myself wandering around the streets of London (usually trying to find a random bar that a friend has sent me the postcode for!), but at it’s absolutely least technical but most amazing, there are maps like this.

How much time must have gone into completing that masterpiece.  ‘The Island‘ must have taken more time, patience and willing than I can imagine having for anything at all!

Oh, and here’s my bit.  I LOVE the way that Walthamstow Village is tagged as ‘The Middle Classes’ LOL. (Make sure you click on it to see it full size)

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