The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

The Colour of Magic

This is the first post in my re-read of all the Discworld books, in order. The one where it all began. This wasn’t the first book that I ever read in the series (that was Reaper Man), and it’s generally held that it isn’t the best example of how good these books can be. I think I agree with that – Pratchett’s writing, humor, satire, observation, characterization and so on do get better with time. However, it’s quite a good introduction anyway in terms of establishing the basic premise of the world and some key characters. The world is, obviously, a Disc, sat on the back of 4 elephants which themselves stand on a giant turtle which swims through space. It’s a world of fantasy and magic, and many things such as Gods only exist if people believe in them.

The first Discworld book is actually 4 shorter stories, all featuring the incompetent wizard, Rincewind, and the Disc’s first tourist, Twoflower. Twoflower is very naive and an eternal optimist whilst Rincewind, who acts as his guide, is cynical and world-weary. Quite a lot of their adventures poke fun at the stereotypical sword and sorcery type novels that were around when this was written in the early 1980s and at the world of Dungeons and Dragons type role playing. But it’s not irreverent, if you love those things, and at the same time doesn’t rely too much on deep knowledge of it for humour. Their adventures are fairly typical of those type of fantasy stories, featuring dragons, heroes, temples and so on… but told in a way that is very much Pratchett’s own.

I’ll be honest, I was expecting not to enjoy re-reading this book, as in my head I think of the first few books as “not that great”. I also tend to think of the books in groups, and f I had to rank them, I’d say the “Rincewind” books are my least favorite (compared to the Witches or the Watch or the Death books). But I now think that’s unfair, as I actually enjoyed this a lot. Perhaps it’s just that the first few books are not as good as the later ones… but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth reading. There are glimmers of what will come, both the humour, but also the observation and poignancy that Pratchett never, I think, gets enough credit for. This line from Twoflower gets me:

“When I think that I might die without seeing a hundredth of all there is to see it makes me feel,” he paused, then added, “well, humble, I suppose. And very angry, of course.” 

Having re-read this, I’m now really looking forward to getting stuck into the rest of the series and revisiting them all, and seeing the characters and the world itself develop. As I said, the Rincewind books were never my favorite, but coming back to this with fresh eyes after not reading it for so long, I really enjoyed the character and his view of the world. Maybe I’m now myself more older and cynical than when I read these books as a teenager! It occurred to me as I was reading this that, while we do meet many of the characters again later on, there’s actually quite a lot in this book that we never hear about again – the Temple, for example, and the Wyrmberg and its inhabitants. I’m surprised that these never get mentioned again in future, at least as far as I remember. I do find myself wondering to what extent Pratchett planned out the wider world and series when he published the first book as there are things that are inconsistent in this book with the later ones – such as how Death kills out of annoyance in this book, but in later ones won’t interfere with how events play out so much. Anyway, that aside, I found this a really fun read and a better introduction to the series than I remembered, so I’m looking forward to starting the next, which takes up the story from the cliffhanger ending of this one.

I’m going to give this: 4/5

Broadway Circular Walk

Broadway Tower
Broadway Tower

Yesterday we went on a lovely long walk. It’s such a British thing to do, isn’t it, going for a walk in the countryside on a Bank Holiday. And there were indeed lots of other families out and about braving the chill. We headed up to Broadway, a village out in the Cotswolds. We planned to walk from the village up to Broadway Tower, a 200-year old folly built on top of one of the nearby hills, and back down again, in a circular route.

Cotswold Way
Cotswold Way

You can see the route we followed on the National Trails website here. We followed the guidance and found it pretty easy to find our way and not get lost. The distance turned out to be just shy of 5 miles in total, which was about as far as I’d want to try and get Lucy to go. The first part was very much uphill, and we did need a couple of short rests, but it wasn’t so hard that we were really struggling. Obviously the second half going downhill was much easier – although the whole route was very muddy and even squelchy at times. We managed not to go over, but we could see skid and slide marks where other peopler had! We’ve had quite a bit of rain recently; I think that on a dry summer’s day this would be an even better walk, though we really enjoyed it as it was.

Muddy footpath
Muddy footpath

We parked at the main Short Stay car park in the middle of town. You can’t park for more than 4 hours, but that was more than long enough for our walk, for Lucy to have a play on the excellent play area we found, and even for us to have a quick pint in a pub! 4 Hours cost £3 which seemed pretty reasonable. We followed the track out of town past the play area (promising Lucy she could have a play at the end, so she didn’t wear herself out before the walk). The first part was across muddy fields and along a lane, past St Eadburgha’s Church and some very pretty houses. I love that name – Eadburgha – it’s a proper Anglo-Saxon name, and apparently some of the church does date back to the 11th century. After the church, the hill began.

Saint Eadburgha's Church
Saint Eadburgha’s Church

Fortunately, the going wasn’t too bad, even if it was a bit steep in places, because it was a well-marked solid track; you could get an off-road vehicle down it if you needed to. The path we followed back down later on was just a path across a grassy field, and I think would have been harder work to climb up, so anti-clockwise as shown on the link is probably the right way to go. As we went, we found ourselves getting very curious about when we would see the Tower at the top – you really can’t until you’re right next to it.

Cotswold Views
Cotswold Views
Broadway Tower
Broadway Tower

To go into the Tower itself you need to pay. There is a car park next to it, and a cafe and toilets. There’s a charge to park here, and pay to get into the grounds and tower… however if you are just walking the footpath you can go in for free (not into the actual tower though!). We sat and ate our picnic lunch nearby… it was pretty bracing up there but we had hot drinks and layers and so we were quite happy. One word of caution: around the tower was the only area where we could have gone wrong as there are signs for the circular walk… this is NOT the same circular walk that we were on (and had been following clear signs for), it’s a smaller walk just around the tower area. Fortunately we guessed this was the case and so didn’t go astray. The picture below shows the signs we followed all the way around:

Circular Walk Sign
Circular Walk Sign

We didn’t go into the Tower: it was quite busy, and with the high COVID-19 levels at the moment, we’d rather stay outside where we can. So we’ll come back some time when it’s not a Bank Holiday and explore in there. The walk downhill seemed to go pretty quickly – the main difficulty was stopping Lucy from running too fast down the hill: it was very muddy and we were sure she would either slip or crash into something! We soon found ourselves back in the play area near the start with plenty of time for Lucy to have a play. I didn’t take photos because I didn’t want to take or post photos of other peoples’ children (this site has a good overview). There area some handy free toilets in the park. Once she was properly tired, we found ourselves with half an hour left on our parking, so we thought it very appropriate to go and explore a pub near the car park called the Crown and Trumpet: we very much enjoyed a pint near an open fire – the perfect end to our trip.

Open Fire
Open Fire

Middle Eastern Slaw

One of the things I want to use this blog for is sharing my favourite recipes. I made this for our NYE buffet feast; we didn’t have any visitors, it was just the 3 of us, but we felt like having a good spread to see in the New Year. The joy of that kind of thing is that while it feels like a bit of an indulgence, it lasts you for several days afterwards (we’re still eating cheese and crackers, although we finished the last of this slaw off yesterday).

Middle Eastern Slaw

I started making this a year or so ago when we lived in the Middle East. I love a good creamy coleslaw, but both Lucy and Clive don’t eat onions and Clive doesn’t eat mayonnaise, so I never feel like making it just for me. This, however, has neither of those items: Clive really likes it, and Lucy will grudgingly eat it especially if she can get more carrot than cabbage on her spoon! It keeps well in the fridge for a few days, and is best made a little in advance so the flavours of the herbs and lime can really get into the veggies. Clive prefers this without the walnuts but I tend to add nuts to anything I can so I can get enough protein (he’s a meat eater, I’m not).

Middle Eastern Slaw

Ingredients

  • Half a red cabbage, shredded
  • 2 carrots, peeled, tops removed, grated
  • handful mint leaves, chopped
  • handful flatleaf parsley, chopped
  • handful coriander, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime, freshly squeezed ideally
  • 100ml olive oil
  • 50g walnuts, chopped

Instructions

  1. This one’s super simple: basically put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix together, then put in the fridge for at least a few hours before you serve. That really is it – most of the work is slicing the cabbage and grating the carrot!

My Discworld Re-Read

Over the past few years, I’ve slowly been replacing my copies of the Discworld series of books with new ones from the Collector’s Library hardback series. I bought my original paperback copies years ago, many of them as they were released and, especially in my teenage years, they were often secondhand when I got them. I’ve read and re-read some of these so many times that they were starting to fall apart, and so when these new editions began to be released a few years ago, I bought them, one at a time, passing on the old editions as I did. I’ve now got all of the adult volumes – I didn’t know they had brought out matching editions of the younger readers’ books (which are still immensely readable by adults) until I went to get that link to the series above , so I’ll be getting those next. I’ve still not actually read the last book, the Shepherd’s Crown, as I’ve always felt sad that after I did, there would be no more Discworld to read.

Discworld Library
My Discworld Library

Anyway, this has prompted me to decide I’m going to go and re-read the whole series. I haven’t read quite a lot of these stories, especially the very earliest ones, for a long time, and I’m curious how my almost middle-aged self will find the books that I loved when I was a teenager. I’ve always felt that the series gets better over time – at least to the point where Terry Pratchett’s health began to decline – but I’ve never read them in the order they were written, so I think it will be interesting to see how the writing and the characters develop. I’m also going to finish with the Shepherd’s Crown, finally, because I really should stop putting that off (also because the protagonist, Tiffany Aching, is awesome). I’m not sure how long it will take me to read them all, especially as I won’t just be reading these books, there’s too many other things I want to read!

Here Comes 2022!

Happy New Year 2022
Happy New Year – Here’s to ’22

Happy New Year! 2022 feels like quite a significant year for me for a few reasons. I’ll turn 40 in the summer, which feels like quite a milestone. My daughter will start secondary school in the autumn, and it already feels like her childhood is turning into adolescence and all that comes with that. This will be the first year which we start in our new house, the first we’ve ever owned. I’m also optimistic that maybe we’ll start coming out of the pandemic we’ve all lived with for the best part of two years and I’ll be able to start reconnecting with friends more than I’ve managed to since we came back to the UK in July.

I’m not really one for new year’s resolutions. There are things about myself that I’d like to change – most of which I’m working on – but I don’t really think that personal change works overnight in that way. What I do like, however, is the idea of creating specific, measurable goals and working towards those goals, and the start of a new year feels like a good time to think about the kind of goals I want to work towards. So, as it’s 2022, I’ve come up with a list of 22 things I want to achieve this year, and here they are:

  1. Read 52 non-work books
  2. Read 12 work books
  3. Join a club for an activity or hobby I enjoy
  4. Run 1000 miles
  5. Do something amazing for my 40th birthday
  6. Make our garden into a space we can enjoy
  7. Create a herb garden
  8. Have a proper family holiday
  9. Still be writing this blog at the end of 2022
  10. Complete the first draft of a novel
  11. Go to a music festival
  12. Walk the Cotswold Way footpath
  13. Run a marathon
  14. Learn a new skill
  15. Finish making a scrap quilt from my daughter’s baby clothes
  16. Get back to pre-pandemic fitness levels: be able to run 10k in under an hour, 5k in under 26 minutes.
  17. Do one “give back” activity every week (e.g. volunteer, charity work, give blood etc)
  18. Do one social activity every week (i.e. not with family)
  19. Make as many cards and gifts for people (Christmas, birthdays etc) as possible
  20. Swap out some of the products I use for more sustainable/environmentally friendly ones
  21. Finish the crochet blanket I started making for our bed
  22. Try one new restaurant every month

So, that’s my list of challenges for the year. I thought about having 40 challenges, because I’m turning 40, but I wanted this to be achievable, so 22 seemed a good number. Also, some of the things I would have wanted to add were things like travelling, and as I don’t know how the pandemic is going to play out over 2022, I thought it best not to. I’ll be sharing how I get on with these on this blog.

Do you like the photo above? This graffiti appeared near my house recently. There’s an old railway line (the Honeybourne) that’s been converted into a footpath and cycle route, and it has loads of cool graffiti like this (as opposed to the kind of graffiti that’s just tagging). It’s really nice to walk along it and look at all the artwork.

Hello,World!

Well, hello there. Yes, I started a blog. Feels like an odd thing to be doing as we head into 2022 – blogs were big years ago! But it’s something I’ve wanted to do for years, and for various reasons, haven’t. But recently, I’ve been finding myself increasingly unhappy with my online presence and want to try something different. I’m active on Facebook and Instagram, and am finding more and more that I don’t like the experience, particularly with Facebook. I’ve been thinking about what I really want from being online, and debating with myself about deleting one or both of those accounts. I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but while I continue to try and get up the confidence to hit that Delete Account button, this is an experiment with trying something else.

My intentions for this site are somewhat nebulous. I have an idea that I’ll probably write some book reviews, and share recipes, there’ll probably be posts about running, family life, yarny crafts, geekery, music, movies, cats… all the things that interest me. That doesn’t sound very ground-breaking, but this isn’t an attempt at fame and fortune, I’m not trying to get millions of followers or anything like that… I just like the idea of having somewhere that’s mine, that I can share with people who I think will be interested, and a blog feels like it would fit that description, and probably be a bit more enjoyable than Facebook! I wish that Facebook was what it seemed to want to be when I first joined it over a decade ago: somewhere to keep in touch with friends and make new ones. But it doesn’t really work like that, and, while I feel it’s a little bit egotistical to potentially say to people “I’m done with it, if you want to keep in touch, here’s my website to follow”, I know I would rather read a friend’s blog and feel more of a connection to them and their lives, than scroll through endless posts about lost dogs and adverts for things I’m not interested in buying. Facebook makes me sad in lots of ways, and if I’m honest, my mental health and resilience is rather battered by it, even though I know that it isn’t the whole picture, that what you’re getting is a curated version of peoples’ lives… it’s quite hard to rationalize that.

So, there we are. Hopefully this is the start of something better!