Reading, Watching, Listening to Lately – April 2017

The school Easter holidays and 10 days spent adventuring around Scotland in our campervan in April meant that I didn’t do as much reading, watching and listening as I planned to this month, but quality over quantity and all that, and my little eyes and ears did enjoy pretty much everything they were exposed to. Except that unfortunate incident after forgetting to put on gloves when chopping up chillies for my favourite curry recipe not so long ago – no, they did not like that at all. Note well, forgetful cooks and contact lens wearers everywhere (I’m fine, by the way, in case you were concerned).

Anyway, enough of my culinary incompetence and back to the task in hand, and I kicked off this month by reading A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart, a wonderful, witty book about Alex, a Dad who finds a way to connect with his autistic son Sam through the medium of Minecraft. Minecraft, for the uninitiated, is a hugely popular video game in which players adventure in randomly generated ‘worlds’ while dodging baddies and creating structures from Lego-style blocks and an array of other crafting materials (I speak as the initiated, i.e Mum to an eight and ten year old who appear to be experts at the game). While Alex is struggling to navigate a recent separation from Sam’s mum, he and Sam bond over online gaming and Alex finds a new way to engage with his son, his wife and the demons of his past. A Boy Made of Blocks is a sweet, heartwarming tale with a simple message about the power of connecting. And as a parent of little gaming fans, I have to say it was refreshing to read something positive about the role video games can often play. I really enjoyed the book and the observation of life from a male perspective – it even prompted a lot of engagement with my own sons who were desperate to find out the latest about what Sam was doing in the game. If you’re looking for something a little bit different I’d really recommend adding A Boy Made of Blocks to your reading pile. It’s actually given me a new found appreciation for all things Minecraft, and I’ve promised my little boys they can treat Mummy to a pick axe tutorial any time they like!

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My second book for April was Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson, my first foray into reading anything by Kate Atkinson (I’m not quite sure how I managed to overlook her up till now). Behind the Scenes at the Museum tells the story of several generations of the same family – there’s Ruby, the little narrator, Bunty, her grudging mother, George, her philandering father and an assortment of sisters, aunties, uncles, grandparents, pet shop animals and lovers lost along the way. The novel recounts tales of their various ventures through war, marriage, holidays, family weddings and sometimes devastating losses. It’s a beautifully written family story penned in a very funny style which kept my interest from the first page to the last. I can’t wait to add more Kate Atkinson novels to my to read pile for the summer – in fact, I’m adding a copy of Life After Life to my growing bedside library as we speak.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum

On to what I’ve been watching this month, and I have to confess – it hasn’t amounted to very much. The combination of school holidays, lighter evenings and two children determined to remain awake for as long as possible means that GB and I haven’t been catching up on many of our 9-10pm married-couple-with-kids engagements (box sets, for the uninformed) . We did manage to dip into the first episode of American Gods on Amazon, and watched Sand Castle, a Netflix original drama about the Iraq war, but we don’t seem to have found anything that’s really grabbed us lately and we haven’t even got round to catching up on the remaining episodes of The Crown (I can’t help suspecting Mr B just isn’t as keen on it as me). The kids and I did manage an outing to the cinema to see The Boss Baby which was actually really funny and even succeeded in supplanting my embarrassing cinema going nap habit. Here’s hoping for more viewing opportunities in May folks, I fear my watching update for April has been really rather poor.

I did manage to do rather more listening over April, thanks to the new joy in my life that are podcasts – so easily slotted into dog walks, as a cooking companion, or just while going about your daily biz. My favourite for this month has been Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons, a kind of therapy session for creative types who for varying reasons have found themselves ‘stuck’ somewhere on their journey. Gilbert (whom you might know better as the author of Eat Pray Love), has written a whole book about the subject, Big Magic, and she’s a fantastic podcast presenter – not least due to the fact that she has a really, really, lovely voice. She nurtures her podcast charges with compassion, wisdom, and advice – both from herself and friendly fellow creatives (such as Cheryl Strayed), who also feature on the show. I never fail to pick up a few snippets of inspiration when I dip in to have a listen. If you know of any similarly excellent podcasts, please do let me know!

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That’s it for my reading, watching and listening update this month. I do hope it’s given you some ideas for your future entertainment – and I’ll see you again in June.

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