I like commuting. This is because it's when I get most of my reading done. I ought to, and would like to read more but the combination of an attention span shorter than it should be and a flat full of distractions - the internet, the telly, the cats, but mostly the internet of course1 - mean that I never really just sit and read when I'm at home. I'm lucky enough that I can always get a seat on the train, so for that lovely half hour I can lose myself in my book. I'm currently reading Irvine Welsh's Crime, and while I'd hesitate to call it enjoyable, given that it's based around a gruesome child sex killing, it's certainly compelling and I'm always a bit disappointed when I get to my station. Perhaps I should move out to zone 6 or something, but i)Who wants to live in zone 6, man? and ii) I like being able to stagger out of bed at nine like this morning, and be at work an hour later.
"Go to bed earlier then!" you may be shouting, and you're probably right, but I've got into a lovely bedtime radio routine. I go to bed usually sometime between midnight and half past, and then the radio gives me:
1. The end of the midnight news.
2. Book of the week. This is usually something good. Last week it was Shirley Williams's autobiography, the week before Michael Palin's diaries. This week is Lynne Truss's book about how she suddenly became a football fan when Euro '96 happened, which means she pretty much embodies everything I hate about football these days, so meh. But it's good much more often than it's not.
3. The shipping forecast. How very middle England of me, but its hypnotic rhythm is very seductive. Why hasn't anyone put a banging dance beat behind it yet - there's a club hit waiting to happen there. Unfortunately, some of the announcers these days don't have the gentle lilt to their voices for the shipping forecast. Neil Nunes, for example has too harsh a voice for it. Mostly it's still fine though.
Radio 4 then hands over to the World Service, which continues with
4. World News. This always includes some stories which don't come to attention over here, including this, which I love. I didn't realise the Brazillians were up there with the French for not taking any sh!t2. Good for them.
5. Some kind of documentary. Last night it was about the survival of Yiddish in New York, which was great. Yiddish is a wonderful language, I want to learn it. The words its given to English are universally superb, particularly chutzpah.
6. Usually something vaguely scientific/environmental. Last night it was about people exporting food from Africa, focusing on bean growers in Kenya and people exporting fish from somewhere else. It was 1.30 am, I forget exactly where already.
This morning when I got up, and had to go out Melvyn Bragg was leading an interesting discussion about the Dreyfus affair, that I'd have liked to stay in and listen to. It was also funny because they were saying things like "The Alsatians were the most loyal of the French" which pleased my childish sense of humour. Still, getting to work was quite good today, because there was an email from the MD saying that the last six months had been better than they'd budgeted for when they reduced the firm bonus level in April, and so we're getting a payment which is essentially back payment of the bonus at last year's level since April. Which is nice. I could maybe buy more anti-reading distractions with that! Or you know, be sensible with it.
1Technically, the internet is mostly reading, but it's not exactly an improving book is it?
2 Do you remember on QI when Stephen Fry mentioned that the French got rid of wheel clamps by carrying tubes of superglue round and putting it in the lock of any clamps on cars that they saw, so that they became utterly impractical? I was telling my team leader about it last week, and he told me of another great thing the French did. When one of the banks introduced charges for cheques, apparently all the customers responded by running magnets across any cheques they wrote, which knackered the computer readability of them and made handling them a natural process. Well done the French, there.