This review is the first that feels a little like cheating because I had actually seen bits of the film on TV, about 10 years ago. All I could remember before starting the novel is that Hugh Grant’s in the film and so’s that guy who went on to be in Skins (I think?). So my memory didn’t spoil it for me and I won’t spoil it for you.
My copy of About a Boy is courtesy of a university I considered attending long enough that they sent me free things. The parcel contained a letter from Nick Hornby advising that every misstep is not, in retrospect, a misstep (coincidentally I have been clinging to this notion since I decided not to go to university). The book itself follows that concept, predominantly through its two protagonists, Will and Marcus. Will has a life most of us live at the weekends. 30-ish and unattached all but the Countdown schedule, he spends days inside cafes and hours in front of the television, and has a work/life balance of pretty much 0% work and 100% chilling out. Marcus, a 12-year-old boy who’s just moved to London with his mum, has a happiness/life balance of about 30/70.
I can’t tell you how Will and Marcus meet, because it’s one of the funniest parts of the story, and I can’t really tell you too much about the supporting characters, because a lot of them hinge around the plot too. I can tell you that the novel contains a dead duck, Kurt Cobain, Christmas songs and some hilarious one liners that made me miss being 12. (Petition to start allowing adults to say exactly what they think just as much as children.)
The story takes place in the 1990s, and it would be quite different if it were set today (who are the 2010s equivalent of Nirvana?!). It was nice to read something that didn’t mention Facebook, actually, but my favourite thing about the book is that the two protagonists are about as different as two people could get while having quite a lot in common, and it was the alternating of points of view that turned the book into a very gripping story. There are a lot of ironic moments, and a lot of sad moments, because Will is judging Marcus at exactly the same time as Marcus is judging Will. All the characters are quite normal people you would expect to meet out and about, so of course they are actually all bonkers and more fun to read about than most superheroes. So go read.
My previous reviews are here; you can support my work by funding me on Patreon every time I review a book here.
S0 you might have noticed that I sell quite a lot postcards. One of the most frequent questions I’ve had since stocking them is ‘do you do envelopes with these?’ or ‘why don’t you do these as proper cards?’ Good question, I beam. The answer is threefold (pun intended) and since I just released seven more postcard designs, I thought I’d itemise my reasoning.
I actually wanted to make greetings cards originally. Back when I first started to migrate from fan art into original designs, everything I did was in poster format – text whacked on a Photoshop document. When I decided to try out Etsy, I actually bought a bunch of blank photo cards and foldable blank greetings cards to print myself… they are still in a box, because they are fucking fiddly. Also, my printer is about 10 years old and a lot of things come out wonky. If I wanted to be a pro, outsourcing the printing was the only way to work. When I looked into professional printers, I discovered that greetings cards are mad expensive. I have five different lines in my Etsy, each with a minimum of four designs. I’d get a quote for 3 of each design and pass out. Most postcards weren’t much cheaper. Then I was recommended Moo, which although its greetings cards were out of my budget, their postcards weren’t. They also let you print up to 10 designs in each pack of 10 cards – perfect! Thus my postcards were born.
I don’t sell envelopes alongside them because they are another cost, another product to store and another material to source. I’ve made entire products because friends have said ‘that’s a great idea, I’d buy that!’ only for them to go unnoticed by the universe. One day I might add them as an option if there’s a large demand and I find a stockist I like (Etsy is fairly strict about its handcrafted ethics, too, most of the time and I don’t really want to bulk import tree-ruining crap from China).
Postcards are actually way better than greetings cards. Think about it. There’s a nice sized space to write a note, but not so much you have to spend hours writing a memoir. They are so light they cost very little to send, and all you need to do is plop on a stamp and the address. No cuts from envelopes. No wasting of paper. No envelope-licking. They double as gift tags or little presents by themselves. You can stick them on the wall as mini posters (some of my favourite Etsy sellers actually sell their art on Moo’s postcards as gloss prints). You can write insults to the postman. You can buy them anywhere in the world and send them anywhere in the world.
In conclusion, postcards are a fun, tiny and greatly under-appreciated like myself.
Long time no speak. It’s actually been about a week, but it feels longer because I’ve been busy, so I’m going to let myself think that it’s been a long time to make myself feel better about prioritising.
To be honest, I haven’t felt much like talking. I’ve been making a conscious effort recently to write blogs that have a beginning, middle and end – as opposed to me cackling over nothing and a badly formatted GIF – and so far I have two or three drafts that need editing before they can dazzle you all with wit and insight. A* to Francesca for planning ahead! I do like to come here and cackle over nothing occasionally though, so I’m aiming for a balance between Organised and Obsessed With Spreadsheets. (In a parallel world there’s a me obsessed with spreadsheets. In this world I’m trying to pretend I’m fun.) But this week I’ve felt more gloomy than fun and no one likes 500 words of grumpiness so I thought ‘leave the blog alone’. I do want to be honest here though, so I thought I’d ask: how often do take stock of your life and question it? I’ve cleared out some clothes and books in the last few weeks, and sorting through things I’ve owned for 10-plus years invariably got me thinking about the past and life goals and ambitions, etc. I hate thinking about that stuff, because usually I’m quite happy plodding along in a hopefully forward direction, and once I start thinking about where I want to be in the future I question every decision I’ve made since 2005. Did I make the right choice not to go to university? Did I pick the right job to do instead? Am I creatively fulfilled seven days a week? Can I afford to put petrol in my car? How willing am I to swap creative fulfilment for fuel? I know the answer to one of those things.
I will probably have a bath, watch Sport Relief and/or get some sleep and wake up feeling normal again (or until I clear out the next lot of crap I’ve been hoarding since I was 12). In the mean time, let me know what you do when you’re plagued by indecision or questioning your existence. In an ideal world I would probably go on holiday to Machu Picchu or somewhere and spend hours meditating in the sunset, but you know, shit’s got to get done so I’m open to suggestions that will fit in around emails and craft fair plans. Chocolate consumption ideal but not compulsory.
If 2016 has taught me anything (other than how irritating election and referendum rhetoric is), it’s that you should never take people whose work you like for granted, because one day they’ll be dead and you’ll be paying tribute alongside everyone else who had forgotten to pay tribute in the previous 40 years, wondering why you never celebrated their work before. Since it’s International Women’s Day I wanted to kick off this series with an international lady who at 92 is still working.
I’ve written a couple of times about Judith Kerr – once when I met her at Hay and again when I reviewedWhen Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. I don’t have anything to add about the quality of her writing or art, or about the importance of her novels in educating children about the war, or how the Jewish refugee crisis in the ’30s and ’40s draws parallels with Syria’s. I just want to say that reading her picture books makes me really, really happy.
Her stories are simple and funny, her illustrations are so cute and for however long I’m reading, I’m in Judith Kerr Land. Everything there is simple and relatively easy to understand, the people are nice and until I finish reading, the world is a good place.
I feel I should start this with a mini-disclaimer: I have known this blogger since the age of 11 when she owned a pet rock named Jamie. I think I would enjoy her blog even if I didn’t know that.
My friend Sarah’s in her second year at Cambridge studying history. This summer she’s going to New Zealand to research and volunteer at places like the Auckland War Memorial Museum, to learn more about military history and soak up the colonial vibes (I do not know why I am surprised. She is the youngest Dad’s Army fan I know and she’s spent many a weekday evening at cadets). She’s going by herself for three whole months, travelling across NZ with a stopoff at Hobbiton, so what else was there to do but start a blog chronicling her journey?
You can read her plans, adventures and New Zealand news stories compilations here (see comments sections for me begging to stow away in her suitcase). Gems include cartoons of kiwis and a page dedicated to the shit she needs to get done. I am considering adding something similar here to keep track of new swearwords.
Basically, if you like travel, indie blogs or cartoons on indie travel blogs, you know where you should spend your time from now on.