No matter where I live, the North will always be my home. It’s woefully misunderstood by (a large number of) southerners, who take one look at faded seaside resorts like Blackpool and subsequently tar everywhere north of the M25 with the same brush, but for me, it feels like home in a way the south never will.
If there’s one teensy, tiny silver lining to the big, black cloud that is delayed trains, it’s more reading time. I’ve read some truly cracking books over the past three months, and inevitably not all of them could be included in this post. As such, honourable mentions go to: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (an immensely enjoyable read and a worthy winner of the Pulitzer), Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (the definition of a literary masterpiece) and The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (a truly heart-warming and hilarious page-turner).
Six months have passed since my first update on life ‘Down South’, and that means only one thing: it’s time for the second. I’m putting pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – a little later than usual this weekend, as it’s been all go chez moi. Open House London took place this weekend, and Laurence and I decided to make a day of it. We took a rooftop tour around King’s Cross (the area, not the station), whizzed up to Landing Forty-Two at the Leadenhall Building (à la the final five in The Apprentice), learnt about arms smuggling at Custom House, ventured underground to see Billingsgate Roman Baths and visited the opulent Clothworkers’ Hall. I also took up running earlier this year (primarily as a means of getting in shape ahead of the West Highland Way), and spent this morning running round Jesus Green in the rain doing the Decathlon Sports Series 5k.
The UK’s fifteen national parks are an eclectic mix of landscapes, ranging from heather-clad moorland, rolling hills and craggy fells to expansive lochs, wooded valleys and sandy beaches. They’re home to our highest peaks, our deepest lake and miles upon miles of trails for everyone to enjoy. Oh, and millions of sheep (of which the Lake District’s hardy Herdwicks are by far the cutest). I’ve visited six of our national parks to date – some on multiple occasions, others just the once – and each of them holds a place in my heart.
Once a fortnight, or thereabouts, I head over to my local library, re-usable bag in hand, to stock up with a fresh pile of books for my commute. (When you devour two or three books a week, it’s hard, if not impossible, to justify paying £7.99 for a book that you’ll finish in a couple of train journeys.) True to form, I’ve read a lot of crime fiction over the past few months – but I’ve also squeezed in a (token) classic (which reminded me why I usually avoid them, sorry F. Scott Fitzgerald), crossed a few books off my lengthy TBR list and finally got round to reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Since starting this series, I’ve endeavoured to read more widely, to hop out of my crime fiction comfort zone and dip my toes into short stories, memoirs and other unfamiliar genres. I’m willing to give almost any book a punt, but if there are typos, shallow characters or plots that make watching paint dry seem like a more promising proposition, I’m very rarely prepared to give that author a second chance. (I gave one to Jo Nesbo, in the hopes that Blood on Snow was a blip, but sadly Midnight Sun was no better.) I’ve been ever so tempted to abandon a couple of books partway through, but there’s always a niggling voice in the back of my head telling me to just plough on and see if it improves: in for a penny, in for a pound, as the saying goes – or in for a page, in for the whole printed work, as the case may be.
While the North will always have my heart, Cambridge is a rather nice place to call home, for the time being at least. I can’t quite believe how fast time is passing; days, weeks and months have slipped by, punctuated by train rides, café trips and baking sessions. I’ve finally got my bearings, figured out how to dodge the over-eager students pitching punting tours and found a handful of cafés which can be relied upon for a decent hot chocolate and a wedge of cake. Six months have been and gone, and I’ve decided it’s high time for a wee update on life ‘Down South’ . . .