The A-Z of me: Part 1

Inspired by Splodz and The Urban Wanderer, I thought I’d put together a little A-Z of me as a bit of a change to the usual OMG THIS BOOK IS TOTES AMAZE YOU SHOULD READ IT.[1]

[1]It is *def* totes amaze, and you should *def* read it, ok?

Ahem.

A is for astrophysics

So yeah. I studied astrophysics at university. It was fun, hard work, and sounds great.
I wasn’t very good at it. Should have done maths. 🙂

B is for books and blogging

As you’ve probably guessed, espresso coco is pretty much entirely a book blog. I read a lot of books, but not as many as some of my #bookblogger chums, who seem to churn through a book a day, and are constantly putting out fantastic reviews. I’m aiming for 60 books this year, which will be a new record for me.

C is for coffee and cycling


I love coffee. Start the day with an espresso, and spend entirely too much time and money in Leeds’ many and varied indie coffee shops.

I also love cycling, and have written a couple of cycling adventure posts, on turning left and getting off the beaten track. I’ve got several bikes – four (and a half) of them – and love nothing more than going for a cycle through the woods.

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D is for dakegra

It’s pronounced ‘dah-keh-gra’. Not dake-gra, dah-kee-gra or anything else. Though I do love Cody Wanner’s attempt here (skip to about 2.42)

(Cody is a great vlogger, you should check him out)

E is for espresso coco

[insert YOU ARE HERE graphic]
Yup, this is my blog, my little chunk of the internet. Welcome! Come in, pull up a chair and let’s talk books. Or
movies, or stuff. Brew?

F is for Firefly

Huge fan of Firefly. HUGE.

G is for gaming and Guiness
Apart from reading, I love playing games on my XBox or Nintendo Switch. I’m fairly terrible at games though, but it doesn’t put me off. I’ve also tinkered with writing about games – see The Fallout Diaries. I also loved playing Skyrim and lost months of my life to it. I could tell you such tales, like the time I got married to Farkas – lovely wedding, all our friends came then he went mysteriously missing for three weeks of game time because the beautiful idiot decided to walk home ACROSS THE ENTIRE MAP. Then kept rearranging my troll skull collection, and was often found with the Captain of the Guard in our house. Maybe it was him who messed up my troll skulls. Or the time a horse fell on me up at the top of a mountain, or when a dragon fight ended up with a dead dragon skeleton on my front lawn…

Ed and I thought of setting up a YouTube gaming channel where I’d play games whilst he mocked me for being RUBBISH and unable to hit anything with pretty much any kind of weapon ever. We’d have been a smash hit.

I’m also partial to a nice pint of Guinness.

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H is for Harry Potter and Howler

Two of my favourite books. I’ve read the Harry Potter books multiple times, and listened to the audiobook on car journeys more times than I care to count. I got Harry Potter trivial pursuit for christmas, but had to stop playing in the end because I kept winning. I’ve also written a couple of posts about how death eaters got their name and how wizards get their wands.

Howler refers to the Red Rising trilogy, by Pierce Brown. Stunningly good, I highly recommend that you read them. Though I’ve probably recommended them to you before. Have you read them yet? Also Pierce is a thoroughly nice chap. Met him at the Howler Party that Hodder threw for the launch of book 3, Morning Star.

I is for ice cream

Vanilla, or mint choc chip. Never chocolate. It’s weird – I like chocolate, or chocolate cake. But not chocolate ice cream.

J is for juggling


I’ve been juggling since I was at university *cough* years ago and I find it enormously relaxing. There’s something hypnotic about juggling. It forces you to be in the moment. All other worries fade to one side as you get into the rhythm of throw, catch, throw, catch. It’s all very zen (and there’s an excellent book called The Zen of Juggling by Dave Finnigan).

I’ve taught quite a few people to juggle over the years too – and you’d be surprised at how many of them started with “oh, I couldn’t possibly/I’m too clumsy/I’ve got no co-ordination”

I’ve also talked about juggling on the blog. It wasn’t always just about books!

Can you juggle?

K is for kids

I’ve got two – Ed and Lil. Both are awesome.

L is for Leeds and librarians

I moved down to Leeds to go to university nearly 30 years ago and never quite left. I got a job working in the university library washing shelves and moving books around, then ended up there for a year before doing a postgrad course in librarianship, which turned into a job for three weeks at a law firm in their library, which turned into a job at a different law firm’s library for a few years. Now, five career moves later, I’m still here. Well, just down the road in Wakefield, but I work in Leeds and love my adopted city. I also love taking photos of Leeds.

M is for Monty and maps

I’ve been calling myself a writer for some years now, and always feel slightly guilty about it. I’ve written more than a few scenes or short pieces featuring Monty, gentleman thief and drinker of coffee. They’re great fun to write, and I really should try and do some more. Whether it’s him making prank calls, not being drunk, encountering a minefield or making a getaway, I love coming up with new adventures.

I also love maps. There’s something glorious about them, translating the physical space into two dimensions. I’ve also written about maps elsewhere on the blog: Maps. What’s up?

So that’s part 1 of the A-Z of me. Watch out for Part 2, coming soon…

Surely there’s been some mistake…

Hello you lovely readers. It feels like a while since we last had a chat which didn’t revolve around me going OMG BOOKS THIS ONE IS GREAT READ IT NOW.

It is still book-related though. You looked nervous. Maybe a little concerned?[1]

So, I’ve read a lot of books recently[2]. Mostly they’ve been really good, but every now and again you get a book where some little detail jumps out at you and jars you out of the story. I’ve had a few over the years, and often wondered what to do about it.

Do I mention it in the review? Should I drop a note to the author? The publisher? Do they even care at this point? After all, the book is out in the wide world, and they’re unlikely (or indeed unable) to fix it at this point.

Case in point – I was reading a book recently which was set in London, but one of the characters came from Yorkshire. The book continued, and it transpired that the character in question came from Sandal & Agbrigg.

Whoa. That’s near where I live. Like, really near. Literally[3] around the corner from my house.

The trouble is that Sandal & Agbrigg isn’t a place. Well, it is, but it’s a train station, between Sandal and, you’ve guessed it, Agbrigg. You’d either say you lived in Sandal, or you lived in Agbrigg, but you’d never say that you’re from Sandal and Agbrigg. Sandal’s that side of the train line, Agbrigg is the other, more or less.

I can see[4] what the author has done – they’ve taken a map of Wakefield, picked a place at random and thought ‘great! A nice little suburb, that’d be perfect for this character’s backstory.’

It’s a tiny, tiny detail, and one which will only be picked up by people who know the area really well[5]. Doesn’t affect the overall story in the slightest, but jarred with me. It’s like seeing a TV show set in your city but the characters turn left down a street and end up on the wrong side of town. You can’t get *there* from *there*, it’s just not how the roads are set up. Or in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves where Robin arrives at Dover, takes a short lunchbreak and Hadrian’s Wall (boy, was he lost) then home to Nottingham in time for tea.

Worth mentioning to the author? Who can say. Thoughts welcome!

[1] Yes, this is a tortuous Princess Bride reference. You win ONE MILLION POINTS. Well done.
[2] Occupational hazard of being a #bookblogger, I guess
[3] Actually literally.
[4] Well, I can assume what they’ve done
[5] Or live literally round the corner

A moment

I’m not entirely sure where this exact moment fits, but it’s one that I don’t want to lose in the hurly-burly of life. Regular book-related shenanigans will recommence shortly.

I was heading back from GollanczFest at the weekend, and for reasons best known to the train operators, my train went from St Pancras rather than King’s Cross. I found myself with some time to kill, so was wandering through the lower level of the station when I noticed a group of people standing around, phones out recording something.

That something turned out to be two guys playing the piano. The same piano, at the same time.

The taller one sat to the left, with what I initially thought was his son on his right. When I got a little closer I could see that the shorter of the two was older, wild hair flicked into a comb-over. They were wearing identical jackets, deep blue with flecks, and matching socks. They played with a joy and synchronicity which was a sheer pleasure to watch. They’d take turns flicking the pages on the music with a dramatic flourish, sometimes pausing to push the book back up onto the stand, the other taking up the playing as they did so.

They clearly did this a lot. Hands would cross, fingers picking out the melody. The older would sit back, smooth down his errant hair then launch back into playing. The younger would occasionally glance across at his partner, a smile on his face.

They’d drawn a small crowd of onlookers, tired passengers on their way to far-flung places. Most had their phones out, recording the moment for posterity.

Me? I just stood and watched, and listened.

Sometimes it’s not about the photograph, the video, putting the camera between you and the moment. Sometimes you just need to live it, to soak up the experience, to be *there*.

But then sometimes you just want to try and catch it later, fleeting as it was. I know that this will mean virtually nothing to you, dear reader. But I hope that in the years to come I’ll look back on this and remember those two guys playing a piano in a station in London, and it’ll bring a smile again.

Taking a year off the internet

What? No, not *me*, you crazy cucumbers. As if!

Just watched this video by Shay Carl and Colette of the Shaytards.

Do you watch their YouTube channel? I started a couple of months ago. Young Miss LB was sat watching various YouTube things and the Shaytards came on. After a couple of episodes I was left wondering – who are these people? Why do they video EVERYTHING? How do they find the time?

Wait. How many subscribers??

Crikey.

Fast forward a couple of months and we’re regular visitors to the Butlers’ lives. Love it.

So, it was a bit of a surprise to see the above video. And… not a surprise. [short version for those who didn’t watch the video – next March the Shaytards are taking a year off the internet, for various and very good reasons]

A YEAR OFF THE INTERNET.

The mere thought makes me twitch. Could I take a year off Twitter, FB, this blog? (ok, probably yes to FB).

How about you? Could you take a year off posting stuff online?

Fairly sure I couldn’t.

A fishy tale

Or: He Took A Bite Of His Sandwich: You Won’t BELIEVE What Happened Next.

This morning, as I was making my daughter’s packed lunch, I realised with some joy that there was sufficient leftover tuna mayo for a whole other sandwich. That’s lunch sorted I thought. Two slices of bread, scrape of butter (not too much), dollop the rest of the tuna on, chop it in half, boom. Done.

Casting around for something to put the sandwich in, I found a tupperware[1] box about the right shape and size. Sandwich in, sorted.

Pleased with myself, I finished loading up LB’s lunchbox with her tuna wrap, popped my plastic box into my bag and set off for work.

At lunchtime I retrieved the box from the fridge, eager to munch on my delicious tuna sandwich.

I took the first half of the sandwich. Hmm, I thought. That’s got more tuna in than I remember. Munch munch, yum.

Still peckish, I took a bite of the other half.

Something was amiss. Awry, even.

There was something fishy about this tuna sandwich…

Actually, there wasn’t.

I opened the two slices of bread. Small flecks of tuna lay nestled on their buttery bed, forlorn.

ALL THE TUNA HAD SLID DOWN INTO THE FIRST HALF.

This was like[2] the WORST TUNA SANDWICH EVER.

Worse even than when you go to a sandwich shop and they’ve helpfully cut the sandwich diagonally[3] so you can see all the delicious filling and it looks really nice and then you buy it but it turns out the filling is all actally up against the visible edge so you’re left with a huge bready margin to your sandwich.

The first half was awesome though.

[1] not *actual* Tupperware. Other plastic containers are available.
[2] actually, I’m sure it *was* the worst tuna sandwich ever.
[3] diagonally-cut sandwiches taste better. True fact.

Stealing time

From “I Steal Time” | MORNING, COMPUTER, by Warren Ellis.

Walking in London with a friend from America who works in film. I stopped at a roundabout near Covent Garden, looked up. He asked what I was looking at. Everything, I said. It’s my practice. I take five minutes every day just for me, to look around and see where I am and be there.
[…]
It’s easy to feel like you’re living on borrowed time, and that time is running out. For five minutes a day, I like to turn the hourglass the other way. I’ve stolen six hundred hours from the countdown clock that the world would have drained away from me had I let it.

In the chaos in which we live our lives these days, with the constant pinging of notifications, the deluge of media and advertising, the constant thrum of people doing stuff, wanting stuff, needing stuff from everyone else, it’s important to stop and take a moment.

In the words of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off :

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Take a moment. Look around. What do you see?