So, I think since I last posted anything car-related we’ve gone on a couple of Nurburgring trips! The most recent was in May of this year, and it was different, for quite a few reasons – some sad, and some joyous.
One wonderful reason was for this lady who was my co-driver, passenger, wingwoman, shotgun and general all-round splendid beauty and now honorary member of the “Jallanby” clan, Miss Scatty Jallanby herself, Stephanie Glaves!! (cue rapturous applause) Steffi came, despite (at the time) being a non-car-driver on a car holiday. She very valiantly put up with my driving, my music, and the general specific oddness of the Nurburgring, and I love her ever so much for it, and we had the best time ever, and I am proud to say that now she has got her provisional driving licence and has had at least one driving lesson. Go Steffi go!!
A sadder reason was that we lost Grandad earlier in this year. For many years Grandad was my Dad’s passenger and co-driver – long before I rekindled my interest in cars, Grandad always went with Dad for the biannual pilgrimage to the Nurburgring, and I think he proudly held the mantle of oldest and fastest man around the Ring. I know there will definitely be some photographs on computers somewhere out in the world of this old chap snoring his head off in a Subaru Impreza. Grandad loved going to Germany and definitely was one of the “boys”; the trip felt very strange without him being there, whether it was him laughing at all the stupid shenanigans we get up to, or else muttering about the rock-hard bread or the steak he couldn’t chew, or even for pinching Dad’s glasses for an entire trip. It was a sad occasion but John (or “JC” as I think he is globally known) made these fantastic stickers for us and so Dad and I had our cars wear them with pride.
Another big change was… Dad didn’t go in the Spec C. Nooo! He went in something else… we call it “Redzilla” – yep, Dad has gone and bought a Nissan GTR!
It’s been something he’s dreamt of I think for a good long while. And boy, was it rapido! Bear in mind that Dad knows the Nurburgring inside and out, but the GTR is a very different car to a Subaru – I think my advice to Dad of “take it easy” was fairly sensible! And I’m usually the one going, “go on Dad go on faster do the Ring Taxi do the Ring Taxi!” (actual dialogue). I think judging by the massive grin on Dad’s face he kind of liked his new car (never fear, he still has the Spec C of “fuck me, that was lucky” fame!), and we had some pretty epic laps, including of course chasing the Ring Taxi. Funny how keeping pace with the Ring Taxi was always the big thing to do, and now it’s like see yaaaa. Now I couldn’t find a gif of this scene from The Fast and The Furious, but I found a clip of it:
This has got to be the most quoteable movie ever, and I think Dad and I could just quip it back and forth for the whole film.
We had a great big group of us going – we took up the whole hotel, and I think we all had an ace time.
I think I was getting better, and I even got a couple of “very good”s and “perfect”s off Dad, which is high praise indeed! Even though it was very strange having one member of our group missing, we all enjoyed ourselves, and I especially enjoyed having Steffi with us. It was scorching hot and we got interested sunburns. We weren’t especially impressed with the new car park politics going on – particularly when the Ring Taxi Porsche nearly reversed into the car waiting to exit the car park directly behind it. But no near misses happened and we all got back home in one piece, which is, as always, the most important thing. I’m still chasing that 10 minute lap, and now I think Dad’s chasing that sub-8 minute lap. Preparations are being made for the next trip, so watch this space!
(Top to bottom – New Spring by Robert Jordan, Die Again by Tess Gerritsen, The Rule by Jack Colman, The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason and The Magus by John Fowles)
We’ve had a little nosy around Casa Katy, and now here for a closer look at the contents of my shelves.
When I was preparing to move out of Windy Farm, my parents’ house (and, I suppose, my “ancestral pile”, given we have lived there for a couple of years now, and before that, my great uncle lived there, and before him, my great grandparents), I realised how many books I have. Well, it wasn’t much of a realisation – I think that had dawned a good long while ago – but it really cemented just how bad my book-hoarding had become. And, most heartbreakingly of all, how few of my weighty tomes I had actually read! I took a systematic approach – or as much as I could, anyway – to my library, and split into piles: those I had read and those I had not. Easy-peasy. I classify, of course, those I have begun as not-reads.
But then came the tricky part. I was going through a phase of mad well-intentioned badly-executed organisation, which meant some books that had been read really should be taken to the second-hand bookshop (the one in Pickering, you know the one! Surely the best example of how a second-hand bookshop really should look) to be enjoyed by others. I had had a bad experience when I took three great Bags-for-Life full of books and got about seven quid in return, but I swallowed my tongue and reminded myself that this is for the greater good: other people can enjoy these books, meet new characters and explore new worlds. Besides, I probably got more per book than the average author gets. So I divvied the read books into: to keep forever and ever or at least a little while longer, in the hope I might re-read (here’s looking at you, Wheel of Time, Robin Hobb, etc.) and to put in a box for a little while and eventually send on a journey to somebody else’s bookshelves.
So I now stand in Casa Katy with a bookshelf (thank the Lord for Ikea) full of juicy tomes (not tomatoes) ripe and ready to be bitten into!
So here is a little glimpse of this Spring/Summer reading list:
Now some of these I have actually already finished. Go me!
New Spring by Robert Jordan – I finished the Wheel of Time last year, Jordan’s epic fantasy which he sadly passed away before seeing completion, that falling upon the shoulders of Brandon Sanderson, who also wrote one of my favourite books ever, The Final Empire (part of the Mistborn series). New Spring is the prequel that was published in between (books x and y) and details how Moiraine and Lan meet, and how she sets out following the prophecy that the Dragon will ride on the Wheel of Time once again. I really enjoyed the Wheel of Time – it was my second go at reading it, having managed in a previous attempt to get halfway through I think Lord of Chaos before losing myself. With such a lengthy series – fourteen books, come on! – and such a huge landscape to consider, with seemingly limitless characters, machinations, plots, locations and everything else, if you take your eye off the ball for even a second it’s hard to get back in. I’m super excited to read this prequel though, as Moiraine and Lan are some of my favourite characters in the series, and it’s so refreshing to see a female/male partnership that doesn’t end up in a romantic tangle.
Die Again by Tess Gerritsen – this is one of the Rizzoli and Isles books, on which the popular (and now fast approaching the end of its run!) TV series is based. I started off my dad on reading Rizzles; we loved the TV show and the partnership of no-nonsense kick-ass Boston police officer Jane Rizzoli and the Sherlock-esque Chief Medical Examiner Dr Maura Isles. In fact, I loved the characters so much I named my cat after Maura! I’ve not read any of the series but am familiar with various plots (e.g. Hoyt) from the TV programme, but Dad chucked this one at me saying I would like it because a) it doesn’t rely on too much previous information and b) Maura gets a cat in it! So I might give this a go and see how we get on.
The Rule by Jack Colman – I went to Ryedale Book Festival a while ago with Mum, just to scope out the scene and also to try and chat to a couple of local presses. I happened to speak to a very lovely lady who was there on behalf of her son, who had published his first book, The Rule, after winning a competition. All about Vikings, it was dead up my street, but I was also intrigued by this local lad who had gone and done what I spend most of my waking moments dreaming about. I bought his book and finished it earlier this year. Vikings and Anglo-Saxons seem to be all the rage now: whether it’s the Game of Thrones/Lord of the Rings effect, or possibly a desire to look back at the people who played a part in forming our country(ies) and, shock horror, were a lot of them immigrants. But I don’t want to get too political! I enjoyed The Rule – the landscape was sparse and barren, really evoking just why the Vikings (and here the Anglo-Saxon once-upon-a-time scholar in me shudders to use the generic – and incorrect – term) found our island just so irresistible and, dare I say, ripe for the picking. I did find the description on the back very misleading, and as such I was guilty of that classic crime, judging a book by its cover, and found the content and the blurb a bit jarring. I struggled to connect with the lead character, Gunnarr, though I can’t fault his motives, and found the ending particularly heartbreaking.
The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell – from the raiders in the far distant north to raiders raiding our north! For all I want to call him Bernard Cromwell, I’ve been hankering after his books for a while, and so after enjoying the first couple of episodes of The Last Kingdom on TV (and then missing one and subsequently never catching the rest), I got the book for Christmas. Cornwell is an accomplished writer with a longlist as long as, well, a longship, and so here we follow Uhtred son of Uhtred, the Anglo-Saxon ealdorman raised by the Danes. Personally I was just chuffed that I could recall a lot from my old university days! I enjoyed this romp, though it did curious things with the pacing – something I find a little unsettling with George R R Martin. Here great events and shifts for the characters seem to be thrust upon the reader without much warning, and without much change in pace – none of your standard lulls which build up to a great crescendo, and while maybe it is intended to be indicative of the fast-moving ever-changing world of that time, it did cause me a few hiccups. I might read the next one, or I might catch up with the TV series, but it didn’t grab me with an all-consuming fervour to devour the next one.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – please excuse the lack of correct accent marks, I’m being especially lazy. I’ve had this on my bookshelves since forever and have tried it once before, only to be a bit baffled by the content and all the men with very similar names. One sunny afternoon I sat out in my patio and gave it another go, and now I’m powering through the first quarter, and think I might well make it to the end. I’m still bamboozled by all the Jose Antonio Buendia Aureliano Arcadios, but I think I can about tell them apart. This is a curious little book – I say little fondly, for it’s a monster of a story. Very famous and I think massively influential on many other writers, it combines magic realism and fantasy and warfare and family drama all together with some wonderful humour and wit on the part of Garcia Marquez. It definitely reads wonderfully well in a warm dreamy summer’s eve, of which we have very little of over here at Casa Katy (it’s raining as we speak). It’s also reading much better than another I’m on with, not on this list, and that’s the Master and Marguerita. I’m excited to see where this goes, however just as I get invested in a character’s development or a possible partnership or what have you, Garcia Marquez tends to off them or that plot point in increasingly mad ways. Jose Buendia being strapped beneath the old chestnut tree is a strong image I think that will haunt me for a good while, and I’m sure is something many might like to relate to, in these post-referendum times. Argh, I said I wouldn’t get political!
The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason and The Magus by John Fowles – now these two are not yet begun, and I intend to dive into once I’ve wrangled a bit of time. I picked up The Piano Tuner in Waterstones on a whim and haven’t a clue what to expect. John Fowles is known to me as a writer, as I read The French Lieutenant’s Woman when I was 16/17 and it powerfully imprinted on me. I would absolutely recommend that to anyone looking for a fantastic read who isn’t afraid of a bit of period setting, and a bit of critique on a period novel within a novel – jolly bit of inception there. I’m excited about The Magus so if I ever get on with the Jose Antonio Aureliano Arcadios, I will dive into this one.
And that’s our lot! Let me know if you’ve read any of these, if you like them, dislike them, and if you’ve any recommendations! Currently I am poor but I am the proud owner of a Malton Library card, so with luck, I might pick up some weighty tomes in there.
I’m also looking to update my Goodreads account, so look for me on there under Katy Allanby.
Around the middle of last year, Natwest bank were running a radio advert about mortgages and their mortgage rates. For a long time I had been in that same boat as many of my peers: yearning for a little place to call my own, but believing that as a single person in a time of supposed sky-high housing prices, there was zero chance of me ever getting approved for a mortgage let alone find somewhere I could afford. But times seemed to be changing, and the airwaves were abuzz with competitive mortgage deals, especially those aimed at first-time buyers. I played around with the Natwest mortgage checker, was pleasantly surprised, and so went off to the bank with my mummy and daddy to try and woo the nice bank lady into lending me a big ole pile of cash.
It wasn’t quite like that, but the process was much easier than I had anticipated, and so I spent hours trawling Rightmove and Zoopla, weaning myself away from the gorgeous detached mansions and five-bedroom cottages that were on another planet. I viewed six whole houses, and it was the sixth one that would become Casa Katy before the year was out.
I had a wishlist for my dream first home, but ultimately, any home I think will be a compromise, and I got the main things I wanted, which were essentially, walls and floors and ceilings and a garden. I also managed to swindle lots of exciting outbuildings, which in the past soggy months haven’t been much other than empty husks which I tend to eye wistfully, with poised intent.
One of my favourite things, however, is my little snug.
I wanted space for an “office” and this hollow underneath the stairs is perfect! The family I bought my house from had kept a piano under it; not being a musical sort of person (I like to listen to music but don’t have the perseverance to learn to play it), I had a better idea for mine. So here I have my desk and my little writing den, and a rainbow of coloured pens and various diaries, address books and assorted notepads. It’s an ideal little study on the side of my kitchen and hopefully is the place where I get some scribbling done.
As you can see I have a couple of pictures of me doing laps of the Nurburgring in Dickie the Little Blue Subaru, and I also have a couple of little cheerleaders, which you can’t see very well in the picture, in the form of Commodore Norrington from Pirates of the Caribbean plus his menagerie of eraser animals. Once a geek!
I’ve been in my house now for over 6 months and just trying to get things sorted. My kitchen is still a tip but I’m trying to take the time to figure out where the optimal places to put things are. I could never be one of those people who decorates their whole home before they’ve even lived in it! If I get Miss Paint and Decorate over to wallpaper, that wallpaper is going to be up on my walls for a good long while!
That’s it for Casa Katy the First. Stay tuned for further instalments of this thrilling saga!
I haven’t been the best blogger of late, and it looks like my last post was well over a year ago! You must forgive me, as it’s been quite the year of change, good and bad, for me, but I have come out the other side with new found determination.
I started 2016 with a new house and new job! I started house-hunting last year and found my perfect little house pretty quickly. I picked up the keys at the end of November and am now the very proud owner of Casa Katy. I have a lot of stuff, as you can imagine (mainly books!), and a lot is still at Windy Farm taking up space at my Mum and Dad’s. Slowly bit by bit I’m sorting things out as I can afford them. My house has a lovely garden, split into two parts, out back and a little bit of outside space out front, so I’m working on making a pretty garden refuge.
Also at the same time, I left my job (and my mega commute!) and started a new job in York. I’m definitely not missing the drive, which was getting ridiculous, especially since my previous company was moving premises into Hull city centre – definitely no good for me. I now have all this time on an evening – time to write (she says, hopefully, with such good intentions!).
After I’d been in my little house a while, I adopted two cats from the Cats Protection League. Meet Luna and Maura! I think I only went for one, but couldn’t say no. They’re not sisters and don’t really get on, though after 6 days in a cattery together while I was in Germany, they’re not so bad. I still don’t feel grown-up enough to look after myself let alone two little girls, paying bills and my mortgage, but we’re getting on alright!
2016 hasn’t been the greatest of years; after a couple of big changes towards the end of last year, the beginning of this year, we had a tough time when my Grandad suddenly passed away. This was a really big shock for all of us, even though he wasn’t by any means a young man, he was still active and independent, and I don’t think any of us expected it to happen as suddenly as it did.
It really brings home the transience of life, and how quickly things can change, and suddenly no longer be; it also spurred me on to think about the things I’m really passionate about, and try and get a wriggle on with those.
I have a couple of ideas in mind, some of which will remain tantalisingly vague for the moment, but the big one is of course my writing. After the busy summer last year, I made a deal with myself to crack on with the proper first draft of my “first” book. I call it my “first” because while it may be the one I’m going to try and make a go of, it’s by no means the first one I ever started to write. This one is a weighty tome that has been in my head since first year of university, and has changed over time massively, particularly whilst it has been confined to the cobweb-draped recesses of my overactive fraught little brain. From about September to February I managed to bash out my first draft, and now I am half-way through the first soul-crushing heart-wrenching rewrite, so meekly titled the “second draft”. I have made a little cocoon under my stairs in my new house which is, thus far, being highly conducive to my jabs at writing and editing.
So, new job, new house, and new lease of life! There have been some big goodbyes over the past few months, and some big changes. And I hope to keep you posted on more to come.