Of course, as publishers, we would tell you that. So it is our job, as publishers and promoters of books to prove to you that we are right. Obviously.
Firstly, a book is just about the easiest gift to wrap. Yes, it’s great getting a bike or a bottle of wine for Christmas, but good luck wrapping it. Too much paper and sellotape and the need for four hands means a happy Christmas is suddenly in doubt. You may end up consuming the wine out of frustration.
A book enjoyed can be passed on to your friends and family with excited expression of joy about all the wisdom/happiness/laughter that you have gained from reading it. A book not enjoyed can be passed on to your enemies in order to trick them into having a really terrible time. Of course, you can give your ereader to your loved ones but you might not get it back as they may think you are challenging them to read all the books you’ve downloaded.
A book is a really handy tool around the house. Its screen does not crack when used to prop up a table as an iPad’s might and it provides an excellent coaster for the contents of that badly-wrapped bottle of wine I gave you.
Books also make your house really colourful and inviting. Nobody wants to visit a sterile home; books add vibrancy, they make you look interesting, they start conversations with your guests. Anthony Powell even called one of his books Books Do Furnish A Room.
Game-lovers can buy multiple books and stack them, play Jenga, make houses or build forts. The possibilities are endless once you visualize your books as bricks rather than reading material. That is, of course, if you are lacking in building materials.
If you’re in the mood for love this winter, a book can make you look very clever and sexy, particularly on public transport. No texting for you, oh no, engaging the mind is the purpose of your journey. There are those, of course, who choose to take their ereaders on buses and the tube but most people just assume that they’re reading 50 Shades of Grey or worse, the Daily Mail and shun them to the limits of society.
If someone thinks you look sexy and intelligent while reading, they may strike up a conversation about mutual interests and next thing you know, you’re walking down the aisle. Knowledge is romantic and guaranteed to help you find love.*
Finally, books save lives.
Save a life. Give someone a book this Christmas.**
* This has not been proven by experts
** Infinite Ideas also sell ebooks. We like it when people buy those too.
*** Ryan Gosling would no doubt be difficult to wrap up, but we’re willing to give it a go. In an exception to the rule he most likely would be more gratefully accepted than any book.
Dr Michael Mosley has been at it again and is shaking up what we thought we knew with more diet tips. This week, Dr Mosley tackles mould and the debate about when it is acceptable to keep on eating and when we should just chuck it away.
Common sense will tell us that sell-by dates (particularly on tins) are really just a precautionary measure and most things do not suddenly wither on the day of expiration. However, we can take other, valuable life lessons from ‘gone-off’ food, in particular, advice on dating. How do you know when to end a relationship? How can you tell if it’s going to go the distance?
Lisa Helmanis offers great advice on when to throw in the towel in her book, Master dating:
How to spot a ‘definitely not’
Of course, we all have our off days, and sometimes we don’t give the best impression. If you think that some of his dodgy behaviour could just be some dodgy, early-days glitches, then give yourself a time limit and hang in there for a little while. On the other hand, if he seems to fit any of these descriptions, if they seem to be a large part of his personality or a major pastime, walk on by.
- A man who has more beauty products than you do. There is nothing wrong with taking a pride in his appearance, but it shouldn’t take up 50% of his salary.
- Someone who uses the calculator on his mobile phone to work out your share of the bill in a restaurant. Or an actual calculator.
- A man that assumes it’s OK to invite his friends along when you ask him to a friend’s party, dinner, meet your parents…
- A man who always complains that he is exhausted every night after work or whenever you ask him to do anything that involves your friends. This is selfishness of the worst kind: disguising his laziness as you being demanding.
- Any man that says he loves you within the first week – it rarely counts for much if he doesn’t know your second name.
- Someone who turns being boyish into an art form. It’s cute until he can’t be relied upon to pay his share of the rent or leaves the baby on the bus.
- A ‘rarely available’. No one is that busy. A man who is not often available is usually not very interested or has got someone else.
- Anyone in a relationship. If you genuinely believe that he is the one, then ask him to come back when he is free. If he is right, he will extract himself and come find you.
- Your best friend’s ex, father or current boyfriend.
- Anyone who leaves weeks between being in touch – to be frank, he is obviously looking for an, ahem, ‘release’ and you are it.
- Anyone you think would be perfect if you could just change that one little thing about them…
Are you free?
Sometimes people think they are looking for a relationship, when really they are looking for a way to fill their time, entertain themselves or get some sex and comfort. And there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with those desires. Unless, of course, you are on the receiving end of them, hoping for more. You can, naturally, ask the other person straight out what they want, but they might not be honest with you or even be aware of their real motivations.
So you have to use a little common sense here and make a judgement call. A guy who wants to see you no more than two nights a week may be taking it slow or may just have no big plans for your future. Try upping the ante by asking clearly, in an adult way with no whining, for what you would like (three nights a week, perhaps). Don’t explain or cajole; if he wants to keep you or please you he will think it through and reply, also in an adult way; if he wants things only on his terms he may try to make you feel like a demanding bunny-boiler (unless you are a demanding bunny-boiler, in which case get help). If so, it could be time to move on.
Maybe it’s time to clear out your fridge…and your little black book!
We’re in dire straits regarding the environment. For most of us recycling has become second nature, we’re becoming aware of our carbon footprints and some of us have even seriously considered buying a hybrid car. Yet this is still not enough. The youth of today, spared from revolting about the nuclear threat as the children of the 1960s were, are now actively campaigning to save the environment.
I’m sure most of you went to university to have a great time, meet some new friends, possibly even learn a thing or two and eventually come out with a degree. However, there are others who have a different agenda. Two students at the University of East Anglia are encouraging their peers to urinate in the shower in a desperate bid to save water.
You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down’ used on desperate camping trips or in times of drought, but these students believe that this is a motto to live by every day. What next – digging pits in our gardens and hoping for the best while squatting? To be serious, it is important to make an effort for the environment, so Infinite Ideas has come up with some crafty was to save water which won’t have you looking at your shower with trepidation.
Save water in the kitchen and laundry
- One of the easiest ways to save water in the kitchen/laundry is to install a water-efficient dishwasher and washing machine and ensure that you fill them right up each time.
- If you wash by hand, use minimum detergent to cut back on rinsing, and use a plugged sink or a bowl of water.
- Use only as much water as you need in kettles and saucepans and you’ll cut your electricity costs at the same time as saving water.
- Flow-controlled aerators for taps are simple devices that you fit into existing tap nozzles, which mix air with water under pressure as it emerges from the tap without affecting the flow rate. They can be bought at most DIY and bathroom stores, are inexpensive and can halve water flow.
- Try to capture ‘warm-up’ water (i.e. the water that you run out of the hot tap while it’s coming up to temperature) for use on plants, rinsing dishes, washing fruit and vegetables, or other cleaning jobs.
- Insulate hot water pipes so that you need to run less water before it heats up. Equally, keep a bottle of drinking water in the refrigerator so you don’t need to run the tap until the water is cold enough.
- Don’t use a waste-disposal unit. They use about 30 litres of water per day and send a lot of extra rubbish into the sewers. Compost what you can and bin the rest.
Save water in the bathroom
- Take showers rather than baths, and keep them short; use a timer if you have a large family. Power showers can use more water than a bath in less than five minutes, though!
- Turn the tap off when brushing your teeth or shaving. A running tap uses about five litres of water per minute.
- Install a water-efficient showerhead and toilet cistern.
Save water outside
- Install a rainwater tank that collects runoff from roofs and gutters for garden use, or ask your local council about getting it connected to the toilet for flushing.
- If you’re watering the garden, make sure you only water plants and lawns, not paths, paving and buildings.
- Use a broom or rake to clean outdoor paths and paving instead of hosing them down with water.
- If you have a pool, install a cover to reduce evaporation, and persuade pool users to cut back on over-exuberant splashing.
- Wash your car sparingly, reusing a bucket of water from inside rather than turning on the hose (or, even worse, the power washer), or if you don’t have to drive too far visit a commercial car wash that recycles wash water.
From Save the planet by Natalia Marshall, which has hundreds of other ideas for conserving your environment.
Today it was announced that Professor John O’Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser will share the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine. The trio discovered that we all have an innate ability to know where we are and navigate to places. Modern life is made much easier with Google maps and sat navs for our cars, but hundreds of years ago, people explored the globe with just a rough map and a compass. It would seem that our brains want us to discover. The research has also paved the way for a better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and why it is that we lose our memory.
On those occasions when we have left our sat nav at home or run out of battery on our phone, we find we have to ask some helpful stranger for directions. But how good are you at remembering the directions you’re given? Darren Bridger’s book, Boost your memory has some excellent tips to ensure you’re able to anchor the instructions in your mind:
There are a couple of occasions when you’re most likely to need to remember directions. The first typically occurs when you are lost. You stop to ask someone how to get somewhere (usually as a last resort), and suddenly a stream of directions issues forth from their mouth at such a rate that you lose track of what they are saying, and simply nod and smile politely. Unless you have writing materials or a map for them to point at, you are still lost – still, that is, if you don’t use any memory techniques!
The first thing to note is the importance of paying attention when the person gives you the directions. Focus as intently as possible on what they are saying and tune everything else out. Then get them to repeat the directions.
Most directions are of the ‘left, right, straight on, left…’ variety. You can use a bit of repetition and rhythm to stamp them into your memory. For example, if the person tells you to go ‘Straight on until the next left turn, then take the next right, then the next right after that, then go straight on and take the third left’, this will become ‘Left, right, right, straight, straight, left’ (where you have a ‘take the third left’ you substitute with ‘straight, straight, left’). If you then repeat this several times, bunching the words together into twos or threes and adding a bit of rhythm, you will find it far easier to remember. You can also add any landmarks which are mentioned. So your repeated phrase in that case might be something like ‘Left, right, right, church, straight, straight, mall, left’.
Research has shown that, in general, women are more likely to use directions of the ‘left, right’ and landmark variety, while men are more likely to mention compass bearings and distances. Be aware of which system you are more comfortable with, as this is the one you are most likely to remember. If someone gives you compass directions, and you are unsure of where north is, make sure you ask them to orientate you. Equally, you may like to stand side by side with your helper, rather than opposite, as they are giving directions – the reason being that it’s very easy for them (or you) to get confused when giving ‘right, left’ directions. You may be trying to remember to go in the opposite direction than you should be.
The other occasion when you might need directions is when you are setting out on a journey and can’t take a GPS or map with you. The advantage you have here is that you typically have longer to memorise the route than when you are asking for directions. Firstly, work out your route and simplify it down to the essentials, the turning points of the journey and the approximate distances. You can then use some basic mental imagery to memorise this list of directions. Try to keep your list of essential directions within ten (ideally, within seven). If you are a visual person you can use a number-shape method, which turns each number into a visual image resembling the shape of that number, then pairs that with an image of the thing to be remembered. You might remember a list of directions as follows:
- looks like a pen. Drive until you reach the church then turn left (direction); imagine a giant pen on the left side of the church’s cross (mental image).
- looks like a swan. Take the third turning on the right (direction); three swans jump onto the cross from the right (mental image).
- looks like a pair of handcuffs. Turn left at the school (direction), a schoolchild grabs the pen from the left of the cross, and puts handcuffs on the feet of the swans (mental image).
- looks like a sailing boat. Drive past the duck pond (direction), the swans turn into ducks on a pond, with a huge sailing boat stuck in the middle (mental image).
- looks like a hook. Turn at the police station (direction), the sailor on the boat throws his fishing line into the water, and when he pulls it up, there’s a policeman attached to the hook (mental image).
If all that seems complicated, comfort yourself with the fact that it’s only new directions that tend to be so hard to memorise. Routes quickly become familiar with use.
Yesterday Catherine purchased the latest edition of Hello! magazine and this morning we were impressed by the wedding of George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin, and were particularly taken by the Oscar de la Renta dress, celebrity guests and perfect setting.
We have learnt many things from George and Amal’s wedding: tuxes never go out of style, everyone looks good in a boat, and restrained beading can work wonders. Luckily for all you lay people wishing to have a similarly memorable day, Infinite Ideas has a book, Perfect Weddings, which is filled with helpful tips on how to make it the best day of your life. One thing you have to get right is the location. So if you can’t afford to have it in the Aman Canal Grande hotel how do you decide upon your venue?
What will suit the kind of ceremony and reception you want? Your location should be a reflection of your overall theme. If it’s formal, your local grand hotel may be a suitable location (and should be licensed for civil weddings), with plenty of space for ceremony and guests. But make sure you have free rein to make your own choices – they sometimes insist on using their own favoured caterer. And check there’s enough parking space.
If you plan to hold a church wedding, you may need to book up to two years in advance for the date that you want. If you want something a little more unusual, such as a ceremony with your own vows in a ruined castle, try a quiet registry office and a second ceremony; that way you are free to make all your own style choices. Make sure you have a dry run well in advance of the big day. You must make sure that you know which door the band will use, and that they also know which one it is, unless you want everyone moving tables to allow equipment to be lugged through your reception meal. Will the fire regulations allow for the hundreds of tea lights you have planned to dot all around your tables? Is there room for you to greet your guests? Can they make sure that there is a safe place for the wedding gifts to be left, or can they be locked away and collected the following day by your parents if you are going on honeymoon straight from the reception?
For George and Amal, the theme was undoubtedly Hollywood glamour and it definitely delivered. Their location was old school Hollywood at its best, full of pomp and ceremony, completely over the top but managing to stay on the right side of ridiculous. We would have loved to have gone, but we’re guessing that the venue capacity was just too small.
As for the problem of transport, there’s no need to worry when it comes to Venice, just make sure that your guests are put into a water taxi and haven’t fallen over the side and it’s all taken care of. Venice is a great city to hold a wedding in as there’s no issue of having to delegate the designated driver. Everyone is free to get as drunk as they like so long as they watch out for the canal.
Venue: check. Transport: check. Designer dress: we’re pretty sure Oxfam has a stock of used designer wedding dresses that you can rifle through and hopefully pick up a bargain.