Well, autumn has definitely arrived and with it the fierce wind blowing in off the Tyne.
It’s not all bad. We are back in our cosy spot at The Sage Gateshead, where there is plenty of space for some of our newly-crawling babies to roam, and the cakes are always delicious.
This month’s book, The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas, is also the perfect book to cuddle up with.
Remember ‘Wife Swap’, the Channel 4 programme that let sofa-bound parents everywhere bask in the glory of their own normal, boring lives? Well The Slap is like that. This fast-paced soap opera of a book looks at families behaving atrociously, allowing us to sit back and feel ‘for all of my faults as a parent – of which of course there are many – at least I am not like them!’
Nothing like a great blanket of smugness to wrap yourself up in on a cool autumn night.
Just to remind everyone that today’s meeting will take place in Saltwell Park at the earlier time of 1pm. Meet by the bandstand (Low Fell end of the park, near the car park) or in the cafe in the event of rain.
See you all there!
Hot on the heels of this month’s book group discussion on Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, we will be looking at another male author who creates a really credible female lead: David Nicholls and his latest novel, One Day.
Following friends Dex and Em over a period of almost 20 years, the book focuses on just one day each year, St Swithin’s day, or the 15th July. This is summer reading with soul, perfect for enjoying on the beach or – let’s be honest – in the sandpit.
Speaking of which, for our July meeting, we will be slathering our babes in Factor 50 for a fun afternoon in Saltwell Park, Gateshead. Preethi Nair’s delectable 100 Shades of White is the book up for discussion while we tuck into our rather more pedestrian feasts. The plan is for a picnic by the bandstand, but if it rains we will make do with bought sandwiches in Saltwell Towers.
As always, new parents and scrumptious new babies are more than welcome to join us!
When I’m not reading to myself, I love reading to my children. But one thing that really irks me is the way every so-called childcare guru seems to insist on a nightly bath-book-bed routine.
Don’t get me wrong; I love bedtime stories. The three year-old, the baby and I all pile into bed and curl up with a selection of books. It’s all very Little House on the Prairie (when it’s not more House of Horrors). I just don’t like being told to read stories as a perfunctory activity, like brushing teeth.
The problem is, these experts have no interest in reading as its own reward (and if you’ve ploughed your way through The Baby Whisperer, you’ll know what I mean, ducky). To them books are a means to an end, as sleep-inducing as a bottle of Cow and Gate Good Night milk. Publishers are no better: the number of books for babies and young children ending ‘and they all went to sleep’ is practically criminal.
Surely we should be raising our children to see that books can be exciting, silly, sad and fun; they can even be naughty and dangerous. They are also the most portable of play things. Read on the bus, at the park, read in the bath. Books are not just for bed.
A favourite in our house, from a young age, was Pants by Nick Sharratt – a glorious underwear parade to appeal to a toddler’s sense of silliness. From now on, I’m on the look-out for books that affirm life, not that send my kids to sleep. If you have any suggestions, why not add them here?
The first time I went on maternity leave, I saw the work-free months stretched ahead of me and thought this would be a good time to write that novel I had planned. Little did I know that for the first few weeks I’d barely be able to write a shopping list. I seemed to have more time than ever before, but couldn’t do anything with it.
Becoming a parent can take over your every thought, at least for a while. Yet there soon came a time when I began to crave conversations that were not about sleep patterns, feeding and poo; to talk to real grown-ups about grown-up things, admittedly on my own baby-friendly terms.
This time when I went on maternity leave, I packed away those fantasies for the still unwritten novel and contacted New Writing North about my idea of a book group for new parents. We had our first meeting in March and the great turn out convinced us that others felt the same.
The group has been planned so that it fits our needs (parking, space for buggies, baby-changing facilities and, most importantly, coffee) and offers a chance to meet like-minded new parents. We’ve also chosen books that are quick to read and compelling enough that you will find the time.
If you don’t think you have time to read, check out this month’s selection, The Rapture by Liz Jensen. I read it in 24 hours this Easter weekend, ignoring my family almost completely, but that’s another post…
Having been approached by a new mum who wanted to continue reading books and discussing them, but couldn’t make it to the other book groups because of buggy access issues and timings, New Writing North decided to start a book group for new parents. The first up for discussion is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer.
The group will meet at The Sage Gateshead, in the sofa area by the café on the concourse, on the third Tuesday of the month, from 1.30pm to 2.30pm. The group is open to anyone who wants to come along with their infant, and the venue has lots of space for buggies. There’s also a good cloakroom if you want to leave the buggy there and carry your baby.
If you’d like to join the group, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send you a membership card. You can also get information by searching for ‘New Parents’ Book Group‘ on Facebook.