Books on the Bus

Cover of Anthony Horow.itz novel The Word is Murder
Crime on the commute

I noted in the last blog post that I was listening to The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz (read by Roy Kinnear) on my commute. My daily dose of audio book listening has become a travel fixture since December, after I followed a colleague’s suggestion to give them a try. As I said before, I have been using the handy little mp3 editions from the library. The audio book listening has been a useful tool in adapting to an unaccustomed bus/train commute; one that started in the unforgiving winter months, which certainly didn’t add a cheer factor to the tedious bus wrangling. I may have mentioned once or twice here, my penchant for crime fiction, so I keep an eye out for new (or indeed, old) ideas that appear in audio format. It is entirely possible, that having discovered the joys of audio books, I will increase my intake of crime novels considerably. Would that be such a bad thing? Don’t answer that one.

Crime has certainly become the genre of choice for my travelling books over the last couple of months. I have however, tried a couple of other ideas. For instance, I have long taken an interest in Bertie Pollock’s daily trials in Alexander McCall Smith’s Scotland Street books, so I tried one out as a commuting book.  Alas, it was too easy going, calm and philosphical to suit my journey to work. Maybe it would have suited my homeward trip better? Perhaps I should try a touch of crime in the morning and catch up on Scotland Street on the homeward ride.  Having said that, the rush hour frustrations of the evening commute might be better suited to the distractions of a juicy crime novel… It’s a work in progress, as they say. I also ventured to listen to Helen MacDonald’s Vesper Flights a few weeks ago, but for me it didn’t work as a bus book. That is a book that I will return to in print form as I think it is really one to be savoured at leisure, making notes of anything I want to follow up on.

Cover of the Christopher Fowler Bryant & May story, The Burning Man.
London crime

Of course, maybe the detective audio fiction urge will prove to be just a winter thing. Fragrant spring mornings and sultry summer evenings may well encourage quite different listening habits. Let’s wait and see, shall we? For now, I am generally pursuing a criminal course each morning and evening, which has led to my introduction to some new crime writers. One of those is the above-mentioned Anthony Horowitz, who has long been a name that I passed while shelving adult fiction A-M. I always meant at some point to give his adult fiction a go but I never got around to him. I’m not that sure that he’d appreciate that my impetus for doing so was that I needed something lively to distract me from interminable road works.

I have also discovered Christopher Fowler’s detectives Arthur Bryant and John May from The Peculiar Crimes Unit in the adventure, The Burning Man (read by Tim Goodman). Not for the first time in lighting on a new discovery, I have begun well into the series so at some point I need to back track to the earlier books. I really enjoyed this story, both the main characters being agreeably quirky in the chalk and cheese vein. The wealth of historical detail about London’s layers of history is woven into the detective action in a way that brings London vividly to life, as Bryant is a veritable fount of information about the city he loves. I will certainly read more of this series (not necessarily in order of course!)

Now all I need is a steady supply of AAA batteries to fuel my travelling crime fest. And maybe I should treat myself to some decent headphones. Does anyone else relish a good audio book on the bus?

Advertisement

A Maytime Poetic Interlude: London Bells

Browsing through the ‘One City One Book’ poetry book, If Ever You Go brought to my mind last year’s birthday present from my daughter. She chose to buy me the new edition of Poems on the Underground, which I have been picking up to read every so often. For this edition, the editors have decided to collect poems into themed sections including The Darker Side, The Artist as ‘Maker’, Exile and Loss and The Wider World. All of the poems in the anthology have been featured on the London Underground poetry posters at some point since the project began in 1986. My smart new edition was published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the famous underground.

Poems on the Underground

Poetry in Motion

It seemed appropriate to follow on from April’s Dublin theme, with a poem from the section on London. I have chosen one from that ever-prolific poet Anonymous, as a nod towards my last #PoetryinJune blog post in 2013 when he/she insisted on sneaking in to close the series. Another reason for choosing this lighthearted London poem is that many of you probably remember it from childhood (or at least a version of it).  According to a Wikipedia article the following version first appeared in Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book, c 1774 (but with ‘ye’ rather than ‘the’). An excellent source of information about nursery rhymes is Iona and Peter Opie’s The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press), though I’m not sure if it’s still in print. I thought I had a copy tucked away somewhere but it must have been wishful thinking on my part. I think I’m right in saying that Iona and Peter Opie’s work on British nursery rhymes and childhood lore in general is the best source available. 

 

London Bells

Two sticks and an apple,
Ring the bells at Whitechapel

Old Father Bald Pate,
Ring the bells at Aldgate

Maids in white aprons,
Ring the bells at St Catherine’s.

Oranges and lemons,
Ring the bells at St Clement’s.

When will you pay me?
Ring the bells at the Old Bailey.

When I am rich,
Ring the bells at Fleetditch

When will that be?
Ring the bells at Stepney.

When I am old,
Ring the great bell at Paul’s.

 

This is the version that I grew up with; the last bell was sung to represent a very deep, slow, imposing peal:

Oranges and Lemons

Oranges and Lemons

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement’s.

You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin’s.

When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

The Wikipedia article I’ve linked above suggests some meanings behind the rhyme and also quotes yet another version of it. We used to play the game illustrated in this nineteenth century plate, when you went round and round and got your head ‘chopped off’ if you were too slow. It’s strange how you play games as a child without ever really thinking about what the words or rituals mean. But let’s not get into too much blood thirsty stuff now, as I shall be off to bed shortly and don’t want to be dreaming of the dark doings in the Tower of London.

So, altogether now:

Here comes a candle…