We’ve had an offer accepted on a house.

There’s a long, long way to go yet, and it doesn’t look like I’ll be a home-owner by my birthday, but it’s an important step down the road.

3-bed 1930s semi with large established garden in Sherwood, Nottingham. Kitchen, Lounge/diner, lean-to. Shed. In need of redecoration, and a bit of basic maintenance, which is the only reason we can afford it.

I’m finding it harder than usual to concentrate on working!

A local printer for local people

Originally uploaded by nilexuk.
During elections, we print target letters, mailmerging letters to thousands of people. By-election stalwarts of many years’ standing will tell you horrendous stories of feeding arrays of 4ppm primitive laser printers with paper long into the night.

Now we have fast, modern laser printers like this HP Laserjet 4200 with its three-ream paper hopper that can print at 30 or more pages per minute, and speeds up the job no end.

But they get hot, all the more so when you’re facing the electorate in July and your office is cooled only by the odd fan here and there. When the printer gets too hot, the paper coming through starts to curl, which means it won’t go through the folding machine, and in really bad cases has to be folded by hand by the army of clerical helpers.

So when the need to print is not too pressing, someone thought they’d open all the printer doors and let it cool down a bit.

Pretty much all the rest of my photos from Cheadle are of the fantastic views you get from the holiday cottage we were staying at, which was The Hayloft, c/o Three Chimneys, Cobden Edge, Mellor, SK6 5NL, tel no available here. Stockport may not be an obvious place for a holiday, but this really was a gorgeous place.

Minette Walters

One of the things I did during my holiday was get some serious recreational reading done. Before I went off I hadn’t had much time, so it was great to relax and fall back into the easy arms of detective fiction.

Weeks before my departure I spent a small fortune in Amazon Z-shops, buying up paperbacks at a penny each so that I had a small crate of books to take with me. I realised halfway through that I was going to get through my supply of English language books before my holiday came to an end, so had a whole bunch more sent to Nottingham for me to pick up when I got back.

The first supply was almost entirely Reginald Hill novels. The entire Dalziel and Pascoe series and some of the Joe Sixsmith books. I finally got round to reading the outing of Wieldy and the story of how Edgar and Edwin met, both of which have been referenced in more recent books, and left me intrigued. I even read so far back in the series that it was before Ellie and Peter got married and before Rosie was born. But I still don’t think I’ve read the first, A Clubbable Woman. The Hill books were ordered a long time before I went off, so I had time to lend them to my mother before my holiday. Since I got through them while I was over there, I’ve lent them to a friend in France.

For the second lot, I ordered up some authors that I’d read before of (eg Morse omnibuses, endlessly depressing Ruth Rendell novels from the 80s) and some I’d heard of and never actually read before. Minette Walters was one, as was Peter Robinson, so too Sue Grafton.

I easily took to Grafton’s alphabet murder books. Slim, well crafted detective fiction you can polish off in a few hours. I bought A-E and read them very quickly. F-I are waiting in my now huge to-read pile.

Peter Robinson was also good. I read a book from his Det. Insp. Banks series and it was great. I didn’t find it quite such the same page-turner as some of the other books I’ve had in the crate, but it was still enjoyable, and I will be looking up the rest.

But the real star discovery was Minette Walters. I only had one book with me, her first, The Ice House. And boy was it great. A wicked sense of humour, intriguingly written and rather more substantial than the Grafton books. It took me 9 hours to get through, and was the main reason I didn’t actually leave my hotel room in Saintes. I’ve already acquired five more, and have nearly finished Acid Row. I can’t unfortunately spare too many slots of 9 hours straight, so I’ll be reading a bit more slowly than usual.

Also in the pile are a series of Maigret books in French. This will take a little more psyching up for me to actually read them. I’m a quarter of the way through the first one (La Pipe de Maigret, which means Maigret’s Pipe, I suspect, and not Maigret’s Blowjob…)

It occurs to me I’ve been reading detective fiction my entire life. I think it was a sort of detective fiction that taught me to read in the first place. I have a vague memory, either from actually remembering it, or from being told the story, that it was a Famous Five book I took off my mother because she couldn’t read it to me without snickering, and read it for myself. I did with the Enid Blyton books what I’ve done with every author since that I’ve enjoyed, and spent days of my life reading book after book by the same person. Eventually I exhausted the children’s library and was allowed to go through the adult library under the watchful eyes of friendly local librarians who never let me borrow anything too racy or inappropriate. Agatha Christie was next, Ian Rankin fairly recently. Before that, and before Jurassic Park really brought him to everyone’s attention was Michael Chrichton. Nicci French is someone I’ve been reading in the last five years since one was serialised on Radio 4.

It’s all so desperately low-brow. But I’m not ashamed! (Well, maybe I am a little bit since I obviously feel the need to deny it.)

Do please feel free to leave recommendations below.

A local MP for local people

That phrase actually appears on the latest Cheadle tabloid.

Lib Dem leaflets seem to be the last place on earth where the word ‘local’ hasn’t picked up the League of Gentlemen taint.

I’ve had a distinctly different role in this by-election to previous ones. We’re staying in a gorgeous holiday cottage practically in the national park, and I’m mostly doing late shifts, which gives me the chance to play house for my fellow tenants. I cook a meal and go into work, and when I arrive, they all go home and eat it.

All fine, except that one of them’s a fish-eating veggie and one is lactose intolerant. And my repertoire of non-dairy vegetarian food that can be cooked on a Rayburn is starting to run out. Non-dairy pastry has been interesting…