11:00, 11/11/2018

At eleven o’clock we stopped running and stood still, holding in harsh breath. Leaves of gold and camouflage brown twisted as they fell. People walking saw us standing, arms folded or by our sides, and checked their wrists and slowed and stopped. Across the Meadows children screamed and shouted in the play park, their happiness sharp in the silence. A cyclist sped by, oblivious, and people began to walk again. We remained heads bowed, each one counting their blessings and their sorrows.

Airport arrivals

An elderly couple catches sight of their daughter. There are long, long hugs. Mum hides her tears by straightening her daughter’s collar, Dad does the same by busily wheeling the trolley away. Daughter does not hide her tears, she lets them flow from wide-open eyes, but slows them by smiling tight-lipped at people in the waiting crowd. And the tears seem to be as catching as yawns; I am one of the grown men clearing my throat, my fist to the bridge of my nose. Then, recognising a shared emotion through the tears, we nod and smile at strangers. And then we all move in our own directions.

Book confessions

  1. Have you ever damaged a book?

Minor damage only. During the week I usually only read in bed and if I give up on a book it can end up thrown across the bedroom. If they hit the wardrobe at an angle, they usually glance off, but if it’s a direct spine-on hit, the damage is visible.

  1. Have you ever damaged a borrowed book?

Never that I remember. Someone must really like a book to recommend it, let alone lend it, so that would be unforgiveable, as would damaging a library book.

  1. How long does it take you to read a book?

It depends on the book and on where I am and what I am doing. Earlier in the year I took 6 weeks to finish a book, while when I was holiday I was reading one a day or every two days.

  1. Books you haven’t finished?

Too many to mention. Life is too short. I always give a book a fair chance though. And the important thing to remember, as in any relationship, it could be me, it could be the book, or it could be a combination.

  1. Hyped/Popular books you didn’t like?

By the time I read books they are usually well past their hyper period – my to-be-read shelves are groaning, especially after the Edinburgh Book Festival.

  1. Is there a book you wouldn’t tell anyone you were reading?

I can’t imagine one.

  1. How many books do you own?

Most of the shelves in the flat are double-lined with books, the ones in the rear alphabetically ordered, the ones in front piled up in ‘when-bought’ stacks.

  1. Are you a fast/slow reader?

Fast. I spent some time in hospital when I was young and started reading a book a day. My parents could not quite believe it.

  1. Do you like to buddy read?

I am not sure what that means but I do like talking about books with others.

  1. Do you read better in your head/out loud?

I do not often read out loud. I did take part in Iraq Out Loud though, where the Chilcot report was read out 24/7 (iraqoutloud.com). That was a fascinating experience.

  1. If you were only allowed to own one book, what would it be and why?

None rather than one. If you are going to be extreme, go all the way.