What’s your binge-worthy substance of choice?


Guilty. And I have the pounds to prove it.

Some of us (including me) binge on ice-cream or cookies. Others may binge-watch television sports or Downton Abbey. The beauty of streaming and ‘On Demand’ is that we can now watch what we want, when we want and that’s pretty wonderful. For those of us who binge on snack foods, packagers offer individual 100-calorie serving sizes of snacks and treats which theoretically makes it easier to not binge, but that’s a fool’s game. We just eat several packages. Who’s kidding who? I must confess to binge-watching a few television shows that I discovered after they’ve already peaked. But the chief culprit of my bingeing is reading. When I’m into a good book, the goings-on in the rest of the world cease to be.

Unfortunately, my level of productivity in household chores is inversely proportional to the skill level of the author I’m currently reading. In other words, when I’m reading a good book, nothing else gets done. Sometimes it’s better if I don’t pick up a new book when I’ve finished another one. That allows me to drift aimlessly around looking for things to do around the house. And, as we all know, one chore often leads to another—we have to keep going before we lose momentum. After I’ve washed the kitchen floor, I’m thinking I’d better haul out the ironing board before I run out of ‘steam’.

I’ve just lost the last few days of my life to another book. I even managed to stay up ‘way past midnight reading in bed—just the next couple of pages . . . just a couple more pages. It’s a slippery slope. It’s unbelievably easy to waste away a complete day when the weather is above 70 degrees (F) and I can park myself in the backyard in my outdoor LaZgirl. I read, nap, read, nap. Then, before you know it, it’s dinner time and I have to come into the house and pretend I’ve had a productive day.

But the evidence is clear. The grocery shopping didn’t get done. Dinner is something microwaveable that includes as many healthy food groups as I can fake in one package. The kitchen floor is still sticky. The dog is begging to go for a walk. The only sign I’ve done anything all day is my eyes are tired from being directed at the pages of a book for hours at a stretch, and definitely not from cleaning the bathroom or vacuuming the floors. And I’m pretty sure all that time I spent on FaceBook doesn’t qualify as productive.

Now that I’ve finished the latest Kate Atkinson novel, I’m facing a dilemma. Should I crack open another book or should I attack some of my household chores? There’s a basket of ironing, which I actually don’t find to be a chore when I set up in front of the TV and watch my PVR’d shows. The dog needs to be walked; that’s good for both of us and the weather’s fine so that’s not a chore either. The kitchen floor needs to be washed. I have some sewing alterations to do but that involves going down to my sewing machine in the basement which isn’t likely to happen in the next couple of months, what with the dog needing walking and all. And, I’m terrified to face all those shelves of crap we’ve accumulated in the basement that should be sorted and disposed of. Scary prospect. Best to avoid the basement. If I can restrain myself from starting another book, I might actually get something else done.

I do multi-task sometimes, although at my advanced age I try not to exert myself too much. In the evenings I read books and magazines while I binge-watch my TV programmes. Apart from my regular PVR’d shows like Baroness Von Sketch, The Social, CityLine and The Marilyn Denis Show, I’m currently working my “On Demand” way through The Loudest Voice, the story of Roger Ailes of FOX TV fame. I’ve already exhausted Fleabag, Letterkenny, and every British drama, comedy or crime show that managed to reach our Canadian airwaves. My husband pretty much has a monopoly on all the sports channels which he could watch 24/7. How he can tell one football game from another is a mystery to me. All they do is run and fall down, run and fall down. Boring. Fortunately, we have ‘his’ and ‘hers’ televisions. The secret to a happy marriage—and headphones, of course.

I described my ice-cream bingeing in an earlier post (click here for I’m on the Rocky Road to death by ice-cream) and had to put a halt to that. I would stand at the kitchen counter eating it directly out of the container until I felt sick. Needless to say, I’m paying for that slip with an extra ten pounds that will not be easy to shed. Reading is much more virtuous although not entirely non-fattening as it involves sitting on my ever-expanding derrière for lengthy periods of time. But reading is free (I download most of my books from the library), mind-expanding, doesn’t disturb the neighbours, is pollution-free, and sooooo satisfying. During all those years in the working world, all I wanted to do when I retired is sit in a comfortable chair and catch up on all the reading I never had time for. And that’s pretty much what I’m doing . . . living the dream. Have book . . . will binge. What’s your substance of choice?


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The Cactus is a metaphor for life in the cautious lane

Reading a good book is much like letting a delicious chocolate melt in your mouth. The anticipation alone is exciting but the real gratification begins as soon as you pop it into your mouth. Then, the pleasure mounts as you allow the outer layer of chocolate to slowly melt, revealing a creamy strawberry centre or a nutty cluster that you can chew on and make it last longer. It’s an experience to be savored. Am I getting too Forrest Gump-y? I thought of that analogy when I considered the path that led me to read Sarah Haywood’s novel The Cactus. I first heard about the book as a result of reading Reese Witherspoon’s Whiskey In A Teacup, which I absolutely loved, and bought copies for friends. That book made me aware of Witherspoon’s book club which ultimately led to reading several books she recommended, including The Cactus. Getting there was a leisurely, delicious process that I genuinely savoured.

Followers of BOOMERBROADCAST will know already that I’m a confirmed fan of British television and British authors. For those of you who enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant is Doing Fine (which I read twice), you’ll love The Cactus. It’s the quirky story of Susan Green, a 45-year-old single woman with major control issues, who lives and works in London at a statistics-related job that suits her somewhat anal personality. Susan is also a trained lawyer who opted to not practise after graduating from law school.

In a stroke of double jeopardy, Susan has just lost her mother and unexpectedly finds herself pregnant by her long-term friend-with-benefits, that she has no intention of marrying. When she decides to keep the baby and raise it as a single mother, she envisions life falling into the neat, orderly patterns that she has worked hard to develop throughout her life. But life doesn’t always go according to plan.

Susan’s co-workers are delighted about her expected baby—they’re surprised and pleased she has gentler aspects to her personality that weren’t immediately evident. The collection of cactus plants she keeps on her desk is a metaphor for her life. Thus, the subheading, “It’s never too late to bloom” which reminds me of another meme, “Bloom where you’re planted” which is a personal favourite of mine.

The book, however, is not about motherhood and the joys of giving birth. It’s a character study of a lonely, middle-aged woman with little experience in or tolerance for life outside her carefully defined parameters. When life’s inevitable complications arise, she approaches them with naive optimism and calculated plans for solutions.

As if she doesn’t already have her hands full with the prospect of a baby on the way, she is confronted with another major issue. When her mother dies she inexplicably leaves their family home in Birmingham to her worthless younger brother, Ed. Susan is appalled to learn that their mother, who always favoured her weak (by her standards) brother, stipulated in her will that Ed can live in the family home until he sells it or dies. This hardly seems fair so Susan sues her brother for her half-share.

As she prepares her case against her brother, she negotiates the future relationship between her unborn baby and its father, whose personality is as anal as Susan’s. They’re both overly self-possessed and approach life’s challenges with logical thinking which isn’t always conducive to how real life works.

Most families have secrets and the Green family is no exception. The story takes place over a period of less than a year, beginning during the early months of her pregnancy. Her brother’s temporary room-mate, Rob, provides a buffer between the siblings and their mutual dislike of each other. While understanding and supporting Ed’s unconventional lifestyle, Rob is also sympathetic to Susan’s dilemma and tries to help her. More complications arise.

Her lack of a sense of humour is mistaken for an actual sense of humour which is actually quite humourous. Susan’s life which is set mainly in London and Birmingham reminded me so much of Eleanor Oliphant’s carefully ordered, albeit misguided existence. Which is why I loved this book and I think you will too. I’d rate it 8 out 10.

To order THE CACTUS by Sarah Haywood from Amazon click on the image.
To order WHISKEY IN A TEACUP by Reese Witherspoon from Amazon click on the image.
To order my book BOOMER BEAT from Amazon click on the image.

Disclosure: If you order any of these books from Amazon, you will receive their best price and I may receive a teeny, tiny commission. Thank you.

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