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Hilary Mantel

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"You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough." ― Mae West

"The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read." ― Mark Twain

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Liebster Award



I've been tagged for this by Kendall Roberts of curious•pondering on Wordpress – thank you so much! 


Since it's very much in line with the things folks on BookLikes seem to find irresistible, too (witness the most recent incarnation, "50 questions") – and since it's specifically designed to spread the word on (and communicate with) new blogs, something the BookLikes community also deeply cares about, I figured I'd cross-post my responses on both sites.


FWIW, in case anyone is wondering, there's no actual "award" ceremony: as with other memes of this type, the "award" is being tagged at all.  Also, while the name sounds German and there is a literal translation for it that you may see being bandied about on the web in connection with this thing, it really only makes sense if you make it a whole phrase (in which "liebster" is an adjective, not a noun): "Mein liebster Blog" – "my favorite blog."  I don't think whoever first envisioned this actually ever thought of nominating random strangers' blogs as their "darling" or "beloved" (which would be the literal translation of "Liebster" when used as a noun).


Anyway, since this sort of thing seems to spread like wildfire regardless how many people are tagged (or not), I'm just going to invite everyone who sees this and wants to join the fun to consider themselves tagged.


Since its purpose also is, however, to highlight recently-created blogs (or, I suppose, blogs that are new to us, which in my case comprises just about the entire Wordpress community), and the rules expressly call for specific blogs to be tagged, too, I'm going to tag:


On BookLikes:


On Wordpress:


... and as a bonus entry, a blog I just discovered on both BookLikes and Wordpress: Mybookfile (= BookLikes) / My Book File (= Wordpress)!



The Rules:

1. Thank the blog that nominated you and link back to them.
2. Nominate up to 11 other bloggers for the award.
3. Answer the 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
4. Tell your readers 11 random facts about yourself.
5. Give your nominees 11 questions to answer themselves.




My Answers to the 11 Questions Asked of Me:

What is your favorite season?

I've more or less answered this one before, at least after a fashion, though obviously only on BookLikes (so here goes for the Wordpress crowd):


Spring, summer and early fall, at least where I am living now.  Winters tend to be gray, wet and murky hereabouts.  I love snow, so if I were living in the mountains, I might just go for "year round," or "any day that it doesn't rain all the time."  But I don't particularly mind heat (and I'm not living in the tropics to begin with) ... and I absolutely love what spring and early summer does to nature, including our own back yard.



What is your favorite security item? *If this is too personal, do not feel pressured to answer.*

No "item":

Her name is Holly.  She's the most loving and affectionate creature in the world, and whenever I'm down or depressed there is nothing better than feeling her soft, warm body and silky fur cuddling up next to me with the sweetest and most eager of purrs.  I love her to pieces.



What is your third favorite website?

Hmm. Until a mere three days ago, I'd have said I have two favorite websites; BookLikes and Leafmarks. Since Leafmarks's sad demise, however, it comes down to just one – the BookLikes community that I've come to care about more than about anything and anyone else online.


Everything else is just utilities. I do tend to get my news from a bunch of major newspapers' sites (both English and German), I use Facebook to stay in touch with a number of friends who neither live close by nor are members of BookLikes, and there's a really good translation website named Leo that I use a lot – though first and foremost for my job – but that's pretty much what it comes down to.


Wordpress is looking promising, but at the moment I'm still building up the basics of my blog and I haven't connected with too many people yet (which is why this "Liebster award" is probably coming exactly at the right time, so thanks again, Kendall). Will have to wait and see, I guess.



What is your favorite movie?

Another one I've answered before on BookLikes:


"Here's looking at you, kid ..."

 Casablanca, hands down.



What is the best smelling plant/flower to you?

At a pinch, I'd probably say citrus fragrances and similar scents (especially verbena); though I love most natural fragrances – flowers (lavender, roses and apple blossoms come to mind in particular), Mediterranean herbs, spices (the more exotic, the better), pine woods, wet grass, sandalwood, you name it.



If you could have one wish, what would you use it on?

Well, this is going to sound boring beyond belief, but I'm a little past the mid-point of my life now and I've had the good fortune of being able to fulfill some of my really great wishes already, so I mostly would wish I'm going to be able to go on leading a meaningful life instead of just going through the motions.


Of course if someone were to somehow transform me into a literary genius of Shakespearean dimensions, that would be very nice indeed ...



Would you rather be able to produce music or literature?

See last paragraph above, I suppose. I love music and my life wouldn't be the same without it, but the use of language (which is what literature is ultimately all about) is a big part of my day job, too, so I suppose literature would be somewhat more within my reach, and it would also be, I think, ultimately what I'd most like to try my own hand at.

(Sure. One day ...)


Who is your favorite actor/ actress?

Actor(s): Humphrey Bogart; closely followed, however, by Robert Redford, Kevin Spacey, Colin Firth, Jeremy Brett, David Suchet, and half the alumni of the RSC (in no particular order and to name just a few, John Gielgud, Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Alan Rickman (RIP earlier this year), Patrick Stewart, Ralph Fiennes ... plus a whole bunch of others).


Actress(es): Emma Thompson, Susan Sarandon, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, and the great leading ladies of Hollywood's golden years – Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, and Marlene Dietrich.



What is your favorite beverage?

Tea – pretty much any and all kinds –, Diet Coke, and single malt Whisky (preferably Glenlivet, Laphroaig, or Bowmore; though the latter only if 18 years and upwards.  And yes, I know I'm a snob when it comes to whisky).

Left: 17yo cask strength limited edition Glenlivet (this: http://www.whiskyshopdufftown.com/shop/the-glenlivet-17-years-old-cask-strength-edition/) Right: 10yo Tobermory:



What author do you most wish to meet?

Dead: William Shakespeare – the greatest literary genius that ever walked the earth.
Living: Salman Rushdie – one of, if not the most important contemporary literary voices, particularly (though for reasons I wouldn't wish on my very worst own enemy) on the great scouges of the post-Cold War world: fundamentalism (religious and otherwise), racism, and the encroachment of freedom of thought and freedom of expression.




Do you keep an offline written journal?

No. I tried a couple of times, but the habit never stuck – I neither have the patience nor the time for it.




11 Random Facts About Me

For this, I'm going to draw on the "50 Questions" list that is currently making the rounds on BookLikes.


1. I've never made a habit of counting my steps, but when walking on brick or flagstone paths, tiled sidewalks and the like, as a kid I used to make up rules about where I had to / could only step – e.g., never on the same stone / slab / tile with both feet, etc.

The Yellow Brick Road:


2.  My everyday breakfast consists of black tea, freshly-pressed orange juice, and a roll straight from the baker's with butter and jam.  I love hotel breakfast buffets, however, and when traveling will always indulge in those; with everything from cereals (preferably granola) and fresh fruit to scrambled eggs / omelet / eggs over easy, bacon, croissants, you name it.  Bonus points if the buffet includes local food items.  When in Great Britain, nothing but a full English breakfast will do (solely minus grilled tomato, which I can't stand).  Similarly in Mexico, huevos rancheros, quesadilla, and at least one variety of a tortilla wrap (enchiladas, burritos, etc.) are a must.


3.  Stubbornness is one of my greatest failings (or strengths, as the case may be?).  I can also be lazy to the point of utter procrastination – which however tends to conflict with the fact that as a rule I am also fairly ambitious and, if something truly matters to me, an OCD level perfectionist.


4. In Chinese astrology, I'm a dragon.



5. The last time I had a photo taken for a portrait by a photographer was four years ago, for our office's website.  More recently, an artist friend of a colleague / friend of mine created a micro-portrait picture on the basis of a photo of me – though you have to stand very close to the picture to recognize it's (a) a photo (b) of me, which is sort of the point of the whole thing.


6. The first music performance I can remember attending was Engelbert Humperdinck's children's opera Hänsel and Gretel, together with my mom and my grandparents, when I was about 5 years old.

Hänsel und Gretel (Oper Bonn)(Hänsel & Gretel and the gingerbread house: image from a recent production of Bonn Opera)


The first concert I attended without parental supervision, just with my then-best friend, was either Chris de Burgh or Hot Chocolate (anybody remember them?) – anyway, same venue for both, and in pretty quick succession one after the other, as I recall. I must have been about 14 or 15 at the time.



7.  If in terms of biorhythm we are either owls or nightingales, I am definitely an owl.  Can't go to bed, much less sleep, before 11pm, but the only way I'm able to function at all early in the morning is on autopilot.  Change even the slightest bit of my morning routine, and I'll be walking around like a zombie, utterly and completely lost.


8.  The issue of tucked-in sheets doesn't arise as a matter of routine, as we don't use them in Germany and I never used them when living in the U.S., either, but in hotel beds, the first thing I do is pull out the sheets.  I need to be able to wrap my feet in whatever I'm using as a cover, and anything tucked in makes me feel claustrophobic.

(A Highlands welcome – The Torridon Hotel, Torridon, Scotland)


9.  If listening to CDs while I'm driving, I sing along all the time.  Same if / when there's a song on the radio that I truly like.  Lately, that hasn't been the case very often, though, as my heretofore favorite station has taken a musical turn towards the bland an meaningless recently, thus putting me in the position of either having to find a new radio station or live with their current musical selections in order to continue getting their (still rather good) talk radio contributions and editorial contents.


10.  I've never used a gun, nor would I ever want to.


11.  I have tremendous respect for the fact that the greater the height you're at, the worse you're likely going to get injured if you fall (if you survive in the first place, that is).  That doesn't stop me from climbing up every bell and observation tower I come across for the view from the top, but I'll never be found too close to the edge.




Questions for Others

For my questions for others, finally, I'm going to draw chiefly (though not exclusively) on the Proust Questionnaire:


1.   What do you most appreciate in your friends?

2.   What fault do you find easiest to tolerate in others?

3.   What is your favorite occupation?

4.   What is your idea of happiness, and what is your idea of misery?

5.   If not where you are actually living right now, where would you like to live?

6.   What is your favorite color?

7.   Who is your hero / heroine in fiction, and why?

8.   Who is youro hero / heroine in real life, and why?

9.   What natural talent would you like to be gifted with?

10. If you had a time machine allowing you to travel to up to 3 different eras (past and future), what era(s) would you like to travel to?

11. From a burning building, you have the option to rescue either a [cat / dog / supply your own favorite animal] or a priceless work of art, but not both.  Which of the two do you rescue, and why?