Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Book review: Newton and the Counterfeiter


I really enjoyed this book- it was only about 250 pages long, so I whizzed through it. (Well, relatively- it took about a week). It describes the (relatively brief) conflict between Isaac Newton and William Chaloner.

I knew shamefully little about Newton before starting this book (other than the obvious 'scientist who thought up gravity when an apple landed on his head'.) The book describes his early life, and rise to fame as a scientist. (Apples are barely mentioned). Later in life, he was appointed Warden of the Royal Mint, at a time when England's coinage was debased and in need of re-minting. Part of his role as Warden was to chase down anyone who was counterfeiting coins- this was punishable by death, as it was considered treason against the monarch (whose face was on the coinage). Thus, Newton came into conflict with counterfeiter William Chaloner, who first came to London as a runaway apprentice, trying to make his fortune.
(One of my favourite parts of the book was the description of London- it reminded me of Terry Pratchett's description of Ankh Morpork in the Discworld books. I'd always assumed that he'd based that on London, but this is the first description of London that I have read which is as vivid as the description of Ankh Morpork).

Chaloner's character and motivations were less well fleshed out (and thus less interesting) than Newton's- for the simple reason that there is much less evidence of Chaloner's life- Newton seems to have left behind acres of writing.

Belated round-up

Having just re-read my 2014 aims post, and noticed that I intended to write a monthly round up of my progress, I thought it was about time for, err, a three-and-a-half monthly progress summary!

- C&G knitting course- I have made slow progress on this- although slow is better than none! I have at least written out a giant list of what I need to do to finish the module so that I can have the satisfaction of ticking things off said list. I've knitted a few more samples and written up the notes on them. I think I need to focus more on this aim, if I am to actually finish the module this year. I seem to have a bit of mental block about it though, and I am not sure why.

- donate 2% of earnings to charity. I have been doing this, although more by sponsoring people for the London Marathon and joining the National Trust than by picking a charity each month and donating to it, which is what I originally envisaged. I am wondering if donating less often, say every six months, would be more worthwhile as a charity would have a larger sum of money, which perhaps would be more efficient.

- read down the house. I have had another massive book clear out (all donated to a good cause!) and thus was left with 13 'real' books to read. I've signed up to the Goodreads challenge to read these 13 and a birthday present book by the end of the year. I've got quite good at making time for reading, so this aim is going well!

-reduce knitting yarn stash- this is going superbly in the 'buy no yarn' stakes (I did get some for my birthday, but obviously that doesn't count)...I am not sure that I am knitting quite fast enough, though. Ah well, it's supposed to be fun, after all! (Though I would like the space that the yarn takes up back).

- house inventory- I started this, but have let it fall by the wayside a bit. Maybe I should just declutter everything and then the inventory would be really easy! :D

As ever, some new things have come along since January which need to be added to the list:

-complete nutrition course. I'm doing a basic nutrition course through work, which isn't that hard (and actually quite interesting) but, as with the C&G course, I seem to have mental block about it...I am wondering how I ever managed to get GCSEs and A levels, let alone a degree! Clearly I am rebelling.

- establish a regular yoga practice. Or practise- the correct time to use these two words is another mental block..! Anyway, my usual yoga teacher is away on tour in her other life as a musician at the moment- before she left she ran a series of classes on establishing a regular yoga practice at home. (You'd think for something that is actually enjoyable, you'd not need to be taught how to do it, but there is a pattern of rebellion here...knitting course, nutrition course...yoga..) Yoga at home was going well until we adopted a DOG (exciting!) and yoga time is now dog walk time... hmm...

Dog, walking

Misty morning- worth getting up for!