One Small Step for a Craft Potato…

Avid readers of my blog (and indeed pretty much anyone who actually knows me) will be very much aware of what a big fan I am of “chillaxing’”. In fact, this very weekend I chilled to the max and it was excellent. TMM was out for most of the day on Saturday, getting Hans von Manshaft MOT’ed (he passed, hurray!) and meeting up with old friends and left me to my own devices. I did intend to do a lot of cleaning and real person stuff, like laundry and taxes. In reality I read LOTS and ate my own body weight in pancakes, which possibly did not quite achieve all that I had hoped. This really isn’t to be unexpected though. Partly this is because I love to take a casual relaxation day, and my god am I lazy. My life is made up of 50% slobbing and 50% complaining about not being able to slob. (This isn’t to say I am not plagued by anxiety fuelled guilt trips worrying about all the things I should be doing, but I’ve come to realise that if the book is good, the bed is comfy and the chocolate snacks are plentiful, you can really block out those negative thoughts for a while).

The other reason is that whilst TMM isn’t around, I have the sneaking suspicion that I forgot how to human. I’m mildly concerned that I’m not actually a person at all, but instead am a soft squishy marshmallow in disguise and I’ve gotten lost in the real world with TMM as my carer/guide. I really feel this should concern me, but mainly it means that when left unsupervised, I just dance manically around the house in my pjs to early 00s soft rock like I’m Cameron Diaz in basically every film she’s in.

Ultimately though, it meant not much was actually done on Saturday but I was in a rather cheery mood when TMM returned.

Buck equally understands the necessity of doing nothing. We were very calm together.

It’s at this juncture that an issues arises though. Although I revel in my laziness (I really am just too good at doing nothing), it does mean I spend a lot of time lying on the floor looking at the ceiling and being conflicted about my complete lack of motivation to do anything. A rather disproportionate chunk of my life is spent being disappointed at the fact that I am not the Xena: Warrior Princess I want to be and nowhere near enough time is actually spent doing something to change it. I like to blame most of this on my anxiety but it’s a cop out really. I want to learn kickboxing SO BADLY, but nobody can actually help me do anything about it until I make the effort and sulking about how difficult I find it isn’t going to win me any shiny big kickboxing trophies.  (Though, if there is some gentle yet serious martial arts guru wants to take me under their muscly wing and teach me mad self-protection skills whilst ignoring my horribly awkward attempts at conversation and not making me interact with any other person, that would be grand. Basically I want Vin Diesel to adopt me.) It harks back to my un-resolution idea though – small yet positive steps. I spend a so much time rehashing the same thing over again, but little actions towards a bigger goal are better than no actions at all. It’s a bit pathetic in some respects, but in others it actually means I can aim to achieve something without stressing out or having to give up my fantastical lazing abilities.

To that end,  I made TMM spend £40 in Lesbian Craft on Sunday in preparation for Christmas (though admittedly the decoupage festive stag head was a luxury we didn’t necessarily need, but by god we wanted it). *Side note – Lesbian Craft is the affectionate nickname we gave to Hobby Craft a few years a go. There was a period where we went there quite regularly, and it was always filled with happy looking lesbian couples in their mid 40s looking for projects. TMM and I fit right in).

Let me explain my thought process for you here. Christmas is 20% magic and 406% preparation. Now, the festive season doesn’t hold quite as much magic for me as it used to (what with family being spread far and wide and me being enough of a grown up to actually try and get people useful presents rather than adorable yet completely awful craft projects). This means that in order to fully squeeze all the joy I can from the season, I have to avoid all the pitfalls and stress inducing panics by making sure that I am ready when it comes around.

It started when someone at work mentioned how she had already started preparing her kids presents (using my Amazon Prime I might add) and although I initially mocked her, the more I thought about her levels of preparation, the more I realised this could assist me. Small steps now lead to more boxes full of wrapped presents before the decorations are even out in the shops and less hours spent traipsing round the Boots 3 for 2 sale in the first week of December with baskets full of gifts nobody wants.

To that end, I’ve start the annual Charismas Present Spread Sheet for 2017, listing every person who needs a present and what ideas I have for them. There’s a colour scheme (white for nothing or a possible idea, yellow for half done (e.g. ordered/partly made), green for complete, and blue for wrapped) though I’ve taken off the costing column this time around, because that upsets me and means I spend far too much time scrabbling through receipts and calculating things instead of enjoying the nature of just giving.

My hope is that, if I can aim to have half the presents finished by November, there won’t be the annual panic induced crying fest and hysterical over buying of tat. Instead, there will be a sedate pacing of spending and wrapping (which will all be done by TMM, because I’m sure we all remember last year’s wrapping fiasco), and by the time it actually comes around to December, it will just be the finishing touches that need to be sorted. I also want to try and make a lot of presents this year (ignoring the bit before where I mentioned about how I’m trying to be helpful and not just provide people with useless craft tat), because I A) enjoy craft and get a bit upset sometimes when it’s not for a purpose, B) want to try and get rid of some of the craft stock piles I’ve built up over the years (again, let’s ignore the bit where I made TMM spend £40 in Hobby Craft) and C) am desperately trying to save money because if I want to be a real boy with a house and a husband of my very own, I’m going to need to tone down the reckless spending a bit and aim to save my wages instead.

Once again, I seem to have waffled upon the theme of self-improvement – you’d think I’d stop talking about it and actually do something, wouldn’t you…

 

Advertisements

Confessions of a Serial Storyteller…

Bonjourno dear readers, I hope we are all well and contented on this fine Tuesday?

Not to be overdramatic but I’m definitely dying. I’ve somehow managed to damage my shoulder and after three days of wincing and sulking and wearing a heat pack like a security blanket, it’s obviously getting close to the end. I’m going to have another bath tonight (which will make two in two days – unheard of as I am not a big fan of a bath AT ALL) and watch an episode of Due South like a big water slug in the hope it will loosen up the knot and allow my to actually mobilise again.

In other news, I have struggled a bit with inspiration for a post this week – I am loathed to post a the same kind of thing week in and week out. Most blog “How To Guides” state categorically that you have to find a ‘niche’ in the market and stick to it – apparently people don’t like it when their bloggers try and go for a bit of variety. I, however, think that sounds a bit like B*S*. Whilst my life is obviously an endless rave and the most exciting thing ever, I can’t help but feel like most people aren’t going to care that much about what I do on a daily basis. Instead, I’d like to flit between topics, like a delightful little hummingbird amongst the flowers. Why limit myself to the same old thing when I can do posts on my favourite books, intriguing facts and hilarious life anecdotes?  To that end, my blog has resembled a drunk gently lurching from subject to subject over the past few months, but who am I to fight the creative urge? Admittedly, if anybody is particularly offended (or indeed has any suggestions on topics/mediums they’d like me to cover) I am all internet based ears.

This week, it was suggested by a pal that I look to do a short story. Now, as I may have previously mentioned (I definitely have) I am often drowning in stories, one liners, hilarious character descriptions and the like. Most of them never really go anywhere, but I suppose it’s time to share a couple of them with the big wide world. Neither of these two are particularly long (handy I suppose, seeing as they’re short stories) and both are prompt based. A lot of what I write springs from someone else’s idea (yay for “homage”!) and gives me a springboard to bounce my thoughts off. I’m not sure if it counts as original work when the spark comes from someone else, but where they end up is usually somewhere all of my own creation so I’m not too fussed.

The first story is a little snippet based on an artist called Chiara Bautista and her gorgeous work. I don’t even know where I first saw her stuff (probably Pinterest) but I’ve now followed a couple of her social media sites and the art she produces is amazing. It’s hard not to be inspired by them really…

The Moon and Her Night Sky

She is made of pure white. Her skin, her hair, her eyes, her blood – they are all the same brilliant sheen. She sits cross legged against the darkness and glows, marred only by the shadow that flows across her body as the month moves on. A thin crescent of grey curves around her hips and grows to a full cloak shrouding her for days at a time, but soon it slips away and leaves her radiant against the darkness again.

He is made up of dark swirling colours and a midnight pelt. Sometimes he is small enough that he can walk by her side, her hand resting gently on his head and her pale fingers slipping into the rough fur on his crown. Sometimes he is big enough that she can ride upon his back, hunched low down over his neck with her face buried into the gap between his ears as they speed across the Earth. Mostly though, he stands next to her on two legs, his hinged knees pushing him forward, his hunched back allowing him to tilt his head close to hers so he can hear her whispers.

They travel together, moving forward endlessly.

Aren’t they just sublime?

~

Story the second comes from two sources – a Hall and Oates song (I mean why not) and a silhouette of a woman smoking that I can remember vividly but can’t find for the life of me. It must be about 7 years old now and has moved through 3 phones, two memory sticks and one scrap piece of paper glued into a notebook.

I Can’t Go For That

She stares at him, her heavy lidded eyes slatted and a thin tendril of smoke rising lazily from her pursed lips. He swallows as she crosses her legs, a flash of pale skin drawing his eye.

“Well?”

He blinks, trying to gather his scattered thoughts. Running a finger between his neck and his increasingly constricting collar, he tries to remember why it was he’d decided to say no in the first place.

“I-I can’t,” he stutters, hating the weak tremor he can hear in his own voice.

She raises a carefully shaped eyebrow and rests the unlit cigarette on the glass ashtray set on the table next to her. She leans forward and it takes all of his rapidly declining self control not to let his eyes flick down.

“It’s not that difficult. It’s practically a joyride compared to some of the other things”.

He licks his dry lips nervously and shakes his head.

“No. Not this time. Not this.”

Her head tilts to one side and her tongue darts out from between her perfectly white teeth and devastatingly red lips..

“You said you’d do anything.”

“Almost anything”.

She laughs and leans back, another cloudy wisp of smoke curling past her lips.

“So this is where you draw the line?”

He nods, a sharp jerk of the head. She smirks and it terrifies him.

“Well, there’s still time”

He shivers as he feels the tell-tale whisper against the back of his neck.

“There’s only so much a man can attach to his soul.”

hall and oate

I mean – how can you not be inspired by these fine figures of masculinity? Look at the HAIR!

~

So there you have it. Some tiny little snapshots into my Notes function on my phone. Two down – only another 57 to go…

Something to write home about…

So over the last few days a lot of politics has occurred and once again nobody really has a clue what’s going on, which doesn’t really make much of a difference to how everything usually is. Still, record numbers of young people went out to vote so it can’t be all bad. I remain mostly detached from the situation (I research, I vote, I still despair), but I am now at least a little less cynical towards the voting public. The fact that UKIP have no seats has instilled a small light of faith within my soul.

On a slightly more personal note, we’ve had new flooring in the bathroom(s) and finally the dreaded carpet is no more. HOORAY! I can now leave the shower and not have to cringe at the feel of shag-pile under my wet toes. I have smooth, stylish linoleum to look forward to after my next shower, and I’ve also realised (somewhat sadly) it means that cleaning will be much easier. Everything will be delightful and wipe clean and  I will actually be able to remove splodges of escaped hair dye rather than trying to smush it about and sighing exasperatedly. This is just another step towards my big house cleaning overhaul and I have to say, considering how much I hate it, we’re not doing too badly. The upstairs is nearly done now (still got the back room and the jewellery to do, and we also need to rearrange the bathroom(s) after the flooring) but I’m feeling V POSITIVE. LOOK HOW POSITIVE I AM (so positive). TMM I think is feeling slightly less positive due to my rather hysterical mania, but he’ll be happy enough once it’s done I’m sure. I’m also in full swing with the bedroom gallery wall I’ve recently decided I desperately need in order to compliment my upcycled bedside cabinets. One giant tropical print (+ homemade frame) is just waiting for hooks, and I’ve got 5 smaller prints (frames to be sanded) on their way. Hopefully everything will be in place by next week’s post and you’ll be able to see my new paradise for yourselves.


 New Floor. Check out that artful slate design. Though it would have been nice if the fitter had at least pretended to clean up after himself.

 In other news, you may have noticed our new Instagram account too (because we have been flogging that horse like there’s no tomorrow) @curiousreads. For those of you who haven’t (a bit rude), we’ve decided to join the hipster masses and make our own “bookstagram” – an instagram account that allows us to display our deep love of books through my English Degree and TMM’s pretty decent photography. In order to get our “social media presence” out there, TMM has had a bee in his bonnet and has not allowed me to rest on my laurels. I’ve been churning out reviews left, right and centre, and we’ve even roped in some friends to provide some guest opinions too.

Now that the first week is done with, I’m allowed to calm down a bit and we’re going to aim for 1-2 reviews a week, rather than 1-2 a day. Half the work is already done in that TMM has already got an excellent stock of photos prepared, and we’ve put together a rather repulsive number of stock #s that can be copied and pasted onto each post to draw in the punters. However, this does mean that, somewhat peevishly, I’m left to cobble together some thoughts to match the books that we can get out there. 

I sound somewhat bitter about this and I honestly don’t mean to. I love writing. I mean I really LOVE it. I have over 50 notes on my phone – a technological advancement from the countless number of notebooks that are still scattered over 3 houses (mine and my respective parents’) and it is rare I go through a week without writing something. Admittedly that sounds a bit better than it is – in no way am I the Ernest Hemingway of my day. I might have hundreds upon thousands of ideas but getting them on paper (electronic or otherwise) can sometimes prove a little tricky. I like to think that my strengths lie in the quality and not quantity of the work. Not to toot my own trumpet, but I’m great at short snippets. Single lines pop into my head that suggest a novels’ worth of hilarious content. Whole plot arcs spring, fully formed if not at all fleshed out, to the forefront of my mind and beg to be marked down. Characters for stories I don’t have, or stories for character’s that don’t belong to me sit patiently, waiting to be allowed to do something rather than just hang about in the dark waiting room of my mind drinking lukewarm tea and flicking through outdated magazines.

To succinctly put it, I’m great at writing single scenes, completely in detail (often with stage directions and everything) that have no place or setting, and just float about, popping up now and again just to remind me not to forget them.

Now, whilst it can be quite annoying for me, and is really starting to take up too much room in people’s cupboards and my phone’s memory, it has never been a huge problem. I’ll never be a great novelist, but I might eventually get around to publishing something small. I am happy in the, possibly somewhat fatalistic notion, that there’s no rush and I’ll get there eventually.

However now that I’m being but to the test, I’ve realised that the trouble with the whole situation is having to do what I do to a deadline. Writing to a time constraint (be it mine or someone else’s) isn’t the greatest, but I think that’s more due to my natural butterfly like nature of fluttering around rather than a lack of ability. Typically, the urge to write (which is strong within me) arises at the most inopportune moments or places; just as I’m about to drop off to sleep, in the back of a car late at night, walking home from work. However, the moment I try and set myself down to write something with intent and purpose, my brain is immediately blank and all that can be found within is bubbles bouncing around like an early 2000s windows screen saver. When you’ve promised to update a weekly blog though, or agreed to provide numerous book reviews, this isn’t really acceptable.

I am fighting to combat this though; another one of my #NotAResolutions. This very blog has been good encouragement to try and break this sporadic writing habit, instead forcing me to write something once a week (no matter how much like garbage it is). This new bookstagram is hopefully going to be another useful technique – if I can write a 20-30 word review on command, I’m almost half way to being able to write a full length novel! Sometimes, admittedly, the whole process does still find me sat on the kitchen floor staring at my phone with a rather ferocious frown, muttering petulantly about “how it’s just like homework and I’m a grown up I shouldn’t have homework anymore”, but I think I’m getting better. Like most habits, repetition is key, and If I can (mostly) keep a weekly blog going, I can definitely do an bookstagram. Honest.

 

Look how profesh this Bookstgram Front Page is!

 

 

Book Review – The First of Many…

You know you’re in for a good couple of days when it’s not even Wednesday and you’re already 236% done with the week, don’t you?

The last few days have gone by in rather a blur; work being as horribly worky as it possibly can be, and the weekend being spent stripping the dressing room (say hello to another two boxes for charity and one more bin bag) and being unaccountably grumpy. There was a rather spectacular highlight in the viewing of the new Wonder Woman, which was far better than I hoped for and has meant that my crush on Gal Gadot has escalated to disturbing heights. I even got a bit emotional watching the Amazonian fight scenes at the beginning and spent the half an hour after the film finished trying to convince TMM that I had to take some martial arts classes immediately otherwise I would die (thankfully, I think that urge has slightly fallen by the wayside in favour of slobbing on the couch and eating my own body weight in birthday chocolate, but I can still dream).

 I mean, just look at her for Pete’s sake!

There was a slight concern I wouldn’t even manage to get a blog done this week (SHOCK HORROR), but TMM has been most persuasive and due to the fact he actually went out and bought props to use for my first book review, I couldn’t really let him down. To that end, I have done a review of Number 1 on my “Books to Read” list – “Nigel – My Family and Other Dogs” by Monty Don. It is my first review, so please be gentle with me!

~

This Sunday I finished Nigel, slouching on the couch wrapped in a blanket with drooping eyelids. I realised quite early on that it’s a book that requires no urgency or effort and consequently it’s seen me through a stressful week at work, one half hour lunch break of soothing garden chatter at a time. 

As previously mentioned, I am not a huge reader of biographies, though I can be persuaded now and then if they’re told through the mask of a storyteller and liberally sprinkled with hilarious anecdotes (see works by David Niven and Gerald Durrell, which can surely only be classed as semi-biographical by the most lenient of reviewers). 

Whilst Monty Don writes in a way that is perhaps not as raffish or charming as those mentioned above, there is a strong, self assured voice that appeals non-the less. It is almost impossible to read it without hearing him speaking directly to you, and I definitely believe it would benefit massively from having an audio book version. There is still definitely a slight tongue in cheek tone to some of the things he writes though that can’t help but bring a smile to your face, and there is the line “my mother thought, with some reason, that I was immature, feckless and impoverished” which is basically everything I’m looking for in a person.

Nigel, (the star of the show) is spoken about regularly with a kind of cheerful exasperation; he is clearly the hero of the piece and very much his own dog. A terribly handsome Golden Retriever, he is quite confidently aware of his own worth and the relationship between Monty and him is more of a symbiotic bond rather than an owner and pet. Their breakfast routine, beautifully detailed, puts me in mind of a kind of Holmes and Watson scene – set against a quintessentially British backdrop. He does not anthropomorphise Nigel and treat him like a child as pet owners are often want to do, but rather allows the dog’s own character to shine through. He is easy living and embraces  all elements of the gardens he lives in and the TV crew that inhabit them during filming times; more than willing to be centre stage or re-film shots time and time again in true film star style. He manages, without seeming cliché, to embody some rather poignant life lessons that are described quite simply; dogs do not look back or forward, but live purely in the moment. If there is a ball to be chased, a fresh pea pod to be crunched or a puddle to be splashed in, he is as content as can be. Whilst he by no means the only dog that has been welcomed by the Don family, but he is definitely the man of the moment.

The rest of the content focuses on certain key events in the author’s life, as seen through the lens of the dogs that occupied those periods and the gardens they lived in. Somewhat atypically, the narrative doesn’t follow a chronological timeline, but instead weaves in and out; dropping onto certain episodes centred around a particular four legged friend. It does leave you feeling as though you’re flicking through a beloved and slightly worn photo album; stopping to look at random dog-eared snapshots with worn away scribbles on the back. There is a completeness to each story arc through, and though it may not be in the same chapter, you learn about the introduction and subsequent departure of every beloved pet. Monty Don has a very fixed view on not only how one should build a relationship with a dog, but also the huge affect it has on it’s owner’s life, and this includes the unhappy way in which they leave. The last few chapters of the book focus on the deaths of some the dogs, and whilst they are quite heart rending, there’s also an almost holistically and robustly healthy attitude to the way they are described. Very much as each section of his garden has a life cycle that blossoms and withers, so do the dogs.

The admiration and esteem he holds for each of the dogs is tangible, and whilst there are some sections that reflect the time periods they’re about (there was a comment about his father’s treatment of unwanted puppies that involved a sack and a bucket of water that did make me wince), you can tell the impact each separate one has had; be it Beaumont the Blackdog he got from Ranulph and Ginny Fiennes and his steadfast loyalty or Gretel, the twenty first birthday present that spent ten years accompanying him everywhere.

Very much like the Gerald Durrell book this takes its name from, there is an approach to the animals and the natural world that is imbibed with a warmth and heartfelt adoration. The relationship he has with his garden (which cannot be ignored considering his career) is that of a partner in crime rather than a proud creator. He talks about the management of it as an endless process; an on-going exercise that changes with the seasons, the requirement of the film crew and even his mental state. He describes the garden as though we all know it (which admittedly, if you avidly watch Gardener’s World you probably do), but rather than coming across as patronising or in a lecturing tone, it’s more of a shared consciousness. I know barely anything of plant names (Latin or otherwise) or how certain things should be done, but reading this I found  it’s pleasantly engaging

Overall, there is an integral warmth to this book this which must be experienced in kind to truly create the full effect; read outside on sunny days on a soft lawn, with eyes squinting against the sunlight. The nostalgia winds through the narrative but doesn’t overwhelm and it’s nicely complimented by Nigel, who gently trips through the whole book looking for tennis balls, colouring it golden and bringing forth visions of long lazy afternoons and abundantly green gardens.

Monty

Photo Credit – My very own Man Muffin. He’s getting so good at this now!

~

Anyway, I’m one review down and it’s hump day tomorrow – things can only get better, right?

Fully Booked – A weekend of being busy and bookish

Happy Tuesday to one and all! I hope you enjoyed the Bank Holiday and aren’t too upset to be returned to your original schedule. I have been repulsively productive this weekend (I think I might have had a mini breakdown) and completely blitzed the en-suite and the bedroom. I vacuumed ceilings with various attachments, I washed curtains, I found bank statements from 2007 (why?!) and threw out two bags of rubbish. Poor Ross was drafted into assist with the bedroom, but I did treat him to a Primark shop and take him to watch the new Guardians of the Galaxy in a cinema with reclining seats (say whaaaaaat), so he really can’t complain too much. I also spent yesterday making stencils with my new laminator (Lexy) and painting tropical patterns all over our bedroom cabinets, because who doesn’t want jungle chic in their bedroom?

Cupboard

Getting closer to becoming a Wild Thornberry one stencil at a time

We also had some good news in the arrival of nephew numero uno, Stanley Andrew Darby Pendlebury (weighing in at a tiny 6.02). There have been some adorable pictures and even though he was super early, everyone is doing fine. We’re going to visit him later this evening, so prepare for more photos. In the meantime, please enjoy this gem:

Babies

Sister Robyn looking adorably perplexed to see her new brother in situ.

I also spent a majority of yesterday listening to The Red Necklace as read by Tom Hiddleston, which I have to say is just delightful. I haven’t really done that many audiobooks (ignoring my fascination with PG Wodehouse tapes at bedtime) but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the superbly talented accents of Mr Hiddlescake whilst doing my afternoon DIY.  I definitely think I might have to find some more to enjoy, especially whilst doing my craft projects. In the meantime though, I’ve got my HUGE list of new books to get through, and in honour of that I’ve decided to do a Pre Book Review for you all to enjoy (you’re welcome).

Ten books. Ten pre-reading opinions. Ten further posts seeing if they lived up to my expectations. Boom. Say hello to a million blog posts about my massive book lust. I mean, let’s face it, there’s another 21 books that I’ve not even mentioned that I’ll want to review as well…you might want to strap in.

PRE-BOOK REVIEW

5 books I am most looking forward to reading:

1)      Nigel – My family and other dogs by Monty DonI love Monty Don. Like love him. It’s my fascination with Kevin Whately (Detective Inspector Lewis) all over again. I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about slightly saggy tired looking old English men that really works for me – it’s like some kind of soothing fascination. I will happily lose hours to Gardener’s World and watching Monty potter around with a complete lack of urgency and a following of adorable doggos. My adoration only really started last year, though I have been aware of him for a while, but it has blossomed rather fantastically. I think it partly helps that I have one memory that really sticks with me of watching RHS flower show one year with the family and hearing Robin ask what his last name was – because she though his first name was Montydon. It left us all in hysterics and still brings a smile to my face whenever I see him.  Now typically I am not too interested in biographies, but I’m willing to waver that for dear Monty. The fact that he’s played on a Gerald Durrell title only adds to the joy, as the Corfu Trilogy (starting with My Family and Other Animals) is one of my favourites and anything that plays homage to it can’t be bad. I’m expecting great things from this book, and I hope I shall be able to tell you it delivered.

2)      Rivers of London Series by Ben AaronovitchI read the first one these a few years ago and remember being completely engrossed by it. The basic premise is something I can always get behind – Urban Fantasy according to wikipedia, and this was so engagingly written I think I flew through it in about two days. The plot focused on a young police officer who (amongst plenty of other things) has to search for and stop some unknown entity who is turning people into twisted murderous versions of Punch and Judy. Now I despise Punch and Judy with an unequalled passion; there is literally nothing about the puppet show that works for me at all and I will go on a rant about them if required. Still I think that element added another level of grotesque fascination to my reading, so I’ll be interested to see if Mr Aaronovitch can maintain the attraction in the later books. The covers alone are pretty pleasing too, so I have high hopes.

3)      LumberJanes (a comic)I can’t actually remember what introduced me to this originally. It was probably a Buzzfeed article, but it made such an impression I ordered it directly afterwards. I still haven’t had chance to look at it though, and it’s been sat on my “To Read” shelf for about 3 months now. It is set around a summer camp for “Hardcore Lady Types” and five scouts of varying levels of awesome – it’s basically everything I’m looking for in life. It’s had excellent reviews and has been described as both accessible and girl friendly in a typically male dominated medium, so I am prepared for it to jump right to the top of my favourite comic list. I’m hoping to be able to pick this up pretty soon, and it won’t take me very long to read so I shall provide a post review asap.

4)      Catch 22 by Joseph HellerI remember really enjoying the film when I saw it a couple of years ago (I think I could totally forge passports in a bathtub) but I’d never really thought too much about the book. Whilst in Hay on Wye though, it was one of those books that seemed to pop up in every shop and after hearing Woo talk about wanting a copy, I felt slightly overwhelmed by the urge to give it a go. It’s a pleasingly weighty copy, so it’s one I’ll probably save for a holiday or a week off, but I’m looking forward to it and I’m hoping that it will please me as much as the film (even if I have committed the heinous sin of watching something before reading it’s primary source).

 5)      The Prince and the Zombie by Tenzin WangmoI found this one on a tucked away on a shelf in a corridor in another Hay bookshop. It was one of those ones that just caught my eye whilst I was reviewing something else and I almost didn’t look at it properly. It drew me back though and I’d turned to pick it up before I’d fully made it into the other room. The blurb speaks of a young prince sent to capture a zombie endowed with magical powers and the difficulties he faces in overcoming the zombie’s powers and completing his task. There was something about it that really appealed to me, but I still don’t really know exactly what. I think I’m secretly hoping this might be my magical book (because every good heroine starts her story with a magical book that leads her to adventures galore) so we shall have to see…

5 books with the most attractive covers – they always say you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but who really isn’t drawn to a book with an interesting cover?

1)      Memoirs of a Midget by Walter de la MareThis is one of those books that you look at, then double look at, then put back but keep in the back of your mind and proceed see in every shop you go in afterwards. I almost didn’t get a copy, but thankfully the choice was made for me and I was bought it as a birthday present. It’s a little startling in it’s title and it’s cover is pleasing in it’s simplicity – hopefully the story will follow through.

2)      Mister Memory by Marcus SedgewickTMM picked this one up and gave it to me with the tagline “this one looks pretty. Buy it if you like it”. So I did. The woman behind the till spoke about how beautiful the cover was too, so it really had to be on this list.

3)      The Virgin Cure by Ami McKayI’m always drawn to books with Victorian style fonts and this one was no different. I mean, this book looks like it’s going to have it all – sex, violence, kick ass Victorian ladies. What’s not to love?

4)      The Dark Secret of Josephine by Dennis Wheatley – We actually got this one from a pub in Warrington about three years ago. We were on a day out drinking with a friend and we’d gone into a pub that had shelves of books behind the seating area in true hipster fashion. Anyway, I can’t be presented with a bookshelf and not look at them, and this one stuck out with a elegant blood red leather covering and neat gold lettering. So I nudged and wheedled and prodded and did my best puppy dog eyes and eventually TMM went to the bar and after some smooth negotiating and a bit of a bemused bartender, we got two books for £7. Nice.

5)      Welcome to the Night Vale Joseph Fink & Jeffrey CranorI have been meaning to listen to the podcast for ages, but the cover of the book drew me in and I purchased it before I ever got round to the audio book. I’m a bit torn as to whether I should read it first or listen to the audio version, so I might just end up doing both at the same time and fully immersing myself on weekend.

So that’s my top ten , but I’ve got high hopes for all of them. I’m about half way through Monty’s now and going strong, so you should start to see my post reviews coming through soon. Until then, try not to miss me too much.

Book list

But first, let me take a #shelfie…

In Order: (top row L-R) The Prince and the Zombie by Tenzin Wangmo, The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, Rivers of London Series by Ben Aaronovitch, The Dark Secret of Josephine by Dennis Wheatley; Nigel; My family and other dogs by Monty Don

(bottom row L-R) Welcome to the Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor, Memoirs of a Midget by Walter de la Mare, Dead Interviews edited by Dan Crewe, The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay, The Mill Girls by Tracy Johnson, The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, Mister Memory by Marcus Sedgewick, Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, The Franchises Affair by Josephine Tey, Waiting for Robert Capa by Susana Fortes, LumberJanes by Stevenson/Ellis/Watters/Allen

(Not Pictured) The Eyre Affair Series by Jasper Fforde; The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins; The Empress of Ireland by Christopher Robbins

 

“Words, words. They’re all we have to go on”

So I learnt a new word the other day. Listening to No Such Thing as a Fish (a regular podcast featuring some of the QI elves sharing their favourite – and mostly hilarious – facts of the week) at about 1 in the morning whilst drifting off, a word broke through my sleepy daze and left me with a warm feeling in the language centre of my brain.

Aphelion.

At the point of hearing  it, I was too busy repeating it to myself (pleased at the shape of how it fits in the mouth) to actually listen to the definition. Instead I made a note to google it in the morning, and spent the bus journey to work proceeded to discover it’s meaning:

‘Aphelion’ – the point in orbit where the celestial body is farthest from it’s focus. Coming from the Greek “apo” meaning “away, off, apart” and “helios” meaning “the Sun”. (Typically comes around July 4 for Earth).

I’m always interested in astronomical terms, having a secret hankering for all things space-related, but I just find there something immensely pleasing about that one specifically. It’s one of those words that hits the holy grail; is pleasing to say, lovely to look at and has a beautiful definition. I like to collect words like that; never sure what I’ll use them for, but happy to have them in my private internal dictionary. Another favourite is ‘Lackadaisical’ – lacking in enthusiasm and determination, carelessly lazy. I still remember first coming across this word a few years ago in relation to a web comic involving anthropomorphised cats in 1930’s America. Oddly perhaps, I can’t actually recall much about the comic itself, but the word just ticked all of my boxes, including the fact it describes me perfectly, and it’s just stuck with me ever since.

Lackadaisy.png

Just a little scribble

I’ve always loved language, from the images it can evoke in the imagination to the joy of a perfectly calligraphised post card. Learning about the etymological history is something I will actually lose hours to, for no other purpose other than that I love a good origin story. Strangely, I’m mostly unfussed by history and I get annoyed by puzzles with no answers (god it annoys me if I can’t figure something out), but learning about the backgrounds and roots behind language fills me with joy. (I think that might partly be why I love TMM so much – his puns and word play are strong). I find myself attracted to books filled with ebullient verbosity and flowery descriptions, much preferring to use a thousand words to say one thing rather than try and save time by only using one. With so much available to use in the English language (well known for rifling through the pockets of all other languages and taking the best bits for itself), why stifle yourself to using something boring and conventional?

Admittedly, I say this and still end up sticking to the same old speech patterns (over-flowing with generalisational basatardisations and unnecessary vulgarities) but it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate language in the mouth of someone else. A good play always allows for extravagant wordiness and fitting nicely in that vein, we went to watch Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (by Tom Stoppard) last week. A homage to the characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the script is fantastic and was delivered wonderfully. Admittedly, as with most Shakespearian styles, a lot of it washes over me unless I can spend days sat down deciphering each line – in both literal and often metaphorical meanings (again, something I enjoy doing far too much. I remember doing Twelfth Night and college and falling more in love with it during every seminar). However there were some particular lines that struck a resonance with me, both because of their poeticism and their deeper meanings.

“Uncertainty is the normal state. You’re nobody special”

This version was done by the National Theatre Live, so we were able to watch it streamed live from the Old Vic in London to our local cinema, and it wasn’t the first time we turned the corner into the screening to be confronted by a wall of pensioners and hipster looking older couples. NTL is an initiative set up by the Royal National Theatre which broadcasts live productions to cinemas globally, and so far it’s allowed us to watch Frankenstein (both versions involving Benefruit Cumbersnack and Johnny Lee Miller in the revolving roles (twice)), War Horse (literally all of the crying at wooden horse puppets) and Coriolanus (which was spectacular. I know I adore Tom Hiddlesbum anyway, but damn was he great in that. There were also some interviews before it started which allowed us to see  Tom’s process for getting into character and also spurred a month of obsessive listening to Holst – apparently Mars is excellent for embodying furious Roman soldiers).

This showing of R&G are Dead (or Gilbert and Hammerstein are Peaky as Ross kept calling it – his brain is a magical place) was superb. I knew a little about the story before going in if only because I remember Harding Major enjoying the 1991 film with Tim Roth and Gary Oldman. I’ve never actually seen it, but through sisterly bonding I absorbed the general gist. Anyway with neither of us having ever actually seeing or studying Hamlet, I think we may have been put at a slight disadvantage, but we’re clever kids and got the gist. We had a lovely little tea beforehand and discussed our knowledge (or lack thereof) before deciding to give it a quick google. Admittedly, that might have been a mistake after it was compared almost immediately to Waiting for Godot, which was something we stumbled upon watching last year and left feeling slightly cross eyed. However, the Wikipedia gave us plenty of new themes to look out for, including “existentialist tragicomedy” and “Meta theatre” (a term which we kept excitedly whispering to each other during salient points). Overall I spent about a good 57% not being too sure what was going on, but a couple of solid realisations hit me some time in the second half (I knew the ideas, but I didn’t know them until then, you know?) and I think next time we watch it I will be ready. On a purely physical basis though, the costumes were gorgeous and the casting was excellent. Considering that for a majority of the play it was just Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire on stage, they were incredibly engaging and entertaining, and had a brilliant chemistry the really struck a chord with me. Also there was some great hair (DR’s facial hair is really working for him). By the time it was over, we were in thoroughly high spirits and developed a strong desire to learn to play the Question Game.

Film

Obligatory cinema selfie, along with proof we went to watch culture. And had tea.

We also got to finally see the new version of Beauty and the Beast after a couple of aborted attempts (man that film sold out quickly) with the team this weekend. Considering I’ve never been a massive Disney fan (blasphemy, I know) I thoroughly enjoyed it. Visually, it was absolutely stunning and has firmly reminded me of how much I secretly love filigree and gold brocade on everything. The costumes and cinematography were intricately beautiful and Emma Watson once again rocked the bookish and sassy stock character whilst reaffirming my love of her button nose and freckles.

I do have to admit though (and I can already hear the gasps of horror) that I am still a little bit cautionary of the story as a whole. Is it really a tale as old as time? Should we be encouraging our young women to fall in love with strange beasts who keep them hostage and then have a catchy number about being friend zoned? I mean, sure he was hot, but I really don’t think Stockholm syndrome is the best start for a relationship. Then again, what’s a bit of bestiality among friends as long as we’re not letting children and people of gentle sensibilities in the southern states of America watch GAYITY?! (Not that I’m outraged by that or anything…) Anyway, I did still enjoy it and as expected, I felt pretty much the same about the transformation of the Beast as did when I watched the original cartoon – boys with long hair are all very well and good, but we would have all preferred if he’d kept the fur and the horns.

Saying that though, I do have a love for Dan Stevens (who was the Beast) and he was obviously on my mind, because I then proceeded to stay up far too late on Sunday night binge watching his new series Legion on NowTV. 6 episodes in and I still don’t have a clue what’s going on, but very much like R&G are Dead, I’m bloody loving it. I would like to give you a brief summery of what I’ve seen so far, but I considering my not-so-limited vocabulary, I really don’t have to words to describe it. It would appear that I’m all up for challenging myself mentally as well as physically this year…Who knew?

To Hip or Not to Hip? Is that the Question?

So I’ve started this week with freshly dyed hair again. The blue was starting to fade rather dramatically and my roots were coming through at a drastically unnecessary rate. I wouldn’t mind so much if I had a decent natural colour or even a nice big white mallen streak (which I am still holding out hope for) but unfortunately it’s a no go. I’ve got that bog standard mousey brown which is pretty much identical to when you mix all the paints together in the hope of creating a rainbow and instead get a sad muddy sludge. (Apologies if anyone actually happens to a) have that hair colour or b) like it. You probably look glorious with it. I just look like a drab Victorian peasant).

I have rebelled against the status quo as always though, and this time I’ve gone for a delightful mishmash of green shades; a summery selection of daffodil yellow, spring, apple and UV blue. TMM was excellent as always, frolicking about in his pants with the bleach brush and helpfully shaving the pattern on my under cut (before napping HARD). I was hoping for a kitty cat design, but he said he’s starting small and stuck to simple chevrons, and after the last incident (when I was left as bald as the proverbial) I suppose I can’t blame his caution.

Whilst doing my hair though and staring gormlessly into my own dye splattered reflection, I was led to pondering upon a deep philosophical dilemma – a generational query that has plagued millennials for a while now…

Is it hipster to have been hipster before hipster was cool?

Now I am firmly of the belief that as much as I laugh at the hipster culture, I am unapologetically ensconced within it. I may scoff, but I like an underground subway tiled, steam punk inspired cocktail bar as much as the next person, and I already own two Edison light bulbs. It’s definitely an undeniable fact as well that there are quite a few new additions to my lifestyle that could be laid at the feet of the hipster gods – having fruit and yoghurt for breakfast every morning in branded Kilner jars (because apparently we’re jar snobs) and spending our weekend making furniture from pallets that I like to describe by using vulgar terms like “bespoke” and “neo-vintage”.

I mean, we own all of those things. Not even pretentiously.

The thing is though, I was doing a lot of these long before it was cool. Big framed Jarvis Cocker glasses and rainbow hair have been part of my life since the early 2000s, and even though my blog is a relatively new addition, my need to offer DIY self help advice through rousing motivational speeches and/or Facebook messages is a lifelong past time. Whilst there are many of aspects of this particular fad that I love, I love them because I want to, not because pinterest encouraged me to. Men with beards have been a fascination of mine ever since I was a tiny tot (seriously I had such crushes on Wolf from Gladiators and Worf from Star Trek because of the amount of fantastic hair on show) and I will happily stare lovingly at anyone in trouser braces, regardless of age, gender or how creepy it makes me look.

I think the trouble stems from the fact I’ve always been a bit of an oddball. I am unaccountably shy, but desperate to be noticed and I will wear what I like and damn the consequences. I remember having a pixie cut in high school, knowing full well it would lead to bullying (and that REALLY awkward moment when the prefect in the girl’s toilets thought I was a boy and shouted at me) but it was still worth it. (Super healthy hair, no time spent faffing about in the morning and I totally looked like an adorable fairy – just ask my mum). Dying it was something I was DESPERATE to do, and after a few years of sensible (read boring) school appropriate hair, I got my mum and sister to dye it the most vivid pink we could find. I could never go back to normal hair now, and I laugh in the face of anyone who tells me I have to. When I started this hair based vanity project, only weird punks in inner city Manchester or arty kinds on TV had rainbow locks. Now, it’s all the hipster rage to have a flash on colour or an ombred pastel do. I’m not sure how many people see it as such an integral part of who they are, but I for sure know that I do it not because of the impact it has on other people (though that is pretty awesome), but because of the impact it has on me. It does help that both my sister and dad have had bright hair in the past, and my Neens has purple hair right now (a more hip and happening septuagenarian there has never been) and I WILL tell people that the bright coloured hair runs in our family DNA just to watch the confusion blossom on their faces.

Whilst my “style” (or possibly lack thereof) lends itself to this hipster curve, I hate to say it wasn’t really that intentional. The way I look, just like my annoyingly nerdy personality, are elements of me that have been around long before hipsters were. I’ve always been a complete sci-fi/fantasy nerd and been involved in more than one argument with someone who thought that just because I was a girl I wouldn’t have any clue about Farscape or the characterisation of Jean Grey. The good thing about this social movement is that it’s much more acceptable now to be weird and I really can’t say that’s a bad thing. We might laugh at the notion of the “hipster”, but what’s wrong with making these things something to be proud of? I like that there’s pop-up organic cafes popping up all over the place, and that playing the accordion whilst wearing herringbone trousers is the “done” thing. It’s not hurting anyone and it’s definitely one of my preferred movements (surely it’s better than the tight pony tails, shell suits and choreographed dance routines of the 90s?)

Who knew though, that I would eventually fit into the “IT” crowd? I still remember looking in a mirror a few years ago and being shocked by the fact I looked just how I wanted myself to look when I was a little girl dreaming of growing up. I mean, I would have maybe liked more tattoos and less mental issues, but I always knew how I wanted to end up, and it’s quite rewarding to know that there’s a huge chunk of my generation who thought it was a pretty cool place to end up too.

Of course there’s still a kind of soft cultural mockery directed towards hipsters, just like there is with every generational fad, and it’s completely understandable. It is pretty hilarious that moustache waxing and banjo playing are encouraged, and it’s a little bit weird how much of my instagram feed is filled with artfully displayed avocado based meals and hilariously depressing cat memes. Whilst I poke fun though, it would hypocritical of me to fight against the label. I’ve spent today wearing non-ironic dungarees and writing a ridiculously verbose post-modernistic hipster-ception commentary blog post. I am just as much to blame as anyone else, but I can’t say I really mind. Fads will come and go, and even though I might be cool now, I can bet you a dollar I won’t be in a few years. The real question though is, does it  matter? Will I care that in the future my colourful hair, my love of space and my inordinately large stack of country CDs will be laughed at rather than lorded?

Will I boot.

dungarees