Birthday Bonanza

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Well that’s it folks, I have officially joined the 27 club. My birthday has come and gone and I am now firmly in the realm of “being responsible” and definitely no longer young enough to accidentally commit a crime but still avoid jail time (which is an irrational but very specific fear I have. My mother has promised that if, god forbid, I should end up embroiled in an accidental life of crime and sent to the Big House, she’ll come bail me out with a file baked in a cake and a Thelma and Louise style getaway – hopefully sans the cliff dive – but I’d rather just try and avoid the whole thing altogether if possible). As I pointed out to a colleague, if I were a rock star I could totally die now and join the hallowed halls of the Forever 27, though thankfully I’m boring as sin and highly unlikely to shuffle off this mortal coil through excessive drug use or car vs. tree related incidents. I’m pretty much planning on seeing this year out in the same style as the old one.

As always though, I’ve had an excellent birthday haul so kudos to all who we’re involved. You’ve all done very well and should give yourselves a nice pat on the back. Admittedly, I may or may have not started opening some presents on the previous Monday, but I did have to go to the dentist and gifts were coming through the letter box with tempting regularity, so I don’t really see how I can be blamed for getting carried away. Also, I’m a grown up now, and can open my presents whenever I please, so there. I would like to thank my dad and his lovely lady friend for their promptly posted and delightful gifts which made me smile after having to go and be super brave with hygiene specialists.

I also had to open some presents early when we went to see TMM’s clan (because I wouldn’t see them on the day and it would have been rude not to show my gratitude) and as per they excelled themselves present-wise (not to rub it in but I am 100% their favourite child, soz not soz). I got not only a yummy tea, but also a fancy box of Ferrero Rocher (TMM successfully demonstrated how he’s been unhealthily influenced by my family by not being able to help quoting “you’rr spoiling us ambassador” every time I offer him one), charming gin related paraphernalia, bath bombs, summer wreath kits, a puppy fuss (the last one now since all the puppies have gone to their new home and not one of those homes was mine, boo hiss) and a snotty kiss off beautiful baby Thea.

My work colleagues also did extremely well, but to be honest I didn’t give them much option as I had very handily provided a laminated and regularly updated daily countdown from around the 163 day mark. Whilst the Friday wasn’t the most enjoyable of days (stupid busy work), the gift giving was top notch and the presents were smashing. Some of you may have already seen Leroy the Llama mug, who is now my designated tea vessel of choice, though he provides much hilarity when he pokes my eye every time I get near to the bottom of my brew. I also got Sydney Sloth the phone holder who has helped with finger cramp, and a selection of others joys including but not limited to; a lovely framed print of a flamingo among pigeons, fancy neon coloured booze (my favourite kind) and some rather gorgeous lilies that proved themselves to be almost fatal to some old dear on the bus home. I also got two books from my boss (who requested a special shout out, so word to her) that give the definitions of lots of weird and wonderful words that have had us in fits of laughter when we probably should have been busier doing what we’re paid for. We have educated ourselves though, and have some excellent new words to add to our vocabularies, such as “Kinabra – the Greek word for the stank of a billy goat” (please note, the italics are a direct quotation) and “Kakopyge – someone who has ugly buttocks” (pg. 136 of The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Words by George Stone Saussy the 3rd). Sadly none of us have managed to shoehorn them into a telephone call yet, but we’ll keep trying.

Look at my beautiful things. LOOK AT THEM.

TMM did his level best to spoil me rotten whilst adhering to the proviso he wasn’t to get me much. He not only made me pancakes in bed, he didn’t make me move until about 3 o’clock and then treated me to a new Lush face mask, some Primark jeans, a showing of Deadpool 2 (with Ben and Jerries’ ice-cream!) and a lovely Starbucks lunch. (This in itself was fun because I had hibiscus iced tea which is simultaneously the most hipsterish thing EVER and the tastiest drink I’ve had in a long time. The lovely Barista lady was a complete doll too, and did my a nice little happy birthday message and got my name right (though the more I look the more it looks like Eleanour, but still the first bit is right and that’s what usually throws people). I also got taken to the stage version of Thoroughly Modern Millie which was excellent (if questionably racist in sections) and have consequently spent the last two days fake tap dancing around the house, saying “oh terrif” with unnecessary amounts of enthusiasm and telling TMM how thoroughly modern I am. Admittedly, he’s been doing pretty much the same thing as he is definitely a modern woman, so its worked out well.

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It’s nearly Eleanor, so we’re definitely accepting it as a win.

*Speaking of, if anybody missed our Eurovision dress up last week on my Instagram last week, you really need to go and have a look. TMM went as Conchita (the winner a few years ago, with the amazing eye makeup and perfectly sculpted beard), and I have to say I have never been more proud of my make up abilities. TMM is a pretty hunky looking chap, it can’t be denied, but I literally don’t think I’ve ever seen a more attractive woman. His cheekbones take highlight like a champ and I found myself staring dreamily at his profile whilst the light glinted of them. It was like Xena Warrior Princess with chest hair. I couldn’t even bring myself to be annoyed at how pretty he looked, because I was too busy being deeply in love with his beautifully shadowed eyes and cow-like eyelashes.

Team were as good as they always are and newest edition Yoga Martin BBQ’d like a master (I’m pretty sure the BBQ was planned anyway, but I’m just going to assume it was in honour of my birthday and give him my birthday kudos blessing like the magnanimous delight I am). Turns out I am now all about barbequed fish like you would not believe and having it three times in two weeks is really as good as you could want it to be. There was much hilarity with axe throwing (which I definitely not good at), archery (which I watched from the side-lines shouting out helpful safety tips), air rifle shooting (which I enjoyed but hit absolutely nothing with) and I left with twice the amount I’d birthday cake I’d arrived with, a delightful doodle book/wonderfully pleasing coloured pencils and a date to walk with llamas in June (YASSSSSSS).

In true Indian wedding style (the perks of having a far flung family) the celebrations will continue throughout the week, and I know I’ve still got a My Hermes (family couriers of choice) parcel on its way from dearest Neens. We’ve also planned a trip to visit Mother and the rest of the Welsh Massive at the weekend too, though admittedly Hans the Devil Chariot is still beeping endlessly so we might be slightly frazzled (read – murderous) by the time we get there. It’s definitely worth it though, because I have siblings to squeeze, cousins to cuddle and a game of Cards Against Humanity or two to enjoy.

Now before I sign off, I thought I’d just leave you with some fun facts and notable events from my date of birth (other than the obvious *twirls*) that might help you in a pub quiz one day.

1) 1536 – The Execution of Anne Boleyn (cheery)

2) 1885 – 1st mass production of shoes by Jan Matzeliger in Lynn, Massachusetts (this fact pleases me immensely and I’m not sure why)

3) 1897 – Oscar Wilde released from Reading Gaol (Reading as in the place, not the act, which confused me more than it should have done for a minute)

4) 1928 – 51 frogs enter 1st annual “Frog Jumping Jubilee” in Angel’s Camp, California (I mean, why not)

5) 1939 – Birth of James Fox (phwoar)

6) 1948 – birth of Grace Jones (who terrifies me ever so slightly)

7) 1962 – Marilyn Monroe sings “Happy Birthday, Mr President” to John F Kennedy (My Mother did a great rendition of this down the phone to on my birthday)

8) 2018 – Meghan and Harry get married (you might have seen it mentioned briefly on the news)

9) 2161 – Syzygy: 8 of 9 planets aligned on same side of sun (something to look forward to)

I hope you all get at least one of those stuck in your head for next year in honour of me. TTFN.

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Do Ebears Dream of Electric Sheep?

Dream Blog Title Box

So I’ve had a little re-vamp with the layout, though I cannot claim true inspiration as I definitely stole this off somebody else. Still, they say mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery, and I can only hope nobody is too distraught at my blatant plagiarism of ideas. The trouble is, as much as I try not to be, I often find myself being a tad more about style over substance and I spent far too much time making new jazzy title boxes and far too little time actually writing my blog.

This week’s topic was actually suggested by Jonbles, and for want of anything new, exciting and specifically noteworthy occurring in my regular day to day, I’ve gone at it as best as I can. Ultimately though I think we can all agree that if it’s crap, it’s all his fault and I’d like to ask you to direct any and all complaints to Mr Jonbles at Jonble’s House, Fake Street, Hecouldntcarelessshire, England. I do actually have a great little prop for this topic, which I was surpised but pleasingly chuffed to remember I own.

I bought this on a whim at a book sale in Buxton, along with a copy of When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne which is absolutely darling and brings back fond memories of childhood. Apparently, The Royal Imperial Dream Book of Fate and Fortune Telling (published 1870) is the key to helping you to decipher the inner workings of your internal, sleep submerged subconscious. (Side note, it also provides Prognosticators by Dice, Auguries by Dominoes and Signs Heretofore Related to Physiognomy). I’m not 100% convinced on the accuracy of it’s teachings, but I have thoroughly enjoyed accosting people to get examples of the dreams and then deconstructing them and providing extracts of the most hilarious bits in voice notes on Whatsapp.

The trouble is, as much as I dismiss dreaming as the ramblings of a distracted and decompressing mind, I do actually have quite a lot of weird dreams. My family have rather vivid dreams; my dad dreams in black and white, Mother has a recurring stress dream of being on a Penny Farthing that’s hurtling out of control and my sister is the undisputed ruler of weird ass dreams; there was that one time she ate half a pillow because she was dreaming of marshmallows.

Admittedly, I don’t dream quite as vividly as I used to which is quite a shame, but I still have regular forays into the dream landscape. There are a few of my childhood dreams that stick in my head even after all this time, but that’s because they terrified me. Whilst I can’t say that I’ve ever had particularly dramatic nightmares, I’ve had a couple that have dug into my psyche and left their marks. The first dream I can ever remember having involved me being chased around my grandparents beautifully manicured lawn by a man in a giant gorilla suit and the Quaker Oats man on a giant ride on mower. Not too terrifying you might think, but I remember having to rush into my parent’s bed and cowering under the duvet. Even now I still get a twinge when I look at the Quaker Oats porridge box.

The only other dream I can remember with startling clarity involved a huge warehouse full of plastic Pokeballs (the kind of ones you get out of those 20p vending machines on piers) stacked high on shelves and an absolutely MASSIVE pelican with razor sharp teeth eating people. Whilst I know exactly where the pelican came from (there was a pub we used to drive past on my way to Drama class and for a period of about two months they had a sign with a rather hideous cartoon pelican on. Thankfully they didn’t deign to keep it, but the damage to my malleable and delicate child mind was already done), I have no idea what the message behind the dream was. Sadly, both pelicans and quaker oats appear to be a little outside the spectrum of my dream book.

As is universally known though, no matter how exciting your dreams are, they are never as interesting to anyone else. (Please enjoy how I acknowledge this only after I’ve given you a couple of my own personal examples). Anybody who tells you otherwise is either incredibly bored with whatever else they’re doing or fibbing. There’s something about dreams – possibly how personal yet inactive they are, that leaves people with glazed expressions and a sudden urge to be anywhere else. At least when you’re being told something that has really happened to someone, there is an actuality there, and often something to relate to and allow the conversation to grow naturally. Dreams allow for no other response than “huh, weird”.

Still, there is a huge collective of people who study dreams and try to find a logical answer as to why we do it, and possibly uncover the secret messages there within. There is actually a name for the study of dreaming – ‘Oneirology’ (you can be an Oneironaut which is the most pleasing thing ever), but I can’t imagine its particularly satisfying. You can only ever make subjective conclusions, and nobody wants to spend their time doing that for someone else.

I approach the whole act of dream detectivism in a way very similar to that Eddie Izzard sketch from Glorious (1997). “A man comes up to me covered in jam and he sings, ‘Oh, I am a man-hippo’ and he brings me spoons and his buttocks explode and his brother drives a small snail towards me very slowly. ‘What does it mean?’ The interpretation’s always ordinary. ‘You didn’t get on with your father when you were a child.’” To be honest, I think that’s a pretty sound summary of the whole process of investigating and defining them. So, in order to bring some laughter back from the proceedings, I’m going to share with you some of my favourite definitions from the Imperial Royal Dream Book. It starts with a cute little preface (as all good books should), stating “Nothing which is natural is entirely useless. Dreams must be intended to fit some purpose”. I mean, I suppose I can’t fault the logic.

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Doesn’t it look so mystical and delightful?

The first half of the book is dedicated to an alaphebetically structured list of any possible dream content. And believe me when I say, those things are niche. For example, did you know that you could dream of a colliery, yew tree or scullery maid? I’m not too sure what your brain has been paying attention to to make this the case, but there we go. Where you aware that if you dream of a cow, there’s a whole world of meaning that you just weren’t thinking about, and it’s not as cute as you might think!

“Should a young woman dream of being in danger from a cow, she may rely that she has a powerful rival. For a man to dream of a cow implies that he has an enemy who will do much to injure his character. To dream of milking a cow foretells much sickness, and to a woman about to be confined a bad time (a bit threatening I feel), and thst she will have a dead child”. I mean, it’s a bit harsh, isn’t it? Little did I know, but cows are the true harbingers of doom.

Hats and the arts of Milliny are equally as dark. “Should you dream that you lose your hat, be aware that you have an enemy doing everything in his power to injure you, and that you willgreatly suffer thereby. To dream that another is wearing your hat implies that some one will obtain something you should probably have. To a young man, in love, it shows a rival will supplant him the affections of his mistress. If a Milliner dreams that she has secured the patronage of some ladies of wealth and influence, it is a sign that she will soon be visited with heavy trials, losses in busiess, and eventually come to extreme povetry”. Who expected hats to be such damning objects? Such small, unoffensive objects and yet they apparently lead to abject sadness.

My personal favourite was Tortoise though. It had me in actual hysterics and took me about half an hour to read out to TMM because I had to keep stopping to wheeze and wipe the tears from my eyes.

“Dreaming of a tortoise indicates your business will fail and that you will be obliged to seek your fortune in a foreign country, that you will suffer many hardships and difficultieis, and that you will have a deal to contend with, but that after many years of toil and suffering, you will suddenly become rich and return to your own country, where you will marry a beautiful woman and be happy, and have many children.” It’s an epic story in single sentence! How gutted would you be if, at the tender age of 14, you dream of a seemingly innocent tortoise and the come to the realisation that that your whole life is now laid out and that you are to expect many years of sadness, failure and heartbreak? Though I suppose knowing you’ve got a nice wife and tons of kids to look forward to eventually is a slight balm.

Indeed, this wonderful book has brought such joy to my life and there is still so much of it to enjoy. I think next week I might look a little more into the meanings behind crooked noses and unfortunately located moles. I might even open up a virtual walk-in centre, and allow readers to come to me with queiries and questions regarding their subconscious visions, odd shaped blemishes and the specifically placed dominoes. And that’s not even addressing the last chapter, which has a whole section on love spells…

Shelf Life – Give a girl a book, she’ll read for a day. Give a girl a library and she’ll read forever

Rejoice Readers, for I have good tidings – Spring has finally Sprung! It is upon us in all it’s majesty and I for one am immensely grateful. The clocks have changed, the days are longer and if I hear one more person threaten me with another terribly named weather front, I will pitch an absolute fit. I have tasted sunshine and felt the soft summer zephyr on my face and I will be damned if I’m going to let the promise of another snowy weekend dampen my cheer.

To fully welcome the season (and bite my thumb at any lingering wintery atmospheric conditions) I’ve commissioned a lovely spring wreath to festoon my front door curtsey of the almost not quite but soon to be sister in law. TMM and I regularly drive past an adorable little house that really pulls all the stops out for year round seasonal displays and I’ve been completely bewitched by their practice of having a beautifully topical wreath always viewable. Last October, they had the most spectacular tea tray sized one made up of stunning coloured miniature pumpkins that must have weighed and absolute ton. At Christmas they had a lovely simplistic arrangement of driftwood and currently they’ve got one made up of beautifully painted pastel eggs. In my infinite wisdom, I’ve decided we’re going to up our game and give them a run for their money. TMM’s sister has been attending a flower arranging course over the past few months, and paired with her fashion design University degree, it’s done me very well. I’m expecting great things from her for the rest of the year. My house is going to look freakin’ fabulous.

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Look how pretty!

We’re not doing too badly on the inside of the house either. TMM hasn’t quite fully got into his fitness groove but now that things are a bit tidier, he’s back onto his daily yoga routine (Bucky is incredibly interested in this and likes to help in his own, incredibly unhelpful, way). I have done absolutely nothing to improve my fitness (because I am forever destined to be a potato wedge and will definitely be one of the first to go when the zombie apocalypse finally happens upon us) but project wise it’s all going quite smashingly. Over the weekend I managed to get a bit of a stomp on with the wedding place settings I’ve been tasked with for TMM’s brother’s wedding. Admittedly I have had them for a few weeks, but I’m finally on the home stretch now and am hoping to have them finished by Saturday, with 3 weeks to spare. After that, I’ve got a couple of personal requests from my best Woo for her yoga studio-cum-delightfully decorated bedroom and then I should be completely up-to-date with my commissions. I’ve still got plans for our living room (TMM shudders) but once the craft corner is re-vamped and everything is stocked in delightfully decorated and sensibly labelled boxes (FINALLY, says Woo, who has been far more involved in our house that she ever thought she would be), it’s going to be a dream.

A huge chunk of the work is done now that the bookshelves are finally finished (TMM breathes a huge sigh of relief) and as promised, please find a picture of them in situ. I’m pretty chuffed with how they’ve turned out and the amount of space they’ve given us is actually a little ridiculous. I think we’ve both been a little panicked at how much room on there is (bookshelf number 5 in the corner has two completely empty shelves!) and TMM has demanded an immediate trip to the nearest bookshop and is chomping at the bit to start stocking up. I don’t think he actually has any idea of what books he wants to buy, but that’s never stopped him before. It’s more the prospect of having them there, ready and waiting, that he needs. I think he’s quite taken with the ides of an “anti-library” (a term I learnt from an article my dad pointed me to – please see the link below**) and the notion of being surrounded by so many unread books; the constant and steady reminder that there is an infinite amount of knowledge and experience available and the never-ending strive for personal improvement through learning (Or, I dunno, he just looks the look of it). I, on the other hand, am slightly panicked to know that I will probably never be able to read all of the books we will own in our lifetime and more often than not find comfort in picking up a well thumbed old favourite in favour of something new, because I aim for contentment rather than excitement. Still there’s a safety in unread books in that there is always something there to interest, engage and teach me, so whatever our reasoning, our library can continue to flourish.

These new bookshelves have also meant that we’ve been able to slightly categorise the books we already have (because we’re geeks with mental health issues and we can’t help try and identify patterns) and helped me flesh out a blog idea that TMM suggested a few weeks ago. He sent me a snapshot of a couple of questions that someone had asked regarding their favourite books, and whilst we were restacking, I couldn’t help but start to answer them for myself…

(I do warn you now, the answers get a tad incestuous because 1) I cannot ever just pick one answer to a question and 2) a lot of the things I love about one book overlap with the rest, which is why I love them in the first place, but I promise I’ll try not to repeat myself too much).

So, because it’s best to go big or go home, I’ve started with the hardest question. Favourite book of all time. And just to be annoying, I’m not going to answer it, because this is a stupid question. Seriously, who can pick a favourite book? It’s impossible. Anybody who can categorically chose one book to hold esteemed above all others is clearly an alien or an android and shouldn’t be trusted.

Ironically perhaps, considering my anger at the previous question, I have actually pinpointed a Favourite Series, though it is a bit of an extraneous question really, because all of the books mentioned (with the notable exception) are favourites of mine. Still, I can’t let a book post go by and not mention Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. I have gushed about these so much I have managed to make at least 4 other people read them (3 bought their own versions, the other was bought them as a Christmas present along with the threat of death if he didn’t read them). A series that comes with 6 novels (so far), a novella, a couple of short online stories, an audio book, additional comics and the one fantastic rap by Doc Brown is something that deserves commendation. The fact the actual stories are pretty fab doesn’t hurt either.

The next question is slightly easier, though not much because I literally cry at everything. A book that made you cry – let’s be honest. It would probably be easier to find one I haven’t teared up at. I mean, I’ve cried at lots of books. Sometimes I just cry because I love them that much, but I think the one that stands out for making me actually ugly cry is The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. The whole Northern Lights trilogy is stunningly moving and evocative, but I’m pretty sure I started crying about two chapters in and didn’t stop until about three days after I’d finished. Between losing favourite characters, having to endure biblical wars and ending on bittersweet endings to relationships you were convinced would survive, it’s a bit of heartbreaker.

The next choice made me cry too, but I hardly think it’s surprising. Naming a book that changed your life is possibly an obviously answer for anyone that knows me (and probably even for people that don’t). If anyone ever has to do a Mastermind episode on my life (it could happen!), Harry Potter will definitely come up. That series has had an actually ridiculous impact on my life. I cried, I laughed, I went to midnight opening sales and I bonded with my sister more than you’d ever think over those seven books. That story affected a generation of people world wide and I’m pretty sure it would be the answer to this question for more than just myself

To be honest, Harry Potter could probably answer nearly every one of these questions, including this next one. A book you always return to. Being who I am, I spend a lot of time retuning to books, because I fully adhere to the philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it”. Still, there are a couple of choices that I could easily pick from a line up to fit every eventuality in my life. One in particular is Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. Originally my sister’s (let’s be honest, most of these are), the copy of this that I have on my shelf is discoloured, crumpled, ripped in places and absolutely adored. It’s like a security blanket, a best friend and a diary rolled into one. It’s so embroiled in my life that each chapter reminds me of another time I read it; of a mood or memory or specific moment, and yet every time I pick it up, it’s a completely new experience.

The next question provides a bit of a U-turn and I’m almost ashamed to admit my answer. Worst book you’ve ever read. I am a tad sickened by this, but happy to give this title to Fifty Shades of Grey. Good god, could there ever be anything to beat that pile of badly researched, awfully written corrosive a-grade shite? No. No there could not. Unless Donald Trump rolled around on an ink pad and pressed himself against a piece of paper and published it. I can remember being sat in the bath reading a bootlegged copy of the second one on kindle (because like hell was I going to give any money to that cause) and absolutely raging, so much so that TMM threatened to confiscate it. Annoyingly, I had to read the whole series because I needed to know how truly awful it was, and let me tell you, that is a period of my life I will never be able to get back.

Conversely, my next answer brings nothing but sunshine and smiles to my life. Favourite childhood book. I naughtily have two answers here, but I read a lot as a child so you can excuse me. The first, Danny Fox by David Thomson, is a smaller yet perfectly formed trilogy that holds a place very dear to my heart. My wonderful Neens graciously allowed me to take possession of the family copies (dog eared, torn and adored) and they have prime place on the new shelf. Baby’s first crush (the Sailor), first feminist role model (the Princess) and first requested Christmas present (a Fox), they shaped my personality more than I think anyone could have expected. The second is The Land of Green Ginger by Noel Langley and is possibly one of the most quoted works in my family (except maybe Blazing Saddles). A beautiful, funny, charming and perfectly imagined story, it’s something I would recommend that every parent read with their child.

Which leads on very nicely to the next question – A book you would recommend. Once again, I’ve slightly cheated here because I have two. They’re both books that I’ve shouted from the rooftops about though, and as my poor book club WhatsApp group will attest to, I have shouted about them a lot. The first you may recognise from previous blog posts – My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. Seriously, I cannot say enough about this book to make you understand how much you have to read it. It is summer joy wrapped up in one beautifully envisioned bundle and it’s as enjoyable to read now as it was when my Neens used to read it to us of an evening time when we were little. The second is the first of a trilogy (read all three. Do it) – The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist. A decadently rich, wildly careening adventure full of erotic alchemy and gothic horror, it could not be more different to my previous recommendation but is by no means any less worthy of a look.

Now, as you may have guessed, nearly all of my answers for these are affected in some way by my family. I have been surrounded from birth by people who emboldened me to read everything I could find; who taught my to embrace my ability to devour the written word and who shared their own preferences and paramours that allowed me to find my own. The final question; Favourite Author, is a bit of a toughie, but I think there could really only ever be one answer. I can remember being absolutely fascinated by the artwork on the front covers the filled my father’s bookshelves as a tiny dot, and then being equally enthralled by the stories within as I got older and was encouraged to read them for myself. And I remember being so heartbroken that I cried like a baby when I learnt that he’d died. Terry Pratchett was a true artist who created a world so bold and bright that it will stand the test of time. His characters, his mythologies, even his turns of phrase are each as individual and irreplaceable as something can be and I am more than happy to lay down my fealty at the foot of his swivel chair.

So we come to the end of this week’s lesson. I hope you’ve all enjoyed this little peek into my library (and do please share any of your own answers because I do have some shelves that need filling).

Before I go though, I’d like to leave you with this final thought – A good book makes you want to discover more, to immerse yourself in that world and find out everything you can. It should leave you hungry, frustrated and immeasurably improved.

** https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/why-you-should-stop-feeling-bad-about-all-those-books-you-buy-dont-read.html_

No Money, Limited Space and Knee Deep in Promises and Projects. The Perfect Time to Start Something New…right?

Hello my little sprouts!
I hope all is well in your little corners of the world? I trust you’re all as pleased as I am at the blooming of daffodils and crocuses that are springing up all along the pavements, and that you’re starting to tentatively put away those big winter jumpers and look hopefully at short sleeved t-shirts. Admittedly, the sudden spells of snow and somewhat biting winds that have been battering at the flowers are making it a tad difficult to commit to that summer wardrobe, but I’m maintaining a firm air of positivity. I have also been the busiest of all the bees the past few days and this post comes to you from a much needed and wonderfully relaxing bath. Fernando the somewhat poorly balanced rubber flamingo has been providing some excellent moral support (as has TMM who is currently prostrate on the bathroom floor using the toilet roll as a pillow and reading).

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I’ve balanced him artfully on my knee for this pic, because left to his own devices, he just floats around sideways with his beak underwater.

Now what could possibly have kept you so hectic this weekend you ask, slightly dreading the answer. Well let me tell you, I reply, my somewhat manic grin making your concern completely founded.
As you probably already are aware, I have a penchant for getting these grand ideas, fixating wildly on them and then starting production at the most inopportune times. This month’s somewhat poorly timed venture was a casual re-haul of the living room. It started somewhat innocuously, as these things often do, with a casual remark made by an unassuming work colleague in regards to a lovely little hexagon shelf on the Primark Instagram. Such a small, harmless gesture you might think. Just one friend showing another some nice yet completely banal household items. Nothing that could cause any issues there surely? Well let me tell you, that is most certainly not the case. Within two hours, I’d mentally changed the entire layout of our living room (and the number of bookshelves, because why have just 3 bookshelves when you could have 6??), all to accommodate one simple £6 shelf.
Of course, it then transpired that these shelves could not be found locally for love nor money (or even slightly further afield when I made my dad go hunting around Manchester too) but by that point it was too late. The damage was done, the Ikea website was loaded in three different internet tabs on my phone and my dreams were rapidly expanding far quicker than my purse was able to keep up with.
Poor TMM, who has learnt to take this sort of situation in his stride, allows my flights of fancy and has proven nothing but supportable (even through my customary and somewhat non surprising mini breakdown at the weekend). He promised to take me to Ikea, look at countless Pinterest boards and nod where appropriate whilst I rabbited on about colour schemes, layouts and paint prices. Admittedly, there was a slight hitch or two (broken car exhausts) that threatened to derail me, but my creativity is made of sterner stuff. After being encouraged to purchase the slightly cheaper and somewhat more suitable bookshelves instead of the glorious corner curving, dangerously expensive set I originally had my eye on, I ordered three (2 big, one skinny) shelves of finest Billy MDF and a couple of storage boxes directly from the Ikea website. Now, I do still feel slightly cheated that I didn’t get meatballs or the chance to ride round on the trolley, which is literally a highlight of my life next to going to the car wash. Last time we went, small children were left gobsmacked as I rode astride a rolled up mattress and pushed round the warehouse at high speed. However, whilst my Ikea fix was to remain unsated, it did mean that my early Friday finish could be spent buying the correct painting equipment. It also gave me the opportunity to have a complete spur of the moment switcharoo regarding the paint scheme and we could pick up a sweet little build it yourself green house for TMM’s growing bucket garden. It meant as well that we had the sensible option of removing all the books, bits and bobs and fill up the cwtch in preparation for the delivery on Saturday morning.

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Before the carnage but after the first haul – it is not always this messy, I promise you.

And deliver on Saturday morning they did, I can tell you! Not having many large scale items delivered, we’ve rarely had to deal with the dreaded delivery slot drama, where they give you a helpful 7 hour window and then proceed to turn up three days later. Our slot was narrowed between 7am and 11am, and no points for guessing what time they appeared. They even called at 6.30am to confirm delivery, though it didn’t really do any good because I immediately and unthinkingly declined, believing it to be a completely unnecessary alarm. However, that put TMM on red alert and he was dressed and ready to receive by 6.50am. Within 20 minutes, two adorable looking chaps (Bobble Hat and Beardie) in high viz and the worlds biggest lorry (or at least that’s what it looked like compared to our tiny dead end of a road) were outside, unloading boxes galore and watching with rather bemused yet thankful expressions as TMM carried them all easily into the house. I saw this all from my vantage point under the duvet, peering out of the bedroom window like some kind of hermit crab. I am completely useless with strangers, early mornings or heavy objects and it was decided to be best for all if I just stayed safely out of the way. Beardie was apparently most concerned to make sure we had a good building playlist and Bobble Hat nearly spotted me owlishly peeping out through the window, and by 7.45 everything was in and ready for construction, which was a rather novel experience. Usually our Ikea trips happen late afternoon and we’re building dining room tables at 11pm at night. To have half the battle already won before breakfast time is pretty encouraging.
I eventually deigned to move downstairs at about 9am and we had a chill morning eating oatcakes with TMM’s parents who’d come to help fix Hans von Manschaft (the car) and take TMM out for a walk and some good photo opportunities. I, in the meantime, managed to mostly successfully construct a greenhouse in gale force winds and snow flurries (much to the amusement of the chap from next door who was moving stuff round and was only noticed by myself after I’d said the C word several times and pretended to use the cover as a parachute). I then constructed a half width bookshelf for the bedroom and primed half of one of the big ones before TMM made it home. Definitely one of my more industrious days.
Sunday was spent in a haze of priming, painting in plum and carefully positioning.IT became abundantly clear that I am in desperate need of a workshop (or a tad more self control when it comes to DIY) when I got to the point of having completely taken over the green house and the living room with deconstructed slabs of furniture all over the place. There was also a rather heart-stopping moment halfway through the first coat of the colour paint (after two coats of primer because I will make this shit look good) when we (read I) started to regret all of my choices. The beautifully red wine colour I had been envisioning seemed to be more of a lurid shade of fuchsia and I was furiously calculating if I could nip out and get a time of the dark green I’d originally planned. TMM was terribly sensible though and suggested that multiple coats would improve the look of the thing and then took me out to town to take my mind of it. After returning from a soothing cinema trip to see the new Tomb Raider (enjoyable, but room for improvement in upcoming chapters, 3 stars) he was proven right and the whole situation seemed much better.

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I had been hoping to show you some pictures of the garishly pink shelves and Buck’s adorable yet badly placed paw print, but I accidentally deleted the photos. So instead, here’s Bucky just helpfully sat right in the way giving me a disapproving stare.

Except, that is, for poor Bucky. Due to the toxic nature of the paint (and the fact he’d managed to sneak in and leave a incriminating paw print on one shelf) he was banned from the living room and spent the night with his nose pressed against the living room door, pathetically singing us the sad songs of his people.
Monday (and my final day of holiday allowance) was for final coats and explorative walks – TMM was going slightly stir crazy and was, I think, concerned at my lack of vitamin D and exposure to daylight. We racked up an impressive 10000+ steps on my third day of being awake and out of bed before 9.30am. It was around 7.30pm (who knew how long the days could be?!) before I had my customary strop when there was the inevitable hiccup during construction (I shouted, got hugged, sulked, got shouted at, nearly cried, got passively aggressively encouraged and finally came to my senses) and we got the frames up with minimal injury. I think I may have partly been upset about having to go back to work and give up my free and carefree lifestyle so carefully cultivated in that long weekend, but who knows. I also, rather annoyingly, did have to give up on my design plans for the backboards in favour of sensibility and peace of mind, but I’ve still got a couple of ideas up my sleeve for embellishment (WILL YOU NEVER LEARN, I hear the Greek chorus cry from the side-lines).
Tuesday morning saw me up even earlier than normal to get the final coat on everything and after a mildly harrowing day at work, we got the backboards hammered into place, the shelves on and the touch ups touched up. The colours look rather splendid and after a complimentary coat of wax I think they’re going to be a bit of alright. Unfortunately I haven’t had time too refill them in a carelessly yet totally artful fashion, but rest assured you’ll have photos next week to show the outcome. Overall I reckon its going to be an improvement and is going to allow us at least two more justifiable trips to Waterstones so I’m taking the whole endeavour as a victory.
Now, about those other 3 bookshelves that need painting….
(And in answer to your question, I still haven’t got that bloody Primark shelf.)

And so I fall in love just a little bit every day with someone new

Well it’s all been very exciting up this neck of the woods recently. With “The Beast From The East” making it’s way unrestrainedly through the country, there has been snow related chaos nationwide, so much so that I got to go home a whole half an hour early yesterday. I’m not complaining – I love a good snow day as much as the next person, but sometimes it does make you wonder how Great Britain was ever composed and disciplined enough to control an empire when we struggle to sufficiently grit major roads. Admittedly though, I think as a country we’ve been doing much better this time round than we have in previous years. I’ve barely witnessed any winter hysteria and the only person injured so far is TMM (and that was less of a physical concern and more of a personal slight – some young scrote threw a snowball at his testicles). To be honest, the best thing about the whole situation is the highly sarcastic and derisive nature we as a nation approach the snow calamatists with. *

* Sadly, I don’t think “calamatist” is a word, but it definitely should be, so I’m just going to go all Shakespeare on it and see if I can get it into the dictionary. Calamatist – noun – from Calamity – a person drawn to melodrama, overreaction and hyperbole.

It is communally known truth that we are unlikely to get any more than 2 inches of coverage, and that compared to the rest of the world, we get off incredibly lightly, and yet there still appear to be some poor souls who lose all sense or reason and flood to the nearest super market to clear the shelves. It seems not to concern them that most of the things they stock up on are perishable, or unlikely to be of any use in an emergency (I mean, who is stockpiling 0% fat yoghurt for this situation?!). I’ve found that these few idiots bring the rest of us together though, in a beautiful conglomeration of ridicule and mockery, as we all tut, shake our heads despairingly and share passive aggressive social media posts.

Things have seemed a littler perkier though, despite the unnecessary weather front, and I’ve decided to reflect such positivity in my blog this week. Over the last few posts, I feel like I’ve delved more deeply into wistful and morose introspection that I intended, and perhaps now is the time to try something a little more uplifting. Visiting my Mother last weekend has lifted my spirits and I think the Welsh country air has given me a boost. I’ve heard birds a’tweeting and seen daffodils spring into bloom and spent more time thinking about the things I love.

Love has indeed been in the air a lot recently. With all these designated celebrations and my numerous anniversaries (I don’t care what anyone says, I’m keeping them all. Why would I bunch them all into one specific date when I can spread the festivities? Since we’re not supposed to be doing presents, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to keep our first date, engagement and soon to be wedding anniversary separate). We’re apparently not the only lovebirds around the place either; Bucky keeps bringing his boyfriend home. It’s more surprising than not at the moment if we come home to find Mr Biggles (some big ass white cat from over the road who likes to help himself to our heating when we’re not in) not sitting at the top of the stairs, giving us his big eyes from behind the bannister. Considering how unhappy Bucky was when the other cat was with us (there was a lot of shade being thrown about and sad singing from under the bed) he seems rather taken with Biggles. For a while, we weren’t even sure Bucky was aware there was another cat in residence, but after we drooped him in front of Biggles and he did his sexy “let me rub myself all over the carpet in a sultry manner” in front of him, we’ve come to the conclusion they’re dating. They do make a rather pretty pair (I can’t stop myself singing “Ebony and Ivory”) and it bodes well for my dreams of becoming a crazy cat lady.

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Bucky, lying supine on my lap and dreaming fondly of his Biggles.

To this end, and in honour of such affirmative emotion, I’ve been thinking a lot about things I love. Specifically, those unexpected little things that you discover throughout your life and that weave themselves into your subconscious. Odd bits and bobs that somehow always seem linked to a happy memory and fill you with a sense of wellbeing without ever being obvious intruders. Little happiness burrs that latch on and have a delightful habit of making you smile without you realising. I’ve been making notes of mine for a while; just scribbling them down so that when I’m flicking through my notes later, they’ll pop up and remind me of something wonderful. A lot of mine focus around the senses and I’ve been a lot better at identifying them since using the sense technique to help with anxiety.

(It’s a cute little 5-4-3-2-1 coping mechanism for helping yourself to remain grounded. You pick a sense and name 5 things you can identify with it. Once you’ve done that, you pick another and name 4, and so on and so on. It’s easier to start with an obvious one, like 5 things you can see and work onto the harder ones. By the time you’re really focusing on the 1 thing you’re smelling, you’ve become a lot calmer.)

1 x Smell – Honeysuckle

The waft of a honeysuckle plant in someone’s garden always makes me pause for a moment and inhale deeply. It’s like an automatic trigger and it makes me stop whatever I’m doing, regardless of what it is, where I am or who I’m with, just in order to get a good lungful. I don’t even think it links to a specific memory or certain time, it just always makes me feel warmer when I spell it. I think it helps that it’s such a beautiful and evocative word, because we know how I feel about those.

2 x Taste – Hot Tea & First Mouthfuls

This one is a little weird, because it’s not actually the flavours but instead the actions involved. Making a cup of tea and taking a moment to just sit, warm cup in your hands, and take a few sips is possibly one of the most calming things I think anyone can ever do. I’m not sure if it’s a British thing (I still categorically believe you cannot call yourself British is tea isn’t your go-to beverage in times of stress), a family thing (if you’re with my Mother or my Neens and you’ve not got a brew on, something’s dreadfully wrong) or just a me thing, but the ritual involved around tea is one of the key pillars in my life.

First mouthfuls is similar in a way; it’s a tradition that was never specifically imposed but has somehow become crucial to me. If I’m eating with someone, I cannot start eating until everyone has food and is tucking in. It can be a family gathering, a cake with chums or even just eating tea with TMM, but I can’t start alone. There’s just something fundamentally social and authentic about enjoying the first bite together.

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I mean, look how perfect that is. what more can you want?

3 x Sound – Cat Purrs, Spanish Seas & Singing

There is not much better in this world that the sound of a cat purring on your lap. It signifies comfort, ease and the satisfaction of knowing that a cat not only chose you, but was happy enough to settle in for the long haul. Bucky has a purr like a motor engine and when he gets going can actually be so loud you can feel it through your skin. Ptolly-mo (my first cat, currently rooming with Mother) is an accidental purr slag – you can tell that he doesn’t really want you near, but once you stroke his head he can’t help but start purring away. Bobby (my Mother’s other cat) is a bit of a tough cookie to crack, but when he scrunches up his disgustingly beautiful eyes and trills away, I feel like I’ve basically won at life.

Music is an obvious contributor to nearly everyone’s happiness burrs I think, and the right song can flood your system with joy. I’ve currently been stuck on Toto’s “Spanish Sea” which has recently been released and it’s been in my head so much it’s actually been the soundtrack to a few dreams, which is a sign it’s a keeper.

My Mother’s singing is possibly one of the most evocative sparks though. It’s a bit ridiculous now because all she has to do is open her mouth in a choir and I’m crying. I mean, they’re good tears obviously, but it’s getting a bit embarrassing now.

4 x Touch – Soft Cotton, Supportive Arms, Knee Pits & Book Ache

Now I know this one is a family thing and I blame my sister and Mother for this. We spent countless hours in shops stroking smooth cotton items (we even had the “tummy test” where you had to rub it on your belly to see if it was soft enough – how we never got kicked out I will never know), but I find myself constantly running well worn blankets or silky sleeve cuffs across my lips. It sounds unaccountably weird when I write it now, but there’s something so comforting about brushing your lips gently with something smooth. I suggest you all try it and stop looking at me so accusingly…

Another weird one is something I specifically link to TMM, and I’m hoping he won’t judge me too much. He runs about 3000 degrees hotter than anyone I’ve ever met and is such a good soul, he always lets me put my cold feet on him in bed. He also provide truly excellent snugs, but there’s a bit when he pushes his hot knees (I mean, who even has noticeably hot knees?! My Man Muffin, that’s who) up into my knee pits and it’s possibly one of the most relaxing things ever. I don’t think I’ve ever had particularly cold knee pits before, but boy let me tell you, when they’re warm it really makes a difference.

Possibly less weird (though probably not) is actually a specific memory more than a continually achievable feeling. I’ve been remembering this one a lot due to the current climate and my completely irrational terror of falling over. It was whilst I was still living partly at Papa’s in Manchester and was coming home one super slippery snowy day. It was getting dark and I had a treacherous walk ahead of me. I was dithering near the exit to the tram stop, trying to find a way of walking as quickly as possible without slipping or looking like a complete tit, when this lovely gentleman walked past, gave me a searching look and offered me his arm. Now, I am horribly socially awkward and usually would have died at this, but I was just so grateful to have a supportive arm. We didn’t talk much (it was windy as shit) but he half carried, half dragged me all the way down the main road before making sure I was able to carry on across the crossing and home alone. I can’t remember what he looked like or if I ever saw him again, but I often remember his kindness whilst I’m slip sliding my way to work.

The last one is, unsurprisingly, a little odd too, but more in a kind of self-destructive kind of way. It’s the kind thing hard-core readers will relate to and wince at sympathetically. It’s the moment when you realise you’ve been holding your book so long that your fingers have gone numb. The moment when you have to make the harsh choice to stop your chapter, mid sentence, to put your book down and massage some life back into your blood drained hand. The moment the pins and needles you’ve be mind over mattering make themselves known rather dramatically and you regret, fleetingly, picking up the pretty hardback copy instead of the easy kindle version. It’s a pain, but it’s also a badge of honour.

5 x Sight – Bright Sunshine, Snow Wind, Wrist Bones, Cat Beans & Full Bookshelves

Now sight is probably the easiest one, and I had trouble narrowing down to just these five. You realise though, that there are just some things that stick with you, year in and year out and will pop up after an age and surprise you into smiling.

Snow wind is one of these for me. It’s that bit when you’re walking; bundled up to the eyeballs, hands shoved deep into pockets and pink nose buried in scarf, when there’s a gust of wind from behind you and the top layer of snow powder shifts and dances across the floor. It’s fleeting, hardly noticeable and completely magical.

Now I know I’ve already mentioned cats once, but they just make me really happy so suck it. I challenge anyone, when faced with a tiny toe bean on a cat paw doesn’t just scrunch up their face with love. I mean, I think some people (weirdos) prefer baby toes (TMM does get rather broody when faced with tiny baby hands) but there’s not much sweeter than a curled up cat cushion that lets you lie alongside them and play with their toe beans.

I also have a similar kind of fascination with wrist bones (though most people definitely DO NOT let you lie alongside them and touch theirs). I just find the intricate play of skin, muscle and bone so delicate and I’m constantly amazed by the strength that can be held in such a fragile form. I’ve always liked hands and fingers; I love watching people play instruments or knitting, just to see the clever way they can manipulate whatever they’re doing so easily.

Bookshelves is rather shelf explanatory (LOLOLOL, see what I did there?) really. I can’t trust someone who doesn’t have that many bookshelves, or who has one with empty spaces. There’s something decidedly natural about a cluttered book shelf, filled with a mishmash of books in various colours, shapes, sizes and positions. I love when you can tell someone has just picked up a book to flick through it and placed it back haphazardly, or when a trinket has been left behind, slightly obscuring the book behind it. The signs of regular and routine use of a what is basically a stationary object shows a lot about the person who owns it.

The very last thing on my list (and kudos if you’ve made it this far) is sunshine. It’s probably a bit obvious, but that moment when a flash of warm sunlight falls across my face, obscuring my vision and leaving little flashes of gold afterwards is one of my most favourite things. I get unaccountably grumpy at work when someone shuts the blind to protect them from the glare; I would happily squint at my computer screen all day if it meant I could keep the sunny strips of light that lie across my hands. I’ve been known to rearrange entire rooms throughout the day to keep my chair in patches of sunlight, or there was that one time at University I spent three hours scrunched up on the windowsill with the laptop balanced precariously on my knee just so I could get the warm splash of light for as long as possible. I remember waking up when I was little and watching the dust motes dancing around in the streams of light and just knowing that for that moment, everything was alright.

Side note – I am equally as fascinated by, but not quite as desperately drawn to, moonshine. The past few days, or should I say nights (a ha ha) have been beautifully silhouetted by the moon doing its best to shine directly through our bedroom sky light and cast everything in ethereal shadows. Note, we do have a sky light in practically every upstairs room (bathroom included) because our landlord is apparently some kind of backwards vampire who designed this house with the fact he couldn’t sleep without constant light firmly in mind. I’m not complaining because it suits my predilections rather well, but I do wish he’d continued the theme through the whole house rather than deciding windows were a wonderful feature of the modern age for upstairs but were basically unrequired for any downstairs rooms. The living room tragically survives with a tiny postcard of a window at the far end of the room – no sunlight to chase there, I can tell you.

So there we have it. I think I may have possibly gone slightly overboard this week, but I’m taking it as a good thing that the one post I’ve dedicated to purely happy things is almost double the size of those which aren’t. I hope some of my happiness burrs inspire you to think about some of your own and bring a little unexpected smile to your face.

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Just look at this beautiful sunny window. I even remember exactly when and were this was taken because I was to pleased with the perfect size and placement of it. Admittedly, I did go and ruin the whole thing by having a nose bleed so forceful and lengthy that my father actually became concerned enough to text his nurse GF for guidance to ensure I wasn’t dying. Still, it was a great window.

Remembering to Forget or Forgetting to Remember?

So I found a new word the other day. I stumbled across it accidentally whilst trawling the internet for something else entirely, and was completely bewitched by it. I have a magpie like affinity for words and I like to hoard them like old stamps – collected and carefully pinned out for future reference. I love the fact that there is always a suitable word; no matter what the topic, object or situation. If you can’t think of one, it’s because you haven’t found it yet, not because it doesn’t exist. They are not always easy to find or remember, and sometimes they are in a completely different language; but they’re always there.

The English language is pretty handy for it though; it’s basically the thug of the language world. It waits on street corners and then takes other languages down back alley and rifles through their pockets for loose words. Our back catalogue is such a higgle-di-piggedly amalgamation of words we’ve begged, borrowed, or just plain bastardised, and you’ll struggle to find something who’s etymological root doesn’t start somewhere else in the world. We’re doing it even now – absorbing words like “hygge” (cosy and happy) and “lagom” (just the right amount) and slotting them seamlessly into our conversations as if we’ve always had them.

This particular word seemed to come just at the right time though and it’s lodged itself rather firmly in my psyche. It’s a welsh word, so perhaps I already feel a gentle affinity for it, and it perfectly crystallises a frame of mind that seems to be quite prevalent at the moment.

“Hiraeth – a longing for a home you can’t return to or never had”

Isn’t that just glorious? It’s so small and yet it evokes such vivid daydreams of lives you’ve never lived but wanted to, places you’ve never visited but imagined, times you’ve never experienced but feel like they might be where you truly belong. Especially at this time of year when things are just starting to bloom; delicate daffodils and sweet snowdrops are pushing their way up though dark dead earth, there seems to be a promise of something. For me, it’s the whisper of summer. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned, but winter is really the bane of my life. From an objective standpoint, I do understand the necessity (do you like the casual and patronising way I talk about it, as if I actually have any kind of say in the matter) and it’s true that without the opportunity for things to die back and rest, there can be no chance for new growth. I just really think it doesn’t need to be quite so looooonng. One, maybe two months tops should be sufficient, six is just taking the piss.

It does mean though that, in some twisted and definitely unhealthy strive to survive, I develop these long and complicated fantasies, full of desperate longing for summers that I’ve never actually experienced. It’s not as if previous summers I’ve had have ever been bad, but the ones I imagine are so much more involved – seeped in a kind of childish romanticism. You want an example? (TBH you’re getting one anyway, so tough if you answered no). I watched a film the other morning whilst wallowing in the bath called Call Me By Your Name. Whilst I can’t recommend it enough for its story (the blossoming of a relationship between 17 year old Elio and his father’s graduate student Oliver), acting (Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer are actually ridiculous) and cinematographic excellence, it was the timeless shots of Italian countryside that got me right in the feels. Artlessly crumbling villas drenched in sunlight and shadow, winding roads leading nowhere and bracketed by fields of gently wavering golden crops, effortlessly beautifully chaotically stacked tables in the garden laden with fresh fruit and coffee at dusk. I felt practically sick I was do jealous. I’ve only been to Italy on a school trip, but watching that, it was as if there was an ache behind my ribcage for something that I knew should be mine. I’m not meant to be sitting in a terrace house in the middle of England working in recruitment. I’m supposed to be living in a secluded chalet tending to my home grown peach orchard.

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I’m not joking – I cannot recommend this film enough. 

Admittedly, I’m rather easily swept up with this kind of daydreaming. Whilst it’s not like I’ll get bored of wanting the above, it can evolve rapidly into needing instead to live in the Greek countryside following in the footsteps of Gerald Durrell (who’s Corfu Trilogy is something that everyone should read at least once in their lives, if not annually like I do) or run away to Canada and become a Mountie like in Due South. What I love about reading or watching good show; the opportunity to become completely absorbed in some other world, is possibly also the biggest problem.

That’s the trouble with imagination I think – it’s so easy to become disillusioned with what you’ve got and obsessed with what you want. There is nothing wrong with wanting more, but it’s important to not do it at the expense of those things you already have. Being able to settle yourself and understand how lucky you are is a skill I think many should have but few ever manage to properly cultivate. With it being so easy nowadays to see how great other people have it, or how easily you can be tricked into believing someone’s supposed paradise by a well filtered photo, it can be difficult to appreciate the luxuries and joys you have.

I often think memory offers the same kind of temptation as social media and fiction, or at least it does for me. Things always seem very cut and dry in my rose tinted memories. Sure there are some rather upsetting or embarrassing events that I’m pretty sure I blow out of proportion, but the ability to warp definitely goes both ways. I’ve got memories of things I’ve done that practically glow with ethereal light hum with angelic choirs. My time at Glastonbury is a pretty solid example of this. Now, I know that I spent those five days stuck in a paradox of hysteria and almost debilitating anxiety (you can practically see the terror in my eyes – I don’t do well with new things), but all I can ever remember is how great it was. The sunburn, the terror of having to interact with so many strangers, the lack of showers, food, sleep or anything other than red bull and vodka fades away every time I think about it and all I can do is gush about how fabulous it was. And it was, but not in the all encompassing way I glamorise.  I would go again in a heartbeat, but would I be sensible enough this time round to realise that most of the things that were bad the first time will be just as bad the second time? I mean, dancing in the rain at 3 in the morning to the Proclaimers might sound like a great thing (which it definitely was) but nobody remembers the almost soul destroying 4 hour drive home in a car full of annoyingly pretty and definitely judgemental strangers whilst wearing clothes so wet that my knickers had to be tumble-dried twice.

I’m actually reading a book at the moment (I am just too topical) where the titular character has a perfect memory. As in perfect. He remembers every single thing; every sight, sound, feeling and conversation he’s every had in stark clarity, and it’s startlingly heart-breaking. There’s a unavoidable philosophical thread that runs throughout the book, questioning if such a talent is a curse or a gift. Is it better to be able to remember something perfectly, without sugar-coating or warping it, or is it better to have imperfect recollections and the freedom to remember something differently each time? Perhaps it’s safer to be able to forget something terrible and not have to relive it in painful detail, but does it outweigh the ability to truthfully remember the best moments of your life?

It’s an obviously hypothetical debate, as I’m about 97% that such a memory doesn’t exist, but it has led me to ponder a lot on the bus in the mornings on the way to work. Would I prefer to remember my previous summers accurately and reveal in the reality of them, or to continue to get lost in my fantastical imaginings and try to combat the heartache of knowing they’re impossibly untrue?

“Nostalgia is a dirty liar that insists things were better than they seemed”

Michelle K., I Can’t Stop Questioning It.

Booksss

The Write Can Never Be Wrong

So recently TMM has been rather taken by the idea of winning the weekly National Trust Instagram photo competition (because we are NT members and we do go regularly and we are secretly 70 year olds trapped in 20 something bodies, sue us). His photography is coming on phenomenally, if you ignore his humble and self-deprecating comments, and I think the structure of having something to aim for, such as the weekly theme, pushes him to try and find new ways of capturing sights that might have never occurred before. It’s rather delightful to watch and it warms my cockles no end to see him so passionate. There’s something rather engaging about seeing someone else so invested in a hobby and it makes me want to savour everything he does; to give each photo the attention it deserves. To this end, I’ve been trying to get him to set up his own photography blog to illustrate his progress. Somewhere he can virtually collate and keep all of his photos; group them into specific collections and something he can update regularly and share with others easily. I had lots of exciting ideas and a possibly unwarranted amount of enthusiasm when I discussed this with him at the weekend. I say “discussed” – mainly I rabbited on for half an hour whilst he just looked a little shell shocked and nodded timidly.

Afterwards though, it led me to think a bit introspectively about the whole process of blogging. (Oh joy, I hear you cry, yet another self-absorbed ramble about narcissistic hobbies that nobody cares about. What can I say, I’m a slave to my generational tropes.) The actual act of regularly blogging has forced me to think about writing more than normal and start to dissect what it is that draws me in. Writing in general has always been something I enjoyed; I suppose it goes hand in hand with loving reading as much as I do. I’m always full of relatively interesting ideas and often inspired by other people’s work (it’s not plagiarism, it’s homage, honest). Sometimes there is a turn of phrase or jumble of words that sparks a kind of chemical reaction in my brain and suddenly there’s a cascade of electric pathways darting off in all directions full of potential. I’ve got masses of notebooks absolute brimming with quotes I’ve taken from books, films, songs, adverts, conversations and even graffiti that have, quite literally, spoken to something in me and demanded that I remember them somehow. Every single one of them is a seed waiting to burst into bloom and there’s something both comforting and mildly terrifying to know that there’s a world of literature right there just waiting for me.

Just a few of the snapshots I’ve taken – including a guerrilla attack on the university system carelessly scrawled on the bathroom wall. If that doesn’t inspire a story in you, who knows what will.

Somehow blogging is a little different though. Writing truthfully is always harder I think, however counterintuitive that seems. Considering you have a wealth of things to discuss and extrapolate on, there is a vulnerability about putting something out there about yourself that is evidential. When you write fiction, you can hide behind a fake name, behind an idea, behind something so fantastical it can’t be measured on the normal scale of living. Writing about your every day life stripes away any of that and leaves you writing nakedly, hoping that what constitutes your everything is funny, interesting and worthy enough of others approval.

(I mean, if that last paragraph doesn’t encourage TMM to start a blog of his own, I don’t know what will…)

The process is a different too; working to a self imposed deadline puts a different kind of pressure on. Writing stories for fun is something that can be done whenever and can be left for hours, days, even years before being picked up again easily. Writing blogs means that you have to actually dedicate time specifically to a topic and commit to it, rather than flitting around like a literary hummingbird. I mean, my highly honed and carefully crafted process spends possibly a tad to much time focusing on the unnecessary and self inflicted faffing, but I’m definitely getting better at devoting myself.

My handy 15 step program to successfully blogging:
1. Day 1, Lunch Time – Hmm, what I shall I blog about this week? With a world so full of interesting, engaging and occasionally enraging topics, it really is a veritable fest of oysters for picking.
2. Day 2, 3pm – I could chose this subject or that one. Gosh, so many choices!
3. Day 2, Bed Time – Well maybe not that particular topic.
4. Day 3, Mid Morning – That one does seem a bit tricky/controversial/difficult to expand on
5. Day 3, Evening – I don’t really have any ideas for that certain subject, and the pictures would be a pig to try and get.
6. Day 4, Appox. 10am – Why is everything getting dark suddenly…
7. Day 4, Tea Time – Oh god what on earth can I blog on? Why is there a sudden dearth of approachable subject matter?
8. Day 5, Midday – Shitshitshitshit
9. Day 5, Bed Time – YOU NEED TO GET UP AND BLOG RIGHT NOW. PICK SOMETHING
10. D-Day – *screeching dinosaur noises and panicked scribbling*
11. D-Day, 6pm – That’s it, I’m done. I can’t take this. *posts*
12. D-Day, 7pm-9pm – Oh look, people are actually liking it. This is such a healthy and rewarding hobby.
13. Day 7 – *basks in smugness*
14. Day 7, Cont. – *relaxes*
15. Day 1, Lunch Time – Hmm, what shall I blog about this week….

As you can see, Step 10 (the only really important bit) is over with rather quickly. In all seriousness, once you strip away all of the unrequired and unnecessary, the act of blogging itself is surprisingly easy. Whilst the actual content of what you’re writing about can be frivolous or hard hitting, and the emotion and thought behind it trivial or full of importance, the writing itself doesn’t change. The words are the same, the sentences fit to certain guidelines and the muscle memory in your fingers doesn’t stumble.

More often that not, if I make time and sit myself down with some background music and a purpose, I can overcome any potential writer’s block and produce a reasonable amount of text with minimal crying (always a bonus). It’s not necessarily anything worthwhile, but it’s there. Sometimes, if I time it right, I can start writing and within half an hour or so, the whole of whatever I’m trying to write comes tumbling out. I get kind of overtaken by what I’ve poetically christened “The Literary Urge” and the writing just does itself, dragging me along with it. It used to happen quite regularly on car journeys home when it was dark and sleepy. I could just hunker down, open up the notes on my phone (or #oldfogey an actual notebook) and just write whatever came into my head, usually fully formed and just waiting for somewhere to be written. Mostly now though, I get blindsided when I least suspect it. I had an unprovoked attack last week and had to spend a flustered 25 minutes making desperate notes in the hope I could save it. Thankfully I managed to put it on ice until I got home where I then proceeded to ensconce myself in the arm chair with the blanket and laptop and refused to let TMM speak to me whilst I got it all out. This was despite his best efforts to distract me with documentaries on people living in Alaska which appear to have taken over our lives recently.

Simply put, I enjoy writing. Considering how much I chatter on, I enjoy it far more that I do talking. Talking doesn’t allow for any of the forethought or control. Talking is like an hysterical rolling tumble down a hill whereas writing is a leisurely and controlled stroll. Talking is an unfiltered look into my childish brain and a desperate way to fill awkward silences, whereas writing is a chance to make those same thoughts sound intelligent and interesting. You have time to actually think about what you want to say. You can reread, reword and rephrase things, you can spend time thinking of the perfect word for a particular point, you can work out exactly where you want your argument/story/discussion to go and how to make accessible. You can savour coming up with the perfect line and spend time rereading a sentence which just sparkles. There’s always a memory of it, tucked somewhere on a scrap of paper or an old word document, reminding you of that time, that feeling, that thought that so desperately needed to documented. It’s a selfish way of sharing and it’s something I will never stop enjoying.

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Long Live the Written Word