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.

Book of Fate

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…

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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.

20180325_152220.jpg

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_

Now That’s What I Call Life Tunes

So today’s blog comes to you directly from the local climbing gym. Worry not though couch fans, I am not the one climbing. I have tried climbing previously and whilst at one point I was actually able to drag myself up the wall and hang rather uncoordinatedly from a jug (check my knowledge of technical terms definitely not spotted on a reference board on the far wall), I was completely unable to get down again. Turns out that whilst I might not have a great fear of heights, I am terrified of falling and smacking onto the floor dramatically.
I am here in true spousal support of TMM whilst he gets back into the habit. He’s not been climbing for a while but he’s on a bit of a personal improvement bender at the moment and is doing regular climbing and daily yoga like a right millennial. (I am mainly turning into a potato so it’s good that one of us making the effort to be the best us we can be). Admittedly I do feel slightly panicked about being surrounded by agile, healthy people in various stages of hipster dress throwing themselves about the place with gay abandon, but I have brought my book, blanket and chocolate biscuits so I’m doing well.

Climbing

Much action – so wow. Just look at those back muscles.

After last week’s blog, I’ve been thinking a little more about music and the connection it has to every aspect of life. Everyone has a personal playlist – songs that resonate with you for a specific (or non-specific and yet completely unexplainable) reason. Half of the time, I don’t think you actually realise what your songs are, and trying to pin down a particular favourite or the anthem to your life can be rather challenging – especially under pressure and especially if like me you suffer with severe choice anxiety and can’t make a decision to save your life. (If anything important was left up to me, the whole world would have ended up like a dusty Miss Havisham before anything was decided).
To overcome my debilitating issue and bring to you a snapshot into my musicality (which you know you are all invested in) I’ve stolen a standard formula of questions, designed to pry and prod into my sound based subconscious. I would like to encourage you all to share some of your answers and your chosen tunes, but remember folks – this is a judgement free zone…
Let’s start with an easy one shall we?
MOST RECENTLY LISTENED TO
“Paradise” by George Ezra
I’ve heard this one a couple of times in passing the last few weeks and whilst I had a fleeting fancy, it didn’t massively attract me. There was one lyric though “if it feels like paradise running through your bloody veins” that caught on something in my head, making to me a do mental double take every time I heard it. I was flicking through YouTube suggestions Tuesday night, and being the curious little soul that I am, I took the time to actually listen to it properly. Since then I’ve barely listened to anything else. I’ve been singing it quietly and completely out of tune practically non stop, and I can’t help but do an embarrassing little shoulder shuffle any time its on. George Ezra has a wonderfully individual voice that resonates happily through you; there’s something so warm and summery about him, and I can’t help but think this is the perfect song for the start to spring.
GUILTY PLEASURE
“Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepson
I’ve said this one specifically, but pretty much any song by her is a secret fave of mine. She is painfully tweeny bop and I love her whole heartedly. I challenge anyone to turn the radio over when this song comes on (which it does surprisingly more often that you might think). It’s silly fluff with some excellent synth work and rest assured that I will belt it out every time it comes on my shuffle. I think it’s possibly I might be slightly influenced after watching Steve Kardynal do a version on chat roulette and laughing myself sick. (If anybody hasn’t seen this, I recommend you watch it immediately – ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAQhG59zqZc ). If you want a frivolous bit if fun, you will be hard pressed to find a better example.
ON REPEAT
“Feel It Still” by Portugal. the Man
You may remember this song from previous blog posts, such as “Springtime for Ebears (and TMMs)”. This song has spoken to me on basically every level and is now my personal theme tune. I didn’t really know anything about Portugal. The Man until this song and am very late to the bandwagon, but since it’s been making the rounds I have been all over it like a fat kid on cake (no offense intended to fat kids or cake). I’m lucky enough to work in an office where we can have the radio on and every time it comes on, I have to immediately stop what I’m doing to draw everyone’s attention to it and have a little shimmy. The “Post Man Song” as it’s been christened by my team is basically my calling card these days.
MOST EVOCATIVE
“Sing Sing Sing” by Benny Goodman
I love me a bit of swing. Jazz swing, electroswing, you name it – I am all about it. I went through a phase a few months back of being completely and uncontrollably obsessed with the song; I must have played it coming on 12 times a day. How TMM survived I’ll never know.
**Side Note – Poor TMM and sister Romo know all too well my obsessive nature and also my not so secret love of jazz – Robin and I used to share a bedroom and I refused to have anything other than Jazz FM on the radio for years. She used to wait until I’d fallen asleep before changing the station because she is pure of heart. I do think she might have a little PTSD when it comes to a trumpet solo though.
There’s just something about “Sing” that just drips with decadence though; it encourages visions of glamorous evening dresses, glittering champagne flutes and late night dancing. Considering it is from a time of such struggle (to put it mildly), it manages to encapsulate joy effortlessly.
FAVOURITE
Gerry Rafferty
I’ve cheated here by not picking one specific song, but I refuse to believe someone can have a single song that is their favourite at every moment of there lives. Your choices are as mutable as your mood and therefore too fluid to pinpoint, but I do admit there are some that always speak to you. Pretty much anything by Gerry Rafferty does that for me. His voice is possibly one of the most perfect things to ever exist and I will not hear a word said against him. There’s something so haltingly effortless about the way he sings and I’d be hard-pressed to name one song of his that I don’t love. I’ve been late for work one more than one occasion because I’ve refused to leave the house until “Baker Street” has finished. I spent a lot of time listening to him whilst reading Harry Potter the first time round as well, and there’s a neural connection there now that links the two of them eternally in my head. (I’ve done this before – listening to Texas will always remind me of my Nancy Drew books and Maroon 5’s “Songs About Jane” album is the soundtrack to the Montmorency books by Eleanor Updale). It’s not really surprising to know that my musical tastes are irrevocably linked to my reading habits, but I like to think if ever I am old and grey and unable to find joy in a lot of the things I do now, Gerry Rafferty’s music will always speak to my heart.

Playlist

Love a little cover collage.

HISTORY
Bruce Springsteen
I have a lot of history with the Boss. He might not know it, but he’s shaped a lot of my life and my tastes over the years. I remember sitting on the couch in my old house with my first kitten prostrate sleepily across my lap listening to “Born to Run” on vinyl for hours. Mr B let me borrow the vinyl long after I moved out and it still has the same goose pimply effect now as it did the first time I played it. We went to see him live at Old Trafford not long after I became enamoured, and it’s still one of the best gigs I’ve been to (though that might partly be due to the fact we were stood in front of a very tipsy Scouse couple who were drunkenly telling their absolutely mortified son about how he was conceived to one of the songs). Seeing him live at Glastonbury (well, seeing half his set before being dragged away to cover my shift on the gates) was spectacular, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more in love with the image of him standing centre stage, doused in spotlights and physically steaming in the rain. A more vivid rendition of “The River” I don’t think there will ever be.
SUMMER SONG
“Rather Be” by Clean Bandit ft. Jess Glyne
2014 was a pretty great year for summer tunes and this one is just phenomenal. The moment this starts, my eyes close and my heart rate slows and there’s images of soft sands, blue skies and warm breezes. This was one of those perfect moments; a song that lasted throughout the year and no matter how many times it was played, it was never overdone. Very much like “Waves” by Mr Probz, this is a definite anthem and the combination of classical overtones and pop beats just solidified it as a song of a generation. Admittedly, I think it’s charm was somewhat tempered by its usage on the M&S advert, but much like Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross” it will survive.
MAKES YOU DANCE
“Cobrastyle” by Teddybears
I first heard this on season 1 of Teen Wolf (which was a surprisingly excellent show with a pretty top notch sound track) and it is just such a powerhouse of a track. I literally have no idea what any of the words are but by god I don’t let that stop me from trying to sing along. It’s got such a funky sound that it really is impossible not to dance. I’ve never heard anything else by them and I honestly can’t say I know a single thing about the band but if this song is anything to go by, I imagine they’d have a pretty great back catalogue.
SURPRISED
“I Spent the Day in Bed” by Morrissey
Now typically I am not a fan of Morrissey. I find a lot of his music quite droll and though I don’t know him personally, I can’t imagine we’d get on that well. Still, this song is possibly the most relatable song I have ever heard. I often want to spend the day in bed and am thoroughly behind any song which suggests it’s a good idea. The fact that’s it’s a battle cry against the sensationalist media culture and has been described excellently by The Guardian as “a typically existentialist, Eeroreish song” only helps to further concrete it as something I rather peculiarly like. Don’t tell Morrissey though, I don’t want him thinking I’m impressed by anything else he does…
FIRSTS
MEMORY“I Saw Three Ships” by Maddy Prior
I love Maddy Prior, with a deep and uncontrollable passion. The Christmas album she did with The Carnival Band is a firm favourite in my family (I’m pretty sure we all have a copy of the CD, all slightly battered and well loved) and I performed many excellent river dance shows for my folks to this particular classic.
CD “Space Cowboy” by Jamiroquai.
I remember buying this at Fopp with my hard saved pocket money clutched in my hand. I felt like the coolest kid ever because whilst my peers were all into Steps and 5ive, I was shattering the constraints of my generation and listening to hip and groovy music that my older sister liked. Admittedly, whilst I do enjoy Jamiroquai, he’s not really the boundary breaker I imagined at the time, but I’m proud of younger me for branching out a little. I’m still not sure if it’s better or worse than Robin’s first ever CD – PJ & Duncan “Stepping Stones”
GIGThe Eagles at the MEN Arena with my family / The Feeling at the Academy 2 with my friends
My family are rather into their music (a lot of them are disgustingly talented and play in their own bands) so my musical upbringing was varied and eclectic. My uncle Mike bought us all (there must have been about 8 of us) tickets to go and see the Eagles when I was about 13 and I remember being almost overwhelmed by how good they were. There’s nothing quite like seeing a group who are so talented in the flesh and I still remember in vivid clarity watch Joe Walsh rock out fantastically.
The Feeling were my first gig without the safety of a grown up, and I spent hours trying to find the most suitable outfit, ensuring I managed to look trendy and yet was still able to stand up without complaining about blisters at the end. Even now I spend too much time struggling to find gig appropriate clothing, but mainly now it’s because I want to make sure that I’m warm enough to wait in the queue outside but then cool enough when it gets to the sweaty dancing time (it’s such a hardship being so sensible). They (and The Frey who were supporting) were brilliant though, and I’m still sure they were one of the best gigs I’ve been to.
If nothing else, I do have to say I’ve enjoyed listening to this playlist whilst writing my blog – there’s something rather joyful about the roller coaster of memories and emotions that come with flicking through each song. Don’t be afraid to tell me some of your selections, I love to learn about people and I promise not too be too judgemental about your choices…honest

Words in E –Minor proudly presents….An Interview With Me

I have a confession to make. I’ve cheated.

Being the busy social butterly I am, I haven’t actually had chance to write a full and detailed blog post like I know you have come to expect (the shame). It is a cruel and busy world out there, but worry not, I will not let you down. Like any good 90s child, I have taken the teachings of Blue Peter to heart so here’s one I prepared earlier. Oosh.

Before getting into it I have a few points of interest from the weekend that I’m going to just drop in for you – I like to keep you all abreast of my life.

– We went down to visit my mother for a few days and I am glad to report she is holding out admirably against the elements determined to rain all over her parade (rather literally). Perhaps not quite as dramatically as some parts of the world, she’s has nevertheless had to deal with a natural disaster and was woken up one night last week to find water gushing in through the back door and sweeping poor BobCat off his paws. Rather dishearteningly, she’s going to have to have entirely new flooring and is currently living with enough industrial fans to re-enact a late 80s soft core rock video, but she is maintaining a strong and (mostly) postive attiude (read – heavy sarcasm) and the cats are gradually recovering. We did spend the majority of the time there with the three of us tucked up on her bed like the grandparents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (being as there was no power and limited furniture downstairs), but we left her with a smile on her face and the promise of further assistance whenever required, so things were looking up

– The weekend took a dramatic turn of events when TMM tried to kill me by dropping an apple the size of a watermelon on my face. We were gathering some of the bounitful harvest that Mother’s garden had provided (like the adorable little hobbits we are) when I was brutally attacked and nearly blinded when an apple catapulted from the branch TMM was fettling with. He says it was an accident but I remain dubious. Annoyingly I don’t have anything apart from a tiny red mark to show for it, but I can promise it was very dramatic.

Apples

An innocent scene, before everything took a dark and violent turn

–  You’ll all be glad to know that Operation Prepare for Christmas is well under way. It’s excellent – there’s wool everywhere. Bucky is being very well behaved considering and I’ve only had to bat him away once or twice. He does have to sit very close to me though so he can keep an eye on things and make sure I don’t need saving from a savage wool beast. My hero.

–  Speaking of the Buckmiester General, the furry little bugger has some how injured himself and I reacted, as any good parent should, with complete hysteria. It isn’t much more that a semi-deep scratch on his paw (and it can’t even be that sore because he let me prod and poke it for ages without so much as a wince), but I was VERY concerned and made TMM research pet antiseptic creams just to be on the safeside. #seriouscatparent

With those announcements out of the way, I’ll get on to the main event. I’ve got a couple of little nuggets like this saved up for such eventualities from when I researched best blogging protocol. Apparently, readers are very interested in lists, personal details and small comedic interludes, so I’ve combined all 3 into a Listicle – 10 things you might not know about me (unless you’re TMM because he basically knows more about me than I do these days). I’m unsure how well it’ll go down, but at least it gives you all something to read on an Tuesday evening (and please feel free to share your own personal facts, or judge me heavily).

10 Things You Might Not Know About Me

First Kiss

So it turns out I can’t actually remember my first kiss. How awful is that? According to TV and young adult books, the first kiss is the realisation of sexuality and the pinnacle of your youth. Your whole life blossoms from that point and  you look back fondly with misty screen and singing cherubs. Proving once again that I like to buck the social trend, when I tried to think back on this monumental and life changing event, I came up completely blank.

It’s not that I think it was particularly scarring and therefore have scrubbed it from my memory, nor is it that I actively tried to disregard anything relating to it. And it’s not as though I can’t remember other such key life events – I vividly remember my first kiss with TMM, though that might have been because he came at me with a knife.

*Side Note* it wasn’t as threatening as it sounds. It was St Patricks Day and as any good Uni student should, our not so little gang had all covered ourselves with as much green as we possibly could. I was in charge of drawing all the cheek shamrocks with my green eyeliner pencil (I say mine, it was definitely my sister’s – sorry) but being somewhat tipsy, mostly I was just smudging great green blobs on people and rather horrifically blunting the pencil. Ross proclaimed to be able to sharpen it for me, dragged me into the kitchen where he proceeded to produce the most inappropriately sized knife for the job and then promptly forgot all about sharpening it in favour of snogging my face off.)

I can equally remember the first time meeting each of my besties, graduating and my mother’s wedding. The first kiss though? Nada. I can only hope whoever it was with doesn’t remember it either….

Paddys

He might not have been my first kiss, but he’s certainly my favourite.

Joints

I apparently have weird elbows (and possibly knees). After countless years of being awful at PE and failing most physical activities, my bestest Woo pointed out to me during a yoga class that my elbows hyper extend (like a big weirdo). I can also pop out one of my thumb knuckles. Great for party tricks, useless for anything else.

Mental

I see a counsellor and have done for nearly 3 years now. To be honest, I’ll be surprised if this is actually news to anyone. I tell literally everyone. All the time. Whilst I am pretty quiet about most things, mental health is something that should never be ignored and I do my part to make sure my part in it is visible.

Thumb Sucking

I still suck my thumb when anxious or depressed. It’s something I used to do when I was little and just never really stopped. I never had a dummy, but my trusty thumb has been there through thick and thin. It has messed up my teeth up something rotten (the roof of my mouth is so arched and narrow that I can’t even fit a chubba chubba lolly between my top teeth) and the thumb in question is slightly longer than the other one but it’s something done so unconsciously I don’t even register it anymore. I kind of think that maybe I should be embarrassed by it sometimes, and that being 26 I should maybe look for different coping mechanisms, but to be honest I’ve got bigger fish to fry, and if anyone’s got a problem with it, I dare you to tell me to my adorable, thumb sucking face.

Body Art

I am tattoo free but do not always intend to remain so. People are always a little surprised that I am un-inked (I obviously give off that kind of vibe), but I have big dreams people. Low pain threshold but big dreams.

Twinkle Toes

I have sleep musical toes. I only learnt this recently, but we have the radio on in the morning and according to TMM, my toes will join in with most songs, regardless of whether I’m actually awake or not.

*Big Families*

I have lived more of my life with my parents separated than with them together. Now in today’s society it’s not actually that unusual anymore, but I think the bit that people are always surprised about is how pleasant and friendly they still are with each other. It’s been nearly 17 years now, but they buried the hatchet long ago. There have been parties where my mum and her ex husband’s girlfriend have laughed together and hugged, holidays where my dad and his girlfriend have stayed with his ex mother in law, and whilst I don’t think either of them regret the time they spent together, they have found love in other places. Divorce has not torn my family apart. It has only made it bigger.

Family

 Just a couple of the motley crew

Personal Grooming

This ones a bit risqué, but I feel it says a lot about me as a person (for good or bad…) I once dyed my “lady hair” to match my head hair – a lovely vivid pink. Shout out to Uni friends for this – (a lot of the strangest events in my life occurred at University). I can’t remember how it originally started, but it ended with a 3 hour group research quest on some of the strangest websites out there. During the second year, we spent far too much time googling strange and unusual things and learnt far more about the dark corners of the world than any decent person should. One such sojourn took us to the land of “lower region” maintenance and let me tell you, people are willing to do some weird shit to their undercarriages. Obviously this spurned much curiosity about what could be done and resulted in a bet that I wouldn’t match all my body hair. Worry not Reader, I did. It was hilarious, and excellent if only because it meant that when someone crudely shouted out (as they were wont to do) ““Oi love, do the collars and cuffs match?” I could say yes and watch them stumble over themselves in shock.

Love

I’ve kissed more girls then I have boys. I mean, to be honest it’s not like I’ve kissed huge amounts of either, but my girl count outweighs the boys by nearly 2:1. Mainly I blame University, but to be honest I just think it’s the fact that girls are just much more friendly.

Childhood Companions

I once tried to keep a mouldy cake as a pet. There really isn’t much more to this story, but it always makes me people laugh. I was DESEPRATE for a pet when I was little (as are most small children I think) and did all I could to convince my parents that our lives would be very much enriched by the presence of a small furry beastie. They did not agree and I, of course, was devastated beyond all belief. Instead, I found and secreted a carrot cake in a tin that I found in the cupboard under my bed and cultivated it until it had grown a lovely mossy green coat and proceeded to generally stink out the house. Unsurprisingly, I could not keep the cake hidden for long and my father rooted it out and summarily disposed of it in the outside bin. I still think back fondly on it sometimes.

So there we have it. You now all know a little bit more about me than you did before and hopefully I haven’t disturbed you too much, or ruined anyone’s opinions on me. It’s surprisingly cathartic to tell the internet a bunch of things about yourself, I definitely recommend it as a starter blog post for all you budding writers out there. Who knows, you might learn something new about yourself in the process…

(God, what a cheesy ending).

Less of a Do-er, More of a Don’t-er

Well hello there dearest readers.

I must apologies for being lax in posting recently, but as usual I went on holiday and promptly shirked all responsibilities like a big old butterfly bursting free from a cocoon. However, I am now back and will be updating as per the schedule, though I can’t say I am too happy about being back in the real world. I mostly spent Monday trying desperately to stop my head thumping on my desk and letting tiny screeches of devastation escape. I basically sounded like a deflating balloon and definitely didn’t look much better. I should have realised that the morning wasn’t really getting off to an auspicious start when The Man Muffin discovered a mutilated and bloody rib cage/spleen combo on the cream carpet of the bedroom at about 6.30am. We’re rapidly coming to the conclusion that Buckycat believes that when we go away for days at a time, it’s because we’re having to scavenge for food. In attempt to help us, he brings in various rodents in numerous stages of death/decay so that we may snack on them and he doesn’t have to worry about us abandoning him again. The gesture, whilst heart-warming in it’s conception, is getting a bit tiring in it’s physicality. Spending the Monday morning I am due back into work sat on the floor in my pants scrubbing at sizable blood splatter whilst raging at the fact my holiday is over is not really what I’m looking for in life.

In fact, I am rapidly come to the realisation that I am just not meant to be a worker. I just feel like nothing prepared me for this. School and University do not do justice to the amount of time you have to spend in an office when you’re a grown up and childhood does nothing to get you ready for the real world. For example, when you’re younger your parents encourage you to try things you don’t like in an attempt to see if they can wean you on to it – like cucumber. They give you a little bit with tea one night, prompt you to taste it and then promise if you don’t like it you don’t have to try it again for a while. Then a few weeks later they give it another go and this continues sporadically for about a year until it becomes apparent that either you have learned to love the cucumber or that is a relationship that will never flourish and should just be given up on.

Well I’ve tried work for 7 years now and I can categorically and without a shadow a doubt state that I do not like it. At all. Not even a smidge. I resent the early mornings and the having to talk to people all day and being forced to do things that are not craft or cake eating (and therefore unworthy of my time) for a majority of my day. My week off proved to me that I was so much better at life when work didn’t get in the way. I also realised that, surprisingly, I actually saved money whilst being on holiday. Admittedly, part of that is due to the fact TMM drives us everywhere and sorted most things, but I was still quite surprised. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been when practically the first thing I did when I got to work was go on Amazon and buy myself two books as a reward for actually making it to the office. To that end, I really do think it is time that I am allowed to give up. #firstworldproblems

To look back fondly on happier times (you know, that one week where I WASN’T at work) with one of those misty 1940’s screens, I’m already getting a bit emosh that they are over. We spent mornings having leisurely breakfasts in sunny gardens, visiting beaches (called Mwnt – pronounced Munt and making us Beach Munters, trolololol) and National Trust castles, as well as achieving childhood dreams (mine, not Ross’ even though it was technically his birthday holiday).

 This is St. Catherine’s – or Azkaban as I affectionately call it. After seeing it from the bay for years during every holiday to Tenby and never actually being able to get in it, Mother and I had to fight back tears of hysteria and joy when we realised it was now accessible. Starting off as a Napoleon era fortress, it’s transitioned through two world wars as well as being a family home during the 30s and a Zoo in the 70s. They’re hoping to be able to get more funding for it and do more with in the future, which is obviously a perk for us.

We also spent time visiting families (so happy), seeing kittens (SO CUTE), having a sneaky visit to Hay on Wye (so joyous) and collecting presents for TMM wherever we went. Admittedly, I lost major Fiancée points by only realising half way to Wales that I had forgotten my presents for him. This was then compounded when we got home and it became clear I hadn’t actually finished or wrapped them either. Still, after having to banish him to the kitchen for twenty minutes and furiously sorting everything out, I like to think he was happy with the outcome. Though if not, he’s left it a bit late to complain now… In true birthday fashion though, TMM has also treated himself (as should be done) and purchased a brand new super shiny camera (to go along with him super snazzy camera satchel and 400 other camera bits). We have watched all the Master of Photography, bought all of the magazines and I’ve already been told to pose dangerously on rotten logs so he can get his photo jam on. I have to say though, it’s nice to see him so invested in something, and he is a bit of a cutie with all his gear so I’m definitely not complaining.

And here we see a Man Muffin, in his natural habitat. See how he settles himself to take the perfect photo, oblivious to any threat of danger in his quest to take the perfect picture.

I’ve also spent this last week encouraging my book club (I say club, there’s literally just the three of us in a whatsapp group) to read Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch and believe they are now sufficiently hooked enough to read all 6 books (+ 3 graphic novels and 1 free audio book) so that we can gush about them together. Because gush we bloody well will. I thought I was doing very well with this series too; remaining sensibly detached and un-obsessed with it. Guess what? It didn’t last. I think I lulled myself into a false sense of security but the moment I got to the last book I knew it had all been a lie and I am now OB-FREAKIN-SESSED with them. Seriously, I’m trying to reason with myself that it’s not really sensible to just start the whole series again from the beginning, but I’m not sure if I’ll win that fight. I do have to say though, I can’t recommend them enough. One of the main reviews that’s pasted all over the front covers describes the series as “What would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the fuzz”. Now whilst this might be a good tag line to draw readers in, I think that barely scratches the surface of what makes these books so darn good. Our hero, Peter Grant, is drawn into a world of magic that (whilst not being out there for everyone to know about) is still pretty established and acts in such a way that makes you think “yep, that’s pretty much what I’d do”. His voice is written in a way that is so accessible and relatable (which has got to be a pretty nifty achievement since the lead character is a 30ish, mixed race male copper, and I am a slightly younger, white female wimp) and treats the subject matter (mostly magic and murder) in exactly the way I want it to be dealt with. His confusion and education aren’t glossed over in a cheesy montage in favour of action-based DRAMA, but instead dealt with in a surprisingly realistic (yet still enjoyable) way. They even  go to some geeky corners of studying the science behind the magic in a way that pleases my inner nerd immensely. It’s not just Peter though; each of the characters are fleshed out and dealt with in a way that proves they aren’t infallible, but just doing what they can. They make decisions that I think I would find myself making in similar situations and regardless of their magic or non-magical status, they are incredibly human in how the deal with things. I mean, it probably also doesn’t hurt that one of the character DCI Thomas Nightingale is a stone cold fox and appeals to me in the kind of way old men coppers always seem to (Hey Lewis).

The thing is thought, Aaronovitch has perfectly managed to make sure that he never once falls into cliché or trope. Every single time a situation seems to be going a certain way, he doesn’t just avoid it, he bloody well blows your expectations out of the water and goes somewhere else entirely. He easily spans various genres, incorporating urban fantasy, magical realism, crime, thriller and comedy in such a seamless way I would really struggle to know where to place in on the library shelf. Considering he manages to do this consistently through each book that I’ve read (plus the graphic novels), I really can’t see myself getting out of this rut anytime soon…Back to the bookshelf!

Rivers

 I mean, come on. Just look at them for Pete’s sake! How these have not been picked up for a TV show yet I will never know.

 

 

 

Easy Like Sunday Morning…

Happy July the 4th dear readers! Thankfully this Independence Day has gone without the need for Will Smith to punch any aliens in the face (though there is still time) so I’d class it as a success. I’ve been lured in by Aldi’s Americana/Happy Canada Day range and bought more maple syrup and mac&cheese than is strictly healthy, and I’m hoping my little American pals are enjoying fireworks, fluffy pancakes and cheap watery beer with a patriotic fervour this evening.

Not to be outdone, TMM and I have allowed positive motivation to flow through us and have royally kicked some butt this weekend. Admittedly, I think the credit should mostly lie with Ross, but I was happily along for the ride. TMM has set down a new “weekend routine for us” which aims to cater to both TMM’s uncontrollable urge to be doing things all the time and get up at god awful times in the morning as well as my desperate laziness. According to the new system, we are to have Action!Saturdays and Lazy!Sundays, which really do exactly what they say on the tin and hopefully mean we get the best of both worlds.

For our very first Action!Saturday, we went in with all guns blazing. Admittedly, the early get up was a slight struggle for me – TMM had to do his best puppy impression and kidnap the duvet before trying to wrangle me into a suitable outfit – but once I was out of bed we really went for it. After a quick nip to the shop for breakfast pancakes, we did a tour of some of the TMM clan; dropping off some money and a singular shoe at the parents (both related to the new catapult business TMM Senior has started rather excellently), and visiting his sister, her fella, their baby and the doggo. After suitable family bonding, we went on to Chirk Castle (YAY for the National Trust Membership) which was rather splendid and in full bloom.

As you can see, the gardens were looking pretty spectacular – and obviously we had to try all the period costumes (once the children had gone). We have now both decided that chainmail is a must for our summer wardrobe.  

After Chirk, we went to visit Molly (who is carrying on with a strength that only old ladies and mature cheeses possess) before returning home to have a chippie, bleach my hair and finally getting the bedroom gallery wall hung.

feature wall

There’s still a big gap in the middle – waiting for the perfect piece of tropical wallpaper, but at least everything else is up now, and I’m quite proud of those homemade hanging frames.

Lazy!Sunday started a little more my kind of speed – TMM went for boyish adventures around Rudyard Lake with his camera whilst I stayed in bed until midday and finished The Prince and the Zombie, Lumberjanes and two episodes of Due South. Which, whilst is not necessarily “active” is still very much “action”.

{Side bar! (to be shouted in the same way Gru shouts FREEZE RAY in the first Despicable Me) Both of those books are excellent.

  • The Prince and The Zombie – a fable interlacing Tibetian and Buddihist teachings. Not quite the eye-opening, world shattering magical book I thought it would be, but enjoyable none-the-less. I do have to say I was very much rooting for the zombie (which I think may have defeated the point) with his golden top half, silver bottom half and mane of turquoise. Boy could he spin a good yarn.
  • Lumberjanes (Volume 1). This one was literally as great as I hoped. Girl Scouts kicking butt, taking names and being SUPER SUPPORTIVE all the way through. I desperately want to go to a camp for Hardcore Lady Types and am going to be working towards my badges ASAP.

books

Look at those front covers? How could they be anything but excellent?

The rest of the day was lazily spent dying my hair and slobbing on the couch eating chocolate pillows, so a win all round I’d say. 

Blue to Blonde to Steel Amethyst (which is clearly my new My Little Pony name)

Bucky has also been doing his best to prove how action he is, bless his little furry bum. Last weekend he vanished for 3 days (cue much wailing and wallowing and resurgence of abandonment issues all over the place) but eventually turned up – swanning in and singing Catmaninov at the top of his tiny cat lungs. Anyway, owing to his desperation for fusses (be it by sitting on your back, watching you intently whilst you wee or just singing the songs of his people loudly whenever you move from his sightline) and his skinny little belly, we think he might have been stuck somewhere, rather than actively avoiding us. Either way, I think he felt our loss as deeply as his own and has since tried to buy his way back into the good books by bringing home and depositing two dead birds and a decapitated (and de-eared) rabbit in various positions around the house. Which, whilst the thought is appreciated, is something I could really do without. (I have forgone putting the pictures on here so as not to affect those of a gentle disposition).

We also spent a good half an hour last night trapped in the bedroom with a very scared and very much alive mouse, who’d obviously been brought in and then abandoned earlier in the day. Eventually we managed to capture it using a cereal bowl, the toilet brush holder and a piece of card before TMM unceremoniously flung it out of the front door.

Overall I have to say we haven’t done too badly. The sun still shines, the birds still sing and we’re getting one step closer to the ideal of travelling the world in a renovated van like little hipster hobos. One action based step at a time.

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!

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