Looking back at my old posts, it seems like one of my favourite things to talk about on this blog – apart from books – is how much I dislike winter. It’s kind of embarrassing how much I like to complain about grey skies and darkness and being cold, but it’s also just how I feel at this time of year and feelings tend to fuel what I write about.
As much as I might be a bit chillier, tearier, and grumpier than normal, I still think there’s lots to be thankful for and lots of good things to have come out of this autumn.
Here are some of my happy November things…
book it to me. I’ve had a bit of a funny reading year. I’ve read some great books, but I’ve also read a lot of books that have left me feeling kind of empty. I seemed to turn a corner in November, though. First, with Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason. And then again with The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd.
comfort reads. I’m not much of a rereader. I keep books to reread because I’ve mastered the art of hoarding and lying to myself, but the chances are slim that I’ll actually get round to perusing their pages again. Something about autumn and winter, however, unleashes the need in me for something familiar and comforting. At the moment, I’m rereading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – I remembered being really taken with Eleanor’s character and that feeling has stood the test of time. The story is just as heartbreaking/warming as it was when I initially read it four years ago. And I’m also rereading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle – I’ve been craving some wisdom and perspective recently, and the second reading of this book is proving just as helpful as the first.
the princess diaries. On the subject of revisiting old favourites, rewatching The Princess Diaries (1&2) on a cold, rainy Saturday made my heart so happy it’s actually embarrassing. The feel-good, Y2K nostalgia was off the scale! Anyone who thinks I should grow up can…
rainy days in. See above point. As much as I love spending time outdoors – and am painfully aware from past experience that there is a fine line between taking time to rest and simply hiding away (God help me if I know where that fine line is hiding though) – sometimes I really do just need to hunker down for twenty-four hours and let the world outside do its own thing while I stay snuggled up inside. November this year saw its fair share of duvet days.
andor. Those duvet days were great for getting stuck into a few TV series on my watchlist. Andor, on Disney+, explores the backstory of Cassian Andor from the Star Wars spin-off movie Rogue One and was honestly amazing. Definitely one to watch!
you must be athen a laugh. This trip deserves its own post – and I promise, promise, promise I will write one – but all I’ll say for now is that a warm, sunny weekend in Athens spent wandering around ancient ruins and eating spanakopita (and chocolate hippo cakes) was a weekend well spent.
peas in a podcast. As well as bingeing my way through the spanakopita of Athens, November saw me binge-listening my way through In Writing with Hattie Crissell. I especially liked the episodes with Meg Mason, Graham Norton, and Elif Shafak. They’re really interesting insights into the worlds of each of the writers interviewed and go to show how varied the creative process is.
wingspan. I’ve become a little bit addicted to the digital version of the game Wingspan after it was recommended by a friend. It’s very chill whilst also being quite strategic, plus the artwork is stunning and, if they have it too, you can play against your friends online. I got the chance to play it IRL at The Board House in Crewkerne a few weeks back, which was really fun – but for ease of use the digital version wins hands down.
And now it’s December. The days are even shorter and the weather is even colder, but the world is all jingly and sparkly and bright and there’s lots to look forward to in the weeks ahead.
Does anyone else get to this point in the year and think ‘how has this happened so quickly?’. I swear it was only just April – maybe, at a push, May? And now, somehow, I’m supposed to believe it’s nearly the end of October – and believe that this happened naturally, without any time travelling sorcery being involved.
The signs of October are definitely all around. The nights are drawing in earlier, stretching out later; the leaves have swapped their bright, fresh greens for glistening bronzes and burnished golds, and are slowly, slowly raining to the ground; pumpkins are all over the place, speckling the world with splashes of neon orange; and I’m stocking up on chunky, oversized jumpers from charity shops like a squirrel after acorns in the forest (it’s an addiction, please send help).
I love the cosiness of the inside world and freshness of the outside world in autumn and winter, but spring and summer are my favourite seasons and I’m always sad to say goodbye. The urge to hibernate is real.
Lots happened over summer, as always. I smiled a lot. I cried a lot (don’t worry, crying is just one my main life skills). There were changes, big and small.
Here are a few high(and low)lights to my summer ’22.
29 going on 30. July marked the end of my third decade and the start of my fourth. I thought I’d feel okay about it, but it turns out I was only okay with it when it was a future thing and not an actually happening thing. Family and friends and a day spent by the sea distracted me from it all feeling too daunting, but I still do a kind of inner double take whenever my age comes up on a form or in conversation.
covid club. I was beginning to think I was one of the super immune, but it turns out I had just been super lucky and coronavirus finally caught up with me in June. And it got me real good! My lungs and immune system were very unhappy about being put back to work after a two and a half year cold/flu break.
hay there. The start of September saw me bankrupt myself and unable to stop eating Welsh cakes in Hay-on-Wye. There were so. many. bookshops and so much yummy food and loads of interesting independent, non-booky shops, plus the scenery around the town was beautiful – basically I didn’t want to leave, even if my bank account wanted me to get outta there pronto.
tenerife. Flight butterflies. The joy of being able to travel and of seeing clouds from above again. Sunsets across the Atlantic. Kayak trips spent spotting dolphins and turtles (and trying not to panic about the 50 metres of sea stretching down beneath us and the very big, dark clouds bubbling above us). Shimmering black sands. A looming, thankfully sleepy, volcano. Siam park (belly laughs, belly screams, factor 50 suncream, long queues, the ever present fear of a watery death, prayers to any god that might listen, very very very bad hair, body dysmorphia run wild, constant swimming costume worries, tears, more belly laughs, more belly screams – it was fun and traumatic all at the same time). Crazy golf, basically crazy hockey due to my lack of golfing skills. Souvenir shops filled with postcards and keychains and anklets. Bustling restaurants. Sea food paella, messy plates. Ice cream, ice cream everywhere. And siestas. So many siestas.
feeling hot hot hot. There’s nothing like the weather to keep British people entertained and there has definitely been a lot of it this year. This summer was the hottest on record, with temperatures of over 40C being recorded for the first time in the UK. I feel guilty admitting what I’m about to say because a) I’m fully aware that the heatwave fits into a negative and, ultimately, terrifying pattern of climate change and b) I know I’m very lucky to live somewhere I could make the most of the heat rather than just endure it, buuuuut I loved the crystal clear sunshine and long, lazy days and sea swims and blue skies and meals outside and the break from umbrellas, raincoats, wellies, mud, floods and grey, grey, grey.
new job. I started working for the National Trust in June and I love it. I get to work for an organisation I have always admired, at an amazing place with lovely colleagues and I get to spend loads of time outdoors. Plus there’s a secondhand bookshop! There are certainly hard days, but most mornings I feel very luck to work where I do.
So, cheers summer ’22. You were great (apart from the covid bit). I miss you already (apart from the covid bit. Always apart from this).
January isn’t my favourite month. Every year, it feels like a slog; a time to be endured rather than enjoyed. And January 2021? Well, a still raging pandemic and a UK wide lockdown are just the icky icing and mouldy cherry on top of an already pretty rubbish month cake.
But oh well.
In an effort to combat a bout of the January blues, I had a sit down with a notebook and a cup of tea and brainstormed some things to love about this month.
sales. I really don’t like the mantra of “shop till you drop” but I really do like saving money. So if I can pick up some bargains and those bargains are actually things that I need, or are actually things that will make me smile and bring me sustained happiness, or are things that will bring a smile to someone I love’s face, then I’m all in favour. Sale me up!
ice cold tap water. Maybe this is just me, and I get it’s a bit weird, but I love being able to pour a glass of super cold water straight from the tap. Who wants lukewarm when you can have ice cold without having to put any effort in?
it’s named after an ancient Roman god. Although quite a few months are named after Roman gods/goddesses, Janus was the only god to have been blessed with two faces. Having two meant that he could look into the past and the future all at once, which is a skill I think we all wish we could share sometimes. He was the god of beginnings, transitions, journeys, passages, gates, doorways, and time. Here’s to Janus! *raises a glass*
hot chocolates. Cold weather means that the calories in cups of hot chocolate go on a well earned holiday to somewhere sunny and warm (this is totally science*) so you can have as many as you like without fear at this time of year. I think they go to the Maldives (maybe the Seychelles?) for the winter months, but it’s not important where the calories go it’s just important that they really, truly** go. More people should know. Spread the word.
layers. Thermals, knitwear, leggings, fluffy socks, coats, gloves, scarves – there’s so much to wear and I actually kinda like it. I basically look like the Michelin man every time I leave my house at the moment, but I’m at peace with that.
days getting longer. The sun is rising a little earlier and setting a little later every day here in the Northern hemisphere and that’s something worth celebrating! Slowly and steadily, spring is on its way.
snowdrops. I love snowdrops. They’re so pretty and dainty and magical. They brighten up the grey-brown world of winter with pearly seas of whiteness when they appear and for that reason alone I will always love them. They’re arrival also means that daffodils and crocuses and bluebells and blossom aren’t far away. For such teeny tiny flowers, they pack an almighty punch of hope.
mini eggs and hot cross buns appearing in the shops. Everyone else is probably fed up with chocolate and carbohydrates after Christmas, but I’m really not. Easter is coming! *claps with childish excitement*
hibernation. Hibernation is basically government approved this year! Although I desperately, desperately want to leave the house more than once a day and desperately, desperately want to be able to see all the people I love – don’t we all *cries* – I’m also trying to make the most of this enforced downtime. Rest and relaxation is much needed by all of us after the year we’ve had.
vaccines. This is a very 2021 specific reason to love January, but I had to include it because knowing that there’s an end in sight to at least some of this madness in brings me so much happiness. My Grandma had her first Covid-19 vaccination yesterday and I actually did a little jiggly wriggly dance of joy when I heard the news. I can’t wait for my parents to have theirs and I’m excited for my turn when it comes. It feels like hugs are on the horizon!
What do you love about January? Do you like, or dislike, anything on my list?What’s keeping your spirits up this month?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that 2020 has been all about revelling in the little wins. It’s been about celebrating the tiny nice things that have oiled the news-rusted cogs of each day. Sometimes, it’s simply been clinging on to delicate rays of light at the end of unexpected tunnels. And lockdown 2.0 in the middle of a rainy English autumn has only heightened that need (for me, at least) to find the good in the often bad and sometimes ugly.
This post is in honour of some of those random little things that have been my delicate rays of light.
In no particular order, they are…
watercolour clouds. Fluffy, wispy, and wavy; low, heavy, and menacing; in pretty purples, peachy oranges, pastel pinks, shining golds, glittering silvers, and grumpy greys. Clouds at this time of year certainly know how to keep us all guessing what their next moves will be. Which isn’t always ideal, but it is often nice to look at.
jumpers. I love summer, but being reunited with my jumper collection makes my heart ridiculously happy. I just love wrapping up in oversized knitwear, snug as a bug. If you need me anytime in the next six months, you’ll find me hiding in a cocoon of wool.
singing Fleetwood Mac around the house. My family and neighbours might not appreciate me doing this, but I appreciate me doing it so there. Songs to be particularly careful of when they start to play include: Isn’t It Midnight (my favourite), Gypsy, and – of course – Everywhere. Tbh though, no Fleetwood Mac song is safe from my vocal butchery.
bake off. Ah god, the Great British Bake Off brings so much joy to my 2020 wearied soul. It’s comfort TV at its absolute best. Although, did anyone else find watching all the bakers mess up the making of brownies during chocolate week worryingly distressing? FREEZER JUICE! *suppresses eye twitch* Freezer. Juice. I just can’t. *cries*
fresh sheets. Clean sheet day is my favourite day of the week. I love being snuggly, I love being squeaky clean – the match is made in heaven. Sweet dreams are made of this.
watching hair tutorials gone wrong on YouTube. I lay the blame for this obsession entirely at Brad Mondo’s door. It’s such a waste of time, but I can’t seem to stop and I kinda don’t want to stop. It is worryingly addictive witnessing people melt off their hair with bleach, and it somehow makes the worries of the world melt away too…
new music. Old favourites keep my soul cosy, but new finds keep my ears happy. I’m one of those annoying people who has no preferred genre, I just like what I like when I hear it and I don’t think internet algorithms and cookies know quite what to do with me. I’ve been on a new finds roll recently, and one of the tracks from this roll is Loom by Olafur Arnalds and Bonobo. I love it. And how b.e.a.utiful is this video?!
old photos. I love the nostalgia, I love the embarrassment, I love seeing how much clothes/hairstyles/make-up/tech has changed, I love the little stories behind each one… I can’t get enough. And they don’t even have to be my old photos. Vintage/antique photographs make me wonder about lives I’ll most likely never know anything about, and are great for inspiring story ideas.
chocolate. Chocolate makes pretty much every list post I write, which is probably a sign that I need some serious help… but I don’t actually want to recover from this addiction so there. *sticks out chocolate coated tongue*
putting on socks fresh from the radiator. I cannot recommend this enough. It is SUCH a toasty warm feeling and makes for VERY happy feet. If there’s only one thing that you take away from this list, let radiator socks be it.
reflections. One of the few good things about rain is that it makes great puddles, and great puddles make great reflections. And I love a great reflection. What can I say?
eBay. Lockdowns and the reduced opening hours of a lot of local charity shops have made second-hand shopping sprees rare for me this year, but eBay has been a great substitute fix. Which leads me onto…
dressing up. Lockdown boredom has resulted in me reaching to my wardrobe to brighten up quieter days on (a lot) more than one occasion. Sure, sometimes the visual results of my “pick the sparkliest, floweriest clothes I can find” attitude are questionable but it makes me happy so I’m not really fussed if I offensively clash a pattern or two.
wild time. Spending time in nature makes painful days bearable, and already good days even better. Most of my favourite memories from this year involve blue skies, trees, the sea, and/or flowers in some way. And although autumn and winter make outside time a little more tricky, it’s nothing a good piece of knitwear and a hot chocolate can’t fix.
boooooooks. I’m not even going to explain this one. My love will never die. ❤
So, those are a few of the very random things that have been seeing me through the harder moments of autumn 2020. How about you? I’d love to know what little things have been bringing you joy in all of this year’s strangeness…
Normally, I’m a pretty picky reader. If a book hasn’t hooked me by about the fifty page mark (and that’s if I’m feeling really generous, yikes), it’ll be out on its ear and unlikely to be given a second chance to redeem itself.
Recently, though, something weird seems to have happened to me and I’m not 100% sure how I feel about the development.
I’ve ploughed on through two books (who shall remain nameless) that I wasn’t partlicularly enjoying. I refused to give up on them until I made it to their very ends. I stubbornly kept turning their pages. I kept telling myself that things would get better and fall into place. I kept feeling FOMO (of what I don’t actually know) flood my veins each time I considered DNFing them.
One book felt worth the struggle, but only just. The other really, really didn’t.
And these reading experiences have left my reader’s heart and my bookish insticts confused and shaken. I’m not used to feeling unsure about whether to stick books out. Reading decisions are one of the only things in my life I don’t tend to overthink and it’s weirdly unsettling to have that confidence disrupted.
Maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe it’ll shake up my entrenched reading habits and force me to grow and change in unexpected ways. Maybe it means I need to challenge myself.
Maybe it’s just overthinking.
I guess I’ll have to wait and see.
• How do you decide when to stop reading a book? • Have you ever regretted sticking with a book? • Have you ever been thankful you didn’t give up on one? • Do you find changes to your reading habits disruptive in unexpected ways? •
Who knew shopping for a new moisturiser could be so emotionally stressful?
There are so many dramatic, confidence-coroding words to wade through. Defying. Minimising. Reduce the signs of. Fight the signs of. Repair. Fix. SOS. Anti-wrinkle. Anti-ageing.
The lines of my body and the lines of yours are the storylines of our lives – and I’m so, so tired of being made to feel like I have to fight the signs that I’m actually a living, breathing human who’s lucky to be growing older, and maybe even growing wiser, every day. I’m tired of the impending sense of fleshy doom companies drip feed me from all angles. Tired of heart-deep skin worries. Tired of filters specifically designed to “beautify” and hide “flaws” and distort features; filters that mess with the insides as well as the outsides of our heads. I’m tired of airbrushing. And I’m tired of chasing unattainable, ever-changing perfection.
No cream, no balm, no serum, no filter can substitute for the storylines of a life well-lived.
These are some of my body’s lines…
Little cardboard cuts scratched across my fingers and forearms – the bane of supermarket workers the world over. Palm lines that hold my future and my past, or maybe they don’t, who knows? Teeny, tiny fingerprint lines, all mine. Spidery blue lines just below my skin – beating, flowing, rushing lifelines. Hairband lines – most days one found on my right wrist, some days one found right round my tresses, the ugly ghost of a ponytail. Centre parting line, something I have always, and will always, refuse to change no matter what hairdressers say. Anklet lines, my inner bohemian/hippie/magpie released. Bracelet lines painted against my pulse. Watch strap lines telling fleshy time. Tan lines, pale moon-white skin versus slightly less pale and freckle flecked skin. Sometimes, fake tan streaks. Occasionally, wonky eyeliner. Most days, lipstick smudges. Sock lines dug into my calves. Worry lines etched deep on my forehead, maybe even carved down into my skull, from years of not knowing how to let anxieties go. Smile lines that crinkle by my lips, always ready and waiting to make an appearance, from years of knowing the best family and friends. Teary mascara streaks across my face when it all gets too much. Bra strap lines that dent my shoulders and stretch across my back. Uncomfortable underwire lines that trace up to my armpits. White dashes on my fingernails and jagged, broken lines of varnish. Burn lines, guilt infused. Bleary red veins that creep and crawl in the whites of my eyes after too little sleep, bleary red pillowcase creases that thread across my cheek bones after too much. Stretch marks, silver tiger prints blooming on my thighs, my hips, my breasts. Bikini line, ahem. Crinkles above, below, behind my knees. Little lines on my ears from earphone wires. Face mask lines on my nose, something new to get used to. Mini crosshatched lines tattooed to my hands and knees from my yoga mat. Muscle lines – be careful, I’m stronger than I look. Big lines from chair edges pressed into the backs of my thighs. Lines of book page edges printed to the fleshy bit below my thumb. Necklines – higher, lower, what will people think, why do I even care? Jean seam lines, waistband lines, cuff lines.Careless ink lines slashed across my hands. The whisper of crow’s feet lines beside my eyes, memories of laughter.
the bustle and butterflies and getting ready. the backpack and its almost broken zip. the going, going, gone out the door. the grey, grey roads. mirror, signal, manoeuvre. the parking up.
the walk, walk, walk.
the slooshy, silver sea and glassy sunlight. the tarmac to beach ombre. the flip-flops flipped off sandy toes. the picking a spot, backwards, forwards, back again. the nerves, nerves, nerves. the trying to forget my body. the quick strip down to my costume. the quick march to the water and the cool, cool, cool of it against feet, calves, knees, thighs, tummy, arms. the deep, deep breaths. the sinking slowly down to shoulders. the unsucking of feet from sand, flip-flapping them. the slip sliding forwards. the rippling waves slapping chin, cheeks, nose. the absurd thought of sharks. the imagining of pointy teeth, fins, death. the less absurd thought of jellyfish. the imagining of tentacles, poison, death. the closing of eyes and the don’t, don’t, don’t think thoughts. the stopping. the treading water. the goggling at blue skies all above. the resting. the bobbing. neck back, head up, hair wet, heart calming. the tippy toes peeping above the water. the tide tugging, pulling, teasing. the splash marks on sunglasses and the gulls crying. the paddle boarders. the serious swimmers, caps and suits and goggles. the runners on the shore. the cruise ships hanging on the horizon, sea cities turned to ghosts. the goosebumps flooding skin. the press of time, time, time. the strokes towards the beach. the soaked soles on shifting sands. the walking. the fear of falling over. the nerves, nerves, nerves again. the trying to forget my body again. the quick steps across the beach. the sand plastered to ankles. the relief of hiding in a gritty towel. the lying back. the gentle hush of waves. the tired lungs, tired arms, tired legs. the tingly skin. the icy breeze. the tangled hair, sticky and messy in a ponytail. the book, its pages snapping in the wind. the shimmering, sea-slicked shells. the wait, wait, wait to be mostly dry. the packing up. the double check. keys, phone. keys, phone. phone, keys. the drive home with a salty smile on my lips and a little weight lifted from my heart. the rest of the day sunny and sea drunk.
So, the real world is still being weird and scary and stressful. But, have no fear! If you’re looking for some papery, fictional worlds to distract you, I have a couple of books you might want to consider for your reading list (although most of them aren’t set in worlds that are actually any nicer than this one)…
a different drummer by William Melvin Kelley. This is a powerful and unique, and utterly unputdownable, book that explores racism in a (fictional) Southern state in 1950s America. In it, we follow a handful of the white townsfolk of Sutton as they grapple with the meaning behind an exodus of all the town’s, and wider state’s, black citizens. It’s inevitably painful and hard to read but it’s also so, so good. The writing is beautiful, the pacing is perfect, and the characters – the good, the bad, the ugly – come alive on the page. I would highly, highly recommend this one for your TBR list! (I first heard about A Different Drummer via Books, Baking & Blogging – Anne’s review is excellent and well worth a read.)
my cousin rachelby Daphne Du Maurier. Oof, I had so many feelings about this one. It’s incredibly tense and unsettling and uncomfortable, it plays so many mind games, it leaves so many questions unanswered, and it throws up so many issues. I found it painfully infuriating and painfully intoxicating all at the same time. Philip Ashley lives a comfortable and sheltered life in Cornwall under the guardianship of his wealthy cousin, Ambrose. When Ambrose leaves for Italy one winter and marries a mysterious woman during his stay, Philip is mortified. Mortification turns to devastation and suspicion when Ambrose dies suddenly after suggesting his new wife, Rachel, is poisoning him. And when Rachel turns up in Cornwall, Philip’s suspicion descends into twisted obsession. Despite loving me a story full of twisted obsession, I was hesitant to start My Cousin Rachel, ummed and ahhed over it for ages, because I was worried it might be a bit dowdy, a bit stale, a bit old fashioned – and although it’s a book that’s certainly of its time (beware some very offensive language), it was anything but stale or dowdy. I could not stop turning the pages. It’s safe to say my first foray into Du Maurier’s gothic world was a success.
machines like meby Ian McEwan. Ah god, this was a funny one. I liked it… aaand I also hated it a little bit. It follows Charlie, a self-employed financial speculator in an alternate history version of eighties London, as he adapts to life with an AI robot called Adam. The plot itself doesn’t feel very eventful or gripping – the focus of the story stays firmly on the moral can of worms that living with an artificially intelligent, and possibly conscious, machine opens up. It’s peppered with loads of wry humour which I loved, and the questions it raises are undoubtedly interesting, but it just didn’t hit the book spot for me – perhaps ironically, it was full of clever, intriguing brains but lacked a beating heart.
tales from moominvalleyby Tove Jansson. *sighs dreamily* This collection of short Moomin stories is just perfect – each one is life-affirming, heart-warming, surreal, thoughtful, and delightful in its own way. Travel with Snufkin, discover a tiny golden dragon, build a fun fair with a Hemulen, overcome worries with an anxious Fillyjonk – explore the weird wonders of Moominland in all their whimsical glory. Moomin books always make the best comfort reading!
• What have you been reading recently? • Have you read any of these? • What are your thoughts on them? •
The weather here has been perfect for the last few weeks. Blazing blue skies. Glittering sunshine. The ocassional wandering, lonely cloud.
And, to top it all off, there are roses, roses everywhere.
I am obsessed with the Mayor of Casterbridge rosebush in our garden at the moment. It’s overflowing with blooms; a flowerfall of pink petals and leafy greens. And it smells beautiful too, like a lush, floral summer-punch to the nose.
I’m spending an embarrassing amount of time trying to capture its beauty with my camera and on my phone. Different days, different lights, different angles, different (and undignified) stances to get those angles, holding my breath, trying to keep still, cursing any breeze but then delighting in the waft of rosy air that washes my face after it.
None of the photos seem to come out right, though, no matter how many I take.
If I could invite you all over to see it in the flowery flesh, I would.
But, for now, these three photos will have to do instead.
I hope your June is filled with sunshine and rosy moments.