Why do we read seasonal?

Molly Flatt wrote a piece for the Guardian many, many years ago (I found it: Do you have a seasonal reading pattern?) and it was the first time that I wondered whether the weather influenced my reading. Depending on my mood, when you catch me, my answer can be one of the following

  • No, never
  • Yes, I read sad books in winter and want happy books in summer
  • The reverse of the statement above
  • What seasons, I live in Britain.

Sarcasm aside, my TBR is stuffed full with books that I sort of keep aside for reading during hot summery weather and since that is normally in short supply, I only ever get to one or two of them before I head back to my dark Historical Fiction, the mysteries, the Fantasy tomes etc.

In comes summer 2018: I think it’s well over a month now that is has been sunny and wonderful and I find I started to pick up books that have summery themes, often of an oppressive nature or set in hot places or about people who come from cool climates and then find themselves in unspeakable heat. So, I select these off my bookshelves and place them on the bedside table (which is like being longlisted for a book award in my house, seriously, once you are on the bedside table, your chances are pretty high to reach the “read” status).

So a few things that I have promoted to my bedside table:

 

The Mosquito Coast

Adventure story set in the Honduran Jungle. It sounds dark, it sounds oppressive and has been lingering on my TBR for nearly two years. This might be the summer I am reading it. I feel in the mood for it, so it might just happen.

Illyrian Spring

A 1930s novel by a woman writer? Well, that has been my cup of tea for a while now. Set on the Dalmatian coast, which is one of my favourite places. Apparently, it was scandalous when it first came out. I don’t read gossip magazines, but I do like a good bit of literary scandal.

Mr Lynch’s Holiday

A Midlands bus driver visits his son in a Spanish expat colony and the drama ensues from there. I quite like these enclosed settings and I live in the Midlands, so Brummies on holiday: Sign me up! I always wanted to read something by Catherine O’Flynn anyway.

Villa America

I have already started this one and am by now nearly half way through and I am hooked, this is the second book I am reading set on the Riviera, historical fiction centering around the very real Murphys who basically turned the French Riviera into what it became: a pilgrimage for sun seekers from all over the world. They also apparently inspired one of Fitzgeralds book and I am a smitten kitten and absolutely adore every single minute of this so far.

Fatal Inheritance

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I actually requested this as an arc from the publisher, because I adored the premise and I really enjoyed it. A mysterious inheritance, a woman trapped in a loveless marriage who then travels down to the South of France to claim it and gets swept up in the drama and glitz of the French Riviera. Danger and plenty of mystery ensues. Historical fiction, with a hint of Mary Stewart, a touch of Highsmith, perfect for reclining on a deckchair, sipping a cocktail and enjoying this summer. Will be published on the 28th of July.
So, in summary (or should I say: summery): I am a cliche and the weather does clearly dictate what I want to read, eat and drink.
Does the weather influence your reading?

 

Windy, with a side of snow

Last week, weather happened in the UK and we ground to a halt. As a country, we are ill equipped to deal with snow at the best of times (for the most part, it just does not happen enough) but combine this with two stormfronts, well, then you got chaos.

We mainly stayed inside apart from sledging when the wind finally settled on Saturday. And now, today as I look out of the window, the snow is almost gone. Amazing how 8 Celcius can feel almost tropical.

There is a lesson there. And I am not saying that the weather happened for me to acknowledge something to myself, yet the weather totally helped.

For one: I am super creative making the contents of my fridge/freezer last and come up with delicious meals out of sheer nothingness. A tin of tomatoes, some random lentils and bits and bobs of veg made one of the best soups ever. I baked bread. I made oat cookies. Hearty dishes for the freezing temperatures. It pleased me and I am not always good at acknowledging this talent of mine, because a talent it is.

Two: When it comes down to the knuckle, most things can wait. You can just let it all go, because stuff mostly can wait.

Three: As a family we are good at being cooped up with each other. That’s good to know too.

Now the snow is going and it’s back to normality. Soon we shall be in Scotland quite frankly, I cannot wait. Right now as I look out of the window, I see houses and cars. When we are in Scotland, I will see the loch, the hills and maybe a boat.

Seven Dead by J. Jefferson Farjeon

I have read quite a few of Farjeon’s books over the years and some of them were quite good, but there is always something that does not quite work for me and with Seven Dead I finally figured out what it is: He is trying to appeal to too many audiences at once. You know some people like the murder mystery, the puzzle figuring out how a murder was committed, others like the adventure stories chasing an “unknown” villain, hunting them down, others love the suspense type books, that keep you on the edge of the seat whilst another group does love a bit of romance in their books, some like a policeman doing the investigation, others love a bystander becoming the sleuth. In this book you have all of that and more. Whilst for the most part it is enjoyable in a way, the conclusion of the book is just silly and so random that if you lived in my neighbourhood, you would have heard a frustrated sigh. A loud one. Still, these days, I adore these books and these re-issues since the Golden Age has become almost of academic interest to me. It’s like a personal research topic for me. So on that note, this one was interesting. 34862888


Paperback, British Library Crime Classics, 288 pages
Published September 4th 2017 by The British Library (first published 1939)
Thanks to Netgalley and Poisoned Pen Press for the review copy.

 

Self-care thoughts – Humpday Musings

At the moment, it feels like that wherever I go, I’m bombarded with marketing that tells me if I only buy this product, I am going to feel well. That by buying this, I will look after myself and feel happier. Treat yo’self, woman.

I wonder how long this has been going on and why this year in particular, I can see it everywhere. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like to have a soak in the bathtub in something lovely – though I hate bathbombs – but I do know that it’s not the bath foam that makes me feel good but the actual break I take being in the tub. Allowing myself 15 minutes to just chill. No phones, no social media, no work, no housework, no demands on my person. I even lock the cats out from the bathroom.

I have been thinking lots about self-care recently (hence, why I most likely see it everywhere, it’s called confirmation bias) and what that actually really means. Winter has been taking its toll on me and as I found out yesterday, my Vitamin D levels are once again really, really low. I am not sure, why I have not cottoned on earlier, after all, that happens a lot and I am also not sure why I don’t simply start taking Vitamin D as soon as the autumn equinox is done and dusted. This winter has just been so dark, so cold and so wet, that it’s no wonder that the levels need support (in the form of a Vitamin D3 supplement taken with some good fat – not a doctor, but that’s how I am told to take it). I know that within a week, heck even within days, I will feel so much better. I even felt a lot better just being outside on a mostly, sunny day last Saturday. But yeah, I have been neglecting self-care here.

I am pretty good at prioritizing something that is important to me and that I class as self-care: Reading. Wherever you look, taking time with a book is often classed as one of the key things you can do to relax and to look after yourself. I got that down to perfection as I practice this everyday. I even leave the phone in another room.

Other things, I am a constant work in progress: Asking for help, when I need it, for example. I am so terrible at that. Most women are. Maybe men, too. Getting enough sleep is another, I go to bed early, but I am often up at 4 am, but I hope that the Vitamin D will help with that. Just sit down and do nothing, not even reading a book; I have this odd thing that I always feel the need to something, if I don’t I think I am lazy. Hence why the baths are so important, yet, I often listen to an audiobook while in the tub, so I guess that’s slightly counter productive (yeah, always thinking of productivity, so hard to stop). So I sit down to meditate (I consider that doing, despite it being important), I sit down to read (important) but I hardly ever sit down to just be. You know daydream, stare out of the window and be a bit bored. I miss being a bit bored, my days are so full, that I rarely am bored, but at times I think it’s a good thing, because creativity will come out to play when I am a bit bored.

Self-care is important, it’s a luxury in itself to live in a place where you can sit down in a warm house with a good book and read and feel safe and be healthy (enough). Proper luxury, yet, business tells us, that it’s not a simple thing to do. That we must spend money to feel better about ourselves, download an app (that costs money and forces us to spend more time on our phones), spend money on going to places to experience self-care. I am really concerned about this, because: Are we really losing our ability to just be? Isn’t that a crucial bit that makes us human?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this? Am I alone in my concerns? How do you look after yourself? Or do you even?

Friday Things

It is Friday once again and on Fridays I like to share all the things I have been fascinated by, found interesting and so on.

First of all, I want to invite you to vote in the poll for my Read Around the World Bookclub to select the April book, read here, what the bookclub is and join our Goodreads group if you can. Here is my video for the books suggested for April.

Here is the poll:

The lovely Susannah Conway is doing a new e-course: Your Soul Speaks. It is all about tapping into your intuition, connecting with yourself. I have pretty much done all her e-courses over the years and always got a lot out of it and I am doing it, so join me if you can. The course starts on March 5th, there is still time to enroll.

My lovely friend Milena (she writes about books here) has recommended this website for me which is all about sustainable, plastic-free living. I have reduced our use of plastics so much, but there is always more that can be done and I am looking forward to being inspired reading Pebble Mag.

I have been obsessing about various pieces of classical music recently, I usually listen to a variety but then at times, I hit repeat on a piece for a whole week. In particular, Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor op 85, here performed by the wonderful Sol Galbetta. It was Elgar’s last big work and sadly was not popular in his lifetime as its premier was a debacle. He wrote it just after the Great War and I think you can really sense the grief and devastation and the memory of almost a naivety of the pre-war years and how nothing would ever be the same again. It is now a fairly well known piece and often performed, it is my favourite piece by Elgar, I am not such a huge fan of his pompous pieces. I need to see this performed again, so shall be scanning the programs.

Also: I rather be in this place right now.

And I leave you with this poem. Happy Friday. Happy Weekend.
tw

Menopausal Mysteries – Humpday Musings

Considering that approx. half the world are women, it is quite fascinating how little we talk about all the mysteries that concern women and their bodies.

It starts with periods and you think that would be better now than 40 years ago, but sadly it is not. I overheard my daughter and her friend talking about the impending “doom” recently and my daughter’s friend said: “It’s like having a giant wound inside you.” Erm, no. Before I could chip, thankfully my daughter cleared up the matter.

Now, that I am nearing the end of my cycles, I fully admit that I am not going to miss them. I was never one to embrace the monthly bane of my life, for it was marred with too much pain and sickness, so there is a huge part of me that is a bit “good riddance” for the time when I am through this current phase.

I am currently perimenopausal which is the term used for the period that leads up to the menopause, also the period during which you will have most of those symptoms, you know hot flashes, irritability, loss of sleep etc. etc.

What gets me is not so much the fact that there is so much conflicting information about this available, after all just look at the different diets, some praise low fat as the answer, others call it the devil’s invention. No, what gets to me is that women talk so little about it. I mean why aren’t there “Perimenopausal Clubs”, like a bookclub but you can talk to other women about how you feel and feel less alone and less crazy. Even among friends, we barely touch on it. Occasionally, we recommend a supplement or moan about a sleepless night, but we don’t look into the abyss with each other.

I wonder why that is and if it was ever any different. Probably not because most women would have died before they even got too far into their perimenopause let alone get to the menopause.

All the books, I have read either annoy me or confuse me. The annoyance can range from “if you are a spiritual sound person, you will fly through the menopause” to “just deal with it” (but how, how, how?) and the confusion is that one book will claim this diet will heal you, yet another condemns that diet.

I guess the simple reality is that there is no clear answer, no clear path, not one common experience, just loads of experiences that are kinda similar and mostly, us women just find ourselves alone in the wilderness navigating this change. It’s a miracle that most of us come out the other end without having lost our marbles completely. If you can count 1 or 2 people amongst your friends who totally get it, then you are a lucky, lucky individual indeed.

I am sorry if you came to get some insights or answers, there are none here. I am still searching, unravelling the mystery for myself, trying to listen to my body and my mind. Some days, it feels really hard to keep it together, those days are thankfully not all that many at the moment, but they are there and I try to embrace them with as much kindness for myself as I can muster. “Here,” I say, “Melanie, be kind, have a hot bath, a cup of tea, read your book, go for a walk. It’s one of those days, you know them and if you fight them, you only harm yourself.” Some days, I accept those words, others, I will fight it with teeth clenched and fists raised and achieve nothing other than a form of exhaustion that is completely new to me.

The cycles – while they are still here – are hell. There is no other word for it. This time was never easy for me right from the beginning, but now, I am mostly just in a heap somewhere, a little bundle of misery and pain.

So no insights. No words of wisdom of what you can do. Just me, waving my hands, saying: “I get it, I got it, me too, it sucks, it will pass and here is a piece of chocolate.”

Happy Humpday

The weekend was…

Filled with cat antics

jam on toast without spread because that’s how I roll

Reading books on my kindle

Drinking tea (and finishing of the Bluebird teas – not a fan, sadly, wish there was David’s Tea in the UK)

 

Roller disco birthday parties, which are the best.

Chasing a nearly 4 year old and reminding myself that she is no longer a toddler.

Instead of going for a walk, waiting the whole day for a desk delivery. Building said desk and then contemplating if the position is that good or if I will just end up staring out of the window instead of working.

Also, I paid the price of getting the 11 year old face paint crayons for her last birthday.

And some more, reading, anything better than a mystery on a rainy, haily, windy Sunday evening. Nope, I cannot think of anything.