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.
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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.

Tar Baby – Toni Morrison… or how women become what men see in them.

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Didi at Brown Girl Reading is hosting #readsoullit this month, a month long reading challenge to accompany Black History Month in the US. For this purpose, she set a photo challenge, a whole month of booktube videos by various booktubers and she also set up the read along for Tar Baby by Toni Morrison.

I have read a lot by Toni Morrison over the years, all the books are very different in tone and story, but they share a couple of characteristics too: Difficult to read due to style and content, strong characters that drive the book making the plot often secondary. Yet, to me the books have always a compelling quality.

As a white European woman, I am fully aware that I don’t get all the socio-cultural references within Morrison’s work. Or in other words: I don’t know what it means to be black in America, I don’t even know what it means to be white in America. So, quite often if I don’t understand parts of the book, I will either have to do some research or I will have to let it go. Despite this, however, I often get a lot out of her books, they make me think, they make me look within myself and wonder what aspects of the characters can be found within me.

Tar Baby is the story of a series of couples, there is Valerian and his wife Margaret, who loath each other, living mostly on this Caribbean island being served hand on foot by Sydney and his wife Ondine. Therese and Gideon look after the tasks that are too menial for the house servants,  and then there is Jardine, niece to the houseservants, but elevated within the household as a protege and Son, the stranger appearing in their midst.

There are many themes in the book, but the one that struck most of a chord with me, was the one on how the way the men perceive the women is how the women end up seeing themselves. It takes Jardine almost the entire book to consider that she is not that person that she is told by the men in her life that is she is. The men are quite vile to the women at times out in the open at times more subtle in how the woman has to shift and maneuver to accommodate the man. It often made me feel uncomfortable, particularly, when one woman who is assaulted by a man, later finds herself in a relationship with that same man.

An interesting read and I am sure it will echo with me for a long time. You cannot say about such book that you loved it, I did not love this book, but it made me think, I adore her characters, so imperfect, so flawed, so unlikeable, but so, so real.

“I wonder if the person he wants to marry is me or a black girl? And if it isn’t me he wants, but any black girl who looks like me, talks and acts like me, what will happen when he finds out that I hate ear hoops, that I don’t have to straighten my hair, that Mingus puts me to sleep, that sometimes I want to get out of my skin and be only the person inside– not American– not black– just me?”

By the way, according to the dictionary, a tar baby is “a difficult problem that is only aggravated by attempts to solve it.” – I had never heard of it.


Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 8th 2004 by Vintage (first published 1981)