Friday 29th March

Complicated feelings as today is the day, Britain would have originally left the EU. Amazing that we seem nowhere nearer to a solution and all options are still very much up in the air. Unsurprisingly, my MP is a hardline Brexiteer and despite the fact that he voted against no deal, he wants a hard Brexit. He also voted against teaching children in school about gay families. I am not surprised only surprised that so many people locally seemed surprised when I shared this fact.

I trapped a nerve in my back yesterday while gardening, so today will be a slow day. Little bits of work that need doing, some tidying – slowly – but anything that lies on the floor will remain there. I simply cannot bend down.

Yesterday, while sorting out the front garden (and the reason why I now have a trapped nerve), I was finishing off the audiobook “Diary of a Bookseller” by Shaun Bythell and it was the perfect antidote to Brexit Britain. Shaun runs a bookshop in Wigtown in Scotland and yes, I have been there, because I am a sad book person. Because of this, I picked up Orwell’s Bookshop Memories off my shelf, it’s in a collection of essays I found year’s ago in a National Trust bookshop. You got to love National Trust bookshops just for this reason. Anyway, listening to the audio out front made me laugh out loud and I wonder what random passers-by thought of me.

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Not much exercise was achieved this week. First I cut my heel open, so I have been hobbling around in shoes with the back trodden down, now the trapped nerve. I really hope for a better week, although I admit that if me having backpain would result in Article 50 being revoked I would be ok for another week of trapped back nerves – that’s how desperate I am. But I know I am kidding myself. Even if it was revoked, this issue will not go away and the effects of this referendum will haunt this country for a long time.

I also finished The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby and The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. You could not pick two books more different from each other than these too. I liked both of them and shall talk about them in my wrap-up on Monday on YouTube.

As always when I feel a bit sorry for myself, I bought some books. From ebay and trying to find independent booksellers selling them. (After effects from Bythell’s book).

The first one just sounded so mad, I had to have it. Moonraker’s Bride by Madeleine Brent.

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Published in the 70ies, this is a historical romance. I am trying to fill the Martha Stewart shaped hole that will appear once I finished the last of her mystery romances.

And then I also bought Claire Coleman’s Terra Nullius. An Australian science-fiction novel. I am in the mood for some sci-fi (Started Semiosis last night and so far loving it.)

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On that note, happy Friday.

Random Thoughts 27th March

Brexit has been occupying much of my thinking processes in the past few weeks. I signed the petition, even contemplated going to the march in London but then remembered that crowds like that may trigger a panic attack and thought I best stay home.

I am slowly making my way through the Walter Scott Prize Longlist and so far the results are:

Little  by Edward Carey (Gallic Books) – yet to read

A Long Way From Home  by Peter Carey (Faber) – yet to read

After The Party  by Cressida Connolly (Viking) – read, thought it was ok – ***/5

Washington Black  by Esi Edugyan (Serpent’s Tail) – read, don’t get the hype **/5

The Western Wind  by Samantha Harvey (Jonathan Cape) – read, not my thing, but get why people love it **/5

Dark Water  by Elizabeth Lowry (riverrun) – read, atmospheric, if you love Moby Dick, you are going to love this, atmospheric, clever. Torn between *** or ****/5 but probably more like ****

Now We Shall Be Entirely Free  by Andrew Miller (Sceptre) – not read yet

Warlight  by Michael Ondaatje (Jonathan Cape) – read, am a fan woman, ****/5

The Wanderers  by Tim Pears (Bloomsbury) – will only read if shortlisted

The Long Take  by Robin Robertson  (Picador) – not yet read

All The Lives We Never Lived  by Anuradha Roy (Maclehose Press) – not yet read

Tombland  by C J Sansom (Mantle) – Uber fan and read when it came out and *****/5

I am taking a few books break now from the shortlist. Currently reading a mix of fiction and non-fiction:

Der Trümmermörder by Cay Rademacher (Murder in the Ruins) is a book that so many people recommended to me in the past few months, I just have to give it a go.

Slowly making my way through a poetry collection: Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo which I am really loving so far.

Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg’s classic on writing practice is also on the side and I read a chapter when I sit down with a cuppa.

Then The Stopping Places by Damien Le Bas, longlisted for the Jhalak Prize is also on the go, I have never read a book before on Traveller/Romani culture and so far I am finding it a fascinating read.

And then finally, a new release The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby, set in Birmingham in the 19th century (I live in Birmingham) and so far, I am really quite enjoying it, I have a feeling this will turn very dark, so we shall see. Kinda fun though to hear a character referring to places you know (“no, Smethwick way”). I am a bit of a sucker for local colour.

I also went to the library today because clearly, I don’t have enough books out already (22 books at present), no, I needed to add more books (now 24 books out) and got Manda Scott’s Into the Fire and because I am an eternal optimist, I also got the second book in the series A Treachery of Spies. See Brexit has not totally destroyed my optimism, in some areas it still works. Victoria from Eve’s Alexandria and I shall start buddy reading Into the Fire this weekend and I cannot wait, I am really in the mood for some page turner type goodness and I loved Manda Scott’s Boudica novels a lot (read all of them quick succession, was proper obsessed).

The sun keeps shining at the moment which is good as I don’t think anyone could cope with what’s going on if it was raining on top of it all.  The neighbours across from us had a lunchtime barbecue. On a weekday. I like their spirit.

As I was driving down Soho Road in Handsworth today, I was struck once again by the sheer number of wedding shops there and how wonderfully colourful Asian wedding gowns are in comparison to white ones. I also kind of love that a wedding shop is right next to a shop selling fruit and veg. Keeping it real, even if you are buying wedding gear, you are still hungry. I keep meaning to stop at the Romanian bakery in Handsworth and buy some of their stuff to try it out, I adore shops like this. Someone on Facebook said that Polish shops are the reason, we have Brexit. And lots of people agreed. I like Polish shops although the one I love might close as the owners are thinking about going back to Poland. Another empty shop on the High Street. Maybe a betting shop will open.

I know I sound bitter, but it’s surreal to live through this Brexit stuff and it keeps going. And then there was the Guardian Article about the findings that European’s rights in the UK will be impacted. We have been saying this all along, but naturally no one listens. I basically no longer really talk to anyone, because the joke “we will just hide you in the cellar” has stopped being funny in 2017, which was incidentally when it started, meaning the joke was never funny. Just not funny. Also: I know nobody with a cellar.

Apparently dinner is ready. So farewell, thanks for reading, if you did.

 

 

 

 

A good start to 2019

Freaky Halloween Eats

Normally, I spend the time between Christmas and New Year reflecting on the year gone by and make some plans for the New Year. I am not one for resolutions, but I do like to ponder what the New Year might bring.

In between the years, I fill out Susannah Conway’s Unravelling the Year Ahead workbook and think about a word for the coming year, kind of to set the scene. I have been doing all of these for the past decade and have gotten much enjoyment from this in the past.

This year, however, I feel myself unable to do this. The year ahead frightens me, what with Brexit, having to register myself on a list as an unwanted person in the UK, all the global issues, the planet. Like a child, I just want it all to be ok. All of it. Someone please come and wave a wand and make it so. This is naturally not going to happen, but because of it, I don’t feel in a space where I would enjoy making plans or even reflecting back.

So this January, I just treat this month like any other month. I will plough through my to do list. Cook food for my family. Look after myself both with regards to my fitness but also my mental wellbeing and this will all just have to do.

I never really bought into the whole New Year, New You kind of thing anyway, but making plans has always been part of who I am. I shall see if the not making plans feels good to me. Or even better.

The only thing really, I am very excited about is the Reading Challenge I am hosting with Eve’s Alexandria on goodreads and youtube: Reading Through the Ages. A year of reading historical fiction. Kind of fitting, really. The present seems so baffling, let’s look back. Maybe we can learn something. Join us, if you want.

Happy New Year, may it bring you blessings.

The Lost Days of Summer

Apparently it’s Wednesday. My phone says so. Which means that unless there has been some international data breakdown, I assume this is right. It’s week 1 of the kid’s summer holiday and I already lost track of days. I am trying not to be disturbed by this but I admit to failing.

It is odd really, because at Christmas I do really enjoy the loosing track of days, when each day becomes just like the other filled with food and family and board games and reading by the fire. In the summer though, I have stuff to do. Deadlines to keep, so losing track of the days makes me anxious, because what if I forget to deliver that job or reply to that email? What then?

It’s great for the 11 year old, though. I remember summers as a kid, the days seemingly stretch out in front of you forever. Possibilities of what I could do every single day, I miss that boredom, miss hanging out at the lido, miss riding my bike everywhere, reading without interruption. And then at the end of the summer, I looked forward to going back to school (yes, I was that kid) and having a bit of a routine again, but while it lasted, I loved every minute of it.

Now, I am grateful that I work from home, I am grateful for it every single day. Yet, I admit that summers change my routine of “kid is at school, time to work”. It’s 6 am. I have already been at the computer for more than an hour doing some admin stuff for my work. Planning what I need to do today. I am quickly typing these thoughts down and then roughly at 6.15, I will start my work day. The work day is fractured with time spend with my kid, because a) goodness knows how much longer she wants to hang out with me b) I like spending time with her and c) I am easily distracted when she is around anyway.

I am often faced with people that tell me that this sort of working cannot be productive. Or that, because I work this way during school holidays, means that what I do is not real work. Years ago, that really bothered me. Now, I just smile. The amazing thing I have learnt is that these fractured days are mostly super productive in terms of work. The work load gets done. I am happy, too, because I get to do stuff with that human I have created. And then when I sit down, my brain just seems to slot into whatever job I am working on. And every year, I think: Look at this, you work well this way, why not incorporate it into your life when September comes, get up early, do some work, then after lunch when you are tired, you can snooze for 30 minutes. Yet, every single year, as soon as September comes, I return back to the way of working that society seems to find acceptable: Sit down at the computer and work for a solid 6-7 hour block. Push through that tiredness, forget about going for a walk, forget about taking care of yourself, that is for those hours outside of the work block.

I have plans to push through this conditioning this year and have put reminders in my google calendar that say: Remember summer, remember all the work got done and you still had fun.

And now, some coffee and work. It’s 6.10.

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?

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