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)

Flavia De Luce #9: The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place

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I remember reading my first Flavia De Luce mystery 4 years ago and being instantly hooked. Everything from the disheveled manor house, the horrid sisters, the housekeeper/cook that cannot really cook nor keep house, the general factotum Dogger… to last but not least Flavia herself, 11 year old chemist, lonely and very precocious.

Now, imagine my surprise when I recommended this series to a friend and she did not like it because of Flavia. I nearly took offense, because at times, we do take insults to favourite fictional characters rather personal. Yet, thinking about it, I can see that Flavia may split the lovers and haters quite distinctly.

I adore her. I laugh out loud reading it, I am often feeling very sad for her. I know there is a huge part of me that can identify my own 11 year old with Flavia.

The series also captures a certain post-war mood in 1950ies Britain, the manors of the former rich now broke were falling apart, rationing was still going, it just did not really feel like a war had being won.

I was delighted when I got send a digital ARC for book 9 in the series. Ecstatic. Delirious. And I immediately sat down and read it. The De Luce girls are on a little holiday, punting along a river, when Flavia accidentally (is there any other way) dead body floating in the river. More cannot be said about the plot as this is an ongoing series.

Naturally, I highly recommend this. But start at the beginning. If you hate precocious children, this may not be for you. Otherwise, find a comfy chair, make yourself a cuppa and fetch a plate of biscuits and enjoy.

I certainly did.


Hardcover, 368 pages
Published February 8th 2018 by Orion (first published January 30th 2018)
Thanks to Netgalley and Orion for the advance copy. 

Friday Things

On my old blog, I used to do a thing called Friday Things. A list of stuff that I am grateful for, stuff I liked during the week, things that made me laugh, things that made me stop and think, things that make me cry a little. So I start again.

Some things I am grateful for this week:

  • Naturally, my family (you can take this as a given, that I am always grateful for them)
  • Shops that have staff that actually know what they do, when you encounter it, you are so amazed and so happy. Thank you loveliest of salespeople at Skatehut.
  • Years of piano means that my kid is now playing tunes I adore listening to while she practices. Same goes for the violin.
  • My essential oil diffuser. I love coming back in the room and the scent is so wonderful.
  • The internet. I know it gets a bad rep at times and yes, you have to monitor how much you use it on a daily basis. BUT… it’s also pretty awesome.

This video made me cry. I believe my husband is currently packing his bags and following his destiny to become a dog hugger (he would be so good at it, too):

Also: Go Iceland: Iceland elects 41-year-old environmentalist as prime minister

I found this TEDMED talk by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris super interesting, how childhood adversity impacts adult health.

When countries around Europe introduced women’s suffrage.

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Happy weekend everyone.

Last summer in Dumfries and Galloway

I love Scotland. Anyone who knows me or just spent a few minutes with me, will be informed about this passion of mine by me gushing at them. Probably, right after “hello.”

And before you ask: No, this love of Scotland is not Outlander related. I was always a lover of all things British, even as a small kid, I loved books set in the UK by British authors (especially featuring castles) and so it was small wonder that I ended up living in the UK. My first trip to Scotland was in 2003 with my (now) husband and it was love at first sight. Thankfully, my husband and my daughter equally love Scotland, so at least once a year (often twice) we head up north and explore.

Our mission is to visit all parts of Scotland and last summer, we went to Dumfries and Galloway. On various trips up north, we would always say: “Oh look this part seems nice.” as we speed along the motorway. Last year, we decided to stop for once and use Dumfries as our destination.

I looked for cottages along the stretch of coast between Kirkudbright and Newton Stewart and settled on one at Kirkdale Estate. We stayed at Kirkdale Bank, which is a lovely cottage sleeping 6 (although I have to admit, that 6 would push it a bit, so two families sharing may not be ideal, but one family with 4 children that would work) and it was plenty big enough for the three of us.

I admit that my heart sank initially when we arrived as a busy A-road was thundering past above the cottage. One thing I go on holiday for is to escape the constant road and traffic noise I have whilst living in the city. Admittedly, it was fine inside the cottage (thick walls) and down by the sea you could hear nothing.

A short walk down a private path leads you to this. For the entire week, there was always only us there. We had several BBQ dinners on the beach, went rockpooling and just hang out down there. That was the most fantastic aspect of this holiday and without a shadow of a doubt what makes this holiday cottage.

Dumfries and Galloway is beautiful and it is really Scotland in minituare. The Galloway Forest park provides hills and mountains and lochs and forest and wildlife and all of that was a mere 10 minutes away from the cottage. We went mountain biking, went for hikes and explored, it was lovely.

Another highlight was seeing the Red Kites at the Red Kites Farm. No, the Red Kites are not being farmed, but a farmer near Kirkudbright has been putting food out for them for years and years, so every afternoon they gather and come down to pick up their food. We walked into the hills behind the farm and saw them soar and it was the most wonderful sight to behold.

We also expored Wigtown, as a booklover it was a must, but sadly it was soooo rainy, I did not take any pictures, but I did buy books and ate lovely cake.

On a sunny day (they happen in Scotland), we went to Culzean Castle, free for us with our National Trust membership (total bonus of holidaying in the UK) and we had an excellent tour of the castle and a meander through the grounds. Best playground ever, despite the fact that the zipline was out of action that day.

A short walk up a hill from our cottage, is a neolithic burial site called Cairn Holy, the husband was desperate to time travel back and become a chieftain or something, but alas, the stones did not transport him through time.

Dumfries is definitely a place to visit again for us, we are thinking about a long weekend later in the year as it is only 4 hours from Birmingham. The closest Scottish destination for this Scotland lover.