Sunday, 30 May 2010

Pressing Pause

I've been trying to work out how best to address this, and all I could come up with, that wasn't too morbid and sad, is to say I've got what Holly Golightly called the mean reds, but unlike the film (or the book) I don't think it can be fixed by eating a croissant in the perfect LBD outside a world famous jewellery shop. I'm going to take myself off to the doctor's this week and see how best to sort things out. I can't believe this is happening to me again. Sorry for the lack of posts but I'm not feeling very inspired or anything right now.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

If You Go Down To The Woods...

Summer has arrived in my corner of the British Isles, and it's boiling. It'll probably only last a week (hopefully). I am not a fan of this weather, I'm descended from Celts, so I have ridiculously pale skin, blonde hair and blue eyes, and I burn lobster red in no time at all, and it's horrific. My mum has olive meditterean skin courtesy of my Nan's French ancestry, but I'm stuck with the Scottish part and it's grim in the summer. The slightest flash of skin and it's pink and painful.

Anyway, sunburn hazards aside, it's been a fun weekend. Yesterday I went with a group of friends up into the country park in the town where I live (we're technically a London suburb, but it borders on countryside). After marching through the woods (why is a male 5 minutes more like 15?) we made our way to a sunny patch of grass and gathered around to gossip, laugh, drink lemonade, beer and cider and be silly. Then when it cooled and the sun disappeared, the boys made fire! We had a little bonfire in the woods, don't worry we put it out carefully. It was fun. I got lost in the woods and had to be found (I have no sense of direction at all!) but it was just jolly. We should be doing something similar in a week or so if the weather holds.
Today I've just lazed around, reading the papers, listening to lovely summery music and trying to keep cool. Hope you've all had good weekends and your batteries are recharged!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Some things which are nice!

I love getting things in the post, it's one of the reasons I like BookMooch so much, free books delivered to my door, yes please! I like the sound of exciting things falling through the letter box. I don't really like it when it's something depressing, like a bill though. So the nice present I got yesterday was definitely more fun. One of the blogs I follow is Today I Saw, and Jill, whose project it is, was asking if anyone wanted to be a recipient of one of her quirky postcards. So I sent her an email and she sent me this postcard. The project ends on June 4th, so check it out.

Also, Clarissa, who gave me the blog award, is writing a book, you can read it here, I've just started, and I like it so far!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

The following post will make little or no sense, probably

Suitable I think, for the new austerity we're facing

So I didn't get the job. Cheers Universe. Oh well, onwards and upwards I guess.

After I lay in bed for several hours, processing my latest failure, reading a Marian Keyes novel (it's like a hug and/or chocolate but with no calories), I got my arse in gear. I went up the road, bought a paper, orange juice and a cinnamon bagel (once smeared liberally with Nutella, definitely the most perfect thing ever!).
Then I decided to sort out some of the junk gathering dust in my room. I ferreted out some old bags moldering away in the depths of my wardrobe and discovered I still really like a couple of them. I used to buy a new bag of one type or another every few months, partly because I get bored really quickly, and partly because I'm no exactly known for being practical. Once I've replaced it, the previous bag is swiftly abandoned, until I dig it out and either give it to my sister, chuck it away or donate it to charity. While some of the stuff I unearthed today is definitely headed for the charity shops, a couple look like, with a bit of a clean and some tlc, they might be something I could actually re-use. So tomorrow I'm sticking them in the washing machine on a handwash cycle to see if that cleans them up a little (because I am far too lazy to wash them by hand, and the machine does it more efficiently).
Also tomorrow I'm taking some books, bags and other assorted things I don't want anymore down to the charity shop and I'm going to treat myself to a rummage of their bookshelves and see if I can't rustle up a few cheerful paperbacks for pennies!
This weekend the weather's supposed to be rather nice, so hopefully I'll go and meet up with some friends and hang out in the sunshine, and maybe there'll be a barbecue at home (depends on my dad's mood).
I'm trying my best not to slip back into the funk I was in at the beginning of the year when I first realised I was unemployed and with no immidiate prospects. I don't ever want to slip back in the depression that threatened to steal my late teens/very early 20s. I need to stay positive. Things will look up, I just hope sooner rather than later.

Photo source

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Something or other...

I have a job interview tomorrow!! Eeek!! I'm not nervous, but I will be. About 5 minutes before, I'll feel sick, my hands will tremble and I'll have to talk myself out of a panic attack. This happens. It sucks. That's the only way to explain it. Every interview I've ever had, the first day of my first uni classes, the day before I started my CELTA course last November, every new job I've ever had. I make myself so wound up and freaked out and then I do fine. Even knowing this does me no good. I give good interview, despite my shyness (I can't speak to people I don't know right away), I get along with people.
Maybe it's the many drama classes (if you can't do it, fake it!) or the fact that I've been in this situation before, or that once I start talking sometimes getting me to stop is quite hard! I'm better in person than on paper, it's why I hate writing personal statements on application forms. I sound like some sort of automaton or just really odd, in person I'm much nicer, honest! More human, warmer, occasionally funny, people take to me. I've never quite worked out why. In my head I'm a neurotic mess, constantly failing to seize the moment, unable to make a decision (I could procrastinate for England), and too busy daydreaming to actually do anything. Somehow, when I have to, I suck it up and get on with it.
So here goes. This isn't a job I want to do, but it's a job, where I will get paid, not another voluntary job, and I can keep looking for the job that fits while I do this. If I spend much longer trapped in my parents' house alone all day I will actually lose it completely!

In other news. I got my hair cut. It looks exactly the same, just with no split ends. I am on a never-ending quest to find a haircut that suits me and my deranged hair which has a life of its own. It's fluffy and fly-away at the front, long and heavy all over and if it gets too short, grows sideways. I often wake up with it stuck at odd angles. I brush it before I sleep, unless I'm performing some sort of acrobatics asleep, it really shouldn't look like it does. At least it's tidy, and washed. I guess it's an ok colour (I'm a blonde), but it drives me nuts. It's probably the girliest thing about me, (apart from my shoe fixation or the fact I could open a branch of Boots in my room) I live in jeans and t-shirts, I'm not that keen on skirts and dresses, but somedays I wish I could just make it behave!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

After the rain

The earth steams
A scent of wet
The grass glistens
Droplets suspended like glass
The world refreshed
A coolness hanging from the trees
Like the first breath
A world made new again

I think there's still some work to do on this one. It doesn't feel completely right yet. I'll have a think and try and work out what needs doing. Consider this a shot of a work in progress.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Guilty Pleasures

We all have them, be it chocolate, or old MGM musicals when it's raining. But I'm talking about literary ones. I have several. I love Marian Keyes' lovely, funny novels. She's not afraid to tackle quite serious issues, like spousal abuse, addicition, rape and abortion, but she does it in such a way that you don't feel bad after reading her books. Her characters are likeable and reassuringly human. She may be grouped as 'chick lit', that irritating, dismissive phrase, but I don't care, I think she's a great writer, her collections of non-fiction are also hilarious and I recommend reading her books, especially on days when it's raining!

My other big literary guilty pleasure is crime novels. I've mentioned my love of Agatha Christie before, but I also like writers such as Tess Gerritsen, David Baldacci and Sophie Hannah (who's also a poet!). Maybe it stems from my watching CSI, Bones (based on Kathy Reichs' novels) etc on TV, but I quite enjoy a good crime thriller, although I'm rubbish at solving it before the writer unveils all at the end. It's the reason I won't watch CSI with my dad, he's got the deductive brain, while I remain clueless. Oh well, I guess I'll never be a detective!
Finally, I will admit to still reading children's books. Mostly these are the ones I read as a child and return to when I'm not feeling well and want some comfort. Some are classics, like Little Women or The Secret Garden, while others are more recent, but they act like a hug, reminding me that it's all going to be ok.
What are your guilty reading pleasures?

Cross posted at A Book A Day Bookworm

Growing pains

In one of my first classes at uni, the lecturer asked us who our childhood hero was. As we went round the room, it was depressingly identikit. "My mum"..."my mum". Now I love my mother, since I stopped being a teenager we've become almost friends, and there are few things I won't talk to her about. But while I think she's great, I also have this slight fear of being boring. So I said "Dangermouse!" Well it got a laugh. But who wouldn't want to be a spy and have a car that flies and also works as a submarine?
Truthfully, while I did love watching the antics of the rodent secret agent and his bumbling sidekick Penfold, he wasn't much of a hero to the child me. I wanted to be Jo from Little Women, fiesty and determined, or Roald Dahl's Matilda, with her super powers, I desperately wanted to stop being a victim and teach the bullies a lesson. Or Anne of Green Gables. All of these bright young girls were readers (and in Jo and Anne also writers) and I loved my books, and telling stories.
I was a weird, insular kid, safer in libraries than playgrounds. An easy target I suppose. But in my head I was something stronger, someone they'd never pick on. There's a saying that used to really annoy me "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger", if it's meant to be supportive or encouraging it didn't feel like it. Same goes for "sticks and stones..." but when you're being mercilessly picked on, being called names all the time, it doesn't feel like it'll ever get better. It has.
I am a stronger person than I was back then. It took me a long time to learn to trust people, to see that some people truly can be your friends and won't hurt you to amuse others. Yes, I've been burned by friends since then, but I have learnt something every time.
My teenage years were not entirely happy, who's are, but I found new heroes (Buffy for one, kicking the monsters butts was something I often felt like!) and learned to accept my inner weirdo. I'm ok with myself. I'm not perfect, and there are things I'd like to change, there probably always will be, but I'm learning to live with myself.
I've crawled out of the darkness that threatened to overwhelm me at times, and I've let go of the anger I felt for so long at the way I was treated, for the so-called crime of being different, of daring to try to be myself.
I wish I could tell all the children growing up now, who stick out, who prefer reading to football or playing endless games of kiss chase or whatever's the current obsession, the ones who want to know more than what's contained in the playground fence, it'll be ok one day, I promise. You'll look back, you may not laugh, but you will look back, and you'll see that everything you've overcome, everything you've worked so hard to be has made you, you. Unique and wonderful.

Thursday, 13 May 2010


So yesterday Clarissa Draper from Listen to the Voices (a really interesting literary/writer's blog) gave me an award for A Book A Day Bookworm. There I was contemplating its future and someone comes along and says they think it's awesome. It was a very nice surprise, so thank you.
I'm supposed to pass it on to some other bloggers. I picked 5 I enjoy reading and relate to on some level.
They are: Melanie from Melanie's Randomness
              Sarah Von from Yes and Yes
              Melissa Blake at So About What I Said...
              Micaela at The Drifter and the Gypsy
              Pousserie D'or of A Speck of Dust in an Oyster
Some of these blogs I've been reading for a while, and some I've only recently started following. All of them are written by interesting, engaging bloggers.
I know this award is for my sort-of side project, so that's where it's being displayed, but I thought it was more suitable to blog about here.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

For the love of literature

Today in the post I got a copy of Pipers at the Gates of Dawn by Jonathan Cott. It's a collection of essays on children's literature writers. I took several CL classes at uni, and almost decided to do my MA on it. However, I've opted for a different course. I still love children's books. I don't care that at 23 I'm supposedly too old for the books I adored growing up. I don't think you're ever too old to love the writing. I defy anyone to look at their bookshelves, or even just remember their favourite books, and not find some written for children in there somewhere.
The Guardian printed a list of great children's books today, edited by the rather brilliant Lucy Mangan, who always makes me laugh. However, in about 5 minutes I came up with a list of books I think they should have included but didn't. These included Peter Pan- J.M Barrie, Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass- Lewis Carroll, The Graveyard Book- Neil Gaiman, Nation- Terry Pratchett, Carrie's War- Nina Bawden, The Wind in the Willows- Kenneth Grahame, Black Beauty- Anna Sewell and several more. I also think a good dose of fairytales, folklore and mythology work brilliantly with a child's growing imagination.
The paper was inspired to start their list because a huge number of children are starting school without ever having been read to at home. This breaks my heart.
I was a weird child, I preferred my printed friends to the other children at school. I didn't fit in, I didn't watch much TV, I didn't listen to pop music. I just liked to read. Or rather, I loved to read. I'd be a different person if I didn't read the way I do. I wouldn't want to be a writer, to pass on the stories that took root when I was younger. I wouldn't recommend books to people, desperate to share my latest literary love affair.
I'm a passionate advocate for reading, for its joys, pleasures and moments of sheer bliss. Sometimes books are sad, heartbreakingly so, or funny, or scary, to the point where you can't sleep. But that's the magic of them.
I read obsessively, wherever I am, chances are there's a book in my bag if not in my hand. If I don't read, I don't feel right. I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to encourage people to read. I tell them about all the fun that can be had, all the joy. So please, read. Encourage others to read. If you're in a position to help those who struggle, help them. Everyone should have a favourite book (or 10!) and be able to say they love a writer, or a story. There's worlds to be discovered, worlds upon worlds.

Cross-posted at A Book A Day Bookworm

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

My head hurts :(

I get this evil headaches from time to time. It feels as though part of the inside of my head is trying to make a bid for freedom. I've got one now. It hurts! My mother is incredibly unsympathetic, as usual. You have to be practically dying before she feels for you. IT HURTS!!!!!!!!
Nothing makes it go away, there are no pills that affect it. Sleeping is impossible. A new brain/skull might work. I cannot read, or do much, as I can't concentrate.
I've only been having them for the last few months, which coincides with my life falling apart and me spectacularly failing to do anything about it. Stress-related? Maybe. I just wish it would stop.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Dispatches from the back of my mind...*

So, after all the hoopla of election time, and the comedy of last night's alternative election on channel 4 (I recommend trying either youtube or 4od to find some, bits were very entertaining, try Rich Hall for starters) it all seems to have gone awry. The Conservatives achieved the biggest number of seats but not enough to form a majority, so now we have a hung parliament which apparently leads to another election in 6 months time to try to fix this. Some people across the country were being turned away from polling stations, after queuing in some cases for several hours, because they must close at 10. This strikes me as being somewhat un-democratic, and possibly unconstitutional, although since we don't have a written constitution I can't look it up (one of the few things I actually want to copy from the Americans). Chaos will be ensuing for the next few months, should be interesting.

This is slowly morphing into quite a political blog, I think this is my 3rd post on the subject. It's not intentional, I find it all rather interesting, and I think it's important to be invested in what goes on in the country I live in. Normal service (as normal as it gets when I'm involved) will resume shortly.

Anyway, there is other stuff I want to write about, so I shall.

Things I want to do this month:
*See the bird exhibit at the Barbican. They've set up musical instruments, and there are a flock of birds living on them, making music through their movements. It all sounds rather interesting.

* Visit the butterfly house at the Natural History Museum. I love butterflies, I think they're beautiful and fascinating. This exhibit has dozens from all over the world, housed in a sort of tent on the museum's lawn. I really, really want to go! It's open til June/July so there's plenty of time, but I want to go when there aren't hundreds of kids there, so before the holidays is my aim.

*Make further inroads into the book mountain taking over my floor. I've been chipping away at it, but I keep accumulating more books from other people, charity shop magpie-ing, and very occasionally bookmooch or even more rarely actually buying a book in a shop or online. I can't help it, it's a sickness which has no cure, bibliomania. There are an awful lot of amazing, yummy books out there, and I want to read them all.

*Locate, clean, and make usable my bike. It's in there somewhere, under all the crap my family stores in the shed. I just need to brave the spiders and rescue it. The weather is picking up, I used to love bike rides, and it's a good way to get some exercise. Maybe I'll make my sister help, she has no problem with eight legged monsters.

*Raid my grandad's music collection. He has loads of jazz, Rat Pack and other classics. I want to indulge my fondness for the great divas (Ella, Billie, Bessie, Nina etc) and I know he's the place to start. (I'm actually listening to Nina Simone's greatest hits right now, and it's sooo good!). He got me into this music in the first place, so it's time for him to let me loose in his stash!

*Attend the next Science Museum Lates. The last one was awesome, roll on the last Wednesday of the month.

*See more of my friends. I did quite well in catching up with people last month. I want to do this more often. I don't have a lot of cash, but neither do a lot of my chums. Picnics in parks, sitting in cafes, pubs and wandering around galleries, museums and exploring are cheap. Let's go!

*Work on my writing. I have a stupid amount of free time (thanks economic depression for making me unemployed!) yet I seem to do so little. There are plenty of ideas floating around in my head, and beginnings of things in notebooks and on my computer that I could be shaping into something. Maybe one day I'll have something worth sharing/publishing.

Right, I think those are some good May resolutions. Here's some music.

*This is a line from Los Campesinos! You, Me, Dancing! As seen above.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

It's the Election, stupid!!

So today the UK goes to the polls and picks a new (and hopefully improved) Government. Problem is the main parties are so similar it's painful. Labour have been in power for 13 years, and things have gone from bad to worse. The Tories don't offer anything worth voting for. And, although there seems to be a chance the Lib Dems might come closer to power than they have in a long time, I just don't know whether they can do it. There's a lot of apathy here, people just can't be bothered. Everyone in my house, and most of my friends seem to have voted, my sister just came back from doing so. But there's all these undecided voters floating around out there, and people who didn't register so can't vote. People, wake up! If you don't bother, then you have no say. You can't complain because you didn't try to change things. You couldn't see the point. But the point is there. Yes the system is rubbish, first past the post is stupid and does not work, but at least you have the right to make your voice heard. You could live in a country without democracy, and if you're female it's even worse. We've only been allowed to vote for 90 years, and other women died for our right to do so. The polls close in less than 2 hours. Then the counting begins. Tomorrow we'll know who our new Government is going to be comprised of, will it be straightforward or are we looking at a hung parliament? Whatever happens, it's going to be interesting.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

The Sea, The Sea

It glistens
Roars, booms
The dead sailors plea
Black as the night above it
Sheltering its monsters
Keeping its counsel
Creeping up the shingled beach
The dark, moist sand,
Coming, calling to me
Beckoning, its wet embrace
Inviting me to dance in the surf
Then deeper, plunging into the blackness

Monday, 3 May 2010

In which I ramble on, lose my point, and never quite find it again...

So this post started out as a facebook status, "why is it that profound, beautiful books are so easy to read, and when it's read, so hard to move on from..." I was going to follow that with "when crappy books are far too easy to move away from and drive me nuts".

I don't know if that makes a heap of sense, let me explain. I just finished reading The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, a prequel to The Shadow of the Wind, which I adored. I started reading it last night, finished it a little while ago, loved it. The words, the way it unfolds, everything. A satisfying read.

Compare that to the last Harry Potter book I read, which was, I think, book 3 or 4. It took me an hour and a half, it was dire. I don't like the Potter books (or the Twilight books for that matter), I think they're poorly constructed and derivative. I'm a lit geek, I taught myself to read at 3 (not boasting, just a fact), I have read literally thousands of books in the 20 years I've been a reader. I have a degree in English Lit, I'm going back to uni this year to get another one. I'd like to think of myself as a discerning, educated reader, and one who can tell the difference between good and poor writing.

I like to make an analogy between food and reading. Some books are like a delicious meal, they leave you full and satisfied, maybe even a little sleepy from pleasure. Others are like cheap junk food, they don't satisfy your appetite and they leave you strung out and still hungry. Zafon's books are the former, Rowling's the latter.

There are many books I've read in a really short space of time, if they're gripping, well written and the pacing requires you to stick with it. The Harry Potter book was trite, and I read it fast just so it could be over and I could read something else. It's not to do with length of text, I've mentioned my love of Poirot novels before, and they're scrappy little things, just superbly written, and the one book I'm still trying to get through is War and Peace (100 years of history cannot be confined to 300 pages unfortunately!) Just a question of quality. And yes, I have frequent disagreements with people who love these books (I'm using Harry Potter as an example, it's not the worst offender, merely one of them), and I appreciate to each their own, but when there's so much out there, many better written and far more enjoyable, it makes me a little sad that so many people can't get beyond the hype and search the shelves to find something they can really get their teeth (and mind) into.

Favourite, beloved books are like old friends, but forgiving old friends, who don't criticise, argue, but who welcome you with a warm tender embrace. Or like a faithful dog, with love and glee. I'm looking at my somewhat overloaded shelves right now, each groaning with the weight of books that I love, that I've read over and over, that I recommend to friends and family, that I rhapsodise over and return to, for comfort and familiarity. The story doesn't change, my perception and understanding sometimes does, but I know the ending, it's safe and comforting to know some things never change.

I'm not quite sure where this is going, there's something about books, and love, and enjoyment, and the fact that when you read a great book, it takes a while to dislodge it from your brain and start another, and oh I don't know. Here's a quote from The Angel's Game, which may have been my point, about the love of books.

" only friends were made of paper and ink. At school I had learned to read and write long before the other children. Where my school friends saw notches of ink on incomprehensible pages, I saw light, streets and people. Words and their hidden science fascinated me, and I saw within them a key with which I could unlock a boundless world..."