Story Time : Calamari

One of the foods I miss the most is calamari.

My journey into the living hell of a gluten-free life started in 2012, and I’ve spent the past six years thinking about eight-legged sea creatures an unhealthy amount. I’ve never been the biggest seafood eater, and I mostly blame my parents for that. They are horrified at even the thought of eating something as small and adorable as baby prawns, and seem very happy on a diet of steak and chips. I’ve been a stubborn vegetarian since I was about five, so I guess my diet until I left home was basically chips. I had a hard life.

Calamari though. Crispy, and breaded, with a soft chewy middle. Like the savoury fishy equivalent of posh cookies.

I discovered calamari mostly by accident as a kid, when I was on holiday in Spain. I found these breaded things on the dinner buffet, labelled with a peculiar name I’d not seen before, and thought I’d try one, chancing that they were onion rings.

It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that I may have been a little mean about my parents’ diet. They don’t just eat steak and chips – sometimes they eat onion rings too. It isn’t unusual to go out to a restaurant and for my dad to order an enormous side portion of onion rings that he polishes off himself without offering to anyone else. My dad loves his onion rings.

Anyway, let’s go back to Spain (which is preferable to the cold winter evening I’m experiencing here in the UK right now) and imagine my childish curiosity when faced with this weird onion ring. Being an overly sensible child – or perhaps, less greedy than my parents – I get just one from the buffet. I sit down, and examine the onion ring. It looks delicious. I ditch the knife and fork and my manners and I pick it up with my fingers, and – as delicately as you can do as a seven-year old eating with their hands – I bite into it.

It is not what I am expecting, but actually, it isn’t bad. It’s a bit chewy, with a slightly strange taste I can’t really put my finger on, but it isn’t completely unpleasant. I have no idea what it is, but it seems nice. At this point, I look up to see that my dad is watching me. Well, correction, he’s watching the little breaded guy in my hand.

“You didn’t mention they had any of those.” The saliva is virtually dribbling down his chin. “What are they like?”

I look him in the eye. I am seven years old, but I am an awesome seven-year old. I smile. “Nice. A bit chewy,” I say to him, going in for a second bite.

He hasn’t even waited to hear past the word ‘nice’ – he is not a small person, and has to physically tug himself out of the chair to release himself from the table and he is basically running as fast as he can towards the trestle tables with the buffet. I watch him. He takes a small plate, and I count as he loads the calamari onto his plate. One. Two. Three. Ten. Fifteen. Eighteen.

“Ho, ho, ho,” he says gleefully as he arrives back at the table. Yes, I’m not kidding, he does genuinely say ‘ho ho ho’. He’s not emulating Father Christmas, I don’t think it’s a jolly “well, presents for aallll, ho ho!” kind of thing. He is just so pleased that he didn’t make the same mistake as me to just get one. No, he’s fooled the system. He has eighteen of the fuckers. He’s ho-ho-hoing in the ho-ho-hopes that he can eat them as quickly as possible and get another eighteen because he is possibly the world’s greediest person.

I watch as he takes a bite out of one of them. There is a small delay, before the horror reaches his face. He removes half the calamari from his mouth.

“What the-?!” he says, appalled. “It’s bloody squid!” My mum starts laughing. Then my sister, and my brother. Until we’re all laughing, and he’s sitting there sadly looking at his eighteen fake onion rings – not at all sad because it’s a waste that he’s just going to leave them, but sad because now he isn’t going to be able to eat eighteen onion rings in one sitting.

This isn’t the reason I miss calamari though. That was just the first time I remember eating it. And I have to admit it has left me with somewhat of a sweet spot for them.

No, the real reason I miss calamari is because they are breaded, so they’re cooked with wheat, and so far I haven’t found a gluten-free alternative. That means that it has been six years now where I haven’t been able to savour one of my favourite foods. What makes it worse, is that most of my favourite restaurants serves calamari as a starter, so I have this constant reminder every time I eat out that I can’t enjoy nice foods anymore.

So I guess this is really a plea to all the eight-legged friends out there – could you evade detection for the foreseeable future? If they can’t catch you, then they can’t cook you, and if they can’t cook you then they won’t cut off your delicious legs and cover you with gluteny breadcrumbs, and serve you on the menu in most restaurants I visit.

What it means to be queer

I’ve gone through many stages in my life. At times I’d have described myself as heterosexual, regarding homosexual couples with a strange judgement that probably came from a deep-seated denial, helped along with an upbringing that showed very little liberal thinking and encouraged an ‘us and them’ mentality. As far as anyone told me, my dream in life was to marry a lawyer, settle down, get married and have two children. I had no role models in my life that showed an alternative to that – and, I’ve come to realise, all the heterosexual relationships I was surrounded by were dysfunctional and broken. My expectation in life really became about finding a partner who was just less dysfunctional than my immediate family were.

Being a teenager was awkward and confusing. I had a string of ‘boyfriends’ but these were really just companions. I was so afraid of intimacy that I would actually run away whenever things looked like they would cross the line into a territory I wasn’t comfortable with. At one time when I was in my mid-teens, my boyfriend leaned in to kiss me. Just as he was centimetres away from my mouth, I panicked and shouted “You’re it!” and actually sprinted off across a carpark to find somewhere to hide. So it would be no news to say that sex was completely off the menu, and I honestly couldn’t understand why people seemed to actually like, or want, something so horribly intimate.

A few years later I would have described myself as bi-curious, but this was still a little muddled. I was still confused about my identity and who I was, and really couldn’t shake off that weird sense of judgement I’d had drummed into me as a child. If that wasn’t enough, society also convinced me that being bi-curious was just something that all women were, and this was only reinforced by the fact that it seemed most men I came across were interested in women that showed more ‘exotic’ preferences. Being asked to kiss your female friend in a nightclub seemed to be something that impressed the lads, but at the same time, I wasn’t exactly mad at it. In fact, I was more than okay about it. But that’s just being a ‘bit bi’ as all women are, isn’t it?

It was a few years later that I realised that not all women who described themselves as bi-curious actually enjoyed their sexual encounters with women and regularly daydreamed about having them. I thought that was all totally normal. I don’t watch porn, and I never really have. Mostly this is because I can’t find much porn that turns me on. I’m also not exactly into all the unrealistic expectations it sets women in general – really? Am I expected to pay for a Brazilian every two months just because that’s what people are used to seeing? I remember struggling to find anything that matched my fantasies, and actually, I find my imagination in many ways far more pleasurable. I have the freedom to imagine whatever I want to.

When I did first try porn, just really out of curiosity, I remember being primarily drawn to videos that were just women, or both men and women. The only video I still remember watching and being turned on by was a home-video quality clip of a beautiful blonde woman sitting on a chair masturbating. I liked the raw ‘realness’ of it, and I guess what I took away from that was that real experiences to me felt more exciting. I didn’t want to watch someone else’s imagining of something; I wanted to know it first hand (pun intended). Sex wasn’t exciting really unless it felt ‘real’ – unless it felt human.

Then came a number of years of what I would call my ‘sexual exploration’. I didn’t really define my sexuality but instead went on a journey of self-discovery in the hopes that I could find out who I was and what I wanted. I’m bursting with pride at that younger naïve me who realised that there was a wider world out there and just wanted to try everything out, just to see what it was all like.

I actively sought out experiences with different people, mostly casual one- or two-night occasions with men and women – anyone who I thought was attractive. I wasn’t in it for any long-term relationship – I just had a burning fire inside me and I desperately wanted to learn what I liked, and what I didn’t like. It was like an evolution. I came out of it knowing that I hated it when people slapped or punched me in the bedroom. I also discovered that I actually quite enjoy threesomes. I learned that I really can’t stand it when people ‘talk dirty’. And I found out that I like to laugh a lot, I like to get to know the other person. Sex isn’t sex if it isn’t with someone else, and the best sex was sex that was shared – it was sweaty, funny, beautiful, and all about finding that happy place where you share a rhythm with that other person.

That period of my life helped me understand myself so much better, yet it still didn’t help me understand the lables that people inevitably seem to apply to each other. I still wasn’t quite able to assign myself a label I was comfortable with. I was a lesbian when I was in an unhappy whirlwind relationship with a woman I’d drunkenly hooked up with in a bar. After that, I was bisexual. I described myself as bisexual for years as it seemed to cover how I felt I was. However, the more I have felt a sense of belonging within the LGBT+ community, the more I have challenged and questioned myself and these labels we give ourselves. Being bisexual actually isn’t something I’m happy calling myself now, as it suggests that I would never date anyone who wasn’t the gender they were assigned at birth, if they weren’t male or female. The truth is that I’ve never dated anyone who wasn’t cisgender, but that doesn’t mean I’m closed off to the idea. I like to date people because their personalities are beautiful. I don’t really care about their gender. I could call myself pansexual, but pansexual seems to be specifically taking a fancy to anyone and everyone and for me, it is more than just liking anyone – it’s about acknowledging that you don’t have to look or act a certain way to be LGBT+, and feeling like there’s an uncomfortable tinge of politics about it. The role of a patriarchal society growing up did nothing to help me understand myself and I shouldn’t have to be defined by such a specific label. It’s strange to be living in a world where people feel so entitled to question or understand your sexuality, and where you’re either considered their ‘normal’ or you’re something strange to be ogled at.

I’ll be honest. I really struggled with the word queer at first. I thought for a long time that it was just another word for lesbian. I feel really stupid now, as that was clearly lack of research on my part and in some ways judgement of women in a relationship with another woman. I know this might sound really obvious, but it turns out that not every woman in a relationship with a woman is only interested in relationships with women. It also turns out that some women don’t want to appear closed minded, or feel that lesbian can be a loaded term and could exclude those who identify as women.

After a lot of consideration, and a lot of research, I’ve become much more comfortable with being queer. Queer for me is a reclaimed word, but its new meaning is just someone who doesn’t fit within the current heterosexual standard. It feels like an all-encompassing umbrella term that means that I don’t have to define who I am; I’m just not straight. And it’s that simple.

 

 

Further reading:

3 differences between the terms ‘gay’ and ‘queer’ – and why it matters

A glossary of LGBTQIA terms

Wikipedia

Missing Stars

I have a really good habit of missing good things. I don’t know how it happens, but I just find out about them last minute, or I live in a place that makes them impossible to appreciate in person. A prime example of this is last weekend; it was the Perseid meteor shower, a breathtaking sky of falling stars that happens once a year. I think I’ve forgotten about this for about four years running now, although this year I remembered two days before. Hurrah, I thought to myself, now I can plan to watch them, and get a cosy blanket and a thermos flask of tea (note to self: buy a thermos flask) and sit on a hill somewhere with a great view of the sky. What a brilliant plan.

Then I checked the weather. And of course it’s summer here in the UK, so it was overcast and miserable all fucking weekend. Just my luck.

Two years ago, I went on the holiday of a lifetime. I went to the island of Fiji, which is about a thousand miles north of New Zealand, and stayed in a hotel on the north of the island. It is probably one of the most remote places on the planet, and is one of the best star-gazing spots I have ever experienced. Seriously, if you are into your stars, I thoroughly recommend a trip there. It was so clear that I could see the Large Magellanic Cloud – which might not sound very impressive, as I bet you see clouds all the time, right? But the Large Magellanic Cloud is a pretty misleading name. It’s actually a galaxy – that’s right, an actual galaxy – about 163,000 light years away. And in Fiji, it’s visible to the naked eye. Whilst lying in a hammock drinking cocktails. To try to put that into any kind of personal context, in London I struggle sometimes to even make out the moon clearly (although to be honest, sometimes that might be because I’ve had too many cocktails and I can’t tell the difference between the moon and the reflection of a lamp in the window).

On the last two nights in Fiji, after spotting the Large Magellanic Cloud in the sky, I planned to spend some time down on the beach with my DSLR trying my hand at photographing the stars. Not celebrities, as I wasn’t cool enough to be hanging out with them, I mean, actual stars. Turns out, on the last two nights it poured down with rain both evenings and I couldn’t see a thing, let alone take any photographs. As I said, I have a real habit of missing good things.

In the dark, ALWAYS watch your shadow.

The other night, I was walking home from the station. It’s so dark in the evenings now, and cold, and I was looking forward to getting in, pulling off my ridiculously beautiful but incredibly restricting ankle boots, crawling into my jammies and familiarising myself with a delicious bar of Hotel Chocolat 70% orange flavoured dark chocolate. Mmmm.

I was minding my own business, listening to some Clean Bandit and generally having a great (cold) time thinking about how cold penguins’ feet must get and shouldn’t we send them socks when it gets really cold?, when I pass the lamp-post and I notice an extra shadow. This shadow doesn’t bob in time to me, and as my shadow spreads ahead with the outline of my bag, this new shadow it somewhat streamlined and clearly does not belong to me. I casually glance into the window of the car next to me, using the reflection to subtly take a peek at the owner of the streamlined shadow, and there’s a gentleman with a scarf around his face walking uncomfortably hot on my heels.

To be fair, it was freezing cold and no doubt he was just eager to get home and willing to ignore the British social convention of ‘keep back at least 5 paces’. Just to be sure nothing was going on here, I act as if I hadn’t just sneaked a peak at him and mildly panicked – and I cross the road. My headphones are hidden underneath my scarf/hat, and better than a female James Bond I pretend to caress my ear and as my hand travels back down I tug the headphones out from my phone.

Suddenly it becomes deadly silent. It’s weird how music can give you this false sense of security; like you’re in a musical and any minute some dancing kangaroos are going to conga out from behind a tree singing something about how much better summer is. Instead, I hear my heart thumping and the quick steps of someone behind me.

Shit, I think. He’s crossed the road. There are cars lined up along the road and I use the glass to check. Yep – still hot on my heels. Dammit.

Now I’m not sure whether it’s coincidence or not. Maybe he lives on this side of the road, and it JUST so happened we crossed at the same time? My brain is running through all the excuses, trying to find one that convinces me to stop worrying about it.

No chance. I’ve quickened my pace; his has quickened too. No doubt left. He’s following me.

I gulp back the metallic taste of adrenalin in my mouth and force myself to stop panicking. It dawns on me that there are three options. 1) He’s genuinely on his way home. 2) He’s going to try to mug me. 3) He’s going to chop me up into tiny bits and feed me to his rabbit.

So far, it seems like option 1 is increasingly unlikely, and option 3 is a little far-fetched. The road is well-lit until right at the end, when you’re suddenly plunged into darkness. This was the bit I was concerned about, really. This was, as I had always thought when walking home, a prime spot to jump someone – out of the way of CCTV and after dark it was pitch black so even if you were filming it, you wouldn’t see anything.

I walk past the penultimate lamp-post and glance down at our competing shadows. The distance between us has narrowed. He’s definitely catching up, but I doubt he’ll do anything until I hit the corner. I look ahead – about twenty yards. Right. I’m walking briskly, but not quite power walking; I don’t think he’s twigged that I might have caught on to him and I don’t want to make it too obvious.

Ten yards. I walk past the last lamp-post – he’s even closer. My heart is in my mouth. Questions run through my head; what if he takes my Foyles loyalty card? What if he uses up all the points I’ve collected? What if he takes my Westfield VIP card and uses my 20% discount whilst I’m left crying at the counter begging for the salad man at Tossed to not charge me the full amount? What if he runs off with my whole bag, keys included, and I freeze to death and in the morning a dog discovers me when he starts licking the huge icicle that’s suddenly materialised at the side of the road?

Five yards. And suddenly –

I SPRINT.

My Foyles loyalty card is on the line here, and I take that really fucking seriously. My bag is banging against my spine as I run, and it really hurts, but i’m trying to ignore it. I can hear that he’s started running too – there are four slapping shoe-meets-pavement sounds. I am properly panicking – but there’s a road just 30 yards away, and I’m running for it like my life depends on it. Like my VIP discount card depends on it. I’ve probably got less than a second on him, and that’s not a lot of time considering I’m weighed down with my bag. I only have to get past the pitch black 15 metres and then I’m exposed to the bright lights of a main street again.

I don’t think he counted on me begin able to sprint, because luck has it that I make it to the road, and I hear him slow down and stop suddenly behind me, when the slapping sounds of shoes on the pavement halves from four to two. SLAP, SLAP, SLAP, SLAP. I don’t stop running. I wave breathlessly at the car who had to screech to a halt at the zebra crossing  and the driver who (probably quite rightly) waves back with his middle finger. I don’t care – I am back in the light and I am ALIVE.

Not rabbit food tonight, Mister Mugger.

I run all the way to the door. Tears are streaming down my face, but that’s mostly because it’s fucking cold and the frozen air is blowing straight into my eyes. I can’t really see, but I can make out the pavement through my blurry vision.

I get to the door, and brave a look back.

Nothing. Nobody. Just one mad woman, me, breathlessly panicking at the front door, and cars gliding along the road as though nothing happened. And, to be fair to them, nothing actually did happen.

I let myself in, I sit on the stairs, and I sadly retrieve a popped bag of popcorn from my bag. There is crushed popcorn absolutely everywhere, and I spend days afterwards trying to get bits of it out of the lining of my handbag.


A true story. Originally written in February 2017 on a really fucking cold night.


My top ten favourite books: fiction edition

As I was a child with a huge imagination, it’s hardly surprising that as an adult, I can’t get enough of a good book! I’ve gotten pretty fussy though as I’ve aged, and whilst I grew up on a potent cocktail of sci-fi, fantasy, and homicide detective stories, I now find myself reaching out towards a non-fiction book. I wonder if it’s because I’m not in education anymore; I miss being forced to learn new things every day, so perhaps I somehow need to keep my brain feeling fresh.

In any case, it has sadly become more of a rarity for me to read a novel, which is a shame because there are so many good books out there. I guess I’m old enough and well-read enough now that I recognise poor writing, and there are so many exciting things battling for my attention that I’m fussy; if the writing is poor and the plotting feels odd, then I just can’t be bothered to finish reading it. A bad book, or a cuppa and a bit of drawing? I know which I choose, every time.

I’ve been thinking about those books that I read (over and over and over again, like that entire year I watched Disney’s Sleeping Beauty every day when I came home from school because –  to a 5 year old – it is terrifying and wonderful in equal proportions) over the years, that each sparked something in me. I’ve definitely read great fiction, or books that might not be brilliant in academic terms but have left me thinking, or inspired me in some way. And I thought I’d remind myself just how absolutely flipping fantastic some of these books were, by sharing my top ten fiction reads.

Because I like saving the best until last (no, really, I do – this is precisely how I eat my food. Anyone eating the best bit first either suffers from death anxiety, or is a sociopath. Sorry if this is you, but someone had to let you know.), here they are in reverse order:

 

10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman)

I don’t think any fiction list would be complete without Neil Gaiman. Sadly, I don’t own a physical copy of this book – I didn’t realise I was going to enjoy it that much when I downloaded it onto my Kindle. In fact, I wasn’t really sure about it when I started reading this short novel; intended at a young adult audience, I was merely curious to see what the fuss about Neil Gaiman was all about. And MY GOODNESS this is a book that grabs you at the feels.

It starts with an unnamed protagonist visiting the farm where he grew up, and remembering events from 40 years before. It doesn’t start on a happy note. His parents’ lodger commits suicide in their car. He makes friends with the Hempstock women, living at the end of the lane, and is haunted by happenings he can’t explain. There’s something weird about that duck pond, and a strange power he doesn’t understand – but Lettie Hempstock seems to know more than she lets on.

There are things that really resonated with the child within me; the feeling that you know something quite bad is going on, but adults seemingly unaware of the imminent danger they’re in. There’s a fist-bump too towards those children that just survive by discovering things themselves, left to figure things out, which is how I felt as a kid growing up in a world where adults just didn’t get me.

 

 

9. The Scarlet Pimpernel (Baroness Emma Orczy)

A swashbuckling hero, a love story, spies, smuggling, the French Revolution? A classic by a sassy female playwright-novelist-artist? A genuinely easy-read classic, that isn’t written is overly formal language? YES PLEASE!

This is the first in a series of books about dashing aloof fop Percy Blakeney, who has a secret identity. It’s the French Revolution, and a lot of people are being unnecessarily murdered by those in power, and a secret freedom fighter is helping smuggle those endangered people to safety in England. I wonder who that secret freedom fighter might be? Socialite Marguerite St. Just is also wondering that; she’s being blackmailed into spying for the French authorities, to find out who the Pimpernel is, or they’ll guillotine her brother. And to make things even more stressful, her marriage to air-headed husband Percy is on the rocks.

I dare you to find a novel as fun as this one!

 

8. Mrs Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)

Sadly my copy of this wonderful book (as you’ll see from the picture further down!) has had a traumatised life so far, and experienced a near-fatality with a glass of water a couple of years ago. It just about survived (although needless to say, the clumsy oaf who spilled the water and took their sweet time to clear it up – not me – wasn’t so lucky).

Back in my early twenties, in a youthful attempt to be all bourgeoisie, I purchased a copy of Woolf’s To The Lighthouse at Foyle’s. Although I made it to the end eventually, after starting it again a number of times, I really struggled with it – so I put off reading Mrs Dalloway for a long time. I wish I hadn’t – it’s a beautifully written book. You need some time to digest the sentences as it isn’t the easiest read in the world, but this novel following the day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway as she preps for a party is the equivalent of people-watching from the window of a coffee shop. It’s all those thoughts you have whilst you’re just experiencing life, but instead of confused splutterings of your mind they are expressed in gorgeous turns of phrase, such as:

“Her life was a tissue of vanity and deceit.”

There are also very quotable laugh-out-loud sentences you aren’t expecting, like: “I prefer men to cauliflowers”. This isn’t a book to get excited about, and it isn’t inspirational or motivational. That doesn’t make it any less good though. This is a book to make you think about the inner workings of other people, and yourself. Grab yourself a cup of tea (by cup of tea, I obviously mean a bottle of wine) and some gentle jazz and snuggle into this reflection on life.

 

7. Green Rider (Kristen Britain)

This isn’t a piece of classic literature. It’s very well written, but it’s not on the list necessarily because of that alone; it’s here because it was hugely influential to me growing up. I read this when it was released in 1998 (as with many books I read at that age, this was one that my Dad had bought and I found lying around the house – probably in the downstairs toilet – and decided to read because I liked the look of the woman on the cover. I know, I judged a book based on it’s cover. Nine-year old me was terrible.) and it helped me design a fantasy world in my head where politics, magic and swordplay really came alive and could feature altogether in the same book. I was only 9 when I read it, and it’s no surprise that I started writing fantasy novels when I was 12. Unlike Terry Pratchett (who I just didn’t understand when I was nine) it was seriously written, and I was hooked from the very beginning.

The premise is this: a young woman comes across a dying man in the forest, impaled by two arrows, and just before he dies he asks her to deliver the message he was unable to. The recipient? Oh just, you know, the King. She’s given some jewellery, and although reluctant to at first, she tries very hard to deliver the message – only, she’s pursued by cloaked assassins who seem hell-bent on killing her. You can see why she wouldn’t be so keen. This is the first in a series of Green Rider novels, and this is an absolute cracker, even as a standalone novel. If you like fantasy, definitely have a go at this one.

 

6. Charmed Life (Diana Wynne Jones)

Interesting fact: Diana Wynne Jones went to Oxford University and attended lectures by J.R.R. Tolkien – and if that wasn’t good enough, she also attended lectures by C.S. Lewis. So it’ll be no shock to anyone to know that she ended up becoming a very successful author of children’s fantasy fiction.

I must have read this first book in the Chrestomanci series aged 7 or 8. At the time, I was immersing myself in the best escapism I knew; books about magic, and strange faraway lands. I have read this countless times over the years, and even reading it again as an adult it just doesn’t lose its charm. It’s about sibling rivalry, classism and expectation, selfishness, and an aloof sorcerer known as Chrestomanci. I won’t spoil it too much for you, but the idea is that in this world you are born with magical talent, and that talent gives you privilege. Cat, the younger brother of talented witch Gwendolyn, has no magical powers. When they move in with an enchanter, Gwendolyn is unhappy that her talents aren’t recognised by him, whilst Cat feels as though he is disappointing to the enchanter because he lacks the same powers. Gwendolyn starts making plans that involve parallel worlds, and somehow Cat is caught up in the middle of it all.

I love the different characters, the way the dialogue flows so beautifully, and how Diana Wynne Jones constructs, seemingly effortlessly, this world that is a bit like ours but somehow more magical. It was another influential book on me growing up: to realise that magic and fantasy doesn’t just have to feature in a medieval-like world of kings, queens, knights and swords; it can be anywhere, even in a world like ours. How mind-opening is that as a kid?

 

5. The Thirty-Nine Steps (John Buchan)

I read this before watching the Hitchcock film – and I’m glad I did, because the film is brilliant too and I may have never read it in fear of not enjoying it as much! It’s rare to find that I love both the film and the book of something, and even rarer to love the play too! I saw this at the Criterion Theatre in London in 2011 or 2012 and it was laugh-out-loud hilarious. Slightly slapstick, and a comedy masterpiece.

The book though is a different kettle of fish. Published in 1915 (originally as a series of magazine articles) it follows Richard Hannay, an ordinary man whose life changes when a stranger is murdered in his house. Before he dies, the stranger tells him of a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister of Greece. Not wanting to be implicated for murder, and trusting nobody, Hannay steals the stranger’s coat, and evades German spies watching his apartment by leaving in disguise. He travels to Scotland, where he plans to hide out and decipher the notes in the stranger’s notebook; something about 39 steps. As with a classic war spy-thriller, he is tirelessly pursued by enemies, and tries to get the information he has to the right authorities before the assassination happens.

It’s a really short novel but has plenty of action, lots of cliff-hangers, and it just fast-paced and fun. It isn’t exactly award-winning prose, but then, it’s a good, entertaining read!

 

4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Philip K. Dick)

I absolutely ADORE Philip K. Dick. His short stories are incredibly thought-provoking, and he seems to create poignant psychological stories that are sucked from our deepest fears or thoughts. Famous for science fiction, he’s a master of dystopian fiction, and so many of his books have been made into films or tv series – for example, The Man in the High Castle was a recent Amazon Studios remake of his 1962 alternate history. Even more famous is Blade Runner, which is Hollywood’s version of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.

If you’ve seen Blade Runner and didn’t like it, then don’t worry – the book is completely different. And if you did like Blade Runner, then you should be pretty excited about the upcoming release of Blade Runner 2049, I imagine? Ryan Gosling AND Harrison Ford?! I KNOW, I KNOW. Anyway, I digress.

This novel is based in post-apocalyptic San Francisco, and follows bounty hunter Rick Deckard as he pursues six renegade Nexus-6 androids in order to ‘retire’ them. There’s an issue though – humans and androids look identical and there’s no easy way to tell them apart – just some crummy test that appears to identify empathy through some pretty weird questions.

There are a number of themes in the book; it explores the psychological and sociological meaning of what it is to be human, it carefully touches on religious figures and the dangers of believing everything we are told, it looks at the class systems we create, and the value we attribute to material goods. And it ends abruptly, leaving you to think about everything you’ve just read – and trust me, you’ll be thinking about it for a while.

 

3. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Haruki Murakami)

I’d never ever heard of Murakami before I randomly picked a copy of this up in the bookshop (not because I had a sudden urge to read Japanese novels; I’ll come clean. It’s because the cover had on it black, red and white minimalist drawings by Israeli graphic designer Noma Bar, artwork I recognised. I didn’t even pick it up for the words. I know, I am ashamed.) but I don’t regret it. After coo-ing over the gorgeous cover, I idly flicked through it, only to end up settling on a page, and – as with any good book – lost track of time a bit. I bought the book then and there, and honestly? I read it on the train home. I read it walking from the station to my street. I read it whilst I fumbled about for my keys. I read it on the sofa. I took lunch in to work and read it over my lunch break. I was addicted.

The plot is weird, I’ll be honest with you. A cat has gone missing, and the main protagonist’s wife might be down a well. Add in politicians, morbid teenagers, psychic prostitutes and a netherworld underneath Tokyo; yeah, this is a pretty surreal kind of detective story. But it does all tie together, and it does so beautifully. I think it’s the only book I’ve read as an adult that I genuinely couldn’t put down.

 

2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

This was my favourite book growing up, and I have re-read it so often. It started the wrong way round really, when I watched the BBC adaptation in 1995. I remember coming home from school and waiting excitedly for 8pm to come round so we could watch the latest episode; I fell in love with Jennifer Ehle’s hair, I hated Lydia and Charlotte, and I was just way too young to appreciate Colin Firth removing his shirt and jumping into a lake (at the time all I could think was – eww, isn’t he going to be really dirty now from all the dirt in the water? And did they not have Weil’s disease then? – I’d learned all about Weil’s disease when I did sailing in year 5, and it sounded horrific.). Once the series had ended, my mum used to read the original novel at night before we went to bed. I loved the way the language sounded, and even better, I loved the way that there was even more in the book that they’d shown on television – there were so many other characters! Who knew that Mr Bennet was actually really witty? And Charlotte was actually not that bad; she just prioritised different things in life. And Lizzie? Oh god, I wanted so much to be her.

I doubt I need to summarise the plot of Pride and Prejudice, but just for fun – this book charts the journey of proud Mr Darcy and prejudiced Miss Bennett as they learn to be less proud, less prejudiced, and end up falling madly in love with each other. Also, there are some other characters, many of whom are absolute farts but all of whom are charming in their own way.

If you’re one of those people that likes the idea of reading the classics but perhaps hasn’t actually managed to read many, toss aside Ulysses, Great Expectations and Moby Dick and try this one out for size. It’s hilariously witty, beautifully plotted, and the language isn’t too much of a barrier; it was published in 1813, so it isn’t modern, but as classics go it’s quite informal. Warning: you may fall madly in love with Elizabeth Bennet.

 

1. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell)

I think I first read Nineteen Eighty-Four in my early teens, when I was incredibly depressed. I got quite into my dystopian fiction, reading Brave New World, War of the Worlds and The Chrysalids, which maybe didn’t help in making me any happier. None of these touched me in the same way as this book though. There is something about it; every time I read it, I notice something new. And once I’ve raced to the end, I begin looking around me in despair – but in that despair, I’m noticing the things I’m unhappy with and I’m addressing them.

This novel is where the phrase ‘big brother’ stems from; it’s based in a future authoritarian surveillance state. It’s a world of war, and manipulation, where even thinking the wrong thing can get you arrested. It’s a world where the government have invented Newspeak, and their leader – the famous Big Brother – might not even exist. Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth, where he rewrites articles and amends the news, but he actually hates Big Brother and the government and seeks the truth. On his quest for revolution, Winston faces a number of challenges. Will his hatred for the Party be discovered, and will he end up defeating Big Brother? Spoiler alert: he doesn’t, in fact, the opposite.

There are things happening today that make me want to go back and read this book again. All this nonsense about ‘alternative facts’; it’s so worrying. What I love about this book is how it explores the dark underbelly of all of us; betrayal, hatred, revenge, but mainly, control. It has political intrigue, psychology, spying, language. It’s a guidebook for the worst side in every right-wing party, and shows us how bad things can be, reminding us – me – that we need to fight to preserve the freedoms we DO have, and make sure we don’t slip into a world like this. Every re-read is a lesson in appreciation. In Newspeak, this book is “Double Plus Good”.

 

A pile of books

So, in summary, my top 10:

  1. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell)

  2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)

  3. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Haruki Murakami)

  4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Philip K. Dick)

  5. The Thirty-Nine Steps (John Buchan)

  6. Charmed Life (Diana Wynne Jones)

  7. Green Rider (Kristen Britain)

  8. Mrs Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)

  9. The Scarlet Pimpernel (Baroness Emma Orczy)

  10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman)

 


PS. But what about [enter book title]?

A few of you might be wondering where these are, so here we go:


Harry Potter

The first book I absolutely ADORED. I loved the inventive world she submerges you in, and The Philosopher’s Stone is probably number 11 or 12 on my list. I did get a bit lost after about book six though – I felt like the books became less cleanly edited, and I enjoyed them less and less. I just didn’t find the time to read them all. I know there are probably loads of you screaming at your screen “WHYY WHYYY BUT NOW I HAVE TO HATE YOUUU” but there we have it – sorry JKR, if you ever read my little blog, but you sort of lost me a bit. It’s not to say I don’t like Harry Potter at all – as I say, the first book nearly made the final cut as it is so frigging good – she fits so much plot and creates such a gorgeously vivid world in such a (relatively) short novel.  Compare that to the overwhelmingly boring descriptions of trees in some fantasy books (yes, I am looking at you, J.R.R. Tolkien). Which leads me nicely onto:


Lord of the Rings

Okay, so, The Hobbit (a book for ‘children’) was one of the books my Mum used to read to me at bedtime when I was really tiny, and it is a wonderful read. It’s for kids in the same way that ice cream is – seriously, you can just appreciate it more when you’re older. The Hobbit as a book is probably in my top twenty best fiction books. But Lord of the Rings? Jeesh. Give me the films any day. I think I’d sooner fight Sauron one-on-one armed with just a jellied eel than force myself to sit down and read those long, yawn-inducing landscape descriptions and horrible archaic expressions that go on for, I don’t know, a million pages? I like the ideas, and I can appreciate the details – inventing a genuine Elvish language is pretty cool – but this is a series of books I can only think of using as a very effective doorstop. Or as a bourgeois form of torture for middle class convicts. Anyone who genuinely thinks that the Fellowship of the Ring is their favourite book is trying very hard to impress you with a book they probably haven’t actually read from cover-to-cover.


Any Roald Dahl

Oh, the lovely, quotable, witty Roald Dahl. It’s a shame he isn’t in my top ten. I love his books A LOT – I read Matilda and The BFG a lot as a child – but I just don’t feel they touched me in the same way as many of my top ten do. I love his wordplay, and I think he’s an incredibly talented author – I just don’t feel that they resonate as much. Perhaps they feel a bit too twee or nice – even the bit where Miss Trunchbull twirls the young lady round by her pigtails is written in a light and humorous way. Maybe I never took his books seriously enough – and maybe I should give a few of them another read to see how I feel, twenty years or so later.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Yes, you’re right. This definitely should have been in my top ten. It isn’t a very taxing read, but it is an important tale with MORALS. Eat all the delicious food, and you too will become a beautiful butterfly (actual words I say when I empty Hotel Chocolat of their entire supply of Honey and Pistachio mini-slabs. Mmmm).


Any Dr Seuss, but in particular ‘One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish’

I love Dr Seuss because he is totally bonkers. This nonsensical poem has always made me laugh, and I often find myself writing little Dr Seuss-style rhymes, but I thought you probably wouldn’t all take me very seriously if I’d included this one. In case you haven’t ever read it, I’ll quote you some at random (not, of course, that I know this sing-song poem off-by-heart):

Some are sad.
And some are glad.
And some are very, very bad.
Why are they
Sad and glad and bad?
I do not know.
Go ask your dad.
Some are thin.
And some are fat.
The fat one has
A yellow hat.

What a nutter. Thinking about it, perhaps I could knock out Virginia Woolf and replace her with Dr Seuss? She’ll never find out. It can be our secret.


Phew, we are finally at the end of an exhaustingly long post, all about one of my favourite things, books. Luckily for you that’s it – that’s my top ten fiction books!

What are your top ten faves? Any of them the same?

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Commute like a total nutter with this one weird tip

Mile End in rush hour is like the next level down from Hell where even Satan refuses to go to; throngs of people armed with what seems like a million suitcases, and armies of commuter clones ready to elbow you out of the way for the benefit of added room for their Starbucks extra-wet skinny soya mocha-latte.

I arrive to the central line platform of Hell at the beginning of rush hour this morning to find the expected crowds are somewhat larger than usual, thanks to a well-timed signal failure.
Figuring I am at the back of a queue of about 500 angry now-late Eastenders, I pop out for a cheeky coffee whilst the queues subside slightly.

30 minutes later, fully caffeinated and ready for some commuter action, I saunter downstairs and wait patiently for the train to arrive on the, now significantly emptier, platform.

The train pulls in — and I am pleasantly surprised to spot a seat available in the middle of a row. Hungry for the touch of that worn, soft, blue fabric that has graced the derrières of thousands of strangers, I gingerly approach, warding off any other seat predators with my best ‘don’t fuck with me’ expression. There aren’t many, so I just look like a mildly disturbed young woman (which is not far from true).
With an expert precision known only to regular Central Line travellers, I twist about and tuck myself into my seaty prize without headbutting the pole. Win.

Immediately, I register a problem. No, it is not the seat itself — which is, it had to be said, just averagely sticky at the edges and only mildly stained.

No, it is a lot worse than that. The large (and by this, I mean tall and broad and with the mean look of someone who could knock a man dead just by tapping his shoulder) businessman next to me has a problem. Which is now my problem too.

This man is a very serious manspreader.
I mean, THE WORST.
Imagine you measured every manspreader in history with a metre stick to mark the distance between the knees: this man would require at least four metre sticks, and is definitely in the upper percentile of gentlemen-whose-legs-are-extremely-wide-apart-when-seated-on-public-transport.
The distance between New York and Beijing would have nothing on this guy; he is virtually running his own airline from knee to knee. Each leg has its own ecosystem.

Initially, feeling that my personal space is being violated by these offending ecosystems, I privately bubble with fury over how selfish and inconsiderate he is being. I find myself getting increasingly angry at the touch of his enormous knee on mine. His patella is doing an excavation to find my hip bone, and it was in every way just as bad as it sounds. It hurts.

Then I have a thought. Why am I just sitting here and letting it happen? Am I not becoming part of the problem if I just sit back, silently infuriated, and allow this kind of behaviour to happen?

London, it was time to make a stand. I do what I’m sure every one of us poor individuals imposed on by these power-high twitheads has always wanted to do, but felt too angry and violated and British about the whole thing to do so.

I TACKLE THE MANSPREADER. HEAD-ON (or leg-on, whatever) in the most passive-aggressive way I can possibly think of.

I widen my legs (luckily I am not wearing a skirt) (actually, so what if I am? I have nothing to hide and that would just add extra drama to my story) and gently nudge my thigh back into his enormous leg — which is no small feat, I tell you.
And because he was just so large and so imposing, just for extra points I push out my elbows. Just slowly, so it isn’t too obvious.

And just like that — war has been declared.

In retaliation, he pushes his knee into mine and the silent battle well and truly begins. I respond by sitting further back in my seat and widening my legs even further. Then everyone else gets off the tube and we’re both still sat there, many other seats now available but still pushing knees. His leg starts shaking so I guess at least he’s putting some effort into it.

This continues for a number of stops. I think about all the empty seats opposite us and dream of a parallel world where I had got on a different carriage and was having a nice, uneventful journey to work. Instead, I am locked in an endless battle of pride and strength with a total stranger, neither of us willing to just give up and move to one of the many, many beautiful empty blue seats around us.
It’s gross; his leg is so firmly wedged into mine that our femurs are basically kissing.

I eventually realise that like true war, this was not going to be won by the troops downstairs. (In fact, my knee is beginning to hurt a bit. And anyway, by this time my legs are so far apart I’m virtually doing the splits. On the Central Line. It’s very uncomfortable.)

No, this needed to be won through charm and diplomacy.

I tap his knee with my finger.
“Do you mind?” I say, edging my knee further into his.

His head snaps up like one ugly balding Jack-in-the-box and he glowers at me furiously. “Yeah, I do actually.”

“Well maybe you could consider how much space you’re taking up.”

He looks incredulous. Oh good, I think. Touched a nerve. Excellent.

And it then descends into everyone’s childhood.
“Maybe YOU should!” He gesticulates at my lap.

I shrug. “You set the example, I’m just imitating it.”

“But you’re on my side of the seat!”

Laughable, because I point out where the line between the two seats should be, were it not for his leg/bottom/existence. (If I could do the emoji face for how I felt right then it would be the squinty grinning face with those little tears of laughter coming from both eyes.) “Actually, see, I’m not,” I reply. “You’ve imposed yourself on both sides around you. That woman to your left has been squashed into the glass. And you’ve actually moved your legs closer since I pointed it out.”

He pauses. “And so what if I am?”
He shoves his knee back into mine. (Mature.)

“Wow. I’m not sure I’ve sat next to someone before with such a total lack of respect for the people around them.”

“And I don’t think I’ve sat next to such a total nutter before. Justify it, so what if I am?”

“Well, I think it could be viewed as sexist if you’re imposing yourself into women’s personal space because you think you can get away with it. I bet you wouldn’t be acting this rudely if I were a large burly man.”

Silence. He looks at me, and it is not a glare, it actually looks like a mixture of embarrassment and horror.

I break the silence.
“You’ve never been pulled up on this before have you.”

Small pause. “No.”

I move my legs back to a normal seating position, and in a voice reserved for only those in which I am EXTREMELY disappointed, I say, “Well, next time be a bit more considerate of those sat next to you.”

The train comes to a stop at the next station.
And wordlessly, he gets off.


Originally written in 2016. Whilst nobody was harmed in the making of this story, some egos may have been.


Pudding.

This was a short piece I wrote for ‘Tough and Tender: Volume One‘ by the Crybaby Collective (available to purchase via Lulu or Amazon.com)


1.

 

I saw her lying there, beckoning with one finger

a dark lock of her dark hair carelessly caressing her temple.

I knew what she wanted. I could see. She was hungry, but so was I.

 

She was belly-up, round folds of skin with dark creases

melting into the armchair.

Her jumper hoisted up by its rough fabric, but not tweed

Inexpensive. Patchy in places.

but not her smooth velvety skin. Soft, and gently rolling.

 

She was exposed and alone and I wanted to look away but I was addicted to the plush shirring of her body

I wanted to tell her, but her warm creamy thigh was flashing like a beacon and I can’t tear my eyes away from the freckle that winks as she flexes her leg.

Her eyes, oh her eyes. Melting my core with a complicated deep chocolate streak and the burning green fire iris.

The wicked flames burn something within me; a soft and delicate centre that oozes perverted leering and drips with saliva and wit.

Her eyes are locked onto me and finally

 

yes, just like that

 

but more, I need more

 

she gently leans forwards, and I eagerly lean up towards her to glimpse the gaping neckline as it drops towards me and


2.

 

Once again the unstopping mechanism we call time whiles away my day

and we arrive home exhausted, tumbled through the vacuum packed train that aches and groans across the city.

The smog rolls off me as I roll off my uniform and discard it uncaringly on the floor, where it will lie forlorn until Thursday.

The pause as I unthinkingly do it again. We. That word. That loaded, cruel word.

We were two letters, joined together, only making sense as a couple, a duo. Like us, just two letters, but so warm and tender with intimacy.

I am the single lonely letter, always detached and always flying solo.

My heart reaches out to you with every afflicted limb but I’m torn apart and there is no limb left.

I’m just an echo where there used to be a person and a voice, but now there is just a shadowy reminder that I existed.

 

Stop it.

 

I feel it, I burn with desire but I self-douse with a shower of guilt and fading memories of we, of us

of once two letters, now one.

I am starved of you but learning what it means to be without you.

 

Stop it.

 

Casting my eyes about the room, my amatory senses awaken. I prepared for this. I fucking prepared.

A conquest to be had, an affair to be met and forgotten: my aphrodisiac knight in shining armour, my sick fantasy.

I lick my lips and sink into the forgiving armchair and I forget to judge myself, but I’m judging the sweet divine pudding of my dreams staring back at me.

No longer I, but back to me. Now us, now we. I already have a fork in my hand, and there is no time for flirting. I’m an uncouth, capricious delinquent with no time for manners, I lean forwards, and I cry like a baby as I devour you whole.


This was originally published in February 2017 in’ Tough and Tender: Volume One‘ by the Crybaby Collective (available to purchase via Lulu or Amazon.com).
All profits made from the anthology are going to Planned Parenthood.


Blank Page.

This was a short piece I wrote for ‘Tough and Tender: Volume One‘ by the Crybaby Collective (available to purchase via Lulu or Amazon.com)


The blank page.

Blank. Totally, unapologetically blank.

Fingers hovering above the keys, waiting — just waiting — for something brilliant to type. You’d like to type something brilliant. Something meaningful, that people will look at approvingly and think “Yes! This is me!” or frown at whilst internalising a shout of “I disagree!” — or they will be so incredibly moved by the profanity of what you’ve written that they will cry; heavy, choking, nasty tears. Or silent deadly ones that will slide down their face uncontrollably and they’ll hastily wipe away hoping nobody will notice.

The page is still blank.

You are hoping and willing for your brain to conjure up something so beautiful, something so brilliant.

Yet, inevitably, time goes on, and the page is still blank, still empty. You’ve got so much crammed in your head, but nothing wants to come out.


I remember a time when writing was a breeze. When I was seven, I fashioned a ‘night torch pen’, a tiny flashlight tied to a biro, which meant I could stay up until the small hours, scribbling away in one of the many notebooks I had to hand. All sorts of stories would pour out; tales of crazy Mayors, who only dressed in brown and held dinner parties for the local fishermen on a Tuesday, or stories of a cat that thought it was a fondant fancy. Half-written science-fiction novels that started with such vigour but ran out as soon as I realised I knew nothing about aeronautical engineering and that gravity was still a little bit of a puzzle to me. (I still to this day wonder how on earth the Millennium Falcon could come out of hyperspace into the area where Alderaan was supposed to be, and somehow it automatically adjusted for the change in gravity without leaving them splatted against the back of the cabin. I can explain that one to you over a glass of wine if you’d like to discuss further. I am truly a delight at dinner parties.)

I was told off at school frequently for not paying attention — because I was reading ahead, or because I was secretly writing away under the desk. I wrote a 6-part novel when I was 9 about a haunted house, which was based on a school trip we’d been on when I was 7, and I was sent to the headmaster’s office for not working. Instead, he read the entire thing over two hours (okay, 6-part novella, if you will) whilst I sat outside writing in yet another notebook, convinced I was in trouble. Eventually he called me in, told me quietly that I was very talented, and he was happy to read any other stories I’d written.

I started a fantasy thriller when I was 11. I submitted the first chapter — a graphic description of an elf being beheaded by a magician — into a competition for under-14s. It was, perhaps, a bit gory and in hindsight maybe a little more adult that the other entries might have been, but it was good enough to win. I got the impression that it blew most of the other entries completely out of the water. I had the story published, and was given an award, and I was incredibly proud of myself. I continued writing the fantasy thriller — in fact, I even rewrote and completely changed the first chapter. Award-winning or not, I had new ideas I wanted to inject into it. New characters, new approaches. I was buzzing with plotlines and imagined maps of this fantasy world I was creating.

If anyone was destined to spend the rest of their life writing, it was me. But did I? Absolutely not.

I can’t even begin to work out what happened. I was bursting with stories, and then I just seemed to run into some trouble. I wrote poetry and songs at university, and tinkered about with a story — which I wrote a good 75,000 words of. Then about five years ago — I just ran out. It’s like my brain just switched off. Am I an adult now? Was this inevitable? Or have I broken myself, somehow? And if I have, can I ever be repaired?


My fingers tentatively hover over the keys again. I have tried bringing it back, I have really, really tried. I’ve tried notebooks. I used to fill up hundreds of notebooks, with ideas or names or drawings of things that I liked. Now, I have hundreds of notebooks but they reflect what it feels like inside my head. They’re just empty, waiting to be filled, sadly knowing that they never will.

My heart aches slightly as I’m writing this, because I know it to be true. I know it to be the saddest secret I ever have. I still habitually buy notebooks because I know I have the want to fill them, but they just pile up and up and up, and I’m thinking about how much I want to write but how little I have left to say. They will never be filled, and I will never be fulfilled. And that is why I will always be thinking about the blank page. I will always allow my fingers to hover above the keys, as I think about how much I want to say and how I just can’t find the words to write.


This was originally published in February 2017 in’Tough and Tender: Volume One‘ by the Crybaby Collective (available to purchase via Lulu or Amazon.com).
All profits made from the anthology are going to Planned Parenthood.


Why i started blogging (again)

When I was a lot younger, I used to keep a diary.

I kept a diary – detailing every single irrelevant detail of my life (“went to Tesco today and picked up four bananas from aisle 3“) – until I was about 13 or 14 when I realised that I kept re-reading and reliving some terrible things that had happened to me. Childhood trauma (and the Day of the Regrettable Diary Burning when I was 16) aside, I moved on to livejournal (name me a 90s child who didn’t?) and used to update it regularly under a poorly-chosen pseudonym. I kept it until university, when suddenly documenting every thought became something Facebook was used for.

That’s right, I am calling Facebook nothing other than a diary. So sue me.

Other than the occasional Medium post, and a couple of terrible attempts at blogging in the past, I’ve sort of avoided it. UNTIL…early 2016, when I started setting up Quirk & Folly, in an attempt to write more regularly, and document my discovery of modern pinup fashion and my descent from “depressed oddball adult trying to fit in (please don’t notice me)” to “brightly-dressed human who refuses to blend in – come over here and say that to my face”.

Sadly, I had a bit of a tumultuous year, and pretty much failed to get past the “ta-da! I’m ready to post something” bit. I have had a few awful things happen in my life, ranging from relationship traumas to illness in the family. 2016 wasn’t just a car crash in politics; it was pretty traumatic for me on a personal level too. My annus horribilis continues into 2017 – however, I’ve revived my blog, and this time I aim to start doing this properly.

It’s going to be a challenge to make the time to post, but it’s something I’m going to work hard to do. Here’s hoping it’ll be a year of positivity and writing, and not a year of disappointment and excuses.

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