All My Unwise Ways

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

I turned 28 yesterday!

This time a decade ago I was just turning 18. Going from teenager to Officially An Adult. Depending on my mood, it either feels like an age ago with a vast ocean of experiences between now and then, or a moment that has slid by in a flash.

A couple of birthdays ago I wrote a blog post about things I have learnt from growing slowly older. I don't feel like doing that today (is that a reflection on me having learnt nothing since I wrote the last one? Not sure). Today, I feel like telling you all the things that I have not learnt to do very well despite growing older by the day. So in the spirit of self-deprecation:

Seven Things I Suck At

1) Taking care of house plants. Our house is where plants come to die. I'm sorry. Our outside plants seem to do quite well, mainly because nature takes care of them. We only remember to water the inside ones when they look like they are about to drop dead. I've got two house plants that have survived our married life, and I genuinely don't know how they keep hanging in there.

2) Engaging in real life debate. I am the neurotic person that will lie in bed after having a good discussion with people and be internally berating myself for forgetting all the clever things I was supposed to say. Doesn't matter how well informed I am on a subject or how well I know people. Stick me in a group of people having a heated discussion and my brain leaves the building, taking all my helpful pre-prepared facts with it. I'm also really, REALLY scared of offending people. It's like I took the childhood lesson 'if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all' and distilled it down to a fine concentrate of 'just don't say anything at all.'

3) Keeping on top of Life Stuff. Every now and then I do some mundane house thing - like clearing out the cupboard under the stairs or finally emptying the washing basket - and I feel the most smug I ever feel in my life, and I think to myself, without a trace of irony or self-doubt, 'Never again will I let this thing get on top of me. From now on I will keep on top of things because that is what grown ups do.' Two weeks later you will find me weeping into a full laundry basket. Which leads me onto...

4) Not crying at stupid moments I cry when I'm angry. It is without doubt the most frustrating thing about myself. Inside I could be bubbling with rage like a volcano about to erupt and on the outside I look like a sad, wounded puppy. NO! My tears do two things. They elicit sympathy, which is frankly the last thing I want from someone I am arguing with. And they make me even more frustrated. Which, guess what? Makes me cry more. I give up on myself.

5) Understanding how maths works. The other day I considered asking a very knowledgeable friend how the pound works. How do people know the pound is weakening? Who officially decides and announces this? I decided in the end not to ask because I know I won't get it. I'm not playing up my dumbness here: something happens in my mind when people start talking numbers and it's like all I can hear after a few seconds is just tuneless roaring in my head. I do genuinely want to know these things: I just can't.

6) Being a grown woman Occasionally I watch YouTube videos to teach me how to do 'girl stuff' properly, and I resolve to change from now on. Then they start saying ridiculous things like 'make sure you remove your make-up every night' and 'don't let your toenail varnish get chipped because it looks scruffy' and I realise I am never going to change and it's not worth even trying.

7) Knowing where I am going This is a bit of a stretch, because I'm not entirely bad at knowing where I am. Once I've walked somewhere once, I've got it. My feet seem to memorise pavements. On the other hand, while I'm good at taking in landmarks and things to see along the way, road names? Nope. This is not at all helped by the fact that once in a car, I shut out the rest of the world and go into a daydream immediately (you might be relieved to hear that I don't drive).

And Two Things I Am Good At

1) Being grateful for people who are good at the things I am rubbish at Really, I truly am happy to have people in my life that are good at the things I am not good at. We all work together. Like separate pieces of a big happy puzzle.

2) Realising it's okay to not be good at stuff. The older I get the more I poke fun at myself. But also, the more I realise it's okay to let things go. Some things I get better at with time, other things I plan to get round to conquering sometime in the future. Some things just aren't worth the effort in changing. I'm not superwoman. Doesn't make me less needed or valued: just means I don't stress out so much.

Here's to another awesome year of growing older but perhaps not wiser in everything ;)


Run Jump Scrap!

Moving on.

Friday, 24 June 2016

I'm sitting here this morning trying to write, making the most of my child-free hours while Jellybean is out. And I can't concentrate.

This morning, we voted to leave the E.U.

I still can't quite believe it happened. I woke up to the news and felt the sadness and regret in my stomach like a heavy weight. Nestled in next to my unborn child who I will now have to raise in a very divided and angry country. We've essentially voted for something totally unknown and now are watching the implications as they emerge. What will happen to us? Will there be another recession? Will we lose Scotland now? When will we get the money back that we've been sending into the EU and will that happen before or after the emergency budget is declared? (I suspect long after).

It's been a hideous campaign based on lies and nastiness. On both sides. On the one hand, the 'hard working people' Farage and co. have been campaigning for will probably be massively impacted, because we have handed ultimate power to the Conservative government, who have a track record of taking away from the poor, disabled and most vulnerable in our society. If they need to make cuts (which they will) who are they going to cut from? Does it seem fair that we will now have an unelected Prime Minister?

On the other hand, I know a lot of Leave voters who voted not based on racism or xenophobia (or because they agree with Donald Trump or Nigel Farage) but because they had genuine concerns about the democracy of the EU, and are now having to a) keep silent about their vote, or b) risk being called names because of it.

It sucks.

It sucks that politicians on both sides have lied to us. It sucks that the papers are totally biased and unreliable. It sucks that this whole time, we haven't been able to find unbiased information anywhere. It sucks that far-right movements like Britain First have whipped people up into such a xenophobic frenzy that an MP ended up being shot dead. It sucks that the country is so divided. It sucks that we might lose Scotland.

It sucks that the Leave voters are calling Remain voters 'sore losers' because they are genuinely sad about the result. It sucks that Remain voters are calling Leave voters racist idiots.

It all just sucks.

For the record, I voted Remain, because I believe in unity and I believe the EU is not the terrible evil it has been made out to be. I am, frankly, very very worried about what will happen next. For the country as a whole and for us as a family. I worry about how we will provide for our children if there is another recession. I am concerned that people from other European countries that live here don't feel welcome any more. I have the right to express that concern and sadness. It's not 'throwing my toys out of the pram'. It is REAL politics. With real consequences. That impact us all.

But frankly, I feel quite ashamed of our country today. Not because of Brexit, but because of the way we have behaved. I believe in democracy. We've voted - we're out. But that doesn't excuse the weeks of bitterness, tension, and anger. It doesn't excuse the terrible things that have been said and done. It doesn't excuse the name calling and nastiness. It doesn't excuse entire campaigns being based on lies, exaggerations, and half-truths. Frankly, the behaviour of those representing us as a country make us all a laughing stock.

That said ...

The only thing we can do now is try and move on as gracefully and determinedly as possible. The only thing we can do is take stock of what we have and try and move on from it. We are still the same as we were yesterday - a country made up of determined, sarcastic, somewhat grumpy people. I believe we've got through worse and we'll get through whatever happens next, because we're stubborn like that. Somehow when the dust clears, maybe we'll be able to have more civil conversations about how we move on from here.


Anyway. I'm off to try and get on with my day. Have a good one. (Or, you know. Try to.)

Book review - Twisted Tales by Deborah Stansil

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

I really enjoy short stories. I find them quite satisfying to read. Plus, I really admire them as a form of writing - I think it shows great talent and discipline to write a good, intriguing story in just a few words.

So when blogger and writer Deborah A Stansil wrote a blog post asking if people would like to review her new collection of short stories, I was excited to sign up.

The collection is called Twisted Tales, which really sums it up quite well - twenty-seven short stories that are dark, creepy, or, well, twisted. They cover some really interesting ideas - from a desperate mother making a deal with the devil, to a devious husband-stealer who will stop at nothing to make him hers.

Some of these stories are flash fiction, so they are very short. I don't read a lot of flash fiction, so I found it interesting to see - how much impact a writer can fit into such few words. However I did prefer the longer stories - like 'Gaze' - because I was so enthralled by the story and characters that I wanted it to keep going. I really like the occasional creepy story - for that old-fashioned chill-up-your-spine kind of feeling - and I had that a few times whilst reading these.

Twisted Tales is currently free on the Kindle - I really recommend downloading it if you are into horror, for the interesting, creepy ideas contained within it. The stories are short but well-told. Stansil is releasing her first novel soon, The Joker, and there is a preview of it at the end of Twisted Tales. I think I'll be reading it when it comes out!

You can find the author's blog here, and on Twitter @randommusings29. You can download Twisted Tales on Amazon here!

Foyles, and meeting Pip and Posy!

Friday, 10 June 2016

Jellybean loves Pip and Posy.

I've written about Pip and Posy before in this post, but essentially, they are stories about two best friends and how they help each other to overcome the emotional issues that small children face. (Issues like losing ice creams or falling off scooters). They are really gentle, lovely and sweet, and we're slowly collecting them all.

We went up to Foyles bookshop in Cabot Circus last week, and Jellybean immediately spotted the newest Pip and Posy. A lovely lady that worked there told us that they were hosting a Pip and Posy Picnic in the store next week, and tickets were £5, if we wanted to go.

Obviously we said yes.

We had a bit of a weird day though because my baby brained idiocy led us to get there really really early and we had to hang around waiting for it, but once we were in, it was lovely.

We really like Foyles. It's not that big, but it's crammed full of books that are displayed really nicely. There is a lovely children's section:

The staff didn't mind that we were there really early and we had a nose around while we waited.

The children sat on a picnic blanket and had Pip and Posy stories read to them by a lovely lady called Megan (snap!) and then they bought out some food with the help of Posy (apologies for the blurry photographs that follow - my phone wasn't enjoying the lighting!):

There was loads of food (for the grown-ups too) and then some activity sheets for the kids to do. Then they met Pip:

Jellybean was very excited to see Pip and Posy, but did NOT want to go anywhere near them (to be fair they were massive). She just waved nervously from afar. They got lovely goody bags, which to my surprise included a Pip and Posy book:

As well as stickers and balloons and colouring sheets and other things small children really love.

We paid £5 to attend the picnic, which lasted an hour, and we were really pleased with it. The staff at Foyles are lovely, chatty, and helpful, and are quite happy for you to sink into a beanbag and read with your kid for a while. They put a lot of effort into the party and we really appreciated it.

I think events like these really help to instill a love of books into children from a young age - to get them excited about reading and connecting with characters and stories. Foyles have a lot of events happening in their Bristol, Birmingham and London stores over the summer, including loads of fun things for kids: illustrators hosting drawing workshops, craft activities, and more. Click here if you want to see their upcoming events.

You can follow Foyles on Twitter @Foyles and you can find their Facebook page for the Bristol store here!

Pip and Posy are published by Nosy Crow. Find them on Twitter @NosyCrow.

Linking up with:

My Random Musings

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Adventures in First Trimester

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Writing this slightly in advance as I'm waiting until the scan to tell people.

If I had kept a diary of how I felt over the past eight weeks or so, it would look a bit like this:

sick and exhausted
sick and exhausted
nauseous and tired
sick and exhausted
sick and exhausted
sick and absolutely shattered
weird craving for meat/intermittently nauseous
extremely bloated
unbelievably sick


Did I mention sick?

Pretty much everything is gross to me right now. Chris opened a packet of cookies the other day and I had to walk out of the room. He called after me:

'Does that make you feel sick?'

'Look, if anything happens - presume it makes me feel sick.'

I've also learnt that I have hard-core multitasking skills. I can reassure my toddler whilst being sick:

'Mummy's okay - bleeurrrrgghghh - I just - bleeeeegggh - I'm a bit poorly, but - bleuurrrrgghhhh - it's okay, Mummy's okay - heave'

I can also send an SOS text to my husband whilst being sick, as I discovered when I had to leave my crying toddler on our bed and abandon her to throw up.

Also, the tiredness. Oh good Lord. Having suddenly gone off coffee, my previous anchor to feeling halfway human has gone. And the baby is stealing all my iron. Like ALL of it. Always reassuring to get a voicemail from the midwife: 'Nothing to worry about, but I need you to pop in and have another blood test for your iron ...' extra joy points for the fact that my veins just don't want to give blood this time.

Seriously. The midwife got two and a half vials out of one arm and then said, apologetically, 'I'm so sorry, I think I've used it all up.' Which is not something you ever want to hear a health care professional say about your own blood supply even if in a half-joking way.

On the plus side I get a fun giddy feeling whenever I stand up too quickly. Yay!

One of my favourite games that my toddler likes to play is the 'lets make a bed on the floor and Mummy pretends to be asleep whilst Jellybean takes mad blurry photographs like a tiny drunk stalker.'

Frankly I'll take a nap wherever I can get one.

Plus to add to all this, I have fairly bad anxiety about the whole thing.

And my brain appears to have dropped out of my head.

So really I'm loving every minute of it.

I actually laughed when someone told me I was glowing the other day. If by 'glowing' you mean 'pale, anaemic, exhausted and slightly sweaty from being sick' then I am glowing all over the shop.

This is probably far too much information to be putting on the internet but I am far beyond the point of caring. For all the things pregnancy gives you it takes away all your dignity and pride.

Despite all this I am enormously grateful and would go through it all and more to get a little baby out of it at the end. But I am very very very VERY happy that the end of first tri is in sight ...

Linking up with:

Best of Worst

Mummy Fever - Share With Me

Book review - S by Doug Dorst and J.J Abrams

Friday, 3 June 2016

This review has been a long time coming, and now that I'm sitting down to write it I've realised how difficult it's going to be to try and explain this book.

Chris bought me S for my birthday last year, and wrote a little note explaining what it is. I have since, annoyingly, misplaced that note as it summed it up quite well.

S is a hardback book with a box that keeps it all together:

What is inside is a book called Ship of Theseus, written by V.M Straka:

It looks like a library book. Because it is supposed to be. S has, I'd say, three stories (at least). One being the tale of a man who awakens on a mysterious ship having forgotten who he is - Ship of Theseus.

Around the margins of the book, though, you find another story: the story of two readers, Eric and Jen. Eric is the original owner of the book. He leaves it lying around and Jen picks it up. Tentatively, the two start communicating via notes scribbled round the edges (although they don't know each other in real life) - and you start to learn more about them and their growing bond via their notes to each other.

The third story is the story behind the mysterious writer of the book, Ship of Theseus. V.M Straka is a mystery. He has written many classic books, but nobody knows for sure who he was in real life. Jen and Eric join the many literary professors and theorists before them, trying to discover for themselves who Straka really was by clues left in the footnotes. This journey becomes quite tense as Jen and Eric start to uncover long-kept secrets.

That is basically the book in the most simple way I can think to explain it.


There are so many layers to it.

Ship of Theseus is beautifully written: I really enjoyed it on its own, even without the extra stuff going on around the edges. Meanwhile, Jen and Eric's notes follow different time periods, and they use different coloured pens to show the different times they are writing in it. For example, Eric's writing in grey are the earliest notes that he made in the book, pre-Jen. It means that, basically, the order that you come across the notes aren't necessarily tied to the timeline that Jen and Eric are writing them in - so there's a bit of back-and-forth-ing to do.

There are also inserts. Like these:

Newsletters and photographs and postcards and letters and maps drawn on actual napkins: all of them you can pull out and look at. Part of the reason why it took me so long to actually finish reading this book was because I kept stopping to admire all the bits and pieces inside.

I have to admit, I finished S feeling quite perplexed. I should mention at this point that it is written by Doug Dorst, and the concept is by J.J Abrams, which should give you an idea of how this book is. The man loves a mystery. S doesn't wrap things up neatly for you. It leaves you wondering, even to the point of being a bit maddening. 

Obviously I turned to the internet, and it turns out there are loads of great, informative, brilliant blogs dedicated to the book, with theories and speculation and even walkthroughs for reading the book (which sounds odd but it is a weird reading experience - I couldn't decide whether to just read the 'main' story straight through and then go back and read the notes or to read them both at the same time). And it doesn't end there - there are even extra bits of canon that you can find online - but it's probably best to explore those after you've finished reading it. There are also puzzles, some of which Jen and Eric work out for you, others that you have to figure out yourself.

J.J Abrams and Doug Dorst describe this book as 'a love letter to the written word', which I think it is. It is not in any way a conventional book. It's more like an experience. If you want to read it, expect to be asking questions for a long time afterwards. In fact, even though I've finished it, I'm pretty sure I'm nowhere near being done with it ...

If you are thinking of buying S, I'd recommend reading this blog post, A Beginner's Guide to Reading "S". In fact everything on this blog is great.

It is a gorgeous and well-produced piece of work. I'd highly recommend it if you're looking to get absorbed in a different story telling experience.

Linking up with:

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Diary of an imperfect mum

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