Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Random Round-up 3

This song happened to come up while I was listening to the 'celtic' radio station on grooveshark and I love it. Something about the combination of the tube and the singer's voice means that every time it comes on I just want to listen to it on repeat for hours.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014


I have made a lot of progress this year. Which is not to say there haven't been times where I've taken more steps back than forward - but I think that the overall trend is positive. It's important for me to remind myself of this by writing it out sometimes, because otherwise I am likely to forget I've made progress at all and will berate myself for stagnating. So here are a few things I've learned, or done: 

I deserve. I deserve self-care, I deserve to feel comfortable. I am getting better at spotting problems and finding ways to solve them, rather than living in discomfort because I'm not worth any more than that. When my bedroom is too cold to sleep in, I deserve extra blankets. When I dread the effects of time spent with my family for Christmas, I deserve to cut that time short and dedicate it to building myself back up. When my clothes no longer fit I don't have to suffer them because it is 'my own fault' - I deserve new ones. 

I write. Writing out my feelings and problems (or imagined problems, on occasion) helps enormously. I've never been good at remembering to keep a journal but for the last few months, instead of complaining to friends and then waiting hours or days for their response (and feeling frustrated and uncofmorted for the duration) I am able to find that comfort for myself and actually to feel better! 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Christmas Care Box

I'm feeling really good today. After getting my thoughts about Christmas down in writing earlier this week, I was able to put together a plan AND put it into action! Behold, my Christmas Care Box: 

This is an idea I've heard about from a few places, but that seems to come originally from the mental health support community. It's especially recommended for those who suffer anxiety. It's basically a box that you fill with things that calm you down, suggestions of things to do instead of binging/self-harming, numbers of friends to call if you need help, basically everything you could possibly need to get you through or out of an anxiety attack, even when you don't have the motivation or the calm, collected headspace to get yourself out of it unaided. 

Though I don't suffer from anxiety, I do know from past experience that spending time with my parents will lower my self-esteem and wipe out my motivation to keep getting better. So a box which contained everything I might need to enjoy my week alone and would prompt me to take care of myself seemed like a brilliant idea. 

Inside I've got my favourite Christmas film, a CD of my favourite Christmas music, some German Christmas stars (they taste like Christmas), some gingerbread body lotion, decorate your own gingerbread men, the remaining pieces of an old family nativity set and a Christmas notebook that I hope to fill with memories. 

I'm not done yet, I'm going to find some other stuff to put in it, but even just having it gives me an enormous amount of comfort. I don't have to worry about what I'll do if I feel down after Christmas, I just have to open a box. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014


Thoughts on Christmas

I read recently an interesting post on giving fewer gifts on which there was a comment which said "Not to mention it takes the pressure off Xmas and revives the true meaning of the holiday = family." Now, I'm not criticising this comment, it was just a jumping off point for my own thinking.

As a non-religious person who has a difficult relationship with my family (or rather, with my parents who are really the only family I see regularly) - what is the 'true meaning' of Christmas for me?

The short answer is - I don't know. I'm hoping that writing some things down might clear it up for me. I certainly will be going home to see my parents, but I know from past experience that spending too much time there ends up draining me, lowering my self-esteem and leaving me unhappy for many weeks after the fact. But my 'chosen family' (aka my friends) will all be busy with their own families and traditions, so I can't impose myself upon them. It's likely that this year I will spend most of the week between Christmas and Hogmanay (New Year) alone in my flat.

That's not a bad thing. I like spending time alone, and I won't be working so it will be the kind of break that I take all too infrequently. I have managed to make Valentine's Day a tradition for myself, when I usually send cards to all my friends and go to the cinema for myself. I do like the idea of having some personal Christmas tradition - and already I'm having all kinds of ambitious ideas like decluttering and giving anything I no longer need to charity shops, or using the time to reconnect with my friends by writing personal letters to each of them...

But I also know that Christmas is already a stressful and busy time. Already, I only have 18 days to buy presents for everyone, to sort out a costume for the work Christmas party, to get enough work done at work to take time off... Not to mention, I have five choir performances coming up before Christmas. Adding serious decluttering to that seems like a disaster waiting to happen, and I know that immediately after Christmas my motivation will be low.

Perhaps I should dedicate the week after Christmas to self-care, doing things I feel like, when I feel like them and trying not to feel guilt for being 'unproductive'.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Random Round-Up 2

Time for another month(ish)'s worth of cool things.

How Did This Get Made? is a podcast about bad movies that I've been listening to a lot lately. I enjoy it whether I've seen the movie or not — the episode I've linked is an atypical episode, because they have the director of the movie as a guest. It gives a really interesting insight into the process of making movies that I thought was worth sharing, even if the podcast doesn't otherwise sound like your thing.

WorkFlowy is a really convenient website for organising stuff. Basically, you create lists, which can then have sublists within sublists within sublists into infinity. You can also tag and star and I'm having trouble resisting the temptation to just put my entire life on there right now.

I was looking up interesting animals for one of our puzzle pages and found this amazing looking snake - Atheris (or Bush Viper). I love the contrast between the green and the dark blue, and also how spiky it is. Kind of dragon-like. 

This video is both fascinating and seasonally appropriate - it's about making candy canes by hand. I found the process of the stretching and turning the sugar white absolutely mesmerizing. 

Fun Fact - If you start on any random wikipedia page and click the first link on each following page (unless you've already clicked it in that round), you will end up at 'philosophy' in 30 links or less. Try it!
On tumblr I found this excellent photograph of suffragettes in bathing suits eating pizza to annoy men. Apparently this was a trend!
Also on tumblr was this photograph of an amazing art exhibit using watch faces to look like a frozen golden rain. More pictures and a video can be found here

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Random Round-Up

As someone who works in puzzles (as well as being someone who spends a lot of time on the internet) I sporadically discover cool bits of trivia, or quotations that make me smile, or really interesting articles. I always want to share these with people, but they rarely seem like enough to make an entire blog post out of. So, I thought I'd do this instead - a monthly (more or less...) round up of Cool Stuff. Like this:

I was checking a wordsearch about kinds of poultry when I discovered this beauty. Rebecca dubbed it 'The Iridescent Wonderduck' which I like a lot better than the official name — The Black Indian Duck

This is an amazingly beautiful element called Bismuth.
An art installation in Sydney called Forgotten Songs featuring 110 empty bird cages that play the songs and calls of 50 bird species that were driven out by urbanisation. The paving stones on the floor display the names of the species in question.
A quotation from my calendar.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Blog Hop

Something a little different today. Nickie at Meadow Orchard invited me to take part in a fortuitously timed 'Around the World' blog hop about the creative process. Hello to anyone who may have followed her to me! I'll be passing the baton on to two friends of my own: 

Rebecca at Parsnip Buttering who blogs about mad recipes and cures unearthed from a treasure trove of old books. Rebecca will also be mentioned in the answers to the blog hop questions below. 

Angharad at Life with Anorexia who blogs, writes, draws, paints and creates collages as a means of exploring her mental health. I'm terribly terribly envious of her ability to create celtic knots in something other than a square or rectangle shape. 

Question: What am I working on?
I'm working on a detective story based (very loosely) on characters from Beauty and the Beast, using a detective I've written about before called Henrietta Whitlock. I thought it was going to be a straightish murder mystery (the Beast is murdered, Beauty suspected) but I've found that in the writing process it changes and develops in a way I find quite thrilling and now there almost has to be a werewolf in it... 

Question: How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I haven't quite worked that out yet... Henrietta Whitlock was originally conceived as a steampunk Victoria era detective but having scrapped that manuscript I'm not sure what period I'm setting this in now. Nor have I completely decided whether or not there will be magic. It is definitely not going to be a police procedural in the modern crime fiction style. I could use magic to justify its being more of a Golden Age locked-room mystery. That would fit nicely with the werewolf. 

Question: Why do I write? 
I've been asked this before (in my creative writing module at uni) but I've never really had an answer. I suppose because I day dream a lot and there's only so much day dreaming I can do about myself? Or because I want people to be able to invest in my characters as much as I can invest in the characters I love? Because it's something I can do and no one can quite take that away from me?

Question: How does my creative process work?
The several times I've entered (and completed) NaNoWriMo, I've had a plan in place from the beginning. Not always a very clear plan, but definitely enough material for several days, a set viewpoint character, a set tense to write in. It's worked, I can't complain, but it doesn't feel fun.
Now, I've got no plan, things keep changing and developing in ways I didn't expect, I have no idea how I'm going to drop clues about the murderer, what method they used, how my detective is going to solve the case... but I'm having a blast doing it! 

In terms of how do I actually sit down and do the writing - I either need full on pressure or none at all. NaNoWriMo worked for me because I only had 30 days, I had to keep on top of my word count. In later years, when I had a full time job and other hobbies to juggle this became exhausting. And yet, when I was at school trying to pass the most important exams of my life, it was my break from that. Now, I go to a pub with Rebecca, write, eat some food, people watch. There's no pressure at all. No one except me cares if I write any words at all. That's freeing and is, I suspect, a large part of what's made writing fun again.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Theatre Trip: Let The Right One In

Last night, I crossed another theatre off my list of London theatres when Rebecca and I went to see Let The Right One In at the Apollo Theatre. Weirdly, it started at 7.45pm so we killed some time first in a pub where I added another couple of pages to my novel (about which more later). 

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Book Chat: Man of Property

It may be only Thursday, but I'm having a very exciting week book-wise. First, I learned that one of my favourite authors, Robin Hobb, is bringing out a new book in my favourite series, and that she'll be signing it in London next month! I am so excited.

Then I finally got the tape measure (or rather, badgered Rebecca to let me borrow hers) out to see if there was any space in my room for a bookcase and there is! Since I don't particularly fancy lugging a flatpack bookcase from Argos by hand, I think I'll wait until I've got some time off and have it delivered. I'm very much looking forward to storing my books in style, and in my own room rather than the lounge.

In less exciting news, I finished The Man of Property by John Galsworthy this week. It doesn't quite count as one of my fifty classics because I blithely put the whole of The Forsyte Saga down, but it's a step!

Monday, 30 June 2014

Monthly Memorandum: June

I keep meaning to get back into blogging but naturally I'm being a perfectionist about it and want everything in place before I draw anyone's attention back to this place. I'm going to work on the things I want to add in the next few days, but in the meantime I thought I'd write up the first of what I'm hoping will be several 'monthly memorandum's. A round-up of June and how it went.

Above is a photograph of my clipboard, the record of my achievements which at the end of every month I take down and add to a scrap book of sorts (not a literal book). It may not look like much, but it's been a busy month. 

In June I...
Attended a new bookgroup for the first time.
Watched X-Men: Days of Future Past with Giles.
Went to a pub with Rebecca with the express intention of writing our future-bestselling novels. Twice!
Attended Popchoir's annual big rehearsal.
Had lunch with my parents.
Performed with Popchoir at West Hampstead Fire Station and the East Finchley Community Festival.
Helped out as the Newstraid Charity Quiz.
Celebrated Anne’s birthday with her. 
Talked on the phone with a prospective date. 

I earned a record-breaking 78 stickers for good behaviour / healthy habits. These didn't encourage me quite as much as they did the first few months, and the last two weeks in particular I wasn't being as healthy as I would like, but I think I've gotten to the bottom of some of the reasons for that and am hoping next month will be a return to form. Regardless, I exceeded my target and will be buying myself Anne of Avonlea tomorrow afternoon. 

I finished reading The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford. I particularly enjoyed the above quotation, which I've typed out clearer below:

Their conversation was quite evidently both daring and witty, one could see it ran like a river, splashing, dashing, and glittering in the sun.

All in all, it's been a pretty good month. The first two weeks were a revelation. I was happier than I've been in years, motivated to go out, to socialise, to be creative. The second two weeks were more of a struggle, but I still had good moments. I've got a lot to look forward to in July, so I'm hoping it will be enjoyable. 

Friday, 14 March 2014


This week I've been thinking a lot about progress, goals and motivation. It started because I was feeling jealous of my friends who are taking observable steps towards the life they want. My goals are largely not compataible with that kind of objective measure. Do I hate myself a little less today than I did last week? I hope so, but maybe that's just because the sun is shining and I am in a better mood. There is no clearly defined next step to accepting myself more, which is a shame because it is so much easier to focus on a goal when you can see the results of your efforts. I would like to have a path laid out for me. 

I spent yesterday evening reading through a lot of things I wrote last year, and in that scale I can see progress. Since I'm starting this blog over I thought it would be a nice place to begin, to show what I'm coming from and what I'm heading for. 

Things That Have Changed 
  • I am able to feel pride and satisfaction from doing certain things (especially housework).
  • My social life has improved.
  • In the past year, I've opened up to two of my friends about what I'm struggling with and been able to get positive reinforcement from them. 
  • I feel much more confident at choir. 
  • There are far fewer days when I just want to go back to bed until it's over.
  • I am making some progress (mainly on this blog) in being able to admit to my actual opinions.
Things I Still Need To Work On
  • Eating healthily. 
  • Remembering that I have a goal, despite lack of obvious progress markers. 
  • Letting go of the anxiety that one day I will discover a goal and it will be too late to accomplish it. 
  • Getting out of the flat at weekends.
  • Feeling worthless for not working 'hard enough' at self-improvement. 
  • Learning to accept failure.
  • Letting go of the worry that I will be judged and found not good enough. 
  • Procrastinating less.
Hopefully, this time next year I will be able to take stock of my life again and see that even more things have improved.

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