Friday, 15 June 2018

My 15 Best Books

I have been thinking recently what are the best books I have ever read?

So here is my list of 15 best books, that I have read and would recommend to everyone, in no particular order.

  1. Brighton Rock by Graham Greene (About young gangsters in Brighton in the 1930's)
  2. Weaveworld by Clive Barker (About a magical world in a carpet, sounds ridiculous, but it's not, just dark, powerful and a tale woven so well it stays with you forever)
  3. Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood (About female friendship, feminism and art)
  4. A Prayer for Owen Meany  by John Irving(About a child who believes himself to be Gods instrument)
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Through the eyes of his six year old daughter we see Atticus Finch as a hero for the fight against racism)
  6. Orange is Not the Only Fruit - By Jeanette Winterson ( a coming of age tale for a young lesbian)
  7. Chocolat by Joanne Harris (A story of a single mother who comes to a small traditional French town and changes peoples perspective a little with persuasion and a little bit of magic)
  8. The Memory Keepers Daughter by Kim Edwards (About a doctor who gives away his downs syndrome daughter to a nurse at birth)
  9. This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay (The real diary of a junior doctor - I read this in 24 hours, un-puttable-downable)
  10. Three things about Elsie - By Joanna Cannon (The story of an old ladies descent into dementia, through her eyes)
  11. Dracula by Bram Stoker (Because I love a vampire and this one is the original and the best)
  12. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (I love this because she wrote this at a time when most women had to change their name to get published she published as herself at only 20 - oh, and I do love a Gothic novel)
  13. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (About a boy with Asperger's and being different)
  14. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Another vampire story but covering some other more disturbing social problems, including paedophilia, bullying, social isolation)
  15.  Generation X by Douglas Coupland (Disillusioned generation X'ers tell stories of a broken world) 
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Tuesday, 12 June 2018

The Curse of Love Island

I like to think of myself as reasonably bright, articulate, well educated....

So why do I like such dreadful telly?

You should see my excitement when Big Brother is about to start, or America's Top Model, or Love Island...and then the horrible feeling of slightly hating myself for watching this nonsense.

I used to tell myself that Big Brother was an anthropological experiment. Which it was to begin with, but now, not so much. Now the people who go in are plastic fantastic and pretty superficial, whereas to begin with, there was a fireman, a nun, a carpenter, just normal people.

And Top Model, I tell myself, I watch purely for the photographic elements....I am 100% kidding myself.

And everything is so heavily marketed with ridiculous amounts of product placement.

Still hating myself.

Now the people who go in are all potential glamour models/porn stars or people who have had a tiny glimpse of fame. They are fame hungry and just want to become celebrities.

Moving to disgust at the time I waste on this.

But its Love Island I'm most troubled that I watch.

Did you know 82,000 people applied for Love Island, that is ridiculous. What is wrong with these people, I suppose it's a free holiday, that's emotionally crippling and based purely on how you look.

This a picture of myself, and daughters on holiday in Turkey because I don't want to risk any type of copy-write infringement - so this is the closest thing to Love Island that I could find, the only difference is the bodies are normal and the people in the picture are happy and self confident.
I am horrified, whilst I watch an A & E doctor have all his self confidence crushed slowly and systematically out of him, simply because he is slightly fairer than some of the others and doesn't ripple with muscles....He's cleverer than all the others put together, he saves lives for Christ sake, he's a f**king super hero, and he's been pushed firmly into the 'Oh he's so lovely' friend zone. *Head Slap*

Oh God, this wouldn't happen if we all just switched off, I am awful.

And yet, every night, I send my husband to his man cave and watch these self obsessed individuals talk about themselves, whilst not listening to a jot of what the other person is saying.

What is wrong with me?

And the worst of it is, I know I am not the only one, people I respect off the telly are watching it too. Friends are watching it, it's all anybody talks about. None of us know why its so bleeding addictive, but it is.

Make it stop...

And it messes with all my high minded principles. It's about body beautiful and not brains, I'm sure it's sexist and demeaning to both the men and the women, its sending all the wrong messages to our children and finally and clearly most importantly - WHERE IS THEIR CELLULITE?

And so sadly, I finish this post, with the story of Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection in the pool. So in love was he, that he couldn't look away and so died just staring at himself.

I fear this is what will happen to all these selfie obsessed, body beautiful, millennials. They will just forget to look away from their mirrors and phones, and suddenly there will be no more relationships, or friendships or children....#justsaying #selfie #bodyobsessed

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Monday, 11 June 2018

How to keep the Happy

Today I did my first job application in nearly two years.

It was like flexing old muscles, tight and sore, but once loosened they are ready for a jig.

The language of business, came out of me like I had been at work yesterday, all there tucked away not forgotten, just hiding.

But, I am not going to lie. I have mixed feelings about this, I am applying for a part time job as the rest of the time I will be a student, studying for my Masters Degree. Am I going to be able to do both? Yes, the job I have applied for would have less demands on me than my previous roles but it would still be demanding and I would want to give it my all.

I only know how to give my all, I have never really understood how someone can come to work and only half do the thing, what's the point, you are there, make the most of it, by giving your all you have pride in what you do and a pride in yourself.

And I am nervous about starting my degree, I haven't studied for 30 years, this is going to be a real shock to the system.

Chances are I won't even get an interview, never mind be offered the job, so I am not sure why I am worrying.

I don't really know why I am surprised that all that business speak came flooding back, it's the language I have spoken for the last 25 years. Its who I was, but is it who I want to be, going forward? I don't know, I have changed A LOT in the last 2 years.

I have felt free, relaxed, happy. I have felt healthier than I have in years, I have had loads less money, but still been OK and got by. I feel like I have made a stronger connections with my children. I feel like I know what they want, need and care about. I have spent more time with my husband.

I have been really happy.

And I don't want to mess it up, but financially, I have to be realistic, I have to do something part time. But what? I liked the look of the job I applied for, so maybe that, but if not something else. Something that doesn't interfere with my happy. Got to keep my happy.

To be continued.......

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Saturday, 9 June 2018

National Flash Fiction Day

National Flash Fiction Day (also known as micro fiction) is on the 16th June.

What is flash fiction - Its something under a 100 words. Here is my contribution for this year.

The Dandelion

Warmth is on my face and the grass in my hair, as I lay squinting at the few white clouds in the sky. 

I smell the sweet grass.

I turn my head and see a dandelion, beautiful in it’s simplicity, as yellow as the sun. A bee buzzes.

I feel, contentment, a quiet joy, a knowledge of everything and nothing, I am nine with my whole life ahead of me.

This one moment, is where I will go when I am sad, disappointed and broken. 

Sweet smelling grass, a yellow dandelion and a bee, brings my calm.

Because I haven't got a photo of a yellow dandelion to hand this one will have to do
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Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Is Our Dystopian Future Here?

The Oxford English dictionary describes dystopian as follows: relating to or denoting an imagined state or society where there is great suffering or ... 'the dystopian future of a society bereft of reason'.
Train tracks - the relevance of this photo will follow
 This morning whilst watching the news there were the following headlines;

  1. In Guatemala the Fuego Volcano erupts, 69 people are killed
  2. Oil prices go up and we see the biggest increase in petrol prices since we started measuring this, in a month (6p increase in the month of May, which may sound insignificant but equates to an actual increase of 5 million pounds across the UK in a month)
  3. Train travel in many parts of the country is so significantly impacted people can't get to work
  4. The plastic problem in oceans, whilst being addressed at some level across Europe, is not being addressed by America or China, with similar disregard by them, for CO2 emissions
  5. A decision will be made in government today, whether to add another runway for Heathrow, even though this could have a major impact on air quality in the area (this decision went through later today)

    So in summary, car travel has risen in cost significantly, whilst the value of sterling has dropped by 2% meaning that the cost of living has not met these price rises (this is not even considering the increase in the cost of energy bills, which is expected to be another £600 a year for an average family). Similarly, if you decide to take the greener option of the train, you are likely to be persistently late for work which is costing the nation millions in lost work hours, and the cost of train travel has become significant, meaning that even the greenest of us are considering going back to using the car.    

    Oh hang on, no, we can't afford that either....but we have to get to our place of work...which is on average 45 minutes away, by whatever means of travel you take....looks like we are well an truly f**ked on the travelling and getting to work front. So travel is currently bereft of reason.

    What about the environment, all these volcanoes, are they an issue? Not according to some experts (I think the families of the dead would disagree), who say this is normal and there are between 10 - 20 active volcanoes at any time. However, in a 2009 study, it was said that there was an increase in eruptions as the earths temperature has risen and in a study in 2014, a study said that when there are changes to the speed of the earths rotation caused by the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon there are more eruptions.  

    The rationalists amongst us say there is more concern these days because everything is filmed on our phones so we are more aware of it and how scary it can look? 

    I think this is one for you to decide. 

    As for other environmental issues, we all just need to do more to sustain our air quality and our environment, and petition our governments to do better on this front. 

    Maybe buy a smaller car, or have less cars. On the street that I live, I think we are the only family with one car, everybody else has two or more, there are other ways to travel, bicycle is a great option (again the government need to improve cycle paths), or just walk.

    You may think, that, that won't make a difference, and no, you on your own won't, but persuade a friend, than it's two of you, then four....we still have the power to make these decisions ourselves. Lets make them before governments have to make them for us. Do we want to be told how many cars, babies, houses, we can have...we are not far from this point, overpopulation is rife, houses are unaffordable and the gap between the rich and the poor is getting greater. 

    And yet there are empty houses and few projects to renovate and renew them for families who are struggling economically, instead big firms want to build on our green and pleasant land instead and make housing that is only affordable for the rich.

    Arty barbed wire short to represent dystopia....OK, I may be taking liberties

    But I digress. 

    Are we living in a dystopian future? Are we living in a society bereft of reason? To some extent I think we are. 

    Some men and women would rather pay for lip fillers (£450 at my dentist - per go) than give that £450 to charity or save for a home or buy some trees to be planted. That, to me is bereft of reason.

    (Having said that, I pay for needless tattoo's so I am not exactly without blame on this front)

    People believe the nonsense spouted in the red top newspapers, where the underlying message is racist 'Get the immigrants out', sexist 'are all beautiful women boring?', 'I thought tattoos were for sluts', 'women become good cooks at 55' or homophobic, where a school teacher was outed by the press and then consequently committed suicide. All of that is bereft of reason, to me.

    Women hold a sixth of the senior roles in the UK's top companies and men are 40% more likely to be promoted into a senior management role than a woman with equal qualifications. Surely, that is bereft of reason

    That Government has now approved another runway at Heathrow knowing that it will reduce air quality - What about the people who live in the area? What about the people who already have asthma? What about the animals and environment in the area? I just don't understand how this is OK

    Donald Trump believes that climate change is a hoax. That is so bereft of reason that I don't even know what to do with that, apart from quietly die a little inside and pray to the God I don't believe in, that my children will have a world to live in when I am gone.

    Currently, in the UK we spend approximately £44-45 billion pounds a year on defence, a £110 billion on the NHS, and £11.3 billion on environmental protection. I think I would change some of these numbers around a bit. However, consider this, the military are spending more on computers and cyber defence than anything else at the moment. This is probably wise as a nationwide cyber attack would bring this country to it's knees and ultimately, at that point what we do with the environment, travel, the NHS and the military won't matter.

    Imagine no phones, computers, laptops, no internet. Imagine if none of that worked, most of us have our homes internet connected, including heating and our televisions. Imagine if nothing worked and we went back to paper and pens, but isn't our sewage and water connected? yes it is. A nationwide cyber attack would be devastating, not only because of the above but also because all our weapons are digital which means they can be hacked.

    Currently experts are deeply concerned about the likelihood of hacking and is on the top of most governments and militaries lists of things to do something about, BUT, as the military and the government build better defences, hackers get better too...

    So, am I some conspiracy theorist that thinks the world has gone to pants. No, my little piece of the world is wonderful, I have a beautiful family and home, I'm just worried my children and my children's children are going to have to lead very different lives, because my generation and those that went before me royally messed everything up.

    My advice, cherish what you have, change what you can, and live as green as you can.

    And sod you dystopia.

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Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Do you write a Diary?

Do you write a diary? I do, I have since I was 12. And I have kept them all.

My first ever entry was on January 1st 1980.

'Snowy (mouse) had her babies. I also played with Nicky Hunter and wrote thank you letters'.

There wasn't much room for each entry in my first diary, and yes I kept and bred mice, in fact I had a lovely little business going with the local pet shop and sold the young mice for extra money.

I soon learnt that I preferred diaries that had blank pages so I could write as little or as much as I wanted.

Over time this developed into a real love of stationary, so much so, that now write my diaries in a Moleskine pad with a Palomino Blackwing 602 pencil, which is, allegedly, what Hemingway wrote with. I think/hope some of Hemingway's genius will rub off on me when I am writing (I am fully aware of how pretentious this sounds, but in the spirit of honesty ...).

OK OK, so I'm a stationary snob, so shoot me, I can't help it, I love me some stationary, I have a Filofax with Dodo pad innards.

And yet I also like my technology, but I think it's OK to like both.

I prefer a book to a Kindle (tried one, didn't like it).

I like a new books because I love the smell, although I think Libraries are wonderful, I like my books to be bent to my will - yes I break the back, yes I take them in the bath (on the rare occasions I have time for one), I leave coffee cups on them to hold them open and they end up with coffee rings, and sometimes I even write little notes in them, once my book is my book, it's mine. I think it is almost like an animal scenting a thing to make sure everyone knows who the thing belongs to.

But I digress, as I often do, I write a diary, but over the last few years, I have wrote less. Thankfully, this year my lovely husband bought me Dawn French's Me You Diary, where she writes something and you write something, and it has really got me back into it.

 Most of my diaries are bulging with all sorts of bits and bobs.

I do worry that the current generation and those to come, won't have this, they won't have the physicality of a diary or a letter or a postcard sent from a friend when you are feeling low. All they will get is a little sad face emoji and a wave via text.

I have letters and poems, my Dad wrote for my Mum and they are beautiful, Dad's handwriting all squirly and Mum's all copperplate, so personal and lovely.

And of course, they won't enjoy the feel and touch of lovely stationary.

I have personalised my diary and 'scented' it so it is completely mine, I have always used my diaries as scrap books as well as something to write in. I ripped out the pages I needed to write in when I went on holiday and Sellotaped them back in when I got back, I have pressed flowers and put them on the front and Dawn, as I now know her, gets you to stick a photo of yourself into the diary every few months, which is something I would never do, but it's kinda nice.

So thanks to Dawn French I am now fully back on the Diary gravy train, and loving it, and although I write this blog, in a diary I can write whatever I like, there is no self censorship, no political correctness, just me, and one day my children can read them, like I read my Mum and Dad's letters, and feel a huge personal connection - hopefully.

So go on, start writing a diary, it's never to late to start.

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