twentytwentyone

I mean, how do you even begin this post? I love writing these yearly posts but this year is just hitting a little different isn’t it? I don’t want to spend much time speaking about the elephant in the room, cos at this point we all know what’s up. I’m finding that constant mention of the pandemic is making my heart race. I’m sure it’s the same for many of you. So instead I want to just keep this post short and hopeful. Short because I don’t have much hope in me right now. Hopeful because we can’t exist without it. Whatever the situation, no matter how deep into it you are, no matter how much your mental health is holding on by a fraying thread, no matter how much you want to give up, no matter how much you’re dying for a hug or a proper pint or a maskless breath of fresh air, I think there is always hope.

Every single thing that happens in your life is temporary.

Read that again.

Every single thing that happens in your life is temporary.

I’m obviously not talking about death (etc.) here, don’t try and get smart with me. But what I mean is that every feeling and mindset and set of circumstances you find yourself in will be fleeting. Your world twists and turns and evolves constantly. Often quicker than you can keep up with. (2020, am I right?) A lot of things in our lives will feel out of our control, and honestly, a fucking lot of it is. But a lot of it isn’t. And that’s all we’ve got. So that’s what we should focus on. That’s where we find our hope. Make it tangible not abstract. Regain autonomy of our lives amongst the madness and fear. So I think that’s what we should all work on this year.

Just take a deep breath. Right now, go ahead, I’ll wait.

Okay. Push out of your brain all the things in your life right now that are unchangeable. I won’t list any because we all know the things that relate to ourselves specifically. Now I want you to let the things you can control float to your mind’s forefront. What is there? Maybe make a mental list. For me, a couple of things popping up are what I read, what activities I give my spare time to, how I nourish my body (mental/physical).

These are the things that are going to give us hope this year. So spend a little time thinking about what you would like from them. Maybe you’re into resolutions so you quantify your thoughts and write a list of goals. Maybe you’re not and you just think abstractly for a moment. Whatever works for you. But what I want you to do, any time over the next few months that you feel overwhelmed or hopeless or that you’re spiralling. Just stop. Everything. Pause for a second. Close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths. Then circle back to this little list and think of one small thing you can do that day to develop one of them. Could be a walk. Could be putting a frozen pizza in. Could be watching your favourite tv show. Could be a nap. Could be as simple as getting yourself a cup of water. The things we’re controlling this year are not big. They’re the inconsequential every day, that all link together to become the most important parts of our lives. You might not be flying to Bali this year but you might give yourself ten minutes each day to journal and that is equally magical.

So what am I focussing on this year? A couple of little things.

  • I want to move my body more, however that feels right each day. Could be a run, yoga, some pilates. Could just be a walk. I’d like to incorporate more walks into my week, something positive I’m taking out of 2020.
  • I want to drink more water. I used to drink a lot but I’ve noticed now I’m usually sipping a black coffee. Oops!
  • I want to start working on my novel again. I didn’t touch it at all last year. Yikes. But I’m starting super small with just reading what I have and fixing any typos. You can have bigger goals but just break them down and down until they’re achievable little actionable tasks.
  • I want to read widely but slowly and intentionally. I had a very intense reading year last year, and I’m glad I did it and I had a lot of fun. But it was a lot. This year I want to find some new favourite books but I also want to fit in some tv, haha.
  • I want to connect better with my friends. I’m a famously bad messager but I don’t want to be. And checking in with people is so important, even more so now. So I’m working on it.
  • Oh and I want to buy a house. That’s not small but damn it, it’s happening!

So this ended up being a medium sized post. Turns out I had more hope than I realised. I hope you do too.

If you need help, reach out. To somebody, anybody. Could be me, doesn’t have to be. But don’t suffer alone. We truly are all in this together. And we’re surely reaching the home stretch now.

I hope your twentytwentyone is sublime.

Peace x

Kyoto – Phoebe Bridgers

Endless Worlds Book Club

I’m starting a book club! Yeah, you heard. And I want you to join!

I’ve wanted to join a book club for a few years now but just never acted on it. Partly because I’m shy. Partly because I can’t be bothered with the ‘big personalities’ that are inevitable to any group. You know the ones. They love the sound of their own voice. And partly because I worried I wouldn’t always enjoy the book that was chosen and then it would feel like a chore.

BUT.

No more.

My friend Carina and I have decided, fuck it, the way to solve all these problems is to simply start our own! And then Endless Worlds was born.

So what do you need to know?

– We want the book club to be accessible to anyone who wants to join. Therefore we’ve decided to pick a book bi-monthly. That gives you lots of time to read the book without feeling pressured or overwhelmed. (For you book nerds who read several books a month, it gives you the time to also read all your personal tbr* as well!)

– We wanted to be able to invite friends who didn’t live locally so instead of meeting irl we’ll be having our discussions on our Instagram page. But if you want to sit sipping a glass of wine pretending you’re at a pub with everyone whilst you type away your thoughts then we’re all for it. I might be too! Tea is also acceptable.

– Our Instagram account is @endlessworldsbookclub and we cannot wait for you to see the fucking amazing logo our very talented friend Beth has so kindly designed for us! You can check out her designs at @designsby.bh on Instagram!

– We want you to bring anyone to the book club who you think would love it. A simple way to do this is to share your book around. As there’s two months to read each book, there’s definitely time for a few of you to read one copy. This will also make the club cheaper for you!

– It won’t just be the bi-monthly books. As we get going we’ll be introducing all sorts of extras for you to participate in! Spoiler: they’ll be super fun!

– What books are we reading? Jeez, could be anything. We’re keeping it very open. Our only criteria is that it’s boss.

– January/February’s book will be announced tomorrow!

And that’s about it.

I hope you’ll join and if you have any questions at all just let me know. 🙂

tbr* – for the non-book nerds means ‘to be read’

Ahay – Of Monsters and Men

My No Buy Year: Rules and Exceptions

So I mentioned in my last post that I was undertaking a no buy year.

What the heck is a no buy?

Well! Simply, it’s whatever the heck you want it to be. Or, rather, it’s what you need it to be. The aim is to cut your mindless spending habits. The outcomes are numerous. It’s supposed to help you:

– save money

– decipher needs from wants

– declutter and minimalise

– spend more mindfully

– break your advertising brainwashing

I’m using it as a way to hit reset. I want to spend this year seeing how I feel when I spend less money. What do I need to be happy? That way, I can move forward into the rest of my life with good spending habits and the ability to stick to a budget (this is something that still escapes me). I think it’ll be challenging but I’m excited to see what happens!

So how does it work?

Typically, a lot of people use it to curb their material buying habits, ie. clothes, makeup, shit you’ve seen your favourite influencer use. Now, I’m not going to lie, I’ve been known to buy a thirty quid water bottle and purchase more books than I can possibly read. However, for me, I know material items is not really my problem area. I don’t really own many clothes, instead favouring a Marge Simpsonesque uniform. I own five of the same black t-shirts, a black hoodie, a couple of shirts and a pair of docs. And, I mean, that just works for me. But, if you’re someone who can’t get through the day without scrolling fashion websites, or can’t walk past a sale in H&M without going in, then this is going to be a great area for you to work on.

This doesn’t just go for clothes though. As I say, books is a big one for me. It could also be video games, anime figures, candles, kitchenware, homeware, tech. Like, it’s not about completely quitting your passions. It’s just about wondering whether we need every single thing we set our eyes on.

So when it’s not about material objects, what is it about?

Oh, where to even begin! It’s eating out, it’s eating takeout, it’s coffee, it’s the cinema, it’s gigs, it’s the theatre, it’s exhibitions, it’s lunch. And more than anything, it’s booze. We’re British, we love the pub. It’s not our fault! Haha.

But no. This is my trouble area for sure. ‘Activities’. But mainly, drinking to excess. And don’t get me wrong, I love doing that. I have some of my fondest and funniest memories from nights out or unexpected daytime pub crawls. And I have no intention of stopping them entirely. But I’m getting to a point where I look at my bank account and think, fuck, what have I got to show for it? Good times, yes. But a house? Savings? Trips to California? Nope! And I’d like those things. So that’s my main intention for my own year.

But you’ve just got to find your own.

Traditionally, some people will take the ‘no buy’ idea at face value. They pay bills and buy groceries but aside from that, absolutely nothing is purchased. And I totally respect that. I couldn’t do it. However, I’m not doing my no buy to punish myself. I’m doing it to learn how to be more responsible with money. To be minimal. To focus more on relationships and relaxation than expensive tech and bottomless pints. And that’s okay too.

Some people will probably tell you that you’re doing it wrong. You are not doing it wrong. Because there are no rules. It is not a contest. It is a self-development project. So set yourself some rules to stick to but also list your exceptions. Write them down and then cement them. Having clear rules will help you each time you go to take your card out of your purse. Having clear exceptions will also help you stick to your ultimate goals whilst having fun. If we didn’t have them, our desperate selves would find a loophole and that’s just not what we want.

I think the overarching idea is to have fun. It’s not extreme to take control of your finances and consumerism. It’s actually quite responsible. But with this challenge comes the chance to have fun where you never would have looked for it before. By eating out once a month, you’re not telling your friends you hate them. Simply find ways to hang out with people that are free. Go to the park, go to a free museum, go for a hike. There’s so much out there waiting to be discovered.

I’m really excited about this year. And whether you decide to embark on your own no buy (or low buy, less intense version) or not, I’ll keep you posted on my journey. And maybe you’ll start to think a little more mindfully in your own spending habits!

My No Buy Rules + Exceptions

– No books

– No physical objects

– Replacements/repairs are fine (deodorant, jeans, think one in one out)

– Gifts are fine, so are birthdays (if someone invites me to celebrate their birthday I’ll say yes)

– No new subscriptions but existing are fine

– Things for education/fitness are okay (gym membership, driving lessons etc.)

– Things for the wedding are fine (my sister’s wedding is due to be the event of the year!)

– One day in Dublin (I made a pact with my mum that I’d go there every year of my life)

– One trip each quarter (these will have spending limits. Glastonbury, Scotland..)

– Eat out with Danny once a month

– Eat/drink out once a month with friends

– Six visits to friends outside of Liverpool

– Twelve cinema trips

– Twelve theatre/gig trips

– £15 for food/drink with each theatre/gig trip

– £20 monthly in house budget (beers, ice cream, treats and such)

– A couple of extra Christmas outings is okay

And there you have it! Those are my rules. I don’t know if people think that’s a lot of trips out or barely any. For me, that’s a lot less than I’ve gone out this past year so for me it’ll be challenging to stick to! As I say, you can choose to do your no buy however you like. Some might cut everything but essentials. Others might just do physical objects. Some might do a mix like me. Anything goes, kids. You should know this on my blog by now! Also remember, you can start a no buy whenever you want, it doesn’t have to be January. You also don’t have to do a year. You could do a month or even a week!

Let me know what you get up to!

Say Anything – Girl In Red

twentytwenty

So I haven’t written a blog post in a long time but let’s just skip over that! I’ve kinda made these beginning of the year posts a tradition so I didn’t want to miss it.

I really like resolutions. I know a lot of people don’t. But I enjoy setting intentions for myself. Goals. Challenges. Mantras. I like to spend the last couple of days of the year kind of just collecting my thoughts and ruminating on what I want for myself going forward.

And I’m feeling good about twentytwenty. I know right, how? This year, and quite frankly, the three years before that, have been pretty shocking. For all of us. But regardless, I think it’s important to stay hopeful, even when the world is exploding around you. Especially then. Whether it’s things in your personal life, work life, or the greater world around you, you’ve just got to keep fighting. Wake up each day, be grateful to be alive, and then get to work. And believe me, I know it’s not always that easy. But you’ve just got to keep fighting. Don’t let the bastards grind you down, and all that.

So I’m moving into twentytwenty hopeful.

I think my word for the year is simplicity. Because there’s just so much noise and bullshit in the world that I just need to keep my mind clear. So my goals are super simple this year. When I think about my life it always comes back to three words: writing, saving and health. So that’s what I’m going to work on. How? Lots of ways. But my main plans are:

Writing – Last year during nanowrimo I managed to write 50,000 words towards a novel. I KNOW! Still can’t believe it. Also yes, I’m writing a novel now, cos why not. Starting January, after a month break, I’m going to begin organising my work by editing, structuring and then writing to fill the gaps. I’m also attempting to read 100 books, because I’m an idiot but I also love an unachievable challenge. Also, I’m in the midst of a project called Sarah to Zero where I try to minimise my owned unread books to well, zero. We’ll see how that goes.

Saving – I’m continuing to fuel as much money as humanly possible into my house isa. I’m also undertaking a no buy year! Yes, I have jumped on the bandwagon and I’m now consumed by the idea. More on this some other time. The basics are you just stop buying things. Maybe learn a bit of mindfulness along the way.

Health – I’ve recently joined a gym which I hope to work into my daily routine. I’m also five months into a yoga for 365 days journey, loving it so far. I’ve also been experimenting with intermittent fasting for a couple of months so I’m going to keep working at it until I find a system that works excellently for me.

And there you have it. I just want to press pause more in twentytwenty. I had so much fun in twentynineteen but I feel like I was always moving. I want to relax this year, lie in bed and read, journal, meditate, cook, do yoga, go for walks, and just hang out with Danny. So that’s what I’m going to do. Hopefully you’ll see me around here more too.

What are your twentytwenty plans?

Vulture, Vulture – Of Monsters And Men

Tattoo Origins: Create Explore Learn

It turns out I haven’t done a single tattoo origins post this year. So it goes.

Today’s origin story is a little quick one because the meaning behind it is important but not complicated.

This tattoo, of all my seven, is unique in the sense that it is the only one without words.

Years ago now, I was looking at people’s tattoos online. Does anyone else do this? I find it has the ability to black hole me, not dissimilar to how YouTube or Instagram can. But anyway, I saw a couple of times these little triangular glyphs and thought they were cute. I wondered if they meant anything or were just geometric artwork. Then I stumbled across a table that had all these glyphs written out with their meanings. They’re things like connect, express and challenge. I liked them. They’re so simple yet would have a private meaning to myself. I’m pretty into coded tattoos, don’t know if you’ve noticed!

I decided I needed them. I looked at all the glyphs but three words instantly stuck out to me and I knew exactly the order I’d get.

So why these words?

Create: I love to write but I often forget this fact. This triangle reminds me to always keep finding words. In my journal, for my blog, or maybe one day for something bigger. Enjoy the magic of building and curating something that’s mine. And do it to move people. In some way.

Explore: Because I love to travel. Who doesn’t? Whenever I feel in a rut or just a little unfulfilled, this triangle reminds me that’s okay. I just need to alter my mindset. And maybe my location. Whenever I go to a new city I search for an Irish pub, a bookshop and a vegan place. It makes each city my own. When I go to the countryside, or the mountains, or the ocean, I take a minute to close my eyes and breathe. To remember I’m alive.

Learn: We are never done learning. And I think people are naïve to say the opposite. Why would you ever want to stop discovering new information? I find the world utterly fascinating. I want to know it’s secrets. But you won’t learn them until you ask. So this triangle reminds me to read, to listen, to build, to try, to have humility. To have patience. And to have persistence. It also reminds me to be empathetic. To be an ally. And to love above all else.

And there you have it.

Wild Roses – Of Monsters And Men

Just Saying Hi

So it’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. Even longer since I’ve written a post that wasn’t a book wrap up! Radio silence all summer. But you’ve got to assume I’ve been doing something, right? We all know how bad I am for staring at walls and letting life pass me by! However, I think I’ve done quite a bit this summer! But I’ve missed writing posts so want to ease myself back in. Today, I thought I’d give you a quick overview of what I’ve been getting up to recently in everyone’s favourite form: a list!

I completed a week-long readathon, reading seven books in total.

Did a run in the rain. (Thanks, British Summer)

Met my friend and did tequilas at 5pm on a Monday.

Watched hours of a Devil May Cry Let’s Play on YouTube with Danny. (Mainly assume Danny’s with me for most of the list so I don’t have to keep typing his name!)

Tried to eat at two pubs on a random Wednesday and was told there was no seats so settled for a chippy instead with my nan.

Finally completed a 750 Harry Potter jigsaw after a long ten-week slog (we thought it would be a piece if cake, how wrong we were). Thanks Dad, Claire, Neil, Jules, Keith and anyone else for your help!

Opened an ISA to buy a house cos I’m an adult.

Sat up chatting all evening with my sister. Mainly about her upcoming wedding!

Went to The National Gallery in London and realised, damn, art is stunning.

Did a morning run in Hyde Park.

Went to so many London book shops including one on a boat!

Met a couple of friends for a drink in Camden and then went to an arcade.

Played board games for hours at Draughts.

Went for a fancy tea and drinks with my family and listened to live jazz with espresso martinis.

Celebrated my mum’s birthday by baking loads of cakes.

Rearranged my bookshelves!

Played mini-golf with Danny’s mates then drank too many beers.

Saw Feeder play four songs.

Got insanely drunk with Danny and my brother and did karaoke.

Went to Frost Burgers (a vegan junk food place) in Liverpool and wanted to cry about how good the food was.

Drank more beers with Danny’s friends and played board games.

Watched Love, Simon then Rambo: First Blood immediately after, you know, for variety.

Walked around Ogwen Lake in the Wales with Danny and my dad. Then we visited every takeaway in Bethesda to create the ultimate combination feast.

After camping overnight we went to Penrhyn Castle and Gardens and it was amazing, go.

Did a run after a two-week break, we almost passed out.

Had a big nap.

Read loads as I was doing a month-long readathon and after 19 days of August had read 1 of my 9 books!

Went for a walk on Crosby beach with the Iron Men.

Danny made me a Katsu Curry from scratch.

Went to Birmingham with my sisters for lots of wedmin (Wedding Admin).

Made a set of cupboards for my dad that had the absolute worst instructions I’ve ever seen in a flat pack. Got treated to a Pizza Express for our efforts!

Made another cupboard and wanted to jump off a cliff. (Still one to go!)

Won my first ever game of Blob (it’s a card game.)

Went back to Frost Burgers.

Saw Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

Downloaded an app called Libby that let’s you rent all the e/audiobooks your local library has to offer!

Drank more beers and played more board games with the Wirral Boys.

Finished my ninth book of August on the last day of the readathon.

And there’s my summer! I hope you enjoyed the endless scroll there.

How was your summer? I’d love to hear the most bizarre thing you did. If you’re sad that summer is over, just remember it’s autumn now and that’s even better!

Soothsayer – Of Monsters and Men

The Ten Most Annoying People On A Bus

I love a list post. Who doesn’t? I’ve currently been sat on a bus to London for the past four hours. Why, do you ask, am I sat on a six hour coach from Liverpool instead of a two hour train? Simple. A train for two was well over £100 whereas this coach is under £35 return. This fact may sound absurd to people in other countries. But the UK is an actual joke country. Getting a flight to many other European cities is far cheaper than getting a short train to somewhere else in our own country. Thanks, Maggie, you prick.

So, anyway, I’d like to think I’m quite an optimistic person. However, I also think people can be really stupid/inconsiderate/selfish. And here comes today’s post: the ten most annoying people on a bus. Let’s go!

1. Who else could we possibly start this list with but the absolute moron who has a three hour, extremely loud phone call? I have no words.

2. The snorer. Gotta say, I can be the culprit of this one (hey, an asthma/hay fever combo is no joke), but man when it’s not you it’s so annoying. Haha!

3. The person who lets their guitar fall on you and pretends not to notice. A very specific scenario to this particular journey but ‘obnoxious falling objects’ shall we say for this one?

4. The chair kicker. These seats are so close together, how are you even getting your legs up there, you contortionist?

5. The laddy boys creating a hell of a lot of sound pollution. We get it, you have a penis.

6. The space stealer. It’s a busy bus, I get it, sit next to me. That’s totally fine. Please do not encroach on my side though. I don’t want your dirty laundry under my legs and your half-eaten sandwich in my face. We’re not friends.

7. You know that person who seems to have conveniently forgotten about the existence of headphones and is blasting tinny sound out of their device? Yeah, I hate them.

8. The person at the scheduled stop who thought it was sound to sneak on a disgusting smelling hot sandwich. Now we all smell like a giant fart, thanks pal.

9. Oh how have we got to nearly the end of this post before I remembered this one! Possibly worst of all. The chatter! I don’t want to know where you’re going. I don’t care what the weather is like. I certainly don’t care what your interests are. Extroverts may think that’s a selfish stance to have however, I’d say you assuming I want to hear what you have to say is a little selfish too.

10. My boyfriend who keeps making me take my earphone out to look at another stupid tweet he’s seen. Just kidding on that one, he kept asking if he was one of the annoying people so I decided to throw it in for when he reads this later!

And there you have it. I hope you never experience these people. But if you do? Just remember the golden rule of public transportation travel: NEVER FORGET YOUR HEADPHONES. Blast Chic until you are actually having Good Times.

Also, nationalise the railways!

Bus Stop – The Hollies

Free Summer Adventure Ideas

We’re all struggling for money, am I right? Some, of course, more than others. But who isn’t forever waiting for payday? If not, I wish you well, you must either make a killing or budget and save a heck of a lot. But the rest of you out there? The rate of inflation, compared to the increase of wages is no joke. However, we can’t live life letting money control or consume us. We have to live. We have to laugh, have dreams, have adventures, have fun, breathe. So to help you do that on this Self-Care Thursday, without breaking your bank, here are ten ideas to help you escape the monotony of your average day. These activities I have labelled as free but some will require a previous purchase (ie. a bike) so I apologise if they aren’t accessible to you. I hope you can find something else to satisfy your hunger for adventure on this list!

Museums

In the U.K. we’re fortunate enough to have access to thousands of free museums and art galleries. We also know it rains no matter what the season. Go and educate yourself on a new topic or take in an art exhibit.

Beach

If you’re lucky enough to live on the coast, go and explore your coastline. Whether that’s pebbly or rocky or sandy! A brisk walk on the beach is perfect any time of year; it’ll fill your lungs with fresh, ocean air. You could also substitute this one with a canal, a lake, a pond.. any body of water really!

Library

I love owning books and building my collection but I think sometimes I forget how excellent the library is. I spent hours there as a kid perusing the stacks for my next read. Another perfect rainy activity! Why don’t you buddy read a book with a friend?

Garden

Have a staycation in your garden! Too hot in the house but don’t want to see any people? Set up camp with a good book on a blanket with a nice ice cold beverage.

Local Festivals

In Liverpool, we have endless festivals going on year-round but often in summer. The best part, a heck of a lot of them are free to attend! My favourite is an African music weekend that takes place in Sefton Park called Africa Oye. Take a deck chair and some snacks and you’re set up for the day. I’ve also attended a folk festival where I saw a group perform sea shanties!

Botanical Garden

There’s something about being surrounded by flowers and plants on a gloriously sunny day. The bright colours literally command your brain to be happy.

Bike Ride

Going for a bike ride is an excellent way to collide pleasure and exercise. Whether you’re cycling in circles, to the shops or to the park for a picnic, you’ll always feel better afterwards. I guarantee it.

Park

Come on, think how many things you can do in the park! Go for a stroll, take a frisbee, skip pebbles in the pond, sun bathe, take a football, go for a run, read, photograph flowers, write a novel, or all your most desperate dreams. Just get out into some greenery.

Yoga

Getting your body moving is always going to be an excellent way to spend your time. Yoga sessions don’t need to cost £8 for thirty minutes. Get yourself on YouTube and I swear you’ll never be able to turn away from Yoga With Adriene. She’s infectious. Give yourself a second in the calm summer mornings to wake yourself up.

Hobby

My last one is simply to pick up a new hobby. I think it’s never not a good time to try your hand at something new. Train your brain to learn new knowledge. This one may incur some costs but a few cheap ideas could include: baking, gardening, jigsaws, a language, reading, journaling.

I hope you have an excellent August!

The Only Thing – Sufjan Stevens

Hay Festival + Book Haul

At the end of May, we drove down to Hay-on-Wye – a quaint market town on the Welsh/English border that is notable for its bookshops. Why, I hear you ask? Cos, for their less than two thousand inhabitants, there is over twenty bookshops! Often crowned ‘the town of books’, it’s been on my list for forever. We picked a nice weekend in May to go (in hopes of sun, lol jk) as we decided to do a combination trip of endless book perusing with intervals of camping and hiking in Brecon Beacons National Park. The week I planned to go just happened to also be the world renowned Hay Literary Festival. Serendipity! We decided to risk the crowds, invited my dad who loves a book, and headed down.

The festival itself was really cool. The festival bookshop, don’t even get me started, huge. It’s free for anyone to enter the site and then you just buy tickets for individual events. We decided to see a Q&A with Anna Burns, the award-winning author of Milkman. She had such a quirky, amusing manner and read her book extracts with such animation it actually really helped me understand the novel’s tone. We also saw Stephen Fry. He was due to read a couple of extracts from his books Mythos and Heroes but instead decided to do a reading from the third book he is currently writing in the series, unbeknownst to his publishers! The real treat to that event was the outstanding illustrator Chris Riddell was there live-illustrating the session! He was very impressive and hilarious.

On another day, we went for a walk at Henrhyd Falls which was a bit treacherous from the recent rain but completely picturesque and tranquil. Easily satisfied my hiking fix. Also visited the town of Brecon which was quiet and cute. Had a lovely vegan daal in an indie coffee shop there!

Hay, the town, was just lovely. It was everything you want from a small market town. It had a couple of delicious food places with great veggie options, and more importantly it had a cosy little pub, The Blue Boar, that became our local for the weekend. The atmosphere was electric with booklovers visiting from far and wide. But enough of all that, on to the bookshops!

They were everything I hoped and more.

We grabbed a little map of the book tour that most shops carry and got on our way. The second we saw a book in the display window we were in there. There was such a variety of genres, I was in heaven. There was an entire poetry shop where I wanted to purchase every single book. There was a bookshop called Murder and Mayhem which, you guessed it, was entirely crime-based. There was a bookshop with all sorts of old editions of my favourite modern classics. I found an edition of 1984 that was truly magical to find. There, simply, was too many to mention. My favourite booksellers included Addyman Books (and their Annexe), Richard Booth’s Bookshop, The Poetry Bookshop and Green Ink Booksellers.

I completely shattered my 2019 book buying system cos I just could not contain myself. I came home with fourteen books.. My five gifts from Danny (that I won from reading the entire Mistborn Trilogy in April) and nine from myself! Oops. Here’s a quick book haul, one line about each though or we’ll be here forever, kids!

Animal – Sara Pascoe

A recommendation from my mate. Quite scientific so far, as well as funny.

Felicity – Mary Oliver

Read Blue Horses and needed to devour more Oliver, especially a love poem collection!

#MeToo: A Women’s Poetry Anthology – Ed. Deborah Alma

Speaks for itself: brave, boss women who I’d like to learn from.

Wishful Drinking – Carrie Fisher

A very self-depricating, endearing memoir.

The Beauty Myth – Naomi Wolf

Quoted it in my dissertation, liberally. Yet to read it.

Emma – Jane Austen

The last to complete my Austen’s. Needed the old black Penguin Classics editions as a rule.

Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell

An edition that’s very special to me, to match some of my mums favourite books from her collection.

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Just have been meaning to read it. We all know the story.

The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham

Ditto. Also had a boss cover.

The Sonnets – William Shakespeare

Wanted for ages, found in an edition I enjoy. (Running theme?)

Peril At End House – Agatha Christie

Continuing my Christie journey with another Poirot!

After Dark – Haruki Murakami

Constantly hear about Murakami and haven’t read him! This one sounds mysterious and mad.

Pachinko – Min Jin Lee

When purchased was Our Shared Shelf’s pick of the month.

Silence – Erling Kagge

A little cute one Danny picked up that I know nothing about. Honing mindfulness skills I think!

All in all, a fabulous weekend. Cannot recommend Hay enough. Will be going back ASAP.

Come Alive – The Greatest Showman Soundtrack (Me and Danny had this album playing in the car all weekend. Also books make me come alive so that’s a nice little coincidence isn’t it?)

Hamilton: An American Musical Review

I first heard about Hamilton a few years ago and naïvely assumed I wouldn’t enjoy a rap musical. It was only last year, when my friend came to visit, that I was forced to listen to Yorktown and You’ll Be Back whilst having a giggly catchup. And the result? I fell asleep that night with the soundtrack on my Spotify. I have not turned it off since. For real. My Spotify Wrapped for 2018 was illuminating, to say the least.

Over the past year I have become, what can only be described as, obsessed with this musical. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything more perfectly written. Every time I listen, I’m again baffled at what I fucking genius Lin-Manuel Miranda is. That guy.

The exact day I first listened to Hamilton is the exact day I started talking to my boyfriend. I convinced him to listen to this soundtrack because my mind was being blown. He told me later that he didn’t really want to listen to it and he only did because I asked him to. The result of that one? Oh, he’s as obsessed as me. So this musical has kind of been there with us the whole way through our relationship. One of my favourite memories from the start of our relationship is driving around the Lakes singing along to Hamilton at the top of our lungs. (We still do that often.) So then at Christmas when he surprised me with tickets to the West End show I have never been so excited. I was completely not expecting it and then immediately wish I’d thought of it myself!

Skip to last weekend and we saw it. We actually saw it.

And it was bloody incredible.

If you absolutely can, get yourself there. We had previously been apprehensive to see it because we are so unbelievably attached to the original Broadway cast. I mean, they’re the ones you listen to on the album. What if these weren’t as good? What if they just didn’t have the same chemistry?

Well fear not.

All our worries were completely unfounded. Of course there are differences. Some lines are sung differently and some words are emphasised in a different way. It would be completely unreasonable to not allow for such change. But as a whole, this show was amazing. Completely true to its Broadway original. If you closed your eyes there was several characters that you could not have heard the difference in.

George Washington was the absolute star for me. His voice was so deep and commanding and perfect. Dom Hartley-Harris is everything Christopher Jackson made the character and more. He really is the general of that show. Lafayette/Jefferson was another highlight. Daveed Diggs is my favourite from the original cast so I was really nervous. But Jason Pennycooke brought so much sass and humour to this role that I was easily won over. My other favourite of the night was Eliza. Rachelle Ann Go was perfect. The way she sang Burn you could really feel the pain in Eliza’s storyline. For a small woman she can certainly demand the attention of a room. She was captivating. You could have heard a penny drop at the end Stay Alive – Reprise. I was definitely holding my breath. Eliza is just such a heartwarmingly good person.

I think it goes without saying that both Burr and Hamilton were also epically cast. Such great chemistry as a pair; Dear Theodosia was performed beautifully.

Top Songs: Right Hand Man, Wait For It, Helpless, Satisfied, Non-Stop, Cabinet Battle #1, The Room Where It Happened, One Last Time, I Know Him, Burn, Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.

You know, so all of them. But no, the songs were incredible and seeing the choreography only enhanced them. The amount of steps and combinations that ensemble remembers is impressive.

So yeah, we had a bloody excellent time. We drank some beers, bought some merch, and danced our way through the show. We’re only gutted it’s over now. If you haven’t already listened to Hamilton I seriously implore you to. Hairspray has been my favourite musical for over fifteen years but last year Hamilton knocked this off the top. You will not regret it.

The ENTIRE Hamilton Soundtrack – Duh