In Turmoil

This morning I woke up in a sudden and unexpected turmoil of doubt. I don’t know where it came from or what exactly I’m going to do to tackle it (6am is just no time to be faced with a sudden realisation of all the things you don’t know -at that time, no one is awake enough to deal with that kind of shit). It already feels like a difficult day but this popped up on my timeline: a beautiful bunch of tulips and a hand made card from the young leaders I trained 4 years ago.


 I still carry this card with me every day. It normally lives tucked in the back of my planner but this morning I got it out and I’m looking at it right now. I have, and have had, so many people in my life to lift me up when I am down and I’m trying to hold on to that right now. 

I might come back and share more about what plagues me at another point (although at the moment that feels more than a little self indulgent and potentially whiny) but for now I just had to acknowledge and thank those people who love, support, and encourage me every day. ❤

A List of Lovely Little Things


It’s been some time since I did an appreciation post for the little things in life but now seems like the perfect time. I’m currently holed up in a beautiful little cottage, just outside Oxford, for a weekend with some of my favourite women in the whole wide world. It’s a quite Saturday morning and all but the baby amongst us (and her mum, I suspect!) are sleeping soundly. I am awake and full of contentment, mulling over all the wonderful little things that make life so lovely. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Conversations with like-minded people.
  • Laughing until you cry and your sides hurt.
  • A real log fire.
  • The quiet stillness of the countryside in the morning.
  • Baby smiles.
  • Baby laughter.
  • Baby cuddles…(there’s a lot of baby worship going on here!)
  • Good books.
  • Good food, especially nibbly finger food.
  • Climbing into a bed made with freshly laundered sheets.
  • Waking up after a good night’s sleep (especially when you don’t have to rush to get up).
  • Knowing it’s the weekend.
  • A message from someone you love.
  • Knowing you’ve done a good job.
  • Learning something new.
  • Helping someone out.
  • Knowing there is so much to look forward to.
  • The smell of fresh flowers.
  • Watching flowers open from bud to bloom.
  • Surprises from friends (or strangers).
  • Realising that you take more joy in life that you ever have before, and feel positive that joy will only increase.

And that’s just a few of the little things making my life lovely right now. 

What little things have you noticed recently that have made you smile and appreciate life just that little bit more?

Urban Wanders

Yesterday, hubby and I went for a wander round Manchester. We headed out in a direction we don’t normally walk and just wandered around enjoying the city. It was lovely. The sun wasn’t exactly shining but it wasn’t raining, the air was crisp and cool, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable morning. We discovered some fabulous street art we had never seen before, and found quiet corners of the city we had never visited, all only a few streets away from our usual haunts. It reminded me once again how much I love the city of Manchester: it is vibrant and full of hope in spite of the many issues faced by many of the residents.  Here are a few snaps I took along the way. 


I encourage you to go for a wander around your city or town and rediscover it: head in a direction you wouldn’t normally go and see what you discover. Even if you don’t find anything new, just enjoy the wander and look at the things you’ve passed hundreds of times with new eyes. Love where you’re from. Love where you are.

The Family We Choose

I have known from a very young age that family is important. I have been blessed to have a family that knows this too. My family, both immediate and extended, has always been a close one: we enjoy spending time together, take care of one another, love one another, and treat each other with respect. This has always been important to me and I have always been grateful for the family I have. I know not everyone is so lucky.

The care and closeness between us is always especially apparent at times of grief or trouble. When the chips are down everyone pitches in and we hold each other up. I could write a considerable amount about my wonderful family and the way in which we rally round each other in good times and bad, but I actually want to write about something else. I want to write about the family we choose. I want to write about friends.

I have never been one for having hundreds of friends: a small number of particularly close friends has always suited me better. I have been very fortunate over the years to have made friends with some incredible people, and they have become the family I chose. They have rallied round and held me up through good times and bad. They have celebrated with me in triumph and have consoled me in sorrow.

I have more friends at this point in my life than I have ever had before and I have been truly overwhelmed by their love and support as I come to terms with my family’s latest loss. There have been small gestures in the form of text messages and post it notes simply saying ‘I love you’, ‘Ring if you need anything’, ‘Have some cake’ (left with cake!). There have been specific pages in specific books, bookmarked and left for me, from friends knowing there is nothing they can say to make it better but that I might find comfort from the words of a favourite character or author. 



There have been deliveries of beautiful flowers, late night visits with doughnuts and more flowers, thoughtful gifts to make me smile: the list goes on. The care and attention my friends have given over to lifting me up when I feel down has moved me deeply. I feel so blessed to have this family that I chose as well as the one I was born too.


I’ve run out of words. I don’t quite know how to express what’s happening in my head and my heart. So I’ll finish with this: to all my friends, thank you for being the incredible people that you are and for the love, care, and friendship you have shown me. Whether this has come as messages, hugs, book pages, flowers, gifts, cake, or simply a smile, thank you. It means more than you know.

Xx

Making My Own Happy New Year


Champagne was popped, glasses raised, fireworks burst, and a chorus of ‘Happy New Year’ waved off 2016 and welcomed 2017 with open arms. A lot of people were glad to see the back of 2016: it was a difficult year for many, in many different ways. It certainly had its up and downs… Whilst there was much that was good for me personally last year, 2016 did not end happily. On 28th December, my family was greatly saddened by the sudden death of my beloved Grandad. He was a remarkable man with a character almost as big as his love for motorbikes, Yorkshire pudding, and, of course, his family. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him, not least because he was the sort of man with whom you couldn’t even have a passing conversation in the pub without him leaving some sort of lasting impression. I have spent the last few days reminiscing with family, sharing stories and going through old photographs. It has been bittersweet at times but I am eternally grateful to be part of such a close, loving, and supportive family.

It would be easy, at this time, to sink into sadness and dwell on our loss. But I do not think that is how he would have wanted us to live and it certainly isn’t how I want to live. I would much rather live and love and laugh in happiness, even though it might be coupled with heartache – Grandad so loved to laugh and his terrible jokes would keep us in chuckles constantly.

With that in mind, I have resolved to make this year a happy one, in spite of some of the sad and difficult times ahead.

I say I have ‘resolved’ this but it is not a New Year’s resolution. It is really more of a choice. A statement of intention. You see, I no longer make New Year’s resolutions – they’re too easy to give up on after week one and only become a source of guilt. Instead, last year I chose a word to inspire the kind of intentional living I wanted to focus on for the year. Last year was ‘adventure’; this year is ‘nourish’. I also set some goals and aspirations that I want to work towards – not the kinds of things I’ll feel bad about if I don’t quite manage, but things that I care about achieving and that will enrich my life. I find this a much more positive process and one that really does stick with me for the whole year. (If you struggle with New Year’s resolutions, I really recommend you try it.)

I chose the word nourish because I sometimes find myself getting overwhelmed, rushed by all the ‘should’s and ‘must’s that bombard us every day. It’s tiring and distressing and unhealthy to feel so much demand from these abstract ideas and expectations. I want to dedicate more time this year to nourishing and growing all aspects of my life to be what I want them to be, not what the media or society or anyone else tells me they should be. And more than that, I want to take more time to enjoy my life and all the wonderful people, opportunities, and ‘things’ I am blessed with.

In keeping with my chosen word for the year, my goals are centred around ‘nourishing’ the things I care about. Whilst the things I care about are many and myriad, my goals are few. In fact, just two:

1) To develop a more regular practice for writing, mindfulness, and self-care, in order to help me manage my anxiety and develop the skills and interests I enjoy.

2) To try to find a more balanced routine for managing our home (I’m terrible for letting chores mount up until I get frustrated and feel overwhelmed by it all), and to declutter to more easily enjoy our lovely home.

Whilst there are many other things I will be investing time and energy in this year, such as spending quality time with friends and family, finishing the decorating we want to do in our house, training for my next (and final!) dance exam etc., I’m hoping these two personal goals will be nourishing for me and, as a result, will enable me to nourish the other areas of my life: family, friends, community, and work.

I had no real idea what I wanted to say when I sat down to write this post, only that I needed to put into words some of what has been buzzing round my head. To express in some concrete way my intention to be happy, and find positivity, even when there is sadness in my life.

Whatever you felt about 2016, whatever position you find yourself in as we begin 2017, I wish you the Happiest of New Years.

God Bless, Take Care, Love You


There’s frost on the ground, but the sky burns

With the flaring amber of the setting sun.

There’s grief in our hearts, but joy in our souls

For that life lived and the love we’ve known.

There are tears on our cheeks, but laughter on our lips,

For the memories shared and tales retold.

He is

         Embracing his best love, with tears of joyful reunion.

We are

          Feeding the ducks on Langold Lake, with him telling jokes by our side.

He is

          Racing around on a long coveted Harley, chuckling like a school boy.

We are

           Playing dominoes for coppers, being tricked into extra pocket money.

He is

          Indulging in the biggest Yorkshire pudding he’s ever seen, with extra gravy of course.

We are

          Sitting at his feet watching cartoons and competing for who can laugh loudest and longest, at Pingu, Gromit, Tom and Jerry.

He is

          Saying: Goodbye,

                                  God bless,

                                           Take care,

                                                     Love you.

We are

           Saying: You too.

There is frost on the ground, but the sky burns

With the flaring amber of the setting sun.

Ticking Along Nicely

IMG_4632.JPG

 

November has got off to a lovely start. I was completely spoilt for my birthday, with tons of books, clothes, books, games, books, chocolate, and other goodies, but more importantly with the love and time of lots of my favourite people. We talked, we ate, we danced, we watched fireworks: it was perfect.

The first week of November has also seen the beginning of my first ever NaNoWriMo – I’m not embarking on a whole novel or even aiming for 50,000 words, I simply want to improve and increase my writing practice. So far I’ve outlined a handful of short story and poetry ideas and today I actually started writing one! It feels good to write.

With all the birthday busyness, planning/writing time, and a hectic start to the half term, I haven’t done as much reading as I normally would. I got a stack of amazing books for my birthday to add to my already humongous TBR pile and yesterday I decided to crack into one of them: My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises. I’m about a quarter of the way in and I’m completely in love with this quirky story. It’s original, funny, and moving in so many ways and I have come across some real gems to add to my ever growing list of favourite quotes. Most of them are about grandmothers. I’ve found them especially appealing because I’ve been thinking about and missing my own Gran a lot recently – I can’t quite believe how long she’s been gone – and so many of these beautiful lines reflect exactly how I feel about her or are exactly the sorts of things she would do or say. So to round off my little ‘Ticking Along Nicely’ post, I thought I’d share a few with you.

“Having a grandmother  is like having an army. This is a grandchild’s ultimate privilege: knowing that someone is on your side, always, whatever the details. Even when you are wrong. Especially then, in fact.”

“A grandmother is both a sword and a shield.”

“Only different people change the world,” Granny used to say. “No one normal has ever changed a crapping thing.”

“There’s something special about a grandmother’s house. You never forget how it smells.”

“It’s much more difficult to have conflict when there are cookies around.”

I highly recommend picking up this book, especially if you have a grandmother you love (and especially if that grandmother is a little eccentric).

I hope your November is going as well as mine.

x

 

Off On The Right Foot


It’s August bank holiday Monday which can only mean one thing…the summer holidays are nearly over and autumn is nearly here. For some, this wouldn’t really be a happy thought – no more long, light days in the sun, back to school and work for those lucky enough to have had a break. But it is a happy thought for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love summer but I am an autumn girl at heart and September has always felt full of promise to me. It really feels more like a new year than the New Year!

I’m looking forward to getting back to work; a new academic year dawns with many changes, new challenges, and more opportunities than I can count! I’m excited to get back to a job I love, with people I love, and of course a new term means new stationery! 

In a few days time social media will be full of people lamenting another year without the arrival of their Hogwarts letter, or proclaiming they’re off to platform 9 3/4. Dreaming of joining the famous school of magic is a favourite past time of bookworms everywhere (myself included!). Whilst I wait for my letter however, I am determined to find and create magic wherever I can in the muggle world, and watch with glittering eyes as a new term begins, full of possibility.

I now have two days to get my body clock to readjust to the 6am wake up, and one of the things I want to try and do is find a morning routine that works for me. I am not a morning person. At all. So this will be an interesting goal for me to try and meet. If you have any suggestions please let me know in the comments!

Wishing you a happy end to your summer and an autumn full of promise and happiness. 

X

Self Portrait

As mentioned in my previous post, this summer I developed a *slight* addiction to ‘bookstagram’. Basically taking pretty pictures of bookish things. I decided to (attempt to) take part in one of the many photo challenges set up by the lovely Instagram / bookstagram community. I say attempt to because I have attempted to do photo challenges before and failed miserably after the first few days. But I like this challenge a lot so we’ll see what happens.

The challenge I chose is called #readinseptember hosted by @twobooksaday and looks like this:

  
Photo credit: @twobooksaday (Instagram)

I’m sharing this on here because today’s prompt was 10 facts about me, and I really liked how it turned out! It ended up having the longest caption ever so, although I did still post the whole thing on instagram, I thought it was almost more appropriate as a blog post! So here it is:

  
#10factsaboutme 

1) My family and friends are the most important thing in my life. I count my parents, brother and husband amongst my very best friends, and I love my 2 best friend like they were sisters.

2) Reading and books have been an important part of my life some before I can remember. Stories are a special kind of magic and will always be one of my favourite ways to pass the time.

3) I also have a *slight* addiction to stationery! Especially notebooks and washi tape. I love the possibility of a blank page and still prefer writing with pen and paper to typing…

4)…having said that, I do love my electronic gadgets! My kindle, iPhone and iPad all get a lot of use (browsing Pinterest and scrolling through Instagram are my favourite ways to procrastinate!)

5) Another favourite pastime is dancing, particularly ballet. I love to dance and I love to watch others dance; I think it has a similar magic to books in that it takes you out of yourself to somewhere entirely new and wonderful.

6) Autumn is my absolute favourite time of year! Autumn leaves are the prettiest thing and I love wrapping up and crunching through them.

7) One of the reasons I love autumn is because it means it’s time to break out the boots and scarves (and maybe light a bonfire)! Cosy clothes are the best.

8) I love hats! (My husband will tell you that I cannot resist trying on anything vaguely hat like – he teases me mercilessly about it.)

9) Red, in all its many shades, is my favourite colour.

10) Apart from my wedding & engagement rings, my charm bracelets are the most precious jewellery I own. I have a traditional charm bracelet, that used to be my mum’s which she gave to me, and a Troll Beads bracelet from my dad, which he brought back for me from one of his many trips abroad. They are so incredibly special, not only for who they are from, but because between them they have a charm for every significant point of my adult life.

Thanks to  @twobooksaday for the challenge! ☺️