Friday, May 22, 2020

The Ups and Downs of Week 9

I don't know about you, but for me it's been a weird one this week. Week 9. There's something about it. Whether it's the fact that we have now surpassed two months in isolation and that was a doable amount, but anything more is just too much, or whether it's the hot weather and not really being able to go anywhere - unless you have a car, which we don't. But there's definitely a lethargy in the air, which could also be something to do with this heat wave we're having, which is keeping me awake at night. but this has definitely been a week full of ups and downs. Here are some of them:

Friday Night:

Getting all dressed up for cheese and wine night, which then culminated in the completion of our second lockdown puzzle. Fancy puzzling while tipsy, it could become the new craze.

We decided to take a different walk on the Greenway from Plaistow to Stratford while it was a nice day, only to be greeted with signs warning of cyclists being attacked at knife point, and to be alert. Now we had to be alert for Covid and crazy psychos. Hmm. But we saw some interesting sights including this collection of shopping trolleys and the beautiful Abbey Mills Pumping Station, and we survived without a knife attack, so, all in all, it was a good day:


Sunday: A bit of a can't be bothered day, on the couch watching stuff, but then the evening brought us a great high of the week, watching our first Zoom concert beamed from Canada, with one of our favourite singer songwriters: Sarah Slean. We managed to join my laptop to the projector and so this happened:

  Best £7 we ever spent.

Monday: Admin and paperwork day, as well as teaching. Trying to get my head around what happens after the schools and nurseries reopen... But the roses were in bloom in the garden, so, at least there's that...

Tuesday: First run since before lockdown, a glorious thing and a glorious day. 21 degree heat and a very unfit me equals 2 days of recovery for my aging knees and legs. However, it wasn't too slow and at the time I was running it felt good, it was just afterwards when my body broke. At least I had a video call with my friend to ease the aches, and we had a good giggle. 

Wednesday: Aftermath of the run, including clicking hips and ankles, sore knees and thighs, and a house with two flights of stairs, plus 6 music classes to teach. Couple this with a major breakdown when I realised most of the nurseries are reopening and I could potentially lose 80% of my business in the next two weeks, and would therefore be largely unemployed, and I wasn't in a good state. But then A dragged me out for a walk before dinner and these clouds were in the sky:

Unfortunately our relaxing walk turned into a power walk, as we underestimated how much longer it takes to walk around the park rather than through it and I had a toad in the hole in the oven.

Thursday: Chandelier penis shadows. I mean, they're well ornamented, that can't be comfortable.

And that brings us to today. Not sure I can give a high or low yet, it's quite early, but having taught my two morning classes, I only have one afternoon class to teach and then I'm done for the week, which is always a nice feeling. Plus the last class I teach on a Friday is 2 sisters and their cousin, and parents, and then the Grandma also joins us from the Isle of Man, so she can see her Grandchildren. It's lovely. 

I hope your week had more highs than lows and the Bank Holiday weekend is a good one. Keep social distancing and stay safe.

Rants out. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

2 Months in...

It's Friday again, if you can believe it. I've just finished my final online music class of the week and I always feel a certain amount of relief, when I can take the headphones off and know that I'm done for the week.

It's been two months in lockdown and this week, as a slight break from the dullness of Quarantine Stories, I thought it would be fun to talk about those little highlights of your week, or things that you do to add excitement, to an otherwise shut-in existence. These are just a few of the things I've been doing to try and stay sane.

  1. Fancy dress? It's an option. It certainly kept me and some of the children I teach entertained this week. I dressed as a ladybird for some of my Wednesday and Thursday classes, and most of the children dressed up too. What I do find hilarious is how seriously the children get into character. If you even attempt to call them by their own name, and not their character's, you get yourself some serious stink eye, tantrums and attitude. "My name is not ......, it's Gecko." I wouldn't have minded, but this kid wasn't even dressed up. It's a bit easier to keep track when you're wearing the costume, dude. Just saying. 
  2. Have something to look forward to. It doesn't have to be something huge, I mean, how could it be, we're not allowed to leave the house, unless we have to, or unless we want to, but we shouldn't, but as long as we are being alert, then that invisible germ won't catch us. Hmmm. Anyhow, what I'm saying is, having something small to look forward to, whether it be a video chat with a friend, opening that nice wine you've been saving, or treating yourself to a new release film to rent, it can keep you going when things get tough, and can be really fun. Tonight, for instance, we will be getting all dressed up and having a cheese and wine night, as A decided to get a cheese delivery - as you do - and he's also just finished a huge assignment for his course, and this was his way of getting through the week. I may be limited in which dress I can wear, due to the lockdown diet, but we are going to treat it as an occasion and I may even wear some makeup. 
  3. Find something to binge or re-watch. Finding a series that you can binge, can be a really therapeutic event - depending on what series you're watching, of course. And I'm sure Series 6 of Schitts Creek will soon be devoured. I'm finding I'm in the mood for re-watching stuff at the moment, and when else would you find the time? (I do realise lots of you have a fuller schedule than myself, but I hope you can find a little slice of time here and there to treat yourself to an episode of something you love or loved.) I have been revisiting some stuff I watched as a kid and teen, and it's lovely, looking back to a simpler time, a time without covid and social media, a time when all I had to worry about was school and practising the flute. I've been watching Round the Twist, Friday Night Lights and The OC. So there's a crazy family who live in a lighthouse, American high school football drama and flip phones and Oasis covers, in the sun of California. Yes!
  4. Writing letters. Come on, let's admit it, we all love to receive post when it's not a bill or bank statement - although, really, you should have gone paperless by now. I had a nice letter from a close friend the other day, and it's just so nice, despite the fact that I can What's app, text, email or video call anytime, it's still wonderful to read what they've been doing and to know that this person took the time to write this for you. There's something inherently magical about receiving a letter, like you get this snapshot of a moment in time, forever logged and documented, and only for you. I have written to a few people over the lockdown and will definitely do some more, besides the fact that it means you get a walk to the postbox too. I mean, factor that in as one of your exciting things to look forward to. Whoop!
  5. Laugh. I know the novelty - if there ever was one - has definitely worn off, but if you can find something every day to make you laugh, it will help. A funny video online, or a memory that you can share with a friend or loved one, something funny the kids did, or getting drunk and doing something silly. I freakin' love to laugh, despite being doom and gloom about 60% of the time, and I'm so lucky to have a partner who likes to laugh as well. We spend a lot of our time making each other laugh, though thankfully the giggle fits seem to have petered out. And if you find something funny, pass it on to a friend, share it with others: spread the laughter not the virus. 
I'd love to hear about your little sparks of excitement that keep you going through the weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds. Now, I'd better go and prepare for wine and cheese night.

Rants out. 

Friday, May 8, 2020

Quarantine Stories Part 2

7 weeks in. How you feeling? Online work getting you down? Sick of staring at a screen all day? Well, prepare to stare at one for a short while longer - otherwise you can't read this - and prepare yourselves for some top quality quarantine tales of boredom, terror and small birds.

When going for your daily - or quite often in our case, bi-weekly - walk, try to mix it up. I know you can't go too far and you must adhere to the safe distancing rules and all that jazz, but if you take a street you haven't taken before - if that's possible for you -  you never know what you might find. We took the street about 4 parallel to ours and it was like a whole other world: massive semi-detached houses, all different shapes and sizes, a derelict 'project' from 1890, with many nesting birds in the roof, and some houses for sale that we could look up on rightmove and judge about the price and interior decor, always comparing them to our house - of course. We also enjoyed judging people for not moving to the side and sharing the pavement in a socially distancing way. We can judge these people, they are 4 whole streets away

This last week has seen our garden inundated with sparrows. They are eating us out of seed and the little buggers are in the bushes and plants and all over the place. We haven't seen them before, as we usually just get a lot of tits knocking about ;-), but when we told the neighbours yesterday, during Thursday's clap for the NHS, they said they hadn't seen them for years and that they were rare.

Quick, call Bill Odie. The Sparrows are back.

And now for a tale of terror, small doors and taps. The other morning when I went up to the attic to set up for music classes, the small door to the eaves storage was open. It has never opened by itself before and it freaked me out. My head immediately leapt to someone living in the attic, or a creature large enough to push the door open. But then that night I slept really badly and after getting up at 2.10 am, I couldn't get back to sleep. About 15 minutes later I heard something like water dripping, and I tried to ignore it, thinking it was just my imagination, but when it continued, I panicked in case it was something leaking. I got up, called A but he didn't wake up, and realised the bathroom tap was on full blast. How had I not noticed it when I left the bathroom 15 minutes earlier? And to make matters worse, the little attic door was open again the next morning.


That's a horror short in the making, surely.

And finally, I made Lemon Meringue Pies yesterday, little individual ones, and it's one of those recipes that you need a good three hours for, so normally I think, nah, can't be arsed, but as I had finished teaching at 4.00 pm,I thought fook it, I have four lemons in the fridge and time on my hands. It's not easy and I had a small cornflour issue, when I was meant to make a paste but instead made gloop and then when I added it to the lemon mixture they just sat, these floating gloop globules and looked gross. Luckily, A thought of blitzing it with the soup blender and the outcome was pleasant.
I'm sure Mary Berry has this issue all the time.

I also made a moussaka for the first time, which is another ball ache of a recipe, with so many different elements, that you can become a tad heated and stressed, especially by the time you get to the white sauce. But hey ho, I'm making new recipes and using up some veg in the process.

I don't even know what half the stuff we got in our oddbox was this week. All sorts of weird, leafy, green things that I have no idea what to do with. Whatever happened to carrots and broccoli?

Oh, and one final story, which could be story of the week, hold on to your hats:

We forgot to put the milk bottles out for the milkman twice this week, so we have about 15 washed out milk bottles at the front door. We have to remember on Sunday, otherwise he might boycott us.

That's all for today.

Stay sane.

Rants out.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Quarantine Stories Part 1

Week 6. Last night saw A and I in a half hour giggle fit, for no particular reason, just before midnight. I think we may have finally cracked. I don't even know what was funny, but it really was.

And that is a prime example of a quarantine story. I mean, do they get any more interesting than that? If you don't have kids, I mean. Obviously, those of you with little or big tikes, must have all sorts of strange and hilarious anecdotes to tell, but for us, it's things like:

I've been looking for that all day, and I thought it was there, but when I looked before I couldn't find it, and now look, there it is, exactly where I thought it was all along.

Bam. Shortlisted for a literary prize. Surely.

Here's another example:

'Oh, it's gone dark, but the weather app said it wasn't going to rain.'
'Well I'm telling you, that cloud is definitely going to rain.'
'Not according to the app.'

Then lo and behold, we have a rain storm which becomes a hail storm. I beat the weather app.

Bam. Retraining as a Meteorologist.

And here's a debate we had the other day about what constitutes a Fruit Salad:

A: 'I'll get us some blueberries and yoghurt, with the last of the cake.'
Me: 'Okay. But don't we have to use up those kiwi fruits?'
A: 'Oh yeah, well I'll make you a fruit salad.'
Me: 'A fruit salad with 2 fruits?'
A: 'Yeah, you can make a fruit salad with 1 fruit.'
Me, again, more outraged and confused this time: 'You can't make a fruit salad with 1 fruit, that's just a fruit cut up.'
A: 'Exactly, any fruit that's cut up is a fruit salad.'

Say what? Sounds like bullshit to me. A fruit salad is loads of fruits, at least 5, cut up in your mum's lovely big glass bowl, that is only used for fruit salad, with orange juice to keep the fruit from going brown. Am I right, or am I right?

And finally, on this first edition of Quarantine Stories, I pose the question: Who really gives a crap about lunch?

As a self employed, and to be honest, barely employed person, for the last 6 months or so, I ate a lot of lunches at home during the week. I made a sandwich or ate soup, or occasionally had the joy of leftovers from the night before. But A is all Mr Gourmet, and everything has to be heated up, and slapped with olive oil and blah, blah, blah. And I'm like, what's wrong with wazzing a piece of chicken, or cheese, or ham, on a piece of bread and calling it a sandwich? Lunch should be made in 5 minutes, not 20.


As I write this, we are in the middle of a massive hailstorm that has been raging for about 10 minutes and doesn't seem likely to stop for a while, and guess what A said this morning? Yes, you got it, he said it wasn't going to rain.

That was just an extra treat for you, to add to these already legendary quarantine stories I've jotted down for you. I would love to hear some of yours. The more mundane the better.

Now, I will leave you with a phrase we utter every day, as we draw the bolt lock on the door, at various points in the day, but most days in could be uttered at 8am and would be true:

'In fort night?' (Which translated from Wiganese is: are we in for the night?)

Keep sane.
Rants out.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

5 weeks in...

So. UK. We are 5 weeks into our containment, quarantine, lockdown, or whatever you wish to call it. And we may be looking at 5 more months, let alone 5 more weeks, which makes me want to throw things and scream, but at the same time, if I can save lives and keep myself and my partner safe, then so be it. Though I have to say, I'm pretty sure if this goes on much longer, my parents are going to jump in the car and come and live with us. There's no way my mum will wait that long to see me.

5 weeks at home and I can't believe this is my first blog. In fact, this is my first blog of the year. I know, I should make more time to blog and I should air my rants, not internalise them, but I've had a pretty shit last 8 months or so, with losing work and changing settings and desperately trying to find new places to teach, and then the virus happens and all my places of work are now closed. So I now live on Zoom, several hours a day, teaching through a screen, which thanks to the parents and children that are partaking, has been going well. There are lots of challenges and lots of limitations, but if I can provide just an ounce of certainty, fun and routine, in this chaotic world, then great. Plus, I'm actually getting to meet parents that have been an email address for the last few years. It's great to put faces with those names.

I now realise what a great idea it was to move house last year, because having to do this in Flat 19 - whilst being the greatest flat in the world - would have been really challenging. With only the tiny balcony and two rooms, both working from home would have been tricky. At least with the house we have space to wander a bit, and a garden, and spaces for us both to work, without massively annoying the other. Although, I am currently teaching in the attic, above the office space where A is lawyering 12 hours a day, so poor A has to hear all the songs I'm singing and the instruments I'm playing. He's definitely learned a few new songs over the last 5 weeks. He is slightly concerned I'm going to come through the ceiling at some point, as there is a crack on the ceiling, that is apparently growing. I don't know what he's talking about, my bunny jumps are as light as a feather. :-)

So for the end of our fifth week in Quaratine, I have a put together some lists of fives. Here they go:

5 Pros of the Quarantine

  1. I have learned to use Zoom and have my bluetooth headphones and HD webcam working hard every day. I am making and uploading music class videos to youtube studio and becoming a technology goddess. (For me, this is an achievement.)
  2. Not having to commute therefore not having to pay travel costs. One of my commutes was 90 minutes, so the fact that I can get up and walk up the stairs to the attic in about 30 seconds, is pretty great. 
  3. Being able to see my friends via various video chat services and also being able to teach some of my friends' children. 
  4. Trying out new recipes: I have already made a bean and vegetable hotpot, banana muffins, a hummingbird cake and a carrot cake. 
  5. Living so close to West Ham Park, which means a few times a week we take a walk around the park and get in our exercise and stop ourselves going doolally. 
5 Cons of the Quarantine

  1. Can't see my mum or dad, or friends or family. 
  2. We can't travel anywhere. You barely feel like you're in London. Is it weird I actually miss public transport?
  3. Some people are dicks, so this could go on for a really long time because some people don't take it seriously. 
  4. Not being able to sleep due to constant worrying about money, how long I'll be able to work, what happens if nurseries do go back but they don't accept outside teachers...etc...etc
  5. The fear that this is actually Armageddon. 
5 Books I've Read During Quarantine
  1. Off the Map: Lost Spaces, Invisible Cities, Forgotten Islands, Feral Places and What They Tell Us About the World by Alistair Bonnett 
  2. Caraval by Stephanie Garber (Book 1 of 3) A re-read, as I was determined to finally complete the trilogy. 
  3. Legendary by Stephanie Garber (Book 2 of 3) 
  4. Finale by Stephanie Garber (Book 3 of 3)
  5. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. This book is an epic, high fantasy book and it is also a hefty 800 pages, so great for lockdown, and not so great for carrying around in your handbag, manbag, or rucksack. 
I definitely recommend starting that large book that you don't want to carry around with you, or trying to finish that trilogy that you started years ago, or maybe just re-reading a classic. 

5 Films I've Watched During Lockdown
Obviously, we've watched a lot more than five and some of them have been shockingly shite. We have made some bad decisions with regards to films recently, but with Netflix, Prime and Disney Plus, we have managed a few good 'uns. 
  1. Time Trap - Netflix. We watched this last night and were pleasantly surprised. It's a little bit adventure, a little bit thriller, a little bit horror and a little bit sci-fi. We loved it. Creepy atmosphere and a good mind fuck. 
  2. Apostolo - Netflix. This is a horror flick and is weird and a bit of a slow burner, but it has a great cast and really makes you feel part of what is happening. Definitely worth a watch for those horror lovers out there. 
  3. Haunt - Amazon Prime. Another horror. Oops. This is your typical, go to a Halloween house with some friends and all shit breaks lose, but it was actually really well done for such a low budget, small time film. 
  4. Charlie's Angels - Amazon Prime. Yes we rented it, because I had wanted to see it at the cinema, especially when it was panned so much by critics. It felt like a female solidarity moment and it is really watchable. The fight scenes totally kick ass, and it's a shame that there will unlikely be a sequel, as it was set up quite nicely. Also, I bloody love Elizabeth Banks. 
  5. Thor Ragnarok - Disney Plus. Definitely one of the funniest Marvel films and great for a quarantine re-watch. 
5 TV Series I've Watched During the Quarantine
  1. Tiger King - Netflix. Didn't think I'd like it, but was absolutely hooked after 5 minutes. 
  2. Unorthodox - Netflix. A short 4 part mini series. This is amazing! 
  3. Brooklyn Nine Nine - Series 6 (rewatch) Netflix, followed by the discovery that Series 7 started on All 4. Love the Nine Nine.
  4. Homeland Final Season - All 4. There have been some tense moments, but we have to see how it ends. 
  5. Non Uccidere (Thou Shall Not Kill) Series 2 on All 4. I love this Italian Detective series and the second series has started well. I recommend taking two episodes at a time. 
5 Leisure Activities to while away the boredom
  1. Walking to a local bar in Forest Gate once a week to pick up an order of cocktails and beer to go. Not only are the cocktails wonderful, but we get our exercise and support a local business. 
  2. Jigsaw puzzles. I know, it's sad, but it's also quite fun. And I don't care if that makes me middle aged. We completed one about all the coffees of the world and now we have two more to start: a vintage travel guide one and a birds of Britain one. 
  3. Getting my craft on, and utilising all the packaging that comes with all the orders we make, so I can make props and instruments for my classes. 
  4. Baking (me). Gardening (A).
  5. (Edited) I changed this from hanging up pictures to dance parties in the kitchen, because I remembered I hate making decisions on where to put pictures on the wall. That's A's thing, and it bugs me. I like dance parties and prefer them in the kitchen. Stick on some tunes and let yourself go. 
Well, I've waffled on long enough. Let me know how you're coping and keep your chin up. There will be days when you don't want to even contemplate moving and it all gets too much, but hopefully calling a friend, or your family, or binge watching a show on Netflix will get you through it, and then you will find something to cling onto that gets you through to the next day and the next. It's all about survival and getting through one day at a time, so don't worry about charts and routines and timetables, just get through in the best way you can. No one can ask anymore of you than that, and maybe we can get out of this sooner rather than later. 

A shout out to all the NHS, shop workers, drivers and delivery people, people working on public transport, post workers and anyone else who is out in the field - as it were - helping others and keeping the world going. 

Rants out. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My Year in Reading 2019

It's that time of year again; time to reminisce over what has been, over the trials and tribulations, over the successes and achievements, and most importantly, to review my year in books. I realise I disappeared this year after house buying stuff took over, and it's been a tough few months to end the year, with too many changes happening all at the same time, and really ganging up on me, but through it all there's been some bloody good books and whilst my total number is lower this year, there has been some quality, literary experiences that have helped see me through to the end of the decade with a smile, a grimace, an adventure and an escape route. So without further ado, here goes my list:

Books I Read in January

  1. Convenience Store Woman - Suyaka Murata (Kindle)
  2. Nightbird - Alice Hoffman (Kindle)
  3. Girl Missing - Sophia Mckensie (Kindle)
  4. Heroes and Villains - Angela Carter
  5. Venivamo tutte per mare (Italian translation) - Julie Otsuka
  6. Circe - Madeline Miller
I started off the year in a flurry of kindle books, and I just realised that all 6 books I read were written by women. Woo hoo! Now I feel a lot of people would have expected Circe to be my favourite book, and whilst I did like it a lot, I preferred her previous book, Song of Achilles. Just my humble opinion. But taking the coveted best book of the month was my first Italian novel of the year, which was translated from Japanese, and was a beautiful yet devastating account of Japanese women that were essentially sold into marriage and shipped off to America, to be married to Japanese men over there, after the war. It was brutal and savage and written in such a poetic and dreamy way, that I couldn't stop reading. Also, my partner's 89 year old (now 90 year old) Great Auntie lent it to me from her vast collection of books. She likes that I can read in Italian now. 

Books I Read in February
  1. Those who Leave and Those who Stay Behind (Neopolitan Novels #3) - Elena Ferrante
  2. The Unremembered Girl: A Novel - Eliza Maxwell (Kindle)
  3. After the Fire - Will Hill (Kindle)
  4. Inferior: How Science got Women Wrong - Angela Saini
A mixture of books here; the continuation of a saga, a mystery novel, a YA based upon real events and a non fiction book researching the science behind the genders and whether women really are hard wired to cook and nurture the young, spoiler alert, no we're not. It was tough to pick a top choice, but in the end it went to Elena, whoever she may be, because to keep up the level and quality of the writing across so many books and to make you care so much about the characters is simply mind blowing. 

Books I Read in March
  1. The Yellow Room - Jess Vallance
  2. Unbecoming - Jenny Downham
  3. The Secret Life of Bletchley Park - Sinclair McKay
As you can probably tell, house hunting was taking over my life and diminishing my time for books, but I still managed a couple of quality YA offerings that I had found in my local bookshop: the Owl Bookshop, Kentish Town, and a non fiction book all about Bletchley Park, which we actually managed to visit later in the year. This book wins best book because of the true tales and the research that went into it, and also because they didn't sweep under foot the true nature and impact of the work done by women there, they celebrated it! 

Books I Read in April
  1. NOS4R2 - Joe Hill (Kindle)
  2. Becoming - Michelle Obama
  3. Desperation - Stephen King
I just realised poor Michelle ended up in a horror sandwich, this month, the month that we went to see her at the O2. Wow! What a woman. But also, what a horror sandwich. Joe Hill's epic novel really hit all the right buttons for me. There were scares, but there was also a lot of heart and emotion. You became so attached to the characters and whilst it felt in a similar style to some of his dad's earlier horror work, it was still a stand alone novel, spanning years, and it was so intense and wildly epic. I loved it! Mr King himself didn't do a bad job of Desperation, but I'm afraid there were a few too many spider descriptions for my liking. 

Books I Read in May
  1. Spontaneous - Aaron Starmer
  2. Have you Eaten Grandma? - Giles Brandreth
  3. The Great Passage - Shion Miura (Kindle)
  4. Roar - Celia Ahern
  5. Emma (Italian Translation) - Jan Austen (Kindle) Started but carried over to June...
A YA novel about spontaneous combustion, a grammar book, another book translated from Japanese - this one about creating the perfect dictionary - and a book of short stories all about women and their internal and external struggles, and how they overcome them. It was a strange month for reading, but interesting all the same. I also started reading an English classic, translated into Italian, which was a slight mistake as it was too dialogue driven and half the time I couldn't figure out who was talking and it was all very confusing and slightly irritating, but Roar gets the top dog award for its thirty stories all about women. You might not identify with all thirty, but I found a lot of them that were so relevant to me, and it is a great book. Thanks Celia. 

Books I Read in June
  1. Emma (Italian Translation) - Jane Austen (Kindle) Finally finished. It took a while!
  2. Slay on Tour - Kim Curran
No contest here for top book of the month - sorry Jane but it doesn't translate well, and I'm also no where near fluent, so there was a lot of looking up words and general confusion - Kim Curran's second installment of Slay is just as good as the first and left me wanting more. So come on Kim, when are we having Slay 3?

Books I Read in July
  1. Qualcuno sta uccidendo i piu grandi cuochi di Torino - Luca Iaccarina
  2. Indigo Donut - Patrice Lawrence
  3. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain - Oliver Sacks
  4. You - Caroline Kepnes (Kindle)
My friend lent me another book in Italian, which translates as, Someone is killing all the cooks in Turin. It was fairly easy to read and like a lot of Italian books had various murders in it, and was a little bit bonkers at the end, but still, good practise, and way easier than Jane Austen. After watching the Netflix series, You, I really wanted to read the book, but also needed to leave a few months between the viewing and the reading. I had wanted to read Indigo Donut for a while after hearing Patrice talk about it at YALC a couple of years ago, and I was not disappointed. A great YA book, and I'm not going to give anything away, just read it, you won't regret it. But my top book of the month goes to Oliver Sacks and his wonderfully witty and intelligent book about music and the human condition. How music can move us, haunt us and heal us. Highly recommended. 

Book I Read in August
  1. The Last: Hanna Jameson
  2. Le Assaggiatrici - Rosella Postorino
Again, slim pickings this month, but we did move house in July and went on holiday in August, which is where I bought the second book. I enjoyed both books: Hanna Jameson's murder mystery with an apocalyptic spin was well paced and captivating, though I found the ending lacking, and Rosella Postorino's chilling tale of the women who tasted Hitler's food at the end of the war when he was holed up in a bunker, was all kinds of uncomfortable, but in a good way. It wasn't an easy read but it was something I never really knew about and whilst, fiction, it was obviously based on true events and research. I learned a lot of new words, especially body parts in some of the steamy sections. Ha ha. 

Books I Read in September 
  1. Paper Aeroplanes - Dawn O' Porter
  2. Poor Unfortunate Souls - Serena Valentino
  3. The Science of Storytelling - Will Storr
  4. Leopard - Giuseppe di Lampedusa
  5. My Sister the Serial Killer - Oyinkan Braithwaite (Kindle)
  6. SAGA Vol 8 (Re-read) - Fiona Staples and Brian K Vaughan
  7. SAGA Vol 9 - Fiona Staples and Brian K Vaughan
Wow, I actually shifted some material this month. Look at that, 7 titles. I find this month the hardest to choose my favourite for, but after some deliberation, it goes to Oyinkan Braithwaite's tale of the bonds of sister hood. Blood is most definitely thicker than the truth in this fantastic novel. Check it out. 

Books I Read in October
  1. The Story of the Lost Child (Neopolitan Novels #4) - Elena Ferrante
  2. Stories to Tell in the Dark - Alvin Schwartz (Kindle)
  3. Still Waters (Sandham Murders #1) - Viveca Sten (Kindle)
To be honest, I didn't love the Viveca Sten's crime novel. I found it quite boring and kept plodding on simply to know who did it. After seeing the film, Stories to Tell in the Dark, I wanted to read the book, but it's actually a collection of very short stories to tell each other in the dark and is aimed at younger children, but there were some interesting ideas and it was quite witty. I did love the film though and would love a second one. So Ms Ferrante wins again. It was so fulfilling to reach the end of such an epic set of books. If you haven't started them yet, give it a go, it is not all hype, it is phenomenal writing. 

Books I Read in November
  1. The Cuckoo's Calling (The Strike Novels #1) - Robert Galbraith
  2. Music and Singing in the Early Years - Zoe Greenhalgh
  3. The Silkworm (The Strike Novels #2) - Robert Galbraith
  4. Music with the Under Fours - Susan Young
As you might tell here, my very good friend lent me the Strike novels and I also started a new course, so had to intersperse my pleasure reading, with research for my course. Not surprisingly the text books don't make the top book cut, but oh my god, I am now completely obsessed with Robert Galbraith AKA J.K's new creation. I love the Strike novels, and as someone who has never been a massive fan of crime as a genre, I could not stop with these. Love, love, love, and I can't thank my friend enough. I love a good lending library. 

Books I Read in December
  1. Career of Evil (Strike Novels #3) - Robert Galbraith
  2. Lethal White (Strike Novels #4) - Robert Galbraith
  3. The Princess Bride - William Goldman (Kindle)
  4. The Hunting Party - Lucy Foley (Kindle - currently at 87%)
I tried to put another text book between the remaining Strike novels, but I got bored and abandoned it. The lure was too big. I needed to know whether Robin actually went through with it, no spoilers,  and now I need book 5, so get on with it, please. Pretty please. I am nice, really. I am hoping to finish the Hunting Party before the end of the day, which is seeming less and less likely, but I am loving it. Also, it was fun to finally read the Princess Bride. And because it's the end of the year and I'm too lazy to choose between the two Strike novels, they both achieve best book, because they are brilliant! I feel in safe hands, as I always did when reading Harry Potter. More please! 

And so that's it, a shorter list than usual but around 48 books, 4 of which were read in Italian, so not too shabby considering more than half of the year was taken up with house stuff. The plan for 2020 is as always, more books, in a whole host of genres, and definitely to get a shift on with my own books. No more excuses, no more procrastination - okay, a little less procrastination is more realistic - and write, write, write and read, read, read. 

I hope you've had a good reading year. If you have any books that have rocked your year, then let me know, especially if they are not on my list. I am always looking for recommendations. 

And so it's the end of another year, and not only that but another decade. Eek. I hope you all have a great night whatever you do and all the best for the New Year. 

Rants out. 

Friday, June 21, 2019

House Hunting 4: This Shit Just Got Real

We exchanged last week and we have a moving date. The movers are booked. This shit just got real. I've been quiet since my last rant, because we made an offer and it was accepted and then things started to happen and it was the furthest we'd ever been along the process, and then everything after that was just me waiting for the catch, waiting for the moment when we were gazumped or screwed over, and when that didn't happen, I somehow became even more worried. It's ridiculous and it's taken over our lives but it's finally happening.

So now, we have to start packing things away and begin the lengthy process of saying goodbye to Flat 19: our home, our sanctuary for the last decade. And while it will be hard and there will be tears, I have to say there are certain things I am not going to miss about sharing a building with others and also having your building surrounded in scaffolding for the last 18 months.

  • Builders. I will not miss the builders. Their dirty footprints in every communal area. Their high vis jackets whizzing past the fifth floor window from 8am. The drilling. The mess. The fact that they can't clear up after themselves. The fact that the balcony is covered in half an inch of dust and debris from all the drilling. The fact that they start something and then leave it half done for four days. Mmm pink walls. 
  • Scaffolding. I will not miss the bars and grids and mesh and general lack of natural light diminished by the scaffolding. And the endless lies: oh we'll take down the scaffolding in April, in May, oh look it's still up and it's the 21st June. Lies! They have just less than three weeks to make me happy and give me my view back. If only for a day. That would really give us the best farewell. Fingers crossed. 
I have to say, as much as the scaffolding annoyed me, this was one of my favourite moments.
  • The bin store. I will not miss the bin store. Having to pick up other people's rubbish bags because they can't be bothered to actually open the bins and put it in themselves, is one thing I am happy to leave behind. The people who can't squash down a cardboard box to recycle rather than just chuck away, is another thing I will definitely not miss. And then there's the people who forget their keys and just leave the rubbish bags outside the door, so someone else can deal with it - usually me. Because I don't want to live in some gross, rubbish strewn, rat infested hole. I did actually see a couple of rats the other week, so I have been reducing my trips to the bin store and collecting up a few bags worth of rubbish and recycling before I venture in. Just have some respect for the other people that share your building! It's not a difficult concept. 

So, I am actually looking forward to it being just us and if things are dirty and gross it's our fault. There's no speculation on who left the rubbish there and who broke the front door or the lift and why we've had about seven different doors since we lived there and subsequently seven different keys. I have a box full of now defunct keys, which I think I am going to do something with, as a shrine to Flat 19. Watch this space. I will also be happy with my own wheelie bin, recycling bin, and what I'm most excited about: food waste caddy, because we don't have a food waste bin in our building but we will at the house. Yay! I will be in control of the rubbish and recycling and they will be the best kept bins in Newham. :-)

What I will miss is Camden. It is such an amazing borough and the only borough of London that I have ever lived in. But change is good right? :-) And I'm sure Newham will help us to discover more of the City we love and call home.

To anyone else out there trying to buy or sell, good luck and breathe and persevere. You'll get there. And by the way, removal companies are more expensive than you think, even when you're only moving from a one bed flat, so factor that in your budget, because, wow, things are expensive. And beds and mattresses! Don't get me started on those. That's a whole other rant. Enjoy the sunshine.

Rants out.