Month: August 2018

7 books for 7 pounds? Yes please!

I’ve always been a voracious reader. Not for me a couple of pages before bed and taking weeks to finish a book. If I start a book I’m committed to it and I allow it to take over. I’m immersed in the story and the characters (assuming said book is well written) and I just NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS. Many a time on holiday we’ve been later than planned for lunch or dinner because I’m reading “just one more chapter” which we all know is nothing like one chapter and probably more like four.

When I was a kid we used to go to the local public library where you could only take out six books at a time. I used to pore over the shelves, thinking how best to use my meagre allocation and, by the time we got home, I was chomping at the bit to get started. It wasn’t unusual for me to read a book in one sitting, and I’d usually have got through all of them way before it was time to go back the following week.

As an adult I read less, due to time constraints and life getting in the way, but when I do read I still do so in the same way. Nose down, devouring the pages and feeling thoroughly engaged. If we’re on a relaxing holiday I like nothing more than spending the day at the beach or by the pool with a book for company. If we’re going on a holiday where there is little relaxing time because it’s all about sightseeing, I often choose not to take a book, even for the journey, because I know it will consume my thoughts and eat into my time when I should be out looking at what the world has to offer!

When e-readers became de rigeur, I was slightly appalled (I’d hate books to become extinct) but I could see their appeal – so many books in one lightweight easy to carry place; perfect for holidays where luggage allowance is needed for shoes! And so I bought one (a Nook, now extinct as a company) and I loaded it with all manner of tomes, and I read The Great Gatsby on it the first day I got it. Ebooks were cheap and easy to download and the reader had a really long battery life but I didn’t love it. I missed the smell, and the page turning, and seeing how much book you have left. I missed physical books.

There’s always at least one book on my Christmas list, which I may or may not get round to reading immediately! I always have a pile of physical books which I haven’t yet read, collected from one source or another. But I never buy books from new myself. Being the greedy reader that I am, it’s a really expensive way of reading, when there are much more economical options.

All hail charity shops.

Charity shops are a veritable feast of books – paperback, hardback, fiction, autobiography; they have everything you can imagine. Ranging from tatty and dog-eared (well loved, as I prefer to think of them) through to like new condition, it’s a great way to bring purpose to something that’s otherwise bound for the scrap heap AND support a good cause.

I know there are purists who argue that the author is missing out because they’re not getting the royalties from a new sale. In my case that’s not true at all. I wouldn’t buy the book brand new, so they’re not losing a sale. They’re gaining an audience, and an appreciator, and potentially a recommender who will talk about their works to other people, in real life or on social media.

My most recent find is our local Acorns Childrens Hospice charity shop. I say “find”, it’s in the village where I have lived for 12 years. I’m not usually out in the village having a mooch during shop opening hours though, so I rarely go in there. 2 weeks ago I popped in and came out with a couple of books (then another 4 from Oxfam).

More charity shop books

I started off by reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, which I really enjoyed. It was a very different protagonist to the usual type, and I did go through a stage a few chapters in where I didn’t like Eleanor very much and so I started to struggle with the book, but I’m glad I persevered.

Last week I went back to the charity shop and came out with 7 books! Charity shop prices for second hand books often depend on size or condition, but our local Acorns has a £1 per book policy across all paperbacks.

Charity shop books

One of these is completely unread with not a mark on it, and I’d say all of the others have been read once and are in immaculate condition. Total value of £55.93, all for £7!

The beauty of reading this way is that you can afford to step out of your comfort zone and try a genre or author you wouldn’t usually go for, because if you don’t like it you haven’t wasted a lot of money (well technically you haven’t wasted any money, as it’s gone to a good charitable cause). Also, once you’ve finished, you can donate them back to the charity shop of your choice, thus continuing their fundraising capability.

Are you an avid reader? Do you buy pre-loved books? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

When will the media be regulated against public bullying?

Bullying is bad. We all know that. It’s instilled into (most of) us as children. We’re told “if you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all”. We read in the press about teens, young adults, people of all ages taking their own lives because they have been bullied. Online bullying – cyberbullying – can lead to criminal charges.

Why then is the media exempt from these “rules”? Why are they allowed to print nasty, jibing, critical things about people with no recourse?

The impetus for today’s blog comes from a post I saw on Twitter by TV presenter and entertainer Stacey Solomon.

Stacey Solomon tweet

What’s got Stacey so upset? This is what. This personal, unfounded, and blatantly rude magazine front cover.

Now magazine Stacey Solomon

How bloody horrible. Imagine reading that about yourself? Imagine seeing that on a news stand while you were queuing at the supermarket. Or your kids seeing it. Or your parents. Or the parents of your kids schoolfriends.

Why oh WHY is that considered acceptable “reporting”? And why are celebs deemed to be fair game, or without feeling? It’s obviously impacted Stacey enough for her to make a public comment about it. She doesn’t seem like the type to court the media and use them to further her own agenda, so it’s extra spiteful that they would turn on her.

Not long ago Scarlett Moffatt publicly tweeted about how upset she was by the headline on a woman’s magazine calling her “hefty and heartbroken” after her split with her boyfriend. Scarlett’s harsh reality is that she rose to fame as a normal young girl in Gogglebox, loved for her opinions and personality. She was voted Queen of the Jungle in I’m a Celebrity, because she was well liked. On the back of that, she was more in the public eye, where people felt it their right to comment on her appearance and dress sense. After her stint in bootcamp when she lost lots of weight, she was vilified for being “too thin”. Gaining weight after a break up led to the “hefty and heartbroken” headline. The poor girl can’t win, and nor should she. Being in the public eye is no excuse for the media to be so damn opinionated and rude about anyone (apart from Donald Trump and Katie Hopkins, they both deserve it).

This was how Scarlett reacted to the headline.

Scarlett Moffatt hefty and heartbroken tweet

Good for her! Yet, just a few days later when she was attacked by the press again for her dress choice on an episode of Love Island, she revealed the real affect that such negative headlines can have, because they not only appear in print, they fuel online trolls who also think it’s ok to get involved in bullying people for their appearance.

Scarlett Moffatt crying tweet

Scarlett Moffatt social anxiety tweet

Some people will always be mean. It’s in their nature, or they use putting other people down to make themselves feel better about their own shortcomings. We can’t do anything about everyone in the world. What we CAN do is start regulating the press so that damaging and bullying headlines like this are not allowed to be printed.

There’s so much public focus on suicide and mental health problems at the moment, with all sorts of people urging those affected to “just talk” or “reach out”. But how many of those people are also part of the problem, because of their ill thought observations and comments?

The media needs to lead by example. Build women up for being good kind people who do good kind things. Don’t beat them up and flog them publicly.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Friday Feeling [35] – a lesson in dignity

Kids go to school for an education – to learn about the world and better themselves in preparation for adulthood.

But what about when school is more than just a place to learn?

Some pupils in West Side High School, New Jersey, were being bullied because of their appearance; regularly turning up to school in dirty uniform. Other pupils would point them out and humiliate them.

Headteacher Akbar Cook can’t solve the problem of the students’ personal circumstances (in many cases they’re officially homeless, or don’t have access to facilities to keep their clothes clean), but he has helped to create a solution to the results of those circumstances, by converting an unused locker room into a free Laundromat available to all pupils. With a financial grant, and donations of laundry detergent from companies and local individuals, students can wash their belongings either independently, or with the help of an adult on hand to teach them.

The fact that these kids are in such poor situations, or that more fortunate students are bullying them because of it is a whole other post, but the thoughtfulness shown by Mr Cook is to be applauded. Well done that human!

Read the full story here.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

 

A visit to Moffat and the Annandale Arms Hotel

Remember in my life update post I mentioned that I’d been to Scotland? The purpose of the trip was a meeting the husband needed to go to in East Kilbride, but he suggested we stay in a little town called Moffat. He’d been there before so was familiar with the area, and he booked us into the Annandale Arms Hotel, right in the middle of the High Street.

We arrived to a very warm and friendly welcome and, even though we were earlier than the allocated check in time, our room was ready so we were able to settle in. The hotel has a comfortably furnished reception area, good size dining room and a small bar.

Annandale Arms reception desk

Annandale Arms hotel reception

Annandale Arms lounge area

Annandale Arms cosy corner

The room was bright and airy with two huge sash windows, and the bathroom had a large powerful shower. It was quite obvious that everything had been recently refurbished, and to a good standard.

So, what’s in Moffat?

Not a lot really – as I mentioned it’s only a small town, but it’s very quaint. Picturesque houses, bunting in the street and some nice independent shops; unfortunately we hadn’t realised that Wednesday appears to be a half day for most of the retailers so we were restricted to browsing through the windows (of the shops, not the houses!)

Moffat quaint house

Moffat side street

Moffat Weavers Tweed Shop

Moffat pub and rooms

I did pick up a couple of good planting tips though. This chair planter would be easy to recreate – I’d paint it a bright pink colour I think.

Moffat chair planter

This quirky record planter made my vinyl purist husband shudder, such a waste of records! It wouldn’t hurt if they were rubbish ones though I don’t think?

Moffat record planter

There are a handful of teashops and quite a few pubs – we had lunch at the Rumblin Tum cafe, and then stopped off at the Black Bull for a drink – again recently refurbished and a lovely place to drink, eat or stay.

The old cemetery in Moffat is home to graves from the 1800s. I find old cemeteries fascinating – the detail on the graves of the family and the ages they died.

Moffat cemetary

Moffat cemetary view

There was a large memorial in the middle of the cemetery.

Memorial in Moffat cemetary

And this plaque outside on the gates.

Moffat cemetary sign

Devils Beef Tub is a 500 ft deep hollow formed by four hills. It’s a popular tourist walk these days, but in the 1800s it was obviously less traversable. John McAdam, mentioned, was the inventor or “macadamisation” – an effective and economical method of building roads which did much to improve travel and communication.

St Andrews church has been in situ for 125 years.

Moffat church

The Star Hotel is the narrowest hotel in the world! It’s in the Guinness Book of Records!

With the onset of rain and a strong breeze (typical that our trip coincided with the end of the heatwave!) we headed back to the Annandale Arms.

We ate dinner and breakfast in the hotel, and both meals were amazing. For dinner I had pate to start, and the husband had haggis moneybags (haggis wrapped in thin pastry). For main we both had venison which was absolutely sublime. Tender, well cooked, just incredible, and served with black pudding mash (yum).

At breakfast we both went for kedgeree, which again was fresh and flavoursome and delicious.

Both dinner and breakfast menus were very comprehensive, with lots of choice. The hotel obviously prides itself on the quality of it’s produce and it shows through.

One last highlight was the duvet, which is the best bed cover I have ever slept under IN MY LIFE and, when we checked out, one of the staff members kindly went back to the room and took a photograph of the label for me so that I can track one down to recreate the Moffat experience here in Birmingham!

It was a short but very sweet trip, and I’d have no hesitation in recommending the town and the hotel to anyone. It would be an ideal stop over when heading further up to the Scottish Highlands, which is something we’ve talked about doing in the future (just add it to the ever growing list of places we want to visit!)

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

5 things on my to do list while I’m “between jobs”

Garden leave is quite a strange animal, because technically I’m being paid to do nothing (thank you previous employer), but I feel a bit like I should be doing something.  That’s not to say I’ve been sleeping in most of the day and then sitting on my ass for the rest of it, but I do feel guilty for whiling away portions of time on mindless stuff, even though I’m entitled to take a break and I’m still earning money and paying my bills.

That said, here are some targets I’ve set myself to complete while I’m off. All attainable; some more serious than others!

1 – Get a job

Although it goes without saying, this has to be number one on my list. I’ve been scouring job listings, set up job alerts to be notified of new roles that are of interest to me, and registered with some agencies. I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where I don’t have to jump into the first thing that comes along, and I want to find a role that is right for me, right for my CV and right for my future, but I also appreciate that “the perfect job” doesn’t exist and I’ll probably need to make some sacrifices.

2 – Give the blog a makeover

This little old corner of the internet has existed in its current incarnation for almost 3 and a half years, and while I’ve remained (fairly) consistent with writing content, I haven’t paid any attention to it’s appearance. A couple of years ago I went self hosted, but it was right around the time my Dad got very sick, and then he died, and I just didn’t have the mental capacity to deal with the new stuff, so I carried on using free WordPress and just let the other subscription lapse. Now I have lots of time on my hands so a shiny new theme is in order at the very least. Also thinking of upgrading to paid WordPress for more flexibility, analytics, etc so any tips gratefully received!

3 – Watch all of the Harry Potter films

Bit of a light hearted one this! I took my sister to Harry Potter World for her 21st birthday back in March and, up until 4 days before, I hadn’t seen 1 film! So I binge watched the first 3 and off we went.

Making of Harry Potter

The visit was magical (I must do a blog post about it) but obviously there were things I didn’t really understand. I intended to watch the rest of the films straight afterwards, but then summer came and time ran away with me. Now is the time to scratch that itch! (I think I may rewatch the 3rd one too, as I got quite confused). I may even read the books as well.

4 – Finishing unpacking from when we moved house

We’ve lived in our house for 15 months now, and we still haven’t finished unpacking. Before you judge me though (I know I would!) for the first 7 months we were squished into a 2 bedroom apartment that was smaller than our old flat while our building work was completed, and then we were so excited at living in our new space after Christmas that we just put it on the back burner! Now, part of me thinks if stuff has been in storage for 15 months and we haven’t missed it then perhaps we just throw it all away BUT some of the bags are full of my shoes, which means it will be like shopping my own wardrobe, which is technically saving money – very important when you don’t have a job! I actually have a partial tick against this “to do” already, as last week I finally sorted out the big bedroom (which used to be the lounge when it was an apartment) – we’ve been lazy chilled out and sleeping in what will be the guest bedroom up until this point. Now we have oodles of space, a king size bed and 3 windows!

Here’s how it looked before (check out the 90s curtains and brass fittings!)

Old lounge

Old lounge 2

And here’s how it is at this moment in time (yes I have a purple leopard and zebra print duvet cover, what’s it to ya?!)

Current bedroom

There’s still stuff to do, like paint the fireplace, change the carpet, and choose the furniture, but it’s good to finally be in there.

Next on the list is the small bedroom (which will be the husband’s music room for all his CDs and guitars) and the utility room which used to be the kitchen.

5 – Go on holiday

Now this might seem like a very indulgent “to do” for someone who isn’t working but, in my defence, it’s been booked since this time last year. And it’s a “special” holiday – to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We’re flying to Athens for 3 nights and then to Santorini for a week and I’m super excited.

Santorinilead-xlarge

We’ve been talking about going to Santorini since we got together 13 years ago, so it’s been a long time coming, and it was on a travel bucket list post I shared a couple of years back – Athens was on part two of that list where I pondered combining both destinations in one trip. On the basis of ticking them off, I’ll need to replace them and write a new travel bucket list post, right?

What’s on your “to do” list for the next few weeks?

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

 

 

Friday Feeling [34] – making a (small) difference

Before I had my (unplanned) hiatus from blogging I wrote a post about wearing a bikini (you can read it here).

I think, as women, many of us have insecurities about our bodies and how they look, which are mainly brought on by what we see in the media and the unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves as a result.

So imagine how chuffed I was when one of my followers – Tamsyn from blog Leather and Glitter – tagged me in her instagram honeymoon photos to tell me she’d worn a bikini on her honeymoon BECAUSE OF MY BLOG POST!!!

Wore a bikini

You can probably imagine how amazing that made me feel. It’s such lovely feedback and I really appreciate Tamsyn letting me know, so I could have all the warm and fuzzies.

If you want to see Tamsyn’s honeymoon photos you can check her out on Instagram here (there are no bikini shots though!) and it’s also worth pointing out that she made her own wedding dress, with her own fair hands, which you can also see on Instagram and read more about on her blog.

Have you ever had blog feedback that’s given you that Friday Feeling?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

A life update – back to where it all began

Did anyone notice I haven’t posted for a while? <<awkward silence!>>

I started this blog almost three and a half years ago, because I’d been made redundant.

Guess what? I’ve just been made redundant again! Well, I say just, I found out it was going to happen 2 weeks ago today, then I was off for a long weekend, then worked a day and a half before getting put on garden leave (where you don’t have to work but still get paid, in case you’re not familiar with the term).

It was pretty unexpected but not overly surprising, if that makes sense? I’m certainly not angry or bitter with my ex employers because small businesses have to do what’s right for them, and where would being cross get me anyway? I’d still be in the same unemployed position, but with a headache and heart palpitations and sore hands from slamming my fist into walls shouting “dammit”!

So, what have I been up to then? <<whispers>> I probably shouldn’t say this…but…

I’ve been having quite a jolly time! As I mentioned I was off for a long weekend immediately after I was given THE NEWS as we were going to the Rock and Blues festival in Derbyshire. At first it seemed rotten timing (“I’m unemployed! I can’t go spending money on drinking booze in a field watching bands I love”) but then it seemed good timing (“I’m unemployed! Sitting at home moping about it isn’t going to change anything, and I REALLY want to be in a field watching bands I love!”) So that was a whole heap of fun, and you’ll be glad to know I didn’t hold back on spending money on booze, including bakewell cherry gin which, as a none gin drinker, went down extremely well.

Since then, last week, I’ve had lunch with my Mom and brother for his birthday; sorted out the garage to make space for our new boxing bag (more on that new fad hobby another time); this week I talked the husband into taking a day off work (legitimately, obvs) so we could have lunch and drinks and hang out on Monday; tried (and failed) to fight off a HIDEOUS hangover on Tuesday (the trouble with not having a job to keep me in check is that I don’t have a cut off point so drank more and later than I usually would have done).

Oh, and then I just nipped to Scotland yesterday, as you do. The husband had a site visit to do in East Kilbride and it’s a bloody long drive from Birmingham to South Scotland on your own, so being the selfless hero I am, I offered to co-pilot. I perused Primark while he did his thing then we drove back down to a lovely little town called Moffat where we had lunch, and then dinner, and drinks (I’m painting a bad picture of myself here, I know) and a lush overnight stay in a lovely hotel with the BEST duvet I have EVER slept under IN MY LIFE (I found out where they bought it from and I’m buying one, it was THAT GOOD), before coming home via Manchester-ish way where he did another 15 minute site visit and I managed to buy some earrings within that 15 minutes (pro-shopper).

So, all in all I’ve been a busy little bee and <<whispers again>> probably not as pro-active as I should have been in job hunting BUT it’s a been very traumatic and stressful time (not strictly true) and the sun has had his hat on again so I think I was entitled to a few days “me” time before I start the job search in earnest (actually in Birmingham and the surrounding areas, but you know what I mean).

Oh, and it’s not like I haven’t applied for any jobs (I have), or been looking (I have), just in case I come across as a privileged little madam. So don’t judge me yeah, because I’m unemployed and might have a cry.

What have you guys been up to? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x