Found and lost

They come crashing into my mind at the strangest of times. A solitary pair, a phrase, a sentence. Often complete in themselves but crying out for a backstory. They excite me, these words. They fill me with a longing to spend days at a battered old desk overlooking the sea, filling in the gaps with more words. The warmest, fluffiest socks, copious amounts of coffee and ink scratching onto paper as the waves beat and crash against the shore. But these words also fill me with an ineffable sadness. I never have, never had the confidence. Never believed in myself enough to even try to make something more out of them. And so they are left to rattle about in my mind, like someone’s lost property, unforgotten and never quite finding the ending to their story.

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The Year in Books | February 2016

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I’ll start with some thoughts on my choice for January, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. This was an excellent book to kick start my challenge for 2016. I read it in mere days, which is no mean feat with two typhoon-like boys running about, and from the moment I picked it up I was hooked. I found myself trying to steal a few minutes here and there, even if only to read a few more paragraphs.

At it’s heart this book is about secrets. You can think you know someone but there are always tiny fractures where secrets and thoughts are hidden. You can never really know someone. But it’s also about family, about wanting to fit in, and to please your loved ones. I loved that the pace of the story didn’t falter at all and that the author was able to depict events, places and even emotion with such precision, such care and without wasting any words. It’s intelligent and witty and heartbreaking and it’s sure to join the handful of books which I so love that I re-read from time to time.

Because I finished my January choice so quickly I was able to go back to a book that I started last year but didn’t quite finish. Admittedly I ran out of steam last year, for one reason or another my reading fell by the wayside and Life after Life by Kate Atkinson was one of the books I neglected. It often pops up as a favourite on the monthly #theyearinbooks twitter chats so I was keen to read it. Although I found myself getting confused (easily done!) at times with the flipping between lives, it didn’t disappoint. It was a clever and brave book and I think I’ll have to add the follow up to my list for 2016.

And so on to February. Please forgive me if it sounds like gloating, it’s not! But I was one of the lucky winners of Laura @circleofpines giveaway to win a copy of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon. Laura wanted to try something different for one month and suggested that anyone who was interested could read the same book. I was pretty amazed when I received Laura’s email but I was genuinely excited when I received my copy in the post. It’s such a rare treat to receive real post these days instead of the endless leaflets and bills and invitations to apply for a credit card.  I’ve already started and so far so very good…I’m really looking forward to chatting about it with my fellow #theyearinbooks tweeters.

Five under £5 for January 2016

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I really enjoyed linking up with the lovely Julia and her Five under £5 last month and was really pleased when she decided to make the link-up an ongoing feature.  I’ve been thinking about the things I wanted to include for January for a couple of weeks, but typical me I’ve left it all last minute to take the photos, blog and link up so I find myself doing the blogging equivalent of last minute cramming for an exam (must try harder!).

So I have my five but please excuse the dodgy photography and the hurried (probably typo-riddled) post.

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I’ll start off with the fabulous Hello Kitty earrings which were a steal because they were reduced to £1.50 at Toys r Us. I think they must have been in the Claire’s Accessories concession but I was on a mission trying to buy pressies for some of the smaller relatives in the family and didn’t have enough time to check. They are just so darn cute and although I was a huge tomboy I loved Hello Kitty as a girl so I treated myself to these.

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As is usually the case at the beginning of a new year I have good intentions of clearing out old stuff, sorting and tidying. These intentions often fall by the wayside but I’m hoping at least some of them will stick this year. These sweet apple-shaped washing up scourers are so lovely, they make washing up a little bit easier and they were 99p for a pack of 4 from the 99p Shop. I also stocked up on my fabulous BB cream from Superdrug. At £6.99 I realise it’s over the £5 limit but I try to buy it when it’s in the BOGOF offer so it works out at about £3.50, which is a bargain and so much cheaper than the big brands. Not only that but it is lovely, it makes my skin seem smoother, less blemished and I don’t need to fiddle around with foundation (which is great because my makeup routine has to last less than 3 minutes with my two tasmanian devils running about the house!). And the best thing is, it’s paraben free which is important to me.

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I bought the tiny dinosaur rubbers, 75p for my dino-mad elder son and the A5, hard back, kraft notebook was £1.75, both from Wilko. The notebook is a desperate attempt to try and get organised!

And that’s my  for January 2016. Next month I think I’ll need to try and include something for my Husb and my younger son so they don’t feel left out!

Thanks so much Julia for letting me join in xx

The Year in Books | January 2016

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I love words, I love books, I love writing and I love stories.

As a child I would spend hours writing whimsical stories of fantastical worlds inspired by The Never Ending Story or children who discovered a mermaid whilst rockpooling and as I grew into an Americana-obsessed teen these stories turned to topics of school life and that holy grail – love. When I wasn’t writing stories you’d find me reading. I wouldn’t go anywhere without a book in my hand just in case I found a few minutes spare to read a few more pages.

I continued to devour books as an adult and I had a pretty successful blog for a few years which sated the writing itch. And then I met my Husb and we had two boys and life got so busy that reading and writing took a backseat.

My younger son is two and a half now and is discovering his independence and my elder son is in his second year of school and I’m finding that I can spend an hour or two, here and there, doing my own thing. I’ve started blogging again and last year I decided to join in with Laura from Circle of Pines and her excellent reading project The Year in Books (#theyearinbooks). It’s a kind of reading group but instead of everyone reading the same book at the same time, you aim to read at least one book a month. You can then tell others about it via your blog, Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter using #theyearinbooks. And once a month you can join a friendly bunch of fellow bibliophiles chatting about books on the Twitter chat that Laura hosts. There’s no pressure, no judging and although I didn’t manage to hit my target of twelve books last year (Younger son’s night time antics might have something to do with that!), it thoroughly reignited my passion for books and stories. And besides, I read more than the year before, as a fellow Year in Bookster reminded me when she tweeted ‘As always, so many books, never enough time…but I read more in 2015 than the year before. :)’.

So here’s my book for January, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. It was on my wishlist for Christmas and my lovely Husb made sure it was one of the pressies waiting for me under the tree. I have high hopes that I’ll manage twelve books this year!

Here’s to a Happy, bookish, creative New Year y’all xxx

Master of disguise

These faces, these many faces were created when she was young. She curated them with such precision, picking just the right one depending on the circumstance and the environment. It was never about deceit or manipulation but simply a survival mechanism that she had learned to hone and perfect so that she could avoid the toxic effluent that schoolgirls can be so expert at flinging. So that she could be the dutiful daughter or the brilliant student, the obliging friend. So that she could fight this unsettling feeling that followed her wherever she went; she never really fit in anywhere because she was the missing piece from a puzzle that she would never find.

Years later, when she looks back on her life she will realise that she never really had the chance to just live. She had never learnt, and never been taught, to shrug off her imperfections and say ‘well stuff them if they don’t like me’. She never really knew how to take off these faces, these masks, and smash them to the ground, obliterating them into so many, tiny, little pieces, so that only one true face was left and she could just be herself.

Five under £5 for December

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I love a bargain, I really do. I’ve often wondered if it’s a trait that is innate in us Asians, I know my Ma is pretty good at haggling and sniffing out a bargain. Perhaps there’s a gene for it and some of us have it and some of us don’t. Well, whatever the reason, when I saw that Julia from Rainbeaubelle was doing a link up for her Five under £5 posts I got more than a little bit excited and so here are my Five under £5 for December.

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Safari animal figures from B&M, £2.99 for a tub of 48 animals. Snr Son is going to be 6 in a couple of weeks so the obligatory bouncy castle party at the local leisure centre has been booked. Next year he might want something a bit different so I figured we should go for the easy option while we can (Husb and I are exhausted thanks to Jnr Son’s night-time partying). These animals are perfect to pop into party bags, they’re well made, our boys love playing with them and at that price we can pop a few in each bag.

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Christmas tree wrapping paper, £2.00 from Sainsburys, also included in their 3 for 2 offer. I couldn’t help but include some Christmassy items in my five. I spent a good eight years of my working life in retail marketing and we would start reviewing the Christmas campaign just gone and planning for the next one in February so by the time December came I was sick of it! I have to say it sucked the joy of Christmas out of me. But I haven’t worked in retail for some time now and I actually get excited about Christmas, which is lucky because now I have two boys and it wouldn’t do to have the Grinch for a Mama!  I’m a sucker for silver, and I particularly love the simplicity of this paper – silver mini christmas trees on snowy white paper. Perfect for those pressies under the tree.

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This hot chocolate glass from Homebase was originally £2.99 but is now £1.50 and I got a set of four. I share a love of mulled wine and Baileys coffees (and handbags!) with my Step-Mother-in-Law and it’s part of our Christmas gift to her. I searched far and wide for glasses that weren’t too top heavy and had lost hope of finding what I had in mind. I was thrilled to find these as they are so much prettier than the others I had found, so it doesn’t look like I’ve just stolen them from Costa!

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Willie’s Cacao Milk of the Gods chocolate £1.90 from Waitrose. One of my old friends from university has just had her first baby so I thought I’d put a little care package together for her. The first few months are so exhausting (and at times terrifying!) and it can be really tough. Of course, all the gifts for the baby are welcome and appreciated but it’s nice to be reminded that you’re doing a great job. I’ve popped some little treats in the box to remind my friend to be kind to herself and to take a break when she can. Teas, hot chocolate, some nice smellys and this divine chocolate. It’s so delicious and I admit I have just a small addiction to it.

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Fox lavender bag £1.50 The Original Factory Shop. I bought one of these sweet foxes for my AutumnTimeSurpriseProject partner and I loved it so much I went and treated myself to one, it does also double up as a decoration for the tree. Well, sometimes you just have to treat yourself don’t you?!

So that’s my Five under £5 for December, I’ve really enjoyed taking part so thank you Julia for organising it x

How ’bout me enjoying the moment for once

I used to hide the fact that I suffer from depression because, quite simply, I was ashamed. I thought my loved ones would see me as broken or different or worse still, mad. I became quite the expert at hiding it because I feared the GP would force me to go on medication that I would become dependent on.

I used all sorts of methods to keep people from finding out the truth; misdirection, feigned illness and at times even subterfuge. It was utterly exhausting and once in a while, when life felt a little fractured and I’d had a few too many drinks, I’d let my guard down and some of the darkness would seep out. When that happened my poor unsuspecting friends would have to peel me off the floor and help me home while I sobbed about something or another. The next day I would frantically make excuses for the episode – stress at work or love life issues. Whatever. Anything but the admit the truth.

Over the years I’ve come to realise that depression really isn’t a dirty word. It’s an illness and it’s nothing to be ashamed of or to feel guilty about. These days I talk to my friends and family about it more openly and honestly and I’ve managed so far, with the help of my GP and an excellent counsellor, to keep the black dog at bay without needing to go on medication. This is a personal choice because I know myself well enough to know that, for me, it would be a bad idea. For some people it is a necessity and only you and your GP can decide what the best course of treatment is for you and your situation.

But this year has been particularly tough for me for various reasons and I’ve felt myself slipping again. I feel as though I’ve had more instances of depression this year than any other time, but despite knowing I needed help I kept putting it off and trying to hide it mostly because we’ve moved and I have a new GP  and I was scared. But when I looked at my boys’ faces I realised that I didn’t want their lasting memories of me to be that I was always sad. And I certainly didn’t want them to think that they had anything to do with that. So I bit the bullet and to my happy surprise my new GP listened and reassured and I feel much better for talking to him.

I now have a bit of a plan of how to get myself back on track. I’m going to try Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and although I’ve always relied on writing as a therapy, I’ve decided to also try mindfulness and gratitude. Now trying to get ten, quiet minutes to myself in the morning with two boys under the age of six haring around the house is nigh on impossible, but I have high hopes! I’ve also started yoga again…baby steps, it’s all about the baby steps!

As for the gratitude I’ve realised that it really is a powerful thing. It can help to kick start a positive frame of mind and that is something I need help with at times. Last week on Pause for Thought on Chris Evans’ Radio 2 show I heard a wonderful quote, ‘wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life’, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

So, every day I’m going to try and note one thing I’m grateful for. And so to start; I’m really grateful for friends. I’m always grateful for my old friends but right now I’m particularly grateful for new friends who listen to you, drink copious amounts of coffee (and sometimes wine!) with you and who make you feel like less of a plonker at the school gates!

Do you keep a gratitude journal? Do you do it every day? Do you find it helps you and if so how?

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