Sunday, September 21, 2014

I used to write

I still do occasionally, but I've just not been publishing them. Things about actual feelings. Things that I hope I might look back on at some point and cringe/not remember why I felt that way/laugh at. But that hasn't happened so far. 

So I've got this teenage-style secret diary of angst and anguish. Not sure why I don't just delete them. Perhaps some day I want to show them to someone and say 'look this is how you made me feel, all that pain and all these sodding cliches'.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Animal Lover

I came across Martin Usbourne's beautifully wistful photographs of dogs and feel in love with his work.

His book, The Silence of Dogs in Cars, has gone straight to the top of my Christmas wishlist.

Reading his website further, I found out that he'd set himself a year-long challenge to see how many animals he can save - and as is the modern way, has a blog charting his progress.

And if it wasn't enough that he is a brilliant photography, his writing is frank, funny and inspiring.

If you like animals, but don't consider yourself an out-there animal activist, I wholly recommend reading his blog.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Happiness Workout pt 2

Last week at work was an absolute stinker. Rotten to the core. Its not very interesting so I'm not going to go into it now - but I can't promise I won't have a rant in the future.

So now seems like a good time to do the Happiness Workout.

1. I had a great weekend in Glasgow - brilliant bars, fabulous food and great gig
2. I've had my haircut and even if I do say so myself, it looks good - at the beginning of the year I had it cut into a sleek bob - a big step for unadventurous me, but it suits me and even subsequent trims have been good
3. After a period of apathy, I managed three swims last week - for the second week in a row.

And a bonus one - I read three brilliant books last week

Arcadia by Lauren Groff
Dog Stars by Peter Heller
Where'd you go Bernadette by Maria Semple

All very different, but all from last year - I'd recommend them all.

Other cities

I spent the weekend in Glasgow. Which in retrospect was rather a long way to go for such a short amount of time and I wish I could have stayed longer.

The purpose of the trip was to see The Stone Roses play. It was a great gig, despite the British summer hailstones.

We made a similar trip to Manchester last year. Besides seeing the same band, what both trips had in common is that I would love to live in those cities.

London has some great things going for it and I do find it annoying when people dismiss it entirely, but having done my time living there, I'm rather over it now. But I'm still a city girl at heart and I'd love to live in one of our country's other cities.

Manchester is probably my first choice. Generally I'd take the post-industrial over the quaintly pretty - so Glasgow trumps Edinburgh and Sheffield would be preferable to York.  Breaking with that rule though, I still have a soft spot for Norwich and have only ever had a horrible time in Leeds.

But here I am in my fake-rural, no-longer-really-a-village village, which I do love, but sometimes I miss city life.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Happiness Workout (reprised)

Looking at draft articles on the blog is like rummaging around in the attic or under your bed. You come across some things you don't know why you kept in the first place (posts that consist of just a title), things you really should throw out (the heartbreakingly poignant post that I would never publish anyway and can still make me cry) and the really quite useful things that you forgot you had.  The post below falls into that category.

I came across an article in the files at work entitled "The Happiness Workout". It was about how we have to sometimes work at being happy.

The article ended with some exercises that apparently help to increase happiness. The one that has stuck in my mind, the easiest one to do probably is to list three things that have gone well each day. However, the article did say that some research said it was better to do it weekly rather than daily, presumably because it could have the opposite effect if you can't find something good each day.

So going for the weekly version, here are three positives from this week.

1. I found a copy of a book I'd been looking for ages in an Oxfam bookshop for £2.50
2. I had some great Thai food on my Friday night out 
3. I discovered a fantastic antiques market near my work which will provide hours of great browsing

This may become a regular feature.

Back in 2009, it didn't even become a feature, let alone a regular one. But perhaps it can now, although to be honest I'm struggling for the week just gone.

More than a thousand words

During the blog-less years, I took a course in Picture Research. It was something I had done a bit of as part of a job and I really enjoyed it. So I took this course, more out of personal interest than vocational and I got a distinction for the course. And so it joined the other not particularly useful things on my CV that aren't of much use to anyone, least of all me.

But I enjoyed doing it.  So I was pleased to discover Pinterest, which allows me to fulfil my picture research obsessions without it actually being my job.

I've added it to the blog at the side (making the old place more homely!) and here are a few of my boards.

Real things

One of the big developments during my blog hiatus (other than the change of jobs and home), is that I now own a Kindle.

Initially I thought I'd only use it for holidays and long journeys, to save carting about multiple books. I thought that I'd still buy second-hand books and go to the library. But quickly, the Kindle replaced other books and became the only thing I read.

That means I'm stuck buying electronic book things from the evil tax dodging corporation, which isn't ideal. But it is a hard habit to break.

The same with music. Whilst we may own music on vinyl, CD and even some dusty tapes, I only listen to music on my iPod or 6 Music on the digital radio. 

This week Primal Scream released a new album.  Alongside dogs, striped dresses and Danish pastries, I can't resist a Primal Scream album. But rather than just download it, I decided to actually buy it. To buy the actual CD (admittedly not vinyl) in an actual real shop.

While I was in the shop (Fop), I also picked up another CD (Vampire Weekend's new one) and two paperbacks.  And I remembered how much I liked buying actual books in a shop.

So a return to happier, low-tech times?

Not exactly - the CDs have been transferred to the iPod and the paperbacks are still unread in the bag. 

But perhaps a (retrograde) step in the right direction?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Little surprise packages

I don't like big surprises. The thought of a surprise party fills me with horror. And a surprise trip away seems like a wasted opportunity to plan and pack properly.

But I do love little surprise packages coming through the post, hence why I've signed up to a few such services.

It started with LoveFilm, although they do send an email that spoils the surprise a bit. Then I signed up with Graze, so I receive a fortnightly box of snacks by mail. Like airline food, it is the anticipation of seeing what you've got and the cute little packaged portions that appeals to me, rather than the food itself.

I've just signed up to a new service, GlossyBox, which works in a similar way to Graze, but instead of snacks, it provides a monthly box of beauty and make-up surprises. Now, the odd thing about  this is that, unlike many women, I'm not that interested in make-up and beauty products. For beauty products, I tend to stick with what I know. For make-up on GlossyBox, I ticked the 'Natural' option, although I prefer to think of my look as 'requires an increasing amount of make-up just to look as if I haven't made any effort at all'.

But I was delighted when my first box arrived - the anticipation of seeing which five items I'd been sent.  And it wasn't such a bad lot. A face scrub type thing, a body butter and a nail varnish in a colour I rather like were the highlights. The mini perfume is ok. Not sure I'll get much use out of the lipstick seal thing as I hardly ever wear lipstick, but all in all pretty good.

Which is a relief, because I'd signed up for three months so still have another two to come.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Since I mentioned it in my previous post...

I struggle with the issue of gay marriage. Or specifically, I struggle with why this is even an issue for much of the population.

There only seems to me to be two logical default positions on this:
  • For it - because you are gay, someone you love is gay, you believe in equality or you just really like weddings
  • Not bothered
I don't understand why people are against it. I mean I've heard the arguments, I know what they are, but they don't make sense to me.

If you aren't gay yourself, why do you care so much what other people are doing, if it doesn't affect you. I have heard some vague nonsense about how it will demean 'traditional' marriage. If your marriage feels less important because of something complete strangers are doing, then the problem in in your home.

Then there is the religion argument.  Apparently, god won't like it. Again, if it isn't you doing it, why should that worry you so much? Or is your god the type to smote everyone in his anger? In which case, I'd be questioning whether that is the kind of god I want to hang out with, rather than worrying about what Adam and Steve (or Adele and Eve) are doing.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Extreme dislike

The return to the blog isn't just going to be self-indulgent moaning or metaphorical reading into fruit growing. I do intend to cast my eye around the wider world from time to time.

Starting with politics.

Slightly late, admittedly, as this would have been more topical a week ago.

I now work in a pretty political environment, which is the one part of it I like. Working at the world's largest 'not a bookshop', the nearest to political debate we got was people expressing a preference for one fried chicken shop over another. So a good political debate first thing in the morning is appreciated now. But I remain and grow increasingly wary of party politics and the political system. But unlike a number of my countrymen, I haven't and will not be voting for UKIP anytime soon.

While keen to distance themselves from the BNP and their politics of hate, UKIP spout, at best, the politics of extreme dislike. Starting with their extreme dislike of Europe. Extending this to cover 'Johnny Foreigner' in general.

They claim to have increased their policy range - and it is true.  They have added to the list of things they are against:

- Gay marriage - I don't even know why this is a political issue (there is probably another post on my feelings on this subject)
- Wind turbines - with the obligatory reference to England's green and pleasant land
- the high speed rail line that goes through where people are likely to vote for them - although confusingly, they are generally pro-high speed rail - just not this one.

Even my mother, who I don't think would object to being described as politically naïve, spotted their absence of an economic recovery plan (although not in quite those words).