Sunday, 27 September 2015

Things That Made Me Happy This Week #36

1// Trying new exercises I've been working hard trying to get into a new fitness routine this week. I decided to give a workout app a go so I can do a quick blast in the mornings before work (now it's too dark to run). It's going well so far.

2// Noonday I absolutely adored reading Pat Barker's latest. It finishes off the trilogy that started with Life Class and it was really brilliant to see where the characters ended up. Barker writes so well and there's some very haunting images of the blitz. 

3// Salmon salad In my attempts to cook more from scratch I threw together an enormous salad on Monday using everything I could find in my fridge. It was delicious.

4// Catching up with friends On Friday I met up with a friend to go for some moules frites and beer at Belgos. A lovely evening was had, topped off with an extremely tasty waffle. 

5// Wanderings On Saturday M and I set off for a walk with no destination in mind. We snaked all over London and ended up in Sloane Square where we stumbled upon an amazing food market and an equally amazing bookshop. Sometimes walking with no direction is the best thing to do.

What has made you happy this week? Share your link below and use #sharethehappy on twitter and instagram!


Saturday, 26 September 2015

Autumn || Things to Do

Autumn always seems to come with a huge array of events and things to see and do. Somehow I always feel like I have more energy to be out and about at this time of year. I guess that's to do with the cooling weather; autumn days seem much less languorous than summer days. I've come across so many exciting exhibitions and festivals so I thought I'd share with you a potential to do list for the next few weeks.

Head to a Literature Festival October is always host to a whole number of literature festivals including: Archway with WordsMarlborough Literature FestivalLondon Literature Festival, and Wimbledon Bookfest. I adore literature festivals and love to comb through programmes to see what tickles my fancy - I've got my eye on an event or two at Archway with Words this year.

Get some culture at an art exhibition There's nothing better when the autumn chill sets in than heading to a gallery to warm up. Thankfully there are plenty of exhibitions coming up that will make warming up a very enjoyable and cultural experience. I'm looking forward to the Goya portraits at the National Gallery and Bridget Riley at the Courtauld.

Spend a day in a museum I'm always talking about how much I love museums and I know this autumn I'll be making regular trips to my favourites. The Imperial War Museum is one of the top museums in London (in my humble opinion) and they're soon opening a photography exhibition which looks fascinating: Lee Miller: A Woman's War.

Get outside When the weather allows it I always try to spend as much time as possible in the great outdoors. I'll grab my camera, head to the local park and take plenty of snaps of fallen leaves and rust-red trees. It's even better when it's chill enough to see your own breath!

What will you be doing this autumn?


Friday, 25 September 2015

Last Week in Pictures

As you'll have seen in this post, last week was pretty hectic. In nine days I went from London to Taunton to Bristol to Taunton to London to Taunton to Devon to Taunton to York to Bishops Stortford to London. My beloved Nigel (a snazzy Vauxhall Corsa), proved to be a much trustier steed than I originally thought.

I don't really have any words to describe how wonderful last week was. It centered around my best friend's hen and wedding, before M and I drove up to York for a couple of days of relaxation in an eco-cottage in the middle of nowhere.

As I really don't know how to describe such a beautiful, hectic, emotional, blissful, loving week, I wanted to share some pictures with you instead. I think they capture my thoughts better than words.

P.S. my other half (the mysterious M) shared his thoughts on our adventures on his new blog here.


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The First Day of Autumn

Autumn is by far my favourite time of the year. I've said it before and no doubt I'll say it countless times more.

There are a whole load of tropes surrounding autumn, even more symbols and, dare I say it, a whole bunch of cliches too. When you strip back to basics and think about what autumn is in terms of nature, its all about change, nesting, gathering food for the winter, and preparing for the drop in temperature. To me that all suggests an opportunity for rejuvenation.

This year I will be making the most of the new season. I plan to spend even more time outside, walking and exploring, stomping through piles of leaves and layering vests and jumpers and scarves against the chill.

Whilst I'm spending time breathing in the fresh, crisp air, I'll be thinking about change and rejuvenation. I've been talking for a while now about needing to find a routine which inspires me and leaves me feeling good and I think the change in season is the perfect opportunity. Autumn for me is all about getting cosy and settling in - I can already feel this urge to nest creep over me, but I'm determined to hold it off a little longer so I can refresh my routines and have them in place before the need to nest truly takes over.

Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing a number of posts on this autumnal theme. I'm going to tackle my fitness routine and my eating habits (keep your eyes peeled for my favourite autumn recipes), and I'll also share my favourite autumn reads. Then who knows what else I'll be inspired to write about. Probably something homely and comforting!

Autumn is the final dance before the year starts to draw to its close - I encourage you to dance merrily, dance brightly and dance with vigour.

What does autumn mean to you?


Thursday, 17 September 2015

A Welcome Rest

This week so far has been wonderful. It has been crazy. It has been stressful. It has been, for lack of any better word, a complete whirlwind. Yesterday my best friend of many many years got married and I had the joy of being her Maid of Honour.

Last weekend was the Hen in Bristol, then I nipped back to London to get things done before driving back to Somerset very late on Monday ready to start the set up on Tuesday. Wednesday was the big day and, well, it was beautiful.

Today, M and I are driving from Somerset to Yorkshire to spend a couple of days in a lovely cottage in the middle of nowhere. After the past few weeks of craziness, this few days is a very welcome rest.  We've got books, we've got pjs and comfy clothes, and we have walking shoes for wandering around the fields. There won't be a 'Things That Made Me Happy This Week' post on Sunday as where we're going has no internet, but I'll be back next week refreshed and raring to go.

The book pile pictured above is my planned reading - I'm not going to have time to read them all, but I cannot wait to dig in. Noonday is going to be first for sure.

I do have one favour to ask of you all and that is in the form of recommendations. On Friday we're going to spend the day in York and I'm sure you know what I'm going to ask for: bookshop recommendations! If you know of any good ones, let me know.

Have a good week!


Tuesday, 15 September 2015

When Books Let You Down

This last week or so I've been reading The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. I've tweeted about it a couple of times and have been really positive and excited about it. I've read almost everything Waters has written and I've enjoyed them all - she is basically one of those authors I always rely on.

Then last Friday, about half way through the train journey from London to Taunton, it suddenly occurred to me that I was actually bored. Bored. I had the window seat, I had a kitkat (the mocha one which I suggest you all go and try right now), and I even had a sneaky gin and tonic. Yet still I was bored. When this realisation dawned on me it took a while to pinpoint the source of the boredom, but then I noticed that although I'd been reading The Paying Guests for well over a week, I was barely 200 pages in.

Only 200 pages? For a week's worth of reading? That ain't right.

I'm not sure what the problem is. The characters are well formed, the relationships believable, the writing enjoyable. I wonder if it's just a bit too slow, a bit too formulaic. I feel like I knew what was going to happen between Frances and her paying guest, Lillian, purely because it's what always happens in Waters's novels. But there's not a whole bunch else going on. I'm now nearly 300 pages in and seriously considering just setting it aside.

Yet when I look at the cover and it boasts of its place on the Bailey's Prize shortlist and The Sunday Times book of the year, I'm baffled. Am I missing something here? It's there some jaw-droopingly good subtext that I've glossed over? I'm pretty sure there isn't.

It always feels horrible to be let down by a book, particularly one I was so excited for. I wonder if it's a case of 'it's not you, it's me' and maybe this isn't the right time to read it. Maybe if I set it down and come back to it in a week or a month then suddenly something will click and I'll finish it in a flash. I really don't know.

Being let down by a book feels like being let down by a best friend. I always think of books as my silent friends, forever being a comfort, making me laugh, and making me feel part of something. What do you do when that fails? It often heralds the start of a slump - in fact, I DNF'd the book I was reading before this one, so maybe that's what it is. Maybe it really is me, not the book. Which begs the questions: is there a right and a wrong time to read a book? Perhaps I'm being over-dramatic (I'm certain I am), but disappointment is one of the worst emotions out there.

I've another 300 pages to go - do I continue?

What do you do if books let you down?


Sunday, 13 September 2015

Things That Made Me Happy This Week #35

1// Facial On Wednesday I took myself off to the Caudalie Boutique Spa in Covent Garden for a hydrating facial as an extremely belated birthday treat. I'm not usually one for that sort of thing (the touching makes me anxious), but it was actually really relaxing. Although apparently my shoulders are hella tense so I may have to do something about that!

2// Lest We Forget It's been a busy one this week. On Thursday I went to Sadler's Wells to see Lest We Forget, a new ballet inspired by the First World War. It, let's say interesting. It was beautiful and some of the music was lovely, but I'm just not sure I get ballet.

3// The Paying Guests I finally got around to buying Sarah Waters's latest and I'm not regretting it one bit. I've not had much time to read this week so it took me a while to settle into it, but I love it. Particularly because it's post-WW1 era (always a winner for me, as you know).

4// Audiobooks If you follow me on twitter you will have seen me mention audiobooks a couple of times this week. I started an audible trial and decided to go with Wild by Cheryl Strayed as my first pick. I think I'm going to be an audiobook convert very soon.

5// My bestie's hen party I'm in a hotel in Bristol this weekend having the most relaxing time for my best friend's hen party. There has been much giggling, much chilling and many memories made.

What has made you happy this week? Share your link below and use #sharethehappy on twitter and instagram!


Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Bloodie Bones by Lucienne Boyce

A couple of years ago I took part in a blog tour for Lucienne Boyce's first novel To the Fair Land (you can read my glowing review here) so when she contacted me to let me know her second novel, Bloodie Bones, was shortly to be released I could barely contain my excitement.

Bloodie Bones is a wonderfully thrilling historical mystery featuring Dan Forster, a Bow Street Runner and amateur pugilist. Dan is sent to a quiet (or not, as we quickly discover) village in Somerset where someone under the guise of 'Bloodie Bones' is wreaking havoc on the local Lord. Lord Oldfield triggers the series of destructive acts by enclosing Barcombe Wood, the food and fuel source and even home of many local people. The action reaches a climax when Oldfield's gamekeeper, Josh Castle, is murdered and a note from 'Bloodie Bones' left with the body.

All of this has happened before the novel opens. We join the action in the wake of Castle's murder and travel with Dan down to Somerset as he begins his investigations. Even though we're thrown straight into the action, it did take me a few pages to settle in to the story. Once I'd got the hang of Dan and his method of investigating - he's essentially an undercover detective - I was hooked. A red herring or two later and we get to the final denouement which was both surprising and believable (don't you just hate a denouement that is miles away from what happened in the rest of the novel?). As with To the Fair Land, Boyce deals with the big reveal with skill. I particularly liked how as a reader we can figure out the perpetrator at the same time as Dan, rather than elements being hidden from us.

Dan is a brilliant character. You get a real sense of him and I love how Boyce has built up a really detailed life story for him. From his unfortunate upbringing, to his deviant youth doing anything to get by, to his marriage to a beautiful (yet alcoholic) wife and the feelings he not-so-secretly harbours for his sister-in-law. He's not perfect and I really like that - no one wants a do-gooder protagonist. In fact his whole character has a Dickensian feel which complements the story really well.

Ultimately this is a really enjoyable read. I found it well paced and there were enough cliff-hangers to keep me wanting to read on (I had a couple of late nights reading this). As a fan of mystery/detective novels from the golden age (Christie, Sayers etc.), it was a refreshing change to read about a 'common' protagonist, by which I mean someone entirely normal who has built himself up from humble beginnings.

I could talk about this novel much more - the writing, the setting, the characters, the second mystery running underneath the main storyline - but I won't, instead I will just enthusiastically encourage you to read it. If you're a fan of historical novels, mystery novels and historical mystery novels then this is one for you. I personally am looking forward to seeing where Dan goes next and joining him for the ride.

Do you like a historical mystery?

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* I received a free copy of this novel for review purposes. All opinions are my own and receiving a copy in no way influences my review.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Things That Made Me Happy This Week #34

1// #WeAreBloodwise The charity I work for changed their name this week to Bloodwise. It's been a really exciting week because of the change and the support line service that I'm a part of is now live. It feels good to be really invested in the organisation I work for and I can't wait to see what Bloodwise does next.

2// The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz I read this book in two days it was that good. I'd really recommend it for the insights he shares into human behaviour. Fascinating stuff.

3// Exploring Holborn I've spent my lunch breaks this past week exploring my new work area. Holborn is a really busy area, but there's lots of things to stumble upon - like this flower pot with a Lion King quote!

4// Ghostbusters at The Scoop On Friday I grapped a picnic and some warm clothes and headed to the South Bank to watch Ghostbusters on the big screen at More London. As ever this venue was brilliant and the atmosphere top notch - everyone sang along to the theme song!

5// Writing a review I wrote my first review in weeks over on Centenary News this week. It took me ages, but it was such a good book I just had to say something about it. I reviewed The Cartographer of No Man's Land by P.S. Duffy.

What has made you happy this week? Share your link below and use #sharethehappy on twitter and instagram!


Friday, 4 September 2015

September Goals

1// Cook three meals from scratch per week

2// Take one evening a week to do nothing but read

3// Aim for 2x runs and 2x gym sessions a week

4// Work on getting settled completely into the new job by the end of the month

5// Buy with intention - a sturdy pair of shoes and waterproof coat

6// Go through travel journal and write a post for a least one destination

What are your goals for September?


Wednesday, 2 September 2015


A few years ago I was most definitely a night owl. Having bouts of insomnia as a teen meant that I was used to seeing the early hours, so I easily slipped into a similar late night/late morning routine throughout college and uni. I love the night time and the silence of 2am; I love the crispness of it all and the awareness of my own being as I sit there cocooned in the dark. Inevitably routines change and evolve and can often have the most wonderful consequences.

These days I'm an early bird. I can quite easily wake up at 6am or before and potter around the flat or squeeze in a workout before the day begins. Knowing that I'm snatching those few extra hours before my housemates are awake fills me with joy.

The mornings are my time. Evenings are so easily claimed by others, by social situations, by necessary activities, but mornings, well, they're all mine. Those two hours before I have to leave and battle the crowds and the heat of the tube are all mine to do with what I wish. They're calm, they're silent, and there is so much space to just be.

Over the last year or so, and particularly since my recent job change, I have carved out a routine that benefits my mind and body and sets me up wonderfully for the day ahead.

Some days I'll get up and face the day with a run. I'll roll straight out of bed into my kit and hit the pavement before I really have time to think. I find that's the best way to workout in the mornings. Just get up and go - no thinking allowed.

On days when I don't run I take things slowly. I hit the shower and get myself dressed first and then I head to the kitchen. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day so a lot of thought goes into it (even though I pretty much always have the same thing). I'll pop the kettle on whilst I put together my meal and then head to the table where I'll sit facing the window so I can think and watch the early planes flying home towards Heathrow.

Mornings are a fresh canvas. There are no marks, no smudges, no half-finished lines and certainly no intrusive opinions. It's just there, waiting for you to start with your first bold stroke. Everyday I'll go through a number of steps - preparing the canvas, so to speak - so that I know that no matter how the day progresses, it will have started serenely. Every morning I will:

Drink something hot whether that's coffee, herbal tea or classic hot water and lemon

Eat something fresh and healthy I always have homemade muesli with blueberries (I make muesli about once a week so the ingredients vary, but usually it is oats, raisins, goji berries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and flaked almonds) or yoghurt with a ton of fresh fruit

Take a minute to welcome the morning, to think about the day ahead and decide how I'd like it to pan out

Do something creative often I'll write (journal, blog post) or read (book, magazine, online articles) and this never fails to invigorate my mind

What does your perfect morning look like?


Tuesday, 1 September 2015


This challenge didn't quite work out as I hoped. It turns out that changing jobs mid-month is quite  stressful and very busy socially - goodbye drinks at one organisation and hello drinks at the next. Suffice to say I didn't achieve the main goal of #activeaugust which was to be active every day. Having said that, I realised that I am active each day in one way or another. I move constantly. I always take the stairs, I'll frequently get off the tube a stop early or get on a stop late, I spend my lunchbreaks moving and my weekends always include a plethora of activities that have me walking the length and breadth of London (or so it feels).

For that reason I will not call this a failed challenge, I'll call it a learning curve.

I need to accept that I cannot do a full workout everyday. I need to accept that my body needs rest. I need to accept that a missed session does not equal a stone gained. I need to accept that being active makes me happy and that to force it will lessen its power.

I am happy with the amount of exercise I have done this month, particularly given how busy it has been. I've changed things up at the gym and fit in more runs than I've managed in a long time. I feel stronger, I feel healthier, I feel happier. If that's not a successful challenge then I don't know what is.

It's time to give myself a break and remember why I aim to be active in the first place - because I love it.

Here's to being active for the right reasons.

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