vendredi 3 avril 2020

Lessons in Isolation

Nobody really needs another hot take on this. But I like to write things down and remember them.

My cancelled book launch seems a long time ago now. However, the book is obviously still available and is the ideal ebook or audio choice at the moment (Cosmo says so, calling it 'a fun and uplifting memoir')! You can also still order via my friends at The Feminist Bookshop if you want to help out a small business.

I am mostly feeling very zen, very lucky and like 'normal' life is now a dim and distant memory.

My attention span seems to be shot and I can barely read. In a way it's quite relaxing. My main leisure pastime at the moment is reading about other people's beauty routines.

Relatedly, I am trying to make isolation feel like a luxe experience, so have developed an elaborate skincare routine and dragged all sorts of treats out from the back of the cupboard (foot exfoliators! pore strips! sparkly nail varnishes!).

I am enjoying the communal feeling of live-streamed events, whether dance classes or gigs. There is something comforting about knowing things are happening in real time.

I now do Joe Wicks PE lesson every morning.

There are tulips coming out in the pots on my little patio. I also do skipping on the patio. This makes me feel very lucky.

I have eaten kitcheree (my nan's old recipe) for my last three meals. I'm pretty happy about this.

I am fantasising about getting all the tattoos when I get out of here, getting my nails done (which I have done maybe twice in my entire life thus far), going on day trips to Hastings and poking through junk shops.

I will almost definitely succumb to the questionable box dye I found in the bathroom cupboard.

I do not think I will have a new book written by the end of this, despite initial optimism.

mardi 10 mars 2020

A few bits about people who are not me.

The Reverend Richard Coles is truly one of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. He was exactly how you would expect/hope him to be. He radiates kindness and warmth, and he is just as interested in people, whether the microphones are switched on or not. This wonderful article really captures a bit of that.

I also recently had the pleasure of chatting to Sally Howard, and I cannot wait to read her new book. It's all about how women in co-habiting heterosexual relationships STILL do the vast majority of the housework, even in partnerships where both partners identify as feminist. Relevant to my interests (and, curiously, to a degree I don't usually admit in public), tbh.

If you're preparing for self-isolation, I would do so by pre-ordering the new book from living legend Holly Bourne.

I'm now embarrassed to admit that I used to be addicted to the Daily Mail sidebar of shame. I haven't looked at it in years now, and my life is much better for it. I'm still surprised when I see friends, colleagues and fellow commuters looking at it, even now when we know the Daily Mail is basically evil, but I do understand we have to get our gossip somewhere. I definitely do. I recommend Lainey Gossip as an ethical way of getting your fix if you are so inclined.

I've unexpectedly become interested in Christian rock (long story) and, particularly, in the singular and unapologetic eccentricities of Joshua S. Porter. This book is not my usual sort of thing but it is fun and interesting.

This is the best film I've seen lately, recommended by my friend Jess. Both of the main actors are great in it, but I was particularly struck by the character of Jake, who seemed like a real-life person I would go out with. He was sensitive and sexy in a goofy way. It made me think about how rare this is to see on film.

I'm a bit obsessed with Cash Carraway. Her brilliant memoir is now out in paperback and you should definitely buy it.

Oh and, because I'm pretty self-absorbed during this final run-up to publication, this was in the Telegraph at the weekend.

Finally, I wrote an essay for my evening class that ended up (unexpectedly) being about this current 'be kind' trend. It's clearly well-intentioned, but feels so hollow and useless. We all already think we are kind; we need to examine our own prejudices and beliefs about who deserves our kindness. We need to think about a much more nuanced understanding of empathy. A few days after I handed it in, Eva Wiseman (incidentally, one of my very favourite journalists), tackled the same subject much better than I could.

vendredi 28 février 2020

What we do.

It's been so long since I have written anything here! However - just for myself - I would like to keep this little diary going.

Since I last checked in, I spent Christmas in Iceland, which was delightful. 2020 has begun in a way that I cannot believe. I keep consciously reminding myself to make the most of it, to enjoy it.

STAUNCH comes out in hardback and audiobook on 19th March. If you are considering reading it at any point, preordering it is a MASSIVE help to writers and I will be eternally grateful (thank you). It's available from all the usual places, but I like to buy books from Hive if ordering online.

I spent two days in a small room in Kilburn with a view of a graveyard, recording the audiobook. I was really nervous and thought reading my weird book out loud in its entirety might feel really uncomfortable. In fact, it was a very positive, fun and quite cathartic experience. This was mostly down to Jack Beattie, the producer, who was a joy and to whom I am very grateful. If the idea of hearing my actual voice for 6 hours and 43 minutes is remotely appealing, the audiobook is also available to preorder!

After that, I went straight to the Roundhouse (where, ridiculously, I had never actually set foot inside before - it's such a lovely venue). To see California's finest beach goths, The Growlers. That was really fun.

From there, I went pretty much straight to the BBC, where (in a real 'what even is this crazy wonderful life?' experience) I was a guest on Radio 4 Saturday Live! I was interviewed about STAUNCH by the lovely Reverend Richard Coles, who was just as delightful in person as you would hope. He is just as interested in people whether the microphones are on or not. I was a guest alongside some really cool people: Zawe Ashton, Amit Patel (and Kika, who made the whole experience extra fun) and a guy called Bob who lives off-grid in a converted bus and kept trying to sneak off to smoke. It was awesome. You can listen on catch-up here!

After that, I went home for a very long sleep. Having had an early morning at the BBC and a lot of coffee, I was home by lunchtime, which felt very surreal!

I ate vegan pancakes on pancake day (the most wonderful time of the year). I did yoga every single day in January.

I am now gearing up for publication time. I am having a launch party at The Feminist Bookshop (the place of dreams) on publication day. There will be (vegan) cake (and vegan gluten-free brownies).

I am still not drinking, almost nine months now. I am in phase 2 of my evening classes.

I have a piece in Red magazine this month (April), as part of their 'family' issue. A bit of another dream come true, really - it's such a lovely magazine with great writers.

With a bit of luck in the current climate, I will be going to Abu Dhabi next week. Then back just in time to launch my book into the world.

I'm booking future holidays, as I might feel depressed when the book is out there and that's it (but I'm not sure I will, this time). I think the key to happiness is having things to look forward to. I know I am very, very lucky to be able to live like this. I haven't always been able to and I appreciate it. As someone who is so focused on the future, these days I also make an effort just to be happy in a quiet moment. It's amazing how much the ordinary can delight me these days. Coffee, cats, a book, clean bedding, gratitude every morning. Again, it hasn't always been so. I am very, very lucky.

lundi 2 décembre 2019

The first Sunday in December

Yesterday was Christmas tree day. I'm not a big fan of Christmas - being a chronically anxious child of divorce who may or may not have a drinking problem, it's not the best time for me. However, I love Christmas tree day.

This is a new thing for me. Until two years ago, I never had a Christmas tree of my own. What was the point? Well.

It's such a frivolous thing, but two years ago - when I decided to bother getting a Christmas tree for 'just me' - this represented a genuine shift in my attitude towards myself. I have an unexpectedly frugal streak, bordering on the puritanical (my parents both remain baffled by where this could have come from) and would sit in the cold and dark eating baked beans from a can (to 'save on washing up') if it were 'just me'. I'd lived in my house for years by that point and never once had a Christmas tree there. For years before that, I'd lived with an ex where we both agreed it was better just not to bother - which in retrospect speaks such sad, sad volumes.

But on the first Sunday in December two years ago, my friend Katherine and I went out together and each bought a small Christmas tree, bringing them back with much hilarity in a large taxi with an impatient driver. I was single, living alone, and I loved every minute of decorating the tree and drinking whisky by myself, singing along with Christmas songs.

Every evening, putting the Christmas lights on - and turning them off when I went to bed alone at night - brought me unprecedented joy. Having the tree gave me an excuse to have a Christmas drinks party, which got very out of hand and ended with me finding a bottle of cassis in the washing machine a few days later.

At the end of Christmas, dragging my own now near-dead tree to the recycling point at the park, felt like a huge achievement. Even sweeping up the needles afterwards brought me a low-key sort of joy.

Christmas tree day is now a tradition that makes me feel great about myself. I love it that I have a bag of Christmas decorations (mismatched and mostly from the charity shop) that I can pull out every year like a real grown-up.

Yesterday was sunny and I put on a very jolly jumper for the occasion. Because times have changed, I bought a bottle of non-alcoholic mulled wine and made this vegan Christmas tiffin, which I very highly recommend. Also, curiously, I recommend Batman Returns as a very, very jolly Christmas film.

The tree brought me a flash of joy when I got up this morning. I will spend the next month coming home every night in a state of terror that one of the cats will have pulled the whole lot over (again), and I'm delighted about it.

This year, in a new twist, I am actually looking forward to Christmas. For the first time ever, I have just decided 'fuck it' and I am going away. On Christmas Day I will be swimming in a lagoon in Iceland. I'm not sure I have ever looked forward to anything more in my life.

dimanche 10 novembre 2019

Trick Pony

After I've written a book, I always feel like I've pulled off some sort of black magic that I may never manage again. It's always a panicky, identity-shifting feeling. Who am I if I can't say 'I'm a writer'?

I've been through it enough times now that I know I will have several ideas in between books that won't come to anything. Ideas that aren't really very good, that are too flimsy to sustain an entire book (or my interest). Invariably I will tell people that I'm working very hard on something new, then feel embarrassed when it fades out to nothing. I have abandoned half-books and even whole books before.

This time I've found that I don't care nearly as much. I think I will probably write another book. It's what I do. I only want to do it if I think I have something interesting to say. There are a lot of books in the world.

I think sometimes you know when you're really onto something. The 'breadcrumbs of curiosity' that fall into your life and point you towards what you're supposed to be doing. You can't force it.

I haven't worked on anything in earnest since STAUNCH came out.

Because publishing works very slowly, that means it is well over a year since I wrote anything with the intention of it becoming a book.

Amazingly, for the first time, I'm fine with that. I've had a great time. I've been on loads of holidays. I've read lots of other books. I've taken up knitting again. I've watched loads of TV - I'm more OK than ever with really doing nothing. I've got quite into gardening.

I've given up smoking and cut my hair and moved in with my boyfriend. I've seen a lot of my friends. I've spoken on the phone to my nan most days. I've started taking evening classes.

I have had a lot going on, most of it good, and I now consciously remind myself to be gentle with myself. I try to treat myself as I would a dear friend, a friend who I really love. A friend who I treat with kind care. I tell myself not to panic.

I might or might not have a new idea.

vendredi 8 novembre 2019

The proof is in

I received proof copies of STAUNCH this week. These are the uncorrected proofs, bound like a book but not quite a finished one yet, which will be sent out to people as pre-publicity for the real book (which comes out in March).

It's a funny feeling. This is the third 'proper' book that I have written by myself (there have also been e-books and collaborative projects and many manuscripts that have never seen the light of day). I tried so hard to have a book published for so long, I thought I would feel very emotional about finally seeing my book as a real object. When it finally happened, there was a lot of other stuff going on and I didn't really give myself enough time or space to feel my feelings - curiously, I felt nothing. I didn't feel any of the validation that I had always assumed I would. I didn't even feel particularly proud of myself. It seemed entirely separate from me. I guess there's a lesson about unfillable spaces and how all the books and boys and drinks in the world won't make a difference.

This time, though, it was different. The box arrived and it took me a little while to open it. I circled it in my kitchen. The cat sat on it. I made myself a cup of coffee. I sat down and opened it slowly.

I bought myself flowers. I ate some cake. I set up a little shrine on my kitchen table, with candles and a few objects I had bought in India.

I sat there at the kitchen table, where I wrote the whole book. I felt really proud of myself. This book came from my guts and I am now actually really excited about it coming out into the world.

My boyfriend came home from work and I wouldn't let him touch it, but we danced around the kitchen.

'I'm proud of you,' he said.

And so am I.

STAUNCH. Coming March 2020.

mardi 24 septembre 2019

New Shoes

I love back-to-school time. While the mornings are getting a bit depressing, the sunrises are worth it and I am already excited about cosy evenings involving soup, blankets and candles. Last night was spent debating this year's Hallowe'en costumes. Autumn is underway.

As I have already banged on about a lot, I am now pretty much not buying new things. Depop has (quite dangerously) become my new best friend. My newest-to-me purchase has brought me so much joy I cannot tell you.

I have new school shoes.

I have bought a pair of second-hand DM shoes, identical to the ones I wore for school between the ages of 13 and 16. I love them so much. I feel solid and my clunky footsteps delight me. It was pouring with rain this morning, and for once my feet felt warm and dry. I am enjoying wearing them with a cropped trouser and a jazzy sock. Shoes haven't made me so happy, probably since my last pair of DMs - which I had to beg my mum for and promise I would wear at weekends as well to justify the expense (which I did, for years). Truly happy-making shoes for the back-to-school month.

Most importantly, it's the season when I feel the most productive. I have so many new ideas and just need to get on with it and do them.

Today really is back-to-school day. Tonight I am taking my new shoes and my rucksack and my new notebook to an evening class. This will be the first new thing I have learned in a long time, and the first non-writing-related endeavour I have undertaken... maybe ever? New stuff. It's scary and good. Wish me luck.