mardi 16 juillet 2019

Maybe useful, maybe not

I’ve been making a lot of stuff lately. I’ve been low-key productive, focused on the small things. It’s been nice. I find pottering very relaxing. These things make me feel in control when I’m not. I really value peace, at the moment. Also I like it when the end product outweighs the effort involved.

I’m trying hard to live a little bit healthily, for myself and the world.

Here are some of the things I’ve been making and doing, in case it’s useful to you.

This recipe for kimchi has really improved my life. It’s so easy, it keeps, it’s good for your gut, and it makes a really good dinner just with a bowl of rice. I leave out the weird addition of carrots, but once I used the spicy pickling paste just to pickle some carrots on their own, because they were sitting about getting a bit old, and they were incredible. The moral of the story is: spicy pickle anything and everything. Also apple cider vinegar works just fine if, like me, that is your thing.

This very, very basic jam recipe is great if you have any fruit that needs using up. If you feel a little bit fancy, you can add vanilla or balsamic vinegar or thyme. I have some foraging planned.

You can then have your homemade jam on these vegan pancakes for ridiculous smug levels. They are among the best pancakes I have ever made, vegan or no, and so simple you might as well just make them every Sunday. Yay grown-up life.

Who knew that making your own oat milk was SO EASY? Also: ridiculously cheap and saves on packaging (buy your oats from a bulk store and take your own jar!)

Making your own rice milk is also very easy, but I find it a bit less delicious. Still, worth doing if you just have a bit of cooked rice leftover, which you can then use to make chia pudding.

Making your own hummus, if you do it from dried chickpeas bought in bulk, also saves a lot of those little plastic tubs if you get through as much hummus as I do.

Now that I’ve tuned into reducing packaging, it’s hard not to think about it at all times. So just to cut things down, I’d also recommend this deodorant (all natural, comes in paper packaging, works really well) and this luxurious shampoo bar (invented by my friend Jonathan and probably the fanciest shampoo bar there is, although I also quite like the Lush Godiva one).

If, like me, you have limited outdoor space and limited gardening skill/time, I also recommend plants and seeds from the pound shop. I’ve got some carrots growing on my kitchen windowsill from a pack of 79p seeds. I just sprinkled them around and hoped for the best, and magic seems to be happening.

I could, should and hopefully will do more of the above type stuff. Please send me your recs (ideally on Instagram, where I now spend all of my time looking for eco life hacks and sexy sobriety). Thanks!

lundi 15 juillet 2019

Holiday Friends

A weekend of many a seaside jaunt, including going to see my friend Paul Murray sing some lovely songs and we all talked about whether we should move to Worthing. Paul is of the marvellous musical duo Bee & Jackrabbit and, as always, I am astounded that they are not internationally renowned and revered, TBH.

If, like me, you also watched series 3 of Stranger Things in one big gulp and are now slightly bereft - here is another little musical gem that echoes my many strong feelings about Steve Harrington.

I've now started watching Call My Agent, which is fun. It's really trashy, but in a glamorous way because it's French.

I also went swimming, which was nice. I should go swimming more.

Yesterday I made pancakes for breakfast and ate them with homemade jam, and few things have ever brought me more joy. I have high hopes of our late homegrown carrots, and a plethora of pickling plans. The herb garden is coming on beautifully. I have homemade kimchi in my packed lunch today. I've got my eye on some blackberries for foraging.

I wonder if this sudden and virulent enthusiasm for preserving things in jars is a futile reaction to the terrible state of the world at large. Probably. It's the sort of thing that can make you feel like you're in control of events when you're really, really not. Oh well.

Conversely, watching a lot of rubbish late-night horror films and Japanese wrestling. Grown-up life can be pretty great.

mardi 9 juillet 2019

Notes from *any* divorce.

I've been thinking a lot about last weekend's Emma Forrest article.

I agree with her wholeheartedly that: 
"The thing I find most painful about divorce is that there is no marked spot at which to leave offerings."

In the end, I can only conclude that the best thing we can do is to write about it.

Emma's writing has always helped me, perhaps because I relate far too heavily to all of it. I have read her memoir Your Voice In My Head probably more times than I've ever read anything else. It's certainly influenced my current writing a lot.

When she got married I literally started a scrapbook of her Elle columns about marriage. 'If she can do it, maybe I can too,' I thought. 'Maybe...' 

However, as always, her words tap into a comforting place, no matter how sad the topic. I was also reminded of the time my friend Ali and I followed a man around Marrakech for an entire afternoon because we thought he might be George Michael. He was not George Michael.

I'd like to be in Marrakech right now. It was a place I long dreamed of before I ever went there. It was more magical than I would ever have expected. For years, I thought I'd end up being like the mum in Hideous Kinky one day. I don't think that any more.

This week a year ago my dog died and I went to Switzerland with a boy I barely knew.

Anyway. Observations today include that spicy-pickling carrots is always an excellent decision. I'm also heavily into aubergines right now (sprinkle them with sumac and roast them). I've been reading about meditation, which I am quite bad at. I'm prepared to try.

Tomorrow I am 30 days sober and have been instructed to buy myself a treat.

My life has been quite small, lately. It's been domestic and cosy, and I have enjoyed it. I'm starting to feel the itch to do bigger work, though. Maybe because I watched Brene Brown last night and... if you know, you know.

lundi 8 juillet 2019

What I've been up to.

It’s been a quiet cosy time, but it also feels like a productive time.

I have been making a lot of stuff. Kimchi, oat milk, hummus, chocolate spread. I have been pickling a lot of things. The olive tree in the garden has yielded an abundant freak crop of Brighton olives. I’m trying to make us into a zero waste household. I’ve planted some carrots. I’ve started using a natural deodorant and I don’t even seem to stink.

I went to a gin festival and drank coffee.

I’ve been to some nice gigs. I highly, highly recommend checking out the ED Fowler Band and Peter Cat, two of the best things I’ve seen lately.

I re-read The Outrun by Amy Liptrot and The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy, both of which are beautifully written and highly inspiring. This is the sort of thing I’m in the mood for these days.

I went to a Belinda Carlisle drag queen contest and it was a lot of fun.

I went for a massage, on a whim. Never done it before, best decision ever.

I’m trying to do yoga every single day, and it is helping.

I watched all of the new series of Stranger Things in a 24-hour period. I cried profusely at the end. Rare for me these days; I don’t cry nearly as much as I used to.

I hate shopping but I’ve suddenly taken to buying second-hand clothes on the internet. Getting parcels is fun. So is having a lot of jumpsuit options, it turns out.

I am in awe of my wonderful friend Harriet, who has made a book and a baby in dazzlingly quick succession. She is one of the most beautiful writers on this earth, and you should definitely read the book.

I’ve been listening to Domino Kirke’s beautiful record a lot and also aiming to be beyond waves. There’s graffiti at the end of my road that declares NO MORE DRAMA and I want it tattooed on my heart.

Today I am 28 days sober, like that film with Sandra Bullock.

lundi 17 juin 2019

100 days.

I am doing 100 days of not drinking. I am only on day 8, so I don't have any profound words of wisdom, but I like to write things down.

Actually, I've been enjoying not drinking. Unexpectedly so. I can't remember the last time I went over a week without having a drink.

During this week, I have been on a date night (drank tea!), been to the pub with friends (drank ginger ale, nobody particularly noticed or cared), been away to Edinburgh for the weekend (went to an awesome Stranger Things-themed pop-up bar and asked them to make me a 'very sour' mocktail).

I took my boyfriend out for a birthday dinner and thought there might have been a mistake in calculating the bill for our incredible three-course meal... then realised dinner is pretty much half the price if you don't drink a kir royale, then a bottle of wine, then maybe a glass of dessert wine.

I might start adding up how much I am not-spending on booze, and put it in a savings account. Or at least buy myself a treat. If I include hangover food in this amount, I might soon have a small fortune.

I am excited about doing jobs around the house and cooking and maybe taking up knitting again.

I am - tentatively - thinking I might keep this up.

I'm less than a tenth of the way through... let's see how I get on.

samedi 1 juin 2019

5 years of birthdays

The year I ran a marathon, went to Hydra, got my first 'proper' book deal. My dad took me out to lunch on my birthday and told the waitress my book was being published. We drank champagne.
The last birthday I would spend with my first serious boyfriend. I wonder now how much I realised it at the time. I spent every birthday with him from 22 to 33. Things fell apart very quickly after this one.

Alone, drinking wine in an art gallery in Hastings while I waited for my then-boyfriend to finish a meeting with a French lady curator. We got fish and chips on the way home. My first book came out the next day. I was hungover and anxious, and felt I couldn't complain.

A weekday and nobody to spend it with. I went to work. I was supposed to go out to dinner with my mum, but a mix-up meant we met for a very quick drink and I was on the train back to Brighton by 7pm. Alone, drinking wine and smoking in the garden. Had a little cry.

On holiday in Spain with my nan. Sea swimming. Much gin. Tying myself in knots over a boyfriend who turned out to be the worst one I ever had. Things soon got worse, then better.

Paris. Patti Smith. A garden full of pals. The last birthday I would spend with Lily. Things were pretty good, soon to get much better.


jeudi 30 mai 2019

Nearly a year

It's my birthday on Sunday. I will be 38 years old.

'Do you remember what I said to you, this time last year? I knew it was going to be your year,' a wise friend said to me this morning. 'And it has been!'

It's been a BIG year, at least. A lot has happened. It's all happened quickly.

I've had a lot of adventures. I've been to some new countries. (Finland and Russia, since I last posted here!)

I've cleared out a lot of stuff. I've given up smoking. I've cut off all my hair. I feel Kon-Mari-ed to the absolute core.

Last year I had a birthday party and invited an interesting new friend. A month later we decided on a whim to go on holiday together. We've lived in the same house for six months now.

In my writing life, I've taken some risks that have paid off. I feel like I've made progress and got better at some of the things I do. I've started trying out some new ideas.

It's only been possible because I laid the groundwork first. When I turned 36, I realised that if I was not at rock-bottom, then at the very least things had to change. A month after my birthday, I called a therapist and when she asked how she could help me, I cried so hard I couldn't speak. I've been seeing her every week for nearly two years now, and I know that I wouldn't have the relationship I have or be doing the writing I am doing now if I hadn't made that call.

This time last year, when I turned 37, I spent the day before my birthday in Paris. I felt so much happier in myself but I also felt in flux, ready for things to change.

I know as well as anyone that life can change in a minute, for better or worse. Whatever happens, I feel for the first time like I'll be OK.

I am a solid fucking grown-up woman. It feels great.