Sunday, 18 March 2018

I Went Wig Shopping

Yesterday, I went shopping for a wig.  It's something I've considered before during the time I've been struggling with hair loss but I've always come to the conclusion that it wasn't bad enough to go down that route.  That's changed in recent months - it's at the worst it's ever been just now - so I decided it was time to properly look into it.

I did some research and looked for wig shops nearby online, eventually settling on Betty Brown Wigs in York.  Of course there are shops in Leeds I could have tried but when I looked at their websites I just didn't get a very good vibe - you can tell a lot about a place from the effort they put into their site I think, and most of the early sites I looked at had very basic, hard to navigate pages that didn't inspire a lot of confidence in me.  I also didn't find many styles I liked on the online stock of any of the shops in Leeds.

When I found Betty Brown Wigs I knew I was on the right track.  The website was really professional and I managed to find a handful of styles I liked the look of, so I emailed them to book an appointment.

It was so much more positive than I was expecting.  I thought it would be upsetting and that there would be tears, and it wasn't like that at all.  It was actually quite fun!  I had thought that I wouldn't find one I liked, but actually by the end I was choosing between 4 or 5 that looked great.  They had kindly ordered in some of the styles that I'd said I liked from the website, and also had loads of others in stock that I was able to try on.  Funnily enough none of the ones I'd picked were quite right - the first one I tried made my head look about three times bigger - so I'm really glad that I did go somewhere to try them on.  I would have been so much less nervous about ordering one online than I was before going into the shop, but then it wouldn't have been right and would probably have resulted in more anxiety down the line.

I'm also really glad I went with my gut and chose Betty Brown for my first wig shopping experience, and don't think I will go anywhere else if I need to buy another one in the future.  The team were really friendly over email and when I called a couple of days before to confirm the appointment and explain that I was a bit nervous.  The assistant Becky who helped me try everything on the day was lovely, very calm and down to earth, and she was really helpful.  I didn't feel rushed at all, she let me try each one on multiple times and swap between them as much as I wanted.  We were the only ones in the shop anyway, but we were in a private fitting room as well.  I was so worried about being on show, or feeling rushed, or intimidated by glamorous hairdressing staff, but it was nothing like that.  I left in such a good mood, and it was a successful trip - I've settled on a style very close to how my hair looked before this all started, and they're ordering it for me in a shade close to my natural colour.  I'm actually pretty gobsmacked thinking about it - I never get anything right first time!

It is bittersweet and feels a bit like giving up on my own hair, but overall I'm feeling really good about it.  The pressure it's going to take off me is immeasurable really and that will have benefits in the long run even possibly for my natural hair.  It's been something of an epiphany to me to realise that yes, this is happening to me, but that it's not my fault and I don't have to grin and bear it every day and carry on feeling miserable - actually, I can have something to make me feel better.  People rely on all kinds of fakery to help them feel better and whereas before it was a case of weighing up the cost and the necessity, now that is it necessary I think the cost is negligible compared to how it will help me.

And it really will, I can't tell you how much.  I felt it the minute I put one on, just having the weight of hair around my shoulders and framing my face.  If I had cried at all I think they would have been happy tears.  I didn't need to worry about not feeling comfortable in one - I haven't felt that much like myself in a really long time.  I'm not planning on using it for every day wear but I loved it so much this could easily change!  And it's such a massive relief to me that it turned out that way.

Thank you to Becky at Betty Brown, to my mum, Paul and my best friend Ellie for their moral support during my appointment, and to all my friends who have been so supportive and kind.  Obviously my anxieties aren't going to magically disappear, but hopefully you'll be seeing a bit more of the old Holly around soon. 💓

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Five Star Read Predictions

Alternative title: some books I'm on the reserve list for at the library that I'm super impatient for.

Five Star Reads prediction videos are some of my favourite to watch on BookTube.  I don't have a YouTube channel (hold the laughter at the thought of me doing anything of the sort) but I wanted to play too!  The idea is to pick books you're yet to read that you think will be worth 5 stars just from the blurb or what you know of the concept.  Here are three titles I already know I'm going to love.

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They're both wrong.

One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally: a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband just months before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since.  Now with a young baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to question her parents’ deaths. But by digging up their past, she’ll put her future in danger. Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie…

I love a thriller and Clare Mackintosh is one of my favourite crime authors.  I loved her first two books I Let You Go and I See You, they were both so smart and slick and exactly what I look for in a thriller that now I'll read anything she brings out.  I don't even necessarily need to know what it's about, but incidentally the blurb for her third novel sounds like it will be equally as good as the others!  I'm currently right at the top of the waiting list for this one and I've seen it in Waterstones this week, so fingers crossed the library gets their copies in soon.


The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale
The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. It is the same every year. Across the city, when children wake to see ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice crackling underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open!
It is 1917, and London has spent years in the shadow of the First World War. In the heart of Mayfair, though, there is a place of hope. A place where children’s dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible – that place is Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium.

For years Papa Jack has created and sold his famous magical toys: hobby horses, patchwork dogs and bears that seem alive, toy boxes bigger on the inside than out, ‘instant trees’ that sprout from boxes, tin soldiers that can fight battles on their own. Now his sons, Kaspar and Emil, are just old enough to join the family trade. Into this family comes a young Cathy Wray – homeless and vulnerable. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own. But Cathy is about to discover that while all toy shops are places of wonder, only one is truly magical.

Serious Nutcracker vibes. I am so excited for this one, I'd be reading it right now if I could; hopefully I'll get the email from the library any day now!  It sounds like a cross between The Night Circus, one of my favourites ever, and The Dollmaker of Krakow which quite recently stole my heart (I raved about it here if you are interested). Unlike The Dollmaker though, The Toymakers is an adult novel so I hope it's going to be a little bit darker.  Anything involving magic gets my bookworm senses tingling and this sounds so special, I think I'm going to love it and I'm already expecting to have to buy my own copy when I've given it back to the library...


The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasya doesn't mind - she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse's fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honour the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.  After Vasya's mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasya's new stepmother forbids her family from honouring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasya is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.  And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasya's stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.  As danger circles, Vasya must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed - this in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse's most frightening tales.

As someone who enjoys fairy tales and folklore, this just sounds right up my street.  I've never read anything based on Russian folklore before but I love hearing stories from different cultures, and this sounds like perfect escapism.  Most of my best loved books have some element of fantasy and magic about them and I'm expecting a big serving of that from The Bear and the Nightingale.  It promises a vivid setting and a strong heroine too, which is always a plus.  I love that there are authors out there writing fairy tales for adults - I'll still happily read kid lit and middle grade to get my fix, but it's nice to be part of the target audience for this genre too.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

What I read in February

February has whizzed past me in the blink of an eye! Here are some good things that happened this month:
  • I finished watching Gilmore Girls and I already miss it so much.  I haven't watched the revival yet because I thought it would be best to have some time in between... and also I'm afraid I won't like it as much.  I wish I lived in Stars Hollow.
  • Exploring Chester and Liverpool with my mum. It was a beautiful (but cold) weekend and I got to tick something off my bucket list - visiting Penny Lane!
  • A solo trip to the theatre to catch a matinee performance of Birdsong.  I enjoyed the show, it didn't quite live up to my expectations but they were very high as I loved the book so much.  It was a novel experience being at the theatre alone but sometimes it's nice to do your own thing, and it's something I think I'll do more if there are things on that Paul isn't bothered about.

I also read three books this month.

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

Anatomy of a Scandal 

I think there was a lot of hype around this one that it didn't quite live up to, for me. I hesitated over reviewing it on Goodreads but eventually settled on 3/5 stars.  It was easy to read but that struck me as almost a bad thing given the subject matter; it's centred around a politician accused of rape, his wife and the prosecution lawyer with alternate chapters from each point of view.  I felt it could have been much grittier than it was and some of the characters seemed under developed, especially the accused.  There were a lot of instances of him looking women up and down and the like which was obviously meant to show him for a mysogynist but it seemed a bit cliche to me.
The court scenes were interesting to read but actually take up quite a small amount of the book which differed from what I expected.  It had some interesting points to make about power and privilege in the context of abuse, but overall a bit underwhelming.

Speaking in Tongues: Curious Expressions From Around the World by Ella France Sanders


This is more of a coffee table book but I loved flicking through it.  It's exactly what it says on the cover: an illustrated collection of curious expressions from around the world.  One of my favourites is 'sliding in on a shrimp sandwich' (glida in på en räkmacka) which is the Swedish equivalent of someone being born with a silver spoon in their mouth.  Apparently shrimp sandwiches are something very fancy in Sweden! 
It's funny to think about how strange these sayings sound in English but equally how strange some of our idioms must seem to other cultures.  Language is so quirky and amazing.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa (translated by Philip Gabriel)

The Travelling Cat Chronicles 

This was a lovely little book.  It follows Nana the cat and his owner Satoru as they travel the country visiting old acquaintances.  Satoru is looking for a new owner for Nana as for a reason unknown to the reader he soon won't be able to take care of him.  The chapters alternate between Nana's inner monologue and flashbacks to Satoru's time with each friend they visit.
At less than 250 pages it's a short, gentle read, the perfect thing to read in between bigger tomes.

Currently reading: The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar.  Come back next month for a review! :)

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Tinned Peaches

On the list of things I remember from spending time at my grandparent's house when I was little, tinned peaches are very near the top.  I can so clearly remember sitting at their kitchen table, eating peach slices in syrup.  I can picture the exact bowl and how I would split them in two, avoiding the fuzzy bit you sometimes get along the edge where they've been sliced too close to the stone; thick syrup dripping off the end of the spoon.

We had tinned peaches quite often and this memory isn't tied to any particular time, but when I think about it I see a beautiful day, sunlight streaming in through the kitchen window.  Maybe the back door was open - Grandma had one of those curtains made of colourful strips of plastic that would flap in the breeze.  Afterwards we probably played in the garden, pushed toy prams or rode bikes to the end of the drive and back again.

As I'm writing this, the sale of Grandma and Grandad's house is in progress.  It will belong to someone else soon.  I haven't really let myself think about it too much because it's so hard to accept that I'll never go there again;  for as long as I've been alive, it's been their house.  But I know that you don't need a physical place to hold your memories.  The pantry might be empty of tinned fruit and biscuits in tupperware boxes, but my heart will always be full, and there I'll always be able to find them.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Baz Luhrmann was right

Yesterday I decided to delete my Facebook apps from my phone.  I typed out a quick status letting my friends know they could contact me by text for the time being, and then got rid.  I haven't deleted my accounts altogether - although I might do when I can find time to go through and rescue all the photos - but I just wanted to take some time away.

I don't get much out of Facebook in general, I find it to be mostly endless memes and 'tag a friend' posts with only the occasional snippet of personal news and I'm usually only scrolling out of habit.  But my reason for taking a break is actually down to the 'On This Day' function.

It's like Baz Luhrmann said in Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen).

Trust me, in 20 years you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked... You are not as fat as you imagine.

It hasn't quite been 20 years but boy do I know what he meant.

Nostalgia is BIG at the moment what with all the TV revivals, old style products making a comeback etc. and I love it for the most part.  I love being reminded of things from my childhood and reminiscing with my friends about our school days is one of my favourite things to do.  But sometimes, nostalgia comes with a longing for the time or moment or person past that physically aches and that's how I feel about Facebook memories.

'Nostalgia and melancholia are thick as thieves.' - Heather O'Neill, The Lonely Heart's Hotel

Being confronted with old photos of myself (and I do mean confronted, it was alright when it was in the sidebar and you had the option not to look, but it's usually the first thing at the top of the feed at the moment) was only making me feel more unhappy with my now.   They weren't making me smile like they should, they were reminding me that I don't look or feel like the girl in those photos any more, and how much I wish I did.  I'm actually a little bit jealous of her.  I had my insecurities then too but they were nothing compared to the ones I have now, although I felt them very sharply at the time.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing, huh?

Related post: My Hair Story

It's not just about the photos either.  I've been on Facebook since I was 16 and the memories section is often a stark reminder of just how many people I've lost touch with over the years.

I usually look at social media in the morning while I'm getting ready for work, and on more than one occasion I caught myself thinking on this later on in the day.  I know they say you shouldn't compare your behind the scenes with everyone else's highlight reel, but they didn't say anything about your own.

Long story short, I realised that the easiest way to stop myself from getting sucked into comparing my life then and now was to limit my access, so Facebook and I are on a break, for now.  My memories are precious to me - I am a self-proclaimed memory hoarder in fact - but I'm not turning my back on them, just saving them for a time when I can look at them and smile.

I'm curious to know your thoughts on this one: have you ever taken a break from social media for similar reasons and did it help you?