Sunday, 15 July 2018

Remember?

I told you once.  Remember?  'I need to get over you.'  You looked at me, lifted my chin gently with your finger.  'I'll miss you,' you said.  I thought you would kiss me.  Instead, you flew away.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

A note for Bloglovin followers...

I've made the decision to remove my blog from Bloglovin.  I've been suspicious of the platform for a while now since I seem to have been followed by so many 'bot' and follower boosting accounts.  This wouldn't have bothered me if not for the fact that you can't manage your blog followers as you can on Twitter or Instagram where you can easily remove someone.  Even to remove my blog I have to contact support so all in all, it makes me pull this face: 😕 and it's time to go.

If you'd still like to see my posts this is your heads up to bookmark or otherwise save my blog somewhere so you can still pop by!  I usually link to my posts on Twitter if you'd like to follow me there.  I've added a follow by email option to my sidebar as well.

Thanks for reading x

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Notes from March

Previously known as What I read in... but it wouldn't be my blog if things were consistent now would it?


March has seemed like such a long month compared with January and February!  Not in a bad way, but when I think about some of the things I did at the beginning of the month they seem like at least half a year ago.  Here are March's highlights:

  • Brunch with Alice at Fettle Cafe
  • A visit from Noel and a great night in watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which I've never seen before and which made me snort with laughter in quite a few places
  • Two trips to the theatre!  The first to see War Horse which was my Christmas present from Paul.  It was absolutely amazing, so atmospheric and the puppets blew me away, I couldn't believe how lifelike the horses were.  They were never completely still, all the time they were breathing, flicking their tails, pawing the ground.  Just incredible.  Then a week later Paul and I went to see Tim Vine - a totally different experience, he is absolutely bonkers.

  • Snow, snow and more snow.  I used to say that I hated snow but let's be honest, last time we had proper snowfall I was more likely to be going out wearing unsuitable footwear and not enough layers.  This time we had a real flurry and I loved walking to work in it, the excuse to dig out my floral wellies, enjoying the hushed feel of the morning.
  • Fancy hot chocolate with my sister at Hotel Chocolat
  • An afternoon in York with my best friends, having lunch and shopping
  • Lunch with my dad and the tiny glass elephant he gave me... A treasure 💓
  • Shopping for and collecting my first wig and getting a little bit of myself back - I wrote more about my experience here


And here's what I read in March...

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock tells the story of Jonah, a widowed merchant in the 1700s who unexpectedly acquires a mermaid.  His new possession makes him rich and famous and steers him from a humble existence to high society and a world of opulence and debauchery that he's never experienced before.  At a party he meets Angelica Neal, an accomplished courtesan, and from then their lives are linked.

It took me a good long while to get through this one which is usually a sign I'm not enjoying a book as much as I thought, but I really liked it.  I was pulled in straight away by the premise and the language in this book is so mesmerising, both the way the characters speak and the descriptions of the setting.  It's really beautifully written and an impressive debut.  I loved the historical setting too.  The mermaid is less a central character than I expected from the blurb and more of a background influence, but it worked really well especially because Jonah and Angelica are already accompanied by a cast of vivid characters; his niece Sukie, the maid Bridget, Angelica's former madam Mrs Chappell, and Polly, a black prostitute working for her now.  In fact, the novel is really driven by its women characters.  Not quite 5 stars because some of their stories were left unfinished (especially Polly) and it almost seemed a shame to include them and not tie everything up - but then it's already 500 pages long!

Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton

Everything I Know About Love

This was definitely a case of  'instagram made me do it' but I don't regret it one bit.  Dolly Alderton has written such a wonderful thing with this ode to friendship, family, teenage romance and relationships, I read it cover to cover in the space of one evening.

There's a chapter at the beginning about talking to boys on MSN that made me giggle so much, I knew exactly where she was coming from and I want to recommend it to all my friends just for that part to be honest because we were all the same.  But there was something to relate to all the way through as Dolly takes us through her life (apart from the bits about heavy drinking and drug use at university - I don't begrudge anyone their experimental phase but she lost me a bit there) and it was both funny and very moving.  You should read it.

The Children of Men by P.D. James

The Children of Men

Holy snooze-fest Batman.  Seriously, this one was way oversold to me.  To be fair the person who I heard about this from was telling me about the film but I thought I should read the book first, only now I'm wondering whether this is one of those rare cases where the film is actually better.  I'm not sure whether P.D. James had completely made her mind up what angle she wanted to take with this novel: it started off as an interesting commentary on a world without children and ended up as a story about the abuse of power.  For me personally I would have been more interested in the societal stuff, plus I never felt the tension I think was intended.  One of the poorer dystopias I've read, which is a shame as the general concept is so interesting.

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

Let Me Lie

Last month I wrote a five stars reads prediction post (click here to read it) in which I predicted that I would give Let Me Lie five stars.  I was right!  This was soooo good.  I will forever read anything Clare Mackintosh writes, she is just amazing.  That's all I'm going to say on this one because as with any thriller I think it's best to go in blind, but definitely pick this up if you're looking for a good crime novel.

Monday, 2 April 2018

25 Thoughts on Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

Gilmore Girls only came into my life around the time everyone started talking about the revival.  I'd heard about it before then but I'd only ever seen maybe the last few minutes of the odd episode while flicking through TV channels, but suddenly everyone was talking about it and a few of my friends told me they thought I would love it, so I decided to give it a go and around the time A Year in the Life became available on Netflix, I started right from the beginning.


My friends were so right.  It's been a long time since I have taken a TV show so to heart or got so involved with the characters but I loved it, so much.  I genuinely missed it when I got to the end.  I've only watched it through once so I won't be winning any trivia prizes or anything but it just gave me all the warm and fuzzies and was probably just exactly what I needed in a series when I started watching.  It took me through more than a few bad days and Stars Hollow was the perfect place to escape to, even the stressful times when I was annoyed at Lorelai for messing things up with Luke which culminated in me shouting 'fuck off Christopher!!!' at the TV.  As I said, I was very invested.
So, bereft as I was when I finished the original series, I was actually pretty nervous to watch A Year in the Life in case it burst my cosy Stars Hollow bubble.  I'd avoided spoilers but I knew there had been mixed opinions, some people even hated it, so it was after a few week's break and with a fair amount of trepidation that I sat down to watch this week.

I'm so relieved to say that, overall, I really enjoyed it.  Phew!

The rest of my thoughts aren't really coherent enough to be formed into paragraphs so I'm just going to chuck them at you in list form.   I think since the revival aired in 2016 I'm pretty safe on the spoiler front, but just in case consider this your fair warning.  Ok?  Let's go.
  1. First things first: Luke & Lorelai.  THANK GOD. I thought for sure she was going to mess it up again.  The only thing I really needed from the revival was confirmation that they lived happily ever after and it made me so happy.
  2. Side note: very happy Luke is still alive and running the diner, I had a minor panic in the first scene when Lorelai had coffee from Al's until I remembered about Al's Pancake World
  3. The new rules at Luke's.  'No man buns and no taking pictures of your food.'  Oh, Luke. 
  4. You could sense the bigger budget and everything had been a little bit Netflix-ed with higher definition and more sets but the characters were still the ones I loved.  Kirk was still running around town with his multiple jobs, Babette still interrupting Taylor at the town meetings in her husky voice.  Several times I chuckled at something familiar from a character.  They all look a little different (none more so than Zach) but other than that, it was like they just picked up where they left off.
  5. It did feel a bit like sometimes characters were just slotted in to get the fan reaction though?  Like Jackson and Mr Kim (!)
  6. The whole storyline of Richard's passing was so moving and done so well, I think they really did him justice.  The premise of the revival was all about change and the absence of the Gilmore family patriarch was a good frame for this.  The three of them at the funeral broke my heart, especially Emily but I thought it was nice that Richard still had so much of a presence.  He was always one of my favourites.
  7. Dean's scene was perfect.
  8. And Jess is still hot and also now a well-adjusted adult encouraging Rory to follow her passions?  I might have to switch allegiance.
  9. On the subject of Rory's boyfriends... I was hoping she might have grown out of sleeping with other people's partners? I don't think Logan is a bad guy (cheating aside), they were almost engaged and he definitely understands and supports Rory just as much as Jess does, but I wish they weren't both still cheating.  I know it had to be casual because she's kind of at a loose end, but still.
  10. I'm glad they don't pretend she isn't flawed though.  And that she doesn't get everything handed to her on a plate.
  11. And I'm also glad Rory's story arc was not all about which guy she would end up with.
  12. I missed Sookie so much, I needed so much more than the 10 minutes or so we got.  I know Melissa McCarthy is really famous now but you know, don't forget your roots.  It doesn't make sense to me that Sookie would leave to go on sabbatical when she hates letting other people in her kitchen and the Dragonfly was just as much her dream as Lorelai's.  I'm glad she was able to film something for the revival but I would have appreciated Melissa making a little more time in her schedule thank you very much.
  13. On the other hand, Sookie's absence made some room to explore Lorelai's relationship with Michel which was lovely, and he was on top form throughout.
  14. What happened to Sookie and Jackson's third baby?  Is it a boy or a girl?  Does it have a name?
  15. So glad there was so much Paris, I bloody love her, she's hilarious.
  16. I'm not a huge April fan and I'm glad she wasn't in it much.
  17. I would not pay to see the Stars Hollow musical.
  18. But I probably would use Ooober!
  19. I need to know who sent Emily the nasty letter on her birthday (although my money is on Trix).
  20. The development of Emily's character was so great, hers was probably the most interesting story arc, watching her come to terms with losing her husband and finally settle into something of a new life and routine for herself.  The scene where she calls out the DAR ladies was hilarious.  Kelly Bishop is fantastic.
  21. Loved Lorelai's whole Wild thing and how she didn't even end up going but got what she needed anyway.  Her calling Emily to tell her a favourite memory of Richard was so moving, it made me cry and it might have been my favourite part of the whole thing.
  22. I didn't need to see or hear from the Life and Death Brigade again, they were never my favourite people.  That whole scene bugged me firstly because I don't like when weird things happen in a show that otherwise has no magical or fantastical theme (like the sign on the flower shop changing, the talking crow), it just doesn't make sense.  Secondly, at 32 I'd have thought they would have outgrown those antics.
  23. Yay for talking fast and witty comments and not knowing how to hold a full coffee cup and sniffing the air for snow, I'm here for it all.
  24. I still 100% wish I lived in Stars Hollow.
  25. And finally... the last 4 words.  At first I rolled my eyes but really, it makes sense given that Gilmore Girls has always been a generational show.  I know that Amy Sherman Palladino planned to end on those words all along too so I'm glad she got the opportunity to, and it does bring everything nicely full circle.
I know I had so many more thoughts but these are the main ones.  Overall, I loved it.  I had some niggles but they were more to do with the plot, and I wasn't without these during the original series either - I never understood the Jason Styles thing?  And there are things that would have been on my wish list if the revival had been longer, a more fulfilling life for Lane being one of them.  But crucially, a Year in the Life hasn't taken anything away from my enjoyment of Gilmore Girls.  It *felt* the same to me and I'm so happy about it! Now to start series one again...

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

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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?

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Three things about me

1.  I love to sing, but heaven forbid anyone might actually hear me.
2.  I don't believe there is such a thing as too many roast potatoes.
3.  I'm slowly making my way through Gilmore Girls.  I waited so long for Luke and Lorelai to get together, this better be it forever or I'm going to be so mad.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

What I read in January

January has felt like such a long month!  And I've been taking it slowly too.  Apart from the odd cinema trip and a lunch outing for Paul's dad's birthday I haven't been up to much besides my working week, and that's been fine with me.  I've missed the gym and I'll be getting back on that horse after payday but without classes three times a week I haven't needed to rush home from work to get ready - it's been nice to take my time a bit more.

I wrote about my hair loss and posted it on Facebook.  I was nervous and I didn't know what to expect, I even switched my phone off after posting but I received such a show of support.  People said some lovely things and I had messages from people I haven't spoken to in years...  It was quite overwhelming and emotional and I can't even begin to say how much it meant to me to have people tell me they're proud of me for being so brave.

In other news, I've got a good head start on my reading goal for this year!

Thin Air by Michelle Paver

Thin Air

I actually started reading this between Christmas and New Year but it took me a while to finish it.  It's described as a ghost story and there are some scary goings on but for me the tension never quite got to where I think the author intended so I was a bit disappointed.  I'm not sure whether that might have been because half the time I was reading there was a very over excited dog in the room!  I'd give it a miss if you're looking for something a bit dark.

The Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M. Romero

The Dollmaker of Krakow

This book.  Where do I start?  An early contender for my favourite book of the year, if not ever.  Set during WWII and the Nazi occupation of Poland, when the story starts we meet the Dollmaker who owns a toyshop in Krakow, and Karolina the doll, who comes to life.  Karolina's presence helps the previously solitary Dollmaker to come out of his shell and make friends with people in his town, namely Jozef and his daughter Rena, who are Jewish.  The events that follow are not surprising given the setting, but told against a backdrop of magic and friendship.  I thought it was all woven together so well with a wonderful mix of history and Polish folklore, clearly a labour of love for Romero. 

It's just so beautiful and poignant and I loved the use of the fictional war in Karolina's native Land of the Dolls to draw parallels with German occupied Poland, very clever and an accessible introduction to the Holocaust for younger readers.  It's a big subject but I thought The Dollmaker of Krakow struck the perfect balance between being age-appropriate but not glossing over events.

It is a middle-grade novel but please don't let that put you off if you're an adult reader like me, you would be missing out on something so special.  I loved it so much.  The ending absolutely destroyed me, Paul came home to find me sitting on the sofa in tears!  The book itself is a stunning object too.  I didn't want to give it back to the library, I'm going to have to buy my own copy!

'You can destroy a person, but destroying their story is far more difficult.  No one is ever really lost as long as their story exists.'

The Worm and the Bird by Coralie Bickford Smith

The Worm and the Bird 

4/5 stars just for being absolutely stunning.  I didn't love the story as much as The Fox and the Star but I'm very happy to have this on my shelf, it's a gorgeous thing.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Secret History 

I did like The Secret History but I am confused as to why it has such a big reputation.  It's a murder mystery in reverse, as we know from the beginning who has died and who killed them so it's more of a why-dunit.  I liked the writing and it kept my attention because I wanted to know the answers, but boy did it take a long time to get there - I feel like it could have been a few hundred pages shorter.  A large amount of the book is filled with nothing more than the characters sitting around taking drugs and drinking.  They're not meant to be likeable, you're meant to see them for exactly what they are which is spoiled, self-centred rich brats, but you can labour a point too much and it doesn't strike me as the mark of a great writer.

I actually thought the blurb was quite misleading too.  'Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries.'  I didn't see how said professor was so influential given that he appears in the book only a handful of times and isn't particularly charismatic when he does.  I feel like this is akin to saying Tom Riddle created horcruxes under the influence of Professor Slughorn...

Am I glad I read it?  Yes.  Would I read it again or give it to anyone else to read? No.

The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal

The Heart 

The Heart was a lovely book to read.  It's about Simon Limbeau's heart, and what happens to it following his death in a surfing accident.  As we follow the heart to its new body we meet all the people who play a part in its journey: Simon's parents, his doctors, hospital staff, transplant coordinators and surgeons and, finally, the heart's new recipient.  We see everything from their point of view and Maylis de Kerangal writes so beautifully about them all.  A poignant little book about grief, death and hope.

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
 
Three Things About Elsie

I knew I wanted to read this as soon as I heard about it, it sounded very similar to Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey which I loved and I wasn't disappointed by this one either.
84 year old Florence is very unsettled by the arrival of a new resident at her nursing home, who looks very much like someone she used to know; someone who died sixty years ago.  This mystery is interesting, but it's really a clever device for a moving exploration of ageing and memory as Florence looks back into her past to try and get to the bottom of things.  Funny and heartwarming as well as sad in places, there was so much to take from this book.  It really made me think about how quick we can be in society to dismiss the things older people have to say, but their stories are valuable and we should be more willing to listen.  A lovely, wise story that I'd highly recommend.   Another one that I'm reluctant to give back to the library!

"You're not coping with your ADLs, Miss Claybourne," she said, "Your activities of daily living."
She didn't know what my activities of daily living were.  She didn't daily live with me.  She just barged into my front room one morning and accused me of all sorts.
"You can't reach your feet," she said.
"And what business would I have down there?"
"You can't do up your buttons."
"Marks and Spencer do a perfectly good range of clothes without a button in sight," I said.
The clock ticked in the corner of the room, and grew the distance between us.  The woman glanced at the clock and glanced away again.
She blinked a few times and then she said, "That's not the point, Miss Claybourne.  We need to make sure you're being looked after.  We only want what's best for you."
"Do we?" I said.
It didn't take them long to undo my life.  I had spent eighty years building it, but within weeks, they made it small enough to fit into a manila envelope and take along to meetings.  They kidnapped it.  They hurried it away from me when I least expected, when I thought I could coat myself in old age and be left to it.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

My Hair Story


For roughly three years now, I've been suffering from alopecia.  It’s a big deal for me to put that out there in black and white because it’s so personal and private but I had a hospital appointment today (January 23rd) and I’m just feeling so sad and hopeless and so at my wit’s end with this thing that I just needed to get it out.

I’ll start at the beginning.  When I was younger, I used to get the occasional small bald patch around particularly stressful times: exams and deadlines etc.  The first time I noticed it I think I was probably in Year 10 or 11.  They could usually be completely hidden and seemed to clear up quite quickly, so I don’t remember being that worried about it back then. 


After graduating university (2014) I had a few of these little stress patches left over from the previous few months.  Third year hadn’t been great for me and this combined with a couple of other things meant I was stressed quite a lot of the time.  We lost our kitten Biscuit in November 2013 which hit me very hard; I was beyond fed up of commuting to and from university and working a job in a cinema which at that point I had begun to hate with a passion.

In October 2014 I started a new job in hospital administration.  It was fine at first, but I quickly started to wonder whether I had made the right decision.  I can’t remember specifics now, but I remember thinking I’d moved on too quickly in my desperation to get away from the cinema.

Then, in November 2014, my lovely Grandad was admitted to the hospital where I worked and passed away there within a week.  I had seen him every day he was there and it all seemed to happen so fast.  It hit me very hard and after that I couldn’t stand to be there; I was spending all my lunchtimes in floods of tears because I had to walk down the same corridors every day and be around all the same sights and sounds that reminded me of that week.  But I didn’t have a way out or I didn’t see it.  I had no other job to go to and I didn’t know what to do.  There was talk in my department at the time about getting rid of the temporary contracts (I was employed through an agency) and we had to interview for the job to be kept on.  I did, and I was offered it and I accepted, not because I wanted to be there but because I was so scared of not finding anything else.

I went along with the job offer for probably around three months before I finally told them that I just couldn’t do it.  Until that point they had no idea how much I was struggling.  I left there in May 2015.  I don’t really know how I managed to stay so long and I wish I had done it sooner because I now realise what those months of agonising did to me.  I didn’t put myself first and I regret it all the time.


This was when my hair loss started to get really bad.  It had been manageable and not a very big concern before, but now I had big patches, noticeable ones.  Whether the situation with the hospital and losing my Grandad was the cause or it just triggered something already there I don’t know, but it hasn’t been back to normal since.  Over the past few years it’s gone from bad, to worse, to okay again, to pretty good again, to nearly all back, then bad, then worse and even worse still.  The fluctuation is the most upsetting thing.  I get my hopes up that it might be going away and they come crashing down.  I’ve lost count of how many ups and downs there have been on this ride; it’s cruel.

I’ve had blood tests (nothing wrong), used steroid cream, tried everything I can think of to reduce my stress levels, if stress is even the problem.  It might have been at the start. 

I’m currently on a referral to dermatology at the hospital, but it took some time to get that.  I was reminded today that my first hospital appointment was June 2016.  The first (male) GP I saw in early 2015 diagnosed me with alopecia areata but told me it’d ‘probably’ grow back and ‘not to worry’ about it.  I only had a few patches then, I was in the initial stages of seeking help, and I often wonder whether things would have got so bad if he had just referred me then instead of sending me away to think on it for a few more months.  I think as a man he just didn’t understand the emotional impact of hair loss on a young woman. 

I saw a different GP when I went back and she referred me to dermatology.  I’ve had 5 or 6 appointments now and I’ve had treatment in the form of steroid injections in my scalp.  They hurt a lot and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do but for a while they seemed to be helping, at least temporarily. My last set of injections was in August and as recently as November things were looking positive; I almost had a full scalp and I was getting the confidence to occasionally go out without my hair tied up.  It was still in need of some growth and thickening but it was getting there. 

Fast forward to January and I’m experiencing one of the worst fallouts I’ve ever had, and I’m really struggling.  It’s affecting most of my head and I have a patch right on the top at the front so there’s no hiding it.  It’s very visible.

The doctor told me the injections are not working; I have too many patches right now to have any more as there’s only so much they can do at one time.  As horrible as they were, they were something, and the small improvement they brought was always welcome while it lasted so it’s hard to hear that we’ve exhausted that option.  They want to try steroid tablets next, but I’ve been warned about potential side effects including weight gain.  That’s a whole other can of worms for me.  With my luck any potential side effects will come at me in full force and I’m not certain of my ability to cope with that.  And if I go for it and it doesn’t work, there won’t be much else to try, and that scares me.

I feel like the ugliest, most disgusting person in the world.  I feel weird. I feel like a freak.  I’m embarrassed and depressed.  I’m angry that this is happening to me and nobody can really tell me why.  I feel like someone really has it in for me – I was never full of confidence but apparently asthma and eczema and issues with my figure were not enough to be going on with.  I hate to leave the house most days because I feel too visible.  I live for the weekends when I can stay at home. 

Life feels very difficult because it all comes with so many considerations – where are we going, who will be there, how long will we be there for, what will the weather be doing, will it be windy?  Can I wear a hat or a headband or are we going somewhere that I’d be expected to take it off?  Are we staying overnight, if so where, with who, will I need to wash my hair in the morning, if so will I be able to take my own stuff or will the facilities there be good enough for me to feel comfortable, if I can’t wash it will it look ok?  It needs to be freshly washed for me to have the best chance of covering and making it so I'm comfortable.  Of course washing it often means I'm anxious about that too, because there's always the voice in the back of my head telling me that's not good for it either.  I can't win.

The smallest thing can make me anxious, I’m always worried about what people think, whether it seems like I’m making a fuss when I have to say no to something or cancel because almost everything is outside my comfort zone.  I don’t remember the last time I felt genuinely and wholeheartedly excited about something, I’m straight away thinking of all the above considerations.  I’m only comfortable with Paul, my handful of close friends and my family.  If there will be other people there, chances are I’m not going.  I'm so anxious if I have to see someone that I haven't done for a while because it's just really hard for me to have it on show.

To some extent these things have always been true for me as an introvert.  But my anxieties have been exacerbated no end by my hair loss.  I’m acutely aware that this has taken up nearly all my twenties so far.  When this all started I was 23 and when I look back all I see is the hair loss and tears, so many tears.  I’ve spent so much time crying.  I feel, honestly, like I’ve missed out on what should have been some of the best years of my life and I’m absolutely terrified at the thought of going into my thirties in a few years still feeling this way.

I know there are worse things in the world but hearing that doesn’t make it feel any better.  It’s not life threatening, but it’s not ‘just hair’ either.  It’s easy to say that if you haven’t been through it, I guess.  But to me it’s the difference between feeling attractive and comfortable in my own skin or feeling like the ugliest person in the world. It’s the difference between being on time for work or always being at least a few minutes late because I can’t bring myself to leave the house, even when I know I’m running behind, fixing and re-fixing until the very last minute.  I often leave on the brink of tears because I haven’t managed to arrange my hair in a way I’m comfortable with, but I have to go. 

It’s the difference between me going on my friend’s hen do next month and having to pull out because I can’t face being around so many people I don’t know all at once. It’s the difference between spontaneity and constant anxiety around anything out of the ordinary.  It’s the difference between appearing healthy, like I can look after myself, and looking scruffy and unkempt.  It’s not wanting to plan anything too far in advance because I don’t know how I’ll be feeling then.  It’s avoiding photos and automatically saying no to anything where people will be getting dressed up, because I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like doing that again.

It’s holding me back.  I can’t remember the last time I felt excited about having a wedding. There’s so much to be anxious about there and I feel like the worst fiancée In the world.  I’m convinced Paul should be with someone with fewer issues.  We could have started a family by now; the clock’s ticking but it doesn’t feel like the right time, while I’m dealing with this.  But I think about them all the time.  I have secret Pinterest boards full of plans and I know their names.  

I’m scared of waiting so long to feel better that eventually it will be too late.

I’m not incapable of functioning.   I’m so proud of myself for succeeding at work despite feeling like this and my colleagues have no idea, although they will have noticed the patches.  I do really try to keep my chin up and stay positive, and most days you would say I’m coping.  I've come back to this post two days after I started writing and reading back, I know that a lot of this sounds very dramatic and obviously my every day isn't like that.  But I'm leaving everything in, because this is how I feel when it's at its most raw and heavy.  It doesn't take much for me to get upset about it.  It’s always bubbling under the surface and it never goes completely out of my mind.

There will come a point when I need to decide whether it’s worth putting myself through any more treatment, but it’s not something I think I’ll ever be ready to accept.  I don’t want to make my peace with it, I want it to go away, and I don’t know how to convey the sense of despair and helplessness I get when I think about the possibility that it might not and I might feel this unhappy forever.

I can’t think how to end, apart from to say please be kind. Not just here but generally.  Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

Thank you for reading.

Holly x