Thursday, 16 April 2020

Down the Rabbit Hole

   ...beware the claws that catch...

    It's a warm Thursday afternoon. I can hear someone mowing the grass outside and the edge of  my desk is pressing familiar indents into my forearms. I've been slicing up my work hours over the Easter holidays. A few hours here and there instead of long blocks. In some ways, working from home feels busier, but it's just so much more quiet. Aside from working, I've been doing some housework, playing Animal Crossing as usual and I recently completed one of my favourite series of all time, Gravity Falls. On top of that, I've been returning to some favourite childhood books. S.F Said's Varjak Paw series, Anna Dale's Whispering to Witches and I will undoubtedly dig up one of the battered copies from my Jacqueline Wilson pile. It's safe to say that my tastes have always been somewhat deliberately regressing into my childhood. I have never enjoyed horror. Gore and violence keeps me awake at night, and if I do sleep I always have awful nightmares. I considered watching Supernatural for the first time an adventurous choice, just so you know who you're dealing with. 

   If you were to observe me in my natural habitat, pouring endless cups of tea, excitedly gesticulating over animals and shuffling around in various states fluffy pyjamas, you would never suspect what's going on inside me right at this moment. You would never guess that under all of the smiles, the dedicated working at my desk, and the watering of flowers on Animal Crossing, that I am suffering from a terrible case of Book Limbo. Have you heard of it? Book Limbo is the frustrating and crushing feeling of enjoying a book so fully that when it finally comes to an end, you feel two main emotions. Complete disinterest in any other book and the feeling that you are betraying an entire world by walking away from it. 

   I'm talking about Alice by Christina Henry. I had just finished Whispering to Witches and when I returned it to my bookshelf, I set about immediately finding another book to devour. The thought of actually devouring my books is quite a violent and grotesque image in itself, and I found myself thinking about a terrifying book-devouring monster for longer than I should have done when it dawned on me as a strange phrase. I imagined a thin, papery animal with ink-black eyes, unhinging its jaw and dryly swallowing as many stories as it could find. Then again, many of us have read books we wish we could get closer to or crawl inside. I never anticipated that a reimagining of The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland would be one of those books, especially not one of the horror variety. I have always inexplicably related to Alice. Ever since I was little, I insisted on watching the Disney version over and over and over again, which displeased mostly everyone else. My family and friends found it to be the least interesting and most boring Disney film, and couldn't understand where I was finding my enjoyment. Later, when I read the books, I fell even more in love with the stories. I even blended my own life with Wonderland in a reflective piece about growing up, my experiences, and my eventual job as a teacher. 

   I picked up Alice without thinking too much about whether or not I would like it. I reminded myself that it had been an impulse buy in Waterstones (because we were in a rush to reach the food court before the shopping centre closed) and that it would be a waste for me to never read it just because it was a horror. I loved the original stories, so why shouldn't I try it? No less than a minute after the final word of Whispering to Witches, I was immersed in Alice. I cannot explain what it was that held me to the page, but I felt physically incapable of tearing myself away from the words. I did find it difficult to cope with the subject matter at times and I would recommend you judge the risk for yourself before diving in, but the characters of Alice and Hatcher were so complex and addictive that I had completed the book by the next day. I think what Christina Henry did was capture something that was so subtle and implicit in the original stories, and brought it right to the forefront. There is an aggressiveness and a violence and a cruelty in the original stories. Even in the Disney version, the Hatter and the Hare are intimidating and scary, and the flowers are manipulative and bad tempered. On top of everything else, there is a complete lack of control as Alice is thrown around Wonderland by the angry, impatient and insistent beings who live there. Christina Henry channeled all of this perfectly and created utterly terrifying villains. As someone who is pretty hesitant when it comes to violence and gore, I felt that the way it was navigated in Alice was entirely purposeful and necessary, and that I found myself so relieved and exhilirated by the fighting and the violence which was quick and exacting instead of drawn-out and needlessly spurting. This is not to say the novel isn't bloodthirsty or gruesome, as it most certainly is, but it was done in such a way that every drop of blood felt deliberate. This was not a lazy retelling, it was an excellent insight into what the characters could be. 

   I realise now that my subconscious excitement for this novel sprang somewhat from my previous enjoyment of Alice: Madness Returns, another dark retelling. However, it was never quite enough for me and there was something missing. Alice is exactly what I needed and I highly recommend it.

   However! There is excellent news. Although I am doing my very best to keep all online shopping to essential-items-only, finding out that Alice and Hatcher's story continues in The Red Queen might tempt me a little bit too much. If I can just get hold of it, I can finally break out of the Book Limbo. 

Take care saplings x

Monday, 13 April 2020

Day Twenty One

Day Twenty One


   It is another day on the endless carousel of waking up, completing the same list of limited activities, going to sleep and starting again. However, there was added excitement today when I realised that I forgot what the car looked like, so I stared out the window for five minutes whispering, "it's so blue". 

   I feel like 2020 is just one big swirling cloud of uncertainty, striking the ground with questions and dilemmas that I have never felt before. I feel grateful that I can stay at home to keep myself and my family safe. I also feel guilty and conscious that I am very priviledged to be in that position. I don't want to complain whatsoever because I am very lucky. However, I also feel deeply hurt that I am separated from my partner, and will be for the rest of the lockdown. I feel helpless because my family and I are all too frightened to leave the house because of underlying health conditions in the household. We are all lacking sunlight and fresh vegetables, the latter being something I never thought I would miss. I am stuck on a seesaw of ignoring the news completely and keeping an eye on the news far too much. I see posts both praising and criticising the goverment, and truthfully I have absolutely no idea how they're doing. I've never seen a pandemic. I've never thought about how I would deal with one. All I know is that one death is too many, and that all deaths should have been avoided if it was possible. I don't know anybody who would advocate for anything less, unless of course we're talking about our friends over in the Herd Immunity Camp. I don't know anything about Herd Immunity except it sounds like a fucking terrible idea. 

   In an oddly fitting way, I am teaching a module on Utopias and Dystopias this semester. We have covered technology, artificial intelligence and virtual reality, war, natural disaster and totalitarianism. Next week we are looking at Utopian and Dystopian Music, and I wonder how close we will feel to the desperation, anger and hopelessness we will hear. I wonder what music will be born from this time, and will it be remembered like all of the music we'll be studying next week. Some of us could have a little laugh at the idea of robots or animals taking over the world, but I'm not so sure how close to home we're going to hit in the coming weeks. Incidentally, I just finished reading Fahrenheit 451, and it felt very, very strange reading a dystopic novel in these circumstances. I can only imagine the terror of trying to make it through lockdown without books. I would have liked a little more from Millie and Faber, but I get this story was focused on Montag's transformation. I will probably read it again in the future when my ability to concentrate has returned. 

   I'm missing my partner. I'm missing my extended family. I'm missing my friends and colleagues. So what else is there to do but fill the void with fictional characters? I read something recently about how children who struggle to make friends tend to fix this problem with fictional characters, and I felt called out, and then I accepted it. Not only am I slowly making my way through Supernatural, but I am also watching Gravity Falls, one of my favourite animated tv shows. I'm also being kept company by my virtual villagers on my virutal island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I'm pretty proud of how my island is developing and I'm THIS close to making a YouTube video about it. However, online teaching has taught me that seeing my face and hearing my voice online is one of my least favourite activities. All you need to know is that my museum is surrounded by waterfalls and I love it. 

   Please do direct me to how you are dealing with this situation. Share your blogs, currently-reading, hobbies and Animal Crossing islands!

Stay safe saplings x

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Day Thirteen

See the source image

Day Thirteen of Staying Inside 

   In normal day-to-day life, the little progress I have made since the last time I was here would not be considered as very important by myself. However, I'm takin the small victories. 

   Working from home has been an experience that I did not expect for the last few months of my job. It feels like it's been cruelly cut short and if I had known the end of face-to-face contact was on the way, I would have brought the end-of-semester classroom party forward (which is really just a "let's eat biscuits whilst we sort out your essays session). I hope that when all of this is over, I will still be employed at my current workplace and I can experience a tiny bit of normality there before I move on. I am very tired of grappling with Zoom, because my computer cannot handle 20+ moving images at once and gives up altogether (it used to be a fancy gaming computer but it's pretty old now). I am going to spend some of this week trying to fix it so that my colleagues have the pleasure of seeing my Mickey Mouse wallpaper. If they didn't already see me as a child pretending to be an adult, they will by the time the next staff meeting rolls around. 

   Aside from Work Things, which has the added pleasure of letting me explore Pop Culture for educational purposes, I've been watching Supernatural, clay-modelling, playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, crocheting a chunky cardigan and revisiting childhood books (let's not dive into the psychology of that). I am also exercising reguarly which is something I have never done. 

   I just finished the first season of Supernatural, and I truthfully didn't realise I was going to get so hooked on it. It helps that by "hooked" I mean that I also crochet my cardigan at the same time. It's become a hugely enjoyable combination of activities. Nothing to report on Supernatural yet except I'm enjoying it and that watching with the captions on sometimes makes it more amusing than intended. It is worth noting that the captions are normally at the bottom of the screen, but when I pause it, the pause menu pushes the captions up, which I only found more amusing. 


   I am not quite ready yet to share my clay-modelling updates, but I am taking progress pictures. I've decided to have a go at modelling Legoshi from a recent anime called Beastars. Watching it made me extremely uncomfortable at times, and I'm not entirely sure I'm actually okay with how some of the subject matter is portrayed, but I watched it quite eagerly nonetheless, so there's a reason I wanted to finish it I haven't put my finger on yet. It's definitely a much darker telling of the prey vs. predator story we see in Zootropolis, which is one of my favourite films. I don't believe that stories like this are just for the furry fandom, but I have noticed recoil from non-furry watchers of Beastars. It's an understandable reaction. 

   Animal Crossing: New Horizons is getting me through the endless monotony of the days by providing something different each day. We're not going to talk about the horrifying personification of Easter by the name of Zipper, but I am looking forward to the 13th of April when he goes away. The 13th of April brings other joys though. It is the supposed "end of lockdown" marker. I have doubts that this will truly be the end of the lockdown, but if it is, I will very gladly reunite with my partner. It is his birthday today and I'm devestated that I'm not there, but I ensured that I took many virtual gifts over to his Island in Animal Crossing, to get my appreciation across. 

   When I'm not digging up virtual fossils, creating a cardigan, or working, I am reading and exercising.

   I know the reading is working, because it's the first time in weeks I have felt like reading anything. I re-read Varjak Paw and The Outlaw Varjak Paw by S.F. Said. These were my absolute favourite books growing up (I must have found them when I was about eight years old) and it was a joy to revisit them. I'm hoping to pick up reading again, but it all just feels a bit too overwhelming at the moment, so I won't pile the pressure on myself.

See the source imageSee the source image

   I know the exercise is working because my muscles hurt if I crochet a bit too vigorously (clearly a scientifcally accurate way of testing results).

   I know my anxiety is working because beneath the aching muscles, working hands, and scrolling of emails, I'm still churning away. All of this is very much an effort to block out the outside world. All of us in this house are too frightened to go outside, and we have all stayed on one side of the front door. I am very much hoping that by the time the lockdown lifts, I will have regained the courage to Go Outside.

Stay safe saplings x

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Lockdown Life

IMG (c) Myself - 2016

   Day 6 of Staying Inside. 
   During this time of personal and global panic, it appears that a part of my brain I have not met yet has jostled it's way to the front and taken control of the wheel. I don't want to insult your intelligence, but I'll go ahead and clarify that that metaphor was not informed by any sort of expert opinion. I have no clue what's going on in my brain. However, what I mean is that despite having my usual cauldron of anxiety bubbling beneath the surface, I've stopped catastrophising and my autopilot is keeping me occupied. My family and I are in a very privileged position in that we can all work from/stay at home so as time goes on and nobody is showing symptoms, I have been able to calm down a tiny bit. I'm still extremely anxious about my partner and extended family, but for now I am able to focus on tasks at home without too much dramatic pacing and fretting. 

   My days have mainly consisted of working on some online teaching, playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, watching Supernatural for the first time and a bit of crochet and clay modelling here and there. Getting used to this home routine has been really strange. I spent a very long period mostly at home a few years ago when my migraines were a lot worse and I was in a slightly different place in life. However, since then I've been much more active; I have a full-time job and I've been much more nomadic since meeting my partner. In case you're wondering, we do not like being apart but we are coping by sending each other daily gifts on Animal Crossing

   The image above is a self-portrait from 2016. I am wearing a hoodie that I still own, some cool jeans that sadly became too faded and shrunken to wear, and some unicorn slippers which also sadly fell apart (I loved them too much). I also had my bright red hair and side shave which I kept for a really long time, but I am now back to my untamed brown hair. Most of the time you can find me wandering the house in unicorn pyjamas, buried in a fluffy, grey housecoat, lugging an enormous mug of tea around with me at any hour of the day. However, one things remains the same. I am always carrying a little fire around with me. The self-portrait depicts Calcifer, a fire demon from one of my most beloved films, Howl's Moving Castle. I was inspired to draw it not only because it's one of my favourites, but because ever since I was quite young I've imagined fire in my hands. I can understand at this point you're thinking, what?. It's not as edgy and superhero-esque as you think. 

I just have really cold hands.

   For some reason, my hands are always freezing and one day they were so cold and they hurt so much that I was Googling how on earth I could warm them up. I saw a random post which described how imagining a little fire burning in your hands like magic would actually help them to feel warmer. So, Google had spoken and I was ready to give this a go. Long story short, I've been doing it ever since. 

   On the topic of Howl's Moving Castle, a friend recently asked me why it's one of my favourites, because theirs is Spirited Away (an excellent choice). I know why, but up until this point I never considered trying to articulate it any more than half-screaming at people to watch it. After she asked me, I've been really thinking about it and I think I've come to a conclusion. Howl's Moving Castle is special because it's familiarly unfamiliar. 

   In one scene, Howl and Sophie prepare eggs and bacon for breakfast and sit at the table to eat it with Markl. These seemingly normal events are interrupted firstly by Calcifer loudly eating the eggshells, then by the lack of clean cutlery in such a large castle, and the sudden appearance of a curse, burning itself into the table. Even Howl, an irritatingly lovable character who plays what appears to be a love interest at first, is punctuated with quite serious political significance, childish reversion, and mysterious legends of heart-eating and star-swallowing. There's no all-encompassing way to describe why the film is so important. However, it's important to me for many personal reasons. 

- The scene where Howl takes Sophie's hand and they walk through the sky.
- The unbelievable soundtrack which, when it builds, is phenomenal. 
- The immersive way that you feel aged alongside Sophie.
- Howl's grey and salmon coat. 
- Howl's bedroom. 
- When the castle opens it's mouth and the tongue sticks out. 
- Turnip head.
- The perfect casting for the voices.
- The way Sophie eats the block of cheese from her little hankerchief hammock. 
- The ever-so-slight character progression. You could argue that both Howl and Sophie are the same person they were when the film started, but after watching it a few times, the subtle ways their characters are tested and forced to grow is inspiring. 
- The very idea of the flower shop. 
- Howl's gooey tantrum.

   I'm hoping in the future that I can write more extensively about Howl's Moving Castle. I read the book last year, and they are very much seperate entities, but I highly recommend both. I don't want to rush writing about it, but I am also eager to go to bed, knowing that we are going to lose an hour in the night. 

   Another thing I've been doing a lot the last few days is listening to music so I will leave you with my Lockdown Playlist, which is really just a bunch of songs I've been listening to a lot during my time Staying Inside.

Take care saplings x

Sunday, 15 March 2020


IMG (C) Jinifur

About this time last Sunday, I started to write a post that went like this:

"I'm writing this post because I don't know what to write about. It's 9:54pm on a Sunday evening. I've done some work, watched the final episode of Doctor Who, stared into space, and procrastinated doing anything productive. I have more work to do, blankets to knit, personal fictions to write and I also happen to be halfway through a volume of Transformers, recommended by a friend. I truthfully did not expect to enjoy it as much as I have done, but the concentration needed to read is not here tonight. 

I even took a break from writing this for a moment to check Twitter and became distratced by an app that lets you design your perfect island on Animal Crossing: New Horizons. This semester I am teaching a module on Utopias and Dystopias, and I have to tell you that writing content specifically tailored to Animal Crossing has crossed my mind more than once."

   Last weekend, I was actually feeling pretty depressed, but I styled it out with "hey I'm just procrastinating and having some "me time", it's okay. I'm doing this on purpose!". 

Narrator: but she wasn't doing it on purpose.

   However, despite the state of things, I'm in better spirits than I was, most likely due to being able to see my therapist this week. I think it's important to talk about attending therapy in blatant terms, a bit like saying I'm visiting the doctors or the dentist. Sometimes I can't do self-care for my emotions and I need a bit of professional help, and I think the human race would be better company if we all did that from time to time. So if you're reading this, and you're struggling on your own, please reach out for help. If you're in the UK, Healthy Minds is a great place to start. 

   I have a slight feeling that my elevated mood is somewhat due to adrenaline, because if you haven't noticed

the world is weird atm

   If you've found your way to this blog post, then it's very unlikely that you are unaware of what's going on in the world at the moment. Despite the relentless notifications that remind me of the situation every 60 seconds, it's been really important for me to shut myself off from it this weekend. I may have been on Twitter, and have been reading scary things, but I do not want to contribute to the mass panic of tweets when I'm already having my own mini panic. As someone with anxiety disorder(s), hand washing and hand sanitiser are very familiar concepts to me, and I do not wish to discuss them at length. Thus, I have dedicated most of my online presence to Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which is joining us on the 20th of March (five days from now!). 

   The metaphorical ball of stress, not to be confused with a stress ball, is a tangled mess, yes. I've been dealing with a lot of Personal Stuff™, and pushing existential crisis to the back of my mind whilst I focus on work, feeding myself three times a day and planning what my town is gonna look like on Animal Crossing: New Horizons, PRESSING, pressing things.

   It looks like others around me are starting to smell the fear and they are very sweetly comforting me, and hopefully themselves in the process. My partner decided to set up a co-op Stardew Valley farm because they know how much I love this game, and they also know how much I've been struggling recently and that waiting for Animal Crossing is physically and emotionally killing me. So I spent most of this weekend harvesting crops and mining copper ore. When I got back home to my parents, I found my dad had set up the Wii U and had found all of our old games. I started with Wii Sports and worked my way through (spending a bit too much time on Smooth Moves) and settling on Twilight Princess. All was well until the low frame rate gave me motion sickness, and now here I am writing to you. 

   In truth, this post is probably just a form of comfort for me and I commend you if you're still here. If you're feeling the stress at the moment, like me, remember to take some time out. Disconnect from the world for a little while, and stay indoors and relax if you're able to. 

Take now for instance. 

Breathe in through your nose for five seconds, and out through your mouth for five seconds. Forcefully push the air out of your lungs and feel them filling back up again. 

If switching off electronic devices is difficult, even just for the night, I recommend Sleep Stories. Even if you're not going to sleep just yet, they're comforting all the same. 

Stay safe, saplings. 


Monday, 23 December 2019

My Year in Books

Hi daisies,

Hope you are all doing well. I want to take this time to say that I very much appreciate you if you are reading this right now, as although this is a very small blog, the readers I have mean very much to me.

This year has been both challenging and brilliant. I've experienced some very low lows but also some ecstatic highs. I've learned that it's really important to discover exactly what "self-care" actually means (hint: it isn't always bubble baths and treating yourself) and that it's okay to cut yourself some slack when things don't go the way you intended. This year I have worked on some things that needed resolving, grown in my confidence, gained a little more control over my migraines, and I stuck to my quest to read more books this year!

I stopped reading in my teens because I was in a situation which meant that concentrating on a book was nearly impossible. I got out of the habit of reading before bed time. I stopped buying new books. It is with huge pleasure that I can say I'm back to my bookish ways, and my shelves are overflowing with exciting new words for me to discover. I'm hoping to share where I've been with you.

My Year in Books

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
I re-read this novel this year as I felt I didn't truly appreciate it when I read it in high school. I felt so much more despair this time around reading it as a young woman rather than as a child. 

The Secret Lives of Colours - Kassia St Clair
I always took colours for granted, and now I appreciate the hard work and sacrifice that went into producing so many beautiful colours. The hardback cover was also lovely and textured. 

Howl's Moving Castle - Diana Wynne Jones
I have always adored Howl's Moving Castle by Studio Ghibli, and I would be tempted to name it as my favourite film of all time, so I was both excited and nervous to read the book. As usual, I discovered that the story had been heavily changed for the film, but I also realised that it didn't matter. The book is special and wonderful, and the film is gorgeous and magical and I highly recommend both. 

Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? - Holly Bourne
Holly Bourne is a fantastic author who I discovered through reading It Only Happens in the Movies. This was no exception to her consistently brilliant stories. I wince to use the word "relatable" but there's no other word for it. Her senstive and humanly funny characters who navigate issues with their mental health are so very needed. 

Vox - Christina Dalcher
A recommendation from a student which was a truly interesting read. Recommended for fans of The Handmaid's Tale

Matched | Reached | Crossed Trilogy - Ally Condie
Another student recommendation. Even though in parts I felt the story was fairly long and drawn out, it was actually eerily immersive and consuming, and I did feel as though I were sucked in. A very talented author and a pleasurable read, despite feeling utterly on edge about the trials the characters face.

The Book Thief - Markus Zusack
I have read this book countless time as it is probably one of my most favourite stories. I love the way the story is told, and I am completely enchanted by the characters. It is also one of the rare times that I love the film almost as much as the book. If you haven't had the pleasure, please seek it out!

Invisible Women - Caroline Criado-Perez
Wow, I got mad reading this book. The research compiled in this book suggests very much that all data should be disaggregated by sex. Although I do have some issues with the way this is approached entirely by looking at cisgendered humans, it's important to note how designs incorporate binary ideas of sex and thus must be analysed through that lens to learn how the designs occured. It is without doubt that most things are designed with the idea of the "binary" in mind. 

The Gods Lie - Kaori Ozaki
Utterly heartbreaking

Inkheart - Cornelia Funke
One of my favourite books from childhood, though I must admit that having watched the films many times, I found it quite tedious to finish and I have yet to read the other two books in the trilogy. It was lovely to revisit this part of my childhood, though.

Lord of the Flies - William Golding
The only thing I have to say about this story is that it made me feel cold, uncomfortable, small and out of control. I don't regret reading it, but I don't think I can ever pick it up again, it was far too traumatic. 

Alice in Wonderland | Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carrol
I have always loved Alice in Wonderland and it was wonderful to revisit. As always, not a little bit surprised by the notion that Carrol took a lot of drugs. 

The Curios Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon
I didn't expect to like this book. However, I loved it. Although the atmosphere was uncomfortable and awkward and painful at times, it is so important.

You Know You Want This - Kristen Roupenian
I still don't know how to feel about this collection of stories. It is a horrifying, sickening, stomach-turning feeling to turn each page. You feel physically and emotionally damaged by the experience. I absolutely could not put it down. 

His Dark Materials Trilogy - Phillip Pullman
A masterpiece of fiction. I did not expect to fall so in love with this story and to be so upset when it was over. It cannot be overstated enough that the characters are so rich and beautiful and nuanced and wonderful. 

How Do You Like Me Now? - Holly Bourne
Funny and comforting. A must read. Holly Bourne always very unexpectedly displays all of your feelings which you thought were unqiue and secret on the page in front of you. She makes you feel united. That you are never alone. 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky
Re-read this coming-of-age classic. It is as heart-wrenching as I remember. Although I do have some problems with the characterisation sometimes, I think it truly illustrates how fucked up being a teenager is. The film is also a must-watch. Warning: ensure you read a little about the story before you dive right in if you have experiened depression or abuse. Watching/reading it can put me in a bad place emotionally if I'm already feeling down. 

How to have Feminist Sex: A Fairly Graphic Guide - Flo Perry
I picked it up as I loved the cartoony illustrations and I am very much a sex-positive feminist. Although I did take issue with some of the things in there, I think it just shows that feminism is very much an individual thing. Overall, it was pretty wonderful, and I have so much respect for Flo Perry and also her mother, Phillipa Perry and the work they produce. 

Beastars vol 1. - Paru Itagaki
Highly anticipated after seeing the trailer for the anime online. I'm a huge fan of Zootropolis, and I think this is going to be a far darker telling of a similar story of prey vs. predator. 

The Prince and the Dressmaker - Jen Wang
Absolutely beautiful. Excellent artwork. Wonderful story. I cannot recommend this enough. I especially hope that young people who feel different can find this story and feel they are seen.

Testaments - Margaret Atwood
Highly anticipated sequel to The Handmaid's Tale after such a long break. I was concerned about how the story was going to unfold, but I was not disappointed. I adored this addition to the universe, and it was so beautifully articulated in Atwood's usual way, it was impossible not to devour it.

The Places I've Cried in Public - Holly Bourne
See: here

I Go Quiet - David Ouimet
Charming and beautiful. 

The Power - Naomi Alderman
Brilliant concept and incredibly thought-provoking. It made me realise how terrifying it is that violence and fear can be so normalised in our world if the context is deemed reasonable. 
Although I struggled with the outcome of the novel, and felt a bit confused the closer I got to the end, I do believe the concept is worth exploring. 

Over the Garden Wall - Distillatoria
A comic based on one of my all-time favourite shows Over the Garden Wall. There are no words for how much I love this show, and receiving a copy of this book from my partner on my birthday was a memorable moment for this year. The show is just everything I could ask for and the comic completely surpassed my expectations and made me feel like I was experiencing new episodes of the show I love so much. 

So that's my year in books! I struggled quite a lot towards the end of 2019, as my teaching load got quite heavy. However, I am very happily just starting Erin Morgenstern's The Starless Sea, which I hope will appear on next year's reading list (as I definitely won't have time to finish it before January, I will be busy eating).

Take care saplings x

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

The Places I've Cried in Public

Yesterday I finished reading Holly Bourne's The Places I've Cried in Public. 

I have read a few others by Holly Bourne, It Only Happens in the Movies, Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes?, and How Do You Like Me Now? are all wonderful, and each brought tears and smiles to my face in their own ways. The Places I've Cried in Public is different for me, so much so I feel compelled to tell somebody about it. If you take nothing else away from this post and want to stop reading this now, please just go and read it. It's a book that I never knew I needed until it was here. 

As you might remember from a comic I drew a couple of years ago, crying is not an alien concept to me. 
Quietly. Loudly. Neatly. Messily. Just-a-bit. Floods. Three minutes. Three days.
Just to clarify, I'm still talking about crying.  

The point is, I know how to do this thing, and it's a thing I'm quite happy to talk about and share with other people. I think it brings people closer together if we remind each other that we are all just human after all. That crying serves a normal, human purpose. That crying is good for us. We all know this stuff now, and it's not going to be news to you. But despite my superior tear-producing powers, it's something I have always preferred never to demonstrate. 

Blinking rapidly. Trying to feel numb. Compartmentalising. Looking down. Looking up. Looking at anything to avoid making eye contact. Avoiding hugs. Gritted teeth.
Classic, "I'm not going to cry in public" moves. 

If that fails, push all the tears into your hair. Get out a tissue and blow your nose, "I've got a cold starting". "I've just got something in my eye". "Just resting my eyes". 
You've seen and heard and done it all before. 

Crying in public is always something I've skirted around. I've cried in supermarkets, cried in restaurants and cafes, cried in a park, cried on the way to work, cried on the way home from work, cried in an Uber, cried on the bus, cried in public toilets, cried in the office. I got away with them all, because we all learn how to hide it so well. 

The most recent time I cried in public was when I went for a little tea break yesterday and decided to finish The Places I've Cried in Public, which I had been dreaming about since I started reading it. I was sitting in a very quiet and empty cafe, my back to the rest of the chairs, very quietly letting all the tears out as I hurried through the remaining pages. It felt so important that I reach the end, that I let it all out. Common Sense might ask, "why not wait until you got home?" or "why read it at all?" and the answer is that I physically had to finish it there and then or I felt I would implode. 
Can't help but smile a little bit now, because my inner voice commented, "dramatic, much?" as I wrote it down. Dramatic, indeed, reader. Dramatic, indeed. 

The night before this, I was three quarters of the way through the book, crying privately this time, and ever since then it has has felt like a crutch, but also like a weight on me at the same time. The only way to describe this book is as a guttaral sob that you absolutely need to have before you can get back up again and carry on. 
I'm sorry to every single person who reads this book and connects with it the way I do, because then I'll know that you have gone through the same experience. Reading it was physically, agonisingly painful, but I needed to know if Amelie was going to be alright in the end, because I was Amelie once, and I'm still waiting to see if I'll be alright in the end. 

I almost hope that this book is boring, unrelatable or nonsense to you, because then I will know that you have never experienced that pain. I also hope a little bit that you do think it's all a bit over-dramatic, because then I can pretend it's not all that serious either. I started writing this post with the intention of getting things off my chest, talking about the things I've started to address with a counsellor, admit the real truths of events that I have been through. But I don't think I need to do that just yet. 

Knowing others might find this book and feel the hope and relief that comes from escaping a "Reese" is enough. 
Knowing that I am not at fault for ending up where I did is enough. 
Knowing for real that I am not alone, because Holly Bourne came along and wrote my story for me so that I wouldn't have to do it, is enough. 

Stay safe, saplings x