Thursday, 31 December 2020

My Year in Books: 2020

Hello saplin's, 

   It's been a while. Although 2020 has encouraged me to indulge in a number of activities, writing has not been one of them. Sometimes I have returned to my blog with every intention of writing something new, only to see the previous post and feeling suddenly unable to focus on any single thought or feeling or word. I know that many of you will feel the same when I say that this year has been unimaginably awful. I have, however, punctuated the carnage with books as usual. Unsurprisingly, concentrating on reading anything has also been a challenge, so I am very pleased I made at least some attempt. Just like last year, please continue for this year's reading round-up. 

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse - Charlie Mackesy

What a beautiful book. I am so pleased I began the year with something so uplifting and human as this. Something everyone can and should read, if only to bring you a little peace for a little while. 

The Starless Sea - Erin Morgenstern

So delightfully unique, plush and delectable. I was enchanted from the first sentence and have remained enchanted with it, so much so that it makes my heart ache and my head feel like it's floating. It is the book which made me turn to someone and say, "can you be intoxicated by a story?". 
If you want an adventure, here it is. 

Help Me! How self-help has not changed my life - Marianne Power

You got me, I'm one of those people buying the self-help books - no wait! I was. It was a turning-point in itself to discover that I had received a sort-of self-help book for Christmas. However, it turned out to be the best self-help book I've ever read. Because of Marianne Power, I have not since bought a self-help book and won't be buying any more. You see, she points out the obvious which is that self-help books do not work for the majority of people who read them. How does she prove it? I imagine you ask. She decides to follow a self-help book every month, to the letter, for an entire year. Sound easy? Guess again! 

The Vagina Bible - Dr. Jennifer Gunter

If your first thought was, "why are you reading that?" consider that you might benefit from reading it. Humans don't know half as much as they should about vaginas, some people never actually having looked at their own. Yes, you read that correctly. 
Without wishing to be the feminist waving around the vulva imagery, something so politicised is something we should know more about. 

"Buy this book if you have a vagina or if you spend any time at all in reasonably close proximity to one" - Ayelet Waldman

Varjak Paw & The Outlaw Varjak Paw  - S.F Said

By this point, we were in lockdown. The world had not yet started to feel like it was crumbling, and I was encouraged to do a little more reading in the extra time I was getting from not having to catch the bus in the morning. I used this time to read my favourite childhood books. I am convinced that these two stories have contributed to my identity as a reader and to who I am in general. I always felt a little bit like an outsider and an ugly duckling, and these books gave me comfort and a narrative which told me I could still work hard, gather strength. and find friendship. 

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

This novel had somehow managed to escape my attention until last year. I watched a charming film called The Bookshop with Emily Mortimer and Bill Nighy where one of the characters is captivated by Farenheit 451 and urgently seeks out Ray Bradbury's other works. The next time I saw it when I was out shopping, I impulsively picked it up and finally felt inspired to read it because I was teaching a module on utopias and dystopias. It was good, and it was cold. It made everything and everyone around me feel fleeting and vulnerable, like the walls of my house were damp cardboard, and would cave in if I pressed on them too hard. 

Whispering to Witches - Anna Dale

I smiled when I typed the title. My earliest memory of having a favourite book. It's whimsical and magical. It's like sitting in front of a warm fire in the middle of winter. I can read it over and over and every single time I feel like a child again. 

Alice - Christina Henry

I felt compelled to write about Alice at the time of reading, you can find my scrawlings here. One thing I would like to reiterate here is that the reason I love the darker retellings of Alice in Wonderland is because they capture the anger and the volatility bubbling under Carroll's characters. I have always likened living in Wonderland  like being in a relationship with a red-faced bomb that insists on lighting its own fuse. 

The Familiars - Stacey Halls

Beautiful and earthy and it left me feeling heartbroken for all of the richness and texture of lives lost and stories unheard. How people suffer, and how they defy.  

Pretending - Holly Bourne
As an established fan of Holly Bourne, I was worried I would not like this book. It started very strongly in a mindset I recognise so well, and it was difficult to look at. It was all mangled pain and fury and fear. I didn't know how to look at it without feeling hot buttons all over me being prodded and pushed in. However, it's Holly Bourne, after all, so I pushed on. The growth and the strength displayed at such a time that it felt like she wrote it just for me. I know so many others will read it and feel the same way. It's a book for when you're ready to heal. 

Who Goes Here? - Bob Shaw

A book recommended to me by my Dad. I turned pages swiftly, smiled often, and was frequently intrigued. A spoofy introduction to sci-fi for someone who has hardly read any. I sense a re-read is necessary as the first time round was spent mostly in confusion and repeatedly saying "what?"

The Priory of the Orange Tree - Samanth Shannon 

I must say, I admire my optimism starting this book when I was feeling so low. Despite it being so large, I found myself really sad when it was over. I had grown so attached to the characters and their individual quests and desires, and when everything finally came together I spent the latter half of the novel in a state of bliss and awe. This book is worth reading for the dragons, the lore, the swashbuckling, and the romance, but I could read it for the mouth-watering descriptions of food alone. 

The Midnight Library - Matt Haig

I can't not read something by Matt Haig. His most outstanding feature is imbuing every word with hope and understanding. Wonderfully indulgent but also sobering, to explore so many lives you could have lived and to ask yourself: why not do the best I can with this universe and this reality? (because another me might visit it someday?)

The Red Queen - Christina Henry

Something strange happened here. I felt completely enthralled by Alice, but reading The Red Queen felt quite difficult. Not because it was not just as good as Alice, because it was, but because it lost it's anger and morphed into a kind of sadness which felt neverending. Though I tend to favour sad storytelling, something about this felt defeating. I think perhaps the loss of some characters and the lack of satisfying resolution for others made this one a little harder. 

How to Argue with a Racist - Adam Rutherford

When I opened this book, I thought I was in for something that would take place in the realm of Twitter and various isms that would fall neatly into the context of the conversations I have had this year. However, it turned out to be a fascinating discussion about race and racism within the context of genetics. If you'd like to see how it helps in arguing with racists, I recommend trying it out. 

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit - Jeanette Winterson

Far be it from me to try and sum this up when Jeanette Winterson has already used the perfect combination of words. An outstanding retelling of her life, which she recollects however she likes. 

I am currently in the process of reading Angela Carter's collection, The Bloody Chamber, which is grizzly and excellent and nauseating and addictive. You can read about it next year, or maybe you'll decide to read it yourself. 

Take care saplin's x

Friday, 21 August 2020

The Bluebells Are Ringing

    Hyacinthoides non-scripta, known to some as Campanula Rotundifolia, is known to most of us as the bluebell. Gentle flowers which sway in the wind and bow their heads to the woods. It is said, in the language of the flowers, that the bluebell is a symbol of humility, constancy, gratitude, and everlasting love. The folklore surrounding bluebells is old and curious and, sometimes, very bleak. There is so much sparkling wonder and beauty in a sea of bluebells, and there is also so much sadness and loss.

   One of the last things my Grandma ever painted was a beautiful bluebell wood and I know she would have eagerly listened to these stories over a cup of tea and a slice of lemon cake. I can hear her voice commenting on them, expressing surprise at the darker parts but also filing them away in her mind. I imagine her painting the bluebells, letting the sunlight fall on their tepals, not to be confused with petals, to bring out the light, and casting dark shadows from the trees to acknowledge the dark. I know we could have had a conversation just like that because my Grandma loved to learn, loved to discover new things, and loved talking about all of them with her family. In fact, she would have the perfect recommendations for books that could tell you all about them; facts you would never have guessed; what kind of gemstone would make the perfect bluebell; how bluebells were used to bind books; how the toxicity of bluebells might help to cure illness. However, she would not need a book to tell you the exact shade of blue you need to paint thousands of watercolour bluebells. Though I believe it to be a coincidence that my Grandma painted flowers that symbolise all of her own qualities, humility, constancy, gratitude, and everlasting love, I take comfort in that coincidence, nonetheless.

   I do not know how to express how much I will miss her voice. I will miss the way she likes to wear button-up shirts that used to belong to her sons. I will miss seeing her hair pulled back in headbands because she likes it out the way. I will miss the way she walks – briskly. I will miss the funny stories she tells. I will miss the way she pretends to scold my Grandad. I will miss the way he smiles at her when she does it. I will miss the way she says, “let’s just play one more game”. I will miss the way she likes to feed the dog from her plate. I will miss being told that no matter how old I get I will always be “Cuddlebun”. I will miss the way she does not like tattoos, but she has decided to like mine because it is part of me. I will miss her saying “never mind, it will all work out in the end”. I will miss watching the way her fingers turn over the tiles in Bananagrams. I will miss being able to tell her everything and listen to what she has to say. I will miss sitting across from her in the camper van, eating ham sandwiches after we’ve had a walk together by the sea. I will miss the way her face scrunches up and tears roll down her cheeks when she laughs. I will miss the tight hugs every time we say goodbye. I will miss knowing that I will always see her on Wednesdays.

   There are so many funny, wonderful, important things about my Grandma that I will never be able to express in any language that exists, but I hope she knows that the many days we have spent together, playing games, painting pictures, drinking tea and splashing around on the beach are part of who I am and that I would not be who I am without her magical influence.

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.