December Reads So Far

This is not a snow post. We have had snow. We are, in fact, all racketing about the house as the schools have officially called a snow day. I was supposed to be going to London today to see the Box of Delights with my friend, Claire, but we are also having a snow day, but have managed to reschedule rather than cancel. Huzzah.

Enough of weather talk. This is another book post. Sleep continues to elude me despite all the things I am doing to tempt it. Sanity is firmer than last week, but anxiety looms large. Reading continues to be a solace. As I am off on my jollies in less than a week and will be reading up a storm there as well, another round up is due.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From The Making Of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes – The Princess Bride is one of my favourite films of all time. My friend Andrea and I saw it at our local flea pit, the year it came out, and spent the time waiting for our respective parents to pick us up, duelling on the pavement using our umbrellas. It has never grown tired (the film, or duelling with umbrellas). Cary Elwes was Wesley, the hero of the piece, and this gentle, non-scandalous memoir tells the tale of his time making the film. It’s affectionate, sweet and undemanding.

Through Your Blood by Toby Campion – Toby is a performance poet from Leicester (where I live, me). His mum is a dear friend of mine. He’s a lovely chap and his poetry is excellent. He is a performance poet, and you can see some of his work on Youtube. My favourite of his poems is here. Through Your Blood is his first, published collection and it is rather wonderful. It’s assured and powerful and beautifully collated so that the poems link together to form something you can easily read as a kind of ongoing narrative by theme. I’ve seen him perform some of the poems, but others are new to me. It’s great to see them both live, and on the page.

A House In Flanders by Michael Jenkins – Michael Jenkins went on to become a world famous, diplomat, but this is his reminiscences of travelling to France as a teenager and staying with a French family who treated him as one of the family. It’s a fascinating look into a time when France was trying to come to terms with the legacy of two world wars and occupation. I thoroughly enjoyed this rather poignant memoir.

As Mad As Some: Idiot Verse by Laon Maybanke – I picked this up on my perpetual treasure hunting trip somewhere. It was a rather interesting binding with hand drawn pictures and the one page of verse I perused before paying for it was in the Ogden Nash line so it seemed worth a risk. It isn’t. Vanity publishing and terrible verse which may once have seemed amusing but is now largely offensive. It’s an hour of my life I won’t get back. Don’t do it. Luckily I cannot find a copy to link to to save you even thinking about whether to read it anyway.

Under The Paw by Tom Cox – I discovered Tom Cox via Twitter a few years ago, and this year I actually got round to reading his books. This is the first book he wrote about his cats. There are four, largely cat related works and I have read them in reverse order. They’re not your typical cat books. Cox is a brilliant writer, funny, observant and with a knack for writing lovingly but unsentimentally about animals. I pledged for his latest book: 21st Century Yokel, on Unbound this year, and am taking it on holiday with me. I am really excited to read it. Anyway, I recommend reading the cat books in the proper order if you think you’ll enjoy them. Start here. If you’re not sure, you can read a tonne of his writing for free on his website. He’s wonderful.

The Oaken Heart by Margery Allingham – This was sent to me by Netgalley in exchange for my review. Allingham is probably best known as a writer of classic crime fiction. Her books about Campion and his side-kick Lugg made her name, and her most famous work is probably The Tiger in the Smoke. This is her memoir of the outbreak of World War II and what it meant to her and the community she lived in. It’s written as the war is still raging, starting in 1938 and finishing in early 1941, and as such is both interesting as a contemporary account, and frustrating because she seems rather hesitant in some areas to be frank. It seems to have been written with an audience in mind, and given that the villagers she lives with, sign the back pages of the book, possibly with their ongoing input, which may explain the caution. I found it tricky to get into, and then just as I was really starting to enjoy it, it ends. I’d loved to have known what happened to everyone and how they coped with the rest of the war.

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon – This was sent to me by Netgalley in exchange for my review. It’s available for pre-order and published on January 11th 2018. I really liked this. I didn’t think I would when I first started reading it. I thought it would be another one of those heart-warming books about how fun the elderly are when you really think about it. Which are fine, but rather over done now. This is much more than that. It’s a double mystery. Firstly you have to figure out what’s going on in terms of the narrative, and then there’s an actual mystery in the book. It’s rather tense, it’s quite funny and has a nice, dark seam of grimness that I really enjoyed.

The Pier Falls by Mark Haddon – I usually start reviews of short story collections with the fact that I don’t like short stories. Except that in the last few years I have read some exceptional short stories and I think it’s fair to say that I am now firmly on the side of the short story. This collection is up there in my top reads of 2017, if not at the actual top. It’s incredibly dark, wonderfully written and absolutely perfect. The first story, The Pier Falls, is so perfect, I had to have a lie down after I’d read it. It’s the best thing I’ve read in years. Terrible and wonderful.

The 45% Hangover by Stuart MacBride – This is a novella and only 99p on Kindle at the moment. If you are a fan of MacBride’s Logan and Steel detective books, which I am, this is a great, between the numbers filler. It’s not got the grim, darkness of the novels and concentrates more on playing it for laughs and the ludicrous relationship between Logan and Steel. I loved it.

Sea of Strangers by Lang Leav – This was sent to me by Netgalley in exchange for my review. I’d never heard of Lang Leav before this. Apparently she’s a poet who made it big using the internet and social media and has an adoring readership which has meant that her books are all best sellers. This one is out on February 8, 2018. I am not destined to be an adoring fan. Her poetry is, to my mind (and my view is purely subjective) rather trite and full of heartfelt, greetings card style philosophy about love and heartbreak. If I had read this at 18, I may have indeed loved her, although I had and still have, Sylvia Plath for that kind of thing, but my enduring thought whilst reading this was ‘I am too old for this shit.’ The poetry is not particularly poetic. It makes an easy read, but if you’re looking for deep metaphor and anything other than basic doggerel verse, this is not for you. I want to be nice to her, because she seems lovely, but I did think this was terrible and I couldn’t, in all honesty, recommend it to anyone. I think I’m genuinely too old, and too cynical for this book.

A Maigret Christmas by Georges Simenon – This was sent to me by Netgalley in exchange for my review. It’s available now and as it’s as festive as Maigret is ever going to get, it would be a good Christmas read, if you like your seasonal literature with a hint of menace. Simenon is crime classic royalty, and rightly so. This is elegant, unfussy and full of a kind of coiled menace that lurks behind the descriptions of a Parisian Christmas. I love Maigret for his world weariness, his (not-so) secret hankering to be on the mean streets and, in this book, his bewildering attempts to placate his long suffering wife on Christmas day.

In terms of children’s fiction I read:

The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris – This was given to me by Amazon Vine in exchange for my review. Neil Patrick Harris is best known to people of my age as Doogie Howser M.D. However, since having children of his own he has leapt into children’s writing. I believe this is co-authored with another writer. As an adult I found it a little clunky and with gaping plot holes. Reading as a child I would absolutely love this, and it’s available now if anyone wants to purchase it as a gift. It’s fast paced, it’s full of adventure and harks back to the days of Blyton and running away to join the circus. It’s got secret codes for the reader to crack, and how to do magic tricks of all kinds interspersed amongst the chapters. It’s got great, cartoon like illustrations and I know that were I eight and someone had given me this for Christmas, I’d be driving everyone mad trying to pull coins out their ears and planning on my escape to a life of adventure. I’ve reviewed it in slightly more detail over at Making Them Readers.

Still here

In the great experiment that is living through the menopause so I can have the rest of my life back, I have found that Night Nurse is not the medication for me. I drank twenty millilitres of the viscous, green, hell liquid last night in order to rock me off to sleep. It did not happen. As I do not have any cold symptoms, I didn’t even feel the benefit of those. So, unlike the night before, when two hefty gins sealed the deal, I woke and sweated and woke and sweated with gay abandon all night long.

I did not have to get up and go downstairs, although I did have to go to the toilet more times than any woman with a perfectly functioning bladder should have to. I did not roar my eyes out in the middle of the night because I had had it up to here, either, so I suppose it may have helped a bit. Not enough for me to keep paying £8 a bottle for, though. Still, we’ve got it in case someone comes down with the traditional Christmas cold I suppose. It was worth a punt.

I am now slightly concerned that my future may feature more hangovers than I had anticipated, if the only thing that’s going to get me through this bad patch is gin. I have nothing against gin, but it feels like damping down the menopause in order to get potential liver cancer is not a fair trade.

Today I have been slightly more mad than yesterday. It’s all still a very fine balancing act in which: ‘I am but mad north north-west. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.’ Today the wind was more northerly than I would have liked, but my bird spotting skills were tolerable, so I teeter on. I reckon if I was measuring my ability to hold on in ten minute spurts the day before yesterday, today I’m at about half an hour. So it goes.

I have done chores. I have chipped away at the Christmasberg, but realise quite how poor my impulse control is when I go into a shop to buy a gift and come out laden with bags on the ‘one for you, three for me,’ principle. In other, possibly related news, I have a very nice cushion with a chicken on it. So that is a relief, for when the chicken cushion auditors come round.

I have finished my book, (The Pier Falls, by Mark Haddon) which was most excellent. I shall save proper reviews for my next post, unless I have to write up more waily, waily, crivens material. I have finally finished watching the excellent BBC4 documentary about Tove Jannson. It has taken me three days (I am not skilled at watching the television unless drag queens are involved), but it was terrific and I finished it with a terrible hankering to go and change my name to Tuulikke, because who wouldn’t want to be called that if they had a chance?


Less Mad

Hello. Hello. I am still here. Clinging on to my little corner of the universe. As predicted yesterday, things are better. Not great, but better, and better is good enough for me.

I did manage to get washed and dressed yesterday. I did not manage to cook dinner. Instead we had a Chinese takeaway, which pleased everyone, including me. All my lovelies were home to eat with me, including adopted lovelies that are now family. It’s amazing what eating a large bag of prawn crackers can do for morale.

I then drank two, very generous gin and tonics, watched Paul Calf’s Video Diaries (My favourite line: ‘you’ve got shit shoes on, you shitty shoed bastard’ – never fails to make me laugh. I’m sorry. I never promised to be classy) and managed to go to sleep in a timely manner.  I still woke up several times in the night, but not enough to have to do anything about it. I also had dreams. Not nightmares, but dreams. This was 100% improvement on the day before. Although if someone makes me take ten small children and a kitten on a canal barge trip, as in my dream, things may take a steep nose dive.

I woke up this morning as the kids left, and decided to go back to sleep, because wothehell Archy, wothehell. I got up at half ten, ate breakfast,  chatted to the lovely cleaning lady who came to do lovely cleaning (she was coming to help while I was poorly, and is now unable to leave because I cling to her leg and cry). Then I got myself ready, made a shopping list and went out. I came back with everything on the list (which could be classified by Pope Francis as yer actual, modern day miracle) and did not disgrace myself whilst out in any way.

I have cooked a cracking dinner which everyone was as pleased about as Chinese takeaway. I have found a pound to give to Oscar who is off to the school disco in a little while. I have also found his disco ticket on my desk, which sounds like an exciting designer drug, but is sadly, a small piece of red paper that allows him to sweat his socks off in the school hall for an hour while mainlining Haribo. I am impressed that I found the ticket, given the current, chaotic state of my desk. I think it was the redness of it that helped.

I am still extremely tired, but less extremely mad, for which I am grateful. Tonight I shall eschew gin, but take a slug of Night Nurse, which my friend Claire swears by as a knocker outerer when things get grim. At £8 a bottle I could have bought a bottle of pretend Baileys from down the Aldi, so it had better be good.

More Fucking Things

You know that poem by Fleur Adcock? It’s called Things:

There are worse things than having behaved foolishly in public.

There are worse things than these miniature betrayals,

committed or endured or suspected; there are worse things

than not being able to sleep for thinking about them.

It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in

and stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse

and worse.

I know I posted it before on here, years ago. Almost certainly when I was in the throes of wrangling three small children.

However, it is most apt today, so I have dusted it off for a re-visit.

My head is a fucking barbaric place to live right now. I’d like to park it up somewhere safe, get out, have a walk around in the fresh air, watch the moon sparkle on the sea, eat a bacon sandwich with a cuppa, and go back when I feel rested. Sadly, without the use of recreational drugs (which I am beginning to contemplate) this is not an option.

I’ve had insomnia before. It’s not my first rodeo. BUT

In the old days, pre-menopause. Here’s what I would do. I would think, ‘Fuck that noise.’ I would get up, take advantage of the quiet and the peace of the night and fill my hours reasonably productively before going to sleep. I’d grab whatever hours of rest were allotted to me with both hands, and then deal with whatever time I had to get up to face the day with a lot of coffee. Eventually I would be so exhausted, it would break the pattern and I would go back to normal sleeping again. I was still absolutely bonkers, but this approach worked in that it was me making the best of a bad situation and I’m sure, meant that I did not end up in the basket weaving department type bonkers.

This time it’s different. Firstly I have ‘fuckwitter’s head.’ This means that rather than being brusque and no nonsense and just dealing with being awake, I insist, for reasons which are not entirely clear to me, on lying in my pit and worrying about being awake until I burst into tears, at which point I get up and do things in a doleful, tragic, manner. This is not helpful.

Secondly, the anxiety of the ‘worse things’ I insist on peppering my already miserable ‘why can’t I sleep?’ thoughts with, exacerbates my hot flushes (because they are linked to my emotions for reasons which elude me), which in turn, mean that I cannot sleep. It turns out that it is really difficult to sleep when your brain is rebelling against you and your body is turning to liquid as you lay there.

Thirdly, hot, fucking flushes people. The only word to describe them is ludicrous. I’d give a greased pig a run for its money. Honestly. It’s just not sexy.

Fourthly, I am being an absolute fool to myself in terms of giving in to the tiredness and going back to bed and sleeping through the morning, instead of getting up, being brave and tiring myself out. I realise this is stupid, and counter-productive and I should rip the plaster off and deal with a few days of wanting to die of tired in order to try and break the cycle, but I am being a total knob about it. I know I am, but I just don’t have the energy to be any less of a knob about it, despite the fact that I would have the energy if I just stopped being a knob. If you see what I mean.

Guys, I am driving myself all the crazy. Today I was supposed to be going for a lovely day out with my wonderful friend. Instead I texted her at seven this morning to say that I just couldn’t do it and I was going back to bed. She was very understanding, and probably quite relieved not to be trapped with me all day in my current state.

What I should have done was give up on sleep, get up, drink all the coffee, plaster an ‘I’m doing great’ face on, and head off into the day. Except I was already doing the fuckwitter’s head thing about, ‘What if I burst into tears all over her? What if I can’t keep up being jolly? What if I just start crying and can’t stop? That wouldn’t be British.’ And I knew, even as the thoughts were tormenting me that this was stupid because she is my friend and she loves me, and our friendship is real and not superficial, and even if I glued myself to her leg with snotty tears, she’d be cool with it. Of course she would .She’s my friend. And she doesn’t care about being British, because she’s from Mauritius, and I don’t care about being British either, really. But you know, why let logic get in the way of all that woe?

So I went back to bed and lay in a torturing sweat until half eight whereupon I managed to fall asleep until half eleven. I woke up and immediately started to shout at myself. ‘You need to get up, get dressed and go out. You need to run round like an over-excited labrador until you’re knackered. You need to cut your hair and join the army. You know what you need? A thick ear. Why didn’t you go out with Jenn? You’re an idiot.’

So this was exhausting and really counter-productive, because I just cried. So crying got in the way of me doing anything else and I sat over coffee trying to gee myself up to do something more kind, even if I couldn’t do anything more actually useful. Turns out, I can’t do anything more kind today either. I can just ricochet between crying, sweating, worrying and shouting at myself. Oh, and in between being very tragic, being really, really angry, particularly about stupidly small things that don’t matter one bit.

It’s not that I don’t know what to do in these circumstances. I do. It’s not even about them being difficult things to do. When I say difficult, I mean things that will cost a lot of money, or be millions of miles away, or involve liaising with forty, different people. I can do everything that needs to be done myself. BUT, just because they’re not difficult to do doesn’t mean they’re not hard to do, and that’s a whole other story. Most days, as you know, I give myself a resounding kick in the arse, and do what I need to do, because it works, and it’s always, always worth the agony/effort.

Today, I have to accept that that is not going to happen. These are the hardest days for me. The days when I can see the self-sabotage happening, but just cannot get out of my own way. I know, from experience, that this will pass. There are some days you just have to grit your teeth and ride out. This is one of them. It’s not going to be lovely, but it is going to be alright.

I shall spend the rest of the day doing whatever small things I am capable of. I have decided that if all I am able to do is have a shower, get dressed, listen to my children telling me about the day and make dinner, that is good enough for today. Or, I might not be able to do those things when it comes down to it, because today is going to be one of those days, but tomorrow will be different.

When my ex-husband was in recovery for addiction, about twenty odd years ago now, I would go to meetings of my own, to learn how to live with someone who was an addict. The programmes are identical. You just work them from different perspectives. One of the things that was really useful on the worst days was the mantra of ‘one day at a time’. You do not have to be sober/sane forever. You just have to be sober/sane today. And if doing it for a day is too hard, then feel free to break it down further. Some days it’s about getting through the next minutes.

Today has been like that. I’m breaking it down into manageable chunks. I don’t have to get through the rest of my life like this. I just have to make it through the next ten minutes, and then all bets are off. After ten minutes, I go again. It’s not pretty. It’s not easy. It’s not nice, but it’s real and it’s sometimes what life is, and it’s tolerable. Just.





Repeating myself

I’m still finding life a bit difficult. Life is always difficult otherwise it wouldn’t really be life, but there are times when I find whatever balancing act is required to get through the multitudinous demands of the day harder than others.

Nothing is terrible. I’m just feeling overwhelmed. I have been stiff upper lipping like crazy in the hope that I’d feel better about things. I don’t, and I’m tired of being stiff upper lipped now.

I watched a Brene Brown TED talk today about vulnerability. It was a timely reminder that the times things get easier for me, are the times that I allow myself to shout ‘argghhhh,’ and run around like a headless chicken for a bit. Mainly I suspect this works because I stop putting a lot of energy into acting as if I’m coping, and that frees it up for other stuff, like shouting ‘argh.’

I don’t know. That’s also really helpful, admitting that largely I don’t know anything much of anything, and I’m mostly winging it. I’ve posted many blogs like this in my time, and I found myself thinking that I couldn’t post another one. After all, the one I posted before the last book blog was basically a whinge into the ether.

Then I realised that for the sake of my sanity, I absolutely could.

I am still turning up for life. I have a booming social life, in fact. I have been to Brighton for the weekend. I have been to see The Kooks with the young people. I have been to London and met lots of lovely friends. I have been to parties, and theatrical happenings. I have visited lots of other lovely friends who live in places other than Brighton and London. I have lunched, and dined and eaten excessive amounts of cheese. There are still many exciting events to look forward to before and after Christmas. I’m even going to a gig tonight. On a Monday, no less. Until a couple of hours ago, my house was full of friends and family, sitting around my kitchen table, gossiping and enjoying each other’s company. I am in no doubt of how blessed I am.

I have a clean house. My business is slowly building (which is anxiety inducing, but also good). I have cooked nourishing dinners. I am still reading ferociously and keeping on top of my reviewing commitments. I have decked the halls with gay apparel. I get dressed every day. I take my medication and my vitamins and I have a cold nose and a glossy coat. I count my children in and out every day and know roughly where they all are at any given time. I have had no evil phone calls from schools. My husband is still fairly magnificent, for a boy.

I am grateful for all these things and these people, and all the love I receive. I am extra grateful that I can still do all this to-ing and fro-ing, and haven’t binned it all off in favour of rocking purgatorially in the twilight.

Health wise, my hospital appointment has been moved again. I am now going to the hospital on the 15th December. This is the fourth attempt at an appointment. I am not hopeful that it will be the last or that it will sort out my blood pressure, except maybe to send it shooting through the top of the machine and pinging into a ceiling tile. My sciatic nerve is much better, but it does still hurt. My hot flushes are mighty at the moment, although they are unpredictable in the most annoying way. I am tired all the time, like I was when the children were small. This is how I managed to mandolin a slice out of my thumb last week, and burn myself on the oven about three minutes later, whilst still dripping thumb blood all over the kitchen floor.

My sleeping patterns are all over the place still. When I do sleep, I have ‘interesting’ nightmares, none of which I will recount here (the self restraint is awesome. Note). I am also feeling desperately sad for a lot of the time (not helped by the news, which is a never ending ticker tape of horror), and when I’m not feeling sad, I’m feeling rather brittle and awkward, like an ornament that will smash into a thousand bits if I have to deal with anything else.

This is, of course, nonsense. There has been plenty of anything else to deal with. This is life. When the anything else happens, I deal with it. I may deal with it as I weep, ugly tears, but I deal with it and I am strong, and resilient, and surprise myself sometimes with quite how bendy I can be. In amidst my general gloom I am waving my ‘go team’ pom-poms at the sidelines of my life, shouting encouraging shit through a megaphone.

Sometimes it helps if I can find a cause for the sadness, which is the thing I am struggling with most. I may still be (certainly am) recovering from the operation. I may still be (certainly am) in the midst of menopause stuff. I may be suffering from SAD as someone suggested. I will look into a light box. I may just really need a holiday, even though my life is more of an every day holiday than most people’s. However, a change is as good as a rest, and I am crossing off the days (two weeks) until we go away to our sacred little corner of North Wales. I may have festive anxiety. I certainly felt it after several miserable hours of Christmas shopping on Friday and far too many Christmas songs. It may be all of the above. I was waiting, today, for inspiration to strike and for me to decide that ‘this’ or ‘that’ was definitely the thing, so that I could ‘do’ something to fix it.

Then I watched the Brene Brown talk and realised that being open, being what she calls whole-hearted, being ok to be vulnerable is what to do, regardless of whether it’s one thing or all the things. I hadn’t wanted to repeat myself on the blog. I had wanted to provide ‘new’ content, like this was one of those blogs that was started to sell life style products or something. I’m not selling anything. Nobody would want my life, and the whole point of the damn blog was to prop me up in times of woe, even if those times of woe are repetitious and uninteresting and nobody reads them.

I mean if you are reading, great and you are absolutely welcome here, and I have, over the years made some amazing friends from this process, but you are an added bonus, not the point, and how stupid of me to forget the point and dismiss it as boring. It may be boring. Taking daily medication is boring, brushing your teeth is boring, wiping your arse is boring, but it’s also necessary. And so is this.


Books for the end of November

Afternoon lovelies. I need to do a book blog, as insomnia has reached new heights recently and I have been doing a lot of reading. It’s kind of excellent, as I always have a mammoth to read pile on the go. It’s also shit, because you could drown kittens in the bags under my eyes. But let’s go with the, ‘Yay! I got a tonne of reading done,’ version, because I am having a relatively optimistic day today.

Light Boxes by Shane Jones – I like strange books. I like discovering little treasures nobody else really knows about and clutching them to my chest. I thought this book might be like that. It was tiny, and in a beautiful cover. It looked surreal and cool and right up my street. February has been going on for hundreds of days, all flight has been banned, children are disappearing. Who will make it summer again? Well, honestly, I don’t care. It was, for a short book, really hard going. It is, I think, a writer’s metaphor for his own depression, but it just didn’t work for me at all.

Porcelain by Moby – This is the autobiography of Moby the dance music superstar. This starts with him as a teenager, squatting in an abandoned factory wrestling to reconcile his religious faith with his musical ambition and finishes just as he’s about to smash it with the release of Play. It was a fantastic read. He is strange, funny and self-deprecating. He writes really well and I was genuinely absorbed in this from start to finish.

Beginning French by Les Americains – This was sent to me by Net Galley in exchange for my review. I usually find this kind of travel writing rather soothing. I enjoyed Peter Mayle’s ‘A Year in Provence’, and every wannabe after it. It’s the sort of reading I like when my mind is doing a washing machine of repetitive thoughts and I just need something gentle and non-demanding to distract myself. I found this a bit of a mess to be honest. It doesn’t seem to quite know what it wants to be. The narrative chops and changes, the chronology chops and changes, and certain key areas of story are missed out so the reader is required to fill in the blanks. This has all been done before, but better.

Now We Are Forty by Tiffanie Darke – This was sent to me by my friend Katey, who will appear further down this list as an actual, proper novelist in her own right. She’d read it and found it interesting and thought it might appeal to me. It did, in parts. It’s an exploration by Darke, of people of my age/generation and how what we did as young people, in the Nineties, has shaped what we are living through now. She explores youth culture, dance music, changing attitudes to work etc. It was interesting, but at times frustrating. She does tell you that it is largely based on her experiences and those of people she knows/interviews. This makes it largely London centric and for the most part, people who already had, or quickly acquired money. It doesn’t reflect the national picture and I found myself getting irritated by certain of her assumptions. Having said that, she is honest that it is not meant to be reflective of everyone’s experiences. I’d buy the Kindle version if you’re intrigued. It’s only £3.99.

It Had To Be You by Keris Stainton – This was sent to me by Net Galley for review. It is available now on Kindle for £1.99. I must also state that I know Keris, albeit only virtually.  I am nothing if not honest in my book reviews though, so if I didn’t like it, I’d either say, or not review it. Luckily, I loved it. I read her first novel for adults (she is already an acclaimed author in the teen/Ya and children’s genres), If You Could See Me Now, and really enjoyed it, but this is better. It’s clever and funny and properly romantic. It really made me laugh out loud in several places. I love the fact that Keris writes great heroines who are not weedy, and who actually develop as people and don’t just spend the whole time being a foil for the romantic lead. This is great fun.

Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton – This was sent to me by Net Galley for review. It is published on February 1st next year and is available for pre-order. I asked to review this because I read that Marian Keyes had loved it, and I trust her when it comes to book recommendations. I got into the first few chapters and wondered if it really was for me. Dolly, it has to be said, can be a difficult character at times. The more I read, the more I enjoyed it, and actually I ended up loving the book. It’s confessional, it’s frank and it isn’t really what you think it’s going to be at all. Properly, surprisingly good.

Christmas With The Savages by Mary Clive – I’ve had this book for donkey’s years and kept meaning to read it. I finally decided I should attempt (feebly) to get into the Christmas spirit and thought I’d start with this. Mary Clive was the daughter of minor aristocracy who went on to become a journalist. Her book is a recollection of her childhood Christmas, spent at a stately pile when her father was ill in hospital and she was shipped off to friends of the family by her mother. It’s funny and sharp and entirely unsentimental, and it’s a brilliant snapshot of a time and class system that is now long gone. Apparently she has also written about her time as a debutante, and it’s definitely on my list of books to find and read next year.

Joe and Clara’s Christmas Countdown by Katey Lovell – Katey is a good friend of mine. We met years ago, when her dream of being a published novelist was just that. Now, with Joe and Clara’s Christmas Countdown, she has ushered her third, full length novel into the world. I bought my own copy, for the avoidance of doubt, and as stated elsewhere, if I didn’t like it, I either wouldn’t review it, or I would say so. I did like it. Joe and Clara is a project dear to Katey’s heart that I had the great good fortune to be a reader of, from the early stages. It’s really exciting to see and read the finished item and see how much has changed since those early days. I loved this. What I particularly like is the fact that Katey has managed to blend the best aspects of Christmas here without making it schmaltzy in any way. It genuinely is festive and you are totally rooting for Joe and Clara from the get go. P.S. The fortune telling fish bit was my idea, and it made the final cut! Whoop!

Knickers Models Own by Caroline Jones – I came across Caroline via Instagram and soon  fell in love with her. She’s clever and funny and her way of shopping and dressing is so like mine in every respect, except for our styles. Caroline always looks fabulous and I love how irreverent she is about fashion while still taking it seriously. The book is a coffee table book about her year of dressing entirely in ‘pre loved’ items as a way of celebrating the memory of her mum, who had just died of cancer, and as a way of raising funds for Cancer Research. All proceeds from the sale of the book go to Cancer Research.

Three Men and A Maybe by Katey Lovell – I realised, after I’d finished reading Joe and Clara’s Christmas Countdown, that I had been very remiss in recommending Katey’s free, short story on Kindle, and as it’s festive too, I read it, reviewed it and am now recommending it to you. It’s very short, it’s seasonal, it’s a good sample of Katey’s style. My only criticism is that it would have made an excellent novel, and I’m sad nobody commissioned it as a full length. Ah well.

For children I have read and reviewed, Hortense and the Shadow by Natalie O’Hara over at Making Them Readers. It was sent to me by Net Galley and is a fairy tale picture book suitable for children aged 4-6.


I have spent a lot of the weekend in pain, with my splendid leg giving me gyp. I love the word gyp. It is so very English. It is a word of the world of Victoria Wood, and what’s not to love about that? So there’s that to be grateful for.

Saturday night’s sleep was massacred by a winning combination of leg pain and hot flushes. It’s hard to be sanguine about the days when I don’t have insomnia being shat on, sleep wise, by other things. I am trying, because it doesn’t look to be abating any time soon.

I have to report, in the interests of science, that hot flushes are exacerbated (for me, anyway) by extremes of emotion and/or pain. Which is nice. I am trying to look on the excessive sweating as a reason why I am, despite eating everything, still looking reasonably trim. I think I sweat off about a pound a night at the moment. Let us not talk of women glowing. I suspect that if we duct taped a dozen, menopausal women together whilst in the midst of a flush, we could keep a small town warm for a week.

Trying to look on the positive side, I get a lot of reading done, and the cat is overjoyed that she has someone to stay up late and hang out with, because who wouldn’t want to be prmmping (this is the noise she makes. It’s not a typo) about at 3.00 a.m. whilst galloping up and down the hall like a pack of tiny ponies in mid charge?

My sleep patterns were so fucked up that Sunday was spent falling asleep in inappropriate places and eating. This is ok. In fact, this is generally a perfect way to spend a Sunday, except that it has done nothing to help me pull my sleeping patterns back to some semblance of normality, so I sit here, typing this, only having been awake for about an hour, and still in my pyjamas, while the day is half gone and I have achieved almost nothing.

You may be able to sense that I am feeling a little low. You may be right.

Recovery from anything is, I find, a series of ups and downs. Some days I feel like it’s all going in the right direction and I can conquer the world, and waiting to be fully well again is fine and I can be patient.  Other days I feel like it’s all gone to shit, and why am I not well now? And when is my life ever going to start up again? I feel paralysed with fear  over doing ‘normal’ things in case I ‘can’t’ do them anymore. I feel tired, and in pain, and anxious that this is going to be it forever and ever amen.

That’s today.  The good thing is that my rational mind is humming away in the background telling me that things are already better than they were. It’s telling me that nothing is different from yesterday when I felt fine, albeit knackered. It’s telling me that the two, big events I have planned for this week are both with friends who love me, and if I fall apart, they will look after me and not think that I have failed them and myself and I am being a massive, stupid baby about being frightened of fucking up something that simply cannot be fucked up, because that’s not how friends work.

It’s telling me that I am recovering with every day that passes, and what I am feeling now is a thousand times better than what I was feeling in the summer, when I still had migraines, and I couldn’t do my clothes up because my fingers didn’t work, and my breasts were full of cysts and my hormones were trying to kill me etc, etc. It’s telling me that being sweaty with a sore leg is pretty, fucking good, considering. It’s telling me that I am feeling this way because I am over-tired and if I can get my sleep sorted, I will be on top again. It is right. I know this. It is all true, and yet I am feeling pretty sad and very overwhelmed today.

Nearly all of it is tiredness, it’s true. It will pass. Some of it though was down to chasing the letter for my endocrinology appointment this morning in a series of fairly futile phone calls (8 weeks since I was referred and told I would have a letter in 4 weeks) only for a letter to plop onto the mat just as I’d put the phone down.

To be fair this is the second letter I’ve had. It doesn’t help when the first letter was a cancellation letter for an appointment with an entirely different department, when I never received the initial appointment letter at all, and this letter is a cancellation of an appointment that I was told on the phone I probably had on December 12th.  There is no probably about it now. I did have the appointment on December 12th, but it has been pushed back to January 16th.

The good thing is that it is not in the middle of the one week of holiday I get this year. The bad thing is that it is now next year and I am not convinced they won’t cancel this one either.

The worst thing is that the only way I have found I can cope with the whole blood pressure saga is to ignore it and this has pushed it to the top of my mind again, and I am struggling.

I have coped all these weeks by refusing to take my blood pressure, whilst taking the pills as prescribed without thinking about what they might or might not be doing and what it means. I have basically stuck my fingers in my ears and started singing ‘la, la, la I can’t hear you,’ because I simply cannot cope any more with people on the one hand telling me I am at high risk of a stroke, and on the other hand shouting at me for not ‘relaxing’ while they’re telling me I might die of a stroke. Especially when these are the same people who keep giving me conflicting information about medication AND failing to give me the one hospital appointment that might start to deal with the issue. If I die of a stroke, please crowd fund Jason so that he can sue them. It’s only fair.

I will be fine. I am fine. I am better when I don’t hoard the crazy in my head. I am putting the crazy out there so that I can look back at my bat shit ways and shake my head in a patronising manner at myself.

I am going to work hard today to bury the anxiety about my blood pressure, back in the deep cave where it belongs. I have a fun week planned and even though I am anxious, I am going to do all the things and have that fun because I am a stubborn cow.