Autumn

Today is the 1st September and it seems appropriate to start celebrating my favourite season. This year is a little different from others as I find myself on furlough, predicted to last til the end of October. I have struggled with being on furlough but have decided to count my extra free time as blessing. Therefore, I plan on making the most of the season ahead of us. Here is my ode to Autumn……..

Autumn has always been my favourite season. As a child, going back to school in September felt more like a fresh start than the New Year ever has. I loved the idea of all the new possibilities that lay ahead and found excitement in starting new schools, college and university when the time came. Of course, I loved setting myself up for these with copious notebooks and pencils. Oh, the promise of what a good student I was going to be!

My favourite thing as a slightly more observant adult is the way the sunlight and the air changes in Autumn, The watery light poking through the rusty red trees and the fresh breeze shuffling the leaves along the pathways. There is nothing better than sitting in the local park with a chai latte (yes, total cliche) just taking all of this in. The nights start to draw in but it feels less oppressive than the early darkness of Winter. Lighting candles and getting the blankets back out feel so warming to my soul.

Autumn makes me excited to look forward to the holidays I love best, Halloween and Christmas. Halloween is nostalgic for me and as a child my parents always made a special time of it, despite it not being a big deal in Britain about 20 years ago. We put up decorations, carved pumpkins and iced fairy cakes with poor depictions of witches and monsters. Every Halloween we watched Hocus Pocus and at my grand old age, I still keep up this tradition.

Over the next couple of months, I plan on getting out for walks as much as possible to enjoy what this season has to offer, I have also made a list of Autumnal recipes to try and eat a little a bit more seasonally too! I plan on sharing some ideas on this blog over the next few weeks so please check back! Let me know your favourite thing about Autumn in the comments ……

A few words on failure….

I’m straying away from the world of books for this post. I recently had an experience that gave me a brief moment of enlightenment and I wanted to share my thoughts.

Last week I had a job interview for a part time job that I was hoping to do as my “side hustle”. It was an interview befitting our modern, socially distant times with it being held online with automated questions. I thought I had prepared well for this interview, thoroughly researching the organisation and finding examples of questions they had asked other people at interviews. I had written copious notes down and felt in control,,, well until I hit the “go” button. From the moment it started I felt uncomfortable, the questions weren’t what I was expecting and seeing myself on the camera being filmed made me feel self conscious. The moment I finished I text my boyfriend and declared I had messed up and failed the process. He asked about the questions but I brushed it off not feeling ready to delve into my bruised ego. I continued to berate myself in silence for a while…….

It was later during the day on a very reflective long walk that I had chance to see how hard I’d been on myself. It made me realise how much we set expectations in life and how any deviation from them is a “failure”. I think this is something that causes me a great deal of anguish. I am a perfectionist and when things go “wrong”, I feel disappointed and like I’ve let myself down. There’s much to be said for the idea that we learn from our mistakes and even if that’s just learning to be more mentally resilient or how to cope better next time. It’s easy to be hard on yourself. The difficult thing is talking yourself up again, soothing the bruised feelings and picking yourself up again. The sooner you turn off the negative, berating voice in your head the better.

I would urge you to always remember that there will always be other chances or other opportunities. Failure isn’t so bad and it certainly is very rarely ever the end……….

A Lovely Listen: “My Good Life in France”

I really enjoy listening to audio books whilst pottering about doing the cleaning or even on a nice walk. I tend to pick autobiographical or lifestyle books to listen to as I find the format really suits. My most recent listen is My Good Life in France: In pursuit of the rural life by Janine Marsh. I stumbled across it by accident when scrolling through kindle daily deals and was instantly drawn in as I’m a real lover of french culture. Although I’m not sure I would ever make the move to live in France, there is a distant dream in my mind of a rural escape with endless brie and bread eating. I mean doesn’t everyone day dream about this…

With travel being more difficult at the moment, I think this book was the perfect escape for me. My Good Life is all about a couple taking a chance on a rather run down house in a rural village in the North of France. After a while of travelling back and forth, they eventually make the move to live there permanently. It is full of wisdom and insight into the French way of life and certainly would be helpful if you dream (in a more serious way than moi) of upping sticks and moving to France one day. If you’re like me and just dabbling in your day dreams you will still be enthralled by Janine Marsh’s clever and funny retelling of stories from her village. From the endearing residents to the funny mistakes they’ve had a long the way, I found it truly charming!

Extra good news is that Janine has a fantastic blog https://www.thegoodlifefrance.com/ so I would recommend checking it out.

Here are links to her books or you can find them on audible as I did!

Let me know if you have read either of these great books or please let me know any recommendations you have for some French escapism!

Au revoir!

My Favourite Writers: Nora Ephron

We all have our favourite writers. The people whose words we come back to time and time again, whose wit and wisdom we savour or whose writing style we adore. Perhaps at the top of my list is the writer, Nora Ephron. I started to read her work in my early 20’s after I watched and was mesmerised by When Harry met Sally ( I was late in age to this party I know!) For those of you who aren’t familiar with Ephron; she was a journalist, writer and movie maker. Her published books are mostly collections of essays with the exception of a novel, Heartburn.

The first work of hers I read was I feel bad about my neck and other thoughts on being a woman, written by Ephron in her 60’s. Despite only being in my early 20’s, the work resonated with me and I found hope, advice and comfort in every page I read. It’s a collection of essays which I think will speak to every woman, regardless of age. She talks about the excessive beauty regimes women often put themselves through, parenting and the problems of women’s purses. Along with this, she mixes in deeper topics giving the reader an insight into the wisdom of her years and What she wishes she had known. A couple of my favourite pearls of wisdom are “you can order more than one dessert” and “you never know“. One of the greatest joys about her writing is her style. Her essays are written as if she is speaking to a friend. She has such an easy, friendly and above all incredibly witty style. Ephron strikes me as somebody who was a great observer of the world, its small details and the people within it.

If novels are more your thing and you’re looking for a first Ephron read then I would recommend Heartburn. This is a retelling of her own traumatic divorce and draws on her own experiences of marriage and adultery. The book is beautifully and insight-fully written! Nora Ephron was a great lover of food and she even sneaks some glorious recipes!

If you are keen to find out more about Nora Ephron I would recommend watching Everything is copy which is a documentary made by her son. You can find it on NowTV or Amazon Prime (not included in subscription).

You can see a full list of her books here: https://www.waterstones.com/books/search/term/nora+ephron

Please let me know in the comments if you’re a Nora Ephron fan and what your favourite works of hers are!

Book Review: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

I love to read but I am by no means a speedy reader, it usually takes me a few weeks to get through a book even if I’m enjoying it. This book was definitely an exception for me! I devoured this beautifully written book within just a few days during a week away in Cornwall.

Just to give a brief bit of background on the book, it tells the story of the death of William Shakespeare’s only son in 1596. I have always been a Shakespeare fan and interested in his life from a historical perspective, that being said I think that anybody would love this book. I feel that the narrative focuses much more on the point of view of Shakespeare’s wife, who in the book is called Agnes. The story of her life, their marriage and their children is blended seamlessly whilst moving backwards and forwards across a timeline. As you would imagine, with the main focus of the book being the death of their son, it is an incredibly emotive read. The chapters which follow the death are so powerfully written and thought provoking.

Maggie O’Farrell has managed to blend the historical context and the facts we do know about Shakespeare with her own creation and retelling of Hamnet’s life and his mothers perspective. It was incredibly engaging and impossible to put down.