Be still, my beating heart

Last Tuesday I got some news. To most people it wouldn’t be earth shattering news, but to me it was huge. I was just about to go out and I got a notification on my phone to tell me that my brother-in-law had shared something with me on Facebook. At that point I had no idea that it would be so important to me.

Generally, I’m not a person of certainties. I don’t have a favourite food or restaurant. I don’t have a favourite band or singer. I don’t think I have a favourite colour but the prevalence of purple in my wardrobe does undermine that slightly. However there is one thing I absolutely know to be true: my favourite book is To Kill A Mockingbird, the one and only book to come from the mind of Harper Lee.

The one and only book until now.

Because last week it was announced that Go Set A Watchman, a second book by Lee, is going to be published 14 July 2015. It was actually Lee’s first novel, written about Scout as an adult in New York, but the publishers enjoyed the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood so much that they asked her to write about that instead, and so Mockingbird was born. Lee didn’t think the manuscript of Watchman had survived until the publishers discovered it paperclipped to a copy of Mockingbird.

How much more wonderful could literature get? The beautiful piece of artistry that is Mockingbird, the sumptuous evocative text that says, in such simple terms, such big things that make you feel so deeply, will be alone no more.

When I read that piece of news I did a happy dance in my living room. No jokes.

There has been some controversy surrounding the news. People are worried that Lee, who is a very private person has been coerced into publishing Watchman. These people think it’s too much of a coincidence that Lee’s sister, who was her lawyer and protector, died just two months before the announcement of this new book.

The statements from Lee herself have seemed to be joyful and in control. She has said that she is thrilled they found the manuscript, and has asked people she trusts whether they think it is worth publishing (to many a resounding ‘yes’, of course).

People have even questioned if Watchman will stand up to the quality of Mockingbird, without the input of the latter’s editor, who was supposedly influential in making it the piece of literature it is today. But is that the point? Surely, this is about sharing Lee’s talent and her original intention for the story of Scout? It is naïve to think that without the very same editor Watchman won’t be a good piece of literature. There is more to a book than that. There are plenty of talented editors, and more importantly, it is Lee’s way with the written word that we have all fallen in love with and that we are all thrilled to be getting another dose of. We should not be comparing the two books, we should be grateful that we are allowed to lose ourselves once more in the delightful prose of Harper Lee.

I am uneasy with the idea that this wonderful woman, made vulnerable through the loss of her sister, could have been forced into something she was unhappy or uncomfortable with. But equally, I think it is sad that we are so cynical as to jump immediately to negative conclusions when such fantastic news is presented to us. In the wake of stories that tell us about murder, death and wrongful imprisonment, can’t we be glad that this book will be published?

It’s taken me over a week to write this post because I wanted to think about exactly what this news means to me, and how I want to take it – which evidence I believe and how I should feel. I am torn, but for me it’s all about the books. If something beautiful, poignant and meaningful has been written, it should be published and made available to as many people as possible. I choose to believe that it isn’t about profit margins and sales figures but about sharing a story that was meant to be heard. In the end, I pre-ordered my copy and I wait with bated breath to read Go Set A Watchman.

Welcome back Harper, we’ve missed you.

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Workin’ 9 to 5…sorta

As you may have guessed from my previous post, things are all shaken up round these parts. It’s all good shaking (think Taylor Swift rather than hypothermia) but it’s still been pretty dramatic. Particularly, the way I work has changed a lot. I’m currently working from home, rather than in the office in Bristol, and it’s pretty mind boggling how different things feel. Here’s my roundup of pros and cons to working at home. Because I’m sure you’re all dying to know…

First things first.

The elephant in the room.

The big issue that I know you are all very concerned with.

PRO:

Working in your PJs.

Yes, I have and yes, I will again. No, it’s not slovenly and yes, it’s as amazing as you imagine.

Moving on…

PRO: Lunchtimes

Ok, so I might not be in the centre of Bristol anymore, and I might not be able to pop out on my lunch break to buy a pair of jeans and be back in the office within twenty minutes. But let’s face it, I never did that when the option was there, so I’m not really missing out. And, really, who can buy jeans that quickly?

The counterpoint, and the massive win, is that I don’t have to take a packed a lunch or spend a small fortune on sustenance anymore. Do you know what I had for lunch on Friday? Goat’s cheese on corn thins topped with oven roasted peppers and tomatoes, piping hot and juicy from the oven. That’s bordering on gourmet, guys, and it’s the norm now. Things are stepping up!

CON: Company

I’m lucky, and my family and friends are nearby for human interaction on my lunch breaks. Let me tell you, if they weren’t around, I would go officially crazy spending this much time alone. It’s so wrong. Within a week I got into the habit of singing about everything I did, telling myself off constantly and aiming some really foul language at my online email system. Things got dark, guys. So thank God for lunch pals. Working by yourself can by scary…I mean, I always used to do that stuff, just silently, in the confines of my own mind. That’s normal, right?

On a more serious note though, I am really missing my colleagues. It was great being able to share the stressful things and vent, to have a bit of giggle and a joke, and just have those lovely ladies around me every day.

Miss you guys <3

PRO/CON: Efficiency

This one is both good and bad in every aspect. I can get up later than I used to, do some chores around the house and still be at my desk on time, now that I am at home. That is awesome. BUT. I can also work through lunch and carry on until about 9pm if left to my own devices and conversely, I can get very distracted with jobs around the house when I do stop for lunch. It’s all about control. Luckily, I’ve stopped my self from going overboard/underboard (if that’s a thing) but you really have to watch it.

PRO: Commuting

Oh gee. For a long time I was a cheeky sneaker who only had to walk ten minutes to get to work. Then everything went bibbledy and I suddenly had an hour commute that involved a train and 45 minutes of walking to get to work. Want to know a secret? That was hard. It was draining and miserable and more often than not very cold and very wet. I don’t miss it. Not one jot.

PRO: Gym motivation

Now hear me out on this one, I know it seems weird. When I used to work in the office, it would get to the end of the day and I would trudge all the way home and the last thing I wanted to do was head back out into the mire and do a workout. I managed to make myself go to ballet classes (sometimes) but that was still tricky. Now that I’m at home all day, I’m desperate to get out of the place come 5pm and do something physical. The result? I have been to the gym four times in eight days. I’m gonna get ripped.

So there you have it. That’s my two cents on working from home and yes, I know you didn’t ask but hey, it can still be entertaining, right? Answers on a postcard…

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All change please, all change

Have you guys ever felt the need to just shake things up? Just completely change everything in your life and do something new and different and exciting? I would have never pegged myself as the kind of person who would, but in the last two years I’ve done that twice.

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In February 2013, I uprooted from my hometown of Milton Keynes and moved with Steven to Bath to undertake a new and exhilarating job.

In February 2015, I uprooted from Bath and moved back to Milton Keynes with Steven, ready for a new adventure. This time it’s his turn. And come September things will really hot up.

These experiences just got me thinking, really. In a world where people have the same job for 30 years and stay in the same house their entire lives, there isn’t much room for mystery, for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and doing something that scares you. I’m not about to say that everyone should do one thing that scares them everyday because a) why would you want to? And b) there aren’t that many scary things in life. But I do think there is something to be said for appreciating how temporary things really can be if we want them to be. We should embrace that, and put a little less pressure on ourselves with it in mind.

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In the past month I’ve been stressed, tired, anxious and sad but it’s all been temporary. And do you know what it’s all paved the way for? A new kind of contentment. A bigger home. Seeing my family every day and knowing that my oldest friends are five minutes away once more. Sure there are still uncertainties, but that may just be the best part.

Who ever wanted all the answers, anyway?

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A woman of means

So I spent my Monday evening doing a bit of mending. There’s nothing glamorous about that. I had a couple of popped seams to sew up, that’s all. As I threaded my needle, the hubby asked what I was doing. His response, when I told him was:

“That’s because you’re a woman of means.”

I laughed, because it’s not something you hear very often, but then I started thinking about the idea of a woman of means. It’s vague, and general. Surely any of us can be a woman of means? We all have ‘means’, whether they be cooking, accounting or mountaineering. Each and every human being has something they are good at, that they can contribute to life. Sometimes that ‘thing’ might not be very obvious, but you just wait until you need someone to help you stretch aching limbs or suggest new music and see if their means don’t leap up and whack you in the mush.

Isn’t that fantastic? All of us, women and men, adults and children, every human being has a purpose and a talent. That’s all I wanted to say, really, but if that doesn’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy on a Friday morning I don’t know what will.

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Is that me? Really?

Body image is a funny thing, isn’t it? We all see our bodies in such different ways and, sadly, most of the time it’s negative. Whether we are strong and lean, soft and dumpy or super duper thin, there’s always something that we aren’t happy with. I’m no exception to this and I’ve struggled, in my own way, with how I feel about my body and my relationship with food since I was a teenager. There’s nothing special or unique about that, and it’s not what I want to talk about here. Instead I want to focus on something that has helped me be proud of my body, and see it more positively. What is that thing?

Ballet.

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(My feet. Note: my ballet shoes are no longer this pristine. They are now a lot more grey and scuffed. Yum.)

You wouldn’t think that ballet could help a size 14/16, 5’8″ woman with size 8 feet embrace her body. Ballet conjures up images of short, slim, muscular ladies who all have to look identical on stage, right? But when we think like that, we forget about the things they can do with their bodies. The precision, the elegance and the strength they have is staggering. Learning a mere fraction of what they do has shown me what my own body can do, and whilst it is nowhere near what they are capable of, it is still something to be proud of.

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(Obviously, this is not me, this is a ballerina from the Canadian National Ballet. Image copyright Sian Richards, courtesy of Pointe magazine.)

Dancing has been a part of my life since I was 3 years old, but this January I started ballet again after a break of almost 9 years. Just standing in the right positions felt alien to my body, and for days after my first lesson I was a stiff, achey mess. But do you know what? It felt great. I had used my body and pushed it to its limits and I could feel it recovering. I felt alive. In the months since I have rediscovered my love of ballet, pushed myself harder and every week I learn something new.

But the best thing that has come out of it is this: I can look in the mirror and watch myself dance and for a split second I think “Is that me? Really?” Because I think I look good. Yes, my tummy could be firmer and I could do without the back boobs or the bingo wings but I am becoming strong and graceful and my body can do things I never thought myself capable of. When I walk out of my ballet classes, tired and hungry and drenched in sweat, I walk tall and my body image issues are gone, even if just for that evening. I have lost weight since I started the classes, but my new mindset isn’t because of that. This mindset is an appreciation of what I have, not what is gone.

Isn’t that a wonderful thing, something to be celebrated? If we could all just find something that we find invigorating and focuses us on what we are capable of we might be able to accept ourselves better. Because I might be the heaviest person in my class, but when I manage to sail around in a perfect double pirouette I feel as light as air and I wish it was possible to high five my own legs without looking like a nutter.

So go forth beautiful people and find the thing that makes you want to high five yourself. Try ballet, try martial arts, go for a swim. Whatever it is, I promise it will help. You can thank me later.

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Overly Excited Lizzie!

Just a super quick post this morning before I jet off on my holiday tonight.

Last night I got super exciting news.

Last night Hello Giggles featured an article I wrote.

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Last night my phone kept buzzing with COMPLETE STRANGERS favourite-ing my tweet of the Hello Giggles article.

I’m overly excited.

I think you should take a look.

That is all :-)

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FO Round Up!

Well hi there, readerinos!

How are you guys doing? It’s been manic around these parts recently. Birthdays, friends visiting and crazy work deadlines have taken up all of my energy. Hence the radio silence from me in Blogland. Many apologies for that my lovelies. I’d like to say I’m going to be back on it…but…I’m going on holiday on Friday so boo-yah! Sun, sea and sand here I come and my god do I need it.

Anyway, just to keep you topped up with my special brand of entertainment, I thought I’d fill you in on a few of my FOs before I saunter off into the sunset.

Remember those gifts I was knitting? The crafty things I couldn’t tell you about? They’re done! All done, dusted and happily living with their recipients. So here’s what I was stitching…

First off, Steven got some more woollen wonders.

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(Snuggly mitts. Photo by me.)

These are the Purl Bee’s cuffed hand warmers. When we visited Purl Soho last May, I bought the yarn to make myself a pair and Steven chose these colours for his own set. They’re actually a charcoal and pale grey combo but the photo makes them look quite purple. I think it’s the background I used. Anyway, he might have to do a bit of mending already because I’m such a bad sewer and the top, paler part seems to be coming away already. Oops…

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(Cosy cowl. Photo by me.)

This is a slightly shorter version of the GAP-tastic cowl by Jan Geigley. I hunted high and low for the right yarn to make this cowl. I knew that Steven found wool itchy, so that was out. I also knew that I needed something chunky in a grey that would co-ordinate well with the mitts and that part proved to be damn tricky. In the end KnitPicks Swish saved my bacon. 100% superwash Merino wool with the squashiest ply I’ve ever experienced. I found just two skeins in the perfect colour at Great British Yarns and snapped them up. There wasn’t enough to make the original epic-sized cowl, but it’s long enough to wrap around Steven’s neck twice and is snuggly cosy so I’m happy!

He requested both of these (such a well trained boy) and I was more than happy to oblige. He may have asked for the mitts over a year ago when we were on our honeymoon but, hey, at least he got them at some point. Plus, the cowl was a much more recent request so I’m sure I get some points for that. It’s also a huge improvement from last year when the socks that were meant for his birthday became Christmas presents. More than four months later. Yeah.

I also finished this colourful wonder…

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(So stripy! Photo by me)

My sister-in-law Charlotte (hi Charlotte!) mentioned in passing that she would like a poncho for our family holiday to Spain (this Friday. Did I mention that?) Last week was her 21st birthday and so I jumped at the opportunity to give her something homemade for her coming-of-age. I’ve never knitted a poncho before but I thought if she was going to wear a poncho it would have to be a full-on poncho. Hence the textured garter stitch ribs, eyelet pattern and loud colour scheme. It’s based on the Summer Poncho by Karen Stelzer, although I tweaked it a little bit to suit my yarn needs and also worked the first few rows flat to create a kind of collar.

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(In all its poncho-y glory. Photo by me.)

The best part? I’m pretty sure she liked it…

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(Happy Birthday Char-lotte! Photo by Matt McCauley)

So that’s what’s been flying off my needles in the last month or so. I’ve also been chipping away at something for work that STILL isn’t done (which is entirely my fault) that I will show you pictures of when the issue is on sale. I will be overjoyed when that little time-suck is finished.

Since finishing all these gifts I’ve cast on a cardigan for me (oooh, I know, right?) and I’m thinking about a shawl project to take with me on my holibobs…just in case I feel the need to knit. You know when the sun gets too much for me and I’ve had enough sangria. Thinking about it, maybe I don’t need a holiday knitting project… Do you guys take knitting away with you?

Anyway, catch you on the flip side chaps!

(P.S. I think it’s quite impressive that I only mentioned my holiday four times. You may disagree :-P)

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