30 Before 30

I have a love/hate relationship with anything that resembles a ‘bucket list’ or ‘X before X’ list. I love the idea of optimistic goal setting but the realist (read: pessimist) in me knows that I likely won’t get to accomplish every goal I set myself due to lack of confidence, lack of money, or lack of opportunity – or all of the above. It’s because of this mindset that I have quite a fraught relationship with anything in this vein of list-making, particularly because it also strikes a strangely sensitive chord in me when it comes to travel-related goals which so often take up lists such as this.

You see, I have been to very few places in my life – growing up we just didn’t have the kind of disposable income that allowed for holidays to far-flung destinations; what we did have was the money to have a bloody good time going on a family holiday to a caravan site somewhere on the Spanish coast. Again largely because of money, I didn’t go on any school trips to places outside the UK either (no Easter skiing holiday or history trip to Auschwitz for me). I’ve never really felt particularly deprived because of this, I’ve just been very aware that I haven’t been to a lot of places that other people might have. But it’s because of this that I don’t even know where to start with places I want to see in my life.

So, you see, bucket lists and 30 before 30 lists spin me to all different kinds of personal places – and not necessarily in the way they intend. Even so, I’ve decided (probably quite foolishly considering I’m 25 at the time of writing this list, and 26 is fast approaching) to construct a list because God loves a trier, right? There’s a mix of low key goals or challenges here and there are some that are more dependent on me having the financial means and (to be honest) the annual leave left to complete them. However, I hope it’s a nice mix of doable and then the more challenging things to accomplish.

As I composed this list at the start of 2018 (yes it has taken me this long to decide what I really think of 30 Before 30 type lists, it’s a wonder I ever achieve anything at that rate), I’ll be already marking off anything I’ve achieved so far this year in 2018. I hope to document each challenge in some way on this blog, whether that’s through a blog post series explaining why I want to do each item on my list and/or through a blog post of me recounting my trip to the given destination or the skill I wanted to acquire etc. Either way, I hope you will stick with me on my journey to complete this 30 Before 30 list which might just help to change my initial perception/hesitation on the entire idea of them too!

  1. Visit 10 National Trust/English Heritage sites/national parks
  2. Visit Chatsworth House
  3. Visit Greenwich
  4. Visit Versailles
  5. Visit Paris catacombs
  6. Visit Notre-Dame Cathedral
  7. Visit Sagrada Familia
  8. Visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour
  9. Visit Wales
  10. Walk on Main Street USA
  11. See a Shakespeare play at the Globe
  12. Attend the Championships at Wimbledon
  13. Eat a croissant in France
  14. Eat a paella in Spain
  15. Eat pasta/pizza in Italy
  16. Read War and Peace
  17. Read Les Misérables
  18. Read all of Jane Austen’s novels
  19. Read a novel in Spanish
  20. Read all of Shakespeare’s plays
  21. Complete a ‘Classics Club’ list (reading 50 classics)
  22. Host a readathon/readalong
  23. ‘Win’ NaNoWriMo (write 50,000 words in a month)
  24. Do a ‘blog every day’ challenge
  25. Knit a full garment (e.g. scarf/hat)
  26. Learn how to drive
  27. Own a MacBook
  28. Learn how to bake bread
  29. Learn a ballroom dance
  30. Attend a spinning class

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My 2018 Resolutions | Quarterly Check-in #3

As you may have seen if you’re been around the blog for a while, I do check-ins for my yearly resolutions as a way of keeping me accountable to more people than just myself. At the end of the first quarter of 2018, I posted my first check-in, and at the end of June I posted my second check-in.

For those who care to have an in-depth reminder of my 2018 Resolutions you can find that post here. Even though the fact we’re now in October scares me a little a lot, let’s not panic about the encroaching end-of-the-year feeling and instead let’s see how I did with my resolutions in the months of July, August, and September.

READING GOALS

1. Complete Goodreads 52 Books goal

Verdict: Completed
At my last check-in, I was on-track to complete this goal at 45 books and I am very happy to report that I have smashed this goal and I’m now sitting pretty on 63 books read in 2018. I’m really hoping I can get to at least 75 books by the end of the year but let’s see how it goes, shall we?

2. Complete Around the Year in 52 Books

Verdict: On Track
So, at my last check-in for the Around the Year in 52 Books challenge I had 18 challenges remaining and now I have 15 left to go so it’s safe to say I’ve completely neglected this reading challenge in the last quarter. As we head into the fourth and final quarter, I’ll need to re-focus on this goal if I hope to finish it this year. It would be a shame not to.

3. Finish off the books in a series I have yet to read

Verdict: Failing
So, since my last check-in, I’m not sure I even thought about finishing any series. I really need to get back on this reading challenge too. I’d really like to think I could at least finish off the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater by the end of the year, but I’ve been putting off finally finishing the fourth book since it was published so I’m not holding out too much hope.

4. Finish War and Peace and read another Russian classic

Verdict: Failing
Sooo I still haven’t finished War and Peace or another Russian classic, but I have read The Count of Monte Cristo if that at all counts. I don’t think it does but, even so, let’s all take a moment to celebrate the fact I actually managed to finish a huge (French) classic instead!

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Catharsis | On “Friends’ Weddings”

Catharsis: noun  ca·thar·sis  \ kə-ˈthär-səs \
1 a : purification or purgation of the emotions (such as pity and fear) primarily through art

b : a purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension
2 : elimination of a complex by bringing it to consciousness and affording it expression

I’ve always been the person who over-thinks things. The person who is indecisive because of this. The person who worries about whether what she has to say is worthwhile, or whether it’s whiny, or problematic, or just plain self-indulgent. Over-thinking is not a bad thing. But it does lead to a tendency to bottle things up and to let them fester, not expressing them, and thereby not releasing any tension they cause. My “cure” for this is a form of catharsis, my own personal brand of therapy, you might say, and since we live in a digital age it looks like I will be making the utterly foolish decision to put said thoughts onto the Internet instead of telling them to a licensed professional. But I’d like to be honest on this blog and I’d like this blog to be a true and accurate reflection of who I am… and who I am is sometimes self-centred and in dire need of a means of expulsion. So here we are, a new series of blog posts called Catharsis. I don’t know how frequent they will be, I don’t know how worthwhile they will be for anyone else reading them, but I know they will help me. And that’s kind of the point.


This past weekend was the start of what will surely be a lifetime of “friends’ weddings”.

Being at a friend’s wedding is… strange. It’s filled with the usual traditions, the usual obligatory “do you take this woman” and “do you take this man” etc., the usual toasts at the reception and inevitable drunken dancing that follows. But there’s something different about realising you’re at your very first “friend wedding”, as opposed to “family wedding”. There’s something different about realising someone your own age, someone you were at school with, someone who you joked around in English class with, is old enough and mature enough to not only consider committing to someone else long-term but also following through on that promise in front of a whole chapel full of people.

It comes from a place of genuine happiness – a sense of delight that your friend has found someone they love so much that they’re willing to enthusiastically vow to stay faithful for for the rest of their life. Words can’t express how amazing it is to see a friend you love dearly be so happy and settled in their relationship and their life. To catch their eye after the ceremony and witness how overwhelmed and startled, but also happy, they look.

But then, there’s the inevitable off-note as the concern starts creeping in. Wait. How on earth did we get here?! How did we get to the age and place in life where weddings are happening? When did I blink and miss the start of my transition into being an allegedly functioning adult? Oh… wait… I didn’t miss it because I’m not “there” yet, wherever “there” is. But my friends are and, as ever, it looks like I’ll be living vicariously through them as they get “there”.

“There” is where “we’ve moved in together” doesn’t sound weird.
“There” is where a “we’re having a baby” doesn’t sound weird.
“There” is where “we’re getting married” doesn’t sound weird.

My friends are “there” and I couldn’t be more delighted for them. But I can’t truthfully (even in my wildest dreams) imagine a time when I’ll be “there” so, instead, I guess I’ll be over “here”, watching from the sidelines – and, I presume, often from the pews of churches.


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Discussion | My Relationship with Exercise (inspired by Eat Sweat Play by Anna Kessel)

eatsweatplay.jpgThis is a post I didn’t ever think I’d have cause to write, particularly not on a bookish blog, but I suppose it’s been bottled up inside of me for long enough for me to need to get it all out of my system. And, as you will see by the time you (/if you, I wouldn’t blame you for not) reach the end of this post, this has been many years of pent-up feeling on the subject. As you can probably see from the title of this post, it is time for something completely different and a bit more of a self-indulgent personal post – it’s time to talk exercise. However, my thinking on this was inspired by a book which I (unfortunately) DNFed recently, Anna Kessel’s Eat Sweat Play. I didn’t DNF the book because it was a bad book – in fact, there were many interesting points raised by Kessel in even the little that I did manage to read of it in order to give it a fair chance. However, I found her way of talking about sport to be entirely at odds with my own view on it.

You see, I have a confession that might not be so surprising to anyone who knows the littlest thing about me: I’m not a sporty person, either in terms of participation or spectatorship. In fact I’d state that I have very little interest in it. I’m pretty much ambivalent towards football which unfortunately seems to be England’s preferred sport, I don’t get the point of rugby, I can tolerate cricket, I quite like tennis (bizarrely enough, I love Wimbledon when it rolls around), but the Olympics and Athletics Championships mostly bore me to tears (special exceptions made for Winter Olympics which are a whole different kettle of fish). So much for spectatorship… but when it comes to participation in sport and exercise, oh boy, this one’s a complicated one.

For me, exercise is something mainly relegated to some of the worst of school memories. Trudging unwillingly into PE classes, then the horror of the changing room, the constant embarrassment of knowing you weren’t ~good at sport~ so therefore you were put in the “mixed” PE group instead of the “boys” and “girls” groups… I could go on. Thankfully, some of my friends were also in my PE group so we stuck together and, whenever we were playing a team sport where they allowed the boys and girls to play against each other (i.e. non-contact sports), we had a couple of boy friends who would make sure we played against each other. The other girls in the group were… not nice to me, but I counted myself lucky because I heard horror stories from the “girls PE group”, of cattiness, bitchiness, and flat-out fights. When our PE teacher was off one day our group ended up being dissolved and we joined our respective “boys group” and “girls group” for a lesson – it was one of the single most embarrassing lessons of my life, we were made to feel like we were shit, and not given any kind of instruction from the PE teacher.

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My 2018 Resolutions | Quarterly Check-in #2

As you may have seen if you’re been around the blog for a while, I do check-ins for my yearly resolutions as a way of keeping me accountable to more people than just myself. At the end of the first quarter of 2018, I posted my first check-in, and here we are today with my second quarterly check-in for the months of April, May, and June.

For those who care to have an in-depth reminder of my 2018 Resolutions you can find that post here. Now let us examine how I’m doing now we’re halfway through the year…

READING GOALS

1. Complete Goodreads 52 Books goal

Verdict: On Track
I stand at 45 out of 52 books read for 2018 so, unless something major happens, I should comfortably make my goal to read 52 books. Depending how industrious I’m feeling I may even up the challenge goal/resolution once I get to 52.

2. Complete Around the Year in 52 Books

Verdict: On Track
At my last check-in, every single book I’d read at that point in 2018 had also completed one of the Around the Year challenges. That isn’t the case now since I’ve been doing some readalongs and readathons that don’t necessarily tally with the challenges. However, I’ve also had a pretty good quarter in terms of the number of books I’ve read so I’ve made good progress nevertheless with the Around the Year challenges. I’ve now ticked off most of the easy ones and have 18 challenges remaining so, with some forward planning, I should be able to complete this goal too.

3. Finish off the books in a series I have yet to read

Verdict: On Track
Although I haven’t actively been participating in Anna’s #SeriestoFinish2018 challenge (I feel so guilty about this), I have subconsciously been trying to force myself to get to sequels and finish off series, or at least get as up-to-date with them as I can. Case in point: I recently finally read the sequel to An Ember in the Ashes and am planning to pick up the newest book A Reaper at the Gates this month. I also only have one Winner’s trilogy book left, which is progress so… I’d consider this kind of a win?

4. Finish War and Peace and read another Russian classic

Verdict: Failing
Well I still haven’t finished War and Peace. Believe me, I know… I know it’s getting ridiculous now. However, in this quarter I have re-read all my weekly posts from during the War and Peace Newbies Readalong, so I’ve refreshed my memory of the plot and am ready to tackle the last 200 or so pages of Tolstoy’s tome this month in fact. After that I think I might try to finally make it through all the pages of Anna Karenina, again, I’ve tried multiple times but I always stall for some unknown reason, but that likely won’t be until near the end of 2018 since I have other readalongs and readathons planned over the summer/autumn.

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Feature | Favourite Eateries #3 ft. Bakchich, Liverpool

If you’ve seen my previous Favourite Eateries, you will have vicariously sampled the delights of The Tavern Co and Lunya. Today, now for something completely different – Lebanese street food via Bakchich on Bold Street in Liverpool.

“Bakchich vision is to introduce Lebanese Street food to Liverpool and Manchester. It is also to educate and help our customers discover about the Arabic food culture, traditions and heritage that unite communities. Bakchich Cafe is Lebanese street food with a french twist, serving variety of Lebanese Mezza with innovations in the traditional Lebanese dishes from Shawarma to Falafel, and baklawa and a wide variety of healthy fruits cocktails, to meet the taste of our food lovers.” (Bakchich)

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V.E. Schwab’s J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture at Pembroke College

Last week, I was fortunate enough to have friends who would indulge my blatant fangirling over one of my favourite authors enough to plan an entire trip to Oxford to indulge this whim. What am I talking about, you ask? Why, V.E. Schwab’s Tolkien Lecture given at Pembroke College, Oxford. Of course. An annual lecture, Pembroke College’s J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture series is organised by students of the college and based on the topic of speculative fiction (often, fantasy and sci-fi), it invites an influential person within the field to speak on the topic. Previous speakers have included Lev Grossman and Susan Cooper and, this year, it added V.E. Schwab to its growing ranks.

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Feature | Favourite Eateries #2 ft. Lunya, Liverpool

In my inaugural Favourite Eateries blog post I gushed at length about The Tavern Co in Liverpool. This time, I bring you something completely different – we’re ditching the tex-mex breakfast food and heading to the Iberian peninsula via Lunya in Liverpool.

With independent, family-owned restaurants in both Liverpool and Manchester, Lunya is Peter & Elaine Kinsella’s homage to Catalunya and Spain. Lunya is a combination of Catalan restaurant, deli, and bar, and they are multi-award winning, with the Liverpool restaurant featured in the Good Food Guide North West as Restaurant of the Year for two years running (2015 & 2016). Located on the corner of College Lane and Hanover Street, opposite Radio Merseyside, Lunya is best experienced when you have plenty of time to eat in Catalan fashion, that is to say: slow and social. If you’re looking for a quick get-in-get-out meal I would not recommend the Catalan restaurant, but if you’re happy to sit back, relax, and have some seriously tasty tapas brought to your table as and when it’s ready, then Lunya may well be the place for you.

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My 2018 Resolutions | Quarterly Check-in #1

Last year I did quite well with my yearly resolutions, I think, in part, because I regularly “checked in” with them and had a look at how I was doing. Since it worked so well (not to blow my own trumpet) in 2017, I’ve decided to carry on that tradition into 2018 so this is the first of my Quarterly Check-in posts. I’ll have a look at each of my 2018 Resolutions and see how I’ve fared in the months of January, February, and March.

For those who care to have an in-depth reminder of my 2018 Resolutions you can find that post here. Now let us examine how I’m doing three months into the year…

READING GOALS

1. Complete Goodreads 52 Books goal

Verdict: On Track
I’ve managed to read 17 books already this year which Goodreads informs me is 6 books ahead of schedule – go me! If I carry on at this pace all year (which seems unlikely given some exciting holidays planned and a desire to read more classics), I should easily surpass my 52 books target. Fingers crossed?

2. Complete Around the Year in 52 Books

Verdict: On Track
As it stands, every single book I have read thus far in 2018 also completes one of the challenges for the Around the Year Reading Challenge. This is because I’ve been mindful of what books I’m choosing to read and, mostly, because the Reading Challenge is quite adaptable. That being said, once I start whittling the challenges down I am sure it will get harder to match a book to a challenge and I will instead find myself doing it vice versa, i.e. I’ll be picking a book to read that matches a challenge rather than finding which challenge matches the book I’ve just read!

3. Finish off the books in a series I have yet to read

Verdict: Failing
I am definitely failing quite supremely at this because I haven’t given it a moment’s thought after impulsively signing up for Anna’s #SeriestoFinish2018 challenge back in December. I’m feeling very guilty about my complete lack of participation so I hope to get back on the horse, so to speak, and concentrate on finishing off some of those books in a series.

4. Finish War and Peace and read another Russian classic

Verdict: Failing
Until earlier this week, I hadn’t even thought about picking up War and Peace again, even though I know every week is a ticking clock of me retaining any memory of what happened in the first 1000ish pages of this behemoth of a book. I only have about 300 pages left to read so I really need to get to it, it’s not even funny anymore. I won’t let myself move onto another Russian classic either until I’ve defeated this one so I really need to make this a priority – I’ve said I will in my recent Spring TBR post so I’m pretty much duty bound to now.

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Tag | 50 Questions You Have Never Been Asked

You’d think this would be Thursday because I tried to make Tag Thursday a thing but, alas, no, I’m all out of whack because on Wednesday I went to see the touring production of Wicked since they’re in town at the Liverpool Empire. Long story short it was amazing and I loved it, but I didn’t post my usual Wednesday post until yesterday and here I am now posting what would have been Tag Thursday on Friday. Are you keeping up? Basically, this is a tag post and let’s just get to it…

I saw this tag over on the hilarious Emma Oulton’s Booktube channel so definitely go watch her video first/after because she’s lovely and such fun – this is the 50 Questions You Have Never Been Asked tag! Not strictly book-related but it’s an interesting mixed bag of questions for sure.

1. What’s your favourite candle scent?

Ok so I mostly hate floral or sickly candle scents (like vanilla and stuff). I’m a big fan of smoky or autumn and Christmas scents so like cinnamon and apple. This Christmas I bought a mulled wine candle and I love it so much that I’m scared to start burning it because I don’t want to use it up.

2. What female celebrity do you wish was your sister?

Can I be a big ol’ cliche and say Emma Watson? I feel like she’d offer some great life advice. Alternatively: Hayley Atwell, for the same reasons. Or Jessica Chastain. Aaaand… ok I’m going to stop now before this just devolves into a list of females I love.

3. What male celebrity do you wish was your brother?

This is a tricky question for me because I don’t know whether to go for like a sweet younger brother I want to protect or an older brother who can be the protector of the relationship. It also can’t be someone I even vaguely find attractive because, you know, there’s that risk of hypothetical incest which I am not about really. Hmmm. You know what, I only have an answer if I have Hayley Atwell as my sister, and that’s James D’arcy purely because them two as a sibling pair would be all kinds of excellent.

4. How old do you think you’ll be when you get married?

Fuck knows. I don’t even know how to meet people so… something tells me it’ll be a while.

5. Do you know a hoarder?

Yes, my grandmother. Is this a thing with older people where they hold onto crap they definitely don’t need and clutter their house with it?

6. Can you do a split?

Hahahaha no. And I’m pretty sure if I tried, I’d break myself.

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