Me and White Supremacy

books, stuff

Laylaa F Saad began an Instagram challenge called #MeAndWhiteSupremacy where she encouraged people to own up and share their racist behaviours, big and small. Thousands of people participated and from this project the Me and White Supremacy book was born; with added historical and cultural contexts, stories, anecdotes, definitions, examples and further resources. The book leads readers through a journey of understanding white privilege and their participation in white supremacy so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage of black, indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) and in turn, help other white people do better too. It is clear from the onset that this work will be uncomfortable, painful and necessary. Even if you already have an understanding of white fragility, cultural appropriation, and tokenism, methodically working through and examining your own complicity in them is another thing entirely. This is essential work for all white people.

White privilege – inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice
White supremacy – the belief that white people constitute a superior race and should therefore dominate society, typically to the exclusion or detriment of other racial and ethnic groups, in particular black or Jewish people
White fragility – discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice
Cultural appropriation – the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society
Tokenism – the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from under-represented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce

In light of the BLM protests, a friend of mine set up a book club for us to explore this book. As a group, we decided to meet weekly and share our journaling responses to the chapters. Saad sets out the most effective way this can be done as a group to ensure that it is a safe space for sharing. Before starting work, I genuinely thought that racism was negative words and actions said and done towards black and people of colour. I believed that I hadn’t ever been racist because I had never acted in this way. I didn’t think I really had any work to do around racism because I was a good person who believed everyone should be treated equally. Working through this book taught me just how wrong I was. I had limiting beliefs, I had unknowingly benefited from my white privilege, I had tone policed people of colour and I had been a performative ally. Responding to the questions posed by Saad made me go deep into my childhood – growing up in a Cornish town where there was one person of colour in my whole secondary school, challenge my behaviour when dating black men in the past and acknowledge where I have disregarded the experience of black, indigenous and people of colour.

Something that becomes very apparent through the book is the need to call out/in friends, family, colleagues, random strangers when you witness behaviour that needs to be challenged. This is something that I never thought I’d be able to do. I’ve heard problematic comments and I have been silent. Doing this work in a group setting gave us the chance to talk through real life experiences and workshop the best ways to respond whilst also exploring how they may respond to your actions (white centering/fragility). Putting this into practise is hard but isn’t comparable to the hard shit that BIPOC have to go through as a result of my and other white people’s actions. I finally feel like if I lose people as a result of calling them in/out then c’est la vie.

I’ll be honest – the work was hard and at times I wanted to give up. I felt apathetic & then there was a chapter about white apathy. Saad totally hits the nail on the head when she says that it is absolute white privilege that we get to opt out of this work when we want to and disengaging cannot be an option. I felt proud when we completed the 28 days but knew that this wasn’t where the work finished, it is where it begins. We were asked to list our actions that we would be taking forward over the next 2 weeks and beyond and committed to holding each other accountable. There is so much that we can do with our money and time to support BIPOC and we have to do that over and over again. It is baffling how many people/companies shared social media posts in solidarity during the BLM protests and have since been silent. It is not up to BIPOC people to tell you what you can do or how you can help. This shit is on you.

Recommendations:


– Read Me and White Supremacy
– Read Why I’m no longer talking to White people about race
– Financially support charities/projects ran by BIPOC for BIPOC
– Ask charities/projects how you can best support them
– Get involved in local protests
– Listen to the About Race podcast
– Listen to the Woke Up podcast
– Diversify the media you consume and those you follow on social media
– Challenge spaces that aren’t diverse or are tokenistic
– Have conversations about racism with your friends/family
– Take ownership of where you have done wrong in the past and apologize
Think about where you hold influence and how you can use this to be a force for good

Top of the (reading) pops

books

Since giving up all social media for Lent (#hero), I have been storming through my to-read pile and have read 21 books so far this year! One of those reads, Me and White Supremacy, will be getting it’s own blog post soon as I really want to fully delve into my experience of completing this work. I thought it would be fun to rank the other 20 books I have read in 2021, some of these feature in this post but for those that don’t, I’ve included a brief description for you to decide whether it is something you would like to read too. I would love to hear about what you have been reading or if you rate any of these books in the comments.

20. Life’s what you make it, by Philip Schofield
Firstly – Philip, I’m sorry. Secondly – It would be extremely rare for me to rate an autobiography higher than a fiction book, which I genuinely much prefer reading because it is easier to lose yourself in the story. That being said, this was a well written book and I loved learning more about one of the nation’s heroes. Despite ranking at #20, I would still recommend it to fans of Schofe.

19. People like her, by Ellery Lloyd
A pretty trashy thriller but I enjoyed it nonetheless and read it in 2 days. The depiction of Instamums is so accurate but I wasn’t surprised by the conclusion and there weren’t enough twists, which is something I look for in a good book of this genre. Content warnings: Child death, death and suicide.

18. Glorious rock bottom, by Briony Gordon
I have loved Briony’s other books but this one didn’t blow me away. Her willingness to be brutally honest about her experiences is commendable and it did help me to more understand the mindset of an alcoholic. Content warnings: Alcoholism, sexual assault.

17. The Black flamingo, by Dean Atta
This is a beautiful prose book for YA’s about a boy’s journey to drag. It is a quick read and skilfully written – weaving a coherent and gripping story into poetry is no easy feat. Now I feel bad for not ranking it higher.

16. On the come up, by Angie Thomas
Another YA book but this time about a young, black rapper. I thought the lead character was too similar to Star in ‘The Hate You Give’ (Thomas’ other novel) but still, I enjoyed the book. Thomas has created a really realistic world that her characters live in.

15. Concrete rose, by Angie Thomas
Talking of Star in ‘The Hate You Give’ this is the prequel, about Star’s Dad. I thought lots of questions were still left unanswered in this but maybe that was intentional. If you have read Thomas’ other books then you should definitely read this one too. I can definitely see this and #14 being turned into films.

14. The Guest list, by Lucy Thomas

13. Silver sparrow, by Tayari Jones

12. A man called Ove, by Fredrick Backman
This is a really sweet book. It’s a biographical novel about a man who has tried to take his life on numerous occasions but is continually interrupted. Despite the seriousness of the subject matter there are some beautiful, light hearted moments. Ove is possibly the grumpiest man you will ever meet but by the end of the book, you’ll really love him. Content warning: Suicide.

11. The Giver of Stars, by Jojo Moyles
This is a lush story of 5 women in the mountains of Kentucky who set up a travelling library. What happens to them and to the men they love becomes a story of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion.

10. The Colour purple, by Alice Walker
This book is considered one of the all time greats and I can’t believe it has taken me this long to read it! It’s set in South America and tells the story of a young girl born into poverty and segregation. It’s a hard hitting and important book.

9. Clap when you land, by Elizabeth Acevedo

8. The Thursday murder club, by Richard Osman
I am often wary of books with a lot of hype but I honestly felt this one made up for it! I adored the character of Joyce, so much so that I am willing to overlook the slightly confusing conclusion. This book rightfully deserves a place in the top 10 and I am looking forward to the TV show that is being made of the book.

7. The Mothers, by Brit Bennett

6. The Betrayals, by Bridget Collins
After loving The Binding, also by Bridget Collins, I wasn’t sure if this book would live up to it.. it almost did. I loved the fantasy elements of the book but did admittedly find the main character slightly irritating. I didn’t guess the main twist and found that this was a wonderful book for escapism. A definite hit for fans of fantasy novels.

5. All the light we cannot see, by Anthony Doerr
This is a stunning book in every sense. If you like historical novels then I would highly recommend this one. An instant New York times best seller, Doerr tells a story about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as they both try to survive the devastation of World War II. This is the sort of book that baffles you as to how one mind could have created it.

4. Love after love, by Ingrid Persaud

3. The joy of being selfish, by Michelle Elman

2. The Invisible life of Addie Larue, by V.E. Schwab
This is my unexpected favourite read of the year. I knew nothing about it before a friend leant me it and I didn’t want it to end. Addie is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets until she finds someone who remembers her. This is a a stunning adventure that plays out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

1. A thousand splendid suns, by Khaled Hosseini

Thirty, flirty and thriving

stuff

I have always wanted to be older. I am the youngest of 3 and desperately wanted to be in my brother and sister’s gang. I hated playing by myself and would spend the Summer holidays asking my Mum when it was time to go back to school. I loved being around people and I loved the sense that a new year at school meant I was moving up in the world and one step closer to being a grown up. At that time being a grown up meant being in year 6 and ruling the roost but in later years it was my constant drive to be moving onto what was next. At secondary school, during a nasty patch of bullying, I remember telling my parents how ready I was to go to University. I was 13 at the time. I always felt mature for my age and I looked older too (I feel like I’ve been 5ft11 since I was 8) so I wanted to be with my equals who didn’t pick on me for not having a Jane Norman bag for my PE Kit or for preferring a night watching a musical at the theatre to underage drinking in the park.

I also had some complex stuff I was dealing with in my family life which conflicted the standard parent/child dynamics all whilst trying to sit my GCSE’s and then A-Levels. I definitely didn’t do as well as I could in school but my brain felt so full of other stuff that I didn’t have room for finding the value of ‘X’. There was a huge lack of support for my wellbeing not helped by the fact that I absolutely did not want to talk about it. When things settled on that side of things, I felt like I’d missed out on the time that is really important for a young person growing up and figuring out the world. I guess what it bottles down to is that I spent a lot of my teens feeling really fucking lost. I was so unsure of myself and didn’t know who I was, what I liked or where I was going. Looking back, it feels kind of sad that I spent so much time wishing away my younger years and not being present in my childhood and teens.

University was a time of real transformation. Moving from a small town bubble to a big city meant I had the chance to make friends with people from all over the UK (and beyond) and forge friendships from mutual interests and not because we’ve been forced into the same form group. I also got to study Drama and Creative Writing which I loved with other people who loved them too. I didn’t care that I didn’t know what I wanted to do after University, I was finally living my life and being an adult and I could eat pizza every night for dinner and my Mum couldn’t force me to finish my peas before I got down from the table. The confidence I gained at University meant that the day after my graduation, I travelled to Canada to spend a month with a friend I hadn’t seen since I was 9. This would have been unthinkable to the anxious child and paranoid teenager I was but University had really changed me. The world was my oyster.

Repressing a lot of stuff as a teen was always going to catch up with me and a large part of my twenties has been spent nurturing my inner child and younger self. I have definitely made a whole load of mistakes since graduating from University but I feel now that every decision I have made has lead me to the place I am today and I’m doing ok! Yes, I’ve had a lot un-fulfilling relationships with men but they have lead me to a blissfully happy in a relationship with a woman where I am able to voice my needs and truly believe that I deserve to have them met. Yes, I’ve worked myself to breaking point in the past but I now know the power of rest, boundaries and my own self-worth and care. I feel like I finally know who I am. I know what I like and I sort of know where I’m going. I think growing older is a privilege.

I am stepping into my thirties and it feels really good.

Boundaries

books, stuff

Last week I listened to The Joy of Being Selfish by Michelle Elman and honestly, it rocked my world. I have always been a textbook people pleaser and would always put other’s needs before my own. I have been called a door mat, someone with no backbone and a push over. I took pride in being the person that others always go to in their hour of need and the more I gave out, the better of a person I felt. Until I didn’t.

I have always let people have a lot of access to me. From my fleeting years of (low-level) Instagram fame where I shared the most intimate details of my experiences with mental health and an eating disorder, to never turning my phone off and always allowing people to get in touch with me whenever they wanted and I would always reply, straight away. From listening to Elman’s book, I realise now that I was showing myself a complete lack of self respect and the only way for me to really practise self love and put energy back into myself is through boundaries. This felt like a scary concept but boundaries will strengthen the relationships that matter because the more respect I show myself and the more respect I demand, the more I will be given.

I initially started the book because I was struggling with someone I know. Conversations we had would replay in my mind when I tried to go to bed and would ruin my weekends because I’d be worrying about seeing them again the following week. They spoke to me rudely, sent me relentless Whatsapps and always called me at bad times. Sure, their conduct was inappropriate but I was allowing them to continue this behaviour by always responding, further confirming that any threats I made such as ‘please stop sending me Whatsapps’ had no roots. The more access I allowed them, the more ‘taken advantage’ of I felt and something needed to shift. This book gave me the tools to have a conversation with them where I laid out my boundaries and then I stuck to them.

Setting boundaries works, you can take ownership of your time and take no bullshit. Another thing that has helped navigating tricky relationships is that I don’t get to control how people react to me – my only power is how I choose to respond. Their response to my words/actions is not my responsibility and thinking about it on a Saturday night when I’m trying to watch Ant and Dec’s Saturday night takeaway, isn’t going to achieve anything positive or change what they are thinking. I do however, have the power to choose how I respond to myself and treating myself with kindness and allowing myself the time to switch off fully is something productive that I can do.

Boundaries with acquaintances is one thing but I also needed to instate boundaries with my friends and family. I have decided that I will do this by:

– Not being accessible to everyone all the time by turning off my phone and not responding to messages right away. Responding to messages quickly means that I rarely process what I am saying and also means I regularly agree to things that I don’t want to do. Responding to messages when with others is also just plain rude (unless it’s an emergency obvs). I also will respect other’s boundaries by not expecting people to reply to me immediately.

– Saying no if I don’t want to do something and not give a reason why. I used to really struggle with saying no to plans but I realise now that a gap in my diary doesn’t mean I always need to say yes. In the past, if I turned down a social invite I would worry that I would have upset someone or that they would be angry at me for not attending. Now, I realise that if I don’t want to do something then I am not going to have fun doing that thing and other’s aren’t going to have fun doing it me. I have the power to choose how I want to spend my time and this means that when I do spend time with others it’s because I really want to. I also will respect other’s boundaries by accepting if they say no to me.

– Being clear when I do not have the capacity to take on someone else’s emotional load. I want to be honest and upfront with friends who need support as to if I am able to give them my time. If I’m not, it is much better for everyone if they reach out to someone else and if I am able to give them my time then it means I am present in that and able to support them fully. I also will respect other’s boundaries by asking before I want to dump my emotions on them.

I’ve realised that I do not need to be liked because I get to define if I am a good person. It is a sure thing that setting boundaries is going to rattle some people because suddenly, they don’t have the unrelenting access to me that they previously had. I have decided that a negative response to my boundary setting will show that they were previously taking advantage of my lack of boundaries and not because I have done anything wrong. Something that really impressed me about Elman’s book is the practical examples of where you need boundaries and how you can set them, as well as how to respond to those who do not respect them. Finishing ‘The Joy of Being Selfish’ left me feeling empowered to take back control of my life. There is so much more I could tell you about boundaries but ultimately they are an extremely personal choice. I would highly recommend reading the book and thinking about where you can set them in your own life because you deserve to reclaim your time, energy and self-belief.


Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Thoughts

TW: Eating disorders (no numbers, specifics or ED behaviours included)

1st-7th March is Eating Disorder Awareness week in the UK. An Eating Disorder is a mental health condition where you use the control of food to cope with feelings and other situations. Unhealthy eating behaviours may include eating too much or too little or worrying about your weight or body shape. Some examples of eating disorders include avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and anorexia. There’s no single cause and people might not have all symptoms for any one eating disorder. It’s also possible for someone’s symptoms, and therefore their diagnosis, to change over time.

I want to start by exploring some common misconceptions when it comes to Eating Disorders.

MYTH #1: Someone must be underweight to have an Eating Disorder
FACT: Often when people think of someone with an Eating Disorder, they think of someone who is significantly underweight. However, although weight loss is typical in anorexia, most people with an eating disorder stay at an apparently “healthy” weight or are “overweight” (as commonly measured by the BMI scale). If the person does need to restore their weight, this is only one aspect of treatment, and being weight restored does not mean that the person is recovered. The thoughts and behaviours that come alongside the eating disorder also need to be addressed.

MYTH #2: Eating Disorders are a choice
FACT: Eating disorders are complex illnesses – there is no single cause. Instead they are thought to be caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors. Eating disorders are extremely distressing for both the individual and their loved ones, and often are accompanied by feelings of shame. They require specialist treatment, but people can and do get better. Eating disorders are mental health disorders and are never a personal choice.

MYTH #3: Eating Disorders only happen to young girls
FACT: Research shows that eating disorders do not discriminate – they affect people of all genders, ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, weights, and socioeconomic statuses. Many people think of Eating Disorders as a ‘heterosexual, white, female’ problem and as a result, males, people of colour and those from the LGBTQ community are less likely to be diagnosed and face greater barriers to treatment.

MYTH #4: Eating Disorders are a diet gone wrong
FACT: Although for some people, one trigger for an eating disorder may be that they have been dieting, eating disorders are not “a diet that has gone wrong”. They are serious mental health disorders which can go on to have adverse effects on physical health which can be fatal.

Now we’ve busted some myths, it’s time to get to the scary part. I’m Alice, an Events Manager, book worm, lover of stationary.. and I have an Eating Disorder. I have had an Eating Disorder since my teens and it is something which I will continue to be in recovery from for the rest of my life. I say that because every day I have to make the decision to choose recovery and some days it is easier than others. My Eating Disorder stemmed from control (see Myth #4 – NOT a diet gone wrong) and even now, when I feel overwhelmed, controlling the way I eat or exercise is an easy way for me to feel on top of things. This works, momentarily but then it can lead me to a place which is difficult to climb out of. Accessibility to Eating Disorder treatment has historically been restricted to people who fit a certain appearance (young, thin, white, female – see Myth #3 for why this is wrong), and in my case this meant when I reached out for help, I was seen as not yet thin enough to need help. The message I heard loud and clear was “If you want us to help you then you need to lose more weight” and that’s exactly what I did, at the further detriment of my physical and mental health, personal relationships and general life. After time and further requests for help I was able to access the support I needed and I sit today in a much better place when it comes to my body and food. Thankfully, a shift has started to happen to see Eating Disorders as a mental illness with the possible side effect of losing weight, but, there is still a long way to go especially in understanding the disproportionately unfair in access to services for marginalised people. Eating Disorders do not discriminate, so why do our measurement and treatment systems?

The thin ideal is consistently sold as the key to happiness and health. Interestingly, when I was my thinnest I was the most unhealthy (and certainly the saddest) I have been in my life but no-one said a thing… apart from to praise me for losing weight. With the rise of Social Media filters and Instagram nutritionists selling their latest ‘Wellness plans’ there is no wonder that more and more of us want to change the way that we look. Contributing to this – the representation of fat people in TV and film, often only awarded the storyline of desperately trying to lose weight or to serve as the butt of everyone’s jokes. Judging people for their weight seems to be the last acceptable form of prejudice and I hope within my lifetime that we see a change in this narrative.

There needs to be education around health being a whole spectrum of things and not about making ourselves smaller. This includes considering language we use about bodies and food, especially around those which we have influence. I dream of the day that we all celebrate the food that we eat and the amazing things that our bodies do for us.

To read more about Eating Disorder Awareness week and support available, visit Beat.

A huge thank you to Meg, Clare and Zoe for reading and giving me feedback on this post before publishing.

My Dream Menu (inspired by the Off Menu podcast)

food

I love food and I especially love food from independent businesses who are passionate about the food they make. I co-own a walking food tour business which takes people on a tour of the city whilst stopping to sample lots of delicious eats. Having an eating disorder for many years meant that I didn’t allow myself to eat the things that I wanted to and food came with a side-ordering of fear. Every food choice was decided and calculated and made me miserable. I am so pleased to finally be in the place where food brings me complete joy. I don’t second guess my food related decisions, unless I’m jealous of what you’ve ordered, and I now make the most of all the things that are out there for me to eat. Interestingly, when I began to allow all foods, in time, I naturally wanted to eat a variety of things. Recovery took a lot of time and patience and is a journey which I will continue on for the rest of my life. Perhaps I’ll blog about it more some time but today I want to talk about the really tasty stuff that I want to eat.

As mentioned in my previous post, I am a big fan of the Off Menu podcast. Hosted by James Acaster and Ed Gamble, guests are invited to the dream restaurant where they can have their perfect starter, main (with side) and dessert. Each week there is a secret ingredient and if the guest mentions it they get immediately kicked out of the restaurant. Luckily it is usually something obsure or universally categorised as gross so this rarely happens. When it does, it’s very funny. This podcast has got me thinking about what my dream menu would be, if fullness was out of the question and money was of no object. Hopefully my menu of choice would be approved of by Acaster, Gamble and the many fans of Off menu.

Starter
My starter would have to be loaded nachos. Specifically the ones from Lorenzo’s restaurant in Plymouth. A lot of my favourite foods are linked to special food memories. Growing up near to Plymouth, independent options were far and in between but Lorenzos was the jewel in Plymouth’s food scene crown. It is still there and well loved but I am talking about it in the past tense as I don’t think the menu has ever been quite as good as when I first went with my pals, so I specifically want the nachos from 12 years ago but made fresh. Obviously. Me and my best friends ate there a lot and even now when I go home we’ll regularly go there for old times sake. As tweens, this was a step up from Pizza Hut and we felt extremely grown up eating there. I still do. Lorenzo’s serves Spanish tapas in English portions and their nachos are genuinely one of my favourite things to eat, ever. Loaded high with melted cheese, flavoursome shredded chicken, guacamole, sour cream, salsa and no jalapenos please and thank you. Unless I’m eating this with my friend Tony and in which case, he can have them. I’ve never seen someone eat a jalapeno with as much glee as Tony.

Main
For my main course, I would like a prawn Pad Thai from Everyday Thai in Fishponds, Bristol. I have only been there once and have only had the Pad Thai from there twice (the second time during lockdown) but it is absolutely exquisite and I am already excited for when I get to eat it again. The flavours, textures and size of prawns are spot on and I could easily eat it every day, quite happily. Thai food has a happy place in my heart – memories of visiting my brother out in Thailand and eating amazing fresh dishes made by the locals. I am a baby when it comes to spice so a Pad Thai for me, is the perfect choice. There has to be lots of lime for squeezing and crumbled salted peanuts on top. To go with my Pad Thai, I would like a bowl of prawn crackers but a mix of Thai ones and the white fluffy ones you get from a Chinese restaurant and I want to eat my Pad Thai by taking forkfuls and using the prawn cracker as an edible spoon.

Side
EDIT: My girlfriend has read this post and said that prawn crackers have to be the side & I don’t get an extra dish according to the ‘rules’ of the podcast. She also said she hates my menu and none of it goes together. Anyway. I would like a portion of fish and chips, from with some homemade tartare sauce, just baked warm white bread with salted butter and a wedge of lemon for squeezing over the cod. You have read this correctly and I am having Fish and Chips as the side to my Pad Thai and you’re going to have to deal with it because this is the dream restaurant and reason goes out the window. Growing up in Cornwall means that I believe (read: know) that Fish and Chips is the perfect meal and it always tastes better eaten on the beach, after a swim in the sea. I want to eat this with my hands and it is also absolutely essential and non negotiable that I can smell the sea whilst I’m eating.

Dessert
Dessert would have to be a warm, salted caramel brownie from Loaf. Loaf’s brownies have the perfect amount of fudgyness inside. Don’t come to be with a cakey, dry brownie – I’m not interested. With my brownie, I would like the option of whipped double cream, vanilla pod ice-cream and a jar of peanut butter (if I have to choose, it’s Manilife original crunchy) I will dip between these as I wish. After I’ve polished off the brownie, cream, ice-cream and peanut butter I’ll move onto my cheese course. My cheese platter will, of course, be prepared by the Bristol cheesemonger and must include Ragstone by Neal’s yard creamery and the one with crunchy salty bits in that I can never remember the name of. Served with artisan crackers (darling), pickles and grapes.

Image result for lorenzos plymouth

And there you have it, my dream menu. I would love to hear what would feature on yours so please let me know in the comments!

The things getting me through this never ending lockdown

stuff

The Great Pottery Throw Down

Sometimes, something happens that makes you 100% sure that you have found the one. The moment Zoe turned to me and said ‘Do you fancy watching The Great Pottery Throw Down?’ was one of those moments. I am an avid Bake off fan. I jumped on the bandwagon late with the Nadiyah series but half way through watching, I began from series 1 and watched them all by the time we saw the Queen crowned. I was hooked and also very confused as to which contestant was on which series because I was watching too many different series at once (Classic me). This is the third series of Throw Down and oh my goodness. It is honestly, wonderful and *whispers* I like it more than Bake off. There was something about the move to Channel 4 that irked me about GBBO and I never found myself as invested since ad breaks were introduced and the history section was scrapped along with the holy trinity of Mez Bez and Mel and Sue. For some reason, this hasn’t been the same with Throw Down. I am 100% invested in the journeys of every single potter and I cry week in week out. There is so much I love about it and if you’re quick, you can get through the 5 episodes that have already aired and watch live with the nation every Sunday night. It’s worth it, promise.

  • The head judge Keith cries when someone does well. This is relatable for me and now when Keith cries, I cry. Rarely do we see an emotionally engaged man on TV. Paul Hollywood is adored for being a meany but I will eat my hat if you watch Throw Down and don’t instantly want Keith to be your Dad. He’s lush.
  • The series is doing well in terms of diversity. There is still a way to go BUT it is so nice to see different body types, sexualities, nationalities, races all together making really nice crockery. My fave is Rose, the pottery assistant and the self-proclaimed ‘trans kiln witch’.
  • I don’t know anything about pottery, I’ve made one pinch pot in my life time and it is fun to watch something completely new and learn about the creative process behind the household objects we take for granted. With Bake Off, I feel like we know the challenges and themes like we know how predictable the Hollywood handshake is but with Throw Down everything is new and exciting and the challenges are really different. One week they’re making dainty ceramic daisies and the next…bricks.
  • There is a real escapism in just watching nice people doing something nice and being nice to each other. I’m all for it.

Puzzle books

A couple of weeks ago, I needed to buy something from the corner shop to get change for the laundrette. As I’m trying to kick my Diet coke habit, I instead reached for a puzzle book. I’m not sure why.. maybe because Philip Schofield was on the cover.. who knows. Whilst my washing tumbled, I was absolutely hooked by cross words, word searches, arrow words and sudoku. My washing finished and I couldn’t leave until I worked out the year Torville and Dean won Gold (1984, you’re welcome). I have decided my favourite are word searches because they don’t require you to know anything and you can’t cheat. I now have a bumper book of 189 word searches to get through. I look like a Nan, wrapped up in my blanket, highlighter in hand and before I know it a good hour has past and my cup of tea has gone cold. I am in the matrix, I eat word searches for breakfast. I also may or may not have applied for a TV game show and whilst there won’t be a round on word searches (if there is, the other contestants can eat my dirt) I’m doing some brain gym and surely that is going to help when asked v.tricky general knowledge questions that I have zero general knowledge about.

Learning stuff

If you are have got this far in the blog post you deserve to know that not only have I applied for a TV game show but I am now through to the final audition to actually be on a TV game show. I am on a quest to learn everything there is to know so I don’t get turned into a meme. Even if I don’t make it onto the programme, I’m going to be the pub quiz assassin and you will all want me on your team. My weakest subjects are Geography and Sport so this last week I have been revising. I have now covered the Continents, Oceans, Space and Capital cities. I might not be the sharpest tool in the box but once I’ve learnt something I am pretty good at remembering it. I did not get on with my Geography teacher one bit and spent the majority of the classes sat outside in the corridor so I have had to do some serious ground work and I’m weirdly..enjoying it?! Take that Mr Clarke and your stupid maps that no-one wants to colour in, you asshole.

Podcasts

Off Menu Podcast
Shagged Married Annoyed
How to Fail
I have limited myself to 3 podcasts because I am a completionist and there are only so many hours of the day and I am busy watching people make pottery, doing quizzes and learning stuff. These three tick my boxes. Download them and thank me later.

In review: 10 books that you need on your bookshelf (pt.3)

books

Before I share the books I have been enjoying lately, I wanted to first tell you about 2 amazing resources that I have fallen in love with this week.

I recently found out that Goodreads is owned by Amazon and I was really gutted. I hate Amazon but I love Goodreads so I was v.conflicted about what to do. Then yesterday, a friend told me about StoryGraph which is like Goodreads but a whole lot better. It’s a black owned business, it’s extremely aesthetically pleasing and it can import all of your data from Goodreads onto your shiny new StoryGraph profile. I also like that you can attach trigger warnings to books, that it gives you spot on recommendations based on the books you like to read and you can access loads of data that dissects the kind of things you read the most. It is like Goodreads in the 21st century and a whole lot cooler. If you fancy following me, my account name is runwildalice (quelle surpise, yup still learning French too). The website only launched this months so I expect that lots more functionality will be coming soon.

Another bookish recommendation I want to share is Bookswap. Now that the libraries are closed, this is really scratching the itch of wanting new books without spending lots of dollar. The premise is simple: for every book you offer you can claim a book. When you claim a book, you just pay for postage and packaging. When you offer a book, once it is claimed, you get emailed a pre-paid postage label and drop it off at your nearest Parcel stop (usually in corner shops) to be sent. I thought it would be full of loads of old books but there is all the new stuff on there too! You can set up a wishlist so every time that a book that you want becomes offered, you can claim it. You have to have send a book to get one back and I really like that. I have already sent off 2 books and claimed 2 back which I have been waiting ages to read. I bloody love it. Full disclosure: If you use this link, you get a free book without offering one and I get one too.

Here are the books I have been reading and loving lately:

The Mothers & The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett
I read The Mothers after reading The Vanishing Half but The Mothers came first and is all the more astonishing for a debut novel. In lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever. The Vanishing Half is about 2 twins who decided to live very different lives – one as white and one as black. The effects of this choice is huge and the novel explores how this will effect future generations of the two families. Both of these novels were exemplary and deserving of all of their many accolades.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

This was the first time I have read a novel in prose and it was really effective in the delivery of the story. Clap when you land is a dual narrative book from the viewpoint of 2 sisters. The girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. When it seems like they’ve lost everything they learn of each other. The book brims with grief, love, loss and the difficulty of forgiveness.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

It has been a long while since I have been really impressed with a crime thriller and Lucy Foley definitely delivers with The Guest List. Set at a wedding on a remote Irish island, all of the characters seem to have motive and the conclusion had me completely shook! This is exactly what I want from a book of this genre, if I’ve worked out whodunnit by chapter 3 I’m not happy. Hats off to the author, this is really clever writing.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Oh my goodness, have I been hiding under a rock? How has it taken me so long to read this book? I’m annoyed with myself. It’s the kind of novel that makes you wonder how one author can dream up the characters and story line. It’s almost too good and has fast become one of the best books I’ve read. Ever. A Thousand Splendid Suns is a chronicle of three decades of Afghan history and a deeply moving account of family and friendship. You have to read this!

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Set in 1980’s Atlanta, this novel revolves around James Witherspoon’s two families—the public one and the secret one. It is sort of similar to Clap when you land but at the same time, totally different. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters. I didn’t love this book quite as much as An American Marriage (also by Tayari Jones) but I think that is because it lacked conclusion. I guess bigamy is quite a hard thing to resolve..

Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud

This story is written in vibrant Trinidadian prose and questions who and how we love, the obligations of family, and the consequences of choices made in desperation. I didn’t know much of this book before I read it and I absolutely loved it. I was totally invested in the 3 central characters and audibly gasped at certain moments. A totally immersive book and worthy of your bookshelf.

The Girl With The Louding voice by Abi Daré

Another ridiculously impressive debut novel. This book is told in the unforgettable voice of Adunni who is trapped in her life of servitude but determined to fight for her dreams and choose her own future. It’s both a heart breaking and hopeful story. I was rooting for Adunni every step of the way and her character will stay with me for a long time. This book deserves awards!

The Confession by Jessie Burton

I wasn’t too sure on The Miniaturist but I am glad I gave Jessie Burton another chance as this book was much more up my street! This is a powerful and deeply moving novel about secrets and storytelling, motherhood and friendship, and how we lose and find ourselves. I loved how the 2 storylines and timeframes interlinked to reach a satisfying conclusion. I like a story where the reader knows more than the character and you watch them edging ever closer to the truth.

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

This was another hotly anticipated novel and I through Alderton created something really clever with her first work of fiction. The novel is funny, tender and painfully relatable and I thought the portrayal of Dementia was done sensitively and to great effect. I did find that I kept imagining Dolly as the central character, perhaps that is due to reading (and equally loving). Everything I Know About Love, also written by Alderton. This is quite a fluffy read but with important themes. It’s a goodun.

If you have enjoyed this post, check out my other recommended reads here and here.



How to fail

stuff

I recently started listening to Elizabeth Day’s podcast where she invites celebs to share 3 of their failures. It’s really great. If like me, you’ve been living under a rock, here it is and you only have 79 episodes to get through. God speed. Inspired by my new listening & my pal Imi’s post I thought I would share 3 of my own failures. Recognising where you’ve failed gives you the chance to celebrate where you have succeeded and more importantly recognise that failing is ok, that it is all part of being a wonderfully flawed human.

Doing a forward roll

I cannot do a forward roll. I never have and I never will. For the first 16 years of my life this was extremely stressful. Through the primary school ages, I dreaded the lessons when those squishy blue mats would be brought out ready for tumbling. Need someone to demonstrate a perfect teddy bear roll? Sign me up. Need someone to demonstrate a perfect forward roll? I suddenly really need the toilet. I remember once at a church BBQ I got all of the adults to take in turns to coach me how to do a forward roll. I wanted to be able to go into school next week and not feel sick with nerves that I’d be asked to do one and maybe I just needed the right teacher. It felt like everyone in the whole world to could do a forward roll except me and when I still couldn’t do one after 3 hours of coaching and a regular intake of hot dogs I thought my life was officially over. I despairingly asked my sister’s friend what I should do about the dreaded p.e. class coming up next week because I had checked the weather and it was going to rain which meant we’d definitely be on those pissing blue mats. He wisely suggested I forget my p.e. kit. So I did. Crisis averted. For now.

Through the secondary school years, the stakes felt even higher but luckily my forgery skills had come on since the age of 6 and I could get myself excused from any lessons that included the word gymnastics. Weirdly 10 minutes into the lesson I would suddenly realise I had a letter saying I couldn’t participate due to cramps (sorry Mum!). It goes to show that no male p.e. teacher had a good grasp of menstrual cycles because my periods lasted for weeks on end and none of them pulled me in for a chat, concerned about the sheer amount of blood I must be losing.

Luckily, since secondary school I have never been asked to do a forward roll and I have since met other people who can’t do one either (solidarity, my friends). This failure embodies my complete fear of letting other people down but in hindsight I don’t think anyone was particularly bothered by my lack of gym mat skills.. except me.

Driving

I am 29 years old and I cannot drive. I would much rather walk, run, cycle, get the bus, crawl or skip thank you very much. The thought of driving makes me feel sick and I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the place where I actually want to learn to drive. I fleetingly did driving lessons shortly after my 17th Birthday and I think I got to the bit when you start doing manoeuvres and then my driving instructor quit and I convinced myself it was because I had let him down in some way. After that I did a few lessons with a new instructor who was so passive aggressive she made me cry and I vowed I would never try again. I hate being bad at stuff and I thought I must be the worst person who has ever tried to learn to drive. In reality, I had hardly had any lessons and it takes time to be able to safely drive a hunk of mental around the mean streets of the very small town I grew up in which in hindsight would be a much easier place to learn in than the big bad city of Bristol. Sigh.

I still feel frozen with fear at the thought of getting back in the drivers seat. I don’t think it’s too much of a big deal that I can’t drive until I want to do a big food shop or not get on a Megabus which always smells of feet.

Boundaries

Boundaries is such a buzz word at the moment and I use it a lot but I absolutely suck at actually implementing them. The queen of multi-tasking, answering emails at midnight and putting away laundry whilst also on loud speaker chatting to someone I definitely didn’t need to be chatting to. The nature of my anxiety means that I love having a packed diary because the more I do the less I need to think. My favourite days at work are the ones that whizz by because I just have so much to do and it’s only recently that I’ve realised how unhealthy that is. For years I allowed my time to be sucked up by everything and anyone and never carve out time for me just to be. I think I’m getting better at this but I can easily find myself slipping back into it because old habits die hard. I said to my therapist once that I was exhausted because so many people needed stuff from me, I was trying to keep so many spinning plates spinning and it just wasn’t fair. Rather than sympathising with me she told me that maybe I find my worth in needing to be needed and she’d absolutely hit the nail on the head. I am regularly serving from an empty cup & I.am.thirsty.



2021 and Lockdown 3.0

stuff

We glugged the sweet fizz of prosecco as we saw in the New Year with (the rightful King of the Castle) Jordan North. We grabbed panettone by the fistful and danced to 80’s pop and I allowed myself to feel quietly optimistic about 2021. Like a modern day Cinderella I wanted the stroke of midnight to mean something and instead of leaving my shoe on the staircase as I ran outside, I wanted to leave the pandemic and all the other shit we’re carrying and firmly close the door behind me. But no such luck. We opened the door and outside there was a thick frosty fog filling the streets. You couldn’t even see your hand infront of your face and it didn’t feel like a very good omen. But hey, stranger things have happened and maybe 2021 really will be the year that all my dreams come true.

I have a love/hate relationship with new years resolutions. For a long time they would be a reason to berate myself into a new diet or exercise regime to shrink myself as much as possible. In more recent times, they would be an opportunity to say ‘THIS IS THE YEAR I WILL LOVE MY BODY NO MATTER WHAT OK’ and then 3 days later when I am squeezing into some leggings and not feeling so kind with my inner thoughts, I would have officially ruined my resolution and face planted the entire contents of my fridge. Rules don’t work for me, even if they’re positive ones.

So instead of resolutions, this year I’ve put our 3 hopes into the Universe. One is a big one and the other ones are a little bit silly. If I don’t achieve any of them then everything will still be ok and the world will keep on turning. This is the first year I didn’t even consider making any resolutions that revolve around my body which is extremely refreshing. So instead..

A house

I would really really like to buy a house this year. It would be nice to have more space and a garden but if that doesn’t work out, we have a little flat which is home and a place I feel safe in and that is more than enough.

Olio & Duolingo

I would really really like to use these apps a bit more. But if I don’t collect ‘x’ amount of bags for life full of gone off pastries or complete a 300 day streak of learning french.. c’est la vie!

1 second a day

I would really really like to remember to record my 1 second video every day so on the 31st December 2021 I have something nice to look at and if I don’t remember one day that isn’t a call for me to give up completely and instead just to pick it up when I remember again.

The stakes of all of these hopes are low, lower than low, the lowest because none of them actually really matter. If seeing the 1st January as a blank slate works for you then you do you but I am done with the pressure. Besides, I think we all have quite enough to be dealing with right now trying to keep up with if we are allowed to hug our nan, meet up in a pissing cold park, or stay 1 or 2 meter’s apart from the lurker in the corner shop.

God speed into lockdown 3 and again, please don’t invite me to your Zoom quiz.