Sea swimming in Cornwall

stuff

Goodness me. I haven’t written a blog post in 2 months. I guess I have been busy getting back into the groove of the ‘new-normal’, returning to the office, being social again and.. getting guinea pigs! More on that another time. Recently, Zoe and I took ourselves on a mini road trip around the Cornish coast and it was a joy. We stayed in 4 different places (including a book-ended trip to my parent’s house where they happily did mountains of clothes washing for us, offered endless cups of tea and there was my elderly cat to cuddle. Lush). Our 3 other stops were in the areas of Polzeath, St Agnes and Penzance. Despite being a Cornish gal, I haven’t actually been to that many different parts of my home county and it was so nice to have the time to explore various beaches, towns, coves and cream tea offerings. I thought it would be fun to do a round up of the trip via our outdoor swims and the snacks we ate afterwards.

Seaton

Our first swim took place the evening that we arrived at my parent’s house who are based in Saltash (a place I regularly moaned about growing up but now love to return to. Absolute small town vibes but a stones throw from some amazing beauty spots). After dinner my Dad suggested we kicked off our Cornish adventure with an evening dip at Seaton. Seaton is a large, pebbly beach with a carpark right next to it meaning no climbing required. It is very busy in the Summer days and popular with families and dogs but at around 7pm when we headed there it was fairly quiet with lingering day time bbq-ers and a few brave kids in wetsuits dipping their toes. This is the first evening sea swim I have done in a while. I will say now that all of our swims were cold, initially, but after the initial shock passed it felt great. Getting your chest/shoulders in is definitely the hardest bit, I usually wait to do this until my legs have adapted – or maybe gone numb. We bobbed about for around 20 minutes and revelled in the fact that our holiday had begun. We got changed gracefully underneath our towels before Zoe ventured into the v.fancy restaurant to ask for two takeaway hot chocolates, with whipped cream and marshmallows, obviously. It turns out that I can stress about money no end but will happily depart with £7 for two hot chocs after a swim without a second thought and did so regularly on this holiday. We took said hot chocolates to another level by dipping in some salty pretzel filled milk chocolate from Aldi which was a taste sensation. After warming up we went for a walk along the coast path. There is a really nice pathed walk underneath some houses that look straight out of ‘Selling sunset’ and some rocks to climb if you’re feeling adventurous.

Swim rating: A solid 7/10. Got the holiday off to a great start
Snack rating: 8/10. Anything involving two types of chocolate doesn’t deserve anything less
Beach rating: 4/10. Severe lack of amenities. Wouldn’t go here for a ‘day on the beach’ but nice for a walk or swim




Tregonhawke

Tregonhawke beach is probably my favourite beach in Cornwall. It’s what my Mum calls a ‘locals beach’ but I think it is more that a lot of people can’t arsed with the effort required to climb down and back up to your car. It is steep but worth it, promise. We parked at the top of the cliffs in a farmer’s field (£5 for the day). You can park on the side of the road but there are strict rules on wheel placement and rumour has it that if your car wheel is placed at an angle and onto the main stretch of road, you’ll get a ticket. We met our friends April and Lucy and their dog Ruby and spent such a nice day in the sunshine. Tregonhawke is part of Whitsands bay and is biiiiig. There is plenty of space even though we were there on a bank holiday August weekend. We spent a good hour in the sea before deciding to hire a paddleboard (£10 for an hour) from the rental shack next to the café. It was great fun but the waves made standing atop of the board extremely difficult so we mainly stayed on our knees and pursuaded someone else to push us around. We even got Ruby to have a go, but she wasn’t so sure.

After our paddle boarding we headed to the café for snacks and managed to get ice-creams and fresh watermelon slices! The café does loads of great options including hot food and they have an adorable pully system that carries the stock down the cliff to them. There isn’t a loo so you either need to climb back up the cliff or use the sea (no number twos allowed). Before returning to the car we were eager to find a giant rock pool that we had seen last time we visited when we looked over the cliff top. We had seen a woman swimming there naked and she looked like an actual mermaid. To get there we had to walk the length of the beach towards Sharrow point and tuck in to the cliff. I wasn’t feeling so confident we would find it and worried that the mermaid we had seen was the result of severe dehydration but we turned the corner and it was there! There were 2 young girls and their Dad jumping in from a rock (it was sooo deep) but they left after a little while and we had our own little spot of paradise. We kept our cossies on but did decided to eat some seaweed for a dare and I impressed myself by not being scaredy cat and jumping in from what felt like a dizzying height but doesn’t look so impressive on the video.

Swim rating: 9/10. Absolutely dreamy, added hilarity of trying to paddleboard earned this swim an extra point
Snack rating: 5/10. Aldi’s own brand ice-creams being flogged at Magnum prices
Beach rating: 9/10. If there was a loo on the beach I honestly think it would be deserving of 10/10




Trevaunance Cove

On our way to our first Air BnB we decided to stop off at Trevaunance Cove to break up the journey. We parked at the top of the cliff at a place that only accepted change so I had to ask someone to lend us 10p. We then found out there was a cheaper and card accepting car park right by the cove. You live and learn. When we arrived you could barely see the beach but there were a few keen people sat on rocks waiting for it to appear. It did slowly get bigger throughout the morning but it was still a small space which got very busy! That being said, we managed to find a nice spot on a stone step providing an excellent back rest for reading. In fact we got so involved in our books that we hadn’t realised we were sat in complete shadow once the sun had come out so we relocated once we could see some sand.

The sea was choppy and there were a lot of children with body boards meaning we had to swim out a little way to get some space. Despite that it was a really nice spot which boasted toilets(!!!), an RNLI charity shop, a v.boujie restaurant and a decent café serving sandwiches, cakes, pasties, ice-creams and more. As we finished our swim prior to the sun appearing we opted for hot chocolate after a quick change hidden behind an unclaimed beach hut where I definitely flashed my bum by atleast 3 times (not on purpose).

Swim rating: 5/10
Snack rating: 7/10. A score to match the cost of 2 hot chocolates. They were better than the ones at Seaton but I didn’t have any pretzel chocolate to dunk. Gutting
Beach rating: 5/10




Polzeath

Polzeath is touristy heaaaaven. There are tons of gift shops, cafés, ice-cream and fish and chip shops and lots of posh looking people ready to spend their money.. not as posh as the people seen in Padstow and St Ives but still second-home-by the-sea level. We parked in a farmer’s field again for £5 and these farmers must be making a bloody fortune. We ended up right by the main strip of shops and close to the beach. There was a car park closer but this was jam (after the cream) packed. The beach was full to the brim of people and it felt like a proper brits at the seaside sort of day. There were endless amounts of group going for surf lessons but a distinct lack of waves which made watching their lesson very entertaining.

Similar to Trevaunance cove we had to swim a little bit out to find a quiet spot of sea to bob about in via an obstacle course of bodyboards but there was a great atmosphere in the water. Due to aforementioned lack of waves you could do a lot of lying on your back and looking at the sky without fear of being carried off into the depths of the ocean which is always a bonus. After our swim we wandered around the shops and bought some supplies for an evening in at our Shepherd’s hut (they have a very well stocked Spar).

Swim rating: 6/10
Snack rating: 6/10. Just had our classic packed lunch after a swim but did step things up a notch with a trip to Vanilla where I had a rhubarb and salted caramel ice-cream!
Beach rating: 6/10. Busyness lost this spot some points but lots of shops, toilets and cafés mean it is great for a day trip

Chapel Porth/Porthtowan


We decided to have one walking day during our trip and decided on the stretch between Chapel Porth and Porthtowan (around 3 miles but we added in a walk to and from the hotel which we heavily regretted on the return journey). The start and end of this walk offers the opportunity for a swim but we decided to have our dip at the half way point, on Porthtowan beach. We detoured over to the Wheal Coates tin mines once we got to Chapel Porth, as the tide was in, before turning around and passing Chapel Porth on route to Porthtowan. At this point I must mention the Hedgehog ice-cream which we continuously read about in reviews of the area and only available from Chapel Porth. There was a lengthy queue at 10am in the morning for good reason but we decided to have ours on the return leg to give us a boost before a hilly ascent back to our hotel. The walk was glorious and totally took me back to reading the Salt Path, one of my all time favourite books. There was a decent amount of up and down hill along the way and much appreciated benches to stop and take off your back pack, rest your legs and wonder ‘how much further?!’.

We originally wanted to go to Porthtowan because we had read about a beautiful tidal pool in our Wild swimming book. However, despite trying to get it just right for a prime-time swim the pool was pretty much empty. It was still nice to see though and maybe next time we’ll get to go in. Despite our tidal pool woe we still managed to have a lovely swim at Porthtowan which was fairly quiet and had beautiful golden sands and still waters although it is fairly shallow. There is a popular restaurant/bar next to the beach, a village shop and some clean toilets which we used to wash our feet and get changed in before our pilgrimage back to the Chapel Porth ice-cream shop.

Picture this: A scoop of vanilla ice-cream (or you can have chocolate or blackcurrant too) topped with clotted cream and then lazily rolled in honey roasted hazelnuts *chef’s kiss*. They also offer 2 other toppings, the foxy – rolled in homemade flapjack or a kids version – rolled in pick n mix. Hedgehog ice-cream is worthy of every accolade the Chapel Porth TripAdvisor page gives it and in the words of countossie “Been coming here for over 30 years and there is no other ice cream to compare. Go there, get a hedgehog and enjoy”.

Swim rating: 5/10. Mainly because I was disappointed about the tidal pool!
Snack rating: 10/10. I bow down to the Hedgehog ice-cream
Beach rating: 7/10




Praa sands

Our final stop off took us to the very bottom of Cornwall and to the wonderous Praa sands which is genuinely, beautiful. It offers a huge stretch of white sand and plenty of space for you to feel like you are the only ones there! Apparently, and here’s the science, the light sand is made from seashells that have been pulverised by wave action over millions of years and in the sunshine, the sand can look almost blinding (not that we would know..the day we went was very grey and windy but the beach was still a looker!). As we wanted to have a quiet day on the beach we headed away from the lifeguards swimming flags (sorry Mum) but we got our comeuppance as the sea was really rough so we didn’t stay in for too long. It was still a nice but brief swim and accompanied by some chunky chips, the perfect way to finish our road trip. There are some nice cafés, plenty of beach side parking, a restaurant and somewhere to hire surf boards, body boards etc. A great beach for a family especially as a large stretch of the sea is nice and shallow (when the tide is behaving!).

Swim rating: 4/10. Purely due to the sea conditions that day
Snack rating: 6/10
Beach rating: 8.5/10


There were a few other places which we passed and didn’t swim and the one I really wish I’d packed my swimming gear for was Rock. We got a boat from there over to Padstow and on the return leg a beautiful sandy beach had appeared and water that almost begged for you to get in! Next time..

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you’re interested in reading more about my more local wild swimming, check out this blog post. It feels nice to be writing again.

IN REVIEW: 10 BOOKS THAT YOU NEED ON YOUR BOOKSHELF (PT.4)

books

After a short reading rut, I am happy to report that I am now back to reading most days and I have fallen back in love with escaping into a book. We recently bought a house and that process is ridiculously stressful. I’ve been very thankful to have some books to hide inside as we battled the many hurdles to get into our lovely new home and not least, when I felt overwhelmed by being surrounded by boxes. I’m sure I’ll post something about our new house soon but today I wanted to share the 4th instalment of books that you need on your bookshelf. To keep up with what I am currently reading, check out my StoryGraph account.

One More Croissant for the Road by Felicity Cloake
My Mum is very good at book recommendations and she recommended me this read. If you are a fan of France, cycling or food then you will probably enjoy this book! Felicity sets off on an epic adventure to taste as many culinary delights as she can whilst also ranking all of the croissants she eats along the way. France is often romanticised and I liked that Felicity gave a really honest account of her experiences. It made me laugh and it also made me very hungry.

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

This is a multigenerational novel about a Chicago couple and their four adult daughters. Be warned: this is a loooong book but I found myself totally immersed in the lives of the Sorensons. I thought the portrayal of the relationships between the sisters was particularly good. The story is told in flashbacks, as well as present day, chapters alternating. We witness the story unravelling, how the characters got to the point that they are now for each character as an individual and also for the family unit. I was surprised to see that this is a bit of a Marmite book, some love it and some hate it but I for one, loved it.

Us Three by Ruth Jones

I picked up a copy of this book in the supermarket whilst away for a long weekend weekend and having finished The Most Fun We Ever Had. I took it to the beach with me and gobbled up over 100 pages in a sitting. This story has a lot of heart and I loved joining the friendship of Catrin, Judith and Lana for a while. Spanning decades, we see how these three women negotiate life, love, divorce, betrayal and the changing face of friendship. I preferred the first half to the second but overall it was a warm fuzzy read and perfect for a holiday!

Careless by Kirsty Capes

This was one of those books where I totally believed in the narrative voice. As a debut novel by an author in her 20’s it is particularly impressive. At first, wasn’t sure if I would relate to a YA book about teenage pregnancy, but the wonderful writing style and character development made it a real page turner. It is almost like a more grown up version of a Jaqueline Wilson book and that is said with the greatest admiration for Queen Jaq. As well as enjoying reading this book, I also listened to some chapters via Audible and was pleased that the narrator was exactly as I imagined. I see this book winning lots of awards.

Home Stretch by Graham Norton

Set in Ireland, Home Stretch explores the aftermath of a tragedy on a small-town and how secrets can be carried through the generations. I thought this book was really powerful and I read it quickly. I am so impressed by how well Graham writes and I am only annoyed that I didn’t pick up one of his novels sooner. Although there is tragedy and heartache, the book also carries great hope and I felt satisfied with the conclusion. I love a book that really takes me somewhere else and the setting for Home Stretch did exactly that.

The Course of Love by Alan Bordain

Through a Scottish couple, Rabih and Kirsten, de Botton dissects love and marriage. Part fiction and part guide, I thought this book was really insightful. I felt at the end of this that I hadn’t read a novel but more a case study on what couples need to consider once the honey moon period of their relationship has ended. It was unlike any book I have really read before and after each chapter I needed time to digest. I didn’t necessarily agree with everything that was written but that didn’t take away from the enjoyment of reading it.

100 Years of Lenni and Margot

This book made me very happy. I absolutely love cross generational friendships and this book is a total celebration of exactly that. This novel really is sprinkled with magic as it tells a story of friendship and love that develops between the vibrant, full of life 17 year old Lenni Pettersson and 83 year old Margot Macrae. This book had meaning and it made me want to squeeze as much out of life as I possibly can and grateful for the wonderful friendship with my very own Margot. I can totally seeing this being made into a film and I’ll be first in line to watch it!

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Having loved Homegoing, I was eager to pick up a copy of Yaa Gyasi’s latest novel. Firstly, I didn’t think it was as good but I still think it is well worth on your bookshelf. Not least because the cover is absolutely stunning. Transcendent Kingdom is a moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants dealing with depression and addiction and grief but is a novel about love, hope, religion and science. This is a character driven story which is clearly extremely personal to the author. It packs a punch.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Oh man, this book made me want to run! This is an epic adventure story that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? In search of an answer, the author sets off to find a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and learn their secrets, and in the process shows us that everything we thought we knew about running is wrong. The characters in this book are brilliant and I love how differently they approached long runs! It made me think a lot about why and how I run and the benefits of those questions has meant my relationship with running continues to be something I do because I want to and not because I think I should do. Even if you aren’t a runner, I think you’d enjoy this book.

Malibu rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I looooove this author. Daisy Jones & the Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo are two of my favourite books and Malibu Rising didn’t disappoint. I’ll be honest with you, I still have 40 pages to read but I am so sure of this being a great book it is being included here. The stories follows 4 siblings who are the children of a famous singer who each year hold a massive party in their mansion. There are two interwoven plot lines, the day of the party, we the reader, are taken through hour by hour leading up to the annual event. The second story line is the history that motivates the characters, how they got to where they were in life before the party starts. The book gives a great portrayal of the lives of the rich and elite but doesn’t shy away from the fact that no matter how ‘sorted’ you are, life is messy. I will happily read anything Taylor Jenkins Reid writes.




40 things I feel proud of

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  1. I co-owned a successful business for 6 years

    2. I bought a house

    3. I embraced my sexuality (and met my soul mate)

    4. I can do the alphabet in sign language

    5. I have a job which I genuinely, really enjoy and that I’m good at

    6. I am open about my mental health

    8. I can sing in tune

    9. I make a great cup of tea

    10. I’m good with money

    11. I’m a kind friend

    12. I’ve made it through all of my worst days

    13. I got the highest mark in the class for my year 4 project on the Victorian era

    14. I can touch type

    15. I can find the peanut butter in a supermarket in under 20 seconds

    16. I can run a half marathon distance

    17. I make my friends and family laugh

    18. I read a lot of books

    19. I support small and local businesses

    20. I’ve done a lot of personal growth & healing

    21. I am always up for a swim in the sea or a river

    22. I can carry heavy bags of shopping

    23. I call out/in people who make inappropriate comments or do inappropriate things

    24. I have a VERY healthy Monstera plant

    25. I survived a global pandemic

    26. I know the boundaries that I need (even if I struggle to always upheld them)

    27. I don’t have the Facebook apps on my phone

    28. I’ve never had a floordrobe

    29. I give good hugs

    30. I understand the importance of naps

    31. I’m extremely organised

    32. I once trekked across the Great Wall of China and raised lots of money for charity

    33. I will no longer succumb to peer pressure when it comes to a reptile house or pet shop. I’m not going in

    34. I’m great at finding discount codes

    35. I am a evangelistic supporter of the library

    36. I bought a bike in lockdown #1 and now feel confident to cycle to work and back every day

    37. I can semi-competently perform ‘One Day More’ as a one-woman-show

    38. I can do a handstand in the swimming pool

    39. I did an ultra marathon (didn’t I mention it? ;-))

    40. I like myself


40 things I feel guilty about

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Inspired by the wonderful Elizabeth’s days online list of the 40 things she feels guilty about, I thought I’d share my own.

1. I closed my business

2. Every time I get a missed call from an unknown number

3. Every time I get a letter that looks official

4. The fact I quit a sailing course my grandma paid for (aged 12) after day 1

5. I don’t know how to drive

6. I haven’t recovered from my eating disorder

7. I am rubbish at general knowledge quizzes

8. I didn’t pass my grade 5 music theory test

9. Not seeing my grandparents enough when they were alive

10. I don’t have a skincare routine

11. Every time I don’t answer an email, text or Whatsapp immediately

12. I don’t journal

13. I don’t keep up with current affairs

14. Feeling jealous of other’s successes

15. I’ve never read Lord of the Rings (or seen the films)

16. Not feeling enough gratitude for what I have

17. Not recycling every thing I could recycle

18. Letting my house plants meet their maker

19. I don’t drink enough water

20. I hate yoga

21. I can’t do a burpee

22. I can’t do a forward roll

23. I’ve never watched Friends

24. I spend too long on Instagram

25. I didn’t do well enough in my A-levels

26. Every time that I stand up for myself

27. I don’t know how to play chess

28. I gave up learning French

29. I don’t read enough non-fiction

30. I can’t shuffle a deck of cards

31. I don’t message my brother and sister enough

32. Every time I prioritise my mental health

33. Taking annual leave

34. Whenever I say ‘no’ to a social invite

35. I haven’t travelled enough

36. I don’t like coffee

37. The time I used the wrong key when locking up a pal’s house and I had to call (and pay for) a very expensive locksmith to sort it out whilst relentlessly messaging her when she was already having a stressful day

38. I talk too fast

39. Any time I have to make an important decision

40. I’m both too much and not enough

I’m tired

books, running

I’m tired and so I know I need to rest but my fitness watch makes it hard for me to do that. I got my fancy Garmin watch to help with my running training a couple of years ago. At first, I only wore it when I went out to run. Then I wore it when I went out to run or for a bike ride. Then I wore it when I went out to run or for a bike ride or for a walk. Then I wore it all the time. There are a few reasons that my smart watch became permanently glued to my wrist.

1) Strava

Runners love Strava. Since joining a running club, Strava became the best the place to hang out. You can give your pals kudos for their running efforts, design routes and get involved with challenges. OR you can become obsessed with what everyone else is doing & desperate to gain digital badges at the detriment of your mental and physical health. I think Strava can be a wonderful and supportive tool for lots of people but it can also be a slippery slope for those who have struggled with a disorded relationship to exercise in the past (or indeed, lead to it). Being a completionist, I loved signing myself up for the monthly fitness challenges but would often force myself to get in the extra mileage even when my body really wasn’t feeling it.

2) Steps

I saw someone jumping on the spot the other day to before heading back into the office after their lunch break and no-one found it odd when they called out ‘Just a few more until I hit my steps’. Everyone knew what she was talking about, a large majority had probably done similar. But guess what the 10,000 steps a day mantra ties back to? Capitalism. Yep, it was actually a marketing ploy from the 1964 Toykyo Olympics – A company began selling a pedometer called the Manpo-kei: “man” meaning 10,000, “po” meaning steps and “kei” meaning meter. It was hugely successful and the number seems to have stuck. You can read more about it here. Needing to walk 10,000 steps a day isn’t true. If I’m tired af and my feet hurt, I don’t need to walk 10,000 steps. I need to lie down.

3) Knowing the time

I like to know the time. I am borderline obsessive about being early for every social occasion (being on time is being late etc) and having a wrist watch made me think I’d use my smart phone less – often when I look at my phone for the time, I end up doing 17 different things and then forgetting what I went on it for the first place but in reality a standard wrist watch would be just FINE rather than one that flashes an angry red and tells me to Move! when I’ve sat down for 5 minutes. Even if I’ve just run a marathon.

Yesterday I tried not wearing my smart watch for a day. I’d had the idea of taking it off for the whole of June but I wanted to give myself a trial day so that I could change my mind if I missed it. It turns out that not wearing a smart watch feels good. We went for a walk and for a swim and I had no idea of the stats which meant I was able to tune into my body. When swimming, I stopped after every couple of laps to float in the water or to chat to someone else also cruising in the slow lane rather than stressing out that my watch wasn’t logging the right meters. At times last year when wild swimming I became agitated that my watch couldn’t connect and therefore the world of Strava wouldn’t know what I was doing yet I was kidding myself that I had the whole intuitive exercise thing down.

Recently, I read Born to run and it really got me thinking about how and why I run. I have come to acknowledge that there is no way for me to be an intuitive exerciser whilst I have a smart watch. If I’m honest, this is something that I have known to be true for a while but have been reluctant to face up to. My relationship with food has become tricky recently too and I think taking the pressure and numbers away from movement whilst taking the pressure and numbers away from food will only be a good thing. Maybe one day I will be able to have a healthy relationship with my smart watch for but now, it has been placed into the drawer of things that don’t have a home and we’ll see how I feel about it in a little while. I have no idea how my relationship with movement will evolve over the next few weeks, maybe I’ll want to run a lot, maybe I won’t want to run at all but I’m going to let my body be my guide, every step of the way.

In a reading rut

books

I have something to confess. Despite storming through a frankly ridiculous amount of books at the start of the year I have hit a brick wall. I’ve been in a phase where books I have picked up just haven’t captured my attention. Some, I have tried to persevere with, only to abandon them half way through. I used to hate doing this because I thought I had ‘wasted my time’ but really, reading should be something we do for joy and not something we feel pressured to do. Sometimes I can completely lose myself in a book and finish it in a day, other times, I’ll pick up my book and only read a couple of pages and then leave it for a week until I almost sit on it and am reminded of it’s existence and then pick it up again. To try and help things along, I went to the local charity shop to pick up some easy read fictions. Despite having a to-read pile that could potentially now be large enough to start my own private library, I wanted to have that excitement of browsing and just choosing something because I fancy reading it and not because it has been recommended or is currently Waterstones’ #1 book of the week.

The two books I did pick up from the charity shop – Nina is not OK and Oh dear Silvia have done well to get me back into my reading groove. Safe to say that Nina is not OK was not a fluffy fiction and was in fact harrowing and hard to read at times but still, I was gripped. I am about half way through the latter and to be honest, at the start I thought I had found another dud. However, I decided to give it a few more chapters of chance and I’m glad I did because now I am enjoying it. I’ve also decided to re-shuffle my to-read pile and give myself a variety of books to choose from. Here is what I am planning to read next:



‘Through one couple’s story, De Botton explores infatuation, commitment, tenderness and infidelity in an unapologetically realistic way that expands the very idea of the nature of love itself’.



‘Both a fascinating narrative about a tribe of phenomenal runners and a penetrating enquiry into the nature of running. This is an unforgettable read’.



‘A raw, effervescent debut novel about the power of language and speaking your own truth. Written entirely in verse, the book follows the trials and tribulations of Xiomara, a teenager growing up in a tough Harlem neighbourhood, and her creative release in the world of slam poetry’.



‘A luminous new novel which explores the uncharted implications of AI to human relationships and the abiding question of what it means to love.’.

With most things in life, as soon as pressure is applied to it.. it just isn’t fun anymore and I definitely need to remember this when it comes to reading and trying to read X amount of books a year because genuinely.. who cares? I would love to know your approach to hitting a brick wall with something you love. I think for me it’s about giving it space. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

2021 gigs

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I absolutely love going to see live music and it is one of the things I have missed the most through the pandemic. I miss:

– Elbowing through to get to the bar to order an overpriced pint that then gets knocked all over me whilst trying to navigate my way back to my pals

– Pretending to know the lyrics whilst I sing along when I definitely don’t know the words to their B side track on their first album but my god, I’m a trier

– Trying to make eye contact with the leader singer and then convincing myself that they were singing to me and me only

– Waiting for a song I don’t know (which is beyond the realms of me trying to sing along to) and making a mad dash to the toilet only to realise by the time I’ve reached the front of the queue that they’ve moved onto my all time favourite tune and having to rush back to the dance floor in time for the chorus.. whilst still being desperate for a wee

– Getting annoyed at people on their phones and passive aggressively sighing when I spot it happening near me

– Being tall enough to always see what’s happening regardless of where I am in the room because I’m so tall

– People behind me tutting and passive aggressively sighing because I’m so tall

Now that there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel I have allowed myself to get excited about being at gigs again and have started buying tickets to see some of my favourite artists. If you aren’t using it already, I would highly recommend the songkick app where you can follow singers/bands and be alerted when gig tickets are going to go on sale. It also recommends similar artists that you might enjoy and you can keep all of your gig plans in one place.

The one thing I think that Bristol is missing is a big arena sized music venue but at the same time I feel really lucky to have so many smaller more intimate gig spaces across the city. Over the years I have seen Ed Sheeran perform in the back of the pub, Ibeyi do a gig by candlelight to an audience of 30 and Young Fathers singing in a record shop. The other brilliant thing that happens a lot in Bristol is stumbling across random unheard of bands who sometimes go on to be massive (exactly what happened with Ed Sheeran) but even if they don’t, you always end up having a good time and discovering new people that you should be listening to. I love going out ‘just for one’ and ending up dancing to a ska band or world music artist who happen to be doing a gig in your drinking hole of choice.

I thought it would be fun to share some of the concerts that I am looking forward to in 2021 which I am seeing across Bristol, Birmingham and London. You’ll probably be able to tell that my music taste is pretty eclectic and I won’t have a bad word said against Steps.

Have you got any live music plans for the year ahead? Who would you most like to see performing live? Do you have any music recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments below.

Ben Howard

Dermot Kennedy

Princess Nokia

Tom Grennan

Black pumas

House gospel choir

Jon Hopkins

Steps (!!!!)

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.