Lockdown 2.0

stuff

On the eve of the lockdown 1.0 I was bubbling with enthusiasm of the all the things I could do with my newly awarded free time. Dreams of finally getting through the never ending lists of hobbies, to-dos and activities finally seemed like they could become reality. I managed to ignore the fact that there was a huge virus travelling around the world and instead saw it as paid time off to do what I want, as long as it involved staying indoors and not seeing anyone. On the eve of lockdown 1.0 I moved in with my girlfriend which brought a new and exciting space to exist in, walls to be painted and drawers to be organized. I was ready to get shit done and I did. I painted and read and swam in rivers and cleaned and enthusiastically took part in video calls.

On the eve of lockdown 2.0 I feel numb. I’ve gotten back into the swing of being at work, seeing friends and had finally managed to achieve a pretty good balance of life stuff. I’d re-launched my business and people were hyped about it. I have no energy to be excited about another round of free time. I went to the library on Monday and found no books I wanted to read. Nothing is grabbing my attention. I already feel bored and we are only on day one.

Things that felt exciting in lockdown 1.0 which I now couldn’t care less about:

  • Having free time
  • Animal crossing
  • Zoom quizzes
  • Zoom calls
  • Anything about Zoom
  • Wild garlic
  • Banana bread
  • Sourdough starters (rip)
  • Being productive
  • Being positive

So I guess this time round it isn’t about thriving and it is about surviving. My only goal for each day is to eat and breathe and not look at the news too much.

God speed & please don’t invite me to your Zoom quiz.

I never want to be told to gargle with warm salt water ever again

stuff

I suck at being ill. I hate being off work, I hate being told to do nothing and I hate not being able to eat anything more solid than soup or on a good day, mashed potato. I do, however like attention and being sick gets you plenty of that and an excuse to write a blog post about being ill where you have no idea where it is going to go. I am also heavily medicated so this could be a wild ride. Tonsillitis creeps up on me atleast once a year and no it not just a bad sore throat, it is actual hell. Once my throat finally stops feeling like it is being stabbed I am going to order an XL Papa Jon’s pizza and as many of those sweet garlic dips that my bank account allows and it’s going to be the best night of my life since I realised that all 121 episodes of Glee are available on Netflix.

Things that tonsillitis is worse than:

  • Repeatedly stepping on an upturned plug whilst your barefoot
  • Accidentally smashing a family heirloom
  • Wetting yourself in public
  • Losing the school Guinea pig that you took home to look after for a weekend
  • Booty calling your ex who cheated on you
  • Mistakenly using hair removal cream instead of shampoo
  • Being hungover and downing a glass of vodka, thinking it is water
  • Fracturing all of your toes

I like to be entertained. As a child I hated playing on my own, I would count down the days of half term longing to get back to school. As an adult I pack my social calendar full to the brim, pretending that I just loooove being busy when really I just don’t want to be by myself. When Zoe goes out for the evening, I watch TV whilst messaging as many people as possible on WhatsApp and redesigning my cabin on Animal Crossing. As soon as I take annual leave and allow myself to relax I get I’ll or if that hasn’t happened in a while then I am left to push push push until my tonsils swell up like golf balls and I break out into cold sweats. Being busy is the dark side to my ongoing struggle with high functioning anxiety. As my Mum says, I’ve got to stop burning the candle at both ends and for the sake of my tonsils and for the sake of my sanity, something’s got to give.

When the lockdown restrictions started to ease I said to myself that I would remember how much better I felt when the government ordered to stay inside and do nothing (bear with me). I thought a pandemic would wreak havoc on my mental health but years of catastrophising weirdly worked in my favour and now that a lot of other people were doing a whole lot of nothing, I allowed myself to do nothing too.. whilst I wasn’t busy thinking of excuses as to why I couldn’t attend your Zoom quiz. Now that life is returning to normal, I am struggling. I have let myself go from 0 to 100 and ended in a state of having to gargle warm salt water and take 6x tablets every 4 hours and I want to do everything in my power for this to never happen again. I feel like my tonsillitis has got tonsillitis. I know that prioritising time to do nothing isn’t going to cause a supersonic boost in my immune system but it’s surely going to help, right?

No time like the present, I’m going to stop endlessly wondering when life can get going again and instead focus on being quiet, still and saving £2983 to get a private tonsillectomy. Google tells me that a brave tonsillitis warrior before me has asked how to remove their tonsils at home, so that’s always a budget friendly option if the going gets really tough. But for now, rest.

Finding my safe, healthy and happy running feet

running

If you have ever been within a 10 meter radius of me you will have probably heard about that one time I did an ultra-marathon. Just incase you somehow missed the memo, I ran from Padstow to Landsend in 3 days and it was so hard but I didn’t even get one blister which is a mystery to this day because I hadn’t even worn in my shoes properly. Eat your heart out Mo Farrah. When I crossed the finish line and burst in to tears I decided that I would categorically never run again. Once I’d eaten the amount of food equivalent to feeding a small village, had a massage and slept for a week I thought at some point I would probably want to lace up my trainers at some point.

After a long rest, I decided to start running but I very quickly struggled with searing pain in my heels (I spoke about it briefly in this post). For a long while I pushed through the pain but in the end I hobbled up the Bristol foot and body clinic and accepted defeat. Rehabbing for plantar fasciitis has been an interesting time. I’ve been forced to slow down, have loads of acupuncture and wear insoles and a sexy foot splint when the pain peaks. I was told it was likely I’d have to live with managing this pain & running short difference max 2 x a week but miraculously, right now, the pain has gone. I am sure that this is something I will struggle with at different times in my life but now I feel like I have the tools to manage it and the mindset not to berate myself if I have to stop exercising for a while whilst I heal. As a side note, I highly recommend Louise at the Bristol foot and body clinic. She is an absolute angel.

A few weeks ago my friend Maria was telling me about the Maffetone method of running which is in a nutshell: running slower to run faster and make sure you are running slow enough by staying in your aerobic heart rate zone which is where you most efficiently exercise – to calculate your basic aerobic heart rate it is 180 minus your age and this should be the max you’re hitting during easy runs. At first it is likely you will be running slower than you ever have before to keep your heart rate down but with progress it has been proven that you can run quicker within the same HR zone. It also means that if running like this through training, on race day you have the reserves to push harder, go faster and comfortably stay at a higher HR. A lot of runners don’t run slow enough on their slow runs and I am 100% guilty. For years I have been tied up in numbers, pace, miles ran and this means I have had to undo the thoughts that tell me that a run is only ‘counted’ if it hits a certain target. I knew I had to give this method of run training a go!

My first run trying this was a huge test as I knew it would mean allowing myself to walk when I needed to and stop completely if my heart rate jumped too high. Strangely on my first run I managed a consistent plod and didn’t need to stop. I spoke to Maria about it and we thought maybe my love for slow runs might have put me in good stead for this style of running. However, on my second run, my heart rate spiked massively and I had to take walking breaks and complete stops to bring my HR back to an aerobic level. So many things play into our heart rate such as heat, stress, lack of sleep and this way of running forces me to properly tune in to my body and it’s capabilities at that time. I am nowhere near as exhausted after my runs and running in this way actually makes me want to run more. Hardcore Maff-er’s also focus on nutrition but this is something I haven’t and won’t delve into.

On Sunday I had my first race of the year. I decided not to check my HR or any other numbers and just enjoy the run at the pace which felt good for me (and not race it) and it was so much better than any event I’ve done previously. When I finished the run, I drank some water and ate a Twirl, I didn’t frantically try and upload the run to Strava so everyone could praise me or instantly check how many calories I’d burned to work out if I’d ‘earned’ the contents of the post-race treats table. My relationship with running is a constant work in process but this method matched with not checking my pace or amount of time ran by turning my smart watch into a stupid watch feels like a real step in the right direction.

Turns out I was so chilled with my new running mindset, I even managed to nap on route.

This is your life

stuff

This weekend I returned to Cornwall to see my parents and finally get round to sorting out my bedroom. Alexa, play Adele – Hometown glory. In my naivety I thought I had already done this when I left for University but it turns out that looks can be deceiving. My bedroom on first glance may look organized, tidy and grown up – minus the fuchsia pink carpet – but the cupboards and drawers and under my bed painted a different picture. Piles of clothes, photos, 1000 chunky belts and many silk black clutch bags stuffed with Marlborough lights were unearthed and separated into charity shop or ‘for the tip’ black sacks. I might be 29 years old but I still hid the crushed up cigarettes from my parents because it is important they still believe that I am Sandy before she had the makeover.

Sorting through these objects made me feel like I was on a low budget version of This Is Your Life. I used to have dreams that one day I would be famous and be surprised, but not too surprised, when I was presented with that iconic red book. Judging by the current trajectory of my life this is eXtremely unlikely. It felt kind of funny meeting my past self in journal entries of scathing tones that XYZ boy didn’t fancy me and the black silk clutch bags (why did I need 7?) that were an essential item for a successful night out, obviously paired with heels and intensely back combed hair. It felt kind of nostalgic meeting my past self in school reports from the celebration of when I first wrote my name to the recurring theme that I would be really capable if only I would stop talking so much. It felt kind of sad meeting my past self in love letters from a boy who used to make me cry at every six form party, push me around and smashed up his iPhone on the Oceana dance floor after seeing me weeks after I finally plucked up the courage to dump him.

Through this process I had the chance to meet with myself from child to teenager to adult, facing up to past worries, triumphs and regrets as I filled black sack after black sack with my history, tied up in broken hair bobbles and garishly coloured tights. I could let go of things that I had harbored for years and recognising that these no longer have a hold on me. I’m free.

During that weekend I saw from a distance, people who once were placed with great importance in my life. The girl who used to fill me with fear when I walked down the school corridors now played with her children on the water slide at the local leisure centre and the boy who used to tease me for being tall now walked with his 2 year old son desperately trying to get him to take a nap. Instead of placing these people into a black sack never to be seen again I had to face up to the fact that I am going to see these people over the years when I visit home and instead of feeling that knotted stomach feeling like I did walking to my English class in year 9, I had to let go. My Mum used to try and appease me when I went home crying, desperate to be in the ‘popular gang’ who in fact were a group of people who weren’t popular at all, they were feared. She would say that these are their glory days and one day when I was a grown up I might even be thankful for how these experiences had shaped me. I never believed her. Until now. I walked past them, looked them in the eyes and smiled. I have absolutely no idea if they recognized me and if they did, I hope they know I forgive them. Boy that smashed his iPhone, I forgive you too.

Life’s too short. I’m happy.

Stuff everyone has enjoyed for ages but I have only just got really into

food, stuff

Now that I have taken a social media sabbatical, I know I’m a modern day martyr, I have loads more time to do stuff. Who would have thought? With this new found time and brain space I have started discovering loads of fun things I like doing, reading, listening to. Being offline also means I can’t publicize my blog posts or connect with you so that makes me a really shit blogger. Oops.

EDIT: I have just managed to add a lil contact box on the homepage so feel free to send your fan mail there.

Duo lingo: I’m learning French! Oui it is true. My Mum speaks fluent French and when I was little her and my Dad would switch to speaking in français to stop me understanding. I thought I’d learn the language just in case they start doing it again when I go and visit this weekend. French is a sexy language and apparently 34 hours spent on the app is the equivalent of a term of seminars at University. The app is free and soon I will be well on my way to being able to order a sandwich in Paris.

Refinery 29’s money diaries: I am absolutely obsessed with this feature on Refinery 29 where a modern day woman tracks her spending for the week and posts it for everyone to judge. I am pretty meticulous when it comes to managing my money and have a master spreadsheet of spendings and savings (I am a very fun person). I equally love finding out how other people spend their cash. The diaries are posted once or twice a week and are the perfect lunch break treat.

Spotify: I KNOW, HAVE I BEEN LIVING UNDER A ROCK? I have had Spotify for a while but haven’t ever utilized it properly. I now have a playlist for all occasions and keep adding to them. Now that I have my own office at work I have been listening to Radio 1 pretty much all day and finally have some modern music on my phone. My previous music collection consisted of 90’s bangers, club classics and musicals. Someone asking me to put some music on caused serious anxiety sweats because what if no-one else was interested in the Hamilton soundtrack? I’ve recently changed my account to a duo account with my gf which means a few extra quid saved a month and a free Google nest. Ours hasn’t arrived yet so I’m still not 100% sure that it isn’t a scam. C’est la vie.

Pick my postcode lottery: Talking of scams, this could also be a scam but if it’s not then you and I might win some money. Apparently there is only 2 people with my postcode registered and it hasn’t yet been picked so I live in hope. I expect a cut if you win big.

Sending emails: I have become e-pen pals with some long distance friends and it has been great being able to have real conversations with them and keeping each other posted on our news in a personal way rather than a Facebook status update. I absolutely love snail mail and this is a lush way of sending letters in a more accessible way. I tend to email them once every week or so and there is always so much to say and it is therapeutic too.

Trashy shows on Netflix: I highly recommend you watching the following shows immediately: Selling sunset, Below deck, Love at first sight and Too hot to handle. I’ve never been that into reality TV or soaps. Admittedly, I used to watch Eastenders but stopped after the dramatic Who shot Phil Mitchell saga. Sure I love a gritty crime thriller on BBC or a classic ITV 3 part drama but I would much rather watch rich people sell even richer people houses and outrageous people agreeing to marry each other without ever meeting until they’re engaged.

Podcasts: My current faves are – Shagged, married, annoyed, Off menu and Desert Island Discs. I listen whilst I cycle, walk, work, wash-up. I go through phases with podcasts but these 3 have stayed on my regular listens for a long time now.

Baking bread: Bread flour is back on the shelves people! I never want to try and make sourdough ever again after only 1 success and approx 186 failures during lock down and then our starter died. RIP. But no-one ever told me that making non-millennial bread can be fun and has a much higher success rate. We used this recipe and made bagels. Look here is a photo of Zoe taking a photo to prove it.

Six months of not being the only person who notices that we need to buy toilet roll

stuff

This weekend, Zoe and I celebrated our 6 month anniversary of when she referenced me as her girlfriend and I said I hadn’t been asked yet so then she asked me to be her girlfriend and I said yes which meant that I had my first ever girlfriend which was terrifying and exciting. We decided to go for a lil spa break at a place which offered an outstanding deal and we don’t really understand how they make any money from it. For £100 you get – a 3 course meal with a bottle of prosecco, an overnight stay in the hotel, breakfast, an afternoon tea, a hot tub and a massage. This is where we went and you should definitely book.

I originally planned to write about our stay and try out as a travel blogger but now that I’ve sat down to write, that doesn’t really fill me with joy and now I feel like I want to write about having a girlfriend and stuff so I think this is the direction this is going to go but who knows. This year on my Birthday I told my parents that I was dating a girl and it was a pretty big deal. I’ve had lots of boyfriends (show off) and heterosexual relationships were where I was comfortable and I understood my role in as a doormat. Just kidding. Sort of.

Earlier this year I went back into therapy and dedicated myself to healing. I was anxiously attached to anyone that gave me attention, co-dependent and a hot mess. My therapist is an angel and helped me navigate some really tricky stuff. I wanted to be by myself and continue my journey to being confident in my boundaries so that when or if I had a new relationship in the future, it had the best chance to succeed and I had the best chance at being properly happy.

Whilst going through these sessions, which honestly changed my life, I was getting closer to Zoe and realised I fancied her. I spoke about it in length with my therapist because 1) I was confused AF because I thought I was straight and 2) I didn’t want to be doing my classic move of jumping straight into a relationship when I hadn’t healed from the last. I needed her to tell me that my feelings and what I was doing was ok but she refused because therapists won’t tell you if you are right or wrong which is v.frustrating but v.fair because ultimately I had to give myself the permission to explore my sexuality and be open to a new relationship if I was ready.

Spoiler: We got together, I came out to my family and friends, I got a tattoo of a naked lady, there was a pandemic and we moved in together after 17 days of being a couple and now we are living happily ever after.

Dating women is great and I would highly recommend it. Here are a few of the many things that I appreciate about being in a same sex relationship.

  • When you come on your period unexpectedly there are tampons in the bathroom cupboard
  • When you get bored of your own clothes you have instant access to a whole new wardrobe
  • You can shock old people by holding hands when you walk down the street
  • When you mention your partner and someone references them as ‘he’ you can be be really offended and very pointedly say ‘she’ in your response
  • You can confuse people as to what your relationship is. Are they sisters? Friends? LOVERS?
  • Women can orgasm multiple times
  • I get to be a girlfriend and not a mother, therapist, PA and cleaner*
  • There’s no stress of being the only person who notices that you need to buy toilet roll*
  • My partner is interested in what I need from the relationship*
  • I no longer have to micromanage my partner’s life*
  • We do things just because they need to be done and not because one of us (me) has sent 23 passive aggressive texts about doing the hoovering*

*I know, I know — #notallmen. I’m making a major generalization here based on my personal experience of some of my previous relationships with men and my current relationship with a fantastic woman. If you’ve got yourself a man who puts in the work then go you. Please get him to tell his friends and encourage him to lead a seminar asap.

Becoming a joyful mover and shaker

running

TW: Exercise, eating disorders – no numbers included.

I recently updated my Instagram bio to tell the world that I am a joyful mover and shaker. My girlfriend told me that 1) I never stop changing my Instagram bio (which is true) and 2) I sound like an OAP (which also might be true). My relationship with movement has been rocky. It started as something that made me feel good but quickly became something that made me smaller. I chased numbers in all senses: miles ran, jeans size worn, calories eaten and it was miserable. I pounded the pavements as I became a seasoned runner and had little regard to how my body felt and this selfishness has caused potentially life long damage to my poor lil feet.

Last year when I completed an Ultra marathon along the Cornish coast I was so proud of myself but I was also so exhausted both mentally and physically even after a long period of recovery afterwards. When I tired to start running again I got a searing pain in the bottom of my heels which continued to visit whenever I rested after exercise. I have chronic plantar faciitiis and now need regular acupuncture, orphiotics and an extremely sexy leg splint. Stress manifests in different ways and my v.qualified podiatrist and I believe 2 key factors are to blame: Years of running on feet that aren’t quite in the right position and years of exercising in a way that pressured me mentally. This has meant that this pain is something that I will have to learn to manage and not something that I can cure. Weirdly, instead of feeling sad that my capacity to run has been wildly reduced I feel relieved and the less I run and the less I feel pressure to run the less things hurt. Go figure.

The diagnosis gave me permission to do what I had been craving for years – tuning in to my body and doing what feels good instead of clinging to my identity as someone who runs long distances. This tied in to the time where I feel good around food and accepting of my body. As long as I was striving to be smaller I was never going to have a neutral and intuitive relationship with food and movement. It was time for me to reclaim movement as something I did because I loved myself and not because I wanted to change myself.

Things that do not work for me: HIIT, circuits, burpees, running long distances, (most) yoga and gyms.

Things that work for me:

Pool swimming
I love the feeling of pushing off at the start of the length when you are under water and I feel like an actual mermaid. I love how my body feels in the water and when I’m done I like how the chlorine smells on my skin. I also like when we go for a late night swim and then stop off at McDonalds on the way home for an apple pie.
– Wild swimming
I love the anticipation of getting into the cold depths. I love the feeling when you start to feel a little warmer in the water. I like feeling seaweed under my feet. I love floating on my back and looking up at the sky. I also like getting warm afterwards and drinking lots of hot tea.
– (Sometimes) plodding/jogging/running
I love jogging to see my friend Maureen who compliments my cookie monster leggings. I love giving myself little challenges like getting to the lampost before the chorus of a song ends. I love listening to Florence and Machine when I run through the old railway tunnels and I try to sing along but usually end up giving myself a stitch. I also like stopping for walking breaks and taking lots of deep breaths.
Cycling
I love my ridiculous gold shiny helmet that some people scoff at and some people cheer. I love being able to process things that happened during my working day whilst I pedal home. I love the feeling where you push hard up a hill and then get to go weeeeeeeeeee all the way down on the other side. I like when I (occasionally) overtake men in lycra. I also like when I finally reach the flat and I have a long shower and a lie down.

I am a joyful mover and shaker and it feels so good.

Conscious consuming and me

stuff

I’ve never really been that bothered about clothes (Sue me Gok Wan). However, in recent years, I have definitely had moments where I’ve had a crisis of style and wanted to reinvent myself with a new look. Whenever something went wrong in my life, I longed for a curated wardrobe. I wanted to be seen as someone ‘put together’ but I spill things down myself at least 17 times a day so no matter how hard I tried, I would only ever achieve a level of style that can be acceptable when you have a toothpaste stain on your tits.

I am tall, really fucking tall and I am broad and I have a soft tummy and for a long time this stuff really bothered me but finally now it doesn’t. I feel like I wear the clothes I want to wear because of how they make me feel and how well they can disguise the tea I’ve dribbled down myself when trying to multitask as I slurp from an industrial sized Sports Direct mug. I have also come to accept that a lot of high street shops don’t work for me because my leg length is akin to that of a giraffe and I am often left with very cold ankles. I have still been a sucker for buying stuff from the places that Facebook advertise to me, that are cheap, have fast delivery and can be worn once even if my ankles are cold and then never see the light of day again. I have also moaned relentlessly when my Mum dragged me around Charity shops because I thought the clothes smelled of old people.

Last month I decided I wanted to make a change. Not only did I want to make sure that the clothes I buy fit me properly, I want to make sure that I know exactly where these clothes are coming from and the ethics behind the company I am buying from. At this point, I have to acknowledge that this is a privileged thing to be able to do, I have a body size that allows me to find things that work at most shops & the finances to be able to fund it. I think the stores that serve larger bodies and sell clothes at an affordable price absolutely have their place and I also believe that these stores can do better without adding ££ to the price tag. That being said, you have to make the choices that serve you best. No judgements.

It is likely that a cheap top is cheap because of one (or a combination) of the following things: the fabric has been sourced unethically, the person who made the item hasn’t been paid properly, the top has been mass produced which means poorer quality or the environment has not been considered in the production. All of these things contribute to the world of fast fashion, making it easy to buy a top for £3 and even easier to chuck it in the bin when you no longer want it. Thankfully, there has been a huge rise in ethical clothing practises and it is now easier than ever to dig into what is happening behind the scenes of your favourite brands.

Here are the steps I have taken to become a more conscious consumer:

  • I sorted through my wardrobe and bagged up donations for the charity shop of clothes that no longer serve my body
  • I looked through the clothes I had and wrote a list of the items that I needed and the items that I want in order to ‘complete’ my wardrobe. It was also important to me that every option of clothing I had made me feel good. If something hasn’t been worn in x amount of months, it’s getting donated
  • I decided I would only buy new clothing if it was something essential
  • I would first look in charity shops for these items (where possible – nobody’s got time for second hand knickers) & buy them and wash them if they smelled of old people
  • If I couldn’t find it in the charity shop, I would look for ethical companies to purchase from
  • If I couldn’t source the item this way then I would use this resource to establish where I could buy this item on the high street with the best rating

^ I am hoping that through following this process I will end up with an ethical and sustainable collection of clothes. Although purchasing these items often come with a higher price tag, the quality is a whole lot better so you are likely to spend less on these items, compared to those from somewhere celebrating fast fashion, in the long run.

Fast fashion stores need to be held accountable for their practises and the ethical and sustainable brands need to be more inclusive. These are the 2 key things that would result in real, positive change. We are the consumers and we hold the power. I encourage you to do your research and choose carefully before parting with your hard earned cash.

I would love to hear your views on fast fashion, inclusivity in the ethical clothing world and recommendations of where I should shop. Feel free to leave a comment or connect with me on Instagram.

Some stores I have been loving lately:
Lucy and Yak
Stalf
Sanchos
Birdsong London
Manners London
Batoko
We are hairy people
Girlfriend
The Emperor’s old clothes
Etsy, Ebay & Depop

In review: 10 books that you need on your bookshelf (pt.1)

books

Going to the library has always been a treat. When I was young, it was the first outting I was allowed to do on my own because it didn’t require any road crossing so going to the library made me feel like a strong independent woman at the age of 10. When I was a teen, it was where I could go to play Habbo hotel to my hearts desire which was obviously extremely important to my social development and taught me the importance of good furni and that people on the internet shouldn’t be trusted. The other benefit of the library was of course, the books. I loved reading so much that I genuinely believed that me and Matilda were separated at birth. Although she definitely made better pancakes.

When I lived at home with my family we regularly all sat together and read our books and it’s something that I still look forward to when I go and visit my parents. Reading takes me to another place, it calms my busy brain and it gets me off my phone. Whilst at University that changed, I stopped reading for fun because I was too busy drinking jagerbombs and trying (and failing) to get through the complete works of Shakespeare for my degree. After graduating, my brain felt so full that I couldn’t imagine picking up a book again, so I went on strike.. for 7 years.

Last July a friend said they had a book they thought I’d enjoy and at first I was apprehensive because I was not a reader anymore but then I gave caution to the wind and inhaled it in 24 hours. Once again, I was back in my reading groove. A library card, Goodreads account and 115 books later, I am here to share some of the ones I’ve enjoyed recently, just incase you are in a reading rut too. I hope these books will help to reignite a joy of reading and please share any recommendations you have for me too via Instagram or in the comments. I have also stopped using Goodreads and now use StoryGraph.

Girl, woman, other by Bernadine Evaristo
Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. This is a really clever novel which seamlessly links each narrator to the next and is an important book of our time. It is extremely worthy of its many accolades including the Booker prize.

Where the Crawdads sing by Delia Ownes

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Through two timelines that slowly intertwine, the author reminds us that we are shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps. This is the best book I have read this year so far.

The Beekeeper of Allepo by Christy Lefteri

The Beekeeper follows the flight of refugees from Syria to Europe and although a work of fiction, it is based on the author’s experience volunteering at a refugee center. Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, until the unthinkable happens and all that they care for is destroyed by war. The story is moving, powerful and a testament to the power of human spirit.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet is about the life of William Shakespeare’s family whilst never actually mentioning that it is William Shakespeare’s family as the other characters are very much at the forefront. This book even made me want to read Hamlet again which I thought was physically impossible after it was my chosen text for A-Level English. O’Farrell is an incredible story teller and I highly recommend anything she writes.

The Salt path by Raynor Winn

Ray and Moth decided to walk the South West coastal path after being made homeless. This is an incredible story of resilience in the face of adversity. Since reading The Salt Path I have walked a large section of the coastal path and loved exploring the places mentioned in this book. I have also listened to this as an audio book which I found really special.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe is a character whose story is steeped in magic and mystery and Miller finally gives her the spotlight she deserves. In this book, the male centered fantasies of myth are turned into something feminine and real. Never before a fan of Greek mythology, this read completely won me over and has been shared numerous times amongst friends.

The Seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This novel tells the story of the fictional Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo, who at the age of 79 decides to give a final interview to an unknown journalist. The relationship between the two female leads is a testament to Reid’s skill as a writer as they consider what it means to face the truth. The story is heartbreaking and beautiful and I couldn’t put it down.

Daisy Jones & the six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I didn’t want to include two books by the same author but I just couldn’t decide between this one and the previous as they are both fantastic. Daisy Jones & the six follows a band whose music defined an era before they unexpectedly split in 1979 and no-one knows why, until now. Written as a series of interviews this is a compelling read and Reid easily transports you to the 70’s music scene. This book is being turned into a TV series which is currently in production.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to “house arrest” in the Metropol hotel during the Russian revolution. The book spans 30 years as the Count makes the most of his life despite its limitation. I didn’t think this would be my sort of book but I really loved it and genuinely felt sad saying goodbye to the Count when I reached the last page. I now want to go to the Metropol hotel who are making the most of this book’s success by offering book tours and themed afternoon teas. Sign me up!

Stay with me by Ayobami Adebayo

Stay with me weaves a devastating story of the fragility of married love, the undoing of family, grief, and the bonds of motherhood. It is a story about our desperate attempts to save ourselves and those we love from heartbreak. Set in the politic turbulence of 80’s Nigeria this book gripped me from the get go and didn’t disappoint. It’s a powerful story which packs punch.

Wild swimming in Bristol

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Itchy feet during lock down has seen the UK desperate to get outside whenever they can. Whilst many have laced up their trainers and pounded the pavements, others have opted to plunge into rivers, seas, lakes and lagoons and enjoy the chill of a wild swim. I am one of those people. I am also someone who has had a pretty tricky relationship with exercise over the years and it has been the best feeling to find something that calms me, connects me to nature and encourages me to be gentle with my body.

“When you swim, you feel your body for what it mostly is – water – and it begins to move with the water around it. No wonder we feel such sympathy for beached whales; we are beached ourselves at birth. To swim is to experience how it was before we were born.”Roger Deaken

I thought it would be useful to collate the places I have been swimming in and around Bristol other the last few months. I don’t have any fancy drying kit, or a wetsuit or a swimming cap and that’s the best thing about wild swimming, it’s free, it’s easy to do and it’s really bloody lovely. As a relatively baby wild swimmer I quickly realized how helpful it is to have tips from people who have tread the waters before you and I hope this will encourage you to take the plunge.

Saltford : Mead Ln, Saltford, Bristol BS31 3ER

Saltford is the first place that I swam this year and it is my favourite. It can be reached off the Bristol to Bath cycle path (about 10 miles from the start of the path in Bristol) or by car – although be warned that many parking areas have now been coned off due to it’s popularity so parking can be tricky on a warm day. There are many easy access points into the water from both sides of the river. Being 5ft11 I sometimes struggle to find places that are deep enough for me to properly swim but I can’t touch the bottom at Saltford and there is a large area to do some energetic swimming. That being said, this probably isn’t the best place for children as it gets deep fast. This is definitely a place to bring a picnic as there aren’t many shops close by, however, there are 2 pubs along the main swimming stretch.

Dundas aqueduct: Brassknocker Basin, Monkton Combe BA2 7JD

Swimming at Dundas is pretty magical. We swam here on a really hot day and there were many families lining the ampitheatre style seating down to the water. Getting in and out of the water is easy and there are shallower and deeper parts meaning that it is suitable for all ages. There is limited (paid for) parking so I’d advise going early if visiting in the Summer. Getting to swim underneath an aqueduct is fantastic although watch out for the teens who love diving off the bank just beyond the bridge. Despite being busy you can soon find spaces of quiet if you swim away from the main hubbub and you’ll be greeted by lots of electric blue dragonflies flying the lily pads. Make sure you bring some cash as on hot days there a canal boat selling delicious Cornish ice-cream.



Clevedon marine lake: 170 Old Church Rd, Clevedon BS21 7TU

I’m from Cornwall and every now and again I need to be by the sea. Growing up, we swam in the sea all year round. October was always my favourite because on clambering back to the sand my Mum would have salty chips and hot chocolate to return my Dad and I to a functioning temperature. Sadly, Bristol is lacking in beaches but it almost makes up for it by being in driving distance of Clevedon which boasts it’s own marine lake. The marine lake was first opened in 1929 and has been kept full by the high tides every since. If you are driving there is a car park right next to the lake or on street options. Clevedon is also easily reachable by bus form the centre of Bristol. There are plenty of places to sit around the lake and there is a smaller shallow pool for children aswell as a very large deep pool for more serious swimmers. You will often seen triathletes training in Clevedon but it is suitable for all. It is fantastic on a hot day to perch on the edge of the lake overlooking the sea and the pier (you can almost kid yourself that your abroad!). When you have finished swimming there are lots of nice local walks, pubs and fish and chip shops – which as family tradition stands, is a must after a cold swim.

Important to note: Make sure to check that the marine lake is open before visiting as it is closed during hide tide when the pool is being refilled or if the water quality is poor.

Warleigh weir: Ferry Ln, Claverton, Bath BA2 7BH

We swam at Warleigh weir after a hot day of gardening. I was desperate for a swim and despite being told Warleigh weir would be absolutely packed we still went. The rumours were true, on a hot day Warleigh has people packed in like sardines and we even had to queue to get into the water. Be warned, when the sun is shining Warleigh feels more like a festival booze up than a tranquil place to dip on a hot day. That being said, the water is fantastic. You can sit on the weir and hang your feet into the water or take the plunge and enjoy a large open stretch for swimming. There is a shallower area for children too, lots of rope swings and despite the boozers, there is a family friendly atmosphere.

Bitton

I have swam at Bitton a few times and it is easily accessible via the Bristol to Bath cycle path. Unfortunately there is no parking so a bike is needed for this trip. Just before you come across the railway bridge in Bitton that goes over the river, there is a turn right which takes you down a hill and to the riverside. Access to the water is from a wooden pontoon. When passing recently I noticed a lot of canal boats parked there so it might not be so easy and could cause some annoyance. Getting in is simple, however getting out requires lots of upper body strength. I’m just warning you because I ended up being hauled out by 3 friendly swimmers and it was not chic. The water is deep and there is a large space to swim in. I have heard there are other access points which don’t require annoying boaters or the beached seal routine when you have finished your swim but I am yet to find them. I will update here when I do!

Other places

After publishing this blog I was sent some suggestions of other spots to try and wanted to include them here. Note, I have not swam here myself..yet!
Farleigh Hungerford
Conham river park

I hope this has been helpful and will save me from the many DMs that I receive after uploading photos of wild swims (it does make me feel extremely popular though which is nice). We have so many fantastic swimming spots nearby that can transport you to somewhere which feels very far away from the city. With everything that has been going on in the world, wild swimming has been such a tonic. I hope you find that too. If you try any of the places I have suggested, I would love to hear about it either in the comments or on Instagram.

PS – In reference to some FAQ’s I get asked: Yes it is cold but you soon get used to the temperature. Try and steady your breathing and get moving as soon as possible. Yes there might be fish and other wildlife but they will leave you alone if you leave them alone. No you can’t swim anywhere there is water – do some research before making a trip (all of the places included in this post are totally fine for swimming).

PPS – Take lots of snacks, I am always super hungry after a cold water swim and remember to take your rubbish with you and leave the area as you found it.