Friday, 11 May 2018

Hyperbole and a Half

I got this book for my birthday. Over the next week, I could often be heard laughing/ cackling maniacally/ giggling, and almost without exception the cause was Hyperbole and a Half. The book is a set of cartoons, dealing with a variety of subjects from getting lost in the woods as a child to how dysfunctional her two dogs are to her experience of depression.

The sketch which made me laugh the hardest was The God of Cake.
A representation of me and my love of cake. Only kidding.
It's Allie. Channelling me . . . 
Those who know me know of my love of cake. Tomorrow I'm off to visit a National Trust property and, while I am looking forward to giving my brain a bit of culture to savour, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't also hoping to have a big fat slab of cake after the cultural aspect is over and done with. Anyway, Brosh's cartoon takes us back to her childhood and to a cake not intended for her consumption alone. And how badly she reacted to not being able to have it. Want to find out how that story ended (and possibly laugh until you cry like I did)? Then I suggest you read The God of Cake for yourself.

I recently posted about a book called Night Shift, a picture book describing depression in images. In Hyperbole and a Half you have a cartoon depiction on this subject, which is bittersweet to read as the author pinpoints the bleak, unrelenting nature of this illness with flashes of humour in her illustrations.

Those of you who have dogs that seem resistant to training/ lack intelligence and common sense/ have personality disorders will also find something in this book to make you laugh. One of my favourite passages is written about the trip home in the car after Allie and her partner have adopted a second dog from the shelter.

It was sort of like being the taxi-driver character in a Bruce Willis movie. You try to make small talk with Bruce Willis on his ride home from prison, where he spent the last nine years becoming hardened and vengeful, but he is finally free to pursue his plan and he doesn't give a shit about small talk.

Does it get better from there? Depends what you class as 'better'...

My favourite book of the year so far.

9 out of 10 Allie cake fiends

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Garden Photos

I now have an enclosed garden to enjoy and I LOVE IT!

Sadly, I did not get round to getting my kit off yesterday for World Naked Gardening Day, but I did have the time to potter about the garden this morning with the camera. Here are some of the beauties on display right now.

No idea what this is but have been told it is a spreader
so after this summer I will be breaking it up and
putting it in the borders

Look at the texture of these petals? Ranunculus/ Persian
buttercups are just such beautiful flowers!

Picked this up at the supermarket for 20p in a rather bedraggled
state. The flowers at that stage were white with a hint of pink
at the edges. Now in a space of their own in the sunlight those
petals have blazed into a boisterous hot pink.
Plant is an argyranthemum.

Another 20p supermarket rescue job - aubretia.

These lovely flowers are sprouting from a very large and unknown
shrub thing. I haven't hacked it back as the bees love these flowers
but the plant is a bit of a hog so at some point in the next few
months it will need to have some time with the secateurs.

A pansy - blithely facing the exact opposite direction of the sun.

Another of the inherited natives of the garden. This one I did
hack back and now the cluster of twigs I left behind is covered
in these gorgeous autumnal-shade leaves.

The humble dandelion - welcome in certain areas of my
garden as it's such a friend of the bees and hoverflies

Seriously. How beautiful are dandelions when you get
close for a really good look?

Another flower often taken for granted - the daisy.
These ones missed the general daisy genocide of the day before
when D mowed the lawn.

Forget-me-nots currently waiting in a pot from my mum for me
to find a place for them in the garden. Dainty little things.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Today's random crochet project

Now that I live in a home with a garden that birds actually visit, I want to do my bit to help feed the local feathery population. The second-hand bird table we've been given is a tad rickety but it does the job. However, the starlings tend to mob it and I haven't really seen any of the smaller tits and finches using it.

We get robins in the garden too! Haven't managed to get a picture
of any yet - this is one from a couple of years back
There are two redcurrant bushes in the garden that these tiny birds tend to visit, and so for them I have got a pack of suet balls. I thought a proper feeder would look over-sized and be quite cumbersome on the redcurrant branches so I went in search of ideas on ones I could make for myself. Crochet was my first thought, and YouTube provided a tutorial from Arne & Carlos. It was very easy to follow though not one I'd recommend for anyone with zero crochet experience as you do need to know the names for stitches.
The only difference I made was to use metal jump rings instead or plastic rings. I wanted to get this project done today, I have no plastic rings like the ones used, and so I went with the nearest equivalent I could find. I'll keep an eye on the feeders to see if the jumprings get rusty and nasty, and if they do I will just crochet up some new feeders. 

Once I had the hang of the pattern, these feeders took me 15 minutes each to make - there are two sizes on the tutorial and I made the smaller feeders rather than the larger ones. I really liked the way Arne & Carlos talked about them being almost like Christmas tree decorations to liven up the tree and also provide food for chilly birds. Click on the YouTube link above to see how lovely theirs look. No pictures of mine for this post as a) the weather is grey, grim and miserable today and b) I am a loose hooker (cue smutty laughter) and thus while my finished feeders will do the job just as well they don't have the neat look that Arne & Carlos achieve.

These would be a great little project for using up odds and ends of wool - a bit of stash busting is always a good thing for a crafter!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Telling your story

This book called to me from a shelf in the library. I was dropping books off, no intention of picking anything new up, and as I turned to go Night Shift caught my eye. I didn't even open the pages to see what it was about, just trusted my book-dowsing instincts and checked it out.

Night Shift is a picture book, an attempt by Debi Gliori to put her story of depression into images and simple words. The language in the book in unpretentious; all the illustrations bar one are picked out in shades of grey. I read it twice on my walk home and it prompted many Deep Thoughts as some of the images spoke so strongly to me.

I've had two mental health episodes in my life and rationalising the feelings and sensations around those experiences is something I have struggled with. I've written notes and tried to make rational sense of what is beyond the rational. I've looked at what happened to me from every angle I can think of in the hope that I can untangle the mess of it and somehow, magically, come up with a formula whereby it need never happen again.

If I were to adapt this story to suit my own tale, how would it look? What pages of Night Shift would I keep? What would I alter or remove completely and replace with something different? Gliori uses dragons as part of the metaphor in her story owing to their reputation for destruction and leaving the earth barren. I have more positive associations when I think of dragons so what would my metaphor be? What language would I use? And what a pleasure it would be to strip my language back to the bare minimum with all the wasted pages that have gone before it!

This is a project I am going to undertake over the upcoming weeks.

I would recommend Night Shift for those who have had problems with depression and anxiety and who might find the imagery useful. It would also be a worthwhile read for those who have not had issues with mental health but are looking for insight into how it can feel. Have you suffered from mental health issues that you just can't make sense of but want to find words that resonate with you on your experience? This book could be a starting point for you too, a beginning to build on.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Africa Alive photos

Paid a visit to Africa Alive! in Suffolk towards the end of March. Fab weather and there was hardly anyone there as it's still off season.
The Live-In Chef's hands in this picture, but I got to hold hits lovely
creature too :)

So weary...

I'm ignoring you.

Nom nom nom


Do I kiss you, or bite you?

Head shake

So bored

Waiting for a rib


Bonnie the otter was SO LOUD!

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Random Colouring Books

While having a lazy look through colouring books on Amazon, I had a couple of suggestions come up that led me down the rabbit hole of how many truly ODD colouring books there are out there in the world at the moment! Here are a collection of the oddest. 

Seem excessive to have two cat butt colouring books on the list? Let me tell you the number of colouring books on that theme does not end at two!

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Books and Minimalism

I dreamed of books as a child. Shelf after shelf after shelf of books. I imagined myself as an adult living in a home stuffed with the things. Floor to ceiling. Everywhere I looked.

As a child I thought in terms of fiction only. As a teen and early twenty something the dream swelled to include non-fiction and the concept of organised areas to reflect study and interest.

The me at 19 would not have anticipated that the me at 39 would have only two shelves of books to her name.

For a reader, books form a large part of your identity. They are one of the things that define you. If you love reading, the expectation is that you will have lots of books. The owning of books helps to prove your credibility as a reader. How can you say you love books if you don't possess oodles of them?

There is a real difficulty in the western world with being able to appreciate something without having the compulsion to own it; to feel resentment if you can't afford to acquire. Books are affordable nowadays. New books might be beyond the budget for some (I only get them as a rare treat) but charity shops, car boot sales, cheap outlet shops like The Works, library sales and the growing number of book swap shelves in public places mean that obtaining books is very easy. And, for some, a bit compulsive. It's so easy to pick one up and take it home. Maybe two. Maybe more. Then next weekend when you pop into a charity shop and see another title you've been meaning to read it's £1 or less to slip it in your bag, full of good intentions.

For me, letting go of books is also about letting go of an ideal - saying goodbye to a dream from childhood that no longer fits with the woman I am today. The need to partially prove who I am through the items I own is one I am working to address and books are part of that process. Books represent something different to me than they did when I was a child and a younger woman. Unread books are jobs waiting to be done. Non-fiction books are echoes of splinter selves that never took root and have long since faded away. Books are a reminder of lack of time and opportunity in my adult life - and of the new order of my priorities. And I don't want to give space to any of that baggage because life is short.
One of my favourite books is The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger. There's a scene where the main character discovers her own book mobile - the one which is filled with everything she has ever read, from pamphlets to novels. What a deliciously seductive image for a reader!

When I dream of books now, what form to those dreams take? I see a small collection, beloved books that I can return to both to enjoy something known and perhaps discover something new I haven't picked up on in previous readings. Books that give me echoes/ connections to my younger selves, a thread linking present to past. I think I'm nearly there. Everything on those two shelves of mine is now relevant. Every book means something and I feel like I have a living, evolving collection rather than an unwieldy heap I don't enjoy but feel guilt at the idea of parting with. I look forward to welcoming new volumes when the words of another writer tangle in my heart and mind, and to letting go of books as they cease to be relevant to me.

I am still able to appreciate those who have big libraries, of course, and to enjoy reading about people, like Susan Hill, who have vast collections of books. It's very pleasant to have the freedom to daydream of books without the conditioned compulsion to acquire and amass them too.
All images on this post from Pixabay