Thursday, 29 December 2016

My year in review: 2016 | The Small Desk

2016 has been the year I grew up, big time. I bought my first house with my partner, got engaged and got promoted. I feel sad that the year has been terrible globally, with a lot of terrible decisions being made, but for me personally, 2016 has been one of the best years of my life.

In this year's 'year in review' I've added a section summarising the cultural activities I've done each month as this year one of my New Year's resolutions is to go to more.

I'm aware this post is very self-indulgent, but I've done one every year since 2014 and I find it very therapeutic, so even if no-one reads this it has still been useful to me.

I hope you've had a great 2016, and if not, I hope 2017 deals you better cards.

Here's my year in review...

January 2016
The year started with me blogging about the photographs from Instagram I was most proud of. I should really have stuck with this theme throughout the year, as at the end of this year I am feeling pretty creatively poor and wish I had put more time into photography.

This month was the 'boyfriend's' birthday. We celebrated with loads of his friends and my friends with dinner and drinks. This was also the month we ramped up the flat viewings and started to take the house hunting very seriously. It's bizarre to me to think at the beginning of this year I was still living in London with awful neighbours.

Culture-wise: we went to the Electric Cinema and to 'The World of Charles and Ray Eames' at the Barbican.

February 2016
In February I entered a writing competition, which I did not win, but I thought could have been the start of my writing career, but unfortunately not. I'll just carry on blogging then!

There was a massive launch and re-brand of the company I work for, which I project managed. It was also the month our neighbours got even worse and I broke down about it.

We celebrated eight years together at a posh Indian restaurant called Trishna.

Culture-wise: I went to the Betty Woodman exhibition at the ICA, and saw the film, Rams.

March 2016
This was the month we had our offer accepted on the house we are now living in. We celebrated by going to a little canteen restaurant in Covent Garden and blinked a lot in disbelief that after eight months of searching we'd finally found the one.

Culture-wise: we went to 'Strange and Familiar' exhibition at the Barbican, I went to see the Filler podcast live, and watched breakdancing in the Royal Festival Hall.

April 2016
April is always the month of birthdays including mine. We celebrated my sister's birthday in Brighton, and mine in a pub for 10 hours. It was one of the best birthday celebrations I've had.

Culture-wise: I went to the Natural History Museum, and saw Macklemore live (best gig ever)!

May 2016
This was the month I got engaged, and got a promotion at work. My partner whisked me off to Bath for the weekend and proposed on top of a hill in Prior Park. It was incredibly emotional and one of the best days of my life so far.

Culture-wise: I watched Eurovision... does that count!? But I mean I did go to Bath... so that probably counts too!

June 2016
We moved into our new house, and left London behind. It was a surreal feeling but one of huge relief. To not have a landlord anymore and to know you own the house you live in is one of the best and most secure feelings you can have in the world. I am eternally grateful to my family for making it happen.

We also went on holiday with my partner's family to Wales and even managed to climb Snowdon, which was ridiculously hard.

Culture-wise: I went to Taste Festival, again does that even count?! See why I need to make this my New Year's resolution!

July 2016
This was the month my partner completed the Prudential 100 mile bike ride. We went to Richmond Park to watch him and then again later on. My parents and I held a banner and cheered him on, I was so proud! Apparently it's Ride Britain next...

Culture-wise: I went to the RA summer show and the new building at the Tate modern.

August 2016
Oh, how I wish it was summer again! We went to Austria with my parents and went on lots of walks, and even swam in a mountain lake. It was such an incredible trip. We also spent a lot of time rowing, like leisure-rowing, not proper rowing, in our new area.

Culture-wise: I went to a Goya exhibition in Austria.

September 2016
This was the month we went on the first long walk in our new area since we moved here in June (only took 3 months!) and where I signed up to Riverford veg boxes – I felt very country this month. I went rowing, swimming and asked my bridesmaids to be my bridesmaids. This is the month we started wedding planning properly.

Culture-wise: I went to the open-air theatre in Regents Park and saw Pride and Prejudice, it was magical.

October 2016
October was when I realised how quickly 2016 had gone, and I said I was looking forward to writing a year in review post, well here I am! It was a busy old month and I did a fair few things, but by far my favourite was having a week off with the fiance to sort the house out.

Culture-wise: I went to the RA's 'Abstract Expressionism' exhibition.

November 2016
November was when work started to get really hard again, but I saw quite a few friends and visited my sister in Manchester. Going back to Manchester (I went to Uni there) was very surreal. I also bought my wedding dress this month!

Culture-wise: I visited the Bedlam exhibition at Wellcome collection, and saw my favourite ballet ever: the Nutcracker.

December 2016
This month I got a bit drunk for the first time in a while when I went to my friend's bottomless prosecco brunch. I've basically spent the entire month celebrating Christmas with work and friends and have 100% made the most of the festive season this year. I'm ready to work now and focus on 2017 goals.

Culture-wise: I watched countless YouTube videos of Sergei Polunin, and am hoping to go to the Barbican before the month is out.

Overall this year I am most thankful for my partner, family and friends, without them none of what I have achieved this year would have been possible.

That's a wrap! How has your year been? Are you looking forward to 2017?

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Friday, 2 December 2016

November favourites 2016 | The Small Desk

For some reason I feel like November has been a pretty slow month, but when I write down everything I've enjoyed this month it seems like a lot has happened, so surely it should have felt fast!? Confusing. I think it may be because the weather has turned. It's so goddamn cold now! I think about going out and then think about how cold it's going to be and decide against it. I've even eaten an apple instead of chocolate because I can't face going to the corner shop! That's how bad it is!

I've not found it the easiest month at work, and I think it's only going to get more challenging. It always seems to go like that with my job: I'll have some months where my responsibilities seem to die down and other people get all the shit jobs, then other months when I'll feel like I'm getting all the hard work and everyone else is getting off lightly! It would be nice if it was just a nice steady stream of work that had minimal amount of stress and responsibility, but then I guess maybe no-one would pay me if it was like that!? Anyway, with all the buckets of money that I earn (not) it means I can enjoy some fun things such as...

1. Wahaca, Soho
This is mainly in my favourites because I didn't get sick! Did you see how many Wahaca chains had to close because of that virus? It was awful! I went to the Soho branch the day BEFORE they shut it down. The funny thing is I was having a free meal there to apologise for the terrible service I experienced last time!

2. Friend's bday meal
It was one of my bridesmaids' birthday this month and we all went to Ping Pong to celebrate. I reluctantly shared some dim-sum.

3. Bedside tables
I am so happy to announce that I now live in a house where we can have bedside tables on EACH SIDE of the bed! #goals

4. Fiance's sister's birthday weekend
We went up to the fiance's (I can't be bothered to find the 'e' symbol) parents house to celebrate his sister's birthday. We had what they call a 'Chindian' – it means you order both Indian and Chinese – it's pretty much the healthiest takeaway you can get.

5. Day holiday and trip to arboretum
I had a day off work and took a trip to a local arboretum with my parents. Yeah, that's right, an arboretum. I now know what one of those is. It's a tree park basically.

6. Exciting filming at work
If I tell you the film I made with work you'll know where I work but trust me, it was cool.

7. Pizza Express with friends
Obviously this is a favourite, who doesn't love P.E.!

8. David Bowie auction
I'm so rich I attended the David Bowie auction. Not reeeeeeally, I went to watch with my friend. We lasted about half an hour before I felt sick with the amount of people who were overpaying on pieces of art that were already estimated to go for a minimum of hundreds of thousands. Not hundreds and thousands.

9. Shopping trip
Shopping in a city near where I live with my bestie from Uni. We went to Anthropologie and Waterstones and lots of other fun shops and spent money and ate burgers (mine was veggie obv).

10. Met up with old work colleague
I went for a drink with an old work colleague and had a ginger beer because I'm cool. We laughed about old work things and cheers to her new house.

11. Manchester trip
I went up to Manchester to see my sister for the weekend and got into some deep chats. We went for lunch and dinner out and lusted after homeware in the city centre.

12. Drinks with neighbours
We went round to our neighbours for drinks again and drank the free bottle of wine we got from the Indian we went to last time.

13. Nutcracker
The. Nutcracker. Ballet. Royal. Opera. House. Go. Now.

14. Bought wedding dress
Oh yeah, casually bought my freaking wedding dress this month! From a sample sale – the whole story is in the post before this one. It was MENTAL.

15. Bedlam exhibition
Went to see the Bedlam exhibition at the Wellcome collection. I would highly recommend – it is incredibly thought provoking and powerful.

16. Snapchatting my sister
I have been obsessed with sending and receiving Snapchats with my sister. It's so nice to have daily contact now that's she's moved up North!

17. Mexican dinner
I went for Mexican in London with an old school friend and had an excellent catch up.

18. Melanin Millenials
Finally, I would highly recommend you check out the Melanin Millenials podcast. Those girls are FUNNY.

That's it for my November favourites! What have you been up to this month? Looking forward to Christmas?


Monday, 28 November 2016

The story of buying my wedding dress | The Small Desk

We joined the queue at 10.50am. The Needle and Thread sample sale was due to start at 11am. I had convinced my Mum to go a little bit earlier as I thought there might be a queue, but nothing could have prepared me for the length of the queue. We walked up to the door of the sale room and before me I saw a thick crowd of women all waiting. I said to one of them, 'Are you queuing for Needle and Thread?', hoping she would say no, but knowing there was only one answer, 'Yes', she said. I looked at the queue thinking it was pretty bad but then I turned the corner. The line stretched all the way down a side street. I looked at my Mum and we both gasped in horror. 'How long have these women been here?' we asked each other.

The air was cold but we hesitantly joined the queue. At 11am the queue started to move slowly, but it wasn't until 11.50am when our toes were numb and our bones frozen to their core that we were finally allowed inside. I was checking on my Mum continually to see if she wanted to give up, but she held strong and we entered the sale room... to another queue...

'Have you coats ready for the cloakroom', the security guard barked, 'but I'm cold', I said. Rules are rules I was told. You had to pay a pound entry each and then you were allowed to enter the chaos. Women were skittishly darting around the room trying to find a dress they liked. Some were hoarding dresses on a rail for others they had helped seek the perfect dress for. There were queues for communal dressing rooms that blended into one. Others gave up on the queues entirely and stripped down to their underwear behind a rail, and some just in the middle of the room. Dignity had escaped some and they had turned into animals fighting for the best bargain of the day.

Prices were at rock bottom, clothes more than 50% off their recommended price. It was no wonder these women were going crazy; here was a chance to buy something otherwise out of their reach. Some were there looking for a bargain for the Christmas party and others, like me, had come to find their wedding dress.

Often a wedding dress can cost in the thousands but I was determined to find something I loved in budget. I've done that for a lot of items I own in life; I buy beautiful designer furniture from outlet stores, scour the internet for discount codes and have signed up to banks purely for free money or vouchers.

Ever since I got engaged I knew my dream dress would be a Needle and Thread dress. They were out of my price range at around £600 to £950. But then one day I found this sample sale and everything changed.

We had been there for just over an hour and then I saw a girl trying on the dress I wanted. Then and there in that moment I knew that was the dress I wanted. I just stared at her, and said to my Mum, 'that's it'. Out of nowhere she put one of the sizes of the dress back on the rail. I saw her put it back, I stared at it in disbelief. I didn't know if she really had meant to put it back, but then my Mum said 'get it!', and it was like in slow motion I took the dress off the rail, looked at it with wonder and amazement that it was my size.

'How am I going to try it on?', I asked my Mum. 'Well, you might just have to take your top off', she replied. I thought for one moment and then looked at the male security guards around and thought, 'no, I don't, I'm not doing that for a dress'. I tried my wedding dress on over my T-shirt and jeans. Yes, that's right, no ifs, no buts, I put it over my entire outfit. Even over the top of jeans and a T-shirt it looked stunning and I felt incredible in it. 'That's it, that's the one', my Mum said, and that was that, it was decided.

Even though I had budgeted it for it, at the last moment before we got to the check out my Mum said 'I'm paying for this', I was so surprised and tried to argue against it but she insisted and it was a beautiful gesture. My Mum bought my wedding dress for £150 (down from £650) in a sample sale in Mayfair. In amongst the chaos, madness and down right rudeness of a lot of the women there, we managed to maintain our dignity (just) and succeeded in winning at the art of the sample sale.


Sunday, 13 November 2016

Five reasons I gave up reading Bill Bryson | The Small Desk

I like to do book reviews of all the books I've read. You can read them all here. I was determined to read Bill Bryson's The Road to Little Dribbling, as it had such good reviews and was a Sunday Times bestseller. Plus it is littered with interesting bits of British history that I thought would be interesting. I enjoyed his book on Australia but did find his moaning a bit irritating at times, despite this I never thought I would actually stop reading The Road to Little Dribbling because I found it too offensive and rude! I got to page 231 out of 474 and gave up. I wasn't enjoying it, and if I'm not enjoying a book I find it very hard to motivate myself to read it, which eventually means I just give up reading completely! I find it much easier to decide to stop reading a book and move on. I'm such a slow reader anyway (as I explained before) that I need to read books I love.

I didn't want to put all that 231 pages to waste, and I thought it would be a good idea to explain to you all why I gave up reading this book and why I won't be reading any more Bill Bryson.

1. Bad jokes
The book is full of bad jokes, or little incidents that have happened to him he thinks are funny, but are really not, sorry to sound so harsh! For example:
p.19 – he goes to a hairdressers and thinks they say his hair will be cut by 'a vet', when the hairdresser is actually called 'Yvette'.

p.102 – he meets two women on a walk back from a memorial - the women ask if he's come from the memorial and in the book he says '"No, I was having a dump in the bushes", I wanted to say'.

2. Everyone is an idiot
He complains about restaurant and shop staff a lot. As an ex-employee of two shops where I know customers can make your life hell it only made me sympathise with the shop staff! For example:
p.39 – he says to McDonald's staff 'I can't believe you are all this stupid', when they make a mistake with his order that he himself has admitted to stumbling over.

p.83 – 'Well, you're still an idiot' he says to a staff member at H&M after he (Bryson) mistakes it for an M&S and asks where the food hall is.

3. Too dry about being a grandfather
I don't like how unemotional he is about becoming a grandfather, and doesn't see that his role is to support his daughters emotionally, for example:
p.78 – talking about both his daughters due to give birth at the same time he is instructed to be near London hospitals - he write 'I was under strict instructions to be nearby in order to - well, I don't know what. Boil water perhaps. Stand around in a willing but useless manner.'

4. He always calls his wife 'my wife'
Why not call her by her name?! The way he talks about his wife really irritates me, he speaks about her as though she is a constant nag, or even worse, like she is his mother!

5. Rude about women
Only 100 or so pages in and he's already being rude about women. For example:
p.111 – 'Why Thomas Holloway and his wife Jane decided to sink much of their wealth into a college for women isn't known, any more than it is known why they decided to fund a companion building'.

p.115 – He sticks up for a woman in a bookshop who gets shouted at by a man with a mental disability, who he calls a 'madman', which I do not think is ok either, but after he sticks up for this woman she smiles at him (probably just politely), but he takes this as her adoring him and then says '...who knows where this encounter might have led? Unfortunately she was only about four feet tall and nearly spherical, so I simply shook her hand and wished her good day'.

I could go on, but I'd rather not waste my time any further! Have you read this book? What did you think?


Sunday, 30 October 2016

October favourites 2016 | The Small Desk

I cannot believe I'm sitting here about to write my October favourites for 2016... this year has gone so fast! So much has happened and I'm looking forward to writing a year in review post, but for some reason I feel like this month has gone quite slowly. When I look back to the beginning of the month and see what I was doing it feels like ages ago. 

I always find October a weird month, well I guess Autumn in general, because it's not cold and wintry or hot and summery, it's just sort of 'meh', grey, boring weather. I know everyone bangs on about how much they like Autumn, and yes, I know some colours are nice in Autumn, but the weather is so boring here in the UK. Anyway, how stereotypical am I being talking about the weather! I know it's not quite the end of the month, there is still one day left tomorrow, but I haven't got much planned other than having some paving slabs laid so I think I can safely say there won't be anything to add to this by leaving it any later! Let's get on with my October favourites!

1. Stayed over at parents and Harrods with sister
At the beginning of October I had a sort of 'mini-break' at my parents. My sister was down and I was going into London on both the Saturday and Sunday so I thought it would be easier just to stay over. I went to look at possible wedding dress options from designer brands in Harrods but trying to find a white dress that could act as a wedding dress in October is near impossible!

2. Wedding fair
A friend of mine had free tickets to the Brides wedding fair in Angel. It's a favourite because it was nice hanging out with her, but the wedding fair was a tad scary, apparently you need a fancy £100+ pen to sign your wedding certificate with... I think not.

3. Hair cut and dye
I have my hair cut about every six months and my hair dyed about every year, so it's always a real treat when I get it done. This time I tried the Charles Worthington salon as I had a voucher, and I must say, I would really recommend.

4. RA with old colleague
The Royal Academy of Arts has an exhibition on at the moment called 'Abstract Expressionism', it has a lot of Jackson Pollock and those sorts of artists, and whilst I love art, I still don't get abstract art, it's pretty but that's as far as I get with it. It was nice to spend time with an old colleague though!

5. Gardening day
This month we had to help clear up the communal gardens where I live. I wasn't particularly looking forward to it but it turned out to be quite fun in the end, who knew gardening could be fun!

6. Tea with old colleague
This was a different old colleague, and it was really nice to catch up over a cup of tea. We always end up having deep chats about life and she really intellectually challenges you, in a good way!

7. Pub dinner with neighbours
We've been to each other's houses for drinks but this month we actually went to the pub for dinner with them. They're such lovely people and I feel so lucky to have them as our neighbours. It's always challenging moving to a new area where you don't know anyone and they've made us feel so welcome, it's such a relief.

8. Walks with parents
I went on a couple of countryside walks with my parents this month. It's good exercise and a chance to have a really good catch up whilst looking at beautiful views.

9. Painted living room with fiancé's parents
Our living room used to be a sickly green colour, and this month we repainted it white, so it looks a lot fresher. I'm so glad to see the back of that horrid green!

10. Week off to do life admin
This month I had a week off to sort house things out and work on wedding plans. It was nice to lounge around the house and get to know our new area a bit better.

11. New boiler
Hurrah! We have a boiler that actually works and doesn't turn the heating on when we turn the hot water on! It was a flipping nightmare in the summer when it was 30 degrees and you had a shower and then came out to find the heating on full blast!

12. Saw grandparents
I popped over to my grandparents this month for a cup of tea and a couple of brownies. My Grandma is in her late eighties and still makes the best chocolate brownies! Also, my Granddad is out of hospital and back at home, which is a relief.

13. Lunch with friends
I went to Mildred's in Soho for lunch with my school friends and had a tasty burrito. The queuing system there really needs to change though.

14. Shopping with old Uni friend
After lunch I met up with my old Uni friend and we went shopping in all the big department stores in London. We always have the best fun shopping together!

15. Afternoon tea with friends
A couple who we used to live really near to and who the fiancé went to school with invited us over for afternoon tea, and it was yummy. We had scones with vanilla cream, delicious.

16. Wedding food tasting
Yesterday I went to taste some potential food for our wedding and it was scrummy, hopefully we've found the one!

17. Dinner with family
Last night I had dinner with my family as my sister was down again, it'll always be a favourite having home cooked food!

18. Curry with neighbours
Finally, this evening we are going for a curry with our neighbours. I know this happened yet but I'm sure it'll be fun!

That's it for my October favourites, bring on November! What have you enjoyed most this month?


Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Ten films I want to see | The Small Desk

So this is just going to be a short little blog post/list post, but you asked for it on Twitter and so here it is! These are the ten films I want to see, have you seen any? Any recommendations? 

1. Grand Budapest Hotel

2. The Scar

3. Barbicania

4. Persepolis

5. Trainspotting

6. The Wolf of Wall Street

7. The Book Thief

8. A Brilliant Young Mind

9. The Men Who Stare at Goats

10. Anna Karenina


Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Why I like to keep all the books I have read | The Small Desk

I still vividly remember being in year six at primary school and having a diary where you had pages in the front and back where you had to list all the books you'd read over the year. I remember having 12 in total at the end of the year. I was really happy with this and couldn't believe I'd read so much, but then I saw my friend's list and it was over 30, if not 40. I wasn't so much upset by this but merely perplexed. I just couldn't understand how someone could read so many books over the course of a year. To be honest, I still can't. I am still a very slow reader and really struggle to read more than 20 pages in one sitting.

When I first when to school and was learning to write I used to write the letters backwards: the letters were in the right order, just all back to front, mirror writing my Mum describes it as. I've never found it easy to read or write. I've always found it something I've had to really work on and try, try again. I know it's the skill everyone gets taught at school, and it's meant to be the 'core' skill that you then build upon, but for me it's a skill I've always struggled with and the more I think about it the more I realise this is probably the reason I am where I am today.

Today I'm an editor and as part of my job I proofread and correct other people's writing. I write myself, I commission people to write and I read, a lot. If someone told my parents I would end up as an editor when I was at school doing mirror writing, they would have laughed! I think because I haven't found it easy it's sort of given me an obsession to try and improve on both. Sometimes when I read I feel I really have to concentrate otherwise the words are just a jumble. I need to have silence to read and I can't casually read. I need to decide I'm going to have a period of time where I read and have no distractions. I've never been tested for dyslexia but I expect I probably have a mild version of it.

I love to read how other people write and see other people's writing skills, but for me it is a massive achievement to finish a book because I don't find it easy. You will see I've started keeping a record of the books I've read on the About section of my blog, and I keep a lot of the books I've read as sort of trophies to remind me of my reading achievements.

They say that if you want to be a writer, write, and this blog has definitely helped me with that. I know I am not a perfect writer by any stretch of the imagination, but I do enjoy it and I hope to enjoy reading more. I think it's also true to say if you want to be a writer, read.

Does anyone else struggle? Have you found any methods or blog posts that have helped you?


Monday, 3 October 2016

September favourites 2016 | The Small Desk

Weather-wise September has been a funny old month. There have been days where I've been sweating it out only wearing a light summer dress and days where I've been donning my oversized black mac. But I'm happy to welcome back the shit Autumn; the cold and dark Winter days and the relentless rain hammering on the windows. I love sitting inside with a warm mug of herbal tea and using the weather as an excuse to snuggle on the sofa watching crap TV. Don't get me wrong I do like sunshine now and again, just not heat. Heat is the enemy. I hate being overheated, sweaty and out of control. Also, you can't wear a dressing gown when it's hot, nightmare. Anyway, here's to the Winter nights, putting the heating on and drawing the curtains at 4pm!

Work-wise September has been fairly kind to me. The office was broken into, which meant we all had to work in one room for a while, but it meant I got to chat more to colleagues I don't normally have the opportunity to, so there was a silver lining in some sense. Social-wise I've actively had a week where I've done no socialising after work whatsoever, and I'm feeling very fresh and relaxed! I think sometimes it's important to do that. Family-wise my Granddad has been very ill this month and still is, so that's been tough on everyone. On the positive side we've booked our wedding venue close to where they live so I think that gave my Grandparents some happiness. I'm getting more excited about the wedding as it's now only 11 months to go, and the venue is very us, not too formal and a bit wacky. Anyway, here are my September favourites...

1. Dishoom with friends
On the first of the month I spontaneously met up with a couple who I am friends with through my fiancé, so friends for eight years! We went to Dishoom and had a delicious curry and catch up chats. 

2. Gallery wall
We finally got back lots of our prints from the framers and created a gallery wall in our living room. I love having a mismatch of frames and prints all hanging next to one another like the eighteenth century galleries of London. 

3. Rowing with Uni bestie and sister
I am obsessed with rowing now, and it was a pleasure to take my Uni bestie and sister out for a trip and show them my rowing skills, haha! 

4. Friend's new flat 
I went to see one of my old school friend's new flat that she bought by herself, so proud!

5. Farmstand dinner with Dad and fiancé
Another spontaneous after work meal! I work really close to both my Dad and my fiancé, and my Dad had some time to spare so we had dinner with him at Farmstand. It's a really cute little canteen-style restaurant that has some really healthy options.

6. Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park
For one of my friend's birthdays a group of us took her to see Pride and Prejudice at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. It did get a bit chilly and I had to buy a blanket but it was such a lovely evening and the performance was brilliant. I've now borrowed the classic Colin Firth series off a friend at work, because can you believe, I've never watched it!

7. Neighbours over for drinks
We had our lovely neighbours over for drinks and chatted about horrible work stories and our favourite furniture. 

8. Home for dinner 
Since moving over an hour away from my parents I've not been home after work for dinner like I used to. However I did it this month! It was a trek and I only stayed two hours, but still, I proved it's still possible!

9. Riverford boxes
I've signed us up for Riverford farm fruit and vegetable boxes! This means we get organic fruit and vegetables delivered to our door every week. It's forcing us to eat better, which is what I'd hoped for. This week I've got a HUGE bag of kale to get through, wish me luck! (Is that the most middle class thing I've ever written?!)

10. Found wedding venue
As I mentioned earlier we found our wedding venue! The deposit is down, the registry office is booked and we're starting to save... well nearly, ha!

11. 10 mile walk
One Sunday I decided to use an Ordnance Survey map to take me and the fiancé on a long walk near where we live. We managed to walk for over four hours and covered 10 miles. I felt this month I really needed that thinking space. I felt great the next day and would really recommend long walks as an enjoyable form of exercise. 

12. Wahaca with friends
The third spontaneous dinner with friends! One friend was in central and then it just spiralled. However we went to the Wahaca in Soho and the food was awful, I love Wahaca but I won't be visiting this branch again!

13. Lunch with old school friend
One of my old school friends is off to Oz for three weeks. She works just around the corner from me so we met up for lunch before she left. I wish I could go back to Oz!

14. Rowing with old school friend, Franco Manca and Bridget Jones' Baby
I did some more rowing at the end of the month and combined it with a trip to Franco Manca and to the cinema to see Bridget Jones' Baby. I thought the film was good but good in a chick flick way.

15. Parents over for cake 
My parents came over to our house and we had shop bought cake and tea and my Dad fixed some stuff in our house. Classic Dads!

16. Home every night for a whole week
I said this earlier, but this past week I've been home every night after work and it has been bliss. We've got some wedding things sorted out and had the opportunity to just chill out to the max.

17. Reading The Girls
I posted my review of this recently, so go check it out!

18. Watching 'Kew's Forgotten Queen'
BBC Four has really been upping its game with the art programmes recently, and this one, presented by Emilia Fox, really impressed me. It is about Marianne North, an artist whose work is now held at Kew Gardens. I think it's still on iPlayer, do check it out!

19. Making Save the Dates and asking bridesmaids
This month we've been making our Save the Date cards and I've asked all my bridesmaids to be my bridesmaids and they've all said yes!

20. Tried out my local swimming pool
My final favourite of the month is trying out my local swimming pool. It's only a ten minute walk away and they open late enough for us to go after work.

How is it already October? What have you been loving this month? Book, TV and film recommendations needed please!


Thursday, 29 September 2016

The Girls: Book Review | The Small Desk

I am tempted to write to Emma Cline to request that she only allows one man to make a film out of her book and that would be the director of the film, Marshland, Alberto Rodríguez Librero. You only have to watch the trailer to see what I mean about a film that is so beautifully crafted yet deals with an equally violent plot line. The Girls is a book that if made into a film would require a very sensitive adaptation. Yet when I watch an interview of Cline by Vintage books she states she doesn't want have anything to do with an adaptation of the book into a film; she is done with the book, she wants to move on and write something new. I imagine this is because of the subject nature of the book, one must have to create distance in order to stay sane.

This book is written so beautifully well. There were times when it got so harrowing I didn't know if I wanted to carry on reading, but I was drawn back in by wanting to read the way Cline had composed the next sentence. A quote on the front of the book reads 'I don't know which is more amazing, Emma Cline's understanding of human beings or her mastery of language', and I agree. But until I read that quote I had not fully grasped how good her descriptions of the character's emotions were, and how powerful the little relatable lines she had added were that I simply gobbled down on while devouring the story. Unbelievably this is Cline's debut novel; but the publishers knew it was gold and it was fought over ending with a record-breaking debut advance.

The Girls centres around one girl called Evie Boyd. It is set in the summer of 1969 in California. Evie's parents are divorced – she suffers the anxieties and troubles of the stereotypical child of a broken home, but her way of finding solace and a sense of belonging is not through a stereotypical teenage way of rebelling.

Evie sees the girls for the first time in the distance in a park – a vision from afar. Later she stumbles upon Suzanne, the leader of the girls, caught stealing in a nearby shop. From here Evie actively pushes herself into the pack of girls. She is led to the ranch the girls live on with their leader of sorts, named Russell. The story line is very similar to the Charles Manson case that also happened in the summer of 1969: Cline does not dismiss this as a source of inspiration. The girls are described as so floaty and careless yet animalistic and wild, but ultimately puppets of Russell.

What is really powerful about this novel is that it is told from the perspective of both a young and old Evie. We, as the reader see her anxieties grow worse as she ages, and how her experiences haunt her, and never leave her.

It is the type of book you do not forget easily; the type of book where you feel you almost have to say goodbye to the characters out loud; and the type of book that you will recommend with trepidation as the writing is so good but the plot line so harrowing.


Monday, 5 September 2016

August favourites 2016 | The Small Desk

That's it, it's almost Christmas, get the tinsel out, bulk buy that mince meat! Where is this year going!? It's been a whole eight months since I wrote my New Year's Resolutions... what!?

I was reminded of goals and resolutions whilst watching Allison Anderson on YouTube. August has been a month of dithering and going with the flow but whilst working from home today I was feeling very unproductive so started to look for videos with positive can-do messages. I found Allison's videos and boy does she have some really great tips; I would definitely recommend watching her if you're feeling the work slump.

Back to my resolutions though... I've done three out of eight... hmm... oh well! I've been focused more on enjoying myself this month than anything else as I think I deserve it after the whole house buying process! How long can I blame the house buying process for...??

I was initially worried about moving out of London and further away from my work, friends and family. I was worried I could become isolated, however it appears that the complete opposite has happened. Thank G! This month has been choc-a-bloc with socialising. I don't know why I've had quite so many more social events than normal but part of me thinks perhaps I am projecting a more positive attitude now that I am happy in my home.

1. Dinner with an ex colleague
I met up with a colleague I worked with for a really long time and it was so nice to catch up, plus we had Mexican which is always a winner! We actually went out again at the end of the month too for another Mexican!

2. New sofa
We finally got our new sofa. Hurrah! I think we ordered it two or three months ago...

3. Friend's birthday drinks in Soho
Unfortunately the fiancé had to go home early from these as he wasn't feeling very well, but I stayed on for a bit and it was fun to catch up with the girls. Also, I got ID'ed! I was very happy!

4. Austria
This month we went on a family holiday to Austria. There were absolutely beautiful views from the house we stayed in. We got to swim in a mountain lake and do some spectacular walks. It was really nice to spend time with the family too.

5. Dad's birthday
For my Dad's birthday we ordered a takeaway Chinese, always my favourite.

6. Grandparents over
My grandparents came to visit my new house. They are now both in their late eighties, so I was really impressed that they wanted to come all the way down. My parents drove them down but it still just under an hour in the car. My Granddad made me a little herb garden, which was so cute!

7. Rowing
Our friend came down to see the new house and we took him rowing on a nearby canal. Despite almost crashing into two canal boats we had a lot of fun.

8. Got house registry
I don't really know the proper name for this but basically it's all now official and our names are on the deeds of the house. Woot!

9. Two old school friends for dinner
Two of my oldest school friends came over one week night to my new place for dinner. I made them Deliciously Ella lunch bowl, it was good. Also, they both bought me plants, the sunflowers above and the pink plant are from them. So pretty!

10. Out for drinks in Chancery Lane
I met a few of my school friends for drinks in Chancery Lane on the evening of one of the really warm days this month.

11. Fiancé's sister and partner came over
It really has been a month of people coming over to see the new house. My future sister-in-law (oh that sounds weird!) came over with her fiancé and we went out for lunch and played Harry Potter trivial pursuit. She was ridiculously good at it.

12. Friend's housewarming drinks
Another of my old school friends had seven of us over for housewarming drinks and dinner. Her flat is so nice and has a massive balcony so we could all sit outside. I had a bit of a nightmare getting back as the trains were royally screwed.

13. Handyman over
You will probably be seeing more and more home maintenance in my favourites from now on, but trust me, it is the best thing when something gets fixed in your house! We had some curtain rails put up and a light fixed. Party!

14. Bank Holiday stroll
I may have explained before but the fiancé is basically like a dog. He needs to get out of the house, he can't stay indoors all day. So on Bank Holiday Monday I took him out for a stroll that we intended to be 20 minutes but ended up being an hour and a half! It was a really pretty evening though so I did enjoy it.

15. Neighbours
Finally, we went round to our next door neighbours for drinks, and hurrah, they are really lovely people! I am so relieved. The girl even gets free DVDs through work and said we could borrow them, again hurrah!

How was your August? Did you go on holiday, or have a staycation of some kind?


Saturday, 27 August 2016

Ctrl Alt Delete, How I grew up online: Book Review | The Small Desk

Emma's book with a selection of tickets from my teenage years

Ever since I've know that this book was going to be released I've been looking forward to reading it. If you've never heard of Emma Gannon or Girl Lost in the City you are missing out! Emma is a blogger, writer, podcaster, feminist, journalist, basically everything I aspire to be.

One of the main reasons I love reading what Emma has to say is because it is written so well. It's all very well having a blogger with fantastic ideas and unique points of view but if they can't articulate themselves well it makes for a rough reading experience. Emma writes so eloquently and has a way of arranging words into sentences that read so effortless. I realise this is going to sound weird but Emma's writing is like whipped cream: unpretentious, strong, consistent and smooth.

She's been blogging for six years and also recently started a podcast to go alongside her book. I've listened to the majority of the episodes and I'm hooked, I love her interviewing style and the women she chooses to interview. She's also one of the hardest working women on the internet and I don't know where she finds the time to do everything she does. Follow her on Twitter and you'll see what I mean!

Her book is her story of growing up online. I can't remember where I first heard about the book but when I heard it was about the story of a millennial's experience of growing up with the beginnings of the Internet I was so excited as I knew I was going to relate to it.

What struck me most about this book was how much Emma remembers about her teenage days using the Internet. So much of it I was like 'oh my God, yes! How did I forget about that!?'. For example, remember Etam!? Emma reminds us how the teenage magazines of our day used to sell 'Be yourself' and the t-shirts in Etam sold the same slogan. It reminded me of those 'I love me' t-shirts everyone used to wear. She also reminiscences about talking with school friends on the phone for hours after school even though you'd already spent six hours with them. I did the same! It reminded me of dial up Internet and how you didn't used to be able to be on the phone and the Internet at the same time, and your parents would yell 'get off the phone!' because they wanted the Internet! Emma also goes into a fair amount of detail about her first experiences with boys, which provoked mixed emotions in me and made for page-turning reading.

Towards the end of the book Emma starts to look at the troubles we face today in an age of Internet trolling and the impact it has on how she feels about the Internet. This leads nicely onto her chapter on feminism titled 'anonymous was a woman'. It is the penultimate chapter in the book, and despite being a subject I know Emma could talk about for hours is still left to the end of the book as though she didn't want to put people off. She knows as well as anyone that some people still find the idea of feminism tiring and don't want to know. I think this would be my only criticism of the book, that the feminism chapter could have been longer, but then again I am her core audience and I guess she wants to broaden her audience. That said I loved that she brings up how irritating and unfair it is that periods are still seen as something not to be discussed openly. Send me any blog posts on periods, I will read them all!

She also charts the troubles she has had convincing other people that a creative job is an option and how sometimes working for yourself is the best way forward.

If you're not a woman in your twenties or early thirties the book will read as fairly self indulgent but that's why I like it. Emma has also recognised that it is a 'me, me, me' book and states this is the reason for her podcast that interviews other women in social media – to balance things out a bit.

Sometimes I read or listen to Emma and do think – alright enough of the success bragging – but then I think hang on a minute why shouldn't she brag about her successes and why shouldn't I pleased for a women my age who has worked phenomenally hard and fought against the many barriers that stand in our way. One thing I agree with Emma wholeheartedly on is that you should never work for anyone for free and no-one should expect you to even if you find the work fun! I want to raise a glass to Emma and say 'Cheers! Here's to winning and believing in yourself! I love me!'

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