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New Book-Related Furnishings

I’d like to share with you a few things I’ve received and bought related to books, a sort of reading life help, if you will. I’ve been quite excited about these items, two in particular have been a long time coming, and as we all like books here I thought you might be interested in them too.

A photograph of two framed pictures that consist of the text of Pride And Prejudice and Wuthering Heights. The text has been positioned in such a way as to create white-space that shows scenes inspired by the books

At Christmas I received two framed pictures. At first glance they seemed nice enough – scenes inspired by classics, in this case Pride And Prejudice and Wuthering Heights, but then I looked at them more closely…

A photograph of the pictures up close

That’s the first chapter of the book, in a tiny font and acting as the background to the image. I’m not sure yet where I’ll be putting them, nevertheless I’ll find a home for them sometime and I know they’ll look great.

Moving on from artwork I’ve wanted a magazine rack for over a year – my parents had one at home, bamboo, that I always liked (don’t ask me why, it’s an odd thing, I know) and I wanted something on which to display some magazines I’ve kept over the years. Magazines in Hindi I like to pretend I’ll be able to read fluently someday. Persephone Bi-annuals I reckon would be nice to share and flick through. In all about 10 items.

A photograph of a cast-iron black magazine rack

Enter the charity shop. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me to look for one there, especially as magazine racks were more popular in years gone by, but I visited a couple with a friend who’s moving house and found one that’s pretty near perfect. £3. Sold.

A photograph of a small standing bamboo bookshelf

Something else I’ve wanted is a small standing shelf for my review copies and other books on my to-be-read. The only one I could find was a metal one from Ikea, a curled steel design for £25 that says ‘princess room’. The charity shop had an equivalent in bamboo for £2. The back sticks out into the shelf space but after some experimenting I’ve realised that one book per opening works fine and if I keep to that then I’ll be forced to think even more before accepting review copies because there’s only room for seven books. I intend to put review copies on the bottom and my own books on the top. For now it’s on my desk and I’m feeling rather organised and very happy.

What furnishings have you recently acquired?

Castles I Cannot Visit

A photograph of Whittington castle, which you can visit

My life goal of visiting all the castles in England is one I love. It’s one I spent a summer trying to get further along. But it’s become apparent that it may not be the best ‘blanket’ goal in the world.

I visited Netley Abbey a few years ago. I realised Netley Castle, near the abbey, had been turned into private apartments. When I went to Ludgershall, I saw signs for Devizes Castle. “Great”, I thought. I looked it up on Wikipedia. Private apartments.

I’ll be honest, part of me is miffed that such historical buildings have been turned into units, even if we’ve dozens we can visit and the ones that are renovated tend to be the younger ones. Indeed Netley Castle is a sham Victorian castle, so its raison d’etre differs from others; however in the grounds are the remains of a one built in the 1500s.

I know what you’re thinking, and it was my next thought – but there are castles privately owned by Lords and Earls and what not, and I can’t really go visiting those. Maybe my thoughts here will sound strange, especially given my feelings on renovation, but a family owning a castle as a private residence is appropriate. Castles were used by families, and you tend to find that these modern families haven’t changed much of the interior. Many of these castles are open at select times or can be toured by prior arrangement.

So should I make a list of all the castles that are impossible and strike them off my list? Should I see if any of the private apartment castles come with a publicly accessible vestibule? Should I do what some photographers have done and find a gap in the fence to take a photograph? (I’m not sure of the legality of this, though given that Google has street view above fences and people take photos of houses in villages, I expect it may be okay.)

I admit to being disappointed that my goal may not be achievable. Perhaps this shows my ignorance, but with the number of buildings owned by English Heritage, The National Trust, private groups, families and local councils, having some not be on the cards in any way is a surprise.

What would you do in this case?

To Be

A photograph of a field near Goodrich Castle

Hamlet. The capitalised title of a song by a favourite artist. Peace and contemplation.

I recently returned from a retreat and something I made myself do was just enjoy the moments. I’m not one for simply sitting, not good at doing nothing, but I sat for an hour in the garden watching the world go by, appreciating the moment; a few shorter times, too. The good weather (that probably helped). The happiness I was finding in being away and the general bond, the shared overall purpose, of those also on the retreat.

I’ve sat with a coffee enjoying the sun, the bird song, but I want to make a deliberate effort in future to incorporate it into my week. The thoughtfulness that accompanies and follows it isn’t unlike meditation. But whilst I like meditation I find that, ironically, it involves more planning and thought than it should. Perhaps that’s just me.

I want to be more in the moment, more aware of my surroundings, more open to inspiration, to ideas.

I took many things from my retreat and that hour was one of them.

Do you make time to just be?

A Somewhat Mandatory Life Update

A photo of rose tea - loose leaves and petals

I’m happy to say I now feel ‘home’. There have been a few moments recently where I’ve walked through certain areas thinking ‘I love this’; I’m glad to come back after being out. The spring is showing a lot of potential – our living room, for example, gets a lot of light and it’s the perfect reading spot.

There have been many exciting developments in general, namely the finishing of repair work (at least we thought – it seems we may need more done), and the arrival of furniture. Yet I myself am most excited about the plants. We’ve a few flowers and some herbs and it’s going to be interesting seeing if we can keep them alive and extremely rewarding, I imagine, if we end up with a lot of colour and edible produce somewhere down the line. We’ve the usual rosemary, basil, thyme and so forth. A couple of stubborn lilies are determined to keep tipping over and we’ve a temperamental primrose but otherwise they seem to be doing well.

In addition to these we have some chilli shoots. We planted countless seeds in a bucket about three weeks ago and there are now 19 shoots growing with, I suspect, more on the way.

There are still no bookcases; my books remain in piles by my desk. I’m trying to ignore the dust and the fact that there are still a few ARCs lost amongst them. I’ve written a post about compiling books which I’ll likely publish later. We don’t have a television which is rather nice, even if I was disappointed about not being able to watch the Eurovision (something my family has watched together for many years).

The last note to share: I’ve discovered rose tea. I bought a variation several years ago but never actually tried it, and over the last few years I’ve regretted that and wondered if I could find some more (I’d bought it on holiday). Well I finally found some and after the initial worry that it might taste like perfume (I tried lavender tea once and it was like drinking bubble bath) I have to say it’s wonderful. Opening the container is like walking past a bowl of potpourri, and I’ve taken to having a cup every morning.

What wonders has spring brought to your home? What were you most happy about when you last moved home?

The Blogging Break That Didn’t Happen

A photo of a person laying on a beach, obviously exhausted

This photograph was taken by Anna Loverus (no longer on Flickr).

I have never taken a blogging break that wasn’t for some eventful reason – in other words a holiday or Christmas. I can understand others taking them but it just isn’t for me (for reasons I’ll be discussing later).

However, whilst I was extremely productive the first month of this year, I hit a wall soon after. I’m not sure what happened exactly; I guess it was the natural conclusion of having been so happy and motivated but with a new routine. And location – even though location helped initially I suppose there comes a time when your brain says ‘hey, wait up, what’s going on here?’ and I’d unintentionally excluded this thought for too long.

I felt ‘meh’. I wasn’t ill but I couldn’t really be bothered to do anything in my free time other than watching series boxsets and playing The Sims (which I like but will be the first to admit the sandbox play has little real value). When I finished the boxsets I started researching others. I looked with scorn at the books on my desk. I hadn’t finished a single book that month yet.

I watch very little television and rarely make time for old favourites. This was what really brought home to me the fact that something just wasn’t working, more than the way I was shunning reading.

I’d run out of motivation, and the change in my life suddenly hit me. I wasn’t unhappy and I’d actually already wondered why I didn’t feel weird at all, having moved.

I realised the next Monday that it was pointless trying to pretend. I closed all the blogs I’d opened to comment on because none of the posts were getting through to me. Yet I felt worse on Tuesday, and worse still when I realised I was down to my last couple of drafted posts. I also tried to push through it via forced reading but chose the wrong book.

And I seriously considered taking a short blogging break, saying, on Wednesday, that I’d be back on Monday or some such.

The problem was I knew that no matter how much I like blogging in general, for me taking an unscheduled break might result in my not returning because it’d be too easy to wallow in it. I realised that giving in to it and taking that break would just continue the cycle of nights spent watching shows I’d already seen and an empty coffee jar where I’d fill boredom with drinking beverages (I at least had the willpower not to create sugar-induced headaches). It’s all too easy to give up and when you’re feeling odd, willpower often takes a hike.

The next Wednesday was good. I woke up feeling okay. Time was spent blogging, and more than simply understanding others’ breaks, as I had previously, I can now say I can emphasise with them. Whether it was because I know at heart that my watching and gaming were time wasters or that the couple of days of feeling down were enough to get me back on track I don’t know. I found it suitably ironic that the two posts I published whilst feeling ‘meh’ didn’t get any comments. Whilst I was proud of them I published them in a poor frame of mind.

Obviously I’m better now (the dip was in February) and I’m getting back to all the review requests I’m late in fulfilling.

What’s your coping method when you have a ‘life’ slump and lose your motivation for blogging (or reading, or whatever hobby is your favourite)? Do you muddle through or are you best able to work through it with a break?


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