Thursday, 28 August 2014

August reads

Brace yourselves, this is a long one!  I've been off work for most of August, and away on holiday for a couple of weeks, so I was able to read an incredible amount.  My monthly average is nine books, which I appreciate is already higher than many people can manage, but this month I read nineteen books.  I'm not sure if it's because I was really able to focus on the books - and in many cases had the time to read from cover-to-cover, which I enjoy doing - but I really liked a high percentage of this month's reads too.

1. I actually started reading Penny Red a couple of months ago - it's been the book I carry around in my bag and dip into whenever I'm waiting somewhere - but finished it in August so decided to list it here.  It's a collection of Laurie Penny's published pieces, some from her blog, some from newspapers, written between 2010 and 2011 and mainly covering the uprisings, occupations and protest of those years but also touching on feminism, the media and pop culture.  I'm a massive fan of Penny's writing; she is unashamedly biased in her reporting, writing from a radical left, queer, feminist perspective, and she writes with a passion and an urgency that are infectious.  Not always easy reading, these pieces are nevertheless essential and exciting reading for anyone interested in leftist or feminist politics.

2. Completing my trio of Laurie Penny books was Discordia, a short book by her and artist Molly Crabapple, telling the story of their visit to crisis-stricken Athens.

3. Unspeakable Things is Laurie Penny's recently published polemic on sex, feminism, austerity and revolution.  As with Penny Red it can be an uncomfortable and depressing read at times, but voices like Penny's are essential.  I'm very glad she's out there, battling the internet trolls, checking her privilege, reminding us all that another world, a better and more equal world, is possible and worth fighting for.

4. Cold Earth, about a group of PhD students on an archaeological dig in Greenland, was an engaging and well written thriller.  Told in the form of letters home, each character is given a chance to tell their story and each is told with a distinctive and convincing voice.  As one student, Nina, is increasingly affected by what she insists is the presence of malevolent spirits, the rest of the group worry about a pandemic taking hold back in the 'real world', and wonder whether they will ever make it home at all.

5. After enjoying Cold Earth so much, I thought I'd finally give Sarah Moss's second novel, Night Waking (which had been lurking on my Kindle for a couple of years) a go.  I was glad I did as, although Night Waking is an often uncomfortable read, I enjoyed it very much.

6. The Tellingby the author of my much-loved recent favourite Longbourn, was an enjoyable read.  It follows grief-stricken Rachel as she travels to her parents' cottage in rural Lancashire to empty it following the death of her mother but also, more engagingly, tells the story of teenager Elizabeth, a domestic servant living with her family in the same cottage over a century earlier.  I found the ghost story aspects of the modern strand of the book unconvincing, but the characters of Elizabeth and her family give a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the rural poor in the 19th Century, and into the Chartist movement, about which I knew very little until reading the book.

7. When 14 year old June's beloved uncle Finn dies of AIDS, she is distraught. A loner at school and with a fractious relationship with her older sister, Greta, June turns to the only person who loved Finn as much as she did: his partner Toby, the man June and Greta have been told 'killed' their uncle.  My mum told me I really must read Tell The Wolves I'm Home. Then Hannah (whose tastes in books generally tallies with my own) wrote a glowing review of it.  I think perhaps all this positive stuff worked against the book because I expected to love it and I didn't, I just kind of liked it.  I loved certain moments and lines, particularly June's ruminations on the nature of love and the way it feels to be close to someone you adore, but I never truly empathised with or felt connected to any of the characters.

8. The Most Beautiful Rot was another Hannah recommendation!  Her summary of the book - "it shows us a world rarely seen in fiction, with characters living lives outside of the norm" - led me to believe it would be right up my street. And I did enjoy it, very much.  The story follows four disparate housemates - Jasmine,  Xandria, Lydia and Tabitha - with each character having their own POV section of the book.  Reading it reminded me just how little is published that reflects the experiences of weird women, poor women, queer women, women surviving on the edges of society.  I loved how it portrayed mental health and physical illness in a way that didn't glamourise the issues.  My only criticism of the book would be that it finished too soon; I felt there was still so much of their stories to tell and I'd have happily read twice as much.

9. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves has just been longlisted for the Man Booker prize, quite an achievement by the author of the undoubtedly populist - but still very good - The Jane Austen Book Club.  It's hard to give a summary of We Are All... without giving away a very important plot point, so all I'll say is that I liked it (although it's perhaps one of those books that I admired more once I'd finished than while I was reading it, if you know what I mean?).

10. & 11. Looking back through my last few months of reads posts, it's been a long while since I read anything as uncomplicatedly trashy as Fear Nothing and Touch & Go.  I really love crime fiction, with an especial fondness for gory American murder mystery/police procedural novels, and Lisa Gardner fits both categories.  I've read most of her novels, and these two are the most recent of her series featuring Boston detective D.D. Warren.  Delivering thrills and tension, I enjoyed both in an uncomplicated way (although I'm starting to really dislike the way in which most Gardner - and, for that matter, other US crime writers' - books often end in the police shooting dead the murderer. There's no such thing as due process in these novels), with Fear Nothing just edging it on engagement.

12. The premise of The Fever is a strong one: one by one, the girls in Deenie's class begin to be afflicted by a terrible sickness.  As one of her best friends lies in the hospital in a coma, and the other undergoes intrusive tests after collapsing, Deenie - together with the rest of the community - wonders what, or who, to blame.  Is it the HPV vaccine?  The 'toxic' lake on the edge of town?  Or does Deenie herself hold the key to what's happening?  I found myself reading The Fever with an urgency to find out the truth, although when it came it was, perhaps inevitably, slightly anticlimactic.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the way in which author Abbott explored the various elements of being a teen girl, from hysteria and peer influence to sexual experimentation.

13. A Single Breath, the story of a young woman, Eva, coming to terms with her husband's death by visiting Tasmania, the place he'd grown up and always told her stories about, was both predictable and ridiculous. The descriptions of the Tasmanian coast and countryside were vivid and rather lovely, but otherwise it was a waste of time, with each 'twist' being so easy to see coming it was a joke.  I also found the narrative, written in third person present tense, awkward; even my Year 7s can write more engaging sentences than, "Eva is feeling tired.  She rubs her eyes as she walks onto the porch."

14. The Story Of England is an essential read for anyone interested in the history of the England as it affected those not in the aristocracy.  Based on the BBC TV series of the same name, which was filmed in a Leicestershire village, Kibworth, which lies just a few miles from where I live, it undoubtedly held extra interest for me because I know the places mentioned.  That's not to say that you wouldn't enjoy it if you're not local, though; Michael Wood has put together an incredibly engaging narrative spanning thousands of years and ably demonstrating just how much fascinating history there is all around us.  I was especially interested to learn that Leicester, and Kibworth especially, were renowned for hundreds of years as hotbeds of anti-establishment feeling and activism, from 15th-century Lollards, to the anti-enclosure protests of the 17th & 18th centuries, to major Victorian-era movements such as the Luddites and the Suffragettes.

15. Are You My Mother? was at times heavy going; it may be a graphic memour but this isn't any lightweight comic, but instead a thoughtful examination of Bechdel's relationship with her mother as understood through her years of psychoanalysis and reading.  I loved the touches of humour and the beautiful drawings, and although it requires a lot of the reader, I felt rewarded by the end of it.

17. Narrated by five year old Pea, living in Southern France and left to her own devices by her grieving mother, I wish I had more to say about The Night Rainbow but... I just don't.  I liked it for a while, and then I didn't.  The quality of the writing is undoubtedly superb, with stunning childs-eye-view descriptions of a hot, sodden summer, but I found myself getting a little bored with the repetition, not to mention frustrated with the adult characters.

18. The Secret Hen House Theatre.  For the first twenty or so pages I found the writing a bit clunky but I soon grew enchanted by this book and particularly by plucky eleven year old heroine Hannah. In the tradition of the best children's literature, Hannah and best friend Lottie have largely absent parents, and they use this freedom to (again, in classic "Let's put on a show!" children's story style) build their own theatre in - you guessed it - an abandoned hen house on Hannah's family farm.

19. I've come to the conclusion that David Levithan is at his best when he's working with another writer, someone who can temper his tendencies towards twee.  His novel with John Green, Will Grayson Will Grayson, and two with Rachel Cohn, Dash & Lily's Book Of Dares and Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, are all wonderful books.  How They Met & Other Stories is an enjoyable collection of short stories but "enjoyable" is damning with faint praise, and the majority of these tales aren't his best work. I did really love a couple of them, but overall it's not essential reading.

Monday, 25 August 2014

On queerness

Image source here

I came out as a lesbian when I was 17 and in the throes of my first relationship (which was with a girl) and then had to crawl back into the closet a few years later, after we'd broken up and I started dating men too.  Bisexuality, as an identity, did not seem terribly appealing.  I'm a words person and there's something about the unpleasant sibiliance of it - bi-sex-shual - which sounds as if it's being drunkenly slurred.  Not to mention that bisexuality is an identity constantly debated, belittled and mocked by straight and gay people alike.  You'll forgive me if I wasn't desperately keen to come out as bi.  But it was all I had in terms of terminology, so that's how I, reluctantly, ended up identifying.

It's only in the last decade that the term 'queer' has begun to gain traction in the UK.  Long used as a homophobic slur, it was reclaimed in the 80s and 90s by activists in America and began being used more widely in the 00s as a catch-all for the various identities that fall under the LGBT banner. Where I found bisexuality a limiting identity and an unpleasant word, queer was to provide an alternative.

Queer is political, radical, a term much used by activists.  There's an inclusiveness about it that is rather lovely, the way in which one word can encompass and embrace a range of identities from lesbian, gay & bisexual to trans, asexual, intersex and genderqueer folk.  And let's face it, even in its original meaning it's a fantastic word, bespeaking all manner of oddities and weirdnesses.  It was liberating, a few years ago, to find this new identity.  Instead of being pigeonholed in the 'B' of LGBT, I could glory in being part of the whole queer family.

And then I fell in love with a man, which rather put a spanner in the works of my glorious second coming out.

I've never, not even when walking hand in hand with a girlfriend, been visible as queer.  No matter how hard I've tried at times to butch up, I'm femme through and through and I just don't 'read' as queer.  In many and numerous ways this gives me enormous privilege, vastly reducing the risk of my falling prey to homophobic abuse or violence.  But  it can be problematic, too.  Many's the time I've had to 'prove' my queerness in order to gain entrance to a gay bar or club (being able to give a detailed account of the plot of The L Word usually works).  It can be hard - in the absence of what people regard as common visual markers of queerness - to convince family and friends that yes, I really am queer, not just pretending.  And now that I have a male partner, someone I hope to spend the rest of my life with, it can sometimes feel as if the queer bit of my identity is disappearing.  If only I know it's there, does it still count?

It can also feel to me that by entering into a life partnership with a cisgendered man, I'm fulfilling all of the worst stereotypes about bisexual women: that we're just experimenting and not really queer; that what we really want is cock; that in the end, it's just straight girls playing at being gay.  I feel sad that, by being with the person I love, I'm seen (and perhaps see myself) as less queer than I was before.

Part of me mourns for the loss of my queer identity.  Part of me feels like I'm no longer part of the gang, like I've lost part of what made me me.

But a much larger part glories in the miracle of being able to wake up every morning next to the most amazing person.  A person who completely accepts the copies of Diva magazine littering the house, who puts up with me perving over Ellen Page and Kat Moennig (and who, in fact, when he sees a woman he thinks I'll fancy - I have a very definite type - will point her out to me).  A person who isn't, and shouldn't be, defined by his gender or sex but by the fact that he's perfect for me and to me. I think I need to wrap my head around the fact that being with him doesn't make me less queer. It just makes me incredibly lucky to have found someone amazing.  For anything I've lost, I've gained far, far more.

What I wore: On yer bike

It was the Leicester Skyride yesterday, which is an event that grew out of the Critical Mass cycling movement (when groups of cyclists take over the roads to promote safer cycling).  For the big August Skyride a lot of the roads around the city are closed to traffic but open to bikes, allowing cyclists freedom to zoom around the streets without danger (well, apart from other cyclists.  I almost got taken out by a small boy on a trike).  I'd never done it before but when the day dawned reasonably bright, we decided to give it a go.  Now, most of the Skyriders were dressed in sensible lycra. But not me. I was feeling bored on Sunday morning and decided to go all-out vintage to match my bike.

This polka dot, 40s-style tea dress is from H&M but found in a charity shop.  With my trusty brogues, a slick of red lippy and a Rosie The Riveter-style headscarf, it made for a comfortable and fun outfit.  However, I quickly discovered that a dress with such a flippy skirt was not the most practical cycling garb.  It's amazing that I managed to make it round the whole route without flashing my pants. 

* Dress: Thrifted * Headscarf: ASOS * Necklace: Sugar & Vice * Brogues: Clarks * 
* Sunglasses: New Look * Lipstick: Maybelline Super Stay 24 Colour in Cherry Pie *

Saturday, 23 August 2014

11 things

The lovely Suzy nominated me for a Liebster this week, which was perfect timing as I've been really struggling with writer's block recently, so writing nothing more challenging than a list of facts was the perfect excuse to sit down at my laptop.

So, the rules of the award are:
- List 11 random facts about yourself
- Answer 11 questions given to you by the nominator
- Set 11 new questions for the bloggers you nominate
- Tag your chosen bloggers and wait to read their answers

11 Random Facts About Me
1. I think that One Direction's What Makes You Beautiful is the best pop song of a generation.  Closely followed by Kiss You by, yep, One Direction.
2. I need everything on the coffee table to be at right angles, otherwise I feel uncomfortable.
3. Pertaining to #2, The Boy wooed me by putting the beer mats at right angles to the table when we were on our second date.  I have subsequently been disappointed that this did not point to an equally obsessive tidiness around the house.
4. My guilty pleasure is reading trashy mags when I get my hair cut.
5. My Twitter & blog handle comes from a Jungle Brothers song: 90s hip hop rules!
6. I'm terrified of heights.  Or, more precisely, I'm terrified of falling from a height.
7. My mum is deaf, so I have basic BSL (British Sign Language) skills.
8. I'm naturally blonde but have been dying my hair for 20 years.
9. My current most over-used word is "idiot".
10. My middle name is Elizabeth.  I much prefer it to my first name.
11. I hate orange sweets and love red ones.  My perfect match would, in theory, be someone who loves the orange ones and hates the red, but I couldn't ever truly respect someone who's so wrong about life.

Suzy asked me 11 questions, which were...

1) If you could only choose to do one item from your bucket list, which would it be?
This one is easy-peasy -  I'd go back to university to study for an MA in Gender Studies followed by a PhD.
2) What makes a good blog, in your opinion?
Writing about real life, both the good and the bad.  Very little, or no, sponsored content.  Pretty photos.  
3) Where is your favourite place to be on a rainy, Sunday afternoon?
In bed, under the duvet, in a nest of pillows and surrounded by books, with a cup of tea, some cake and The Boy curled up next to me.  Oh, and 6 Music on the radio (I miss Huey on Sunday afternoons though, Saturday morning is always too manic for me to listen to the whole show).
4) If you could meet up with any blogger, who would it be and why?
I feel really lucky that in the past year I've met most of the bloggers who I was really keen to get to know.  Can I cheat and say I'd like to meet Sarah again?  She lives in Aberdeen, basically as far as you can get from Leicester and still be in the UK, so all we've managed so far is 2 hours in Glasgow.  But I also feel like I'd have a lot to chat about with Andrea and with Suzy, so them too.
5) Best book you’ve ever read?
That's an utterly impossible question to answer!  The closest I've got was narrowing it down to 32(!) for a recent #52lists post.  But as I missed I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith off the list, I'll go with that.
6) Are you a gambler or a take the money kind of person?
Definitely not a gambler, I'm massively risk-averse.
7) Which actor would play you in a biopic of your life?
Oh crikey, I dunno.  She's not an actress, but The Boy says comedian Issy Suttie reminds him of me (I don't see it myself), and my step-mum used to say that Dani Harmer (she played Tracey Beaker on CBBC) looked like me, but I don't see that either!
8) What do you get up to when nobody is around/when nobody’s watching?
I talk to myself.
9) If you could choose one talent to possess that you don’t already have, what would it be?
I'd love to be able to draw, if only to stop my pupils laughing at my terrible attempts when I demonstrate something on the whiteboard.
10) What is an interesting fact about the town/city you live in?
We had a king buried under a car park for 600 years, and no-one knew.  Well, ok, it wasn't a car park for most of those 600 years, but still...
11) What is the last thing you do before you go to sleep at night?
I take the medication that stops me clenching my jaw, say goodnight and slaap lekker to The Boy, then pop my earplugs in.

I was going to nominate Amy of Fluffy Owl's Adventures, but she's just today put up a Liebster post.  So instead, I'll throw these over to some of the people who appear in the Blogs I Love tab at the top of the page: Sarah, Laura, E & B, The Girl, Louise and Elise.

My questions are:
1. Why did you start blogging?
2. What post are you most proud of?
3. What's your favourite thing about blogging?
4. And a least favourite?
5. Important matters now: what's your favourite colour of sweet?
4. And what's your least favourite?
5. What is your favourite flower?
6. Did you have a favourite dressing up outfit as a child (or, indeed, as an adult)?
7. Zayn or Harry?
8. What was your best holiday, and why?
9. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
10. What's your favourite Christmas tradition?
11. Do you have a nickname?

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Bedroom tour

Having given you a living room tour recently, now it's time for the bedroom.  Our bedroom isn't super fashionable but instead comfortable, restful and full of things that I love.  In common with the rest of the house, the walls are painted bright white and the floors are original varnished wooden boards.  The room is flooded with light throughout the day, and I love nothing more than to curl up in the armchair that sits by the window, reading and listening to the radio.

The room is filled with piles of books, vintage finds that hark back to the inter-war era, and lots of cosy cushions and girly bits.  Of all the rooms in the house it's probably the one that is most entirely 'Me' with no hint of The Boy, but don't feel too sorry for him as he has the spare room as his music den and workspace.

Most of the furniture is from Ikea, but jazzed up with vintage and homemade bits.  The quilt on the bed was bought for £25 from an antiques shop in Lancashire and the cushion covers were all made by me.  My favourite thing in the room - the 1930s mirror - was left behind by the previous owners of the house. Unlike in the living room, where iI expressly set out to create a mid-century modern look, the vintage 30s/40s feel of this room happened by accident.  Luckily the metal bed frame and wooden wardrobe that I already owned compliments the vintage stuff I've found over the years.

I used flower hooks to display my extremely large collection of beads and necklaces; having them hanging right next to the mirror means I remember to put them on, rather than have them languish unworn in a box somewhere.  A cluster of fairy lights fills the fireplace and provide a lovely warm glow in the winter months.

On the wall above the radiator is a gallery of black & white family photographs (as yet, only my family is represented: poor The Boy).  I love these old photos and the glimpses of past times they offer.

Another great vintage find was this battered suitcase, which cost me about £15. It stores bedlinen while looking pretty on top of the wardrobe.  The retro Bush radio goes rather well with the cut of this tea dress, which is modelled on 1940s silhouettes (it's not actually vintage, just a lucky find in H&M).  I haven't worn it for years but I like the way it looks hanging on the wardrobe.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

What I wore: On holiday

Ok, so obviously I'm in my back yard and not on holiday, but this was my go-to outfit when we were pounding the pavements of Amsterdam and Copenhagen a couple of weeks ago.  Dress, roomy tote bag into which I could cram a water bottle, camera, book, suncream, etc, and comfy Converse trainers for when my feet got too sore in sandals.  We were travelling with carry-on luggage only, so space was at a premium and I was glad to have found quite a few dresses in the previous weeks that, like this one, were easy to pack and loose-fitting enough to feel cool even on hot days.

Size 16 in H&M is always a tricky one - some stuff fits fine but a lot doesn't, so I was really pleased to find that this pretty heart print dress fit me perfectly (although only midgets may apply - the skirt is short on me and I'm pretty tiny!).  I'm quite tempted to go back and buy it in the other patterns and, at £12.99, it's not exactly going to bankrupt me.

* Dress: Divided at H&M * Bag: Alphabet Bags * Shoes: Converse via Office

Monday, 11 August 2014

A guide to vintage shopping in Amsterdam

I was delighted to discover, ahead of my trip there, that Amsterdam is awesome for vintage shopping.  Thanks to @fiandme on Twitter, who pointed me in the right direction, I spent much of the first day darting in and out of shops (The Boy was probably less happy about this turn of events) and quickly learnt three things about vintage shopping in Amsterdam:

1. The range and quality of stuff available is incredible: it seems to me like vintage might be a fairly new thing in the Netherlands, because there was so much high quality original 1940s, 50s and 60s stuff that you just don't find in the UK anymore.

2. Compared to in the UK, vintage is incredibly cheap in Amsterdam.  I saw stunning 1940s tea dresses and 1950s sun dresses in perfect condition, which would go for upwards of £60 here, for around €20-€30.

3. Plus size vintage doesn't seem to exist.  Not just like in the UK, where it's harder to find but you usually come across a piece or two after some rummaging, but literally not available anywhere. Major sad face from me, and the reason why I came home entirely empty handed.  However, if you're sizes 8-12, you're laughing.

So, where to go to find all these riches?

Your first port of call should be the Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets), a small neighbourhood of beautiful independent shops, cafes and bars in the canal district.  There are too many vintage shops on the Negen Straatjes to name individually, but spending an hour or two criss-crossing the canals to wander up and down the streets will provide any vintage lover with plenty to see.

A ten minute walk north of the Negen Straatjes will bring you to Harlaammerstraat, home to three good vintage stores: Rumours Vintage (modern, what I'd call 'fashion' vintage, including some menswear), Marble Vintage (which has another branch on Nieuwe Hoogstraat and also offers lots of menswear), and Wini Vintage (pictured above).

Episode has three branches in central Amsterdam, including one on the Negen Straatjes and one smack bang next to the Waterlooplein flea market, and is the closest thing I saw to British shops like Rokit or Beyond Retro.  Quite fashion-driven, rather than true vintage pieces, and lots of 80s and 90s stuff, but excellent for a rummage.  This was also one of the only places I saw anything vaguely approaching my size (14-16, so not wildly plus, but where vintage is concerned I'm huge).

Tut & Hola on Korsjespoortsteeg was probably my favourite vintage shop.  It's a small store but absolutely brimming with amazing dresses at reasonable prices, and seemed especially good for 50s and 60s pieces.

Finally, a store I managed to entirely miss while I was there (despite it being on a street we walked many times) is I Love Vintage, which sells vintage clothes as well as their own retro designs both online and in their shop on Prinsengracht.

This is a mere taster of all of the vintage shopping that Amsterdam offers: tucked away on quiet alleys and canal-side streets, there are more stores than I could possibly name here.  So what are you waiting for?  Get shopping!

All images apart from the first one are from the websites of the shops and © the shop named.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Good stuff

I loved this honest and true piece about what we don't talk about when we don't talk about abortion.  I went through a phase of not really shutting up about mine, which was probably tedious for those around me but at least it was better than contributing to the silence around abortion.

A powerful piece on Rana Plaza and #ClothesToDieFor

I have a secret to tell you: I don't understand Tumblr.  It makes me feel like An Old, but I just don't get it.  However, this Tumblr on how to fat-hack your wardrobe is pretty awesome and full of fashion inspiration.

I really really (really) want one of these dresses. Gorgeous or what?

An interesting and thought-provoking piece (from the FT, of all places) on the new wave of feminism.

After reading a piece in Bust and then this, I totally want to go to Antwerp.

Finally, Lost In A Spotless Mind is my new favourite blog for fashion and body image stuff.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

List #31: The good things I have done this week

From looking at Ema's list, I think this was meant to be the good things I've done for others this week. Ah well, my list of good things is about things that have been good for me.  Let's call it self-care instead of selfishness!

1. Filled my house with fresh flowers.
2. Read the new issue of Bust magazine.
3. Welcomed a friend from the Netherlands to stay for a few days.
4. Finally seen Boyhood... and coincidentally sat on the same row as an old friend I haven't seen for about a year.
5. Bought some very cool feminist zines in Amsterdam.
6. Watched an amazing thunderstorm in Copenhagen.
7. Sunk into my own bed with relief and thankfulness after six nights away.
8. Made plans to visit my mum.
9. Got my Bloglovin list down from 149 unread posts to only 15.
10. Sat in my sunny backyard to read: seven days into August and I've read six books.  Not bad, eh?

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Six days away

We got home late last night after a jam-packed six days in Europe.  Three cities (Amsterdam, Nijmegen, then Copenhagen) visited, miles and miles walked, five books read, lots of sunny weather, five trains, two flights... I'm exhausted now but had such a lovely and relaxed time away.  I could tell just how relaxed I was because, for the first time in ten months, I went six whole days without taking any painkillers: amazing!  My jaw pain is lingering around a bit today, but I think that's just the stress of travelling home.

We started with two days in Amsterdam, a city we both know well and so were able to just enjoy wandering around without the stress of dashing from one sight to the other.  We stayed at the Chic & Basic Hotel which is super central and had a fab canal-side location.  From there we went to Nijmegen (a small city to the east of the Netherlands, where The Boy lived for five years), where we had such a fun night out with friends.

Finally, Copenhagen, where we walked for miles and miles, stopped for drinks in sweet little pavement cafes, sat in the park to read and by lakes to take silly selfies, watched the most incredible thunderstorm (from the comfort of our Airbnb apartment, thank goodness), and generally had a lovely time.  I didn't utterly fall in love with Copenhagen, though, which surprised me because I'm generally a bit of a city slut and will give my heart to any place that comes along and bats its eyes at me.

The one thing I didn't do was take many photographs, because I was having such a lovely time just hanging out with The Boy that I didn't feel like taking my camera out every few minutes.  But hopefully these few snaps will give you some idea of what we got up to (and with apologies for the excess cleavage in the first picture!).