The Essex Serpent

“My dear, I know you grieve. I admit, I was never sure what it was that first brought you to Michael, who always frightened me just a bit (do you mind my saying so?) but it was something. And the bond is broken, and you are left untethered – and now it seems you are severing all your ties! Cora, you cannot always keep yourself away from things that hurt you. We all wish that we could, but we cannot: to live at all is to be bruised. I don’t know what has come between you and your friends, but I know that none of us was made to be alone. You told me once you forget you are a woman, and I understand it now – you think to be a woman is to be weak – you think ours is a sisterhood of suffering! Perhaps so, but doesn’t it take greater strength to walk a mile in pain than seven miles in none? You are a woman, and must begin to live like one. By which I mean: have courage.”

– The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

 

Those who haven’t had the absolute pleasure of reading this wonderful book, go buy/loan it now. It’s absolutely fantastic. Strong female characters, flawless writing and a very interesting story.

Lou x

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red stripe/jerk chicken

I went to the Notting Hill Carnival on Sunday.

“All it is is just people walking around the streets and following the herd, eating jerk chicken and drinking Red Stripe,” my boss said. “But you have to go. It’s an experience.”

It truly was.

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You see, my boss has lived in Notting Hill since the 70s. She loves it – she’s very proud of the area, and loves that so many people come to NH for the carnival every year. Even though she says she often steers clear of the whole thing.

My friends and I (James, Jeremy, Daniel and Yasmin) all met at The Windsor Castle pub in Notting Hill on Sunday, to start the day off with food and a few beers. We also wanted to avoid the crowds before we absolutely had to face them. The Windsor Castle is a gorgeous old pub on Camden Hill Road; it’s a rabbit warren of little cosy rooms, fireplaces, old wooden staircases, and a cute little beer garden out the back. It has tiny little doorways fit for hobbits, with “Mind your head” scrawled at the top. My friend Jeremy is one of the tallest people I know, so to see him clamber through those doorways is a riot.

Sunday roast & fish and chips in our bellies, we followed the throng of carnival-goers toward Portobello Road, following the face paint, the smell of jerk chicken and marijuana; the ultimate people-watching experience.

We didn’t know what we were trying to find. But we just followed the crowds. People following people. Blind leading the blind.

A man in the line at the portaloos said, “I came here to see women in metal bikinis. Where are they?”

“I hope you find them, mate!”

We most likely got second-hand stoned as we held hands trying to get through a crowd all dancing to hip hop music, and the boys stopped to pick themselves up some jerk chicken from one of the many stalls. Wanting to do the true Notting Hill Carnival experience, we bought £2 cans of Red Stripe from the corner store (it was diabolical in there!) and sipped them as we ambled along.

We weren’t cut out for the whole thing (either getting too old, or perhaps too sober?), as we ended up taking refuge in the Prince Edward pub on Dawson Place.

Notting Hill is the bees knees! It’s beautiful, with its multi-coloured houses, the Victorian terraces and the treelined streets. Not to mention the vintage second-hand clothes, books and comic stores and the wonder that is Portobello Road (+ markets). It has so much diversity, ranging from the posh upper class that walk the streets near my work on Pembridge Road, to the ethnic stores and stalls on Portobello Road.

If you’re thinking of going to the carnival, just give it a whirl. You may not need to go again, but at least you can tick that off your London bucket list.

Lou (Carnival Survivor) x

Happy Wednesday!

Here are some things I’m currently digging:

  • this movie – Julieta – can’t wait to go see it! It looks beautiful, and a really intriguing storyline…
  • these double chocolate Toblerone cookies *drools* Need to get in the kitchen, stat.
  • This Buzzfeed article about why bookstores should smell like chocolate (must there be a reason?)
  • The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry – beautifully written in a style akin to Austen or the Bronte sisters, set in cold and dreary Colchester in the 19th century. The characters will get into your heart, and never leave (which is fine by me!).
  • Gordon’s Wine Bar – some friends and I finally made it there last week and drank pinot grigio, ate tapas and a cheese platter fit for kings. It is London’s oldest wine bar; established in 1890 and now home to many suit & tie post-work drinkers.
  • Summer in London – so many pop up bars (my favourite – the Pimms pop up by the Southbank Centre. I love Southbank and to drink Pimms overlooking the Thames is basically a dream).
  • Cambridge – My friend Yas, who just arrived in London, went to Cambridge on Monday for the bank holiday. I’m kind of obsessed with the university town (I’ve been there 5 times in a year) and we went punting, perved on all the hot punters, drank cider and had burgers by the canal and basked in the history of the place. Amazing.

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Hope you all have an amazing week! I’m currently watching the Russian school next door practice their speeches and dances for their return to school assembly. Highly entertaining!

Lou x

latest read.

“One day I would like to know everything, like you.”

“I do not know everything, my dear,” he said. “And I do not desire it either. I cannot imagine it would be very pleasant. Knowledge is, of course, very important, because the things that we know become our tools, and without good tools at our disposal, it is quite difficult to remain alive in the world.

But knowledge is also a kind of death. A question holds all the potential of the living universe within it. In the same way, a piece of knowledge is inert and infertile. Questions, Anna – questions are far more valuable than answers, and they do much less blowing up in your face as well. If you continue to seek questions, you cannot stray far off the proper road.”

Anna did not understand. “Why?”

The Swallow Man smiled. “Well done.”

Anna and the Swallow Man, Gavriel Savit 

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bookish dreams.

If you didn’t know already, I love YA fiction. 

I’m that 26 year old trawling the children’s and YA section of every book shop. Move over, kids, they’re mine.

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)
Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

I have decided that I really want and need to get into the world of publishing, and not only just publishing in general, but to specialise in fiction for children and young adults. It actually makes me very excited thinking about it. Basically the feeling I get when I walk into a bookstore. They make me really happy.

Reading during my teen years was probably the most important part of my growing up; understanding the world, the people around me, and practicing empathy. I remember the first books that took my interest, and stuck with me throughout my teens, were Bow Down Shadrach by Joy Cowley, The Summer of Shadows by Iona McNaughton and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. To Kill A Mockingbird I studied in English in Year 12, and I fell in love with it, and Atticus Finch. It was the book that really cemented the dream of becoming a writer.

At university, I completed a Children’s Literature paper which was probably my favourite English class I ever took (we studied The Northern Lights series and Narnia…need I say more?), and also completed a Children’s Creative Writing paper at the Institute of Modern Letters. It was amazing. I met some wonderful people in that class, wrote 20,000 words of a children’s novel and also gained so much confidence both in my writing and in public speaking (we had to read our writing outloud in front of the class – as a shy farm girl, this was difficult for me!). I discovered I am terrible at writing picture books, and I have an obsession with trees.

I am very lucky, because I have 5 sisters who are huge readers and two 12 year old nieces who I love talking books with. It makes me really proud when I hear about what book they’re reading, or when I am able to recommend a book to them.

Now, I’m in London, and I’m still reading YA (amongst other things, of course – reading ALL the books!), managing to scuttle off to the odd bookish event, and:

I want to write a YA novel.

And, I want to publish them.

Eeeep! xx

paris, je t’aime.

There are ten million things I want to tell you, dear world, but for now, I’ll start with Paris.

I went to Paris for the first time one summery weekend in early May.

I took the Eurostar Friday night, and Gare du Nord was magical. And 30 degrees. Mastering the metro, I took it to Ranelagh station, where my friend Pauline’s apartment was (on the third floor; absolutely beautiful,  with a balcony looking out on the street and French doors letting the evening sun in). She’s an au pair who lives with her host family.

That night, we headed to Trocadero so I could finally see the Eiffel tower.

(By the way guys – the metro is super easy to use. I managed to get from Gare du Nord to Ranelagh in one piece!)

We took obligatory tourist pictures of Mr Eiffel himself, and I ooh’d and ahh’d over how golden he is.  We dodged men selling tiny metallic towers, bottles of water, wine in buckets, and selfie sticks, and made our way to a street of restaurants nearby. Parking ourselves on a table outside of a restaurant on the corner, we ordered wine, snails and our main meals.

We wandered home under the twinkling lights of the Eiffel tower, and everything was magical.

However.

I got ill. I mean, ill. On the metro home, my stomach was in knots. And all night I was back and forth from the bathroom. Definitely not the best way to spend my first night in Paris. My friend’s host father said to me the next morning, passing me in the hallway, “So, was it the snails or the alcohol that did it?”

“Sadly, the snails! It would have been way funner if it was the alcohol.”

That day, I was bed ridden but we managed to escape the house to go strolling in the Parisian sunshine and get gelato. I managed to use all my schoolyard French when ordering it!

That night, I met up with an old friend Marine, who I used to go to high school with in New Zealand. We studied To Kill A Mockingbird together when we were 17, so it was basically the start of an amazing friendship. We caught up together with dumplings and wandering the canals, watching Parisians drinking wine by the canalside and seeing a sense of community.

The next day was my favourite!

The skies were blue as we made our way to the Eiffel tower. We took the steps up to level 2, and it had absolutely stunning views at every step of the way. And guess who we saw on level 2? We casually strolled past Jennifer Garner. Low key, jeans & t-shirt, no make up. I practically brushed shoulders with her! It was great.

We then made our way to Champs-Élysées, and ended our stroll at the Arc de Triomphe. It’s beautiful, but sadly it was closed that day so we didn’t get to climb it.

The Notre Dame was next, and it was hands down my favourite building in Paris. We did the free tour of the church itself which was magnificent – the history is breathtaking and it’s amazing seeing the timeline of the church between when it was first constructed and today. The gargoyles are the best. They are all still there, century after century, guarding their cathedral; grotesque mouths open, tongues out, in the shape of every kind of animal you could imagine.

Then, we signed up for the bell tower tour which had a 2 hour wait. In the meantime, we strolled the canals and found the most amazing book shop – Shakespeare & Company. You probably have heard of it – it’s a must for any book lover travelling to Paris. It’s got poky little rooms, a whole Shakespeare section and any book under the sun that you could possibly want.

We both bought Shakespeare’s sonnets and created the Shakespeare book club on the metro that evening.

Paris was stunning! There were so many things we couldn’t do, such as Montmatre and the Louvre (+ a million things more), but I can’t wait to go back when I am not sick, and when I am able to eat the amazing French food. Next time I go = ALL THE FOOD.

Lou x