Currently reading: all the books

Reading all the books | Wolves in London

I haven’t written a ‘currently reading’ post for a few months. But what I have been doing in that time is reading. A lot. Voraciously, in fact.

When I started to make a list of everything that I’ve read since my last post (about the utterly terrifying Marie Kondo book) I was slightly shocked at the volume. Around 20 books in a couple of months.

There isn’t, of course, time to give you my full, frank review on every single one of these, so instead a brief sentence on each one. A Twitter review, if you will.

And to make things really straightforward, I’ve listed them in the order I most enjoyed them:

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

How did I miss the hype the first time round? Peters out at the end, but brilliant, compelling, sharp, intriguing and fantastically-written. If you somehow also failed to read it when it came out, then do so now…

Twenty thousand streets under the sky by Patrick Hamilton

Epitomises the London of a foggy, cold day. Fabulous, bleak, fascinating, unrelentingly “real.”

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick de Witt

A story about two contract killers in California during the Gold rush. If that doesn’t sound like something you’d ever read, ditto. Read it anyway. I adored the rather literal narrator’s voice and the prosaic catalogue of bizarre events that ensued.

The complete works of Marian Keyes (re-read)

One week I became obsessed with re-reading everything written by Marian Keyes. It’s chick lit for those who (like me) don’t usually like chick lit. Trashy, yes, but also extremely funny and very much un-put-downable.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

She’s a fantastic writer, there’s no doubt, but that couldn’t quite make me ignore the fact I never love a modern re-working of a classic. If you’ve never read Sittenfeld before, then seek out American wife instead, which remains one of my all-time favourite reads.

The stranger’s child by Alan Hollinghurst

I found The line of beauty one of the most over-hyped books I had ever read, but really very much enjoyed this book, Hollinghurst’s fifth novel. Set in five different decades, I vastly preferred the earlier (1913 and 1920s) sections to the modern day ones. But overall, definitely worth a read…

The man of my dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld

Sparks of brilliance, but a slightly unfulfilling plot. See above…

Under the Tuscan sun by Frances Mayes

Practically porn for a property-fiend and Italophile like me. Will almost certainly make you sell your children in order to finance the purchase of a falling down house in Italy.

The versions of us by Laura Barnett

Has been compared to One Day, which seems fair to me. An enjoyable read, but not something I would remember in five years time. A good holiday book.

Oxygen by Patrick Miller

Perfectly readable holiday literature. Almost instantly forgettable.

The Elena Ferrante Neapolitan novels

Page turners, undoubtedly, but I didn’t find them the great literary feat everyone else seemed to. I preferred the descriptions of Naples to the musings on friendship and relationships.

Number 11 by Jonathan Coe

Good god, I thought this was tedious. A “satire” on modern culture (which actually felt especially topical after the referendum), but though I agree with the politics, I found the writing and humour rather schoolboyish. And (*spoiler alert, look away now*) at the very end a giant spider eats all of the bad capitalist conservatives. I kid you not.

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Eating sustainably: three new superfoods

Pullet egg
Pullet eggs: tiny but delicious

Am I alone in having good intentions that frequently outshine my actions? Surely not.

Though I’ve thought (and written) much about our intentions to live as sustainably as possible, in real life, time or cost often win out against worthy ideals.

So, yes, I grow a lot of veg and get a weekly organic veg box, but (whispers it) I also do a monthly online Tesco food shop. Even though I hate Tesco and everything they stand for, without a car we can’t do a regular big shop ourselves and Tesco is currently the only supermarket who will cheerfully deliver to us without plastic bags and carry the crates of food all the way through to the kitchen.

But with our country move delayed, and, with it, plans of a more self-sufficient lifestyle also put on hold for a few years, I am determined to try and be more conscious about the food we consume as a family.

So I’ve done a bit of research into the current trends in sustainable eating! (Because, let’s face it, this is an area of ever shifting sands and ever new heroes. Who can forget the Apprentice acai berry show?!)

And, my goodness, what a lot there was to discover…

  1. Teff

I’ve long been a fan of quinoa, so the promise of Teff, a new “supergrain” from Ethiopia creates a strong lure. The gluten-free seeds, used in place of wheat flour, have been growing in popularity in recent years, even leading the grain teff to be placed at 4 to 1 odds as the next big superfood

Though we’re not a gluten free household, I am aware that almost everything the kids like to consume is packed full of the stuff (pasta, bread, cakes and biscuits making up pretty much the entire list of foods that will be allowed past their lips) and I’m always looking for ways to vary this unending wheat onslaught.

Plus, of course, the promise of a large exporting foodstuffs market in Ethiopia, if managed effectively, would be a huge boon to a nation that is currently on the UN’s list of least-developed countries.*

Teff flour is currently available in the UK from Planet Organic and, in smaller more expensive quantities, from Sainsburys. Expect it to start appearing on the shelves of other supermarkets soon…

  1. Pullet eggs

Did you watch the Jamie Oliver expose on pullet eggs last year on Jamie and Jimmy’s Farm Feast? For anyone who missed it, the short story is that huge numbers of small eggs, known as pullet eggs, are discarded because the supermarkets don’t want to buy them. As with so many things (wonky veg and so on) there is no real rationale behind this – a pullet egg, laid by a young chicken who has only just started making eggs, tastes just as good as a normal sized one and, in fact, the yolk-white ratio is higher so it’s arguably even better! (Read more about it on Jamie Oliver’s website here: eggs and animal welfare.)

I’m quite passionate about this subject for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the farm that Jamie visited is owned by the hubby’s relations, who are just as brilliant and fun as they seemed on TV and do an amazing job of running an organic farm and spreading the message about pullet eggs.

Secondly, since owning our own chickens and watching, with astonishment, when they first started laying these adorable little tiny eggs, I can tell: you they taste bloody brilliant! How anyone could discard such an insanely tasty egg simply because it is a bit smaller than usual strikes me as pure insanity.

Anyway, it is now possible to buy pullet eggs, either direct from The Mac’s Farm in Sussex, if you happen to live close by, or via FarmDrop if you’re London based, and nationwide from Abel & Cole (where they’ve called them “petite eggs”).

  1. Baobab

Surely one of the most iconic sights of Africa, the baobab tree casts such a mythical hold that it’s unsurprising its fruit has gripped public attention. And with health benefits that are seemingly un-ending (it contains more vitamin C than an orange, just for a start) baobab powder has been popular in health food stores for some time now.

In past years, though, baobab production has really taken off, with a number of sustainable initiatives starting in a range of African countries. Many of the organisations involved with the trade of baobab to the west are conscious of the need to address issues of monoculture and deforestation that have been rife with popularity of other crops.

I’m yet to test the baobab and, I have to confess, I remain sceptical about endless health claims from any one food, but with a huge range of baobab foods available in the UK now, I’m going to search out some baobab rich snacks and see if it’s something I can incorporate into my diet. Check out Planet Organic’s range for a huge choice!

*There’s a fascinating article in the Guardian all about teff, and the growing conditions in Ethiopia, here: Move over quinoa

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Five on Friday

White allium | Wolves in London

1.

We’re a household of germs and lurgies this morning. I’ve lost my voice (and feel as if I’ve lost all muscles from my entire body, the amount of work it seems to walk up the stairs), the sproglet has a level of grouchiness that is usually associated with some form of illness, and the hubby is off work with a vomiting bug. Only the littlest has escaped, and remains cheerful, bumbling around the house singing songs to us and occasionally stopping to tell me, with a huge grin on his face, “I grumpy, Mummy, I so grumpy”…

2.

So I’m writing this, curled up on the sofa under a blanket, PJs still on and a roll of loo paper by my side for the constant nose wiping. Actually, if I’m making this all sound miserable, it’s really quite pleasant. The sprogs have just gone off to nursery and the hubby is now having a sleep upstairs and I have that rare moment of quiet and peace in the house, with the companionship of knowing someone else is in.

3.

Apart from all the bugs, work has been on my mind almost constantly this week. Work, or rather, the lack thereof. The sproglet turns four in just over month, marking four years in which I haven’t really done anything that could reasonably be called working. The lack of money, not to mention the lack of identity, has been grating on me these past months. When we applied for additional borrowing on our mortgage for our imminent house move, we were told that we could be lent more if I was taken off the mortgage, and it was in my husband’s name only. We’ve had to do so, house prices round us being so crazy that we couldn’t afford to move otherwise, but it was a real dent to my sense of being an independent, functioning, valuable member of society. And a feminist. Anyway, I could rant for hours about all this (and have done to numerous friends over the past few weeks) but the short result is that it’s made me really want to step up my plans for my own company and push ahead a little faster than I had originally thought.

4.

Luckily, two lovely family members have agreed to hire me to mastermind garden overhauls. I registered my own company last year, but have only done a few (very) small jobs since then, but now I’m ready to crack on with something a bit bigger. For my sister, I’m drawing up a planting plan to bring some colour into her garden (at the moment, she has huge swathes of grass and privet hedging, but not much flora). And my Mum has commissioned me to completely re-design her entire plot, which will be exciting, albeit a challenging task. I’m off to my Mum’s house at the weekend, to carry out a site survey and discuss initial plans with her. Garden design company is go!

5.

Though political, I really hate to discuss politics normally (I’ve spent too many evenings, pressed back against a wall in a gloomy pub with some half-inebriated uni friend aggressively shouting their beliefs at me for hours, oblivious to the fact I’ve said, six hundred times already, that I completely agree with them…) But next week, of course, is a pretty big deal, so I feel compelled to mention that I am, naturally, voting to stay in Europe, for all the reasons that everyone else has said before. The thought of leaving is pretty terrifying to me, but I remain hopeful that, on the day, a general sense of inclusiveness being better than alienation will win out. This time next week, we’ll know for sure.

Joining in with Amy and Five on Friday

East Dulwich in bloom

Last Friday, I took a walk through my local streets, camera in hand, to photograph some nice examples of hard landscaping for my recent garden design assignment.

Does that sound interesting? It wasn’t hugely. I soon found myself photographing roses instead.

Pink rose | Wolves in London

White rose | Wolves in London

Rose bud | Wolves in LondonOver almost every front wall, it seemed, profusions of roses were blooming. Every colour, scent and type imaginable was adorning the streets of East Dulwich.

These are some of the finest…

pink frilly rose white dog rose dog rose

And if you ask really nicely, I might share my hard landscaping photos with you at some point in the future, but in the meantime, here is a photo of a nice bit of sandstone paving, plus cat…

cat

Five on Friday

Path to the beachTall grasses in SicilyNoto cathedralNoto street, Sicily Noto rooftops, Sicily One of my all-time favourite blogs to read is CJ’s Above the River. She’s a brilliant writer, witty and wry, and her glimpses of family conversations never fail to amuse me. I particularly enjoy the weekly Friday posts, joining in with Amy’s series Five on Friday, and thought I would join in myself with a little rambling about five things from the week just been. So here goes…

  1. I discovered a few more photos I’d taken on our Sicily hol in my hubby’s phone this morning. The path and huge grasses lead to a hidden cove, a nature reserve with the most turquoise sea and white sand.  The town of reddish stone is Noto, right down in the southeastern corner of the island, mentioned in passing in our guidebooks and one of the most beautiful towns I’ve ever visited. As we arrived, there was a Vespa parade through the main (pedestrianised) street, accompanied by much horn-honking and cheering. The scooters were all adorned with signs, proclaiming which local Vespa club they belonged to, and there were so many that the whole thing too a good ten minutes to go past us. I longed, once more, to live in Italy always.
  2. The reason the pics weren’t on my own phone, is that it’s properly given up the ghost. 18 months of manhandling by the sproglets has meant my camera is so ingrained with dirt and greasy smears that every photo I take looks as if it’s been sprinkled in sand and a dollop of vaseline. My contract has finally expired and I’m due an upgrade, but am busy debating whether I can really justify adding an extra £20 a month to my phone bill in order to get the massive iPhone 6s. Any thoughts?
  3. Said lack of phone camera has led to an enforced instagram break which, rather to my surprise, I have found completely liberating. I realise that I’d got a bit negatively addicted to instagram, checking it first thing in the morning, constantly scrolling through feeds of artfully styled flowers and floral scissors and Observer guides, and feeling a perennial pressure to be taking photographs as beautiful as those that everyone else seemed capable of. A few months off has been a good breather and I have a determination not to get so sucked back in once I finally return.
  4. I was out on Wednesday night at the launch party for 91 magazine, for which my friend Laura is the deputy editor. I had a lovely time, though had that thing when you’re in a room with lots of bloggers, where you’re not sure if you recognise people’s faces from seeing them online or because you’ve met them before. I swung between wondering if I was being anti-social by not saying hello to more people, or being a bit crazed fan-stalkerish chatting to people who had no clue who I was. Perhaps both at once?!
  5. I’m rather sunburnt as I sit writing this, after spending a day at Capel Manor, Enfield, yesterday, surveying a garden for our next garden assignment. The task ahead of me today is to draw up the plan on the computer, something that hurts my head severely every time. I’m trying to teach myself Vectorworks, the CAD program of choice for garden design, but it’s a slow, complex process, that frequently ends with me shouting at my laptop or slamming it closed in a huff. There is a special sort of rage, I find, reserved for technology that is supposed to make your life easier, but that instead complicates the most basic tasks.

My love for Italy and a trip to Sicily

Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea: the backdrop to pretty much every summer holiday I’ve ever taken

I’m a long term Italophile.

I was first seduced by the charms of Rome at the age of 23, visiting on a long weekend. I was on my own – the first break I’d ever taken solo – which felt both risky, alarming and hopelessly cool at the time.

I fell head over heels for everything: the food, the language, the beauty of the city, the vespas, the fruit market on Campo dei Fiori, the shouting… …and perhaps most of all, Maurizio, the silver fox who owned the apartment in which I was renting a room.

On my last day, he took me out for an alternative tour of the city on the back of his motorbike. We visited the abattoir, set off up Monte Gianicolo and he took me out to supper at one of his favourite restaurants.

As dusk fell, we took a walk through the centro storico and wandered upon a piazza where an open air tango class was taking place. We stood and watched for a while, leaning up against an archway. I started to feel a little nervous as Maurizio leaned closer towards me, butterflies in my stomach telling me that, oh god, perhaps this outrageously hot man 20 years older than me was about to try and kiss me.

Panicked, at the last moment, I walked off, suddenly keen to explore something else on the other side of the square, and the moment passed.

But though I spent the following four months regretting my fear and wondering what might have been (an Italian wedding! Hordes of Italian children! Learning to make pasta from the hands of a master! Etc etc) my love for Italy was well and truly sparked.

A few weeks later, I quit my job in London, and moved to Rome for six months, attending Italian language school in the mornings and wandering galleries, museums, parks and piazzas in the afternoons. *

Balcony in Siracusa
Can you spot the dog on the balcony?
The island of Ortygia in Siracusa
The island of Ortygia in Siracusa
Siracusa
Locals grab even the tiniest spots for a bit of sunbathing

Ever since, I’ve taken any opportunity I can to visit Italy, the most recent trip a fortnight in Sicily, from where we’ve just returned.

Our last Italian jaunt, to Puglia on honeymoon, was rather stressful with the sproglet at a tricky age for travelling, so I’m pleased to report that this trip was – if not relaxing, for what is relaxing with two toddlers – definitely more successful.

This time round, the boys were delighted by the proliferation of pasta, pizza and ice cream, and just as happy to wander round museums, art galleries and ancient ruins as they were playing at the beach. I also dragged them to a fair few gardens, with the promise of playgrounds that rarely materialised. (Not, I hasten to add, a cunning parenting ploy on my part, just an inaccuracy in the guidebooks…)

Cactus
Taormina public gardens

Taormina public gardens

The landscape of Southern Sicily
The landscape of Southern Sicily

They were an absolute fricking nightmare at mealtimes, smashing up tables in the time it would take the food to arrive, but we soon learnt to eat only at restaurants on piazzas where they could run around or at their preferred café on the beach. (“Mum, please can we go to the place where the nice man talks Italian to us and gives us free chupa chups lollies?”)

But, overall, an enjoyable jaunt, marred only by a middle-of-the-night trip to hospital to get four stitches in the sproglet’s chin after he fell out of bed onto the tiled floor one evening.

I took my brand new, incredibly expensive camera lens with me, thinking I was going to get a selection of amazing photos. But on uploading them to my computer at home, I see that almost all are out of focus. So, perhaps luckily for you, I only have these to share with you. They are pretty representative of the whole area we were staying in: bougainvillea dripping over every wall, huge fields of bronzed grass and tall pines, every building a statuesque if crumbling beauty, and the backdrop of the turquoise sea wherever you look.

Taormina
The view from Taormina, Mount Etna in the background
Taormina greek theatre
Ancient Greek theatre in Taormina

Italy: my love for you continues…

*I met up with Maurizio once for lunch – let slip that I had since accrued an English boyfriend and never heard from him again, ha ha. A good lesson about the desires of Italian silver foxes, I suspect…

My kids killed my love of cooking

When I was growing up, as one of four children, being fussy wasn’t an option.

I don’t think it ever really occurred to any of us that we might not eat a meal – we were normally too busy fighting over the seconds. Sure, there was certain food I wasn’t as keen on as other things, but that just meant I didn’t ask for a double portion.

Friends of my parents used to comment on just how much we consumed and I think my Mum was driven slightly insane by the huge supermarket shops and endless requests, Oliver style, for “a bit more, please…”

So I always assumed that my own children would repeat this behaviour. In those pre-spawning days when you’re an absolute expert on childcare, I scoffed at the idea of fussy eating children. Clearly, clearly, it was simply the parents’ fault in one way or other. Giving them alternatives to foods, or allowing them not to eat certain things or perhaps, conversely, getting into a fight about eating certain things. In my house, mealtimes were going to run smoothly. I’d cook something. I’d put it in front of the kids. They’d devour it and ask for more.

I also used to find it amusing that though my sisters and I all love cooking – a skill we all picked up in our Uni years and onwards – my Mum never shared that passion. I didn’t really question why someone might not love cooking after, what, a solid 25 years of preparing meals for all or some of her four children, I just thought it was something in the genes. A little quirky oddity, that meant the love of cooking skipped a generation to land – fresh from Masterchef heaven – in our hearts.

In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that, pre-spawning, I actually thought cooking the evening meal for my children would be one of the highlights of my day. You know, I’d be standing, Nigella-esque, at the oven, whipping up some healthy, organic, delicious piece de resistance while the children – well, I don’t even know what I thought the children would be doing while I happily cooked in the kitchen. Cheerfully helping me, without making a mess? Getting on with some brilliant independent play all on their own? Perhaps writing a great novel, or composing an opera, or working on a cure for cancer. Probably something like that.

And, actually, in the first year of the sproglet’s life, all did go according to plan. I was one of those bloody annoying mothers who did the baby led weaning with the organic vegetables from the weekly Abel and Cole box. Snacks were apples or roasted butternut squash chunks or rice cakes. And everything – everything – for that blissful period between six months and a year, was consumed without question by the pliable sprog. He’d got the memo! I was delighted. And, perhaps, even a little smug.

Corridor to the kitchen
As close as I like to get to the kitchen these days

On his first birthday, I cooked the sproglet his first ever cake. Cupcakes. I thought that – since he hadn’t really had any sugar until that point – he might take it or leave it. I was wrong. He hoovered up three cupcakes within a minute. The next day, we had another party to go to. He refused to eat anything but cupcakes.

And, from that point on, it’s been a steady decline.

Nowadays, at mealtimes, the sproglet will eat three things only: pasta, potatoes and “red sauce.” (Do not ever make the mistake of referring to it as “tomato sauce” or it will not be consumed for some weeks…)

On a really good day, a morsel of broccoli might pass by his lips.

But a hearty, lovingly-prepared chicken stew? Home-cooked steak and kidney pie? Even (and I can never quite wrap my head round this one, since it was a favourite from my childhood) bubble and squeak? No, no, no thank you. Not eating that, thanks, Mum, I don’t like it, can I have something else instead?

And the littlest, who used to be a really excellent eater, has taken to copying his big brother, and developed extreme fussiness of his own.

So, after two years of having everything I ever cook pushed around a plate, shunned and, frequently, thrown to the floor, I somehow find that “genetic” love of cooking has vanished into the ether.

Now I’m that Mum who thinks a cheese sandwich and a bag of crisps is a perfectly acceptable lunch, who is delighted when the littlest eats handfuls of baked beans (beans! They’re vegetables you know!) and who grudgingly re-heats the leftovers from lunch and plonks it back down in front of the kids for supper later on…

So, I’m pretty certain that when they hit 20, my boys will suddenly discover a great zest for cooking and look back at their poor old Mum’s sorry efforts in their childhood with wonder and despair. In the finals of Masterchef 2033, they’ll recreate a “memory of childhood” with a pasta and red sauce vapourised air and joke with a white-haired John and heavily-wrinkled Greg that it was the only dish their Mum could ever cook. As they hold the trophy aloft – the first sibling duo to ever win joint first – they’ll smile with pride and say how they learnt everything they ever knew from the internet.

And then they’ll have kids of their own and a tin of baked beans will, once again, seem like a gourmet delight.

Back! And an update

Blossom

Hello chickens! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? That short break turned into a slightly longer break, but now here I am once again, assignments handed in and all the other bits and pieces that had been keeping me busy are more or less sorted out.

So, what’s been going down round these parts while I’ve been away?

Well, firstly, the long-awaited move. We have, quite literally, been round the houses since I last mentioned all our grand plans for an escape to the country. After all that umming and ahhing about what to do, we decided to put our house on the market and take the leap, buy the dream house in the country and just give it a go and see how it worked out.

But… …no sooner had we accepted an offer on our house than a few changes in circumstances hit us all at the same time, which meant that, actually, it made infinitely more sense to stay in London for another couple of years and we would (hopefully!) be in a good situation to move in time for the littlest to start school in 2018, rather than the sproglet this September. The sprog himself, incidentally, also just got a school place at the absolutely brilliant primary at the end of our road and his nursery is already being amazing about helping make his transition there as easy as possible (he’s a bit shy, bless him), so we feel as if we’ve made the right decision.

So, rather than take the easy option and just stay where we are, we decided to give ourselves loads more work and buy a fixer upper round the corner from us for a bit of extra space, vast amounts of extra money, months spent renting a flat later this year while we do the work and, oh, you know, all the associated hassle of moving house and doing somewhere up. Honestly, it’s the sensible option really. Really.

So we’ve been in the throes of mortgage agreements and booking surveys and replying to solicitors accusations about “wood boring insect infestations” in our current house and all sorts of fun things like that.

In more enjoyable activities, the littlest turned two last week. We had a family trip to the transport museum on the day itself and a family party at the weekend, last Sunday, on what must have been the first truly hot day of the year. It was utter bliss, sitting outside, the sun beating down, the bees bumbling around the flower beds and listening to all the toddlers shrieking in delight at they played with the water table and took endless turns on the brand new slide.

My garden design course continues a(very speedy)pace with endless assignments and deadlines that I struggle to meet. Yesterday I gave a presentation on the incredible Jacques Wirtz, who is best known for his amazing cloud pruned hedges. Here’s a picture for you in case you’re into that sort of thing:

Jacques Wirtz's family garden
© Wirtz International

If you are, do look him up, his work is brilliant and has aspired me anew on the whole garden design career.

We’ve finally bought a couple more chickens to make up for the loss of darling Nero a few months back. So Blanco and Ginger have now been joined by Polka and Dot and the settling in period seems to be fine, so far…

Oh and finally, I’ve really been debating about whether to ever mention this here, but do you remember when I took a trip to Wiltshire last year to look for houses? One thing I didn’t say is that we were actually filming for a TV show, and, ahem, it was on TV last week. Yes, we were some of the hapless non-buyers in Escape to the Country. I have actually been dreading it coming onto TV, convinced that I would be portrayed as a terrible human being, but in fact, it was really fine. Yes, I seem to have a cut glass accent so strong that dogs surely wince when they hear me talking (something I genuinely wasn’t really aware of!) but other than that, I don’t think I came off as a massive douche. And the kids are adorable, of course, in their little spot at the beginning.

I’m not going to go as far as give you a direct link here (I’m a little too embarrassed for that), but if you are interested, we’re in series 16 and it’s the one where Jules Hudson goes to Wiltshire with a “young family”…

Apologies for the serious lack of photos in this post. I’ve really been on a break from everything: blogging, social media, even picking up my camera, so the past month has been completely undocumented. I have to say, it’s been refreshing not reaching for my phone or my camera the minute anything happens. The photo right up at the top is of the morello cherry tree in our front garden, which is stunning at this time of year, heaving with blossom.

Right, phew, that’s about it. Normal blogging service to resume from now on, with more focused and much shorter posts! I hope you’ve all been well in the past few weeks. Roll on summer, roll on more warm weather.

Hiatus

Tulip | Wolves in LondonYou may have noticed I’ve been having a little (unintentional) blogging hiatus recently… A combo of me being unwell, the kids being unwell and then a lot of work for my garden design course has meant I’ve had very little free time on my hands.

And instead of feeling constantly guilty that I should really crack on and get a new blog post up here, I’ve decided to make it an official and just take a little break until things are back to normal.

So, tara for now, but I’ll be back soon once we’re all better rested and I’ve met a few course deadlines…

Til then, enjoy the start of Spring!

Currently reading: Marie Kondo

Currently reading Marie Kondo | Wolves in LondonSo February was the month in which I read that unavoidable book of the moment: Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying.

Are you guys fans? It wasn’t something that had wildly appealed to me but I’d seen so many glowing reviews and “this changed my life”s that I bought it on impulse from the shelf next to the counter in the lovely bookshop in Corsham a few weeks ago.

As I was reading it, three prevailing thoughts entered my head time and again:

  1. The person who has written this book might, quite possibly, be insane.
  2. I can’t believe anyone agreed to publish this book.
  3. I can’t believe that this book has become a runaway success, bought by so many people… …and that one of those people is me!

In case you haven’t read it, you might be wondering how on earth someone could write an entire book about tidying. The answer is: she hasn’t. She’s written a (very short) book about why you should throw away almost everything you own (any possession, in fact, that doesn’t “spark joy”) and then repeated each paragraph about six times throughout the book and then printed it in really really large text.

I don’t think there is much I could tell you about my thoughts on the book that wouldn’t be better illustrated by some actual genuine quotes from the book itself. I was so astonished by so much that I read that I turned down the pages in order to return to these particularly bizarre passages again.

“Clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar in type and therefore organising them by category helps them feel more comfortable and secure.”

“If you are a woman, wear something feminine or elegant as nightwear.”

Have you ever had the experience where you thought what you were doing was a good thing but later learnt it hurt someone? […] This is somewhat similar to the way many of us treat our socks.

“Not long ago, 90 per cent of my thoughts were focused solely on storage. I began thinking seriously about this issue from the time I was five.”

“What do the things in our homes that don’t spark joy actually feel? I think they simply want to leave.”

So, no, it’s safe to say I’m not a fan. I just can’t buy into this whole possessions-have-feelings-too stuff (at one point, she actually tells a story about how her mobile phone, that had been replaced, stopped working after she texted it to thank it for all its hard work in the past, as if it knew it had completed its purpose and decided never to turn on again…) Further, if I followed this method of “tidying” to the letter I would certainly be wandering around semi-naked*.

But, I have to admit that my attitude to my possessions actually has changed since reading this. I’ve started to question why I store so many things “just in case” of x situation arising, when if x situation really arose I would never remember where the thing is and would have to just go out and buy it again.  I do, gulp, intend to apply some of her logic to sorting through all my possessions and having a major de-clutter.

So, insane, yes, ridiculously sexist, yes, but effective? Quite possibly.

*I can genuinely tell you that I not only do not own a single pair of trousers that give me a “spark of joy” but that I positively hate every single pair I do own, since putting on a fair bit of weight in the last year and feeling massively lardy in the leg department. Following Kondo’s orders, I would have to throw out every single pair of trousers and, what? I guess the unspoken suggestion is that I go out and buy a load more. If you’re not swimming in cash that doesn’t seem like a terribly practical way of living…