On music and photography

Untitled

The lupus flare continues. Reading is a struggle. Even harder is conversation. It’s taken me a week to write this post. Being coherent is tough.

When I’m in a flare the things I enjoy doing are heavily restricted. I can watch TV and films if they’re plot-heavy and/or on the silly side, but I can’t concentrate enough for slow, serious or complicated (Brooklyn Nine Nine for the win!). I find social media overwhelming and really only check into Twitter regularly for the cute animal photos and videos. I can listen to podcasts for short periods but I lose concentration easily.

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July 2018 reading round-up

Reading woman (portrait of artist's wife) by Ivan_Kramskoy
Reading woman (portrait of artist’s wife) by Ivan Kramskoy, 1863.

This has not been my most prolific reading month, and it might be my worst month yet for reviewing the books I read. But on the plus side I really enjoyed them all.

My lupus has been flaring, so I have watched a lot of junk TV. But I have squeezed in some “high culture” too. We went to see An Ideal Husband at the Theatre Royal in Bath, which was a lot of fun. It was a transfer of one of those West End productions with an all-star cast and generally I don’t find them to be as good as the star-free plays I see more often, but there is a certain pleasure in seeing famous faces up close.

I also watched the Netflix special everyone’s been talking about: Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette. It is genuinely brilliant. It’s funny and upsetting, smart and different.

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2018 – the halfway point

Emily, Countess of Kildare

It’s a few weeks late, but the end of June seems like a good point to review my reading so far this year. I read 39 books in the first half of 2018, but the overall number isn’t really what matters to me. How am I doing on my reading goals?

Of those 39, I’ve read 13 books by men, 24 by women and two by multiple authors. 12 have been works in translation – two per month, my best rate yet! Six of those were translated from Japanese, so the holiday clearly had a good influence. Our next holiday will be in Italy, so you may see some Italian translations added to that list before long.

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Reading round-up June 2018

The heron and the Mastaba

My stack of books that I have read and not reviewed is threatening to topple over and crush me, I am so behind. But we have been getting out and about. I love how summery it’s been for so long already now. Even if the sun is really not good for me, I can’t help but enjoy the blue skies, the long light evenings, the urge to get out and do things.

Speaking of which, this month we have been to London (again) to see Hamilton – which we loved enough that I now have a new album to play on rotation with Janelle Monáe (with whom I have been obsessed all this year). We also went to the Forest of Dean to visit my Dad and Grandad on Father’s Day. We visited Tim’s family on their farm – which is bountiful with food at this time of year. We saw art and we hung out in parks.

My favourite read this month – by some way – was The Radium Girls, a disturbing true story recounted expertly by Kate Moore. But I did read a lot this month and a lot of it was great. Roll on July!

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Wasting time vs quality time

Lately I’ve read quite a few books but I haven’t found time to review them, partly because I’ve been prioritising other things in my evenings and weekends. (Partly because I have been exhausted from working a lot of hours.) And reflecting on that has got me thinking about the choices I make.

I know that the ways that I spend most of my leisure time – watching TV, hanging out in pubs, doing crosswords, playing computer games, reading books – might be considered time-wasting, particularly the TV. But another way to look at is it that most of that time is spent with Tim and he’s my partner, my family, so surely that’s quality time. Yes, even watching TV together. Perhaps especially that – we laugh together, discuss plot points, get annoyed or scared or sad together.

This weekend we had intended to go to on a couple of day trips but I was tired, so instead we have mostly been playing games, or rather one specific game: Civilization VI. Civ has been part of our relationship since the start, in its various iterations. When I was a student we would lose days on end to playing it but it has been several years since we last did this. We are effectively telling a story together, making decisions that are both life-or-death and completely meaningless. It’s really a lot of fun.

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Reading round-up May 2018

Teenage girls are our future

Oof. I have not read much this month. Or at least, I haven’t finished many books. I have started at least three books I haven’t finished and possibly won’t ever finish. Maybe I’ll blog about those another time.

We had two fab weekends away in London, enjoying sunshine, music, art, time with friends and some spectacular thunder and lightning. This month’s highlight was seeing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs perform last Friday. I love them so much and they were on top form.

We also visited the South Bank Book Fair under Waterloo Bridge for the first time in years. I used to go there fairly often. It was always pricey and skewed towards maps and antiquities, but books! Tim found a collection of SF short stories edited by Harry Harrison. I found a novel by Yukio Mishima. We went to a bar on a balcony over the Thames and cracked open those books over a drink and a snack. It was beautiful.

Roll on June.

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Run, stop, lupus

Adam, Mum and me

Once again this year, my Mum talked me into running the Bristol 10k, so I have been training since mid-January. It did not go smoothly. There was snow and ice, injury, busy periods at work tiring me out and then before I knew it my old enemy reared its head: summer.

There is a good reason that May is Lupus Awareness Month in the USA. These long hours of daylight and higher UV levels can come as a surprise, especially on cloudy or wet days. I always have a lupus flare-up in May. Which made me wary of the Bristol 10k’s date of 13 May.

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Reading round-up April 2018

CC0 Thought Catalog

I ended my month by going to a friend’s book launch. I am very proud, and impressed, by Lizzie’s dedication to becoming a poet. So I’m going to start my April round-up by recommending that you all go out and buy In Her Shambles by Elizabeth Parker. Look out for my review of it soon.

This month I also went to the Bristol Old Vic production of A Streetcar Named Desire. I had never seen a stage production of this play before, only the Vivien Leigh film, and it was terrific. Funny, disturbing, full of heat in every sense. Many thanks to my friend T for inviting me along.

As always happens with those first glimmers of summer, my lupus is flaring a little, so I am watching a lot of films and TV and not reading many books. But it will pass. And the month’s reading started off strong.

How was your April?

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Reading round-up March 2018

photo of The Gurugu Pledge and a chocolate egg

I am currently halfway through my Easter read-a-thon and bang on schedule: I’ve finished three of the six books I’m hoping to read before the end of Monday. But I am also full of cold and feeling a little rubbish, so the Netflix and Youtube breaks have been getting longer…

Much like this bank holiday weekend, March as a whole has been a mixed bag. It snowed twice, which was pretty but the one time we went out in it further than the local park I twisted my ankle. And that meant I didn’t run for almost a whole month, which makes me worry a little bit about that pesky 10k race in six weeks’ time.

On the plus side we did an awesome gyoza cooking class arranged by a local cafe called Eatchu last weekend and now our freezer is full of tofu, mushroom and spinach dumplings. Surprisingly it seems to be the cooking them part that is defeating us so far but that might be because they require a 100% non-stick pan, not ones where not only the non-stick but all the materials appear to be peeling off in places. I think we need new frying pans.

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