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Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa

We are all guilty of not looking after ourselves. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a thousand times, we have not been raised as a generation of people for whom taking time and giving yourself a bit of self care has been an innate part of our routine. We have to really force ourselves to take the time we need and really, truly relax. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, so when I was offered the chance to go and hang out at Bedford Lodge Hotel and Spa for 24 hours, I practically had my bags packed before we’d even set a date.

Tucked away in the Newmarket countryside, about an hour out of London, the Bedford Lodge Hotel is a 4* Hotel with a luxury spa just over the way. You never really think about it until you have to, but having been diagnosed with breast cancer has an impact on being able to enjoy a lot of things, long after you’ve finished treatment, and that includes having spa treatments. Many practitioners are apprehensive about giving treatments to those who have been diagnosed with cancer and often refuse to do so, but over the last few years “Wellness for Cancer” centres have been popping up all over the country, allowing those who’ve had a cancer diagnosis to be able to enjoy a range of treatments, regardless of those mutated cells that tried to kill ’em.picmonkey-collageBedford Lodge is one of those “Wellness for Cancer” centres, so I was invited along to try out its facilities and lemme tell you, this is one of the best things I’ve been asked to do for my blog so far. As soon as I arrived, I immediately slipped into relaxation stations. It was midweek. I was alone. I had absolutely nothing to do and no-one to answer to. My main objective was to try and shake off the busy few weeks I’d had and I planned to do as little as possible.

After checking in to the hotel, I made my way across the courtyard to the Spa. The facilities at Bedford Lodge are extensive – there’s a steam room, a sauna, two “experiential” showers with different settings, an open air hottub on the roof and an incredible hydrotherapy pool. I made sure to try all of them out (more than once).

I was also given the opportunity to try the Bowen Technique treatment – a non-invasive remedial therapy which uses only the thumbs and forefingers to apply very gentle pressure to certain points throughout the body. It’s kind of hard to judge the efficacy of the Bowen Technique treatment having only been able to experience the one, but it was interesting to try something so unique.

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The other great thing about the Bedford Lodge Hotel, gorgeous spa aside, is that it’s home to a pretty incredible restaurant, Squires. Clearly created with food lovers in mind, this restaurant offers the same high quality food you’d expect to find in London, but nestled away in the middle of the countryside. I sat down to a three course dinner with high hopes and I was not remotely disappointed. I tucked into melon and parma ham to start, followed by cod and chorizo with squid ink risotto and finished off with “textures of apple” – a dessert so decadent I felt like I was a Masterchef restaurant critic.

Overall my stay at the Bedford Lodge was the perfect antidote to city living in the aftermath of cancer. It gave me an enforced opportunity to slow down and listen to my body, even though these things combined to remind me my body is still healing. But whether you’ve had cancer or you’re just looking to get out of London for a memorable spa break, I can heartily recommend the Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa

DISCLOSURE: I was a guest of the Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa, invited by their PR Company to do a review, but I wouldn’t be blogging about this place if I didn’t think it was worth its salt. 

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Confession Time

I couldn’t decide whether to quote Usher or the Foo Fighters to start this post. But in the words of my beloved Dave Grohl, I’ve got another confession to make.

As open as I have been with you about my experience of breast cancer, I haven’t been entirely honest with you about certain other aspects of my life. I’ve alluded to what I’m about to tell you, but I’ve never actually written it down for the world to see in a way that is quite so frank. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing this post for a very, very long time, even before I got my cancer diagnosis, but I never really found the strength to actually go through with it.

Now I’ve written that paragraph, it feels like I’ve built this whole thing up too much. Because what I’m about to tell you isn’t really that big a deal. It’s a big part of who I am and it’s a part of who I have always been, pre, peri and post cancer. It’s a thing that lots of people know about me, but it’s also something I have tried to keep hidden for a big part of my life. So here we go.

I’M ACTUALLY AN ALIEN. No. That’s a lie. That’s not my “big reveal”. Truth be told chums, I’m standing here with my hands up, my defences down and I’m telling you that, for most of my adult life, I have lived with depression. A depression sometimes so crippling, I can barely put a pair of socks on. A depression so severe that sometimes the whole world looks grey – like every millimetre of colour has been extracted, never to be seen again. A depression so strong that I have, at times in my life, looked in the mirror and genuinely not known the person looking back at me (and I’m not even talking about when I was bald, fat faced and boobless). Sometimes, I am so anxious I can’t even decide what to buy for tea because I’m overwhelmed by fear of what might happen if I pick the wrong thing. I take antidepressants. A little dose of a little tablet, every single day to help me not be swallowed by the black abyss. I have had cognitive behavioural therapy. I have had counselling. I am due to have more cognitive behavioural therapy, ‘cos the work I was doing on that was somewhat derailed by that time I got cancer.

Despite all that, I like to think I’m still a pretty highly functioning individual. That I get shit done and when I’m not in the grip of the shadows, that I have a pretty sunny disposition. It took me a long old time to realise that a) my feelings about the world weren’t necessarily the same as feelings other people experienced and b) that I needed to get some help, before the big dark hole I’d found myself in swallowed me whole. And by Christ am I glad I took help for those things before I got diagnosed with breast cancer at 26. I mean, that’s a bit of a shitter for a person who hasn’t battled with their mental health, let alone someone who has seen the darkest depths of their own brain.

It occurred to me recently that I’ve been so very, very honest about dealing with my breast cancer diagnosis and all of it’s related treatments, it’s ridiculous that I’ve hidden this part of myself away. I’ve openly talked to you guys about VAGINAS for goodness’ sake, but I have been ashamed of the fact that my brain isn’t wired quite right. I’ve been afraid of people judging me and dismissing me as someone who’s just looking for another excuse to bang on about themselves. But the thing is, there are so many people like me. So many people who know all too well the horrible feeling of awakening and feeling sick at the prospect of trying to make your way through another day when you feel like you’re wading through treacle. And so many of us feel ashamed and afraid of talking about these things. And that has to change. So many people are dying because they can’t talk about this illness. I never would have dreamed of keeping the fact I had breast cancer from people I loved. So why do I hide depression? Because of stigma? Well, the only way to change that is to stand up and be counted. So here I am. I am one of the 1 in 4. And I’m going to start talking about it.

ANYWAY. The crux of this post is that I’m working on something I’m really excited about at the moment and I wanted to be up front and honest with all the people who read my blog, so that when I let you know about this new project (hopefully sooner rather than later) you won’t be blindsided by the fact that I’m all too familiar with getting a case of the blues. I’m really hoping that this new project will prove to people that even when living with depression or going through a traumatic health scare, or having to deal with both at once, it’s possible to find light in the darkness, you’ve just got to remember where the light switch is. To paraphrase Dumbledore.

God I wish I was as cool as JK Rowling.

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The Shine Theory

Friendship is a funny old thing, isn’t it? I mean, you essentially pick a person and then decide that you want to hang around with them and do things with them. When you think about it in the most basic of terms, every time you begin a relationship, you’re essentially going “oh. Yeah, ok. You’re a person I’d like to do stuff with. You’re a person I think I can be my most weird with, you’re a person who I reckon can deal with my shit. And I’d really like to be a person who deals with your shit too.”

I completely believe that no man is an island. The human nature encourages us to be part of a village. Even those who are notoriously selfish crave companionship in one form or another. Your village doesn’t have to be particularly big, nor does it have to be made up of people you see all the time. My village is spread out all over the world. But finding and curating a group of people who you can share your life with is, I think, integral to living a happy life.

Growing up, many of us made questionable choices about who to spend our time with. While we were trying to figure ourselves out, many of us made friends who weren’t particularly good people to be around. That’s not to say we were all hanging round with people who tried to get us to smoke weed or drink alcohol or steal cars – just that maybe the people we were choosing to spend our time with didn’t allow us to be our best selves. As we grow older, I think we get better at figuring out what sort of people we respond best to, what sort of people help us grow and be better and learn more about the world and our own lives.

I was reminded of something the other day that I had long since forgotten had a name. You might have heard of it too, or it might have passed you by, but there’s a theory that, as women, we thrive when we surround ourselves with other brilliant women. It’s called the Shine Theory and it’s something I think all women need to be reminded of.

Women are so often pitted against each other, in love, in life, in work, that we’re practically programmed to forget just how brilliant it is to exist in a world where women bolster each other up, rather than rip each other down. Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look bad – in fact often we find that being around successful and intelligent women makes us more successful and intelligent too. Their shine makes us shine.

But the Shine Theory isn’t just limited to careers and professionalism either. There are people I know who are the very best kind of people and they make me want to be better, to do better with my life. All of my friends have qualities which I can learn a lot from. There are people who volunteer for amazing charities, people who spend their time improving the lives of a generation of younger people, I know some people who are absolute career badasses but without compromising the fact that they’re really bloody nice people (NB: you do not have to be a dick to succeed in business. This is a MYTH we are fed to make up for people who are shitty when they’re successful).

Here’s the thing though. We live in a society where we, as a human race, but particularly women, are told how to be, how to look, how to feel and what to do with our lives. We’re told that we should constantly be striving to “bag the man” “get the job” or “take down the competition” so we forget all of the incredible lessons and skills and experiences we can learn and gain from actively seeking out successful people to surround ourselves with.

Do you know what’s funny though? We’ve all been both sides of the shine theory coin before, we’re just often guilty of not recognising that other people think we are being shiny – we just see the shine in other people.

I’m not suggesting that the next time you go to a networking event, you follow the keynote speaker around asking them if you can be friends, but I’m just saying that we should’t shy away from the opportunity to see the shine effect in action. It’s time we, as a tribe of women, as a village of people, started making friends with those who might give us a feeling in the pit of our stomachs like we aren’t enough. Because we are enough and doing this can bring an end to  the female competition that the patriarchy has forced us into living.

Because you know something, our shine will make them shine right back too. And it’s not just a reflection.

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Aftermath

I’ve been trying very hard to concentrate on moving forwards recently. I’ve been distracting myself with work and a wedding and love and all of the great things that have been going on in my life, but sometimes the darkest bits of cancer creep in when I don’t want them to, and it’s a case of no longer being able to escape it.

I’ve been so open about my experience . From writing here on my blog, to writing for Red magazine (out next month – exciting and terrifying), deciding to take part in the Breast Cancer Care fashion show and all of the press that entails, preparing for my first Boobettes talk and taking my top off to be photographed for a national magazine (New!) half naked with the artist formerly known as boob hanging out for all to see. I do all of these things because I think it’s important to raise awareness of the reality of cancer for younger women. I do all of these things because I think it’s important to spread the message. I do all of these things, but sometimes it comes at a bit of a cost.

My mental health has always been volatile and in the aftermath of cancer this hasn’t changed. It has neither got worse, nor improved. I’m perpetually hard on myself for everything in my life. I spend a lot of my days consumed with anxiety and warding off dark thoughts that often pervade my sunny exterior – but often only when I close the front door and find myself at home, in my safe place. And talking about all of these cancer type things, and living in the midst of all of these things is so important for the mental healing I’m working on, but it’s also sometimes completely overwhelming. Yesterday I cried for the first time in a while. I cried because I’d eaten too many chocolate fingers. I cried about cancer, I cried about the fact I only have one breast, I cried out of fear for the future, I cried for all the other people in the world I know and love or have spoken to who are going through cancer treatment or have been through cancer treatment. I cried for all of the women in the world who have developed secondary breast cancer and know that ultimately, the disease I have survived for now, will kill them. I cried out of sheer exhaustion.

Because even on the days when I’m sunny and shiny and positive, I’m constantly fighting being tired. Cancer treatment makes you tired for a long time after it has finished. I’m also constantly fighting a battle in my head. I’m embarrassed that I’m still so tired, even though treatment finished six months ago. I feel like a failure when I see other people who’ve been through treatment or are going through treatment smashing life, doing all of the great things, without being shackled by a need to hit the hay at approx 9pm every night. I think “I should exercise more, I should eat better. I should try not having as much sugar. All of these things would help me”.

Should. That word should, I think, is the curse of our generation. It’s what makes us apply unnecessarily high amounts of pressure to ourselves, meaning who we are is squashed under a weight of expectation that is preventing us from being who we really are.

I’m frustrated that I’m not right and fine and back to normal again. But what even is normal, you know? And the “normal” I was before cancer (actual LOL) is a normal I can never go back to. You can’t go backwards to who you were yesterday without going through cancer, so how on earth do I expect myself to go backwards to who I was before my body tried to kill me? Apparently, in true Alice fashion, I’m expecting too much of myself and I’m being hard on myself when I don’t meet my own expectations. But what’s that about? DUDE. Stop it. You’ve had a pretty tumultuous 18 months. And even if you hadn’t, why are you expecting yourself to be some kind of superhero? In the words of Jessie J, and many before her, it’s ok not to be ok.

I think the pressures we experience as a result of living in the world we live in, make us all guilty of expecting too much of ourselves, and that hasn’t changed for me, just because I have had cancer. It’s not worse, it’s not better. It’s just different. Life in the aftermath of cancer is a whole different kettle of fish but with the same old challenges of life before cancer even crossed my mind.

I’m taking the day today. I’m staying in bed for a while. I’m not going to check my emails. I’m going to try and stay off social media (not in the least because I don’t want to be inadvertently exposed to whoever was kicked off Bakeoff last night). All of the work I have to do today is done. I’m going to recharge and replenish, because that’s what my soul needs.

If that’s what your soul needs, I recommend you do it too.

I want to be fine. I want to be great. I want to have put cancer behind me and moved on. But it doesn’t work that way. I need time. That time might be weeks, months, it might be years. Decades. I just have to accept that’s what I need.

I’m pretty lucky, but if you know someone who has gone or is going through cancer treatment, ask them how they are. Really ask them. Look them square in the face, tell them you’re ready to listen, and get them to talk to you about their feelings. Even if you can’t understand, and I hope you are never able to understand, because understanding comes at a big cost, ask them. It’ll be good for them to talk. Because you can almost guarantee they’re feeling a bit lost, a bit overwhelmed, a bit tired and a bit like they need a hug. But they will almost never ask for it, for fear of feeling like a burden.

Oh. And I got married a few weeks ago. That was nice. This guy is pretty great, you know. I’m thankful for him every single day. But don’t tell him I told you.

Writing About Cancer

I read a really great article not so long ago by Caroline Crampton, a journalist who had cancer when she was younger. She said she had made a conscious decision not to become a cancer writer, because cancer was part of her past, not part of her present. She said she felt that there we so many other people out there who wrote about cancer so eloquently, she didn’t want to add her voice to the choir – they were all doing it so well, she hadn’t felt the need to participate until the NHS England announced cuts, preventing blood cancer patients from getting second stem cell transplants changed (read about that here).

This article got me to thinking, not just about the fact that we need to make this kind of treatment available to those who need it, but about my decision to write about my cancer diagnosis, treatment and the aftermath.

I hugely respect Caroline’s decision not to write about her cancer. It was literally never a question for me that I would do it, but there were times when I wondered if putting it out there was a terrible mistake. While I’ve been incredibly keen to keep other aspects of my life and my health out of my blog, writing about cancer became my way of processing things. Often times I sat down with my phone, my laptop or a scrap of paper and I’d find myself reliving part of my treatment in tears. Tears which, when retelling the story, with an alternative perspective, I allowed to come out. My incredible counsellor tells me that telling the story in a way in which other people can understand it is a huge part of the healing process.

I made the decision to put this all in the public domain because I was in the fairly privileged position of having a platform on which I could do that and I felt that if something good could come out of my shitty experience, I’d be glad to do it. I didn’t know that it would.  I I felt that it might. I’ve heard from people who’ve found a bit of solace in my words when they were going through a tough time and my blog brought my wonderful friend Kate into my life under decidedly shitty circumstances. Those things made it worth me writing about cancer.

But then I think about my future. I want to be a writer. I love to write. But I don’t want to become a cancer writer. A person who writes solely about cancer. I shouldn’t need to. The tumour has gone. I’m still here and I’m alive. What can I write about other than cancer? How can I create space for the other things I know about and understand and how can I prove myself to be an authority on them, when so much of my life is still mixed up in Cancer-town? How can I persuade people that my words are worth reading?

My career has undoubtedly changed course as a result of my cancer diagnosis and this blog has given me a portfolio of work which, I hope, shows that I’m alright at putting a sentence or two together. That I can do so in a way which is interesting and engaging and hopefully sometimes funny and moving but I still find myself wondering how I can grow and develop. Now that cancer is in my past, what can I write about moving forward? How can I actually say cancer is in the past, when it never bloody is? What can produce the same passion and determination and drive that writing about cancer did? What can I write about that won’t make people go “OHMYGOD IS SHE NOT OVER THAT WHOLE CANCER THING YET?” *nb – no one has actually said that but it’s a genuine concern that I’m just boring everyone to tears.

The answer is that I truly don’t know. I have my fingers in some pies (as one should have often – literally and metaphorically) and I’m trying to move forward but it’s hard to know where to go.

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Tumour Has It

A letter dropped through our postbox this morning. From the NHS. Addressed to me. I presumed it would be about my impending appointment to pop along and see my surgeon and have my new medical photographs taken (as weird and as funny as it sounds). Alas, it wasn’t an appointment about my boobs this time. It was a letter to tell me it’s time to go and have my cervix checked out.

Women aged 25 to 49 in the UK are invited for cervical screening every three years, but recent information released by Jo’s Cancer Trust have shown that one in three women aren’t attending their regular check ups. Whether is through busy-ness, or fear or apathy, I’m not sure, but one thing I am sure about is that we need to get out of the habit of putting things like this off.

Right now, I can literally think of nothing worse than having a test for cancer and having to wait until the results come back. I’m still pretty traumatised from all of the drama I had when the assisted conception team tried to get my coil out before I started treatment to protect my fertility in case chemo ravaged it completely. I won’t go into details cos it’s a story for another time, but all I will say is they spent about 50 mins trying to get it out, and failed. While I was reminded of the chapter in Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues “Because He Liked to Look at It” it was not a pleasant experience for anyone, least of all me.

So yeah. I get that revealing your lady parts to a doctor is not a particularly nice thing to have to do but, and I understand that having a test for cancer can be a bit scary and a bit overwhelming –  but it is imperative. And actually it’s not all that bad. Sounds like a stupid thing to say but the more relaxed you are, the easier it is. It’s a bit uncomfortable but it’s much, much better than the alternative.

According to Jo’s Trust “cervical screening is 80–90% reliable and can prevent 60–80% of cervical cancers. This means that seven out of every 10 cases of women who would have developed cancer of the cervix can be prevented.” Sounds like a pretty useful tool to me. And it’s like always say when I’m talking about checking your boobs, knowledge is power. You owe it to yourself to get checked out, because a healthy cervix is a happy cervix, right?

I recently met a pretty special lady called Karen. Karen and I are both part of an organisation called Trekstock, and we’re both lucky enough to be in the group of people classed as “young adults with cancer”. I know right, what an awesome and elite group to be part of!

Karen was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014, aged 25. Since her diagnosis and treatment, she’s dedicated a lot of her time to raise awareness of cervical cancer and gynaecological disease. At the moment, Karen’s doing this through her one-woman comedy show Tumour Has It. As we speak, she’s up in Edinburgh performing this show to the masses at The Fringe. Billed as an “honest and hilarious tory of her cervical cancer extravaganza” told “through comedy, storytelling and a poem to Svetlana the Tumour”.

But Karen wants MORE. And I want MORE for Karen too. She’s determined to keep telling her story to new audiences and has turned to Crowdfunding in an attempt to raise enough money to keep her show going around the country when she gets back from Edinburgh. She needs £££ for venue hire, production costs, marketing and promotional materials (including a badge that says the word “vagina”). Her target is £7000 by 26th August.

Here’s a little to do list of things it’d be great if you could think about doing off the back of this post.

  1. BOOK YOUR SMEAR TEST. ATTEND YOUR SMEAR TEST WHEN CALLED FOR SCREENING
  2. Go and see Karen in Edinburgh if you’re there*
  3. Remember that a healthy cervix is a happy cervix, and help Karen raise awareness of cervical cancer and gynaecological disease with her show by helping her Crowdfunding Campaign. There’s a video all about it right here. Find out more about the show on Facebook.

I saw “No More Stage 3”, a comedy show by Alistair Barrie about his wife’s run in with breast cancer the other week and at the close of the show he said “Always keep laughing. Because if you stop laughing, you stop living, and then the cancer has won”. This is very true and applies as much to Karen’s show as it did to Alistair’s. It’s also just a really good motto for life. You can swap out “cancer” for other words including “depression” “terrorists” “Conservatives” etc.,

I’m off to book my smear appointment right now, fear be damned.

*Another of my friends Katie Brennan is at Edinburgh Fringe as well, performing her show Quarter Life Crisis, so go see that too, yeah? Because I can’t and I’d like to live vicariously through you. K, thanks.

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Food for the Soul

I’m a firm believer in doing nice things for yourself. Sometimes I buy myself flowers if I’m feeling a bit low, or I’ll drag myself through a couple of sun salutations if my body is feeling heavy and tired. When my mind is clouded, I’ll try and get out for a run, in the hopes feeling my heart beat faster and feeling my lungs stretch beneath my rib cage will help me figure out what’s going on in my brain. But for my whole life, the solace I have found in reading offers my soul hearty and healthy food like nothing else.

Reading is my sanctuary and always has been. My family joke that one day I’ll have so many books the walls will start to fall in, but until then, I’ll keep buying books and devouring them a page at a time. And I’ll keep noticing and being grateful for the way they impact on my life long after the last page has been turned.

I found comfort with Harry Potter when I was sick. When my brain was too tired to take in the intricacies of a new story, I pulled Harry Potter from the shelf and put the words on like they were a warm and familiar coat. I barely had to read the words to know what was happening, and returning to them in my chemo-addled state was like coming home after a long time away. JK Rowling’s words offered me safety and a chance to escape from what was going on around me that I’d never truly needed before.

The words of Mary McCarthy in The Group and Marilyn French in the Women’s Room helped me establish a big part of who I am as a woman, a reminder of what people went through before I was even part of someone’s imagination. After reading these, I went through a stage of reading fiction set in 1960’s America, demolishing Revolutionary Road and Light Years, then moving on to London pre and peri-war fiction in Norman Collins’ sprawling novel London Belongs to Me and Patrick Hamilton’s three part 20,000 Streets Under the Sky. These make up some of my favourite books of all time – and any time anyone asks for a book recommendation, they’re the first I turn to.

A Little Life; Where’d You Go Bernadette; We The Drowned; The Blind Assassin; The Secret History; The Goldfinch; The Luminaries; The American Wife; White Teeth; Americanah, We Need to Talk About Kevin; My Friend Leonard; The Goldne Notebook; The Belljar. All of these and so many, many more have stayed with me long after I’ve returned them to the shelf.

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I get anxious if I’m reading a book I don’t enjoy. If my soul doesn’t have a place to rest, it gets fractious and I feel consistently on edge if I can’t sink into the paragraphs of something that makes my body and brain a better place to be.

While fiction offers me a kind of quieting, non-fiction grants me a view from a different perspective. Though I wanted to, I couldn’t get on board with the essays of Marina Keegan in The Opposite of Loneliness, whose talent was unfairly cut short. I felt it was clear that she hadn’t reached the level she really could have done with just a few more years – and the fact that she hadn’t been able to reach her potential left me on edge. Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist (current read) offers me a chance to examine someone else’s truth – someone whose life has been so very different to mine – and have it impact the way I carry out my day-to-day. Reading Girl Up by Laura Bates, about 10 years too late, made me wish someone had been able to hand me a manifesto for living like that when I had been 16. How different would my approach to my late teenage years have been if I had a bible like that leading the way? How much sooner would I have found myself comfortable saying “I am a feminist” had a writer like Bates given me the understanding and the permission I thought I needed to do so? I can’t wait to read Ctrl Alt Del by Emma Gannon when I’ve reached it in my “to read” pile and I’m building up to reading When Breath Becomes Air. Bryony Gordon’s Mad Girl is somewhere in transit on it’s way to me as we speak.

I tried to join a book club once. It didn’t go well. I didn’t like anything we read. I was critical of the characters (I just didn’t care about them), I was critical of the writing (I’m really judgemental, OK?!), I was critical of the storylines (I found them tiresome and dull). Then I recommended stuff that I loved and everyone else hated. I learned that probably, I should sometimes keep my opinions to myself, and, while sharing literature is one of my absolute favourite things, I also realised I’m a much better solitary reader than I am at reading in a pack.

Words have such an incredible power and this power is so often undervalued and underestimated. I’m reminded of that old expression “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” and I think this is naive and simplistic. Words can hurt and they can move and they can create and they can provide support and show passion and tell stories that have been previously silenced. Words are powerful and I never underestimate my privilege to be able to pick up a book and read it, let alone enjoy it.

So I want to talk more about books and words and what I’m reading. So…stand by, I guess.