14 February 2017

A Five-Year-Old's Valentine's Day

Flowers, chocolates, Krispy Kremes and a cheesy card… it’s 100% my thing. Even when I’m single, even when I don’t feel anything for anyone in particular, I love Valentine’s Day. I’ll tell you why.

My story begins on the 14th February 1998. It was a Saturday and I was in my parents’ bedroom when a card was delivered – a card for me! It was from my neighbour and school friend. I was besotted with him and even though he didn’t sign his name I knew it was from him. He had sellotaped a red-foiled chocolate heart to the inside of the card.

“It’s from him. It’s definitely from him,” I said.
“How do you know?” my mum said.
“Because he gave our teacher the same chocolate heart yesterday!”

I had observed that, and even been slightly jealous of our teacher. Now I was beaming.

He had signed it with a big question mark. Guess who?

Then, my sister, Emily, took me to the shop to buy a card and bag of white mice. I hid behind a nearby wall while she posted it through his letterbox, we ran home and it was never spoken of again.


All Valentine’s days since that one in 1998 have been like Christmas. I get an exciting, unexpected, magical feeling of the unknown.

What is the point in Valentine’s Day? Growing up I believed it to be a chance to tell the person you like that you like them without revealing your identity. That was the most exciting part of my first Valentine – the gamble of sending my reply to the right person. Wouldn’t you be thrilled to receive an anonymous love note through your letterbox today?

There are more upfront ways of telling someone you like them, but where’s the fun in that? Even after 36 years of marriage my left-handed dad writes his card to my mum with his right hand, and leaves it by the front door as if delivered by a secret admirer.

There are many other Valentine’s days I could recall, but this was the best, and the precedent for all the rest. I sound like a total dreamer, but it makes me glad I’ll never be someone who doesn’t believe in Valentine’s Day. Aren’t there worse things to be cynical about?



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31 January 2017

The Ox - Clifton, Bristol

Listen up guys and gals – I have some serious news to share. Ok, not serious serious, but seriously good. I have legit just had the best steak of my life. So great it was, that instead of lying down on my sofa with my yuyu and fluffy blanket to soothe the food baby that's growing inside of me, I'm writing this, hot off the press. I am having utterly ridiculous, out-of-this-world, best-steak-ever kind of feels right now. I don't think I'll enjoy any other food ever again.


You might have heard of The Ox if you're from my neck of the woods. If not, it's basically a top notch steak restaurant that opened in Clifton late 2015 (correct me if I'm wrong!) They also serve the "best Sunday roast in Clifton" so, naturally, it's been on my list of places to eat since it opened. A severe case of January blues forced me to get my bum into gear and down to the Clifton restaurant, and, I have to say, it cured my sadness. So, I guess you could say I'll never go vegan.


From start to finish I could not fault my visit to The Ox. The staff were exceptionally welcoming, friendly, professionally trained and knowledgeable about the menu. They recommended what wine to have with which steak, and how best each steak is cooked and served. And, as you can see, the decor was divine, so that made my time there even more enjoyable.


Like every time I visit a restaurant for the first time, I spent most of the day eyeing up the menu. In the end I always go back to what catches my eye first, and this time it was the fillet steak.
Our waitress recommended this to be cooked medium-rare, and it was utter perfection. I had it with their green peppercorn sauce which was incredible, but even on its own the steak was unreal.

I got coerced into ordering dessert, too. I chose the PX rum & raisin affogato, expecting it to come with a shot of espresso (as standard, right?) but it was just the sherry. This turned out to be extraordinarily delicious. Dispersed in the ice cream were these huge raisins, and, with each spoonful, came the warming aftertaste of the sherry. YUM.

Before my visit to The Ox I hadn't been much of a steak person, but now I totally get it. Good quality, responsibly-sourced meat served to this standard is something I wholeheartedly believe in. I felt full and happy – and isn't that exactly how you should at the end of a meal? 

A little on the pricier side, The Ox is a special treat kind of restaurant - for me, anyway! Still, I can't wait to go back again and try some of their other dishes (maybe on my birthday?). Have you been to The Ox? What would you recommend?

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16 January 2017

12 Books for 2017

How are your new year's resolutions going? I have to admit, mine have largely been ignored for the first two weeks of 2017. January always hits me hard, it seems more so each year, but I'm slowly coming out of the fog and reigniting my determination to make some positive changes in my life.

One of my resolutions for 2017 (and for 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013...) is to read more. I feel like I have been making this resolution my whole life, but that's fine – I can never read enough. Twelve books for the year may not sound like much, but when you work a full time job and fit in a social life too (not optional) there isn't much time left for reading.

My bedroom is small, and I've got stacks of books waiting for me. Having recently watched a documentary on minimalism (check it out on Netflix, and thanks to Tania for recommending!) I feel like now is the time to get some things in order. I want to love these books. They will be read.

January

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler
I began reading this in December but didn't get to the end, even over the Christmas period when I had heaps of free time. This book is not what I was expecting but I love the style of writing and its slow pace.

February

Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig
Another half-read book from 2016, Reasons to Stay Alive is one that resonates with so many, I must finish it. Matt Haig writes in such a way that makes me feel like my depression/anxiety is the most normal thing in the world. It's a great eye-opener for anyone who has or hasn't been affected by mental illness.


March

A History of Britain in 21 Women – Jenni Murray
I spotted this at the Cheltenham Literature Festival back in October, and made a note to order it for my best friend, Bethan's, Christmas present. It turns out my mum had the same idea for me and I was so excited to find this in my stocking on Christmas Day.

April

Swing Time – Zadie Smith 
Another Christmas gift (if you're ever gonna buy me a present, a book is always a winner), this time from my best uni pal Chloe. We both adore Zadie Smith, and it's been a good few years since I read anything of hers so I cannot wait to get stuck into Swing Time.

May

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – Dave Eggers
Ahh, Eggers, my old friend. It's been a while. Four years, in fact. I'm a huge fan of Eggers' work, so to think I've had this book on my shelf since my uni days and not finished it is abominable. I will read this work of fiction/non-fiction (who really knows) from start to finish in May – my birthday month!

June

Yes Please – Amy Poehler 
I still don't really know who Amy Poehler is, or what she stands for, but I have seen numerous recommendation for Yes Please pop up all over the internet, and I found this book in Rise for £3(!) so obviously I bought it. I feel like this will probably be quite an easy, holiday read – perfect for June.


July

NW – Zadie Smith
When I saw this had been made into a TV adaptation I knew I had to read NW (anyone else feel like they have to do it in that order?) 

August

Quiet Power – Susan Cain
Fellow introverts, take note. If you're a long-time reader of my blog you'll know I am a huge fan of Susan Cain and her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. It's not just for us quiet ones, either, but a breath of fresh air in this overcrowded world, and I have high hopes for her follow-up, Quiet Power.


September

Thank God it's Monday – Mark Greene
Our viewpoint on work is quite narrow. You're either expected love your job or you hate it, and that's the end of it. Mark Greene explores faith in the workplace in a series of books I have been meaning to read for a good three years (are you beginning to see a pattern here?) and at a time in my life when I'm beginning to wonder exactly what direction I want to take my career in, Thank God it's Monday seems like a good place to start.


October, November & December

The Lord of the Rings trilogy – J R R Tolkien 
A 23rd birthday gift from an old flame, and such a beautiful edition, too, I am saving this trilogy for my favourite time of year. As the days get shorter I'll be more inclined to spend evenings at home, and when it's dark I need escapism – something I am sure LOTR will provide.

As much as being around people is good for my mental wellbeing, so is switching off and fully falling into a book. The effect a good book can have on me is so wonderfully relaxing I don't know why I don't force myself to do it more. I'm all about that instant gratification and it can be so hard to ignore the buzz we get from interactive technology, of always being connected to something. I'm afraid to be alone, but maybe this year I should learn to love what's good for me.

What are your books for 2017? Have you read any of the above titles? My aim is to read all 12 of these before the year is out but if you have any recommendations for extra reading please send them my way!
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