Belonging to a Book Group

There’s something very special about being ‘part’ of something. Work, family, blogging, school gate chatter – it can all give you that potent sense of belonging. I think it is more of a driver for people’s ambitions and hobbies than we think.

I have often mentioned my monthly book group…a longterm hobby that has become one of the cornerstones of my life here and definitely a place I feel I belong.

I moved to Southampton just over 10 years ago and in my first week, alongside scouring eBay and charity shops for chairs/plates/mugs, I also emailed the City library enquiring about reading groups. I was duly provided with the list of groups – Saturday, library; Monday, seminar room; Wednesday, WINE BAR…

And so three weeks later found me embarking on my first meeting – Book: The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney. Location: Wine Bar. Nerves: Moderate. Attendees: eight. Room Temperature: Freezing. Drink: Tea (see room temperature). Names remembered: two.

Let me whisk you forward ten years. TEN years. We became nomadic for a short time during a noisy World Cup one year before making our final home in the library. The temperature is now comfortable, the wine is plentiful. We still number about eight people most months, with some new voices gained and some masterful voices sadly lost.

We have sat together as a group in whatever machination over 120 times. We have therefore individually, but somehow together, entered over 120 different worlds…we have each sat at the same lavish Russian restaurant, wandered around the same Victorian factory, stared at ayslyum walls, hidden in African villages, scarpered from shacks. Together we’ve met queens, doctors, dictators, mothers, fathers, slaves, criminals, witches and, yes, zombies.

And through these worlds we have shared parts of our own worlds and developed bonds that in some cases have led to actions with life-altering consequences.

I have discovered the unique joy of a collective reading experience – how, after time, you find yourself reading with all of you and a bit of other people too. How when there’s something pressing to say about the book, it’s ok because you will have the opportunity say it and you’re saying it to people who’ve read it too. How you can feel something so wildly different to the person sat next to you about the same character, plot or even sentence and that’s ok, more than ok…sometimes hilarious.

In short I love my book group. And to save this post from being an entirely self-indulgent piece to say just that, I offer the following observations:

Libraries are amazing places – all those worlds to visit. And if we don’t use our libraries we’ll lose them. We may lose them anyway so go before it’s too late.

Extraordinary people, interesting people can be found everywhere.

Read! Read together. Even if it’s just with one other person. It’s simple but remarkable.

If you’re wondering about joining something, anything, do it. You can always leave but maybe you’ll find you’ll never leave…

Blackand white drawing of a pile of books

Advertisements

Reasons To Love January

Poor old January – doesn’t it get a tough press? Middle of winter, bleak, grey, cold, financially troubling, nothing to celebrate, long, sometimes ‘dry’ etc etc…

While all that sounds very convincing I am here to shine a light on the more attractive elements of this here first month.

Continue reading

Still Writing

Still writing – as in ‘I’m still writing’ or the ‘writing is still’? Completely stopped more like…this has been less of a blog break and more of a blog abandonment.

And on that note – Hello!

Um. Well, this is awkward.

Hello!! Is anyone out there!!? Helloooo!!!

Ah well.

So this was supposed to be my ‘out of office’ post. I think it has taken so long to write that it is fast turning into my ‘I’m a little bit back’ post.

I would love to say that I’m back from a series of immensely exciting adventures that have taken the place of blogging but I’d be lying.

Mother and son sat on hill looking out to shoreline/cliffs and sea. Orangey soil and hills. Mother in black and boy in blue.
Travelling the world! Or the Isle of Wight anyway…

Instead I was too tired to write in the evenings and too tired to get up early in the mornings to write. I then got out of the habit and, shock horror, I didn’t mind and I didn’t miss my blog. I enjoyed the break from it all and being out of the game (which I wasn’t very good at anyway) of social media is particularly refreshing.

But then I really did mind and really did miss it and so it’s time to restart the habit. I’m a little rusty so you’ll have to bear with me.

What I missed most was putting words down somewhere solid. Consistently over the year I’ve been reminded of one of my Creative Mothers contributors, Claire from Art and Soul. In her piece she gives tips for finding time to write…she reminds us that you can ‘write’ anywhere; that writing in your head still counts as writing. I love that idea, I’m sure most people who have a penchant for the written word find themselves writing constantly – I compose my absolute best pieces in the car, in the shower and before I go to sleep at night (the last one being slightly annoying).

So yes I’m still writing. I’m just now hoping to put more of it down on the virtual paper we call blogs. And I think that using over 350 words to simply say ‘hello, I’m back’ is an interesting start – but it’s ok ,the next post I’ve got coming is AMAZING. I wrote it when I was washing my hair this morning…

 

A Day Out With Thomas

Thomas the Tank Engine…the stuff that obsessions are made of. Well, actually not in our household. We have never been struck with the Thomas bug. It’s not that we don’t like him, there’s a certain fondness certainly – it’s just that he has never inspired the sort of all-consuming passion in my son that windmills, fire engines and bin lorries have. Adding to this slight ambivalence is a mild to moderate fear of very loud noises – station platforms have been known to send him into quite the frightened tailspin.

So you may think that it was with a certain sadism that I gleefully accepted the Watercress Line’s invitation to A Day Out With Thomas

Man and boy walking through train station onto platform
What horror looms ahead my boy!?

Continue reading

18 Million Things – New Year 2017

I use this blog sometimes just for me – a place to remember some of the things that make me smile about my son. These posts are a bit soppy and they are definitely not going to change the world so please don’t feel obliged to linger on this one (unless you’re my husband).

Not that I’ve written one like this in blooming ages…partly because there’s been a few millions things that haven’t made me smile so much recently and partly because I had a break and a new baby and all that jazz.

So my fast-growing-but-you’ll-always-be-my-baby three and a half year old, there are at least 18 million things I love about you and they include: Continue reading

My Snap Happy Son

My three year old has discovered (and therefore I have just discovered) that one can take photos on one’s iPad without unlocking said iPad.

My son thinks this is amazing. I am indifferent and will always unlock my iPad to take a picture because I am essentially a technological relic.

Anyway scrolling through my gallery the other day led me to some shots that are cronkier, wonkier and more blurry than my usual ones…

Yet somehow these little gems are sweeter than any of my attempts – they are infused with a childish simplicity that makes me smile.

My son chooses to take pictures of things he loves in the house; the kitchen clock, the kitchen bin, his toys, his parents, his sister. His small world is getting bigger by the minute but for now this is his world – this is his happy.

And so, in what could be the most ill-conceived photo-blog post of all time, allow me to present the photographic gallery of my three year old:

Continue reading

Breastfeeding Bites #6. Feeding in Public with Beta Mummy

Ah yes, the time has to come at some point where you leave the security of your post-partum bedroom hibernation and take your baby and your boobs OUT. Not out-out, that would be irresponsible surely, but just out – a cafe maybe; a lunch somewhere; a shopping expedition; the doctors perhaps; or, in the case of my first ever public feed, a cricket game… Continue reading

An Ode to Garden Centres & Wyevale Christmas Event Review

I love a good garden centre…I don’t even care if that makes me sound 84….I really do. I’ve spent the last three years culminating special relationships with my local garden centres – they are my ‘go to’ destination with my son. I wonder sometimes if they know what a glorious gift they’ve given to the parent attempting to entertain a small being all week…

Need fresh air but it’s pouring and your child, like mine, has a rain aversion? What’s that…? A covered outside area with trees to boot? Yes please.

Are you considering remortgaging and taking a trip to the zoo? May I interest you instead in a selection of miniature (and quite lifelike) animal statues?

Imaginative ‘real world’ play? Let the display sheds step up to the plate…

Educational resource? Hello clock aisle.

Throw in a cafe, a play area and hours of entertainment watching the water features and you’ve got yourself a whole day’s worth of activity. You’re welcome. Some even have small soft play areas if that’s your bag. It’s not mine. We tried it once and my son turned feral in the ball pit so we beat a swift retreat. Continue reading

Surviving. Not Thriving

‘Does it get easier? Please tell me it gets easier?’. I’m frantically asking this of almost anyone with more than one child at the moment… I feel as though I’m merely existing with a rambunctious (polite description) three year old and a gorgeous but naturally demanding eight week old. For context the first five weeks were bliss, genuinely lovely, then the newborn bubble burst and real life had to start. I’m overall happy and content but today is a BAD day…some days are. My husband works most afternoons and evenings so bedtime, otherwise known as deviltime, is my time. Thus some days are bad. Continue reading

Breastfeeding Bites #5. Bracelets & Bangles

Which side this feed? Ahh those familiar words have hurtled round my brain throughout breastfeeding my son and daughter. Twitchy about it I was…my son fed from both sides in one feeding so it was a precoccupation with retaining even breast shape when I’d finished feeding (no scientific evidence to suggest I needed to do that!). My daughter feeds from only one side per feed currently so it’s more about comfort.

Now it sounds like a pretty straightforward ask, yes? I’ve heard whisperings that some people can actually remember or can tell which side is due by how much fuller the breast feels. All well and good unless both sides feel full or neither side feels full or the mini bit of life you’ve squeezed into the brief gap between feeds has made you forget OR you’re just overly anxious…like me! And so methods of remembering are required. Continue reading