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 to 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 somewhere you belong…

Blackand white drawing of a pile of books

3 Days 3 Quotes – Day 3

I was nominated by Amy at Curiouser and Curiouser to take part in the ‘3 Days 3 Quotes’ challenge. Thank you one final time Amy!

I’ve really enjoyed it and a bit sad that it’s the last day today.

After two days of lovely whimsical quotes, I’m getting serious today. If serious isn’t your thing you can read day one here and day two here.


– Acknowledge the person that nominated you
– Post a quote for three consecutive days (one quote for each day)
Nominate three new bloggers each day. I have copied Amy on this rule and am nominating three people on day three (today!).

The Quote:

“Gender matters everywhere in the world. And I would like today to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: We must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.” 

We Should All Be Feminists Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


I love this quote. Doesn’t a fairer world and a happier world sound good?

I think it says a lot that I first came across this book at my mother in law’s house. I think I’m pretty lucky to have a husband that was raised by a feminist!

I think a lot about stereotypes and definitions and trying to find freedom within the ones placed on me (and the ones I’ve chosen for myself). There is safety in conforming to roles, rules and stereotypes in all aspects of life. But the safety is only superficial. I say let’s all work out what we actually believe in. Let’s raise our children to be bold. Let’s all be bold. Even if, for now, that makes us seem a bit different, a bit quirky!

Now, back to the fun and on with my three nominations…can’t wait to read your quotes! Although if you don’t want to do it, then PLEASE don’t worry.

Alice at Nipper and Tyke
Nicola at Book Bunny
Saffy at Mumzilla

3 Days 3 Quotes – Day 2

I was nominated by Amy at Curiouser and Curiouser to take part in the ‘3 Days 3 Quotes’ challenge. Thanks Amy!

Today, as the title of this post suggests, is day two of three. You can read my quote for day one here.


– Acknowledge the person that nominated you
– Post a quote for three consecutive days (one quote for each day)
Nominate three new bloggers each day. I am going to copy Amy on this rule and nominate three people on day three.

The Quote:

“You is hearing only thumping loud noises with those little earwigs of yours. 

But I am hearing all the secret whisperings of the world!”

The BFG  Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake


I have a beautiful BFG illustration and this quote framed on my bedroom wall. It’s a simple reminder to me each day that my ‘extra-usual’ big ears might belong to me for a reason!

Actually I can’t claim to hear secret whisperings of any sort but I am now very much in love with my ears (they run in the family) and only have the odd pang of self consciousness about them, as opposed to the overwhelmingly ear conscious years aged 9 to 22.

I think this means I’m now a grown up. It also means that I’ve been lucky enough to join forces with a man who is kind, caring and rude. The ear banter I’ve been subjected to over the last ten years has been the biggest healer and it’s no coincidence that we bought this picture together.

So cheers, big ears! And on with day three…


3 Days 3 Quotes – Day 1

I’m just returning from a blogging mini-break (that turned into a full blown blogging holiday) and thought I would ease myself back in with the ‘3 Days 3 Quotes’ challenge. I was nominated by Amy at Curioser and Curiouser, so thank you very much Amy, this is just what I needed!


– Acknowledge the person that nominated you
– Post a quote for three consecutive days (one quote for each day)
Nominate three new bloggers each day. I am going to copy Amy on this rule and nominate three people on day three.

The Quote:

“I’ve brought you the moon, Little Bear” said Big Bear.

“The bright yellow moon, and all the twinkly stars”.

Can’t you Sleep, Little Bear?  Martin Waddell & Barbara Firth


I’ve chosen this quote because, not only does LJ have a fascination with the moon, but it also signifies two special and profoundly important aspects of parenting for me.

Firstly the responsibility of me being LJ’s safe place. The context of the quote within the book is that Big Bear is doing all he can to make things ok for Little Bear and consequently Little Bear is not so scared with Big Bear. I believe I should do everything I can for my child to make him feel safe and warm inside.

Secondly, this is a moment of discovery for Little Bear. There is nothing I enjoy more than accompanying LJ on his adventures through life. Being his companion and curator as he takes in (and on) the world is my favourite pastime.

This seemed a fitting quote to share today in particular. LJ struggles to get to sleep (like Little Bear if you don’t know the book). I don’t know why half the time, except that he is his parent’s son and we are both rubbish at falling asleep! It has come to our attention recently, however, that the dark may be playing a part in our struggles. So, today, we have moved a special light in for him. A lovely moon night-light now adorns LJ’s bedroom wall.

We have brought him the moon.


Lost in… Lucy & Tom at the Seaside


A good week last week for Shirley Hughes, announced as the winner of the inaugural Book Trust Lifetime Achievement Award. I now have serious concerns for the load bearing capacity of her mantelpiece but all well deserved in my view.

I am a Shirley Hughes newbie…I don’t remember any of her books from my childhood at all. Perhaps my Mother was vehemently opposed for some reason, I must remember to ask. I must also remember to thank her because it is a special joy approaching them as a shared first experience with LJ.
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