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

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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.

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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:

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Laughter

You don’t stop laughing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop laughing…*

My son first laughed at 11 weeks old. Up until then he was smiley, grinny, even giggly, but this was when he discovered the beauty of the chortley, chuckly belly-laugh.

I remember the moment very well. It was a stormy autumnal evening and we had just returned home from visiting relatives. He was lying on the sofa in the kitchen and we were double-parenting – blowing raspberries at him…suddenly he laughed and it was the best sound I have ever heard in my life, I’ll never ever forget it. He laughed and laughed and laughed and so did we. Continue reading

Holidays and Highlights

‘The seaside makes me happy Mummy’

‘Me too lovebug…’

Little boy sat on the beach playing

I know I’m a sporadic blog-poster at the best of times so you probably won’t really notice the difference, but I’m going on a blogging and an actual holiday. I really feel as though I’ve been winding down at the moment ready to take a little break…refocusing and refreshing my mind.

Before I go (although I’m not going completely, just changing the tempo) I thought I’d indulge in a few reflections. I’ve had a lovely joyous time blogging this year. It has continued in its own unique way to give me an expressive outlet, the little bit of creation I am in control of…it has also provided me with some tangible highlights: Continue reading

18 Million Things – Summer Edition

This series is where I indulgently fill up my pocket of the Internet with the virtual pebbles, receipts and loose change of memories I want to keep of my son.

He’s nearly three and we veer between total gorgeousness and utter chaos. I’m writing this today after he randomly and deliberately decided to upturn a large cup of tea onto the lounge carpet, throw a hard unidentifiable toy object at me in anger and then play ‘sandcastles’ with an almost-but-not-quite empty pot of yoghurt.

Yep, so obviously it’s not all roses and sparkles but actually quite a lot of it is – life is silly and fun and innocent and dramatic and the world hasn’t encroached on our bubble yet. Continue reading

What Does Blogging Success Look Like To You?

For those of you who read my blog regularly or who are bloggers yourselves you’ll know that it’s awards season at the moment in the bloggy world (think less floor-length gowns and red carpets and more badges and uncomfortable vote pleas). I was lucky enough to be shortlisted in the Readers’ Choice category in the BritMums BiBs Awards (Brilliance in Blogging).

The next step was to attempt to become a finalist – when ten became five. Unsurprisingly I tripped up on this step (much like I do daily on stray bits of washing that populate our stairs) and didn’t make the final five in my category of fabulous bloggers. Continue reading

The Highs and Little Lows of Middle Pregnancy

I think it’s fair to say I wasn’t the happiest I’ve ever been in the early weeks and months of this pregnancy. The sickness, tiredness and general feeling of illness coupled with the normal first trimester anxiety and hormonal maelstrom was not the best mix. The sickness lingered but did finally bid me farewell at around 18 weeks…a little later than I had hoped, much earlier than some people experience.

My last post on this theme covered mostly the lows of that time with only a few chinks of light by way of highs. Writing it was a purge and now it’s time for a celebration. What a difference a month or so makes! If you’re reading this in the miserable throes of early pregnancy, take heart…it may get a huge amount better for you soon. Continue reading

Spring Daze

I love the changing seasons, I think I notice them so much more now I have a child. The impact of the weather on attire and attitude (despite my best efforts, my two and a half year old currently takes after his rain-fearing father) is magnified with a little one in tow. And while autumn and dear winter have their many charms, spring has become a particular favourite of mine over the years. It offers so much in the way of tingly, summery hope…colour comes into the gardens, like magic the leaves start to turn green, and the daylight – the much-missed daylight – keeps us company from early morning to well past dinner time. Continue reading

18 Million Things – Spring Edition

If you have children there are probably an infinite number of things you love about them…there are probably a few things you don’t much like too! But this post isn’t about the negatives…no this is a series where I shamelessly self-indulgently note down all my son’s lovely quirks. The first two posts can be found here and here.

I want to remember all these little things so much, I want to remember the way they made me laugh or the way they made feel fizzy inside or the wonder I found in his burgeoning imagination. I feel that I’ve missed loads from this list…he is developing at a rate of knots, not sure I can keep up anymore.
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