Canterbury tales: taking a break, end of July 2017

One thing I’d like to be better at is taking time to remember the positive, tiny things that make a difference in every day life: the things that get me laughing in the morning or thinking ‘huzzah!’ when I get in from work. So, this week’s good things are…

There’s no way of sugar-coating this week’s blog post: this week has been really, really hard. Having somewhat seen the warning signs coming and not really acted on them, I’m taking a (temporary) break from work and have been signed off for a bit to get my mental health better. There’s a lot more to say on this matter, and it’s probably best off in a separate post, but for the moment: I am very, very lucky to have such good supportive employers and bosses who understood this decision. Stigma is real, but possibly what has been to my detriment has been my own refusal to acknowledge in practice that mental health should be treated like physical health. If I had been unable to recover from a bad cold that wouldn’t go away whilst at work, I would have had no hesitations in taking sick leave to get properly better. I didn’t do this here.

There are still good things. The joy this week is a little bit harder to find, but it is still here:

My friends

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There is no doubt about it: my friends rock beyond belief. Our Facebook group (set up last year to bridge distances as we all live in different places) yielded many many good ideas for how to self-care when I posted there earlier this week.

On Thursday, confusion reigned when I had a parcel arrive, considering the one item I’d bought had turned up the day before: cue teary happiness as I unwrapped a beautiful new Pusheen plush from two of my besties <3. Chris has, predictably, been amazing. I am very, very lucky.

Disney movie marathon

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Another ‘grateful for good people’ moment occurred over the weekend, when I spent the day with a friend determined to educate me in the ways of all the Disney movies I’ve somehow missed (most of them). A rainy day, tea, cake and Disney? YES. Anyway, I’m now up to speed on Inside Out, Moana and Big Hero 6. There will be more to come.

Reading

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In a ‘I don’t know if this is a good sign or a bad sign’ way, all I’ve been able to do recently is read (and sleep). As a result, I’ve finished one book this week and completed another two. Verdicts: Alone in Berlin is an excellent exploration of every day German life under the Nazi regime and the extent to which anyone could attempt ‘resistance’; Curtis Sittenfield’s Eligible has the worst UK cover for a book I’ve seen in years, but its modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice is quite fun if not entirely accurate/fair; Mara Wilson’s memoir is utterly brilliant, sharp and funny and I couldn’t put it down.

Lush’s face masks

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I’ve been a big fan of Lush’s face products for a while now; Ultrabland is easily the best cleanser I’ve ever tried and I’m completely hooked on Celestial for a daily moisturiser. Now, after returning five clean pots to them last weekend, I have a new favourite thing: their Catastrophe Cosmetic face mask. My skin is super sensitive, but this has done wonders in calming it down and balancing it out. SO GOOD.

Getting outside

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I’ve been trying to continue exercising this week as per normal, but I woke up today with a real urge to go for a walk. We’ve had annual passes to Leeds Castle (not in Leeds) for nearly a year now, and today’s trip confirmed that we’ll renew them next month: it is easily one of my favourite ever places. It’s a popular day out but the acres of walks, gardens and rolling hills around the castle mean you can go off the beaten track and chill on the lawns easily. And the views are spectacular!

This week, I’m resting up still, recovering from a wisdom tooth infection and looking forward to a) our four-year anniversary on Thursday and b) heading back to Oxfordshire  to see family next weekend!

How was your week? What’s been bringing you joy?

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Canterbury tales: still-July 2017

One thing I’d like to be better at is taking time to remember the positive, tiny things that make a difference in every day life: the things that get me laughing in the morning or thinking ‘huzzah!’ when I get in from work. So, this week’s good things are…

Leeds for work, Leeds for catch-ups

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I was lucky enough to have my (first ever) paper accepted for the annual Association of Performing Arts Collections (APAC) symposium, this year held in Leeds. I went up the day before because trains are so expensive, but it gave me a bit to explore the city and – most importantly – catch up with a friend from uni who I haven’t seen properly in years. We went to the excellent Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen which won me over with a) its rooftop bar, b) its veggie burgers and c) the rather delicious strawberry and black pepper  gin cocktail, aka YUM. It was such a lovely way to spend an evening and see somewhere in Leeds totally different!

The next day, I gave my paper (which went well, I think) and we were treated to a tour of the Special Collections at the University of Leeds, nestled in their Brotherton Library which was “modelled on the British Library’s reading room, only bigger”. It’s such an impressive building, all polished wood and marble columns! The architecture in Leeds is such an interesting mix, with the glorious industrial-era redbrick campus contrasting against the very modern high rises of lights and shiny glass. I loved visiting the city for a couple of days; daft as it sounds, there is so much country beyond the Southern bubble I often inhabit and every time I leave that bubble I just want to see more.

New gym class

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Having missed my normal Monday spin and Tuesday abs classes, I finally got around to attending a kettlebells class on Wednesday. I’m so, so glad I did! I love my gym because it’s so small and personal which has really helped me feel at ease (I’m not the most sporty person ever, to put it mildly). When I got there, the instructors were all “you came!” and it was great to catch up with everyone. The class was hard, and I’ve been aching all week since, but it was SO satisfying. This week I’m gonna try and do all three Monday – Wednesday classes, so let’s see how that goes…

Discoveries: David Lloyd George’s copy of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’

University of Kent Special Collections & Archives, SPEC COLL LLGC 2.2
University of Kent Special Collections & Archives, SPEC COLL LLGC 2.2

We’ve been collaborating a lot with the School of Music at work recently, and in amongst all the forthcoming pantomime activity there’s a bit of Dickens in the midst. A colleague recommended having a look at David Lloyd George’s copy of ‘A Christmas Carol’ for images and – wow! It’s a gorgeous 1930s edition, with an intact bookplate and some utterly gorgeous woodcut illustrations. Definitely one to remember.

Best friends in Canterbury

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This weekend we broke our guests-in-the-house record by having FIVE people stay over at one time! (Duvets were more of an issue than space, once it was agreed that it was totally fine to sleep in the conservatory). On Saturday, we ate so much homemade pizza (and snacks) (and Pimms) (and these chocolate brownies) whilst generally hanging out and playing Mario Kart, which we’ve rediscovered. (In accidentally stereotypical ways, the girls were very noisy  – “Oh NO! I’m going to DIE! No not the LAVA ARGH I’M 12TH!!!!!!!!!!!” – whilst the boys silently fought it out for 1st and 2nd place. Though I’ve still not forgiven Chris for bashing me a lot because his car was bigger than my bike…)

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Sunday saw us pretend that last night’s food fest hadn’t happened and the obligatory brunch in town was needed. By chance, The Refectory had space and so eight of us merged outside tables together and desperately prayed that the grey clouds overhead wouldn’t get any ideas. They didn’t, and WOW the food was incredible! Great coffee and one of the nicest lunches I’ve had in months – a spinach and chive crepe with baked egg, artichokes, goats cheese, mushrooms, caramelised onions and parmesan. I can’t believe it’s taken us a year to get round to trying this cafe, because I think it’s a new Canterbury favourite…

But the best bit of the weekend? Laughing my head off with friends I’ve known, in part, since we were 10. They are the best humans and it always feels like coming home when we meet up, even if the adulthood contrasts are getting a bit marked: we like sleep, and good coffee, and acknowledge that takeaway isn’t always the best thing ever. But they sure as heck are.

This week, I’m starting on my MA assignment, attempting three gym classes on three consecutive days, finishing up Master of None (STILL SO GOOD) and continuing reading Hans Fallada’s WW2 resistance novel Alone In Berlin.

How was your week? What’s been bringing you joy?

Canterbury tales: mid July 2017

One thing I’d like to be better at is taking time to remember the positive, tiny things that make a difference in every day life: the things that get me laughing in the morning or thinking ‘huzzah!’ when I get in from work. So, this week’s good things are…

Getting on top of health issues

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From ‘Moominland Midwinter’ by Tove Jansson. Sometimes I am the anxious Moomin, looking down rather than up at the sky

My week started on a bit of a wobbly note, when I rushed out the door to work on Monday morning and forgot to take any of my medication before leaving. I got diagnosed with asthma last year, and it’s slowly been getting worse after an inappropriately-timed June cold. 5 minutes into being outside, I started really feeling the effects of not taking my preventer. Chris has been urging me to reschedule the review I was supposed to have in February, so I managed to get an appointment the same day and lo! I now have a new, stronger inhaler along with a peak flow meter and more backup relievers.

I’ve also been in a bit of a mental health low point lately, and it started to get on top of me this week. The fun game I have to battle now is that I’ve only got one more counselling session left and I’m really scared of falling back to where I was. But I took some steps to try and make things better and things turned around pretty quickly. At least I know the symptoms – and triggers – now.

Hastings and Rye

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When your First-World-War-historian partner gets called to go on TV at the last minute, sometimes it’s fun to tag along. Which is how I found myself on Hastings Pier at 10am on a weekend. I hadn’t visited Hastings in many years, but it was worth it for the brief pier soujourn and coffee stop alone; plus, the early start meant we had lots of time to go on to other adventures in nearby Rye! Rye is such a gorgeous little town, with historic houses and churches around literally every corner along with so many cafes you could eat cream teas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We’ve been taking a bit of time this year to explore around Kent/Sussex more, and I’d love to go back to Rye when it’s properly sunny and explore the harbour and countryside further.

Homemade pizza

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Still on my spend-very-little kick (the weekend’s coffee out was a real treat), one of the habits I’m finding hardest to kick is takeaway food. I was exhausted on Wednesday and really, really wanted pizza…but we compromised and made our own pizzas from scratch/the bread maker on Thursday. It turned out to be a great call; I used up veggies for toppings, but splurged on some goats’ cheese to give it a lift. Plus, we got four pizzas out of one portion of dough – so dinner for two nights! Definitely a win.

Continuing MA work

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Having finally finished the cataloguing module that lost the fight between me and the busy job, I’m onto social sciences research methods and determined to get it done a lot more quickly. I’ve been skimming the module this week and although I don’t think it’ll go down as the most interesting course in the MA, it’s getting me to think about research through different eyes which can only be a good thing.

This week I’m delivering my first ever conference paper at a symposium in Leeds, continuing watching Master of None obsessively (it’s SO GOOD) and eagerly anticipating/plotting the arrival of lots of friends next weekend!

How was your week? What’s been bringing you joy?

Canterbury tales: early July 2017

One thing I’d like to be better at is taking time to remember the positive, tiny things that make a difference in every day life: the things that get me laughing in the morning or thinking ‘huzzah!’ when I get in from work. So, this week’s good things are…

The sunshine

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Standard work lunchtime, with bonus of homemade salad

This year, we seem to be having the best weather in ages and it is just MARVELLOUS. I’m all for living in Birkenstocks, painting my toenails bright colours and spending lunchtimes reading under a tree. Yes please. This week we had an all-campus staff BBQ which was really lovely (and, hey, free food) and walking to/from work has been beautiful. Everything seems a bit brighter when it’s summer. Long may it last!

Getting Stuff Done

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I’ve had to have some pretty tough conversations about money and budgeting this week (it’s hard and it’s not my speciality). It wasn’t easy, but I’m positive about trying to set things right. In other adult-y things, my passport arrived (YAY) and I finally submitted a much-worked on MA assignment (DOUBLE YAY) and we got a funding bid in at work and statistics for projects have been conquered and I’ve been trying to use up more food which has resulted in yummy salads for lunch and sweet baked potatoes with dhal for dinner, so all the yay!

Wimbledon

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The beauty of Federer needs no comment

Confession: it doesn’t have to be Wimbledon, it could be the US Open or the French or the Australian or…but, well, we’re the UK, we get loads more coverage of the grass court season cause it’s all here and I tried not to get hooked until about 3pm on Day One when Murray looked healthy and Wawrinka went out and – you get the picture. I love the sound of tennis balls, I love the sport, the women’s (and men’s) draws are really open this year, I love IT ALL. 😀

Philip Yancey book arriving

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Pre No-Spending-Ever kicked in, I ordered a book I’ve been resisting buying for ages and it finally arrived this week. I never thought of myself as Christian (and I still don’t), but the New Atheism really repelled me so I’ve been trying to read a bit more about Christianity that’s written by Christians this year. A friend recommended I start with Philip Yancey’s book What’s So Amazing About Grace? and it’s changed my views about Christianity and God and religion an awful lot, by focusing on the good and examining (fairly) the challenges of being a Christian in today’s world. I’m really looking to reading The Jesus I Never Knew soon.

Brighton

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I went back to Brighton this weekend to see family and spend some time in the city and couldn’t have picked a better weekend. Whenever I return now, I have a love/hate relationship with the city: sometimes it’s busy and drives me up the wall with the millions of people and small spaces, sometimes I yearn to be back there when the skies are blue and there’s good coffee everywhere you look and the city feels so happy and buzzing. On Saturday, I felt the best of both: I ate my favourite food (and delighted in the arrival of veggie-friendly sweetshop SugarSin), caught up with the best friends (on the beach and over a glass of prosecco in the evening) and generally felt very lucky to be in the city. However, I don’t miss how busy it gets on weekends – I had some errands to run and they took ages, whereas if I lived there those extra minutes would just feel wasted – or the fact that it’s relatively big to get around, or the dirt, or every single street feeling like people are permanently trashed on weekends. Those mostly feel like privileged small-city-Canterbury grumbles, but I’m finally starting to appreciate the slightly slower pace of life in Kent which is good.

This week I’m continuing my Wimble-spree, getting stuck into my next MA module and spending work time talking all things Victorian pantomime as preparation for our major autumn exhibition continues apace! I’ve also got my first ever conference paper to write for next week…

What’s bringing you joy this week?

Canterbury tales: end of June 2017

Hello, blog! It’s been a while. Anyway, I’m back with another attempt to write more regularly about day-to-day existence in Kent-and-Library land. I am still in Canterbury (hello, permanent contract!) and still battling on with the MA. One day, one day…

One thing I’d like to be better at is taking time to remember the positive, tiny things that make a difference in every day life: the things that get me laughing in the morning or thinking ‘huzzah!’ when I get in from work. So, this week’s good things are…

Mega-bunny on campus

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Okay, this is technically a cheat from last week, but mega-bunny is still up, still (mostly) intact and still lurking over all the rest of the lifesized-bunnies outside the Library. I think he’s probably made by architecture students. I think he’s better than the sculpture he sits near. I love mega-bunny. 😀

Strawberry cake

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I’ve had an itch to bake this very-strawberry cake from Smitten Kitchen for weeks now, so on Wednesday I finally gave in and made cake just because. It’s been a while since I baked for the sheer joy of it, and after an afternoon of MA work it was exactly what I needed. In true OTT-style, I doubled the recipe, made far too much cake for anyone to ever eat (even with colleagues helping out) and now our kitchen is filled with strawberries. There are worse things to happen. The verdict? A bit too sweet for me, really, but still suspiciously good.

Completion of counselling

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One of the reasons I’ve been quiet on here is a pretty grim one: towards the end of last year my mental health took a serious, serious nosedive and I had to get some extra support, thanks to my excellent workplace, to get me out of it. I’ve been having counselling sessions since early this year and they have honestly been the best thing I’ve done in a long time. This week, we discussed forward steps knowing I only have one session left…and my counsellor and I decided that actually, I’m alright now! I’ve still got some work to do, of course, and I’m scared I might not be able to hold on this good state of mind, but I am so happy to be better than I’ve been in a long time. A good counsellor might not work for everyone, but it’s certainly done wonders for me. 🙂

Harry Potter, Harry Potter

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In small payday treats, I allowed myself to go into Primark today and see what cosy post-gym wear things I could find because lazy. Primark have turned a bit of a corner recently and their branded stuff is amazing! So, of course, I had to find Harry Potter themed PJs. I’m going to wear them all evening with pride 😀

This week, I’m continuing my attempt to get back into gym work after a bad cold, waiting for my new passport to arrive, declaring war on the weeds in our garden and continuing work on our departmental bid for Archives Accreditation in between delivering cartoon-based outreach sessions!

How was your week? What’s been bringing you joy?