'10 Years 10 Days' · brain chat · MCRmy · My Chemical Romance (get a category)

In which my Killjoy jacket went on an adventure to Milton Keynes

Hello darlings,

Two posts in a week? Is it 2011? Perhaps perhaps. I tap this out on a train back to Uni City, with The Raven Boys propped in front of me, and when I’m not falling asleep sitting up (quite the ability if you ask me) I am thinking about how grateful I am for all the music and books and creations I get to consume. I’ve slept maybe 8 hours in two or three days, because I’m doing an online writing course taught from the USA, and the first class was the day before/day of MCRMK. So I went from thinking about establishing the mood and tone of a series at 2am to dancing my feet off with twenty thousand odd other people really quickly. And as I haul my arse across England back to uni, in that hangover-esque fug you get from continual interrupted sleep, I’m just thinking about how grateful I am to live in a world at the same time as My Chemical Romance, in the same week of a new MCR tour, and new Måneskin and Hayley Kiyoko singles, and the new Umbrella Academy trailer. How mad is it that we get to be alive at the same time all these people are bringing out new work. 

Maybe this is the acceptable reaction to 11 years between MCR shows, when MCR was in the past tense for 7 of those years. I remember people saying, ‘Fake Your Death means they’ll be back one day!’ and I thought, ‘That sounds like bullshit,’ because the cardinal rule of creating is that you stop when it’s not fun anymore. I made my peace, eventually, with past tense MCR. I never expected a return, much less live shows, much less new material. So I’m here for a dance and a laugh and I’m never going to assume there will be a next time. Also, last time I saw Chem live, I was a barely-sentient child. I had more stamina then, and didn’t have to stop moshing partway through a song in case one of my knees gave out, but I’m more Francesca-shaped now. Spikier, but more solid round the edges. The sad songs mean more now. The angry-determined songs mean more now, and they meant a lot last time. Side effect of life for most of us, I guess? More years on the clock, more people to think of during a song about dying. The dirty jokes are funnier now, too, obviously. I keep remembering that not everyone’s lucky enough to bookend whole chunks of life with live shows from one band. How strange and wonderful to get to do that.

I took a few photos – no spoilers, I promise – but no video whatsoever. I realised yesterday I don’t need to film a clip of a show, because I’m not interested in retaining visuals or audio. I never rewatch videos because it’s not about looking at a version of what I saw. I’m interested in remembering how I felt. The mood and the tone, ha! They’re harder to lose, aren’t they, feelings, because even as you settle back into the averages of everyday life, you never know when you will stumble into a new experience and think, ‘this feels like Blah,’ even if Blah has nothing obviously in common with this new experience. There’s something deep in your brain that recognises the link between the two, and there you are feeling again.

MCR show feelings have only ever happened at MCR shows which is probably why I’ve been in a bad mood since 2013, It’s sort of like seeing your family you don’t see very often, and having a loud party. At the same time as going to the gym wearing a lot of jewellery. And tearing up a bit because everyone likes the set list and everyone’s there with their own lil MCR stories and experiences and what are the odds of all of you all being in the same room, right now, after however many years away? 

It’s also sort of not like that. It’s like… I don’t know. When you come home after a long day and put your slippers on. Oh, by the way, the Killjoy jacket survived and thrived! Very grateful for pockets that can fit entire bottles. I have some not-bathroom pictures, but I don’t like to share photos of my friends on here these days, so you’ll just have to assume a) I have friends and b) we took pictures together. Anyway, yeah, smudged eyeliner and a jacket that smells like Milton Keynes:

Francesca throwing a peace sign in a mirror selfie
Why the pink background blurring? Well, one because I don’t like to share other people’s bathrooms. Or my own, come to that. You never know when you’re accidentally showing the world a medical prescription or awkward cream. And two because there’s a bit of pink MCR merch I nearly bought and may still buy, so, yeah.

No spoilers if you have a show ahead of you, but you’ll like it. Don’t leave til the house lights come on. If your life changed so much in the last couple of years that you can’t go, I was thinking of you yesterday. I was thinking of everyone who couldn’t go because they’re not here anymore, too. I like to think I enjoyed myself enough for all of us. I hope I did, because that’s sort of the point, isn’t it.

Stadium MK just before My Chemical Romance's set, 19th May 2022.

Look after yourselves and if you get to see this tour, tell me your thoughts!

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

(All Hail) Creation · Colour · My Chemical Romance (get a category) · The No. 1 Readers' Club

Making a Killjoy Jacket Part Three

It’s been almost 18 months since I last posted about customising my jacket? What is time?! Anyway, it’s nearly done. For the purposes of Thursday’s spiritual experience Milton Keynes show, it is done. I want to add one or two more things, but we’ll get to that.

So, here and here are where I talk about finding a plain-ish, second hand, cigarette-y jacket back in… 2019. I don’t think MCR had even returned, I think I just liked the look of the thing… Anyway, in 2020 I added an Aglionby Academy patch, my Fun Ghoul patch (purchased circa 2012 haha) and the lovely Little But Fierce rose. I’m still pleased about how well the colours match with one another and the khaki. And this weekend I got more pleased, because…

khaki jacket with various patches including Aglionby Academy, Fun Ghoul, Little But Fierce and pink bees.

PINK BEES.

Look how lovely they are! They’re from Batwalk. I’ve had my eye on them for months. Bees are great, they remind me of The Raven Cycle and summer and, you know, a working planet. All motifs I am happy to carry around.

I originally thought they might go on the back of the jacket, because I had a plan for a VERY LARGE patch which, upon measurement, would not fit. So I thought a couple of little bees might work well with some added floral patches? To be honest, I’d wanted to do bees and the VERY LARGE patch, but when I got the tape measure out it was a bit crowded. So I bought the bees and realised they’d look great on the empty front pocket and on the sleeve, covering the slightly-discoloured area where there was an original patch. I suppose it’s the rest of the jacket that’s slightly discoloured? Hmm. Anyway, I was going to sew MCR’s 2001-2013 mourning band on the sleeve, but I a) forgot to bring it to University City and b) it’s huge. Aimed at a large manly arm. I have teeny wee arms. So we’ll re-evaluate what I do with that… one day.

So, the bees went on. Look at them! Love a bee. Thing is, though, a day or so after I purchased them, I realised I was fixating on the LARGE PATCH. I’d also had my eye on it for months. I liked it a lot. I couldn’t commit to anything else, and when you’re going for a slightly hippie-goth look, really liked your original idea and have a budget of twelve pence, you don’t have a lot of choice. So I went back to Batwalk… and purchased:

khaki jacket with a black and white crystal-ball-and-hands back patch.

It’s huge. I love it. It’s also not as big as I thought! I iron-sewed it to the bottom of the jacket to avoid the hood covering it, and there’s enough space left below the hood for… something. I don’t know what, and I won’t find it between now and Thursday, so ideas on a postcard please! Something at the top might make the crystal ball look less wonky, too – it’s not actually wonky, I measured out the layout and the bottom of the patch is centred, but the hands and eye effect are a little dizzying. Hmmmm. We’ll see. The current design is not overtly MCR-themed, but if you get it, you get it. The jacket’s got great pockets too. Look at me, wearing the thing (thank you to T for taking a photo and proving I exist).

short lady with dark hair, wearing a black dress and patch-covered khaki jacket
Remind me to catch some sun this summer. Also I might hem this dress. What do you think?

So, here we are: one Danger Days-inspired jacket, eleven years after it was cool… but weirdly in time to be cool in a more general, strange alternative style way, going by the reactions to Foundations of Decay. I have had a lot of conversations recently in which being an MCR fan has elevated me in people’s estimations. Someone wrote a Guardian article the other day about MCR’s cultural significance. There’s a less-than-grudging mainstream respect for these weirdos now. I guess if you’re odd for long enough, eventually you become cool.

I’m off to prepare for Thursday. Need to rest my voice and do some preparatory stretches. Oh, while I’m here: commissions are open through end of May. Come and join us at the No. 1 Readers’ Club! And if you see me at Stadium MK, say hi.

Look after yourselves,

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Plants · Southend · weather

Lil Bit of Spring in Southend

Hello!

Happy spring! It’s sprung, you guys. It’s here. I’ve been walking. I’ve been eyeing up people’s front gardens and evaluating their tulips. That’s a lie. All tulips are excellent. I went back to Southend for a week over Easter, and she had her best face on. Well, mostly. The Shakedown was back and it was loud. I do not remember it being so noisy. For those of you not from Southend, the Shakedown is a huge motorcycle rally along the seafront in which a lot of people park, look at and talk about motorcycles for the duration of Easter Monday. It’s never quiet, but my cousin E and I were in town when a handful of youths young men were doing their level best to break the sound barrier in souped up mopeds. YOU DO NOT NEED TO REV THAT LOUDLY WHEN YOU’RE GOING BETWEEN TWO SETS OF TRAFFIC LIGHTS. We all know what you’re compensating for, mate.

Serious Bikers, the ones wearing eight layers of leather, who last shaved in 1972, are far more considerate. And their bikes are cooler.

Anyway, here’s the Pier and some boats. One and a half boats. I miss the beach when I’m not in Southend. When I am in Southend, I go to the beach and complain about tourists. All four of them…

My favourite past time, pretty much anywhere, is to hang out in a cafe and read or write. I keep meaning to do a ‘cool places to go in Southend’ series, because there are a lot of hidden gems. Unfortunately the café I was going to start the series with closed during Covid (does anyone here remember Mad Hatters on Queen’s Road? It had Alice in Wonderland decor) and then I forgot and then I moved Elsewhere for uni. Here’s a short version. If you’re in Southend and fancy a milkshake or a really good panini, hit up Utopia. It’s up in the Royals. I went a couple of times while I was back. There’s no wifi so it’s good for hashing out ideas without distraction…

hot chocolate at Utopia in Southend along with a note page reading 'Bezzina's to do'

I also hung out in Molo Lounge a few times, but the only time I remembered to take a photo I was partway through a blue cocktail and no editing can improve the quality.

Right, flowers! Okay, here are just a few I’ve seen lately, and to be honest I usually photograph them so I can identify them later. I’m pretty sure this is a kanzan cherry tree, which are my favourite spring blossom. I missed them when they were at their very best, but still. They’re so pretty!

kanzan cherry tree blossom

The internet tells me this is a camellia. Probably? Most plant ID sites turn up roses when you plug in ‘red’ and ‘spring,’ but I am not completely inept and it’s definitely not a rose. Let’s say camellia.

red camellia shrub

I don’t know what this one’s called, because I literally walked beneath it and thought, ‘this would be cool to photograph.’ I am basically David Attenborough. Suggestions on a postcard, please

green and pink spring shrub

All right, I’ve got assignment work to do. And I want to go outside because my uni, in Elsewhere, is beautiful this time of year and the sun’s out. Let me know if you also get a bit photo happy this time of year! Or if you know what that plant is called…

Look after yourselves,

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Books · Read If You Like

Read, If You Like: Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Welcome back to Read, If You Like, my occasional book chatter series. I don’t love doing book reviews, so I usually style them as recommendations. I think I’ll add a few more thoughts to this one, though.

Read Red White and Royal Blue (Casey McQuiston, 2019) if you like:

  • American politics. I know, I know, trust me
  • A fictional world where Trump was never in the running for the presidency
  • He’s not mentioned once. It was like getting into a warm bath
  • A diverse cast of characters, but not in a ‘look I’m checking a box!’ way (I say this a lot about the books I recommend. But I never get bored of it)
  • Moderately explicit gay sex. Can something be moderately explicit? I’d put this book up the ‘adult’ end of the young adult shelf
  • The phrase ‘British accent’
  • the
  • singular
  • British
  • accent
  • Look, I didn’t say I liked that phrase
  • Polo (the sport, not the shirt)
  • Posh parts of London. Is Kensington Palace even in London?
  • The Internet has reminded me that Kensington Palace is in the, um, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. I used to work just up the road. How did I make it into higher education

So, my other thoughts. Firstly, this novel reminded me that US politics is a shiny, shiny unicorn filled with toilet water, and even though everyone knows that the toilet water is dripping constantly from the unicorn’s nose, everyone upholds the sanctity of the unicorn. ‘That unicorn has integrity,’ people might say fondly as unicorn season rolls around. Not everyone respects the unicorn, but many feel that they should. ‘This unicorn season, we’re going to re-establish the integrity of the unicorn.’ I wanted to believe the unicorn had integrity too! I felt quite warm and fuzzy. This has never previously happened to me in a novel about anyone’s politics.

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston graphic with flags and flowers
I had to get the cover graphic from Waterstones, because the light is so bad in my uni room that I can’t set up a proper photo. I don’t feel bad about sharing Waterstones, because they’re the last new-book bricks and mortar in Southend.

Secondly, it reminded me that in the UK our politics consists of: middle aged men dancing; middle aged men lying; middle aged men jeering at other middle aged men across the Commons. If there was ever a unicorn in Great Britain, it limped out to pasture somewhere between the English Civil War and the poll tax riots.

It’s probably worth mentioning that my library copy is an older edition – last year, the author pulled a line of dialogue about US-Israeli diplomacy because some on social media suggested it was pro-Israel and therefore implicitly anti-Palestine. (That link is a good summary of the controversy, as is this one.) I don’t think I’d have thought that if I’d read the book before knowing about the edits. Having read it knowing about them, my two cents is that the line should have stayed. Partly because I’m not convinced that mentioning Israel in a book ‘unnecessarily,’ as one Twitter user suggested, actually ‘normalises’ the occupation of Palestine. Palestine has been occupied since 1967. We’re past normalisation, surely? Instead of haranguing authors, could our energy be better spent pressuring non-fictional politicians to work harder to end the conflict, and questioning why they haven’t already? I’m not convinced McQuiston’s joke is the problem, is all.

The other reason I think the line should have stayed is that, as an author, I’m not sure how I feel about publishers bowing to readers’ demands that passages are cut from published work.

That’s a lie. All my instincts say that it’s almost definitely a terrible idea. Unless there’s a genuinely accidental fuck up (getting a fact wrong or misusing a word in good faith) why not leave the piece as a time capsule? Every creator looks at past work and sees a thousand opportunities for improvement – it’s part of the job to learn and move on, creating something that’s better because time and practise makes us a more skilful writer and a more nuanced person. Making edits post-publication feels like we’re pretending that the new edition was the only one, like we never went through a learning process. Why does the original work have to change? Why is it not enough for the author to say ‘shit, yeah that line/plot point/passage did not come off as I’d hoped, but I wouldn’t write it now,’ or ‘I didn’t know about X issue when I was writing! It would have informed my work if I had.’ While we’re here, why do some readers think they can demand that an author changes their work? Spending £4.99 on an ebook doesn’t mean you own the author, dude. Point out an issue with a manuscript if you like, but the author’s reaction is their call – they don’t have to listen to you, let alone change their finished work. You didn’t both sign a contract when you picked up the book you’ve taken issue with.

I dunno, it might be because I’m finally reading Nineteen Eighty-Four, but publishers bowing to a small group of shouty people feels like a dangerous precedent, for free speech, for creative industries and for, well, humanity. It could harm writers, who might avoid exploring difficult, important topics for fear of backlash. It could lead to a rigid, unadventurous publishing industry that’s unwilling to fund anything that could lead to controversy – even though every book ever published has infuriated somebody. And it could harm audiences, especially younger readers, because teaching someone that if they shout loudly enough that they’ll get what they want never leads to a humble, empathic human being. Sometimes, Complete Stranger from Anywhere, Northern Hemisphere, you’re going to encounter things you don’t like, that make you uncomfortable, that you disagree with vehemently. This does not mean the thing owes it to you to change.

As readers, I think we have a responsibility to use our little grey cells and figure out if a character making a joke or a shitty comment is the same as the author making a joke or shitty comment, or if the author’s trying to make a wider point. Maybe the author is hoping the reader notices the subtext they’ve woven in. Maybe they’re assuming the reader has enough critical thinking skills to make the distinction between a character’s beliefs and the author’s, or to reflect upon why that joke is there in the first place. In my last book, a man breaks a glass over his daughter’s head. As a writer and as a human, I have to assume that my readers will perceive that character as a bad guy without needing me to pre-empt the scene with ‘PERSON ABOUT TO DO A MORALLY REPREHENSIBLE ACTION I DO NOT SUGGEST YOU DO.’

I’ll probably still have to defend myself at some point. Or defend the bit where – wait, spoilers. Hehe.

Back to Red, White and Royal Blue, because I really enjoyed it once I got over the fact there’s a Prince Henry and a Prince Phillip. And a Princess Beatrice… (I was unreasonably tickled by this, and I have no business being so because I once named a princess Beatrice, too. I was going to change it when I thought of a better name and then forgot. I don’t even know which sister is the real Princess Beatrice. I am digressing. Insomnia! And also I was woken up at 4am by a game of Cards Against Humanity.)

I hope that, if there’s a sequel one day, we get to see actual Britain. It’s always fun seeing outsiders’ interpretations of the UK, because they usually involve pomp and ceremony. The touristy bits. But I’d quite like to read about a cheeky Nandos with the lads, a post-Wetherspoons trip to Maccies, a football fan sticking a firework up their arse. I want clandestine trips to Greggs and a scene set somewhere that isn’t London. Ooh, now I want a pasty. In real life, not in a book. Well, also in a book.

Remind me to set a short story in a Greggs. That got long-ish, huh. I think a lot about critical thinking and fictional work and the author-reader relationship. Probably too much? Part of me wants to write something about a hugely difficult topic, yeet the book onto the internet and log off forever, leaving generations of readers to debate my true intentions and to pick apart lines trying to figure out what they’re meant to learn from the work. I’d have to stop thinking about pasties to do that, though. Ooh, speaking of stories, I asked my patrons the other day about a potential Easter-inspired Bezzina’s story. Let me know if this is something you’d like to see!

Look after yourselves,

Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

brain chat

Ringing in some changes

I am balancing a pot of tea, a cup, a teeny milk jug and a large slice of cake next to this laptop, on a table designed to hold about a third as many objects. I’ve set everything up now, though, so I feel obligated to do something while the tea steeps. So I’m here! Hi!

If you’re new here, welcome. If you’re not new, I feel like I should reintroduce myself. I’m Francesca, I’m a writer and an undergrad at I’m Not Telling You My Uni, studying I’m Not Telling You That Either. I’m from Southend, which is a sprawling, disjointed town city in a corner of England that is hard to get to by accident. It’s so large that I don’t mind telling you I’m from there. Also, parts of it are said to be haunted, which is cool. Also also, it’s the sort of place most people don’t give a shit about even if they live there, so you’re not going to expect nice photos of cute cafes or pretty buildings in real time. There aren’t many of either.

Anyway, I’m writing from Uni Town, which does have nice cafes and pretty buildings. I might talk more about it once I’ve moved off campus and would be harder to track down. Don’t look at me like that, I have no idea if you’re weird.

If you’re not new and raising your eyebrows, I promise I’ve not been replaced by an android (not that I’d know if I had…). I just wanted to make a fresh start, write a post I could stick to the top of the site for newcomers. I nearly removed this entire blog from the internet, actually, but decided to redecorate instead. I’ve been blogging for over a decade, which in internet years is half a century. I needed a change. I was tired of logging on and seeing the detritus of unfinished posts, and notifications from readers who are, upon closer inspection, actually crypro currency blogs. I was going through my subscriber list the other day, out of curiosity – I don’t think I’ve looked at it for years – and I recognised about three names. The rest, I kid you not, are crypto and syndication sites which I am assuming are run by Vladimir Putin’s propaganda department. Most readers from the pre-Covid years have moved on or passed away. So, change. I was going to make a whole new site, and leave this one as a monument to my incredibly unadventurous youth, but I couldn’t be arsed with the admin. Plus WordPress kept telling me I had a free domain to snaffle from the Internet Gods, and I thought, that’ll do.

So. Welcome to Francesca’s Thoughts. If Indifferent Ignorance was predominately opinions and grumbles and adoration of My Chemical Romance, Francesca’s Thoughts is going to be musings and questions and adoration of My Chemical Romance. I started Indifferent Ignorance to share my thoughts on Huge Things, but back in 2009 you had about one seismic global event per year. These days there’s a genuine chance World War III will have broken out before tea. Anyway, I’m no longer interested in speaking for the sake of sharing. If I have a point to make, I’m more likely to make it in a short story or a book. I’m not going to put away my soap box completely, and I’ll be cynical until the sun explodes, but I don’t know if I want to contribute to the general feeling of irritation that permeates the internet nowdays.

On a sort-of related note, I’ve had a shit few years. Handful of years. Almost coming up on a decade, probably. Not completely fucking terrible, but a definite series of unfortunate events. Have you read or seen Good Omens? In one not-spoilery event, a demon conspires to turn the original design for the M25 orbital motorway into an enormous Satanic sigil. The road’s shape, coupled with the fact that most journeys on the M25 naturally inspire feelings of pure hatred, ensure that the entire motorway is a constant source of low-grade evil.*

That’s what my day-to-day has been feeling like, for ages now. A gentle smog of low-grade evil. Not all day, and not every day. But I’ve had enough anxiety and bouts of depression, enough work-based dead ends, enough physical health issues that it really does feel like something’s in the air. I don’t think it’s just me, either – a reoccurring theme in conversations with friends is how out of balance everything feels. Work, home life, the climate, world events. A lot of us are at the end of our tether. I’ve written about it here before, and it’s not improving naturally. I can’t do anything about the wider world, but there might be something I can do at my end of the phone? Maybe?

I was thinking I could start here. I’m crap at having hobbies, because they nearly all become my job. This site never really materialised as a source of income, so I’m going to make a concerted effort to make it a space to hang out and chat. No pressure on me to create or you to cough up. I was thinking I could talk about the tarot – I’ve been shit at reading for myself lately, it’s been months since I did a reading just for me – or my bizarre writing processes or my quest to make the perfect peanut butter biscuit. Or something else entirely. Who knows!

I don’t know what I’ll continue from Indifferent Ignorance. Probably Read, If You Like, because I bloody love reading. Probably occasional income round ups, because my patrons seem to like them and I like holding myself accountable to them. Definitely my ongoing Killjoy Jacket project. Definitely plant posts. In fact, here’s a bougainvillea. I’ve shared photos of bougainvillea in posts before when I’ve needed a photo, and they’re just such a good plant to look at. This is a crap photo but it still makes me feel, I don’t know, warm and summery. ‘Where do you want to go after you graduate?’ ‘I want to embody a bougainvillea in July.’

bougainvillea close up

I’ll leave the little book reminders at the end of posts, too, because I wrote a book, damnit.

I don’t want to remove all my old posts – some of them are quite sweet, in a ‘this kid is an idiot’ way – or pretend they weren’t there to start with. Half of my problem with internet culture these days is the lack of nuance and lack of desire to let people learn. I think it’s important to show that people evolve.

So, in the spirit of evolution, I hope I’ll see you here soon. I hope I’ll be back here soon.

Look after yourselves!

Francesca

* If you want to leave or reach Southend by car, there’s a good chance you’ll meet the M25. I’m saying nothing about what that does for residents’ psyche.


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

brain chat

A quick chat and a cool tree photo

Hi hi. Happy palindrome day! Apparently today’s date is also an ambigram, which means it looks the same upside down. This feels fitting. A bloke on the radio this morning* kept referring to Russia invading Ukraine as a bit like the Cuban Missile Crisis and let’s just say that if this was 10 years ago and I was still doing GCSE history, I would appreciate that reference! As it is all I can think of is that X Men film.

How are we all? Dealing with the weather? I keep hearing about ancient trees that have come down in the wind, and I think it’s fair to say my transformation into antisocial forest-dweller is well on its way, because I get emotional when I think about it. I was ninety per cent asleep at the time, but a different bloke on the radio** was talking about a thousand year old oak. A thousand years! He said something about it having seen Vikings invade, and I got distracted trying to figure out how many generations of birds would have nested in the tree and missed whether or not the weather brought it down.

I’m not going to Google it.

Did I come here with something to say? I genuinely can’t remember. Every item of news this morning made me sad or furious so I think I was just thinking ‘let’s talk about something fun!’ Oh, that’s why I started talking about palindromes. But I’m not that into maths, so I’ll be honest I’m struggling. This is why I write book reviews or talk about my plants. Letting me start a blog post with no prompts except that I learnt the word ambigram is a terrible idea, especially when the whole point of popping in to chat was to take my mind off – and hopefully your mind off – World Events. I will not feel bad if you tell me it hasn’t worked.

I’m going to sign off and get some caffeine, but here is a photo of a cool tree in Angkor Wat from five (five!) years ago:

tree at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Bloody love a tree. Look at that. Humans make cool buildings that last centuries and trees just… grow through them.

Right, caffeine. See you soon!

Look after yourselves,

Francesca

*Health secretary. He was the Health Secretary.

**Definitely not the Health Secretary.


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Books · Read If You Like

Read, If You Like: Non Fiction Edition

Happy new year! I don’t usually gravitate towards non fiction, but there are a handful I’ve read over the last couple of years that I’ve really enjoyed, so I thought I’d share them here. As usual, you can find them on my Bookshop.org recommendations.

Read The Importance of Being Interested, by Robin Ince (2021), if you like:

  • A bit of science, but not so much you have to actually be a professional with a specialism in that specific, finickity little bit of scientific research to understand it
  • Anecdotes about physicists, the clergy and the occasional ghost hunter
  • A bit of philosophy, but not so much you need a philosophy degree to understand it
  • A contagious, oozing love and respect for being alive on this strange little planet in this tiny corner of the universe, right exactly now

Read Pandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes (2020), if you like:

Trick! I already included this in my Greek mythology post but it’s so good I wanted to mention it again!

Read Real Life Money, by Clare Seal (2020), if you like:

  • Non-condescending conversation about finances, with enough of the author’s personal background that you know her perspective has come from the heart and her experience, not a handful of business blogs and an online course
  • Genuinely interesting insights into spending habits, consumerism and financial wellbeing in this weird, advert-driven world
  • Advice about money that isn’t ‘take on a third job, stop drinking coffee and cancel your TV licence!!!’
  • (Is this the place to talk about how the TV licence is an investment in the entire UK arts scene? No? Okay but I want you to think about how it’s an investment in the entire UK arts scene)
hand holding Real Life Money, by Clare Seal

Read Be the Change: A Toolkit for the Activist in You by Gina Martin (2018), if you like:

  • Well, activism, but from the perspective of someone who fell into it by accident
  • It’s by the lady who made upskirting illegal in England and Wales after being upskirted, so like Real Life Money, you really feel the author’s passion for her subject
  • Practical advice for campaigning, writing to your elected officials and educating yourself on your subject of interest
  • It was really useful when I started the Do Something Directory, so if you’re into campaigning, fundraising, activism or think you might like to be, I can really recommend it

How is everyone doing as we edge closer to February? I try not to hate January – it’s not January’s fault that it’s almost always the coldest, Scroogiest month, with many deadlines – but I’m looking forward to St Brigid’s Day (or Imbolc, if you prefer, or, if we’re being boring: 1st February).

I haven’t finished it yet so will have to wait for another Read, If You Like to talk about it, but I’m partway through a book about the folklore of plants. I really like thinking about seasonal changes and how, in years gone by, societies seemed much happier to welcome in new months or seasons with a little bit of ritual. Probably because more people worked the land or grew their own medicines, and needed to pay closer attention to those miniscule changes to their landscape. I’m not going to be sewing carrots or dancing round a may pole any time soon, but I am thoroughly enjoying my afternoon walks, even though they are freezing. I saw snowdrops the other day! It’s still light at about half past five! I might cry when we put the clocks forward.

Let me know: have you read any of the books I’ve talked about? What did you think of them? What are you looking forward to as we make our way through winter?

Look after yourselves,
Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)

Books · brain chat

Things from 2021 that I liked and you might like

Happy nearly 2022! I don’t love those look-at-my-great-year posts, so I thought I’d do one talking about some of the lovely things I’ve come across this year:

  • Roman mosaics turned up in Rutland and they’re super duper old and super duper cool
  • The Magnus Archives wrapped up with a truly epic finale
  • Time Team is coming BACK and it’s going to be on the internet for all of us to enjoy
  • David Attenborough survives and, going on the assumption that he has a new show out, thrives
  • The guy who founded the We Rate Dogs Twitter account started a charity providing financial support for shelter dogs with complex medical needs, so they’d be more attractive to potential new owners. I can’t tell you how wonderful the 15/10 Foundation’s Twitter feed is, and how much better you’ll feel if you look at it
  • The Ever Given got stuck in the Suez and I know it was terrible for the economy et cetera et cetera but it was also ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS
  • Football didn’t come home but the idea that it might was quite nice (in the spirit of focussing on the good stuff, let’s not dwell on the racism or that bloke who stuck a firework in his arse)
  • While we’re on the subject of contests won by Italians… Eurovision came back! And Måneskin took their place as the world’s best rock band, Under 25s Category.

I’m staying in for new year’s eve, just to be on the safe side – although I’ve realised my favourite bit of NYE parties is getting to chat to my mates and cuddle with the hosts’ dog(s), so I’m not bothered about missing General Revelry. Last new year was difficult because there was no option but to stay indoors; this year I’m grateful to have the choice. And I choose to sit in my socks, eat panettone with my grandmother and think about all the books I want to read next year!

Seriously, though, I have a good handful of titles I cannot wait to dig into. I fell off the blogging wagon a little this year, but I hope to continue with book recommendation posts in 2022. A few titles I haven’t gotten around to enthusiastically recommending yet are Queenie, the Six of Crows duology, Robin Ince’s The Importance of Being Interested, Hitchhiker’s Guide (which I’d read once before but it’s like a good wine, it just improves with age), The Starless Sea – wait, I might have written about that. I can’t remember. 2021 had some really shit bits, but it excelled itself book wise. I was going to say it excelled itself film wise, but I’ve only been to the cinema once since Covid started and nearly all the films and TV shows I’ve seen were released ages ago. I liked, um, the animated Netflix one where Tim Minchin voiced a koala.

I just remembered that I almost went back into education to study film. Ha!

What were your highlights of 2021? What are you hoping for as we head into ’22? I’ve got a few modest goals – sort out my sock drawer, finish reading a copy of Frankenstein my friend T leant me on Halloween, get to the end of the academic year in one piece. I’m looking forward to some really mundane things, like Peaky Blinders coming back, new leaves on the trees on my uni campus, new Stiefvater novels, my fourth Covid jab. Ooh, I think there’s an extra bank holiday for the Queen’s Jubilee. I’m not sure if it’s a pandemic side effect or if everyone does it at some point during their twenties and the pandemic’s amplified it, but I’m far more interested in little things these days, things I used to consider insignificant. I saw a cool looking bird the other day. I’m not sure if pre-pandemic Francesca would have spent so much time trying to identify it on the RSPB website (consensus: male chaffinch, possibly). So, yeah, more books and more wildlife in 2022, I guess. Oh, and some of those shows that were originally scheduled for 2020! I’ll believe it when the lights go down, ha!

Happy new year!

Look after yourselves,
Francesca


Want to support this blog and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Alternatively, use the button below for one-off support of as much or as little as you’d like (if you’d prefer, you can use PayPal or Ko-fi). If you’re into fairy tales and/or want a brief respite from reality, you can also buy my bookThe Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, from most ebook retailers and as a paperback from Amazon. (That link’s an affiliate. Gotta scrape every penny from Bezos, you know?)