Books · brain chat · TV

In which it is still fkn January

Hello!

I am on a break from my assignments (aka if I look at any of the relevant documents again today I might cry because I keep working on them but they aren’t getting any closer to being finished and it’s so horrible it’s crossed back round into being funny) so I thought I’d do something I like for the rest of the day, aka read Private Eye and say hi to you all. How has January been? Here is a brief summary of mine so far:

  • Finally watched that pirate show and I get what all the fuss is about
  • Learnt what yin yoga is (if you’re one of the people I used to work for at a yoga studio, I promise I knew what yin yoga was when we worked together. Then I removed the information from my brain to make space for new stuff and had to relearn. I absolutely knew what I was talking about when I wrote your marketing copy. Absolutely.)
  • Read The Book Thief and holy shit the people who call it a classic were spot on it was devastating
  • My tax code changed so I basically got a really big bonus from my job so I spent a good three days feeling like Scrooge McDuck when he slides down all that money. Until I remembered it’s 2023 and by June one tea bag will cost £87
  • Remembered that I really like Fleetwood Mac. How have I made it to 27 without realising how much everyone should like Fleetwood Mac. Also I didn’t know Everywhere was a Fleetwood Mac song because as this list has established I have the brain of a sea snail. I don’t know who I thought wrote it. I think I have song blindness.

Otherwise it’s been a quiet one. If I ever become one of those wealthy-ish ladies with a lot of small pet dogs and a husband who died in mysterious circumstances, I think I might take the whole month of January to recline in the bath and eat Christmas cake.

Might do that anyway to be honest.

How are you coping with 2023 so far? Everyone I know is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, including the people who are normally quite together. My working theory is that it’s because the last two to three years have been week after week of varying degrees of ‘THE WORLD IS ENDING AND YOUR GOVERNMENT HAS GONE ON HOLIDAY.’ And now everyone is like taffy right before you stretch it so far it breaks.

How’s that for a metaphor. That right there is why I have almost-double figure Patreon membership! I’m going to fuck off now before I can descend into talking even more shite than normal. I hope you’re well, is what I’m saying. Cling on. It’s still light at 5pm now. We’re nearly at St Brigid’s Day and the UK has only had one prime minister all 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?)

brain chat

Happy new year!

Got you with that title!

Well, lads, the year is nearly over. For people observing the winter solstice as a religious/spiritual festival, we’re already into the new year. I quite like that idea, that you follow your new year’s celebrations with a couple of bank holidays. It makes January feel less daunting. There’s so much pressure on NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS NEW YEAR NEW YOU IT WILL BE THE BEST YET IF YOU BUY/DEPRIVE YOURSELF OF ALL THESE THINGS AND LET’S START IN JANUARY, THE LONGEST AND GREYIST MONTH.

I much prefer the concept of the new year starting when the days start getting longer.

How has your 2022 been? Mine’s been all right, cheers. Quite long. Quite busy. Good busy, I reckon. I’m fairly sure that 2023 will be longer and busier, but I don’t mind because if I’m busy I can’t spend too much time panicking over things I can’t change, like gas prices and our electoral system. I hope you had a good 2022, or at least not a terrible one. I am going to fuck off for a while and make eggnog and reflect on the year. I like journaling and lists (surprise! You have never noticed this) and 2022 is definitely one for list roundups. Shit I’ve learnt, shit I’ve enjoyed, shit I don’t want to keep doing. 2023 deserves the list treatment. I am slightly devastated that I don’t have 2-3 concerts to go to that were cancelled in 2019. That MCR show was in so many calendars! But I hope it will be a healthy and peaceful one for you and I, regardless of, you know, the ongoing degradation of our planet and ethical standards in public life. And however many wars are going on when you read this.

I’ll leave you with this snap of the sunrise yesterday. I observed the solstice when the Stonehenge people did, because if it’s good enough for Stonehenge then it’s good enough for me. But a lot of people observed it the day before. Something to do with sunsets, I think. I like to think of Apollo basking in the double adoration. I picked a good day for sunrises, anyway. Although that bastard gull flew away and ruined my one chance to look like someone who understands photography and lines and that.

Right. I’m going. HAPPY NEW YEAR.

misty sunrise with a gull, over Southend-on-Sea

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 · Food

In which I made the November Cakes and I’m so pleased with myself I’m telling the internet

Hello!

Do you remember how, a few weeks ago, I spoke about my hopeful plans for November and they included baking an extremely tricky, sticky batch of November Cakes?

WELL I DID IT AND IT TURND OUT OKAY

I was so surprised and also so in doubt I’ll make them again that I took a photo:

plate of cakes with a lot of pooled glaze

Ignore the pools of glaze. You’re meant to roll the dough into a cinnamon swirl shape that the glaze pools in, but I couldn’t because I was using a reusable coffee cup for a rolling pin and the dough wasn’t quite as firm as it should have been so they were more like fairy cakes. The glaze just ran off the cake onto the plate, where it congealed.

Can confirm: just as delicious as if I’d done it properly. Probably. Bonus is that there’s a lot of waiting around while dough rises so I got to read The Scorpio Races at the same time… and sip mint tea from the fancy Scorpio book box I bought back in January. I never really liked mint tea until this blend of mint and… raspberry?

copy of The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater alongside bookmark, teacup and tea tin

I’m keeping the tin so I can search out something similar. Also, yes, I took a photograph of my themed tea with my themed tea tin and my themed bookmark. Today was a strike day at my university, so since my main project this academic year is not to burn out, I thought I’d do the unthinkable and take the day off. Do some yoga, read my favourite standalone novel, use my crockpot to bake some cakes (I don’t have a mixing bowl, but the crockpot did the job I reckon).

It’s so bucolic I want to puke a bit. Although just out of shot is a moderately gross student living room, so it wasn’t totally… what do they call it? Cottagecore. Kitchencore. Cutecore.

Right I’ve got to go and press some November Cakes onto my friends. I made twelve. I have consumed three. Three might be two too many. Either way, see you in December assuming I haven’t snaffled all the cakes and gone into a sugar coma. No ragrets, as they say.

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 · Food

November Plans *autumn leaf emoji*

Hello! What are you looking forward to this November? I am pleasantly surprised that I’m actually quite enthusiastic. A few years ago I couldn’t get excited about October or November, because they mean ~ winter is coming ~ but I have recovered from this misconception. Partly because climate change means winter arrives in March, and partly because October and November are brilliant. This month I am planning: to read The Scorpio Races actually in November for the first time ever; make November cakes for the first time ever; start a certain other Maggie Stiefvater book that concludes two other Maggie Stiefvater series I may or may not be procrastinating my reread because I don’t want to say goodbye; go for some walks.

Pretty heavy on the reading, but November is the best time to read because there is nothing else to do except listen to fireworks too far away to see, work on your winter deadlines and talk about how it should probably be colder this time of year.

I am also thinking about shopping for a certain midwinter festival, but that is because my budget is a bit stretched and I need to plan early. WE ARE NOT GOING TO MENTION THE FESTIVAL.

I am going to think about eggnog though. I learnt to make it last year, and it’s top notch. Speaking of food, if you aren’t a Scorpio Races fan (and I shouldn’t be; on paper it has little I enjoy reading but in reality it is a perfect hug of a novel) these are November cakes. I am tentatively planning to have a go at baking some – I haven’t baked anything for months and months, not least anything that requires that many steps. I also don’t own a food processor. Or a rolling pin. Or any ingredients.

I’ll let you know how they go if I do make them, not least because I suspect it will be funny for you guys immediately, and funny for me once I’ve washed flour out of my hair.

Must dash, I told myself today was a day for reading once I’ve worked on those deadlines. Let me know your autumnal plans! Especially if they involve food. We can compare notes…

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?)

Health · weather

Thoughts on other people’s cold remedies. Also it has been raining

Good morning, if it is still the morning when I post this. The odds of it being this morning when you read it are slim, but maybe you are catching up on your internet based light entertainment on your Monday commute.

If you drive to work, please stop reading.

How are we? Autumn in Uni City has once again proven itself to be, in equal parts: colourful, misty and extremely, noisily, rainy. The sort where your bag won’t dry and then you realise that it was never truly up to the job of keeping your stuff dry in anything one could call weather and now you have to search for another. I usually try to get my clothes and accessories second hand or in a swap these days, but I think I’m going to have to buy a new-new backpack. It’s got to last two more years of my degree at the very least, and it’ll leave the house with me six days a week minimum for, what, forty weeks of the year? And most of those weeks it will be raining.

I kind of feel bad for typing that because this morning’s rain has given way to clear-ish skies and I can hear birds singing, which is almost too bucolic to feel real. I can also hear sirens, though. Cheers England.

Other than getting drenched on my way to work and/or classes, I have been busy trying and failing to shake fresher’s flu. I think I’m on my second or third bout now, unless it’s just one long virus-driven party in my nose. My house is coughing like we’re Marge’s sisters in The Simpsons. It’s not Covid, we’ve checked. Other viruses are available. The one upside is that I can’t rush about too much, so I’m taking things slowly and trying to enjoy the little things in life, like going more than half an hour without sneezing. My favourite cold remedy, sticking your head over a bowl of hot water, is a lot less practical when the only big bowl you own is your crockpot, so I’m mostly taking a lot of too-hot showers and hoping it has the same impact. It does not. I’ve just remembered my nan telling me a story about someone she used to know who had a Lemsip every evening. This wasn’t if they were ill, it was every evening like you might have a herbal tea or a cocoa.

I have so many questions.

Are you permanently buzzed on paracetamol and whatever they put in Lemsip, or does it wear off really quickly and just mean that if you were really ill you’d have to go straight to morphine? Does it have any impact on the health of your gut? I’m remembering that some of you are not from the UK. This is what I am talking about:

Why does the logo include a sword? Is it a metaphor for destroying your cold? The questions pile on…

I ought to go and get my day properly started – I need to go bag shopping! And the rain might hold off for a bit, so I should probably go and enjoy that blue sky while I can see it. Also, I got an email notification that a survey I put online for my stationery business in 2018 has had a new response. I mean, sure, I’ll take a look…

Let me know your cold remedies. I am curious as to whether any of them include knocking back mild painkillers every day whether you need them or not.

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?)

COFFEE · History & Old Stuff · Holidays · Travel · weather · Zakynthos

In which I am a bit nerdy in museums, talk a lot about coffee and have two autumn equinoxes because one isn’t enough

Hello and happy September! And happy autumn! I adore this time of year, except for a) when it rains literal buckets while you are at the bus stop and b) when you get the dates of the equinox confused. This year I had two equinoxes. Not mad about it.

How has your September been? Mine has been really good actually. On holiday I learnt what a Zombie cocktail is, did actually learn what a paddle board is and how to use one, met some excellent cats and far too many people were nice to me on my birthday. Back in Ye Olde Rain Bucket Country I have mostly been working or waiting for a bus. Or both! I haven’t gotten used to saying ‘King Charles’ yet without immediately following it up with the word ‘spaniel.’ I have also spent approximately 284749 minutes on hold to the doctor, trying to figure out how to finish my degree without two or five organs falling out. Speaking of my degree, can someone please add a few hours onto the day? I’m already doing my uni reading and requiring half an hour to understand one paragraph. I nearly did a creative writing degree. Have I ever told you about that? When I was just thinking, ‘let’s go to uni so adult life goes away for a few years. We’ve done, like, a lot of creative writing already. It won’t be a cake walk but we’ll manage.’ Then I thought, ‘if we’re going to end up in massive debt the degree might as well be extremely hard.’

AND IT IS.

I do have a cafetiere now though. That helps. My flatmates are getting cafetieres too, presumably inspired by how much of a nicer person I am when I’m awake. If I’d been really clever, I’d have taken a photograph of it full of excellent coffee, next to a witchy mug that changes colour when you put hot liquid in it, to show you how fancy I now am. I drank the coffee in order to write this post though, so have instead a photo of a grave marking I saw in a museum in Zante Town:

skull and crossbones grave marker from 1666, in Byzantine Museum of Zakynthos.

Cool huh. I sort of love grave markers and death ritual things. I got to see some Minoan larnakes, which are essentially small coffins, in the Heraklion archaeological museum in Crete when I was there. They’re so intricately decorated and so well made that they are still viewable three thousand-plus years later. We don’t know that much about the Minoan people, but we do know how they looked after their dead. Which I think is quite an important thing to know about a civilisation, because death rituals and practices reflect people’s attitude to life.

Three painted larnakes in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete.

Getting deep, huh. It’s all the coffee. I’ve got to get ready for Freshers events and also for work, so I will see you in October. I’m going to be a mess, just so you know, when the final Dreamer Trilogy book comes out in a few weeks’ time. I might write about it but more likely I will stare at my ceiling and neglect all other areas of my life for approximately two weeks.

I can’t wait bahaha.

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?)

Holidays · Travel

Schlupping Off

Hello!

How has August been treating you? I feel like it has been a month of either being so hot I can’t move to leave the house or being rained on so drastically I don’t want to leave the house.

I don’t have too much to catch you up on – most of August has involved travelling, moving, travelling and, just to spice things up, preparing to travel. I sort of love it though, even if it does mean I spend too much time thinking about the logistics of laundry. It’s been a month since I stopped updating ye olde social media accounts and it’s too early to tell if my mental health is SUPREMELY BETTER, but I have finished one book draft and one short story draft. I like to think the two things are related? Or maybe it’s just that I’m either hyper focussed or not remotely paying attention, and August was the former. It’s almost as though all the travelling around has been good for my brain and I should do it ALL THE TIME. Or maybe I just work harder when I know I’m about to have the opportunity to turn off my internet for a week or so… and setting up the fuck off polite autoreply on emails is one of life’s most underrated experiences. It’s even better when you know you’ve ticked off every measly little thing on your schedule.

gif of a dinosaur front flipping onto a boat
Real footage of me learning to paddleboard

I do have boring house stuff to do, so I’ll say bye and will pop back in when I’m back from my holidays. Do people not from Essex say ‘holibobs’?

You should.

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?)

Animals... · brain chat · History & Old Stuff · Travel

Chilling Out in Crete

Hello and happy it’s-basically-August! How are you?

I’m doing well, cheers for asking. I’ve spent the last month in Crete, making friends with local cats, learning what the accusative case is – well, almost learning – and successfully asking for both wine and orange juice in Greek. Not at the same time, yet.

Tomorrow I am up at stupid o’clock to make my way home, so today I have been trying to figure out where the time went and also trying to figure out how to pack a jug of raki into my case. I’ve think done a better job with the latter than the former, but I suppose I won’t know for sure until I unpack…

I have A TONNE of photos from my trip, but I will be honest that unless you are very into stray animals or Minoan archaeology, they are not that exciting. Thankfully I am into BOTH so here you go:

Otherwise, I am busy writing a Secret Project that will get a code name when I can be bothered to think of one. Magicnovel is too vague. [redacted]novel will give the game away before I’m ready to talk about it. There are other bits and bobs going on – I am moving back to Uni City in a couple of weeks and I’m desperate to do a better job preparing for second year than I did first; some of my favourite people got engaged and I’m so happy I could puke; I had a wee bout of Covid and some other health news I’m mulling over but generally I’m alive and, despite the neighbourhood rooster conspiring to wake me up from the hours of 3am onwards, am feeling all right. I thought I’d better pop in and say hi while it lasts, because air travel and the British rail system will probably remove all my energy and goodwill in the time it takes to say ‘please ensure your bags are safely stowed.’ Does anyone actually enjoy flying? I never really minded it, but on my flight into Crete it occurred to me that the only bit of the process I genuinely like is walking through duty free after you’ve cleared security. That perfume waft says holidays like nothing else. But the rest – air pressure changes, tiny toilet cubicles, constant bloody queues for bloody everything, recycled air – can fuck right off. I’ve been threatening to take the train from the UK to the Mediterranean for a few years now and I think it’s time I start planning it seriously. At first it was a fun idea, because commercial air travel is terrible for the planet and all that, but the more I think about it, the happier I’d be to never get a plane again for a journey that takes less than five hours. If my ears are going to hurt and my brain is going to catastrophise plane crashes, I might as well be leaving Europe. Get a long enough flight that they give you a little toothbrush.

Okay, I do like the little toothbrushes.

Speaking of things I can’t stand these days, I think I might stop updating my business-y social media pages. I’ve not really bothered with it, at varying degrees, for the last year or so. I think I have a big enough data set now to be confident that not using social media to endlessly shout about my work, knowing the algorithm will hide it from anyone who might actually want to see it, makes me happier than using it. I’ll still be here and on Patreon, and I’ll still send my monthly-ish email newsletters because you gus are lovely, but I reckon it’s time to step back from the rest. I won’t delete the accounts, because I do like to pop in sometimes to keep up with my favourite creators and see what people are chatting about. I write YA stories, so I kind of need to know what The Youth are saying. But the ratio of bullshit:pleasant content has gone from 2:8 a few years ago to 8:2 now, and I’m not sure it’s the sort of system that can be changed from the inside.

It’s getting dark and I need to pack a last few things while I can still be bothered, so I will say bye for now. Let me know how your summer is going – or winter, if you’re in the southern hemisphere. I try not to look at stats anymore so I’m not sure if any of you are. I hope so, I love that half the world is making its way through one season while the other half is at a completely different one. I’m tentatively looking forward to autumn back in the UK, because it’s so beautiful and cosy, but at the same time I never want summer to end. If I had the money and energy to learn how physics works, I’d dedicate my life to bottling sunlight. Carry a vial around in the winter. But then, if I had the money to figure out how to bottle sunlight, I’d have the money to piss off on holiday for a bit in January. By train, obviously, and ferry, like in an Agatha Christie novel.

Right, have a good one. 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?)