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?)

brain chat · Health

On slowing down, whether you want to or not

I am writing to you from the grass on a little green in town. SUMMER IS HERE. I did realise – after I’d scanned the area carefully and sat down – that I was right next to a fag end, and it might be about to rain, but still. SUMMER. I even brought coffee and sandwiches:

hand holding black travel mug with a tarot design reading 'coffee'
I love this mug! My friend S got it for me for Christmas. Under the hand guard it says ‘tarot readings’

Today I am thinking about slow living, and how I really like it. Sitting on the grass with a sandwich, metaphorically and actually, is not a bad way to spend half an hour. For anyone who doesn’t read The Guardian, slow living is just… taking your time. Less rushing between tasks or jobs or places, more sitting about and collect your thoughts or enjoying the place you’re currently in before going to the next one. It’s the fifteen course meze of lifestyles, not the sausage roll and tea from Greggs while the meter’s running.* I think I’m better at slow living than fast living, a bit because my brain is alwaysmovingreallyquicklyanditgetsoverwhelmingandineedtotakethetimetocalmitdown. A bit because my health takes a lot more work to maintain than I realised a few years ago. If you’re new, hi, I have hypermobility and it causes joint and muscle issues, and IBS (fun fact, hypermobility might cause IBS. The gift that keeps on giving!). Anyway, yeah, physically rushing risks putting out my bad knee or pulling my back, eating quickly gives me a stomachache. I spend a lot of time in Pilates classes doing damage control. I can’t move straight away after eating, which is why I’m staring down pigeons as it begins to threaten to drizzle.

So today I’m reflecting on how I actually quite like having to slow down. I’m good at getting a coffee and reading a book. I’m slow at reading nonfiction, so I take forever to pick my way through set reading. I’m good at sitting round the kitchen table and chatting over dinner. Even when my brain is busy and I’m working on four projects and have eight upcoming deadlines, I’m not too stressed as long as I know I’ve got time in the day to get some fresh air or go and be a human with my friends. Enjoying taking my time is probably why I like the Mediterranean so much. Even though a lot of life has to be quick-quick, there’s no harm in taking your time with other things. Like bureaucracy.

Are you someone else who likes to do things a bit slowly-slowly? Let me know! And, if you’re in the UK or somewhere with an astronomical cost of living, tell me: how do you balance slow living with making a living? I was thinking about time the other day, and how we all have the same 24 hours, and I could in theory work A jobs over B hours and earn C money. But I don’t have the same 24 hours as someone who doesn’t need to exercise religiously, or who doesn’t take hours to read academic journals. I used to think I did, and trying to keep pace made me ill so often that I eventually figured out I can’t keep up with the 60 hour week people. So I actually have D hours in the day into which I have to fit everything that isn’t ‘keeping my body in one piece.’ I can’t really do the health stuff around the uni work or the jobs, because that’s when one of my joints says FRANCESCA, I’M GOING ON STRIKE. And then I am stuck in bed with multiple hot water bottles, some paracetamol and a bad mood. For ages.

I really need to stand up and move around now -I timed it perfectly to finish my coffee and I’m smug – so I will go and walk for a bit, then upload this. Shout if you’re a slow living human! Or a fast living human. Either way, tell me your secrets…

Look after yourselves!

Francesca

*I had not-enough sleep, I can’t tell if the meze/Greggs comparison is the greatest thing I’ve ever written on the stupidest.


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 · weather

Rainy afternoon chatter

Hello hello,

Three posts in a week? It is definitely 2011. How’s everyone? I’m sitting in my newly acquired MCR dress* and having a coffee. Today’s a loooong day, because I’m doing an online writing class that starts at 11pm. I’m normally in bed or thinking about bed at eleven, so I feel like I’m doing a very nerdy marathon. I’ve got a small amount of academic reading and one seminar between now and the end of my first year as an undergraduate, so to celebrate I decided to go see MCR again this weekend. I asked about four people to talk me out of the idea and they nearly all talked me into it? Do they want me to come to them in a few months complaining that my savings have disappeared, replaced by, what, good memories? Is this a good time to remind you all that my commissions are open until the end of May… I kid, I kid, this is a no-regrets situation.

Anyway, yeah, this afternoon I am conserving energy and looking forward to my class later. Ironically, my copy of the book I need to reference in tonight’s class is with a friend, so I need to hunt it out on ye olde Kindle and buy it digitally. It doesn’t seem to be available as an ebook from any of the library apps I can think of, and although I requested it as a paperback from my local library, it’s not in yet. Although I’ll always prefer hard copies of books, I fully agree that e-readers have earned their place in the universe of reading tools. I use mine mostly for emergencies, like now, or when I’m travelling and can’t pack 80 paperbacks. I’m going to summer school in a few weeks and I’m already planning which hard copies of books will come with, and which I’ll get for my Kindle. Decisions decisions! Suggestions welcome, I’m always on the lookout for new reads.

I suppose I could go and get that academic reading over with. Maybe have a nap. The weather here is appalling today, although pretty. Britain does look wonderful and lush when it’s raining and misty, doesn’t it? I do resent that I own two separate rain jackets, though. I suppose I could cull my collection but if I’m going to get rained on, I want to do it in a mac that matches my outfit.

gif of a dachshund wearing a raincoat
WHO FILMED ME. (from Giphy)

What are you up to now summer is around the corner? Any plans for the Jubilee? I am going to Southend and drinking prosecco, probably but not necessarily in that order. Might eat a scone. I am assuming scones will manifest themselves in front of me at some point during the bank holiday weekend, it’s basically law.

RIGHT. Academic reading and a nap, here I come.

Look after yourselves,
Francesca

*officially it is a large t-shirt, but when you’re this short you can turn almost anything into a dress with the right attitude.


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?)

'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?)

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 · 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


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brain chat · Internet

Reflections on this blog and where it’s going (with a little bit of tarot, it is Halloween)

A few moments ago I pulled a tarot card for this blog. It’s Halloween, it’s the site’s spiritual birthday, it’s a good way to start a post. I thought about the last twelve years as I shuffled, and I was expecting to feel a little melancholy as I did so. It’s Halloween, after all, which for my money is a much better time to reflect on things gone by than new year is. It’s also the blog’s twelve year anniversary, and after I hit five years of blogging I found it impossible to reach this date without reflecting on years gone by. Most blogs last about twenty minutes. It’s discombobulating to think back to what I was doing at fourteen, at eighteen, at twenty one, and know that throughout that time I was here, talking to you.

As you’ll know if you’ve been following for the past few months, recently I’ve been making a more concerted effort to appreciate the seasons. (Autumn, you have been stunning this year.) I wondered today how I would organise this blog into seasons – or sections, because four seasons feels too finite. I think that 2009 through to around 2014 or 2015 was when I was in full ‘this is my space and if you’re here, you can listen to me’ mode. When I finished school, in around 2014 or so, I came a bit unstuck. Partly because my home life was coming unstuck, and partly because leaving school is weird. Both together were a recipe for uncertainty, and I struggled to define what I wanted to talk about.

2015 through to 2018 or so was a series of attempts to identify what this site meant, to me and to the few readers who remained from my school days. I spoke about travel, and being a professional creative, and art. Looking back, it was my entire life that needed redefining, not this one tiny corner of it. Gradually, as I got further and further into finishing The Princess and the Dragon, and as social media seemed to fall further and further into a plague pit of performative, po-faced judgement and toxic positivity, I found it harder to figure out what I was contributing to the world by sharing my thoughts. I was increasingly aware that if my fiction work grew in popularity, I would be more and more at risk of someone reading those old, soap boxy posts circa 2011, finding something badly worded or ignorant, and proclaiming that I should never sell another book. It sounds overdramatic, but in the young adult fiction space, you’re either a saint or you’re cancelled. My work Twitter feed, when I still looked at it, was awash with book bloggers debating the evils of problematic authors and/or their equally problematic content. One author recently edited a couple of lines of dialogue out of a published novel because people online were giving them hell for supporting the Israeli government. Or something. I wondered if I should semi-jokingly cancel myself before someone else could do it for me. I wondered how long it would take to, say, livestream a dramatic reading of all my old posts, during which I could reassess my teenage opinions and, more practically, remove photographs of people I’m no longer in touch with. I wondered if it was worth continuing to blog at all. I’ve been wondering that a lot for the last two or three years.

So you’ll be as surprised as I was that when I was shuffling my cards and thinking back on this site’s many incarnations, I felt happy. I was thinking back to how enthusiastic I was when I started, how hopeful I was that just by shouting into the void, the void might pay attention and change a little for the better. Now, as I write, I’m thinking about all the lovely conversations I’ve had on here over the years, how grateful I am to all of my readers, and how cool it is that I’ve been working on one project longer than quite a lot of people have been alive.

This was the card, the Three of Wands:

Three of Wands tarot card, part of Maggie Stiefvater's Raven's Prophecy deck.

For those of you not into the tarot, spiritually or otherwise, it’s all about sharing your work with others. Sit with your friends by the embers of that fire, the card says, and see where you go.

It feels hopeful, and I am not used to feeling hopeful in regard to my creative work. I don’t say that to elicit sympathy, or pity; being a professional creative is a numbers game. Statistically, I won’t ‘make it.’ I’m not sure what ‘it’ is, to be honest. Creative work as a full time job? I don’t know anyone who’s creative as a full timer, including authors with big fancy book deals. Most of us teach on the side, or speak at conferences, or write articles for magazines on subjects that aren’t necessarily creative. Some of us run podcasts or livestreams, or are fortunate enough to have proper radio shows or full time teaching jobs. Some sell our books to film companies, I guess, and if we’re lucky get to be a part of the production team. Most of us would say that the extra stuff helps fuel the creative work (although the dynamics of balancing the two is a conversation for another day).

I don’t know if this is a blog that will keep going, or how long for. As reader numbers have waxed and waned, I’ve asked myself again and again what the point of talking is if there’s no one there to listen. I’m never going to stop asking myself if there’s any point to sharing what I’m thinking, or what I’m doing. I’m not sure that’s something that can be answered just once. I have a feeling I’m only ever going to get more private, too, as my offline work evolves and as I spend more time working on the Do Something Directory as a relatively professional, sensible managing director whose sharing of personal views are not necessarily conducive to building a non profit organisation. And what’s a blog if not a type of online journal? Maybe we’ll find out.

If I can look back on this blog and feel hopeful, then I can look forward and feeling hopeful, too. I know that as May of next year inches closer, I’m going to want to show you guys my Killjoy jacket and, most likely, write a thousand words about the spiritual experience of seeing My Chem again. Do you remember when I wrote something soppy exactly two years ago to mark this blog’s momentous decade of existence and then MCR had the audacity to steal my thunder and announce a reunion? So rude.

Maybe I’ll share other things, too, like what I’m writing at the moment (social media copy for the Directory, to be quite honest), what I’m reading (I’m about to start a lovely copy of Frankenstein my friend T leant me, I can’t wait) and what I’m up to when I’m not doing those things. Hint: higher education. I could write a whole post on how much more I sleep now compared with before I went to university. Was I just not using my brain that much beforehand, or has close proximity to teenagers rewound my body clock? I don’t know how much I want to talk about uni online (I’m not going to talk about where I am publicly until second year, at least, because I live on campus). And I like having something that belongs to just me. Well, just me and the nine thousand people my mother has been telling about it.

Happy Halloween, lovelies. Go and reflect on the past, this is the best time to do it! I personally am going to make pasta. Look after yourselves and don’t forget to blow out the candles on your pumpkins before you go to bed. No one wants to celebrate Halloween by actually crossing the veil.

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?)