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?)

Holidays

In which there’s some imagery about bread

Evening!

I’m going on holiday tomorrow and I realised I hadn’t written in since the start of July, so I thought it was high time I pop in. It feels like a billion years ago that I wrote up my LOTR review; I can’t one hundred per cent remember what I’ve been doing in the last six weeks? I cut my hair into a bob (2020 took my plans and my money; it may as well take a foot of overly bleached split ends). I’ve nearly finished the Major Arcana series and ordered some pencils. I uninstalled Instagram from my phone and installed the newest series of Umbrella Academy onto my brain. I’ve eaten in a couple of restaurants (weird but okay) and done a bit of shopping (less weird but all right once I remembered what it’s like to be in a room with more than 4 people).

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about where I’d like to take this blog, and where I’d like to put my time. I haven’t decided anything except that I’m glad I’m taking a break. Making decisions after six months of Pandemic Life is like making decisions on an empty stomach: you might get it spot on, or you might end up crying in a heap and stuffing bread into your mouth while trying to block out the sound of self loathing.

So, yeah, nothing yet.

Look after yourselves!

F.

Easter · Food · Holidays · Tim Minchin

I Spent 10 Minutes Trying to Title This and Couldn’t So Um Here Are 2 ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ GIFs and a Brief Mention of Income Tax

Shhh, don’t tell anyone you saw me. I’ve blocked my emails from my phone for the Easter Weekend, so I am officially off the grid. Ish. I am supposed to be recovering from a monster cold I had last week and catching up with course work, but I’ve actually gone shopping, reorganised my Etsy cupboard and had a medium nap. HAPPY JESUS WEEKEND!

Tim Minchin as Judas, Jesus Christ Superstar, footshuffle gif
from lisce.tumblr.com

I love Easter, mostly because it’s the only weekend other than Christmas when I can eat more than I check my emails without thinking I’m losing business, but it’s also got that new year feel to it, because the new tax year is next week. I love the new tax year. It’s a fresh start! An opportunity to make more money and to remind HMRC that I am a valued member of society. Well not really because I earn a fraction of the acceptable wage for most adult humans, so I’m not eligible for income tax, but next year might be the year!

Tim Minchin as Judas Iscariot dancing
from licse.tumblr.com

I’ll stop with the Jesus Christ Superstar gifs now, but I want you to know that I don’t really want to.

Speaking of the new tax year, I’ve got a little end of year clear out/sale thing going on over at my Etsy – there’s 10% and 15% off almost everything. Out with the old and in with the new! If I have space for the new… which is why I’ve discounted the old. It’s also the last day of the month, so if you were thinking of pledging to my Patreon to help support dragonnovel, (becoming patron number three would be seen as highly auspicious in some cultures. Not mine, but some), today’s the last day to do it before April’s cycle starts.

I’ve run out of gifs, so I’m going to have a cup of tea and stare longingly at my Easter eggs. Because Easter Sunday is Peak Jesus Day and my mother always insists on upholding Christian tradition despite last going to church circa 2010, I can’t touch an Easter egg until Sunday morning. I have no idea why I can’t break that tradition, despite being a) 22.5 years old, b) an atheist and c) hungry, but there you go. Happy Easter!

Dogs · Environment · Holidays · weather

Here’s a Cat Reclining Next to a Desk Fan. You’re Welcome. (Happy Summer!)

Today is the longest day of the year, and goddamn, England, you’re doing a good job. My glasses are sliding down my face and both dogs have been hairy, panting puddles of exhaustion for days but SUMMER IS HEERRRRREEEE! A bunch of my friends are back from uni – they’re even graduating and getting firsts and things, it’s very grown up – I am naturally awake before eight am, which never happens in winter, and I’m ready for my summer holiday.

Britain in Summer cat fan gif
Actual visual representation of the British public. From giphy.com

Wait, not that last bit. I had my summer holiday in January. According to my mental maths, I will have the money for my next holiday in several summers’ time. But with the weather this glorious, who even needs other cultures. I mean, I can’t afford to explore England either, but let’s overlook that in the spirit of summer.

Operation Instagrammable Bedroom is creeping along; I have some art on the walls, which are painted brilliant white specifically so I can display as much art as will fit, and I’ve wired up my stereo. I can’t find the radio aerial, so I am Today Programme-less for a while, but my neighbours are having their roof done so I can listen to that instead. I’ve colour-coordinated my wardrobe and banished my blankets and winter PJs to a box under the bed, so I am feeling incredibly smug organised. My order for 100 tote bags arrived this morning, and they are also going to live under the bed – I was slightly nonplussed when I realised that unlike notebooks and postcards, bags take up space – so it’s possible the blankets will have to find somewhere else to live. Still, as long as they’re somewhere other than my bed, and as long as I don’t need winceyette jammies until September, WHO CARES.

I suppose I’d be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t link you the tote bags in question (free UK postage until the end of the month and a free print with the next 10 orders, UK and international, you’re welcome) and show you all what they look like so tah dahhhh:

I can’t even remember when I first had the idea for them, and I’m very pleased with the design and the quality (I mean, you can really carry a lot of textbooks). So storage aside, I’m quite proud and I hope you guys like them! (All profits will go into my holiday fund, HINT HINT.)

I have to go and reapply my deodorant – maybe I should just have another shower – so I will see you on Saturday for another Read, If You Like… in the mean time, if anyone has any tips for locating aerials, let me know.

Complaints · Holidays · Travel

I was going to come up with a title to this but I started listening to Wham! while I went through ideas and now I’m too into Wham! to come up with anything.

Guardians of the Galaxy is on at half eight, so I have a finite amount of time to start and finish this, unlike every post I’ve worked on this week, which has basically been me trying to remember how to write about something that doesn’t involve a bus journey or jet lag. I still feel a bit like I’m at home in a foreign land – I nearly came out of a junction on the right side of the road yesterday morning, and I had entirely forgotten that teenagers in Southend enjoy shouting abuse at their elders (me). Usefully, surviving three months in a foreign land has imparted a large dose of self confidence, so I no longer feel it would be inappropriate to shout back. I had missed giving the finger.

Tom and Jerry gif
from Twitter

My job search is going well, insofar as I haven’t had many rejections. I have not had any interview invitations yet, which is a fly in the ointment, but I had also forgotten how much I enjoy making Excel spreadsheets and striving for professional greatness. By that I mean I would like to land a paid internship, if possible, or a job that offers a salary large enough that I might be able to replace all the clothes I’m throwing out. I had a look in the shops the other day and it might be cheaper to fly to Bangkok with a large suitcase and hang out in the markets until I’ve replaced my wardrobe than it is to visit Topshop. Why are cold shoulder tops still a thing? What’s up with jeans that have been ripped during the manufacturing process? GO BACKPACKING AND RIP YOUR OWN DAMN JEANS.

Oops I’m doing it again. This has been happening all week. I think that subconsciously I’m worried that I’ll fall back into the Great 2015 Blogging Pit of Despair and Creative Frustration if I don’t keep talking about the only interesting thing that’s happened to me since I passed my eleven plus. To be honest, I’m worried that Asia might be the only interesting thing that’s going to happen to me, and that I’ll go back into the Great 2015 General Pit of Despair and Creative Frustration. I like how I felt when I came home. I like that I was relaxed and rested and enthusiastic about everything. Even throwing out clothes! In the 12 days since I’ve been back, my arms have ached from the cold so much that I thought I might need to go back to physio, I’ve forgotten to exercise and meditate virtually every day and I’ve shouted abuse at teenagers in the high street. They were little shits who needed to find hobbies, but still. I don’t want to fossilise into a grumpy, arthritic unemployed old lady. Or not until I’m at least thirty, anyway.

That’s why I’m going to dye my hair purple, go back to my old Pilates class and share my writing more. I’ve just finished working on a thing. It’s a pretty okay thing. I don’t know where I’ll put it yet, but I’ll put it out somewhere before I decide it’s not good enough. I’m going to finish up those blogs I started. I’m going to exercise enough that I won’t need to go to physio. I’m going to keep talking about Asia, probably. I’m never going back to the 2015 Pits of Despair.

I have to go because Guardians is on in a minute and that paragraph ending feels really dramatic. BYE.

Holidays · January 2017 · South East Asia 2017 · Travel

Phnom Penh Part 1: Night Buses & Morning Walks

Good morning, or evening, or whatever it is. I don’t know what time it is here, because I haven’t been to bed since the day before yesterday. I think. We arrived in Phnom Penh about half five this morning; we caught the night bus from Siem Reap at 11:30pm last night and although I slept for about five hours, I’m not what you’d call fully functioning.

Night Bus Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, Cambodia
A bunk with a view.

 

I’d never been on a night bus before so my only reference was Harry Potter’s experiences with the Knight Bus… we were not offered hot chocolate or a toothbrush and no one vomited, but our conductor did remind me a little of Stan Shunpike. If you’re getting a bus in Cambodia any time soon, I can recommend Giant Ibis – they have wifi, arrived on time and had an almost-completely-normal toilet on board (I nearly took a photo but I didn’t want to touch anything as there was no soap. Or sink).

Night Bus Siem Reap to Phnom Pehn, Cambodia
We stopped for a bit around 1am; the light was almost nice and arty but not quite (sounds like a metaphor for this place).

We didn’t realise how early we would arrive, and had neither the details of our hostel nor any map to get there, because stupidly I hadn’t downloaded the info before the wifi drove away, so we sat on a bench on the waterfront and watched the sun come up. Well, I watched. Maxim dosed as I kept an eye out (Backpackers have belongings stolen while they nap is not a headline I want associated with my name). I did not see anyone who looked remotely like a baggage thief, but I did see three rats (or one rat three times), several bats, some finch-type birds and two gentleman urinate on a verge. The shrub in that verge was far healthier than the shrubs in neighbouring verges, so I can only assume communal weeing is part of their daily routine.

Phnom Penh Waterfront, Cambodia
I just noticed that’s wonky. In my defense, I felt a little wonky at the time.

Phnom Penh Waterfront, Cambodia
I think that might actually be *the* verge.

We got breakfast as soon as it was light and walked to our hostel by about 9am, which was interesting. Traffic here is busier than Siem Reap but with a similar relaxed attitude, and my bag was heavy. Heavier than I remembered. Too heavy for an exhausted five foot nothing who hadn’t had enough water that morning. God forbid any hostel should let you check in before 2pm, so we collapsed into a couple of chairs and haven’t really moved since. Well, that’s not true. I had a shower as soon as we had room keys, and Maxim is asleep in his bunk right now. Today has become a rest day, which I think I will make compulsory following all travel days. Or nights. There is no way I have the energy to go to the Killing Fields today, or the S-21 museum, or the regular museums… so as I have no book, my magazine disintegrated and I haven’t got any postcards to write on, I thought I’d say hello. Maybe I will meditate. I don’t want to fall asleep, because I’m just getting over my jetlag. Perhaps I will write a short story, or start a conversation with a fellow backpacker.

Who am I kidding, I’m terrified of other backpackers. They’re all so tanned.

If you guys are bored or stuck with a lot of time, what do you do?

History & Old Stuff · Holidays · January 2017 · South East Asia 2017 · Travel

The Nervous, Jetlagged User’s Guide to Bangkok (Part 2)

By the time you read this we will have started exploring Siem Reap and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, but I haven’t told you an almost-amusing anecdote about umbrellas, so let’s continue with Francesca’s Edited Highlights (part one is here).

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace, a complex of buildings which used to be the royal family’s permanent residence, is the one place everyone says you have to go when you’re in Bangkok, so we went one morning… so did everyone else in Bangkok. I’m travelling with Maxim who-needs-a-guide-just-take-photos Burke, and know little to nothing about Buddhism (and even less about Thai history) so dodging a million people in the rain  – and by rain I mean HUGE DOWNPOUR – to squint up at golden pagodas through soaked glasses was a bit like walking into a chocolate shop never having tasted sugar. Everything was wonderful, but I have no idea what I was looking at. I did enjoy sitting in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (which is not actually emerald) and searching for nirvana, but I think it’s going to take more than a few sessions on a meditation app for that.

We also accidentally kept the umbrellas we borrowed from staff, and I was wracked with guilt for a few days for stealing from the Thai government, so I have left mine in the hostel. I wasn’t going to smuggle contraband into Cambodia.

Wat Pho

Wat Pho, one of about four hundred wats (temples) in Bangkok is right next to the Grand Palace, and contains a couple of hundred bronze-and-gold-leaf buddhas. We paid for a tour guide this time, who told us that the Thai name for Bangkok is the longest city name in the world, and that it means ‘city of angels’. Take that, LA. We also met, amongst others, the reclining buddha…. which really reminds me of Kate Winslet in Titanic, now I think about it.

img_5575
Is ‘draw me like one of your French girls, Jack’ an appropriate caption? No? You come up with one, then, because that’s all I could think.

National Museum

The Thai equivalent of the British Museum, the National Museum doesn’t look that big from outside. Ignore this and wear your most comfortable shoes. And take snacks. There’s a sprawling gallery dedicated to Asian art, a section filled with royal objects, a separate art gallery, a building dedicated to one of Thailand’s queens…

And more umbrellas.

img_5607
We checked it’s a real umbrella with spokes (?) and everything.

 

I did not try to use that one. I must say, I was a bit worried about the number of priceless artefacts out in the open.  What if the rain got in, or a passing child vomited? Then again I once visited a museum where a local stray would follow visitors in and curl up on the antique bed, so I guess a bit of rain isn’t the worst thing in the world. I’d still be wary of puking children, though.

Khao San Road

Khao San Road is the other one place everyone says you have to go when you’re in Bangkok, and since we’ve given the ping pong shows a miss, we did. In a nutshell, it’s like Camden Lock Market but instead of punk gear and tattoo parlours, there are street vendors with scorpion kebabs and tattoo parlours. I didn’t get any good photos, so just imagine Camden Lock, replace rain with sun and add the scorpions. The tourists were identical.