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?)

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?)

Plants · weather

Plant Mum Post #3: Giving the Houseplants a Bath and Adventures with Spiders (no spider photos, merely an anecdote or, um, three)

Happy solstice to everyone who observes it! How are you all? I am relieved that autumn feels like autumn – in Southend at least – after the weirdest summer I can remember for ages. Not sure how I got sunburnt in the last week of July and spent the first week of August wrapped in blankets, watching rom coms set in Greece in a bid to warm up. Britain, eh. God, I am so English. When was the last time I came here and didn’t talk about the weather?!

Not about the weather

It was my birthday last week, and 26 got off to an auspicious start when I got back into bed with a cup of coffee and sat on a spider. I didn’t notice until I was making the bed later in the morning and thought ‘… what… is that…?’ I thought initially that a bit of my skin was falling off, so in some ways it was a relief to realise that the blood and bits of tissue were, er, not mine.

Oops.

(I have been having moderately bad dreams featuring spiders ever since, so we’re even, spider world. Do you hear me? DO NOT TAKE REVENGE.) (We’re not going to talk about how I was dusting my printer yesterday and I am ninety per cent sure a spider crawled into the paper tray before I could stop it. RIP little guy.) (Also there was a false widow on the porch the other day, directly below my window.) (I am going to stop thinking about arachnids now.)

Also not about the weather

I gave my plants a wash this morning. I read once that it’s good to put all your houseplants in the bath once a year, and hose them down. It’s to imitate seasonal storms, or something, and get rid of any dust. I think I might have enjoyed it more than they did…

I had to trim back the aloe (not pictured, it’s looking a bit waterlogged as it drains out) after some leaf death. How long are aloes meant to last? This one’s been knocking around for about five years, but what’s left seems okay, with new sprouts. I think I may have done a smidge of overwatering in the summer, because I was watering the same amount as I have during the last couple of summers, when it’s been insanely hot. This summer – sorry, weather again – hasn’t really been like that. The Flaming Katy cutting seems fine, too, minding its own business.

How are the courgettes and the peppers, you ask. Well, I succumbed to peer pressure and put the courgettes outside before they were strong enough to weather some truly bonkers storms (sorry, more weather). Those that made it were promptly eaten by snails. Rest in peace, babies, I will try again another year. The peppers are not that much bigger than they were in June, to be honest. My nan’s plants have all been late blooming this year, too, so I am not too worried. In fact, I have given the peppers to my nan because her flat is usually about 32 degrees Celsius in the winter, so they will likely grow in time for Christmas.

Here are some photos of neighbourhood plants from the last few weeks, just as the season began to turn. I love summer, I love autumn and I always feel like the weeks where summer shifts into autumn are a little bit magic. Sad, but also a bit magic.

I’m off to check the plants are all, you know, not drowned. Wishing you all a spider-free autumn, or at least a spider-free bed…

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?)

(All Hail) Creation · dragonnovel · weather

A Cautionary Tale of Cacti

Afternoon. So much has happened in the world since I last blogged (the sun is out, the government has broken and IT’S COMING HOME) that I feel like I actually need to do an update.

A few weeks ago I bought a new mint plant, a succulent and some cacti. The cacti were supposed to be gifts but then I got them home and put their sweet little pots on my windowsill and decided to find my friends other gifts. Little cacti are so cute! Also, I like to have a window open at night but my room is over the conservatory so I can’t leave the big window open in case it invites burglary. So I put my cacti on the windowsill to spike any potential intruders, thus giving me time to wake up to their cries of pain, put my glasses on and source a screwdriver to stab them with.

Unfortunately the only person who has been spiked is me, opening the curtains, so I’ve moved the cacti to shelves and resigned myself to only leaving the top window open. I don’t know why I’m worrying, the sun will remember which country it’s in soon.

succulent and cacti on windowsill
Did you know those spikes leave the plant in order to embed themselves in your skin?

In non-plant news, Dragonnovel is coming along really well. I accidentally stayed up until midnight last night working on edits. Because it’s still in the chop-and-change stage, I can’t post a lot of snippets in case I accidentally reveal too much plot or give away some of my banging one liners. A while ago Maggie Steifvater mentioned that she really liked the latest novel she’s written, and a lot of people replied with ‘what you mean you LIKE this thing that you’re spending ALL OF YOUR TIME on?’ and she pointed out that:

‘Art as pain and pain as art and the Eternal Dissatisfaction of the Poignant Creator™ is so 19th century.  Creating the art you wish you could see in the world but don’t, and then being fucking PSYCHED when you’ve done it™ is very 2018.’

I didn’t get it at the time but GUYS I AM HAVING SO MUCH FUN SITTING ALONE IN A ROOM SPENDING TIME WITH PEOPLE WHO DON’T EXIST. I’m even more relaxed about asking for patronage while I work on it because a) I will finish and query it regardless of who gives a shit and b) it’s worth paying $3 a month for. I would pay myself if that weren’t even more horrendously narcissistic than asking strangers on the Internet for money to start with.

I’ll leave this here because I’m getting ready for a market in Leigh on Saturday and trying to work in a rebrand around it which basically means my bedroom is full of boxes and my email inbox is full of really cool top secret website stuff that I’m figuring out, but I’ve been staring at a screen too long. See you soon, I guess. Or not, if the weather keeps up and I continue to spend every spare moment outside. Is this what national pride feels like? Enjoying spending time in your own country?

 

 

(All Hail) Creation · Books · weather

How to Have a Snow Day When You’re An Adult

IT’S SNOWING! I haven’t had a snow day since I was 17, but I also didn’t have to go into my office job today and was going to work from home regardless. Not remotely fair, and the desire to curl up with a book is immense. The snuggle struggle is real, you guys. But I have money to make and a university course to pass, so I loaded up some podcasts and have ended up having an unusually productive day? Maybe being locked inside the house with a foot of snow on the ground is a good way to focus haha. So here is how to have a snow day as an adult!

Step 1: Ughh. Just get it together.

I got showered and dressed and put perfume on to get into ‘the work mood’, which is weird because I never wear perfume when I work from home. Clearly that should change.

Step 2: Do your physio.

Wait, that’s just me.

Step 3: Chain yourself to your desk!

Shit I’ve done so far: some market research for Etsy, a section of my course (I’m studying women’s suffrage and hellooooo the only thing I’ll ever talk about at dinner parties ever again), cleared out some of my emails and done some graphic design. One of the designs is for this very blog’s sidebar:

Indifferent Ignorance Patreon sidebar advert

The other is a cool Heroes of Olympus-inspired poster I’ve wanted to do for ages:

House of Night neon poster by Francesca Burke

Step 4: But take lots of breaks to make a cup of tea and stare at your snowy garden!

Do you want to build a snowman? Yes. Do you want to go outside? No.

Step 5: Check your dogs are still alive

Both dogs refused to go outside this morning. Fred inspected the garden at midday and Donnie chanced it about half an hour ago. They have the right idea.

Step 6: Rinse and repeat until 5pm

Or whenever you normally clock off when you work from home!

YOU’RE WELCOME. I have to go and do some more physio now. I might also build a snowman.

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.

July 2016 · weather

Quick Quick the Sun’s Out

I wrote an excellent blog yesterday that turned out to be more excellent if I split the subjects into three, so I’ve got three drafts in my dashboard and now I think about it I think they all need work. So this is a new and slightly rushed attempt to fulfil my imaginary weekly post quota.

Who has been basking in the heatwave?

Who has been sheltering from the elements in rooms with air conditioning?

I’ve been doing the former because my Mediterranean genes show themselves in two ways: when I’m angry I make a lot of noise, and when the weather is good I feel a thousand times happier and have a siesta. My bones are humming in contentment right now, and I’ve caught the sun enough that I’ve stopped looking like someone coloured me in with the milky tea-coloured crayon.

I don’t think that’s a real crayon, but Crayola, if you’re reading, that wasn’t a hint.

I might have to go and do Headspace in the garden for maximum sunshine use, since it will probably rain tomorrow. If anyone knows how to bottle sunlight, let me know. How cool would it be to carry a little vial of sunlight around with you? On those days when it’s grey and drizzling, you could unscrew it a little and absorb some vitamin D. It could be a preventative measure in the fight against Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Sleeping Pigs from goldenstories.tumblr.com
from goldenstories.tumblr.com

The lil pigs are me and the dogs. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a patio calling.