Tuesday, 31 May 2016

My Month in Numbers 2016: May

Well hello there.

Somehow, while none of us were looking, while we were all distracted by Instagram, library books, Game of Thrones and shiny shoes [just me?] May managed to slip out from under the duvet, sneak into the bathroom and get changed into June.

And now look .... we're halfway through the year and I still haven't written that book or properly taken up running or redecorated my dining room yet, and you [don't think you're getting away with it] you haven't done that thing you said you were definitely going to do in 2016, have you? No.

But, hang on, hang on, before either of us start anything too hastily [you can injure yourself without a proper warm-up .... so they say ... how would I know?] how about we both just pause to reflect over what we have managed to fit into the last 31 days? Sound good? OK, I'll go first ...

My Month ... in Numbers 2016: May

In our house we celebrated a birthday and an anniversary this month and this sign relates to one of them; can you work out which?
How rude!  James may be acquiring grey in his facial hair [but which of us isn't?! For his, see below.] but ...

... no, that's not his age [I'll tell him you said that] the '92' actually refers to the year we met.
There's so much 90s fashion in the shops now that, if I'd thought of it earlier, I could have entirely authentically recreated what I was wearing when we met. But ... I don't think I've got the confidence [or stomach muscles] to carry off a sleeveless black catsuit these days ...

But where was I? Oh yes, the sign. While browsing Etsy for a birthday gift for him I came across a selection of vintage Russian house numbers and fortunately that included a 92.

Because, as everyone knows, 24 years is the 'Enameled-Soviet-metal' anniversary. You didn't know?

I won't give his age away, suffice it to say he's older than me. Not that you'd guess he was fully mature after you see what he wanted to add to his outfit on his special day:
He [jokingly ... I think ...] completed his ensemble with a bowler hat that someone gave him a few years ago which normally lives in the hall, kind of as a decoration [yes, I've just realised how hipster that sounds ... oh my]. Needless to say - because we weren't going to a restaurant in London during the 1950s - I talked him out of it.

One day I should call his bluff and say "Yeah, wear it. It'll look great and absolutely no-one at all will stare." But then ... he'd probably call my bluff in return and actually go out in it ...

1 birthday candle in a rum baba: 
While we were ordering lunch at our favourite place to eat we were asked if we had the day off [it was midweek]. James said that yes, he did, because it was his birthday. And clearly the waiting staff quietly filed that fact away and when our deserts arrived they'd lit a candle in his caramelised pineapple! And it wasn't even horrifying in a 'oh my, don't make a fuss in public, pleeeeesssase' kind of way. No, it was lovely.

"Are you going to sing as well?" he asked the waitress, "I can if you want me to" she replied. He didn't. And I'm sure she was relieved! But way-to-go Robineau Cafe! As if we didn't already love you enough.

While we're on the subject of marking special occasions ... due to the wonders of Facebook's 'On this day ... ' feature I learned that ...

May 5th marked 7 years since Kirsty Neale and I launched 'The Copy and Paste Project' blog.

But we no longer run the blog [in ran for 2 years]  ... so why would it be worth mentioning its 7th anniversary?
  • Because that very same day -  by sheer serendipitous coincidence rather than design [we're just not that organised] - May 5th also happened to mark the exact halfway point of our latest incarnation of @theCopyandPasteProject 
  • On that day, in our #copyandpaste100collages exhibition over on Instagram we'd each shared 25 collages making a total of 50
  • And now we've shared all 50 each so - if you haven't caught up over there - there are 100 mini 4x4" collages for you to browse. Here's a thumbnail glimpse at almost one third of them:
It wont surprise anyone to learn that our first ever Copy and Paste Project challenge was based around a quotation from Hamlet. And ... the day before the halfway mark [again, not organised enough to realise it would have made a better story if I'd done it one day later ...], completely unplanned, I'd made a Hamlet collage for this project.

Of course I had. #onetrickpony

Friendship, scraps of paper, Shakespeare: eternal inspirations. And the man himself makes another appearance in my next set of numbers ...

My £6.00 charity shopping haul:
I scored a retro bed sheet and two pillowcases for £4.00, a 50p book about the Kenneth Branagh film version of Hamlet [my first experience of the great Dane back in the 90s ... possibly while wearing a sleeveless black catsuit, I don't remember now] and a £1.50 non-fiction exploration of handwriting by Philip Hensher - which is fascinating!

Alongside the Hensher book I also read:
  • Another non-fiction book: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematorium by Caitlin Doughty which is a really interesting - and funny - account of life on the other side of that curtain. It's a true eye-opener and Doughty [@thegooddeath on Twitter] really offers food for thought regarding the death 'industry'. [When have you ever thought seriously about embalming before? You will after you read this!] 
  • Girl Reading by Katie Ward. This is a novel in 7 different sections all touching on the same themes, all about women and representation, painting, photography etc ... with a twist in the final chapter. 
  • And Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg, which I found to be a useful, hands-on practical and inspiring writing guide. To paraphrase Victor Kiam: after borrowing and renewing it from the library I liked it so much I bought my own copy. 
If you'd like direct links to these, and all, the books I've read this year you can visit my dedicated Pinterest board. Not because I'm awesome at choosing books and think you should follow all my recommendations ... but because my local libraries, the campus library at work, and indeed charity shops, often throw up titles which I never would have heard of if I hadn't spotted them on their shelves ... so you might find something a little different that you fancy chasing up for yourself. 

I was twice asked what kind of writing I did. 
I mentioned this - and how I replied to those questions earlier in the month in my previous blog post [long story short: not very coherently], so here I'll just fill out a picture of where I was when I was asked ...

One occasion was during a really interesting [free!] business workshop I attended ... in 'real' life. Imagine!: 
As someone who's taken many an online course it made a change to go somewhere with living breathing people. So 'living and breathing' in fact that we were actually encouraged to use a hula-hoop during our break to see who could do the most turns. 

For me it was one of life's occasions where you ask yourself: 'What would Ron Swanson do?' and the answer was crystal clear: I declined. 

Meanwhile the second occasion was at a meeting that was kind of related to what I said in my introduction today - about writing a book this year - but I'm at the annoying stage where I have nothing concrete to share with you about any of it. But behind the scenes I'm in planning mode.

And just because I don't have a book to show yet, I have been writing [you already know about the writing day I attended last month] and if you want proof ... the other day on Instagram I posted this request:  

"I have 1/2 an hour to kill and can't decide what to write about. Suggestions please."
A plea to which my friend Helen responded with "Fear of putting yourself out there: why, what purpose?, how to overcome." and, without pausing to think if she meant 'in general' or specific to me, or her or whoever ... I just started my timed writing exercise, and allowed words to spill out:
I think I'll give crowd-sourcing my writing topics another try sometime - I tend respond well to serendipity and chance anyway, so this seems like a good way to orchestrate some! And I might have another read over what I came up with in this exercise and maybe blog it in full sometime too.

And I'll surely be doing more writing because look ... I bought a new notebook to write in.

I added a £1 notebook to my ever expanding collection:
I'd only gone in the £1 shop before work looking for deodorant [let's just say that something told me that I'd forgotten to apply it that day and I didn't want to spend the day with my arms by my sides!] but then there it was, in all it's £1/ 'Writing is thinking on paper' glory. And I couldn't help myself.

BTW: That noise you can hear is all my other new note books mumbling in unison: "To write in? To write in? She's just told them she's bought another new notebook to write in? But we've been here months, years and she's not so much as cracked our spines or scribbled on our back pages to test whether or not her pen's working. Sometimes I think she just likes keeping our pages virginal and full of potential."

And they might have a point.  Moving swiftly on ...

For about 30 hours it felt like I had something in my eye.
It began at work one day and gradually got worse and no amount of rubbing, blinking, poking around, would shift it. After work I tried to get an optician's appointment but had to wait until the following afternoon. After the optician carried out an eye-test [they said they couldn't look at my eye without going through the entire process!], she then put drops in and had a thorough look at my eyes through magnifying lenses and with all kinds of coloured lights. 

But rather than find anything on the eye itself it turned out it was my eyelid causing the trouble and the culprit of all that soreness and scratching turned out to be the story of my itchy, sensitive and sniffy life ... an allergic reaction. [I don't really have hay-fever ... so I'm thinking some pollen/another irritant must have fallen directly into my eye while I was outside ... who knows?] 

A few doses of allergy eye-drops and a warm-compress later I was almost back to normal and giving praises for pain-free eyes. There's nothing like a momentary discomfort, easily sorted, to remind you of the good health you take for granted. 

Oh and ... those eye-drops she used? They were kind of fluorescent. And it wasn't until I got back in my car and looked in my wing mirror that I realised I'd been walking around town and getting served in shops looking like this:
Anyone know if yellow eye-liner is in this season?

One of the shop assistants who served me and my yellow eyes worked in Clarks which is where I purchased ...

... my 4th pair of silver shoes:
Clark's silver shoes
Well, they're the 4th pair I currently own [brogues, ankle boots, ballet pumps, heels] I have had several [if not many] others in the past. And I can highly recommend them to anyone looking to strike up random conversations in the street ... as illustrated by the conversation I shared on Facebook the first time I wore them to work:

"First thing my student said to me as he got out of the taxi this morning: "Those are very silver shoes". Me: "Yes, they are". His taxi driver: "Have you sprayed them?". Me: "No." Taxi driver "But you haven't bought them like that." "Yes, I have" "Well you never see anything like that in the shops, do you?" "Well, they're the 4th pair of silver shoes I have, so, yes". "Well they look like they've been sprayed" "Well if they have it wasn't by me. Ask someone from Clarks because that's where I got them." "I will. Next time I have someone in the back from Clarks I'll ask them."

Best avoid wearing them on days when you're not feeling chatty ... 

And, finally, while we're on the subject of sparkly foiled silvery-ness ...

213 days before the big day itself I received my first Christmas crafting commission of the year: 
It's the same routine every summer; and every summer I have to wrangle myself into the festive spirit a little ahead of the calendar! But it's not so outlandish when you consider the magazine works 3 months ahead of schedule so the issue with my projects will go on sale in September - giving crafters 3 months to actually get those Christmas cards made.

Which is precisely what I should be doing ...


If May treated you kindly then hurrah! that's lovely! Maybe you fancy sharing a number or two on your own blog/social media: leave me a link and/or tag it #monthinnumbers and give me a dig in the ribs to let me know.

And if May was less than polite to you then, hurrah it's over! Long gone. done and dusted.

June's a new start. And we've both go that thing to start haven't we?

Julie x

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Notes from the Spam Folder, 2: The Elementary Edition

Are you still here? Even after my last post

The first of my spam folder posts the other week was surrounded by an echo of well, does tumbleweed even make an echo? A few people have now commented but for an unnerving while there it was just me, shouting innuendo into the void, wondering - not for the first time - if following my gut and writing about what makes me laugh was a bad idea. 

And, really, it wouldn't be the first time I've felt like that. 

Remember when I went to that writing day and daren't read out anything I'd written because I couldn't be sure people would appreciate it? Yeah, well, the same goes for publishing that blog post. All of which goes to explain why twice this month I've floundered for an answer after being asked, by different people: "So what kind of writing do you do?" 

I'm going to have to work on a nice neat over-arching response to that question because it seriously needs to be something better than [a] how I'm currently replying and [b] the truth:
  • [a] how I'm currently replying - "Oh, erm, well, kind of just ... stories. From my life. About things that happen to me day to day. Like ... erm ... funny stuff." [When I'm in that situation I find it impossible to convince myself that it's funny let alone the person asking who is no doubt  highly sceptical of the comedic prowess of the bumbling idiot in front of them]. 
  • and [b] the truth - because if I simply told the unfiltered truth about the recent things I've written then the conversation would go something like "What do I write about? Oh, you know, about a lesson I learned from a trout I wasn't expecting, and a description of some rude spam messages I'd saved and erm ...well, a true-story about periods. No, please, it's OK, there's no need to smile and nod like that while backing away carefully and looking for the nearest exit out the corner of your eye ... please, come back ..."
In short: I need a branding overhaul, a smart tagline, a confident elevator pitch, because the thing is, I'm not actually planning to change what I write about ... so I'm just going to have to get better at packaging it. 

Which brings me to today's nonsense [clearly I haven't worked on a professional description for it just yet ...] 

When I used to get lots of spam mail [alas, those days are gone] after the risque ones the names guaranteed to stand out amid the sea of spam were the familiar ones.  And, where there any two names I'd be more likely to fall for than this pair
[BTW: I have my own responses to Watson's subject line: "These words make chicks horny" such as ... "I've cleaned the fridge." feel free to contribute your own ...] 

So yes, there was actually a period of time where my spam folder was frequently visited by the world's only consulting detective and his friend - for those of you who read my previous post you'll already have seen the man himself lurking there amongst the Bushes: 
[There's got to be a joke in there somewhere about a 'Sherlock in the hand' being worth more than ... something or other. Right?] 

Then maybe when the spammers didn't get any response from me with their 'Calvin' Sherlock they decided to go a bit posher:

Which didn't work either. Neither did a Biblical Sherlock:
But here's where they almost had me because, honestly, what could possibly be better than an an already impressive regular Sherlock? Well how about a rich one?

But if you still don't fancy that, how about an Italian version or two?
I even got a bonus message from an Elvis with this one and how did they know that - as a huge fan of The Good Wife [and if you're not, you ought to be] - a message from a certain Will Gardener would be bound to grab my attention?

Then, underneath the Hardman [!] we find yet another Watson with perhaps the title of one of the Sherlock Holmes cases that got away ...

While this next one is a good attempt at guessing the good Doctor's middle name:
But they're not quite near enough are they?

For those who haven't seen Season 2 Ep1 of Sherlock quite as often as I have: "It's Hamish. John Hamish Watson. Just, if you were ... looking for baby names." ... you can see what I mean here.

And yes, apparently my geekery knows no end. Unlike this post.

If all this has now whetted your Conan-Doylian appetite I'll leave be so you can visit more Cumber-Sherlock clips on YouTube ... or Jonny Lee Miller in Elementary for that matter. Either/or and you're in for a good afternoon. Or spoil yourself. Do both.

Unless you're more of a Basil Rathbone girl?

In which case: each to her own.

Julie x

p.s: when I'm not here - which is a lot of the time these days - you can find me sharing my usual oddities of daily life over at @withjuliekirk on Instagram. If you're there to, do come and say hi. 

Recent  posts over there have featured Hodor in a lift, a slightly double-chinned-selfie, a musing on stand-up comedy, and a library book with a, well, let's call it an 'attention seeking' title. You'll know the one I mean when you see it.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Notes from the Spam Folder, 1. The Nominative Determinism Edition.

It's an old cliche, a tale as old as time, but the phrase "You don't know what you've got til it's gone" never felt so true to me until that day my email provider upgraded their spam filter ... and my wild and wonderful spam-life came to an abrupt end.

We've all been there ... right?

Since then life - or to be more precise my spam folder - has never been the same again.

Something was lost that day. Something colourful; something real [well, not really real; not at all real in actual fact, rather it was all utterly and entirely 100% made up, but still ...]; something that gave meaning to my life and my ability to take take screenshots was lost. And all I have to remember it by now is, well, is those screenshots ...

Up until the upgrade, sometime last year, I regularly used to receive dozens, if not hundreds of spam messages a month. Not to my inbox, because my spam folder caught 99% of them, but my spam folder had become a place I really liked to visit.

I thrive on serendipity, I rely on the joyfully miscellaneous minutiae of our daily existence for 'material', and I scour for, hoard, and polish the plucked treasures of life ... therefore this loss of regular entertainment has been deeply felt.

But, like I say, thankfully, for posterity, I did take screenshots of some of them, just a few handfuls, just enough to remind me of the 'good' old days. Just enough to share ...

Notes from the Spam Folder, 1. The Nominative Determinism Edition.

"Give a dog a bad name and hang him" so the old saying goes. Label someone and then just watch how they end up living up it to the name.

Does your name reflect what you do for a living?

With a name like 'Kirk' I should either be running a Scottish church ... or the deck of the USS Enterprise.  Which I'm not ... but take, for example, the the time James had an appointment with a 'Doctor Nurse'. No, it didn't mean a 'Nurse Practitioner' or any other kind of hybrid healthcare provider, but rather Nurse was actually the Doctor's surname. [Playing doctors and nurses is literally a one man job for him].

Or take the woodwork teacher in my secondary school Mr. Sawden. Or the former Chief Justice of England and Wales Baron Judge.

Or Bob the Builder ...

And it's that same quirk of naming that links together the senders of this first batch of spam mail I'm sharing. Because what all these purveyors of unsolicited messages were suffering from was a bad case of nominative determinism.

*Warning to those likely to be offended by light smut: All of these spam messages involve sexy-talk ... and a small side-avalanche of willful double-entendre. So if you don't like innuendo then yo'd best look away now before I slip one in.

OK then, hello there you self-confessed smut-seeker you ... how about we begin with this set of correspondents who I can only imagine went into the business of bombarding strangers with adverts for porn and/or 'endurance' medication just to make the most from their family name:
I don't know about you but I imagine Bonnie has had to put up with her fair share of indecent inquiries in her time.

Oh and yes, before we move on, I know you've spotted that rogue Sherlock there [above] but hold your hounds a while because I have additional Conan-Doyle-ish spammers to share in another post sometime.  [Presuming I'm not run out of Blogland for filth in the meantime].

Until then ... we can only surmise that both Dick and the two Fannies here went into this kind of work after being beaten down by name-related-bullying at school. A case of 'if you can't beat them, send random strangers emails about them'

Aside: As for quite why so many Macduffs have gotten into the business ... I don't know ... if you can find the link between selling 'sex secrets' and a character from MacBeth then you're a better pun-maker than I.

Not so hard to define is this pair ... what with surnames like Longman and Roger ... I think we can agree that Amber and Darrell have found themselves in the right industry:
As have the Hardman family:

It must have been a proud day when Maynard [above] brought his son 'Junior' [below] into the spamming business.

Sheds new light on the idea of passing on the baton ... or handing down the family jewels ...

And let's not forget the contribution the Wood family have made, what with Justin [above] and [below] the woman whose name could not better reflect the promise she makes in her subject-line: 

eg: "What do you do for a living Aida Wood?", "Yes, that's right, how did you guess?".

Although perhaps one woman qualified to give Aida a run for her money in the named-to-suit-her-profession stakes, is this sender ...

Likewise my all time favourite correspondent [who, alas, I forgot to screenshot] - couldn't have been more appropriately or eye-catchingly named. Like Maynard and Junior who we've already met - he was another member of the Hardman family; Rusty Hardman, to be exact. The name of an ex-porn-star if ever I heard one.

But finally, let's take a moment to spare a thought for those in the industry who - unlike our previous cast of characters - have been saddled with names that actually contradict what it is they're trying to sell. I mean, no matter how virile this chap may be, just how many of his 'affordable-priced pharmaceuticals' is he likely to sell when his name makes him sound like he hasn't 'enjoyed' himself for quite a while ...


Over the years there've been more Dustys, more Aida's and Hardmans [or should that be Hardmen??] Many more. But, it's like I said at the start ... you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone. 

You think rude spam will last forever. You think there'll always be another chance to snigger, to marvel at its filthy ingenuity, to screenshot it. But you're wrong. 

If you're fortunate enough to have an email provider with a shoddy spam filter then just take a moment to be grateful, take a moment to visit the folder, take a moment to marvel at the bizarre new friends vying for your attention, and then take a screenshot of all your favourites. 

Just don't - under any circumstances - click any of the links they've sent you. Not one of them. Not even if it's from trusty Rusty. Do you hear me? Good. 



p.s: If this post disappears you'll know that I'm struggling with the inevitable spam comments its bound to attract. 

p.p.s: Before I actually do go - just to save us an embarrassing conversation later - you do know that I know that they're not their real names, don't you? Yeah. Fine. Thought so. As you were.  

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

My Month in Numbers 2016: April

Do you want the honest truth?

Now that I regularly use Instagram to document my days - as they happen - this monthly round-up is starting to feel like I'm going over old ground. The good thing about putting everything into one blog post it is I get to share larger photos and I can write more about what happened. The bad thing is ... I end up selecting and uploading lots of photos and writing so much that it takes up hours of my time ...

But now I've had my moan, let's not worry about all that now. It wouldn't have been the first time I had a wobble/existential crisis about writing during April ... so let's dive into my month, in numbers ...

I attended a 7 hour writing day in a country hotel: 
If you read the blog post I wrote all about it - The writing day that made me consider giving up writing - then you'll already know all about how hours 1-6 were great while hour 7 made me panic and reconsider my dream of ever writing a book.

Since I published that post the day's host has since replied in the comments section, so if you want to know what she thought of my confessional then hop over to find out. And, speaking of comments ...

Rarely have 16 blog comments meant so much to me. 
If you were one of the 16 who took time to leave an encouraging comment on that post than thank you. So much. I can't even tell you what it meant to me. Your polite requests /outright demands that I don't give up writing, and your out-of-the-blue declarations that you'd contribute to a fund to get a book printed were just the most rewarding thing I could have read. And the personal stories you shared made my heart burst. Thank you.

And the month continued to treat me gently after that, ending on a particularly high note ...

I was asked for ID in Mark's & Spencer's while I was buying wine [in the '£10 meal for 2' offer]And while it's not the first time it's ever happened ... it was the first time since I turned 40.

All thanks to good genes, plenty of make-up,  and the poor eyesight of M&S staff.

While we're on the subject of messed-up chronology, in April James and I went back in time - twice.

We dropped in on 1914-18 - courtesy of the 'Horses At War' day at the Beamish open air museum:
There were all kinds of wartime equine scenarios playing out across the 300 acre site from how horses were used in farming and village life, to transportation and battle ...
These re-enactors of a lancer division were a pretty impressive sight and it certainly did make you aware of the living, breathing elements of a war which fortunately none of us saw close-up.

However, modern woman that I am, it did also make me consider just what kind of risk assessment they had to fill out before taking part: "You want to do what? Ride horses? OK. Right through the public areas? Where there's nothing stopping anyone from stepping in your way? OKaaaaayyyyy, riiiiight ... And, sorry, what's was that you said? Oh, you want to do all of that while controlling the horse with one hand while carrying a long sharp stick in the other? Have I got that right? I see. Well, you'll have to fill out this form."

Appropriately enough there was a handy field hospital/camp on site too ...
Alas, try as I might, I didn't spot Christopher Tietjens anywhere [and you know I tried.]
Also while were at Beamish ... we hovered on the bridge to get a good shot of the No.34:
And stayed to get an even better shot when its steam engulfed us as it passed beneath:
I would have taken an even more engulf-y shot from when the train was directly under us, but at the time, I was too busy being engulfed.

We also dropped in on St.Helen's Church, which in this layout dates from the 1820s. But walking past by this building used to be much easier for us ...
This church used to stand in a cemetery 2 minutes walk from our house.

Over the years it became run down and threatened with demolition until Beamish stepped in and dismantled, moved, and rebuilt it brick-by-brick on their site 40 miles away!

The whole project is now finished, and for the first time in my life [as far as I can recall] after years of walking past it, I finally went inside:
Not only does this feel like regular old time travel [an atmosphere which Beamish always instills]  ... for those of us familar with the original location of the building, this particular site feels like they've added teleportation into the mix too. [You can read more about the church here].

But perhaps one of the most memorable moments for James was having his facial hair officially acknowledged. Here it/he is on the vintage tram:
While we were standing outside the bakery a young member of staff [all of who dress in full period costume] walked by us wearing his waistcoat, rolled shirt sleeves, pocket watch ... and handlebar moustache. As he got nearer, their eyes met over their crowded facial hair, and just before he drew parallel the young man declared "Nice moustache!" Pretty sure it made his day.

[p.s: any of you who've seen the 'tache/ bowler hat combination on my Instagram this week, won't be surprised to learn that he's always threatening to go to Beamish in a cobbled together costume of his own. To blend in. I'm a saint. A saint I tell you.]

Right then, hold on to your hat [be it bowler, topper or just plain woolly] and let's zip forward in time, but not quite as far as today ...

We dropped in on 1939-45 when we visited the Yorkshire Pie & Mash Shop in Saltburn:
It was a lovely way to while away a Saturday lunch time; friendly staff, vintage decor:
Lovely food, loose leaf tea ... and they even gave us original 1930s papers to read while we waited:
And no - I didn't steal and/or cut them up!

Clearly in the 1930s people were also worried about their weight but for different reasons than people  are today.
And I'm thinking about weight because ... April was an especially scone heavy month:
I had at least 5 ... but very likely more. It's very easy to lose track.

Book related numbers.
April was an especially wordy month for me what with starting with a writing day and moving on to ...

The 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. Alas.
When I met up with my sister for our weekly 'drinks and nibbles' night she'd dressed the scene...
... with things she just had to hand. She'd also printed off lots of Shakespearean quotes that we still use today and we spent the night plucking them at random and guessing which play they came from. I guess that's just the kind of family we are.

[It's a bit like how, the following week, at Mam's house said "It's just what I've been messing with today" before presenting us with a multi-dish homemade tapas banquet.]

While looking for things to photograph for the blog post I wrote [Shakespeare & my sister. Life lessons from two people I've learned to listen to] I discovered that ...

 I own 3 copies of his 'Complete Works':
I seem to just keep accruing them. After all, how complete is complete?

I read 5 books 
None of which were the The Complete Works of Shakespeare but it did include 2 classics:
  • I read Persuasion by Jane Austen for the first time and wondered what on earth had taken me so long. If you want a good place to start with Austen, it's right there. 
  • And I reread The Catcher in the Rye as it was one of the options on my book club last month. It had been around 20 years since I first read it and I loved it so much this time around that I kept reading sections of it out loud to James. I came to the conclusion that like youth, this book is wasted on the young. Then promptly spoke to 2 people who'd loved it the first time but now hated it. You can't please everyone. 
The other 3 books were:  
  • Further Under the Duvet by Marian Keyes
  • Heft by Liz Moore 
  • and Lover by Anna Raverat [which was so, so very good]. 
  • If you use Pinterest you can hop through to links about all the books I've read this year here - right back to 2013 in fact]. 
I also started reading 3 practical/theory/writing books - but as I haven't finished them, I didn't count them.

And I picked up 2 free books at a World Book Night event. 
The event was held in the library at work and was great not only because - spending 12 hours a week in there - I knew exactly where I was going [I hate finding new places!] but they also gave everyone attending £2.00 to spend in the cafe [tea + Maltesers thankyouverymuch], plus the free World Book Night books and a free book bag to put them in.

The evening also included a talk by the author Helen Cadbury who, I must admit I didn't know anything about, but even without having read her books, it was still really entertaining. As well as reading from her book she covered more generic topics such as the writing and publishing process - so there was plenty to keep me interested. She was an engaging speaker and - if you live in the North East/Yorkshire - you can catch her on her on one of her other author events in the next few weeks [visit her events page here].

And finally [because I want to finish this post before June] ...

I shared 20 [of a total of 50] 4x4 inch collages in the The Copy and Paste Project Instagram exhibition I'm hosting with Kirsty Neale. 
This is a selection of mine and Kirsty's work - hop over to our shared Instagram account to see our collected works:
a compilation of collage images

We'll be sharing a collage-a-day for 26 more days until we have exhibited 100 works in total so do drop by for a look [you don't need to have an Instagram account to browse].


And so ... I'm now gently sliding a sleeping April off my lap and leaving it on the sofa while I head off into May.

Into sunshine [I hope. Please weather. It is Spring now.] Into more books. More collage. More writing (I decided not to put down my pen just yet ...). 

If you've blogged your numbers link me up and I'll be round to visit you
(Jennie and Ruth I'll be there soon!).

Thanks for reading me and offering your support this month. Here's to May. 

Julie x