This post is about the book, which is all about the film and how it was made so there will be spoilers ahead! …also, as the natural-born overwriter that I am, I do go on a tangent about the film and why I absolutely love it. You have been warned.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is quite honestly one of my favourite films of all time. It’s the perfect tale within a tale within a tale; with multiple layers to its storytelling which make it such a rich film. There’s so many reasons why it’s such an amazing film, and they differ so much depending on who you ask. For some it’s that iconic pink hotel front and the funicular, the exquisite Mendl’s pastries, that pristine purple uniform that cuts such a dashing silhouette, or even that dresser-top fully stocked with L’air Panache (and how effortlessly that rolls off ones tongue). For others, it’s the darker elements of the film. The chase scenes with Jopling as dramatic music pounds in the background, his skull-shaped knuckle-dusters, the prison scenes and a seemingly never-ending rope ladder; not to mention, a head in a delivery box, a dead cat in a hessian sack, and four-missing fingers. While I love all the above, The Grand Budapest is my favourite for other reasons.
The writing is amazing. There’s a familiarity to the language and a warmth that’s unparalleled for me. It has a musicality to it that just gives me all the warm and fuzzy feels, and are just so unforgettable. I think the way that the writing has been performed also has a big hand in why I love it so much. The quick-fire way that it is reeled off, especially from characters like M. Gustave; so poetic and thoughtful yet sometimes steers into sounding more like a ranting sailor than his usual gentleman-fashion.
I think his world had vanished long before he ever entered it… but, I will say: he certainly sustained the illusion with a marvellous grace!
If you look further than the facade of the aesthetically-pleasing colour schemes and whimsically, fantastic characters, you realise the events at face-value are quite dire but there’s much more blood and gore involved. My boyfriend is a movie-lover and often mentions the films his dad introduced him to, and what ones he will one day introduce our kids too. It was only when I thought about this myself that I realised this film, while wonderfully colourful and somewhat comedic in areas, it’s actually probably a bit too much for a child to watch.
Now to the book…
This book is almost a window into how this masterpiece film was made. It’s a behind the scenes look with conversations with everyone varying from Anderson himself, to the actors, set designers, cinematographers, costume design, the film’s composer, and so many others. It also includes stunning photography, personal accounts and funny anecdotes as well as some amazing illustration and artwork.
I absolutely love the detailed costumes and vibrant colours, mixed with laid out backdrops in a perfect, symmetrical fashion. Anyone who knows Andersons work knows he’s so visually precise and meticulous with his cinematography. The film has different stages to it, all with frame changes depending on where or what era that portion of the film is set in which is something I think you enjoy and notice more when rewatching it. Each time I watch it I notice something else I missed before so reading about the cinematography and the decisions concerning all the camera work was really interesting for me.
This book is a must for every Wes Anderson aficionado! It contains so much insight when it came to not only the inspiration and sources for the story itself but also the process of storytelling, art and film-making too. It truly discusses every single element of the film and the inner-workings of making something great.
Have you read this book? What did you think?
Cheerio for now!
((I must apologise for rambling on for soo damn long, but if you couldn’t tell-I bloody love this film! It is and probably will remain one of my absolute favourites forever!))
You often hear people say ‘Life doesn’t give you what you can’t handle’. Other people say you are sent things to try and toughen you, ready for future trials – that’s a scary thought. As Kelly Clarkson so eloquently put it ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, is probably the one I resonate with the most.
Chronic illness has taught me a lot in our eleven years of courtship. I can’t even begin to scratch the surface with everything it has taught me but I wanted to share a few things that come to mind; especially as, in my opinion chronic illness has made me into a far better person.
What has chronic illness taught me?
Stillness & Peace
Oftentimes, I look like a completely healthy and functional human being however there are a few people who have learnt to see through the mask I so often put on and I feel as though I have also learnt this skill. I have learnt to remain still and calm in the face of adversity. I have learnt to stop and observe my surroundings, to listen -to truly listen. Theres often no need for any input at all. People usually just need a friendly face and a listening ear for their woes.
My life was going down a specific road but in retrospect I realise that I weren’t truly living. I learnt to live for the little things -the warmth of a first morning tea, the way the dogs get so excited greeting me in the morning, the first sign of spring and the feeling of the suns warmth on your skin. There are so many things that I absolutely love that my boyfriend and family find bizarre. In those moments I have to remind myself that they have their health which means the mundane things I so deeply appreciate aren’t so special for them.
Chronic illness is a brutal motherf*cker but whether it be at the will of a higher power or that little voice in your head telling you that you can do it, you find a way forward; through the weaker, darker moments. We fight on, often with great hardship. We find a way because we know our voices still matter and we can still contribute something to this world. We don’t sit and dwell on our sufferings. We either allow it to control us or learn from experience and find ways to try to control it; or at least live with it.
There is so many variations of pain that can be felt – emotional, physical, relationships, financial, mental, etc and its so hard, near enough impossible not to be shaken by such intense pain. Your life completely changes and with that brings so much pain; however a benefit, is you also come across this immense, iron-like strength. Physically I struggle every second of every day but my mentality and spirit feels Herculean.
Empathy & Compassion
When you have felt the depths of despair and felt so helpless, like you’re drowning in a dark abyss you’ll never navigate your way out of you can’t help but feel empathy for others who have also experienced something similar. With great adversity and discomfort comes an understanding that is often more authentic given your own trials. You learns ways to recognise and support others in a way that is genuine and warm.
Before my illness, I was laser-focused on a set path which was incredibly different to how my life is now. Yes, no one ever thinks they will be ill but my purpose and identity has completely changed. I was constantly chasing a career, monetary goals, the perfect body, and so many other generic life goals. Now I live for moments of joy with my animals, family, and friends. Moments outside, feeling the sun on my skin and breathing fresh air.
Acceptance, Self-love and Self-care
I will always be gut-punched by the realisation that my life is not how I envisioned. It usually happens at milestones like birthdays, specials occasions like graduations, weddings, etc. From having a chronic illness and so much of my life being drastically changed, I realise many of my worries before were trivial. I face a whole other set of challenges which have helped me accept other elements of my life. I celebrate the small accomplishments I achieve in my daily life. I have learnt to look after myself and to accept defeat. To treat my body kindly when I don’t manage even the smallest of tasks. Being chronically ill has forced me to prioritise myself and my wellbeing in a way that I never would have had to before. So many of us get stuck in the rat-race and end up becoming burnt out. By practising some self-care and tending to our own needs, we become so much better at helping ourselves in the long run and others around us too.
I could write about chronic illness for so long but I won’t -I’ll refrain this time around. Today, the 12th May is M.E. awareness day which I why I felt so compelled to share this post today. So often I read posts about M.E. which are so great at educating people about it and other chronic illnesses but I didn’t want to go down that route. Instead, I wanted to share the positives that have come with my chronic health conditions. I will just say though, I will be spending this Sunday having my own dairy-free and gluten-free tea party for Blue Sunday, and if you don’t know what that is I highly recommend you head on over here and have a read of what it is and how it came to be.
Last year was such a roaring success with my reading challenge that I really wanted to try and set myself a goal with knitting this year. Now, it’s hard to set a numeral goal with knitting for me but mentally I set myself a goal in terms of where I am as a knitter and what I want to learn this year. I mentioned in my knitting projects I’d like to work on this year post that I really want to work on improving my colour work skills this year. Having said that, I also really want to use up a lot of my yarn stash as it’s getting out of hand. I have materials which I have bought to do a project but never got around to doing it and then I have projects I started but never completed. And that’s what I have spent this portion of the year doing so far.
I finished the scarf I was making for a friend back at the beginning of February, which turned out so much better than I could’ve anticipated. She seemed happy with it and I haven’t heard any complaints yet so I’m pleased with that. It’s definitely inspired me a bit to plunge into some freestyle knitting more in the future which I’m planning to do with my colour work practise soon.
I finished a special project that I have been working on for someones birthday but unfortunately I can’t go into more detail about that just yet. I have taken photos and will share them in time so stay tuned for those!
I completed my Simply the Vest kit that I received for Christmas from bearded boyfriend so I can wear that now *clapping hands*. The shade of Emerald turned out so much better then I could’ve hoped for and I’m really looking forward to wearing it as we enter the transitional months. The sweater vest is quickly becoming a wardrobe staple I think everyone should have at their disposal.
I finally remade the Bubble Stitch Cardigan by PaintBox Yarns. I made this pattern, in these colours last year. It was such a disappointment because it turned out to be ridiculously too big for me. I had completely overestimated how much covid weight I had gained so I unpicked it and put the yarn away to try again another time. This is that do-over. It turned out beautiful. This 2.0 version was how I had envisioned it to be the first time around but so much better because I had worked double as hard to earn it. I also love how the colours turned out together. They compliment one another so well and I couldn’t be more pleased. It’s going to make a great, colourful addition to my wardrobe.
As I mentioned previously, I received the pony beads for my birthday to do this top so I have been slowly working my way through completing this. I’m currently on one of the front panels and have completed the back panel too so I’m getting through it quite nicely. Stay tuned!
That is what I have been working on and have completed lately. I’ll update you as the year goes on.
Life has been beyond hectic lately. I’m sure come October time I will go into more detail on my life lately and what the past year has brought about for me, but for now I’m looking for every and any distractions available to me. I’m so grateful for anything light I can seek a little solace in and as usual always think of instantly sending it to all my loved ones. Naturally, they usually don’t ‘get it’ and most the time just get outright annoyed with my pestering and don’t bother looking (yeah, I’m looking at you bearded boyfriend). To that end, I like to turn it out to you guys and hopefully you’ll find something you like too.
–this post As a knitter myself, this was really entertaining and on-point for me. It had some more serious points which I think are really on the mark but it also hit some humorous notes which I really enjoyed.
–This video of Never Fear Truth Art by Johnny Depp, with him discussing it in a very raw, candid way is soooo inspiring. I have always loved him as an actor but watching him in interviews is so telling of who he is behind all the characters he portrays. He’s such a natural creative and really quite a beautiful soul I think. We all know he’s been put through the ringer lately so watching and seeing him in this capacity is really quite beautiful. I also loved this short clip too, of him discussing his long friendship with Tim Burton.
-After reading Best Wishes, Warmest Regards I went on a bit of a tangent and listened to so many podcasts that Dan Levy appeared on, one of which was David Tennant Does a Podcast With…. While there haven’t been any new episodes with guests since late 2020, I’ve been absolutely loving going back through the episodes and listening here and there. Obviously I loved the Dan Levy one but I’ve also really enjoyed the Catherine Tate, Olivia Colman, and Jim Parsons episodes too. I think Olivia Colman is such a delightful person and so enjoyed listening to her bond with David Tennant.
-writing… getting back into a routine of writing daily has really helped my mental health. Whether it be journalling or using prompts, or even just writing morning pages or a stream of consciousness; it has helped me a lot and I have found so much comfort in that recently. I’m hoping it’s something I can maintain as time goes on. My life is becoming increasingly chaotic so I think it’s something I’d really find helpful to continue as part of my everyday routine.
-I’ve always loved the content that Vogue’s Youtube channel churn out but I especially love their Inside Home… videos. I loved their Hamish Bowles one, he’s such a fascinating character to me and I love how maximalist his home is. It’s a true representation of such a full, colourful life. I also really enjoyed the ones they did on Karl Lagerfeld’s French home and Iman & David Bowie’s one too. What I love also is how they highlight sentimental objects in their home and the stories behind them, which is quite special.
-I loved this article-rant about people-pleasing on the Frankie magazine website. Frankie is one of my absolute favourites and I love all the writers, photographers, contributors, etc. It’s just such a beautifully curated publication. I also adore their penchant for all things colourful and crafty, often with a touch of whimsy -like these charming felt frogs (honestly I’ve swooned over these guys so much since discovering them through Frankie) and these really cool knits. I have a digital subscription to Frankie magazine and as you can tell, love everything about them but do check out their website too. They always have such great, uplifting content that can always bring a smile to ones face!
I should probably wrap it up there or this could grow a bit too long.
West Cemetery was ridiculously beautiful (to me). It’s hailed as one of the most romantic and atmospheric cemeteries in Europe. Opened in 1839, it is the third of the private cemeteries in London but incredibly different to what it would’ve originally looked like back then. It’s set upon Highgate Hill, and was said to be on level with the dome of St Pauls Cathedral as well as having beautiful views of the metropolis. Originally it was more like a manicured garden, with pristine lawns and bushes for friends and relatives to visit their loved ones final resting place, and enjoy the light and airy space. Today it is much different.
Today Highgate West Cemetery is a combination of architecture, sculptures, and nature all thrown together; in what might be labelled a tangled mess. If you’ve already read my post on the East Cemetery then you’ll know that it was very much taken over by nature, even having some pathways blocked off due to safety concerns. West Cemetery is exactly the same buton steroids!
The best way to structure this is probably to take you through it how we did; which was on a tour. We went around with our tour guide and about twelve other like-minded folk, all eager to know more about this magnificent place. The first thing she told us about was the history of cemeteries. You never really stop to think about how things so mundane as a cemetery came to be so it was a really shocker to find out that the concept of cemeteries came from the overcrowded and unsanitary Anglican churchyards of the 1820’s. Bodies would often be buried and then later exhumed, about six weeks later to be dismembered and tossed aside to make room for the next batch of burials. This would often attract wild dogs who would do further damage to the remains, and our tour guide said that even women wouldn’t dare go through the churchyard because the scenes there were often quite disturbing.
As the introduction of cemeteries came into play so too did the Victorians fear of bodysnatchers, which heralded the walled cemetery gardens. Highgate went a step further though. Not only did they have tall brick walls and cast-iron railings but the cemetery was also patrolled around the clock by retired soldiers and dogs to further ease the fears of future dwellers and their loved ones.
The tour begins at the entrance, the Gatehouse. The architect of the site Stephen Geary designed the gothic gatehouse to cater to everybody, with two chapels within the same building. It has one chapel at one end for Anglicans with the other, on the opposite end for Dissenters. As you come through the gatehouse, you walk on into the courtyard; a beautiful open space, large enough for a horse-drawn carriage to fully turn around. It’s also framed one side by a colonnade for visitors to sit and admire the gothic exterior of the gatehouse which, while it’s experienced some decay is pretty much the same today as it was originally.
There are many footpaths to begin your walk around the cemetery but our tour began by going up the stair well from the colonnade. Again designed by Gerry in a dramatic way so you are literally leaving the land of the living and ascending up to those who have passed – which has a bit of a poetically, beguiling feeling for me; and that’s before you even take the view into consideration. When we went the trees still had their leaves so there were areas that were fully canopied and almost jungle-like. It created that dark, gloomy aesthetic that really emphasised the beauty of the cemetery.
As our tour began, our guide talked us through things such as the different types of memorials such as vaults, sarcophagi, common graves, etc, but also the different symbols and sculptures that adorned these memorials, and what they meant. There are far too many to mention here but two of the most popular symbols were the sculpted Urns (with draped fabric to show grief and mourning) and the singular column (deliberately broken to show a life cut short). Another popular thing I noticed were the use of vaults so families could remain together in death. The vault of the Blount family really made me chuckle. I’m sure their use of carving the word ‘Entrance‘ on the front was for practicalities sake and for future masons to help their family members join the clan but I couldn’t help but be a bit tickled by this; and wonder if there was an exit sign marked on the inside too.
Another story I loved hearing about was the Rossetti family vault. Dante Gabriel Rossetti buried his muse, model and later wife Elizabeth Siddal with a notebook containing some of his unpublished poetry, only to decide he wanted it back several years later. He was then granted permission from the Home Secretary and a group of his friends went to disinter Siddal, and retrieve it for him one evening while he waited at home. I found this so fascinating but also quite eerie. At the time that we visited Highgate Cemetery, I was reading through a collection of Christmas Poetry and kept coming across poems by Christina Rossetti. She just so happens to be the sister of Dante and also buried along with Siddal in this vault; as well as other members of the Rossetti family.
The thing I loved the most was just how much thought was given to these resting places. Yes, they’re incredibly lavish and imposing monuments but the details really made it so much more personal. For example, as we passed a mausoleum of a Victorian admiral our tour guide asked if we noticed anything odd about the railings on its perimeter. I’m not going to lie, I felt a little stupid having not noticed it when someone else pointed out that the vertical railings were actually made to look like canons: signalling his esteemed career.
Other personal touches were easier to notice by passers-by, purely because of their dominance in stature – along with their association to the dweller. George Wombwell, known for his travelling menagerie, has a chest tomb guarded by a sculpture of his sleeping lion Nero; who was said to be so docile that a toddler could ride him. (side note: our tour guide told us that Nero’s statue was still in it’s original state of pure white marble in the late 60s, but through air pollution and climate change its since been degraded to a grotty, textured stone sculpture. Still magnificent but a bit of an alarming fact).
Another cool chest tomb was that of Thomas Sayers, a hugely popular bare-knuckle fighter; think boxer with absolutely no rules. He was such a well-known sporting hero of the day, with even Queen Victoria and Prince Albert often asked to be kept updated as to how his matches were going. Regardless of all his adoring fans, even those in high places, he still said his most loyal companion was that of his beloved bull-mastiff Lion; who also has a place on his memorial, with a life-sized sculpture protecting him even in death. I never knew this name, like so many others we heard whilst there but I really need to learn more about these people – they’re so so fascinating.
One of the reasons why so many have visited Highgate Cemetery is it’s more well-known architectural features like Egyptian Avenue. Entering an archway flanked by carved columns and tall obelisks, it leads to a dark solemn passageway. Originally a tunnel, although the roof has since fallen through from age, a canopy of entangled trees has formed a makeshift cover overhead. The avenue houses eight private vaults. All of which can hold up to twelve coffins but none have been used to that capacity, and they all have a heavy cast-iron door to seal them. While our tour guide said they weren’t particularly popular given the Victorians didn’t like the sunless and sombre location of the vaults, they still seemed to be a prized resting spot as some vaults even bare the occupants living address. It’s almost as-though they’re advertising how well off they have been in both their life and death.
Circle of Lebanon
This is like the crown jewel of Highgate -or the Mayfair if Highgate was a monopoly board as our guide stated. It’s what people go to see and it’s the location used for programmes/films like Fantastic Beasts. It’s described as the heart of the West Cemetery and the architecture is so so beautiful. From Egyptian Avenue you enter the Circle which is a bit like a circular a trench, with vaults on the inside and outside of the way. The earth that forms the inner circle once held a huge cedar tree, believed to be over a hundred years old before the land was even used as a cemetery. This has recently been removed, and replaced by a new sapling, due to age and potential danger. There are twenty chambers built into the earth of the inner circle, all with cast-iron doors bearing a torch pointed downwards with a large flame still burning; symbolising life extinguished but the flame shows the continuation of the soul. These vaults proved so popular that sixteen were later built on the outer circle, facing in, which can hold fifteen coffins each. One of these vaults holds Radclyffe Hall, the poet & novelist, and her partner Mabel Veronica Batten. Hall is best-known for her novel The Well of Loneliness, which was put on trial and banned for it’s overt lesbian themes and championing lesbianism. She’s considered a trailblazer for this and still has fresh flowers laid for her by admirers today (in fact, I really wish I had thought to take some flowers with me).
The Beer Mausoleum
Sat on one of the highest spots of the grounds and overlooking the Lebanon Circle is one of the grandest, privately owned monuments in the cemetery. Erected by Julius Beer, he spent around three million in todays money building it for his daughter Ada, who died at the age of eight. She even features in the mausoleum, in the form of a life-sized white Carrera marble sculpture of herself being raised up by an angel; sculpted by Henry Hugh Armstead. It also holds a doomed ceiling with a gold mosaic, intricate carving details, and bronze doors. You can’t actually enter the mausoleum but there is a 360 tour online here which shows its’ stunning interiors in such high quality.
The Terrace Catacombs
Opposite the Beer Mausoleum is the gothic-styled catacombs. It houses 825 loculi (recesses) which can hold a coffin each. Most of them are sealed with a carved slab or an inspection window, but many have been damaged over the years so there are some exposed coffins. The catacombs are lit by glass sky lights dotted here and there, but for the most part it is incredibly dark and you definitely rely on your phone light to see where you’re stepping. What struck me was how beautiful some of the exposed coffins were. Of course there was a lot of rotting wood but the metal edging and almost embellished details were so intricate and quite honestly, pretty.
The stories we heard and the names we learnt about during our tour were truly my favourite part of the day. The Scottish surgeon Robert Liston was interred in the Terrace Catacombs and was known as ‘the fastest knife in the West End’. In an age where anaesthetic was not around, speed was key and this is where Liston excelled; being able to complete an amputation in under thirty seconds.
In between the more well-known areas I’ve just mentioned, our tour guide pointed out certain tombstones and talked us through more details and symbolism which while they are so interesting, I really can’t go into them all here. She also mentioned little facts and nuggets of information, like the Highgate Vampire. She did ask who already knew about it but I was far too embarrassed to raise my hand, knowing that I’d learnt about it in the trivia section of my Twilight Annual book circa 2008. You can read about the Highgate Vampire in this article by Vice or just go to Wikipedia page here, which is a bit shorter.
As we continued on, our tour guide told us about common graves and how they allowed people who weren’t related to be buried together. They’ve largely disappeared now with only a few still bearing their small wooden cross to indicate their presence. Our tour guide pointed out one which I found so deeply respectful. Having heard about so many ‘big’ names and stories of such celebrities of the Victorian era, it was really lovely to hear about the presence of those who didn’t bear the elaborate memorials but nonetheless, hadn’t been forgotten through time.
We finished our tour at Goldhammer Sepulchre; which is the first mausoleum built at Highgate Cemetery since 1930. It’s striking in its design and appearance, and overlooks the courtyard and colonnade; the perfect place to stop and take a breather before going back round to revisit certain points from the tour.
As our tour concluded, we made some new friends from our tour and followed them to see George Michaels grave; an unmarked plot next to his mother and sister. It was a bit anticlimactic after all the grandeur we had seen that day, but I could understand why they wouldn’t want anything ostentatious; or to attract a flood of people traipsing around an already fragile and decaying piece of land to adorn the grave of their idol. It just seemed somewhat a shame to not have a headstone, or even be mentioned on the tour.
Once we broke off from our new pals, we just had a stroll about the place. It was then that I truly noticed how nature has the upper hand in the cemetery. There was quite a bit of damage to a lot of the tombs and vaults we passed, with roots and vines growing every which way and ivy clinging to headstones or winding itself around sculptures. But there was also such a captivating element to it and I couldn’t help but let my thoughts become consumed by the appearance of it all. So many chest tombs and monuments had been damaged by nature but it also struck me that if you chopped away at those vines or roots, the monument might completely collapse and vanish. On the other hand, if you removed the manmade pieces the forms of nature would have nothing left to clutch onto. That created such an evocative atmosphere for me, the idea that nature has reclaimed, and really held together this parcel of land. In a time when no one was there to care of it, nature took charge and held it together; and did such a good job in the process that it became so intwined that now it can never be parted. I think there’s something quite poetic to that. The profusion of trees and ivy mixed with a sea of sarcophagi and majestic monuments has a magical charm to it, one I don’t think no amount of photos or words could do justice to.
Quick note on accessibility at Highgate Cemetery
The accessibility of the West Cemetery is a bit challenging, while there are many slopes they have quite a steady steepness to them in areas, as well as being uneven and a bit unsteady in parts too. There are two flights of stairs at the Circle of Lebanon which are part of the tour. You can avoid these by going back on yourself through Egyptian Avenue. The tour also begins with the stairs from the colonnade but again, you can avoid these by going an alternative way but I don’t know how easy this would be to link back up with the group if you were on a tour. Also, the terrain inside the catacombs is incredibly uneven and unstable, and it’s not helped by the darkness so I don’t know how much I’d recommend this part of the tour to a wheelchair user (unless you have a real fancy, off-road scooter/wheelchair) – my back aches just at the mere thought of it.
For those with walking aides I’d have to say that other than the colonnade that had a lot of seating, I only saw the odd fold up chair dotted here and there along walkways; which I’m not sure if they were there for visitors or for the gardeners/care takers of the site. We did find a bench along one of the pathways but it looked as though it was added to someones memorial rather than by the site, so we didn’t want to linger.
Like the East Cemetery, I would just like to mention that the West side was rescued from its derelict and neglected state by the Friends of Highgate Cemetery in the 1980s. The friends keep up all restoration and conservation on both the landscape and the decay of any sculptures or buildings too. They don’t receive a penny from the state but rather earn everything from their entrance and tour fees, as well as the rare burials that take place. They also welcome volunteers with open arms – which, let me tell you, I wish I lived nearby to be able to volunteer here!
I hope this isn’t too creepy or macabre of a post but I couldn’t help but share it here, especially as I enjoyed the day so so much. It was so off the beaten path in terms of ‘things to do in London‘ but I’m so glad we did it and I can’t wait to do more things like it in the future. We have actually already made a list of things we would like to do up and around London, a collection of places from Atlas Obscura and places we’ve heard mentioned; so stay tuned for those!
Last year was great for my reading list, which I posted here. I think reading as much as I did last year helped my mental health and the clarity of my mind, especially some of the cognitive symptoms I suffer from with my chronic condition. I should say I’m not advocating for all chronic sufferers to read as much as possible by no means – that is incredibly damaging. I’m merely saying my reading whether it be a few pages of a chunky book, some light poetry or even an audio book on bad days, when I physically couldn’t read or even hold a book, really helped me get through the year. It’s a mixture of this, the escapism books gave me through the year, and some of the books I have received that have got me so excited for this year of reading; and with that I wanted to share some of them here.
Flower Crowns & Fearsome Things, Amanda Lovelace: I recently received this in the post, have had a brief flip through it and I’m so excited to get into this read. I do love a bit of Lovelace’s work so I can’t wait to see what this book has in store.
Catherine de Medici, Leonie Frieda: This has been on my shelf for some time. Long time readers will know that I love a fierce, trailblazing female from history and I do usually have a history read on the go at any given time. Last year I read a few reads like this but I’d say my last big, chunky ‘fierce-female‘ book was probably The Favourite so I think it’s about time we change that. I also have been holding off reading this for a while too as I listen to a lot of podcasts featuring historical women, like Queens Podcast, Vulgar History, & The History Chicks, all of which I think have done episodes on Catherine de Medici so I needed time for that information to kinda fizzle away in my brain to truly enjoy reading this book. I think now is the time!
Mostly Hero, Anna Burns: I love these little books – they are so perfectly sized for my small handbag and so ideal to just pull out to read whenever. I try to look for these little guys whenever I’m in a bookstore but I do have a few on my shelf I need to catch up on reading: this being one of them.
Pillow Thoughts IV & All Dogs Are Good, Courtney Peppernell: As I have mentioned on this space before, I love Peppernell’s work – especially her Pillow Thoughts Series and I recently read her book Watering the Soul so I’m definitely on a ‘Peppernell-kick‘.
The Gift of Everything, Lang Leav: Having read a few more of Lang Leav’s books I’m definitely noticing that I enjoy and relate to her more recent work more so than her work at the beginning of her career so I’m really eager to read this newest addition.
The Story of Beatrix Potter: Her Enchanting Work and Surprising Life, Sarah Gristwood: Beatrix Potter has been the ultimate role model for me since I was about six or seven. My family has friends in the Lake District who we’ve visited throughout my life and been to the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction quite a few times. I’ve also read so much about her life over that time too, so I feel like this might overlap with a lot of the knowledge I already have about her but I simply couldn’t resist this one. I hadn’t heard of this book until the man queuing in front of me at Waterstones had it and I did kinda pounce on him (…in a socially distanced way) to ask what the title was.
Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures & Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs, Paul Koudounaris: Odd, I know. I bought this with a Christmas voucher and I’m already half way through the first chapter. It’s such a fascinating read. The title and visual of the cover make it sound a lot more odd than what it actually is. It goes into the Catholic faith and how these figures, believed to be martyrs, were being used as relics after the protestant reformation. I have to say it has been far more interesting than I expected when I first purchased it.
There we have it. A few books that I’m so so so excited to read this year. These are just a handful I have selected, I do have more strewn around my room but these are the ones that immediately come to mind when I think about the books in my year ahead. I also have my eye on a few titles being released this year such as the impending seventh book in the Frey & McGray Series as well as the final book in the you are your own fairytale trilogy by Amanda Lovelace unlock your storybook heart so no doubt those will be mentioned here soon.
Let me know what you’re excited to read this year – I’d love to find some more for my list!
Oof, I don’t know where to start with this beautiful place – yes, yes I just used the word beautiful to describe a cemetery. You’re thinking I must be mad, but give me chance to sway you. I should start at the beginning and in a way, explain myself.
I’ve always been drawn to the darker, more macabre things of history. I love reading about the more gruesome parts of history, especially anything to do with the concept of death and how people from different cultures or time periods honoured their dead. With this in mind, when I first came across the site Atlas Obscura I instantly fell in love but when I came across the cemeteries, specifically London’s Magnificent Seven it was like I could hear the angels singing to me (metaphorically).
Now this was all a few years ago, before even Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (filmed there) came out and it plucked a bit more interest. Highgate along with so many other places in London, had slipped off our radar for a while. We kept saying we needed to do more days out in London but for some reason or another, time slipped by and nothing happened. Until November when bearded boyfriend booked a day off work and we were soon on the train to Highgate, ready to explore every inch of it.
We booked ourselves on a tour of the West Cemetery but got there a little early to explore the East Cemetery, where we knew Karl Marx was waiting for us. While this part of the cemetery wasn’t as impressive as West Cemetery it was still impressive and I think we definitely made the right decision by heading here first.
East Cemetery was simply a sea of headstones and sculptures mixed with nature taking over but on a scale that I’d never seen before, even in photography. Like the West Cemetery, the east is laid out with pathways as well as still having the older, original pathways winding between graves; rippling up and rotting in areas from age. The majority of these were camouflaged in ivy and other foliage with only a danger sign to warn of their presence. I mention these pathways as even the path land was utilised, being used as common graves and marked with a simple wooden cross.
The East Cemetery was added as an expansion of the West in 1854, which then formed the East and West labels. The road dividing the two sites became an issue with the chapels being in the gatehouse on the West site. The victorians however, found a dignified way to get around this and transferred the coffins after funerals through an underground tunnel using a hydraulic lift that was built in 1855. This has since gone.
Among the many at East Cemetery, there are some more well-known names. One of the most famous is Karl Marx, the philosopher and socialist whose body was exhumed from his original place and moved by the communist party in 1954. You can still find him in that same spot, where you’ll also see his bronze bust along with his words in gilded lettering ‘Workers of all lands unite‘ and ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways – the point however is to change it‘. What also struck me about Marx’s marble plinth was how it was still adorned with flowers from his admirers today, and how many were visiting there just for him. It’s also the resting place for Mary Ann Evans, more commonly known under her male writing name George Eliot. She’s best known for her classic novel Middlemarch as well as her unconventional home life of living with her partner for over twenty years while he was still married to another woman before moving on to marry a man twenty years younger than her –such scandal! Some other famous names include the civil rights campaigner Claudia Jones who fought against imperialism and racism throughout her life, and Malcolm McLaren who aptly has the engraving of his own words ‘Better a spectacular failure, than a benign success‘.
I think what is worth noting is that of the original ‘Magnificent Seven‘ cemeteries, Highgate is the only one owned and organised by a charity, while the rest have all been taken over by local councils. While it’s a great thing for all of these sites to still be around and accessible to the public, I wanted to highlight this fact about Highgate because as much as it is a bit more of an alternative ‘attraction’, it’s through their tours and admission that this site is maintained; and can ultimately remain open to the public.
I would recommend this to pretty much anyone. As I’ve said, at face value it does sound like an odd day out and some would say a pretty morbid thing to do but it was truly fascinating. Even my own mother (whose ideal day out is at the shopping centre or even zoo) found it interesting as I raved about our tour there. I found the whole experience so fascinating and will happily talk about this place for hours to whoever will listen to me.
I do have a post coming on the West Cemetery – a much longer, detailed post so brace yourself and stay tuned for that!.
As time goes by, I am increasingly reminded of the importance of self-care. I think it is one of those things as a teenager you deem as a face mask or lay in on a Sunday morning, but as you get older the meaning changes. For me, self-care holds immense importance for a number of reasons. The main two being when I’m stressed or feeling drained. I think self-care is being pushed to the forefront of a lot of peoples minds these days. Living in such a fast-paced word can often become exhausting and it’s important to look after yourself in your everyday routine, but even more so when you are feeling run down.
I think the pandemic and how we were forced to slow down, brought up a lot of thoughts and feelings for everyone. Right at the beginning, you know that odd period of time where everyone was a bit stunned and didn’t quite know what to do with themselves, we were all forced to be still and naturally that caused a lot of discomfort for so many of us. Looking back, I definitely indulged in some serious self-care practises throughout that period and I think some of them have really stuck with me since so I thought I’d share them with you all today.
Here are just a few things that I like to do when I’m in need of a little care:
Get the zzz’s: In my opinion, there is nothing better than heading to bed early when you are in need of some extra TLC. It honestly is one of my little pleasures in life: doing my nighttime skin routine, turning my phone on silent and plugging it in the other side of the room and then sliding into bed at nine o’clock (yes, I’m worse than a grandma). But honestly, I can’t recommend this step enough. It is truly luxurious.
Put the Phone Away: Not just in the evenings, but even at weekends or on your day off. I find technology extremely draining when I’m feeling low. It’s like a huge black-hole sitting waiting to suck me in. Checking my emails, leads to replying to ten, checking instagram leads to hours of dog videos and all around its not okay for my self-care. It is also really disheartening when you see everyone living ‘their best lives‘ on instagram while you are going through a rough patch.
Have a Bath or Pamper: Whatever you prefer, bath or shower, indulge a little and give yourself a pamper. I like to stick on a podcast and slide into a warm bath.
Read a Book: Disconnect from everything around you and submerge yourself in a fictional world for a few hours. Fiction not for you? Pick up an autobiography you’ve been meaning to read or if books aren’t for you put on a podcast, audio book or maybe just some tunes on in the background. My point is, it’s nice to tune out for a few moments.
Be Around a Furry Friend: There is something incredibly soothing about being around animals. The love and joy they radiate is just contagious and you can’t help but feel lighter and carefree around them. As annoying as it is to have three dogs at every angle of me, nudging me while I try to cram in an extra chapter of my book: I have now come to see that as their signal to stop for the day. They usually nap while I work so them coming up and nudging me is almost their way of saying ‘it’s time to play’. And as any pet parent knows, it’s not just having them around that is soothing it is also the fact that you have to be in a routine and take them out. With my three dogs, I have to take those breaks to let them out in the garden or get them to the park. This responsibility makes me get fresh air and see daylight which has such a restorative effect on all of us.
Eat Well: Think of your body like a vehicle, if you don’t give it the fuel it needs it won’t work. Giving yourself some self-care does not include binging on crisps and chocolates as you rewatch friends and wait for your pizza to arrive. Believe me, you will feel much more nourished by preparing a healthy meal instead -plus cooking is therapeutic too!
Keep Your Living Space and Bedroom Tidy: You can’t truly take those moments for yourself when you are distracted by the clutter around you. I think your bedroom should be the main thing to focus on. You want it to be clean and tidy so that when it’s time to switch off, you can slide into those sheets without tripping over piles of washing or your mind making a list of everything you need to tidy up. Your living space, as a whole, should be your oasis. Somewhere you can turn off the business of the fast-paced life we lead.
Talk to friends: Taking the time to switch off and simply catch up with friends is such a lovely thing to do. Nothing quite beats taking time out to see your friends, chat for a few hours and have a few giggles too. This is especially true if you have a lot on your mind and want to unburden yourself or even get another persons perspective on a matter. It also helps to remind yourself that you are not alone.
So those are just a few of my self care ‘go-to’s’. I hope theres some helpful ideas here. What are yours?
Knitting has definitely became a saving grace for me throughout the beginning of the pandemic and ever since has just become an inherent part of my life now. It has done wonders for my anxiety to the point where my hands now feel a bit restless if I try to watch Netflix without knitting.
While there’s a lot of projects below, I’m using this post as a bit of a landing page for me to remind myself of all the great projects I could start when I complete something but also to keep it real in comparing projects. I’m trying to be a more sustainable knitter and what that means to me is knitting things that I may already have the wool for but that also align with my style and what I would actually wear in my day-to-day life. Some of the items below I know I have the materials for but I would be making them for friends or family members and it would merely be for my own practise rather than my own wardrobe. Although I know that I won’t be able to make all of the below this year, I still wanted to share these patterns with you lovely lot incase there’s any budding knitters out there who might benefit from these patterns.
I should note that this is in no particular order of importance, etc – I’ve simply listed them as I thought of them.
-The first project I’m working on this year is a piece commissioned by a best friend of mine. I got a message and photo over the festive period asking if I could make her a scarf like the one she had seen on instagram. She wanted pastel tones mixed with a bubblegum pink so I’ve been working on that for her and I’m working towards that being complete by mid-late February.
-For Christmas I was gifted two knit kits by Lauren Aston Designs; the ‘Simply the Vest‘ and the Dreamy Oversized Cardigan. I’ve done some knit kits by LAD before and love working with their super chunky yarn so I’m really looking forward to completing these kits. I’ll be making the vest in Emerald green and the cardigan in Ruby red.
-I have this unfinished project from last year, Miffy and her balloon; all I need to do is knit her dress and then that will be complete.
-I made this Bubble-stitch Cardigan last year but it turned out waayyy too big (my mom and her friend both fit in it at the same time!) so it was quickly unravelled it and stored away the materials. I’d like to try it again this year, paying more attention to the sizing and my tension gauge. I would say this is the main project that I would really like to complete this year.
-I got this pattern last autumn and then received pony beads for my birthday for this project so I really wanna get this made by early spring. The pattern requires Aran yarn which I find has more body and structure to it and while it’s only a simple stocking stitch, I wonder if it would be a good option for spring time. I have a navy wool I’d like to work with and then do multi-coloured beading throughout.
-I bought this cross-stitch pattern on Etsy just under a year ago to work on for my granddad who loves VW Beetles and is a huge Herbie fan. I started this project last year and I’m about two-thirds through it so it shouldn’t be long until it is complete now.
-I would really like to work on my colour-working a bit more this year. Last year I made this Rainbow Cardigan by Paintbox Yarns (the adult version though) which I love but it was definitely a learning curve for me with the colour-work. This year I’d love to expand on that a bit more. I made this Beetlejuice hat last year but I think I’d like to try this Grinch hat this year and then maybe take a go at making this stocking.
-Speaking of Christmas, I would really like to make the members of my family something for the festive season ’22. I’m not talking something big like ugly Christmas jumpers, maybe something like a bobble hat or even cracker crowns – I have a crown pattern from LAD so this would be a pretty easy project to do with minimal effort… and it could be something we keep for each year.
-I would like to make a cardigan or jumper to add to my collection but I’m unsure of whether I want it to be plain or patterned. I have a few plain options saved like this Basket Weave cardigan pattern and this Nonna Manmi cardigan pattern. I love how textured these pieces look, and I think it’s always good to practise different stitch patterns; especially factoring in gauge tensions, etc. I do however, really love the look of this Moon & Sun jumper (I’d probably do it in a navy and mustard), this Astro Vest but I have been going back and forth whether to take the plunge and do the JW Colour block Patchwork Cardigan that Harry Styles made oh so famous and fabulous. I go back and forth on this piece as the colours aren’t typically something I’d wear myself but I don’t know what other colour palette I would do it in – it does look like a really cozy fit of pattern though… what a conundrum.
-I have been following Alix Kramers work for some time. I absolutely love her Spoonie Top, but all her vest designs are so beautiful and on point for me. I would love to give either her checkerboard Grace’s vest a go or her Eat the Rich Vest – which always makes me smile. I do also love her Pop Art Cardigan Design. I just think she’s so insanely talented and would love to try her patterns out.
-Another great vest is this Space Face pattern by Andrea Arts on Ravelry. I’d really love to have a whirl at this at some point in the future.
-I recently bought this Coraline-inspired jumper pattern on Etsy. In some ways this is quite similar to the Moon & Star jumper that I previously mentioned – maybe I’m going through a star phase? I think before I do either of these projects, I’ll have to compare them and see which I’d prefer to do. I know this Coraline jumper pattern calls for use of both merino and mohair yarn which I believe I have only used two yarns at the same time once on a small project, so this is something I should think about.
-I’d like to try knit some sort of baby/child’s item like this cardigan… not expecting, just to try out some baby yarn work.
-And finally, I always have the goal of trying to learn how to crochet at some point. I say this mainly because I would love to be able to do granny-square projects but also I love the look of these patterns too: the last of us Ellie & Joel, Coraline Doll, and Shrunken Head Guy. We’ll see though. I’m so used to knitting now I wonder if I’d even be able to adapt to crocheting.
So that’s quite a long list – I definitely have some favourites and some patterns that I am mentally prioritising but I’m looking forward to just seeing how the year plays out. Stay tuned
2021 was a great year of reading for me. I really hit a great stride with my reading and the books I came across. Like my reading in 2020, I read a fair bit of poetry and discovered some new writers who I already have a list of their books that I want to read for 2022. I definitely delved into a lot of works other than plain old fiction which I am proud of and think I did a really good job of not only hitting my (altered) reading goal of 50 books, but surpassing it by doing 52 – proud bookworm!
So without further ado, these were my reads of 2021…
The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern: Ugh, this book. I have done a book review here on this one so you can read a bit more detail about it and my thoughts over there but I will just say this book for me was a bit of a let down. There were elements I loved and then ones that just didn’t work for me which was a little disappointing considering The Night Circus is one of my all-time favs.
The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One, Amanda Lovelace: This book is the second in the Women are Some Kind of Magic trilogy and it was both my favourite and least favourite in the trio. I’ve gone into it in more detail here but briefly, while I loved the female empowerment in it it sometimes overstepped that boundary line into ‘man-hating’ which I’m not a fan of.
The Binding, Bridget Collins: A huuuuge let-down and just overall disappointment. This book had been hyped up to be something that it just weren’t for me but I do have a post coming out soon which goes into the details in more depth.
The Mermaids Voice Returns in This One, Amanda Lovelace: The third in the Women are Some Kind of Magic trio and yes, it’s also detailed in this post here with the other two. While I enjoyed this last instalment to the trio, I would say that I wasn’t as connected to this material as the other two and that definitely clouded my enjoyment of it slightly.
The Timekeeper, Mitch Albom: This was a good read, a bit of a slow-burner and a bit choppy at times with the pacing but it still made for a good read. It followed three storylines connected by time and the timekeeper, and just held so many nuggets of wisdom that made you stop, think and feel throughout.
September Love, Lang Leav: Beautiful -yet another amazing addition to Lang Leav’s catalogue of published works. Her words are eloquent and personal but yet relevant and relatable. I can’t wait to read more of her work in the future.
2am Thoughts, Makenzie Campbell: This was okay-sh. It had some relatable and interesting entries to it but as a whole was a collection of one-liners and sentences strung together haphazardly rather than thought-out poetry.
within these four walls, mindfully Evie: This was a tough read for me at times. I went into it in more depth in this post here. As someone with the same diagnosis as Evie at times her writing stepped over into the ‘sh!t this is a bit too real for me‘ area and reading is a form of escapism for me, so it probably wasn’t the most enjoyable however I think it would be a great read for anyone. I would especially recommend this to those who are family members of a chronically-ill person because it would truly be enlightening for them.
The Dance of the Serpents, Oscar de Muriel: Right lets try not to overwrite this absolute gem of a book… Now, I have a book post here reviewing it in more detail but all I will say here is 5/5 stars from me. The ending messed with me a little but it didn’t take any enjoyment away from my experience of this book. I cannot wait until the seventh and final book to series (for now) comes out in February this year (…just realising that is next month -eeep!).
The Favourite: Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, Ophelia Fields: a very informative and well-researched read but it was quite stiff and dragged in large areas. It was also a bit too long for my liking. There were times when I thought I was reading something that was relevant to what comes next but in reality it was just more information in case you wanted it. I had to finish this through audible or I just wouldn’t have finished it.
break your glass slippers (you are your own fairy tale), Amanda Lovelace: Ugh, this book. This is the first in Lovelace’s you are your own fairy tale trio and this has to be, hands down my favourite of her works. It absolutely oozes female empowerment throughout with its consistent use of fairy tales, princesses and the reoccurring use of fairy godmother says. This is a wonderful start to Lovelace’s new trio.
Intimations: Six Essays, Zadie Smith: a bit of an impulse buy at the Waterstones check out but what a wonderful impulsive buy it was! Absolutely beautiful collection of writing full of little vignettes from throughout 2020. Really quite stunning and I thoroughly enjoyed the process of reading it. I went into more detail about it in this post here.
Twilight, Stephanie Meyer: ugh. a reread and total journey of nostalgia but so so good. Sometimes it’s just good to reread certain books – this took me back to when I first read it, as a twelve-year-old girl trying to fit into secondary school whilst also trying to figure out if I was team Edward or team Jacob.
New Moon, Stephanie Meyer: another reread of course. I actually have the LP of the movies soundtrack which I absolutely love so I did crack that out whilst reading a few times.
No Shame, Tom Allen: This book was brilliant. I would say it’s up there with my favourites this year and I even had to get it on audible too just to hear Tom Allens voice narrate his hilarious words to me. It was so insanely good and beyond hilarious! Ugh, I could talk forever about this book but I’ll just redirect you to thispost here where I got to gush about it a bit more.
I hope you stay, Courtney Peppernell: As you’ll go on to read, I have really enjoyed and fallen in love with Peppernell’s work this year but this one wasn’t as enjoyable as the others I have read. I would still recommend it but it just wasn’t my favourite.
shine your icy crown, Amanda Lovelace: A good second book to the new trio, you are your own fairy tale, but not groundbreakingly impressive. Having said that, this also had the same sense of female empowerment and unity as break your glass slippers; I especially liked the Big Sister Says pieces.
The Truth About Magic, Atticus Poetry: Some nice pieces but not up there with my favourites of the year. I would definitely revisit this in the years to come though – it seems like a body of work that would age well.
Tales of the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgerald: A nice collection of some of Fitzgerald’s shorter fictional works. The Tale of Benjamin Button was included which was a really great read, especially given that I had only ever seen the film before.
Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury: ugh. so. bloody. good. I do have a post coming out with all my thoughts about this beautiful book. It was so much more than I could have ever expected and I anticipate it will be an annual autumn read for me from here on out.
Lamentation, C. J. Sansom: a recommendation from my grandfather. This is the sixth in the Shardlake series (I think) but I had no previous reading or knowledge of that fact. It was a slow burner but had so many plot twists and was a really great historical fiction read.
Shy: How Being Quiet Can Lead to Success, Annie Ridout: I am currently working on a post dedicated to this book. While there was some surface-level stuff in this, it also had so much great information and gems of advice that I really want to highlight and share so stay tuned for that!
7,300 Days, Isabella Mente: some beautiful pieces on depression and self-love but outweighed by traumatic and somewhat over-sexualised poetry for my own personal taste. My copy was also a used one with musings scribbled in pencil by the previous owner which made my reading so much more magical.
Magic Lessons, Alice Hoffman: This was an okay-ish read. It had elements that I really loved but there were other parts of the plot line that I could not get on board with at all. I haven’t read the four books that come after this though so maybe I’ll give those a go.
Introducing Marx, Rius: Having visited Highgate Cemetery (post to come!), my grandfather lent me this utter gem. This was such a great read! I felt so enlightened after reading this.
*Only Dull People are Brilliant at Breakfast, Oscar Wilde: a neat collection of the witticisms of Wilde and all that he embodied. A great little edition to keep on your person for light reading here and there. This was completed a few days into the new year so it is technically for next years list (oops) but I did start it this year.
*A Dance with Dragons 1: Dreams and Dust (A Song of Ice and Fire #5), George R. R. Martin: I started this book at the beginning of the year and I’m still yet to finish it – I know, it’s awful of me. I even got the audible to try make it more accessible and have less of an excuse not to read it but here we are so clearly that didn’t work out as planned. I will say that I am in the last quarter of it so you know, not far off but I really wanna get this done for 2022… and part 2!
I think for 2022 I want to read more books like Shy, the type of ones that help you grow and evolve a bit more but I would also love to read more informative, reference books. I already have a few to hand ready like this Art Nouveau one (I’m seeing the Klimt Immersive experience in August – covid permitting, so this will be a perfect read beforehand) and I also have a book called Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures & Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs which yes, I know sounds (and looks) weird but having read the first few pages already sounds absolutely fascinating so I cannot wait to devour that. I’m now wondering if I should write a To Be Read post… we’ll see. Anyways, I hope you all had a good year – particularly with your reading, watching, or whatever your thing is!