Wes Anderson-Inspired Reads

Now I know it’s odd to say, but the first half of the year I class as my ‘Wes Anderson time’. It sounds odd but from January until around the end of May is a time when the weather in England is unpredictable (when isn’t it) I like to dive into new but familiar territory. Having usually just listened to the same Christmas tunes year in, year out, when January rolls around I like to revisit and become reacquainted with familiar things like my favourite films such as The Grand Budapest Hotel whilst also delving into newer territory. This for me means sticking with the thing I love but in other formats. I did this recently with Schitt’s Creek by reading the book Best Wishes, Warmest Regards; so it felt only natural to try it with The Grand Budapest Hotel too.

Now I must admit, this is my favourite film by Wes Anderson so I do clutch onto it big time but I am really trying to verse myself in the rest of his works too and I do still have a ways to go. In the mean time though, it doesn’t hurt to take comfort in books that are a bit ‘Wes Anderson‘ too.

The Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Matt Zoller Seitz & Anne Washburn

I won’t go too into this book as I did only recently write a whole, rambling post about it; so instead here’s the link to that here. What I will say though, this book is beautiful. It’s a behind the scenes look at all things The Grand Budapest Hotel and goes into such depth discussing the process of making the film. I’d recommend it to anyone who loves Anderson, the film or even anyone with an interest in storytelling or movie-making.

The Society of Crossed Keys: Selections from the Writings of Stefan Zweig, Inspirations for The Grand Budapest Hotel, by Stefan Zweig, Wes Anderson & Anthea Bell

This little pink book is a compilation by Anderson showing his appreciation of Zweig’s work and showcasing his favourite pieces by him. It includes a conversation with Anderson talking about how Zweig’s work inspired him; and you can definitely read certain details in the pieces themselves which really spoke or inspired certain elements. It includes Zweig’s last work ‘The World of Yesterday’ which is nostalgic in its details of a bygone Europe. All of the pieces in this collection are deeply philosophical and thought-provoking in there musings. I wouldn’t say it’s a light read but if you have the time and the patience, I think it’s worth a read.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Screenplay), Wes Anderson

This is what it says on the tin – screenplay of the film. One of my favourite things about The Grand Budapest Hotel is the writing. I think I’ve said it before but the writing has such a musicality to it that I absolutely love so this is such a great read for me. While the plot is inspired by the workings of Stefan Zweig and the film displays a bygone era of sophistication through its visuals, the writing and characters are still so wonderfully portrayed through simply reading the screenplay. It helps that the film is sectioned into parts like ‘Part 1: M. Gustave‘, like it was purposely made to be read. While I do love this book, I do wonder if someone could enjoy it without never watching the film.

Accidentally Wes Anderson, Wally Koval

This book was actually a birthday gift that I welcomed with open-arms, and squealing slightly. It’s beyond beautiful and is absolutely flawless in its curation. This book is somewhat a coffee-table book with the majority of it being full of vibrant photography. It’s a bit of a photo project with the composer Koval being sent these photos from all over the globe from individuals who also recognise and appreciate how settings so common place can be accidentally Wes Anderson. Koval then compiles written excerpts to accompany the photography which I found so fascinating. He included the history of some of the along with little, personal anecdotes which was lovely. It truly is the perfect book for escapism!

This book is very much the aesthetic of Anderson with the photography all checking those necessities for symmetrical lines, tiny but quirky places and pastel tones contrasted by bright blue skies. There’s definitely a mix of polished places and then the shabbier, more run down spots but all tie together under that umbrella of whimsical charm. Although, I will say some photos can feel a little eerie and ghost-town like with their lack of humanity in the shots.

The book is laid out by the photographed places area in the world, with each section beginning with a numbered map. Some of the places are more historical with the written sections appreciating their history while others are more dry and just outright comical in their commentary of the place. All of the places within are somewhat off the beaten track which is something I really love. While I think an Anderson fan would love this book, I think anyone with an interest in photography or architecture, or even just someone who enjoys flicking through a good book with beautiful, crisp photography shots and great colour palettes, would love this book. It’s a welcomed and well-loved addition to my home library.

What is something you like to revisit in new ways? Let me know.

Cheerio for now!

Photo Diary: Sketch, London

March is always a really busy month for meant this past march was no different. I have a lot of loved ones who have birthdays in march along with Mother’s day too, but this year I also had my Graduation and I had also decided to treat two of my favourite people; my mom and my godmother, to a trip to Sketch for afternoon tea in The Gallery.

The Gallery used to be that iconic pink velvet room that was an instagrammer’s heaven and so you’d see it strewn across there on the regs. More iconic though, are the toilets. A unisex toilet, full of individual pods and overlooked by a multicoloured, glass-panelled ceiling; which makes you feel like you’re in a psychedelic dream. There was a moment when I thought my pod was going to take me off to the spaceship waiting for me.

Sketch was such a cool experience. The decor was so quirky and whimsical, it felt so playful and you can’t help but feel happy in a place like that. The ambience was lovely too. The Gallery had recently been refurbished by Yinka Shonibare, who has transformed it into a yellow dream with African-inspired art pieces. I had never seen the synonymous pink in person however my mom and godmother had and said the yellow was such easier and calmer on the eyes; which I can attest to. The yellow felt so calming and mellow. They do have a diorama in the foyer of what the gallery looked like when it was pink which is great too. What added to the experience was also the string trio who came out and did sets. They did so many great renditions whilst we were there but my favourites were Skyfall, Golden Brown, Shut up and dance with me, and so many others.

I took so many photos whilst I was at Sketch and while they haven’t graced my instagram page just yet, I couldn’t resist not sharing them here too.

I can’t wait to visit sketch again. I have already told bearded boyfriend that we need to go there together because I know he’ll get a kick out of the decor. I also know a good friend of mine will love it there so I may have to take her when her birthday rolls around.

Have you been to Sketch? What did you think?

Cheerio for now!

Photo Diary: Graduation

I Finally Graduated!

After six years of studying and two years of Covid – I graduated! It’s hard to really put into words how I feel about my graduation. It was a long, emotional day at the Barbican Centre in London but it was so worth it and felt like a real feather being placed in my cap. It’s quite an overwhelming range of emotions that I’ve felt – especially given that so much of my degree I achieved studying at night or sitting up in my bed. Even though, I can’t quite put how I feel into words right now, I still wanted to share some photos here.

Cheerio for now!

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Matt Zoller Seitz

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!

Mr Moustafa

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!))

The Positives Chronic Illness Has Taught Me

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.

Perspective

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.

Perseverance

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.

Strength

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.

Purpose

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.

Cheerio for now!

things I’ve found solace in lately | april

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.

Cheerio for now!

Highgate Cemetery | West Cemetery

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 but on 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.

Egyptian Avenue

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!

Cheerio for now!

self-care

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?

Cheerio for now!

What is classed as Self-Care?

I think it would be an understatement to say that the past couple of years have been a bit of a stressful, and quite frankly, draining for us all at times. The spare days or moments I would get to myself here and there would soon be full of face masks, living off teapots and major relaxing (accompanied by binge watching Netflix). Netflix is sometimes (translation – always) enjoyed with tea and some form of treat. Whether thats a handful of Minstrels or popcorn, there is usually something to munch on. But looking back, I can’t help but wonder if it was really classed as self-care?

What is the definition of self-care?

I think self-care is an act which benefits your emotional, physical or mental health. Something which alleviates and nourishes your body leaving you feeling restored. The Cambridge English Dictionary’s website states self-care is an act of caring for oneself when they are ill or to prevent them from becoming ill. Clearly there are strong connotations pointing to health and wellbeing, and I think overall we are all aware of that: but the line between what feels good and what is actually good for us often becomes blurred.

Self-care has become very trend-driven for the past few years. These days it’s projected as more of a fad or hashtag doing the rounds on instagram. Portrayed through images of shopping deliveries, takeaways and numerous naughty treat yo’self snacks its no wonder we now assosciate frivolous online spending sprees with self-care. The root of all this comes down to two very different things: what feels good and what is good.

What feels good

For me what feels good aligns with our wants, desires, and what feels good in the moment. These things give us a satisfaction which is momentary and wears off quickly. It’s the late night takeaway, the pair of heels after you have reached a personal goal, or binge-eating junk while you marathon watch Gilmore Girls on your day off. These things are luxuries that you like to treat yourself with, and thats nice once in awhile but are they really classed as self-care? Self-love perhaps but I’m not sure I can say they fall into self-care.

What is good

What is actually good is connected to your wellbeing – your emotional, physical and mental health. Watching Gilmore Girls in the aftermath of emotional turmoil, like a break up, might help lift your spirits but you don’t have to bestow a ton of junk food on your body in the process. Instead grab a punnet of grapes to chow down on or plug the headphones in and watch it on your phone while your on the treadmill at the gym. I know it might not sound all that fun and it may not feel good in the moment but you’ll feel the benefits after and thank yourself later.

Ultimately, I think self-care is really all about making time for adopting healthier routines which will benefit all facets of our lives. Sure, treating yourself is fine and we all need it at times but lets not trick ourselves into thinking its self-care.

A few ideas for healthy self-care could be unplugging from wifi for a few hours and picking up your favourite book or mag instead, getting fresh air or exercising. Spending your Sunday doing meal prep for the following week, giving yourself an all-over body scrub or even just going to bed early. These things sound so simple and mundane but they truly are luxurious, and really epitomise self-care for me.

What do you class as self-care?

Cheerio for now!

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What a Digital Detox Taught Me

Way back, at the beginning of 2019 actually, I took part in what I can only describe as a digital detox. I had already deactivated my Facebook account months beforehand and had felt incredibly light since scrubbing that from my brain. The difference I felt in my mind and brain power after deactivating it was insane to me. I couldn’t believe it and so, I wanted to extend that to other areas too.

Since then I have done numerous digital detoxes. I typically do them whenever I feel overwhelmed and also, whenever I’m realistically able to do one. When I say digital detox I don’t exactly mean avoidance of digital devices. I still have my phone, my computer and tv but I delete my social media apps (no insta, YouTube, etc), my tv is only for a specific amount of time in the evening, and my computer is restricted to work and emails -no browsing anything online that could influence me. The only apps that I still use on my phone is audible and Spotify, which are where I listen to a lot of my podcasts and audiobooks. So it’s not an entire detox and some would probably say that I’m cheating but it’s important to be realistic and as a housebound Spoonie, I don’t think I could commit to a full detox at this time.

Having done a few of these detoxes now, usually for a few weeks at a time, I wanted to share some things that I’ve learnt from them. Some of these are quite obvious and then others really surprised me. Even just the experience of it and how clear my mind seems during a detox is amazing and something I would recommend everyone do at some point.

How much damn time I spend on meaningless apps

I always knew I spent far too long on apps like instagram and YouTube, even apps like Pinterest and Tumblr I could spend hours on. They’re like rabbit holes into the digital abyss that would take up so much of my time and before I know it an hour or so is gone and I really need to get sh!t done. By taking all those apps away, it made it all the more evident how much of my day is eaten up by mindless scrolling – it was an eyeopener! So much so that when I did finally have my apps back it made me more mindful of my use of social media and how long I spend on there.

Facebook doesn’t contribute anything to my life

While I had somewhat realised this before the detoxes, it became ever more obvious to me as time went on. Throughout the detoxes, I kept thinking about how I use social media apps and the roles each of them play in my life. I realised very quickly that Facebook just doesn’t contribute to my life. For people like my mom and her friends, its a way for them to keep up to date with one another’s lives even if they don’t have the time to physically see one another. For me, it became more burdensome. I’d be tagged in meaningless videos and status’ that really didn’t bring anything to my life, or if they did it was a more negative tone. I’d feel like I had to comment or acknowledge the tagged posts in some way, even if I didn’t like them which would feel tiresome but at the same time I didn’t want to be rude so it also felt somewhat fake.

Now I know this perhaps sounds very ‘first world problems’ and just outright rude of me, feeling burdened by having to comment to friends and families online, but I just realised that I much prefer seeing people. By not being involved on the Facebook scene I’m far more present when I do spend time with them and I really love that. When I ask about their trip away, I enjoy seeing how their face lights up that I remember and I’m interested in them and their experience. They usually pull out their phone and show me photos of what they’re talking about and telling me their funny encounters, etc. It’s far more fulfilling for me then swiping through and simply ‘liking’ them.

Instagram inspires me but also burdens me

I think there’s different ways in which people tend to use instagram, I have friends who use it in a very social way but for me it’s a little different. I follow a lot of independent businesses, especially those with a sustainable initiative and I absolutely love following activists and keeping in touch with the different ways in which they are striving the change this world. I find these figures so incredibly inspiring but while I love this kind of content, too much of it can be overwhelming; especially if something particularly poignant is happening in the social sphere such as the death of Sarah Everard. Instagram was inundated with posts of advice and ‘what to do’s’, and there was so much conversation around this topic that needed to happen. I know personally that this event and these posts conjured so many open conversations with my boyfriend. Quite often he would send me a post he’d seen with his thoughts which would open up a discussion about it. While I loved this and to my mind these conversations are how we will change society, it can get a lot. Every so often I find instagram too much and I need to take a time out. It’s not that I don’t want to interact or stay up to date with things, and I still care about whatever’s happening at that given time, but I also need to take time out to help my own mental health and I think that’s okay.

How valuable time is

Now it’s a bit of a cliché but digital detoxes have really taught me how precious time is. I’m not talking about time in the grand scheme of things but the little chunks of time. Those 10 or 20 minutes of scrolling here and there throughout the day when you’re on a break at work or between jobs or chores, etc. Those moments all add up and can make quite a sizeable chunk when you really think about it. I didn’t realise this until I scrubbed social media from my routine for the detoxes. Instead I’d spend those little moments doing other things like getting fresh air with the dogs in the garden, reading a few pages of a book, practising some mindfulness or even just doing a little bit of knitting. I noticed not only the difference in my time but also how that time spent elsewhere contributed to my mental health. It was refreshing to sit outside with the dogs, even when it was the colder months and I really loved those moments of stillness in practising mindfulness (the daily calm tracks with Tamara Levitt on the Calm app are godsends to me).

How many important tasks I can complete instead of being on my phone

This one is somewhat linked to the one above. It’s all too easy to get distracted by our phones and let the important tasks slip by. They don’t even have to be important but even chores and little things that need doing but all too often stack up until you need a full-on chore day. Instead of browsing my apps, I got into the the routine of doing a task off my list with a podcast or audiobook on. One of my favourite chores to do is set up my stall and try do some ironing while I have an audiobook on. I can enjoy the book while ticking a thing off my to-do list -which never would have happened had I still been sucked into all my apps.

While I know this list is by no means ground-breaking, I do hope that it gives you something to think about and maybe even inspire you to try your own digital detox. Everyone is different and uses technology in their own individual ways, especially since so many had to work from home during the pandemic, so be realistic if you want to try one and don’t be too hard on yourself.

Let me know your thoughts or your experience if you’ve tried a digital detox before.

Cheerio for now!