Books · Updates

Update & 2018 bookshelf July-December;

Hello, everyone!

It’s been a LONG time and I’m very sorry for the radio silence on this blog.

This past summer my mental health took a bit of a nose dive and I didn’t feel like myself for quite a while.

After taking a break over July and August and enjoying the autumn & festive season with my family and friends, and starting on a course of antidepressants and counselling, I’m feeling much better! I’m finally ready to throw myself back into writing and blogging.

So, without further delay, here is the final part of my 2018 bookshelf! (If you haven’t read part one then you can find that right here)

  1. How To Be Champion – Sarah Millican (3/5)
    My verdict: Funny and insightful. This is a fab feel good read with just the right amount of personal emotion thrown in for good measure. I’m also pleased to know that I’m not the only one who’s sort of in love with Philip Schofield.
  2. Together – Julie Cohen (2/5)
    My verdict: I was super intrigued by this book when I first came across it. Unfortunately, it became predictable and tropey in terms of plot, had characters that were bordering on uninteresting, and it reminded me too much of similar books that came before it. The thing that makes this book a two star rather than a one was the unique way in which the story was told: from the end to the beginning.
  3. The Greek Escape – Karen Swan (4/5)
    My verdict: Whilst this is probably my least favourite of Swan’s summer novels, it was still a bloody good read! It’s as stylish and heart-warming as The Rome Affair and The Paris Secret and as indulgent. I am still incredibly envious of Swan’s way with weaving plots and I’m already hungry for her Summer 2019 book.

    37734911_2110141222579023_6767993466283622400_n

  4. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote (3/5)
    My verdict: It’s pleasantly different from the 1961 movie and does away with the fairy-tale ending. It’s certainly a story of its time and that made the racism and sexism quite off-putting. I can see why it is often on “must read novel” lists but it isn’t going to be a favourite.
  5. The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas (5/5)
    My verdict: This book had it all for me. There was mystery, murder, time travel, lesbian representation, discussions of mental health, betrayal, sleuthing, the importance of friendship, great romance, and barely a male character in sight! I loved it.
  6. Stardust – Neil Gaiman (2/5)
    My verdict: I really didn’t like this book at all. It was so description heavy that reading it felt like wading through treacle. For a fantasy novel, it had so little magic about it that I almost abandoned it. The movie did a great job of injecting life, joy, and charisma into it. I hate to admit it but the movie was 1000% better.
  7. Vox – Christina Dalcher (4/5)
    My verdict: This novel swept up my imagination as soon as I heard about it. It went down a more scientific route than I was expecting but I enjoyed it nevertheless. There was a touching and emotional end and is a perfect criticism of modern politics. Apparently it is incredibly similar to The Handmaid’s Tale but I haven’t read that so I could not say one way or the other whether that’s true.
  8. One Enchanted Evening – Anton Du Beke (4/5)
    My verdict: Perhaps I’m biased because of my inordinate love for Saturday night show Strictly Come Dancing (there’s a reason this blog is called StrictlyBethany!) but I loved this novel. For a debut from someone who is so far removed from a writer by trade, this book is incredibly well thought out, plotted, and beautifully erudite. There are elements to this book that do fall short and there are unnecessary writing choices (like constant repetition of full names), so it doesn’t get full marks. Whilst this novel contains a romance plot, I would not call this a romantic novel. It’s more of a social, political, and economical tale and I preferred this approach much more than I perhaps would have done if the romance had taken centre stage.

    46595220_387441685360191_3903490697604897245_n

  9. The Vintage Tea Cup Club – Vanessa Greene (2/5)
    My verdict: This began as a promising story about newfound friendships but I found the pacing too quick to form any sort of lasting attachment to the characters. In the end, finishing the book felt like gulping down a mouthful of stone cold, forgotten tea.

And that concludes my 2018 bookshelf! If you want to keep up to date with my reading adventures then feel free to add me on Goodreads and recommend anything you’ve loved!

Thank you for reading and for being patient with me. I love you!

Bethany xo

Mental Health · Updates

Summertime Sadness;

Hello again!

I know it’s been a while since my last post, but I hope today I can shed some light on what’s been happening for me and why I’ve been so absent on my blog and on most social media platforms.

Spring is here, and summer is lurking right around the corner. The sun is shining on most days, the air is becoming warmer, and excitement around the rumoured on-coming heatwave is bubbling away. Winter blues have been stripped away and the promise of summer sun seems to have risen the spirits of everyone.

Well…almost everyone.

I hate summer and I always have.

Every year I dread it and silently mourn the passing of autumn and winter. Over the years I’ve given myself reasons as to why I hate summer so much:

  1. I’m pale and ginger and therefore burn easily, even with factor 50 or above sun cream.
  2.  I always found making and keeping friends difficult, so when summer came and the few friends I had were off on holiday or spending time with their family and other friends, I found myself feeling consistently and increasingly lonely.
  3. I thrive on routine and schedule, so when school or university was out for the summer I was bound to feel listless and at a loss with what to do with myself.
  4. I’ve always been overweight, so wearing summer clothes that would help me feel cool just made me feel self-conscious. Instead, I chose to let myself boil half to death in my winter clothes and save my shrinking self-confidence.

Of course, these things didn’t help how I was feeling, but they weren’t the reason why I hated summer so much. As it turns out, I have SO SAD. Summer on-set seasonal affective disorder. Winter SAD’s lesser known and less understood sibling. The third Hemsworth brother of seasonal affective disorder.

It was my Dad that first pointed out to me that I might have the condition last year, and I thought about it for a long time. It certainly made sense, so I decided to look it up. Aside from discovering that there was very little known about it compared to winter SAD, I discovered that 10% of people with SAD are suffering from the summer variation and that the symptoms of SO SAD are of the reverse of winter SAD.

For example, winter SAD sufferers may find themselves sleeping more, but SO SAD sufferers find themselves with insomnia. Winter SAD sufferers can find themselves eating more and gaining weight whilst people with SO SAD lose their appetites and lose weight. But the depression and low energy is consistent between both disorders.

Every summer I get insomnia, every summer I eat less, every summer I find my standard depression becoming worse than usual. I had been feeling rough lately; lacklustre, full of anxiety, listening to the intrusive and depressing thoughts in my head, and was disinterested in blogging, journaling, writing, and reading. But I put those things down to being busy, tired and somewhat burnt out.

About a week ago, a few days after breaking down in tears at work for no apparent reason, a colleague told me that I had lost weight and suddenly it all clicked into place. The SO SAD had settled in for the summer without me even noticing. It had crept in slowly since March and silently set up camp in my brain. SAD is so present in my life that I no longer realise when it happens and that it isn’t normal to feel this way.

I quickly retreated into myself and only forced a smile when I was serving customers at work. I passively consumed media on Netflix and online to pass the time until bedtime, but even then, I was struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep. I didn’t dress or shower if I didn’t have to, didn’t cook or eat unless I was at work or my parents had ordered in. I spent as much time in bed as possible, ignored social media, and muted every conversation with friends I could. I just didn’t have the energy to be me.

This sort of thing happens for me over spring and summer in waves. I’m feeling better after this first bout of depression for the season, but I know it will happen again. Learning how to better control it and how to make myself feel well over the summer is going to take a lot of time and effort but I know it’s going to be worth it in the end.

But for now, I’m taking joy in the small things I do like about summer: the flowers that pepper the earth in a beautiful, vibrant array of colours, the lighter evenings and mornings, the earthy smell of freshly cut grass, the ripe and sweet fruits on the independent stall next to the Tesco in town. The way the sun dances on the ocean’s ripples, making it look as though it is made of diamonds, and my Dad’s self-satisfied grin when he makes that first pitcher of Pimm’s for the season.

SAD sucks no matter which kind you have, but I’m determined not to let it stop me from producing content, doing the things I love, and joining in with life. I might need some time to be miserable for a while, but I can guarantee it won’t be the only thing I am this summer.

I hope you’re all well and I can’t wait to post again soon!

Bethany xo

bullet journal · Lifestyle · Updates

2018 Resolutions;

“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is victory.”

26181888_1974949186086086_316806331170291712_n

We’re officially into our second week of 2018 and I hope the year is treating you right so far!

Today I want to talk about New Year’s resolutions. If you made any, how are you getting on with yours? If you didn’t, how come? I’m interested to know!

It’s been a long time since I set up any proper resolutions for myself. The last one I made was years ago and it was, predictably, to lose weight. Obviously, that didn’t happen and I’m awfully glad it didn’t! I’m incredibly happy with who I am now and what I look like. Not only that, but it’s helped me to find a new way to create realistic ambitions for myself every year. Picking one “Word of the Year” is so much more freeing and versatile.

Last year, I lived by the word “Courage.” It led me to book a tattoo appointment (Okay, yes, I didn’t go through with it and I lost my deposit…but at least I booked it and tried!) I also got the courage to face failure at university and subsequently won that battle, I attended my first protest, I grew 10x in self-confidence, and got back into the dating game.

2018 is the first year where I have no idea what’s in store for me. I’ve left full-time educated, I’ve graduated university, I’m tragically single, I have a part-time job, and plenty of free time during weekdays. I have so many options open to me and it’s kind of terrifying to think about.

After spending December thinking about how I want my 2018 to be, I came up with the word “Satisfaction.”

tumblr_p28sp1rkbA1raamyno1_540

I don’t know what this year holds for me, but I thought that I should be satisfied with whatever I do. I want to fulfil and achieve my wishes and wants as much as I can and see what comes of it.

My first foray into creating a satisfying year for myself was taking another step towards becoming a teacher. I applied for a diploma course in Early Years teaching. I’m not confident I’ll get in because I don’t have the GCSE Science grade they want, but at least I’ve tried to achieve a dream.

I also have in mind to work further on my novel, connect more with the people I love, take more time to blog, revel in the things that make me happy and appreciate what I have and what I can do.

Thanks for reading today and I hope you’re all having a satisfying year so far too!

Bethany xo

Travel · Updates

From Shakespeare’s Stratford to mine…

3639951854_b4375e00e9_b

“Britain is a world by itself…”
Cymbeline. Act 3, Scene 1.

I don’t like travelling but I do love literature.

So, when my parents and some extended family booked a staycation to Stratford-Upon-Avon for us all, I was rather torn. But now the holiday is over I wish I was still there. I wish I was still enjoying the night air by the River Avon, still going to bed eager to explore more of Warwickshire the next day, and still getting to geek out about Shakespeare without people looking at me like I’m a nutter.

To prolong my holiday vibes, I thought I’d share with you what we got up to!

Continue reading “From Shakespeare’s Stratford to mine…”

Updates

Nine months of silence.

Hello again!

It’s been nine months since I was last on the blogging scene and that’s because Life got very busy very quickly, but also because I forgot the login details of my last blog! (Oops.)

Here’s a quick over-view of the last 9 months:

  1. I finished university!

Three years went by far too quickly for my liking. I’ve met some amazing people who I hope will be in my life for a long time to come – they made my university experience something I’ll never forget!

18221710_10154932365079584_541541955036548539_n

Not only have I met these two gorgeous people in the photo above, but after a lot of hard work, tears, and a gratuitous amount of cheap booze, I managed to write a first class dissertation. Then I pushed my overall degree into a BA with first class honours with my other two portfolios – a feat I never thought I’d achieve at my emotional rock bottom three years ago!

2. I turned 21

Now, I’m not usually one for birthdays. If I’m totally honest, my birthday usually fills me with dread because there’s so much pressure to have a good time. This year, I was determined to do what I wanted to, not what I thought I should be doing.

I don’t like parties, I don’t like going to clubs, I don’t like a lot of things if we’re totally honest. But this year, I did all the things I do like doing.

I sank myself into a pink, rose-scented bath, I went to a french restaurant for breakfast, I wore a dress way too over-the-top with lots of tulle and sequins and I went to the garden centre with my parents. We watched TV, ordered a takeaway for dinner and watched my favourite film. The only thing slightly out of the ordinary and unexpected was the surprise visit from my wonderfully eclectic Aunt.

Low-key suits me just fine and I think I’m going to stick with that philosophy!

tumblr_ovlwm08gR81raamyno1_540

3. Started going to the gym.

Admittedly, I don’t go as often as I want to and I haven’t been this summer because of other commitments that I’ll get to in a minute. But I do go to the gym.

I would like to lose weight in the hope that my health conditions will improve – not because I’m unhappy with the way I look. In fact, I got most of my confidence from being fat and I embrace that completely, but if I can make my health problems better and keep my self-confidence then that will be a huge win!

Weirdly, I love going to the gym too! There’s something incredibly attractive about being up with/before the sun and spending some time moving, on your own, with plenty of space and time to be with your own thoughts and ideas.

Here’s to a future healthier me!

4. Began taking some online courses

For a long time now I’ve wanted to be a teacher. So now I’m taking a level 3 CPD course in being a teaching assistant! Weirdly, I’ve missed studying so this is something I’m really enjoying doing in my own time.

I’m also taking a course in British Sign Language which is both interesting and fun to learn – I’m hoping it will make me look more appealing to future schools who might need SEN teachers.

5. I’m working on a novel

As I mentioned earlier, my dissertation was awarded a first-class grade with the comment that my work was “close to the standards of professional publications in the field,” which spurred me further to turn my dissertation into a full length novel!

It’s a mystery-drama novel with supernatural elements and a fairly complicated plot and structure (at least for my type of writing it is!) So this novel is certainly going to be a labour of love. That being said, I can’t wait for the day I finish it and can share the final version with the world, whether it’s from self-publishing or through a publishing house.

I’ll take whatever opportunities come my way!

6. I found a job!

After two years of searching and applying, going to interviews and being rejected, I finally have a job! It’s not glamorous – aprons, hairnets, and baseball caps isn’t my best look, I admit. It’s not overly impressive – making and serving pretzels and cleaning isn’t what I wanted to do after getting my English degree, but it’s a job. It gives me the money and the time to be able to train to do what I want to and that is enough for me right now.

Now I just need to learn to stop burning myself on the oven…

tumblr_ovm03bkNAf1raamyno1_540

So far, I really like the people that I work with and that makes things a little better, even if my heart isn’t fully into the job.

I haven’t been in this job long and so far I’ve been training, but starting next week I go part time so I can focus on the projects I mentioned before. Which also means I’ll have more time to focus on blogging too! I can’t wait to get back into the blogging circle and I hope you’ll enjoy what I write!

Happy Autumn everyone, I hope you have a blessed season and I’ll see you all next week 😀

Bethany xo