1. Learn how to wash your hands properly, that is not a joke, it 100% saves lives. Soap and water, 20 secs using NHS method is best. Antibac if no access to soap and water. 2. Have enough in to self isolate for 7-14 days, but don’t stockpile, please, that adversely impacts everyone. 3. I’ve posted in my local Facebook book to start a helping our neighbours thread, so people can post offers of assistance or requests for help. Consider doing this in local groups. 4. Donate to food banks and homeless shelters, their donations are really low and desperately needed. 5. Do not go to the DR, hospital, walkin unless you absolutely have to. Do not stockpile your medication, just have enough in for a month. 6. Check on elderly neighbours, unwell people, those who live alone, disabled pals – anyone who may be at risk. Regularly. 7. If you work with those who do not speak English as a first language there are translations of the official advice available. If you can’t find them, contact me, I’ll signpost you. 8. Don’t put your self or others at unnecessary risk, so consider if you really ought to travel/attend that event. Whilst carrying on as normal for now. 9. If you can afford it, do not ask for a refund. Small businesses or promoters putting on events stand to lose their income. Likewise cleaners, childminders, any services you may cancel. They may not have adequate insurance to cover this or be self employed with no sick pay. Their livelihood is at risk. So, if you can stand to lose that £20, think of those that can’t. 10. Look out for those who cannot look out for themselves.
A health crisis is made so much worse by panic. So remember this is worrying, people will die but we need to be smart, kind and thoughtful. We need to follow official guidance. We need to protect ourselves, our families and those who have no one to protect them. Stronger together ❤
One of the main things we intend to do with this blog is to try a new thing every month, in and around Bristol. This is part of improving my (Becky’s) mental health and also just having a fun first year of marriage. Sometimes we may even do more than one thing a month, but we’ll see how it goes!
This month we visited Bookbarn International, a second-hand bookstore and warehouse situated about a 30 minute bus ride from Bristol. We also went for a vegan Sunday roast at The Tobacco Factory in Southville. It was a really fun weekend filled with new (to us) books, great food and fun with friends.
The reason for our fun day out was Dydd Santes Dwynwen, a day celebrated for lovers from Wales, much like Valentine’s day. As we are both Welsh, we chose to celebrate on the 25th January (Dydd Santes Dwynwen) instead of 14th February (Saint Valentine’s Day). It is also, coincidentally, Burns Night (Scottish celebration), so one thing we often do is have a Burns Night supper (with vegan Haggis of course!). This year however we decided to visit this bookstore and then have a quiet evening in with a nice meal and a film.
From Bristol we caught the 376 bus from by Temple Meads train station and alighted at White Cross, a small stop near Temple Cloud. Google maps assured me the bookstore was less than 10 minutes walk away, and indeed within 5 minutes we found the small retail park housing Bookbarn International.
It is essentially a warehouse. It was a very cold day when we visited and it was cold inside too. Probably perfect for keeping books at a good temperature, but we browsed the aisles with our coats and scarves still firmly in place! There is a main reception/counter area which had a lot of vintage books on sale. We had a good look through and reminisced about books we remembered from our childhoods. There are also computers to access the book archives, of all the thousands of books not even out on the shelves. A room full of antiquities to the side is well worth a nose and a vegetarian cafe provided us with a delicious lunch. I adored the dairy free hot chocolate, it even had a steamed ‘milk’ frothy topping.
My favourite thing about a bookshop is the smell. Even old, dusty second-hand book shops smell good to me. But the presence of a cafe and a cold, big warehouse significantly reduced this joy for me. I found the labelling of aisles easy to follow and we spent a good few hours examining them in detail. In the end we found six books we wanted, all at just £1 each! Plus we picked up a birthday card for a friend from their selection. Gareth also found a few crates of vinyl unexpectedly and bought some records. I loved the little room of antique books and could have spent much more time there, but sadly we needed to leave for our bus home.
We decided that we will definitely visit again, leaving some months in between to allow stock to rotate. They even sell old books in bulk (by the yard!) for use on film sets or as cafe decorations, which I enjoyed the idea of. One of my favourite things was a display dedicated to things they have discovered in books (old photos, poems, letters, drawings, bookmarks, postcards). Even though they have a successful online shop, I think I prefer visiting in person, and the added extras of the antiquity room and cafe cemented that deal. If you have children, the kids book section is great and there is space to sit and read as well.
The genres I read most of (next to poetry and non fiction) are horror, sci-fi and feminism, but there was nothing in these sections for me this time. Oh well, all the more reason to return!
As it was nearing the end of Veganuary, the next day we met with friends for Sunday lunch at The Tobacco Factory. For the whole month they had an entirely vegan menu, which we were all keen to try. Myself and Gareth are vegetarians (nearly vegan, but we lapse a bit) and we had one carnivore and three vegan friends with us. It was a large menu with so much choice. This is delightful when you’re used to visiting restaurants and having only one or maybe two choices on an entire menu.
I opted for the vegan meatloaf roast and Gareth had the vegan brisket. Both were tasty and well cooked. They came served with roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables and a lovely gravy. We sincerely hope one of these stays on their Sunday roast menu going forward as we certainly will be coming again! Our friends ordered from the brunch menu instead and enjoyed various avocado on toast or breakfast tofu hash combinations.
The Tobacco Factory, as well as being a bar and serving food in Southville, is something of a community hub. The bar also has live music and a monthly swing night. It is situated at the end of North Street, by Aldi (always handy) and has a theatre and meeting room space attached. We have seen some fantastic events at Tobacco Factory Theatre over the years, the most recent being a wonderful, fresh, topical adaptation of Snow White. At the back of the building is a large yard which is home to a weekly Sunday market, definitely worth a visit for great food and local crafts, and an outdoor bar. It is also host to all kinds of events from a silent disco to a Christmas market, to regular DJs and food stalls plus an art gallery space. If you are in the area check out their website, there is bound to be something on for you!
The food was great, the wait was very reasonable, as was the price. Add this to catching up with great friends and we rounded off our weekend in the very best way.
Next month we try an escape from in the centre of Bristol with seven friends.
I have just returned from the cinema where I saw Greta Gerwig’s version of Little Women. As a child, Louisa May Alcott’s book Little women was one of my favourites and I read it many times over. My husband suprised me with a ticket for tonight after it was sold out when we tried to watch it at the weekend.
Watching it transported me straight back to reading my dog-eared copy by torchlight under my duvet. I allowed the loving March family to take my hand and bring me with them on their tale of love, betrayals, family, strife, hardship and sisterhood. As an only child myself, I was always drawn to the tight bond between the four sisters.
I desperately wanted to be a writer, so I understood Jo’s passion and admired her gumption. I also wanted to be kind and good, like poor sweet Beth was. I was a little prissy and overly dramatic, like Amy, and I wanted to marry for love, like Meg. I longed, in my idyllic country childhood, to struggle through war and sickness and turmoil, just like they did. Coming through well-rounded, full of wisdom and tall tales! (I told you I was dramatic…)
When you stop to think about it, they were the Sex & The City girls or Spice Girls of their time. I know, a fairly horrifying thought, but each character possessing a trait you can identify with personally, so you can see yourself as one of them, or even parts of yourself in all of them.
The book has love stories and shows love in many different forms, but it’s not a romance to me. It is about learning how to become a woman and where you fit in, and about the bonds of family. Greta’s version places feminism and choice at the forefront and perhaps she saw in the story something I connected with before I had words for it.
Now as an adult I still have fondness for Little Women, though in my real life I know I would have less patience for the foiballs and drama of the heroines. I have enough of my own very real troubles to wish myself anything as deadly as war, famine and life on the bread line. I’ve grown up. I’ve lost touch with that feisty Little Woman I once was and perhaps it is time I remembered her a little.
A promise I have made myself is that I will write more this year. When I was reading about ink-stained Jo in this novel, I was so sure that I would have books published by the time I was 30. I’m pushing 40 now and finding the blog hard enough to keep up with! But Jo’s furiously scribbled pages, the plays she writes for her family and her sheer determination are calling from the backroom of my childhood memories. They are reminding me we are all Little Women, even when we grow up.
I am thankful I did marry for love, and that he is the kind of man who can give me a thoughtful gift like a night with myself and this treasured childhood memory. I am thankful to live in a world where even though I’m sickly like Beth, I likely won’t die from it. I am thankful I live in a world where I don’t have to fight to publish my stories or pretend to be a man. I can write and be heard as me and I should use that privilege. I am sad that we don’t yet live in a world where the stories of Little Women are always treated as equally, or given as much prominence, as men. And where Little Women of Colour are fighting to be heard and represented still. But I’m thankful I see the fire of change in so many Little Women’s eyes and I am it, is pushing it’s way through.
If this story tells us anything, it is that we should love our sisters – even when we don’t understand them or don’t like them in that moment. It tells us our stories are powerful, no matter how ordinary or how dramatic, they all have a place.
Trigger warning: Diet talk, eating, weight loss, body image
Insert typical “new year, new me” mantras here and add in some additional unachievable resolutions. Is that what you’re expecting? Well, prepare to be underwhelmed!
I don’t actually hate new year’s resolutions, like some people seem do, and in recent times I have found a new year is a great driver for making successful changes in my life. But they have to be tied to some kind of measurable success criteria, or significant motivation. Otherwise I can lose interest, or worse still get sidetracked into some unwelcome behaviours.
For example, in 2018 I was all about getting fitter and healthier, and that was mainly driven by health concerns. I actually achieved that pretty well and was driven further by my engagement to my now husband. Actually not for our wedding, but our honeymoon! I wanted to be able to go somewhere warm and be able to cope with it, and have enough energy to do all the things we wanted to do. A previous holiday in Berlin had us experiencing a heatwave and I just couldn’t cope, it was unbearable. I was so sweaty and uncomfortable and I had to sit down every half an hour because I was so unfit. It was then that I realised how far I had fallen from where I was comfortable being.
I’m strongly into body positivity, but in a very much “do as I say, not as I do” kind of way! I have always been bigger than other people. I’m short but have big hips, bum and breasts. So even when I’m actually pretty thin, I don’t look that way. And my weight has fluctuated terribly over the last two decades, ranging from a size 12 to a size 24.
When I was a teenager in the 90s it was cool to wear 70’s-style clothes like flares, Adidas striped jackets and collared t-shirts. All my friends were tiny waif like girls (because we were young!), and they looked so much like the girls in bands on posters on my bedroom wall.
I always wanted to be thin like them, and even though I did dancing classes and played sports, I never was. In part this is because I like food, especially cake and chocolate, and I eat a lot of it. Unapologetically, mainly. But what I didn’t realise then is that it’s also just my body type.
Many of those friends tell me now how they wished they had my curves back then. I wished they had told me that at the time, it would have helped. My dad used to joke about my ‘thunder thighs’ and ‘footballer’s legs’, but I never realised then that these are because my legs are powerful, strong and full of muscle. Now I am proud of them.
I applaud people who are powerful, confident and are at home in their own skin. I want to be that way, but I’m not (not yet anyway). I realise that I have for too long focused on the scales, the numbers, the fat rolls. But it isn’t about that. For me the question is: what is it about inhabiting my body that makes me feel good? I feel good when I’m able to do the things I want to. I feel good when I feel I look good. I like feeling strong and powerful. I like feeling sexy sometimes.
So I realise I need to work on doing the things that make me feel that way, not dieting or trying to lose weight. That is what works for me, but everyone is different.
I’ve really beaten myself up this last year because I lost all the progress I made in 2018. The scales stopped going down, then eventually they went up. I was unwell for a large portion of the year, only finally getting a diagnosis recently of Asthma and Hypothyroidism. A lot of my time was spent feeling angry at myself for not being able to get off the sofa, when in fact I wasn’t giving pause to consider why that was.
So am I going to be starting a new diet or fitness regime? Is that what I’m really trying to say, and all of this is just waffle? Well, in a way…
I’ve lost where I was a year ago in my fitness levels, there is no denying that. I was happy then with where I was, what I could do physically and I’m keen to get back there. I also want my clothes to fit me again as I’ve gone up a dress size and I can’t afford a new wardrobe!
What I DON’T want to do is be obsessing about how many pounds up or down I am. So, I’m removing unhealthy accounts from my social media (meaning those obsessed with weigh ins and counting) and I’m concentrating on eating well and doing exercise, when I can. I’m not going to beat myself for not feeling well enough to do something. I’m not going to focus the scales, but how I feel. And, sometimes buying a nice dress or eating a piece of cake might be what I need.
Sometimes a big salad or a HIIT session at the gym might do it. Sometimes I might need to go to bed for two days. But overall it’s all about me feeling better in myself, and exactly how I achieve that doesn’t really matter. As long as I treat myself with love and patience.
That is my new year’s fitness resolution: finding comfort and peace in my own skin.