reading list | january to march

reading in a bookshopOne beautiful thing about not studying (through the traditional means at least) is that I have so much time to read! And I love reading. It really makes me inexplicably happy. Why did I ignore it for so long.

I thought I would share what I have read so far this year:

  1. The Versions of Us – Laura Barnett. A kind of sliding doors novel it follows three alternate versions of a two people’s lives. One element that I found interesting was how the relationship you are in can influence your creativity.
  2. My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name – Elena Ferante. These are the first two books in this four part series. It is a saga of two friends growing up in Naples I am planning on getting the other two books in the series for reading on the beach this summer. They have been beautifully translated making the reading easy even though the books are slightly hefty.
  3. The Dust that Falls from Dreams – Louis de Bernieres. Honestly, this book is not Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and the female characters are a bit flat but I still really enjoyed this book. It has a bit of Downton Abbey about it too if you like that sort of thing.
  4. The Museum of Extraordinary Things – Alice Hoffman. Do you remember Practical Magic. I loved that movie as a young teenager. Anyway this is by the same author. Set in 1920s New York it was interesting to have a comparison between America and the UK (as in previous novel) of a similar time. One of the main characters is also a photographer which I liked reading about.
  5. The Signature of All Things – Elizabeth Gilbert. I thought I would read this after reading Big Magic at the end of last year. I love the big scope of the book and the interesting characters. Some strange bits but overall an enjoyable read.
  6. The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood. This was my first Atwood book and a very different style to what I was expecting. The book is set in a dystopian future where a lot of people have been messed up by an economic recession. A couple signs up to a new scheme where they spend alternating months between a home and prison.
  7. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie o’Farrell. I loved this book. An insight into how mental health was treated in the past the book switches between perspectives of Iris, a thirty something vintage store owner, Esme, the great aunt she has just found out about and has been in a mental institute for the last 60 years, and the ramblings of Kitty, Iris’s grandmother who has alzheimers.
  8. Everyday Sexism – Laura Bates. This is a big one. If you are a human being you should read this. Really insightful to think of how behaviours that are mildly sexist to disgraceful become normalised and how it is time to say no more.

If you love to read and have problems finding time for it this is a useful post to show you were you could fit it in.

Also any book suggestions would be appreciated!

the land of the swiss

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So if I lived in Switzerland I would definitely be a landscape photographer. It is just beautiful! And the light there is so different to Italy. It has this sort of soft blue tint. Though that might be the time of year.

We visited my aunt and uncle, who live outside of Zurich, a few weeks back for a long weekend. It was a great break and Switzerland is gob-smackingly beautiful but I have to say if I didn’t have family there it would be an incredibly expensive destination to visit. Going from €1 coffees to €5-6 coffees can make you gag! But I would love to go back and explore some of their ‘brauken haus’ (I have no idea how you spell that) which are second hand and vintage stores which just litter the countryside. In one we were able to pick up an unused Alessi moka pot for €20 when it is normally priced about €200. My kind of bargain huntin!

camera gear

I’ve been thinking about camera gear. How mine has become rather unloved and spends most of its time just existing rather than doing. I wander what is the benefit to my life of having a camera and lenses idling away.

I have two options:

  1. Sell the bits that I haven’t really used properly for about the last year. Invest in using my Fuji and analogue film more (although my analogue camera is currently out of order)
  2. Start using them.

Decisions.

What are your thoughts on used cameras? Do you have one? Or more?

japan | hiroshima

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Hiroshima was a strange sort of experience in that it is a city which has carried on with life. It is hard to think that a city which was practically destroyed 70 years ago would still be here and life carried on. I think it is a symbol of the resilience of the human spirit to overcome horrors many of us could only imagine.

We only spent a day in the city but I am glad we did. I feel I would have missed out on a very eye opening experience if I hadn’t. The museum dedicated to the impact of the A-bomb and a continued wish for peace was really interesting as well as quite harrowing.

p.s. the building in the second picture was under where the bomb exploded. Approximately 5 buildings remained standing after the A-bomb went off for a radius of (If I remember) 10 kilometres. So everything in the city centre is new. The islands in the river have been dedicated to a peace memorial park which is quite lovely to stroll around.

packing light – part ii

packing light

I shared my experience of packing with just hand luggage at the beginning of the year but since then I have travelled with just hand luggage to Japan (2 weeks), Crete (10 days), Switzerland (5 days) and a few one or two night trips. I feel like one of my magical skills is now packing a cabin bag for a trip. I even do it in a very short period of time now rather than spending a week putting things aside! I did do one trip to London with a bigger bag so I could bring stuff back and regretted it the whole time I was there!

So, I still do the Konmari packing method (doesn’t it look beautiful!). If I am taking some shirts I would normally hang, I fold and lay them flat on top. On top there is then also space for toiletries, plugs etc.

Having minimised my wardrobe has made packing easier too. I have a limited colour palette (although my summer wardrobe has some extra colour and pattern pieces) which means that mostly everything goes together. I would say you never need more than two pairs of shoes (okay three at a push) and once you have decided what you are taking, get rid of 2-3 pieces. I promise you won’t end up wearing it all! After Japan I realised that I still didn’t wear everything I packed and reduced even more for our next trip (although sitting on a beach for 10 days doesn’t require that much clothing anyway). I suppose the lesson is that you just need to be aware what you are doing. If you are staying with family for five days you don’t need to take an evening dress but probably packing some good pjs which you are happy to walk around the house in is a good idea.

My breakthrough toiletry piece that I discovered (particularly for flying) is shampoo bars. I picked up a honey shampoo bar from lush which has lasted really well. Along with that is using a normal soap bar for washing too. I don’t know about you but I am so used to using a shower gel that the idea of taking soap on holiday didn’t occur to me for a while!

Also, I did cave and bought a small camera (the FujiFilm x100t) before heading to Japan. I absolutely love it and all the photos since the summer that I have shared on here are I have used that. Carrying a lighter camera around makes such a difference! I used to get so grumpy lugging my big camera around by the end of day and would leave my camera at home some days because of the weight. There are limitations on capturing things (some bits are just too far away with a 35 mm lens) but it is great for city travels especially. If you aren’t big on photography just take your phone. They are so good these days and unless you planning on blowing up a massive picture for your wall they will do just fine for sharing on Instagram and Facebook.

Let me know if you have any other tips, there is always room for improvement!