Blog update

Hello everyone!

It’s been such a long time since I last posted anything (my apologies) but I’ve been in the process of trying to redesign my blog so that it’s less of a mish mash of topics. With that in mind, I’ve created a new blog called Lucinda is reading… where you can find book reviews, updates on the read harder challenge and all things wordy. This blog will remain as more of a lifestyle journal with updates on what I’ve been doing and essays on topics of my choice. I’m going to be doing lots of tidying up on both blogs over the next few days so if you follow me predominantly for bookish posts please head to my new blog and be sure to follow me!

Thanks everyone!

Lucinda x

Book Review- 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

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1Q84 (Part One) by Haruki Murakami

I read this book as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge #16 – Read the First Book in a Series by a Person of Colour.

The world of Haruki Murakami is a very, very weird one. Literally no-one writes like he does. All of his books are set in quiet towns in Japan where people with ordinary lives have extraordinary, strange and bizzare things happen to them. His work defies categorisation – weird Japanese realistic fantasy is about as close as I can get. However, the stories are so brilliantly written and beautifully detailed that the fantasy elements feel totally natural to the overall narrative – to the point where you can describe an entire book and forget to mention that the main character can converse with cats.

Having already read most of Murakami’s back catalogue I was concerned that the 1Q84 series would be too drawn out, too heavy on mundane details to have any real drive and that I would loose interest. However, after reading the first part of the trilogy I was plesantly surprised to be completely hooked.

The story itself centres around two main characters who each lead entirely separate lives. One is a self defense teacher by day and assassin by night who notices that the world that she lives in (Japan 1983) has subtly changed (hence 1Q83 – Q is the japanese for 9). The other character is a teacher/writer who encounters a strange author with an unbelievable story to tell. By the end of 1Q83 part one we are still not sure exactly how these two stranger’s lives are relevant to each other but there are many clues which suggest a number of different ways that the story could progress.

Due to the way Murakami writes it’s hard to work out what is relevant and what isn’t but for me this only adds to the excitement of the book. Magical and dreamlike, this is one of Murakami’s best works and is a story like no other. I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Overall rating: 9/10.

On Being British and drinking tea


I’ve recently read Pretty Good Number One, a food memoir written by an American on his time spent in Japan. What struck me most was not the differences between US and Japanese cultures, but the similarities between the Japanese and English. Nowhere was this more abundantly clear than when it came to drinking tea. I did some internet research and was informed that although Americans think that they have tea, it’s not the same strength or flavour, they make it with hot (not boiling) water and don’t use milk. Is this true? Can any American readers let me know please?

Personally, I love a good cup of tea. It’s a much gentler way of getting a caffeine fix. A standard response to bad news in the UK is “I’ll stick the kettle on” – which translates to “I’ll make tea” (my internet research also suggested Americans don’t have electric kettles. Is this true? How do you boil water?) Tea is also a standard hangover cure, is given to people in shock and is a great restorative drink after a busy day.

Making tea can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be. The easiest way is with a teabag in a mug, but for a fuller flavour you can use loose leaf tea in a teapot. Just to be clear, this is British (black) tea (commonly referred to as builders tea), not herbal, fruit, green or iced tea (I don’t even know what that last one is). There’s lots of different varieties of black tea but I’m going to show you how to make a standard cup of British tea.

First, you need a mug or a cup. Everyone will tell you that tea is better in a China teacup (that’s a cup made from China clay, which is actually British). No one in the UK below the age of 70 actually uses them though, unless you’re having afternoon tea in a nice cafe somewhere. We all use mugs, which are sturdier and can survive the dishwasher.

Below are a few pics of teacups that I’ve inherited from my grandma, and some of my own mugs:

Next, you need to find some tea, either loose or in a teabag:

If you’re using loose tea, you’ll need a teapot and strainer. If you’re using teabag you can add it straight to the mug. 

I have a collection of teapots that I’ve inherited from various relatives:

You’ll then need to add boiling water, either into your mug over the teabag or over the tea leaves in the teapot. I boil my water in an electric kettle, or you can use an old fashioned stovetop whistling kettle:

If you’re using a teapot, leave the tea to brew for a few minutes, then pour it into the cup through the tea strainer. If you’re using a teabag, poke it a bit to release the flavour, then discard. Add milk and sugar, if you want. (Black tea is almost always drunk with the addition of milk. Sugar comes down to personal preference). In all cases, stir. 

That’s it! A lovely cup of tea. Enjoy!

New Family Member

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It’s Voldetort!

Welcome to my new Horsfield tortoise. She’s so cute and super tiny!

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Tortoises make great pets. Considering they’re reptiles they’re actually quite easy to look after. For around 4 – 5 months of the year they sleep (when they’re old enough – when they’re really little they just go torpid but are still awake). They eat mostly weeds (with fruit and veg as treats) and pretty much look after themselves. They just need heat, UV, shelter, bedding and food and water. The only time they cause a problem is when they wake up before it’s warm enough to live in their outdoor shelter and end up wandering around my kitchen for a month or so.

We already have one Horsfield tortoise (Tabitha) but we don’t plan to keep the two together. I cannot stress this enough – tortoises are pretty much solitary animals and will fight, bite and show aggressive behaviour to each other if kept together. If a boy and girl tortoise are kept together the male will aggressively mate with the female constantly which can cause all kinds of injuries and may even result in death. Apparently two female tortoises can be kept together (we believe Voldetort is a girl but she’s a bit too little to be able to tell) but we would never house them together, especially when Voldetort is so young. Tabitha has already spotted Voldeort wandering around outside her pen and displayed ‘head bobbing’ which is basically show of aggression so at the moment we don’t let them near each other.

Tortioises are notoriously stupid and often do the funniest things. Here is Voldetort getting wedged between two rocks in my garden:

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Tortoises are also amazingly strong, can run much faster than you would think and are really good at climbing. If you put them in a polystyrene box they will punch their claws into it and will climb the sides to freedom! They’re generally not aggressive to people as long as they’re used to being handled and will live in captivity for at least 80 years. They can be really fun to play with and will reward you with hours of hilarity.

Remmber Me?

Hello everyone!

I’ve been away from here for a few weeks due to illness (my partner had tendonitis and couldn’t walk for two weeks), sunshine (the UK is in the middle of a heatwave right now – no one has air con so we’re all tired and miserable about it) and just general business.

The garden is looking really lovely right now, especially at night when I’ve got my candles lit and the garden lights are on. Last night we sat outside talking until 11pm, with the scent of the sweet peas and petunias wafting over us. Lovely. I think it’s so important to spend time as a couple chatting things over instead of silently staring at a tv screen.

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As you can see (just), my experimental sweet pea wall seems to be doing pretty well. Top tip – cut all the flowers off once every 10 days or so to ensure it keeps flowering. And keep deadheading!

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Is everyone else enjoying their gardens right now? Has anyone got any top tips they want to share? Comment below!
 

Godiva Festival

http://www.godivafestival.com

I love the Godiva festival. Every year it gets bigger and better. I can remember the days when it was one stage, a few local bands and bring your own beer. Now, It’s a full on commercial enterprise with some big name acts as well as lots of promotion of local and unsigned artists. Also, it’s completely free!

This year we had some unforseen issues on the Saturday (a power cut from a broken electricity meter) so we finally got there in the late afternoon. We bought some beer (they really need to get more bar staff or make the bars bigger, the queue took forever) and had a look round the local/vintage/craft stalls. We caught the end of the Mystery Jets set (really good) and managed to get really close to the front to see the Charlatans. Their gig was excellent. The Charlatans were one of my favourite bands growing up and they played all their hits plus a couple of new songs which sounded really good. I was surprised at how young the crowd was and how into it they all seemed. I just about managed to avoid the mosh pit but there was a great energetic vibe without it getting too violent.

Unfortunately I was ill on the Sunday but I really wanted to go to see the launch of the Coventry City of Culture 2021 bid. There was some great acts on too like Sound of the Sirens and Emma McGann plus I wanted to check out He is a Pegasus. Oh well.

If anyone is from the West Midlands they really should visit the Godiva Festival. Beer, sunshine, great bands, free entry…what more could you want?

Daily Prompt – Awe

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Awe

Today, I am in awe of the stupidity of the politicians of the UK. I am horrified by the responses form some of the far right groups to the Brexit debate. I am shocked and appalled at the actions of one individual who shot and stabbed to death a Labour politician, leaving her husband without a wife and her children without a mother, stating that people should ‘put Britain first’.

I don’t want to tell people which way I have voted in the referendum, but my personal choice was based solely on my own research. I looked at a number of different sources and came to my own conclusions, taking into account what would be best for myself personally and also what I think would be best for my country. I can’t think of a single ‘news’ item or piece of marketing which helped to inform my decision.

The way that the campaign has been run on both sides has varied from poor to downright ludicrous. Scaremongering tactics have been used throughout to make the most ridiculous claims. No one can agree on a figure that is given to the EU by the UK every week. No one can say exactly how much, in monetary terms, we get back out of it. No one seems to know what will happen if we vote to leave. There seems to be a feeling that we will be able to negotiate a better deal if we remain but there doesn’t seem to be anything concrete behind this claim. It worries me that people are voting to remain because they are scared of the alternative, because no one knows what the alternative will look like.

At the last general election, ‘American style’ televised debates were held for the prospective leaders of each party to discuss their manifestos and to answer questions from the audience. I was all in favour of these debates as it gave the general public an idea not only of what politicians were saying but also showed who had leadership and negotiating skills. The referendum debates have been entirely different. Each side had to nominate a spokesperson who clearly has their own agenda (Boris Johnson wants to be the next PM, Jeremy Corbyn has previously been anti EU but appears to have been pressurised to say that he is pro remain, David Cameron the same). Many people have confused their political affiliations with their feelings about the EU. I’ve heard my friends on more than one occasion say that it feels wrong to be siding with David Cameron when they are so against many of his other policies. I think many people have felt utterly bemused throughout the entire build up to voting day.

I personally will be pleased when the whole debate is over.

Ben Folds Live – Birmingham Symphony Hall

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‘What are you wearing to the gig?’ I asked my friend Jess. ‘Ummm…’ was the reply.
‘Are you dressing up?’ I asked.
‘Ummmm’ said Jess again. ‘I don’t know. What are you wearing?’
‘I don’t know’ I said. ‘Should we dress up?’
‘Oh God’ said Jess. ‘I don’t know. Maybe?’

This conversation went on in a circular fashion for about another half an hour. You see, we were both used to going to gigs in pubs. Gigs in clubs. Gigs in fields. Dirty gigs in the back room of a bar where we would have to move furniture out of the way to dance, or where we would have to wade through raw sewage if we wanted to use the toilets. But never a gig with an orchestra that had actual proper seating in a Symphony Hall. It felt like we should be wearing heels (why not? We’d be sitting down).

Going to this gig made me feel like a grown up.

Birmingham Symphony Hall is a beautiful concert space. It has great acoustics and is clearly built to provide maximum impact for classical/orchestral music. It is grand and plush and imposing. It has clean toilets. It was not designed to showcase one girl and her bassist playing intimate, dreamy folk rock. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we got.

Poor, poor Lera Lynn. As a support act I could see why she was chosen to go on the Ben Folds tour – her music was in a similar vein to some of his work so I can understand why the organisers thought that the audience might like her. Unfortunately, this was completely the wrong tour to be on. Her music got swallowed up by the space. What could have been hauntingly beautiful became, quite frankly, boring. It didn’t help that we had such comfortable seats. Quiet, dreamy music + velour chair + audience over 30 on a Monday night = sleepy time. Luckily, we had Ben Folds and yMusic to wake us up.

THIS is what the space was built for.

I am a huge fan of Ben Folds. He is creative and clever and funny and engaging and he isn’t afraid to be utterly geeky about the music that he loves. By re-working his songs to include the orchestra he added a totally new dimension which was such an incredible thing to witness live. At one point Ben started freestyling with things that the audience were shouting out (like ‘rock this bitch’) and he somehow composed an entire song around it. Live. Including all 7 members of the orchestra. How does he do it? It sounded incredible. Proof that Ben Folds is a genius.

I had a great time at the gig. It was like nothing that I had ever experienced before. It was weird to be siting down (but nice cause, you know, heels) and to be able to see the band was novel (I’m 5ft1). If anyone gets the opportunity to see this tour then I would urge them to do so.

Conquering the Mountain

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Today, I achieved a milestone. I refer to it as Everest but it is in fact a very small hill. Let me explain.

My running route looks like a rectangle, with steep inclines on the shorter sides and a more gentle gradient along the long sides. This makes the initial jog easy (downhill), turn the corner, carry the momentum then… Everest. what starts as a gentle gradient becomes a small hill, and for weeks I’ve made it only halfway up before feeling like my lungs were going to collapse. But today – FANFARE – I DID IT!

I not only got over the hill, I plodded on and got all the way to the end of the long-bit-of-the-rectangle! Then I had to walk up the short rectangle bit (massive hill) but I kept up a good pace and did some lunges while I got my breath back. Then i jogged-ran-jogged across the home straight and repeated. Didn’t manage to get up the hill without stopping for a second time but once was enough. Yay me!

Interestingly, this took me a minute longer than usual. This could be because today is ridiculously hot, or because my ankle hurts from wearing supid sandals at the weekend, or (more likely) because I’m slower plodding round at a slow jog than I am jog-walk-jogging. I assume it’s better for me to keep jogging for as long as I can?

Anyway, I’m off to enjoy the sunshine 🙂

Keep on running!

Traditional Sexism

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I’ve just read a great article in the Guardian regarding sexism in the brewing industry. I thought it was a well written piece with some ultimately positive news about women collaborating, forming alliances and making progress in what was one a very male dominated industry. (Well done to them).

Unfortunately, when I saw that someone had posted the article on Facebook, I was horrified to read some of the 80 or so comments that went with it. They ranged from the ridiculous to downright hatred. How can people be so nasty to each other? Instead of picking up on the women’s collaborative, they’ve focused on the fact that the author of the piece talked about the sexist marketing images used by other breweries and the fact that the female brewers agreed, saying that ‘laddish’ marketing was hackneyed and tired. This seems to have sparked a flurry of sexist comments from both men and women.

In my opinion, the women in the article were dead right. I enjoy drinking beer and I don’t see that marketing exclusively to men is in any way a good idea, let alone the damage it can do to a brand by offending a significant proportion of the client base. I can see that it would alienate a woman who was looking to brew her own beer. I can understand why other women are offended by the imagery and names that some breweries use.

I’ve included my thoughts on the Facebook comments below:

This isn’t an important issue/feminists should concentrate their efforts on bigger issues.

This is an important issue. This is everyday sexism – it’s not overtly excluding women, it’s using language and imagery to suggest that this product is for men – for no real reason. (As an added bonus, the imagery objectifies women.Thanks!) By doing so, women automatically exclude themselves as customers, often without realising it. The subtlety of this approach can help to normalise sexism as anyone who complains about such a seemingly minor issue is seen as whining, overreacting or being a killjoy. A society where sexism is the norm contributes to all of the problems that women face today (earning less, being overlooked for promotion, being objectified etc.) as it promotes the idea that women should shut up and get on with it. After all, militant feminists aren’t sexy, are they? And god forbid a woman should be unsexy…

Don’t buy it if you don’t like it.

I won’t, thanks. But I suspect a lot of people will (possibly without thinking about it) because, as in my earlier point, we live in a society where casual sexism is the norm – and I want to make people think about that.

Women don’t complain they aren’t binmen etc.

Yes we do – but I don’t think that’s particularly relevant to the issue in hand.

There’s beer that could be offensive to men.

That’s not ok either and it doesn’t detract from this issue.

These women are using sexism to promote their own crap beer.

No they’re not. These women are joining together to support each other’s business endeavours, make contacts, promote brewing for women and to encourage a community where women can help each other. If that generates media interest then great. That isn’t sexism, that’s business accumen.

Also, I love the way this comment assumes that the beer created is crap. I’m going to guess that the contributor hasn’t tried all of the different beers the women in the article had made – thus proving that sexism in the beer drinking community is alive and well and that women probably need to stick together if they’re going to get anywhere.

If the industry was that sexist those women wouldn’t be able to brew at all.

Sexism isn’t a black and white issue. Just because women are ‘allowed’ to make beer (wow, thanks!) doesn’t mean there isn’t a long way to go.

Feminazis! Puritans! PC brigade! You can call beer what you want!

Can you really? So, no matter how offensive, sweary, inappropriate, racist, homophobic etc. a name is, you can still use it? Well, I suppose you can, but why would you want to? No landlord/landlady in their right mind would put it on a pump, plus you’d have the added benefit of knowing that you’d upset a load of people. Well done you.

The Guardin is run by a fat ginger bitch so it’s bound to be biased! The brewer looks like a man! Lesbians!

I’m not even going to dignify those comments with a response. Please crawl back into the primordial soup and talk to me when you’ve evolved.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Get in touch below!