Literary Sisters....

It will come as little surprise to most of you that I love to read. If and when I have a spare evening, or a long journey, or even a quick ten minutes in the bath, I am often in the company of a good book. I love to escape to a brand new place, to be taken far away. My favourite books are a mismash of happy books, sad books, "cool" books, woefully uncool books, but there are many I can turn to again and again - books like Join Me, High Fidelity, Yes Man, Love Is A Mixtape, and the three books that inspired this post.

The three books I'm talking about contain a bevvy of female characters who I love and cherish, in whom I see glimpses of myself and the girls around me, who have characteristics I admire or covet or try to avoid, in a few cases! They are books I have read a lot, discussed a lot, and thought about a lot. They are also all books I own film adaptations or television dramas of.

The first of these books is Little Women. Oh man, how I love this book. The story of the four March girls and their family is one I've loved since girlhood, and one I go back to again and again. I can't wait to share this book with the wee folk I know once they are out of nappies. Growing up, I was definitely a Jo - an impetuous bookworm, a tomboy, not a girly girl, but as I entered my twenties, I realised I was becoming less of a Jo and more of a Meg. Yes, Meg. Steady, dependable, kind, sweet Meg is now the character I empathise with the most in Little Women. With adults' eyes I can still appreciate the humour and loyalty and bravery of Jo, but I've grown into a new appreciation of Meg. She's clever and brave in her own way, but her priorities and motivations are different. Not for Meg huge adventures or bright rages. Her joys are friends and family and helping people and kindness. And as simplistic and plain as they may be, I have to admit, those are my joys too. The younger March girls and Marmee are also great characters, and I've thought to myself before now ("Oh, that girl's a bit of an Amy", or "Shades of Jo, there!"). Marmee in particular I find an inspiration - if and when I have a family, I pray my offspring view me with even one-tenth of the love and respect shown to that character.

Book number two is a book I came very late to, in the scheme of things, but it's one I've blogged on before. Pride and Prejudice. I first read this in my early twenties, and just fell in love with Austen's style and the five Bennett girls (as someone who has always desired a big family herself, I also love the "brood" dynamic in this book). Kind, sweet, beautiful Jane; headstrong, clever, pretty Elizabeth; bookish, plain, worthy Mary; silly, easily led, secondary Kitty; and deceitful, proud, ridiculous Lydia. Everyone wants to be Elizabeth, right? Katie Boo thinks I'm Lizzie (cheers hon!). That quiz I did back in February seemed to think I was Jane. And I've certainly felt like Kitty before! I think Jane is very like Meg in Little Women, a girly girl, kind and sweet and loyal. And I think there are elements of that in my character, but I'm a little too hotheaded and sarcastic at times to be a true Jane. There are also parts of Lizzie in me, I can see - I'm honest and loyal to my friends and heaven knows I do like a walk! But again these are characters I love and know and can see in the people around me, along with various others of the cast (one of my make friends is *such* a Mr Bingley!). I love the affinity I have with this book. Sitting down to read it is like a cup of tea and a chat with a good friend - good for the soul!

The third book is the one I'm currently reading (I was asked to reread it for my reading challenge. Actually, all three of the books I'm chatting about today made the cut) and it is a looooooooooooooong book. 1006 pages, to be precise. Oh yeah, I'm talking about Gone With The Wind. GWTW is a flawed book in many ways, but it's also dramatic and ambitious and if you're willing to go with it, pretty darn awesome. And I LOVE the two central characters, Scarlett and Melanie. I first read this book in my early twenties, and oh, how I wanted to be a Scarlett. She's brave and beautiful and ruthless and just...ace. But as I reread it, I find my aspirations have changed. Now I want to be like Melanie. Melly with her loyalty and kindness and good manners and warmth and hospitality. I always got that Melly was a "good" character, but now she's the one I think I'd like to be like. Sure, it would be great to be Scarlett O'Hara, belle of the county, but I think I'd rather be Melanie. A bit like Marmee in Little Women, when I read about Melanie I see a few things I have and lots of values I share and many, many things to aspire to.

Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, Jane, Lizzie, Mary, Kitty, Lydia, Scarlett & Melanie. My literary sisters. there are other books I've read with characters I know well (Anne of Green Gables; Sense and Sensibility; Bridget Jones' Diary; The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) but it's the characters of Little Women, Pride & Prejudice and Gone With The Wind which call to me over and over, time and again. They are more than characters or friends...they are my literary sisters.

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Oh the weather outside is frightful....

You guys, it is cold here. Not continental cold, I'll grant you, but quite cold enough. As I type it's 2 degrees outside, with fat lazy snowflakes floating down before softly melting to naught on the wet floor (when it was warmer earlier we had rain, so it's unlikely this snow will "stick". Nothing to stick to, really). It feels colder though....I dashed out to the car earlier and literally had to do the frozen prance to get feeling back into my fingers and toes....

This may explain why I'm blogging sat in front of a heater. Wrapped in a blanket.


I used to be much better with the cold, but years of living in the south have softened me. My family are always amused by how cold I get now - I often come down to breakfast when I'm home for Christmas break wearing PJs, sweatpants, a sweater, scarf, and socks on my feet (and sometimes my hands too...). Thank heavens none of them are morning people, or there would be several incriminating photos floating around by now....

Winter's still a magical time....just a tad inconvenient at times!

After the rush of last week, this is the more chilled week. I've been cleaning and scrapbooking and reading, cooking and exercising and calling people. I've almost finished the Christmas spreadsheet, and this morning I bought a tonne of gifts. Later in the week I'll buy more gifts, and wrap and cards too. I like to get it sorted before the insanity of the six weeks at school leading up to the Christmas holidays. School itself will be crazy, but then there's all the other stuff....singing things, comedy in Bristol, Bonfire Cottage, Karmageddon..... I will be a busy bee!

So join me in raising a mug of hot chocolate (with marshmallows, naturally...) to cosy nights in on cold nights out.... If I only had someone to cuddle with right now, this scene would be *perfect*!

Snuggle on, friends.


PS Christy, thank you for the mittens. I think they will come in handy this year!
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So I have returned from a lovely girly holiday in Spain with the gorgeous Katie Boo. All-inclusive hilarity! That guy! Kareoke! In-jokes! Silliness! Wedding chat! Medieval feasts where you get to eat chicken with your hands! Mad skillz! Flamenco! Castles! Top Trumps! Brian Blessed!

And then I had a lovely weekend in London where I got to hang out with Mattheiu, chilling and watching South Park and chatting about out uni adventures; share insulting and hilarious conversation with the comedy double act that is (are?) Dave and Asiz; and then have a proper girly lunch with Vixie and Kaz today, full of chat and catching up. And the wonder that is Stealth Snail....

All in all, a TOP first week to the half-term break. The second week's far more chilled, loaded as it is with chores and work and jobs around the house and stuff to prep for school and reports to write and books to balance and Christmas prep to do and phone calls to make, but it should be fun and/or productive. And then a visit at the weekend, and Bryony Boo's christening on Sunday. Bring on the banter! And in the meantime, here are some of my favourite pics from Spain (once Katie Boo's uploaded hers, I shall be back for round two... :-)).

Have a wonderful week, all!

Katie Boo hits the rose wine at Luton.Oh, how I love a goofy in-flight pose!

Kareoke smilieness!

Kate breaking out her Brian Blessed impression. She is *so* good at it!

Re-enacting our favourite part of the Ryanair safety routine. In a sombrero. Oh yes.Jase (Katie Boo's fiance) came to pick her up from Luton. MASSIVE boyfriend / fiance / husband / partner points for him. Love this couple - they are utter poppets!

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Why so quiet, Claire?

In short?

A lovely weekend with Siobhan, going to see Mattheiu's lovely new house (and meet the man-legend that is Dave), and various bits and bobs.

Oh, and the fact I am leaving for Spain. Right now. With Kate Boo. For three days of fun in the sun (OK, not scorching sun, but still warmer and nicer than autumnal Britain!). Photos and tales to follow, methinks! Last minute holday-a-go-go!

More soon. I hope you all have a lovely week!

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Mmmmmm, meme.

It's late. It's the start of half-term break.

School wrapped up at 1 o'clock this afternoon...after the usual hellos and goodbyes, I headed a couple of towns across to have a girly lunch with colleagues and a romp round the shops (nowt that tempting...which is quite convenient, given the credit crunch!). Then home by six and into PJs, telly and music, net stuff, a big long phone call with HRH (good luck with the uber-neds, sir!). And then I thought I should blog....and as I haven't done a meme in ages, I thought I'd break one out...they always end up somewhere I wasn't expecting.

Pour yourself a glass of wine (I know I have...) or a refreshing cup of tea, and enjoy the rambling...

1) Is the last person you kissed mad at you?
If he is he has a very strange way of showing it (he's generally a poppet!).

2) Is your hair up?
Nope. The curls are as wild and free as ever! My hair = the mental.

3) Do you still talk to the person who hurt you the most?
Two people pretty much destroyed me. One of them I just never think of any more (seriously. He's just gone). The other I forgave entirely, and they are still in my life in a big way. I chose to forgive, move on and live in that situation :-).

4) Are you an argumentative person?
Not hugely, but I can and do have my moments.
I have quite a hot temper when it comes down to it!

5) Is your phone right beside you?
Yep! I'm being highly entertained by random Friday night texts (Cardiff! Camden! New jobs! Visits!)

6) Will this weekend be a good one?
I hope so. It's going to be very lowkey, but there are some lovely things sprinkled into it :-).

7) What jewelry do you wear all the time?
None. I even gave up wearing a watch this year, after smashing my watch in the floor in the change rooms in the gym.

8) Have you ever had a difficult relationship?
I would say no, actually, if we're talking romantic relationships. This may, however, have something to do with my slight commitment phobia which took over my early to mid's really hard to have a difficult relationship when you're choosing not to have a relationship at all.

9) Have you ever driven in the ghetto to buy drugs?
Hahahaha, NO. Seriously, have you met me?

10) Can you read other people's expressions?
Most of the time, yes.

11) Have you ever hugged someone named Joe?
Probably. I hug an awful lot! (bring on Karmageddon, Joinee friends!)

12) When was the last time something bothered you?
Earlier today and earlier this week - someone is being a bit of an ass and just being lazy and a bit horrid. I'm not too impressed, but it'll pass. I'm fairly chilled, most of the time!

13) What/whose bothering you?
See above :-).

14) Are your ears gauged?
Am I supposed to know what that means? I'm sure I did at one point, but my brain is tired (it's twenty past eleven here!).

15) Have you ever stayed in a hotel?
A few times. Didn't for many years. Love to now. Am *such* a geek about it!

16) Do you miss someone?

17) How did you feel when you woke up today?
Just plain tired!

18) Have you ever driven without a license?
I don't know....don't think so.

19) How long does it take for you to fall asleep at night?
Unless I'm really stressed, not too long at all. I love my sleep, I'm a good sleeper, and I nod off fast. I generally wake up smiling too - I genuinely love my bed.

20) Have you ever had a best friend who was the opposite sex?

21) Have you ever kissed just a friend?
If you kiss them, surely they've passed over the friend line?

22) When was the last time you shot a dirty look at someone?
Properly? Let me think....oh I know - early hours of Sunday morning, on the London nightbus. A woman was being tres rude. I really get annoyed by nightbuses!

23) Are you happy right now?
Yes. I am. Life is knackering right now...but there are several things that just make me :-).

25) When is your birthday?
December 10th.

Cards, flowers, diamonds to the usual address, please ;-).

26) Where did you buy the shirt you're wearing now?
I'm waering some really repulsive pyjamas. They are three dress sizes too big and pink plaid. Other people never need to see these. But MAN are they comfy!

27, 28, 29?

30) Are you a forgiving person?
I would say yes. Sometimes I have to work on it, but yes.

31) Ever kissed someone who smokes?

32) When you shut off your alarm clock, do you tend to fall back asleep?
Sometimes. Dangerous ground though!

35) Did anything weird happen in the past 3 days?
My life is a lovely train of weird. All the time.

36) Your number one tells you they're pregnant, you say?
Congratulations! (Heheh, this question totally doesn't make sense on a blog!).

37) Do you want someone you can't have?
Not any more.

38) What is the biggest secret you know about your 2nd top friend?
Like I would tell!

39) If you could change your eye color, what would it be?
I'm good, thanks.

40) Last person you told a secret to?
Probably one of the usual suspects...

41) Do you listen to your friends when they tell you that a guy/girl is bad for you?
I trust my friends, so yes. Lately they've been telling me lots of good stuff though, which is fab to hear!

42) What do you usually do right when you wake up?
Smile and stretch.

44) Have you told anybody you loved them today?

45) Any plans for tomorrow?
Morning of sleeping in and chores. Early afternoon of schooliness. Evening of girl chat, dinner and wine with Siobhan.


46) What's a fact about the last person who had their arms around you?
They are a bit lovely. But kind of terrible at packing, I am learning.

47) What do you hear right now?
Snow Patrol on 'Later With Jools Holland'.

It's late Friday night, and I have no Saturday school tomorrow.

Have a great weekend, lovelies!

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Because age is just a number...

Isn't it funny how many ages you can feel in a day, let alone a week?

When I'm at work I feel grown up and responsible, I know people rely on me, and children depend on me. I'm organised and hardworking and all that good stuff. In other areas of life, I feel a completely different age, if not a different person. When I'm on the phone with Siobhan, or on msn with Christy or Lou, or drinking wine and singing showtunes with Hannah, I feel like I've regressed ten years and I'm seventeen again. When I sing properly, I feel a million ages all at once, young but old, strange but familiar. When I'm goofing around with Mlle Wilson I feel young and silly and foolish, a teenager again, full of chat and hope and giggles and sweeping statements.
When I'm cuddling Bryony Boo, her four month old face painted with a smile, big beautiful eyes taking in the world, I feel old. Her newness is intoxicating! When I'm curled up chatting with the boy I like, I feel young and vunerable and safe. All at once. When I blog sometimes I feel old and wise (even though I'm not wise), looking back on the years past, dreaming of the years to come, remembering faces and feelings and friends. When I look around my flat at the books and postcards and piles and disarray I feel like a student again (this feeling is further compounded when I choose to fish a teabag out using a fork, rather than washing up a spoon!). When I do a decent workout I feel young somehow, feeling as my body changes, growing stronger as the months pass. When I curl up to go to bed I feel like a child again, the smell of lotion and the coolness of the pillow lulling me off into the immortality of dreams...

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What I don't do...

Oh yeah, I'm breaking out the 'd' word... Fear not, I'm still your usual happy-go-lucky, slightly scatty, definitely slightly off-kilter Claire, but these are my thinky thoughts for the day...

I don't believe that work should be boring.

I don't trash talk people I like.

I don't eat white/refined flour anymore, because it makes me poorly sick. Just call me Wholegrain Girl!

I don't know what sushi tastes like. I've never tried.

I don't know enough about grammar, considering I have half a degree in English!

I don't sleep enough at the moment, which is a shame, because I love to sleep!

I don't like living so far from home. But I'm making a home of my own.

I don't go to church enough.

I don't remember my dreams (for the most part). Not in a depressing, woe is me fashion, but in an actual "I don't remember" way. I remember maybe six dreams a year. Tops.

I don't steal.

I don't understand racism at all. It came up in a PSHE class mith my kiddos, and none of us could really explain / understand it!

I don't like people who are unkind to children (come to think of it, I don't like people who are unkind or mean, full stop. But when it's towards kids, I genuinely get annoyed!).

I don't go to the doctor or the dentist enough.

I don't burp (I can't, actually).

I don't really have a handle on where I'm going. Yet.

I don't reveal huge aspects of myself to many people in my life.

I don't have time to blog at the mo. But I'm endeavouring to make time!

Have an AWESOME weekend, lovelies!

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Sunday Stoppage

This evening, for the first time in a good long time, I actually stopped for a few hours. I ignored the phone, left the dishes by the sink, forgot the marking for now, and actually stopped. It's not something I do enough. And now I feel replenished and just more ready for the challenges to come - the things I want to do, the things I have to do, the things I need to do, the things I'm hoping to do.

Recently life has felt a little like squuueeeeeezzzzzing into a pair of jeans that are just a little too small. You know they'll fit, but you've just got the breathe in that extra half an inch to get them on. There are new things I'm making space for, and other things refusing to budge to make room. So I'm having to be creative with my timing. All good though, there are many things in my life which are giving me cause to pause, smile, and count a blessing. I am grateful for busy-ness and new discombobulating things.

Who knows, in a few posts time, perhaps I'll even have time to write about some of them... :-)

Have a great week, all.

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The smell of woodfires burning. The mist that gathers in the garden on early mornings, hanging like some half-forgotten spirit around the boughs and bushes. Digging out welly boots and taking long walks to go puddle-jumping. Looking out at a grey and rainy day and choosing to stay in instead, watching old films and reruns. Trees becoming bare and skeletal, leaves turning, then crispening, then floating down. Blackberries fresh from the bush, fingers stained with juice, tongue alive with taste. Sturdy meals- toast, soup, steaming jacket potatoes, stews, piles of root vegetables - warming, comforting, filling. Kicking leaves. Frost on the window pane. Darker evenings littered with stars. Birds flying south or returning for the winter. Looking out scarves and jumpers and hideous yet cosy pyjamas. Lying in bed read, listening to an autumn shower thundering on the roof above. Long hot baths, and emerging warm and safe and softly scented. Snuggling in bed with wine and chocolate, cosy and warm and glowing. Sleeping longer, thinking deeper.

Remembrances of a summer well spent, and hopes for a longed-for winter, all enjoyed in a season I adore.

I love autumn. :-)

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