book club: this is going to hurt

From cover to cover in 2 days. 2 days. I could not get through the comedic chaos written into this book quick enough.

As someone who has an interest in the medical profession (and who still wants to ‘someday’ be a paramedic – whenever ‘someday’ is) I was intrigued by this book, even before it was recommended.

So why on earth it took me the best part of a year to buy, who knows!

If I’m watching TV in the living room you’ll hear it a mile away. There’s usually the sound of sirens, telephones and beeping machines, along with screaming patients and lots of swearing. My obsession with medical programmes is hard to miss.

Whether it’s 24 Hours in A&E, 999 What’s Your Emergency?, Helicopter Heroes, Countryside Rescue, Ambulance… you’ll not be short of gory injuries and tales from medical staff. My fascination over guts, gore but also the intricacies of the medical world have left me with a serious interest that’s now spanned most of my life.

Picking up this book, there was no doubt in my mind that I’d enjoy it. The topic alone I knew would be interesting, and Kay’s inclusion of terminology and explanations had me convinced it was going to make my top 10, if not 5, all time favourite books.

And I was right.

There is a clue is in the title, though. It is going to hurt.

From humorous anecdotes to matter of fact statements that left me shocked and upset, Adam Kay has mastered my emotions and left me reeling, but more importantly, grateful and passionate.

Passionate about our National Health Service and all it takes on and delivers, and passionate about one day being a tiny cog in the mechanism of it all. (Yep – it didn’t put me off.) Instead of persuading me that joining the NHS would be a bad thing, it did the opposite.

I empathise wholeheartedly with Kay, and his execution of the book is heroic. He demonstrates the reality of life in the NHS, spanning the six years he worked as a Junior Doctor.

“I should have had counselling — in fact, my hospital should have arranged it. But there’s a mutual code of silence that keeps help from those who need it most.”

As a rebuke to Jeremy Hunt’s remarks about pay and working conditions, the rhetoric tells the brutal truth of what the workforce of the NHS are up against. The book gives a rare and honest insight into the life Kay had, and his comedic personality leaves you laughing out loud or unsure if he’s joking, or if it’s that bad.

Kay reflects that the hearts of those working in the NHS are holding it together. The ‘good few’ dedicated individuals who have energy left after all the overtime and double shifts. It is an incredible story of the reality of anyone working in the medical profession. They’re humans. Just like us.

Hats off to Kay, and to doctors everywhere, NHS or not, for taking on such a commitment.

Whether you love the NHS or find it painful and frustrating, this book is definitely worth a read.

love sophie

it’s all gone quiet

The past few months – particularly the few weeks just gone – I have found myself really digging deep to find something to blog about. But life, right now, is silent. Metaphorically at least.

A new job, a new city, and some very exciting things I have to keep shtum about are all keeping me quiet.

Literally speaking, life couldn’t be louder. I’ve got twelve plates spinning at any one time (I’m sure you know the feeling) and I live with someone who might definitely be the loudest person on the planet – quite a feat considering my ears don’t always play ball.

But I’m at a loss for words (at least any of the worthwhile kind).

I’ve been muddling along with edits, checking off lists in my head, but never getting round to sitting and doing the things I love most. Writing, drawing, reading, or even just painting my nails.

We all run around like crazy people, trying to keep up with life, but in the end it’s life that should be kept on its toes, not us.

This week has opened my eyes up to the time I actually could save and the things I could do if I wasn’t worrying about spinning plates.

I’ve had no one at home to blame as a distraction (or use as a distraction), I’ve been cycling to work so I’ve felt more productive and spent less time commuting, and I’ve actually got into the routine of turning the TV off after I’ve eaten and instead I’m doing things like this. Things that make me happy.

I’ve finished reading a book I’ve been grazing for weeks, I’ve done edits on my own book, and I’ve even sorted out my room and sacked off my chair of clean clothes for one I can actually sit on.

I’m preparing myself for the three day weekend I’m having where all of this good fortune and clever plate spinning no doubt gets compromised and the return of the human megaphone brings me back to reality.

But… here’s hoping that isn’t going to happen. Or that I can manage it a bit better.

I’m making cycling to work a permanent fixture (in dry weather – let’s be realistic) and I’m hoping the addition of classes at the gym will mean I have more structured evenings (and abs – a girl can dream).

But my main mission is to update this blog more, maybe not every week, but once or twice a month when I feel I have something to say. (I’m hoping this post makes me accountable for my actions so if you don’t hear from me, I deserve a gentle nudge!)

I hope you’re all on top of your own spinning plates and making the most of the time you have in life to really live. 

love sophie

a letter from: bath

It’s been far too long since I stepped foot in the beautiful city of Bath, and this week made up for that completely. With a double dose in one week (both Graduation and a Kilimanjaro reunion weekend) I am well and truly cream crackered.

It has been blooming lovely, though.

The sun shone, I got to meet up with people I hadn’t seen in faaaaaar too long, and see my words in print as part of our MA Anthology (which was epic!)

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Graduation was lovely, as was seeing all my lovely course friends and writing pals again. It’s surprising how close you get to each other and how much you help each other through the process. It was amazing to celebrate altogether, and surprisingly emotional to be reunited again.

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There’s so much to do in Bath that if you don’t really know the city, just wandering aimlessly means you’ll see beautiful things and stumble across some absolute gems along with gorgeous architecture.

Having lived there for four years, it’s amazing how much I still haven’t seen. We’re famous for never being tourists in our own cities, and I’m exactly the same with Leeds. But, there’s always a favourite place I stumble back to, and the cobble streets and golden stone buildings will always scream ‘home.’

Mr B’s Emporium is one of my favourite places in Bath. Unfortunately (and typically) it was closed for renovation over the days I was there so I didn’t get to step into the bookshop of reading delights (a shame but my purse was pleased!)

We also popped across to BookBarn (my absolute favourite place) which I last visited in June. It’s a twenty minute journey from the centre of Bath, but if you love books (or vegetarian food) it is a real treat. We were even treated to a reading by Dan.

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Most books are £1 (and there are over a million), there’s an open fire, and the freshly made food and tea make it a lovely place to spend a few hours. There’s a kids reading nook, and it’s all enclosed so you can sit in the cafe and leave them to feel grown up, playing or reading to their hearts content.

The Darwin Room is a relatively new addition, boasting spines that are hundreds of years old, alongside first editions and collectables. Unfortunately these aren’t £1!

In between the rugby matches on Saturday, we even managed to sneak in a tower tour up Bath Abbey which was amazing, and a must do – such great value and such great views.

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The journey up is just as good, and the winding corridors and little nooks and crannies you can see and squeeze through make you feel like a kid again. We even got to ring one of the bells from the top! (…I promise I didn’t wear the same outfit the whole time.)

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Glorious sunshine hitting Georgian stone is such a beautiful thing to witness. Visiting Corsham Court after my graduation ceremony was something I’m really glad I did. I was fortunate enough to call it campus for a year and it really is beautiful, more so in the sun!

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(I ditched the heels for my Docs as soon as the photos were taken – if you know me, you know!)

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It felt very good to go full circle and I left Bath with a very cheesy grin on my face!

Let’s hope it’s not too long before I go back for another adventure!

love sophie

a letter from: bangor

With my workload about to creep up, and the magic of Christmas and New Year fading out, I really wasn’t looking forward to January. A ten minute discussion with Meg, a quick scout through AirBnB, and a double check of the calendar, and we’d booked a trip to Bangor. The plan was to start the year on a high, outdoors, and doing something fun and spontaneous. And it was exactly that.

We found a cheap and lovely looking AirBnB in Tregarth (I’d much rather be somewhere homey where I can fully relax and not be bothering anyone) deciding on North Wales as we’ve both been before and loved it. Meg actually went to Bangor Uni and it was my second choice, pipped to the post in the end by Bath.

I’d already set my mission of more adventures and spontaneity at this point, so I was excited to be booking something for a weeks’ time, and only vaguely planning out possibilities of what we could do.

With it only being a couple of hours away, we decided we wouldn’t rush to set off after work on the Friday, and instead managed to miss the rush hour traffic, enjoying a scenic (very dark) drive to our destination. We’d packed a crate of prosecco (emergency rations, just in case…) and spent the Friday night planning our next two days.

We decided as we were only 10 minutes from the centre of Bangor to head into town on the Saturday morning, before driving up to Anglesey to visit Newborough beach (where we ended up going for a swim – much to the amusement of everyone around us), then headed up to South Stack Lighthouse, eating chips whilst watching the sun go down, before driving back to the house. If you’ve never been up this neck of the woods, I’d definitely recommend. As a creative person, there is so much inspiration on every road, or in every building (or sheep) you drive past.

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Newborough is fab, and the tide is never fully in so there is always beach to be played on. Top tip: there’s a rope swing nestled at the very end of the woods on your right as you’re walking to the far end of the beach. It’s close to the edge of the trees so you can see it when you get near, and it is incredibly fun. Surprisingly, not many of the people we saw knew about it. We couldn’t resist giving it a spin (and I can vouch for it being lots of fun!) The parking is £5 for all day, and it is very clean and well maintained. There was even a hot drink/food van, too, for after our January dip!

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South Stack is about a twenty minute drive from Newborough, and neither of us had been before so we thought it would be a good chance to go. It was fab, and we deliberately timed it so we’d get there to see the sunset as backdrop.

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We stopped at a local chippy on the way, stocking up on chips with curry sauce to keep us warm whilst we sat, practically on the edge of Wales, watching the world fall asleep. There’s not a huge amount around to do, but the views themselves are stunning. Definitely worth a pit stop if you’re in the area.

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A few of Meg’s friends from uni were around that evening so we planned to meet them in Bangor for a few drinks and some boogieing. A pizza, some prosecco, and a film later, we got ready and headed out to meet them. I love the simplicity of Bangor town. There’s nothing extravagantly fancy, and if there was it would quite simply be out of place. It’s homely, and welcoming, and the pubs we went in were all full of character (and sold Guinness – a definite win.)

On the Sunday we got up, said goodbye to the lovely cottage we’d made our home (and the most amazing beds in the WORLD!) and headed back to Bangor to collect Meg’s friend, Rob, who joined us on our adventure up the Watkins Path of Mount Snowdon.

A top up of oil and some screenwash (for the car) and we were on our way, tootling up and down, around the windiest roads with the prettiest views. After a reasonably chilly Saturday, we were surprised by the mildness that arrived on Sunday (good news as the whole point of us going up this route was for a dip in the Watkin pools on the mountain.)

We parked on the A498 outside of Beddgelert, just at the bottom of the path. There is a proper car park on the opposite side of the road, but there’s also a little lay-by you can stop in just before the path on the left side. We arrived around lunchtime and there was lots of space left. We took lots of layers with us (prepared to be freezing after our swim) along with snacks and flasks of tea, and set off.

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We weren’t planning on summiting Snowdon, our main aim was to manage a swim in the pools before coming down to warm ourselves back up. The walk up to the pools is only about half an hour. You follow the donkey track over several bridges and woodland until it opens out and you are fully surrounded by mountains. To get to the pools you need to take a path that cuts below the main path, towards a bridge and waterfall which you can see from the main trail. We crossed the bridge, went over a style and we were there. The water in the pools was a Mediterranean blue and looked so beautiful in the surrounding mountains. We already had our swimming cossis on, prepared for a quick dip without getting too cold. The main path up the mountain was slightly above us so we were passed by lots of interested walkers who were a bit surprised to see three eager swimmers in January.

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Rob braved it first, dipping his feet in and paddling around the rocks to the edge of the main pool bit. Meg followed, and then me.

It was freezing, there’s no denying that, but the adrenaline meant I felt on top of the world and was having the best time, ever.

I was first to properly get in, sinking my body under the water a little at a time so it wasn’t a huge shock. Meg and Rob also joined, and we spent fifteen minutes giggling, pulling the weirdest faces, and gasping in response to the freezing temperature.

After ten minutes laying in the pool, I was bright red and frozen. I looked like I’d been sunbathing without suncream for a whole day. Luckily we’d brought several thick extra layers and so we all got dressed and then sat on a rock across the bridge, overlooking the ‘valley’ like view surrounding us. We had brought mini bottles of prosecco (this seems to be a growing theme to the trip…) and enjoyed sipping between them and the flasks of tea, warming up with food and full winter accessories.

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I’d definitely recommend doing it (although I’m sure it’d be more comfortable if it was above 1 degree in the water). If January is your bag, don’t forget the flasks and extra layers (and I’d recommend the prosecco for celebrating being complete nutters after.)

Let’s hope the New Year continues this way, with lots more wild swimming, prosecco drinking, and spontaneous adventures! And here’s to visiting Bangor again many times, because it was blooming marvellous!

love sophie

new year, new me (and other lies we tell ourselves)

I’ve made it my mission this year to ignore the mass of new year resolutions and appreciation posts I’m seeing over social media, deciding to just take this year as it comes and just simply live it, but I’m finding it incredibly difficult. Unfortunately, there is no ‘new me’ this year, and the idea of giving up something I like isn’t screaming out at me.

I have nothing against people wanting to set challenges for themselves, or plan things to look forward to in the new year, but sometimes it’s just a little too much. I’ve done it before, for many years, but the sense of failure looms greater than the sense of achievement I should be feeling if I don’t actually manage to see my resolution through. The pressure of being perfect all year, and doing lots of good things just gets too much.

This year, more than any others, I’ve also realised how much time I’ve spent on my phone and social media rather than what I should be doing in the moment. There are so many times, looking back, where I wish I’d have just put my phone away, or said yes instead of no to a crazy idea because I was too busy or had no money (I think we’re all guilty of that sometimes).

Those of you that know me will know that I keep a few ‘essentials’ in my car boot ‘just in case’, and I’m going to make the most of using them this year (and make up for the wasted petrol I’ve used up lugging it all around.) You might have your own set of ‘essentials’ and if you don’t, I’d recommend getting some. Having them on hand when you’re out and about somewhere is great.

My essentials are made up of:

  • walking boots (a given if you know me – there’s always a mountain to be climber or a path to be walked, and – if I have the time – I’m going to do it.)
  • wellies (for all those puddles I love jumping in, and boggy fields that need walking through. Life is too short to care about a bit of muddy water splashing your jeans.)
  • a swimming cossi and a towel (because wild swimming – even in winter – is my favourite thing ever and should be done at every opportunity – spontaneous swimming is the best swimming.)

I also have some sun cream, an empty flask and several pairs of warm socks chucked in for good measure.

I’m hoping 2019 will see these things used more and more (or at least that’s the plan.) It’s such an easy way of adding a bit of fun to a trip, and – as a lover of spontaneity – it is amazing

I got comfortable saying no to things this year, or at least not saying yes to enough, partly because I was too busy writing a book and finishing my Masters (no biggy), but I’m going to let that mentality go (where possible) and make the most of my time I do have when I come home from work.

I think having a job has definitely put time into perspective (it definitely makes you realise how many hours there are in a day.)

And now I’m used to the 9-5 malarkey (the longest hours I’ve worked, ever!) I’m actually awake after work and can happily make plans. Here’s hoping lighter evenings come soonish because hi-vis is not a good look for me.

And here’s to a year of being present and doing all the things we say we’re going to do. A spontaneous trip to Bangor this weekend should dust the cobwebs off (and I might even get my swimming cossi out!)

love sophie

soundtrack series: december

It’s December. December.

I say this every month, but where did that time go?

So far it’s been chaos: new job, new city, new house. But in among the crazy, I’ve also discovered some new songs which have kept me sane and have been added to my playlist thanks to Meg and her family.

Christmas hasn’t really been hot on my agenda this year (and even though it’s happened, it feels like a million moons ago) so most of these songs are just good to dance along to in the kitchen – all year round.

Here’s my five:

1. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love

The perfect Christmas duet, Meg and I can be found singing along to this randomly in impromptu moments when we’re in the same room. Weirdly we’ve even managed to start singing it at the same time unplanned, and it has been constantly stuck in my head all month.

2. Mr Brightside – The Killers

This features in arguably one of the most relatable movie scenes I’ve ever seen. Cameron Diaz headbanging to this after a few too many tipples is something I can watch and get on board with. We’ve all had one of those moments, and what a tune to headbang to.

3. Jump – Girls Aloud

I am not the only one who dances along to Hugh Grant, surely? December wouldn’t be December without the annual showing of Love Actually in the living room, complete with mid-film-quoting and the Girls Aloud danceathon, led by the Prime Minister himself. Not a song I’m usually partial to, but who can resist at Christmas?

4. The Tide Is High – Atomic Kitten

As well as moving to Sheffield and starting a new job, I also seem to have been recruited into a new, up-and-coming girl band ‘0114 Girls.’ Coming home after work I now find myself partaking in band practice, complete with dance routines and attempted three part harmonies. It. Is. Gold.

5. Angel In The Night – Basshunter

Top of the list for our pre-drink playlist, this was played several times over the month. New Year’s Eve partying started with a solid twenty minutes of pure Basshunter (and headbanging). Starting the New Year as we mean to go on!

Any songs you’d recommend from this month? Let me know!

love sophie

the 18 i read in 2018

This year has been pretty full on in terms of books. Along with writing my own (yep, that finally happened) I devoured tonnes – in particular lots of books I’d never think of picking off the shelves myself, which is always a bonus.

I’ve done a round up below of the eighteen which were that good (or bad) they’ve made the highlight reel. Here’s to lots more reading in 2019 (and lots more writing!)

1. Northern Lights – Phillip Pullman

2. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

3. How To Catch A Star – Oliver Jeffers

4. The Truth Pixie – Matt Haig

5. The Chalk Man – C J Tudor

6. A Very Large Expanse Of Sea – Tahereh Mafi

7. The Beauty That Remains – Ashley Woodfolk

8. The Sun and Her Flowers – Rupi Kaur

9. All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

10. The Queen Of Bloody Everything – Joanna Nadin

11. Some Kind Of Wonderful – Giovanna Fletcher

12. What Belongs To You – Gareth Greenwell

13. The Secret Life Of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd

14. Still Me – JoJo Moyes

15. Papillon – Henri Charriere

16. The Man I Think I Know – Mike Gayle

17. The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr

18. How To Be Happy – Eva Woods

 

I hope this gives you lots of inspiration for your tbr piles (or spurs you on to finish the book that’s been sat on your bedside table for the past month.)

love sophie

the cat’s out the bag

I got a job. A big-girl, I-have-a-key-card, I-bought-new-tights kind of job.

The only down side being that to enter the office building I have to walk through a revolving door which I’ve so far failed doing at least six times. It wouldn’t sound bad if I’d been working there longer than eight days.

The job’s in Sheffield so I’m now living with Meg (just imagine lots of late night films, constant cups of tea, and Camembert and prosecco on tap). I’m absolutely loving it so far, but it’s been quite an adjustment. Within a couple of weeks I’d finished my MA, got a job, and moved house/city. Wonderfully mad and terrifying at the same time.

I’m currently in the process of compiling an 0114 bucket list of things to do whilst I’m living here, so any ideas are most welcome (hidden gems are always good). Having The Peak District on the doorstep is amazing, and I’m going to do my best to make the most of it (and my weekends) and explore as much as possible, both on bike and by foot.

It’s all very odd, and I’m still settling into it all, but it’s all very fun and new and the idea of having a proper-job pay cheque every month is all levels of exciting (I’m trying my best to keep it all saved up and unspent but we’ll see how well that goes…)

The best thing so far, however (other than Meg-sized cocktails) is the other two roomies I’ve gained: Simon and Dylan (Simon modelling in my cover photo above.)

Now, I’m not a cat person, and have never really ever been a cat person, but these two are the least catty cats in the world. They will happily come and sit on you (or on any surface warm and comfy) and Simon is partial to the left side of my bed, even though he knows that’s my favourite spot. They’re greedy things though, so you’re often welcomed home after work to the sound of them meowing.

I’m headed back home home for Christmas, which will be lovely, but I have a feeling I’ll miss the constant cat company (and Meg, obviously). I’m sure they’ll be meowing for food when I return, though!

I hope you all have lovely Christmases, wherever you’re spending it (with/without greedy fur friends.)

love sophie

feel it on the first

‘It’s nearly Christmaaaaaaas’ I hear you all singing from the top of your lungs as soon as it turns midnight and becomes December 1st.

It’s not. Or at least it really doesn’t feel like it to me. I’m now a part of the working world, and 9-5pm office hours with the addition of a tram journey commute really don’t make you feel that festive (even with the addition of a cheesy Secret Santa and plans for a lunchtime buffet.)

What I did feel today, however, were my boobs.

Yep, you heard me right. I said boobs.

I switched off my alarm, pulled off the duvet (albeit reluctantly) and got ready for my shower. After standing under the water and letting it wake me up, and rinsing the shampoo out of my hair, I checked my boobs for any changes.

Those of you that know me personally will have heard me shouting about the wonderful breast cancer charity, CoppaFeel! and know I support the message they’re spreading to young people, which is literally saving lives.

That’s why I regularly check my boobs (with the help of handy text message reminders which you can sign up for here!) and their campaign ‘feel it on the first’ is so important.

I’m only 22, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be affected.

Although breast cancer is rare in younger people, it can still happen as both men and women have breast tissue. Breast cancer is still the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women under 40, with 1 in 8 women in the UK being affected by breast cancer in their lifetime. (Stats from Breast Cancer Care)

 

In the UK…

  • 1 in 8 women will be affected by breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • Around 400 men are diagnosed every year.
  • Breast cancer is still the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women under 40.
  • Every year in the UK, around 5,000 women under the age of 45 are diagnosed with breast cancer. (Stats from Breast Cancer Care)

CoppaFeel!’s website has lots of handy hints and tips of what to look for, and how to get involved if you’d like to help spread their message. There mission below is just a snippet of what they do in order to make survival rates higher, and spread the word that knowing your normal could save your life.

Our Mission

To ensure all breast cancers are diagnosed early and correctly by…

  • Encouraging you to check your boobs regularly from a young age.
  • Educating you on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.
  • Empowering you to seek advice from a doctor if symptoms persist.

If you’re too cosy in bed to get up for work, instead of snoozing for five minutes why not get to know your normal? Or sign up for monthly reminders that come straight through to your phone? Tell your friends, tell your family, tell your cat. But most importantly, feel it on the first!

love sophie

soundtrack series: november

It’s been a busy bee kind of month (isn’t every month!?) and I’ve found myself rarely listening to music just for the fun of it. I’ve moved (yep, that’s right. You can read all about it here) and changed jobs and now my usual routine has vanished.

I am no longer singing (and dancing) along to eighties classics from a speaker in an empty bookshop, but rather I’m sat on a tram with headphones in, trying to drown out the tram speakers and the beeping doors constantly opening and closing to let on more commuters.

I’m excited to have a fun few weekends coming up where I’m out adventuring with good friends, good food, and hopefully some good music which will make an appearance in my December soundtrack series.

As for November, here goes:

1.Norah Jones – A Long Way Home

An absolute classic. The Long Way Home has been on my marmalade skies playlist since it was created, and I never bore of listening to it. I love her voice, and her songs are great to listen to at any time of day. I also enjoy listening to the Norah Jones Radio on Spotify. If you have it I’d 10/10 recommend!

2. Bruce Springsteen – Dancing In The Dark

The Boss is back, but this time in true original glory. This one has made its way onto my soundtrack series before, but as a cover. This month the original has been blasted from my speakers more times than I can count. I blooming love Bruce.

3. Tears For Fears – Everybody Wants To Rule The World

It’s all eighties at the moment, especially living with Meg! This is just one example of the tunes blasted out the kitchen radio when Heart 80s is on. We do like to have a boogie when we’re washing up, so what’s better to dance to than the 80s?

4. Sara Bareilles – She Used To Be Mine

I love Sara, but only came across this song when I listened to the Norah Jones radio. I absolutely loved it and added it to my playlist straight away. It’s now a regular running through my ears on my commute, and I love it. It’s good for getting me geared up for work, but doesn’t make me want to dance in public (apparently it’s not appropriate on an 8am tram.)

5. James Blunt – 1973

Last but no means least comes from this beauty. And what a tune. I absolutely love James Blunt and was devastated when I didn’t get tickets to see him when he showed up in Leeds for the night. I started singing the first line to Simon, the cat, when I moved to Sheffield and the song has since stuck.

Let me know what you’ve been listening to!