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

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

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

lactose free loves: pea and bean dip

I’ve been trying out some new recipes with all the free time I seem to have on my hands at the minute, and this one is one I’m really enjoying. It’s quick and easy to make, super healthy, and tastes really good! It is also suitable for freezing so I made a big batch and put little pots of it in the freezer ready for lunch at work, or when I’m fancying some!

Let me know what you think!

Ingredients –

1 handful of podded garden peas

1 handful of edamame beans (could also use broad beans)

1 small handful of basil leaves

1 small handful of mint leaves

1 large handful of Parmesan (to serve)

2 glugs of extra virgin olive oil

one lemon

salt and pepper

 

Method:

1. In a pestle and mortar (or a food processor if you have one) smash up a few mint and basil leaves with your peas and beans until they look like mushy peas. It’s better to start with a couple of each leaves and then add to your own taste.

2. If you aren’t freezing the dip, add some of the Parmesan to the mix. If you are going to be freezing some of the dip, keep the Parmesan for after.

3. Loosen the mixture with a couple of glugs of oil, and balance out the flavours with the lemon juice, salt and pepper.

4. Taste the dip and see if you need any more basil/mint.

5. Sprinkle a few bits of Parmesan on top of the dip to your own taste. You can either spread it on crostini/sourdough or use as a dip with crudites/pitta/breadsticks.

 

 

Super quick, super easy, super tasty!

Let me know what you think!

love sophie

channeling my inner dolly parton

Welcome to the real world, Sophie.

After several applications, lots of CV editing, and interviews, I landed my first job – post MA – at the gorgeous The Little Bookshop in Chapel Allerton last week. It’s the only children’s bookshop in Leeds, and it’s right up my street.

As well as teaching me how to use a coffee machine, it’s keeping me on my toes about my knowledge of children’s books, as well as what’s current and up and coming in young fiction.

What I love most, apart from being surrounded by books all day, is seeing books I’ve never come across before. There really are some scrummy books out there for children, illustrated so beautifully. The big, hardback non fiction books are my favourite at the moment. They make learning about space, history, and the world so fun, and fancy.

I’m still getting used to how things work, and what sells, but I am thoroughly enjoying being back near books. If it’s quiet, I enjoy putting them back in alphabetical order and organising the shelves, getting a closer look at the covers and reading lots of blurbs. It’ll be chaos again after little fingers get intrigued, but I don’t mind. (I’ve got a to be read pile longer than my arm and I’ve only been in a couple of days!)

As much as I probably should feel like an adult now, I’m still enjoying letting my imagination run wild when kids, and parents, come in and ask me for recommendations or ideas.

As for the gorgeous autumnal smells coming out of the kitchen, it’s a heavenly torture. With the new menu, and increasing popularity, it’s lovely to see so many people trying it (even if it does make my jealous tummy rumble as I bring it out of the kitchen!)

I’m looking forward to a bookshop Christmas, and dressing the shop ready for it. There’s something so magical about bookshops, and the festive season, so I’m excited for what it will bring, and the books I’ll discover.

love sophie

 

reader, i finished it.

Reader, I finished it.

The pen has been dropped, the printer is out of ink, and I don’t think my hands would let me type another word if I tried.

I’m back in Bath after handing it all in, and it feels surreal.

I stayed with Nina, a friend I met at uni, and we celebrated by dancing to ABBA, drinking prosecco, and making vegan cookies. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I drove to Corsham Court to hand it into the uni drop box, making sure it was presented in pristine condition and that I’d filled out the correct course and the right details (knowing my luck I’d have put the wrong module number, or student reference).

I’d been in touch with some of my classmates and we all ended up meeting for a picnic before the ceremonial photo in front of the building and dropping our manuscripts off before heading to the pub! I don’t think I felt like I was sending my baby out into the real world.

It wasn’t perfect, and in places it was very rough, but it was a first draft novel. And what’s important, is I had finished it.

I’m heading back home to bask in my success before the job hunt and adult life seriously begins. That’s the bit I’m dreading most.

But I’m one chuffed writer. After the last few months of struggling to write paragraphs, I’m so pleased I managed to complete my manuscript and hand it in with my peers.

Now to celebrate properly back home in Leeds!

(And no, you can’t read it yet. I’ll let you know when it’s ready for eager eyes, don’t worry.)

love sophie

the power of grief: writing and living through it

Sometimes, there really are no words.

Sadly, my Grandma passed away last month so the pens have been dropped, my plans have been cancelled, and I headed home from Belgium to be with my family.

What I didn’t even think about at the time was the effect it would have on my writing ability. With little under two months to go until I have to be ready to hand in my manuscript, I wasn’t prepared for a complete lull in my writing.

But, the show must go on.

Change is something we all have to adapt to, and this was something I knew had potential to happen as she had been ill for a long time, but still wasn’t fully expecting. And finding my way back to my creative mindset was really tricky.

Initially, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t write, I didn’t make plans, I didn’t leave the house that much. I wasn’t depressed, and it wasn’t an active choice, I think I was just confused and my way of dealing with it was to shut away from the world for a while whilst I tried to process the massive change. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

A few weeks passed and my lack of writing started to niggle at the back of my mind. I started to meet up with friends who were around, tried to keep myself occupied and busy with other projects, and ultimately hoped that after a creative break the juices would start flowing again. They didn’t.

One of the most frustrating things as a writer is being unable to write. Whether you’re at your writing desk, sat on a bus, or scribbling on a napkin in a cafe, it can be blooming difficult. The glossy life of a writer, the one people imagine (lots of tea and cake in coffee shops, and lots of long chapters written in short hours) is totally false – unless you’re a writing god. So, when you can’t write, it’s often hard for people to understand why.

With my deadline looming, and my manuscript tutor worrying about my word counts, I had no choice but to get back to the basics, pen and paper, and write.

Firstly, I wrote about mundane things, like what the tree looked like from my bedroom window, or what I had done the previous day. Then, as this opened my head back up to writing, I began thinking of how my characters would act in the same situation. Would they sit on their grief? Would they showcase it in anger? Would they cry? Writing with pen and paper was more fluid and I enjoyed just being able to keep the pen moving, even if what I was writing wouldn’t be going anywhere because it was pants.

These things helped me work the niggle out, and got me back on track. It wasn’t easy – I’d often manage a whole paragraph over two or three hours – but I knew that it was working, so tried to stick at it. Some days, it was soul destroying, and I just wanted to give up. I’d try writing at home, writing out of the house in cafes, writing outside in the garden. Nothing seemed to make a difference.

Having just moved back home from uni for the first time in four years, this also saw a huge change in my lifestyle. Living at home is something I am finding really hard now that I’m here for good. Or until I find a job which means I can afford another option. As my mum works from home, I find trying to do work nigh on impossible without being interrupted by noises, or without having to plan my day so it fitted with her routines.

After a few weeks of feeling defeated, I took some time away in my Grandma’s house, which was standing empty. She didn’t have internet, there was barely any signal, and it’s not near a busy town centre or somewhere I could get distracted.

I didn’t know how I was going to find it, so originally just went for a couple of nights, but the first time I was there I managed 7000 words, the most I’d written in weeks.

I stayed a few more times, longer length, to try and bash out as much as I could. With my manuscript meetings every Friday, I got into the routine of staying for four days and then coming home to use the internet and Skype.

Being away from the world for that amount of time, and being left to just write at my own free will was priceless. It gave me back my confidence in my novel, and on my writing breaks I’d often flick through the photo albums left out in the living room from when my grandma was younger. It motivated me and cheered me on, and I really appreciated the time I spent there.

Having my independence back, to a certain extent, also did wonders. Running off my own schedule, without being questioned over my plans for the day or where I’d be for dinner, really helped me crack down on the word count.

I ended up changing the plot of my novel towards this period too, as I didn’t want to include my grief in it at the time, as it was something I was still dealing with. I took out a huge part of the story, something I’m looking at editing back in at a later stage, when I feel more comfortable.

I didn’t initially realise how much grief would effect my novel, but then again I never thought it would.

I’d definitely recommend taking some time away from your writing, unless you have the urge to write about what you’re experiencing, as I know that can sometimes help.

For me, having my own space, without the distractions of social media, was a saving grace.

It makes me sad that my grandma will never get to read my novel, or any books I write in the future, but I’m sure she’ll be pleased I stayed in her house and it helped.

love sophie

 

back on two wheels

I’ve taken the plunge and I’m back on two wheels (or will be when my hardtail has been fixed up to mountain-worthy standards) and I’m so excited about it!

With my shoulder pretty much fully recovered, and the final stages of physio approaching, I’m taking the plunge and getting back into more endurance based exercise to see how I get on now I’ve had the all clear. (You may read next months blog and find out I gave up after realising it was the worst mistake I’ve ever made – here’s hoping it isn’t!). Since I’ve stopped playing rugby, I’ve noticed a complete lack of fitness and strength and I find things I used to be super good at, really blooming difficult and it’s so frustrating!

I’m going to start off with cross country, getting my stamina and skills back before starting anything too daring. I’m excited about the new bike park in Leeds, and will definitely be heading that way once I’m back at it so keep your eyes peeled for my experiences there.

In general, I’m a fan of Otley Chevin Country Park, Eccup Reservoir and the links around it to Harewood, Meanwood Urban Trail, as well as places further afield like Ladybower, Hamsterley and Whinlatter. The plan is to get back on Strava and properly try and commit to a ride a week, if not more, but I’ll see how I go!

What’s your favourite hobby? Let me know if you ride and know anywhere worth checking out!

love sophie

it’s good to be home

It’s only been two weeks since heading back to Bath after Christmas, but being in what felt like solitary confinement for that long was turning me insane (slight exaggeration, it wasn’t that bad.) I’ve been trying to utilise the free time to myself and finish off my work, but the temptation to binge watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S. on Netflix is just too big. And as much as I’ve tried to finish deadlines, and write more of my novel, I always find it’s on in the background (even when I do manage to make some headway!)

It was lucky that I was actually heading up to Leeds for some appointments, and I absolutely loved going home. (I didn’t get much done but how can you when those ‘you’re home’ treats are on the menu?)

I was back for hospital appointments on the Friday so Mum picked me up on the Thursday (legend) and we roadtripped back up following the scenic route. Anyone who knows me will know I absolutely hate motorways and would rather get there three hours later going the ‘pretty way around’ and avoiding all the traffic.

I had a busy weekend actually, from walking around the grounds at Harewood on Saturday morning (if you live in Leeds and haven’t been, go! The Harewood Arms do great pub grub for a post walk treat too, with Ve/GF/V options available which I was surprised by, and you can feed the penguins – what’s more to love!), to having giggles with the twins who came on Monday (babies are the best antidepressant in the world! Fact!)

In between hospital visits, long walks, and babies, there was lots of chocolate munching (thanks Em!) and binge watching property programmes on the TV (Mum and I love a good restoration.) I always enjoy going home because I write it off as a bit of a jolly. Even if I plan to do loads of things (which, let’s face it, I don’t) I always end up just sitting back with a cuppa, being harassed with constant offers of cake and asked if I want to do this or that (and isn’t that just the best.) I also love being home for the kitchen cupboards. There’s nothing more satisfying than looking in the cupboards and seeing everything you could ever dream of making or eating. I definitely don’t have that luxury at uni.

I’m also probably not the only one who absolutely loves the first couple of days of being home, and then just wants to leave. I always miss the independence of being away from home (especially if I’m having to share the attention with siblings who just so happen to be home for the same weekend… typical!)

I’m really weird in that I also enjoy just driving around. If Mum’s going to the shops, I’ll go just for the ride. I find being in the car really enjoyable, although I often get travel sick on long drives, and I always imagine I’m in a soppy film when it’s raining and a sad song comes on the radio.

I’m looking forward to going back to the tub, but it’s been nice to have some time back at home with my family, who have returned from down under. Getting home cooked grub and mugs of tea on demand is never a bad thing!

What do you like most about being home?

love sophie