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

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

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!

oh what a wonderful: trek

I find it unbelievably difficult to describe or talk about the adventures I’ve been fortunate enough to go on. There just aren’t enough adjectives, or the right words, to express exactly how incredibly challenging and life changing they have been.

When I come home and someone asks me how I got on, I am never able to truly do it justice no matter how hard I try. How can you really describe hanging onto the edge of the mountain you’ve been traversing across for eight hours, or walking along a tiny ridge in the pitch black with a thirty foot drop right next to you? Nothing seems to ever come close enough.

A year ago today, along with sixty other people, I headed to Heathrow: destination Oman. I was part of a group trekking across the Musandam Peninsula to raise money for breast cancer charity, CoppaFeel! We crossed wadis, scrambled up mountains channelling our inner mountain goats, and sweated our weight in water in the forty plus degree heat, all in the name of boobs. We were championed by the boob queens themselves, Ellie and Maren, as well as Gi and Mario who were our team captains, rallying the troops with constant enthusiasm and support.

It was one of the most inspiring and encouraging things I have ever done. And as soon as I got home I wanted to do it all over again (I’m sure a lot of the other trekkers would say the same thing.) But even to this day, I can’t do it justice when I try and explain the challenges we faced.

It was mentally testing trying to keep positive day in day out, and physically exhausting spending so much time on the mountains in the midday heat, with only the occasional acacia tree or tarpaulin for shade.

The friendships I made, and the stories we all shared on those mountains, will stay with me for life.

But, more importantly, the fact we managed to raise a quarter of a million pounds for CoppaFeel! makes me so immensely proud. We got the message out there that men and women everywhere should be checking their pecks, and knowing their bodies. We each played our own part in sharing CoppaFeel’s story, and helped them spread their life saving message.

The money we raised means that CoppaFeel! can continue to educate young people on the importance of knowing their normal, and what to do if they notice something out of the ordinary. Whether it be going to schools, work places, or just local community groups, they work hard to promote self checking and awareness of our bodies. The difference it can make is priceless.

“When we saw the team CoppaFeel! and Charity Challenge banners, we all linked arms in two rows, led by Gi, and walked up to the final peak of the mountain. Doing it together as a team felt amazing after the challenges some of the group had encountered earlier in the week. Once we reached the top we could hear The Foo Fighters blasting out of Dave’s 4×4. What a moment. What an achievement. We all chanted be more goat before a much needed and deserved group hug.”

For more information on CoppaFeel! and the work they do, have a look at their website! And, for anyone thinking of taking on a challenge like this: do it. I promise you it will be something you remember forever.

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

soundtrack series: october

Along with the blog’s first birthday, and my new job, it’s been a busy one this month! I did however make it out of the house for some treat trips which was nice, including seeing A Star Is Born at Cottage Road which was AMAZING! I’d definitely recommend going to see it if you haven’t – it’s definitely had an influence on the soundtrack series this month.

In no particular order, here are my top five of October…

1. A Star Is Born Soundtrack

Okay, I know there is a lot more than one song on the soundtrack, but I just loved it. A firm favourite is Shallow, sung by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, as well as Music To My Eyes, and Maybe It’s Time. Gorgeous songs, gorgeous film!

2. Freya Ridings – Lost Without You

The lyrics in this song are absolutely divine (if you listen closely.) The soft piano backdrop is all her voice needs because it is stunning. It’s slow, one for a cold night reading, or snuggled up in blankets. Be warned, tears may be shed.

3. Trampled By Turtles – Wildflowers

I love this song. It’s got a bit of Noah And The Whale about it, and it’s a quiet but upbeat one I can imagine on in the background of a film where sandcastles are being built on the beach. It’s good in the car, and when you’re cooking (IMO.)

4. Nirvana – Come As You Are

I watched Definitely, Maybe on Netflix earlier this month, and ever since I’ve had this song practically stuck in my head on repeat. It’s a good one, and also features on my driving playlist.

5. Green Day – Jesus Of Suburbia/Whatsername

I’ve been spending a lot of time in and out of other people’s cars this month, particularly going on longish journeys with my brother, and I’ve found the only CD he seems to own is Green Day. I like them, and do listen to them, but now I feel like I know all the lyrics from their American Idiot album, and am all maxed out. It’s loud, and some of the songs make you want to drive a little faster, but they’re good, and I’m rather prone to a singalong.

 

What have you been listening to this month? Let me know!

love sophie

the blog turns one

It’s our birthday *does happy dance* and officially one year since write me wild began… where did that year go?!

It’s been a weird one, full of finishing off third year, starting a Masters, and handing in manuscripts, along with some other bits of busyness in between, but I’ve enjoyed sharing my blog with you all and hope to have more time to blog this year.

I’ve continued my monthly soundtrack series, my lactose free loves recipes, and my book club, all of which will be staying, and I also have some more super exciting things coming that you can look out for…

More recently I’ve even added a tab for my artwork, for those of you who don’t have Instagram, and tried to keep on top of my ‘a letter from’ series, which relies on me actually leaving the writing desk!

I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading my posts, and although I haven’t updated Instagram as much as I’ve blogged, I hope you’ve still had a mooch when you got chance.

If there’s anything you’ve particularly enjoyed, or something you think I could do more of, let me know! I want the blog to be a space of interest, and something you want to read.

Thank you for sticking with me.

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