Fandom Friday | Welcome Home: Fandom That Sticks

Lately I’ve revisited a few of my favourite TV shows, and it got me thinking about why we re-read/listen/watch certain things. There are a staggering number of fantastic novels, TV series, films, albums etc. in the world, many quite similar, and yet we go back to the same worlds. They’re comfortable, nostalgic even. We know the stories, the characters, the lines; we have control. We know what they’re capable of and while they’re more than likely to leaving us as sobbing messes on the floor (thanks, Rowling) we know it’s coming – and we love them anyway. Of course, even without sentimentality the things that stay with us do so because, well, we like them.

Here are some examples of the things I always go back to, and some of my reasons:

Harry Potter

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I think this one goes without saying, really. Harry has been an integral part of my life since I was 6 years old.  So much of who I am comes from Harry Potter; I wouldn’t be a writer, therefore wouldn’t have done the degree I did, met the people I did etc, etc. Not to mention that so much of my understanding of the world came from the Wizarding World – growing up with such strong messages about almost everything has led to some pretty strong opinions. If you don’t like my hippy-dippy leftist views, blame Potter. As JK Rowling herself said, ‘Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home’- and it has become a home for me. No matter how bad things feel, HP has always been there; and I know he always will.

RENT

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RENT is a wonderful musical. I haven’t been lucky enough to see it on stage, but I watch the film version over and over again. I first watched it when I was 12, and 9 years on I still find new things to love every time I watch it. The messages are powerful, the characters are incredibly written and perfectly flawed, and the music is everything.

Hustle

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Hustle is a TV series by the BBC. The show finished a few years ago, after 8 seasons.  It’s a show that I watched when it very first came out – my dad and I watched every season together, and now watching reruns is a regular occurrence. I suppose I like it because of the nostalgia, and also simply because it’s a great TV show. I probably know every episode inside out, and yet it still stuns me. The programme is so clever and original – I still don’t think I’ve seen anything like it, not really.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More, With Feeling

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Do I even need to explain this?! This Buffy episode has all the best bits of the show in general, and it’s a musical!

The Blessed Unrest

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Now, I have a lot of songs that I listen to again and again, sure, but this is perhaps the only album I go back to in its entirety. I love this album for the messages; I can relate to every single song, depending on my mood and circumstances. As Sara herself says, (although Gravity isn’t actually on this album) ‘something always brings me back to you. It never takes too long’.

What are the things you always go back to? What are your reasons?

See you soon,

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Review Wednesday | Book Review – The Hidden People (ARC Review)

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Pretty Lizzie Higgs is gone, burned to death on her own hearth – but was she really a changeling, as her husband insists? Albie Mirralls met his cousin only once, in 1851, within the grand glass arches of the Crystal Palace, but unable to countenance the rumours that surround her murder, he leaves his young wife in London and travels to Halfoak, a village steeped in superstition.

Albie begins to look into Lizzie’s death, but in this place where the old tales hold sway and the ‘Hidden People’ supposedly roam, answers are slippery and further tragedy is just a step away . . .

 I received this book free via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The blurb sounded interesting, and didn’t quite occur to me until after I was approved to read it that it was classed by Amazon as a horror. I am not good at scary books, so I did approach it tentatively after that. I feel like my own nervousness made getting into the book difficult; however I was soon hooked despite my cowardice!

Despite my own inability to focus, this novel was very good and definitely had an interesting premise. I feel like it was very realistic as a piece set in Victorian Britain; the language was largely convincing, although I wasn’t as sold by the Yorkshire accents. The story had the feel of a Victorian novel; I often found that I’d have to remind myself that it is a contemporary piece – I’m someone who’s read an awful lot of Victorian fiction, so I’d say that’s effective writing!

I personally wouldn’t have classified this as horror. While there was a lot of suspense, and there was certainly some horrific imagery, I was never really scared by it. As a massive wimp, I’m honestly quite glad of this! It works very well as a historical suspense or even a crime novel.  While the story was mostly uneventful, with the main events occurring before the main story begins and towards the end, it was very enjoyable and certainly worth reading for the sheer amount of detail and work put into it – it is obvious from the start that Littlewood’s story is the result of huge amounts of research, and is clearly a labour of love. I love a novel that clearly has a huge amount of background work behind it, especially when it is executed as well as this.

Overall, I found that The Hidden People was an engaging and detailed read, with plenty of twists and suspense. It made for a great read, and although I imagine for many the ending could be unfulfilling, I found it satisfying and very Victorian. The story cuts through the pastoral Victorian country life, showing an incredibly dark side to the simple, peaceful existence of the people of Halfoak and by extension many rural areas in the 19th century. The version I was sent, which will presumably be the same as the eBook edition when it’s published, includes author’s notes at the end describing the very real cases and folklore the story came from – most notably the case of Bridget Cleary. As I’ve mentioned before, Alison Littlewood uses this history and information very well, and I would definitely recommend this book.

The Hidden People is set to be published on the 6th of October. Pre-order here (UK).

See you soon,

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PCOS Awareness Month: Where My Cysters At?!

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This isn’t actually the post I’d planned on posting today, but a friend (see her blog here!) brought my attention to the fact that September is PCOS Awareness Month. This post has been in the works for a while, but what better time to post it than a month dedicated to the topic?

What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a reproductive illness affecting up to 1 in 10 biological females. While ovarian cysts are common and can often be removed, PCOS is diagnosed if there are over 12 cysts on each ovary at any given time (or, this is how it was explained to me during my diagnosis). PCOS is often characterised by an increased amount of male hormones, and can also lead to insulin resistance. PCOS symptoms include acne, excess body and facial hair, weight gain/difficulty losing weight and, possibly most importantly, irregular or heavy periods. PCOS can cause fertility problems and depression, and people with the condition are at higher risk of diabetes and heart disease.

My Experience with PCOS

I was diagnosed with PCOS aged 17, almost 5 years ago. When I was diagnosed, my testosterone levels were in the normal range for an adult male – hardly what you want in an already moody teenage girl! Although I’d started my periods 5 years before, I had never experienced a ‘normal’ period – I had been to the GP several times over the years before my diagnosis, however in younger teenagers irregular periods are common and often level out after puberty. I was put on a 3 month course of contraceptives to encourage my hormone levels to fix themselves when I was about 14, but this turned out to be a short term fix. I was going for long periods of time without bleeding, then getting months when it just didn’t stop.

I remember once during my longest period (several months long!) a girl at school was sent home after starting hers for the first time and being unable to manage the pain. In the mean time, I’d been bleeding non-stop for weeks, passing clots the size of satsumas & still had to grin and bear it!

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When I was finally diagnosed I was put on Dianette, another contraceptive that they only prescribe in the UK for severe acne and hormone imbalance. I found out a while after that Dianette is actually banned in several European countries, such as France and Turkey (both places I was intending to go to!) because it is a much more dangerous pill than most other kinds. There is a risk of blood clots with all oral contraceptives, but this risk is much larger with Dianette. The risk is also increased if you are a PCOS sufferer – as contraceptives are the most common treatment, we really can’t win!

Personally, I haven’t ever had any problems with contraceptives. I experienced some cramps in my legs and was switched to one of the most common pills (the brands I’ve had are Rigevidon and Microgynon but many other brands use the same dosage) almost two years ago. This controls my acne and periods, and for now I’m perfectly happy taking them although I do want children, and will have to discuss different methods of treatment when I do decide to try and conceive.

My Symptoms

As I’ve mentioned, I have terrible skin – although having been on the pill for so long this is largely manageable. My skin is still temperamental, and often facial washes etc that have worked really well before suddenly don’t, but I don’t get anywhere near as much acne as I used to. I also struggle with excess body and facial hair. I’m quite relieved that at the moment I have a one piece swimming costume and no one to impress because I don’t have to shave my stomach! During the summer I often have to shave my legs and underarms daily, and have also shaved my arms before. Let’s not even discuss the bikini line!

As I mentioned before, periods have definitely been a huge struggle. I still get a lot of pain, clotting and heavy bleeding, but the pills have regulated them very well. I get period pain & back ache even when I’m not “on”, but I know that I won’t get my period until the 3 pill weeks are up.

Why I Feel Lucky

While my experience with PCOS hasn’t been easy, I do feel lucky to have been diagnosed when I was and treated quickly. It did take a while to get diagnosed, but this was due to age and I can understand why PCOS wasn’t considered when I started going through puberty; the disease is most commonly diagnosed in the late teens/early 20s.

I feel lucky that my symptoms aren’t as extreme as many peoples’. A lot of the time PCOS is only in the media if a woman has excess facial hair as a result, and chooses not to shave. I don’t have a beard, and don’t need to shave my face. This post describes a horrendous experience, which makes my experience with PCOS seem quite minor, really. I don’t know what my fertility is like and it does worry me. I want children more than anything, and the idea that it could never happen is really scary, but for now I’m on top of the PCOS, I’m happy with my treatment, and babies aren’t something I want to worry about yet!

Why Do We Need PCOS Awareness?

While the symptoms can be controlled, there is no cure for PCOS. It is an illness that can not only be serious in itself but can put sufferers at higher risk of other, more serious conditions. With as many as 10% of adult females affected it just makes sense that there should be more awareness of the condition. While this is a largely invisible illness, it does affect lives in ways that many people aren’t aware of.

See you soon,

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Fandom Friday | How Should We Read?

I feel like this post is an inevitable one for all book bloggers. The physical book vs eReader vs audiobook debate is one that’s been long raging and surprisingly devisive amongst many readers. I know people who refuse to use eReaders, I know people who have abandoned physical books. All mediums have their benefits, and all mediums have their issues. Is there really a ‘best’ way to read?

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Physical Books

I don’t think there’s a single reader out there who doesn’t want to bottle the scent of real physical books. Old books, new books, they all have this incredible smell that can’t be beaten. Paper books feel good to read – it feels like you own the book in a way that you can’t get with a Kindle, and I find it much easier to tell my progress; percentages mean nothing to me when I can easily see how much of the book I’ve read and how far I’ve got to go with a physical copy. This was never much of an issue when I solely read for pleasure, but it was definitely important during my degree and now that I have Review Wednesdays to think about!

I love physical books and there is definitely something about flicking through the softened pages of a well loved favourite that other formats simply can’t simulate.  Despite this, they take up a lot of space and often cost considerably more than electronic books and audiobooks.

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eReaders/Reading on Electronic Devices

If you’ve seen my Instagram lately you’ll have seen that while I’ve posted a lot of photos of physical books, I’ve also posted a photo of my Kindle Paperwhite. I have been using my Kindle a lot lately, having bought 4 books and received two via NetGalley on there. Electronic reading means that publishers can use websites such as NetGalley to easily send ARCs to reviewers such as myself. For the reader, it means that you can carry a huge amount of books around on a device much smaller and lighter than even one novel. It also means that you don’t even have to get up to start reading something else once finishing a book, and can instantly download the next one in a series.  While it’s an art that I think most readers have mastered, stuffing a 600 page novel into an already full bag is definitely not an easy feat! Reading on a phone makes books even more portable, eliminating the need to pack anything extra – however I find that this strains my eyes, so I don’t tend to do it. eReaders also provide more accessibility for many people; those with visual impairments can make the text as large as they need, making many books that wouldn’t be physically printed in large text much more accessible.

Another point worth mentioning for electronic reading is that there’s much more access to independent authors via eBooks – a lot of people self publish eBooks, and publishers often start publishing independent authors on eBook before physical copies. If you want to read more independent titles I would say that the Kindle Store has a much larger, more varied selection of independent writers than most physical book shops.

Audiobooks

Audio books have never really been something I’ve gotten into. My family like them, including my brother and dad, who don’t enjoy reading. Personally I’d rather read, as I find that I can’t fully put all my attention into audio books. I also find that the person reading them definitely affects my ability to engage with the story. I listened to the original dramatised radio show of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and while I loved that and still listen to Welcome To Night Vale, a serialised story told through podcasts, overall I prefer to read stories rather than listen to them. Despite not being my read or just want something other than music to listen to while travelling or nodding off to sleep, I’d definitely say that audio books could be for you. Audio books also make books much more accessible to those with visual impairments.

So there’s my view on it. I don’t really see the need to be so purist about one medium over another – they all have good and bad points, and I feel like judging someone’s personal preferences breeds an attitude that just puts people off reading. We should aim to encourage literacy and reading, not judge people if they’d rather read on their phone than get a physical book! I don’t believe that physical books are threatened by the electronic publishing industry, and I don’t believe that eReaders can ever fully replace the feel of a physical book. For me the most important thing in reading is that the story is good; whatever format it’s in.

What’s your favourite method of reading? Have I forgotten anything?

See you soon,

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Review Wednesday | Book Review – The Red Tent

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Her name is Dinah. In the Bible her fate is merely hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the verses of the Book of Genesis that recount the life of Jacob and his infamous dozen sons. The Red Tent is an extraordinary and engrossing tale of ancient womanhood and family honour. Told in Dinah’s voice, it opens with the story of her mothers – the four wives of Jacob – each of whom embodies unique feminine traits, and concludes with Dinah’s own startling and unforgettable story of betrayal, grief and love. Deeply affecting and intimate, The Red Tent combines outstandingly rich storytelling with an original insight into women’s society in a fascinating period of early history and such is its warmth and candour, it is guaranteed to win the hearts and minds of women across the world.

The Red Tent is a new perspective on an old tale. The story of Jacob/Yaqub is recognised and widely spread in all 3 main monotheistic religions, as are the stories of his father, Isaac and son Joseph (think technicolour dream coat, not Mary). The Red Tent tells the much lesser known story of Dinah, Jacob’s only named daughter.

I’ll say it straight up; if you’re squeamish about sex, menstruation and childbirth, this is not the book for you. The title alludes to the tent in which the women of Dinah’s childhood and early adulthood waited out their periods and gave birth. The story often centres on these topics – Dinah is never hidden from these issues as a child, and trains as a midwife as an adult. For women in this period, time spent in the red tent allowed for bonding and sisterhood in a way that normal working life did not; all of the women’s cycles in the camp were synced (also with the cycle of the moon – yes this is possible), meaning they all spent 3 days together every month. There is a large sense of sisterhood in the book, however it isn’t unrealistic or romanticised – the women disagree and fight on several occasions. Rebecca, Jacob’s mother, ruthlessly casts out Dinah’s cousin because her mother and the women of her camp did not follow the same tradition of the red tent.

Although most of the book is set after Dinah goes to Shechem (it’s not spoilers if the origin texts are thousands of years old!) and therefore features little of the physical red tent after this point, the bonds between women, particularly surrounding childbirth, remain strong. The novel shows woman power at its most real – the good, the bad and the bloody!

For me personally, the book felt almost nostalgic. I was born and raised Catholic, and although I’m not much of a believer now these are figures that I grew up hearing about. I don’t believe that you have to be religious or familiar with the religious teachings of the story to enjoy this book, but for me it added a layer of familiarity that certainly didn’t go amiss. Anita Diamant offers a brilliant new perspective on traditional tales and provides a more well-rounded and sympathetic view of the time period and Dinah’s story. It is incredibly well researched and I would say it would be an intriguing read for anyone.

Have you read this? What did you think? Are you religious?

See you soon,

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Me Monday | A (New) Graduate’s Guide To University – For All Years!

DON’T PANIC. Yes, this is a big step up, but so was everything that came before it. GCSEs were a big step up from lower school, A Levels were a big step up from GCSEs. If you’re going in to 2nd or 3rd year then 1st and 2nd year were big steps up too. You’ve got this.

Look After Yourself. Your wellbeing is so important, and getting ill is horrible at university – especially near a deadline or an event you were looking forward to. I would recommend keeping a few things stocked up:

Cold & Flu sachets (Yes Fresher’s Flu is real, yes you will get it, no matter how hard you try not to)

Painkillers

Tissues

A multivitamin (Raid Holland & Barrett/Boots – these can be expensive but they’re worth it, especially if you’re not eating very healthily; you need as good an immune system as you can get)

Plasters

Female hygiene products and anything else that helps you through your period (if applicable)

Baby Wipes

Antibacterial hand gel (no one likes sticky tables in bars)

Rescue Remedy (if you get stressed/anxious and aren’t medicated this may help, even if it’s just a placebo effect)

Lip Balm (trust me on this, Vaseline is a life saver on sore noses as well as chapped lips!)

Any Personal Prescriptions – even if it’s an inhaler you don’t use regularly or a skin cream you only need during flare-ups, it’s worth making sure you have any personal medication in case you do find that you need it.

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Know your basic medical history and register with a GP. Even if you think you won’t need it and don’t have any repeat prescriptions or anything, it’s best to register so that you have a doctor near if you need them.

Along the same strain: Be Safe. At my university we had several tragedies over the 3 years I was there. Your university will probably send you an email about meningitis, but be sure to know the symptoms beforehand. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone if your mental health is failing, even if you’ve never been diagnosed or felt like this before. Don’t take anything if you’re not sure what it is, and if you get any adverse effects seek medical attention. If anything bad does happen and you end up in hospital, don’t hide anything from them – you may be embarrassed or have done something illegal, but these people are more concerned about keeping you safe and potentially saving your life than getting you in trouble or judging you.

Of course, I can’t talk about being safe without talking about sex. It should be a no brainer, but if you’re going to have casual sex or sex with someone whose history you don’t know, use a condom – it’s not just pregnancy you want to prevent. Even if you use condoms every time, be sure to get tested regularly if you have more than one partner – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Have fun but be sensible.

Prioritise and Organise. Your wellbeing should come before anything else. After that, the order you prioritise things is up to you, but I’d recommend putting university work high up there- it is the reason you’re there, after all. Organisation is so important, regardless of what year you’re in, and it’s especially important if you have a lot of ‘extra-curricular’ activities such as jobs, societies, volunteering etc. Write things down, even if it’s just on post-it notes somewhere you can’t forget; you don’t want to double book or miss things.

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There is always, ALWAYS, time for a nap. A break could be the difference between you handing in something that reflects how sleep deprived and coffee charged you are and something that you’re actually really proud of. Stopping and taking a breather, even for just a few minutes, isn’t going to cost you.

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Uni me was definitely a big advocate of the nap.

If you do your best, no one can argue with it. There are times when you hand something in that you’re so proud of and are sure you smashed, then it comes back and you only just scraped a 2:1. This is a horrible feeling, but you still know that you did your best and that’s what you’ll be thinking when you finally get to put that cap and gown on.

People drift; let them. It sounds harsh, and it sucks, but people tend to weed themselves out at university. High school friends, fresher’s friends, even some friends later on. If someone isn’t making an effort with you, you don’t have to make an effort with them. It doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly, but it allows you to spend time on those who spend time on you.

First Years:

Don’t forget to be yourself. This is the time to learn about yourself and grow into the person you want to be. Don’t be ashamed of who you are, and look out for societies for the things you love if you want to find like minded people.

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Be prepared to dress up a lot.

Don’t feel like you have to live up to the stereotypes. Not a drinker? That’s okay. Don’t fancy having casual sex? That’s okay. Of course Fresher stereotypes are there because they happen, but you don’t have to do it all just because it’s ‘the done thing’. Prioritise your happiness over being cool, and trust me – whether it’s drunken antics or eating cereal out of a mug, you will have plenty of ‘student experiences’; you don’t have to force it.

Second & Third Years:

Time is on your side! If you get a grade you’re not happy with, don’t panic. You’ve got plenty of time to bring it back and smash it the next time. One grade doesn’t make or break an entire degree. You’re going to be okay.

Third Years:

Dissertation, AKA plan like your life depends on it. Ok, so this is the big one. Everyone who came before you is telling you that you should’ve started it before you even learnt to read, that one kid you’re secretly in competition with already has a first draft and has written an entire encyclopaedia’s worth of notes on their subject and you’re still struggling to pick which pen is worthy of writing your masterpiece. It is huge, I can’t say it’s not, but you CAN handle it. Make sure you set plenty of time aside to work on it and plan everything out over and over again. When it comes to a dissertation, hoarding is your friend. Keep every single note you write for it, even if you think it’s crap and you’ll never use it (okay, maybe throw away the sheet of doodles you did instead of working that one time you said you’d do all of your research in one day) – you really do never know when these things might come in handy. Do plenty of research, reference and keep record of everything, and try and write about something you care about. Take a deep breath. You’re going to be fine.

I’m so jealous of everyone going back to/starting university soon and wish you all the best of luck. You’re going to have a great year.

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If you’re a graduate like me – what tips do you have? Did I miss anything important?

See you soon,

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Fandom Friday | Scissors and other things left-handed people are a little bit obsessed with

Before I get into it: so I know this isn’t technically “fandom” but I’ll be honest, I was running out of time to write this post when I came across a video of 90 degree scissors. I found myself completely freaking out about the possibilities these would have for left-handed people and yes, obsessing over scissors (again), which gave me the idea for the post.

If you know a left-handed person, the chances are you’ve seen them struggle with things that are incredibly simple to you – opening tins, using scissors, even simply writing. In a world designed by and for right-handed people, lefties like me are left (get it?) to struggle and adapt to what in our eyes is a world completely in reverse.

Many left-handed people are incredibly proud of this fact, myself included. Regardless of how happy we are to be different, however, we all have to adapt and face the same struggles. Of course not everyone is the same, but I think it’s safe to say that most left-handed people I know also find themselves obsessing over the things in this list, at least a little bit.

Pens and Handwriting

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Writing is the most defining difference between left and right-handed people. It is also one of the first difficulties left handed children will face – or, at least those learning to write in languages read from left to right, at least. It is much easier for right-handed people to write this way. They write away from their bodies, pulling the pen towards them. Left-handed people, however, have to push the pen away, dragging it and putting a strain on the hand that right-handed people don’t experience. This gets even more difficult when sat in a classroom with right handed people on your left – elbowing that guy you’ve fancied all year is not a good seduction tactic, trust me!

Writing can be incredibly hard to master, and can become a huge stress and long lasting obsession for left-handed people. Physically it is uncomfortable at best and painful at worse, and mentally it can be quite confusing – when I was learning to write I found it easier and more natural to write backwards; you’d need a mirror to read my first schoolbook!

There are several “left-handed” pens and pens designed to help with handwriting out there, and after a while finding the right (lol) pens becomes a bit of an obsession for many left-handers. I think most have tried specifically left handed pens (the infamous “banana pen” comes to mind) however these can be pricey and not always practical. In recent years I have resigned myself to normal biros, but my personal favourite “left-handed” pen is the Yoropen. It is designed so that the hand doesn’t cover the writing. Even if we’re not looking at “special” pens, you can bet that a left-handed person will try and deduct how long they’ll be able to write with a pen and how much they’ll smudge it before they use it.

If you see a left-handed person stooped over their paper, arm hooked over the top and little finger slowly getting drenched in ink, we’re probably not hiding it from you and probably aren’t that engrossed – we just don’t want to have to copy it up another 6 times before it’s legible.

Scissors

Scissors are another big classroom struggle for leftie children, and one that stays with us throughout our lives. Right handed scissors are incredibly difficult – we have to turn them upside down, posing a problem if the handles are moulded, and the leaving the blades in the wrong position. Not only does the paper tend to bunch and rip, we can’t see what we’re cutting. Of course we learn to manage, but this can again be painful. If you’re left-handed and still in school, don’t be afraid to ask for left-handed scissors, especially if it’s a long task; the cramps aren’t worth it!

Ring Binders

Again, this links to writing. When trying to write in one, the rings of the binder get directly in the way of the left arm. In order to write in the ringbinder, lefties would have to leave several inches, wasting the paper. Of course we could just take the paper out, but it sort of defeats the object of the ringbinder.

If you ever go stationery shopping with a left-handed person, be prepared to spend hours looking for left-handed scissors, good pens and hearing them moan about their love-hate relationship with ring binders.

Can Openers

Bane. Of. My. Life. There is something very embarrassing about a grown woman having to ask her baby brother to open tins for her.  I don’t really know the specifics as to why can openers are so difficult for lefties, although I imagine it’s the same as scissors in that we turn them upside down, rendering the blade less effective. Using a can opener in reverse often results in a blood covered, disgruntled leftie throwing cans at the wall. Okay, maybe it’s not that dramatic, but I have suffered at the hands of a can of Heinz baked beans many a time!

Anything Left Handed

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This applies to both the statement and the online shop. It’s rare that we find things that are actually built with our hands and abilities in mind, so it’s kind of a big deal to us when we do. Left-handed vegetable peeler? Kitchenware goals. Anything Left Handed is an entire store dedicated to these things, what could be better?!

Okay, so obsessed may be an exaggeration, but all of these things are a lot more important to left-handed people than right-handed people. We have to adapt and learn to work with things that don’t want to work with us – it’s understandable that these struggles will become a main focus in our lives! I’m proud to be left-handed (if you couldn’t tell), and although we can’t always do the most basic things, I’d say we’re pretty great.

Are you left-handed? Did I miss anything out? Let me know your thoughts!

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Last Post: Review Wednesday | Book Review – Reasons to Stay Alive

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Review Wednesday | Book Review – Reasons to Stay Alive

Even more staggeringly, depression is a disease so bad that people are killing themselves because of it in a way they do not kill themselves with any other illness. Yet people still don’t really think depression really is that bad. If they did, they wouldn’t say the things they say.

Reasons to Stay Alive couldn’t have come into my life at a better time. Recent events have been catalysts for what I believe has been a long time coming. If I’m being completely honest, and I always aim to be here, I am in the midst of possibly the worst depressive episode I’ve ever experienced.

This book opens with author Matt Haig at his lowest. He is 24, living in Ibiza, and about to walk off a cliff. Reasons to Stay Alive discusses this, how he got there and how he got out of it. He talks about lying in bed unable to do anything but feel scared – a familiar image right now – and how he got out of this.

Haig struggles with Depression and Anxiety, as do I, however I believe this book could help anyone with mental health problems. If you have a mental illness, read this book. If you want to understand mental illness, read this book. If you care about someone with a mental illness, read this book. This is one of the most honest and real discussions of mental health I’ve ever read. It’s painful, raw, brutal and yet somehow uplifting.

Before reading this book it felt like I had no hope whatsoever – no job, no money, no driving licence, nothing and no reason to work towards anything. Reasons to Stay Alive, however, does something that is so important for recovery when you’re in such a low period – works in baby steps. Smaller than baby steps, in fact, tiny, miniscule ant steps.

Your mind is a galaxy. More dark than light. But the light makes it worthwhile. Which is to say, don’t kill yourself. Even when the darkness is total. Always know that life is not still. Time is space. You are moving through that galaxy. Wait for the stars.

Haig writes about how he began to see every moment spent thinking of something normal, without anything about his illness surrounding it, as a moment of hope. You are proving to yourself, without even realising necessarily, that you aren’t completely trapped in this feeling. Even if the ‘normal’ moment only lasts for a second, it’s something. It’s a sign that these moments will come, more and more often, until eventually they will take over the moments spent stuck in the depression.

This book has made things seem just a little bit less hopeless. I wouldn’t say I’m optimistic necessarily (let’s not get crazy now), but every time I catch myself thinking of something other than how terrible I feel, every time my stomach unravels enough to eat something, the book has taught me to take it as a sign. This is a slow process, but I will be okay eventually and for now it’s about the smallest victories.

Not all of this will apply to every situation, not every experience is the same, and I will admit that I cried a lot through the section about love and pretty much whenever he discussed how much he needed & appreciated his now wife (if you’re going through a heartbreak I would recommend skipping it unless you want to get bitter, Matt and Andrea are a wonderful couple). I do think, however, that everyone can learn something from this book. This isn’t a dull, useless self help book, this is real, accurate and helpful. Millions of people are dealing with experiences like Matt Haig’s – this story is one that is literally killing people, and Reasons to stay Alive is tackling this head on. Read it.

See you soon,

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