Ah January! A month of holiday, sort of. We’ve been back at work since the 10th but Amelie was off school for the entire month – a new one for us; this is the first time we’ve had school holidays to contend with! We made it through but I can already tell that for next summer we’re going to need to choose one or the other (and unfortunately taking the whole month off is very unlikely to be an option for us; we will need to find better childcare!) It’s been a great month regardless. Here are five highlights from the last month…
1. Shuggie Bain
This book was such a hard read but it was so compelling! I read it within a few days (after being unable to bring myself to open it for a few weeks prior) and it stuck with me for days afterwards. The misery it depicts is so incredibly extreme to me, yet somehow manages to be highly realistic at the same time, and – and this is what really amazes me – just really mundane. The writing is not at all mundane, just to be clear; yet the way the author portrays his character growing up in the late ’70s and early ’80s in a highly economically depressed Glasgow somehow conveys nothing more than a sense of total boredom, emphasised by fairly unrelenting poverty and very little hope, but in an absolutely beautiful way. The characters in this book are not simple, ‘good’ poor people who are capable of earning our sympathy, yet they deserve it anyway (as, indeed, I’m sure a lot of people living in poverty do, whether they can be perceived as ‘deserving’ or not). Everything goes wrong, and if it goes right, you as the reader know it’s going to go wrong again, yet a small grain of hope in the face of utter hopelessness keeps you reading – much as it keeps Shuggie Bain and his family going. More than anything, this book really shows, better than I think I’ve ever read before, what life is like when there is nothing encouraging or even allowing its characters to make good choices. It’s a hard read but a good one, and I recommend it.
2. Freedom to run
Running was a total slog by the end of 2021, and I just didn’t want to do it – so I changed up how I was running and gave myself permission to stop ‘achieving’ for a while and sure enough, it’s become fun again! Where I used to just go out long and hard for every run I’ve now started mixing it up by running intervals, using guided runs on the Nike Running Club app, finding some new fun routes and trails, and just generally allowing myself to be chill about running shorter distances or doing quicker runs. It’s worked!
3. Summer fruit
I love summer fruit so much! It’s now stone fruit season and we’re visiting the Peach Patch once a week or so to stock up on plums, nectarines, and peaches for the week. So satisfying. Amelie loves it – a visit to the Peach Patch will literally be the highlight of her day. We’re also enjoying watermelon and apricots and we’ve got a couple of passionfruit on the vine which will hopefully be ready to pick soon!
4. Living that social media-free life
I deleted my Facebook and Instagram apps off my phone on 31 December, with the intention of not checking them for at least the next 10 days. Since then, apart from a couple of quick check-ins/photo shares, I haven’t gone back, and it has honestly made such a difference in my wellbeing. Last year, I deactivated my Facebook account for months, and made my Instagram private – this year I’m thinking I’m going to unfollow a lot of people/brands on Instagram and I wouldn’t be surprised if I repeated last year and ended up deactivating Facebook again. Social media doesn’t give me enough to balance how much I enjoy not automatically picking up my phone and scrolling. I also have no intention to add the apps back to my phone – I can download them when I want to share or engage, which right now seems to only be every 3-4 weeks or so. The beginning of the end of social media for me, maybe?! Or at least a whole lot more hygiene around it.
5. The fake regatta
The Mahurangi Regatta, which we go to every year and have done since I was a child, was cancelled this year! That’s how life is right now. It was a little disappointing but my family went for a picnic at Sullivan’s Bay anyway, on the day the regatta would usually be on, and it was just lovely. It’s such a special spot. We didn’t do much – swam, played in the sand, kayaked, ate – but to be fair, that’s everything we’d usually do at the regatta. I’m glad we went despite the cancellation, and here’s to regatta-ing again next year!