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Planning a Book Themed Wedding

Posted in Personal
on May 14, 2020

I thought this would be a post that I wrote after my wedding had taken place, after all the confetti had been tidied away, thank you notes had been penned, and photographs oooh-ed and aaahh-ed over, and I wanted to relive the excitement.

I was meant to be getting married in June.

That was the plan.

But coronavirus had other ideas.

Now there’s a little bit of a question mark over when we’ll get to do it. (There’s another blogpost in here on my opinion of unreasonable wedding suppliers, but I’ll save you the boredom).  We hope for June 2021, but that’s by the by.

To lift my spirits a bit, I thought I’d share with you some of the things I had planned for our big day, to make it a book themed wedding. I still have a few things up my sleeve so I won’t be spoiling anything for our guests – but I’m terrible at keeping secrets so I have to share somewhere.

As with anything wedding things can cost a lot, and this is where etsy, eBay, charity shops and a little bit of DIY fun have come into their own.

Book style wedding invite

The obvious place to start is with invites. I was lucky enough to come across Feel Good Invites early on in my search. These are the ones they designed for us, and I love them so much. Even if book-themed stuff isn’t your thing, I would wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone. They’ve got loads of amazing designs and have been a joy to work with. We were really pleased with the speed of delivery and the quality of the final invites – and as someone who works in marketing and deals with a lot of printed material, I’m pretty hard to impress (No, this isn’t an ad, but they’re just brilliant). 

Although we haven’t been able to get to that stage, we were also going to get orders of service in the same design as well as the table and place names. (They do bookmark designs for place names, I mean, I am putty in their hands).

Which brings me nicely to the tables and decorations. Obviously there will be books. And also teacups, because I think I need to live up my blog name at all times. All the tables will be named after books. I’m not going to share them – yet! But they all have either significance to the people on the table (e.g. school related books for school friends…) or they’re a favourite of mine. My fiance isn’t really a reader, it’s not that I’ve just bullied him out of the proceedings! The top table name I will share, because it’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Well – I could hardly have anything else?

Penguin Books

For decorations, I have been scouring ebay and charity shops for the classic style penguin books. It can be tricky to get hold of these for a reasonable price as they have become very fashionable for house decorations etc. That being said, if you don’t mind them looking a little shabby (which I didn’t), you can find them for a smaller price. It’s worth getting job lots which have a range of penguin books in (there have been a number of different designs over the years) – chances are you will get more of the type that you want for less than if you just try to buy sets of a specific type. It does depend how particular you are – I’m rather more on the shabby end of shabby-chic, so the mix match style didn’t bother me too much. You can get really nicely preserved penguin editions too, if you are prepared to spend a little more. My top tip here would be to look for any charity shop listings on eBay. They tend to be better value for money as well as having the feel good factor as it’s going towards a good cause.

We weren’t going to have book themed wedding favours, as we had something else in mind. (I had to let me non-reader fiance have some input). However, that didn’t stop me looking at them. Etsy was my go to for browsing.I really liked some little boxes that had book page details, there are also boxes decorated to look like books, and a personal favourite were book-shaped charms to mark your drinks glass.

Book-Confetti

An honourable mention goes to book-page confetti. I planned to use this as part of the wedding table decorations. I suppose this would be fairly easy to make yourself, but I genuinely don’t think I could bring myself to destroy books myself.  The ones I bought were from ForLoversWithLove on Etsy and I was really pleased with them. They also sell a lot of other really cute book related things. (I have to remind myself that I’m running out of storage space or we really would be in trouble).

The last place we were going to incorporate literature was in the service itself for the reading. I hadn’t completely finalised what I wanted because there’s so much choice! I’m taking some time to really think about it again – since I’ve got more time now. Shakespeare is very popular, I’ve had friends take extracts from Bronte novels, or Austen before. I love poetry too, particularly 20th Century poets – so there’s a lot to choose from. Unfortunately my specialism when I studied Literature at university veered towards the depressing (political novels, death poetry to name but two) so that’s not too much help! Love has inspired much of the best literature – I could listen to the words of talented writers all day. 

Although I’m calling my wedding ‘book themed’, I didn’t want it to become a gimmick. I opted to have a plain cake, not a book one, for example. Partly because I don’t really like icing, and I imagine a book themed naked cake would be pretty hard to come by, and partly because I’m relatively traditional at heart. There are some beautiful examples of book-cakes out there (especially if you’re a Harry Potter fan) but I wanted more of a light touch with everything. 

So, there’s a little bit of insight into how I was planning my big day. Now I’ve got an extra year or so, I’ll have to think of some more ideas! 

Let me know if you had any book themed elements at your wedding, or have any ideas for what else I could incorporate. I’m trying to distract myself from all the rubbish surrounding having to postpone our wedding but thinking of new ways to make it even better when it does come around.

Covid19 (To the tune of Dolly’s 9-5)

Posted in Opinion, Personal
on March 18, 2020

For anyone else like me who might need a bit of entertainment. Or, if you just want an insight into how my self-distancing is going, I present to you my reworking of 9-5…. Covid-19.

Luckily for me, there are lots of karaoke videos, so I am keeping myself entertained. Luckily for you, I haven’t quite got to the stage of recording me singing it yet.

(Obviously I own no rights to the musical masterpiece that is 9-5. I just wanted to have a bit of fun).

Tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen 
Pour myself a cup of ambition 
Yawnin’, stretchin’ reaching for my phone
Look outta the window, it’s really something
Out on the street the traffic ain’t jumping
Cos folks like me are all staying right at home

Working from our homes – it’s the way we are now living
Not spreading our germs, no, no virus here we’re giving
We’re all stuck inside, for everybody’s benefit
It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it!

Covid19, it’s got you where it wants you
Self quarantined, and hoping that it’s ‘just flu’
Want to see my friends, but the Gov won’t seem to let me
Think I’ve watched everything that’s on the TV

They’ll shut the pubs and close the borders
Don’t even think about a Tesco order
If you’ve got a cough they’ll lock you all away.
14 days with family – no friends
Is this how the world really ends?
How many games of cards can you really play?

Covid 19 – It’s got you when it wants you
Self quarantined and hoping that it’s just flu
We’re all stuck inside, for everybody’s benefit
It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it!

Toilet rolls, we’ve got them by the thousand
Twenty seconds plus, that’s how long to wash your hands for
Tell your parents no, they really mustn’t go out
If they bend the rules, you’ll definitely find out. 

Covid19 – It’s got you where it wants you
Self quarantined and hoping that it’s just flu
Want to see my friends, but the Gov won’t seem to let me
Think I’ve watched everything that’s on the TV

Praise the NHS who are working through disaster
An uncertain time, who knows how long it’ll last for
We’re all stuck inside, but we’ll make the best of it
Rediscover a hobby and have time to master it

Covid19 – It’s got you where it wants you
Self quarantined and hoping that it’s just flu
Want to see my friends, but the gov won’t seem to let me
Think I’ve watched everything that is on the TV

International Women’s Day 2019

Posted in Opinion, Personal
on March 10, 2019

It was International Women’s Day on Friday, and of course, I have feelings.

Firstly, before anyone whinges – 19th November is International Men’s Day.

Now we have that over and done with, let me get on with the important stuff.

I work for a company that, unironically, had an International Women’s Day event chaired by a man, and with more male speakers than female – which probably tells you more than I could articulate about what it’s like to work there. What’s more, the majority of the talks focussed on the issues of having a family and work – as if that is the only difficulty facing women in the workplace.

I’m not saying that it isn’t great that my company has men that want to support women. Of course it is – but surely, of all days, International Women’s Day is the time for men to listen to women, to understand our experience, and take that on board when you’re dealing with female colleagues.

It says a lot that my company thought they needed to have male hosts and speakers in order for this day to have a pull, or enough gravitas to go.

It says a lot that no males from my department attended; and even more that most of those males manage females.

Women have been telling men for years that we do not need you to speak for us. You can’t speak for us. You don’t know the ways in which we’re judged that you’re not. And most of you aren’t even aware of the unconscious bias that you show to us. Women are, factually, held to account for a lot more than men are. We are expected to behave a certain way, look a certain way and communicate in a certain way. When we don’t, our behaviour is held up to much higher levels of scrutiny. And it is exhausting.

A lot of men seem to only discover women’s rights when they have daughters. Indeed, yesterday, that is what most of the men that spoke concentrated on. Yes, it’s absolutely fantastic that you want to change the world for your daughter – but what about your wife? Your sisters? Your mother, your female cousins, your friends? They’re all going through the same thing, and they’ve all had to prove themselves again and again, while men are judged on their potential. It is not acceptable to be ignorant to the inequality that women face, until you produce your own little female.

I grew up in a household where my parents, both teachers, never made me feel that as a woman, I couldn’t do anything that I wanted. My mum was a deputy head, while my dad preferred to be a class teacher – so my household was unusual in that my mother was in a senior position to my father. However, I never really saw it like that – I saw both my parents working just as hard as each other. I saw my father’s passion for classroom teaching, and my mother standing up for other teachers in her school. From them, I got the message that as long as I worked hard, I could do anything I wanted.

And then I went to an all girls school. While these aren’t a perfect solution, I never for a moment thought that there were things I couldn’t do just because I was a woman. Again, here the message was that if you work hard you’ll do well. And this was the message I took with me through school and university.

Then I arrived in the world of work, and the full force of what the world is really like hit me square in the face. It is exhausting to be a woman in the workplace. My experience, and the experience of many of my colleagues, is that men are judged on the best of their results, the things they have achieved and the positive leadership skills they possess. Women are judged on the things they don’t do, their personality – being too soft or not soft enough – their achievements are balanced out with criticism of what they could have done better. Women receive the message that in order to achieve they have to adapt their personality to be more like a man’s – and yet, when they do this they’re judged for not being soft enough, gentle enough… I could go on.

I’ve listened to men explain feminism to me one day, but go on to invite me to calls because they ‘need the female touch.’

I’ve mentioned before that my no always seems negotiable, but my male counterparts is not – but this goes further. I adapted the way I communicate in emails after reading advice from female leaders in the workplace (‘take out the fluff, and be more direct’) only for my male managers to have a problem with this. I don’t know any man who has been told to be softer, friendlier, or chattier in emails. It wouldn’t be appropriate. When a man is assertive it is celebrated. If a woman is…. Well, she’s a bitch and she needs to work on her people skills. If you’re independent as a man you’re showing initiative. If you do that as a female, then you are dragged back down and because you need a man to show you how to do it.

I wish I was exaggerating – but this is the experience I’ve had in many different workplaces. It’s the experience many of my friends have had. It’s the experience we need to change.

The double standard perpetuated by men that think they are feminists astounds me. These are the men that I find more dangerous than the dinosaurs that think a woman’s place is in the kitchen – because they at least are shouted down. The men that I’m talking about cannot see how they treat females differently to males, and do it in subtle, but career blocking ways. They try to tell you that standing up for yourself is wrong, that not acting in the way that they believe a woman should is wrong, that all the good work you do doesn’t count because sometimes you’re a bit grumpy.The idea that men behave perfectly at work is a myth, yet I have never spoken to a male who has been reprimanded for it in the way that females are.

Hell, I’ve seen men that shout at women be promoted, while the women are held to account for not being particularly willing to be in meetings with those shouty men again. Because for that man the ‘work’ they do is apparently so much more important than the way they act. But for women, the way they act is more important than the work.

Is it any wonder women are burning out at work much faster than men? Is it any wonder that so few women reach the top leadership positions when the standards are held so much higher?

Some companies are better than others, some men are better than others. I’ve met a couple of men who really do champion the women they work with – and when I work with them it’s amazing how much easier I find every day. It doesn’t take much to change, but it does require you to take a long, hard look at yourself and ask yourself some difficult questions.

One final thought – I read recently an article that argued that asking women to lean in was bad advice, because that’s asking them to emulate male behaviour – which is not necessarily the way to get the best results. It argued that most managers are incompetent (I wish now, I had the link) because people tend to get promoted due to their overconfidence in their ability, not because of their work standards. Promotions based on this overconfidence are not good promotions; confidence is not the trait that we should be celebrating. We don’t want more incompetent managers – male or female – we need to look more objectively at what talents people do actually have. I think once workplaces start doing this and stop only appreciating ‘male traits’, women will have a much easier path at work.

Until then, I will keep being a difficult woman, who points out when I am treated differently to the males in my work place.

In which I discover FanFiction…

Posted in Opinion, Personal
on August 28, 2017
writing-fanfiction

I have a confession to make.

I’ve been unfaithful to this blog.

I’ve been writing somewhere else.

And I’ve liked it.

I know it’s been radio silence here for a while – I’ve got about six half finished blogs I need to complete and upload, most of which are now hideously out of date. But I’ve actually, word count wise, written much more in my absence than I normally would here.

You see; I’ve been writing FanFiction. (Phew. That felt good to get off my chest).

And what’s more, people are actually reading it. (More than can be said for this blog!). And liking it. And commenting.

In a couple of months I’ve written 50K words of my story. (No. I’m not going to link. No, I’m not going to tell you what category it’s under. But, if you know me, you’ll probably be able to work it out/find it).

50k is somewhere between a third and half of a novel. And I’ve stuck with it, and I’m still going. I’m not saying it’s novel-worthy content – it certainly took me a few chapters to get into my stride – but it’s a start. It’s got me back into the swing of writing a little each night. It’s got me thinking about plot, characterisation, language (y’know, the fundamentals of writing). Most importantly, I’ve remembered the absolute joy I feel when I get lost in the midst of a plot.

So, I hear you ask, why FanFiction? Why not plunge straight back into the deep end again and start my attempt at a novel number 752?

Well partly, because I’ve run out of plot ideas after so many failed attempts at writing my novel, but that aside, I think FF is a fantastic tool for any aspiring writer.

There’s a discipline to FanFiction which you don’t necessarily have when you create everything yourself – particularly around characterisation. When characters already exist, have been established and have a large fan base there is a lot to live up to. The best FanFiction is able to get under the skin of characters someone else has created. There are some universes which have lots of character background to go from (think Harry Potter, or similar), but there are others where there are only a few episodes, or short books to go from – and in either case to be able to understand creations which aren’t your own is an art. Some of the stories I have read deserve to be published in their own right (of course, they can’t be, since they borrow other’s creations); but the quality of writing is so much higher than you often come across in the world of modern publishing. (*cough* ghostwritten books “by” celebrities to name just one, hideous, example).

Another aspect of FanFiction which is, somewhat, unusual is the convention of uploading a chapter as and when you have written it, rather than posting the whole fic in one go. (Of course, some authors have the discipline to write the whole thing first and then upload it in snippets, but they are better people than I). It’s a different, more immediate way of writing. And it also means that if you want to carry your readers along for the whole ride, you’ve got to be writing something pretty good. Back in the day, it was fairly common for books to be serialised (think Dickens’ Bleak House, which started off as a serial, and ran for 18 months – no wonder it’s so long and convoluted!). There’s something very freeing about being able to publish something as soon as you’ve finished it – without second guessing yourself too much. I’ve sat on beginnings of books for years because I’m too scared to show anyone. This removes all of that.

Which isn’t to say you don’t need to take care over the writing and editing…If the writing is poor (and yes, for all the good writing in FF, there is a lot which doesn’t quite cut the mustard); people aren’t going to subscribe to you, they won’t come back to keep reading – so there is an implied pressure to keep up the quality of your chapters. All of this is good – of course. I can normally tell if my writing is good or not, or if I’ve put out a weaker chapter, but having this confirmed is very useful. Ultimately, it’s what makes you a better writer.

And then, there’s the community; the people in the FanFiction world are great (at least all the ones I’ve come across). Writing can be very solitary at times – and it can be hard to write without distraction. Knowing that when you upload a new chapter people will comment, and “like” it, and post about it elsewhere is a very powerful motivational force. And what’s more, the majority of people won’t just give you a line or two saying ‘Great Chapter, I love it!’; they’ll give you a full critique, which often runs to paragraphs of them discussing your work. This is gold-dust as far as a writer is concerned, it’s such a valuable resource to be able to tap into.

Commenters don’t often have harsh criticism. They tend to focus on the positives (which is lovely for a delicate snowflake like myself) – but there is still a lot to be gained from this. You can look at the bits they like, and then if there’s anything they haven’t mentioned – or a repeatedly ignored section – then you can have a hard look at them again and work out why they don’t quite read properly. It puts onus on you, but it’s a good inbetween reviewing the work yourself and having a big-scary-editor type pull it apart. Plus encouragement is needed sometimes – to get yourself into the discipline of writing regularly, and in a style that people are receptive to, you do need a little boost here and there.

I’ve learnt more than I thought I would in my few months in the fanfiction world. I’m mostly flabbergasted that anyone would actually read my writing, and eternally grateful that they have. I think it really is the people, and their support which makes writing for it so enjoyable. I’d encourage anyone who’s suffering from a bit of writer’s block, or just wants to write something for fun for a change to give it ago. Get sucked in. Embrace the fictional worlds that others have created. Work out how to write other people’s characters and receive instant feedback. It may just be the inspiration you need to get you started on your bigger projects.

As for me? I’m enjoying it far too much to let go of my little tales. I’m in for the long haul.