This month’s Instagram highlights include amazing car air fresheners, a few selfies, a tiny cute present from the best friend, white skittles, wandering in the woods with the dog and the parents, and a trip to the West Midland Safari Park. Most excellent.
A new kind of post, hello. I’ve wanted to do these for a while, a little round-up of my favourite images from my main Instagram this month. There are lots because it was so busy! It was also my birthday, so that helps.
Highlights include: puppy cuddles, excellent books, an artsy throwback, unashamed selfies galore, an artistic accident at work, launch snippets, and birthday presents.
If you want to follow, you can do so here.
Today is March twenty-sixth. In 1824 Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis was performed for the first time (though Wikipedia says this happened in April), in 1827 he died. Britain, 1934, driving tests were introduced for the first time. In 1953 Dr Jonas Salk announced the vaccine for polio. The first royal email was sent from the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment by Queen Elizabeth II in 1976. These are all things that happened on March twenty-sixth.
There are twenty-six letters in the alphabet. A rhombicuboctahedron has twenty-six faces. There are twenty-six black and twenty-six red cards in a deck. A normal human foot and ankle have twenty-six bones. Twenty-six is the only number between a square number and a cube number, and it takes twenty-six moves or less to solve a Rubik’s Cube.
I have been alive for twenty-six years.
I’ve decided that my twenty-sixth year is the year I get things done. I will reach my target, I will take the first steps to achieving my dream (which I have been avoiding for a while now because I’ve been scared – taxes are scary), I will continue this trend of unashamed self-love I have going on at the moment (we all have our bad days but I am determined to have more good days).
I have big dreams, and more determination than I ever expected to have, and big things are coming. Twenty-six? I am ready for you.
Or at the very least, imagined a poem by Edgar Allan Poe.
Hello, bloglings of varying shapes, sizes and mythical denominations. It has become increasingly obvious to me that I may have stumbled across a crack in the universe and now she’s trying her hardest to fill it in, to make me either forget about it or to convince me I am a little bit nuts and have made-up memories. Either way, it’s working, so here I am writing a blog post about it.
I realise that this all sounds a bit mad, so I am going to explain myself.
Circa 2011/2012 I was given a copy of the leatherbound Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (Barnes & Noble Collectible Editions). It is a beautiful edition, which currently resides at my parents’ house due to my severe lack bookshelves and space to put bookshelves. I vividly remember flicking through this book in my bedroom the aforementioned parents’ house, I remember the room’s dark purples and limited light adding an ambience to the whole thing. I remember feeling the pages in my hands and flipping it open to a random point in the book.
I remember a very short poem. Shorter than any Poe I had ever read previously. It was about a grave/death. A woman being in the ground. I remember nothing else about this poem. I so vividly remember finding it and being so in love with it. I remember adding it to my profile on Elftown, my once upon a time internet hang-out. Naturally, I deleted it at some point so it is no longer there to find.
No one I know who enjoys Mister Poe seemed to be aware of this poem’s existence. Google searching phrases like ‘shortest Edgar Allan Poe poem’ yields stanzas upon stanzas and nothing even nearly as short as I remember. This had been haunting me for years but anytime I was near enough my copy of the book to check, I’d forgotten that it was bothering me. Clearly, the universe didn’t want me to know something.
To that, I say screw you, universe! (I’m kidding, I love you really, you contain the stars and the planets and the moon and I find all of those things fascinating and inspiring and terrible – the great unknown is always terrible – in equal measure.)
This story has a happy ending, though. I’ve had spurts of looking for this poem and failing for the last few years, and I’ve never progressed in my search. Until now. While ranting to my best friend, who humours all of my weird and wonderful ways and knows exactly when to offer sympathy even though I am being ridiculous, I suddenly had a vague flicker of memory which I have never had before. I was suddenly struck with the knowledge that one of the words in the poem was ‘earth’ and another was ‘deep’. In all my years of searching, I’ve never had any inkling of the contents except for a vague understanding of the theme (grave/death, woman – or so I presumed anyway).
The universe has finally decided I am ready.
It is with thanks to the universe (and a hope that the universe is not offended by my earlier comment), that I present to you my favourite poem which was found scribbled in the margins of the manuscript for ‘Eulalie’.
Deep in Earth (1847)
Deep in earth my love is lying
And I must weep alone.
Greetings, greetings, one and all. This is a bit of a weird one, bear with me though because I think it’s worth reading. (Well, I would, I am the one writing it.)
Insta-love. Not the kind you show on instagram by liking as many of someone’s photos as is humanly possible in one sitting (though, that can be good) but the kind you see in books and movies. Often hailed as unrealistic and annoying and a plot-ruiner.
Well, I have a confession to make on that front.
It’s not that unrealistic. (Controversial?) Sure, if it’s terribly written or portrayed and you’re getting no feeling from either character, I can understand it ruining everything. But as a thing, on the whole, it’s not that bad. Love is weird and it’s different for everyone. This is common knowledge. A love being different to the love I experience, doesn’t make that love invalid and I would never dream of saying it does so why do we assume insta-love isn’t a thing?
Why am I writing about this? Why am I defending insta-love? Well, quite simply, because I feel it myself. Perhaps not full-blown cherubs-with-trumpets-I-want-to-spend-the-rest-of-my-life-with-you-immediately love but it’s very fast.
Context: I met my boyfriend through online dating, we spoke for maybe a week before we met each other in person. We spent a day together and before he went home, I ended up deciding ‘Yup, this is the person I want to be with.’ (If we’re being completely honest, I decided that about an hour into the day.) He agreed. And so we officially became a thing. I didn’t need a second date to know that he was who I wanted, or that a relationship with him was both what I wanted and right for me at the time. Over a year and a half later, and here we still are, living together harmoniously in a little flat on the top of a hill.
I can’t ‘date’. I don’t see the point in devoting time to someone I don’t see or want a future with. If I decide to be with someone it’s because I’m in it for the long-haul from day one. When I was doing the online dating thing, if I felt a strong connection with someone (like my other half) I would cease talking to anyone else on that platform until I had confirmed whether it was something both of us wanted to pursue.
I feel very quickly and very deeply – I felt strong feelings for my other half before we even met. I am exactly the kind of character that gets complained about for being unrealistic but does my existence not make all of those claims a little bit false? Sure, it might be annoying as hell, and it might be difficult to understand if it’s not something you go through, but it’s very much a real thing.
It’s not all sunshine and roses, it hurts when it goes wrong – especially when it goes wrong after a short period of time and the people around you can’t quite understand why you’re so upset about it. That side of things, I think, needs to be explored more. I’m all for happy, wonderful love stories but I’m also all for raw, emotional, painful, not-quite love stories.
A lot of the complaints about it come from young adult fiction, and TV shows and films aimed at teenagers but it’s very much something that teenagers go through. I had so many dramatic unrequited teenage crushes and my teenage relationship(s), other than being a train-wreck, were very much that immediate, sickly sweet kind and so were many of the other teen relationships going on around me. What’s important, I think, is that books/films/shows that deal in insta-love should also deal with how to react healthily to it ending. There are so few stories that I know of that can be used as an example of a healthy way of dealing with a break-up, if you know any, do share them.
Is it just me? Am I the only person on this planet who gets insta-love and doesn’t revile it on principle? Am I speaking into the void?
New Year’s Resolutions are tricky beasts. They often don’t do quite what we tell them to. But make them, we do and this year I am no exception.
I’ve set myself a few, they’re all do-able and there is no reason why I shouldn’t have completed them by the end of the year. However, as is evident by this blog and the sporadic nature of its updates last year, life happens. I won’t beat myself up if I don’t achieve my goals but I’m going to give it a jolly good try.
I have seven resolutions this year. Seven.
Read more. I read 18 books last year, which is terrible considering I read so quickly and I love reading so much – I blame Netflix and no longer having to commute. My plan is to top that this year, I am going to try for a book a week, which is a considerable feat but perhaps a necessary one. I have a to-read pile which is probably bigger than me and keeps growing because I have no self control in the books department. Absolutely none.
Write more. I don’t write even nearly as much as I should, be it blogs or stories or poems or drabbles. I went to university for three whole years to hone my writing abilities and I am doing absolutely nothing with it. I am going to attempt to change that this year. Starting now. Or rather, a few days ago when I wrote my last blog entry.
I will find excuses to write, and I will try not to pen myself in because that’s when I tend to get stuck. Leading on to the next resolution…
Update the bloomin’ blog. I’m doing pretty well at this so far. I posted January 4th, then there’s this post, I have a book review in the making for something I read at the end of December (and the books I didn’t review but read last year), I have the next Harry Potter post on the go and will start number six after that, I have some wedding photography I would love to share, as well as a special shoot that hasn’t happened yet but will have happened by the time this post goes live (hooray for scheduling!). That’s a good lot to go on. Let’s just hope I don’t get lazy. Again.
Hit target. This is Slimming World specific. I am about half way on my weight loss journey (undertaken over the last five months). If I can make it to half way in five months, I can make the rest of the way in a year. I’m tentatively hoping to be at target some time in May. We shall see.
It shouldn’t be too hard in the grand scheme of things. I love the plan, I love the food and I am already doing really well! I’ve wanted to be my smaller self for so long now that I am going to make it happen this year.
Maintain target. Now, this one relies on the success of the last one. So wish me luck.
I know that maintaining is going to be the hard part. I will be so used to losing weight that it will be hard to come out of that. I have faith though, I managed to accidentally maintain a few weeks ago and I know exactly how I did it. Let’s hope I remember that once I hit target.
Plus, I have the support of everyone around me. It’s been so heartwarming to see how everyone else has gotten excited for my losses and have cheered me on, or helped me stay on plan. I am so thankful.
Take more photos. I mean this in both a life sense and a photography sense. When I put on weight my drive to take and be in photos plummeted. I photographed three weddings last year and they brought me so much happiness. I would like to continue that happiness. I want to create again and I want to document my life more than I have been of late. Expect a lot of instagram activity.
And finally, if something stops bringing joy, stop doing it – don’t feel guilty. Last year, I tried to draw every day. It started out really well and it was really fulfilling but then life got busier, I started a new job and my life changed. I was leaving my drawings until just before bed and I wasn’t happy with any of them. One day, I skipped drawing because I was tired. I told myself I was going to catch up, and I told others, but I realised I didn’t want to. I needed a break. So I took one.
I do intend to draw a lot more than I have previous years but forcing myself to do it once a day even when I have no ideas hampered my creativity and stopped being fun. So I’m resolving not to do that again, not to cling onto something for longer than I should just because I said I was going to. If it stops making me happy or excited or having a positive impact on my life, I am going to stop doing it. I’m not going to feel guilty about it.
Well, there you have it. My resolutions. I will come back to this next year and see if I’ve achieved them. Wish me luck!
Hello. I come to you this time not with apologies or excuses for my random disappearance, but with an explanation of my planned absence. Yep. You read that correctly, it was planned! I didn’t announce it but I planned it. (Though, it is probably not a coincidence that I planned it before my entry for The Goblet of Fire, as I will explain in the next entry, which will be that one.) I probably should have announced it but I didn’t want to give myself a date to be back by, I wanted to come back when I felt ready to.
In May, I left the world of commuting to and from London, working for a publisher and living in pretty little Oxfordshire. I had a big life change, and I needed time to get used to it.
Back in April, I was offered a job designing t-shirts in the West Midlands (book-themed, politics, pop culture, sport, you name it, and I probably do it). It seemed fun so I went for it. The location meant that I was able to move in with my long-suffering other half (long-suffering because he has to deal with me 24/7 now). I’ve been working there for three months now and the creativity is fab, it’s evolved from just t-shirts to stationery and social media and all sorts of things I didn’t think I would be doing. I even designed some wrapping paper!
My publishing job was the first job I ever really had so this is both the first time I’ve had a job move but also the first time I have moved in with a partner – everything in my life changed all at once, it wasn’t quite as overwhelming as I thought it would be.
In July, after over a year and a half of lessons (and a whole lot of emotions), I passed my driving test first time! I moved my beautiful car up to the West Midlands in August, and had the shock of my life when I dealt with my first really steep hill. Luckily, I’ve got the hang of them now, after a little bit of self doubt and wondering why, oh why, they had let me pass my test.
A bit later in July, I decided to embark on a journey. A Slimming World journey. If you follow my Tumblr, you may have seen some body image posts in the past. I’ve struggled with my body for a long time, lost lots of weight in short periods of time by being very, very unhealthy and then put it back on again and then some when I got comfortable. I’ve resolved not to do that anymore. Slimming World is excellent, I am a fair way away from my target but I feel healthier and I am eating excellent food. I may post about my food at some point. I have since set up an Instagram devoted to my SW journey, it’s mostly food, but if you want to follow it, you can find it here.
What else has happened? I’m currently working on my second bit of wedding editing of the year, the third will come in November. Both weddings were lovely and I may post about them in the future.
All in all, I’ve been super busy, and I finally feel like my life is settling into a routine, and blogging can be part of it again.
Over the last week, my often-mentioned, very talented friend Mike Medaglia announced his next book in the wonderfully successful One Year Wiser series. The simply and aptly named One Year Wiser: A Gratitude Journal does what it says on the tin. It is a journal that allows you space to write one years’ worth of things you are grateful for alongside quotes and other fun things.
And that’s what poetry is. A human attempt to comprehend and share personal experiences of the things that exist just beyond our perception and comprehension.
Mike Medaglia on Poetry and Wonder from The Mindful Life Illustrated
This announcement, along with Mike’s Mindful Life Illustrated Elephant Journal posts on all things mindfulness, gratitude and generally living well, spiritually and mentally, has made me think of all of the things I am thankful for. Well, actually, the thing that triggered my thinking was a beautiful sunset on the way home from work but then I was reminded of Mike, then I matched that with a video I watched last night by Carrie Hope Fletcher and then that spiralled into everything else and so we ended up here. You and me, on this blog.
If you’ve read Mike’s writing, you know that it has the power to make you think about things, really think about things (and if you haven’t, you should). And so, thinking about things, I am. So, without further ado and pomp, I present to you:
A little ramble of things I am thankful for
How to survive a funeral
If you look, see a
for the melting snow.
For the flowers,
miscarriages of colour
returned to the earth like bulbs.
I am grateful for poetry, and the ability to write it, and the fact that I spent three years around people who were excellent at it and who loved it as much as I did and in some cases more. I am grateful for spending three years writing and reading and knowing that doing that was okay, maybe a bit self-indulgent at times (maybe a lot of the time) but that it was something worth doing.
I am thankful for the opportunities that those three years afforded me, and that I took a chance, when I was seventeen, and looked into university without ever really intending to go.
I feel so grateful to have the parents that I do, who are unfailingly supportive (even if my Dad tells me I drive incorrectly). I am thankful that they are the incredibly weird people they are because otherwise I would not be the incredibly weird person I am. (And that would be a shame for everyone involved.)
Even when they have absolutely no idea what I am talking about, or doing, or think I am being dramatic (I probably am), they support me, share in my laughter and laugh at me when the situation calls for it.
I do not thank my parents enough for the relationship we have; the way we have never really had a fight; the way they take selfies with me even though it’s often ridiculous and very much in public; the way they let me dig at them for saying words that aren’t actually real words.
The cinema trips and drives with Dad, the shopping days and lazing around on the sofa with mum (and the dog). I am so lucky to have my parents, and I don’t tell them enough or talk about my feelings to them very often but I like to think I show them.
I am thankful for sunsets and clouds and stars and the sea. I am thankful for tiny, fluffy animals and animated gifs. I am thankful for chocolate (so thankful for chocolate). I am thankful for cobbled streets and houses with beams, but I am also thankful for towering buildings with walls made out of nothing but windows.
I am thankful for books and vanilla chai tea. I am thankful for friends and movies and ice cream.
I am thankful for my best friend, who I wax lyrically about on a semi-regular basis, I am thankful that I have someone in my life who understands me as she does and who lets me sit in the corner, doing my own thing and is content just to be in the same room. I am thankful that she walked up to me as I was stood on the steps of our college. I am thankful she didn’t run away when I continued the conversation I was having with myself in my head, with her out loud without providing any semblance of context. I am glad she just rolled with it.
“My sister is gonna make a mint, everyone can see her potential is f***ing phenomenal.”
the garden in 2011
I am thankful for my brother. He is one of the most irritating human beings on Earth but he is also my brother. I am grateful for the nice things he says about me when he thinks I can’t hear him and that he likes to throw wrapping paper at my head at Christmas, so much so that it is now tradition. And I am also grateful for hilariously out of tune sing-a-longs. I am grateful that I have a brother.
I am thankful for grandparents. Grandparents are precious, and if you have any still with you, pick up the phone and give them a call or go round and give them a hug. I am so lucky to have had my grandparents right up until my twenties, and I am so lucky to have had not two but three sets of them! (Long story short: we adopted some close family friends who lived in the house at the bottom of our garden, and they, too, adopted us.) I am lucky enough to still have my Nanna (on my mum’s side) and my adoptive grandad still with me. I am thankful for their existence, and their stories, and the stories I can take forward and tell my one-day children and grandchildren.
I am thankful for stories, and photography. I am thankful for mist and hills and beaches. I am thankful for the way that light shines through leaves. I am thankful for those of you still reading this ramble.
I am thankful for my other half, at whose desk I am sitting while finishing this post. I am thankful for his patience when I am stressed and his support when I am feeling needy. I am thankful for his willingness to stay in with me on a Saturday while we look after my Nanna and watch nothing but old musicals and every single Lassie film that exists.
I am grateful that he took the time to respond to my message on okcupid, and that we found a time to meet and both dived in head first. I am slightly jealous of how smitten my dog is with him (it’s not fair) and how my laptop seems to really want to please him and only turns on when he is around (it’s really not fair). I am thankful for taking chances.
I am thankful that we share so many obsessions and yet still find things to each have of our own. I feel grateful that he has an incredibly lovely family, and that my own family accept and approve of him whole-heartedly. I am thankful for the sheer amount of ridiculous selfies he has let me force him into.
I am grateful that I have my own little corner of the internet to write my thoughts and review my books and fill with whatever floats my considerably eclectic dinghy. I am thankful for the people who read it. What are you thankful for?
Hello The Internet. How are you? I disappeared again. Sorry about that. I should rename this website, call it something like The Official Apologies of Elou Carroll RE: Her Absence from Blogging. But I won’t.
Really though, I meant to do some blogging last week but I was so thrilled to have time off work to do absolutely nothing that I did just that. Absolutely nothing. Aside from my draw-everyday-of-2016 project which is still going strong, though I may not have mentioned it here before now.
It was refreshing, doing nothing. My absence from my blog has most notably been caused by late nights at work, which are self-inflicted but necessary. It is from one of those late nights that I am making my return. I’m about to leave, really I am, but once I get home I will not be using a computer. There is my dilemma. There it has been for the last month or two. So tonight, as I am here and as I am done for the night, I decided to write a little post before I leave. It is one of the better impulsive things I have done while alone in the office after staying late most evenings (the most impulsive yet: cutting my hair – not the most traditional use of the office bathroom but it felt necessary).
Actually, ignore those brackets. I am going to talk about that bit. Non-bracketed. I cut my hair at half past seven one evening, in the ground floor bathroom of my office. I’ve cut my hair before, the act of cutting it is not that unusual, but my choice of make-shift salon was quite unexpected.
Picture this: March 23rd, the Wednesday before the Easter bank holiday, an Elou, alone in an office with a desk stacked high with books and papers (my desk is potentially the most cluttered of the whole company, I’m a creative, what can I say?). The constant thrum of electricity which is almost inaudible when the whole company is around but emerges from its hiding spots in the evening when everyone leaves, an InDesign document which refuses to cooperate and a small mound of print orders which need doing and typesetting which needs sending out before the aforementioned Elou leaves the office the next day, not to return for just over a week. The InDesign document has a life of its own and doesn’t want to be fixed. In its own mind it’s not broken in the first place (and it’s not, not really, it’s just acting a little strange but at half seven in the evening, a little strange often translates as broken). Biblio (“a fully integrated best of breed publishing system accessible online from any PC and Mac connected to the Internet”) is eking out print order PDFs as slowly as it possibly can, while time seems to have sped up to at least double its normal pace. The afore-aforementioned Elou notices the straggly ends of her hair, which has not been cut since … June? She needs to fix something, nothing appears to be going right and she needs to. To grasp a teeny, tiny pixel of control. So she does.
She sees the scissors on her desk, not quite sharp enough for what she needs to do but she knows there are hair cutting scissors at home to tidy everything up, and she hops, skips and jumps into the bathroom (no, really).
Cutting off four inches of her hair is liberating. It’s messy but she can fix that later. It feels a little bit like freedom. And suddenly, the other things don’t seem too much like problems anymore, nothing that can’t be dealt with the next day (which were dealt with the next day).
Writing about myself in the third person is also quite liberating. I realise now, when I’ve had a week and a bit to sit and think about it, that this might have been a little bout of madness. But sometimes madness is necessary. Sometimes, all you need is to chop off four inches of hair and the world will look a little better.
(And so will your hair, so much so that your boss will mention it the next day, to be met with a colleague asking-but-not-really-asking-because-they-already-know-the-answer Where did you get it done, Emma? and your shifty response of here, and when asked to elaborate right here, in the bathroom. A pause, which is met with awkward shifting on your part, but is finished with amusement from your boss who has just about gotten used to the odd things that happen around you on a near-daily basis after working with you for two and a half years. Phew.)
Today, by the time I get home (including tube journeys and train delays due to electrical failures which meant at least one carriage of an overcrowded train was plummeted into complete darkness and subsequently led to us being stuck behind a slow train) I will have spent fifteen minutes in a car, twenty seven minutes walking, forty-six minutes on a bus and a whopping four hours and eight minutes on trains, with eight hours at work sandwiched in between. I will have spent £10 more than usual to get an open return which lets me get on a train at the time I would normally be waking up and I will definitely not understand why I was required to spend that extra £10 to get on a train at ten past six on a Monday morning. Nothing particularly special happens on trains at ten past six on a Monday morning, there is no magical on-board vanilla chai tea service or super comfy seats, nor are there warmer carriages or super speedy travel times, nor a small jaunt into Narnia. In fact, I am pretty sure it is a much more enjoyable experience catching a train at any time other than ten past six on a Monday morning.
That said, for most of that train journey I had ‘assumed the position’ (an act I save for the most dire of sleep-needing circumstances – normally in winter when I have had a bout of sleeplessness – which involves a lot of slouching, and as much snoozing as is possible on a bumpy train ride, all in the safety of the abnormally and wonderfully large fluffy hood on my coat) so it is possible I could have missed whatever magical happening I was paying £10 extra for. Either way, I am not sure that extra £10 is worth it.
(As I type, on my way home at around 6PM, a man with a beer has opened the train toilet door on an unsuspecting business man who clearly wasn’t aware of the lock button, though, now said beer-holding man has entered the aforementioned train toilet upon the business man’s exit and the lock symbol has not lit up so perhaps it’s just not working – regardless, that was not what I wanted to see on a sleep-deprived Monday evening and further firms the fact that train fare is bafflingly high considering the never-improving state of the service. We have already touched on how much I despise train toilets, be that in a very small way, combine that with drunk people and it is very much not a good time.)
I get incredibly stressed before I travel, to the point that my incredibly patient other half has to answer the same few questions about a million times, the answers to which do nothing to ease the stress but I still need to know the answers every time I ask for them (“when do we need to get up?”, “when do we need to leave?”, “how long will it take?”, “will I definitely get there on time?”, “will it definitely turn up?”, repeat ad infinitum), as well as dealing with irritability and the potential for less-than-a-minute bursts of uncalled for stress crying, the latter, thankfully, not happening very often. (You know he’s a keeper when he not only gets up with you at 4AM when he doesn’t really have to but also offers to make you pancakes before you leave, walks you down to your bus stop and deals with all of your pointless questions, stress and grumpiness when he should still be sleeping – thank you, you are super human.)
If I am travelling just after I have to get up, I will inevitably not be able to sleep; so determined will my body be to not miss my train/bus/taxi (delete as applicable) that I will be completely awake for most of the night with fleeting pink elephant dreams in between (today’s being a result of the back-to-back Attack on Titan watching I partook in on Saturday, and, naturally, not at all relaxing – it’s good, you should watch it). Naturally, my decision to travel a greater distance this morning in the same amount of time it would have taken to catch the various rail replacements home yesterday made me question my life choices, as well as whether today was, indeed, the same Monday I thought it was, but it also made me feel oddly triumphant.
But that was not the point of this pondering. I’m not entirely sure what the point was but it has led me to question why they’re spending so much time on a snazzy new line when that snazzy new line is leading to over-crowding on the pre-existing line and traffic problems in my home town. Sigh. That is, potentially, a rant for another entry.