Home is…Helen of Troy!

After years of feeling slightly displaced, beginning to read The Odyssey, a story of one man’s arduous journey home from war, has made me seriously contemplate where ‘home’ actually is. Whilst leaving Sheffield, my adopted home of ten years, to return to Wakefield, the city I grew up in, left me in mourning for the end of a glorious period in my life, it didn’t catalyse the crisis I thought it would. In fact, I’m actually enjoying the change! If, like Dorothy, I clicked my red shoes together and professed a profound desire to go home, however, would Wakefield be the place of my heart?

Dorothy Pics - CopyWhat I’ve started to realise is that, despite my love of each, neither Wakefield or Sheffield is actually the physical place I’d visualise in my hypothetical Dorothy moment. Instead, I’d think of somewhere bigger and altogether more diverse; a land encompassing rugged landscapes, charming coastlines, and (in my very biased opinion) the friendliest people you could meet…yes, I’d think of Yorkshire.

It’s been a fantastic couple of years for Yorkshire, with our epic Olympic successes and recent ranking as the third best place to visit in the world by Lonely Planet guide not only putting us on the international stage, but consolidating what locals have always known: Yorkshire’s chuffin’ wonderful! With more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other place (outside of London) in Britain; some of the most critically acclaimed art galleries, museums and theatres in the entire country; and a beautifully rich historical heritage, Yorkshire is the jewel of our nation.

Harewood - Copy York Minster

What I really love about Yorkshire, however, is the sheer beauty of the outdoor world. Whether I’m in Scarborough or Saltaire, the dramatic vivacity of the landscape always threatens to overwhelm me in a way that nowhere else in the world quite can. There’s nothing like walking over the windy wilds of the moors in Haworth (imagining you’re Emily Bronte) or the Yorkshire Dales to make you feel truly invigorated. Yorkshire is so alive with natural wonder that it’s impossible not to be swept off your feet by it…sometimes literally if you happen to go walking in a hilly area on a particularly windy day!

Hebden Bridge - CopyWhitby

It’s difficult to encapsulate the spirit of Yorkshire for those who have never visited; I don’t think it’s possible to express the magic of the place verbally or visually. Both natives and visitors alike often comment on its enduring magnetism and spirit, and the way in which it seems to cast an enchantment over you from the moment you step inside its borders.

If I had to compare it to something however, I’d probably liken it to a fictional character: Helen of Troy, of ‘Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?’ fame. Beautiful enough for all men to be in love with it, inspiring jealousy in the hearts of others, Yorkshire is a place that stirs the emotions; a place people would fight for. Perhaps that analogy makes me sound a little dramatic, but, by ‘eck, as someone who has finally decided where home truly is, I’m allowed to be!

Leeds Corn Exchange - CopyWaterfall - Copy

30 Before 30!

As my 29th birthday is imminent, I’ve recently been wondering how to make the last year of my twenties significant. There’s an abundance of things I’d love to do before reaching my thirties- seeing the Northern Lights being a prime example- but, given my current precarious financial situation, it’s highly implausible I’d attain any of them!

As a self-confessed bookworm, my thoughts immediately turned to books. Having already completed the challenge of reading the equivalent of a book a week during 2012, achieving (a quite laudable, I think) 50 out of 52, I decided that a challenge of a literary nature would be more attainable, far cheaper, and notably less scandalous than some of the ideas I was contemplating! Although I’ve probably consumed hundreds of amazing books through the years, there are many great ones that I still haven’t read, either because the subject matter doesn’t appeal to me, or I’ve just ‘not got round to it’ yet. Thus, I decided that my challenge would involve reading books that I feel I ought to have read before reaching 30. And so, ‘30 Before 30’ was born…

Selecting 30 books to read in a year was actually more difficult than I’d envisaged- many contemporary works, the majority of classics, and a lot of seminal texts have already formed part of my degrees. Whilst I managed to compile a list of around 15, I was struggling to think of others; the Guardian’s 1000 Novels Everyone Must Read list is good as a checklist, but involves seemingly endless research! In the end, Facebook friends came to my rescue. After requesting book recommendations, I received a fair few ideas to help me complete the first stage of my challenge. Unfortunately, not everyone’s recommendation made it onto the list (sorry to anyone whose suggestion didn’t- I will endeavour to read them at some point, even the phenomenon that is Fifty Shades…!), but I did try to use as many as possible, concentrating on just fiction in order to make it easier.

As a result, my final list consists of a combination of fiction I really want to read before reaching the big 3-0, and other people’s recommendations. There’s a decent variety of books, from classical literature to teenage fiction, and I intend to blog about every single one!

Here’s the definitive ’30 before 30′ List:

1. The Odyssey- Homer

2. The Master and Margarita- Mikhail Bulgakov

3. The Secret History- Donna Tartt

4. Murder on the Orient Express- Agatha Christie

5. Song of Solomon-Toni Morrison

6. Possession- AS Byatt

7. The Shining- Stephen King

8. Norwegian Wood- Haruki Murakami

9. Anna Karenina- Leo Tolstoy

10. Brave New World- Aldous Huxley

11. The Satanic Verses- Salman Rushdie

12. Fingersmith- Sarah Waters

13. Lady Chatterley’s Lover- DH Lawrence

14. Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy- Helen Fielding

15. The Old Man and the Sea- Ernest Hemingway

16. The Color Purple- Alice Walker

17. 1984- George Orwell

18. The View from Castle Rock- Alice Munro

19. The Famished Road- Ben Okri

20. The Poisonwood Bible- Barbara Kingsolver

21. The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins

22. The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of a Window and Disappeared- Jonas Jonasson

23. Jamaica Inn- Daphne du Maurier

24. Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle – Vladimir Nabokov

25. Shadow of the Wind- Carlos Ruiz Zafon

26. House of Leaves- Mark Z.Danielewzi

27. The Wasp Factory- Ian Banks

28. My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece- Annabelle Pitcher

29. The Cuckoos Calling – Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

30. The Name of the Rose- Umberto Eco

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Wish me luck!

The Reluctant Poet

Although I’ve been writing since my teenage years, I’ve never described myself as a poet, preferring to say “I write poetry” instead. Perhaps my reluctance to define myself as one has stemmed from an inability to recognise myself as a poet; an unwillingness to commit myself fully to the poetic world; or an innate fear of failure.

Poet pic

…Is this what a poet looks like?!

Melancholy

Does this make me a poet?

Whatever the psychology behind it, I have now reached a point where I feel comfortable applying the term ‘poet’ to myself. Recently, at the risk of sounding a bit pretentious (that was probably a factor in my reluctance too), I’ve started to introduce myself as a poet in social situations with new people, and have been pleased to discover that it doesn’t cause anyone to mumble an excuse and leg it. In reality, it actually has the opposite effect- people seem to love it!

The only downside to this, especially when talking to the opposite sex, is that many people instantly want you to stand on a table and recite poetry for their own entertainment. What these people fail to realise is that a) I’m not a performing seal, b)  I don’t create poetry on command (unless it’s a commission, which is a different matter entirely!), and c) this request becomes incredibly boring and predictable really quickly. As lovely as it is for people to show an interest in my passion, I don’t necessarily want to showcase my poetry in the middle of a party…and not just because my level of inebriation has caused me to forget everything I’ve ever written.

Coming out of the poet closet/garret has, however, reinforced the notion that we all have a unique selling point; something that differentiates us from the next person, making us alluring to friends and strangers alike. Sometimes we may have to look a little further or search a little deeper to discover it, but I truly believe that everyone is interesting in their own way- whatever their passion. Of course there will alway be people that we don’t get along with; that’s just human nature. Yet, even if they’re not likeable, in my mind, there’s still at least one element of each person that is interesting- whether they’re a poet or a philistine!

In celebration of this, my admission that I am actually a poet, and the fact that another one of my poems has just been accepted for publication, I thought I’d share one of my previously published poems, which I wrote when I was at university. It’s not related whatsoever to anything I’ve just been waffling on about (though it does consolidate my point about not wanting to spout poetry in social situations; it would kill a party atmosphere completely!), yet I’d like to share it anyway. Hope you enjoy!

Superstition

In the cupped palm of your hand,

your love line creases into a smile

that’s not for me.

An omen in itself,

and still my tulip buds

in extravagant yearning,

straining for the sun,

searching, searching.

Over my shoulder, apple peel

curves into an initial that can

never begin to spell your name.

A euphemism,

but still I sense

its implicit meaning,

superstition overwritten,

fading, fading.

Inside of me, a flower

defies nature, inverts itself,

becomes nothing.

A loss within myself.

And the peel writhes

into a curious ball of misery,

widowed of a name,

grieving, grieving.

In the button tin

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If your idea of heaven involves vintage fabrics, jam jars bursting with buttons, and an eclectic array of ornamental curios, you may well find it in the form of the button tin: a cosy hub of creativity located in the centre of Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

Reminiscent of your gran’s house, the button tin is the beautiful base from which Gemma, who has a degree in Fine Arts, runs sewing workshops with ‘a nostalgic twist’. As Gemma’s artistic interest lies in installations, she wanted to create a space that people could be inspired by, and used her memories of her gran’s button tin as the beginning of her own creative endeavour. Ranging from creating vintage fabric book covers to quirky whimsical mobiles and wall hangings, Gemma’s workshops aim to preserve traditional crafts, whilst incorporating history in unique, sentimental creations.

My friends and I, who had all heard of or visited the button tin previously, took part in one of these workshops on Sunday, and, as you can see from the photos, what an amazing day it was!

Button Tin 6

After introducing herself and describing how the button tin came into existence, Gemma gave us the option of making some fabric jewellery or combining text and textiles to form a wall sampler or piece of wall art. As a poet, it was immediately obvious which option I was going to choose (any opportunity to use my poetic brain!), and luckily all of my friends wanted to do the same.

At the end of a fantastic six hour workshop consisting of one-to-one tutoring; a rummage through, and use of, some gorgeous vintage fabrics, lace doilies and a button tin (of course!); plus lashings of tea and a piece of cake, these are the wonderful pieces my friends produced:

Button Tin 4the button tin Kate

The Button Tin 5

Ellen's creation

As I’m a little bit of a technophobe and we were running out of time, my very kind friend Ellen, who is a Design Technology teacher and talented seamstress, helped me to finish mine, so I can’t take full credit for it, but I was pretty pleased with the quirky apron style sampler I ended up with. Thankyou to Gemma for the inspired idea!

Close up of mine

A line taken from one of my poems.

Button Tin 1

If you fancy a trip to the button tin, would like to know more about this little haven of magic, hidden in an old building in the depths of Yorkshire, or simply need some visual inspiration, take a look at Gemma’s blog: http://gemmanemer.blogspot.co.uk. You’ll be truly enchanted.

20130316_133857  Button Tin 3

PS. I stupidly forgot my phone on the day, so had to steal other people’s pics (thankyou people!), or use ones I’d taken previously. As a result, I don’t have any photographic representations of the outside of the button tin in all its unique beauty.

So that’s just another reason to visit Gemma’s blog!