Is this going to be a yearly thing…?

It seems like I have to reintroduce myself to blogging at least once a year. Sometimes twice. Is the whole concept of blogging dead? Should I be trying to set my writing endeavours to weird slowed-down breathy clips of popular music on TikTok instead?

Perish the thought.

Anyway. I had some success with this blog through 2020, didn’t I? I was doing my monthly reading round-ups, linked to my social media, and I was connecting with a lot of people. Beautiful stuff… until, as always seems to happen, I got bored in early 2021 and vanished off the face of the planet again. Hey ho.

At first, I think the structure of having such a regular structure of monthly book reviews was good for my brain, and kept me going. But then it started to become a chore, and I just wasn’t here for it any more. However, I miss blogging; I miss having a good old chat about everything and nothing. So I feel like it’s time to return – not to the fixed monthly reviews or anything like that, but definitely to the occasional ramble about my writing, my reading, my obsession with dresses that have pockets, and anything else that happens to cross my mind.

On which note – what’s been going on in the year since I last wrote?

I’m not about to start analysing the global situation, don’t worry. But let’s just say the state of the world at the moment has ignited something in me that has been buried for years. For most of my life I’ve been ardently left-wing and feminist, but without any particular focus for it. Over the years I’ve read widely and occasionally dipped a toe into the waters of activism, but then I’ve also tried to tamp down my views to fit in with my friends and not seem like a frothing ball of rage. But, well… I am a frothing ball of rage, why should I try and hide it? To which end, in recent months I’ve been stepping tentatively into the world of trade union activism, particularly focussing on women’s rights within my industry. After all, what’s the point in being such a lefty-liberal feminist loudmouth if I’m not going to do anything with it?

I’m still going to try and keep this blog largely for my more bookish pursuits, but just be aware if you’re a regular reader (and I, er, become a regular poster), my more political side may start to creep in.

When it comes to reading, I wasn’t quite as prolific in 2021 as I was in 2020 (though that would have been near-impossible, considering the sheer amount I read in that first lockdown) though I did still get through 97 books. My head was a bit fried towards the latter end of 2021 and I went through a three-month reading slump, where concentrating on anything remotely new just wasn’t happening. That’s one of the reasons I’ve decided that in 2022, I’m going to be counting rereads in my Goodreads challenge. I’ve never done so before, but rereading some of my comforting old favourites really helped me get over the slump, and I wish now I’d counted them in my total because, after all, it’s not like I wasn’t reading!

I did of course read some fabulous books in 2021 when I could still get my head around new things. Beautiful books, heartbreaking books, hilarious books. Heart-bouncing sequels with beloved characters, and heartbreaking one-offs. I hope this year is going to bring forth some similar gems.

I’ve set myself a couple of reading challenges for 2022. Of course, I’m doing the typical Goodreads one: my goal this year is once again to read 70 books. I’m making slow progress – seven so far, and it’s almost the end of January – but it’s a good start considering I’m only just getting back up to pace with my reading. I’m well up to pace with my book-buying, of course. When Waterstones did their half-price hardback sale at the end of 2021, Christ on a bicycle. My back didn’t know what had hit it, having to cart that lot home in my rucksack.

Then I got home and realised quite what I’d done, when I couldn’t even get my new purchases remotely near my TBR trolley. Whoops. So I decided I’d also take part in the ’22 in 2022′ challenge over on Instagram – as the name suggests, reading 22 books from my TBR pile over the course of 2022. God, wouldn’t it be nice if that was going to make a big dent in it? Spoiler alert: there’s WAY more than 22 books on my TBR trolley.

I’ve got a mix there, in my chosen 22: some are new, and some have been gracing my TBR trolley for over a year now. Fiction, non-fiction, memoir, retellings, romance, fantasy, weirdness. I’m pleased to say I’ve already finished two of them. Twenty to go!

I’ll save my writing endeavours for a whole other post, I think – 2021 was a hell of a messy year for my creative side, and in all honesty I’m currently completely sans structure to it and have contemplated just deleting my entire (massive) writing folder from my Dropbox at least twice. But that’s a story for its own post, I think.

Bookish things aside, what has been occurring in the more personal side of my life? My child started school – Teddy loves it, can read to roughly a Year 2 level already and has more friends than I think I ever have had in my life – and I suddenly found myself with a lot more free time. I developed a mild-to-middling obsession with skincare and managed to pamper my skin to the point I no longer wear foundation (eyeliner still present and correct, though). I also continued my middling-to-massive obsession with brightly coloured dresses with pockets (Popsy, all the way) and no longer give the slightest of shits what people think of me when I’m striding around dressed like a CBeebies presenter. I’ve somehow accidentally got myself a social life, too, and can regularly be found in hipster-esque pubs drinking real ale and swearing like a navvy about how much I hate the Tory party.

In October I finally made it back to Finland and saw my girls for the first time in forever. Two Sonata Arctica shows, lots of drinks, lots of food, and some intense ‘chilling’ (ha) in a proper old-fashioned Finnish sauna, and it was probably one of the best, most necessary holidays I’ve ever had. I miss seeing my girls so much, and I am absolutely terrible at keeping in touch from a distance. Yes, I am that person who sends text messages in my head and thinks I’ve actually done it when in reality, I’ve been silent for weeks. Awful person. So it was absolutely perfect to be with them in person, properly catching up and dealing with the rafts of rubbish we’ve had thrown at us in the last couple of years.

Also, being back in front of a live band again, for the first time in a year and a half… oh, it was amazing. And it felt like a proper book-ending of the pandemic, too. I was lucky in that I managed to scoot across to Finland in February 2020 to see Sonata Arctica, just before all the lockdowns started and we got thrown into seemingly never-ending hell. Then the first travelling I did when things seemed to be getting on an even keel again? Sonata Arctica in Finland. Perfect. Then of course Omicron hit and everything went somewhat to shit again, but hey, we might be clawing our way out again now. Not before Frank Turner, the singer with whom I am currently obsessed, cancelled his proper tour, which was a bit of a blow as I’ve not seen him live yet. But he’s doing some album launch shows in a couple of months, and I’ll be there at the front (potentially crying and/or trying to lick him, we’ll just have to see).

Oh, and I’m finally, at the grand old age of 32, learning to drive. Pedestrians of the North East, beware. I’m not well-known for my spacial awareness. Watch this space – next entry might be from jail when I get arrested for mixing up the accelerator and the brake and ploughing into an entire flock of sheep, or some such ridiculousness.

Anyway, that’s quite enough chatting on about nothing in particular, for today at least. Apologies for the long year of silence – or, probably more likely, apologies for coming back to assault your eyes with my rambling again. Let’s see how long I can keep this going this year!

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