A day just for me

How long has it been since I’ve had a day to myself in a London coffee shop to do nothing but write?

Too long.

I’d forgotten the freedom of it. No distractions. Just a coffee, my iPad, and the London atmosphere around me.

With work training taking up so much of time, plus a very welcome increase in my social life this summer, finding dedicated writing time has been hard.

But today is just for me and my story.

Thank you, my friends.

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Last Friday I found myself on a rooftop bar in London. The night was warm. People were sitting, talking, laughing, kissing, singing, reminiscing, meeting. Some of the people I knew. Others I’d met just that night. Two of them were a couple of the most important people currently in my life. Only one of them I’d known for more than a year.

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And, looking around, I had the realisation that when it comes to friends, I’ve been, and continue to be, incredibly fucking blessed.

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As I’ve moved through my life I’ve met and interacted with so many different people. Some I’ve simply known, others I’ve made more of a connection with. And then I’ve moved on. Life moves forward. Some of those friendships have faded away while others have stayed with me.

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And the most important – the most amazing – part of all of this is that each and every one of these people has played a part in making me who I am. Every relationship. Each interaction, no matter how small, has shaped me. I’ve experienced love, loss, laughter, fear, anger, joy, discovery, every part of the human experience. And I’ve shared all of it with you.

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And as I looked around the rooftop on Friday I realised that I was surrounded by people I consider some of my closest friends, people I know well enough to call friends, and people I might never see again but who have the potential to become one of my best friends I have in the world.

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Just think about it. Every person in your life that you can’t imagine possibly being without was once a complete stranger you just happened to meet.

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How many of the people I met of Friday might I end up knowing for the rest of my life?

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There are so many things in life that are so close to us, so familiar and everyday, that we forgot how important that are. How much magic they hold. Our friends  are one of these things.

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So what I want to say here is thank you to you all. Thank you to every one of you I’ve ever called a friend. To anyone with whom I’ve ever shared an experience or an emotion. Whether we haven’t spoken in years, or if you’ve been by my side for for over a decade. Whether we were part of each other’s lives for years or just a single weekend. All of you are more important than I can say.

So important, in fact, that I rarely even register how important you actually are.

Recommendation: “The Hoarder” by Jess Kidd

Maud Drennan is a dedicated caregiver trying to move past the secret of a lost sister. When she is assigned to the case of Cathal Flood, a crotchety and apparently dangerous widower, she finds herself drawn into the joint mysteries of his long-lost daughter, and Cathal’s late wife’s seeming obsession with a girl who went missing decades previously. 

As Maud and Cathal bond over a shared dislike of his overbearing son, she starts to believe that there is more the the family and the house, and that Cathal’s dead wife might be trying to lead her to solving a mystery. 

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Having now read her first two books, I’ve found I have a strange relationship with Jess Kidd’s work.

I’ve loved both The Hoarder and Himself. The stories are interesting, the writing poetic and wonderfully Irish, and the characters are fleshed out and realistic. Every part of both books work, both individually and together. Yet, for some reason neither of them have been able to grab me and make me love them.

Objectively, everything about these books is right up my street. But somehow they haven’t taken hold of my attention. I never feel compelled to read on. There are some books where, once I start reading, there’s no stopping. They’ll pull me in and latch hold of me so I want to read them without stopping. I’ll sit up in bed engrossed, reading just one more chapter until I realise I’ve stayed up far too late.

With Kidd’s books, I find I’m happy to pick them up, read a chapter, then put it down. I want to read on, but it doesn’t drive me.

I can’t put my finger on a single reason for this. Every element is correct. There are no weak links, or parts lacking that I can say “that’s the reason”. It’s just a strange and, so far, inexplicable thing.

And I still want to read on. There’s no part of me thing that this is a reason to stop reading her, which is how I usually feel if a book fails to grab me in this way. I have her next book, Things In Jars already in my Want-To-Read list.

I heartily recommend reading Kidd’s book, by the way. I’d love to know if anyone else has the same issue.

Review: “Night Walking: A Nocturnal History of London” by Matthew Beaumont.

I really wanted to like this book more. In fact, I think the amount I wanted to to enjoy it is the only reason I managed to make myself finish it.

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The main concept is one of those that is oddly interesting: a history of London at night. But it is interesting. It’s one of those areas that you don’t realise you’ve never thought about. I mean, when did you last think about how much public street lighting must have fundamentally changed public life? Or what life in the was city like when it would literally be pitch dark at night? I didn’t know that the literal act of being outside at night was once considered a crime. Did you? 

And the conceit should work as well. Beaumont uses examples of literature from different periods throughout London’s history – from Shakespeare to Dickens – to show how these poets and authors – in their work and their lives – reflected these changes in society. How going outside at night without an explicit reason went from being a crime to a leisurely pastime of gentlefolk.

But unfortunately Beaumont took this in completely the wrong direction. Rather than a history shown through the lens of literature, he makes this a literary critique that simply uses history as a loose excuse to show off his own knowledge. His writing is overly literary and self important – seeing the Forward was written by Will Self was fair warning, I suppose – making large chunks of the book almost unreadable. The topics should be interesting, and most often start off that way, but then Beaumont will slip into deep literary analysis that makes it impossible to stay engaged.

Essentially, this could easily lose around half its word-count. It’s not a thin book so wouldn’t look anaemic, and it would be a much better read. Unfortunately Beaumont appears to be part of that literary scene who believe that part of a good book is making it as hard to read as possible. It’s not the subject he’s writing about that he wants us to be impressed with, but his own intelligence. This is not a book the writer intended to be enjoyed. I’m half convinced that Beaumont may have just published his PHD thesis.

It wasn’t so bad that I gave up on it. There was enough in there to chip through and enjoy. But it’s not a good sign when your reaction on finishing a book is relief.