Why are we racing to adulthood?

June has been a bit of a nothingness month for me aside from pretty major one event – I turned 25.

25.

Mid 20s. As close to 30 as 20. A quarter of a century. A fully-fledged adult. The age at which my parents got married. The age at which as a kid I thought I’d be married and own a home and have a kid.

It goes without saying that I have none of those things.

But I read a quote recently which sums up my attitude perfectly – I’m right on schedule with my life plan now I’ve pushed everything back eight years.

Because looking at it now 25 is far too young for all those things. I’m amazed my parents felt mature enough at 25 to get married. I can’t keep a plant alive, I still cry at adverts, I sometimes eat biscuits for dinner; I’ve no business making life shaping decisions. Owning a home, having children and getting married are all things that can wait because when else in my life am I going to get the chance to be accountable to no one but me?

This hit me while re-reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed and just provides further proof that I should adopt it as my own personal bible. Talking about her mother she says, ‘I never got to be in the driver’s seat of my own life… I’ve always been someone’s daughter or mother or wife. I’ve never just been me.’

That’s what I am right now. I’m just me. Tied to nothing. In practical terms I’d have to give one month’s notice at work and two months’ notice on my flat but after that I could just walk out of my life. I could splurge all my savings on an around the world trip. I could move to Australia or Canada or Europe (although not for long). I could go back to University. Or I could continue as I’m doing now and just live my life exactly as I’ve made it around me. Eating what I want for dinner, even if that is occasionally biscuits, spending my money on iced lattes, second hand books, fancy cheeses, fresh flowers, days out to castles, landmarks and zoos and one extravagant, exotic holiday a year. Yes I’ll have a savings account too, I am unendingly sensible after all, but this is the one time in my life when I’ll have financial security, disposable income and no one dependent on me; I finally get to treat myself without guilt, without debt.

And slowly but surely, through reading and working and day to day life experience, I’ll become a well-rounded woman. The kind of confident, self-assured woman 13 year old me could never have imagined. Ready to face the serious, big things when I need to.

These lost years of the mid to late 20s when you’ve been thrown out into the world to live independently are the best gift that the feminist cause has given us so far and we are not even close to appreciating it. Women just twenty years ago didn’t get this option. Lizzy Bennet, Helen Graham, Tess Durbyfield, Cassandra Mortmain, Esther Greenwood; none of them got this option and they all so desperately needed it.

So I’m going to stop worrying about getting ready for the future, racing through life to the next goal post, and use this time to become a really good version of myself.

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Recipe: Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I really think I might have a sweet potato addiction. Every Sunday I start thinking about what meal I could make myself to take in to work for lunch the coming week and without fail I will circle back around to something sweet potato related – salads, pastas, stews, curries, chillis; if you can put sweet potato in it, I will put sweet potato on it. Continue reading “Recipe: Sweet Potato Gnocchi”

Recipe: Halloumi salad with sweet potato croutons

Can you really claim a salad is a recipe? When it comes down to it it’s just some ingredients mixed together in a bowl. Although at its basic level isn’t all food is just ingredients mixed together in a bowl? And this has got very deep very quickly. Continue reading “Recipe: Halloumi salad with sweet potato croutons”

Postcard from the Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome

I love a castle.

I love the history, the sense of thousands of people who’ve walked the same corridors you’re now walking. I love exploring winding staircases and narrow battlements and cramped cellars. I’m less interested in learning the actual facts of what happened there, in what century, involving which people, and would rather just run around, pretending to be in Game of Thrones or a Philippa Gregory novel; treating the whole place like an acceptable grown-up version of a playground.

But it’s not just any castle that makes it to third on my list of all time favourite castles (yes I really have a list of all time favourite castles. I swear I’m perfectly normal). The Castel Sant’Angelo makes the cut because it is a sprawling maze of interconnected rooms and passageways and you never come out quite where you expect to – perfect for losing yourself from modern life for a day. It feels like nowhere is off limits, which is never usually the case. And there’s nothing that crushes my daydreams about being Cersei Lannister quicker than a cordoned off staircase marked ‘do not enter.’

It’s not on the typical tourist agenda for a trip to Rome because, I suppose, comparatively it’s not really that old. What’s a castle built in the 14th Century AD compared to a Colosseum built in the 1st Century AD? But it just had that bit of magic to it that won me over completely.

This week I’ve been reading… Married Love and other stories by Tessa Hadley

I picked up this book immediately after finishing War and Peace. I picked it up without much thought but I do have to wonder if subconsciously I was craving short stories. After 4000 pages of the same people, places and events being introduced to and done with a character all in 20 pages was a welcome relief.  And whereas in War and Peace I found myself skim reading to get it over with as soon as possible, in Married Love I wanted to savour every word because it was the writing that had all the beauty. Almost like poetry.

The stories in general perhaps had more in common with poetry than a traditional novel. Many of them didn’t really have a notable plot; nothing much changed from beginning to end. Instead of being full-fledged narratives they were more like snippets of stories, brief glimpses into a life, like you’re peering in through a person’s window as you walk down the road.

And because there wasn’t a plot I didn’t get hung up wanting to find out what would happen next. Usually I see long-winded descriptions, character sketches and scene setting as a waste of time, an obstacle to get through to get to the really good stuff: the story. But with no story to worry about I could fully immerse myself in the subtle, delicate writing style.

It’s that lack of a narrative, that uneventfulness, which ties together all the stories. The characters’ imaginations take them on a course that their life never actually does – Shelley expects the worst news about her son, Alec expects the worst news about his sister, Ally takes an unnecessary risk, Kirsten acts without thinking – and they all come out the other side unscathed.

But although the worst never does happy, it doesn’t prevent an overwhelming sense of misery in all the stories. From the slow, introspective writing style and the dreary normality of the lives being portrayed. The dramatic life-defining crescendo might seem the more emotional of the two options but Tessa Hadley articulates so well the quiet melancholy of everyday life that it becomes far more relatable and therefore far more affecting.

Postcard from Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Yesterday afternoon I dropped almost £700 on a return flight to Australia. The stress of it all nearly gave me a panic attack but now it’s done and been triple checked for errors and I can actually start to look forward to three weeks exploring a completely new country. A completely new continent. A completely new hemisphere.

The furthest I have ever been from the UK is Vancouver but we built up to that – flying into Orlando and slowly making our way around America to end in Vancouver. And on the way back we had a day layover in Iceland so the flights never got beyond a manageable length.

London to Brisbane though is a completely different ball game. I leave on the Saturday and don’t arrive until Monday. And how that takes 29 hours makes my brain boggle but even with my mental block against time zones I can tell you – that’s a hell of a long time.

Will it be worth it? Of course it will. Because even though I’ll probably get bitten by poisonous spiders, lose limbs to great white sharks, spend the whole time suffering from sunburn and have spent over two grand in the process I’ll get to see places that look as close to paradise as I can imagine.

This week I’ve been reading… Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (and I won’t be sleeping again)

I’ve been on a bit of a thriller hype the past few months. It had always been a genre I’ve avoided because, well, I’m a massive scaredy-cat. But I couldn’t ignore all the clamour being made about Girl on the Train so I jumped on that bandwagon. And loved it.

It seems obvious to say it, but it was so gripping, couldn’t-put-it-down, a-real-page-turner – just all the clichés.

And the more thrillers I read the more arrogant I was getting because I just wasn’t finding them that scary. They had moments that made me tense up but nothing that was actually keeping me up at night. I was really starting to think that I had got over my wimpiness.

Well, Dark Places, I take it all back. Continue reading “This week I’ve been reading… Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (and I won’t be sleeping again)”

New York for a third time

Last week there wasn’t my usual Thursday postcard because instead of being stuck at home writing about travelling I was actually off doing some – jetting off for four days in New York City.

I’ve now been to New York three times and to be honest, I’m just a little bored of it.

I know, I know, cry me a river.

This time more than any other time I’ve been it struck me that despite all the hype and romance, it’s just like any other city – big, noisy and dirty. And that’s just not my thing. As distinctive as the New York skyline is to see out of your window, I’d rather have some rolling hills, a gentle stream and maybe a couple of sheep.

I was also feeling deprived of history. My favourite holiday activity is a trip to something, anything, with a bit of history – a strange thing for the girl who hated history at school and until she discovered Philippa Gregory couldn’t name more than four English monarchs and definitely no foreign ones. A day out at a castle is a guaranteed vacation highlight. For my holiday to the south of Spain later this year I’m already plotting out the schedule for da trips to the Alhambra in Granda and the Alcázar of Seville. New York, and the USA in general, just doesn’t have many places like that. No Tudor buildings or places where people from history have walked – just a sea of concrete and glass. 

But before you all threaten to throttle me in the comments for being so damn miserable about a trip to the holy grail of city break destinations, I should perhaps segue into talking about my three highlights.

Bateaux Dinner Cruise

This is by far one of the fanciest things I’ve ever done. There were people wearing bow ties for crying out loud. Thank god no one cheesily proposed because it was exactly the kind of place where I could imagine that happening. And for good reason because the champagne was flowing, the food was great, there was live music, the Manhattan skyline and a sunset. What more could you want? I imagine it was hugely expensive (my mum is a bit of a splurger when it comes to holidays) but if you can afford it, do it. And make sure to order the chocolate and salted caramel tart for pudding.

Ellen Stardust Diner

There’s definitely a food theme going on here… Unsurprisingly really when America does have the best food in the whole world. Italy? Pff. You can’t get french toast at 9pm in Italy. Ellen Stardust Diner is, as it sounds, a pretty regular American diner, just off Broadway, serving burgers and fries and milkshakes and all that American goodness. What sets it apart is the waiting staff who are all out of work Broadway actors and they take it in turns to sing while they serve you; a mix of songs from musicals, chart hits and classics (the best of the night was Party Like It’s 1999). It all sounds kind of cheesy and I was a little apprehensive going in – after all, I am British, and this did not sound very stiff upper lip. But it was just amazing. And clearly I’m not the only one who thinks so because we went at 3pm, hardly prime time, and queued for 30 minutes to get in. But totally totally worth it. Don’t bother forking out for Broadway tickets – just eat here every night.

Bryant Park


This is a park with a library in it. I repeat, a park with a library in it. Granted quite a small library but they had enough Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy to keep me going for months. And it’s really pretty with coffee shops (for the necessary food purchases), metal tables,bumbrellas, flowerbeds and an old-fashioned carousel. We visited once on a dreary Friday when it was practically deserted and again at lunchtime on a sunny Monday when it was rammed with office workers escaping their cubicles. And for a moment it made me want to move to London and get an office job, just so I could come and eat my Pret salad with views of the Empire State Building. But only for a moment.

An irrational phobia of reviewing books

I didn’t start this blog as a place to review books. I thought my book content would be all lists, comparisons, thoughtful pieces on the way YA fiction has evolved, well considered arguments on why Mansfield Park is the best Jane Austen novel. And to start off it was mostly like that. I actually resisted writing reviews because, to quote myself, I wanted to be different to ‘every other book blogger doing a review of the books they read.’

But my originality dried up. Or, to put a nicer spin on it, I discovered reviews were quite fun to write. Sometimes because I love the book and need to shout about it every which way I can and others because the book is so horrendously bad that I need a place to let off steam. Continue reading “An irrational phobia of reviewing books”