A Different Stage by Gary Barlow
Dear Fatty by Dawn French
I still haven't read Reasons to stay alive; that note at the bottom there reminded me.
This book is a collection of Matt's thoughts and feelings which is a really interesting way to write and publish a book. The first quarter of the book made me feel quite anxious - the worry upon worry upon worry about the state of the world and the people in it - but then I got into the rhythm of it all and picked out some gems I could remember for my own mental health battles.
I used to have the constant worry (which I now know is anxiety) about the world, but this dissolved when I hit my teens and the depression sank in all of a sudden, completely throwing me off course when I was about 13. I now have what Matt describes in the chapter "Crash" where my mind feels cluttered all of the time. I guess this is still a form of anxiety.
I also like the chapter "A note from the beach" and the ending of that chapter "Just be. Just beach." I try to remember this when I'm feeling overwhelmed with work or house projects. The other thing I try to remember is that I am everything and nothing. A single moment and all eternity. Matt talks about the universe and how it is so much bigger than us. He talks about the sky and just looking up and staring at it to anchor himself. I think about both of these things when I'm trying to combat anxiety and when the situation I'm in is making me feel trapped, but really it isn't the be all and end all, it just feels like that in the moment. This too shall pass as my therapist always says.
I've been enjoying my audiobooks on my commute to and from the office and this has been on my hitlist for a while. As you know, I am a massive fan of Ab Fab the TV show, written by Jennifer Saunders and, after watching her review of funny women with Dawn French at Christmas and listening to them both "tittering about" on their podcast of the same name, it prompted me to delve into Saunders early life and find out how she made it big. I love the fact that she has this wonderful relationship with Dawn French, I love the fact she worked with Joanna Lumley and has some great stories about her and I love the fact she helped Miranda on her way. That integration with some of my most favourite comedians is very heartwarming. It's interesting how Saunders breaks rules with comedy during the 90s and how the BBC production was just right for that rebellion and expressiveness at that time. The right people were in the right places to make the right choices. Her reflections on how the BBC has changed are intriguing and there's a real sense of loss when she describes it. It's wonderful that she narrates her own story. It makes such a difference to the storytelling. It's also wonderful to hear just how many times she's messed up even when famous, which makes her all the more endearing as a British national treasure in my humble opinion.
Billy's audio book was a joy to listen to and I love the fact he narrated it himself. From start to finish it was entertaining and just like listening to him perform on stage. So many wonderful stories and a real lovely way of telling those stories. Rebellious, folky, funny, moving and humbling. He has no airs and graces, just real life, real grit and humour. His big slipper routine in An Audience with.. is still my favourite sketch - in fact, the whole show was a triumph - and I am so glad I was able to see him perform live in London in January 2010. I don't think I will enjoy an autobiography more!
Don't look back by Erica Spindler
I found this book in my mum’s overflowing book case. It seemed perfect for our holiday a month ago - not too taxing, would keep me interested and keep turning the pages.
I’m always interested when books are described as “page turners”. I read quite fast and when I get really into a book, I speed up even more - as long as I can follow the storyline with ease.. This novel lived up to the hype. Well thought out plot, gentle unravelling of details and enough suspects to wonder whodunnit but not so many that it was overwhelming.
The only bit I was disappointed in was that the lead character Kat fell in love with the lead police officer Luke. I think with today’s standard of novels, that’s a little too obvious. I wanted more sparring between them. Maybe that’s just me being picky, but I feel a lot of British writers achieve a more interesting dynamic.
The author here is American and the book is set in Louisiana. I don’t know much about this part of America, but the bits of dialect thrown in were good and reminded me of Blanche from The Golden Girls - a favourite sitcom of mine from the 80s. The story gave enough information about the main location Liberty and the surrounding area. I think that’s really important for setting the scene and as the plot develops.
An Autumn Crush by Milly Johnson
Arabian nightmare by Richard Arnot
I'm still hopeful to get out to Saudi Arabia at the start of next month, although my passport is still not back from renewal. I might need to start making my peace with this adventure not happening this year..
After speaking with my care co-ordinator last week about this exciting travel possibility, we got onto the subject of the British nurse, Helen Smith, who died at an illegal party in Saudi back in the late 70s. She remembers it because she was training to be a nurse at the time. I immediately went onto Google and found this book, written by the Doctor whose party it was.
The British media hasn't changed one bit - back then they blew this story wide open with rumour, innuendo, whisperings of conspiracy and murder. Dr Arnot breaks his silence 30 years later after moving to the other side of the world to get away from the backlash. This book cuts to the very heart of the matter and feels genuine and honest with what really happened that night. I particularly enjoy his accounts of being in a Saudi jail and the way he was determined to make the most of it, despite the appalling conditions and treatment. Strangely this felt very akin to how I spent my time in a psychiatric hospital during my first stay back in 2018, minus the appalling conditions and treatment of course. It was largely very civil and, because I was voluntary, I had priviledges some other patients did not. Which was the same for Dr Arnot - being a doctor and British and able to converse sensibly. I think a lot of people in his situation would have simply gone mad with the confinement and the waiting - nothing happens quickly in a Saudi jail!
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
The excerpt "Expectation" in the photo above touched me deeply. The main character Nora is completely lost and alone and suicidal so she takes an overdose. During that state of unconsciousness and coming back to life again which I know about all too well, she gets a second chance. She gets this wonderful opportunity to visit the midnight library and try out hundreds of versions of how her life could have turned out. It's a brilliant concept, that suspension of time. I'll never get bored of it.
I found the story both beautiful and humbling. Haig writes about the darkest of subjects with such light. I didn't even know that was possible. I only know how to blacken and comedise my bleak experiences and depressed state of mind when I'm telling my own lived stories. It's refreshing and calming to know I am not alone and it's interesting to read about mental health from a male perspective.
Maybe I will try "Reasons To Stay Alive"...
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.