May Life Lately

I feel like I can't start this post, can't blog, without mentioning what a strange, awful, incomprehensible week this has been as someone who was born and raised in Manchester. 

I've written my love letter to my city time and time again, and I never get bored of talking about how much I love Manchester. For me, it's not an exaggeration to say it's the greatest city in the world. Of course, I'm biased, but no matter where I've travelled - London, New York, Washington DC, Dublin, Liverpool, Birmingham - I've always known that my heart is in Manchester.

So when I woke up last Tuesday morning to a Facebook notification - "Your friends want to know if you are safe", then "bomb in Manchester", my world stopped. 

I woke Phil up, crying, "something has happened. Something has happened here." I cried all morning, watching the news. I went for a run and burst into tears as soon as I stopped.

If I'm honest, it's still not sunk in. When I see my city on the news. When I see my city's name in the tweets of Barack Obama. When I see photos of a house raided 100 yards from my beloved city centre flat. When we hold a minute's silence. When I visit what's become a memorial in St Ann's Square. When I think of the concerts I attended at the arena from being 7, up until last year. The happy memories I spent there. None of it feels real. That it happened here.

There's nothing I can say that hasn't already been said. But I have never been prouder to be a Manc. Never been prouder of my city or the people in it. Amongst the heartbreak, we have worked together. Red with blue. Labour with Conservative. Regardless of age and gender and race and politics and social standing, we have all been united. 

And never have I felt it more than standing at the start line of the Great Manchester Run Half Marathon. We all stood in silence, with tears in our eyes. The whole city soundless. Some raising money for the victims, some with yellow ribbons or bee tattoos. All of us thinking of our city, damaged, but never broken. The silence finished with the opening bars of Don't Look Back in Anger, and there, we all stood and sung.

The race almost didn't happen, and I would have been heartbroken, but I understood. But we had to run. We had to show solidarity for our city. We had to run for Manchester. The Great Manchester Run is one of the best running events in the world. We were all there for a reason. A charity, a PB, a laugh, a run. For me, my fourth Great Manchester Run, and taking part in the inaugural half marathon distance. And remembering 4 years ago when I watched my best friend run the race and thinking, I want to run, I want to do that. I owe the Great Manchester Run everything for giving me the inspiration to lace up my trainers and see what I was capable of.

There's so much more to say, but I'm not the person to say it. So if you haven't already heard it or read it, I direct you to Tony Walsh's poem, This is the place, which sums up Manchester better than I ever could. It brings me to tears every time.

This is the place - Tony Walsh

Okay so now I'm suitably sobbing, let me tell you what else I've been doing this month...

What I've been doing
So as I mentioned at the start, running. On Sunday I ran the Great Manchester Run Half Marathon. I was hoping for another sub- 2 hour and would have liked a PB. It was a very emotional run, an amazing course, but a very humid and warm day.

I was having a really great run and pacing really well without getting too ahead of myself, but I was really feeling it from mile 9 onwards! The sub 2 hour pacer overtook me at mile 12 and I had to give everything I had to get me through that last mile. It was tough and awful but wonderful and amazing. I ran 1:59:39 but I did not care for a second that I missed my PB by a few seconds!
In preparation, Phil and I also ran a very hilly Heaton Park 10K a few weeks ago, which was great fun, although the toughest 10K I've ever run!
Wow, sorry this is very running-themed, but I also volunteered at parkrun last weekend, which I loved! I don't like to run the day before a big race, so I marshalled my local course instead. It was so fun that my mouth was hurting from smiling so much! Everyone was so lovely and it's so nice to give something back.
When Phil and I lived in town, we used to walk past the theatre every day, and we saw a poster for The Crucible. As neither of us had read the play but had heard great things about it, we decided to book tickets. So we had a little date this month and had dinner and went to see The Crucible at the Opera House. It was brilliant and a really nice night out.

Finally, last week my friend Eve and I went to see comedian Juliette Burton on the recommendation of my colleague, Charlotte. She was brilliant and lovely and funny and I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for her in the future. She talks brilliantly about mental health, feminism and the importance of kindness and looking after each other. Her show was a preview of her Edinburgh Fringe show so if you're attending, make sure you keep an eye out for her.

Where I've been
Okay, technically last month, but over the first bank holiday weekend, Phil and I went away to the Lake District with Phil's parents. We went a few years ago just the two of us, and we'd been desperate to go back. It was exactly the weekend we needed - board games, cosy pubs, long walks and unexpectedly good weather! We also both smashed parkrun PBs at Fellfoot parkrun - one of the most beautiful parkruns we've ever done!
Last weekend, we headed to Wales to celebrate two of our best friends getting married! When I first met Phil, he and Simon lived together, so Si and Meg were the first friends of Phil's I ever met. Over the years we've spent so much time together, and we know a lot of their friends and family, so we've been counting down to their wedding for months! As expected, I cried, a LOT. I cried during the vows, as they left the church, during the speeches... It was honestly one of the best weddings I've ever been to - I didn't want to go home! Such a beautiful wedding for such an amazing couple - I wish we could do it all over again!

We've also been to a christening this month. One of my oldest friends, Katy, and her husband, Jonny, had a beautiful little girl, Niamh, so we had a lovely day with family friends celebrating her christening! It was such a lovely day of catching up with old friends.

What I've been loving
One of my goals for this month was to practise yoga more so I've made a real conscious effort do include more yoga in my life. I've practised at least twice a week, if not more, throughout the month and it's definitely been helping my brain.
After reviewing Ruby Tandoh's Flavour a few months ago, I started to follow her on Twitter and heard about her mental health zine, Do what you want. I preordered it back in March and it arrived this month. It's absolutely beautiful. It's full of inspiring stories, essays, recipes and illustrations about what it's like to live with mental health conditions, and all the proceeds go to charity. You can sign up to preorder a copy from the new run.
Remember last month when I received a cross-stitch of Phil and I from Phil's sister for my birthday? I got another homemade birthday present this month! When my colleagues told me back in March one of my presents would be arriving late, I had no idea what it would be. I thought it might be something being shipped from abroad and that was why it was so late. Nope, it was that my colleague, Rachel, was making me a mug in her ceramics class! It's so wonderful and I love having a brew out if it at work!

This month I got back into doing my nails, which is a small thing but it really makes me happy. I got my Sensationail kit back out and started to dedicated half an hour or so a week to doing my nails and really taking care in getting them right. I'm now managing to get about 8 days out of my weekly manicures which is really exciting! I also bought two new nail polish colours this month - Masterplan and Cocktail Bling, both Essie.

In the words of Arthur, having fun isn't hard when you've got a library card. I am so grateful to work so close to the library and be able to read so many brilliant books! I love my Kindle but I love being able to loan thousands of books for free from my local library - it's saved me so much money, even if I am a bit wonky from lugging a hardback book around most of the time!

I started doing morning pages back in March on the lead-up to my marketing exam when I was feeling particularly anxious, but I got out of the habit and couldn't get back into it. Last week I noticed I wasn't using my mornings as well as I used to, and I got myself back into the habit of being back from a run or done from a workout by 6.20, to give myself half an hour or so to read and do my morning pages. I really find it's a great help to manage all the swirling thoughts I have in my head all the time!

I'm always looking for new podcasts, and this month my friend Cate recommended Beautiful Anonymous and it's brilliant. I'd heard the odd few episodes on This American Life and I am hooked!

What I've bought
Two impulsive clothing purchases this month! One was a red and white striped top I spotted on Olivia's Instagram story and had to have, and another, a banana-print dress on my friend Laura's Instagram which I couldn't resist...
When Phil and I went to see Alien:Covenant this month, Phil wore his Alien tshirt from Last Exit to Nowhere and I've always been jealous of his ridiculous film-themed clothing collection (many of which I bought him! edit: as I went to add that link I saw they have an American Psycho tshirt that I now need!). I've always wanted a tshirt relating to my favourite film, Fight Club, so I decided to see if I could find one. And 10 minutes after searching, I was £9 poorer but with a Paper Street Soap Company tshirt winging its way over from ebay!
And of course, I bought a recipe book. Argh! I need to stop! I have SO many I haven't used or barely used that I'm shaming myself into making sure I use the ones I have before I get any more. But I read about this after Sarah posted an Instagram about it and I couldn't resist. Once my next lot of coursework is in and I'm back to blogging regularly again I'm going to go back to reviewing a cookbook every month or so cause it really keeps me honest and focused!

What I've been eating
Apparently a lot of curry! I got a few great recipe books for my Birthday back in March, and this month I had a go at a few recipes from Prashad and Prashad at Home. I made the paneer masala with homemade pilau rice and it was incredible.
This month I also discovered my perfect chana masala. Now, I eat a lot of chana masala. Along with dal, it's my favourite Indian food and probably one of my actual favourite foods, and I'm always experimenting with new ways to make it. Well, I can look no further. Minimalist Baker's chana masala is the one. 
This month I also went to Lily's, a vegetarian cafe in Ashton I've heard nothing but amazing things about. It did not disappoint. In fact, the only problem was that I struggled to decide what to order! There were half a dozen kinds of dal! We had three different kinds of paneer on the table so I really am living my best life.

What I've been watching
Three cinema trips this month. The first was to see The Birds at Home cinema. Phil was taking a Hitchcock course at Manchester Library so I came along to a screening of The Birds. Phil has been educating me in Hitchcock films, but this was my first time seeing The Birds. I loved it!

We also went to see the new Guardians of the Galaxy, which we both enjoyed, and Alien: Covenant, which I enjoyed for the first hour and a half, then thought was a bit silly, but for the most part was exactly what I expected from an Alien film.

I'm still working my way through Gilmore Girls and I've just started the second series. I secretly love it when Phil goes out so I can have a night in watching it! We also finished The People vs. OJ Simpson this month (I know, we're always very late to the party) which we thought was brilliant, and we're now kind of fascinated by the whole case.
But the best thing I've watched this month is obviously The Handmaid's Tale. This was my favourite book as a teenager and I honestly believe it changed my life. I studied it at A level and it was the first book that really made me sit up, as a woman, as a feminist, as a literature student. I believe it was the book that made me want to study English literature at uni (I even dug out my old annotated A level copy this month!). The adaptation is so brilliant, I'm so glad it's on Channel 4 now, cause I watched the first three and now I'm making Phil watch it all again with me. Absolutely brilliant, looks incredible, such a great adaptation and so terrifyingly poignant.

What I've been reading
Last month, I managed to get hold of a copy of Daisy Buchanan's How to be a grown up from my local library. I'd heard great things about the book, love Daisy's work, and I knew this was going to be perfect for me. I devoured it, making notes as I went, and I was absolutely devastated to take it back to the library, vowing I'd buy my own copy one day.
Then a few days later, Phil told me he'd bought me a present. My own copy! He said he knew how much I loved the book and thought it seemed "really good for me", so now I have my own copy, and I know I'm going to re-read it all the time. If you're in your 20s and feeling a bit lost (don't we all?!) you need to read this book.

After reading Shirley Jackson's short stories last month, I borrowed The Haunting of Hill House from the library. I enjoyed it, but nowhere near as much as her other work.
Finally I read We Should all be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in an hour on a quiet Bank Holiday Monday. Wow, it's absolutely beautiful. She writes about how to raise little girls as feminists so sensibly and so calmly and so strongly, wow, it's just incredible. I need to reread this in the future when I'm thinking of having children. If you haven't read this, do.

What I've been reading online

Buzzfeed - 9 things I thought I'd be by 37

The Pool - Why do people presume I'm at the gym to lose weight?
Yes yes yes yes yes! I hate this assumption, especially as a runner. I run because I love to run, I love to push myself, I love to challenge myself. Not to lose weight! It's ideas like this that make me not ever want to join a gym.

Little Coffee Fox - 13 ways to improve your morning routine and have a more productive day
My morning routine fell off the rails a bit this month, and this really encouraged me to get my focus back. I've tried to get back into morning pages (going well), attempting to put my feet on the floor before I look at my phone (not going well) and I'm doing yoga a few more days a week. I'm currently in recovery from my race at the moment so my routine is a bit off, but next week I'll be back to 5.30am alarms and productive mornings.

Amy - We all tell white lies on social media

Yes and yes - Stop crowding out your happiness
I definitely needed to hear this. I am terrible for this. I'm always writing to-do lists in my head while I'm out with friends, or thinking of what I need to do later when I'm watching a film with Phil. It's exhausting.

The Gender rules of household chores: A feminist comic
We split chores very well in our house, but I am definitely our "manager" and constantly exhausted by thinking of all the things that need doing and managing everyone's diary. I related to this a lot.

Niamh Caitlin -  My heart is reeling
A brilliant post by my cousin Niamh after the Manchester attacks

Introverts don't hate people, they hate shallow socialising
I relate to this so much. I wouldn't necessarily describe myself as an introvert but I have a lot of social anxiety and this hit the nail on the head.

The Psychological Importance of Wasting Time
One of my goals for June (which I'll come to at the end) is to be kinder to myself, and one of the ways I'm going to do that is by "wasting time", something I really struggle with. I found this article really helpful.

A Rosie Outlook - How I found my way out
I'm a huge fan of Rosie's blog, especially her honest posts like this which really inspire me. She's been through a really difficult time lately and she wrote this beautiful post on all the little things that have helped her get through. This is one I want to save for the future or whenever I need inspiration to pick me up.

The Pool - How to be a leader in your own life

What I'm excited for

After 8 long, long, long, long, LONG LONG LONG months, we are finally nearly there with our house and fingers crossed, should be moving in in July! WE ARE SO EXCITED. My parents have been absolutely incredible letting us live with them for the last 4 months and we could not have coped without them, but we are so excited to have our own place again and be HOMEOWNERS! We went to see our house again at the weekend and we love it even more than last time. CANNOT WAIT.

Not loads of other stuff going on next month really, but are going to fulfil one of my lifelong dreams and we're going to see Penn and Teller! A few years ago I made Phil promise that if they came to Manchester we had to go, and I cannot wait. I've loved them since I was a kid and I've always been obsessed with magic. It's going to be incredible.

June goals

As I mentioned earlier, one of my goals for June is to be a little bit kinder to myself. I put way too much pressure on myself to do more and be more and always push myself, and I am always just so hard on myself! I want to speak to myself and treat myself like I would a friend, and that means giving myself a chance to do things I enjoy, buying myself things without beating myself up, spending money without feeling guilty, and giving myself a chance to relax and rest. Easier said than done, I'm sure.

I've really enjoyed doing more yoga this month so I want to carry on practising a few times a week. I think one of the things I love most about yoga is that I'm crap at it but I don't care. I'm not flexible at all, and I struggle a lot, but I don't care that I'm bad because it makes me feel so good. I think practising with Adriene really helps, because she is so lovely and motivating and such a brilliant teacher. I couldn't recommend Yoga with Adriene more.

I want to focus on my mornings again this month. I want to try not to use my phone before 7am and after 9pm, I want to do morning pages every day, I want to do yoga a few mornings a week and I want to give myself that time again to get focused for my day.

Finally, I want to focus on one thing at a time. I'm awful for watching a film while scrolling through Instagram and reading a recipe book. And I enjoy whatever I'm doing so much more when I don't do 10 things at once!

I hope to be back to regular blogging soon (although it's taken me 5 sessions to get this post finished so I could have written 5 other posts in this time!) but I'm kind of overwhelmed with coursework, house moving and everything else and I just haven't had the inspiration or motivation lately, so in the interest of being kind to myself, I haven't been forcing it. I'm hoping inspiration strikes soon, but hopefully after my coursework is done!
Charlotte x


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