Friday, 21 June 2019

A familiar refrain...

...well to be honest at the moment I seem to have more of a fiction reader's block rather than a full on block.

I don't seem to be alone in this as a member of the online book group I'm a part of has also said the same recently, which was nice and reassuring.

I'm taking this as a sign of just how good non fiction books are right now rather than thinking that fiction isn't in a good place. Some of this problem settling on novels is also self inflicted, Mr Norfolkbookworm and I are off on our holidays soon and I've been stockpiling books I do want to read ready for two weeks in the sun (well shade - I burn too easily!). My most eagerly anticipated books are out reach for another few weeks...

The exception to this was the third instalment from Gill Sims in her Why Mummy... series. I'm not sure why these appeal to me, I'm not a parent and my husband very definitely shares the housework with me and our families are nowhere near as dysfunctional as Ellen's.

There's just something about these books that I can lose myself in. On the surface they are light hearted books which take everyday events and humorously exaggerate them to great comic effect but you quickly realise that this is very much surface and that underneath there are some very serious issues that are handled incredibly sensitively.

This is especially true for the third book in the series Why Mummy Doesn't Give a **** which I've just finished. I'm not sure that reading this on a train was my brightest idea as I found myself snorting with laughter and crying, well at least I had a seat to myself...

I discovered the books before the hilarious Peter and Jane facebook page and while, obviously, the humour is very similar between the page and the books don't think that you've read the books if you follow the webpage - they are very different and on balance I prefer the books.

The book is published on 27th June, and it will make a lot more sense if you've read the other two - the story is a continuation.

Many thanks to Net Galley for the electronic proof.

Monday, 3 June 2019

The nature cure and volunteering

Since early 2018, when I started to recover from the brain hemorrhage, Mr Norfolkbookworm and I have spent a lot of time outdoors whenever the weather has been half way decent. We generally go out and about in Norfolk or Suffolk, usually taking the camera and binoculars, and just spend time in the fresh air walking, taking pictures and generally just looking around.

I am sure that this has helped my recovery to some extent, for us being out in the natural world has meant we are becoming far more observant and we are definitely far more connected with the seasons and the wildlife around the county. The rare weekends that haven't been nice enough to get out really do have an impact on my mood for the following week so there is surely something in the idea of a nature cure.

June is the Wildlife Trusts #30DaysWild, where people are encouraged to sign up and connect in someway to the natural world. We had a busy weekend - we walked at Ranworth Broad, Strumpshaw Fen and Cley Marshes, and we were lucky enough to see one of Norfolk's rarities - the swallowtail butterfly.

While seeing a special breed is nice we had just as much fun watching the domestic dramas of the avocets and wagtails from the inside of a hide and sharing these things with other people.

However we can't get out and about like this every day (work gets in the way!) but connecting with nature is still possible even in our city house. This morning while hanging out the laundry I was watching the swifts wheel about over the house, dozens of bees feeding on the privet hedge and a ladybird exploring the cornflowers - nature really is everywhere and taking just a moment to look at every day is so easy and something I intend to carry on doing after June is over.

Another activity that has kept me as sane as I can be is volunteering. Before I fell ill I had just started volunteering at the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum, and once I was well enough going back to this was a real boost. The museum was responsible for curating the main Armistice exhibition in the main city museum and the wonderful curator, Kate, was brave enough to allow a lot of this to be written and illustrated by volunteers. My areas included agriculture, POWs and conscientious objectors and to be trusted with the research and writing for the exhibition despite a broken brain was a real boost.

There have been many upheavals with my paid employment in the past 6 months but the one good thing with a different job and fewer hours is that I have some more time to myself. I have recently started a new volunteer role within the Norfolk Wildlife Trust - which links back in nicely to #30DaysWild and our passion for the outdoors!

I mention this now because the first week of June is also #VolunteersWeek and I wanted to share just how much being a volunteer has given me. We often hear a lot about what volunteers offer to organisations but I'd just like to say thank you to those who have given me so much by letting me volunteer with them.

To bring this back to books just for a moment - if you are looking for some simple ways to get back in touch with the natural world then can I suggest Rewild Yourself: 23 spellbinding ways to make nature more visible by Simon Barnes. A friends recommended it to me and so I'd like to pass this on. It is full of simple ways to take more notice of the world around you, and each chapter starts with a quote from some wonderful children's books!

Rewild Yourself