Reading outside my comfort zone (and the art of creativity)

Warning: this post contains spoilers!

On a recent holiday I decided to switch up my reading and go outside my nature writing, non-fiction comfort zone. At the time I was doing an internship with a publisher, so I had access to lots of free galleys (the bound uncorrected proofs that are sent as advanced copies to reviewers). I decided to read two of their new and forthcoming titles: The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher. In between those two books I also read Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (it was a very reading intensive trip!).

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A year in Toronto

View of the Toronto skyline from Toronto Island
View of the Toronto skyline from Toronto Island by Spencer Cappallo

Can it really have been a year since my husband and I landed in Toronto to start our new life here? In a way it feels like no time at all has passed. Despite the big move our lives have a rhythm that feels old and comfortable. We still wake up too early on weekdays and go to bed later than we should, we still cook the same meals, and we still snuggle up on the couch in the evening to watch Netflix.

And yet, our lives have changed quite a bit. Shortly after we moved to Toronto we flew back to Amsterdam for my husband’s graduation. At a party a friend commented on my husband’s new haircut and glasses, to which my husband responded, yep I’m just tearing it up, burn everything. In a way it does feel like we tore up and burnt the rule book of our old lives.

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On being a slow, quiet person in a loud, fast world

Image copyright Spencer Cappallo

I do everything slowly. I walk slowly. I eat my food slowly. I get dressed slowly. As a kid my slowness was a constant source of frustration to my mum. In the morning she would urge me to hurry up so I wouldn’t be late for school. Stop being a snail was a common refrain. I was always the last kid out of the school doors at the end of the day. I guess my mum’s first clue should have been the fact that I was born five days late and even then I had to be delivered by cesarean section because I hadn’t turned around yet.

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The first day of spring

Wednesday, March 20 – Today was the first day of spring. It didn’t feel like spring when I caught the bus this morning. The bus shelter was laced with ice and I crunched over frozen puddles. As the bus drove past my local park, I looked out over the still-frozen pond, ringed by frost-tinged trees and grass. Just as I had seen them gathering at the start of winter, the pond was busy with geese. They have been honking overhead for days now, heralding the changing season. As the bus turned a corner, I saw a distant tall, glass building glowing pink. I looked behind me and saw the sun rising above the horizon, a sliver of pink.

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Flake the wild one

Bookshops often lump nature writing together with books about gardening and pets and I’ve always balked at this grouping. Gardens and pets belong to the tamed world of humans, nature writing explores the wild beyond the doorstep. Of course, when I reflect on it, I don’t actually think that. But it’s still my immediate reaction. The implication is that books about gardens and pets are somehow lesser, not worthy of mingling with the likes of Richard Mabey and Robert Macfarlane.

I always thought that if I got a pet, I wouldn’t allow it to “taint” my online persona (whatever that is). But I recently adopted a puppy and screw it, I’m going to write a blog post about him.

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On reading 50 books in one year

Goodreads allows you to set a reading challenge for the year, indicating how many books you would like to read that year. Every year since I joined Goodreads in 2013 I have set myself a reading challenge – usually to read 50 books – and every year I’ve failed to reach my goal. In 2015 I apparently realised 50 books was too ambitious and lowered by goal to 30 books, which I also failed to reach!

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On bouldering and writing and sticking (at) it


Me, working on a tricky bouldering problem

As a kid my family and I would go out into the countryside – usually the Peak District – on nice weekends to hike and rock climb. I was a pretty fearless kid and I loved climbing. I was pretty good at it to – I had a flexibility I’m envious of now.

I lost interest in rock climbing as a teenager, but I’m finally getting back into it. Now my husband has the bug too and we’ve started going indoor bouldering (there aren’t any rocks in the Netherlands) twice a week.

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Is conservation too cute?

Awwwww. Image by George Lu. Used under a CC BY 2.0 license.

Recently, a colleague sent me a link to a campaign by BirdLife to save the Spoon-billed sandpiper. The campaign uses the hashtag #SaveSpoonie and there are pictures of cute, fluffy chicks. Whilst I aww-ed at the pictures I also couldn’t help but wonder, are cute animals being saved at the expense of less cuddly, fluffy animals? Is conservation too cute?

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