Cottage weekend of dreams: A photo diary.

I wrote a lil gushy paragraph about how lovely our weekend near Hebden Bridge was to accompany this photo diary, but it didn’t quite do it justice. Mainly because it’s the little things that make weekends like this so special – boots by the door, ready to head out and explore the countryside, wild rabbits across the field outside your bedroom window, the sound of the fire and getting cosy on a comfy sofa with a good book… In the midst of a lot of uncertainty and stress this weekend was a little haven of all the things that make me happiest in the world and I feel so lucky to have been able to share it with my favourite people. And Louis proposing means this lil cottage will forever be one of my most favourite places in the world – somewhere I’ll remember as filled with fairy lights and candles and just generally as a bit magic…

A rainy day in the Lakes

Recently it’s felt like the world doesn’t go much further than the stretch of canal near my flat and the handful of shops/cafes I’ve been venturing into as the world begins to open up again. I’m so lucky to live somewhere where I can wander to my favourite bars, bakery and coffee shops (and to have spent the majority of lockdown elsewhere with access to a garden and lovely woods), but the city centre completely lacks the kind of green spaces that always calm me down and make me my happiest. A few weeks ago we had the dreamiest weekend away near Hardcastle Crags and this weekend whilst feeling restless and bored on a Saturday evening booked train tickets to Windermere for the next morning.

It was such a wonderful lil day trip, despite being rather busy – just to see different people boarding or leaving the train and to get that feeling of going somewhere or arriving home again made me feel so much more hopeful and content. Seeing the countryside and different towns and villages through a train window, clambering up a hill and feeling the satisfaction as you reach the top and heading out onto lake Windermere on a lil boat was all just so so lovely. We had the best ice cream at The Little Ice Cream Shop, which I’d definitely recommend making a trip to if you’re either in Windermere or Hawkshead. Windermere is a busy town and doesn’t quite have the same kind of charm as more rural areas of the Lakes (it definitely feels more like a lil holiday seaside village) so I was worried we wouldn’t be able to get any walking/exploring in but we stumbled across a route out up to Brant Fell View Point – a wonderful lil walk that wasn’t too exhausting (after months of very minimal exercise…).

I’m feeling very grateful to have been able to see more of the world again – it’s so easy to get caught up in feeling restless, especially without a car to get out exploring with but getting back to Piccadilly station feeling exhausted, in a satisfying leg achey kinda way, yesterday evening has left me feeling so much brighter!

Books For Bad Days

Hello! With grey rainy days and the mixed feelings that come with lockdown easing, I’ve seen lots of people on my timelines feeling a bit down or struggling at the minute. With this in mind, I thought that I’d quickly share a few reads that I’d recommend for those days when you need a pick-me-up, some perspective or an escape from whatever is going on in your head. Whilst they’re three quite different books, they’re all ones you can dip in and out of and (along with a sugary cup of tea) help me to feel a lot calmer on those days when your mind feels like an overwhelming place to be.

First up is Liv Purvis’ The Insecure Girls Handbook. I truly can’t recommend this book enough for those days when you’re feeling a bit shit about yourself, whether it’s to do with your career, body image or the FOMO that comes from too much time scrolling on Instagram. Liv chats with women who are doing amazing things to empower women across the globe and these varied perspectives and insights mean we can all find a bit of ourselves within this book’s pages. With a relaxed and friendly tone that never veers towards preachy, this book is one you’ll be grateful to have on your shelf on those days when you need something other than your inner critic in your head.

Next is Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. You’ve probably seen Charlie’s beautiful illustrations over on Instagram and it’s not surprising at all that this book won Waterstones Book of the Year in 2019. I can’t quite convey how lovely this book is to own – its’ pages are filled with the most beautiful drawings and it’s just so soothing to flick through and to read. The messages inside are hopeful and keep a childlike feeling of curiosity. On a difficult day, it can be just the kind of thing you need to be reminded that there are gentle and wonderful things in the world.

Finally, I’m finishing up with Emma Mitchell’s The Wild Remedy. Emma talks openly about her struggles with her mental health and beautifully conveys the ways in which nature helps to ground her and keep her going on the difficult days. Her drawings and photographs are the perfect antidote to city living, if you’re craving a bit of green space, and the little details of life on her daily walks or drives through the countryside always give me a brief but lovely escape from whatever’s going on in my own world.

If you end up picking up any/all of these books I really hope they make the rough days a little softer for you. And remember to support independent bookshops as much as possible with your purchases, as they need our support now more than ever.

Sunday in The City – Ancoats and The Northern Quarter

Today I thought I’d finally get around to writing my first Sunday in The City post – a lil collection of lovely places to visit/things to do on a relaxed Sunday morning in some of my favourite parts of Manchester. I’m starting with Ancoats and The Northern Quarter, though there’s too many lovely spots to recommend so it’ll most likely get a second post at a later date.

All the best Sundays start with brunch and Ancoats/the NQ offer up endless options. My absolute favourite though is Pollen Bakery, who offer up the most incredible pastries and cakes (best.lemon.cake.ever.), wonderful coffee and the best brunch choices – whilst a traditional fry up isn’t on the menu there’s options for hungover days (incredible sandwiches with bacon/mushrooms/eggs heaped on sourdough) and for coffee dates (ice cream pastries!!!). The cafe itself is beautiful too, right by the water at Islington Marina and filled with sunshine on bright days. Plus, there’s extra seating outside (for optimum dog spotting – you’re never far from a French Bulldog in Ancoats…).

After brunch, head out for a Sunday stroll through Cotton Field Park and by the canal. In summer there’s space for BBQs by the water and in winter nothing helps me feel cosier than watching smoke rise up from the chimneys of long boats or stumbling across a little cottage that seems out of place right in the city centre. If you follow the path round you can wind up right back at Piccadilly Station through a much quieter, scenic route.

If you’re looking for a few bits and pieces to pick up whilst you’re out and about, head to Tib Street in the Northern Quarter for Northern Flower. This lovely lil shop has all the house plants you can dream of, along with beautiful bouquets and bundles of dried lavender. It’s super cosy inside and the staff are always really friendly and helpful too.

Armed with a pretty bouquet and ready for more wandering, if you’ve come on the right weekend (the second Sunday of every month) you’ll find the Makers Market just around the corner in Stevenson Square – the best place to do any gift shopping whilst supporting small, local businesses and creatives. A few of my favourite vendors that have been there in the past include Old Man and Magpie Candles, LucyLooDoodles and Arctic Fox & Co. With everything from tea to art and candles on offer it’s the perfect way to finish up a Sunday in The City – wandering home or for the bus with something cosy and dreams of being able to eat your earlier brunch again every day for the rest of the week…

Between

I didn’t end up blogging yesterday, but I think that’s ok when it’s because my evening was instead filled with lovely people and pizza and watching one of my favourite films (Pride!!! If you haven’t watched it you must). Today I thought I’d talk a little about ‘Between’, a collection of my poetry published in a zine by The Horsfall Gallery and 42nd Street Mcr. It also features cover art by the lovely Maddie Ismael.

It meant so much to be able to put this collection together, particularly as any money raised from people buying a copy go straight to finding the work that 42nd Street do. They do such amazing work and as an organisation mean so much to me – their support has helped shape the person I am today and I’m not sure where I’d be without them.

Whilst some of the pieces in the collection are also featured in The Trapped Mermaid, they all explore feeling kind of on the edge of things or between people and places and selves. It’s a collection of work written when I was trying to reconcile and figure out so much of myself and how I’ve changed. Pieces explore everything from falling in love with a city to how I feel about class and my relationship with myself and others. Some pieces were written before I’d ever shared any of my writing with anyone (and never quite expected to, as much as I wanted to) and it’s strange to see them end up in print for people to read – more so than when I self-published The Trapped Mermaid.

There’s the critical part of me that feels uncomfortable even briefly talking about creative projects and I think it’s a shame – I don’t know if I’ll ever quite feel like I deserve to take up creative space and I quietly let The Trapped Mermaid go out into the world without making a big deal out of it, despite the fact that it’s a collection that means so much to me. So this is a tentative little acknowledgement that I made a thing and that is something I should celebrate in itself.

If you’d like to pick up a copy, you can either message me or they’re on sale at The Horsfall Gallery in Ancoats.

Three favourite Manchester Coffee Shops

Today I thought I’d write a lil post about my top three coffee shops in Manchester – spaces that feel like a bit of a refuge for me in the city and that I always like to escape to when I’m having a rough day. They’re spaces that are filled with memories, whether that’s catching up with friends, fuelling myself entirely on mochas whilst tackling an essay or just taking some time to slow down and escape with a book and some cake.

The Art of Tea – Didsbury.
I first stumbled upon The Art of Tea, just off of the high street in Didsbury village, in my second year of University and quickly fell in love. Not only do they do the best hot chocolates, this place is particularly wonderful because if you wander to the back you’ll find Didsbury Village Bookshop. Books are stacked in their hundreds everywhere you turn and you can get some beautiful editions for no where near as much as you’d usually pay – definitely something to keep in mind if you’re looking for gifts for bookish friends too! One of my favourite ways to spend an afternoon is to pick out a book from the shop and then get cosy (tip – the sofas near the counter are the comfiest ever) with a hot chocolate and read. It can be busy on the weekends, but if you go when it’s quiet this place is the loveliest. (a lil shameless product promo of my poetry collection thrown in for good measure)

TakkTariff Street, Northern Quarter.

Takk is a relatively recent haunt for me after trying their new store at University Green on the University of Manchester campus. They have three spaces in the city centre – one in Hatch, one at the University and one in the Northern Quarter. I love all three, but the Northern Quarter space is definitely my favourite. Whilst the other two are more clean, minimal spaces their Tariff Street location feels how I think all coffee shops should be – cosy, with slightly steamed up windows and lots of different types of seats and tables. Their mochas are amazing but my favourite thing is their salted caramel brownies, which are one of the best desserts I’ve tried. When I’m having a bad day this is one of my favourite places to retreat to for some quiet.

Chapter One Books – Northern Quarter.

Chapter One feels like an obvious choice when it comes to Manchester coffee shops – a dreamy lil space that’s open until midnight every day. It’s been my location of choice for countless evenings panic writing essays and they do the best cakes – their vegan ones in particular are so good. I’ve lots of fond memories writing or reading or just hiding from the world in Chapter One and I love having a quiet, calming space to go to late in the evening when I’m in need of a pick me up. Finding a seat during the day can be a bit of a struggle but later on it’s usually quiet enough. It’s also beautiful in there, with pretty fairy lights, a fountain and lots of cosy seating – some is perfect for watching people and buses passing by outside, some is completely tucked away up a set of stairs with cosy cushions. Out of everywhere, it’s definitely my favourite coffee shop – the world feels like a much softer place when you’re tucked away from the cold with a slice of lemon cake, a chamomile tea and a good book.

3 places to visit in London…

London is forever a city of magic to me, whether it’s a sunshine filled South Bank trip or the central line at rush hour. Last week I headed down for a long weekend and, whilst I usually end up sticking to my favourite old haunts (despite my best intentions), this time we visited a handful of new places, and so I thought I’d share a few of them here – a bookshop, a brunch spot and a bar (the three B’s of any decent city-break).

Persephone Books – Holborn.

Persephone Books is somewhere I’ve been wanting to visit for ages – a dream of a shop, stacked with hundreds of beautiful grey-jacketed books, a scattering of pretty flowers and the loveliest staff. They specialise in reprinting/publishing a variety of out-of-print texts, from diaries to short stories, with a focus on women writers. They also have the loveliest tote bags, which seem to be the second weakness of everyone who spends all their money on books… A copy of their first book of short stories seemed like a good place to start my collection and I’m already anticipating a shelf of my bookcase ending up being entirely devoted to grey spines.

Megan’s – Kings Road.

Brunch is my favourite meal (after a Sunday roast…) and I’m constantly trying somewhere new and then declaring it the best brunch I’ve ever had. But Megan’s really was. Really. Aside from being in a dreamy restaurant, filled with pretty lights and flowers (which is admittedly enough to lure me in), the staff were all very friendly and helpful and the food was incredible. We all ordered a full english (with added hash browns, obvs) and everything was just delicious – including a smoothie which left me feeling slightly less guilty about all the unhealthy food I’d eaten all weekend, without tasting like I was drinking a glass of liquid grass…

Bar Elba – Waterloo.

After climbing up a seemingly endless flight of stairs, complete with lots of colourful walls and Napoleon quotes, we arrived at Bar Elba. A rooftop bar on a rainy day – except with lots of heaters and a covered roof to keep us warm. The cocktails were all amazing- and also, especially for London, affordable if you took full advantage of the happy hour deal (which we definitely did). I always imagine London roof bars to be overly busy places where you spend most of your time in an endless wait to be served, but Elba was a lovely place to go for a few drinks and not too busy. The summery cocktails, sheltered roof and view of a rainy London skyline made for a surprisingly cosy afternoon before a tipsy tube journey home…

How to look after your mental health at University.

This week I had my final ever University exam, which feels kind of surreal… I’m not quite sure it’s hit me that it’s all over, but given how much my mental health has impacted my experience of the last three years I thought it’d be good to write a bit of an advice post for navigating university life whilst looking after yourself – it’s been harder than I hoped, but wonderful in entirely unexpected ways and hopefully I’ve got some helpful advice to share!

 

  • Don’t pressure yourself to have ‘the best three years of your life’. University might well be a time that you look back on with nostalgia, filled with incredible memories. But three years is a long time and university is full of changes for a lot of people, especially when you’re first finding your feet. Take the pressure off of yourself and don’t feel bad if you’re not constantly having an amazing time/making memories/finding your ‘friends for life’. It’s normal to feel isolated, anxious and down at times – you’re not failing. And you’re much more likely to find yourself genuinely contented if you don’t expect your experience to be amazing 24/7.
  • Remember that there’s a billion different ways to experience University life. Particularly when you’re scrolling through endless photos of huge groups of people heading out clubbing, it can be easy to wonder if you’re doing university ‘right’. Are you going out enough? Making enough friends? Trying enough new things? But it’s important to remember that your own happiness and enjoyment comes before any preconceived expectations of how you should be spending your time. Push yourself and try things you might not initially think you’d be too keen on, but don’t stamp down your personality and interests in order to have a specific type of university experience.
  • Make sure you’re aware of what resources are on offer to you, if you need them. Whether you’ve experienced problems with your mental health before or not, it’s always a good idea to be aware of what help is available should you end up needing it. Have a quick search for your University’s counselling services and see if there’s other resources in your area to help look after your mental health – creative therapies, mindfulness events etc. If you’re Manchester based, I’ve provided a lil list of some great resources at the bottom of this post.  But this doesn’t just apply to directly mental health related services – find out what financial help/bursaries/loans your University offers; these things can be really useful, particularly if your mental health impacts your ability to work alongside your degree.
  • Try to open up and avoid isolating yourself. Whether it’s giving a friend from home a quick text, admitting you’re having a bit of a ‘down’ day to someone off of your course or forcing yourself to spend a little longer than you would usually socialising in a communal kitchen, try to make sure you don’t go from ‘making time for yourself’ to just isolating yourself – anxieties and emotions are often intensified after a few days avoiding the world in your room. And besides, those around you might appreciate your honesty if they too aren’t feeling great.
  • Find your happy places. This might take a little bit of time, but try and get out and explore your new city/campus. Stumbling across places where you can retreat for a little bit of quiet and calm can be so important when you’re in a University bubble. It might be a green bit of your campus, a coffee shop you really like or a bit of countryside you can get to easily enough – just find somewhere where you can be with your thoughts and relax.
  • Try and get outside of your University bubble. Especially if you’re feeling anxious or trapped, getting out of the bubble of university life can be really important. If going home is both an option and a safe space, try and schedule some trips back. Visit your friends at other universities. Or if you’re unable to do so, for whatever reason, try and find a way to engage with the local community outside of campus – find a volunteering opportunity or an event that you think you’d be interested in and go for it!
  • Be kind to yourself and accept your limitations. University can be full of expectations to excel academically, get work experience/internships and socialise. But if you’re struggling to do any/all of this, your worth does not change. It’s important to accept your limitations (which will fluctuate over time), be kind to yourself and focus on what you need, rather than what you feel you should be doing/what other people expect of you. If you’re not well enough to manage a part time job alongside your studies or you don’t have a huge group of friends that you see 24/7, don’t see this as a reflection on your capabilities/character. Be patient with yourself, ask for help when you need it and celebrate your victories, whether they’re big or small.

 

 

Manchester based resources:

42nd Street & The Horsfall42nd Street offer individual and group therapy as well as groups such as MORR which are great to get involved with. The Horsfall is a gallery/creative space that’s linked with 42nd st and offers lots of wonderful creative stuff – from an art/drawing session every Thursday to exhibitions.

Open Mind Manchester Open Mind are a University based society, with groups operating at both the University of Manchester and MMU. They share helpful resources and run an excellent range of events, from mental-health themed spoken word nights to ‘PositiviTEA’ and ‘Share your Story’.

WeAreAssifCheck out their website/instagram for lots of interesting blog posts/articles and events in Mcr – from a book club to walks in Heaton Park.