Friday, 30 January 2015

My Love Affair With Blogs

I've been reading blogs since I was about 16, and now they're a huge part of my life. The first blog I ever read was called 'mo pie' which was essentially a blog about a woman trying to get healthier, as well as find her sense of purpose. Mo Pie sadly does not exist anymore, otherwise I would direct you there, but it provided me with hours of reading entertainment - I loved how honest she was as a blogger, how much of her life she shared.

Mo Pie got me hooked on blogs, so I hunted around for more blogs to read, often stumbling upon great ones by accident. I once found a terrific blog by typing into google 'David Tennant is gorgeous' [which is not something I'm so sure about anymore, but hey people change] and after a year of reading her posts, I actually ended up buying the blogger's book [I would highly recommend it by the way] since I liked her writing style so much! This proved to me the power of blogs; effectively this woman I'd never heard of persuaded me to buy her book by making me laugh on the internet - I felt connected to her even though I'd never met her.  

Actually he is still quite cute...

The main difference between blogs and books is that blogs feel like a conversation, each time they post, a blogger is essentially trying to communicate how they feel about something. Obviously authors are trying to do that as well, but in most cases the author feels separate from the reader, but when I blog I do feel connected with you guys, writing this blog feels more intimate than writing my novel did - I often feel like I'm laying myself bare on here.

 Even if a blogger isn't talking about particularly personal things, you still get a fascinating glimpse into another person's mind whenever you read a blog - it's all laid out for you to explore. Blogs are very individual, and just from reading a few posts, it is easy to see what inspires a blogger, what they like, what they don't like and what they stand for. In case you were wondering, I like books, I am inspired by creative people, I don't like people who are unsupportive and I stand for being true to yourself as an individual and nurturing creativity. This is a book blog, but I like to think it gives an insight into how I'm wired as well.

Another thing I love about blogs is that you can see a blogger evolve over time, admire them as their posts become more focused and start to reach bigger audiences - you can go on a journey with them and effectively grow with them [whoops, sound a bit trite now...oh well, it can't be helped]. When I look back on my own blog, I can see that I've improved in the space of a year, though I've still got a long way to go.

I'm working out more and more what I want this blog to be as I go. For instance, in my earlier posts, I kept promising to review books, but I never did, because actually I really don't enjoy reviewing books and there are tons of book review blogs to be found, which I have recommended myself in the past. In writing Candle and Book, I've realised that I want my blog to be a bit different, I want to discuss books and writing and life without analysing each book I read to death or writing boring essays. I want my blog to be fun, and I want it to be something that I would enjoy reading as well. I also I want to put my own slant on things, and I think I have managed to do that.  I can't wait to see how this blog evolves in the future. Gosh this is an ego-centric post, isn't it? Oh well, we've all got to do some navel gazing from time to time....  


Friday, 23 January 2015

Books Characters I Identify With

All bookworms will have characters from books that particularly resonate with them; characters which they can point at and say "I'm like that". Sometimes, when it seems like only a couple of people truly understand how I feel, I'll remember a book and think about a character who seems to be going through what I'm going through, or has experienced something I've experienced. Here are some characters that I particularly identify with at the moment or have strongly identified with in the past:

1.The Groke, From The Moomins

I must confess I haven't actually read a Moomin book with the Groke in it, but I thought I would add it to this list, as having seen the television version of the Moomins recently, I am determined to find out more about this fascinating character. Every Moomin book featurung the Groke is now at the top of my reading list! The Groke is a strange creature that is constantly looking for warmth and affection, only to be shunned by everyone it meets. Now, I'm certainly not shunned by everyone I meet, but I do feel like I need more affection than most people, and I really identify with the Groke's deep and immense hunger for love. The Groke is an incredibly lonely and isolated character, and like the Groke, there are times when I do feel that I'm different to everyone else and somehow separate. Fortunately, I don't feel like that too often, but it is certainly a recurring feeling, and one I will probably experience in the future, so I will probably relate to The Groke all my life. What a thought!

The Groke Has A Lot Of Love To Give

2. Cassandra from I Capture The Castle

Like Jo in Little Women, Cassandra cannot stop writing, and neither can I. Since I learned how, I have been writing, doodling, filling in heart wrenching diary entries and scribbling notes to myself. I still use notebooks to jot down ideas, and like Cassandra, I get really excited when I get a new one. I really identify with her creative energy and constant flow of ideas. I'm also like Cassandra in that she's loves romantic diversions and meeting new people. She's also adventurous and curious about everything and loves to explore, and I'm the same in that respect. Plus she likes old houses. We're practically twins.

Marianne from Sense and Sensibility

Marianne represents 'sensibility' in that she feels all the emotions at once. She is very expressive and outgoing, and like me, is certainly not a wallflower! She is passionate, spirited and sees no problem with wearing her heart on her sleeve, which is something I really believe in. Like Marianne, I'm constantly being told to be more cautious, to be more reserved and to play hard to get, but I find this advice to be really grating. I get no joy whatsoever from repressing my feelings and don't believe I should have to change to be accepted or liked. Marianne and I are of a very similar ilk, she may be described by some as 'selfish' and 'rash' but I personally think she's warm, loving and generous and I'd much rather be a fun loving, free-spirit like her than a stick in the mud like her sister Eleanor. 

4. Snufkin from the Moomins

Another Moomins character - am really into them at the moment for some reason! Now, unlike with the Groke, I have read a Moomin book with Snufkin in it and it was love at first sight! I identify hugely with Snufkin because he loves travelling alone. He is friendly and welcoming, but if he doesn't get time to himself he gets down - he needs time alone every day to recharge and reflect on life, and so do I. That may sound at odds with the rest of this post, but just because I crave affection and warmth and wear my heart on sleeve, it doesn't mean I need to be around people all the time - quite the opposite. Snufkin is the perfect example of a character who is two things at once; he is both an extrovert and introvert at the same time; he gets his energy from people and also from being by himself, which is how I am, but few people understand that. Snufkin is a character that I very much wish was real, because then I would marry him, or at the very least, I'd be his best friend.

5. Matilda

I've mentioned my love for Matilda elsewhere on this blog, but I identify with her so much she deserves another mention. Matilda was the first character I encountered who loves reading as much as I do, I used to love imagining the stacks of books she had beside her in room. Matilda was awesome, not least because she achieved my fantasy of reading every book in the children's section at her local library, which I strived to achieve as a child...but somehow never quite managed. Matilda always will be the first character who I felt reflected me in some way...she was the first of my many alter egos I've found looking back at me from within the pages of books.   

I would be really interested to hear what book characters my friends and families identify with, I think it can be very telling...

Friday, 16 January 2015

Places in London Tourists Should Avoid

I like dispensing advice on this blog, and while usually that advice is writing related, today I thought I'd tackle the subject of tourists in London, since they seem to be everywhere! I love my city and I'm proud that people want to come and visit it; my attitude is the more tourists, the merrier. I think that London is one of the most diverse and interesting cities in the world, but it can be difficult to know where to start or which places to avoid if you're not from here, so I thought I'd compile a list of places that I don't think are worth seeing, and have provided my own alternatives for each one. Of course, this list is highly if you are a planning to visit London and have stumbled across this blog, feel free to disregard it entirely!

1. Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament

Maybe it's because it's a view I'm so familiar with, but Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament hold zero interest for me. Yes the architecture is beautiful, and yes they are both important London landmarks, but I don't think they are worth a special trip in an activity, it really doesn't take long to take a couple of pictures of them both, and as far as I'm concerned doing a tour around the inside of the Houses of Parliament is only worth doing if you're super interested in politics...which I'm not. Both actually look better from across the river rather than up close anyway.

Alternative: Take a river cruise down the Thames instead. The cruises start from Westminster, so you will be able to get a look at the famous clock tower and Government building, but the key is that the boat moves away from Westminster fairly speedily, so you're not stuck outside in a crowd looking up at a giant clock, surrounded by thousands of people for an hour, feeling bored, thinking "now what?"

2. Oxford Street

Now, Oxford Street certainly has a great range of shops and I must confess I do pop by it a couple of times a year to get one or two things [but that's mainly because it's near my parents' house] but boy, does it have a lot of crowds. Going down Oxford Street always feels incredibly stressful - there are people everywhere, in your face, behind you, beside you and you end up feeling hot and bothered, and irrationally cross. There are great long queues in each shop and for some reason, all of the shops are ridiculously warm. It's more of an endurance test than a pleasant shopping experience and I'd say avoid it, unless you absolutely must go there.

Alternative: Westfield Shepherd's Bush/ Westfield Stratford City

I find both Westfield shopping centres to be a lot calmer [and cleaner] than any of London's high streets. They also are a lot cooler [in terms of temperature and design] than other similar malls. There is a fantastic choice of shops and restaurants in both, and both have maps and information points spread throughout the centres, which are laid out in an oval[ish] shape, so you can easily retrace your steps and find the shop you are looking for, unlike Oxford Street where you could potentially end up wondering up and down for hours, trying to remember which shop is where.

Not too crowded...Westfield Shepherd's Bush

3. Cafe De Paris Nightclub, The West End

Eugh, I hate this place! It's pointlessly expensive, elitist, everyone looks really unhappy and fake and the music's really lacking. I didn't see anyone really enjoying themselves when I went - no one was letting loose, or even dancing that much. I didn't see the Cabaret, but I can't see how it could be any good when the entire venue had no atmosphere whatsoever. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

Alternative: Sway Bar, Holborn

Sway Bar is funky and fun. The drinks are still a little on the expensive side, but it doesn't take too long to get served, and people are genuinely here to have a good time. There's a nice range of music, with one room dedicated to current chart stuff and another purely dedicated to cheese [yes please!] People in this club know how to party, and there's not a snob or bitch in sight.

Love the dance floor in Sway Bar!

4. Any branch of Aberdeen Angus Steak House

It's a fact that these places are almost solely visited by tourists, since most Londoners won't go near them. In fact, a quick google search describes this chain as being among London's worst restaurants! Case in point, I've never been, but I've got friends who have and they told me it was abysmal. They said that the service was practically non -existent, everything was overpriced, the sides aren't included with the steak and when the food does come [after taking ages to arrive] it's mediocre. Don't go here just because it's's really not worth it.

Alternative: GBK or The Bear and Staff, Leciester Square

I understand why tourists like chains, they are quick, easy and helpful if English is not your first language, so I have nothing against recommending a different chain as an alternative to Angus Steak House. I much prefer GBK [or Gourmet Burger Kitchen], especially the Waterloo Branch. The burgers are juicy and tasty, the staff are helpful, you can get a decent meal for under a tenner and you usually can get a seat fairly easily without a reservation. For those wishing to avoid chains altogether, I'd say try one of London's many pubs - if you're in the West End, the Bear and Staff pub does awesome pub grub, though it can be a bit crowded at times.

Make mine a burger at GBK.

5. Piccadily Circus

Oh yuck. More crowds, horrible neon lights, loads of traffic, little to actually do...I just don't get the appeal of it. If you enjoy feeling suffocated, then by all means come here. There are a few decent clubs and bars hidden around here, but you really have to know where to find them.

Alternative: London's lovely parks

London actually has a surprising number of great parks. My favourites are Holland Park and Battersea Park. Holland Park is great for flower lovers, and has a lot of variety and different sections, such as a Japanese garden, old woodland and a playing field, whilst Battersea Park incorporates a soothing river walk, traditional English gardens and even a tropical garden.

Isn't Holland Park pretty?

I hope you enjoyed my little guide to London, have a great time if you find yourself visiting here!


Friday, 9 January 2015

Blog Birthday!

Candle and Book turned one this week! I feel proud of myself for persevering with it, because when I was a child I was constantly stopping and starting creative projects, but Candle and Book is here to stay! In order to celebrate the blog's first birthday, I thought I would share links to my five favourite posts of the past year; you can check them out whilst listening to Altered Images below:

1. Ways That Books Have Helped Me

"Yesterday I was feeling incredibly lonely and miserable so I stopped off at Foyles on the way home. I had a book in mind [Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse by the Comedian David Mitchell] which I knew would comfort me..."

2. What It's Really Like Working In A Bookshop

"Three years ago, before I was a nanny, I worked part-time in a university bookshop. Now, you would think that since I love people and I love books, that working in a bookshop would be my dream job [and before I started working there, so did I!] but actually working in a bookshop wasn't that much fun..."

3.  Things Not To Say To Aspiring Writers

"We all know creative people - there will be at least someone in your group that will want to write, draw, paint, make music, make films or photograph [or something equally creative] for a living. That person needs your can be difficult enough believing in and pursuing a dream at the best of times, without someone saying something unhelpful or negative to them...."  

4. On The Awesomeness Of Libraries 

"Being a bookworm, it is unsurprising that I have a huge fondness for libraries and have done, ever since I was a small child. I'm sure that many blogs dedicated to books and writing have done a feature on this topic, but libraries are so important to me, I couldn't resist doing one of my own...

5. Life After Travel

"Part of me is still in travelling mode; whilst I am glad to be back in London [it's so lovely having my bed back for one thing] there are certain things I miss about being on the road..."

Thanks for keeping this blog going by reading it - here's to the next year!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Writing Daydreams

Hello and welcome back to Candle and Book! I don't really believe in New Year's resolutions as I never ever stick to them, but being a writer means that I spend half my time day dreaming about things that I'd like to happen in my career. I know that my daydreams are unlikely to come true [but hey, you never know] but I derive joy from just imagining the possibilities of where my words could take me. I'd thought I'd share some of my writing daydreams [not resolutions] with you, because I'm a generous soul...

Daydream 1 - Having a Play put on at the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square

I've only seen one play at the Royal Court, but the experience has stayed with me. I feel that the venue would be perfect for my work - the stage where I saw the play is intimate and smallish; the audience could see everything that's going on - it's a really immersive theatre. When watching the play there I got so lost in the story that I sort of forgot my friend was sitting beside me, and when they turned the lights on, I felt like I'd been away on a trip. I can see the play I'm currently writing being performed there - in fact I visualise that one stage in particular whenever I write it. I'm also interested in the Royal Court because they really believe in giving new writers a chance...which means that maybe, just maybe..this dream isn't as far fetched as it sounds.

Daydream 2 - Being interviewed by the Sunday Times Magazine

This fantasy goes back years. When I was eleven, I decided that being interviewed by the Sunday Times was the ultimate sign that you'd made it as a creative person, and I still do think that. Sadly, I don't think my work is highbrow enough for this dream to become reality, but if it ever does happen, I'll be prepared with my answers and ready to talk for hours...

Daydream 3 - Writing in a beautiful old house that I happen to live in

I can picture this one so clearly it sometimes does feel like it's already happened. In the fantasy, I'm about thirty -five years old, sitting at an old, and worn desk, in a light and airy room, which has white walls and contains shelves and shelves of books. The floor is wooden and creaks a lot. My desk is situated beneath a large window which overlooks a wild and tangled garden. It's a grey, Winter's day [my favourite kind of day] and there's a large mug of steaming coffee beside me. I am perfectly content, sitting at this desk, and I'm creatively inspired, typing away, lost in my own world of words.

Daydream 4 - Being published

This is of course the ultimate writer's dream, but also one that I can imagine clearly. I can see myself getting the news that I'm going to be published in an email, and then rushing to the phone to tell people my news. I can see myself signing the contract, and feeling jubilant when I hear about my first sales. Of all the fantasies I've talked about, this one would probably mean the most to me if it came true.

Do any of you have writing daydreams? Or daydreams relating to another vocation?