Tag Archives: observations

Life after Lockdown

18 Jun

With restrictions slowly lifting, I was thinking about what life would be like when things return back to normal after Lockdown, or at least as normal as they can be after a global pandemic.

I know some people have struggled with the restrictions and have found life difficult but I’ve try to embrace Lockdown life and make the most of it. If you know me, you’ll know that I love travelling but not being able to has given me time to think about what else I like doing and what projects I could do safely from home that have been on my to-do list for a long time.

I am hoping that working from home will continue long into the future (at the moment we have been told to work from home until the end of July and then spilt working will come into effect all being well) because I feel a lot more relaxed working in my little office space at home and I can do everything as well as I can if I was sitting in an office in Zurich.

I have been thinking about what things that I started during Lockdown I want to keep doing. Here’s a little list:

  1. I am pretty bad at keeping in contact with people. I blame social media for a portion of this. When I can see what people have posted from day to day, I feel like I have been in contact with them but seeing where someone went for dinner or which airport they are flying from on their latest holiday is not the same as picking up the phone or sending someone a personal message to see how they are. I’ve made an effort to speak to family and friends, and reconnected with others, during Lockdown and it feels good to hear back from people or to spend 15 minutes on a video call catching up. I will endeavour to carry this on.
  2. We’ve been having a weekly family quiz. I’ve lost count of how many weeks this has been but I’ve really enjoyed hunting down questions when it was my turn to write them or scratching my head at questions when I wasn’t quiz master. I’m not saying that I want to commit to a weekly quiz in the future but I wouldn’t mind doing it once a month or so. I’ve also been doing a monthly quiz for the netball club because we haven’t been able to train which has been fun too. Basically, quizzing is here to stay.
  3. This is a strange one… during the panemdic I ordered monthly contact lenses online. I’d switched to single use lenses more than 10 years ago. Seeing reports of wildlife and nature thriving while people weren’t travelling made me think I should do more for the environment. So I decided using monthly lenses would cut down on my non-recyclable plastic waste and I will save a ton of money too!
  4. I’ve managed to draft a novel in Lockdown and in general I am enjoying my writing and I’ve made some good habits around my writing. I can see it’s improving slowly so I would love for this creativity to carry on, espeically when I come back to editing my novel (which needs a huge amount of work.)
  5. Running has been a regular part of my day over the past three months. It meant getting out of the house and enjoying fresh air. The highlights were my early morning runs. I’ve forced myself out of bed a handful of times for, what I call, morning miles and every time I was amazed by nature. I managed to see a fox early one morning, another time a red kite swooped down to catch some prey less than 10 meters away from me and I saw two rabbits running away from a fox last week. Incredible stuff which made the long hard slog of a weekend run worth it.
  6. I realised yesterday that I haven’t had to make an excuse to get out of any social activities. I know what you’re thinking – that’s easy because we haven’t been able to socialise! But actually a lot of my hobbies and groups have moved online, like writing group and drama classes. I’ve found it really liberating to not feel that awful sensation of guilt about trying to come up with an excuse about not wanting to do something that I signed up to do when I was feeling in a better mood. I am hoping to have the courage in the future to be more honest and able to only make plans I want to commit to.

Has there been anything about Lockdown that you would like to keep?

Challenge #16 – completed

9 Feb

I’ve completed another challenge!

Challenge number 16 on my list was to save money for a rainy day. I’ve always been good-ish with money but I’ve never really had a good amount of savings to draw on in case of an emergency.

I’ve read several sources that say it’s a good idea to have at least three months’ salary saved up. I have no idea why it’s 3 months rather than two and a half or even 5. It seems like an arbitrary amount without a lot of reasoning for it – a bit like the recommended 10’000 steps a day that are supposed to keep you fit!

As that’s what’s recommended that’s what I’ve done. I started saving last year after I started a new job and put away a little bit each month. If I’d been frugal during the month then I could save a bit more. It’s surprising how quickly an amount each month manages to grow into 3 months’ salary. Luckily I didn’t need to dip into these funds during the past year so it was just a case of save, save, save.

I’m hoping not to be forced into using these savings in the near future but we are in the middle of a restructuring process at work so I can’t honestly say for sure that this is what will happen. Perhaps I find myself out of work again, perhaps everything is business as usual. It’s hard to know or guess what the future will hold in the next few months but I do feel slightly better knowing I have something in reserve for a case like this.

If you don’t have money squirrelled away for the future, I would recommend doing it. Saving a little and often makes the whole process virtually pain free!

2019 in Numbers

30 Dec

As the year and decade is coming to a close, I thought it would be good to review my year in numbers as I did last year.

So here it is:

  • 102 is the number of books I have read in 2019. I have no idea how I have managed to do this. At the start of the year, I wasn’t working so I did have more time to read but I also had a break half way through the year where I hardly read anything for 2 months. This means I covered a huge 30’208 pages over the course of the year and the longest book I read was Gone With The Wind. I want to set myself a challenge reading goal for next year but I also want to dedicate more time to writing so I will have to put some thought into that.
  • I visited 7 new countries in Europe this year: Leichtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine. I now only need to visit 6 more and my challenge to visit 40 countries before I am 40 will be completed. So far, I don’t have any definite plans to visit any countries that are on my list but that will most likely change.
  • Talking of challenges, this year I have completed 7 more challenges from my list and 3 of them are very, very nearly finished. Of the challenges that I have completed this year, my favourite was paragliding in Interlaken in the summer.
  • I competed in 2 international netball tournaments this year which is incredible when I only started playing netball again at the start of this year. It would have been 3 but I was in the Ukraine exploring Chernobyl when the tournament in Amsterdam was held.
  • I have run 270km this year and cycled 223km. I would like to think that I can easily beat these totals in 2020 but that means that I have to lose some weight and stay injury free.
  • I have completed 4 short stories. This is a mini-miracle because for years I haven’t been able to finish any story I have started. I am now planning on completing a collection of short stories early next year. I also made a rough plan of a novel which I might revisit next year as well.
  • I started a new job and have already been there for 6 months.
  • I’ve had one of my photos published in the Swiss inflight magazine and one of my tweets appeared on the BBC Sports website during Wimbledon fortnight.
  • Most recently our family celebrated not one but two important birthdays with both of my grandparents reaching their 90th birthdays.

2019 was a great year. I have managed to tick more things off my list and stayed happy and healthy for the most part. Who knows what 2020 will bring. There is only one way to find out.

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Challenge #34 – completed

22 Nov

I can’t quite believe that I have successfully completed this challenge. I have been trying to do this challenge for most of my life. After a long, hard slog and struggle, I have stopped biting my nails. Finally.

The problem I had with trying to stop biting my nails was that I didn’t just have one trigger. I would bite my nails if I was bored, anxious, stressed or excited so it wasn’t like I could avoid situations where I was all of the above to stop myself from doing it. It’s a bit like knowing that you will ruin your diet if you have biscuits in the cupboards at home so you stop buying them completely to avoid temptation. The problem I had was that even if I didn’t buy the biscuits, I still had cake, chocolate and donuts lurching in the background to derail me.

Over the years I’ve tried so many things to try to stop. When I was younger I bought that stuff that’s like clear nail polish but tastes awful if you put it anywhere near your mouth. The problem was as soon as you wash your hands the stuff came off so it turned me into a compulsive handwasher instead of an anti-nail biter. Also if you put it on and ate something like a sandwich before it had completely dried, it made the food taste revoluting.

I also tried wearing an elastic band on my wrist so that I could pluck it every time I had the compulsion to bite. I guess it’s similar to electric shock treatment. You get something unpleasant when you demonstrate undesirable behaviour so that you change your behaviour. In theory it sounds like an easy solution but I kept forgetting to put a elastic band on my wrist so I had no way of shocking myself.

I even had false nails about 10 years ago but I found it irritating to type on a computer or open drink cans and it ruined my natural nails underneath so I decided it wasn’t worth the money.

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Now I haven’t bitten my nails for last 5 months and I’m wearing nail polish for the first time in years. It wasn’t worth painting nails that were bitten down to the quick. I have finally kicked the habit because of the accumulation of shame. I started playing netball again this year and the first thing that you do before any tournament is show the umpires your nails – you shouldn’t be able to see the nail over the top of the finger if your palm is facing towards you in case you cause another player an injury. Having to present my hands to a strange was embarrassing when all my team mates had perfectly manicured nails.

Then five months ago I started a new job. I knew that I would be paraded around the office, like a dog that’s taken first prize at Crufts, and introduced to people. I didn’t want them to notice my fingernails and be hesitant to shake my hand. First impressions count and I didn’t want to be judged before I had even logged onto a computer.

I can’t believe it has taken me so long to kick this habit. Apart from it being unhygienic and unsightly, it’s also very painful when you accidentally rip off a bit of skin and it bleeds. It takes longer than you would think for it to heal because you are using your hands every day. I think knowing that I didn’t want to put myself through any unnecessary pain helped me to succeed.

I always think that biting your nails is something that most people do for a bit when they’re a kid and then they grow out of it. It might be later than planned but I have definitely grown out of it. Though I may have slightly replaced one habit with another. I have noticed that I tend twist my earrings more often that I used to especially when I am bored or thinking. But that’s at least more hygienic than the alternative.

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Note: these are not my nails. I don’t have the patience to use 5 different colours on one hand

 

The Name Game

20 Nov

Recently I found this on social media and I can honestly say I have never related to something more:

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I get at least five work emails a day that are addressed to someone with a name that is similar to mine but isn’t spelt quite the same. I fail to see how hard it is to copy my name from my email address and/or especially when I have orginally sent an email and signed it using the correct spelling of my name. After so many years, I am fairly sure that I know how to spell it, even if everyone else doesn’t care.

One of the hardest things about living in a non-English speaking country is that my name isn’t that common. I find myself in a constant Groundhog Day timewarp when I introduce myself to someone new. Conversations invariably go like this:

Me: Hi I’m Lyndsay

Them: Lesley?

Me: No – Lyndsay.

Them: Lizzy?

Me: No – Lyndsay.

Them: Chelsea?

Me (getting more irrate): No, you’re getting colder. It’s Lyndsay, like Lindsey Vonn (*famous American downhill skier who all the Swiss are in love with*).

Them: Oh. She’s my favourite skier. Can you ski as well as she can?

Me: Considering I’ve never been to the Olympics or been a World Champion, I’m going to have to go with a definite “no” on that one.

I’m not sure what I would do if it wasn’t for Lindsey Vonn. I’d probably end up changing my name just to make things easier.

I also have the misfortunate of having a very similar first and last name to a famous American actress, who I am sometimes confused with. Apparently, in the local paper my name was given as said actress in reference to a shooting competition that I took part in. I say “apparently” because I was too embarrassed to look at it.

Someone I met told me that she has a technique for remembering names: when you meet someone for the first time think of someone or something that has a similiar name. When she was about to tell me which actress she was thinking of when she shook my hand, I told her not to dare utter that name to me. Perhaps, slightly melodramatic but still…

I’m not saying that it isn’t nice to have a unusual name but people should at least make an attempt to spell it correctly. I can’t count the number of times an employer of mine has spelt my name wrong on official documents, such as contracts or bank cards. Think how embarrassing it is to have to contact HR and explain that you would love to accept their job offer but “Can you please spell my name right or I won’t sign the contract?”

I’ve also noticed that no one ever calls me by my nickname anymore; only people who knew me when I used to live in the UK. Okay, Lyndz isn’t much of a nickname but with Lyndsay being so hard to get right, I don’t have a chance of shortened form of my name.

All I’m saying is that it’s important to watch your p’s and q’s but if you’re writing to me make sure you watch your y’s and a’s as well.

Swimming training

5 Nov

Yesterday I finished a six-week front crawl course that I had to get up impossibly early for every Monday. Even though I was a strong swimmer when I was younger, I’ve never had any lessons to improve my technique. I’ve been looking for an alternative to having to join an expensive gym for the winter months when it’s too dark and cold to going running after work. When I saw the opportunity advertised, I thought it would be good to get back into swimming and see if I could make any improvements.

Before I started the course, I was nervous about swimming front crawl. I always had the feeling that as I was going up and down the lane I was splashing water all over the place and people would be wondering who let the whale into the pool.

The teacher was very good and gave us loads of information and exercises to practice in or own time and I can’t believe the difference it’s made already. It’s strange when you are trying to get better at a new sport and you’re given exercises that are designed to breakdown specific parts of the techniques so you can make small improvements. You end up doing exercises wondering how on earth they are going to help but then you put all of the bits you’ve learnt and you realise you have made significant progress.

The teacher I had was very motivating and gave lots of personal tips so it’s no wonder that I feel like I made progress. I definitely don’t feel like I’m splashing around looking like I might be half-drowning.

I’ve always struggled with breathing while doing the crawl (which sounds stupid) but it turns out that I have been breathing wrong the whole time. After doing exercises with floats and concentrating on the learnings for the lesson, I feel like I’ve fixed it. It’s more enjoyable being able to swim more efficiently and I hope that I will continue with swimming during the winter. It will give me time to go back over the exercises that we did to make sure that I don’t fall into bad habits. 

I’ve been thinking that now that my swimming has improved that it might be time to start thinking about training for a triathlon. For now I will see how I get on over the next few months with carrying on with my swimming training. swimmers-79592__340

End of Season shooting

30 Oct

The shooting season is almost over and this weekend we have been to not one, but two, end of season dinners for shooting events that we are involved in.

On Friday it was the end of season dinner for my work’s shooting section. I know this sounds completely crazy but there are companies in Switzerland have shooting sections as well as football teams. My theory is that everyone who participates is on a secret email list and, in case of the bank becoming under attack, we would all be emailed to come to the vault and defend the money. For the record, I have no idea where any of the bank valuts are for the banks that I have worked for!

The company-wide competition took place in August and it was the first time that I had used a small caliber weapon. It’s a lot lighter than the weapons that I have shoot with before and the distance is a shorter – only 50 metres. I managed to shoot 87 out of 100 which I was over the moon with.

I came 21 out of all of the women who competed and overall I came 65th out of 195. How good is that for a first attempt? Everyone who took part got a prize. There was a huge table with all sorts of prize to choose from. The higher up the ranking you are, the better the prize you can choose.

Examples of prizes were children’s bikes, coffee machines, electric toothbrushes, Nutri bullets, Lego sets, sets of steak knives and vaccum cleaners. It was almost impossible to choose what to take. I was so glad that the waterproof rucksack that I had my eye on was still there when it was my turn to go up and choose my prize. I now need to buy a smaller laptop that will fit in it!

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Not only did we get prizes but we also got a nice 3-course meal and drinks. Whoever said it was the taking part that counts was right.

On Saturday we had the end shooting competition at the shooting club. This is my favourite competition of the year because again there are lots of prizes to be won but there are also bingo games at the end where you can win even more stuff to take home.

Overall I was pretty disappointed with my shooting at this event. I didn’t do as well as I have in previous competitions and I was hoping to beat my personal best and finally reach 70 out of 100. I didn’t.

This was another competition where everyone who competes gets a prize. There is a separate competition for this which is done in secret. You take two shots at the target and the difference between the two shots is calculated. So, if you get a 2 and a 72 then the difference is 70. The aim is to have the lowest difference. Everyone is ranked from lowest to highest. I somehow managed to get a difference of 3 and was 4th place overall. My other half came 2nd. We ended up lugging home about 6kg of various types of meat, 2 huge salamis and two big packets of smoked salmon between us. Then in the bingo game we won a huge basket of vegetables and two bottles of prosecco.

We now don’t need to buy any meat for the rest of the year (Christmas is sorted) even though we have given some away. I’m also glad that I decided to do my vegan challenge last year!

This week I have another shooting event. Back in August I took part in the regional shooting competition for women and everyone who took part will get together for a dinner to celebrate. I’m slightly nervous as the whole evening will be in Swiss German and normally have my boyfriend there to translate for me but as it’s only girls allowed I guess I will be having a free, crash-course in Swiss German as well as food.

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This is the commerative glass I got from taking part in the women’s shooting competition – it’s basically a shot glass!

May Madness

31 May

The past month has got to be one of the craziest months I have had in a long time. I have had some strange experiences this month. I want to share these experiences with you just to make sure that it was the month that was mad and not me.

Firstly, the weather this month has been nothing short of bonkers. I’m not sure has been the catalyst for the whole month or not. It’s been blazing hot one day followed by torrential rain for 4 days. On Wednesday it even hailed for about 30 minutes. It is the craziest weather I have ever experienced in May since moving to Switzerland.

May was also the month that I went back to work after a period of job hunting. A company had offered me a 6 month contract. It wasn’t really ideal but it was an offer and at the very least I was confident that I would be able to learn something new and see how another company functioned. After the first week, I realised why I hadn’t been offered a full time contract: they are likely to be closing the company by the end of the year. It was a bit of a shock.

I was even more shocked when I received a phone call on the following day from a company that had interviewed me for a job back in March. They had decided to employ a candidate who had applied internally. To say I was gutted not to be offered the job was an understatement. They phoned me because the position was vacant again and was I still interested? I had a interview the following week and an hour after the interview they had offered me the job. How mad is that? Of course, it meant that I had to hand in my notice 3 weeks after I started my new job which I felt bad about but I was so happy that I got the job that I wanted so much.

I also went on a personal development workshop. It was an intense event and lasted 3 days. To say that I was out of my comfort zone was an understatement. I was so far out of my comfort zone that I couldn’t actually see the edge of it anymore. We were asked to do a lot of exercises with people we didn’t know which was quite intimidating. But I learnt and realised so much about myself. I realised that the reason that I have come to a halt on writing my book has less to do with me not thinking that I don’t have the right talents and skills to complete a book that people will enjoy reading and has more to do with being judged, both professionally (from the point of view of the book being panned) and personally (that my character will be judged as well). I know that this is just my worry manifesting itself in my head to stop me from completing what I want to do. I found it completely liberating and I have made a concrete plan about how to get my book finished plus some other projects that I have been putting off because of worry and anxiety.

I can’t not mention that I managed to hit the dead centre of the target while taking part in a shooting competition this month. I was amazed! My boyfriend, who was by my side to coach me, almost had a heart attack. He was never expecting that to happen. I suspect he was actually slightly jealous.

The final bit of May Madness was my attendance at netball training this month. The netball club ran a competition that every one who attended every training in May would be win a free drink in the pub at the end of the month. Despite an injury to my finger (which I still can’t bend fully and is painful), I managed to claim my cider!

There have been lots of coincidences this month. Luckily they have all been happy coincidences so I have no reason to complain at all. I feel very positive about the next few months. I will soon be starting a new job, plus I will be going home for the first time this year, I am going to Berlin for a netball competition and there will be big celebrations later in June when the shooting club will be celebrating 150 years as a club. I can’t wait!

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40 Before 40: Challenge #39 Downsizing – Part 1

15 May

This is a long post so I have decided to write it over two posts so you don’t end up falling asleep before the end!

This is possibly one of the hardest challenges on the list because a) I have had to be really strict with myself about recycling, selling, donating and throwing away things and b) it’s quite difficult to work out when the challenge is finished.

I watched a programme recently about trying to live a minimalist lifestyle. A couple tried to live for 2 weeks with only 100 things in their apartment. The rest of the things that didn’t make the list were put into storage until the challenge was over. The programme explained that people who have less material possessions are happier because they don’t have to make decisions and so their life is easier and less stressful. After the experiment, the couple did take back some of their items that were in storage but also decided to get rid of some things, like clothing, for example.

The aim of my downsizing hasn’t been to own only a limited number of possession but to get rid of things that I don’t need or want. It is so easy to accumulate things that you no longer need, no longer want or things that no longer work.

Moving is a good time to sort out things. It’s also normally the time when you realise as you are packing everything into boxes that you own far to much stuff. We moved almost a year ago and this challenge began back then. However, it has taken me until now to be happy that I have genuinely sorted through all of my things thoroughly enough that I can say that I have downsized sufficiently.

Here are some of the areas that I have tackled in my quest to downsize:

Books

Books are my biggest downfall. I have so many books and I keep buying books at a rate faster than I can read them, even though I am a pretty fast reader. I’m not sure if this is due to a deep-rooted fear of running out of reading material and so I want to make sure that I have enough to keep me going.

The first thing I did was clear out my books. I tend to hold onto books even when I have read them so these were the first ones to go. I have made a promise to myself that I will only keep books that I think are incredibly amazing on my bookshelf after I have read them. This is why Bonfire of the Vanities is still standing on my shelf. I took these books to a second-book shop or gave them away to other people. Giving them to other people that I know is 100% better than taking them to the shop because at the shop I tend to have “a bit of a browse” and end up buying at least another two books. The net effect is what I am hoping for but it still means that more books are finding their way into the apartment.

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Next I was very honest with myself and looked through all of the books that I was left with and got rid of the books that I had no interest in reading. These were neither because of a rash purchase that I now regret or a book that had been given to me by someone that I didn’t really want to read. These books also made it to the second-hand shop.

There were also some books that I want to read in the future but just not right now. These books are now stored in the basement in a plastic box ready for when I want to rediscover them.

Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying expert (possibly not her real job title), claimed last year that a person only needs 30 books. I recognised that I had too many books and needed to sort through them and get rid of them but only having 30 is completely ridiculous. For example, do recipe books count towards that? If so, I should only have 24 other books and that is not going to happen. At least I have cut down my number significantly but reducing even further would just cause too much negativity in my life and no one needs that.

Toiletries

I had stacks and stacks of toiletries in the bathroom. So many, in fact, that my boyfriend was shocked when I and half of a large Boots store moved in with him. The weird thing is that I’m not the type of person who spends hours in the bathroom getting ready and taking hours looking after their skin.

The products that I had fit into a few broad categories:

  • Bargain products that I bought because I was saving money but didn’t actually need
  • Gifted products that I thought were too nice to use so they have been stood in the back of the cabinet gathering dust
  • Products that I bought but realised weren’t right for my hair/skin type
  • Products that I have been hanging on to because I want to use them but have never got round to

The easiest thing to do was to first throw away all of the products that were or looked like they were going out of date. I threw away quite a bit of make-up and also some hair products. Then I did the same with products that I discovered weren’t right for me.

I decided it would be best to sort the remaining items into: essential things that I use on a daily or weekly basis; things that I have been keeping for “best” but can use straight away; gifted products that are actually travel-sized and I can take away with me on trips when I only have hand luggage; things that I won’t use at all ,which were then disposed of.

I bought some small boxes so that I can organise everything to make under the bathroom sink look tidier.

This also has the extra benefit that I can see exactly what I have so I don’t buy things and then realise a few weeks later that I didn’t actually need to because I already had a stockpile loitering at the back of the cupboard.

Things that I don’t use or don’t work anymore

I had a collection of things in the basement that didn’t work or I didn’t use anymore. We took the things that didn’t work to the local recycling plant and disposed of them properly. I got rid of things like a stop watch which had stopped working years ago and a couple of mobile phones. We ended up taking a whole car full of things to the recycling/waste disposal place. Here is how full the car was on one of several trips. I must add we did take some things for family while we were there – it wasn’t all from our basement.

Things that I don’t use anymore were trickier to get rid of. I tried to sell as much as possible. I sold some resistance exercise bands that I had only used twice, a pasta machine. some unopened perfume and some other things on a Facebook site. I sold some jewellery on an ebay-type site. I also got some money for my old German textbooks. In the end, it added up to quite a bit of money. It was pain sometime waiting for someone to collect something and then them sending a message to say that they couldn’t make it but it was worth it overall. Of course, there were some things that I wasn’t able to sell for one reason or another so these ended up being disposed of at the recycling centre.

That is the end of Part I! Are you still awake? I hope I haven’t bored you to death. The conclusion of my challenge will be posted later this week. I hope you check back to see what else I manage to organise and tidy!

 

 

Book Challenge by Erin 10.0

23 Jan

As you may know at the end of last year, I discovered an online reading challenge on Facebook. The group is run by Erin (hence, the name). The challenge is very easy. There are 10 different categories and you have to read a book from each category to complete it.

As I have a lot of free time on my hands at the moment, I managed to finish the challenge in 21 days – yes, 10 books in 21 days. I surprised myself. I’ve been motivated by reading 68 books last year and I would like to better it this year if that is possible. Obviously, I have given myself a great start to the year.

Here are the categories and the books that I read for the challenge:

Freebie (any book that is more than 200 pages long) – How to Make Friends and Influence People by Dale Carniege

I decided to read a non-fiction book for this category. I have had this book on my “to read” shelf for a long time. It was an interesting book about human psychology and the basic premise of the book is “be nice”. That’s so of it really. By being agreeable, people will want to spend more time with you or do business with you. It seems logical that people who are easy to get along with will have no problem finding friends. However, I wonder if you did follow all of the advice in this book if you would end up feeling very unsatisfied with life. You would just end up doing what other people want and forfeit a large part of your personality to get along with people. Having said that, I will follow some of the advice that the book gives, especially because some of the examples that were given did ring true to me and I think the advice could help me in some areas.

Book that was turned into a Movie – Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

This was a long book (my edition was 884 pages long) but was a great read. Set during the American Civil War, it is essentially a story of love and loss, focused on the main character Scarlett O’Hara. Throughout the book, I was wondering how on earth the story could keep going and going, but there was always a clever plot twist to stir things up again and leave the reader wanting to read on. I haven’t seen the film but I wonder how the whole story can be possibly cut down to the length of a film without losing part of the great story. I’m so glad that I stuck with this book and read it until the end.

Set in Europe – The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

So many people have been talking about this book recently that I thought I just had to read it. At times it was an unpleasant reminder about the horrors of Nazi Germany but there was also a huge sense of hope and love. I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone who wants to read it by revealing what happened but it is well-written and poignant. I would recommend that you give it a read as well.

A Newberry Award Winner – Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

I read this children’s book in a few hours. It was a lovely story about Wilbur the pig and his friend, Charlotte, who is a very clever spider. This book was popular when I was growing up but I never read it. I was glad that I did. It is a story about relationships and how working together can help improve everyone’s lives. The ending was sad but in a nice way.

A Friend’s Favourite – Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

I was a bit sceptical about the book when I first started reading it. It took a while to get my head around the structure of the novel and the reasons for that structure. The book is six stories, spanning different eras woven into one. Each of the stories has a connection to the previous one. The stories were so different, not only in terms of narrative voice but also in the format; one was a diary, one was an interview etc. It showed a vast amount of skills to write with such complexity and authenticity. I enjoyed some of the stories more than others but overall it was a great read.

Written over 100 years ago – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I had no idea that this book was based, at least partly, in Switzerland and that it is nothing like the Frankenstein monster horror story that have come out of Hollywood. It is a poignant story about human interaction and the need to be accepted in society. The figure of “the monster” is a lonely, misunderstood figure, who has had no part in his design or creation, and tries to take revenge on his creator after he refuses to help him find happiness.

Title with 6 Words – The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Another book from the Nazi Germany era. The worst part of this book is seeing the dates that the diary entries were made knowing that the hope of them being free isn’t going to happen. The contrast between the musings of a teenage girl (complaining about classmates etc) and the description of the harsh conditions is mind blowing.

Cardinal direction in the title – East, West by Salman Rushdie

This was a collection of 9 short stories. I really liked how the narrative of each of the stories was so different and the subject matter was so varied. A lot of the stories made me quite reflective about life. I haven’t read any of Rushdie’s book before but I am going to make an effort to do so in the future. This was a good introduction into how well he writes.

Originally in another language – The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende (Spanish)

This was a joy to read. It’s the story of four generations of an eccentric family in Chile and charts the tragedy, hilarity and surreality of their lives in an ever-changing world. One minute I was laughing out loud, the next silent in shock at the events that were unfolding in the story. I would go as far to say that this was one of my favourite books that I have ever read. This was another long read but I doubt it will be long before I am re-reading it once again.

Begins with the letter N – Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Surprisingly, in this book the narrator is a unborn foetus, who is overhearing the destruction of his parents’ marriage and his mother’s subsequent relationship with his uncle. It was fascinating to read – the narrator can’t see everything that happens in the story but tries to infer all the details from his experience and from other senses. As with all McEwan novels, there is a sinister twist to the story and the foetus attempts to interfere with events that are happening around him.

There will now be a bonus round, where I have the opportunity to read another 10 books, but that part of the challenge doesn’t start until 1st February. In the meantime, I will have to find some other books to get stuck into!

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