I grew up in Wales and although I went to an English-speaking school, I had lessons in Welsh up to the age of thirteen. Twenty-five years later, I have only a handful of phrases and the ability, if drunk enough, to sing the national anthem.
However, as a word-nerd, I’m grateful to have been brought up in a bilingual society and for the gems added to my vocabulary.
Today I’d like to introduce you to one of my favourites: Cwtch. The closest translation is probably ‘safe place’ but it’s most often used to mean ‘cuddle’ (when you are creating a safe place with your arms).
Here’s the pronunciation (with thanks to Forvo.com):
It’s such an affectionate, friendly-sounding word and it takes me right back to my childhood.
Incidentally, the image is from a genius range of cards produced in Wales. You can buy online here.
I was wondering what to share with you guys this week and, truth be told, I was drawing a blank. I’ve been feeling a bit ‘meh’ and haven’t done anything of interest – unless you count shredding loads of paperwork in my continuing mission to declutter the house.
Then I remembered something very important: I have a kitten! Hurrah!
Zelda Kitzgerald continues to be a source of joy and delight. The kids love playing with her and picking her up for cuddles. Zelda is less certain about the latter activity, but bears it with good grace.
She is five months old, now, and has grown so much. Look, here she is next to my daughter’s boots at three months:
And today, hiding under my laptop stand. (I realise that another shot of her next to the boots would be best for comparison purposes, but, you know… Life.):
Zelda’s day begins at around six. She likes to announce this with a little game of ‘pat Sarah’s face’. After receiving the extensive stroking that is her due, she heads off to see if she can jump on the children. If they have (sensibly) shut their bedroom doors, she returns to my bed to play ‘pounce on the keyboard’ while I do my morning writing.
After all this exercise, Zelda is a tired kitten and she tends to settle down for a day-long nap, waking up in the late afternoon/evening for a lively round of laser-pointer tag, catch-the-humans, climb the curtains and, my particular favourite; attack thin air while making crazy-eyes.
At bedtime, she snuggles down at the bottom of the duvet and concentrates her considerable powers of cuteness on looking adorable and peaceful, thereby ensuring that she won’t be usurped and is in prime face-patting position the next morning.
I have a tendency to get a little, um, obsessed by things and my ‘thing’ of the moment is tidying the house. This, in itself, is pretty magical. Or, if you prefer, crazy-unusual.
I love my home and my ‘stuff’ and like to keep a basically sanitary environment (clean kitchen and bathroom, hoover-up the hair balls once a week) but I’m not a great housekeeper or what you’d call anywhere near house proud.
However, over the last couple of years I’ve been feeling less comfortable and happy in my home and more ‘argh, I’m going to get buried under all this STUFF’. You know when you go to sort out a tower of clutter and just end up wandering from room to room, searching for places to put things, and then, defeated, you put the pile back down again? That.
I like to think of myself as a reasonably non-materialistic person. I don’t often shop as a recreational activity and hardly ever buy clothes for myself. However, there are four of us in a modestly-sized bungalow and I do have tiny book-buying addiction (although that counts as business-related, right?).
Add in my thrifty mindset, which has always been of the ‘make do and mend’ and ‘keep hold of it in case I need it/can upcycle it’ bent, then it’s not surprising that we ran out of places to store the clutter quite some time ago.
Even knowing all of this, I thought I was keeping on top of things fairly well. I have regular decluttering sessions and am good at passing on outgrown clothes.
I had just started one of my periodic half-hearted tidying sessions, when I heard about Marie Kondo’s The Life-changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way to Banish Clutter Forever via this blog. It cropped up on another of my regular reads and I took the hint from the universe and bought it.
Well. This is a short book, but it’s certainly changed my thoughts on how to tidy.
The author is sweetly bonkers but I love her positive approach. She advocates showing gratitude to your home and your possessions and letting go of those which no longer bring you joy. She recommends that you focus on the things you actively want to keep, which makes the whole exercise more enjoyable.
She also recommends that you tidy by category, rather than area of the home. You gather every single item that belongs in that category and lay it out on your bed or the floor. Kondo says that this approach will really help you to see your things afresh and help you to make decisions about them and, I have to admit, she’s right. Plus, you only have to make decisions about that category once, rather than several times as you encounter items around the house.
Anyway, I started with clothes on the weekend and managed to fill seven bin bags for the charity shop. Seven! And I haven’t even started on the children’s stuff, yet…
I’m dreading the ‘books’ category so I’m going to skip it for now and go onto paperwork. I see lots of shredding in my immediate future…
So, although it is early days, I’d definitely recommend this book/her approach. For starters, I wouldn’t have started decluttering in the ‘hidden’ spaces of my drawers/wardrobe (I would have begun with visible surfaces) but I swear the room actually feels lighter, which makes me feel motivated about tackling the rest.
How about you? Got any tidying tips? Advice for tackling my book collection?
So far, 2015 has been really good to me reading-wise. I have enjoyed loads of great books (some of which I got for Christmas or my birthday – yay!) and, better yet, I’ve become totally immersed in them (not always possible since I made books/writing my job…)
So, here are a select few recommendations. If you’ve read anything brilliant lately, please let me know in the comments… I like to keep my to-be-read pile topped up.*
1. Yes, Please by Amy Poehler.
This is just as funny, warm and honest as I was hoping it would be. It also contains these (perfect) words on writing a book:
“Everyone lies about writing. They lie about how easy it is or how hard it was. They perpetuate a romantic idea that writing is some beautiful experience that takes place in an architectural room filled with leather novels and chai tea… The truth is, writing is this: hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not. Even I have lied about writing. I have told people that writing this book has been like brushing away dirt from a fossil. What a load of shit. It’s been like hacking away at a freezer with a screwdriver.”
2. The Bees by Laline Paull was an excellent, unusual read. Writing a book from the point of view of a bee can’t have been an easy task, and I’m in awe of Paull’s imagination and linguistic dexterity.
3. Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Definitely read the book before you see the film (which, considering that it’s a worldwide bestseller, you probably already have done). Beautifully written, bare-your-soul honest, and uplifting. Warning: It made me sob, so maybe don’t read it on public transport.
4. The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley. I had never heard of this author but when my friend Stephanie Burgis recommended it I downloaded a Kindle sample and became instantly hooked. It’s a ‘time slip’ novel in which a grieving woman steps into the past while staying at a beautiful house in Cornwall. Romance! Smugglers! It’s also got a cracking plot and lots of heart; happy sigh. It definitely won’t be the last Susanna Kearsley I read…
5. And, still in progress… Story by Robert McKee. Although this seminal work on the craft of story-telling is aimed at screenwriters, it’s been recommended to me again and again by other novelists. I’m (finally) giving it a go and, so far, it’s very interesting. I bought the audiobook and am listening to it during my daily walk which is both good (multi-tasking) and bad (I can’t take notes).
*By ‘topped up’ I mean ‘ridiculously tall and impossibly large’.