Property porn

Property shows make the most of our desire to nose around other people’s homes. But they also feed into this idea that bigger is better. It’s very rarely that you hear someone say ‘I think this house is a bit big for us’. I don’t think a feeling of space can replace a feeling of freedom. I think that taking on bigger homes and more debt can be hugely damaging and is certainly not the sure-fire road to success we think it is. 

I’ve bought into this idea for years – I moved from a one bed flat to a two bed house and then up to a three bed house. And it’s too much. Too much to clean. Too much space to fill with stuff. Too much to pay for. I spend so much time trying to make enough money to support a lifestyle I am not enjoying. I wonder how many people feel this way. I wonder how many people really feel like they can change things. 

How much space is enough space?


If you walked into a room like this, you wouldn’t think it was that small. It’s light and airy and beautiful. 

You would only find it small if you knew it was the only living space. But you only need to occupy one space at a time. You only experience one space at a time. The rest of your rooms are for your stuff. 
I live in a house with 8 rooms. Each living space (master bedroom, kitchen, living room) are around about the same as this room. I use one at a time. And some of them I barely use at all. But I’m paying for owning them. And I need to clean them. They’re glorified cupboards. 

I didn’t go into one room in my house for months – just to see how much I did or didn’t need it. I don’t. 

I had all these ideas about people coming to stay. They haven’t. 

I’m scratching that idea in my next place. A sofa bed might be useful, but otherwise it’s just me and the dogs. 
The big challenge is to get rid of all the things I have accumulated over the past 16 years. And it’s a lot. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? Surround yourself with things. It grounds you. 
Or it weighs you down.


Wow! I’ve not added to this blog for a long time. But, as I was thinking about documenting some things going on in my life (and beginning a new blog) it seemed that this was probably the ideal place for my thoughts. So here goes.

I’m becoming increasingly interested in minimalism.

I don’t mean stark white living spaces with all the home comforts of a science lab. I like snug. I have dogs. Ideally all surfaces would be a muddy browny-grey to maintain their original charm and my sanity.

No, I mean the conscious shedding of possessions; a simplification of the way I live. I want to focus less on what I have (possessions) and more on what I do (experiences). I mean that when I need to buy something, it must be a considered and researched purchase. It must be something I need – in the real sense of the word. And the rest of the time I should focus on going out, seeing things, living life.

My interest in minimalism – or experientialism over materialism, is a natural next step for me. I have been interested in growing my own food and making my own clothes for a while now. And whilst I found that self-sufficiency was probably not for me, it didn’t mean that the model by which I was living was any more suitable for my happiness of good mental health.

Further reading
Spend less on stuff, more on experiences, James Wallman, The Guardian
Stuffocation, James Wallman (try your local indie bookshop)
The Minimalists
Becoming Minimalist
The 333 Project

Reading: Ancient Light by John Banville

I haven’t followed much of the Fifty Shades of Gray hype. Mostly because I haven’t read them, nor am I likely to. I have no problem with women reading erotic fiction, which is, I believe the attraction for a lot of readers, it’s just that I have read Anais Nin and DH Lawrence and plenty of other stuff and I think there’s much better out there. This is popular because it is popular, not because it is good.

So instead, I am going to blog about other books. Good books. I have just finished Why be happy when you can be normal? by Jeanette Winterson, which I loved. It moved me and made me think, as all her books do. And now I am reading John Banville’s new book Ancient Light.

The Sea was my introduction to Banville. I read it in hardback when it first came out and, like Winterson, I found lines which spoke to me. The language was sophisticated and beautiful, the imagery rich. And reading the first few pages of Ancient Light I am reminded why that one book was enough to place John Banville high on my list of favourite authors.

I love books, and always have. When I finish one I like to kneel on the landing in my house where the majority of my fiction collection lives, and pick the next book. Years working in a book shop, and an addiction to second hand book shops, means I have plenty I haven’t yet read – I am like a kid in a sweet shop trying to chose what to read next. I have to match the book to my mood and there are many books with scraps of paper poking from between their pages where I have begun reading, and not finished. Not because I didn’t like the book, not even because I didn’t want to, more likely because something shiny and new caught my eye and I, magpie-like, became distracted.

But I have a new plan: less telly, more reading. I began with Why be happy when you can be normal?, and it’s going well so far…

I heart my dog

I heart my dog


Last April I got a three month old labradoodle from the RSPCA. Today she is a year old and she is the best thing ever. The photo above perfectly captures one aspect of Izzy’s personality, she can be very calm, thoughtful and observant. On the other hand she can tear around like a loon and clear a four foot fence like she was stepping over it. One thing is for sure, I would not be without her.



Ex-prostitute, crime-witnessing, recovering alcoholic girl escapes crazy life in police protection to visit her twin sister, twin sister commits suicide and girl assumes dead twin’s identity. Except that twin wasn’t really dead and now the FBI are after girl, her ‘dead’ sister has sent thugs after her, she’s having an affair with her best friend’s husband, she has a body to hide and a party to host and a step daughter to win over. Did I mention there have only been two episodes?

Okay, so I’m not much of one for tv reviews but I wanted to write about my response to the new Sarah Michelle Geller series, Ringer. I loved SMG in Buffy, so I thought I’d give the series a go, and she is great. But it feels like a guilty secret, so this is kind of my confession.

As a tv series, it’s not well written and it’s not well put together – the special effects in the first episode when the main character and her twin sister inexplicably go out for a ride in a speed boat are clunky, as is the script. It is soapy and overly complicated with more plot twists than you could sensibly justify in a forty five minute show and they’re all a bit, well, cliched.

So why am I even bothering writing this? Well, it has SMG, Ioan Gruffudd and that guy who played the dad in Life Unexpected and they’re all pretty good, watchable actors that add a weight and legitimacy to something which is, essentially, slightly mysterious fluff. And, much like a soap, you kinda want to know what happens next, no matter how ridiculous or unlikely it might be.

The little stranger

I have just finished reading Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger and, whilst it is still fresh in my mind, I wanted to record some thoughts on it (maybe this is why I should join a book group).

Ever since reading Fingersmith I am wary of Waters’ narrators. I felt betrayed by the twist in the tale and, I think, it was my first introduction to the idea that the narrator may have an alternative motive, and may not be entirely reliable.

There was a point at which I began to feel uneasy about trusting Faraday, the amiable country doctor telling the tale in The Little Stranger. It may have been his willingness to prescribe away every little neuroses; his fascination with the crumbling aristocratic family at the centre of the story; or his facility to infiltrate that family whilst failing to prevent, or even predict, its demise.

Since reading Fingersmith, I have become really interested in the role of the narrator in telling a story, as well as in the narrative structure (something Waters toyed with in her last novel, The Night Watch)



The recent need to work from home due to extreme weather shutting down the UK transport system has prompted me to consider my workspace. I have the enviable position of being able to do my job almost entirely from home – through remote access, email and telephone – under these circumstances, but does a change in surroundings change the way I work and what I produce?

Objectively good places to work rarely end up being so; in their faultlessness, quiet and well-equipped studies have a habit of rendering the fear of failure overwhelming.

Alain de Botton (The Ideal Live/Work Space According to Alain de Botton on Unplggd)

Apart from the obvious distractions of home working – pets, family, the ability to chain-drink tea, I can see obvious benefits and pitfalls, some of which are one and the same. If you usually work in a studio with other people, sitting at the same desk and looking at the same wall, I think a change of scenery can bring a refreshing change in perspective. It can allow you to think differently, access a different range of resources and inspiration. It can afford you a more relaxed working environment, which is not always beneficial, but can be if you are disciplined enough. I tend to move my workspace around the house depending on the task in hand: drawing, and checking proofs at the dining table where I have space for my drawing board, or to spread out sheets of paper; web building on the sofa where I can have my laptop on my knee and feel comfortable, warm and relaxed for the inevitably long time I will be sitting working; studio with desk for drawing on the mac, photo editing, etc. where I need to use a mouse or pen and tablet.

So that’s how I work, but I’m also fascinated by other people’s workspaces – what they gather around themselves to inspire and motivate. There’s this great thread on Behance where people are posting photos of their workspaces – mostly computer stations, but there are some artist and illustrator’s studio spaces too. The Guardian also did a series which ended a couple of years ago called writer’s rooms which featured writers in their workspaces along with an article about their working practices which made fascinating reading.

If you have a photo of your workspace on flickr, tumblr, facebook, whatever, please feel free to post a link in the comments section, or email me and I’ll do a post of some of them later in the week.