Books: What I Read in 2019

Hello all! It’s been a hot minute since I wrote a blog post. So to ease into 2020 I thought I’d do a list of all the books I read in 2019.

For those of you who don’t know me, I love lists almost as much as I love books. Apps like Goodreads, Letterboxd and threads on Twitter satisfy some part of my brain that nothing else can. So, naturally, I keep a record of everything I read.

Fiction:

  • “All the Hidden Truths”, Claire Askew
  • “The Muse”, Jessie Burton
  • “Hings”, Chris McQueer
  • “The Chemist”, Stephanie Meyer
  • “Normal People”, Sally Rooney
  • “The Lottery and Other Stories”, Shirley Jackson
  • “Alias Grace”, Margaret Atwood
  • “The Sisters Brothers”, Patrick deWitt
  • “The Gloaming”, Kirsty Logan
  • “Vox”, Christina Dalcher
  • “The Mars Room”, Rachel Kushner
  • “Big Little Lies”, Liane Moriarty
  • “Faking Friends”, Jane Fallon
  • “Oryx and Crake”, Margaret Atwood
  • “Daisy Jones and the Six”, Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • “Our Endless Numbered Days”, Claire Fuller
  • “Conversations with Friends”, Sally Rooney
  • “Disobedience”, Naomi Alderman
  • “Invitation to a Bonfire”, Adrienne Cult
  • “The Happiness Machine”, Katie Williams
  • “Convenience Store Woman”, Sakuya Murata (trans. Ginny Tapley Takemori)
  • “Killing Eve: Codename Villanelle”, Luke Jennings
  • “Killing Eve: No Tomorrow”, Luke Jennings
  • “Crimson”, Niviaq Korneliussen
  • “Oranges are Not the Only Fruit”, Jeanette Winterson
  • “Crazy Rich Asians”, Kevin Kwan
  • “Northern Lights”, Philip Pullman
  • “The Road Through the Wall”, Shirley Jackson
  • “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake”, Aimee Bender
  • “Supper Club”, Lara Williams
  • “The Farm”, Joanne Ramos
  • “Animals Eat Each Other”, Elle Nash
  • “My Name is Monster”, Katie Hale
  • “The Gracekeepers”, Kirsty Logan
  • “The Goldfinch”, Donna Tartt
  • “Fangirl”, Rainbow Rowell
  • “The New Me”, Halle Butler
  • “Queenie”, Candice Carty-Williams
  • “Things We Say in the Dark”, Kirsty Logan
  • “The Secret History”, Donna Tartt
  • “The Panopticon”, Jenni Fagan
  • “Lives of the Monster Dogs”, Kirsten Bakis
  • “Water Shall Refuse Them”, Lucie McKnight Hardy
  • “My Sister, The Serial Killer”, Oyinkan Braithwaite
  • “A Closed and Common Orbit”, Becky Chambers
  • “Record of a Spaceborn Few”, Becky Chambers
  • “Pachinko”, Min Jin Lee
  • “Red, White and Royal Blue”, Casey McQuiston

Non-Fiction:

  • “Nasty Women”, Various Authors ed. 404 Ink
  • “We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Words Anthology”, Various, ed. Michael Lee Richardson and Ryan Vance
  • “This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor”, Adam Kay
  • “Planning in the Moment with Young Children: A Practical Guide for Early Years Practitioners and Parents”, Anna Ephgrave
  • “Eat, Pray, Love”, Elizabeth Gilbert
  • “Orange is the New Black”, Piper Kerman
  • “Building the Ambition: National Practice on Early Learning and Childcare”, the Scottish Government
  • “Birth to Three: Supporting Our Youngest Children”, Learning and Teaching Scotland
  • “Cultivating Creativity in Babies, Toddlers and Young Children”, Tina Bruce
  • “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race”, Renni Eddo-Lodge
  • “I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death”, Maggie O’Farrell
  • “Everything I Know about Love”, Dolly Alderton
  • “The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone”, Olivia Laing
  • “Happy Fat: Taking Up Space in a World That Wants to Shrink You”, Sofie Hagen
  • “Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found”, Cheryl Strayed

Graphic Novels and Comic Books:

  • “Sword Daughter” Volume 1, Brian Wood
  • “The Realm”, Volume 1, Seth Peck, Tony Moore and Jeremy Haun
  • “Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitty Holy”, Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and Faith Hicks
  • “Blacksad: Amarillo”, Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido
  • “The Electric State”, Simon Stålenhag
  • “On a Sunbeam”, Tillie Walden
  • “Fusigi Yugi”, Volume 1-13, Yuu Watase
  • “Spinning”, Tillie Walden
  • “Escape from Bitch Mountain”, Hannah Chapman
  • “Man-Eaters”, Volume 1&2, Chelsea Cain
  • “The Black Bull of Norroway”, Volume 1, Cat and Kit Seaton
  • “Lumberjanes: Friendship to the Max”, Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters
  • “I Love this Part”, Tillie Walden
  • “The Motherless Oven”, Rob Davis
  • “The Can Opener’s Daughter”, Rob Davis
  • “The Book of Forks”, Rob Davis

Poetry:

  • “Milk and Vine”, Volume 2, Emily Beck and Adam Gasiewski
  • “Hera Lindsay Bird”, Hera Lindsay Bird
  • “Brand New Ancients”, Kate Tempest
  • “Helium”, Rudy Francisco
  • “No Matter the Wreckage”, Sarah Kay
  • “Following a Lark: Poems”, George Mackay Brown
  • “Void Studies”, Rachel Boast
  • “Plum”, Hollie McNish
  • “Hydra’s Heads”, Norma Gormringer (trans. Annie Rutherford)
  • “Like”, A.E. Stallings
  • “The Republic of Motherhood”, Liz Berry
  • “In These Days of Prohibition”, Caroline Bird
  • “Watering Can”, Caroline Bird
  • “Black Country”, Liz Berry
  • “Let Me Tell You This”, Nadine Aisha Jassat
  • “Wain”, Rachel Plummer
  • “This Script”, Jenny Lindsay

Children’s Books

  • “Smelly Louie”, Catherine Rayner
  • “The Book with No Pictures”, B.J. Novak
  • “What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf?”, Debi Gliori
  • “I Want my Hat Back”, Jon Klassen
  • “We Found a Hat”, Jon Klassen
  • “Hare and Tortoise”, Alison Murray
  • “Silence”, Lemniscates
  • “Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar”, Emily MacKenzie
  • “Woke Baby”, Mahogany L. Brown, Theodore Taylor III
  • “Dream Big, Little Leader”, Vashti Harrison
  • “Maisy Goes to the Library”, Lucy Cousins
  • “Goodnight Moon”, Margaret Wise Brown
  • “That’s Not My Tiger”, Usborne Touchy-Feely Books

Spooky Bookys: What I’m Reading this October

Tonight, instead of fleeing home to blankets and re-watching old episodes of The Simpsons, I’m heading out to the launch of Kirsty Logan‘s new book: “Things We Say in the Dark”. Its a collection of feminist horror short stories and it says a lot about what I’m going to be reading this month.

In case you haven’t noticed it’s officially autumn. The scarves are out, everyone in my office is having soup for lunch and I refuse to read a book unless it has some kind of mysterious death in it. It’s October after all! So here is the list of books I plan to read this month (or, at least, try!)

Published Alfred A. Knopf, 1992

“The Secret History”, Donna Tartt

Slow building, uncomfortable thriller: This one is kind of cheating because I’ve actually read it before. I recently finished Tartt’s third novel (“The Goldfinch”) and felt like dipping into this world again. In case you haven’t read or heard of it – it’s a whydunnit murder mystery set against the backdrop of an American college in New England. It’s perfect for autumn: lots of scenes of a tree covered campus with cold bedrooms and roaring fires, a murder played in reverse and a warning about why you shouldn’t stay out after dark. It practically screams things are brown and everything is dying! What is more autumnal than that?

Published Penguin Books, 2019

“Things We Say in the Dark”, Kirsty Logan

Fast-paced stories reworking horror conventions: As I mentioned above, it’s a new book of feminist horror stories. At this point I’ve read all of Logan’s other books which can best be summed up as reworked fairytale concepts which shine a light on universal experiences. Her novel “The Gloaming” for example (which I highly recommend listening to on audiobook!) is about an island where people turn to stone, but it’s also a raw articulation of the real fear of never leaving rural upbringing. Logan’s previous collection of short stories “The Rental Heart” was one of my favourite reads in 2018, so I’m definitely excited for this one!

Published Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997

“The Lives of the Monster Dogs”, Kirsten Bakis

Monsters in form and humanity: I was actually given this book two years ago by my Mum who uses Christmas as an opportunity to track down some out-of-print novel she read years ago and bestow a second hand copy on me. The dogs of the title refer to anthropomorphic dogs, the result of an experiment, who have been given hands and the ability to speak. The dogs have been kept trapped in a secluded village which shut itself off from society and still operates under the ideas and customs of the 19th century. The novel begins when the dogs arrive in 2008 New York.

Published Dead Ink Books, 2019

“Water Shall Refuse Them”, Lucy McKnight Hardy

Witches and weird women: I found out about this novel in a fantastic article by the Guardian on ‘witcherature’. The novel follows a teenage girl, Nif, whose sister has accidentally drowned. Nif copes with the grief, and her families subsequent move, by practicing her own form of witchcraft. I was first drawn to this novel because it was compared to the writing of Shirley Jackson (one of my favourite authors) whose novel “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” is my favourite witch book of all time. On top of this, the McKnight Hardy’s book is supposedly inspired by real witches living in Wales in the 1970s. As she said in an interview about the book: ‘we don’t often think of witchcraft as being something of the present day – we tend to consign it to history’. An alternative witch story is exactly what I need to bring in the darker nights!

Published Random House, 2014

“The Panopticon”, Jenni Fagan

Societal fear: Hitting stages with an adaptation by the National Theatre later this month, “The Panopticon” isn’t ‘spooky’ in the same way as the other books on this list. It follows Anais Hendricks, fifteen and headed for a prison for chronic young offenders. Its name takes inspiration from a Greek form of prison constructed so that all the prisoners can be watched all the time – it feels claustrophobic just from the blurb. I’m a sucker for reading before seeing so I can unpick on the walk home – so I’ve got to hurry up with this one so I’m ready before it gets to the Traverse!

Traverse Theatre, 2019

Bonus round: what I’m seeing!

As well as seeing “The Panopticon” at the Traverse, I’m also seeing Oliver Emmanuel’s “The Monstrous Heart” which features a mother/daughter re-connection story, a secluded cabin and a massive dead bear. Surely nothing spooky there?

I’m also seeing Hannah Lavery’s “The Drift” and Hannah Gadsby’s “Douglas” neither of which are really Halloweeny but one is an examination of racism in modern Scotland and another a take down of the patriarchy that would definitely frighten most white men.

So that’s it! October is shaping up to be a month jam-packed with female narratives of fear in all its forms: from chilling short stories, fear of the other in witches and talking dogs to the fear of living in systems that control us: prisons, racism, sexism.

Books: What I’ve Read in Two Line Pitches

Hello! This is something completely different from normal – not a single Moomin in sight! – but a lot of people have mentioned that they like my book reviews on Instagram, or following the thread of all the books I read on my Twitter. So I thought I’d make a list of some of the books I’ve read this year and pitch them to you in two lines or less.

For clarity, I’ve left out any books that are part of series. If you want to see the full list and keep up to date, head to my Goodreads page!

To those of you who hate Moomins: welcome (and how dare you!). To those of you who hate books: see you at the next Moomin post.

Here we go!

All these photos are from my Instagram… just in case you were wondering!

Book 3: “Nasty Women“, 404 Ink (Various Contributors)
Essays from woman examining where we are now, and what it means to be a woman in a world where Trump is president.

Book 10: “Hings“, Chris McQueer
Short stories from Glasgow to the galactic. Like meeting your dead surreal friend of some drinks in the park – but with the best stories ever.

Book 23: “Normal People“, Sally Rooney
Two people grow up and together through secondary school and university in Ireland. You’ll suffer but you’ll love it.

Book 25: “This is Going to Hurt“, Adam Kay
A junior doctor’s diaries that charts his decision to leave his job. It’s hilarious, deeply depressing and a rallying cry of why we need to fight for the NHS.

Book 30: “The Gloaming“, Kirsty Logan
The fear of never progressing and leaving where you grew up, but turned into a fairytale with mermaids, boxers and ballerinas. Each chapter is based upon a Scottish word.

Book 32: “The Republic of Motherhood“, Liz Berry
Poems that ask: what is motherhood was a physical location? How would we map it, let alone live in it?

This book is just so pretty. Do yourself a favour!

Book 44: “On a Sunbeam“, Tillie Walden
A graphic novel about queer architects in space who repurpose broken buildings into banks and hotels. At the same time, a reflection on growing up queer in an all-girls boarding school (also in space).

Book 61: “Wain“, Rachel Plummer
A poetry book where Scottish folklore is reimagined through queer re-tellings and beautiful watercolours.

Book 64: “Spinning“, Tillie Walden
How do you grow as a teenager knowing your life will disappoint your parents? A graphic novel that talks about growing up queer in Texas and professional ice-skating.

Books about death are best enjoyed in the Meadows with a cheap iced coffee (in my humble opinion).

Book 73: “I Am, I Am, I Am“, Maggie O’Farrell
A memoir told entirely through the authors real brushes with death: from childhood illness and near car crashes to attempted murder and medical misogyny.

Book 76: “The Happiness Machine“, Katie Williams
What if a machine told you what could make you happy? Worse, what if what it told you was illegal?

Book 77: “Convenience Store Woman” by Sakaya Murata
An isolated woman who has found joy in a convenience store job is ripped away from the one thing she loves. She’ll do anything to get it back…

Book 85: “Everything I Know About Love“, Dolly Alderton
A memoir that charts one woman’s journey through MSN messenger, parties, all-nighters, jobs, dating and best friends to discover love. It’s the book equivalent of watching “Bridget Jones Diary” with a bar of Galaxy after a break up.

Book 87: “The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone“, Olivia Lang
Part memoir about feeling isolated in Manhatten, part deep-dive into the history of art and how it depicts loneliness. Warhol, Hopper and more get a full examination between anecdotes of isolation.

Book 91: “Supper Club“, Lara Williams
Fed up of not being allowed taking up space, a group of women band together to create a supper club where they binge on good food, alcohol and drugs all night. It’s a feminist punch of a book about sisterhood, fatness, permission and reclamation.

The best way to photograph your books is on top of clean bedsheets.

Book 99: “My Name is Monster“, Katie Hale
One woman survives the apocalypse – or so she believes. A reimagining of Frankenstein and Robinson Crusoe that challenges our gendered believes about survival and relationships.

Book 100: “Happy Fat: Taking Up Space in a World that Wants to Shrink You“, Sofie Hagen
Danish comedian Hagen examines fatphobia in all its guises throughout society, from her earliest childhood memories, to medical inaccuracies, plane seats and toilets. Everyone should have to read this book.

So. If you’re not sure what to read next: you have 17 new recommendations.

Until next time: happy reading!

So I went to Moominworld… (Part 2)

The post you’ve all been waiting for. A deep dive into the wonder of Moominworld.

Before that: I accidentally went a bit viral on Twitter for saying happy birthday to Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomins. The tweet spoke about things I’ve touched on in this blog – her queer identity, the fact she protested Hitler during WWII. So, if you’re here because of that tweet – hello! Thanks for stopping by.

Signs throughout Naantali point you towards Moominworld.

On with Moominworld!

WHAT ON EARTH IS A MOOMINWORLD?
Moominworld is a visitor attraction for those who love the Moomins whether they be adults or children. It’s built on an island and contains several small parks, a restaurant, several hot food stalls, cafes, and ice cream shops, a post office, a shop, a beach, a play-park, three theatres, and interactive recreations of the houses and places found in Moominvalley including Moominhouse, Sniff’s house, Mr. Hemulen’s house, the Groke’s cave and Snufkin’s campsite.

WHERE ON EARTH IS A MOOMINWORLD?
It’s on a tiny island near Naantali Finland. It’s accessible by boat or a bus then a short walk. We stayed in Turku, Finland (2 hours from Helsinki), then took a bus for an hour and walked for twenty minutes.

When I say it’s on an island… I mean literally.

We arrived at 12pm. I felt that was pretty good seeing as our flight landed in Turku around 1am the night before. We walked through the marina and onto the island. The very first thing we did was catch a show at the Theatre Emma starring Stinky, Snork and Little My. All the shows were in Finnish (except one a day in Swedish) and have English and Chinese subtitles.

When I say theatre… I mean THEATRE!

After that we swung by Moominmamma’s buffet restaurant because I hadn’t yet eaten that day and was (a) hangry and (b) still recovering from food poisoning (more on that in the last blog…)

After rejuvenating myself with meatballs, mash and a lot of water, we hit up Sniff’s shop next door. Imagine an item, any item, with a Moomin on it. They probably definitely have it. Some notable items: Moomin chocolate, Moomin wine, Moomin coffee, Moomin tupperware, Moomin bedsheets, Moomin wallets, Moomin rain-jackets and a pair of boxers with Stinky on them.

We then wandered through all the promenade games, much like a wee beach front on some postcard, and the post-office: where you can send letters straight from Moominland.

We then trekked uphill to Snufkin’s camp. And there he was.

Reader, it was love at first sight.

Snufkin hangs out in a wee tent all day telling stories to any kids who sit down and listen. I wanted to sit down and listen but my boyfriend looked a little jealous. And I don’t speak any Finnish (…sadly).

Wandering around the periphery of the park was actually really nice. It was mostly wooded, with lovely views out onto the sea. Aside from being somewhere to meet the Moomins, it was actually just a nice space to be in – away from the city in fresh air and sunshine.

Nice wee trip to the rapids.

After an hour or so of wandering and checking out some of the beach and smaller attractions, we headed to the main event: Moominhouse. You can go inside but also: meet the Moomins.

There’s also another wee stage beside it with smaller shows during the day. Mainly starring Mrs. Fllyjonk (who we haven’t yet spoken about on this blog, but when we do it will be very exciting).

Inside are several rooms and a wee jam cellar.

And then. It happened.

The moment songs are written about, people give their lives away for and babies cry for. A life-changing moment. A moment that shapes us and makes us smile for many years later, with a single poetic tear rolling down our face. Earth-shattering, heart-thundering, hair-tearing, agonisingly beautiful moment.

I met Moomintroll.

Hey now, hey now. This is what dreams are made of.

I know. I know. Don’t all get too jealous now.

After this we did some more wandering: Groke’s cave, Hattifatteners, a maze for children I got lost in, another show at Theatre Emma (this time about Little My and the witch).

We wrapped up the day relaxing in a wee park eating chips which we had to hide from the seagulls. Just before closing time, everyone gathered outside Moominhouse where we all sang the Moomins theme tune whilst Moominmamma and Pappa danced together on the porch and the sun began to set.

We made our way back, tired and content. I honestly didn’t want to leave.

I don’t know what it is about the Moomins. Even after all this time re-watching, reading, writing and even visiting them. There’s something to be said about their innate comfort. Large and soft and cuddly with a spare room and cup of coffee available to any visitor who needs it. They promote the idea that any problem can be solved when we all speak and work together.

Beyond that, I have a love of children’s characters. Miffy, Paddington (after I watched “Paddington 2” at the cinema last year), Totoro, Gigi from “Kiki’s Delivery Service”. Maybe growing up with cats made me love anything cute and cuddly.

Maybe something in my brain just has that inexplicable need to protect because LOOK AT HOW LITTLE HE IS!

But maybe, more importantly, I love these things because their main message is safety. It’s good to spend some time in a world created for children; it’s relaxing, comforting and full of wisdom that makes your problems seem more manageable. It’s good to revisit these things knowing, whatever you’re dealing with, this too shall pass.

The Moomins promote this message above all: there’s nothing Moominmamma can’t solve by digging into her handbag. Moomintroll treats everyone he meets with kindness. So much time is spent playing, exploring, giving and looking after one another.

It’s the kind of world I want to live in.

And maybe that, above all, is the true charm and magic of Moominworld – it lets you do exactly that.

So I went to Moominworld… (Part 1)

So I went to Moominworld in Naantali, Finland!

Maybe that explains the break between blog posts? (Sorry!)

Before I get to the magic, I have to post about the journey to Moominworld and explain just how chaotic this holiday was (and how much sweeter it made the Moomins!).

On our journey to Moominworld, we actually had a full trip planned through Denmark. This was due to my inability to pick one place for a holiday and just stay there and not do things and partly due to my boyfriend’s love of all things Viking.

We landed in Esbjerg – the littlest airport I’ve ever seen. Seriously. It was just a room. There were thirteen of us on the plane (including the staff).

This is how small the plane was…

I then promptly directed us onto a bus going the wrong direction. An hour into what should have been a thirty minute journey I realised something was up. Long story short, we arrived at our hostel 10 minutes before we would have been locked out.

The next day we walked the forty minutes to Ribe Viking Centre – a live Viking Centre was with actors who run shows, including falconry, archery and axe-throwing-general-coolness. The whole walk was along the side of the road but we knew it’d be worth it!

As soon as we arrived it started raining. But not the “light showers” the forecast promised – Noah-like, fat-dropped, the-pavements-are-flooding rain.

I should mention I was wearing: one skirt, one t-shirt, one denim jacket (no hood), one pair of canvas trainers (not waterproof). Around us were Viking actors in felt really trying to keep up the bravado, five sad sheep and soaked Danish children.

At this point we realised our bags weren’t waterproof and my boyfriend’s books were looking decidedly damp.

It was so wet that we made our way back to the hostel to shield from the rain. After an hour we thought we’d catch an earlier train to Odense where it wasn’t raining. There was one hitch: we got to the train station and there was a wee old man in the room which connected the section of the train station to the platform. He had locked the doors and wouldn’t let me pass.

Maybe the old man was jealous of our fantastic plastic wrap rain ponchos.

In a last ditch attempt to get out this town in my soaked clothes and failed rain poncho (now resembling a butcher’s apron) I found another door, pushed on it very hard and accidentally (!) broke into the train master’s house which was inside the station. At least that’s what I think it was. There was a fridge, some books and a lot of sad train station dust. Who lives there? Why is his house so dusty? Mysteries we will never know.

Long story short, we missed the earlier train. I think Ribe, some small Danish town, really had a vendetta.

Drying off we arrived in Odense. The sun was shining and we sat in the park with København Stang slushies (slushies based on the “Copenhagen Pole” ice lollies: best taste description is they’re like pineapple lemonade).

Odense was awesome – a wee town nice for a wee wander – and also the home of Hans Christian Anderson which meant plenty of bizarre fairytale pop-up plays. We got some fantastic street food in a large warehouse, relaxed in the fantastic parks and indulged in my love of weird old dollhouses.

At this point, my phone broke.

More accurately my phone charger broke and I did buy a new one (for roughly £25… get it together Denmark!) but the new one took a while to work. So for a whole day I was wondering around Esgeskov Castle facing the possibility of not being able to take pictures at Moominworld. A true tragedy.

Vikings!

But! We got it fixed and travelled onwards to Trelleborg Viking festival where there was a hundred pop-up tents with people travelling across the world to live as Vikings did. Well. They did sneak into the cafe toilets and some of the kids had ice creams. A real highlight was seeing big scary Scandi men in full Viking regalia having to take their – decidedly modern – lapdogs for a pee (there’s something very funny about seeing a Viking hang out with a bichon frise).

From there we went to Copenhagen. We had a full day at the Danish National Museum followed by the best vegetarian buffet meal I have ever had, and a more relaxed day that involved swimming in Copenhagen harbour, walking to Nyhaven and giggling the at the overly keen tourists photographing the Little Mermaid. It was bliss! And I was so thankful to have moved past the broken phones and rainy days into exploring such a wonderful city.

And then… the trouble hit.

The next day I had the worst food poisoning known to humanity. I have never been so ill in all my adult years. I spent all day between a bathroom and the hotel bed feeling sorry for myself and watching episodes of “Glee” on Netflix. Douglas saved my life by buying two bottles of blue raspberry flavoured sports drink – and reader, I have never loved him more. He went to three shops to find it and it was worth it. Even if he spent the rest of the holiday money on it, it restored me to being a human instead of a stinking and withered creature.

The day after we had to check out the hotel. I was still a bit rubbish, but was restored with a walk around Tivoli Gardens and Copenhagen Aquarium. Guys – they have beanbags in the aquarium. Nothing cures food poisoning like lying on a beanbag watching a tank full of hammerhead sharks and sea pancakes.

A rather sad Moomin (his body is so long?) greets us as soon as we arrive at Turku airport. Wish I could have said the same for our luggage…

Before long it was time for us to catch our flight to Turku. We arrived in Finland on our (delayed) flight at 1am and were taken to our hotel by a taxi driver who blasted heavy metal the whole way.

The next morning we woke up and travelled to Moominworld… but more on that in the next post. 

Until then – blue Gatorade, I owe you my life.

Spotlight: The End of the World

It’s been a funny couple of weeks for me and, sadly, somewhat absent from Moomins. I really really could have done with them to be honest.

Today’s blog is a bit of a deviation from the norm – but I felt I had to open up about this somewhere and, I promise, I will tie it into the Moomins for those of you only here for the Jansson content.

My week has had it’s real highs: I’ve been cycling to and from work on a beautiful bicycle my Dad got me (thank you Dad!) and swimming lots. I’ve enjoyed both – cycling makes me feel better about not using fossil fuels and swimming kind of just forces me to chill out and focus on moving my body in a nice wee half hour burst (I can’t promise my mind doesn’t wander, but I do get a nice dose of bliss every time I get a lane to myself).

My bike. It has earned the nickname “The Duchess” and “The Dashing White Sergeant”.

Other than that – and work of course – I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about the planet. For a while I was very guilty of dodging as much news as I could about climate change because it gave me The Fear. I define The Fear as: heart beating too quickly, shaking hands, panic, tearfulness and not being able to sleep. I don’t even really watch apocalyptic films or TV shows (except, recently, “Years and Years” because Russell T. Davies is a genius).

Well, I decided I had to face everything on and get as informed as I can because it was still going to be scary if I didn’t do anything about it. I was already fairly green: I don’t drive, I use Bulb for my energy (they only use sustainable and renewal energy for all their electricity and gas), I recycle, I don’t buy plastic cups, bottles or those straws we’re all supposed to hate so vehemently (sidenote: climate change is not just straws people!).

I eat vegetarian a few evenings and lunches a week and every breakfast. I do fly fairly once or twice a year for holidays, work trips or visiting family – probably my main contributor – but I helped set up a Green Team at my job and have been looking into offsetting my flights through donations.

But recently, I’ve doubled down. I’ve become a paying member of Greenpeace and volunteer for them political lobbyists (basically a lot of writing letters and meeting MPs!). I’ve signed countless petitions against pollution, plastic, oil, fracking and shared them on social media with (begging) posts as much as I think my friends can bear.

I’ve calculated my carbon footprint and have made myself a wee chart of everything I need to work on to make sure I’m minimising it as much as physically possible.

I’ve spent my spare moments researching what I, as an individual, can do to cause systematic change and lean on governments and large organisations. I feel I have nearly no time and have dropped to do so much to do this but yet:

The Fear.

I’m not sleeping well guys.

And here, zooming in on a fabulous segway, is where the Moomins come in.

“Moomintroll and the End of the World”, 1947-1948

As you’ve gathered from the existence of this blog, I think no matter what quandary I’m struggling with the Moomins can normally enlighten me and point me in the right direction. When I couldn’t sleep at night, I wondered what the Moomins could teach me about climate change…

In 1939, Tove Jansson began work on the Moomin novels, beginning with “The Moomins and the Great Flood” and “Comet in Moominland” (published 1945-1946). Jansson later recreated this in 1947-1948 as her first comic strip, “Moomintroll and the End of the World”, as a present for a close friend.

‘Tove’s anxiety and grief are embedded in the first two books – she was depressed during the war.’

Boel Westin, Stockholm University (qtd. “Love, War and the Moomins“, Mark Bosworth, BBC News 2014)

As you may have guessed, both face worldwide disasters of apocalyptic consequences. Both have also been read as Jansson’s way of coping with World War II. As a bit of background: for three months from the 30th November 1939 until the 13th March 1940, the Winter War took place in Eastern Finland after the USSR invaded.

The cover of a first edition.

Tove Jansson was incredibly critical of war and especially Hitler and Stalin. She worked for some time as a satirical cartoonist “Garm”, where she famously depicted Hitler as a baby. This was during a time where Finland cooperated with Nazi Germany.

‘Her illustrations for the covers of the wartime Garm magazine were courageous for the time in which they appeared – she wasn’t to know how the world would turn out. Hitler and Stalin appear as preposterous little figures, self-important and comic. She was proud to lampoon them both.

Melanie McDonagh, “A Chance to See the Moomins’ Creator for the Genius She Really Was“, The Spectator 2017

This is important to know because in “Comet in Moominland”, the comet – from which the Moomins all hide away – has been seen as an allegory for living under the threat of nuclear weapons. The Moomins abandoning their home mirrored people leaving their homes for fear of those bombs.

Whilst the Moomins are fantastical and unique little creatures, it’s important to remember how closely they mirrored Jansson’s own life and experiences. As her own niece Sophie said:

‘…if you read the Moomin books there are many things that are, to me, completely normal and to other people are completely fantastical. But in Finland that’s what you do when you are on the islands. That’s what they did and it’s what we’ve always done.’

Sophia Jansson

Tove Jansson took that age-old advice to write what you know, and out of it turned the terror of World War II into a reflection on the apocalyptic fear we still feel. What I am now calling: The Fear. The thing keeping me up at night.

The conclusion of “Comet in Moominland” is that the characters all hide in the cave from the comet, waking in the morning to discover they’ve been lucky enough for the comet to have missed earth.

I can only wish the same for us – but, honestly, I don’t know. In the mean-time. To stave off The Fear, here’s some small things for you to try:

  1. Look into renewable energy for your home (it’s often cheaper too!)
  2. Cycle, walk or take the bus to work.
  3. Wash your clothes in colder water and only use a tumble dryer when you have to.
  4. Try eating more meat-free meals (inspiration awaits…)
  5. Learn more about upcycling and remaking (link for my Edinburgh pals!)
  6. Whilst we’re on that note… recycle! Especially your food waste.
  7. Look into local groups: Greenpeace or Extinction Rebellion are a great place to start if you’re looking to get involved in non-violent protesting.
  8. Ask your MP to support the campaign for Plastic Free Rivers!
  9. If you fly – offset your flights by donating to carbon neutral projects.
  10. TELL YOUR STORY!

Tell your story through art, music, song, dance, a chat around the water cooler or a blog about the Moomins. Simply talking to other people about climate change and what you’re doing helps encourage other people to get involved and do what they can to stop it (if you want some inspiring stories about the big and small acts we can all do – check out “CliMates” podcast).

Patrons at a US cafe who were told that 30% of Americans had started eating less meat were twice as likely to order a meatless lunch.

An online survey showed that of the respondents who know someone who had given up flying because of climate change, half of them said they flew less as a result.

Community organisers trying to get people to install solar panels were 62% more successful in their efforts if they had panels in their house too.

Ten Simple Ways to Act on Climate Change“, Diego Arguedas Ortiz (BBC)

So there’s your homework! Go forth and do what you can to save the world. Until then, sending you all the love and rage I can muster.

Diary of a Ninny Kid (Episodes 8-10)

Hello again and thank you for joining me! This week’s blog is about wishes, courage and the healing power of anger. It might get a wee bit emotional, but we’ll weather it together. The episodes we’ll look at are:

  • “The Hobgoblin’s Magic” (episode 8)
  • “An Invisible Friend” (episode 9)
  • “The Invisible Child” (episode 10)

Episode 8 is probably the most insane episode of the Moomins so far. Seriously. I watched it just before going to sleep in bed with my (long suffering) boyfriend.

Remember how Thingumy and Bob showed up with a massive suitcase? Well they finally decide to show Moomin what is inside: a massive ruby!

Also remember the hobgoblin we met in the second episode? The one who flew across the sky on a magic panther? And was looking for a ruby? The one with the magic hat that turned Moomin into a terrifying creature? Yes that one.

This guy!
(Credit: Moomin Wiki)

The hobgoblin shows up (on said magic flying panther) in the middle of massive party with all the characters in town partying at Moominhouse. He asks Thingumy and Bob to give him the ruby. Surely the stars are all aligning!

However, they won’t give it back because they love it. Fair enough.

That’s one big rock.

So the hobgoblin grants people wishes. Here’s a summary of the wishes:

  • a spade (Mr. Hemulen)
  • big eyelashes (Snorkmaiden who hates them)
  • no big eyelashes (Moomin who is helping out Snorkmaiden)
  • another ruby (Thingumy and Bob who are helping out the hobgoblin)

300 years riding across the sky and all it took to solve the hobgoblin’s problem was for something to wish for another ruby.

Also – the characters of Moominvalley had the infinite cosmic power of a wish and what they end up getting is a spade, mascara and not-mascara. Douglas (my boyfriend) is close to a breakdown at this point. Sniff says he’d use a wish to get some gold and Doug says “get a bag and pick it yourself from the garden you lazy arse”. His tone is threatening giving he’s watching a twenty-year-old TV show for children.

I attended a show recently called “I Wish I Was a Mountain” at Imaginate Festival (an arts festival in Edinburgh with theatre and dance for young audiences). The children were asked to think what it would be like to not wish for anything – to be content with life as it is. I guess that’s what these wishes show with the inhabitants of Moominvalley – their wishes are simple because their lives are, they don’t want much because they don’t need much.

We end the episode with a massive firework display and all is well in Moominvalley. Hoo-flipping-ray you wish wasters – hope you enjoy your spade and default eyes.

Sandi Toksvig is that you?

The next episode opens with (another!) new character: Too-Ticky. Too-Ticky is a wise, sweet, soft-spoken women with Wolverine hair. She is based on Tove Jansson’s real-life partner, Tuulikki Pietilä, a graphic designer.

Too-Ticky asks the Moomins to look after her friend Ninny. Ninny has been living her aunt, who has been so cruel to her she has turned invisible.

‘Suppose you tripped and fell over, what would Moominmamma say? […] Now this nasty old lady would say, “that may be your idea of dancing but try not to do it when people are eating please”.’

Too-Ticky, “The Moomins”, Episode 9

Over the course of the next two episodes the gang try to lure Ninny out of her shell and make her visible again. Moominmamma tucks her into bed, gives her plenty of cuddles and sweet words, and makes her a new outfit. Moomin takes her out to play with him, Sniff and Snorkmaiden.

There are set backs along the way in the form of Stinky, who tries to scare Ninny with the hopes of keeping her invisible so he can use her to rob banks (there are banks in Moominvalley apparently?)

Panel from “Snurken i Muminhuest” (“An Unwanted Guest”), 1980

Slowly, her feet appear, and then a little section of her dress – but her head is still missing.

Her face and head only reappear when she gets incredibly angry at Moominpappa who is about to play a cruel joke on Moominmamma (namely, pushing her in the sea).

‘All she needed was to get angry – and she did.’

Moominmamma, “The Moomins”, Episode 10

I find it really emotional that the key to Ninny becoming a visible and confident person again is to get angry. After last week’s blog on how gender appears in the Moomins, you might have had a rather depressing view of the show as antiquated when it comes to feminism. Yet this episode boldly claims that Ninny’s anger is a positive – and necessary – force. This is not just astonishing for a sweet children’s TV show like the Moomins, but as a new view on the importance of anger as an emotion.

I think back on how anger has been healing (and not) for me. My mother and I had overlapping periods of being angry – long story short, we both based bullying and poor workplace situations in 2017-18.

It was a real blow to both of us: work (and its routine) has been a huge support in our life helping prop up our social lives, sense of community, accomplishment and happiness. It may sound really bad to say work is that important to us both, but we’ve always worked on projects that really meant a lot to us and made us see our impact in the world. I remember my mother calling me and saying how she still felt anger, even six months later – and probably even today as I still do.

Anger is so often seen as purely a negative emotion linked to violence, irrationality and doing things we later regret when we’ve calmed down. I, however, truly believe it’s a crucial part of processing the hurt in our life. If we rush over from being sad to trying to accept what happened or been done to us I think we miss out.

Fundamentally, anger shows you were hurt – and even more so – it shows how deeply you care.

Copyright: Arabia

I find it fascinating, too, that given our perceptions of anger being so contrary to levelled thought that Ninny gains her head after getting angry. She has regained her own thoughts in her brain, her own (loud voice) in her mouth and her ability to express these in her face. Anger did that, not love.

The issue with anger, I believe, is when we hold onto it. If the feeling comes, we should feel it, but when we get to the point of stoking it – finding ourselves thinking “oh and another thing!” – that’s when we need to close our eyes, think of something else, and walk away.

The episode ends with Too-Ticky taking Ninny away. We are told:

‘Now that Ninny was completely visible and far from timid, she was ready for anything. Except seeing her aunt, she said.’

Narrator, “The Moomins”, Episode 10

I want to highlight the importance of this last line. Even though Ninny has recovered her confidence, visibility and bravery she is not willing to visit her aunt. The show does not adopt a “get over it” stance but, validly, points out that once we have healed we are allowed (encouraged!) to not go back to what (or who) has hurt it.

In other words, it’s okay not to get over it. It’s okay to still be hurt and need to stay away from what hurt us. Typing this I almost tear up thinking about how emotionally intelligent that sentiment is and how the world would work so much better for those traumatised, bullied or hurt if we accepted their process of recovery, boundaries and need to move away and not move “on” from their anger.

And with that, I’ll (tearily) sign off (I really shouldn’t listen to the Amelie soundtrack when I write). Let yourself be angry this week if you need to, and if you don’t – look out for those who do.