Oh June.

You were a month and a half.

It certainly felt like it, at least.

The line And you were brokenhearted and the world was too has just come to me - which is of course, from the song June. Which I didn't think of during actual June. But there you go.

We lost my Grandad this month. Very suddenly, which is a blessing in most ways, but still leaves you reeling. He had a long and happy life - at his funeral, my cousin described him as "always calm and content" in his speech, which is absolutely true. And then the end came along in the space of four days. I've written a piece of creative non-fiction about it, so I won't go into too much detail here. But we at least were allowed into the hospital to say goodbye to him as soon as we knew he was an end-of-life patient. And we got to have one last conversation with him. I felt so sad leaving - we had no idea if he knew what was going on, so we'd all been behaving normally. But while he was usually the one to shoo us all out of the door, this time as we left, he started to talk again, as if to make us stay a bit longer. I worried of course about the absence of him from our lives, but in this new weird way of living and the restrictions imposed on hospitals, I worried more about the absence of us from the end of his.

On the day that he died, my sister's partner of six years left her. So our family had a double hit, and we're all still up in the air.

But there were happy times in June too.

This month, I have been...

...celebrating two years of marriage

Michele and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary with sushi in the park. Remember those days in early June when the weather was just perfect? We ordered a bottle of prosecco and a bottle of sake and drank and feasted in the golden hour.

...murdering plants

This is my peak lockdown - attending an online conference while trying to repot all of the half-dead plants I accidentally double ordered online. Out of twelve lavender plants, I only have three left. Even though I did everything the instructions told me to, and went grovelling to a garden centre. Ugh.

...enjoying the beauty all around me
(hippy dippy)

I'm getting a bit bored of walking around the same roads over and over, but every now and then a new angle or a certain slant of light will show me that this world really is a never-ending art gallery.

...socialising from a distance

We celebrated my Dad's birthday in my grandparents' garden - it was hilarious because only after the candles were lit did we realise that we couldn't actually blow them out while maintaining effective infection control. So Colin burned away while we tried to come up with an alternative - my Dad was trying to fan the flames out at one point, which went exactly as you'd imagine it would. I'm afraid some chocolate was lost in the operation. I also got to play frisbee in the park with my gorgeous friends, although we were sadly one woman down! 

...eating delicious things

I do not want to know how much I have spent ordering from GAIL's bakery this pandemic - but while the chocolate chip cookies have always been my favourite, I have to say that the dark chocolate and sour cherry scones are catching up fast! Man they are delicious. I also cooked the most delicious dinner in the world and you can fight me.Yes, that is a tortilla wrap fried in garlic butter. You're welcome. Michele bought me a red velvet cake home from Konditor as soon as he'd caught wind of them reopening. What a wonderful star. This came back in his bag not long after we lost my Grandad (flowers in the background courtesy of my lovely friend Tamsyn) - little things like this really help you feel less alone. (And cake is cake.)

...cutting Michele's hair

Not a bad job if I say so myself! A lovely evening spent chilling on the roof with our neighbours too. We got the excellent news that my supervisor at uni had won the award for Best Supervisor at the University of Exeter Teaching Awards while we were up there so I drunkenly toasted with her too!

...beginning a new life committed more deeply and openly to ending racism

I've created some slides specifically digging into issues of racism in my research areas, namely health behaviour, psychology and public health. There are links and notes from academic papers on there, but I've also been reading...

... We Can't Breathe "This is what systemic discrimination looks like. Not isolated incidents but a range of processes built on presumption, assumption, confidence, ignorance and exclusory institutional, personal and professional networks all buttressed by the dead weight of privilege."

...What Is An Anti-Racist Reading List For? "This, maybe ironically but maybe not, reinforces an already pernicious literary divide that books written by or about minorities are for educational purposes, racism and homophobia and stuff, wholly segregated from matters of form and grammar, lyric and scene. Perhaps better to say that in the world of the anti-racist reading list genre disappears, replaced by the vacuity of self-reference, the anti-racist book, a gooey mass."

...White Complicity Matters; The Nazis By The Lake "If there are white people who, having watched the slow-motion murder of George Floyd, still need further evidence that there is something wrong with the criminal justice system’s treatment of black people, then those people are monsters. They may bristle at this definition, they may point at all the lovely and kind things they do in their personal lives, but that will be no excuse. Their apathy is the fuel for further horror, since it is precisely their embarrassed silence upon which these murderers rely."

...Kadir Nelson's Say Their Names - an interactive exploration of the people behind the New Yorker cover 

...Black Lives Matter in Jamaica : debates about colourism follow anger at police brutality "In Jamaica, protest and public debate in recent weeks have focused on the island’s high rate of homicides by police and other social injustices. But they have also raised debates about colourism – discrimination against people with a dark skin tone."

...Paul Broca's Great Discovery Also Reminds Us That Scientists Are Fallible - (Have to say I disagree with the apologetic tone towards the end but still, learnt something new about the history of psych...) "Broca's preoccupation with racial classifications drove his interest in anthropometry, the measurement of the human body. Like many of his contemporaries, he espoused the idea that physical features, such as how far forward a person's upper or lower jaw protruded, the ratio of the brain's length to its width, or the length of a person's arms relative to their torso, could predict intelligence. And Broca and his colleages, steeped in European ethnocentrism, always associated intelligence with traits that tended to be more common among European populations."

...Empire Windrush: To the land of milk and honey? Not really... - "Because only a short sojourn was expected, the newcomers did not see the point of putting down social and commercial roots, or to keep a record of their daily, often drab, existence."

...Coronavirus deaths and those of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery have something in common: racism - "Racism is a stressor that has been linked to poor health, inflammation and premature biological aging, but I believe there is likely more going on biologically than researchers have previously understood."

... A Dozen-Plus Ways You Can Foster Educational Equity - "It’s not enough to check on your colleagues after traumatic events and then go about business as usual. Find ways to be a better ally to them on a regular basis. For example, Jasmine Abrams provides an excellent list of ways to advance their research by inviting them to collaborate on research papers and grant opportunities, and by nominating them for guest speaking engagements. Amplify their work with colleagues at your campus and beyond. Cite their research and use your privilege to help advance their careers."

... The Racist Origins of Fatphobia - "As a result, writers in New York and New England, many of them women, set out to encourage white women to slim down, lest they find their names uttered in the same breath as the by now famously fat women of African descent. In Godey’s Lady’s Book, the most popular women’s magazine of the 19th century, an 1830 article by a socialite named Leigh Hunt described the relationship between overeating, femininity, and race, reminding the gentle Anglo-Saxon reader that women who want to preserve their looks must never eat too much. According to Hunt, no lady in American high society could hope to maintain her esteem while corpulent; only in Africa could a fat woman find her stride, since it was rumored that on the continent “no lady can be charming under twenty-one stone,” or nearly 300 pounds. "

...reading about food because if I'm not eating it, I'm thinking about it

...Forgetting the Madeleine "Their mother would certainly not define herself as a mother first and foremost, but for the purposes of this tale, the girl and the boy are my two main characters, my Hansel and Gretel. It follows that I must be the witch, leading them astray with pastries."

...The Indiani "The pizzas have so little distance to travel between oven and diner they arrive piping hot, which is essential, because pizza – like toast - must either be scalding and scoffed immediately, or totally cold (as when eaten for breakfast the next day), never tepid and lingered over. Without speaking we tear and shovel the scalding mess into our mouths, washing it down with gulps of cold wine. In ten minutes the whole process is over, and we sit and see each other for the first time."

...These amazing pieces from the Dear Damsels "Feast" collection from 2019
....... Fifty-Four Meals "I talk more to the couple, Kyung-hwan and In-jung, as we wend our way up the mountain, then they tell me they have coffee and invite me to drink it with them over our picnic lunches. I nearly say no, out of British reserve, from not wanting to be a bother. But I say yes, because they’re kind, because I’ve missed conversation, because something is telling me here, in Korea, to Koreans, it might be ruder to decline the food offered than to devour their entire lunchbox. "
....... A Love Letter To Us And Our Meals "We lost my one-cup cafetière pretty quickly – it became a four-cup we’d often down between us in one sitting – and now it’s a coffee machine we own together in a flat we live in together, too. "
....... Food Shopping When You Don't Drive  "On the vicious slope which my house crowns; strung with bags like gold hoops in earlobes,; I won’t complain at the memory of my mother,; her fingers cat-clawed around four carrier bags; in each hand straining up three flights of brutalist; concrete on which our flat makes the top."
....... Enough "I even cover up my dish with one hand; Form a line of defence with my palm and fingertips; She will never get through this elaborate barrier; I think to myself// But little did I know,; that she is not afraid to pour hot sambar; Spicy, soupy
liquid gold; directly onto my skin; So at least that way; some of it can still soak in"

...and reading other stuff

...Captain America - "I know this time will end. I know that he’s going to end. But right now this fucking asshole is so goddamn beautiful I can hardly bear it."

...The 14 day Quarantine Rule for UK Arrivals is Probably Illegal; Here's Why  - I've had lots of opinions on the quarantine rule, and the lobbying of the airlines to abolish it, but this piece got me thinking about it in a different way. It didn't entirely change my mind - towards the end of the piece, I could feel my mind beginning to close against the push in the writer's tone - but it did encourage me to think about two sides of the debate, which I wish we did more often.

...Coronavirus: Asymptomatic people can still develop lung damage - "I quickly learned that many patients with advanced COVID-19 disease bore none of the hallmarks of severe respiratory illness until they suddenly collapsed and died."

...My Cat Just Said "Feed Me Woman" Out Loud - Is This Normal? - from the New Yorker humour section

...Why one-size-fits-all diets don't work: a new study - "The first thing we noticed was the wide variation in individual insulin, blood sugar and blood fat responses to the same meals, even for identical twins. For example, one twin might have healthy responses to eating carbohydrates but not fat, while the other twin is the opposite. Straight away, this tells us that we are all unique and that there is no perfect diet or correct way to eat that will work for everyone."

...Jenni Murray: 'I hate the diet industry. It's caused me misery.' - "“I’ve been angry most of my life about having to deal with this weight problem,” she says – and about dealing with the fat-shaming that comes with it. When she went to a conference and heard a young doctor speaking, it was “the moment the lightbulb goes on in your head. [He said:] ‘Isn’t it curious that so many things are included in hate crime, but what’s the one thing that’s not? Obesity.’ And I thought, God, the number of times when I’ve been sitting in my car about to pull away at the lights, or I’ve been out on my bike, or walking my dog, and some bloke – it’s always a bloke – just walked past and said: ‘Fat cow.’ Or another C-word. So many of us will have had that expression thrown at us and yet nobody thinks it’s hateful.” Fat-shaming should, she says, be classed as hate speech."

... I flew to Greece and began solo IVF. Then the world shut down. - "I walk home along the backstreets, past ageing stucco apartments and the sound of a couple arguing through an open window. When you are not familiar with a culture or a language, your senses become heightened – the colours louder, the sounds and scents more pronounced. I try to notice the details: the hover of wasps over the bowls of water left out for street cats. A snail on a bright blue wall. The firebug on an orange tree. It stops my mind from spiralling. I stop by the supermarket, where they are already limiting the number of customers, and plastic gloves are mandatory."

...Normal People by Sally Rooney, and yes I know I'm late to the table. Very easy to drop into but was a tad dissatisfied by the ending? I feel like if she was going to end it there, she could have ended it anywhere. Maybe that was the point.
...Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. Really found myself rooting for Queenie, which doesn't always happen when you have a protagonist who repeatedly finds themselves in a shit situation. Somehow this has been written in a way that really makes you feel "yes, I could fall down the ladder like this too". Of course there are additional layers of racism that I would never have to fear as a white woman. God, your heart just aches for her. I hope this book lands in the hands of many, many people who would not have realised that these experiences exist. But I feel that the editor of this book should have done a better job at sorting out tenses and grammar?
...Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls-Wilder. One of my favourites as a child, and I raced through it in a day (ok, not impressive because it's about  3 pages long). I was surprised by how much I remembered and by how atmospheric and fascinating I still find this tale of life in the big woods.
...Let Me Know When You Get Home by Dear Damsels. A perfect tribute to female friendship. Absolutely gobbled it up.