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Postcard Sixteen - Sheffield

For a variety of reasons, I've been struggling to write for the last couple of weeks and I've been in quite a reflective mood for the last few days, not least because I've been approaching my home county on my virtual walk up the country. I've been trying to listen to new books as I've walked along, but this time I wanted to revisit one I'd first read as a teenager, Anne Brontë's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

Unusually for me, this is a book where I saw the TV adaptation first - the wonderful 1996 BBC version starring Tara Fitzgerald, Toby Stephens and Rupert Graves - and loved it so much I wanted to read the source material. Listening to it as I walk through the dark streets of Brightlingsea, I can pretend I'm back at home for a little while and it's lovely, particularly as we weren't able to do our usual summer jaunt up there this year.

However, it's not just reminiscences of home and teenage years that have been on my mind of late. A friend posed a question on Facebook about what we'd all read this year and I jokingly said something along the lines of 'too many to list' but it did get me wondering how many books I had actually read over the course of this year. I did a rough check against my library borrowings, my audible app, my university reading records and my kindle and worked out that the current total stands at approximately 132 books. Strangely, I was a bit disappointed with this as it didn't seem to be a lot - I'd expected it to be much more as at times it felt like I was doing little BUT read, especially in the early stages of my TMAs. Then I worked out what that actually meant in real terms. It's an average of 2.7 books every week. Not bad, but for a quick reader, again it didn't feel like a huge amount. Then I started to think about all the other things I've been doing as well: the partial books I read for the MA, the writing exercises for the MA, the stories and essays for the MA – including the 15,000 word dissertation – the short stories I've written, the novel I finished and the one I wrote from scratch, the editing I've been doing, the feedback for other people etc etc and that doesn't include work, school runs, housework, home schooling and the general vagaries of being a wife and mother, or the impact of COVID-19 and the Lockdowns. So actually, when you add all that in - 2.7 books every week sounds a bit more impressive!

I've also been feeling this way because of finishing the MA, which has basically been my life for the last two years. On our FB page we've chatted about our results - some have been pleased, some disappointed, but over the first few days there were a lot of comments (mine included) along the lines of 'I was disappointed with my mark, but the comments were nice' and 'I was pleased with my mark, but the comments were awful'. However, someone then pointed out that whatever our 'results' the fact was that we had all achieved MAs. The statistics vary depending on the source, but most agree that it is less than 10% of the population as a whole who have an MA (or equivalent). Again, when you put it like that, you feel a bit more awesome. We've all been asking ourselves, 'what next'? For some of us, it's another MA, others are considering a PhD and some are beginning to send their novels out in search of agents. Eventually, we realised that what we actually deserved was a massive pat on the back and a glass or two of the fizzy stuff.

I don't feel much like writing this week, so I'm giving myself a reading week, stuffing myself full of Florentines and hoping that once Christmas is over my mojo will return. I've written a blog today and that's a start.

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