Before The Coffee Gets Cold

This book was recommended to me by a woman in a bookshop after I asked for ideas for light reading. I never got the woman’s name but I am so grateful to her because I don’t think I would have thought to buy this for myself had she not suggested it. This is the second book in the series, so it’s a bit of an odd order to read in, but I was assured that the book makes sense as a standalone! It’s not a very long book but the story is, in a word, captivating.

The premise is simple, in the back streets of Tokyo there is a café where one can travel back in time. There are, of course, rules to this time travel: you can only travel to a point in history in the café (and you must stay in your seat) and you can’t change the past. In order to return to the present you just have to finish your coffee, but you must finish the coffee before it gets cold. It’s a thought provoking premise…it got me thinking what I would do and who I would visit if I could utilise the café.

Throughout each chapter of the book we are introduced to four unique individuals and their stories as they travel back in time for various reasons. We meet a man who is seeking advice from a friend who passed away 22 years ago, and a man who travels to see his mother whose funeral he had missed. There is also a man who travels to see the girl that he couldn’t marry and an ex-detective to travels to give his wife the gift he never got to give her. All these stories were so heartwarming and moving. There were twists and turns, tears and laughs, and the whole book succeeded in making me feel warm and comforted. I felt like I was in the café myself, watching these stories unfold and experiencing the pain and joy with the characters. It was an entirely unique experience of reading.

Kawaguchi has an incredible, undeniable talent for writing human stories. It is just so refreshing to read about real human lives, that aren’t dramatised but are still captivating. This is definitely light reading in the sense that it’s a short book with short stories, but it’s so admirable how much we are drawn into these peoples stories and lives in such a short amount of time. The setting is charming, the characters are lovable and the stories are touching.

If you’re experiencing a lull in your motivation and ability to read, I would definitely recommend this book to recapture a love of reading. It’s refreshing, heartwarming and such a good read. I’ve been told that the previous book centred around four women and their reasons for using the café, which has only enticed me more to read that book next – if it’s anything like this one I’m sure I will love it, and I’m sure you will love it too.

Podcasts 2021

If you’re anything like me, you have been relying on podcasts to get through the past year! I’ve listened to a huge amount of podcasts covering a lot of genres – and I’ve put together a list of, what I think, are the top 5 that I listen to. So whether you listen to them in the car, while exercising or just having a cup of tea, here are my podcast recommendations:

1. You’re Wrong About

I started listening to this podcast at the end of 2019 and I’ve been eagerly awaiting each new episode since! Hosted by writers Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall, each episode is focussed on revisiting cultural events from the past that have been misrepresented and misremembered by the media. There’s episodes on everything Marie Antoinette and the O J Simpson trials, from Princess Diana to the use of ‘political correctness’ . I love that the show is formatted so that one host has done research on a topic and is walking the other host through it. This makes it feel less lecture-y than other podcasts and you feel like you’re learning along with them. I also just love the conversational and fun tone of it and they never fail to make me laugh. If you like something light hearted and interesting to listen to while you’re walking or driving, this is definitely a top choice.

2. You’re Dead To Me

The tagline of this podcast is “the history podcast for people who don’t like history”, but as a history lover I can confirm this is definitely a podcast for history lovers and history haters! The podcast is run by BBC Radio 4 and is hosted by author (and historical consultant for Horrible Histories!) Greg Jenner. Each episode Greg is joined by a historian and a comedian as they work their way through telling tales from throughout history. They cover everything from Norse mythology to Ancient Babylon, from the European Witch trials to the birth of America. There’s an episode for everyone and I love the way they make history accessible and hilarious to learn.

3. Off Menu

Something I could listen to people talk about for hours is food. I think it’s incredible how much talking about food can stimulate conversation and reveal a lot about someone as a person. This podcast, hosted by comedians Ed Gamble and James Acaster is hilarious, interesting and unique. Each episode they invite a celebrity into the “dream restaurant” where they can choose any starter, main, side, drink and dessert. The conversations that arise around their choices are so funny and interesting. My only complaint is that I always finish an episode feeling hungry! If you like to get meal inspiration while also being entertained, this is a brilliant choice.

4. Griefcast

This podcast was an incredibly needed find for me over the past year. Comedian Cariad Lloyd is joined by different guests every week who talk about death and how they’ve coped with grief in their life. It sounds quite glum – but it really is such an uplifting podcast. Cariad herself describes it as “a place to talk, share and laugh about the peculiar human process of death and grief”, and I couldn’t put it better myself. It’s funny and heartwarming and has been a real help to me personally. I would recommend it to anyone dealing with losing someone, or anyone who has lost someone.

5. The Plant Based Podcast

This is by far my favourite podcast to listen to while I’m gardening! It’s hosted by TV Presenters and Gardeners Michael Perry and Ellen Mary, as they explore everything and anything that can be traced back to plants. There’s no doubt that plants are becoming more popular, with more and more people switching to plant based diets, becoming aware how plants can contribute to health and wellbeing, or just realising how awesome house plants can be! This podcast is so fascinating and relaxing to listen to and I still learn something new every single episode.

Forager’s Calendar

I have always considered myself a bit of a collector…meaning I just like to keep stones and flowers that I find! The extent of my experience of actual foraging has just been collecting nettles or dandelions and using them for tea. I suppose I always went blackberry picking and apple picking when I was younger as well, but that’s about it! I had never really considered starting to look for food in nature until I came across this book by John Wright.

Essentially, this book does what it says on the cover. It is a month by month guide to foraging in the UK, but there is so much more than I expected. It starts off with disclaimers about how to make sure that you’re being safe and sensible when foraging for food, which I think is a good thing to include! There are a couple of chapters about conservation and the law, so that you can make sure that whatever you forage is in compliance with regulations and moral guidelines. Something else I thought was really helpful to include before the month by month guide are chapters on the types of things you can forage, including how to identify different types of plants, fungi, seaweeds and invertebrates.

From there the book delves into the guide. And this is possibly the most comprehensive guide about British wildlife I’ve read, irrespective of whether you use it for foraging or not. Wright extensively details each species that is commonly found (and available to forage) in each month, including information about the species itself, how to harvest it and how to use it. Although they’re renowned for being the baron months, January and February’s chapters detail some herbs and plants, as well as a few interesting and delicious looking mushrooms. March brings a vast array of different flowers, weeds and even seaweeds and trees – everything you would associate with Spring bloomers is covered here, from dandelions to nettles, from birchwood to garlic etc. April, again, details a vast array of springtime plants like gorse, elder, morel, as well as plenty of types of seaweed. This chapter also includes the option of snails (although Wright himself does not seem to keen on the idea of eating garden snails!). Fennel, pine, watercress and onions are all fascinating finds from the month of May, and are definitely things I consider forage-able with my limited experience.

June is where I started to enjoy reading about the possibility of harvesting sweet things, as opposed to more herbal and earthy options. This chapter talks about wild strawberries, elderflowers, gooseberries and Japanese roses, while July outlines the raspberries, redcurrents, cherry and opium poppies. Of course, August brings a huge array of delicious sounding options, such as blackberries, dewberries and summer truffles; as well as a vast array of fungi including my favourite named mushroom, the fairy ring champignon. September appears to be the optimal month for foraging with a vast range of different options from crab apples to wood mushrooms. October, November and December whilst not so fruitful, have plenty of fungi and herbs to offer as well.

At first, I wasn’t so sure about this book. To be quite honest I was very skeptical as to whether it was even possible to forage in the UK, as I usually associate foraging with places that seem to have more range in their wildlife. My eyes have definitely been opened since reading this book. While it isn’t something I expect anyone and everyone would be interested in, I would wholeheartedly recommend it if you’re at all interested in wildlife and nature. It is fascinating to read about the array of different plants that are growing right at our doorstep, and has really made me think about how I could better use some of those resources as alternatives to things I would ordinarily buy in a supermarket. It would be much more sustainable and would bring me a better appreciation for my natural surroundings.

All in all, while I don’t think I’ve quite been persuaded to go and forage for all my meals, I have definitely started to think more about the ways I could incorporate more sustainable, self sourced natural ingredients into my life. I definitely think this book is a fantastic guide to UK wildlife and would be an essential item for anyone wanting to try sourcing their own natural ingredients, or just to learn a bit more about foraging as a hobby.

The Hobbit

“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun snails and the moon walks”

J.R.R Tolkien

As far as blogging goes, I think it’s safe to say I’m late to the game. Which is fine! But another thing that I am most definitely late to the game with is reading the Lord of the Rings books. I don’t know why I’d never read them growing up (I haven’t watched any of the films either). For Christmas last year I received a really beautiful set of all the books so that I could start reading – and since starting I haven’t stopped kicking myself that I didn’t read these sooner! Nevertheless, it seems fitting that my first post on a blog I should have started earlier, be about a book that I should have read earlier.

Of course, being one of the most beloved fantasy novels, this book doesn’t need much introduction. But in case anyone reading this doesn’t know, The Hobbit is a fantasy novel by J.R.R Tolkien and was published in 1937. It follows the protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, a timid but loveable hobbit who lives in the rural, homely and picturesque Bag End, Hobbiton. He is coerced by Gandalf, the wizard, to assist a band of dwarves on a quest to reclaim treasure that was stolen from them by a dragon named Smaug. We follow Bilbo through his quest as he grows as a character and encounters everything from goblins and trolls to elves and giant spiders. And as he traverses through various landscapes, from the vast valley of Rivendell through the deep underground of the Misty Mountains, from the black forest of Mirkwood to the final destination of the Lonely Mountain.

The one reservation I had about this book was that I knew it was part of such an expansive detailed world that Tolkein had created and I was worried that I might get lost in having to look up what each creature and place was. This was most certainly not the case. So much care has been put into this book to give a grounded, but not overwhelming, introduction to the universe. The narrator has a conversational tone and makes sure to explain the background of any new creatures or places that are introduced. The tone makes it feel as if I was being told this tale around a campfire or over a cup of tea – which just added to the comforting but exciting nature of the story.

This book, all in all, was brilliant. There aren’t many other words I can come up with to sum it up! It’s full of imagination, folklore and incredibly storytelling. The scenery is described in such vividness that you feel transported into the story, the characters are relatable and lovable, the quest is gripping and exciting, and the tone is lighthearted and inviting.

I think the beauty of this story is that despite it’s fantastical and imaginative nature, it’s relatable. I can definitely identify with Bilbo as a “hobbit” myself; I like my comfortable life, I definitely look forward to meals and I would like nothing more than to spend my evenings curled up in a hobbit hole! I think that is true of most of us. But there is also a part of us that wants adventure and wants to explore the unknown. This book allows us to explore an incredibly vast and detailed fantasy realm through the experience of a timid but determined hobbit.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants a bit of escapism. It’s charming, whimsical and adventurous and my only regret is not reading it sooner!

P.S. I hope you like the pictures of the beautiful copy of The Hobbit I have – snail is included for scale!