2020 Has Not Been Completely Shit and Here is Definitive Proof

You heard me. I’d normally consider doing the Indifferent Ignorance awards, but I don’t feel like dedicating time to ignorant people… they are the reason I spent Christmas Day in tier 4. I’m also mindful that it’s important to count our blessings, not our curses, so in this post I’m going to share some of my favourite entertainment and arts discoveries of the year, plus a few personal/family highlights.

Things that blessed my ears in 2020

  • Lauv’s record, which I bought a copy of back in February or so, and kind of became the sound track to early lockdown.
  • Tim Minchin’s record. It’s… not his usual stuff. Some of the songs are sharp and sarcastic, but if you’re looking for more black comedy-philosophy, this album will disappoint. It’s mostly about how much he loves his wife and children. I cried.
  • The news my friend Tatchiana applied for a Master’s degree. MY FRIENDS ARE SO CLEVER YOU GUYS. I don’t even fully understand the topic she’s researching.
  • The Umbrella Academy put a soundtrack out and:
Klaus Hargreeves dancing in a liquor store
from Giphy
  • As well as re-entering the world of academia, Tatchiana introduced me to the Magnus Archives podcast and I guess I’m a fan of horror stories now? I’m kind of late to the party because it’s been running for years and finishes in 2021, but if you like a) creepy stories with the odd god that’s gross and really clever moment, b) short stories that slowly merge into one overarching Story and c) office politics, you’re in for a good time. (Aside: I realised partway through that Martin really reminds me of Arthur from Cabin Pressure. The programmes have nothing in common except that they’re audio, but I can’t unhear it. I don’t know if there’s a Venn diagram of Magnus Archives/Cabin Pressure listeners but if there is: do you hear it too?)

Things that blessed my eyeballs in 2020

  • I finally got around to reading the Noughts and Crosses series (or most of the series? There seems to be more books than I realised), and it is Very Worth the Hype. So’s the TV show.
  • I also got round to Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky. It’s very long and a horror novel – this is a theme – both of which usually put me off, but I really got into it. Brilliant last page too.
  • Bill Bailey in Strictly Come Dancing.
  • The news that my cousin and her boyfriend bought a house! A whole entire property in this economy. Epic.
  • Real Life Money by Clare Seal. It’s a memoir-advice book by the lady who runs the My Frugal Year Instagram, and it’s really interesting. If you’re at all into finance, money management and/or consumerism, I can’t recommend it highly enough. I don’t usually love memoirs, or advice-y novels, but this one is non-preachy, well researched and quite important in these uncertain times.
Real Life Money, book by Clare Seal
  • If you want to buy any of these books, by the way, I have a Bookshop account. Every purchase made through my little page earns me one fifth of a penny or suchlike. Am I being shameless? Um yeah, I don’t have a regular job as of Christmas Eve. I’m also on Goodreads if you want to see what else I’m reading and chat about books. One upside of lockdown was spending so much time reading and I am already planning my reading list for next year. So many books, so little time! Speaking of books, the prettiest thing I saw this year was:
  • My book coverrrrrrr. Also, you know, seeing the book available to purchase. I wasn’t sure it was going to be released this year – or ever – and I’m a tiny bit proud of the work that went into it. Not bad going for someone who spent their A Levels wearing a wrist brace and their early-mid twenties dealing with chronic pain, crippling anxiety and on-again-off-again depression, huh.
blue and white illustrated cover of 'The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories of Unlikley Heroes' by Francesca Burke, including stars, a large dragon, a skull, moon, swords, a rabbit and a tower
Cover by Nell from Instagram. Click here for book-related joy/info

Things that blessed my ears and my eyeballs in 2020

  • The second series of The Umbrella Academy. I love it. I love it so much. It has everything I want out of TV, plus a Baby Pogo. TRULY WE ARE BLESSED.
  • Videos by A Small Wardrobe on YouTube (I talk more about Patricia’s channel and learning about minimalism here).
  • Videos by Annie, who posts as the Green Witch on YouTube. Sometimes the algorithm suggests videos that you didn’t know you needed. Annie has a witchy YouTube and a nature-y YouTube. They are both very peaceful. Taking 10 minutes to watch calm, nature-y has turned out to be quite good for my brain.
  • In the same vein, I’m thoroughly enjoying videos by The Cottage Fairy.
  • Olive and Mabel.
  • Schitt’s Creek. I know I know, I was late to that too. I cannot recommend a more soul-warming programme. Other TV I’m brilliantly late to: Derry Girls, Nighty Night, Brooklyn Nine Nine, Ghosts.

What have you enjoyed in 2020? You’re allowed to say banana bread and Netflix. You’re allowed to say ‘realising that the friend I checked in with during lockdown never checked in with me, and now I am disengaging.’ You’re allowed to say ‘not having a big, overwhelming Christmas.’ What are you planning for new year’s eve?

GIF of David from 'Schitt's Creek' saying 'I plan on popping a pill, crying a bit and falling asleep early.'

Jut kidding, mostly. I’ll probably have a bath, pour a wee drink, watch the clock to ensure this hellscape actually ends, and get my beauty sleep. I’ve got things to do in 2021! Nothing ostentatious, of course. My plans are mostly to read a lot and maybe bake some more banana bread. But I may as well do them on a full night’s sleep, especially as there is literally nowhere to go. I’ll talk more about that (my plans, not tier bloody 4) in my next post. Probably.

Look after yourselves and happy new year!

Want to support this page and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Or we could just get coffee?

Some Ancient History ft. a Dinosaur Front-flipping into a Boat

I was in a good creative flow all day and forgot to have a shower until about 4:30, which is too early for pyjamas but too late for proper clothing so this post is coming to you from someone wearing a dinosaur onesie. With a tail.

gif of a dinosaur front flipping onto a boat

 

I feel bad for not coming to say hi here more often but I’ve been writing a lot of short stories and they always take up a lot more screen time than I expect them to. It’s really satisfying to post a story every week though – I’m tentatively hoping I can keep it up until March at least. That said, there’s a very real chance that I’ll cheat and just share a haiku if I’m stuck. SPEAKING OF POETRY:

Mum and I went to the British Museum yesterday to see the Troy exhibition they’ve got on. Good points: tonnes of ancient artwork of naked people and/or gods; some medieval books that look like they should only exist in fairy tales; at least one statue of a dying Achilles; enough information to fill my brain for years. Bad points: it was quite dark and so busy that I might have to purchase the very large companion book just to understand all of the above, because there was no way to read all the plaques.

Got some pictures of my favourite Valentine’s cards while I was there too:

I Would Fall into Tartarus with You card held in front of dying Achilles statue at British Museum Troy Myth and Reality exhibition

If you follow me on Instagram you can expect more from where that came from, just saying.

I think that’s all from me, except to say that if you like short stories and would like to commission me one, you can do if you join up to my Patreon before the end of February. Story itself can be expected some time before the clocks go forward. Ish.

Halloween 2019 ft. Raven’s Prophecy Tarot and Quite a Lot of Lace

The other day I wrote about finding tarot cards for my Halloween costume and promised pictures. I forgot to take any photos (always the sign of a good party) but I’m aware that many of you will have been waiting for pictures with BAITED BREATH… so I put some of my jewellery back on this morning, used my shawl as a tablecloth and took some photos of Maggie’s Raven’s Prophecy deck, which was shipped with satisfying speed and arrived Friday morning. The cards came with a how-to book, which is good because I ended up reading for half the room.

9 Raven's Prophecy tarot cards on table next to deck

I didn’t think the cards would be simplistic, necessarily, but I did underestimate how bold and intricate they are. The art has been carefully considered and planned out for all 78 (!) cards. They’re also way bigger than playing cards, so if you have the hands of a small child (hi) you might have a bit of a job shuffling.

3 Raven's prophecy tarot cards held by gloved hand

The only thing the cards didn’t come with was a bag, so I repurposed a clutch for the occasion:

Very little of my extended family’s group chat footage is suitable for public consumption, but my aunt (hi Jo) did get a photo of yours truly in wait for her Peaky Blinders audition.

Halloween costume fortune teller

That’s three necklaces, six bracelets, five earrings, one fantastic purple dress I will legitimately wear again and a shawl that doubles as a tablecloth, all for the high high price of £9.05 including the carrier bag. I have no idea why regular shops exist when charity shops are full of fabulous garments waiting to float their way into my wardrobe. Most of the necklaces belonged to my grandmother, who I think would approve of the amount of hair I’ve got these days, and that second glass belongs to my aunt, probably.

I will share photos of the Etsy deck as and when it arrives (I’m so excited for cute little coffins!) and may or may not start moonlighting as a tarot reader. I have no idea how many tarot readers are atheists, but that might be a good selling pitch. ‘I read your cards; you decide your future.’ ‘Reasonably priced tarot readings inside… spiritual advice not included.’ ‘I’ll tell you what the pictures represent; you’ll have to decide if they actually mean anything to you.’

You know where to find me, just saying.

Want to support this page and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Or we could just get coffee?

This is a story about tarot decks and YA novels.

This evening I bought two sets of tarot cards. Officially it’s because I’m going to a Halloween party at the weekend. Unofficially, I feel really guilty about a small amount of book piracy in 2015.

Officially, I need tarot cards for my costume. I don’t, really, but the dress and shawl I bought in a charity shop are actually just a regular dress and shawl, so I feel like I might accidentally just look like an eccentric  if I don’t bring props. I left it way too late to buy anything fancy – and it’s a house party, not a seance – but I probably could’ve just bought a used deck off eBay or Depop. Instead, because I’ve been meaning to learn more about the tarot for ages, I trawled Etsy and Folksy and eBay and Depop looking for a deck with I genuinely like. No faux realistic graphics. Nothing with too many cats. No pictures of ethereal nymphs wearing gauze.

I found this cute major arcana deck on Etsy with incredibly sweet coffin-shaped cards, but the processing time is up to two weeks! So I bought it anyway because I wanted to support an indie artist (and because incredibly sweet coffin-shaped art, it turns out, is totally not an oxymoron). But I was still thinking, you can’t just dress as an eccentric, Francesca. You already are an eccentric, Francesca. So I trawled for decks with one-day shipping. They were all ethereal nymphs! Or quite expensive given this is a house party not a seance.

Then I remembered that in 2015, I bootlegged a copy of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves. If you’re new here, Maggie’s Raven Cycle series, in which The Dream Thieves features, is my favourite book series. I’m trying to be kinder to myself when considering past actions, so I am going to reflect upon my reading of a pirated copy-and-paste edition of TDT as a minor moral misstep during a time in which a fictional world brought me great comfort. Also, my library was taking forever to get its copy in.

I knew it was a shitty thing to do though. Then I bought a couple of Maggie’s books used off Amazon, that tax paying, small business supporting gem. Have I mentioned I’m now an indie author.

I’ve since atoned for my sins: I have a print from Maggie’s official store on my wall; at least three of the Maggie books on my shelf were purchased from a bricks-and-mortar shop; I’ve bought copies of her work for family; my YALC ticket that time was absolutely not scalped unlike My Chemical Romance tickets 9 years ago but that’s for another day; her next novel is pre-ordered at my nearest Waterstones.

But my grandmother was Catholic, so every time I see her post about book piracy and The Raven Cycle, I feel completely responsible.

So when I was considering one-day shipping and a costume prop I will realistically be too drunk to focus on, I got Maggie’s Raven Prophecy deck from Waterstones. Express shipping straight to the front door.

cover of Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Prophecy tarot deck

Officially, I’m a professional indie creator and a little bit into karma. I can’t ask people to buy creepy cute art from my Etsy shop if I don’t get my own coffin-shaped tarot decks on Etsy; I can’t ask people to buy my weird magic YA novel instead of moaning about why it’s not already on Amazon if I don’t buy weird magic YA novels somewhere that isn’t Amazon. Or, in this case, buy the tarot card-companion to the weird magic YA novel. And really, if we’re being spiritual, the whole reason I have a vague interest in the tarot is The Raven Cycle, so this is quite… cyclical.

I’ve just now realised I don’t have a tarot guide. I have no idea how to read the multiple decks I’m expecting in the next one-to-fourteen working days. Good thing I’ll be three sheets to the wind for most of this party, then!

Did I ever tell you guys about the time I had my tarot read in Thailand? I can’t remember if I ever wrote about it. I can’t remember much of the reading, to be honest, except that I think I was supposed to get married at 24 or 26. It was dark, though, so maybe she interpreted marriage when she should have interpreted huge professional success. Or the desire to drive on motorways. Not sure how specific these things get.

If either of these decks actually turn up by Saturday evening, I’ll post pictures of them with my costume. I’ve bought a lace scarf and gloves off Depop that was originally for an ’80s night… I’m starting to think I’m just going to look like one of the Shelbys.

Update: I did in fact look like one of the Shelbys. I’ve put multiple card/costume photos here.

9 Raven's Prophecy tarot cards with a hand

Want to support this page and/or enjoy exclusive access to stories and chatter from me? Join the No. 1 Reader’s Club on Patreon! Or we could just get coffee?

Grasping at Straws (okay, leaflets)

Today I spent four hours in a virtual queue waiting for tickets for The Cursed Child, only to spend my allotted twenty minutes of browsing time searching fruitlessly for the right number of tickets on the right number of days in the correct type of seats.

So ‘miffed’ doesn’t really cover it.

Frank Iero gif
from Tumblr

Anyway, the good news: I made some things to help you survive – and, dare I say it, thrive – during the upcoming general election.

Here’s something to encourage the youth in your family to vote:

Students' Guide to Voting General Election 2017

Here’s something to help you all decide how to vote:

Ho Do I Hate Least Political Party Comparison

My constituency hasn’t announced its candidates yet (something tells me the Conservatives will win) but I’m considering the Women’s Independence Party. Or signing up for that Mars mission. You can buy and print those designs here if you want (actual prints are coming this week, hopefully) so you can spread the democracy and all that. I suppose if someone decides to vote after seeing them, or if the shop makes some money on them, the current state of British politics won’t be entirely a waste of human intelligence…

Proof 2016 Wasn’t One Hundred Per Cent Shite.

Let’s not pretend that 2016 won’t go down in history as utterly awful. But amongst all the death and elections and heartbreak, there were a few shining – or at least weakly glowing – lights. Here’s a few I could remember… help me out and suggest some more to get me through the next few days?

  • Leonardo diCaprio won an Oscar.
  • I decided to go to Asia I am about to pack up my belongings in a rucksack, finish my final shift at my final job and spend three months on a continent I’ve never seen. LET’S DO IT.
  • Beyonce released this:
  • I met Maggie Stiefvater And embarrassed myself, obvs.
  • Gravitational waves got discovered (proven? I am not a science person but I think it means that Albert Einstein was definitely quite clever).
  • I passed my driving test! I started learning to drive in summer 2014, took a ten-ish month break, took it back up about 18 months ago and passed first time. None of that really conveys how terrified of driving I was when I started versus how not-terrified I am now. Maybe one day I will write about it in relation to facing fear or whatever but right now I CAN DRIVE MYSELF PLACES and deal with Southend’s ridiculous car park charges.
  • Science people (seriously, help me out) are making leaps and bounds in cancer treatment research, like this.
  • Prep is coming to the NHS
  • Despite everything, we do still have an NHS.
  • Choreography on Strictly like this and this and, most of all, this.
  • #Parade10 I love MCR, but sometimes I think I might love the MCRmy more.
  • Planet Earth II.

  • Rio 2016 Give the British some green sludge to fall into and they start acing contests what a metaphor. But seriously if there hadn’t been a break in actual news coverage this year I think the year might have lost the plot… also, can we please take a minute to hero worship the Refugee Team and the life guards at the aquatics centre? This year did not deserve you.

https://twitter.com/a7xweeman/status/764987327668219909

  • The Raven King came out Look it might be my favourite book I’ve ever read.
  • I wrote something that got attention in a good way My school is going to fuckin haunt me.
  • MCRX.
  • Joe Biden memes.

https://twitter.com/Thomas_A_Moore/status/797584838983303168

I have to go and look at pictures of Carrie Fisher flipping people off now, so I will leave this here. What have your not-completely-shite moments been? TELL ME. SPREAD THE DREGS OF LOVE.

In Which I’m Drowning in Striped Paper Bags

In the interests of coming home to an organised life Etsy stockpile, I emptied out one of my storage containers so I could refill the drawers more neatly… except I can’t decide how best to store everything, and I’m having a crisis over whether or not I need to buy more supplies before I leave. My mum’s offered to ship orders while I’m away so I don’t need to deactivate any listings, but I counted out my business cards and envelopes and there isn’t enough to cover every potential order there might be.

I know that realistically I don’t need to panic-buy supplies until a few weeks in December because by then hopefully a lot more orders will have sold and I’ll have a better idea of what’s going to be left in January…  but I don’t like waiting, and in the mean time I’m surrounded by approximately three reels of ribbon, thirty paper bags, a set of return address labels, old postcards I can’t shift, a gift box and some price tags to name but a few and I don’t know how to organise any of them.

And no I’m not going to take a photo because the level of untidiness has passed ‘interesting’ and landed on ‘chaotic’. Not Insta friendly.

Possibly I will go and browse Pinterest for Marie Kondo tips. Possibly I will fall asleep on my keyboard and wake up to find house elves have organised everything for me. Possibly it’s time for a YouTube playlist and some elbow grease.

While I’m off alphabetising labels, you can find my Etsy here (and if you’re in the UK, get free P&P on orders over £8 with SNOWFLAKE16). PLEASE ORDER SOON SO I CAN WORK OUT HOW MANY ENVELOPES TO PANIC-BUY THANK YOU. You’ll also get free worldwide postage from Friday through Monday on all individually-listed postcards, because I have lots of spare postcards of designs I don’t print any more and looking at them all lonely makes me anxious.

Seriously please take them.

Smug Bragging 2k16 (I published a short story!)

I’ve got to run to get some jabs pretty soon, but on the last round I came home and my arms got deader and deader (and I got sleepier and sleepier but I’m already running at about 70% average consciousness so  I could probably also blame everything else in my life) so I thought I’d blog now just in case. I’ve already added to the list – if you have any contributions send them over  – so woohoo it looks like I’m committing to something.

Not sure how I feel about that given that I have only fifty days until I leave the continent, but I guess we all need things to come home to. Speaking of making things, I wrote a short story! And it’s published in something I didn’t run! I’m not sure which I’m more surprised about, now I think about it… but I guess it’s something to add to my ridiculous CV.

I should probably go and meditate in preparation for my next bout of hepatitis, so I will leave this here. If you chance upon this newspaper in or around Southend:

Trawler magazine winter 2016 Southend on Sea Francesca Burke

Turn to page 30 straight away.