2017 in photos

In 2017 I went to ten different countries, and was rarely in one place for longer than a week between January and September, which is both exciting and unsettling. Here’s where I went and what I did, using my Instagram photos (because I don’t have camera photos of everything, and even when I do, I haven’t edited all of them). Obviously loads and loads of images under the cut. If you’re wondering how I went to so many countries, I work for an agency that sends me to teach school workshops abroad, my mum lives in France, and I won the plane tickets to Japan.

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I’m Curious To Know Exactly How You Are

I had to put a Hüsker Dü song in this list, as they are one of my all-time favourite bands, but it was hard to decide which one. In the end I went for a really obvious choice- the first song of theirs I got into.

Hüsker Dü started out as a straight-up hardcore band in 1980, and became more and more melodic as the years passed until they split up in 1987, I think hitting the point of perfect contrast between the two around 1983/4. Both guitarist Bob Mould and drummer Grant Hart sang and wrote songs- this being one of Grant Hart’s.

As well as the pure momentum and harsh joy of their music, I’m also very appreciative of the fact that Hüsker Dü were a band with two semi-out gay/bi men in, which was a pretty difficult situation to be in, in the ultra-macho world of American punk in the early 80s. (When Grant Hart sadly died recently I was however overjoyed to find out that Grant was short for Grantzberg. Grantzberg).

Candy Apple Grey was the first album I ever bought on vinyl around 99/2000, when I was fourteen to fifteen. I was a big Nirvana fan, and used to read old interviews and reviews and follow up on the references from them, discovering bands like the Pixies, Wipers and the Vaselines in that way. I had the internet at home, but it was essentially useless for actually listening to music as it was so slow and there was hardly any audio actually available, so often you could hear a lot about a band before ever hearing their music.

This was the case for me with Hüsker Dü. I had dusted off an old record player found in a cupboard at my dad’s house (contrary to many dads he has no interest in music), and started going to the excellent local second hand record shop near me- the much-missed Magic Discs in Gillingham, where I spotted Candy Apple Grey. I had already picked up the idea that Hüsker Dü and SST were important, so I had to get it. (This was before Our Band Could Be Your Life came out- a book very much worth reading, about some of my all-time favourite music)

I immediately loved it, and tried to get other people into it too. Unfortunately at that time the majority of my school friends were into Nu Metal, and they weren’t that fussed (the same story for the Pixies). You win some, you lose some. I just kind of ploughed my own furrow of loving Hüsker Dü alone. I couldn’t get hold of an actual Hüsker Dü t-shirt locally, so I made a really bad home-made one in Textiles class (see also bad handmade NIN patches made at the same time). About ten years ago I got a real Hüsker Dü shirt off of eBay, and it remains one of my most worn items. I’m feeling sad lately though as I seem to have misplaced it while moving house. I’m sure it will turn up somewhere. The only disadvantage of it however is that it makes strange men come up to you and fire Hüsker Dü trivia questions at you, like they suspect you of having bought a t-shirt of some 80s punk band you’ve never heard of because you are just so desperate to impress them. Hey guys, you ain’t that interesting. Even worse when I like to wear it with a flowery dress. This is against the rules of early 80s punk apparently and will incense them worse.

Here’s a photo of me on my 26th birthday in 2011 wearing it (and also drenched from a hailstorm- the joy of a January birthday). Yes, that is a banana fritter with a candle in it.

As a bonus, here’s a short Spotify playlist of some personal Hüsker Dü highlights. They’re just in chronological order as they appear on the albums. Metal Circus/Zen Arcade-era Hüsker Dü is probably my high-point.

I just wait, I just think

I debated which Codeine song to use, the competition was strong. Codeine are often described as Slow-core. Slow songs in Stephen Immerwahr’s (a fitting name- his surname is German for “Always True”) clear voice with vivid images about the small despairs of everyday life and relationships. A long evening alone in the Winter. I imagine a lot of people will hate this and find it dreary, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s anything but.

First a kiss, then a fall
Some pale shade takes it all
Tangled up in a knot
One foot free, one foot caught

Light the stove with a match
I just wait, I just think
I’m so sad, I can’t stand
I can’t stand, I can’t stand

Call for submissions: C.S. Lewis & Philip Pullman zine

cs lewis zine ad

Edit! 6th of September-  I’ve got three Jewish contributors of varying religious/national backgrounds now. I would love to hear from Muslim, Hindu or Sikh contributors, and people who grew up in fundamental/extreme Christianity which they have now rejected.

Anyone thinking of writing an article for the zine should probably read this article I wrote first, to make sure we’re on the same page

Being Editors Issue 2 is on its way. Issue One was about Diana Wynne Jones (and will soon be re-printed and available again). Issue Two is a split issue focusing on C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman. (I had too much malicious glee at putting those two together).

I’m afraid I can’t pay for submissions– running a pseudo-academic zine about children’s books really is not a money-spinner, but you will get free copies of both this zine and some others as a sweetener. I also reserve the right to turn down articles or request changes to make a certain level of quality is maintained- (I haven’t had to do this so far with the great submissions I received for the previous issue, I should add)

Here’s a summary of the article outlines already in place and some topics I’d love to cover. If you can see a gap that you’d like to cover, please email me with a short summary of what you want to write about!

Rough deadline for articles is the 15th of October.

CS Lewis Side:

  • In which I re-read all of the Narnia books as an adult
  • The many ways in which The Last Battle is a hateful book
  • In which I re-read the Space Trilogy as an adult
  • That Hideous Strength as a guilty pleasure
  • Endless butter, bacon and Turkish Delight: Food in the Narnia books in the context of WWII & 50s rationing
  • Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? Wading through the terrible glut of “academic” literature about C.S.Lewis churned out by evangelical Bible institutions
  • The problem of Susan and Jane: Sexism in the Narnia & Space Trilogy books
  • King Arthur and C.S. Lewis
  • Re-watching the 80s BBC show, and comparing the Disney Narnia films
  • A.N. Wilson’s biography and Jack-a Biography, compared with Surprised by Joy & A Grief Observed
  • Can I really bring myself to read Mere Christianity without throwing it against the wall?
  • CS Lewis and E.Nesbit- the dinosaur influenced by the radical
  • CS Lewis and George MacDonald
  • Narnia in Israel- (by Gili Bar-Hillel)

Articles I’d particularly like to receive

  • Racism & Orientalism in the Narnia – from a contributor with Middle Eastern or South Asian background
  • Growing up with Narnia in a hardcore Christian upbringing- from a contributor – did you grow up in ultra Christian surroundings where secular entertainment was banned or strongly discouraged?
  • Growing up with the Narnia books in a Muslim/Orthodox Jewish/Hindu/Sikh context- from contributors

I’m open to other article proposals for CS Lewis, but there’s so much material out there written from a totally uncritical evangelical American Protestant viewpoint. I’m not interested in that kind of article. Read this introduction I wrote to understand my own standpoint a bit better.

Phillip Pullman side

  • Lyra’s Oxford and our Oxford
  • His Dark Materials and Paradise Lost
  • Plato and Virgil in His Dark Materials (vs the Last Battle & Ursula le Guin)
  • Pope Calvin
  • The Amber Spyglass vs Perelandra
  • Songs of Innocence and Experience- William Blake and Philip Pullman
  • Northern Lights and the Arctic- Scandinavian and Finno-Ugric folklore

I’m open to suggestion for interesting Philip Pullman articles

Here is the list of topics for future issues of Being Editors
Please get in touch if you’re dying to write an article about any of these authors. (I’m not covering Harry Potter – check out Sonorus for feminist perspectives on Harry Potter)

3- Edith Nesbit
4– Oliver Postgate
5- Tove Jansson
6– Susan Cooper, Alan Garner and Jenny Nimmo
7– The Phantom Tollbooth
8– Forgotten Classics
9– The Wizard of Oz

Vegan Nanaimo Bars


nanaimo forest.JPG

I was watching a BBC series recently about the history of the native peoples of the Pacific Northwest, and it gave me a hankering for Nanaimo bars. I used to have a co-worker from Manitoba, who would make this typical Canadian treat from time to time, and bring it in. Those were good work days. It’s something in between a millionaire’s shortbread and a cheesecake, requires no baking, and is totally delicious. As well as the standard vanilla filling, mint or coffee variations are also common.

Nanaimo bars originated unsurprisingly from the city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. If I had drawn pine forests, Mounties, beavers or other Canadian clichés for the illustration, it would have been all wrong. That part of Canada is more redwood trees and continual rain. I’d very much like to visit that part of the world, but a trip’s too expensive for me right now. Vancouver is a very pricy city, and my closest friends live in Ontario and Oregon, so I’d have to shell out for a hotel.

As well as the beautiful mountains, rainforests and bays full of whales, British Columbia is known for the sculpture and artwork of the Tlingit, Haida and Salish people and other local groups. Watching the documentary, I felt it must be very frustrating for the local archaeologists. You have a region where there’s a 10,000 year unbroken history of civilisations known for their expert sculpting, boatbuilding and weaving, but also one of the wettest climates on the planet, so all that cedar wood and wool rots away very quickly.

A blog from that area I like is The Woman Who Married a Bear. The writer Milla is a Finnish woman who lives with her partner on a small island in the Salish Sea in between the USA and Canada (their island is on the US side). She is a herbalist, and he makes traditional tools used in the local sculpture and boatmaking techniques. The blog focuses a lot on nature and life on a small island and has a lot of beautiful photos.

The city of Nanaimo has a free recipe for the toponymous bars on their website, but it uses North American ingredients and volume measurements, and has a semi-cooked egg in the base that didn’t seem entirely necessary. So here’s the vegan version I evolved by trial and error, using metric weight measurements and ingredients found in every British supermarket. The recipe is vegan, and can also be easily made gluten free with a few substitutions.

nanaimo bar.JPG



Glass lasagne dish
Silicone spatula
Small pan (a milk pan is ideal)
Electric mixer

For the base:

100g vegan baking margarine (Stork has dairy in, but a lot of supermarket own brands are vegan)
50g brown sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
100g dark chocolate
150g digestive biscuits (can easily be substituted for gluten free digestives)
70g finely chopped almonds
100g dessicated coconut
5 tablespoons golden syrup

For the filling:

100g vegan baking margarine
2 tablespoons custard powder (gluten free is also available)
300g icing sugar
3 tablespoons soya or almond milk (vanilla soya milk is great for this recipe)

Optional variations:
Add 1 teaspoon of peppermint or coffee flavour along with matching food colouring

For the covering:

150g dark chocolate
2 tablespoons baking margarine

To make the base:

  1. Put the biscuits in a sandwich bag, and hit with a spoon until they are completely crumbled. (They don’t have to be perfectly crushed, as long as there are no big lumps)
  2. Mix the biscuit crumbs, almonds and coconut in a bowl
  3. Melt the margarine, sugar, cocoa and chocolate over a low heat in the pan
  4. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, add the golden syrup and mix well
  5. Line the bottom of the lasagne pan with the mix
  6. Chill the base for 30 minutes. If you don’t chill the base, it will come apart when you add the filling.

To make the filling

  1. Mix the icing sugar and custard powder well in a small bowl and set aside
  2. Add the margarine to the mixing bowl, and slowly add the sugar, mixing with an electric mixer as you go along
  3. You will end up with a very thick, dry buttercream.
  4. Slowly add the soya milk while mixing to create a thick, smooth buttercream
  5. Spread the buttercream over the biscuit base. Chill for 10 minutes.

To make the topping

  1. Gently melt the chocolate and margarine in a pan over a low heat
  2. Pour over the custard cream layer
  3. Chill for three hours- you can’t cut the squares until the chocolate is perfectly set. Cover with foil or baking paper- cling film will just stick to the chocolate

Once completely set, cut into small squares. Keep in the fridge.

Low stress travel on the cheap


I love to travel, but I don’t have much money. Although long-haul flights and luxury holidays are out of my reach at the moment I’ve managed to see a fair bit of the world for not very much, and perhaps my budget limitations have meant that I’ve seen some interesting places I might have otherwise missed out on.

I find online budget travel tips not that great though. They seem to swing from “save money by only eating ityereal bars and sleeping on trains on your trip” to “cram in thirty museums in one day with this special ticket” to “get this special Air Miles credit card only available in Florida, and book your flights at 3am on Thursdays Alaska time”. I want to eat nice food from the cuisine of the country in question; sleep in a clean, safe and comfortable hotel room in a convenient location; and get a chance to explore and see things properly, not treating sights like a tick list to complete as quickly as possible. I don’t want to be cold, hungry, exhausted, or put myself in danger; this is supposed to be fun. I just don’t have a lot of money to spend.

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New Twitter Account

I’ve recently spit my Twitter account into two new accounts, one private for friends and family, and one public one. When I started using twitter, it was very public orientated. Over the years though, quite a few of my friends have started using a public account for their work and a private account for discussions with friends. It felt uncomfortable replying to their private comments with my public account, and increasingly like I was mixing two separate things, so I’ve followed suit and created a public twitter account. This isn’t to say that I feel like you should never bring up anything political or difficult to behave “professionally”, but being firm and clear about where your own boundary between personal and public lies is also important. So here’s my new account- @EmmaFalconerArt