A Year in Books – January to March

I thought I would give a little update on how I am progressing with the challenge, A Year in Books. As I was displaying some of the books I’ve read for a snap-shot Artie came over to give me his approval.

20170323_213956

It was a slow beginning to the challenge. All I read in January was two books. Since then I have managed to read more frequently, even taking the Kindle with me on the bus to work. Reading while travelling usually tires me, which is why I have only just started up again.

Grief is the Thing with Feathers – Max Porter

This novella featured as part of a short Open University course I took last year. David kindly bought it for me for Christmas. The theme is of grief and survival. After a sudden death of a wife and mother, two son’s and a father are visited by a crow (personified from the Ted Hughes book of poems Crow.) The narrative is quite fractured and erratic. The story just features short scenes of the family in states of ‘coping/or not coping’. Crow is depicted as a wild, untamed creature with bad manners and equally bad language. I think I need to read the story again as a lot of the message was lost on me.

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

In Parenthesis – David Jones

David Jones was a survivor of the First World War. I came across his work featured in a documentary on the writers of WW1. In it’s time, In Parenthesis was hailed as a classic, but now sadly seems to have been forgotten. I managed to get a cheapish copy on eBay. The writing can be difficult to understand at times as Jones dips into Welsh and Arthurian legend. The narrative is his own experiences in the British Expeditionary Force and of one attack during the Battle of the Somme, at Mametz Wood. Some of Jones’s writing of trench warfare can only be described as lyrical, even his depictions of disemboweled men and decapitated heads smiling back from the crook of trees like Cheshire Cats is somehow horrifyingly captivating. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in history.

H is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald

Yet another book on grief, though totally different in it’s approach to Max Porter’s book. I think this has been one of my favourite reads so far. I thoroughly enjoyed Macdonald’s description of Mable and how her relationship with this wild bird became cathartic to her wound gaping grief at the loss of her father. The chapters featuring her inspiration, T.H.White made me feel a little uneasy in his behaviour to his Goshawk, though he was writing from a different time period, still doesn’t make the reading any the easier.

Under Milk Wood – Dylan Thomas

One of Thomas’s last works, commissioned for BBC radio. This play for voices is a day in the life of a small Welsh village. An omniscient narrator introduces each character and a second narrator tells more about their hidden thoughts and desires. Each character has their own vignette, though written in prose the language is poetic, sometimes lewd, often humorous and occasionally poignant. I found though that my reading lacked the power of a TV or radio production. Perhaps I would benefit from a second read?

The English Girl – Katherine Webb

I reviewed this book in my Sunday Sevens #24.

The Haunting – Alan Titchmarsh

All I know of Alan Titchmarsh is from his gardening programmes and his Saturday show on Classic FM. When I saw one of his books, The Haunting on the shelf in WHSmith I was curious. The story is a dual narrative, historical drama set in 1816 and 2010 respectively with a hint of ghosts and a splash of romance. The book is an easy read but the narrative won’t tax the mind. The story is a little contrived and could have been better but it is what it is. I enjoyed it enough to buy another of his novels. Folly.

The Red Letter (short) – Kate Riordan

If I had known this was only 30 pages long I wouldn’t have bought it, however the writing was good and I enjoyed it. The characters were from a previous novel by Riordan, The Girl in the Photograph. Though reading the novella I couldn’t remember the original novel. I had to read the blurb to get any recall. Set in the 1930’s the story is of Marjorie who finds out her husband is having an affair. During the too few pages Marjorie awakens and becomes self aware. The novella ends with Marjorie riding on her bike with her future stretched out with many possibilities.

Birdcage Walk – Kate Riordan

If I like a book by an author I usually seek out other works by them, this was the case with Birdcage Walk, Riordan’s first published work, and you can tell it is! It’s very different in style to that of her later works, The Girl in the Photograph and The Shadow Hour. The story is based on a true tale of murder, mystery and a possible miscarriage of justice. Sadly, Riordan spends too long setting up the back story. Both protagonists are rather quarrelsome and two dimensional, and I didn’t bond with either of them. The narrative only improved after the subsequent murder and trial. There wasn’t much evidence of a miscarriage of justice, but that’s up to the reader to decide. The inevitable wasn’t much of a surprise when it finally arrived.

20170325_151431 (2)

David has chosen the next book for me to read. Emma Healey’s Elizabeth is Missing, I have no expectations on what to expect within it’s pages.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

 

 

Advertisements

My Father’s Daughter.

I didn’t enter the water gracefully. It was a precarious balance on slippery rocks, before I lost my footing, gasped as my whole body plunged under the waves. Though it was September and there was still warmth to the sun, the body of water that lay before me was chilling beneath the wind that whipped the surface into tiny white peaks. ‘Keep swimming,’ was the motto, and swim I did, even if the cold of the water numbed my fingers, made my skin tingle. 2 km didn’t sound like much, but previously I hadn’t had much practice. I was rusty and my muscles let me know it!

As a child, my family would have weekly swimming evenings at the local pool, followed by a chippie tea and Doctor Who on the TV. I was lucky to be born when the old Victorian school buildings still stood, before modernisation bulldozed them for clinical, soulless buildings. My school, red bricked and full of ghost stories had a wonderful heated swimming pool alongside it. Even before entering the building, with towel rolled under an arm, the smell of chlorine always tickled the nose, cleared the senses.

The noise at poolside was often deafening! Children shrieked with nervous excitement, trying to stay afloat with giant orange inflatables around their arms. I would emerge from a blue curtained cubicle like a butterfly from its chrysalis, proudly wearing my red swimsuit. Always, my father would be in the pool first, beckoning me into the cradling waters, challenging me. In his youth he had been a finalist in the inter-city championships, had numerous certificates and badges. He still enthused about the sport and would encourage me to swim further than I could ever think possible. 100 metres was a long way for a young girl.

Where I swam now was very different to a pool and I was no longer ‘Daddy’s little champion.’ I was a woman of 40. An infinite expanse of sky, pregnant with clouds arched overhead. Shingle beaches lined the shores and jagged mountains crowded around, like they were bringing me into their confidence. Crows shrieked their good morning. Day would soon arrive and with it the chance of rain. As I pushed my body through the water, soft like silk, Nathan sat alongside me, paddling silently.

I met Nathan at a turning point in both our lives. I was chopping vegetables in the kitchen of a hostel, where I was holidaying in Scotland. Onions sizzled in a pan while tears tore down my face. ‘Something smells good!’ I started and the knife I held clattered to the floor.

‘It’ll be a chilli once it’s cooked.’ I turned to face a larger than life man. He was still wearing his hiking gear and had trodden mud through into the kitchen. ‘Hungry?’

‘Famished!’ He grinned.

The evening sun dipped beyond the horizon, turning the clouds into a kind of pink blancmange. The air was still, sweetly scented. Spring in Scotland has its own beauty. Trees slowly unfurled their tender leaves and rivers raged with melt-water from the mountains. Nathan, freshly showered, and I sat on a bench eating our bowls of chilli in the hostel’s garden. A bottle of wine shared between us. ‘What brings you to Scotland?’ I asked.

‘Adventure,’ he shrugged, then looking up at me he said shyly. ‘A broken heart. You?’

‘I recently lost my father.’ I took a mouthful of bitter wine. ‘We had been estranged the last couple of years, so the news was pretty hard to take.’ I paused. Nathan sat silently, listening. ‘I just had to get away, escape. You know how it is?’ He nodded. ‘I just packed the car and headed up here.’

‘Planning on staying long?’

‘A day or two. Depends if there’s anything to stay for.’ It was then that we shared one of those looks and the world suddenly shifts. Two people, lonely and broken, found comfort in each other’s arms.

Two years later, I found myself immersed in nature, practicing for a charity swim. The northern shore of the lake loomed ahead, trees, tall and prickly stood sentinel. From the water’s surface I suddenly noticed a familiar figure standing motionless by the lakeside, his arm raised in a wave. I stopped kicking, felt my body suspended by the water, while minnows gently swam between my fingers. ‘Sarah!’ Nathan called. ‘Don’t stop!’

‘Do you see..?’ I shouted, treading water.

‘What?’ I looked back towards the shore, to where only trees huddled around a burnt shell of a building. ‘It was probably a dog walker.’ Nathan encouraged. ‘You’re almost there! Don’t give up!’ I stretched my tired arms forward and pressed on for the last 50 metres or so. Soon my legs hit rocks as I crawled out of the water. My muscles ached, my skin purple with bruises. ‘You made it!’ Nathan cried jumping out of the kayak, ‘and in under an hour!’ His feet splashed in the shallows before he draped a towel around my shivering body.

‘Maybe I am my father’s daughter after all,’ I panted.

‘And more,’ Nathan cupped my face in his hands. ‘He would have been amazed at what you can achieve.’ Wells of tears unexpectedly flooded my eyes.

‘Really?’

‘Yes. Sure, he would have been jealous. Swimming in a lake! That has to beat swimming in a pool any day!’

‘I suppose,’ I smiled through chattering teeth.

‘You’ve swam further than you’ve ever done before. He would have been so proud of you!’ I felt Nathan’s lips, hot on mine as he wrapped his arms around me. I leant into his warm body.

‘I know it sounds silly but I could have sworn I saw him standing by the boathouse.’ Nathan looked to where the wooden structure stood derelict. There was no other living soul, save them at the lake.

‘Perhaps he was, cheering you on as he used to.’

‘It’s a nice thought.’

‘Come, let’s get you warm. A strong, celebratory coffee is in order. Perhaps I’ll buy us cake!’ We turned our backs to the lake laughing as we went, and the rain that was promised began to fall.

© 2016 Christine Lucas


I haven’t written anything of note in a while. The above story was written in response to an advert for submissions for an anthology on wild swimming. Needless to say I was not successfully chosen, so I’ve posted the piece for you, my lovely readers. It was written with a word count restriction, so forgive the fractured feel to the narrative.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #25

Wow! These week’s come round quick! It’s that time again! Time for some more Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie.

Walk 1000 miles: The beginning of the week saw my #walk1000miles badge arrive in the post! I am excited to take it on my future walks.

20170325_190618 (2)

My Walk 1000 Miles badge

My total for this week has been 26 miles bringing my overall tally to 277 miles. A culmination of getting off the bus earlier to enjoy the warm sunshine and to look for signs of spring.

Wild Swimming: With the help of David, we put up my Lake District map. We used string as pointers to pictures of the lakes I’ve swam in. Thanks to Sharon from Sunshine and Celandines for the inspiration. Her dog Hugo has a map featuring all his dips, I thought ‘what a great idea, perfect for my wild swims!’ 😀

20170321_083555 (2)

My wild swim map

Wildlife: This week I signed up for the Great British Bee Count, an incentive by Friends of the Earth. Much like the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, it is a survey to track the health of bee populations in the UK. The count this year will be between 19th May to 30th June 2017, just in time for the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Day’s Wild! Will you be joining in?

Earth Hour: Once again David and I participated in WWF’s Earth Hour. For an hour between 8.30pm and 9.30pm on 25th March 2017 we turned off all the lights and used the time to reflect. It made for a very calm hour.

Did you participate in this years Earth Hour?

Afternoon Tea: This weekend it was Mothering Sunday here in the UK and the day before was my Mum’s birthday. To celebrate both, I surprised my Mum with an afternoon tea at Jam.

20170325_123118 (3)

Afternoon Tea at Jam, Liverpool

The restaurant was busier than last time I visited with David, you can read my review here. The afternoon tea had some changes. Mum had beef bread rolls and thankfully there was no egg to be seen. The cake selection was a little different too. There were slices of red velvet cake, bakewell tarts and small doughnuts. The scones went down very nicely with cups of Assam tea!

Birdcage-Walk-UseReading: The book I have begun reading this week is Birdcage Walk by Kate Riordan. It is set at the turn of the 20th century and is based on a true crime. However I think the adapted story is a little far fetched but I am over half way through so will persevere to the end.

Have you read any good books lately?

In the kitchen: While I was out with Mum, David was busy in the kitchen baking another cake. This time he made a classic Victoria Sponge, with yummy fresh cream and strawberry jam.

For this Saturday’s dinner I made a Brown Lentil Chili and served it with oven baked tortillas. I adapted the quantities for two people. It makes for a gorgeous, healthy, filling chili. I have made this recipe several times this year.

These have been just a few highlights from my week. How has yours been?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #24

I thought I’d scrape some pictures together and participate once again in this weeks Sunday Sevens devised by Natalie.

Baking: I ended last week’s Sunday Sevens with a picture of David’s endeavours. I’ll begin this week with another of his creations. It took five hours to make, baking in the oven for 1.5 hours but the result was a bouncy sponge with soft coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache to decorate.

Reading: This week I finished Katherine Webb’s The English Girl. Susanna from Fred the Needle asked if I would review the book, so here’s some of my thoughts. Despite the story not being as strong as Webb’s first two books The Legacy and The Unseen, The English Girl was a far better story than The Night Falling. Webb used the Jebel War of 1958-59 as the backdrop to the novel. It is another of those weaving dual narratives. The two protagonists are Maude Vickary in the 1900’s and Joan Seabrook in the 1950’s. The main theme is adventure, of two women breaking the bonds of society and finding themselves (or losing themselves) to the desert wastes of Oman. I found Joan’s character rather wishy-washy and I wished she would stop faffing about and make a decision. I preferred reading the story of Maude and her adventures of trying to be the first woman/Westerner to cross the Empty Quarter. Her struggle across huge dunes and facing sheer exhaustion was well described. I had my hand to my mouth when she encountered a camel spider (look them up) and shocked at her betrayal, but I won’t spoil the end for you! All in all it wasn’t a bad read. It took me a whole year to read The Night Falling. I read The English Girl in a fraction of that time. If you enjoy Arabian adventures then this novel is for you!

Have you read it? Let me know what you think?

20170314_110031 (2)

Walk 1000 miles: I’ve walked 21.4 miles this week, a touch better than last week. While on my daily walk to the bus stop to work, I noticed the central reservation was awash with the golden heads of daffodils. It certainly brought to mind the iconic William Wordsworth poem. ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.’

Wildlife: On Thursday my eyes spied a small green/brown bird flitting around the yarden. It was the size of a blue tit, but it wasn’t a blue tit. It was a chiffchaff. I only see these birds once a year. They must pass through the city on way to woodland for the summer. I reached for my camcorder but the camera wasn’t charged, so an old video I took in 2013 will just have to do!

Pets: This weekend has been a stressful one! On Saturday I witnessed our new parrot finch, Leaf attacking our other newbie, Gouldian finch, Set! Afterwards, David managed to pick Set up and noticed the damage Leaf had done. His feathers around his head and eyes had been plucked, leaving red skin exposed. Poor Set was scared so much he just sat in David’s hand. We noticed that Set still had his baby mouth. He must only be as young as six months old!

I have read that if there is an aggressor in an aviary, then the only course of action is to take the aggressor away. That was when our problem began. We managed to isolate Leaf and his other parrot friend, Forrest from the aviary, but the only other cage we had was the hospital cage which was where Set was recovering in. Our other cage, the one in which our aviary had begun five years ago was at David’s Mum’s housing their two budgies.

20170318_205903_001 (2)

Leaf and Forrest’s new home

Kindly, David’s Mum and Dad said that we could have our cage back as they had one which could house their budgies until they got a bigger cage. I was so relieved, more so when back at home the two parrot finches explored the cage and were soon housed in it.

Set has recovered from his ordeal and though still looking a little worse for wear he has been reintegrated into the aviary with the more placid finches. Leaf and Forrest are flitting about their new home, they never keep still for long, hence needing a bigger cage to house them.

Who would have guessed such small birds would cause so much distress!

Cooking: For Saturday’s dinner I cooked a three bean quinoa chili. The recipe was very versatile and I substituted a few ingredients to what I had in the store-cupboard. I served it with oven baked tortillas and a crisp glass of white wine. It made for a healthy and filling meal. Definitely one to make again.

Gardening: This Sunday David and I spent some time in the yarden planting our Centurion onions. I snapped some pictures of Stellata magnolia and dwarf rhododendron flowers. The yarden is definitely awakening!

So that was my week. How have you spent yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Scenes from the Lake District. (Whinlatter Forest.)

Our last breakfast during this short break to the Lake District, was shared with another couple who had arrived the previous evening. I felt rather sad that we were going home later that day, yet I knew Artie was missing us. Breakfast was a relaxed and leisurely beginning to the day.

On leaving Hermiston, Phil and Helen said goodbye to us with more hugs and handshakes. It was a wrench to leave, they do indeed make you feel like friends.

David and I headed 10 minutes up the road to the visitor centre at Whinlatter Forest. I had planned a three hour walk to the top of Seat How. On arrival the car park was already busy with bikers and families. We donned our walking boots and headed towards the red way-markers.

The winding pathway took us past a Gruffalo and through tall trees. The walk wasn’t too strenuous and we got to the top of Seat How earlier than planned. I thought the pathways were better sign posted than our visit to Grizedale last year. We stopped and ate our packed lunch with views of the surrounding fells, Keswick and Derwent Water before us. We watched transfixed as a pair of buzzards drifted elegantly on the breeze.

20170304_110646 (2)

Seat How Summit

As we made our journey back to the car park, the clouds broke and the sun came out!

Our time at Whinlatter Forest was shorter than I had planned, though we had enjoyed our time spent beneath the trees. The paths towards Lord’s Seat and Grisedale Pike will have to be revisited some other time. After 1pm we decided to make the journey home. I was sad to leave the Lake District but knew I would return again soon. My wild swims beckon!

rip-fudge

Fudge

The news we were greeted on arrival home, was that we had lost one of our finches while away. R.I.P. Fudge, you are still sadly missed.

Artie however was happy to see us and for this past week has been more clingy than normal. He is usually such an independent cat.

Thank you for joining me as I recap my short break to the Lake District. The change of scenery was much needed, and even David said he had a good time! Thank you Phil and Helen for making our stay at Hermiston such a relaxing and pleasant time.

Are you planning a trip/day out to the lake District? Do you know of any sights David and I would enjoy visiting?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #23

I thought I’d participate in this weeks Sunday Sevens devised by Natalie. Here’s some of the things I filled my week with.

Gardening: David and I spent three hours in the yarden yesterday, it was tiring work. I replanted some bulbs and re-potted my honeysuckle into a bigger pot. While David pruned the jasmin and passion flower, I sowed wildflower, poppy and borage seeds for the pollinators come summer. We also planted some maris bard chits in the hope of harvesting (once again) our own grown potatoes. While we worked, the song of a blackbird was a joy to hear.

Reading: This March as part of my continued participation in the Year in Books, I have been reading The English Girl by Katherine WebbI may not be on course for my 40 books in the year but I am managing at least 1-2 books a month.

TV: The third series of Broadchurch has recently started on ITV. David Tennant reprises his role as moody detective, Alec Hardy. It’s made me realise how much I have missed seeing him on the small screen!

Walk 1000 miles: My tally for this past week has been 18 miles, bringing my total from 1st January to 12th March to 230 miles. My miles are mainly made up of city walking and exercise. I’m very much looking forward to long summer walks in the countryside which should boost my final total come December.

Eating out: This week has seen me out and about in Liverpool. On Tuesday I met up with my ‘boss’ for a catch up at Leaf, (you can read the post here,) and then on Thursday after a Dr’s appointment I enjoyed a nice tea-cake and coffee with Mum at Costa.

Baking: David has taken over the kitchen! He has been baking cakes! He attempted a lemon drizzle cake, the result was a very moist cake! I added fruit with mine, blueberries being my favourite at the moment. 🙂

20170311_192546 (2)

Lemon Drizzle Cake

So there you have it, my week in pictures. Did you get up to anything fun? I wish you a good week ahead.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Scenes from the Lake District. (Ennerdale Water, Buttermere and Derwent Water.)

A rather uninspiring, grey day dawned for our last, full day in the Lake District. After breakfasting on fruit salad filled with mango and blueberries, David and I headed towards Ennerdale Water.

20170303_103029 (2)

Ennerdale Water and Angler’s Crag

Ennerdale Water is only 40 minutes drive from Braithwaite. You may have guessed that the week’s itinerary of lakes have been selected solely because swimming is prohibited, due to them being reservoirs! I just had to put up with walking around them instead! (I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can take up my swim/walks again!)

We parked the car at the ample (and free) Bowness Knott car park. We visited this spot on our last break to the Lakes, due to Ennerdale being a dark sky area.

The planned walk was the Smithy Beck Trail. It’s low lying (so easy on creaking joints) and takes in a woodland walk as well as lakeside.

We took the woodland path first, and marveled at the great towering Scots Pine trees. We gasped as we saw fleetingly, a red squirrel and then later on a tree creeper. David wished he had brought his big lens, maybe next time!

The path (which was very muddy), took us to the bridge over Smithy Beck Falls where David and I played Pooh Sticks. There was no clear winner. From there, the path meandered towards the lakeside. We picnicked on a bench overlooking Pillar, Steeple and Scoat Fell.

After lunch we decided to head towards Buttermere (another 40 minute drive) and visit the much photographed lone tree. On our last visit, the permissive path had been closed due to nesting sandpipers!

Instead of finding a free lay-by in which to park the car, we headed to the National Trust car park by the Fish Inn, and paid the steep £3.50 for two hours! I didn’t mind as I see it as giving a little back to the region that has kept us entertained with beautiful vistas, walking and swimming.

We spent a good hour at the lakeside of Buttermere, taking dozens of photographs. However, much like the day before the weather turned blustery and drizzly. Chilled to the bone by the wind that whipped over the lake, David and I headed back to the car.

‘I can’t visit Buttermere without seeing Derwent Water!’ I cried. So David fired up the engine and we headed towards Keswick and the Theatre by the Lake parking. (One day I will see a play at the theatre!)

The journey to Keswick (around 30 minutes) took in the mountain pass, Honister, much to David’s consternation. Touted as one of the best mountain drives in the UK. At it’s summit it climbs to a dizzy 356 metres, with a 1 in 4 gradient. The rugged scenery was impressive and we luckily had the winding road to ourselves, as David crunched the clutch into 1st gear. It was times like this that I wished we had a drone!

In Keswick, we paid the £3.00 for two hours parking and walked towards the lakeside. The weather had made a turn for the worse. Heavy clouds obstructed much of the scenery. We made our way towards Friar’s Crag and took pictures along the way. How different out first visit here in October had been!

20170303_152305 (2)

Derwent Water

We decided to call our sightseeing a day and headed back towards our B&B, Hermiston in Braithwaite. On arrival Phil and Helen offered more tea, coffee and cake which we received gratefully. We changed from our mud caked clothes and warmed up before heading back to Keswick for our last meal of the holiday.

We had a table booked at the Lakes Bar and Bistro for 5.30pm. We had looked at the menu online earlier and liked a few of the options. On arrival we were asked to chose any table as the place seemed ‘dead.’ I’ve read that when a restaurant is quiet it could be because the establishment is not very good. A little worry crossed my mind. However the meals we were served, though took about 20-30 minutes to come to the table was enjoyable.

David ordered a chicken, ham and leek pie with vegetables, while I opted for the vegetarian goat’s cheese pizza. The pizza made for a very filling meal. I was stuffed after a few slices! David liked his pie but not the butter coated chips. The service was friendly and the food warming, so there were no complaints from us.

We returned to the B&B to enjoy one last shower and recharge our batteries, before our journey home the next day.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

Scenes from the Lake District. (Thirlmere and Castlerigg Stone Circle.)

Breakfast at Hermiston is served between 8am and 9am. As we were the only guests staying with them during this week, we had the entire buffet to ourselves!

20170302_085002 (2)

David enjoying the view from the breakfast room

On offer there is a selection of cereals, muesli and gorgeous fruit salad. You can request a cooked breakfast but as David and I are not big morning eaters we stayed with the continental. Phil served us fresh coffee and tea, and as we sat gazing out at the freshly fallen snow on the peaks, we chatted with Phil and Helen about our plans for the day.

I had planned a day around Thirmlere, with a walk up Raven Crag and then a lakeside stroll.

Thirlmere is about 20 minutes drive from Braithwaite. We parked the car in a lay-by opposite the start of the walk, crossed over the road, entered through a gate and began our ascent. It was tough going to start with. We passed another two gates and walked along a path through recently fallen trees, before we walked up steps towards the viewpoint.

From Raven Crag there is unparalleled views of Thirlmere below, and of the snow covered Helvellyn range. We even spotted a Peregrine Falcon flying over the tree tops!

Once we had navigated the route back to the car, we headed further up the road to Armboth car park (and toilets). Parking is free at present due to damage to some of the paths by Storm Desmond last December. We had our packed lunch in the warmth of the car and watched as the weather turned squally.

For the next hour or so we traversed the lakeside path. Some of the going was tough due to boulders blocking the way. Low lying cloud obscured the view and we were soon cold and wet.

20170302_130414 (2)

Thirlmere

Deciding that the weather was not going to improve for the rest of the afternoon, we decided to head back to the B&B. On our way we took a whistle stop tour of Castlerigg Stone Circle, just so I could see Blencathra! The snow caps from the morning had melted in the rain!

20170302_143211 (2)

Castlerigg Stone Circle and Blencathra

We returned to Hermiston cold and tired. Phil offered us tea and coffee which we gladly accepted and the homemade cake was very restorative. Just what we needed! From the guest lounge we watched as clouds obscured the mountains.

For dinner we planned on popping into Keswick and trying our luck with their only Indian restaurant, Lakeland Spice Cuisine.

They serve evening meals from 5.30pm. We got a table straight away, indeed we were only one of two couples eating at that time. Keswick in March seems to be really quiet, well especially around 5pm! David ordered a chicken tikka masala and I a vegetable balti. David enjoyed his coconut infused meal, while mine at first was tasty but got samey as the meal progressed and there was a lot of oil! A bit more vegetables wouldn’t have gone amiss! I still think the meal we had at India, Kendal a few years back was of better quality.

Fulled by a warming meal, we headed back to the B&B to relax with a film. Hermiston’s guest internet is of a good speed. A full day out in the elements had tired us so we had yet another early night.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

‘Ladies that Lunch’ at Leaf – Liverpool.

Recently I met up with the lady I work with, Sue and her new guide dog, Kallie for lunch in Liverpool. With both of us not being ‘girls about town’ we were scratching our heads as to where to go for lunch. I know there are a myriad of places to visit but I was after somewhere were you weren’t turfed out after about an hour. Then I recalled an independent tea shop and restaurant in Bold Street, Leaf. I remembered visiting with a student of mine, now friend, years ago. I searched my blog and found that the visit was three years ago! How time flies!!

20170307_143120 (2)

We visited Leaf at probably the most busiest time of day, 12 noon. The restaurant covers two floors with stages for live bands. The furniture is made up of an eclectic mix of wooden tables, picnic tables, leather sofas, arm chairs and plastic canteen chairs. Drapes cover the walls in a building that was once a tea shop, cinema, then clothes shop.

We were advised by one of the friendly staff that there were more tables upstairs which was less busy at that time. So we hit the button on the lift and made our way to the 1st floor.

At no point was the presence of Kallie an issue. A firm reminder to less welcoming establishments of Guide Dogs for the blind’s Access all Areas campaign.

We chose a table in the corner, where there was lots of natural light coming from the tall art deco styled windows. The first floor felt light and airy. There was a relaxed feel to the place, which I also got the first time I visited. Service was top notch. There were complaints in that area (nor any other for that matter). Our order for drinks and food was taken at the table, though you can opt to order at the bar.

There is a varied choice of lose leaf tea available. Sue chose the English Breakfast Tea and I the Ceylon. We both ordered for lunch the Pepper and Tomato Soup, which we did not have to wait too long for.

The soup was delicious, warming and of good proportion, it was served with a slice of focaccia bread. It also stayed warm for over half an hour as we took our time chatting and catching up. The Ceylon tea was aromatic and better served with no milk, much like the Darjeeling at Jam.

After about an hour we decided to prolong our stay and ordered a Leaf Cream Tea which consisted of another pot of tea (of your choice) and a scone, with clotted cream and jam. At £5.95 I thought was good value. The pots of tea filled three small cups. In total we had six small cups each! It was a very wet, caffeine filled afternoon!

20170307_133358 (2)

Leaf Cream Tea

I liked the presentation of the cream tea and the scone was ‘huge’! I went home feeling very full!

In all we spent three and a half hours at leaf and not once did we feel the need to vacate our table. The service was friendly and approachable and the meals were value for money.

I would definitely visit Leaf for lunch again in the future.

Have you had a meal at Leaf? They have restaurants in Liverpool and Manchester. What was your experience like?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Scenes from the Lake District. (Hodge Close and Hermiston Guest House).

The post holiday blues have hit fiercely! We were only gone for three nights, yet getting back to ‘normality’ seems hard to accept. I’ve had a little cry and now looking ahead to all the good things I have planned for the year! Seeing Hans Zimmer again this summer at the Liverpool Echo Arena, has to be one of the highlights!

Time is a strange anomaly. I spent the better half of two months planning walks and sightseeing for our second short break to the Lake District. I blink and now it’s gone! Our three night break passed by so quickly but as Sharon from Sunshine and Celandines said, we ‘certainly fitted a lot in’! 😀

David and I left Liverpool an hour later than planned, due to getting things ready for my mum to stop by twice daily to check on Artie and the finches. I thank her for doing that. I think Artie enjoyed the company. 🙂

Once on the M62 and M6 it took just two hours to get to our first destination, that of Hodge Close Quarry. We arrived at 1pm, just in time for packed lunch! Dodging the showers, we spent the rest of our time walking around the quarry, taking pictures. I don’t think David was impressed as he never got his camera out!

At 3pm we decided to head towards our B&B for three nights, Hermiston in Braithwaite, only 5-10 minutes drive from Keswick. You can read about our first visit to Hermiston, here.

On arrival at 4pm we were greeted by Phil and Helen who welcomed us back warmly with hugs and handshakes. It was lovely to see them again. Phil even carried my very heavy suitcase up to our room for the duration of the break, Skiddaw. It was the same room we stayed in last year. It looked a lot different this time around as they had been renovating, there were even new bathrooms fitted!

20170301_165612-2

Skiddaw

As customary we were offered tea, coffee and cake in the guest lounge and spent a good half hour catching up with Phil and Helen. David enjoyed the homemade lemon cake by Helen and we even perused the many books on walks, photography and cooking on the book shelf. The guest lounge has everything you need, comfy sofas, a warming wood burning stove and even board games.

Our room was comfortable and warm. The view from the window of the Skiddaw mountain range showed the peaks in their winter garb. The room was freshly painted with luxurious feature wallpaper, new bedroom furniture, art deco bedside lamps and USB plug sockets (very handy for charging phones)! There was a fresh new carpet smell every-time we entered the room.

20170301_165638-2

View from Skiddaw room

The bathrooms were lovely! Double headed showers and the wall tiles were just gorgeous! We did not want for nothing! There was complimentary coffee/tea, hot chocolate and a kettle in the room, along with a fridge in the hall with fresh milk, much better than that UHT stuff!

middle-ruddings-country

Middle Ruddings Inn and Restaurant

We booked ahead for our evening meal at Middle Ruddings, just 5 minutes walk down the road from Hermiston. The family run hotel and restaurant gets very busy with locals and is dog friendly too. David and I had a table booked for 6pm!

The service was informal, we were offered homemade bread while we waited for our meal. David took the bread with bits of bacon in it. We did not wait too long for our order, around 20 minutes. I liked the general knowledge cards at every table.

David ordered the Oven roast cod fillet and chorizo with a plate of homemade chips and vegetables. I chose the Vegetarian Casserole, which had haricot beans, chickpeas and tomatoes served with basmati rice and came with mash potato. The meal sounded nice, however it turned out to be quite bland. I had high hopes for this meal and was left feeling deflated, it tasted more of stock and basmati than anything else.

I was also gutted that the crumble pudding of the day was not apple or rhubarb, it was banoffee. We paid the bill and returned for a hot shower and relax at Hermiston. We went to bed early, ready for a long day of walking ahead.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x