A Year in Film: August 2020

I have a confession to make, the first movie on this list of films watched in August, was actually watched on the last day of July! Oops! However the number of films seem to be increasing as the year progresses. Some 20 films were watched in August, a new record! If you have seen any of the below films, let me know what you thought of them.

The Old Guard ✩✩✩

A group of mercenaries, all centuries-old immortals with the ability to heal themselves, discover someone is onto their secret, and they must fight to protect their freedom.

I surprisingly enjoyed this graphic novel adaptation of immortal warriors fighting for good. I thought Charlize Theron was fantastic in her portrayal as Andy/Andromache. I look forward to the sequel.

Happy Death day 2U ✩✩✩

Tree Gelbman wakes up in horror to learn that she’s stuck in a parallel universe. Her boyfriend Carter is now with someone else, and her friends and fellow students seem to be completely different versions of themselves. When Tree discovers that Carter’s roommate has been altering time, she finds herself once again the target of a masked killer. When the psychopath starts to go after her inner circle, Tree soon realizes that she must die over and over again to save everyone.

I preferred this sequel to the original. I liked the fact that the groundhog day-esque film had a reason for why the loop was happening. Good fun!

Please Stand By ✩✩

Wendy sees things differently: she’s fiercely independent, with a brilliant mind and a mischievous sense of hilarity. Wendy also has autism. To her, people are an indecipherable code and the world is a confusing place. Inspired by her no-nonsense caregiver, Wendy comes of age and escapes from her care home on the road trip of a lifetime to deliver her 500-page script to a screenwriting competition.

One of those pull at the heartstrings kind of films. Dakota Fanning plays an autistic woman who travels by public transport to hand deliver her script for a competition. Quite enjoyable.

Naked ✩✩

Rob Anderson is all set to marry the girl of his dreams, but can’t quite get to the altar. He finds himself caught in a time loop, waking up naked in a hotel elevator over and over again.

Continuing with the groundhog day theme, an easy to watch comedy with some laugh out loud moments.

Masterminds ✩✩✩

When David Ghanatt is convinced by his work crush, Kelly Campbell and her accomplices to join in a far-fetched plan to rob a bank vault, David soon throws everything on the line for love, money, and a life of excitement.

Another comedy supposedly based on true events. The moral to the story is beware of who you become friends with!

7500 ✩✩✩

Tobias Ellis starts his shift as a co-pilot and everything seems normal, but things quickly take a turn when terrorists storm the cockpit of his Airbus A319, and hijack the plane.

I enjoyed this film more than David did. I felt empathy for the pilot and enjoyed the tension throughout.

The Majestic ✩✩✩

Peter Appleton, a scriptwriter suspected of being a communist, meets with an accident that makes him lose his memory and live with a different identity.

A case of mistaken identity ultimately helps a town heal from its losses after the Second World War, with Jim Carrey in a a more mature role.

Life of Crime ✩✩

A corrupt real estate developer refuses to pay ransom to two amateur criminals for the release of his kidnapped wife. Confounded, they try to find different ways to deal with the unusual situation.

It pays to learn about your target before kidnapping them in this crime/comedy drama. It was a miss from me however.

Thanks for Sharing ✩

A recovering sex addict (Mark Ruffalo) tries not to fall off the wagon as he woos a new girlfriend (Gwyneth Paltrow) who feels the need to express her rampant sexuality.

Thought this was an awful film, I really couldn’t warm to any of the characters. I was glad when the end credits rolled.

Knowing ✩✩✩✩✩

A teacher chances upon an encrypted code in a time capsule that makes him believe he can alter the chain of events that are about to unfold.

I love this film! There is just enough mystery, threat and menace to keep you on the edge of your seat with a powerful ending. It could happen!

The Mist ✩✩✩✩

David and his son are trapped in a supermarket along with some other townsfolk, when suddenly a mist engulfs the entire city, bringing along bloodthirsty creatures that devour anyone in their path.

Felt like watching end of the world films hence Knowing and War of the Worlds! The Mist has a heartbreaking ending and the monsters are really good graphically for the age of the film. A good watch.

War of the Worlds ✩✩✩✩

Ray Ferrier, a dockworker, is ready to spend a weekend together with his children. However, an alien tripod descends on Earth threatening to wipe out humanity.

When I first watched this 2005 Tom Cruise film I didn’t really like it, but on second watching I’ve developed an appreciation of it. I still love the tripods though.

The Day the Earth Stood Still ✩✩✩✩

An alien lands and tells the people of Earth that they must live peacefully or be destroyed as a danger to other planets.

This is the original 1951 version and was an enjoyable watch. It was a film of it’s time, during the Cold War, and had a peace not war message. A surprisingly good film.

Interstate 60 ✩✩✩

Neal Oliver, a young artist travelling on the mysterious highway 60, meets a half-leprechaun who grants him one wish, but has a wickedly funny way of fulfilling them literally.

A film David enjoyed more so than I did. Be careful what you wish for is the morale to this story and with a star studded cast I wanted to enjoy it more than I did.

The Invasion ✩✩

A psychiatrist finds out about an epidemic that changes human behaviour. She also discovers that her son might be the key to preventing this deadly epidemic.

We were looking at body snatcher films and saw this modern version from 2007 with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. It wasn’t a bad thriller.

Trainwreck ✩✩

A young magazine writer is made to believe that relationships and marriages hold no value. However, a chance meeting with a sports doctor forces her to rethink her principles.

I quite enjoyed these two comedy films by Amy Schumer. Trainwreck was a heartwarming romance whereas I Feel Pretty was a film empowering women of all shapes and sizes.

I Feel Pretty ✩✩✩

An ordinary woman who struggles with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy on a daily basis wakes from a fall believing she is suddenly the most beautiful and capable woman on the planet. With this newfound confidence, she is empowered to live her life fearlessly and flawlessly, but what will happen when she realizes her appearance never changed?

Deuce Bigalow ✩✩

Deuce Bigalow, an aquarium cleaner, is forced to become a male prostitute in order to repay the man whose house he wrecks while he is babysitting his pet fish.

I think I laughed more at the trailer than the actual film! Silly fun with Rob Schneider.

The War With Grandpa ✩✩✩

Peter and his grandpa used to be very close, but when Grandpa Jack moves in with the family, Peter is forced to give up his most prized possession: his bedroom. Peter will stop at nothing to get his room back, scheming with friends to devise a series of pranks to drive him out. However, grandpa doesn’t give up easily, and it turns into an all-out war between the two.

Another comedy from Robert De Niro and one I enjoyed. The rivalry between grandpa and grandson had hilarious consequences. A good watch for all the family.

Frozen ✩✩

Three snowboarders are stranded on a chairlift while riding up Mount Holliston. When the night lights suddenly go off, they either need to find their way down or freeze to death.

Not the Disney Frozen but a 2010 release where three skiers get stranded on a chairlift and a life or death fight ensues. Watchable.

Filmplakat_Tesla_A1_2mm.indd

Tesla

Tesla ✩✩

Visionary inventor Nikola Tesla fights an uphill battle to bring his revolutionary electrical system to fruition, then faces thornier challenges with his new system for worldwide wireless energy.

A hero of mine really deserves a better film than this, however Ethan Hawke didn’t do too bad a job portraying the Croatian visionary. David was disappointed at the lack of pigeons!

Have you seen any films recently that you have enjoyed or disliked? Any recommendations?

Thanks for reading!

Christine x

Batty for Bats

Seven years ago David and I began work on creating a wildlife yarden. We focused on attracting as much wildlife to an inner city walled yard as we could.

garden

Yarden

Bird feeders were the first and easiest addition to the yarden and during late summer/early autumn the feeders are usually awash with different coloured wings and bird calls. From chattering charms of goldfinches and the happy chirruping of sparrows to boisterous gangs of starlings. The odd blue tit is seen nervously snatching away a sunflower heart as well as two delicate greenfinches who’ve visited among with the goldfinches. All this activity has caught the eye of several sparrowhawks whose presence in the yarden is a wondrous sight to behold.

About three years ago we put in a wash bowl pond. It’s in a sheltered spot so we don’t have dragonflies or damsels visiting but we did have a little frog for a short while.

Over the years we have planted shrubs and herbs which flower at different times of the year to attract insects. We even have the odd sapling tree, with a hawthorn being my pride and joy!

Trying to increase the insect population means that other predators will hopefully move in. Imagine my excitement and surprise when I discovered that a bat frequents the area!

I know nothing about bats so here’s a few facts on them:

  • There are 18 species of UK bat, with 17 breeding here
  • They all eat insects and are a natural pest control for e.g. mosquitoes
  • A pipistrelle can eat up to 3000 insects a night
  • They use echolocation to find food
  • They are indicators of biodiversity
  • They pollinate and spread seeds
  • Like the dormouse and hedgehog they hibernate
  • The mating season is from September and females give birth to one pup around June in maternity roosts
  • Cats and birds of prey are their main predators
  • They are the only mammal that can fly

I wonder what type of bat is visiting? It could be the most common bat in the UK, called a common pipistrelle. I’d need a bat detector to discover the identity of our new visitor, perhaps I’ll add one to my birthday/Christmas wish list. :p

Have you got bats visiting your garden? What is your favourite bat?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

The Oak Tree Experiment – Update

acorns

Acorns

Two years ago I wrote about collecting acorns on my walk to work and then returning home and planting them in the hope they would grow into oak trees. You can read that post here.

Since writing that first post, I had given up hope and forgotten about the little acorns I had planted. Notice my surprise whilst releasing the second batch of painted lady butterflies from Insect Lore, I glanced into a pot and noticed what looked to me like oak leaves. I asked David for confirmation and he agreed.

oak tree

Baby Oak Tree

I was stunned and overjoyed. We have our very own little oak tree! It may have taken two years but we have success!

Have you successfully grew a tree from its seed?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Fun in the Sun – flowers

Recently I’ve been in a bit of a slump with regards to my writing. However, last weekend we visited a local sunflower maze and I thought it would be a nice post to write about. Sorry it’s taken me a while to get around to writing it.

The knowledge of this sunflower maze came to me rather late. I saw pictures my cousin had taken and I quickly Googled where it was. It was at a farm in Tarbock, Prescot, some 25 minutes drive from us. The only problem was, that I was so late to the party that it was difficult in getting a time and date for a booking, but I persevered and managed to get an early morning slot on the very last day of opening.

In April some 35,000 sunflower seeds in the initials of the NHS were planted by a farmer, who also planted a sunflower maze. Sunflowers are a symbol of happiness and since Covid-19, happiness has been in short supply.

The day we visited was a gloomy overcast morning, luckily we had missed the rain. David and I, along with my mum and David’s parents all spent a joyful 45 minutes walking along the maze of mostly gone to seed sunflowers, but with the occasional late bloomer standing proud and golden. Along the path were bee related questions. If you answered wrongly you took a dead-end turn. All eyes were on me! I know a bit about bee ID but not that they have two pairs of wings and have five eyes. Well in reality two eyes the other three are ‘simple’ eyes that detect light. However we managed to navigate the maze as a team and much laughter was had. It was a nice way to pass an hour.

Have you been to a sunflower maze? Or any kind of maze?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Film: July 2020

The list of films watched in July has equaled June’s tally of 16 films! Though its certainly been a mixed bag of movies! Let me know if you have watched any good films recently?

Extraction ✩✩✩

A black-market mercenary who has nothing to lose is hired to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord. But in the murky underworld of weapons dealers and drug traffickers, an already deadly mission approaches the impossible.

This wasn’t a bad film. Lots of action and suspense. I partcularily liked the on screen relationship between Chris Hemsworth and young actor Rudhraksh Jaiswal who plays the boy Hemsworth is fighting to save.

Advent Children ✩✩

An ex-mercenary is forced out of isolation when three mysterious men kidnap and brainwash the city’s children afflicted with the Geostigma disease.

I only really wanted to watch this again due to recently playing the PlayStation game, Final Fantasy VII Remake. It was nice to see the beloved characters fighting the bad guys (again), but there wasn’t much of a story.

Greyhound ✩✩✩

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Ernest Krause is assigned to lead an Allied convoy across the Atlantic during World War II. His convoy, however, is pursued by German U-boats. Although this is Krause’s first wartime mission, he finds himself embroiled in what would come to be known as the longest, largest and most complex naval battle in history: The Battle of the Atlantic.

If you like your World War Two films, then you will like Greyhound, with its moments of tension and threat. It is quite amazing how anything got through the North Atlantic with German U-boats on the prowl.

The Wrong Missy ✩✩✩

Disaster strikes when a man invites his dream girl to an island resort — but a previous blind date shows up instead.

I laughed at this film more than I expected. A comedy with no pretensions. Lauren Lapkus was hilarious as the bat-crazy Missy!

Stuber ✩✩✩

A quick-tempered cop who’s recovering from eye surgery recruits a mild-mannered Uber driver to help him catch the heroin dealer who murdered his partner. The mismatched pair soon find themselves in for a wild day of stakeouts and shootouts as they pursue violent criminals through the seedy streets of Los Angeles.

Another comedy I enjoyed, more silly fun to switch off too.

Amundsen ✩✩

Roald Amundsen was the first researcher to reach both the North and South Poles. The British explorer Robert Scott was hot on his heels on the trip to the South Pole 1910-1911. The discoverers were in a bitter competition with each other. Amundsen’s expeditions were largely organised and financed by his brother Leon. However, there was constant conflict and conflict between the two.

I wished this film had been better than it was. Amundsen sure was a man who continued to explore until his death. Inspiring story but a rather lackluster way of telling it.

National Treasure ✩✩✩

Benjamin Franklin Gates seeks a war chest hidden by the Founding Fathers during the Revolutionary War. He must find it before his competitor does and also avoid getting arrested by the FBI.

One of Nicolas Cage’s better films, full of action and adventure. Another movie to switch off to at the end of the day.

National Treasure 2 ✩✩✩

Ben finds that his ancestor was implicated in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, a president of the USA. Through the help of a clue in a diary, he ventures out to clear the name of his ancestor.

Perhaps not as good as the first movie in the franchise, but an enjoyable romp as Cage follows a trail to the legendary City of Gold.

A Street Cat Named Bob ✩✩✩

A stray ginger cat changes the life of James Bowen (Luke Treadaway), a homeless London street musician and recovering drug addict.

Knowing that poor Bob had recently passed away, I thought that we’d give the film based on his origin a watch. I really enjoyed the portrayal of struggling man meets cat whose presence actually helps save his life. A heart-warming tale of redemption and how animals can offer solace in the darkest of times.

Fight Club ✩✩✩

Discontented with his capitalistic lifestyle, a white-collared insomniac forms an underground fight club with Tyler, a careless soap salesman. The project soon spirals down into something sinister.

I’d seen many references to Fight Club in popular culture but never actually watched it. Rather bizarre in parts, I think it was a well made foray into the instability of mental health.

Hotel Mumbai✩✩✩✩

A hotel staff risks everything to keep its patrons safe during a terror attack, especially a British heiress, her husband and her infant.

I really enjoyed this film! It was full of edge of the seat tension and being based on true events made it all that more poignant.

Old Dogs ✩✩

Two best friends and business partners on the brink of finalising a huge deal are forced to take care of seven-year-old twins and get into a series of misadventures.

Not the best film of either Robin Williams or John Travolta. It tries too hard to be funny when its not!

Faster ✩✩

After serving a ten-year sentence, Driver sets out to avenge his brother’s murder while being pursued by a police officer and an assassin.

A rather forgettable film by Dwayne Johnson. That memorable neither David nor I could remember the plot.

Night at the museum ✩✩✩

Larry, a night security guard at the Museum of Natural History, gets some help from the exhibits who come alive at night to foil a robbery attempt of a magic tablet and proves that he is not a loser.

A staple family feel-good movie, always good no matter how many times you watch it.

Vacation ✩✩✩

Rusty Griswold plans a cross-country road trip with his wife and two sons in a bid to revive the lost ties between them. However, their trip turns into a series of mishaps for the family.

A sequel to the National Lampoon films, and if you like the humour of the first films then you’ll enjoy Vacation. David really enjoyed this film, more so than I did.

Corporate Animals ✩

An egotistical megalomaniac CEO leads her staff on a corporate team-building trip that involves a weekend of caving in New Mexico. When they become trapped underground after a cave-in, the group must pull together to survive.

Another comedy that tries too hard to be funny and ends up being the antithesis. Sadly a waste of an hour and a half.

Have you seen any films recently that you have enjoyed or disliked? Any recommendations?

Thanks for reading!

Christine x

Mud, Sweat and Tears

We’ve just come back from a short weekend break to the Lake District for David’s birthday. It was a mixed bag of experiences over the course of three days, here’s what we got up to.

blencathra

Blencathra

Day One:
Realisation dawned on me that the Lakes at present are swollen with people who would normally vacate abroad but due to Covid restrictions are staying closer to home. I’d planned on a few wild swims during our stay-cation and chose areas of Lakeland which were a bit less popular. Our destination for the day was Tewet Tarn which boasted wondrous views of Blencathra and Skiddaw.

All through the wet journey north I had worried about parking as Tewet Tarn is situated between Castlerigg and St John’s in the Vale, with limited off road parking. Our wonderful hosts Phil and Helen from Hermiston Guest House in Braithwaite, sent us a detailed map of accessible parking which we found with relative ease.

The walk to Tewet Tarn took 10 minutes from roadside parking. On arrival we discovered there was little in the way of good access points into the water. We tried to walk around the tarn but the land soon became marshy. We back tracked and made camp on a small section of shore. The swim in Tewet Tarn set the tone for the rest of the weekend. The tarn was shallow and murky. It wasn’t a pleasant swim but at least I can add the tarn to my swim map.

We were not at Tewet Tarn long, about an hour I’d say. With still two hours before check-in we looked for somewhere else to spend the time. At first we were going to head into a busy Keswick and look for new walking boots as mine are split, but in a change of heart, we headed towards a Wildlife Trusts’ nature reserve Eycott Hill near Berrier. We spent a leisurely hour walking the path past wildflower meadows and mossy wetlands towards Eycott Hill viewpoint. Bird life was quiet but we did see some butterflies.

A note on our guest house and Covid-19 safety guidelines: our hosts were very informative as to what changes had been made. On arrival guests could wear face masks and were informed of the hygiene procedures. On entrance guests were asked to use gel to clean their hands. There was also gel to be used before entering the breakfast room of a morning where staggered breakfast times had been implemented. There was also a one way system for guests leaving during breakfast times to adhere to social distancing rules. We felt safe during our stay and guests respected each other.

walk

Rosthwaite Round Walk

Day Two:
The day started with promise, we drove the 20 minutes to Rosthwaite and paid £7.50 for all day parking in the National Trust car park there. Our destination was Dock Tarn via Watendlath. I had hoped to have found a walk similar to Alcock Tarn in Grasmere, however the walk from Rosthwaite to Watendlath took us one and a half hours with another hours walk to Dock Tarn. Sunshine and showers dogged us all through our walk. The path towards Dock Tarn was treacherous under foot, with slippery, mud chocked stones. During the hours walk I slipped about four times, once landing painfully on my hip. I sat and cried, through shock more than anything. It wasn’t a great day!

dock tarn

Dock Tarn

By the time we got to the tarn we were soaked in mud, sweat and tears!

Much like Tewet Tarn there wasn’t good access to the water. There was only one small beach not big enough to put my picnic blanket down, so I got changed standing up, which was a balancing act! Dock Tarn looked picturesque covered in water lilies but there wasn’t much water that wasn’t covered in lilies or reeds. Sadly, once again the swim was disappointing. The tarn was shallow and swimming through lilies and reeds made me feel queasy. Their stems wrapped around Wilson (underwater camera), that I have attached to my torso, which stopped me swimming. It was pretty scary actually. Luckily I was just floating over the silty bed so I could stand and get out of the water pretty easily. It wasn’t a pleasant swim so I cut it short after 10 minutes. The whole swim/walk seemed a wasted day and I hardly took any photos of my swim.

dock tarn 2

Dock Tarn Swim

We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then decided to complete the whole walk and continued en route down through an ancient oak forest called Lingy End, gingerly slipping over a steep pitched path which took another two hours to traverse. When we did eventually get back to the car the showers stopped and the sun came out. Dock Tarn isn’t a swim I would suggest to other wild swimmers.

map

Blea Water Walk

Day Three:
I wasn’t sure we would get parking at Mardale Head car park, Haweswater as we left the guest house after 9am. The journey from Braithwaite is about an hour, along narrow, hair-raising roads. We got to the car park at 10am and luckily there were a few parking spaces left. We hiked our heavy rucksacks up a path for a further hour towards our destination for the day, Blea Water.

blea Water

Blea Water

Blea Water is the Lake District’s deepest tarn at 63 metres. It is a glacial corrie, and was also known as Bley Water from Old Norse meaning dark blue. The path to Blea Water at first wasn’t too bad but as the path disappeared into marshy sphagnum our already wet boots were soaked in mud again. The walk wasn’t as bad as the previous days struggle to Dock Tarn and we got to the steep sides of Blea Water with no drama. There is little in the way of shore-line at Blea Water but by the dammed east end, we found a little shingle beach where we could set up camp and I could access the water from.

blea water swim

Blea Water Swim

Blea Water was the best swim of the weekend! I actually got in a decent 20+ minute swim, in water that wasn’t too cold. I enjoyed floating on my back while looking up at the ridge line. Even David managed to give Buzz, our new drone a little stretch of his blades. Though our camp wasn’t far from the path we were not bothered by walkers. Overall it was a positive swim and I am glad we took the walk there.

So there you have our exploits over the past weekend. Video of swims to follow.

Have you been to any of the tarns mentioned above? What is your favourite body of water?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

A Small Miracle

Mid May I ordered five painted lady caterpillars from Insect Lore, hoping to have them by the end of this years 30 Days Wild. They were dispatched min June and I waited anxiously for them to arrive. The first week passed with no caterpillars, then a second week passed. 30 Days Wild ended with no caterpillars in sight. I complained to Insect Lore customer services and they said that post in my area had been extra slow, but that they would kindly dispatch some more caterpillars.

butterfly2After a full three weeks since the caterpillars were dispatched, they finally arrived!

I was a little weary of opening the packaging, frightened of what to find! Would I find dead caterpillars? On opening the package and taking out the pot where the caterpillars feast on some unidentified brown goo. I found a mess! Among the excess food source, caterpillar poo and fras (a fine web caterpillars weave when they feel threatened) I discovered five chrysalises. Not hopeful they were alive I extracted them from their filth and placed the chrysalises inside the mesh habitat I kept from last years batch and left them.

A week later while David was in the study working from home, he called me in saying that one chrysalis was alive. It had been vibrating. I was overjoyed! At least one was alive!

Some half an hour later David called me in again and said I had a butterfly! It had burst out of its chrysalis and we watched as it pumped up its wings. It was a wondrous sight to see. I hadn’t had much hope for these beautiful souls.

Several hours later I discovered that another chrysalis had burst and a new butterfly had emerged. I had two butterflies!

I still had three chrysalises and two were quite small so I had little hope for them. But come the next morning we found that all chrysalises had emptied and I had five painted lady butterflies! What a miracle! After spending three weeks in a dark box, sitting in a Royal Mail post room, they had overcome the odds to become beautiful butterflies!

Last weekend I released them.

Four flew away, however one wanted to stay an extra day. So after watching the butterfly sit lethargically in the garden, David and I popped him back into the habitat with sugar water and flowers and planned on releasing him the next day.

The butterfly seemed much livelier on the second release day and enjoyed the flowers on the salvia. We left him enjoying the flowers and on returning to the garden, he was nowhere to be seen. I hope he managed to fly off and begin his adult life.

What a wonderful story of life fighting against the odds!

But my caterpillar story for this year isn’t over yet as on the day before I released the butterflies from the first batch, the new set of caterpillars arrived. Only a week late! On opening this package I am happy to report five caterpillars looking a little stunned. It took them a while to begin moving but in the few days since their arrival they doubled in size.

Since then they have already become chrysalises.

So I had caterpillars for a few days at least. I wonder if they will all develop into painted lady butterflies? I’ll let you know!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Books 2020 – April to June

the-year-in-books

A Year in Books

Since the end of June I’ve been in a bit of a slump regarding this post. I’ve just had no inclination to write it. Do any of my fellow bloggers ever feel that way? Anyway, better late than never! My reading in April started well due to lockdown but slowed as the summer months progressed. I’m bogged down at present with Catherine Taylor’s Beyond the Moon, I just don’t care for the characters or narrative. Have you ever read a book that you struggled with?

Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult  ✩✩✩

When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.

What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

Small Great Things is about prejudice and power; it is about that which divides and unites us.

Quite a hard book to get into at the beginning but once the story warmed up I grew to enjoy it. There were some parts regarding racism that were not easy to read but the court case was entertaining enough.

Silver Bay – Jojo Moyes  ✩✩✩

Liza McCullen will never escape her past. But the unspoilt beaches and tight-knit community of Silver Bay offer the freedom and safety she craves – if not for herself, then for her young daughter, Hannah.

Until Mike Dormer arrives as a guest in her aunt’s hotel, and the peace of Silver Bay is shattered. The mild-mannered Englishman with his too-smart clothes and disturbing eyes could destroy everything Liza has worked so hard to protect: not only the family business and the bay that harbours her beloved whales, but also her conviction that she will never love – never deserve to love – again.

This Jojo Moyes novel is definitely a book to read on a hot summers day. The characters were likable and I enjoyed the descriptions of dolphin and whale watching. With a heart warming ending, it made for a pleasant read.

The Five – Hallie Rubenhold  ✩✩✩

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.

What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888.

Their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become far more famous than any of these five women.

Now, historian Hallie Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, and gives these women back their stories.

Ever since I was young I’ve always loved anything to do with the mystery that was Jack the Ripper. This book is trying to give voice to his victims. Some of the information gathered is vague but what a revelation regarding Annie Chapman, who was a well do woman who sadly became down and out and faced her end at the sharp edge of a knife. A very thought provoking book.

Swimming Wild in the Lake District – Suzanna Cruikshank  ✩✩✩✩

An informative and inspiring book for both new and experienced wild swimmers, exploring the larger lakes in the beautiful Lake District National Park. It contains sections on getting started in wild swimming, how to look after your own safety and impartial advice on all the essential kit you’ll need.

Illustrated with stunning photography, and featuring overview maps, the book has all the practical information you need to plan your wild swimming adventure.

Whether you’re an experienced wild swimmer or just dipping your toes in the water for the first time you’ll find plenty to inspire your next adventure.

This book came out at exactly the right time. During lockdown I’d been itching for a wild swim fix and this book helped relieve that itch somewhat. With detailed chapters on access to all of the big lakes in the Lake District, there were only two in the book that I hadn’t visited. The information from this book helped me plan my first swim of 2020 in Coniston Water.

Reader, I Married Me! – Sophie Tanner  ✩✩

After breaking up with the love of her life, Chloe’s friends tell her she needs to get back out there, and find another man before it’s too late. But after a particularly disastrous date and one too many gins, Chloe has a revelation – she doesn’t need a man to make her happy. It’s up to her to do it herself.

Never one to do things by halves, Chloe decides to make the ultimate commitment to self-love – she’ll marry herself! But planning a solo wedding isn’t easy, and soon Chloe finds herself on a bumpy journey of self-discovery. Will she finally get her happy ever after?

Oh dear, this isn’t my kind of book and I don’t know why I even downloaded it! Looking for something to read during lockdown, I saw an advertisement for the book and well, I’m glad I managed to get through it. There were just too many stereotypes for my liking.

Max, the miracle Dog – Kerry Irving ✩✩✩✩

In 2006, a traumatic car accident changed Kerry Irving’s life forever.
 
Suffering from severe neck and back injuries, Kerry was unemployed and housebound, struggling with depression and even thoughts of suicide. He went from cycling over 600 miles a month to becoming a prisoner in his own home.
 
With hope all but lost, Kerry’s wife encouraged him to go on a short walk to the local shop. In the face of unbearable pain and overwhelming panic, he persevered and along the way, met an adorable yard dog named Max. As the Spaniel peered up through the railings, Kerry found comfort and encouragement in his soulful brown eyes. This chance encounter marked a turning point in both their lives.
 
In Max, Kerry found comfort and motivation and in Kerry, Max found someone to care for him. This is their remarkable, inspiring story.

A lovely heart warming read about a dog rescuing a man. Max and Kerry, with Paddy and Harry in tow have a strong following on their Facebook page, Max out in the Lake District.

The Botanist’s Daughter – Kayte Nunn ✩✩✩✩

Present day: Anna is focused on renovating her late grandmother’s house. But when she discovers a box hidden in a wall cavity, containing water colours of exotic plants, an old diary and a handful of seeds, she finds herself thrust into a centuries-old mystery. One that will send her halfway across the world in search of the truth.

1886: Elizabeth Trebithick is determined to fulfill her father’s dying wish and continue his life’s work as an adventurer and plant-hunter. So when she embarks on a perilous journey to discover a rare and miraculous flower, she will discover that the ultimate betrayal can be found even across the seas…

Two women, separated by centuries. Can one mysterious flower bring them together?

I really enjoyed this book and will look out for more novels by Kayte Nunn. Both female protagonists were likable and the adventure to Chile was exciting. Nunn managed to weave an entertaining narrative with a sad and shocking end.

Holding – Graham Norton ✩✩

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother of two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste. So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel.

I’m sorry but I didn’t like this sedate bumbling novel by Graham Norton. I found the narrative rather boring and didn’t care what happened to the characters.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

Overdue…

My last wild swim was in October 2019 when I swam in Glaslyn and Llyn Llydaw, below a foreboding Snowdon.

I so wanted to extend my swim season but I never got to Coniston, The Lake District on New Years Day as planned!

As winter waned I tried paddling in Grasmere with Riley but secretly wished I had brought my swimsuit.

grasmere (2)

Riley at Grasmere

Trying to cling onto some vestige of normality during the madness surrounding Covid-19, David and I, took a day trip to Snowdonia, in the hope I would get in a swim. However on that March day, it was too windy to swim. I’ve found that wind is a swimmers’ bane. Well it’s mine at least! So I had to make do with pictures of Llyn Padarn and Llyn Gwynant. I aim to go back to these llyns by the end of the year!

Then lockdown happened.

At first it was ok, I enjoyed going on daily walks with Riley but as the weeks progressed, I grew restless for adventure, and my desire to wild swim increased.

Since lockdown has been relaxed I’ve made plans to head towards Coniston on several occasions. However the weather forecast hasn’t been favourable. High winds and squally weather isn’t the optimum for me, so I’ve waited and waited.

That was until Sunday 12th July 2020.

With favourable weather forecast, David and I got up readily at 6am to head towards our planned excursion of the day, Coniston Water. Suzanna Cruickshank’s book Swimming Wild in the Lake District, suggested Brown Howe car park had easy access to the water, so we headed there. We drove an uneventful two hours from Liverpool to Coniston. On arrival we were very lucky as we got the last remaining parking space at 9am!

In these strange Corona times, paying for parking has got more or less easier, (depends if you enjoyed using cash for parking). We paid via contactless but we still had to touch the keypad for plus, so many hours! There were however lots of antibacterial foam sprays around the car park and toilets for cleansing.

With parking paid for all day, at £5.50 we relaxed and gathered our gear. The walk to Coniston Water’s shoreline was just a five minute saunter, although at 9am the shoreline was busy, busy, busy, with families enjoying the water. There were people swimming, paddle boarding, hopping into canoes or just sitting in inflatables. It was all a little overwhelming actually! We are not used to so much people traffic! We walked a few paces before we found a suitable shingle beach, though it was occupied by a family. I was adamant to swim in Coniston Water, it’s the only large lake I’ve not swam in, so I decided to ask if we could join them. They were welcoming and we set up camp next to them.

I prefer my swims to be less cluttered with humanity but Coniston Water was awash with people that I really couldn’t avoid them. We did all respect each others space and social distancing was in evidence. There was not a cough or a sneeze to be heard and I quickly took to the water for a fifteen minute swim. My first of 2020! Finally, I’ve got into the water!

coniston water

Coniston Water

The shallows around Brown Howe are not very deep and I never swam out of my comfort zone. Coniston Water will never be my favourite swim but I am grateful to be able to tick it off my swim map!

Once dry and changed into another swimsuit, David and I headed towards Beacon Tarn, which was an hours walk from Brown Howe. We puffed and panted on a not so very steep path through Blawith Common. Quarantine has effected our fitness. We are so out of condition! Have you felt that way too? Keeping us entertained on our walk were fritillary and skipper butterflies which bobbed about the ferns, too quick for me to take a picture though. It didn’t take long for the vista to open up, Dow Crag and Coniston Old Man to the west and Coniston Water to the east. It was so nice to be back in the fells!

On arrival at Beacon Tarn there were a few campers and naturists!! It was hard to avert our eyes! David found a wonderful spot for me to enter the water and we quickly made base. I faffed about getting ready with a mean wind from the south. The water was colder than Coniston but after getting into the water I soon warmed up and had a most peaceful swim. Though there were a few people about, it was much quieter than Coniston and we all respected the serenity of the area.

From where I swam the shore shelved sharply and you got swimming quickly but visibility in the water was poor. I had a wonderful fifteen minutes swim with pipits bobbing over the water and azure damselflies zipping about the shoreline. The sun peaked out from behind a cloud every now and again which made getting dry much easier.

We picnicked while other people took to the waters before we made our way back towards Brown Howe car park.

I am so relieved to be back swimming. Have you missed doing an activity due to covid?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Film: June 2020

I can’t believe that David and I have watched 16 films in June! That’s a record in this A Year in Film series! Perhaps not having Final Fantasy VII Remake to play has impacted on the number of films watched? I have completed the game platinum style and now eagerly awaiting when the next installment will be, (I won’t hold my breath). I have to say when I finished the game I was a little sad as it was only a fraction of the original story. Though David has been playing his GTA5, we’ve still had many evenings free, hence the high film count, however some films were better than others.

What films have you seen this month?

Alien ✩✩✩

The crew of a spacecraft, Nostromo, intercept a distress signal from a planet and set out to investigate it. However, to their horror, they are attacked by an alien which later invades their ship.

As a creature of horror, the alien is my all time favourite design, facehuggers included. Though made in 1979 the claustrophobic tension on the Nostromo, of its crew awaiting the appearance of a certain alien, makes this film just as watchable today as it was when it was released. Somehow I had only seen clips of this movie. There are many parallels with this film and the more recent offering of Prometheus which is a prequel to the Alien films.

Aliens ✩✩✩

Ellen Ripley is sent back to the planet LV-426 to establish contact with a terraforming colony. Once there, she encounters the Alien Queen and her offspring and has to fight them to survive.

A much more shoot ’em up, action film in relation to its predecessor, Alien. However at two and a half hours long, it felt never ending. A decent venture into the realm of the alien though.

Dawn of the Dead ✩✩✩

Survivors of an epidemic which causes the infected to turn into flesh-eating zombies take refuge in a shopping mall. In addition to battling the undead, they also have to tackle problems from within.

One of the better zombie films made, and one that can be watched time and time again. I’d recommend a watch if you like gore.

Birdman ✩✩✩

Riggan Thomson, a fading cinema superhero, plans to resurrect his career with a passionate Broadway production. However, during rehearsals, his co-star is injured forcing him to hire a new actor.

I’d heard this film being talked about during awards season but hadn’t got round to watching it until now. The film is presented in a continuous shot and is done relatively well. The cast, starring Michael Keaton and Edward Norton are the best things about the movie!

Fences ✩✩

Troy, an African-American man who once longed to be a baseball player, misses the opportunity due to racism. A dejected man, he takes out his frustration on his loved ones and ruins his son’s future.

I had an adverse reaction to Denzel Washington’s character in this film. Yes, the man was disillusioned with life but I found it heinous that he scuppered the future of his son and then expected his wife to clean up after his misdemeanors. Wasn’t my favourite film of Washington.

Train to Busan ✩✩✩✩

Seok-woo and his daughter are on a train to Busan on the latter’s birthday to see his wife. However, the journey turns into a nightmare when they are trapped amidst a zombie outbreak in South Korea.

I love this film! It’s one of the best zombie, apocalypse films I’ve seen. Even seeing it a few times, it never gets tired. What is your favourite zombie film?

Hereditary ✩✩

When the matriarch of the Graham family passes away, her daughter and grandchildren begin to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry, trying to outrun the sinister fate they have inherited.

I’d had this film recommended to me by a few people. So one afternoon when David was working from home and I was at a loss at what to do I decided to settle down and watch it. I was slightly disappointed with the film. Though there was tension laced throughout the two hours, I wasn’t freaked out or surprised by the ending.

Have you been disappointed in a film you hoped had been better?

White Noise ✩✩

An architect’s desire to speak with his wife from beyond the grave becomes an obsession with supernatural repercussions.

This 2005 supernatural film tries to be scary but has very few scares. Not one of the better scary movies made.

What’s your favouite scary movie?

In Time ✩✩✩

In a future where people stop aging at 25, but are engineered to live only one more year, having the means to buy your way out of the situation is a shot at immortal youth. Here, Will Salas finds himself accused of murder and on the run with a hostage – a connection that becomes an important part of the war against the system.

I remember watching this film when it came out in 2011. It shows a rather bleak world of the haves and have nots, with peoples’ time being currency and Timberlake’s character trying to upturn the establishment.

The Men Who Stare at Goats ✩✩✩

After his wife leaves him, Bob, a newspaper reporter, sets off to Kuwait to cover the ongoing war. He gets more than he bargains for when he meets Lyn Cassady, an ex-U.S. Army Special Forces operator.

A rather strange satire with Ewan McGreggor and George Clooney about the US military’s branching out into psychic abilities and the paranormal. I rather hoped it was a better film than it was.

RV ✩✩

Bob Munro and his dysfunctional family set out on a road trip to the Colorado Rockies. He decides to rent an RV for the vacation but things do not go as planned.

Stuck for something to watch, David clicked on this Robin Williams film from 2006. It was watchable but not of the usual calibre from Williams.

The Interview ✩✩

Dave Skylark and his producer Aaron Rapaport run the celebrity tabloid show “Skylark Tonight”. When they land an interview with a surprise fan, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, they are recruited by the CIA to assassinate him.

David follows an airline pilot on YouTube and this was a recommendation from him, thanks Kelsey!! The film stars Seth Rogan and James Franco and follows their OTT satire on US and North Korean politics.

The Contract ✩✩

A father and his son attempt to bring in an assassin to the authorities, but his dangerous associates have other plans.

Something different from Morgan Freeman who is a baddie in this film, however his onscreen presence doesn’t help with it’s rather pedestrian pace.

Creepshow 2 ✩

Based on the EC comics of the 1950s, George A.Romero and Stephen King bring 3 tales of terror to the screen.

Oh dear! David just can’t get past the 1980’s when it comes to films. It may have been good for the day but in 2020 it was piss poor!

Radioactive ✩✩✩

A story of the scientific and romantic passions of Marie Sklodowska-Curie (Polish scientist) and Pierre Curie, and the reverberation of their discoveries throughout the 20th century.

I really enjoyed this film on Marie and Pierre Curie’s discovery of radioactive elements Radium and Polonium and of their impact for good or bad on human history.

Hot Air ✩✩✩

The life of the conservative radio host Lionel Macomb is completely turned upside down when his 16-year-old niece Tess suddenly shows up. The teenager questions everything he stands for and what he believes in.

Steve Coogan is an American radio chat show host with strong beliefs but when his niece shows up unexpectedly, it makes him question his life. It wasn’t a bad watch.

Have you seen any films recently that you have enjoyed or disliked? Any recommendations?

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

Christine x