A Year in Books 2019 – January to March

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A Year in Books

Welcome to 2019’s A Year in Books. This is my third year following the initiative run by Laura at Circle of Pine Trees, and I have decided 40 books in a year is achievable for me.

A new year means a new batch of books to read. For the first quarter of 2019 I managed to read a total of eight books.

Here’s my reviews below.

Almanac – Lia Leendertz (January/February/March) ✩✩
I don’t know what I expected from this almanac but some of the content in Lia’s compilation just doesn’t inform me enough. I particularly like the history behind the naming of months, stellar events and information from a bee hive but I feel I want more than what I am reading. Do you know of any better almanacs?

The History of Mary Prince – Mary Prince ✩✩
I don’t even know how this book got on my Kindle! It’s a recount of the life of a slave Mary Prince, in the 1800’s. Some of the accounts of torture are difficult to read. Mary finally escaped her brutal enslavement and took up residence in England. She is the first woman to present an anti slavery petition to parliament.

Into the Water – Paula Hawkins ✩✩✩
From the author who gave us Girl on a Train. Into the Water is billed as yet another thriller but it felt more of a detective novel. Just days before her sister drowned, Jules ignored her call. Now Nel is dead, and Jules must return to her sister’s house to care for her daughter, and to face the mystery of Nel’s death. But Jules is afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of this small town that is drowning in secrecy. From the reviews on Amazon not many people enjoyed this book, but I enjoyed it even though it was hard to get a grip of all the characters (there were a lot of them!)

The Turn of Midnight – Minette Walters ✩✩✩
I quite enjoyed this book. I didn’t rate the first installment of Minette Walter’s historical plague novel but I found that the pace got better in this second book. Character development seemed more progressive and the novel concluded satisfactorily.

Three Things About Elsie – Joanna Cannon ✩✩✩✩
By far the best book I have read this quarter. I found some of the passages were written so profoundly! 84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, she considers the charming new resident who looks exactly like a man she once knew – a man who died sixty years ago. His arrival has stirred distant memories she and Elsie thought they’d laid to rest. Lying prone in the front room, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light … Even though I had second guessed the third thing about Elsie, the narrative and how the story slowly developed had me gripped. The final chapters left me aching with sadness. Have you read a book that left a lasting impression on you?

Still Me – JoJo Moyes ✩✩✩
The third and final installment of the Louisa Clark series. Louisa relocates to New York for a job as a Personal Assistant. During her time in the Big Apple she meets many colorful and zany people. However these people are what save her from disillusionment and a miscarriage of justice. At the end of Still Me, Louisa Clark finds her true self worth and ultimately, happiness. I think this was the second strongest novel of the trilogy after Me Before You. Have you read any of these books or anything by JoJo Moyes?

The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris ✩✩✩
I had read good reviews about this book so when I saw it in Asda, I decided to buy it. Though the novel is in third person narrative it is told from the viewpoint of a survivor of the Holocaust. In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a jack-the-lad, it was love at first sight. And he was determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure this woman, Gita, did, too. I found the writing style was easy to read but being third person I felt a lot of the descriptions of death were a little matter of fact, but perhaps living so close to extermination on a daily basis made you see death like that? The Tattooist saw a lot of the Nazi’s Final Solution, of the gas chambers and crematorium to the final destruction of records before the Russian’s arrived. In a time of death it was a story of determination and survival.

The Gap of Time – Jeanette Winterson ✩✩
A baby girl is abandoned, banished from London to the storm-ravaged American city of New Bohemia. Her father has been driven mad by jealousy, her mother to exile by grief. Seventeen years later, Perdita doesn’t know a lot about who she is or where she’s come from – but she’s about to find out. Jeanette Winterson’s cover version of The Winter’s Tale vibrates with echoes of Shakespeare’s original and tells a story of hearts broken and hearts healed, a story of revenge and forgiveness, a story that shows that whatever is lost shall be found. I found this modern retelling of one of Shakespeare’s later plays rather hard to digest. I felt the text rather crude and I cared little for the madness of Leo(ontes). The other characters seemed all rather ineffectual to the angst of Leo whose actions shouldn’t have been so easily forgiven. I had waited a few years to read this book. I really wish I hadn’t now.

I’ve felt this first quarter’s reading has been rather mediocre. Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

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Sunday Sevens #63

It’s Sunday again! Time for a quick Sunday Sevens (devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins.)

Earth Hour:
Last night I observed the annual Earth Hour by WWF. For the past seven years I have joined in this world wide movement by turning off my lights between 8.30pm and 9.30pm. Did you take part in the initiative?

Book I’m reading:
I’ve picked up Winter by Ali Smith. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

Flowers:
Inspired by the lovely Sharon from Sunshine and Celandines, who shared pictures of wild flowers she had seen on a recent dog walk. I decided to do the same and take some snaps of the flowers I see on my walk to work.

Family walks:
This Sunday’s family walk with Riley was a 2.5 mile walk around a spring resplendent Sefton Park.

#Walk1000miles:
My miles this week has been 39. Bringing my annual total to 550 miles.

New Friends:
On Tuesday David surprised me with two more friends for the aviary. Helen a female owl finch and Rize a female Lady Gouldian finch. How beautiful are they?

That was my week, how was yours?
Thanks for reading,
Christine xx

Sunday Sevens #61

I always love updating you all with a Sunday Sevens! It’s been a busy weekend, so here’s a quick update.

RSPB Membership:

David and I had a few days off work this week, so on Monday we headed towards RSPB Marshside near Southport for a few hours walking while overlooking hundreds of wading birds and gulls.

We spotted a few species we hadn’t seen before, like the shelduck and wigeon.

Riley in the Lake District:

Tuesday dawned grey with heavy rain, however we decided to continue up the M6 towards the Lake District with Riley and my brother in tow. Our destination was Grizedale Forest. On our journey we were hampered by car crashes and flooded roads. The rain thankfully stopped when we arrived at Grizedale. We then spent the next four hours walking paths that had turned into streams, losing our route and getting very muddy! It was a fun adventure!

#Walk1000miles:

This week, like last, has been hampered by longer days in work and late buses! My miles this week has been a lowly 36, bringing my annual total to 471 miles.

Book I am reading:

I’ve picked up Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap in Time, a retelling of Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale. Have you read this book? If so what were your thoughts?

Theatre:

Staying with Shakespeare, this Saturday David and I went to Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre to see a production of Macbeth (or the Scottish play). I’d not visited the Epstein, formerly the Neptune before. It is one of Liverpool’s smaller theatres and had a tired quaintness to it. I quite enjoyed the play but was not fussed with the actor (Sean Jones) who played Macbeth. I felt his voice wasn’t very strong.

Have you seen this play? What were your thoughts?

Family walks:

I finish this post after taking a fantastic, yet tiring, wind blown, five mile walk around Formby Beach today. Riley looked like he had a wonderful time! We even spotted a starfish or two!

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading, Christine x

Sunday Sevens is a series devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins!

Sunday Sevens #58

It’s Sunday! Time for a Sunday Sevens!

Baking:

To keep himself occupied, David has been baking. He first made an espresso devil’s food cake and then chocolate chip cookies. They were both very yummy if not fattening!

Walks with Riley:

Last Sunday David and I, with Riley in tow visited a cold Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve. We walked three miles around the reserve and observed hundreds of teals flying around the frozen pools. We were also blessed to see two roe deer bounding towards woodland.

#walk1000miles:

My miles for this week has been 45, bringing my annual total to date to 260 miles.

A Year in Books:

My Year in Books is not going so well. I am still plodding my way through Minette Walter’s medieval novel, The Turn of Midnight. I am enjoying this book far better than the first but I am only snatching moments to read whilst on the bus to work. In preparation for future reads I’ve bought more books! I’ve a library full of classics to read but just can’t face them! So I keep buying more modern titles.

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Books

What book/s are you enjoying at present?

RSPB Membership:

This week David and I have become members of the RSPB. I still had money from my birthday and Christmas, so I decided to purchase a RSPB membership as there are a few reserves nearby that I want to revisit, Leighton Moss being one of them.

My Wild City:

Also this week I signed up to participate in the Wildlife Trusts’, My Wild City. The aim is to ‘reconnect people with their gardens, and local green spaces to create wildlife corridors for both people and wildlife.’ The initiative is aimed at Manchester but I decided to sign up anyway and see what my small yarden can do. Perhaps you can sign up too?

Beach (bonus picture):

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Selfie at Formby Point

Today we took Riley to Formby Point, my brother and his girlfriend, Ashlea came along for the ride. Much fun was had by all.

So that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for devising the series.

December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Ten

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One Day in December

Day Ten: Today’s photo prompt is Christmas book. For the run up to Christmas I decided to purchase One Day in December by Josie Silver. I had read many positive reviews of this book and as it’s only .99p on Amazon Kindle at present, I decided to give it a go. I’m half way through at the moment and I can’t really say I am enjoying the narrative much, nor like any of the characters. I’ll keep at it, but will be happy once I’ve finished it and can get back to my Girl Who Takes an Eye For an Eye!

Have you read this book? If so what were your thoughts?

Thanks for stopping by, Christine x

Sunday Sevens #55

I haven’t written a Sunday Sevens (devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins) in such a long time. In fact I’ve not written any type of post in a while. So I think it’s about time I rectified that don’t you? I’ve managed to scrape together a few pictures from the past week for a Sunday Sevens (more truthfully a Sunday Sixes :p). It’s been quite a mixed bag!

#walk1000miles:

This week I’ve been struggling to get my miles up. What with buses running late, low motivation and feeling poorly, all I’ve achieved is a sorry 29 miles for this week. Which brings my overall total to 1,556 miles.

If you are participating in the challenge, how far have you walked this week?

Poppy Appeal:

In commemoration of this years Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal, I decided to buy Riley a poppy to wear. I think he looks grand.

Book I am reading:

For the past week or so I have been reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I don’t know why I picked the book up as I don’t like post-apocalyptic stories. The narrative is of a father and son travelling and struggling for survival. It is a very bleak read.

Have you read this book? Saw the film? What were your impressions?

Burst Pipe:

The downside to this week was a burst water pipe in our kitchen. The positive was that it happened when we were at home so we could quickly turn off the water and clean up. We managed to stop the flood encroaching too much into the dining room and thankfully the floors dried out after a day. David luckily was able to replace the pipe and kitchen taps without much cost to us. I don’t know what I would do without him! The pipe itself was rusted in a few places and would have burst at some point. It was a sobering event but we can glean more positives than negatives from the experience.

Beatrix Potter 50p:

I managed to acquire a 2018 Beatrix Potter 50p. A friend kindly found Flopsy Bunny for me.

Celebration:

To cheer ourselves up after the burst pipe incident, David and I joined in with a family celebration. My brother’s girlfriend had recently graduated from Derby University, so we all headed to Tavern Co for a Mexican knees up!

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #52

I’m back to writing a Sunday Sevens, the wonderful series devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Bees Needs Week 2018

It was George on his gardening blog, here, who alerted me to this annual initiative, coordinated by Defra. The aim of this week (9th-15th July 2018) is to raise awareness of pollinators and help in sustaining their numbers by planting more flowers, cutting grass less and letting your garden grow wild!

The Yarden:

At the weekend we visited Rivendell Garden Centre, Widnes. I bought a beautiful delphinium and also managed to replace my salvia mystic spires. I was so happy, it’s the small things! Among the many bee species that visit the yarden, I spied a male early bumblebee enjoying the cat mint.

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Common Frog

Later on in the week David and I had a surprise in the yarden. I had thought our tadpoles, who had seemed happy in our little urban pond, had sadly passed away. We had not seen any in or around the pond for weeks. However on pottering about the yarden David called me over excitedly and pointed to a frog clinging to the wall. I was amazed! One of our tiny tadpoles had grown and metamorphosed into a frog!

Hoodwinked:

This week David and I visited Nottingham to see their round of robins. (I tried to find the collective for robins, but there were numerous suggestions!) Once we had spotted 17 of the 33 we decided to have lunch at Sherwood Forest. I blogged about the day here.

Book I am reading:

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The Ice Twins by S K Tremayne

The current book I am reading is The Ice Twins, a suggestion by my mum. She said it was a page turner. It is billed as a psychological thriller, based around the death of a twin girl, the other claims mistaken identity. Set among the highlands of Scotland, the plot follows a family who have been broken by the death of a child and an affair. They relocate to an isolated island in the hope of a new beginning. I doubt very much that will happen!

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

#walk1000miles:

I broke the 1000 mile mark on 13th July 2018. I celebrated in typical Christine-style by taking a swim at Llyn Dinas, Snowdonia. I will write further on that adventure soon.

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Celebrating at Llyn Dinas

So, that was my eventful week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Books 2018 – April to June

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A Year in Books

Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge, The Year in Books.

I was surprised I managed to finish the same amount of books this quarter, as I did last year, all of 13 books. It will be the period between July to September that will be the real challenge. Where I prefer to be outside enjoying nature to being stuck within the pages of a book.

As April began I rushed to finish The Famished Road – Ben Okri.

This book began promising, but soon lost my interest. There is only so many times a spirit child can go wondering off and then witness psychedelic strangeness before one gets bored. There is a second novel which follows Azaro on his adventures but I won’t be picking this one up. Have you read The Famished Road? Did you read its sequel?

Wodwo by Ted Hughes

I was inspired to turn to this collection after reading Mark Haddon’s anthology The Pier Falls. One of Haddon’s more memorable short stories was entitled Wodwo about the beginnings of a wild man but with a twist! I enjoyed Hughes’ short stories in this collection more than his poetry. I particularly liked the play, The Wound, set in the trenches of WW1, the narrative I found was very visual.

Seven Wonders of the Industrial World – Deborah Cadbury

I reviewed this inspiring book in my Sunday Sevens #49.

Playing with Fire – Tess Gerritsen

This one was suggested by my mum. Playing with Fire is a psychological thriller. Julia is a musician who desires to find out why her daughter attacks her whilst a particular piece of music is playing. The trail leads her to Venice and the sad tale of Lorenzo, an Italian Jew living during the turbulent 1930’s. The novel is a quick read, with a twist and one I would recommend. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

Origin – Dan Brown

It seems that Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon novels all seem to have the same plot. They are just set in a different country! If you cut out the tourism jargon, I think this book has to be the weakest of the series. Langdon, who is the main character, didn’t seem to have much influence moving the story forward. I liked the premise of Winston but think the whole plot was far fetched. If you’ve read this book, what were your impressions?

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I would love to see a re-imagining of this poem. I felt that the narrative was very modern, of zombie sailors, reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean. At a wedding party, a mariner tells his tale of a disastrous journey where he kills an albatross and of his subsequent guilt. The narrator describes the doldrums, seen as a punishment, where the crew of the ship die, but the narrator doesn’t. The crew then frighteningly become zombies. The narrator is eventually rescued but has to retell his tale to educate others of not to kill an albatross! I particularly enjoyed Orson Wells recital on YouTube.

Have you read this poem? What were your thoughts?

The Women of Heachley Hall – Rachel Walkley

This book is written in the vein of A Parliament of Rooks by Karen Perkins. It could have been so much better if there was less description of every nook and cranny. I like description but too much of it clogs the narrative. I felt this was the case with The Women of Heachley Hall. The narrative was trying too hard to be Gothic and the ghost story was fantastical! It was more a love story than a ghost story. The book did keep me interested, I just wasn’t too enamored on the style of writing.

Stressed, Unstressed – Edited by Bate, Byrne, Ratcliffe and Schuman

After taking the enjoyable Future Learn course, Literature and Mental Health a few years ago. I made a note to purchase this book, which is an accompaniment to the course. An anthology comprising of poems to aid in healing, grief and mindfulness. The book is very accessible and could be picked up if and when required. I don’t know whether it was because I read the book mostly at night, when I was tired, but I did find a lot of the poetry quite depressing. Possibly a book to keep going back to.

Open Water Woman Swims Windermere – Jacqui Hargrave

I didn’t particularly enjoy this book. I discovered whilst reading, that the chapters were really just blog posts stitched together for publication. Being from a blog, the chapters were succinct but lacked detail. There was so many grammatical errors, I wish the author had had the manuscript proof read before publication. I’d keep a wide berth from this book if I was you.

Crow – Ted Hughes

I don’t know if it’s me, or that my education is lacking but I find Ted Hughes’ poetry hard to fathom. I can pick out an undercurrent of threat and violence, a lot of hubris and humour but his poems on crow have been rather lost on me.

Do you like poetry? If so who is your favourite poet?

Birds – Edited by Mavis Pilbeam

It was Sharon from the delightful blog Sunshine and Celandines that suggested this book. I thought I would read it for The Wildlife Trusts30 Days Wild. I enjoyed many of the poems inspired by paintings in the British Museum. Poems by John Clare and Edward Thomas were among the highlights for me.

The Turn of the Screw – Henry James

I re-read this book due to being inspired by soprano Charlotte Hoather’s post on her participation in the opera of the same name, at the Royal College of Music. Charlotte sang the role of Governess who is employed by an enigmatic uncle of two young orphans. Everything goes well until Miles, the eldest is expelled from school and returns home with a question mark over his character. Henry James is not a favourite author of mine. I find his style of writing rather long winded. In The Turn of the Screw, James’ writing is even more ambiguous as the Governess narrates her tale of a haunting by two debauched ghosts, trying to steal away her two charges, or is she narrating a tale of her own spiral into madness? It is never certain as to which scenario it is. Have you read this book? Did you think it was a ghost story?

A Cold Death in Amsterdam – Anja de Jager

This is the first book in the Lotte Meerman series. Lotte is quite a complex detective with a lot of background story which comes out slowly within the novel. The stories themselves are also quite complex with many different threads running parallel. I did find it a bit hard going to start off with, knowing which plot-line was which but it all comes together quite well.

Have you read any of these novels?

I ended the quarter by starting Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman, which I am really enjoying at the moment.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #51

It’s Sunday! Time for a quick Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Mere Sands Wood:

Last Sunday David and I, with Riley tagging along, visited Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve. We spent a leisurely 4.5 mile walk around the reserve, enjoying the birds singing and the lovely warm weather.

Yarden:

In the yarden I’ve noticed this wildflower growing from the Nestlé seeds I planted last year. I wonder what type of wildflower it is?

Book I am reading:

Suggested by a Facebook pal, I bought the debut novel from Rachel Walkley. Her book The Women of Heachley Hall, based around an old country house is ambling along. The premise; an artist is bequeathed a dilapidated house from a relative. The stipulation is to sell at auction or live in the house for a year and a day. The first person narrative is interrupted by ‘spooky’ incidents but nothing exciting as yet.

5 Day Veggie Challenge:

I’ve registered for Jamie Oliver’s 5 Day Veggie Challenge, which begins this Monday. For a small fee you are sent recipes via email along with tips during the week. I look forward to seeing what recipes are available.

Othello:

On Saturday David and I went to see the Everyman Company’s production of Othello. It was three hours well spent. In this modern day production, with mobile phones used as props, Othello was cast as a woman. Golda Rosheuvel played the character with authority and sensitivity. I found some of the diction a bit hard to follow and was glad that the performance was captioned. The lighting and soundtrack added to the growing tension on stage, where we saw Iago spin a web of lies, turning Othello into a mad beast of jealousy. The final scene where Othello murders Desdemona was a feast for the eyes. The bed was surrounded by mesh curtains which created an intimate scenario, however the murder was awful to witness. The finale, emotionally charged.

In act 4, scene 3, Desdamona sings a song called Willow, which my memory brings up every-time I see a willow tree.

DESDEMONA [Singing]

The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree,

Sing all a green willow:

Her hand on her bosom, her head on her knee,

Sing willow, willow, willow:

The fresh streams ran by her, and murmur’d her moans;

Sing willow, willow, willow;

Her salt tears fell from her, and soften’d the stones; Lay by these:–

Singing Sing willow, willow, willow;

 

Sing all a green willow must be my garland.

Let nobody blame him; his scorn I approve,-

I call’d my love false love; but what said he then?

Sing willow, willow, willow:

If I court moe women, you’ll couch with moe men!

You can read about the origin of the song from the Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust.

Do you like Shakespeare? Been to any plays recently?

#walk1000miles:

Total miles this week have been 37. Bringing my annual total to 680 miles. 3.6 miles was taken walking Riley around a sunny Sefton Park this morning. 🙂

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #49

I love sharing my weekly updates with you in the form of a Sunday Sevens. Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for creating the series. 🙂

seven wonders of industrial worldBook I’m reading:

Seven Wonders of the Industrial World – Deborah Cadbury.

I’ve picked up a book from my library, (OMG I can say library!) OK, a very small library! :p (David is cringing with the amount of books I am buying!) It’s a book I bought years ago and not had the time to read. So I thought I would read it for my 2018 Year in Books. Deborah Cadbury’s book accompanied the acclaimed 2004 BBC series Seven Wonders of the Industrial World.

I have to admit the series was inspirational. The Industrial Revolution created revolutionary thinkers such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, whose world changing designs were built by the superhuman navvies who toiled, bled and died creating a modern world! It made me stop and think of how we take for granted these wonderful works of engineering.

Awe-inspiring accounts of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, (which to me will always be the Roebling Bridge), and of Joseph Bazalgette’s Cholera defying London sewers are among the best episodes of the series. Add wonderful music by the then up and coming Hollywood composer Steve Jablonsky and you have the ingredients for a superb TV series. I was gifted the DVD set for a birthday and the book only adds to the incredible achievement of these men of vision.

Have you seen this TV series, read the book? What are your favorite industrial wonders?

Cooking:

Returning to the mundane, this week I managed to do some cooking. It’s been a while since I cooked a meal from scratch. It may have been for one (as David cooked himself a curry) but I was happy with the result. I followed the recipe from the Quorn site, of Fajitas with Quorn Pieces. I served with warmed tortillas. The meal was filling yet ultimately healthy as the main base was vegetables.

Yarden:

All the sun of last week has made a big difference to the yarden. The potato chits and wildflower seedlings have pushed through the soil and the red campion has started to flower. The only sad demise from this winter was my beautiful Salvia Mystic Spires. It was loved by bees well into the autumn months. I am mourning this beautiful plant and hope to find a replacement in the shops in future.

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#walk1000miles:

My miles this week have been an accumulation of walks with Riley, housework and sessions on the cross trainer. My miles this week has been 30, bringing my annual total to 607 miles.

 

Walking the Dog:

This Sunday David and I got up at the ungodly hour of 5.30am to take a drive to Formby Point for an early morning walk with David’s sister, partner and doggy nephew, Bennie! It was the first time both dogs had met each other. After a good sniff both dogs walked side by side as we took to the sand dunes and walked along the beach. I think they both enjoyed their 3.5 mile walk.

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x