A Year in Books 2018 – July to September

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A Year in Books

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

The summer months for me always seem to be the hardest when it comes to reading. Even when we’ve had such a wonderful summer as 2018. This year, I’ve managed to sit in the yarden and sunbathe while delving into a novel or two, but my tally is still low compared to cooler months.

This quarter I have managed to read nine books. Much better than last years quarter but no where near my tally for April to June this year. Here’s what I read this quarter.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

After what seemed like an age, I finally managed to get my hands on this Costa award winning novel and it didn’t take me long to love it! Eleanor is a young woman struggling to cope with a traumatic event from her childhood. She has been mentally and physically scared and her out look on life is shaped by her past. This book is not only about survival but about facing and dealing with daemons. It is funny and sad but ultimately it is about redemption.

What are your thoughts if you’ve read this novel?

Bird Box – Josh Malerman

As a suspense novel, the narrative just didn’t grab me. Perhaps it had a lot to live up to after Eleanor Oliphant? Even so, despite the tension, this Stephen King-esque failed to hit the mark. There were some weird episodes but I couldn’t feel for the characters and was left feeling deflated at the end of the novel. It felt like a poorly written M Night Shyamalan script.

The Ice Twins – S K Tremayne

This was a novel suggested by my mum. The premise was of twin sisters, where one had died. A year on the surviving twin begins to believe she is the dead sister. Did they get the identity of the dead twin wrong? The narrator, Sarah is estranged from her husband and still mourning her daughter. Angus (the husband) inherits a house on a remote island on the west coast of Scotland and moves the family there. This isolation brings the psychological drama to a head. It was a quick read but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Tess Gerritsen’s Playing with Fire.

Animal Farm – George Orwell

Surprisingly I enjoyed this political satire. George Orwell wrote his critique on the Russian Revolution but in theory it could be a reflection of any revolution. The animals of Manor Farm have had enough of being ruled by farmer, Mr Jones and stage their own revolution led by the intellectual pigs. However as time progresses, life under the new regime seems at odds with the origins of the revolution and to stop the dissenting farm stock the pigs unleash a brutal regime which cripples, maims and kills many of the cast. You can’t but be sympathetic to the likes of Boxer and Clover who are ground down by the machine that the pigs enact. The final act of betrayal is when the pigs are seen to walk on two hooves. This can be read that the pigs are just bad as the humans they hoped to replace. It is a piece of writing that makes you think!

Have you read this satire, what were your impressions?

Sarah Millican – How to be Champion

I am not a reader of autobiographies. I only downloaded this book as it was on offer for .99p. It took me a while to get into the narrative but I quite enjoyed it in the end. Sarah isn’t much older than myself and I noticed we did similar things and used the same items when we were both growing up in the 1980’s.

Outlander – Diana Gadaldon

I’m still slogging my way through this tome, and there are several more sequels in the series! Though a good premise, of a woman from the 1940’s travelling back in time to Jacobite Scotland, however I found the narrative boring. I don’t think I’ll be reading any more of the series. Perhaps the TV adaptation is better?

Have you read this book? What were your impressions?

Swim Wild – The Wild Swimming Brothers

I delved into the realm of wild swimming again. This time I quite enjoyed reading about the tales of the three brother’s expeditions, of swimming the entire length of the River Eden and the maelstroms around Norway and Scotland. The narrative is fractured by personal reveries and memories of growing up by the author, Jack Hudson, but I found it a nice book to read none the less.

If you’d like to read more of the Wild Swimming Brother’s adventures, then follow the link to their blog.

Me Before You – JoJo Moyes

I bought this book on the recommendation of comedienne Sarah Millican, from her autobiography (see above). I got into the first person narrative quickly enough and really enjoyed the banter between Louise and Will. Both characters are scared but in different ways. I liked how the writer sculptured their unlikely relationship and the ending had me shedding silent tears. I am a softy sometimes!

If you have read the book? Seen the film? What did you think?

The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz

I thought I would give this sequel to the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson a go. I really enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the other sequels not so. So far it seems a slow burn. I’ll let you know how I go.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

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Hoodwinked!

My love for Wild in Art trails comes as no surprise, given the amount of art trials I have seen in past years. You can read about my colourful celebration of such art trails here. This year is no exception. I await (in)patiently for Manchester’s Bee in the City. It was seeing their Cow Parade in 2004 that started all this mad cap trail following!

At present Nottingham have a fun take on the Robin Hood connection to the city with their Hoodwinked trail. 33 colourful robin statues bring a splash of colour to the streets. The trail runs until 30th September 2018.

David and I drove the 2.5 (ish) hours from Liverpool to take in a visit. We parked at the Trinity Square car park, which at £4.40 for up to two hours I felt was a little steep. The city is compact and easy to navigate. A friendly gentleman offered us tips on how find all the robins, though we were only on a whistle stop tour. We managed to find 17 robins out of the 33, not bad for an hour and a half walking. Below is a collage of some of the robins we found!

I was happy to see that it was people of all ages who were looking out for the robins. It was nice to visit a city I have not been to previously, and would probably visit again if there’s another trail.

Have you visited Nottingham? What were your thoughts?

We decided to lunch at Sherwood Forest. How can we visit Nottingham without taking in the forest associated with Robin Hood? So we drove the 40 minutes from Nottingham to Sherwood Forest, where we paid a reasonable £3.00 for all day parking.

Sherwood Forest, though reduced by deforestation, housed some striking looking trees. We luncheoned surrounded by many oak trees and visited the Major Oak. Estimated at around 1,500 years old, it looked I thought, not much older than the Allerton Oak at Calderstones Park! We only spent an hour at the forest before we headed on our long journey home. There were many walking trails for visitors with more time. I would have liked to have walked further into the forest.

Have you visited Sherwood Forest? What were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Eighteen

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_18Day 18: For today’s Close Up Monday, the animal (I believe) most synonymous with the Lake District, is the Herdwick. Their name stems from the Old Norse, Herdwyck, meaning sheep pasture. Herdwick sheep are the most hardy of Britain’s hill sheep. They can roam some 3,000ft around the central and western fells, and territoriality keep to their heaf, which is a learnéd bit of fell they graze.

Info taken from Herdy® states that, Lake District Herdwick farms are granted commoner grazing rights, which set the number of sheep on any given common by the grazing capacity of the fell.

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Herdwick Sheep

Each farm has its own way of identifying straying herdwicks. Lug marks are small notches on the sheep’s ear, whereas smit marks are coloured marks on the sheep’s fleece.

The herdwick’s body has evolved to withstand the extreme winters of the Lake District. They also have resistance to diseases and ticks. They are primarily bread for meat.

The lambs are born black, but within a year they turn brown (at this stage they are called hogglets/hoggs). After their first sheering their fleece lightens to grey.

Their grazing of heather and grass, keeps bracken and scrub under control, which in turn helps keep the Lake District look.

Their wool is best suited to carpet wool and is a good insulator.

What animal do you think is synonymous with the Lake District?

Thanks for reading, and keep wild!

Christine x

This is Riley…

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Riley

A good friend of mine has recently been enjoying my Facebook posts regarding Riley. So I thought I would do a blog post on him.

Riley is a big eight years old. He will be nine this July. We really shouldn’t be his owners as it was my brother who bought him as a tiny pup. Unfortunately we had to mind him when his wife went into hospital.

He came to us as a plump, eight week old pup. He was even smaller than our cats! He was ultimately adorable and David and I feel in love with him from the instant.

A few weeks later we asked if we could keep Riley as the whole family had become attached to him. My brother agreed.

So Riley has been with us ever since. He was neutered in 2012 and after that put on a little weight, which David and I have tried to control with long night walks and trips to the beach. I don’t know who enjoys the walks more, Riley or me!

Riley is a constant joy. He loves nothing more than running and playing fetch. He may pull when going on walks, but once off the lead, (especially on beaches) he loves the freedom, but never strays far.

Recently David took Riley to the local park whilst I was in work and tried to walk him. However Riley had other ideas. He knew one of his pack was not present and while David walked ahead, Riley kept looking back to see where I was. In the end David felt embarrassed as Riley sat on his haunches and would not walk until he returned to the car to see where I was. How cute is that? The pack was reunited that afternoon when David took Riley to meet me at work. I couldn’t stop grinning all evening knowing Riley cared for me as much as I do him!

So there you have it, Riley’s story. Hopefully there will be many more walks to share with you all!

Do you have a beloved pet? What stories do you have of them?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Goodbye 2017…Hello 2018!

Happy New Year from Christine, David and Artie!

Here’s the annual video of our memorable moments of 2017!

I must say 2017 has been a wonderful year! From joining in #walk1000miles, to seeing Hans Zimmer at the Liverpool Echo Arena. We may have had our sad moments but the happy times more than compensated for them. The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Day Wild was indeed wild, with barefoot beach walks and making our first elder-flower champagne. We visited new nature reserves and of course no year would be complete without a wild swim or two.

I want to thank you all for coming on the journey with me!

I wish you good health, wealth and happiness in 2018.

Thanks for all your support,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #37

It’s been such a long time since I have written a Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins. So, I think a catch up is much needed.

New Friends: 

Last Saturday David and I visited our favourite pet shop, Clipsley Pets and Aquatics in Haydock. I had decided that if there were any owl finches then I would buy one. On the day there were two. I couldn’t leave one on its own, so both came home with me and I was £80 the poorer. They settled into their new home so quickly! They look so cute snuggled up with our other owls. Here they all are, Hector, Paris, Tux and Cox.

owls together

Owl Finches

Storm Ophelia and a Saharan sun:

Monday brought ex-hurricane Ophelia to the UK. The morning was swathed in ochre coloured clouds. The air had an unearthliness to it. While standing for a bus I noticed the shrouded sun burned a blood red. In times past it would have been seen as an omen. I later read that it was to due to sand particles blown from the Sahara.

#walk1000miles:

I am happy to report that I completed the #walk1000miles challenge on Sunday the 8th of October. It felt a bit of an anticlimax at first, as I had hoped to complete on my next break to the Lake District. In reality it was while I wandered around a Liverpool shopping park. However the achievement soon dawned on me. I was chuffed with myself, I’d walked 1000 miles in 10 months! I can’t wait to receive my completer’s medal! I am continuing to count my miles to see what tally I reach come 31st December 2017!

Have you participated in the challenge? If so, what has been your memorable moments of the year?

Book I am reading:

I’ve just completed Barry Hines’s painfully poignant A Kestrel for a KnaveI am of the age when this book/film was on the GCSE curriculum. I recall the film being grey and bleak. The book of a similar vein, has some wonderful descriptions of nature. There was one scene in the book that I felt I had read before, in Chris Packham’s Fingers in the Sparkle Jar.  The scene where Billy uses the lure with Kes while his teacher watches on awestruck, I felt echoed Packham’s own experience. Hine’s depicts a hand to mouth existence for Billy in a brutal northern industrial town and the narrative depicting Kes tucking into her meals is a reflection of that wildness. Even though I appreciated the reality of the novel, at the end I was left feeling despondent that life for Billy, like many who lived then, as of today, will always be cruel.

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

Rehabilitation: 

For the past 3-4 weeks we have had a guest staying, in the form of a pigeon. We affectionately named her Shaky due to a constant tremor. At first we thought Shaky had canker but after medication she grew confused. With some vitamins and garlic water Shaky grew in strength and this weekend we decided to try and release her. However, we could have chosen a better weekend, what with Storm Brian on the horizon, but the winds helped raise Shaky on the wing and she flew from our garden. Hopefully we have given her a helping hand and she can join her friends and live her remaining years as a pigeon.

Wild About Gardens Week: 

This Monday is the beginning of an initiative by The Wildlife Trusts and RHS (Royal Horticultural Society), Wild About Gardens. The week long initiative is focusing on bees and what we can do to attract them to our gardens. There is a downloadable pack that gives useful information. You can help by building homes to growing nectar rich flowers.

The wildflower seeds I sowed for 30 Days Wild in June have been flowering all summer and well into autumn! I’ll end this post with a collage of some wildflowers. If you can recognise any of them, then I would be most appreciative if you could let me know which ones in the comments below, some I could not identify.

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

 

A Close Up with Red Pandas

Recently a friend shared a picture of Red Pandas being fed grapes on my Facebook wall. It made me reminiscent of when I fed Red Pandas in 2010 at Paradise Wildlife Park. I paid £99 for 30 minutes with their then Red Pandas, Ros and TJ. So I decided to write a post about the experience.

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Feeding a Red Panda

Looking back at the memory I believe I was very fortunate to have got so close to one of my favourite animals. As you can imagine the 30 minutes went past so quickly. Part of the experience was to collect the pandas’ dinner, a bowl of fruit, vegetables, pellets and panda cake, which is a mixture of essential nutrients added to their meals. We then visited the Red Panda enclosure. The Red Panda’s habitat had tall trees in which they could rest among the boughs or seek privacy from one of their nest boxes on a purposely built platform.

On our arrival both Red Pandas were looking eagerly for their lunch. It gave me such a buzz seeing both cute faces peering down at me. Ros seemed more used to human contact than TJ, who was much more reserved.

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Feeding Red Pandas

While I fed each panda, the zoo keeper, Matt gave informative facts about Red Pandas, where they come from etc. I was surprised to learn that they have adverse effects to anesthetic, so any operation carries a higher risk for Red Pandas.

After feeding slices of pears and apples to the pandas, it was time for them to have their favourite food, young shoots of bamboo! I held the leafy branch up to TJ while Ros bravely came down to feast on the lower leaves. I even got to stroke Ros. I was ecstatic! I had read before the encounter that touching was not allowed, but I was offered the chance to feel how coarse and dense a Red Panda’s fur really is. They need the insulation for the cold climes of the Himalayas.

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Feeding bamboo to Red Pandas

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Stroking a Red Panda

More recently there are many other UK zoos and wildlife parks offering the chance to meet their Red Pandas. Paradise Park in Cornwall have a similar experience where the Red Pandas can even sit happily on your lap. Something to think about in the future. A possible present for me next year David? :p

I hope you have enjoyed my reminiscing? Has there been a time when you came face to face with your favourite animal? Do share your experiences with us below.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

P.S. If you are interested in more information on the Red Panda, a past post, My Love for the Red Panda, has many facts about the history of the Red Panda, anatomy and conservation.

 

Tomorrow Isn’t Promised

daf69acd5b56a7e615a891b2cd2769d8Recently I have been thinking of my own mortality. It’s not a topic many people want to discuss. Whilst contemplating the end of life, the phrase tomorrow isn’t promised, cropped up. This made me think of being mindful. To live life in the present. It is a mantra I have been trying to follow every day this year; to take each day as it comes and not to think too much of the future. However much we may plan, life has a way of throwing spanners in the works! So enjoy today and be thankful for the people we share our life with and of the places we see along the way. Life is like a journey. It’s not the destination that matters, but our route along the way!

So as a little recap of the year so far, here’s some of the people and places that have made my journey through 2017 a joy!

I am thankful to have David in my life. He is quietly strong, someone who you can depend upon and a wonderful friend. I love you with all my heart! We have been on many walks this year. Lake District walks to Thirlmere, Dodd Wood and a walk through the bluebells at Rannerdale.

We have shared walks along hot, sunny beaches, picked our own strawberries and visited nature reserves. I couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather be on these walks than with you, David!

On many of our local walks, to Liverpool Festival Gardens, Sefton Park and Crosby Beach, we have taken bubbly, lively Riley with us.

If I have to mention Riley, I have to mention Artie and Evie and my wonderful aviary of foreign finches.

My mum has been a constant support over the years and I thank her for her love. We shared a special afternoon tea at Jam, Liverpool in March.

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Mum and I

Music has such a big place in my heart, and the music of Hans Zimmer is right up there with the symphonies of Mahler and Rachmaninov. In 2017 I luckily saw Hans’ World Tour visit Liverpool. To say his music is electrifying is an understatement, just listen to his Dark Knight medley from his live concerts!

A new passion of mine has become wild swimming. This year I have had seven wonderful swims. Blea Tarn was not disappointing.

Work takes up a lot of my time but working with Sue and her guide dog Kallie often doesn’t feel like work. It feels like muddling through a day with a friend. Sue has become a wonderful confidante.

I have tried to read and follow as many blogs as I can. There is one blogger who has become an online friend (we shall have to meet in person one day, with our dogs) and that is Sharon from her wonderful blog sunshine and celandines. I have enjoyed our many online chats on the culture/holidays and walks we both blog about!

I love street art. So when there is a new Wild in Art animal trail or a mural, I try and visit. Birmingham’s Big Sleuth was entertaining and Paul Curtis’s For all Liverpool’s Liverbirds mural was a must for any Liverbird to visit!

I have tried to notice the smaller things in nature this year. It really does make you more appreciative of life. Feeling the warm sun on your skin to foraging for berries. Seeing a bird of prey being harried by a family of swallows or seeing a snowdrop during the coldest of days makes your heart swell. These small events make life’s worries and trivialities disappear or seem easily overcomable (if that’s really a word!)

There’s four month’s left of 2017, but for now I want to live for today and feel blessed with the memories of the places I have seen, with the people I hold dear.

Thank you for reading,

Live life in the moment

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #21

Since I’ve managed to snap a few photos this week, I thought I would participate in another Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Last Sunday was a hectic one! Not only did we visit Warrington looking for Christmas presents, we also managed to acquire four new friends for the aviary! Welcome to the Connor-Evans family, Forrest and Tarn, the Blue- faced Parrot Finches and Bill and Silvie, the Chocolate Silverbills.

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White Poinsettia

On our travels we also popped into Bents to purchase a Poinsettia. I have been after a white Poinsettia since David gifted me one last Christmas. All the shops we visited had red ones, but at Bents they had a selection of red and white! Poinsettia’s can be poisonous to pets, so I’ve kept Artie away from mine.

Taking about Artie, he has been enjoying his Advent Calendar this month, as can be seen in the video below. 🙂

Keeping with the theme of Christmas, Friday 16th December was Christmas Jumper Day. As I don’t have a Christmas jumper, I wore my winter themed t-shirt to work! I also managed to (finally) purchase a Christmas wreath for the front door. It’s festooned with pine cones and even has festive lights! I think it looks quite fetching on the door!

Earlier in the week the yarden was visited by a pair of Great Tits. I managed to film one on the feeder.

Mid-week, while out walking the family dog, Riley I counted:

  • 2 Blue Tits
  • 1 Robin
  • 1 Dunnock
  • Numerous Goldfinches and Pigeons
  • 1 Sparrow
  • 1 Grey Wagtail!

To fill the dark, cosy nights I have returned to a book I started reading last year! The Night Falling by Katherine Webb. It’s a pretty grim read but I will persevere.

On Saturday, David invited his family around for a curry night. He served his signature dish with naan and sides.

To finish off this post, I will share with you a snap I have taken of some home made mince pies. They have just come out of the oven! I will sample one later with some cream. 🙂

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Mince Pies

Have you been doing any cooking for Christmas? What are your favourite traditions at this time of year?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

 

Remembering a Kindred Soul… Mac.

A while back I read a blog post by Isobel in which she remembered her long lost animals by lighting a candle.

I thought about doing the same.

I have lost many pets down the years. Recently I said goodbye to the gentle Lady Gouldian finch, Aura.

The purpose of this post will be to celebrate the life and 10 years I shared with my ‘boy’ Mac. I have had many cats during my lifetime but none were like Mac. He took a piece of my heart with him when he left me in 2007.

mac5aI can still remember the day, (like it was yesterday), when I first set eyes on Mac. It was a warm August day in 1997. My 20 year old self, had been to town to get a Sarah Brightman album. Unbeknown to me, my mum and brother, Stephen had been to a computer shop and on their way home had come across a house with kittens playing in the gated area. My mum being a cat lover too, commented how adorable the feisty kittens were and the owner, an elderly woman asked if she would like to take one home. So, come the time I came in through the front door, cassette in hand, a tuxedo kitten had been chosen and was waiting for me.

It was love at first sight! Then began a decade-long love affair!

It’s hard to put into words just what a loving cat Mac was. He was always by my side. He was ‘my’ cat, and would follow me about the house. We used to have fun, playing hide and seek together and he loved his roast dinners, of potatoes and peas. We were inseparable! Mac was there when I was lonely, and I poured my wishes and dreams into him while he sat purring patiently.

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One anecdote was when Mac went missing for a week! Seven days of missing my ‘boy.’ It was hell! Of a day I walked about dazed, come the night I cried myself into a fitful sleep.

One Sunday, I was lounging in bed when a neighbour called. She said she thought Mac was in her house. Mum went to look and low and behold there he was! He had been holed up in the neighbour’s back bedroom scared and probably wondering where I was. Luckily the neighbour had a cat herself and of a night, Mac would tiptoe downstairs, help himself to the dried food on offer and relieve himself in the cat tray. He was such a good boy! I was amazed that the neighbour’s cat did not sniff Mac out, or if he did, he was equally scared! I was just thankful to have my Mac back. He seemed unfazed by his vacation. I never let him out the house again!

Sadly Mac never reached old age. He contracted bowel cancer and became a shadow of his former self. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done… saying goodbye. So on the 10th of October 2007, I said farewell to my ‘boy.’ In Mac’s place I received a dark wooden box with a bag inside, tied with a blue ribbon, full of sharp bone fragments…

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…and all I was left with… was memories.

Mac  1997-2007.