A Year in Books 2019 – 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.

This quarter I have read a total of ten books, bringing my total to 17.

The Almanac is a book I’ll dip into throughout the year and I end this quarter and begin next’s with Kate Morton’s, The Clockmaker’s Daughter.

Almanac (April/May/June) – Lia Leendertz ✩✩

I really wish this almanac had more information on the natural world. It seems to focus too much on cheese and folk songs. The only information I’m learning is what is going on in the night sky i.e. meteor showers and life inside a bee hive.

Winter – Ali Smith ✩✩

It seems such a long time since I read this book! I enjoyed Autumn but I have to say Winter was a disappointment. Displaced heads and pretentious characters made the reading of this book a chore. Perhaps, if you’ve read this boo, you think differently?

The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame ✩✩

After watching The Wildlife Trusts’ add featuring Ratty, Mole, Badger and the mad Toad, who face a world encroached by mankind, I decided to read the book. It was a hard narrative to get into. It is definitely a book from its time! I am glad I have read it but would not read it again. Perhaps a film version would be more accessible? What do you think?

Whistle in the Dark – Emma Healey ✩✩

I loved Elizabeth is Missing, so when I heard Emma Healey was writing a second novel I was eager to purchase a copy. Unfortunately, I was not blown away by the plot of a girl who goes missing in the Peak District only to resurface days later reluctant to say where she went. The story is narrated by the mother who is neurotic and annoying. I did not enjoy the story at all. Have you read this book? What did you think?

The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker ✩✩✩✩

I devoured this book in a week. Pat Barker’s narrative was easy to read and I enjoyed following the fate of Briseis and her fellow captives during the Trojan War. There seems to be a resurgence of fiction from the Greek Myths and this book was just one of them. Have you read any of the others?

The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde – Eve Chase ✩✩

This book was featured on a few online book clubs so I downloaded a Kindle version. However, I was not that impressed. Though the premise was interesting enough (an unsolved missing girl mystery), the style of writing did not engage me in the narrative. I felt there was something lacking. It would make me think twice to pick up another book by this author.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter ✩✩✩

For Christmas, David bought me the complete collection of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit books. I thought I would read book 1: The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Mainly for children I enjoyed the tale and illustrations. (Poor Peter’s dad became a pie!!) I can’t believe it’s taken me over 30+ years to read it!

The Lost Words – Robert McFarlane/Jackie Morris ✩✩✩✩

I read this book during the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild. It is a beautiful book, full of lush art work (goldfinches are prevalent) and the poems can be read again and again. One to put on display on the coffee table I think.

The Lido – Libby Page ✩✩✩✩

Thanks to Sharon who sent me this book. I really enjoyed Libby Page’s first novel and look forward to reading more of her work. The story revolves around the proposed closure of a lido and the campaign to keep it open. During this time a friendship kindles between a young journalist, Kate and a regular of the lido, Rosemary. This friendship not only brings Kate out of her shell but highlights the sense of community. As a pay it forward – if anyone would like this copy of The Lido, let me know and I will send it to you!

The Clockmaker’s Daughter – Kate Morton ✩✩✩✩

I’m an avid reader of Kate Morton and have read all her publications. Though I’ve found this novel a little slow to get into, I am enjoying the narrative and it is an easy read. The plot has a colourful collection of characters and the going back and forth through time periods could be confusing to some readers, but I’m finding it ok at the moment. Have you read Kate Morton? If so what is your favourite book of hers?

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

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Oops…I Did it Again!

What gorgeous summer-like weather we have been having here in the UK! All this warm weather has made me itch to get back into the water.

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My first swim of 2018

My poll this year, on where to begin my wild swimming wasn’t very decisive. This Friday, David had taken a day off work for a planned Lake District adventure. I also packed my swim suit and new Dryrobe® just on the off chance of catching a swim!

On the day, our first destination was free parking between Keswick and Portinscale. We discovered this area while we ambled the 10 miles around Derwentwater in March. You can read all about that adventure here. We followed the road towards Spooney Green Lane, the start of our walk towards Latrigg.

The path took us through woodland, where chaffinches chattered from boughs and peacock butterflies flittered on the wing. Newborn lambs sunbathed before an impressive vista of Skiddaw, before we reached the summit with a glistening Derwentwater and surrounding fells before us.

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Derwentwater from Latrigg

David and I sat and enjoyed the view buffeted by a chilling wind before we returned to the car.

We headed into Keswick (fast becoming our second home). Payed the £5.30 to park for three hours at Theatre by the Lake and headed into town. We perused the shops with the tones of a soprano and a country singer vying for attention. With chips from The Old Keswickian, we settled in Crow Park and enjoyed watching dogs play in the water with the backdrop of Derwentwater behind them. It was here that I saw my first swallow of the season.

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Crow Park

After lunch, we walked towards Calfclose Bay, looking for a sheltered beach from where to embark on a first swim of 2018! My third at Derwentwater, and how different it was from my previous experiences! (My first time, and second time). From the first entrance I paddled a bit (in 14° waters), but did not find the depths in which to swim so we headed towards the National Trust Centenary Stones where I waded out into deeper waters there. However a mean wind that wiped across the water meant I was fighting waves a surfer would have enjoyed rather than actually doing much swimming. I swam a few strokes, posed before the Centenary Stones and tried to catch the views of Castle Crag and Cat Bells before a wave of fresh water was thrown at me from a gust. I found it hard to navigate and keep my head out of the water. I discovered I prefer to swim in waters less choppy.

The only upside of this experience was that I tested out my new Dryrobe®. It was roomy and kept the wind at bay. I will have to acquire the skills to change into fresh clothing as I got hopelessly tied up in knots, but it is a welcome addition to my ever-growing array of swimming paraphernalia.

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Testing out the Dryrobe®

We returned home from a wonderful day in the Lakes, tired, aching and having caught the sun. A certain person forgot to take the sunscreen, oops! My swim/walk adventures have well and truly begun. I can’t wait to take to the fells again and see where my next swim/walk takes me! Where do you think I should venture to next?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Just a Little Stroll Then..?

With Christmas done and dusted for another year and both having the week off work, David and I decided to travel to North Wales for a day trip.

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Llyn Gwynant at sunset

We returned to Llyn Gwynant and the surrounding area. I found a moderate walk on the National Trust website that overlooked Llyn Dinas.

20161228_111053-2It was a beautiful winters day. The rugged Snowdonian landscape looked like Martian terrain in the golden light.

It was pretty evident that many people had also decided on visiting Snowdonia National Park, rows upon rows of parked cars lined the verges. Luckily we managed to find parking ourselves (outside Caffi Gwynant Café) before we embarked on our walk.

The first part of the walk began on the Watkin Path, deemed by some to be the hardest path towards Snowdon, due to loss of defined path and loose scree near the top.

The walk meanders through ancient oak woodland, before approaching Cwm Llan, with well defined paths that follow the fast flowing Afon Cwm Llan waterfalls.

Somehow we missed a turning, (there weren’t many way-markers,) so we continued along the path in front of us which wound through the valley. We past a commemoration plaque stating the opening of the route in 1892 by the then Prime Minister, William Gladstone, then on towards the old ruins of a slate quarry before the path drew steadily upwards.

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Ruined quarry buildings

By this time we knew we had taken the wrong path, and had walked further than we ought, but as the path was not too steep we decided to keep going.

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David on the path to Snowdon

On our walk we saw many other people traipsing the same path towards Snowdon, and drawing higher, we heard the whooo of a train from the Snowdon Mountain Railway (even though they say on their website that they are closed!) Perhaps it was a phantom train? As the summit of Snowdon came into view, I could see the train station and visitor centre. It was quite exciting being on a walk we had not planned.

At some 800m above sea level, David and I sat down to have lunch. We pondered on how much further it was to the top and would we get there before sunset. We also had to consider our ability. I am not the best walker/climber. So we decided not to aim for the summit but to go to the ridge and see what was on the other side.

We found Llyn Llydaw on the other side, stretching out far below us. I was ecstatic. Llydaw is one of the llyn’s I want to swim in 2017!

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Llyn Llydaw

From the ridge we turned back and started our descent. It took us another good two hours to walk back to the car park. We were both buoyed by the walk, amazed that we had managed to get 3/4 of the way up the tallest mountain in England and Wales. Today however, we are stiff and sore.

Accidentally taking the path towards Snowdon has made me realise that maybe some tarns in the Lake District are not so unachievable as I believed. Roll on spring/summer 2017!

Have you managed to climb Snowdon? If so what path did you chose, apparently there at six paths?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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.

Sunday Sevens #6…

…although it is a Monday.

4554471I have little excuse. I could have written this post on Saturday night instead of curling up with the last chapters of Kate Riordan’s The Shadow Hour. The novel is one of those that flips between different periods and has two main characters, this time grandmother and granddaughter. The narrative was slow to get going and I felt the protagonists were a little one dimensional but the story soon picked up and was rounded up successfully. I now have a short story to re-read for a Faceboook reading group. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, a tale of a woman’s slide into madness! I read it for an Open University course years ago so have fond memories of it.

The past week was plagued with spells of sunshine and showers.

2016-03-30 12.31.13 (2)Thursday turned out to be the best day of the week for me. In the morning my lovely mum dragged me out of the house for a coffee and a tea cake at Costa! Thanks Mum. Then in the afternoon I sat in the yarden for two hours and soaked up the warm spring sunshine. Artie stretched his legs and rolled about the cat mint. The magnolia tree is starting to come back to life. David came home early and surprised me with a big bottle of Philosophy’s Purity cleanser. It was only £5 in the company shop!

For Saturday’s evening meal I made a gorgeous Pearl Barley Risotto with Tomatoes and Spinach. I kept true to the recipe other than using a white onion instead of a red and goats cheese instead of feta. I also used 400ml of passata as it would have been too soggy with the 500ml it stated. I loved it, though David wasn’t so keen. The evening was topped off by drinking a nice glass of shiraz while watching gossamer cirrus clouds grace the sky at sunset.

How did you spend your weekend?

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Threads and bobbins.

 

Up Before the Lark.

Knowing that David had Thursday off work, I had high hopes that we would have another great outdoors adventure! David was in agreement, however he pinned his hopes on seeing the sunrise hit the mountains around Haweswater Reservoir, Cumbria, (inspired by Thomas Heaton‘s Youtube post.

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The Rigg and Haweswater

Unfortunately, the bugbear for me was that we live at least two hours drive from Cumbria and the sunrise on Thursday being at 7.11am, meant that I had to get up at 4am!! I’m a terrible sleeper at the best of times, so I knew this plan would seriously upset my circadian rhythm.

Despite this hiccup, I longed to get out of the house and breathe the free air again! So I agreed. The alarm clock sounded at 4am and I crawled out of bed after a fitful sleep, for breakfast and to get dressed.

By 5am, the car had been packed and so we hit the road.

It took us just over two hours to get to Haweswater Reservoir. We parked up with the first rays of dawn touching the tops of the mountains. We scurried up Swinside Common in the hope of catching the moon above Kidsty Pike, but alas we failed and only had sore calves to show for our climb.

We spent over an hour taking hundreds of pictures in -7° temperatures.

With it being just after 8am, we drove to Derwentwater for a two hour leisurely walk along the banks of the lake, with Blencathra (Saddleback) looking resplendent in the winter sunshine. We took the route to the lake via Kewsick and took the road towards Portinscale then on towards the Adventure Centre. There is free parking but this can get very busy.

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Derwentwater is fast becoming my second favourite lake in Cumbria. The lakeside was so tranquil, it healed my soul. I thoroughly enjoyed the walk.  I got covered in mud on the return journey but it was worth it as I even had a go of a swing tied to a tree by Hawes End Jetty. The Jetty can be found by taking a path through woodland as you walk towards the Adventure Centre.

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There were many ducks and geese quietly drifting on the lake. The woodland walk was graced with the drumming of woodpeckers and the cackle of blue tits. On our journey back to the car David spied a pheasant feather lying on the ground, so I took it as a memento of our lovely day.

I am busily planning the next adventure. Do you have any suggestions of where to go?

Christine x

Update on the Garden 2- Pests!

I noticed in the garden this week a Scarlet Lily Beetle, apparently it is a pest that feeds on lilies and fritillaries. The picture below was taken on a fuchsia but they only lay their eggs on lilies and fritillaries. I have lily bulbs growing (well hoping they grow) so will keep a check on any larvae activity!

Scarlet Lily Beetle

Scarlet Lily Beetle

On Saturday, as the weather was nice I got out into the garden with my sheers and chopped the dying flowers from the Cat Mint and also decided to give the Wallflower a much needed trim! The bees won’t be thankful to me but they at least have the Siberian Bell-flowers to feed on!

I also chopped the leaves of the lilies that were infested. I managed to work around the larvae that cover themselves in their own excrement (nice!).

Some of my plants have not looked so good this summer (as last year). The Coriander I bought in spring is looking really limp and withered. This year I have put the annual herb in a pot but think I shall have to put next years plant in the ground! It grew so much better last year and the hover flies loved the tiny flowers it had!

Hover Fly on Coriander Flowers

Hover Fly on Coriander Flowers

However this years best grower and filling the void that the Coriander has left is the Fennel. Another herb, but this time a perennial. Last year it was overshadowed by the Coriander but this year it has grown almost three foot! Its brown feathery leaves have flower buds developing. These attract not only Hover Flies, but Lacewings and other insects too, though I have not seen any as yet!

Fennel flowers

Fennel flowers

Another flower that isn’t looking so fine is my Michaelmas Daisy. It has shot up in height but now has powdery mildew on it’s leaves. I have sprayed the leaves with vinegar in the hope that it will work better than the milk solution I used on my, sadly now demised Phlox. However it does not look so fantastic a day after spraying!! The poor Daisy is not looking too good and now has an infestation of Gastropods!

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During the week I have been saddened to have missed most of my wild poppies flower. They only seem to last less than a day! However, Thursday morning, I spied the red blot of not only one but two poppy’s so I, (still half asleep) clutched at my phone and snapped the below photo! 😀

Wild Poppy

Wild Poppy

I was also happy to see that my Passion Flower has started to bud, so much so that there are literally hundreds of buds on it (and more growing every day!) I wish it would all bloom at the same time, what a sight that would be! We shall have to be content with just four this time! 😀

Four Passion Flowers!

Four Passion Flowers!

 

Easter Monday… a brighter day!

Today was spent looking for abstract art for the garden and coming back with bird seed and plants!

We visited Dobbies and B&M firstly. I find Dobbies quite expensive. I think we should have gone to Lady Green!! I still need a Phlox for the garden!

Then David said ‘we’re close to Widnes and more garden centres’, so we put the satnav on and went to two other garden shops, however came back with nothing!

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Power station and Rape Seed field in Widnes

David is still worrying about the TV and the chimney breast. It does not help with me freaking out, saying the whole chimney will cave in if not supported!! After lunch we visited B&Q in search of answers to David’s chimney problem and we came back with a Scabiosa and Lupin for the garden.  I am happy now that there is lots of colour in the garden!

Scabiosa

 

Later that afternoon, I managed to soak up some vitamin D! I sat outside in the garden, did some reading (Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper), ate strawberries, drank wine and listened to the Classic FM ‘Hall of Fame 2014‘ 😀 I am very excited. I wonder who will be at number one? Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto Number 2, I hope! 🙂

I had voted for Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, but it only got to number 15!