A Year in Books – July to September

I can’t quite believe this quarter has gone so fast! I’ve hardly any books to share with you. It has been a very sparse few months of reading!

This is what I have managed to get through, plus one on Kindle! All of five books and I am still struggling my way through one. Can you guess which one?

july to september

Face Paint – Lisa Eldridge

Lisa Eldridge is a renowned makeup artist whose YouTube videos have helped plain women, like myself make their daily embellishment that little bit better! This book had been sitting on my shelf for well over a year. I’ve been meaning to read it, but somehow hadn’t found the time, nor the energy. One evening, I decided to read it before bed every night for a week. I enjoyed delving into the history behind makeup and how it’s intrinsically linked with women’s’ suffrage. I particularly liked the the mini biographies of influential women throughout history.

The Child in Time – Ian McEwan

I was expecting greatness when I picked up this book by Ian McEwan, (1987 Whitbread winner, now Costa Award). I thoroughly enjoyed his writing in Atonement, so expected more of the same. However, as I made my daily commute through Liverpool to work, this book was not a welcome companion. Perhaps it was the theme of the book, of a couple who have their child taken from them? Whatever it was, I was not blown away by the narrative. I felt rather bored with the plot that didn’t seem to go anywhere. I guessed that the actual child in time was the narrator, Stephen. We are perhaps all children in time one way or another. I hope that the new BBC production starring Benedict Cumberbatch captures the imagination a bit more. Have you read this book? What were your impressions?

The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

I’ve consciously been trying to read books this year with birds featured in the title. However I’ve hit a snag with The Goldfinch. Being 700+ pages long, the narrative is about a boy who loses both his parents (in different incidents) and what befalls him thereafter. It’s been rather hard to read. Perhaps I have been lazy? Even though Tartt’s writing is elegant and creative, I have struggled with the content. It leaves me feeling sad. I can’t wait to finish this book. Have you felt the same over another book?

And the Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini

I really enjoyed Hosseini’s previous books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. However Hosseini seems to have fallen down with his third novel. I can see what he meant by the type of narrative he went for. Of an interweaving of differing stories, all coming from the same source, but it somehow fell flat. I got through the book eventually, but would not recommend. Would you?

9781780748436_13A Siege of Bitterns – Steve Burrows

Can you see a pattern develop? Yet another book with a bird in the title, but again I have been struggling to get through the narrative. It’s a detective novel set in Norfolk, but I just can’t warm to the cast of characters. The style of writing is more tell than show which doesn’t lead well to character development.

So, there you have it, my abysmal tally for this quarter. Are there any books you have read recently that you have enjoyed? Do let me know.

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

Advertisements

A Year in Books – April to June

april to juneEven Artie looks shocked at the amount of literature I have devoured this quarter! It has been a very productive period. 13 books I have read between April and June. While sitting on buses during the daily commute I have been able to immerse myself in narratives that have taken me to occupied France, to the inhumanity of Auschwitz and war ravaged Afghanistan.

I have laughed with Maude who was looking for Elizabeth and cried with Conor when his mother faced an incurable illness.

Elizabeth is Missing – Emma Healey

I think this has to be my favourite read of 2017, so far! I had no expectations when I opened the pages but from the very beginning I was enthralled by the skill of writing and the subject matter. The narrative is slightly fractious due to it being narrated by a woman with dementia, but it is written in such a way that you slip from the present to the 1940’s very easily. Maud is seeking her friend Elizabeth, however underlying her search is a historic case of her missing sister. The first person narrative is funny, poignant and highlights the fear and confusion dementia sufferers have. It’s a very enlightening book, fabulously written. I won’t spoil it for you but the ending is sad yet hopeful too. I’d definitely recommend this book, it is a book I wish I could write!

The Taxidermist’s Daughter – Kate Mosse

I hate to say it, but I am not a lover of Kate Mosse’s writing. I still have to read the last installment of her languedoc trilogy. I don’t know what it is but I just can’t warm to her style of writing. I did think her Mistletoe Bride collection was readable but not memorable. The same could be said about The Taxidermist’s Daughter. Though Mosse can evoke a dreary Gothic atmosphere (i.e. rain and flood waters rising on a Sussex landscape), I just didn’t think her characters were developed enough. Neither character of Connie or Henry were likable enough to care what happened to them. It’s one book I’ll probably forget I’ve read.

Perhaps you have a different interpretation?

To Kill a Mocking Bird – Harper Lee

I really didn’t know what I expected from this book, but as I began to read it, it wasn’t what I had imagined it would be. Narrated by six year old Jean Louise it is a fictionalised account of growing up in the American South in the 1930’s. To me it seemed a book of its time as class and race hierarchies were commonplace. Though the main core of the plot is the trial of Tom Robinson accused of raping a white girl, the events leading up to it is seen through the eyes of Jean Louise and so the injustice of the system is even more shocking. I did enjoy the novel and would recommend, but its not one that has stayed with me.

All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

Another of the best reads this year! I reviewed this book in my Sunday Sevens #28.

Folly – Alan Titchmarsh

I read this book on the recommendation of reviews on goodreads. I wish I hadn’t. The narrative was laborious and characters two dimensional. Titchmarsh had researched the area of fine art galleries and auctions indepthly, but just did not create a tale interesting enough to capture the readers imagination.

The book received a higher score on goodreads than The Haunting but I felt the story wasn’t as strong.

Do you have a different opinion?

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

I read this book before seeing the film and I must say the book is by far better than the film! It is a very emotive story. Thirteen year old Conor O’Malley is struggling to accept his mother’s terminal illness. The monster who calls helps Conor come to terms with his emotions. I must admit I was choked when I finished the novel. Though written for the young adult market I think it’s a story that can be read at any age.

The Lonely – Andrew Michael Hurley

This book was a 2015 Costa awards winner for a debut novel. It’s a Gothic tale with most of the action happening on a desolate coastal area in Lancashire. It is narrated by ‘Tonto’ whose brother Hanny is mute. A group of Christians visit the area at Easter hoping for a miracle, what they find is much more darker. The landscape is forbidding, the locals unfriendly and ultimately the miracle is only eluded to. Nothing is spelled out and I think that was the novels downfall. For me I didn’t care about the characters, in fact most annoyed me and at the end I was left feeling I had read a lot of words that didn’t make much sense. If you like vague narratives then this book is for you!

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

This book had been on my Kindle for over a year. While looking for new books to read I remembered the stage play that was in Liverpool and which, I wish I had gone to see as it had rave reviews. Hence why I downloaded the book. So I decided to give it a try. The book lives up to its hype. The tale is of two boys, Amir and his ‘servant’ Hassan. The narrative is from Amir’s point of view, of a young boy growing up in Afghanistan before the Russians arrive and then the Taliban. Always trying to capture the eye of his father, Amir is jealous of Hassan and it is only later that we discover the true relationship between both boys. Amir who comes from a wealthy background managed to flee with his father to the USA, while Hassan stays in Afghanistan.  The story is beautifully written, the language lyrical. The ravages of war is sometimes too hard to read. Hosseini’s book makes you realise what hell it must have been like to live in Afghanistan during those turbulent times. Hosseini has set up a non profit foundation to help refugees returning to their homeland after three decades of war.

The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas – John Boyne

The narrative of this book is so painfully naive as it is written from the viewpoint, of a child called Bruno. The Final Solution is viewed by this nine year old who has accompanied his family from Berlin to ‘Out With.’ The book relies heavily on the readers knowledge of ‘Out With’ (Auschwitz) and who the sad people in the stripped pyjamas behind the fences are. I think the book is more agonisingly sad because of this foreknowledge. Bruno who isn’t happy at Out With, finally befriends a boy from the other side of the fence, Shmuel. I won’t spoil the plot for anyone who hasn’t read it, but the final chapters will leave you sobbing!

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

It’s difficult to find the right words this book made me feel. Written in the 1980’s, though it can be applied to today’s world too, more so when news of atrocities to women in Europe, the Middle East and beyond occur daily. Offred is a Handmaid of the dystopian Republic of Gilead, (you don’t find out her real name!) It is a place after a catastrophe. Nuclear war has decimated the world and the human populace (birth rates have plummeted). In it’s place has risen a religious order which has reduced women to property (once again). I find the implications of the book hard to swallow as the unknown leaders have imposed a strict order on the women. Those who are breeders (the Handmaids), those who are not (the Wives) and those who are servants (the Marthas). There are other classes in the Gilead regime like the Aunts (who train the Handmaids), and Commanders (the highest ranking men). Everyone has their place in society, even the poorest of women like the Econowives.

Offred as narrator, I think is quite unreliable as her tale is rather vague. There are flashbacks of her life before the catastrophe. There is a general feeling of threat and violence but it is so muted in the narrative that by the time you come to the truly atrocious scenes you are left feeling numb. I found it hard to like any of the characters. Perhaps my Western upbringing has caused me to react negatively to this book?

As an aside I am currently enjoying the dramatisation on Channel 4, though again some of the episodes have left me reeling.

Have you read the book? Watched the series? What are your thoughts? Do you disagree with my ideas?

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini

Much like the Handmaid’s Tale, Hosseini’s second novel, (also based in Afghanistan,) is about the bonds between two women and of their daily struggles during the restricting Taliban regime. Women were among those who were so poorly affected by this regime and Hosseini writes eloquently about the physical and mental abuse of Mariam and Laila. Though I did not enjoy the novel as much as I did the Kite Runner, the narrative does keep you engaged. Like the Kite Runner it is a story of sacrifice and endurance. There is a resolution but like many human stories, it is tinged with sadness.

Finger’s in the Sparkle Jar – Chris Packham

I don’t know why but this book left me feeling sad. Maybe it was because of the curious mix of narratives that sat uneasy with me? Or perhaps it emphasised that however beautiful nature is, it can be brutal! After getting to grips with Packham’s switching from first person narrative to third, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I preferred it when Packham wrote in the first person, his experiences seemed all the more real. The scenes with the fox and kestrel had me close to tears!

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak.

As the end of June was in sight, I hurriedly finished The Book Thief. It was with a tear in my eye that I read the harrowing final parts of the novel. Another book set during World War II. The narrative is told by Death. There is a balanced mix of humour and sadness as Death goes about his job of collecting souls. Though the novel is about Death, the story is a very human one. You quickly grow to like the characters of Liesel, Rudy and Max, and even though Death prepares you for each of their fate, the sadness is still real.

Have read the book? Seen the film? What was your favourite?

41HJJM1VNYLFor July’s first read, I have chosen The Child in Time by Ian McEwan. I don’t know what to expect but hopefully it will be as well written as his Atonement.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations? Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees. for creating the challenge.

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #32

I haven’t written a Sunday Sevens in a while, and I so love doing them. So thanks to Natalie at Theads and Bobbins, who devised the wonderful series, and here’s my seven (plus a few more), for Sunday!

back bedroom

New work space

DIY: Last weekend, David was busy sprucing up the guest bedroom/study. We spent most of Saturday driving back and forth from Warrington’s IKEA to purchase box cupboards which would conceal all our detritus. I think he’s done a fantastic job! We have so much more storage space and a bigger work surface.

#walk1000miles: I think it’s always nice to update you all on how my walk 1000 miles challenge is going. This week I have managed to rake up a reasonable 34 miles, (my best tally so far!), which brings my total for the year so far to 601 miles! My miles are mainly made up of hours on the treadmill, walking between bus stops, lots of scanning in work (the scanner is at the opposite end of the corridor from the office) and walking the dog. I think Riley appreciates the increase in walks. He is eight now and carrying a few extra pounds due to being neutered when he was three. I thought I was doing the right thing by neutering him, but no one told me he would put on weight after it! Anyway, Riley (and myself) has loved his park runs and visits to Crosby Beach, even if the wind was fierce the last time we visited!

Collecting: It’s been a while since I found a Beatrix Potter 50p. This week while counting the petty cash in work, my boss and I found a third collectible, Squirrel Nutkin! How cute is he?

Pets: This week our Blue-faced Parrot Finch, Forrest has been laying eggs. Her mate Leaf has been busy lining the nest with feathers and straw. I wonder if any of the eggs will hatch? We shall see in a fortnights time! I’ll update you all!

Book I am reading: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I’m only 50 pages into the book but it’s accompanying me while on my daily commute to work. I am enjoying the characters so far. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

Culture: This Saturday (17th) was the day Hans Zimmer and his Live on Tour came to Liverpool. This was my second time of seeing him live on stage. You can read my review on the Birmingham 2016 concert here. Though it was the same programme as his European tour, there were subtle differences. The orchestra and choir had been paired down. I personally preferred the energy of the Birmingham concert, but there was the same chat by Zimmer with anecdotes on the films he had scored. The lighting was just as fierce but I think there was less camaraderie between the principal performers. The Liverpool audience were a little too vocal for my taste but the show of phone torches after Aurora was touching, though I wish he wouldn’t talk over all of it. It is a beautiful composition, reminiscent of the vocal version of Barber’s Adagio for Strings. My two favourite pieces did not disappoint, in fact One Day from Pirates of the Caribbean Three brought tears to my eyes. The Dark Knight medley was just as energetic and inspiring! I felt blessed to see my music hero live onstage!

Have you been to see any live music recently? What’s your experience of arena tours?

Days out: The weather this weekend has been beautiful. Perfect summer days filled with lots of warm sunshine and mild clear evenings. I must say it has been a very full weekend! I was going to end the post with Hans Zimmer’s concert but I just wanted to share with you my wonderful Sunday.

After visiting Claremont Farm in the Wirral and picking our own juicy strawberries. David and I headed for the coast and Thurstaston Beach, to have our lunch overlooking the sandy estuary. I’ll write more in my 30 Days Wild – Week 3, but for now here are some pictures of our wonderful day.

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #28

Just a quick round up of my week in a Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie.

red campion

Red Campion

Plant ID: In my last Sunday Sevens, I asked if anyone could ID a plant for me. Thankfully I have managed to ID it myself and found that the plant in question is a red campion.

Book I’m reading: I have recently finished reading Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. Doerr’s book was epic in size but the chapters were manageable. I like short chapters. I read before bed and on the commute to work. I was amazed at how quickly I got through the book as my mum said she couldn’t get into it. The narrative is during the 2nd World War. Two character’s stories intertwine, that of a blind French girl, Marie-Laure and an intelligent German youth, Werner. They only briefly meet in the story but the plot follows them growing up before and during the war. It is a tale of people striving to live when the wold around them is disintegrating. I found it sadly, echoed today’s political environment. The writing is easy to read, however the matter of fact description of death (an everyday occurrence in wartime) is in places shocking. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in historic fiction, though the end feels a little bit rushed.

I have just begun Folly by Alan Titchmarsh, I have no assumptions about the novel, but hope the writing is better than his other book, The Haunting.

The Easter weekend: for me is all about the Classic FM Hall of Fame. Four days of none stop music, counting down from 300 to 1!In January I voted for my top three. It’s hard to pin down just three favourites. This year I chose:

hall of fame 1

Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony.

Mahler’s 5th Symphony.

Rachmaninov’s 2nd Piano Concerto.

Sadly the only one of my three choices that ascended the chart was Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony, which climbed nine places to number 29! His 2nd Piano Concerto stayed firmly at number two, the Lark Ascending by Vaughn Williams held it at bay! Unfortunately Mahler fell out of the top 50, only coming in at a lowly 66! You can view where your favourites came here.

Out and about: On the Easter Monday we listened to Mahler’s Adagietto on the car radio while we travelled to Formby Point. We spent a few hours walking the beach and giving Riley a good run.

We were out walking again at the end of the week, as David and I took Riley for a walk around Liverpool’s Sefton Park on Saturday.

#walk1000miles: Though I have been working longer hours at work this week, I have managed to maintain my average mileage of 25 for the week. On my daily route to work I passed many clumps of bluebells turning the grassy verges blue. Amongst all the swaying heads were a mass of pink and white bluebells. I don’t know whether they are native plants or not.

The Big Bluebell Watch:  The Woodland Trust have a new initiative, to survey all the bluebells across the nation. Click here to add your sightings to the map. I’ve added my lowly two bluebells. I think they could be native as they have white pollen but they could very well be crossed. Have you seen many bluebells where you live?

Bees: This weekend the NW of England has been blessed with some wonderful weather, if a bit cold. A familiar buzz sounded in the yarden. I spotted a male and female hairy-footed flower bee as well as a red mason bee. Have you seen many bees this spring?

hairy footed flower bee female

Female Hairy-footed Flower Bee

Well, that was my week, how was yours?

Until the next Sunday Sevens!

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #27

It’s that time again! Time to join in with another Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie.

Overall its not been a bad week!

A gift: At the beginning of the week David said there was a cosmetics sale on at his work’s shop. He then surprised me by handing me a large box with some gorgeous brushes, eye shadows and lipsticks. It shows he does think of me sometimes 🙂

Culture: The hump day saw David and I attend the Liverpool Playhouse for a production of Gabriel starring Liverpool born Paul McGann and Belinda Lang. Set in occupied Guernsey during WW2, the action takes place in a farmhouse where a family of women live. Their survival during the occupation is due to the mother’s fraternization with the Germans. While there are moments of humour, there is also some toe curling observations. The womens’ lives are thrown into jeopardy with the arrival of ‘Gabriel’ who is found washed ashore. He has no recollection of who he is but he can speak fluent German! Is he a messenger sent from God to smite the Germans, or an SS officer come to oversee the concentration camp at Alderney? His identity is left ambiguous, but the ending leaves you shocked and saddened.

No visit to the Liverpool Playhouse could be complete without Cheshire Farm Ice-cream at the interval. Mmmm gorgeous!!

Literature: The book I have started reading this week is the seminal piece by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve been reading it while on the bus going to work, stuck in traffic due to building works. While on the daily commute I have been clocking up the miles for #Walk1000 miles: My tally for the week has been 27 miles, which has taken me over the 300 miles mark! Also as I walked between bus stops I kept looking for signs of spring. One day I witnessed a buzzard soaring over the city being hounded by a brave pigeon who must have been protecting its young. Then as I passed a grassy verge I saw a flash of blue. A huddle of forget-me-nots crowded all around!

dressShopping: On Saturday I dragged poor David around Speke Retail Park looking for clothes for work. As I have been toning up with doing 30-40 minutes of treadmill, five times a week, I have dropped a dress size and as a result all my size 8’s are too big for me! Sick of wearing only a handful of clothes I went in search of spring dresses and trousers.

I managed to get two short dresses which will look ok over leggings or tights and a pair of linen trousers which will be a welcome change from Lycra!

Yarden: With the wonderful sunny and warm weather we had over the weekend, David, Artie and I managed to grab a few hours in the yarden. Its amazing just how much the plants have all flourished. I snapped a fine specimen of a snake’s head fritillary and also one plant I can’t ID. Can you?

Visitors: On arrival from work everyday this week, David and I have seen cheeky pigeons sitting on the window ledge, looking into the kitchen. They have been waiting for us to throw seed out for them! Do you have any feathered friends?

pigeon

Finally: David and I had a lovely Sunday walk with Riley. We visited my favourite Liverpool park, Festival Gardens. The air was filled with the trill of great tits, bees hummed about in the undergrowth and orange tips and speckled woods fluttered along the woodland pathways. What a perfect way to start a day.

festival gardens

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

A Year in Books – January to March

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

20170323_213956

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

Grief is the Thing with Feathers – Max Porter

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

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

In Parenthesis – David Jones

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

H is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald

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

Under Milk Wood – Dylan Thomas

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

The English Girl – Katherine Webb

I reviewed this book in my Sunday Sevens #24.

The Haunting – Alan Titchmarsh

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

The Red Letter (short) – Kate Riordan

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

Birdcage Walk – Kate Riordan

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

20170325_151431 (2)

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

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

 

 

Sunday Sevens #25

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

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

20170325_190618 (2)

My Walk 1000 Miles badge

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

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

20170321_083555 (2)

My wild swim map

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

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

Did you participate in this years Earth Hour?

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

20170325_123118 (3)

Afternoon Tea at Jam, Liverpool

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

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

Have you read any good books lately?

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20170301_165612-2

Skiddaw

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

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

20170301_165638-2

View from Skiddaw room

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

middle-ruddings-country

Middle Ruddings Inn and Restaurant

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

2017 – A Year of Possibilities!

So, here we are, into the third week of 2017 and I have already been filling up the diary like mad! There are birthdays and anniversaries and Bank Holidays, and then there are the days David and I have planned away.

It has been well over a year since we last took in a concert at the Philharmonic Hall. This year we have the opportunity to see The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in their recital of Mahler’s 5th Symphony.

GABRIEL-Poster280-min.jpgWe shall also be visiting The Liverpool Playhouse to see Paul McGann in Gabriel, a powerful drama during the Nazi occupation of Guernsey.

I have an Afternoon Tea booked at Jam (courtesy of my friend Kelly) as a Valentines treat for David and I in February!

Thank you to Louise at Ramblings of a Roachling for suggesting the Circle of Pine Trees‘s initiative, The Year in Books. I thought I would participate this year even though I may not get to read many books. I aim to read 40, but we shall see! Reading seems to come in fits and starts for me.

At present the first book I have read in 2017 is, Max Porter’s Grief is the Thing with Feathers. I am currently half way through David Jones’s In Parenthesis.

walk 1000 miles.jpg

I may be crazy but I have signed up to the challenge to #walk1000miles, sponsored by Country Walking and Live for the Outdoors. I think 1000 miles is quite doable in a year. I am taking into account, the walking to and from work, the exercises I do at home and the numerous walks in the countryside. I hope all will aid the final total in December. For the past two weeks I have totaled 50 miles. Not bad for a city girl in administration!

Once again I look forward to participating in The Wildlife Trusts 30 Days Wild! I wonder what wild things I will get up to this year?!

In keeping with the theme, Wild in Art have more animal trails to follow this summer, among them there is a sleuth of Sun Bears in Birmingham!

1884b7ea77cb8ee4102acde836aa6554.jpg

War Horse

And finally, I booked tickets to see War Horse at the Liverpool Empire two years ago! This November we will finally get to see this emotional show! I hope it’s as good as the reviews!

So there you have it, a selection of all the things I am participating in and eagerly looking forward to this year. There will undoubtedly be many, many more!

Have you made any plans for 2017?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2016 – Week Four

o0OhgWNNIt’s been a rather depressing week here in the UK. To escape the dirge from the media I have dived headlong into wildlife and The Wildlife Trusts’s 30 Days Wild. Below is an account of my fourth week, the last full week of June. I have tried to find light within the gloom!

 

Day 22: Wednesday

Sing a rainbowOn the 30 Days Wild Facebook page, someone had created a collage of rainbow colours taken from nature. I thought I’d try one. All pictures are taken from the yarden. Featuring: antirrhinum, honeysuckle, foxglove, jasmine, campanula, erysimum and lithodora.

Day 23: Thursday

This week has been National Insect Week, an initiative to encourage people to learn more about insects. In celebration of this week, I have been putting out insect pitfall traps in the hope of catching sight of the creepy crawlies that make the yarden their home. Unfortunately on both occasions, the traps were empty, probably because they were not the best traps.

Since we have had some fair weather these past few days in the NW of England, I decided to try my hand at a moth light trap. During the day we see many Cinnabar Moths, but I wanted to see what night moths we attract to the yarden. I draped a white sheet over two chairs and positioned a light directly behind and waited for the darkness to deepen.

It was almost 11.30pm when it became dark! I could see many micro moths fluttering but no hawkmoths which I had hoped/wanted to see! As the stars and planets twinkled from the indigo sky, the light trap only attracted one small moth. I think it was a Webbing or Common Clothes Moth!

Though moth sightings were thin on the ground, David and I did manage to have fun in the yarden. David took to photographing the stars and dodgy ‘ghosts,’ while I enjoyed the perfumed scent of the air. Everything feels so calm at night, unlike the madness daylight hours tend to bring.

On clearing up the equipment for the night, as David was in work the following day, a beautiful marbled moth fluttered towards the light. I was half in the house, half out as it danced around the halogen bulb. Sadly we didn’t take a picture, so I don’t know what type of moth it was. I feel I have some unfinished business with moths in the yarden. I hope to maybe fit in another observation session before June is out! Needless to say my dreams were full of moths that night!

Day 24: Friday

The weather this June seems to have conspired against us! Today was another one of those days with sparse sunshine and heavy showers! With having little ‘get up and go,’ I turned to the ‘wild’ cards for inspiration. The card I chose, search for mini wildness, suggested to look for lichens and forests of moss in pavements. So I decided to take a closer look at the liverwort growing in my yarden! (I didn’t know it was liverwort until I started researching it!)

The type of liverwort in the yarden is called Marchantia polymorpha. Apparently they like compacted, wet, acidic soils. Bad luck for my camellia, but the liverwort does look nice as a green base for the plant in its shaded pot. I shall evaluate how the plant is growing and if the liverwort is effecting it in future!

Day 25: Saturday

20160627_142425

I usually make lard cakes for the birds come winter time, but as I did this task for last years 30 Days Wild, I shall replicate it this year too!

I used a block of lard (it’s usually cheap in the supermarkets). I then microwaved it for 3 minutes until it was liquid. Threw in handfuls of mixed seed, (you can use peanuts and fruit also.) I then bulked it up with wholemeal flour. I used the suet holders with paper lined templates and scooped the fat mixture into these. I left to solidify. I shall hang them out tomorrow!

 

Day 26: Sunday

I never thought I was a big technophile but participating in this years, National Unplugging Day, I have discovered I turn to my computer and phone more than I care to. A typical day usually starts around 7am, the alarm on my phone wakes me up! While having breakfast, I scroll through Facebook and look at WordPress. Throughout the working day I communicate with David  via email. I text my mum, even though she lives next door! I use the timer on my phone and playlists on my laptop while I am working out. I also use the timer when I am cooking. I have many books downloaded to my Kindle. I turn to Google whenever I have a question. During 30 Days Wild I have been hooked to my blog feed, looking for new posts from fellow bloggers. I wind down to BBCi and music on YouTube. All day I have Classic FM playing in the background!

So, participating in this initiative is going to be both challenging and enlightening!

1

My unplugged day started at 9.30am. I had asked David when he got up an hour earlier to wake me after 9. I awoke at 9.15am and lay there waiting for my wake-up call. I snoozed and woke up again fifteen minutes later. Still no wake-up call. I was walking down the stairs to make breakfast when David came out of the living room. ‘Oh you’re up!’

‘Yes, where was my wake-up call?’

‘I didn’t know the time,’ meaning he had been busy playing GTA5! I shook my head! I took my breakfast and a hot cup of black coffee back to bed. It was a Sunday after all! While relaxing, I perused the pages of my paperback of Katherine Mansfield short stories. Though I had to fight the urge to reach out and grab my phone!

To counter the boredom I had moved the household chores from Saturday to today. The opposite was done for my session on the treadmill, which I did on Saturday as I use my laptop for motivational music! At 10.30am I climbed out of bed, got dressed and made a start on the cleaning. I dragged Henry around the house and wiped/disinfected surfaces and floors. The whole task took me three hours, with lunch in-between!

I spent the afternoon in the kitchen. I baked bread, which I shaped in the form of butterflies and made a very healthy, (and tasty) pan of blind scouse, (vegetable stew). I got David to take pictures of the finished article! I really missed my phone for taking pictures!

20160626_170734

There wasn’t much opportunity for communing with the wild, as persistent rain arrived in the afternoon. I watched from the kitchen window the birds visiting the freshly filled feeders, of which there were:

  • 2 House Sparrows (males)
  • 2 Goldfinches
  • 1 very disheveled Blue Tit
  • 1 Dunnock
  • 8 Starlings, (1 was a baby)
  • Many Pigeons!

I also saw Tree Bumblebees brave the rain to forage from the campanula flowers.

Come evening, I chatted to David while he cooked his lunches for work that week. All day he had been teasing me about not using technology. At one point he even came down the stairs with the laptop, and said ‘aww but you can’t watch!’ Meany! I then relaxed by reading some more Katherine Mansfield stories while enjoying a nice cold glass of pinot grigio.

10pm arrived. I cheered and ‘wooped!’ I had survived a day without a phone or laptop! (It was hard!) A text off my mum was waiting for me saying, ‘welcome back to the technological world!’ It was an enlightening initiative. One I would repeat. I find that technology is so habit forming! It’s so easy to reach out for that mobile device, have information at your fingertips. I do think that it contributes to a general lack of concentration and an inability to face boredom. I already don’t like phones at the dining table. I may encourage David and I to have technology ‘black-holes,’ times when we don’t use phones or computers, in the future.

Did you participate in the day? How did you fill your time?

Day 27: Monday

I felt a bit jaded today. In the afternoon Artie and I popped out into the yarden, to see how the plants were getting on (the lily and passion flower have flowered at last,) and to listen to wild sounds. It also gave me the opportunity to sip in the wild, I indulged in a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit.

I closed my eyes (but not for long as Artie was on the prowl) and could hear the wind rushing through the trees. A plane thrummed overhead. Goldfinches twittered, pigeons cooed, and a family of house sparrows, babies begging, flew onto a roof nearby. The yarden was filled with bees buzzing softly and the dunnock shrilled his song loudly!

Day 28: Tuesday

To end this post I took inspiration from the 30 Days Wild app. Of the 101 ‘random acts of wildness’ I chose look up at the clouds. I actually did this activity yesterday as today the NW of England is shrouded with increasing cloud and the threat of further rain!

Of the clouds gracing the evening sky yesterday, I noticed cirrus (fair weather cloud) and cirrocumulus, (could precursor rain). It shows how contradictory British weather can be!

Final thoughts:

I really don’t want to mention the EU referendum, the result made me sick to the stomach! However like many, I will make a comment.

At present the air is thick with depression! I avoid the news the best of times, but my Facebook page is full of doom and gloom. It makes one want to reach for the razor blades! But we have to endure, what else is there? (Those razor blades look inviting). We have survived plagues, famine, wars. We will endure this!

Life probably will be tough, for a while, but we will recover, (we have to). Instead of the constant backbiting, we must forego bad blood and look to a future, a future we can only make good if we work hard, together!

There has to be a life outside of the EU. We had one before, there will be one now. Though many of us did not vote to leave, we have to make the most of this decision. Perhaps we can learn from the EU and build a better Britain, with transparent laws, human/worker rights, wildlife protection and a more uniformed distribution of wealth throughout the kingdom? Perhaps I am dreaming, maybe not with this government! I have not followed any of the hype surrounding the referendum. I have felt disgusted that we have been placed in this position! But the unthinkable has happened and we have to deal with it. Not with a culture of blame but one of acceptance and action.

I don’t know why but the whole farce calls to mind a soliloquy in Hamlet. To be or not to be!

Hamlet:To be, or not to be–that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep–

No more–and by a sleep to say we end

The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep–

To sleep–perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause. There’s the respect

That makes calamity of so long life.

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely

The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns

That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscovered country, from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprise of great pitch and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry

And lose the name of action.

Only two more days until the end of June! Come with me as I approach the finale of 30 Days Wild 2016 and see what wonders I find!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x