A Year in Books 2018 – April to June

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A Year in Books

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

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

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

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

Wodwo by Ted Hughes

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

Seven Wonders of the Industrial World – Deborah Cadbury

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

Playing with Fire – Tess Gerritsen

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

Origin – Dan Brown

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

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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

Have you read this poem? What were your thoughts?

The Women of Heachley Hall – Rachel Walkley

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

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

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

Open Water Woman Swims Windermere – Jacqui Hargrave

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

Crow – Ted Hughes

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

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

Birds – Edited by Mavis Pilbeam

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

The Turn of the Screw – Henry James

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

A Cold Death in Amsterdam – Anja de Jager

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

Have you read any of these novels?

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

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

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Sunday Sevens #38

This week’s Sunday Sevens, (devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins), comes mostly from the Lake District where I’ve had a wonderful few days away with David.

B&B: Yet again we stayed at Hermiston Guesthouse in Braithwaite for our two night stay. We were given the very comfortable Latrigg double room!

Birthday: This third ‘Lakes holiday’ of 2017 was a birthday treat. Phil and Helen, the proprietors of the guest house, gifted me a bottle of bucks fizz to celebrate!

Wild Swimming: Of course I planned some wild swims alongside our many walks. I spent a wonderful impromptu 20 minute swim at Buttermere! The water temperature was about 12° but in the sunshine it felt much warmer. However the shakes on shore afterwards were some of the worst I’ve experienced. It was hard to drink my hot cup of coffee!

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Buttermere

#walk1000miles: Even though I have completed the walk 1000 miles challenge, I am still counting my mileage. David and I walked a good seven miles around Haweswater where there are gates made for giants!

On returning home, among the post was my completers medal! Yay!! 😀

Derwent Water: Of course no visit to Keswick would have been complete without visiting the shores of Derwent Water. I think this picture of the Borrowdale end of the lake is among the best I’ve taken.

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Derwent Water

Tux: Unfortunately on our arrival home, we were dismayed to have had yet another death in the aviary. Poor Tux, who was our eldest owl finch, was found at the bottom of the cage. We have buried her in the yarden with her partner Troy (who died earlier this year).

I’ll finish this post with a photo of the beautiful flowers David bought me for my birthday!

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

Contrasting Weather at Formby

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Photo by David Evans

The May bank holiday dawned like previous bank holidays, cold and dreary. We had decided that whatever the weather we would try and get out of the house, even if it was just for a little while.

So on Monday we drove the 45 minutes to Formby Point under a grey leaden sky. We arrived just before 10am, paid the £5.70 parking fee and stepped out of the car to go in search of red squirrels. While traversing the 1/2 mile circular walk under a canopy of pine trees the rain started to fall heavily!

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We watched while getting soaked, several red squirrels gather monkey nuts, shred the shells with their teeth and quickly devour their nuts. The squirrels didn’t seem to mind the rain unlike David and I who tried to keep the rainwater from damaging our cameras.

I read later that the red squirrel is native to Britain, but due to competition for food with grey squirrels and diseases their future has become less certain. There is estimated to be only 140,000 red squirrels left in Britain, mostly found now in small conservation areas in the north of England and Scotland. Red squirrels are arboreal (live in trees) and are diurnal (active during the day), though they are more active several hours after dawn and before dusk. They are mostly solitary and live in dreys, similar to birds nests. Red squirrels also do not hibernate and prefer forests of pine.

After spending an hour or so with the squirrels we decided to walk towards the beach (Cornerstone walk). We went past some wind bent trees as the rain started to wane. The sand dunes looked bleak in the overcast weather and the contrast between beach and forest was striking.

As we made our way back to the car for our packed lunch we wandered off the track and followed another path, (Asparagus trail) that lead us back towards the beach. By this time the clouds were dispersing from the coast and radiant blue sky was bringing everything into colour. So David and I walked back towards the beach. The difference in weather could not be more contrasting!

I am glad that we persevered with the dreich weather, a glorious afternoon of blue skies was our reward. I really enjoyed getting out of the house, even if we were drenched at the beginning of the day, there were many smiles as the sun broke through the clouds. We stayed at Formby Point for four hours. A whole day could be well spent there. We look forward to visiting again in the summer but will arrive early as the queue at the entrance as we left was growing!

Did you get up to anything over the spring bank holiday? Been to the beach recently?

Christine x

Information about red squirrels taken from:

Shiverpool – Ghost Bus

This weekend we made use of the competition prize I had won during the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic‘s most recent prize draw on Facebook. So David and I wrapped up warmly and made our way to the Suitcase Monument in Hope Street to embark on the Shiverpool Ghost Bus.

Shiverpool bus tour

Shiverpool bus tour

It was a clear, yet windy night, perfect for haunting stories and ghostly apparitions.

When we got to the monument there were already lots of people waiting for the bus which arrived a little late, (typical of the buses in Liverpool!) :p However it was nice to listen to the harmonious bells of both cathedrals, at opposite ends of Hope Street ringing into the dark evening as we stood waiting.

In hindsight perhaps I should have booked a tour on a weekday as town on Saturday became busy with revellers and the roads chocked with traffic.

When the bus finally arrived it was a red double decker and looked impressive.

Shiverpool Ghost Bus

Shiverpool Ghost Bus

Our tour guides for the evening were a duo of ‘brother and ‘sister,’ both lightly joked with the passengers who were all asked to go upstairs on the bus. This was by no mean feat with heels and an ankle length dress which I wore. The staircase was narrow and the steps uneven and in darkness was a bit of a safety hazard! The deck below was commandeered for a hen party from Ireland who held the tour up by 10 minutes!

While the bus waited for the late comers, the tour guides bantered with the passengers, asking where everyone lived. David and I had been the last to go upstairs and ended up seated at the back! We were, on more than one occasion singled out as a couple on a date. Apparently ‘I had made an effort’ on my toilette. Why thank you! 🙂

David and I have been on many ghost tours while holidaying in Edinburgh so the Shiverpool Ghost Bus had a lot to live up to!

The tour took us around the beautiful Georgian Quarter of Liverpool, visiting Rodney and Huskisson Street. The guides spoke of George Huskisson who was the first person to be killed by a steam engine at the Edge Hill trials and unknown to me Huskisson Street was also the home of Florence Maybrick who was charged with the death of James Maybrick, A.K.A. of Jack the Ripper fame.

The 90 minutes or so of the tour flew by and unfortunately the stories the guides narrated were rattled out at such a lightening speed that come to recap the experience, I am finding it hard to recall some of the tales. One such story, as we pulled alongside the leafy Falkner Square was about child murders and witches.

The tour was punctuated by the appearance of ‘ghosts’ who seemingly had come to life as the stories were recounted. The first appeared while we were parked outside St Bride’s Church, off Catherine Street. It was of a young bride to be, who was buried alive in the grave yard. The actor was dressed in white with a veil covering her face. She silently walked around the bus before being scared away by the tour guides. The creepy part of these ‘apparitions’ was looking out of the back window to see them just standing on the pavement silently watching as the bus drove off!

There was however a downside to having other actors joining us along the journey. This was, that while they were terrorising the passengers, as in the case of an angry drunkard tearing through the bus, you didn’t get to hear the story. So I missed a lot of the narrative due to this.

One good thing that came from the tour was a greater appreciation of the city and it’s architecture. Liverpool is indeed beautiful! The bus drove past the Anglican Cathedral, the biggest in the UK, and took us along the waterfront to see the Albert Dock and the Three Graces all lit up!

At one point in the tour we had to get off the bus. We all stood huddled together outside the iconic Royal Liver Building whose clock face is bigger than the Elizabeth Tower clock, ‘Big Ben‘. Here, outside the old insurance building, the guides told us a tale of poison and fraud. The silliest part of the night was when one of the guides got a gentleman to re-enact the symptoms of arsenic poisoning! Chronic diarrhoea and all!!

However let’s not forget that the tour tickets were free and it was something different to do from the usual humdrum routine of a Saturday night. It’s just sad that the stories were really not that engaging, nor scary enough! We have been on better ghost tours!

Catch-up!

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post, so here’s a little catch-up!

Being Lucky!

In July to mark their new season, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra held a week long competition on their Facebook page! I was lucky enough to be chosen for their Thursday competition!! The prize was for two tickets to see Psycho with music performed by the Philharmonic, (ideally on my birthday!), and also two tickets on-board the Ghost Bus run by Shiverpool tours! I have done many ghost walks while holidaying in Edinburgh but not in my own city. So I am very excited to see what the bus tour has to offer! 😀

Culture and Sightseeing!

During one Saturday, David and I took a short visit to Birmingham to see their street art of Owls. The Big Hoot it was called! In total we spotted 33 of the 89 owls on the streets, not bad for a few hours on the trail!

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While walking around the city, we enjoyed the many different types of architecture to be found!

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Last Thursday came the news I had been hoping for, for so long! The Tower of London Poppies were finally embarking on their UK tour! It was beyond my wildest dreams that Liverpool could be one of the first few to be chosen for this unique art installation but that is what exactly happened!

The instillation of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red by Paul Cummins Ceramics Limited, that was first seen at the Tower of London in 2014, captured the imagination of the nation! The Weeping Window will be coming to Liverpool’s St George’s Hall in November 2015 to January 2016 and the second part of the installation, The Wave will be housed at Yorkshire Sculpture Park this coming September to January 2016! I hope to get the opportunity to photograph both! You cannot imagine how excited I am at seeing them! 😀

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Wildlife:

Last week, our house was a B&B for a poorly pigeon whom we called Jack! David noticed the lethargic bird last Monday and after debate we made a box up for him (and later a cage) and brought him in of a night. He seemed generally fit, apart from green runny poop! The worrying thing was that he could not fly and even though he attempted too, he could not get any height! So for seven days we would leave him out in the garden for the day (Artie was not allowed to go outside!), and of a night he resided in our back bedroom!

Jack the pigeon

Jack the pigeon

We were going to take him to a vets to get checked out but over the weekend he seemed to be getting more strength and confidence.

This Monday while filling up the bird feeders, (we have many Goldfinch and House Sparrow fledglings visiting), Jack took to the air and landed on a nearby shed roof. He was not to be seen come the evening and we hoped that he had found his strength and flown off with some newly made friends!

On Tuesday morning we saw Jack back in the garden, this time eating seed that had fallen from the feeders and integrating with a small flock of fellow pigeons! We hope he continues to visit the garden and hopefully Jack’s story has a happy ending.

The Garden:

At the weekend David and I spent six hours in the garden cleaning, re-potting and planting. I bought a Dahlia from Grosvenor Garden Centre, Chester. I fell in love with the black foliage and the flower heads attract bees! I also bought an Anemone to replace my blighted Michaelmas Daisy and some wall art!

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And finally I’ll end with one last picture. After two months growing from seed, my Borage has finally flowered!

Borage flower

Borage flower

What events are you looking forward to seeing?

Christine x

The Dark Side…

In the last couple of days I had attempted to move my blog from WordPress to Google Blogger http://tojocl.blogspot.co.uk/ However I did not think much of the platform, so I will continue with WordPress until I run out of space for pictures.
Friday was my day off work and at the sunflower feeders there were many Goldfinch charms visiting and bringing their babies along. I also saw a baby Blue Tit and its rather dishevelled parent but I couldn’t get good enough footage of the new guy! I did manage to get some footage of ‘Jack’ Sparrow, he looks great! I’ve attached the video I made of the birds today. Hope you like?

In the post on Friday my new exercise bike was delivered along with my prize from Arriva, who all week on Facebook had been holding a competition for a free weekly bus ticket. I was Wednesday’s winner and I am ‘made up’ as I don’t have to pay for a ticket this week!! 

Snapshot_20130628_1I also made my Strawberry Mousse Cake with Morello Cherry Drizzle on my day off. It had three different types of cream in it!! Very fattening! However the result was less than satisfactory. It was in reality an utter disaster! David, mum and myself all had a portion. The cream mousse didn’t seem to have set very much and didn’t taste of anything really and then when putting the cake back into the fridge. It slipped off the plate and I tried to catch it with my hand. 
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Sunday was my nephew Nathan’s 4th birthday, (where have all the years gone?) My brother Stephen had ordered a bouncy castle for the garden party and we all had fun bouncing on it! 
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St Valentine’s.

Last Friday I got confirmation that I had won a competition held by Escentual on Facebook. The prize was a 60ml bottle of 212 Sexy by Carolina Herrera for women and men. I was totally bowled over! All I said for the competition was that I was going to the Valentine’s evening concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic and afterwards celebrating with a glass of Bucks Fizz! I didn’t think I would get picked! 😀

So last night David and I went to the Philharmonic smelling gorgeous! The concert of Ravel’s Bolero, Romeo and Juliet by Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev was sublime! 🙂 I really can’t wait for Mahler’s 10th in March!

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