A Year in Books 2020 – July to September

the-year-in-books
A Year in Books

Oh well!

This quarter of 2020’s A Year in Books has been very sparse indeed. With only one book read and currently still struggling through two books. This review will be very short and a quick blog to write.

The books I am currently reading are; The Sight of You – Holly Miller and Under the Stars – Matt Gaw. I wonder if I shall finish them by the end of the year?

Beyond the Moon – Catherine Taylor ✩✩

A strange twist of fate connects a British soldier fighting in the First World War in 1916 and a young woman living in modern-day England a century later, in this haunting literary time travel novel.

Two people, two battles: one against the invading Germans on the battlefields of 1916 France, the other against a substandard, uncaring mental health facility in modern-day England. Part war story, part timeslip, part love story – and at the same time a meditation on the themes of war, mental illness, identity and art.

The premise to this novel was good, a sort of time travel but I wasn’t totally won on the romance side, it seemed a little contrived to me. The author depicts the horrors of war and the barbarism of the medical treatment in the field quite well. However the narrative looses its way half way through and it all got a little tedious and repetitive. I did lose the will at one stage but found a fresh wind and managed to finish it.

I feel like I’ve given up on reading this year. Who knows perhaps the cold, darker nights of winter my plunge me back into the pages of a book.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

A Perfect Day

It’s a sad day today.

I live in a region of England that has been put under stricter Covid-19 restrictions, meaning that only travel from the region is for work and not recreation.

Thankfully, on Tuesday David had a day off work and we managed to escape to The Lake District for a day out. We brought our gentle giant of a border collie, Riley along with us.

The day started before the sunrise. We drove for 2.5 hours up the M6, taking a stop at Lancaster services for a comfort break. The destination of the day was Buttermere. As we drove past the neighbouring lake Crummock Water, David stopped at a lay-by. The surface of the water was so still it was like a mirror. We got out of the car and headed towards the peaceful, quiet shores of Crummock Water. David got Buzz, his drone out and I ran around with Riley.

The village of Buttermere is much busier. The National Trust car park fills up quickly but luckily there were still a few parking spaces left on our arrival. We paid £6 for four hours, you could pay with coins or by card. We donned our walking boots and rucksacks before taking the short walk towards the lake.

Like Crummock, the water of Buttermere was perfectly still. In all my visits to the lake I’ve never seen it so calm. The sun had burned off the remaining mist and a warm day was ahead of us. It was a very surprising day weather wise. I’d planned on it being a cool autumnal day but in reality there was no wind, the sun was warm and it felt like another last gasp from summer. It was a perfect day!

Following many other people, we took the northern path which passes the lone tree and has wonderful views of Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks. We made camp (Camp Riley) at a wide pebbly beach. Before we had lunch, I was going to have a swim, with the hope that Riley would come into the water with me. However the shore sloped steeply into the water and Riley was a little tentative. Not wanting to frighten him, I left him on the shore with David, who had taken Buzz into the air once again, to the amusement of passers-by.

The water was glorious! It wasn’t as cold as I’d expected. Indeed I’d swam in Buttermere previously when the water was much colder! You can read that post, here. I swam for about 15 minutes, but I could have stayed in for longer. It was so lovely. However Riley was getting stressed that he couldn’t reach one of his humans, so I waded out so he could run me around the shoreline in my swimsuit. The sun was so warm I didn’t even get cold nor have difficulty getting dressed, which is a novelty.

Once we had picnicked, we packed up and headed slowly back to the car. It had been a beautiful day. Riley seemed to have enjoyed himself and I’d got a swim in one of my favourite lakes. It’s a day I shall remember and smile at for a very long time.

Have you ever had a perfect day out?

Thanks for your support,

Christine x

A Small Miracle

Mid May I ordered five painted lady caterpillars from Insect Lore, hoping to have them by the end of this years 30 Days Wild. They were dispatched min June and I waited anxiously for them to arrive. The first week passed with no caterpillars, then a second week passed. 30 Days Wild ended with no caterpillars in sight. I complained to Insect Lore customer services and they said that post in my area had been extra slow, but that they would kindly dispatch some more caterpillars.

butterfly2After a full three weeks since the caterpillars were dispatched, they finally arrived!

I was a little weary of opening the packaging, frightened of what to find! Would I find dead caterpillars? On opening the package and taking out the pot where the caterpillars feast on some unidentified brown goo. I found a mess! Among the excess food source, caterpillar poo and fras (a fine web caterpillars weave when they feel threatened) I discovered five chrysalises. Not hopeful they were alive I extracted them from their filth and placed the chrysalises inside the mesh habitat I kept from last years batch and left them.

A week later while David was in the study working from home, he called me in saying that one chrysalis was alive. It had been vibrating. I was overjoyed! At least one was alive!

Some half an hour later David called me in again and said I had a butterfly! It had burst out of its chrysalis and we watched as it pumped up its wings. It was a wondrous sight to see. I hadn’t had much hope for these beautiful souls.

Several hours later I discovered that another chrysalis had burst and a new butterfly had emerged. I had two butterflies!

I still had three chrysalises and two were quite small so I had little hope for them. But come the next morning we found that all chrysalises had emptied and I had five painted lady butterflies! What a miracle! After spending three weeks in a dark box, sitting in a Royal Mail post room, they had overcome the odds to become beautiful butterflies!

Last weekend I released them.

Four flew away, however one wanted to stay an extra day. So after watching the butterfly sit lethargically in the garden, David and I popped him back into the habitat with sugar water and flowers and planned on releasing him the next day.

The butterfly seemed much livelier on the second release day and enjoyed the flowers on the salvia. We left him enjoying the flowers and on returning to the garden, he was nowhere to be seen. I hope he managed to fly off and begin his adult life.

What a wonderful story of life fighting against the odds!

But my caterpillar story for this year isn’t over yet as on the day before I released the butterflies from the first batch, the new set of caterpillars arrived. Only a week late! On opening this package I am happy to report five caterpillars looking a little stunned. It took them a while to begin moving but in the few days since their arrival they doubled in size.

Since then they have already become chrysalises.

So I had caterpillars for a few days at least. I wonder if they will all develop into painted lady butterflies? I’ll let you know!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Overdue…

My last wild swim was in October 2019 when I swam in Glaslyn and Llyn Llydaw, below a foreboding Snowdon.

I so wanted to extend my swim season but I never got to Coniston, The Lake District on New Years Day as planned!

As winter waned I tried paddling in Grasmere with Riley but secretly wished I had brought my swimsuit.

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Riley at Grasmere

Trying to cling onto some vestige of normality during the madness surrounding Covid-19, David and I, took a day trip to Snowdonia, in the hope I would get in a swim. However on that March day, it was too windy to swim. I’ve found that wind is a swimmers’ bane. Well it’s mine at least! So I had to make do with pictures of Llyn Padarn and Llyn Gwynant. I aim to go back to these llyns by the end of the year!

Then lockdown happened.

At first it was ok, I enjoyed going on daily walks with Riley but as the weeks progressed, I grew restless for adventure, and my desire to wild swim increased.

Since lockdown has been relaxed I’ve made plans to head towards Coniston on several occasions. However the weather forecast hasn’t been favourable. High winds and squally weather isn’t the optimum for me, so I’ve waited and waited.

That was until Sunday 12th July 2020.

With favourable weather forecast, David and I got up readily at 6am to head towards our planned excursion of the day, Coniston Water. Suzanna Cruickshank’s book Swimming Wild in the Lake District, suggested Brown Howe car park had easy access to the water, so we headed there. We drove an uneventful two hours from Liverpool to Coniston. On arrival we were very lucky as we got the last remaining parking space at 9am!

In these strange Corona times, paying for parking has got more or less easier, (depends if you enjoyed using cash for parking). We paid via contactless but we still had to touch the keypad for plus, so many hours! There were however lots of antibacterial foam sprays around the car park and toilets for cleansing.

With parking paid for all day, at £5.50 we relaxed and gathered our gear. The walk to Coniston Water’s shoreline was just a five minute saunter, although at 9am the shoreline was busy, busy, busy, with families enjoying the water. There were people swimming, paddle boarding, hopping into canoes or just sitting in inflatables. It was all a little overwhelming actually! We are not used to so much people traffic! We walked a few paces before we found a suitable shingle beach, though it was occupied by a family. I was adamant to swim in Coniston Water, it’s the only large lake I’ve not swam in, so I decided to ask if we could join them. They were welcoming and we set up camp next to them.

I prefer my swims to be less cluttered with humanity but Coniston Water was awash with people that I really couldn’t avoid them. We did all respect each others space and social distancing was in evidence. There was not a cough or a sneeze to be heard and I quickly took to the water for a fifteen minute swim. My first of 2020! Finally, I’ve got into the water!

coniston water

Coniston Water

The shallows around Brown Howe are not very deep and I never swam out of my comfort zone. Coniston Water will never be my favourite swim but I am grateful to be able to tick it off my swim map!

Once dry and changed into another swimsuit, David and I headed towards Beacon Tarn, which was an hours walk from Brown Howe. We puffed and panted on a not so very steep path through Blawith Common. Quarantine has effected our fitness. We are so out of condition! Have you felt that way too? Keeping us entertained on our walk were fritillary and skipper butterflies which bobbed about the ferns, too quick for me to take a picture though. It didn’t take long for the vista to open up, Dow Crag and Coniston Old Man to the west and Coniston Water to the east. It was so nice to be back in the fells!

On arrival at Beacon Tarn there were a few campers and naturists!! It was hard to avert our eyes! David found a wonderful spot for me to enter the water and we quickly made base. I faffed about getting ready with a mean wind from the south. The water was colder than Coniston but after getting into the water I soon warmed up and had a most peaceful swim. Though there were a few people about, it was much quieter than Coniston and we all respected the serenity of the area.

From where I swam the shore shelved sharply and you got swimming quickly but visibility in the water was poor. I had a wonderful fifteen minutes swim with pipits bobbing over the water and azure damselflies zipping about the shoreline. The sun peaked out from behind a cloud every now and again which made getting dry much easier.

We picnicked while other people took to the waters before we made our way back towards Brown Howe car park.

I am so relieved to be back swimming. Have you missed doing an activity due to covid?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

First Line Fridays

First Line Fridays, a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author.

Anna opened the door to see three men standing there. 

the botanist's daughter

The Botanist’s Daughter

Would you want to read on?

I wouldn’t say it was the most thrilling of first liners and one that really doesn’t give an indication to the rest of the novel.

The line is from Kayte Nunn’s historical fiction, The Botanist’s Daughter. It follows Australian Anna in 2017 and Cornish born Elizabeth in 1887. It’s an easy read with adventures to far flung corners of the world.

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

First Line Fridays

First Line Fridays, a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author.

After a few months of waiting, I’ve finally got my hands on a book I have been looking forward to reading.

‘ARE YOU READY, MAX? If anyone’s going to help me do this, it’s you.’

Would you want to read on?

Max

Max the Wonder Dog

The line is from the Sunday Times bestseller Max, the Miracle Dog by Kerry Irving. If you are a follower of Max in the Lake District on Facebook you will know all about this joyous springer spaniel and now his two other brothers Paddy and Harry. I’ve not started reading the book yet, but I have high hopes!

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

 

A Year in Film: April 2020

final fantasy 7 remake

Final Fantasy 7: Remake

Well, it’s been a whole month of David working from home and myself not knowing whether I will be Furloughed or not. In a strange way I have enjoyed my time off work. I take Riley out every day on my Boris walk and check up on my mum and brother, who live next door and also some of my more vulnerable neighbours. In a stroke of luck, a new game for the PlayStation® was released which has occupied my afternoons. It’s been a long time since I was a gamer but the release of Final Fantasy VII: Remake has made being at home that much more bearable. Whilst playing the game and heavily reminiscing on the 1997 original release there has been little time to watch films, so below is a mixed bag of films watched in April.

The Two Towers ✩✩✩✩✩

While Frodo and Sam edge closer to Mordor with the help of the shifty Gollum, the divided fellowship makes a stand against Sauron’s new ally, Saruman, and his hordes of Isengard.

Before the arrival of my copy of Final Fantasy VII: Remake, I spent my Covid-19 afternoons either reading whilst sunbathing (April was a very sunny and dry month), or watching my extended versions of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Mo’ Money ✩✩

A con artist manages to find a job in a credit card company and falls in love with one of the employees. However, he soon finds himself drawn into a world of crime.

David chose this film as he remembered it being good in the day. Being from 1992 it really has aged and wasn’t that funny to be honest.

The Return of the King ✩✩✩✩✩

Gandalf and Aragorn lead the World of Men against Sauron’s army to draw his gaze from Frodo and Sam as they approach Mount Doom with the One Ring.

The finale of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, where good overthrows evil and friends are reunited. It is a film that always gets me crying at the end.

Brahms: The Boy 2 ✩✩✩

When a young family moves to the Heelshire’s residence, terror strikes when a boy from the family discovers a doll called Brahms that appears to be eerily human.

I really enjoyed this sequel to the 2016 film, there was a lot of suspense and the manikin of Brahms is unsettling!

My Spy ✩✩✩

Nine-year-old Sophie catches JJ, a hardened CIA operative, spying on her family during a routine surveillance operation. In exchange for not blowing his cover, JJ begrudgingly agrees to show Sophie how to become a spy. What at first seems like an easy task soon turns into a battle of wits as Sophie proves you don’t need much experience to outsmart a seasoned agent.

I didn’t think I would enjoy this film as much as I did. A good family film with lots of jokes and action.

Like a Boss ✩

Best friends Mia and Mel run their own cosmetics company — But they’re also in over their heads financially, and the prospect of a buyout offer from an industry titan proves too tempting to pass up. The beauty business is now about to get ugly as the proposal puts Mia and Mel’s lifelong friendship to the ultimate test.

Oh dear. I was looking forward to seeing this film but from the beginning it was appalling. It wasn’t very funny!

The Help ✩✩✩✩

Skeeter, an aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.

Looking for a feel good film to cheer us up from all the depressing news around, I picked this title from 2011. With an all woman cast and great story, I thoroughly enjoyed this film.

Fallen ✩✩✩

Detective John Hobbes witnesses the execution of a demonic serial killer, Edgar Reese. However, the killings resume and are very similar to the style of Reese.

David chose this supernatural thriller from 1998 unfortunately I fell asleep for the majority of the film and woke up at the end. Oops!

The Current War ✩✩

Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse — engage in a battle of technology and ideas that will determine whose electrical system will power the new century. Edison dazzles the world by lighting Manhattan. But Westinghouse, aided by Nikola Tesla, sees fatal flaws in Edison’s direct current design. Westinghouse and Tesla bet everything on risky and dangerous alternating current.

Another film I was looking forward to watching but was left feeling disappointed. Nikola Tesla is a hero for both David and myself and we were hoping for more of him in this film but it was mainly from the view point of an arrogant Edison and an impotent Westinghouse.

Misbehavior ✩✩✩

A group of women hatch a plan to disrupt the 1970 Miss World beauty competition in London.

Surprisingly a film I wanted to watch and actually enjoyed, with an all star cast and set during the second wave of feminism. It was a few hours well spent.

Have you seen any films recently that you have enjoyed or disliked? Any recommendations?

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

Christine x

First Line Fridays

First Line Fridays, a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author.

This week’s First Line Fridays comes from Currer Bell.

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. 

jane eyre

Jane Eyre

A rather understated start to the wild, gothic novel we have all come to know, written by the famed Charlotte Brontë.

Have you read Jane Eyre? What did you think? Do you prefer any of the other novels by Charlotte or that of her younger sisters, Emily and Anne?

I personally prefer Charlotte’s novel Villette, full of dark foreboding and passionate love, with an ending that is left unfulfilled.

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by and stay safe! Christine x

First Line Fridays

First Line Fridays, a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author.

This week’s First Line Fridays comes from an English romance writer.

My name is Kathleen Whittier Mostyn, and when I was seventeen I became famous for catching the biggest shark New South Wales had ever seen: a grey nurse with an eye so mean it still looked like it wanted to rip me in two several days after we’d laid it out.

silver bay

Silver Bay – JoJo Moyes

Would you want to read on?

These first words come from JoJo Moyes’s novel Silver Bay. I am four chapters into reading the book and the narrative is introducing the characters one by one, setting them out like a game of chess. So far the writing is keeping my interest.

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by and stay safe!

Christine x

First Line Fridays

First Line Fridays, a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author.

This week’s First Line Fridays comes from the pen of one of America’s most prolific writers.

It was an unmarked car, just some nondescript American sedan a few years old, but the blackwall tires and the three men inside gave it away for what it was.’  

the Outsider

The Outsider

Would you want to read on?

I’ve not read any Stephen King novels so not sure what to expect. Do you have a favourite Stephen King book?

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by and stay safe!

Christine x