A Year in Books 2018 – July to September

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A Year in Books

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

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

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

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

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

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

Bird Box – Josh Malerman

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

The Ice Twins – S K Tremayne

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

Animal Farm – George Orwell

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

Have you read this satire, what were your impressions?

Sarah Millican – How to be Champion

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

Outlander – Diana Gadaldon

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

Have you read this book? What were your impressions?

Swim Wild – The Wild Swimming Brothers

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

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

Me Before You – JoJo Moyes

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

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

The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz

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

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

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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

A Year in Books 2018 – January to March

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A new year means a new selection of books.

Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge.

I started the new year finishing off a book from 2017.

A Parliament of Rooks – Karen Perkins

I did a short review of this book in my Sunday Sevens #40. Though the narrative brings clear visions of a modern day Howarth, the actual characters and tale fell rather flat. The modern day characters were rather annoying and two dimensional but if you like anything relating to the Brontë’s then you will enjoy this book.

The Raven – Edgar Allan Poe

I’ve read this poem a couple of times now. The first time I read it I was on a bus on a dark, cold January morning. I thought, ‘what on earth was all that about!’

Then on the second reading, I think I have understood a little more. The narrator is a man who mourns his lost love, Lenore. A raven visits him and in answer to the man’s questions the raven only says ‘nevermore.’ This perplexes the narrator who gets more and more exasperated. Others’ interpretations of the poem is that of the man slipping into madness.

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!

What do you think? Have you read this poem? What was your interpretation?

The Witchfinder’s Sister – Beth Underdown

Debut novel and one of Richard and Judy’s Book Club for spring 2018. The Witchfinder’s Sister is about Alice Hopkins who returns from London, widowed, to be reconciled with her brother Matthew (the self-proclaimed Witchfinder General) in the midst of the witch hunts of 1645-47. The English Civil War is waging, a time of religious, political upheaval, which the printing presses are at cost to publish. Reading what few facts on Matthew Hopkins there is online. I read that he and his accomplices were responsible for the deaths of up to 300 women in just three years. Legitimised serial killers is what I thought of them. Though men were not immune to being called ‘witch’ it was mainly females that were blamed for unnatural deaths of babies, droughts, famines and disease. When science and understanding was hundreds of years away, those without a voice (midwives, bewitching young women) were victimised. The author dips into that paranoia. Alice is at first an innocent bystander but is soon forced to be complicit in the torture and deaths of a number of women as she and Matthew travel through Anglia. Though a piece of fiction, it made me angry that this reign of terror was allowed to happened (an encouraged) in not just Britain but in Europe and the USA too.

The Crucible – Arthur Miller

After reading Beth Underdown’s novel, I just had to read Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. I found my old copy and re-read the play written at the height of the Korean War (1950-53). The play, written when Communism was seen as a threat to the western world, can also be read as criticism of the ‘witch-hunt’ McCarthy Trials. Miller cleverly links this contemporary fear to the paranoia of the witch trials in Salem (1692-3).

Unlike Beth Underdown’s novel, who writes from the viewpoint of a witness, The Crucible quickly draws you into the drama where accusations and blame are voiced by Abigail Williams and friends. A sense of heightened fear is present straight from the start where Betty Parris, one of Abigail’s friends is lying prone, mute, for no apparent reason. The girls have been accused themselves of dancing with the devil but Abigail turns the tables on the adults and begins to accuse members of the cast. They believe her, due to her ‘purity.’ One of the main characters John Proctor who has had a fling with Abigail and afterwards rejected her, tries to show Abigail as a telltale but the cast, some of high office, seem bewitched by the girls’ accusations that devilry is rife in Puritan Salem.

The play in some ways is a tragedy. The final act is seen as redemption for John Proctor who finally denounces Abigail, however this does not stop the executions. In little over a year, due to the hysteria created by girls who tapped into the bleaker side of human nature, of fear and jealousy, 20 people were tried and executed in Salem.

The Ice Queen – Alice Hoffman

This book wasn’t what I had expected. ‘A fairy tale for grownups’, it was advertised. The story however is so sad. I was choked with emotion reading the final chapters. Perhaps it was the butterfly migration that set me off? The whole story is well written, you meet many strange characters along the way. The tale is of loss, love and acceptance. The best message I got from this book was that to conquer death you have to live. Something I have been trying to achieve these past few years. Is this a book you would enjoy? Let me know!

Uncommon Type – Tom Hanks

I have to admit, I found it hard to get into Hanks’ writing. The choice of first short story to open this collection wasn’t the strongest. I found the unending list of commercial brands exhausting to read. Does it really matter what name of footwear a character wears or what brand of fridge freezer a man gets his chilled beer from? There are better ways of creating a time in history than listing company names. I found Hanks’ writing very like Dan Brown’s, perhaps it’s a style American’s default to? I did persevere and his style grew on me. There were a few stories I enjoyed, These are the Meditations of my Heart, Stay with Us (screenplay) and The Past is Important to Us. Have you read this collection? What were your thoughts?

The Waste Land – T.S. Eliot

Regarded as one of the most influential poems of the 20th Century. The Waste Land was written a few years after the devastation of WW1. The poem loosely follows the legend of the Grail, and is set in five parts which lack any cohesion. The fragmentation of structure and voice is a reflection of a post war world. I enjoyed the lyricism of the poem and the images it created. I wouldn’t say the poem was easily understandable. The many vignettes of peoples’ daily lives is intersected with lines taken from world mythologies, literature and languages. I think the poem needs further in-depth study. Have you read this poem? What was your interpretation?

Autumn – Ali Smith

I downloaded this book onto my Kindle before I decided to read 1 star ratings on Amazon. What I read worried me a little but once I started reading the stream of conscious type narrative, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Though the story doesn’t really go anywhere, it is a study of time, and poking fun at British life and society. I liked Smith’s style of writing. I look forward to seeing what her next novel Winter is about.

1st quarter books

A Gathering Light, The Secret Life of Bees, The Pier Falls and Pax

A Gathering Light – Jennifer Donnelly

I don’t remember who recommended this novel to me but I didn’t really enjoy it. I found the narrative very tedious. The secondary tale about a real life crime rarely featured. The writer could have done so much more with this idea but the result was a novel I would not recommend to anyone! How about you? If you have read this book and felt differently, then do let me know!

The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd

Set among the backdrop of racial tensions in 1960’s South Carolina, this coming of age tale is both entertaining and emotive. The protagonist, Lily goes on a journey that takes her away from her abusive father, to the protection of three bee keeping sisters, where she learns about her mother and herself. The novel has a strong cast of female characters. From the tormented May to the resilience of Rosaleen and the wisdom of August. It is a feel good book, one that I would recommend. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

The Pier Falls – Mark Haddon

Sadly Haddon’s collection of short stories left me feeling sad and morbid. Most of the tales centre around death which was rather difficult to read one after another. There were a few standout stories. I enjoyed the tale of the Wodwo or ‘wild man,’ it made me think of Ted Hughes’s book of the same title. Another was the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Woodpecker and the Wolf. The title does not bring to mind astronauts stranded on an desolate, unforgiving planet. However I enjoyed the characters and there is a happier ending!

Pax – Sara Pennypacker

I decided to get this book as other bloggers have read it and been enchanted with it. The illustrations by Jon Klassen are beautiful but I have to admit I struggled to get into the narrative. As the story progressed, however I soon warmed to the characters. I enjoyed the Pax chapters more so than the human story. The underlying sadness to the writing is that animals suffer during war, and there is a lot of animal suffering in the novel which was painful to read. I had expected the ending to be emotive but I just felt numb, it wasn’t very satisfying. It made the whole novel seem a bit of a waste of time to me. Have you read this novel? Did you enjoy it?

A Cold Case in Amsterdam Central – Anja de Jager

This copy was kindly gifted to me by a lady who I chat to whilst waiting for the bus to work. Anja de Jager draws inspiration from cases her father worked on as a policeman in the Netherlands. To date she has written three crime novels in the Lotte Meerman series. This was the second book. It was easy to read and could be read as a stand alone novel. I enjoyed the read and will probably look up the other novels in the series in future.

The Famished Road – Ben Okri

I’ll probably still be reading this book come April. It is such a word dense book, separated into eight books. I’ve read book one and the language and imagery is beautiful, almost psychedelic. The tale is of spirit-child Azaro, who turns his back on the land of spirits to experience the life and death of the living. Okri blends human hardships with fantastical beasts from the spirit realm and beyond. I am enjoying the telling so far. I will let you know how it goes.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

My Father’s Daughter.

I didn’t enter the water gracefully. It was a precarious balance on slippery rocks, before I lost my footing, gasped as my whole body plunged under the waves. Though it was September and there was still warmth to the sun, the body of water that lay before me was chilling beneath the wind that whipped the surface into tiny white peaks. ‘Keep swimming,’ was the motto, and swim I did, even if the cold of the water numbed my fingers, made my skin tingle. 2 km didn’t sound like much, but previously I hadn’t had much practice. I was rusty and my muscles let me know it!

As a child, my family would have weekly swimming evenings at the local pool, followed by a chippie tea and Doctor Who on the TV. I was lucky to be born when the old Victorian school buildings still stood, before modernisation bulldozed them for clinical, soulless buildings. My school, red bricked and full of ghost stories had a wonderful heated swimming pool alongside it. Even before entering the building, with towel rolled under an arm, the smell of chlorine always tickled the nose, cleared the senses.

The noise at poolside was often deafening! Children shrieked with nervous excitement, trying to stay afloat with giant orange inflatables around their arms. I would emerge from a blue curtained cubicle like a butterfly from its chrysalis, proudly wearing my red swimsuit. Always, my father would be in the pool first, beckoning me into the cradling waters, challenging me. In his youth he had been a finalist in the inter-city championships, had numerous certificates and badges. He still enthused about the sport and would encourage me to swim further than I could ever think possible. 100 metres was a long way for a young girl.

Where I swam now was very different to a pool and I was no longer ‘Daddy’s little champion.’ I was a woman of 40. An infinite expanse of sky, pregnant with clouds arched overhead. Shingle beaches lined the shores and jagged mountains crowded around, like they were bringing me into their confidence. Crows shrieked their good morning. Day would soon arrive and with it the chance of rain. As I pushed my body through the water, soft like silk, Nathan sat alongside me, paddling silently.

I met Nathan at a turning point in both our lives. I was chopping vegetables in the kitchen of a hostel, where I was holidaying in Scotland. Onions sizzled in a pan while tears tore down my face. ‘Something smells good!’ I started and the knife I held clattered to the floor.

‘It’ll be a chilli once it’s cooked.’ I turned to face a larger than life man. He was still wearing his hiking gear and had trodden mud through into the kitchen. ‘Hungry?’

‘Famished!’ He grinned.

The evening sun dipped beyond the horizon, turning the clouds into a kind of pink blancmange. The air was still, sweetly scented. Spring in Scotland has its own beauty. Trees slowly unfurled their tender leaves and rivers raged with melt-water from the mountains. Nathan, freshly showered, and I sat on a bench eating our bowls of chilli in the hostel’s garden. A bottle of wine shared between us. ‘What brings you to Scotland?’ I asked.

‘Adventure,’ he shrugged, then looking up at me he said shyly. ‘A broken heart. You?’

‘I recently lost my father.’ I took a mouthful of bitter wine. ‘We had been estranged the last couple of years, so the news was pretty hard to take.’ I paused. Nathan sat silently, listening. ‘I just had to get away, escape. You know how it is?’ He nodded. ‘I just packed the car and headed up here.’

‘Planning on staying long?’

‘A day or two. Depends if there’s anything to stay for.’ It was then that we shared one of those looks and the world suddenly shifts. Two people, lonely and broken, found comfort in each other’s arms.

Two years later, I found myself immersed in nature, practicing for a charity swim. The northern shore of the lake loomed ahead, trees, tall and prickly stood sentinel. From the water’s surface I suddenly noticed a familiar figure standing motionless by the lakeside, his arm raised in a wave. I stopped kicking, felt my body suspended by the water, while minnows gently swam between my fingers. ‘Sarah!’ Nathan called. ‘Don’t stop!’

‘Do you see..?’ I shouted, treading water.

‘What?’ I looked back towards the shore, to where only trees huddled around a burnt shell of a building. ‘It was probably a dog walker.’ Nathan encouraged. ‘You’re almost there! Don’t give up!’ I stretched my tired arms forward and pressed on for the last 50 metres or so. Soon my legs hit rocks as I crawled out of the water. My muscles ached, my skin purple with bruises. ‘You made it!’ Nathan cried jumping out of the kayak, ‘and in under an hour!’ His feet splashed in the shallows before he draped a towel around my shivering body.

‘Maybe I am my father’s daughter after all,’ I panted.

‘And more,’ Nathan cupped my face in his hands. ‘He would have been amazed at what you can achieve.’ Wells of tears unexpectedly flooded my eyes.

‘Really?’

‘Yes. Sure, he would have been jealous. Swimming in a lake! That has to beat swimming in a pool any day!’

‘I suppose,’ I smiled through chattering teeth.

‘You’ve swam further than you’ve ever done before. He would have been so proud of you!’ I felt Nathan’s lips, hot on mine as he wrapped his arms around me. I leant into his warm body.

‘I know it sounds silly but I could have sworn I saw him standing by the boathouse.’ Nathan looked to where the wooden structure stood derelict. There was no other living soul, save them at the lake.

‘Perhaps he was, cheering you on as he used to.’

‘It’s a nice thought.’

‘Come, let’s get you warm. A strong, celebratory coffee is in order. Perhaps I’ll buy us cake!’ We turned our backs to the lake laughing as we went, and the rain that was promised began to fall.

© 2016 Christine Lucas


I haven’t written anything of note in a while. The above story was written in response to an advert for submissions for an anthology on wild swimming. Needless to say I was not successfully chosen, so I’ve posted the piece for you, my lovely readers. It was written with a word count restriction, so forgive the fractured feel to the narrative.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Christine x

Blogs I’ve Enjoyed in 2016.

Since it’s December and the end of the year is fast approaching, I thought I would share with you all the blogs I have been enjoying over the past 12 months!

14875907_10154199400664200_679149005_oSharon’s wonderful Sunshine and Celandines, has become a long standing blog which I follow. She writes about food, days out/holidays and her life with gorgeous Labrador Hugo. I have enjoyed our blogging friendship and the sharing of writing topics such as joining Wild October!

Keeping with the theme of nature. Another three blogs which I look forward to reading are:

  1. Ramblings of a Roachling, where Louise posts beautiful pictures of her walks and life in the Peak District. She also blogs at 30 Days Wild!were 30 days has become a life long love affair with nature.
  2. Nicky at Too Lazy to Weed writes a fantastic blog with detailed pictures and information on the critters that live in her not so manicured garden!
  3. During June’s 30 Days Wild I came across Emma’s Discovery Hub and Twitter page. Both are full of informative facts on wildlife.
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Grasmere

A source of inspiration for my recently discovered ‘wild’ swims, is SwimmingTheLakeswhere the author is challenging herself to swim every lake and tarn in the Lake District!

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Mexican Quinoa

My favourite ‘go to’ website for recipes is Chungah at Damn Delicious. Her One Pan Mexican Quinoa makes a wonderful nutritious meal and the ingredients can be swapped and changed depending what’s in the store cupboard.

When the mood grabs me, I dabble in a little creative writing. Sue’s weekly #writephoto, where she posts a visual prompt, is and can be stimulating, as you can read here.

Classical music is another big passion in my life. I don’t know how I came about Charlotte Hoather’s blog but I enjoy reading updates on her performances and her studies.

If the London theatre scene is more your thing, then Rukaya vlogs about the many stage shows happening in London!

So there you have it, a small snapshot of some of the blogs I follow. If you have any blog suggestions then do post them in the comments below. I look forward to discovering many more fantastic blogs!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Moonlit – #writephoto

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Composed in response to Sue Vincent’s #writephoto post.

The sky had turned a velvety indigo, speckled with starlight. The full moon’s white rays danced on the surface of the lake. Its beam like an arrow, pointed to where the woman stood. She had discarded her shoes and stood barefoot on the stony shore. Listening to the trance-like sound of the water as it touched the rocks, she edged slowly towards their icy grip. ‘You shouldn’t be here.’ She smiled coyly, turning towards the silhouetted shape of a man coming towards her. His footsteps crunched as he drew alongside her. She trembled excitedly as she felt his arms encircle her waist, the touch of his cold lips on hers. She pulled away shyly.

‘Neither should you.’ She heard him laugh. ‘Ed, what would your husband say, if he knew you were here with me?’ She chuckled. ‘With a straight woman too!’

‘What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.’ She started walking, gingerly at first deeper into the water. Sharp stones cut into her feet. The fabric of her long dress grew heavy.

‘Why did you come?’ She heard him sigh. ‘And don’t give me that ‘I’m confused’ line. You’re 50! You should know who you are by now!’ Ed looked shocked.

‘Lisa,’ he paused, thinking of the right words to say. ‘You know there’s always been something about you.’ Lisa stood knee deep in water. She could see Ed’s features blanched by the moonlight. He looked ethereal. She shivered. ‘It’s always been about you. 20 years ago, you were all I could see and now…’ he broke off.

‘And now?’

‘I don’t know what’s happening between us?’

‘Me neither,’ Lisa sighed. ‘Though it feels different somehow.’

‘Yes, less possessive.’

‘Have you told Lee about me?’ Lisa noticed Ed’s stance, uncomfortable, with his hands in his pockets.

‘No, what could I say?’

‘The truth,’ she scoffed.

‘He knows there’s been women in the past.’

‘And he’s fine with that?’ Ed nodded.

‘I’ve just not told him that there was one that left her mark on me.’

‘Literally,’ Lisa thought, picturing the scar Ed bore on his chest, where she had sliced him with a kitchen knife after one of their many heated arguments.

‘What are you doing?’ Ed asked, exasperated, as Lisa walked waist high into the lake.

‘Standing in stone cold water,’ she shivered.

‘You’re mad!’

‘I’d rather be mad than dead inside.’ She turned to face Ed, her dress soaking up more of the insidious cold, dragging her downwards. ‘It’s like the moon has nothing to be sad about… her blacks crackle and drag,’ she quoted Sylvia Plath.

‘You’re more sloshing around, than crackling.’ Ed grinned.

‘Join me?’ Lisa laughed nervously, before her scream pierced the night sharply. She’d felt her feet stumble, slip on mossy stones, before her whole body succumbed to the water. She exhaled loudly, raising above the surface, giggling fitfully, thankfully to still be alive. Concentric waves rippled all around her. A man swore angrily as he stormed away from the promontory with a camera and tripod under his arm. Lisa managed to find her feet and stood dripping.

‘You ok?’ Ed called.

‘Yes,’ Lisa smiled. ‘Looks like I’ve ruined his photographs.’

‘Ignore him!’

‘Seems I have a knack for ruining things for people.’

‘Don’t believe that!’ Ed sensed Lisa’s jovial mood was turning.

‘Perhaps it would be better if I wasn’t here at all.’ Lisa looked towards the vast darkness of the lake. Peaks of night covered hills glowed orange with street lights from the nearby town.

‘Never think that!’ Ed gazed at Lisa’s white skin glowing in the moonlit. Her dark hair tumbling over her pale naked shoulders. ‘You look like a nereid.’

‘Come?’ Lisa beckoned, watching as Ed reluctantly peeled the shirt off his back, unbuckled the belt from his jeans.

‘I can’t believe I’m doing this?’

‘You can do it!’ Lisa felt herself slipping further into the icy water, until her whole body was submerged. Her rapid breathing was echoed by Ed’s, who’d waded bravely into the lake towards her.

‘Oh f**k, oh f**k!’ He cried as Lisa held her arms out. ‘Why do this?’

‘I just want to feel alive!’

‘There’s better ways to feel alive!’ Ed bounded through the water, droplets glittering like diamonds in the moonlight, flew all around. The fabric of Lisa’s dress wrapped itself around her legs, threatening to pull her down.

‘I’ve got you!’ Ed called, reaching for Lisa’s body, holding her firm. Face to face they breathed each others breath.

‘No one must know about us.’

‘Like I’m going to publicise it,’ Ed mocked.

‘I mean it.’ Lisa implored, her consciousness pricked. ‘Paul must never know. It would break him.’

‘We both have something to lose.’ Lisa closed her eyes and let Ed kiss her. It was an impassioned caress filled with years of want.

‘I still love Paul, but he will never understand what we feel for each other,’ she murmured. ‘I love you so much.’ Lisa ran her cold, wet fingers through Ed’s hair, shivered as he muzzled her neck.

‘I love you.’ She quivered in his arms.

‘How can we make this work? We both have very different lives?’

‘I don’t know.’ Ed looked towards the Great Bear and the north star, as a sailor would, looking for direction. ‘We can’t keep using unplanned conferences and meetings as an excuse or they’ll grow suspicious.’

‘Perhaps we should cut our losses, say our goodbyes.’

‘That’s not what I want, nor I believe do you.’

‘But someone’s bound to get hurt.’ Ed held Lisa close, afraid that if he let go, she would slip from his sight. As moonlight bathed their heads, a shooting star carved its way across the sparkling tapestry of the night sky.

© Christine Lucas 2016.


Lines taken from Sylvia Plath’s – Edge.

The woman is perfected.
Her dead
Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
The illusion of a Greek necessity
Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
Her bare
Feet seem to be saying:
We have come so far, it is over.
Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,
One at each little
Pitcher of milk, now empty.
She has folded
Them back into her body as petals
Of a rose close when the garden
Stiffens and odors bleed
From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.
The moon has nothing to be sad about,
Staring from her hood of bone.
She is used to this sort of thing.
Her blacks crackle and drag.
Sylvia Plath, “Edge” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1960, 1965, 1971, 1981 by the Estate of Sylvia Plath. Editorial matter copyright © 1981 by Ted Hughes.
Source: Collected Poems (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1992)

Sunday Sevens #15

Phew! These past seven days have felt like a long week! I was thankful for the weekend!

TroyDavid and I have been worrying about our owl finch, Troy. He became ill on Sunday last, sitting on the floor twisting his head. The phenomena is called twirling. It is very upsetting to witness. All week I have felt helpless. We have put him on a course of anti-fungal medication in the hope that it is an ear canal infection. Troy seems to rally of a morning but come nighttime he relapses again. We have isolated him, in the hospital cage and will try anti-mite treatment next week. His mate, Tux has joined him in his cage for company. The picture featured is of Troy in good health.

I think I’ll get all the sad news out of the way first! One of the main events on the world stage this week, has been the attack on Bastille Day revellers in Nice. In Liverpool, in a recurrent display, the iconic St Georges Hall was sadly lit up with the colours of the tricolour in solidarity.

20160715_222805

41dd4ZhCx5L._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_I finished the latest book I’ve been reading, Rachel Kelly’s Black Rainbow. I read it for an online book group. It was only 99p, which was a positive. The prose is about the author’s two bouts of depression and how ‘words healed’ her, though I think it was prescription drugs and support by health professionals and her family who contributed to her recovery. I was not enamored with the book. I drew nothing from the narration, indeed halfway through the book the author’s attitude really alienated me and I grew quite hostile! The many interjections of ‘supportive’ poems really didn’t call to me, highlighting that depression is an individual illness. My own mental state may have caused my severe reaction to the book, but on completion, I felt empty, devoid of any feelings, not even relief in finishing the book. Have you read the book? Perhaps you gained more insight than I did.

And now for the good stuff!

the-merchant-of-venice-at-shakespeares-globe-theatre-5e0447b96ab71c2145f4bdbf0c9f6eca

On Friday, David and I attended the Liverpool Playhouseto see the Globe Theatre’s touring production of The Merchant of Venice, starring Jonathan Pryce. I was amazed to have acquired tickets as the play was a sell out! It’s not a play that sits easy with me. I find the antisemitism hard to watch. The Globe’s production relies heavily on the play being classed as one of William Shakespeare’s comedies, as the comic scenes starkly juxtapose the heavy drama. From the outset the play is performed with gusto by the cast. The musicians and ensemble came onto the stage singing and dancing 10 minutes before the billed start. David and I had just found our seats when the music struck up! The actors encouraged audience participation, to the extent that Launcelot (Stefan Adegbola) even dragged up two willing members of the audience to grace the action on stage. It made me think of how very different Shakespeare’s audience was to that of our own modern audience who silently watch voyeuristically from the darkness.

At times I felt I had travelled back in time as the stage design, lighting and costumes all gave the stage a kind of authenticity. There was much gravitas to Jonathan Pryce’s Shylock. I liked the interchanges in Hebrew between his onstage (and off) daughter Jessica, (Phoebe Pryce.) Rachel Pickup’s Portia was another highlight for me, she graced the stage elegantly yet her diction commanded you take note of her character! She had many a wise word to say.

Overall it was an enjoyable two and a half hours. David even treated me to Cheshire Farm ice-cream during the interval, scrumptious!

Saturday, we arose early. I dragged a reluctant David to Sheffield, to tour the streets in search of their herd of colourful elephants. We visited the Crucible where I recited tales of when I visited in 2013 to see my favourite actor, Jonathan FirthWe took in sights such as the Winter Gardens, Cathedral and railway station. We saw 31 of the 58 elephants in the two hours we walked. Below we pose with our favourites!

Have you been to the theatre recently? Seen any interesting art installations?

I hope you have a joyous week ahead. See you next Sunday.

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Week Six of Start Writing Fiction

I thought last week was difficult enough with falling behind with my studies, but this week has been even worse! We have been thrown task after task after task!! Below is one such task. It was to envisage a character through dialogue. I quite enjoyed writing it. It just seemed to flow. Hope you enjoy it too? And as always any feedback is most welcome!

 

She walked over to him, unsure whether he had seen her or not. ‘Would you like a second cup Sir?’ She noticed him start. He looked up into her eyes and to Olivia it looked like he had been found guilty. Guilty of sitting in a coffee shop alone. Guilty of a pupil seeing him outside of school. Guilty of being found reading ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’. ‘My favourite book!’

‘Well I thought I would give it a try since one of my star pupils loves it so much!’ He blushed or she thought she noticed the colour rise to his cheeks.

‘Would you like me to get you another cup?’ He shook his head.

‘I don’t think I’ll be staying much longer.’ He looked at his watch.

‘Are you waiting for someone Sir?’ He smiled his assent.

‘Though I don’t think she’s coming.’

‘Maybe she’s been held up?’

‘Maybe,’ he sighed. ‘Though somehow I think I’ve been blown off.’

‘No Sir, surely not.’

‘Well I have been waiting here for over an hour.’

‘There’ll be a plausible explanation I’m sure.’

‘Please don’t tell your class mates I was stood up. I really don’t want them knowing that I am a sad lonely old teacher.’

‘You’re not old!’ Olivia caught herself.

‘Older than you!’

‘Not by much.’

‘By enough.’

‘I’d date you!’ Olivia not only surprised herself but her teacher sat upright too.

‘Would you now,’ he released a strained laugh, showing he was trying too hard to make light of the matter. ‘Anyway,’ he changed the subject like a click of the fingers. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘I work here.’

‘I can see that, but why, you have your studies?’

‘I need the money Sir.’

‘Call me Adam. Sir is so stiff and formal.’ Now it was Olivia’s time to blush. She lowered her gaze. ‘Why do you need the money?’

‘I’m saving to go to Paris,’ she blurted.’ I’ve wanted to go since I can remember!’

‘Paris is a lovely city!’

‘Have you been?’ Olivia couldn’t stop the rising excitement within her. Adam nodded. She desired more than anything else to be able to share her dreams with someone. Adam, her teacher seemed the most qualified than anyone she knew, to be the one she shared them with. She sat down at the table before him. ‘What’s it like?’

‘Olivia!’ a shrill cry broke Adam’s description of music filled streets, the Seine glistening in the moonlight and Art, not just in the galleries but on the buildings that lined the boulevards. Olivia arose from her seat under the glare of her boss.

‘Sorry I have cups to wash.’

‘Perhaps,’ Olivia looked down at Adam with wide eyes. ‘We can continue this conversation at school, Monday.’

‘Yes, maybe.’ She walked away, forgetting Adam’s empty coffee cup on the table.

© Christine Lucas 2014.

Ideas for a Story

As you may know I have embarked on a short, free creative writing course with the Open University.

This is the second ‘large’ piece of writing I have been tasked to do. It was inspired by a short video introducing the course and I have tried to pull a story from one of the images featured. Of a young woman sitting, awaiting a bus with an over night bag on her lap. Let me know what you think of the first 500+ words and if it has any promise for me to continue with. Thanks. Christine.

 

I remember… how he looked the morning he walked into the class room. The bright spring sunshine flowed into the room, touching the heads of twenty four rowdy teenagers and me. I sat gazing out of the window to the park below. The trees were heavy limbed with pink blossom and daisy heads interjected the green grass of the playing fields. I watched as an elderly man walked his dog, a young mother pushed her baby in a pram while talking into a mobile phone. All life was going on before me while I sat stifled and bored awaiting the new form teacher to arrive and to begin another day of endless classes. Don’t get me wrong, I loved studying, was always in the top 5% of classes but life at present seemed an endless chore. Mother had just remarried to a pig of a man, Dan and my older sister Melanie, had started her first semester at Manchester University studying politics. So it was just ‘little old’ me in a house far too large for three people, (two of whom I tried to avoid at all times,) and Jake the Border Collie. ‘Perhaps I’ll take the dog for a walk after school,’ I thought and then the door was flung open and in he walked!

It was his confident swagger that gripped me first. He didn’t look much older than 25, but his poise gave him the air of a much older man. I think I half envied him then! Confidence was never a strong character trait with me. Indeed that was why I was sitting alone while the rest of the girls in class were all huddled at the back chatting to the boys, the good looking boys I may hasten to add. He breezed in and demanded such attention that everyone fell silent. ‘I’m Mr. Blake and I will be your new class teacher.’

It didn’t take long for the brassy ones of the class to pipe up, ‘sir, which school have you transferred from? What subject do you teach?’ The latter was voiced by the girls who were suddenly sitting alert like animals in anticipation of food.

‘Poor Mr. Blake,’ I thought. ‘He’s a carrot dangling before all these hormonal girls, many on the verge of womanhood,’ He bent over his desk and peered into the class register. He patted his shirt pocket, looking for something.

‘I’ve forgotten my glasses. Forgive me if I get your names wrong. I’m rather short sighted.’ His voice was rich and soft like the wind sighing through the trees. If I closed my eyes I could picture his voice coming from the radio late at night, announcing some relaxing piece of music. I smiled as I thought I wouldn’t mind lying in bed listening to his voice all night. ‘Olivia Edwards,’ he was saying my name. ‘Olivia Edwards is she here?’ and then I opened my eyes. He was scanning the sea of faces before him looking for someone he thought resembled an Olivia.

‘Here,’ I managed to squeak. His eyes rested on my face and I half envisaged a slight turn up of his lips.

‘Nice to meet you Olivia Edwards,’ and inside my heart pounded.

Interview Nerves.

An extract from ‘After Plato’.

Charlotte stood buttoning up her blouse as her reflection smiled back at her. She shrugged on a grey jacket that matched her knee length skirt. She remembered the lines in the typed letter that she had received. ‘We thank you for your application and would like to invite you to an interview.’ Charlotte had stood frozen to the spot as she read the letter out to Harry after the postman had delivered it a week ago today.

‘Do you think they will like me?’ Charlotte asked, stroking down the creases of her skirt.

‘I don’t see why not, you know your playwrights, you would probably be more useful in the press office than the box,’ Harry replied. He was sitting on the edge of the bed watching Charlotte get ready for her interview at the local theatre.

‘Well it’s a start. I could work up the ranks.’

‘A career woman eh?’ Charlotte giggled as Harry grabbed at her, pulling her onto the bed next to him. He felt her body tremble as she lay in his arms. ‘You don’t have to be nervous. They will adore you, like I do!’

‘Oh Hal, you are sweet,’ Charlotte smiled throwing her arms around his neck and welcoming his soft kisses on her lips, her neck.

‘Just take deep breaths and think what you are going to say before speaking.’

‘I will,’ Charlotte sighed. ‘I’ll think of you when I am in the interview. Your love will carry me through,’ she closed her eyes and held Harry close.

‘Don’t think of me too much or it’ll leave you breathless.’ Charlotte smiled and clung to Harry like he was the sustenance that gave her life meaning.

 

Christine Lucas 2014.