Friday, 14 November 2014

November Rambles - what I love about this time of year.




The colours... this is the wild cherry in our back garden, just beginning to turn, taken the other day when the sun was shining fit to burst, but it was still quite cool, only about nine degrees. I love that at last it is being seasonably chilly, with crisp mornings. It seems wrong buying locally freshly picked strawberries in late October. I am one of these people who like the changing of the seasons, the contrasts between long days and shorter ones, food in the right season, getting logs for the fire, looking for sweet chestnuts in the woods, raking up leaves in the garden and bagging them up, getting snuggly throws onto the chairs and bed. This is one I made for a friend who has a terminal illness and who spends a lot of time in her conservatory, just sitting and watching the wild life coming and going...




My own current favourite is this one made from hand spun and dyed pure wool that I got from a lady in Wales. It is quite large, made up of squares using one hank each of different colours, and is incredibly warm, light and soft, perfect for snuggling under with a book!




Being able to sit in the summerhouse and sew at this time of year has been an unusual event, I can't remember doing it before. Sitting out for a hot cuppa, with a throw wrapped round me maybe, but sitting and sewing? Not before now. Is this going to be the norm, or just an exceptional year I wonder? Still, sewing goes on whatever the weather, this is a little felt picture I made for a friend, a thank you present.



I love the idea of using the tapestry ring frame as the frame for the finished article. It's something that has been popular for a while now, and is the second time I've used it. The first was for an embroidered picture I have hanging here....



Both have been backed with a circle of felt. I know not everyone does this, and I admit it's fiddly to do, but I like the finished look it gives.



I don't suppose you can mention November without fireworks really, and I do love watching them, from the comfort of my own home! However, and here I don the 'Grumpy Old Woman' hat.... I do wish they would only be on sale in the couple of days up to the 5th itself, and no longer. It seems that some years, people start setting off fireworks ever earlier, though a lot depends on the day of the week the 5th falls on of course. This year, it was midweek, so we could hear fireworks the previous Saturday, the day itself, and then this weekend. I am all in favour of organised displays in preference to private firework parties, but sadly where I live, a couple of long-standing displays have now been cancelled, due to Health and Safety or the cost of Public Liability insurance making it impossible to carry on. Such a shame. I do wonder how many children 'Oohing' and 'Aahing' actually know why fireworks are being let off, what is the meaning of Guy Fawkes? A bit like Christmas, I suspect the true meaning has passed them by.

I have also been doing some new journal pages, finishing off old ones too. Here are a couple of images, the first using paper collage, paints and felt tips.





And this one using collage with card, paints, salt (to give a rough, sandpaperlike texture to the paper).

And still on papercrafts, a Christmas card using one of my own photographs, and an ornament made for a friend....






Last weekend we made the Christmas cake, a bit later than usual, but it was a last minute decision. I haven't made one for the past couple of years, since the last one didn't turn out so well. I'm not too sure about this one either to be honest, it seems a little well done around the edges... oh, all right, it's like a brick round the edges!!! I may end up cutting off the outer one and a half inches. I don't go in for fancy icing these days, just slap on some marzipan and icing - all ready made - and tie a ribbon round it. I don't like fruit cake at all, though occasionally will go all Yorkshire and have a thin sliver with a piece of good Wensleydale cheese. Don't eat the pudding either, so we buy a small, good one for Himself. I'm fussy about my mince pies too! And can't stand turkey. Aren't you glad I'm not coming to your house for Christmas!!!

And one of the very best things about this month, is that it is the time when the geese arrive for their winter holidays. Tens of thousands of them, and every morning they fly over our house, huge skeins, little skeins, sometimes low enough to see clearly, sometimes higher, but usually you hear them before you see them. They come  back later in the day, often at dusk, which often makes me wonder how they know which part of the mudflats they're heading for in the dark, with no lighting? They are an integral part of living in this area, most people don't seem to take any notice of them, but I can't wait for their arrival each year.

Well, this is me for this month. Thanks, as ever, for popping by. Please leave a comment if you can.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

October's Rambles


Well, after days of heavy grey clouds like these, of rain, and wind, then more rain... when the ditches and small rivers that you find around this area are full to the brim almost... when the plants in the garden are all beginning to blacken and die back and even the seed heads of the tall grass looks a bit manky ... well, it's lovely to see a bit of this ...



blue skies appearing again. Not for long though, soon the grey engulfs the blue, the warm sun hides away, and you're left wondering should you bring the washing in or not?

The peonies have been cut back, the remains of the sweet peas and runner bean plants all taken down, chopped up and put in the composting bin. There is still some colour from marigolds, nigella, cranesbill, and the scarlet geraniums in pots aren't ready to give up flowering just yet. So maybe still a couple of weeks or so of colour, then it will quieten down until the bursts of colour from all the bulbs.

For now, though with the sun shining, it's lovely and warm, and perfect for a stroll round the estate, as one friend describes her morning walk round her tiny plot. Here are a few shots of ours, this afternoon....






Sorry, but I'm no good at this mosaic lark!


The garden is something that always gives me pleasure, no matter what the weather.

Other things that have given me pleasure this week.....

My knitting, which goes slowly, even though it's a very simple two row chevron pattern. But it's in four ply, the balls - grey and purple - never seem to get any smaller! But I have finished a crochet lap blanket for the old people's home. Something I do every couple of years or so is take a pile of lap blankets, sometimes scarves and fingerless gloves, a shawl or two maybe, all knitted or crocheted, to one of the old people's homes in the area. This one is a grey bland building, of Sixties construction I would estimate, whereas the others within a five mile radius are not purpose built, but converted out of lovely, characterful for the most part, large (and very large) private homes. So I feel a bit sorry for the folk living in this boring looking one, even though they have quite a nice garden and lovely staff. So I finished this....




sorry it's a bit blurry. I'll put this away in the cupboard, with the two shawls I've done over the summer, until such time as I have a decent amount to take, next year definitely.

My reading always gives me pleasure, and I've read some great books recently. These will appear on the next posting, all about October's reading, but one I can't recommend highly enough is 'Daughter', by Jane Shemlit. Picked up on a whim in the supermarket, as opposed to my careful choosing on Amazon et al, this book was one I couldn't put down. It had me gripped from page one, right to the very end, and is a book I know I will read again. If you come across it, give it a try.


What has definitely not pleased me this week was the old misogynist behind us in the queue at the supermarket yesterday, who in a loud voice proclaimed all the ails of the world, and this country in particular, were down to women, that amongst other things, the government had gone to pot since women were elected (Really?). He was in his seventies I should think, dressed in beige polyester from head to trainered feet. His wife, fluffed up  blonde hair and a dress two generations too young for her, simpering and laughing at him. I felt like smacking him, and the till lady looked far from pleased, her colour going from English rose pink to let me at him red. He really was offensive, thought he was so funny. I won't bother recording or repeating all the other things he said, some of which were directed at his silly wife who thought he was being kind. My other half was amazed that I had kept quiet. Normally I would have said something but to be honest, I was so fuming I really couldn't think of where to start!

So there you have my rambles for this month. Hope this finds you all well and able to enjoy some autumn sunshine wherever you are too.

Thanks for visiting, and please do leave a comment if you can.


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

September reading


Once again linking up with Laura over at Circle of Pine Trees and her 'Year in Books' - such a great idea, I've already tried books/authors I might otherwise never have noticed or known about.

First on my list is 'The Knot' by Mark Watson. Dominic is an enthusiastic snapper as a child who grows up to be a photographer of people, especially weddings. But he carries a dirty little secret that would appal everyone - if it came out. 

Next is 'Quarter Past Two on a Wednesday Afternoon' by Linda Newbery. This is the time and day when teenage Rose aged 18, disappeared. Leaving her friends, family, all in total shock. For twenty years her younger sister Anna holds the thought that Rose is alive and one day she'll find her. Will she find her and will it be more revealing than she thought? Like the previous book, a brilliant debut novel.

'The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap' by Wendy Welch is non-fiction, the story of Wendy and her husband who had a dream to open a bookshop. So they do, and whilst the idea of a cosy bookshop, chairs by the fire and so on is appealing, the reality of creating such a shop, and in the town they chose, was very different and there were times when they were close to giving up. But they persevered and now the shop thrives. I chose this book because I collect books about or novels set in, bookshops, and also because Big Stone Gap is where one of my favourite authors, Adriana Trigiani set her novels.

Nina Stibbe's 'Man at the Helm', is her first work of fiction following the success of her previous autobiographical work 'Love, Nina'. This is the story of Lizzie, who with her little brother and big sister leave the family home with their mother when their parents separate. It becomes clear that their mother is useless at the parenting lark alone, and so they devise a plan to find her a man, they make a 'man list' to find a man to be at the helm and make everything all right again. One by one prospective candidates are ticked off the list until the right one finds them, unexpectedly, without any help or interference from them.


'Delicious' by Ruth Reichl is just that, a delicious read. Billie leaves California for New York to work as a writer, and ends up on the foodie magazine, Delicious. When the magazine closes she is the only staff member left to work in the old building, answering complaints and queries from readers. And it is whilst she is doing this she discovers the letters of Lulu Swan, a young girl, and it is reading about this young girl and her life, how she copes with adversity that has a profound effect on Billie and how she lives her own life, how she copes with her fears. 

'Eleanor and Park' by Rainbow Rowell...  is the story of young, first love. At times it's hearbreakingly sad at the end, and the ending itself... well, you make of it what you will. But the reading of the story of these two young people in their mid-teens, brings back memories of how it felt to be young, and in love. The pain, the ecstatic highs and very miserable lows too. Good read. It's actually classed as young adult fiction, but it can be read by anyone of any age. Even an oldie like me, still able to remember those feelings.

I also read, on my Kindle, 'Elizabeth is Missing' by Emma Healey, a sometimes upsetting novel about living with dementia. Maud is forgetful, goes out and forgets why, has lots of scribbled notes she keeps in her pockets, none of  which make any sense to her when she finds them. But she's certain of one thing; that her friend Elizabeth is missing. So she looks for her all the time. Whilst her short term memory isn't good, she can remember her teenage years and the people who were a part of her life. Well-written, and starkly brings home the reality of what dementia feels like.

I am in the middle of a short course in women's studies, having just finished the first part which is about women's roles in WWII. The two books below are ones I've had since they were published almost twenty years ago, both filled with facts and personal remembrances of that period in our history. It's amazing to think that despite what some of the women were doing - driving tanks, flying aircraft, working on the land, running British Restaurants, doing the dangerous, smelly, noisy work in Ammunitions factories, even parachuting into occupied France as spies -  many of them felt second class, as if their efforts weren't as valid, or valuable, as the work the men did. Yet it has been well documented that without the effort of these women, nearly half a million of them in military service and 6.5 million in civilian war work, it's possible that we wouldn't have been able to put up the fight we did.



So there you have my books for last month. Now autumn is almost upon us, leaves are falling rapidly off the birch trees in my back garden, Christmas magazines are on sale in the shops alongside Hallowe'en costumes and pumpkins. Lots more time for reading hopefully.

Thanks for dropping by.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

The Best of August's reading



August's reading was a mixed bag of fiction and non-fiction, proper books and e-books, and these are some of the best.

Santa Montefiore is for me, an author who never fails to please, and this, 'The Beekeeper's Daughter' was yet another exceptional read. The story moves between generations of two families, the 'upstairs, downstairs' if you like, and between Dorset and New England, two of my favourite places. Grace grows up as the beekeepers daughter, working on a large Dorset estate and living in a tied cottage with her father, where as a young teenage girl, she develops a crush on the young Lord and Master, Rufus. But she knows that despite his being kind and relaxed and friendly with her, there could never be anything between them, and in time she marries Freddie, destined to be farm  manager on the estate. But war intervenes. And an unusual turn of events sees the young couple move from Dorset to New England where their teenage daughter meets and falls in love with Jasper. Her love is returned but duty calls for Jasper, and he returns to the same Dorset estate that Freddie and Grace left all those years ago. Grace had to give up her true love, will her daughter have to do the same and for the same reasons of duty, obligation etc?

'Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase' by Louise Walters is the story of Roberta, who collects and keeps notes, postcards and so on, that she finds in old books in the bookshop where she works for Philip, the owner. (It later transpires that he is not all  he seems to be, but that's right at the end and I won't spoil it for any potential readers!) It's when she's looking through her grandmother's books though, that she finds something that stirs her curiosity - a letter from her supposed grandfather, dated after he died. The story goes back between the present day, and wartime when her grandmother was an unhappily married young woman, who by chance met and fell in love with a Polish Squadron Leader, whose name Roberta carries. It is a mystery she has to solve. There's romance here too, not just for her grandmother, but her also. This is another extraordinarily good debut novel.

Jenny Uglow's 'The Pinecone'  is the first of my non-fiction reads, which in all honesty, has been on the go for some time. It's an intense read, lots of information, and was one of those books I dipped in and out of, as the mood for something more serious took me. Sarah Losh was born into an old Cumbrian family, heiress to a fortune, and builder of a small church in the village of Wreay, filled with carvings of ammonites, poppies, and lots of pinecones, her signature in stone as it has been called. The family was involved with great writers of the time, friends with the likes of Wordsworth and Coleridge, and the book tells of them, as well as sisterly love, village life, what the arrival of the railways meant amongst other things.

'Her' by Harriet Lane - I loved her previous book, 'Alys, Always' and so had to get this and was a bit disappointed that for me, it didn't live up to the 'thriller of the year' hype I'd read about. Nina and Emma knew each other, not very well and briefly as girls in their mid-to-late teens. When by chance Nina sees Emma at a distance, she recognises her at once, but even when she has inveigled herself into Emma's life, and that of her husband and children, Emma still hasn't recognised her. But you just know that at some point she will. Just as you know that Nina's memories of Emma are not happy ones, that something occurred for which she seeks retribution. But what was it, and how, if at all, will she get her revenge. The pace picked up, it was a really good read, but I still doubt the hype.

Nicci Gerrard's 'The Winter House' tells the story of three friends from school days - Marnie, Ralph who was quiet and shy, and Oliver, the extrovert glamorous and slightly dangerous. Marnie loved Ollie. Ralph loved Marnie. Years later they get together and stay  in a remote cottage in the Scottish Highlands, coming together as a threesome one last time to be with Ralph, who is dying. They spend their time reminiscing, remembering the heartbreak, the passion, the falling out. Can the past be buried and forgiven before Ralph dies?

I am a lover of bookshops. I want to have a  bookshop. It's my dream, I even have two properties I know of locally that would make the ideal bookshop, one attached to a lovely Victorian house, in the centre of a thriving village/holiday spot nearby, good footfall all year round. The other is a tiny intimate space, I can see it with Christmas lights, different window displays depending on the time of year. But it's occupied by a long-standing business, no chance of them going. Which is just as well, because as usual, money is the main sticking point. And so these pipedreams remain just that, but when I find a book about someone who did it, or a novel set within a bookshop, then I have to have it. 'The Bookshop That Floated Away' by Sarah Henshaw is her story of buying an old barge and turning it into a home cum floating bookshop that Sarah took for six months on canals and rivers. She met some interesting people along the way, bartered books for food and a hot bath, and cake. You can follow her continuing life aboard the barge via Facebook or www.thebookbarge.com

And on my Kindle, an excellent book - 'When I Wasn't Watching' by Michelle Kelly. As far as I know this is Michelle's first novel, and I can't wait for her next. This is the story of young Jack, abducted and murdered eight years ago by Terry Prince, himself a teen at the time. When another little boy, similar age and looks to Jack goes missing in similar circumstances close by, the police fear the worst. At the time of Jack's disappearance Matt was the leading DS on the case. Now he's the DCI dealing with this second case, and the realisation that the attraction he felt for Jack's mother all those years ago, inappropriate at the time, was however real. It may still be inappropriate in the eyes of his boss when he discovers there may be a growing friendship between the two, but for both, it's real. This is a love story mixed with a detective story, which has a satisfying, happy ending.

So,once again I hope there's something there to tempt you, and that August has been a good month for you. 

Thanks as ever for dropping by. Happy Reading!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

August Ramblings

When I first began this blog almost a year ago, I had no real idea what I was going to do with it. I don't lead a wildly social life, in fact to most people I probably seem anti-social or a bit of a snob. In reality I'm just a bit reclusive, happy in my own company, my own home, doing my own thing. But writing about that seemed a tad boring, and hardly worth the effort of my writing and anyone else reading. So it was a delight when I found the Year in Books started by Laura over on her Circle of Pine Trees blog. At last, something I could definitely join in with, since books and reading form a big part of my everyday life.
But posting about books is only a once a month event, I felt I wanted to write more, even though I probably don't have much to say. So I've decided to start my 'ramblings', just random bits of this and that, my everyday life in fact for the most part. I hope someone other than me will read it!

                                                                 THE GARDEN


As with most people who garden, July and August are very productive and busy times. For us with our large garden, part of the gravel garden you can see in the above picture, it has meant lots of deadheading of flowers, harvesting of soft fruit and vegetables, and late sowings too, of yellow courgettes and peas. All the peas and broad beans had been harvested by the beginning of this month, and now the runners, stringless and dwarf French beans have kicked in and I pick every other day. Tiny yellow courgettes are harvested a couple of times a week too. Herbs have grown really well this year, in fact, very few disappointments, with the exception of a pack of Giant Larkspur which have turned out to be something completely different. I have no idea what they are, about six inches tall, with foliage like that of carrot tops, and with the promise of some sort of flower waiting to bud. Hardly what I wanted, and letter of complaint will be on its way to the producer of the pack. But with my allergy to the heat, and severe skin problems which mean I am not supposed to go out in the sun, my forays have been early morning and late evening, when I think the garden is at its nicest in a way... the searing  heat we've had here in our corner of Norfolk, with little or no rain compared to many other areas, has dissipated, and the garden has a calmness to it. This is when I do a little weeding and meditating. Thankfully of late the temperatures have dropped and we have had much-needed rain.

                                                                  CRAFTY STUFF



One of the great things about blogging is the ideas you glean, the inspiration that you get from other bloggers, and thanks to Lynne at Textile Treasury, last year I got interested in working with felt and this month I made the above cushion. I know he's not brilliant, or terribly arty in a way, not over-embellished or anything, but this is how I like it. I used an old soft brushed cotton shirt of my husband's which was destined for the car polishing/rag bag, until I salvaged it, using it with the buttons at the back as a means of easy removal of the pad. (I don't know who first thought of doing this but it's a brilliant idea!)

I've also done knitting, quite a lot. It seems that it's the easiest of the crafts on my hands, and it is so calming. I love to listen to Radio 4 and knit, or just sit quietly with my needles in the conservatory, watching the birds come to feed or bathe, neighbours cats passing through, often sticking their nose in the open door to say Miaow at me before wandering off again. It has been shawls of late, just simple triangles using a beautifully soft four ply merino (half price in a sale ages ago, I knew I'd find a use for it!), started on short needles, then onto normal length, and then onto circular as it gets wider.




                        
                                                                  WORDS

Writing is something that's a big part of my life as well. At one time I used to write regularly for county magazines, and then I turned my hand to fiction, short stories I enjoyed some small measure of success with. But the idea for a novel was never far away, in fact it was in a drawer, handwritten, sitting waiting for me to resurrect it and do something with it. I'd been meaning to 
do something with it for several years, but left it, knowing that when it was the right time, I'd go back to it. Well, the right time was early this year, when I took it out, dusted it off, edited, scrubbed out, re-wrote for months. And the end result has gone to a publisher, my tutor on the novel writing course tells me that the digital route seems the best option for new writers. It's not going to set the world on fire, it's not a brilliant first novel, not like some I read in July (see previous post), but I love it. It's my little novel, I love the story, the place it's set in and some of the characters I am particularly fond of, they often surprised me with things they said or did. Whether it will get accepted or not, who knows? It would be lovely if it did, but if not... well it matters not 'cos I've already started the next in the series of three. Ever hopeful.

                                                                   LIFE

My life, is as anyone who knows me will tell you, is quiet. Usually this is from necessity as good health deserted me long ago and there are times when put simply, I'm not up to much. Osteoporosis of the spine and Type 2 diabetes were the latest to hit me last year, and I don't wonder 'what next'. Life's too short - and it's a shame we don't realise that when we're much younger than when we're an OAP. That's Older Aged Person if you don't mind, not the other definition.

But occasionally we venture out of our comfortable, cosy little old house and last month it was off into Suffolk, to a lovely antique centre at Risby. I recently acquired two of these small printers trays....






and so have been on the lookout for tinies to put inside, and at Risby one of the cabinets has vintage toys, Dinky little old Dinky and Corgi cars, all well-loved but the chipped paint and wonky wheels adds to the charm. And thanks to my husband's interest in model N gauge railways, I have access to catalogues with lots and lots of tiny vehicles, like the Blackpool tram, reminding me of my teenage working years when I travelled on one to and from my job in Blackpool.

Most of our outings are unplanned, we just go when and where we feel like it, with my husband having the mid week free from work obligations, this is an ideal time. It tends to be quieter in the places we like to visit, and neither of us is fond of crowds and noisy children! But one outing I had been going to plan was to the Status Quo concert at nearby Holkham Hall, but with the news a couple of weeks ago of the group having to cancel several concert dates on their European tour, I decided against it. I would hate to be disappointed if it were cancelled at the last minute. There weren't going to be fireworks anyway!

So there is my mid-month ramblings of my quiet Norfolk life. Hope you found something to interest you! And thanks for visiting.




Friday, 1 August 2014

Just July's Books


   Linking up once more with Laura over at her Circle of Pine Trees blog, hosting the Year in Books.


One of the best books I've read in a long time, 'The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry' by Gabrielle Zevin was devoured, the only word for it, in a few afternoons when it was too warm to do anything but sit and read in a room away from the sun, with a fan gently blowing cool air in front of me, and a glass of iced peach tea alongside. A.J. owns Island Books, a secondhand bookstore, and since his wife died he's lost heart, drinks too much too. Then one day two things happen; someone leaves a baby in his store with a note explaining they can't look after it any more, and a valuable old edition goes missing. Things start to look up, and get even better when he falls in love again. Life can't get better for A.J. but in the way of real life, it can get worse. But that's for you to find out! Brilliant read, highly recommended.

'Missed Connections - Love lost and Found' by Sophie Blackall isn't a novel, but a book of words and pictures. Sophie came across a website called Missed Connections, where people left messages for other people they didn't know. Which sounds odd I know.... it could be a man on the subway happened to give up his seat to a beautiful young woman, wished afterwards he'd asked her name, for her number. So he leaves a message on this site... 'to the beautiful young woman with the wonderful smile, wearing a red coat on Saturday when I let her have my seat....' that kind of thing. Sophie has put her own unique drawings to a selection of messages, and made this fun book. If you are a people watcher, this is the kind of book you'll probably enjoy.

I have to admit that I bought 'From a Distance' by Rafaella Barker mainly for the fabulous cover and the fact I've read her in the past. The story is set over two different eras, one just after WWII ends when Michael returns to England but rather than go back to Norfolk, the family farm and Janey, the woman he left behind to go to war, he boards a different train at the station at the last minute and goes to Cornwall. He arrives at a time when the arty Newlyn Set is under way; he lives with Felicity and they have a son, though don't marry. She knows that at some point he will have to go back to Norfolk, will need to, when he realised what it's like to love a child of your own, and from that, realises how he has hurt his own mother by staying away. So he returns, where Janey still waits for him. A generation later and his son also moves to Norfolk, where he discovers a whole new family,  and an inheritance from his late mother of a Lighthouse! Very good story, another to recommend as a summer read.

'The Almost Moon' by Alice Sebold, not, in my opinion as good as 'The Lovely Bones' but a book that held my attention from the start, where the pace really picked up towards the end. Helen has killed her ageing  mother, not something she planned to do, it just happened that one minute she was going to wash the infirm old lady, the next she suffocated her. What to do? She calls her ex husband Jake, who lives several hours away, but as ever ready to help her, he tells her to do nothing until he can get to her. But instead of doing as he says, she tells her children. It is obvious that the police will then be involved, and she puts the blame on someone else, knowing that it's only a matter of time before the truth comes out. So she borrows a car, steals a gun, intends doing away with herself. She hides out in a neighbours house.... but will she go through with it, or will she be discovered along with the truth? Very good read again.

Amanda Prowse is a new to me author, but several of her books were in a set bought cheaply as summer reading from a wellknown online and mail order book company. 'Clover's Child' is set in the 60s, when Dot, a white working class girl in London, meets Sol, a black soldier, son of a high-ranking US Army officer and his socialite wife. It stands to reason that this is not a union that is met with joy all around. Sol's mother knows this girl has trapped her son by getting pregnant, so makes him an offer he can't refuse, which means he leaves England, returns to America without a word to Dot. She is doubly shamed, having a relationship with a black man, and now an unmarried mother. She goes into a home for unmarried mother, her son is taken away from her and she returns to the family home, to a miserable life. She meets Wally, a decent man, but when he discovers her true love, he does something totally selfless for Dot. Will it be a happy ending for her with Sol? Will she remain with Wally and a life she's unhappy with? Or will she have a change of heart about him? Great writing that had me hooked from the start.

Joanna Trollope's  modern day version of 'Sense and Sensibility' left me cold. I loved Austen when I was younger, in my teens and early twenties, not so much these days. But the Jane Austen project intrigued me, where modern day authors do their own take on her classic stories. This has put me off reading the rest. I shall say no more. It wasn't Trollope, a writer I have enjoyed for many years and whose books I have, at her best in my opinion. Maybe others will disagree?

'Miss Buncle Married' by D.E. Stevenson is one of my Persephone classics, and is the story of Barbara Buncle a published writer, who marries Arthur, her publisher and several years her senior. Very much in love, they move out to the country to escape suburbia and the endless round of dinner parties and so on, which neither of them likes very much at all. Here they settle down to the sort of quiet life they want, with no social demands of their previous life. Their happiness is complete when Barbara announces she is going to have a baby. This is one of those gentle stories so typical of many of the Persephone imprints, and a really relaxing, non-taxing read.

Finally, 'The Crying Tree' by Naseem Rakha. Irene Stanley thought her world had come to an end when her 15 year old son Shep was murdered. Daniel Robbins, a troubled and troublesome boy, gave himself up to the police, admitted his guilt. Nineteen years later, and his execution by lethal injection draws near. Unbeknownst to her family, Irene had forgiven him, they had been writing to each other for some time, and now she wants to stop his execution, which means her husband will find out about their correspondence. And she will finally find out what happened the day her son was killed, and it's not as she believed. Another author I've not heard of, another of the 'summer reading' set, and another I am glad I had the chance to read, it's not one I would have chosen for myself and just proves it's good to step out of your comfort reading zone now and then.

Hope you have enjoyed your July reading; I'm looking forward to more recommendations!


Saturday, 31 May 2014

The best of May's reading


Once again joining with Laura at Circle of Pine Trees and her year of books posts, here are my books for May.

Several years ago, knitting groups and knitting in general featured in many books both fictional and factual... those of Kate Jacobs (novels) and Stephanie Pearl McPhee (nonfiction) are amongst my favourites, but this one by Ann Hood was also worth a second read. 'The Knitting Circle' ... well, the title says it all really. It's about a group of women who gather each week at Alice's wool shop to sit and knit. And talk. Different women from different backgrounds... Mary who is grieving for her dead child, Scarlet who's outgoing and glamorous, Lulu who sculpts for a living, Beth who is what today would be called a 'yummy mummy' with her seemingly perfect life, and Ellen who takes everything to heart. The group helps them all, and this is a lovely story of  how women who might otherwise not know each other or get along, come together and form firm friendships through their love of knitting. Anyone who's a knitter will love it.

Sometimes you buy a book because you are drawn to the cover, or the blurb,  or the first page grabs you. In this case it was all three...


Isn't this a gorgeous cover? A misty image of the Eiffel Tower, red and yellow tulips in the foreground. The blurb tells us this is a story of 'food, friendship and falling in love from afar'... now doesn't that make you want to read more? It did me, and I wasn't disappointed. This is the tale of Eve who writes to a famous author in America, Jackson Cooper, to praise him on a particular scene in one of his novels. He replies, and they discover a mutual love of food, and so begins a correspondence. Over time they realise this correspondence is perhaps more than just emails and letters between casual friends, that there may be a chance to start again with their lives. The final chapter, the very last line, will have you sighing with pleasure! If you get chance, 'That Part was True' by Deborah McKinlay is definitely worth the reading.

'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' by Deborah Moggach is the book of the film. I loved the film, it had my favourite actors in it and was so funny and touching, and hopeful for those of us in later years shall we say? The book too, is worth a read.

'Lifesaving for Beginners' by Ciara Geraghty, is the story of Kat, who never looks back, who lives for now in her unremarkable life filled with lots of friends and Milo a small boy who likewise goes through his life, enjoying his lifesaving classes after school and peanut butter and banana muffins. And with one of those strange twists in life, somehow the two become known to each other, this little boy in Brighton and the woman in Dublin, and secrets are revealed. Great story, loved it. And is it just me, but if you know the character is Irish, do you read in your head, in an Irish accent? Please say it's not just  me...

Ann Patchett is perhaps better known for her novels to us here in Britain, than her writings that appeared in Vogue and other American publications. This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage is a collection of some of these, a memoir telling of her childhood, the excitement at selling her first book, her adventures and her happy marriage, and is well worth a read.

So there you have my best reads for last month. Looking forward to reading about yours, and thanks for dropping by.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

The year in Books, April


Joining in with Laura at Circle of Pine Trees once again... such a great idea, so many recommendations, new authors to try. Anyway, this is my reading for April.

'Londoners' by Craig Taylor is a collection of interviews with Londoners, with people who love it, hate it, been there and done that and so on. One of those books with an interesting cover which I'd have probably bought to add to our collection of London-related books, had I seen it in a shop. As it is, I found it on one of the fellow-readers posts, and it didn't disappoint. A book you can dip in and out of as and when you feel like it, well worth buying.

'Five Days' by Douglas Kennedy who is one of my favourite authors. As the title suggests, the story is set over five days, and is about Laura, for twenty years a good wife and mother, who decides its time to do something  for her. So when a chance to go away for a weekend, to a conference related to her work as a radiologist, she takes it... and a chance meeting with a stranger is to change the course of the weekend, and give  her a taste of what life could be like.

'Lost in the Forest' by Sue Miller another favourite American author. This was first published here almost twenty years ago, but it doesn't feel dated in any way. John, the mainstay of his family, idolised by his wife and children, is killed in a car accident and the family, especially the children and especially the middle child Daisy, all struggle to come to terms with a life without him. Daisy is at that age when her sexuality is beginning to blossom, she is vulnerable, and into her life comes a man, a predator who will take advantage. This is a story of a family torn apart in many ways by tragedy, but then finding itself drawing close again.

'Choose Me' by Kay Langdale is the story of Billy, up for adoption, hoping to find his 'forever family'; a story of the ups and downs of fostering and adoption, of hopes and dreams by both the child and those who adopt. Beautifully written, one of those books that is a keeper for me, to re-read another time.

'How Many Camels Are There in Holland?' by Phyllida Law is her second book dealing with dementia. The first was all about her mother-in-law, this is about her own mother. At times sad, at times very funny so you can't help but laugh out loud, it gives an insight into what it's like living with this condition, but also gives you hope, in some way, that it's not all bad, that there are still times to laugh as well as cry.

'The Pure of Heart' by Susan Hill, another of her Simon Serrailler detective novels which I discovered a year ago and have now collected. Set in the usual cathedral town of Lafferton, a small boy is abducted whilst waiting to be picked up and taken to school. There are other threads in the story, Serraillers handicapped younger sister is hospitalised and close to death, more than once... a young ex-con wants to go straight, intends to but is too easily led astray... and there are the usual tales of his family life, his pregnant sister and her family, who represent a home from home for him when he needs respite from his job, the relationship between his parents. All add up to another great read.

'Bring Me Home' by Alan Titchmarsh and I have to admit this was not as good as his others, all of which I have. I read it, enjoyed it, but not as much as I would have hoped. To paraphrase the blurb,  Charlie Stuart stands at the door of his castle in Scotland, welcoming his guests to the annual summer drinks party. On the surface all is happy and relaxed, but he knows that it's all a front, that underneath things aren't that rosy, and he knows too that in a few hours this afternoon will end and the past with all its ghosts, will catch up with him. I found it dragged at times, and wanted the story to move on a bit quicker. But that's just my opinion of course. It was still worth the read.

So there you have it, hope you find something of interest and I shall look forward to reading all the other posts as they come up on Laura's blog.


Sunday, 27 April 2014

The joys of having a garden





 Some gardens are 'all year round' gardens, offering something of interest for twelve months of the year. Ours is more of a 'it has its moments' garden.... and this time of year is one of those moments.

For various reasons I can't physically garden any more, and have come to accept this now, though it was really hard at first as there was nothing I liked more than spending time in the garden, no matter where we were living. We have gone from huge corner plots in our first married  home, in East Yorkshire, to a tiny back garden in Middlesex, and now in Norfolk with a long and wide back garden, over a hundred feet long by fifty feet across. Now all I can do is potter, a bit of dead-heading, seed-sowing, and lots of supervising - and tea-making!

But the pleasure the garden gives me doesn't diminish in line with my ability to work in it, in fact it increases year on year. We never had a garden when I was a child growing up, it wasn't until I was in my teens and my parents bought their first bungalow in the mid-Sixties, that I lived with a garden. I don't know why they bought something with such a huge garden to be honest, since Dad was away three quarters of the time and Mum worked full time... and I was a teenage girl with no thoughts whatsoever of gardening, until I got a boyfriend who actually enjoyed it!

Now I can't imagine living without one.

We have two gravel gardens, one with green gravel and nothing but green plants, no flowers... this is an area with a seat tucked away in a cut out in the hedge, perfect for just sitting as you can see most of the garden from this spot and are completely private. The other area of gravel is nearer the house, and we are gradually planting it up, with heathers, heucheras, sage, rosemary, astilbe. I long to have a cut flower patch, but no matter how I try, and despite the size of the garden, I can't find a suitable spot, ie with lots of sun and sheltered from prevailing winds. You'd think there would be somewhere, but everywhere is taken, with shrubs, annuals, wildflowers, soft fruit and veg, biennials, perennials... and so on. The only spot I can find is where we have our little table and chairs, and this would involve lifting paving slabs, and creating a raised bed from scratch. Maybe next year. Meanwhile I enjoy the garden and its Spring offerings.

We are not very good planners - one reason why we don't have much of interest in the winter - so any colour combinations that strike me as particularly beautiful are usually purely accidental. Such as zingy lemon sherbet wallflowers grown from little seedlings we collected last year, alongside clumps of bluebells.... clouds of blue forget-me-nots alongside the strawberry crush pink of bergenia.... lime green euonymus besides deep blue ajuga... and the ajuga again with a paler blue bluebell...



There are times of the day when the garden is backlit by the sun, and this is one of my favourite times of year to see the garden in the evening, with the greens bright and fresh... the grasses like Stipa Gigantia look great backlit by autumn sun, when the flower/seed heads are brown. But for now the Stipa is just beginning to develop...





And I love this little laburnum, which I nurtured from a seedling of an earlier tree which got damaged in storms a few years ago and had to be taken down... there was also one at the front of the house when we bought it, but for some reason we had it removed. I have another seedling being looked after with a view to planting at the front in a year or so. For now, this little one - well it's about eight foot high - gives me pleasure both on a grey day as we had yesterday, with mist and rain, and again on a sunny day today, with the backdrop of blue sky.



One of the many joys of having a garden is having flowers, greenery, seedheads to cut and bring into the house. I am not a lover of fancy bouquets of flowers, of stiff and formal arrangements. I have a collection of vases, jugs and jam jars... aren't Bon Maman jars useful?! I have used one here for this little posy gathered yesterday....



It's amazing how many different varieties can be crammed into a jar.... the lemon yellow wallflower, white brachychome, white comfrey, purple honesty, bluebells, ajuga, two different small tulips, sage, heather, lily of the valley, lime green euonymus.... and the bonus of some lovely smells too.

So this is how my garden grows.... not always as beautiful and colourful as it is at the moment, but all the more reason to spend time appreciating it whilst it lasts.