Friday 23 February 2024

What I've been reading in February

Both books this month were recommended by Gail at  Is this mutton?

First up, The Secret Pianist by Andie Newton

This is set in the French town of Boulogne sur Mer during the time of the German occupation.  A British RAF plane comes under fire while flying over the town and forced to abandon its cargo of spy messenger carrier pigeons.  One of the birds is found by Martine, one of three sisters living in the town.  She is excited about the opportunity to feed information back to the English but her sisters Gaby and Simone are hesitant to draw attention to themselves.  

Gaby comes to the attention of a German Commandant who orders her to teach his daughter to play the piano.  When their neighbours discover this, they are tarnished with the 'bad French' reputation for supposedly assisting the Germans.  Martine convinces her sisters that they must take advantage of having a means to give information to the British to locate German U boat pens.  They find a way to disguise messages on sheets of piano music and release the bird at the dead of night.  But have they been successful in their plan to help the resistance or put themselves into greater danger?

I really enjoyed this book.  It was well written and I have a vivid picture of the sisters in my mind as I read the story.  You find yourself emotionally involved in their plight and the narrative really takes you to occupied France and the difficulties for the people living in the small towns.


The next book was very different, My Sister's Baby by Louise Guy

This is the story of three sisters. Mandy suffered learning difficulties following a childhood illness which meant that her parents had to pay her far more attention growing up which has led to a strong feeling of resentment from her sister Toni.  Liv found herself in a life threatening accident which resulted in the need for a kidney transplant. Her sister Toni was the only member of the family to be a suitable match and she did not hesitate to be her sister's donor.

Toni and her husband have been unsuccessful in having children despite rounds of IVF and Liv would give anything to be able to help her sister just as she had helped her when she needed a kidney.  So when Liv finds herself in a situation where she could help Toni fulfil her dream of becoming a mother, she breaks all the rules and decides to offer Toni a baby to adopt.  The baby is born at home with the help of a doula to avoid questions in a hospital and in order to make it look as if baby Ruby is Toni's actual baby, she falsifies the birth certificate by entering the wrong names of the birth mother and father.  

Things then start to go wrong, Toni is not finding motherhood as fulfilling as she expected, she is constantly worried that Liv will change her mind and ask for the baby back.  Not only that but she finds it hard to bond with the baby and cannot wait to return to work.  Not long after, the secret of what Liv has done is discovered and Liv finds herself being blackmailed.  She can't tell the police as that would mean admitting the fraud she has committed.  

I have to be honest and say that I figured out the story behind Ruby's birth before it was revealed but it didn't stop me enjoying the book!  My heart went out to Mandy who is aware that she is seen by some to be a burden and how her sister Toni dislikes her.  I didn't like Toni especially regarding her treatment of Mandy and how she quickly decides that after all these years of being desperate for a baby, motherhood is not for her after all.  Her lies to her family and husband trip off her tongue too easily.

I enjoyed both books, thanks to Gail for the recommendations!


Monday 19 February 2024

Me on Monday 19 February

 Hello to the start of a new week!

How can a TV show help name your baby?  It was this day in 1985 that the first episode of the TV soap 'Eastenders' aired.  Little did we know that this programme would influence the name that we gave our daughter when I fell pregnant at the end of that year.  We didn't know if we were having a boy or a girl so struggled to find two names that we both liked.  For a girl we narrowed it down to two, Michelle or Rachel.  But as Eastenders became increasingly popular, the character of Michelle Fowler became so well known and we realised that our baby would quite possibly be referred to as 'Shell' or 'Meesh'.  Said in a cockney accent!  Which is why she was named Rachel instead. Of course that became 'Raych' as she got older, why do people always have to shorten names?  

It's half term this week so our routines are altered.  We'll have Leo and Rosie all day on Tuesday but won't have Olive or Max as their aunty from Brooklyn, New York is over for a week and they'll be spending time with her.  

We had a momentous event at the end of last week.  We went to Cambridge and when we got to the 'Park and Ride', Paul was able to use his bus pass for the first time!  What a novelty.  It was a lovely sunny day in Cambridge, while Paul was browsing book shops and artists suppliers I happily browsed the shops and managed to find a couple of things for him to give me for my birthday.  Then lunch at our favourite Aromi Sicilian restaurant.  A nice way to spend a Friday.

It's all about the Italian restaurants this week as we met up with my sister and cousin at a 'new to us' Italian in a village midway between where we all live.  It was so delicious and rightly deserves all the great reviews it gets from people who live in that area.  So I ended the week with food, and I'm starting this one with food. I'm meeting up with a friend I met at my first job back in 1976 - my waistline needs me to stop organising social events which involve eating and drinking!

Monday 12 February 2024

Me on Monday 12 February

 Does everyone have their eggs, flour and milk ready for Shrove Tuesday/pancake day tomorrow?  How do you like your pancakes?  Small and chunky like American pancakes, or thin and delicate like a French crepe?  What about toppings - do you drizzle with honey and sprinkle blueberries and sliced strawberries on them, or a more traditional lemon juice and a sprinkle of caster sugar?  We have Leo and Rosie here on a Tuesday and they have already put in their requests for American style with honey or Nutella on them.  I will have my lemon and caster sugar ready for my thinner version!

I need to have a week of eating less after last week which included two lunches out and friends over for Sunday lunch yesterday.  However we will be ending the week with dinner out with my sister and cousin to a new to us Italian restaurant but maybe 6 good days out of 7 will be fine!

We had absolutely torrential rain here last week, the water on the lake rose really high and there were several pockets of flooding on the roads nearby.  It was a good excuse to stay indoors and get my jigsaw finished - gosh it was a tough one.

Not to mention my crochet coming along nicely, I'm definitely enjoying this one and intending to slowly enjoy each new part rather than impatient to get on with the next part.  I'm dreadful at rushing through things to move on so am really having to restrain myself to just do a little bit every day and not even look at what the next square is all about.  I'm only printing the pattern instructions as I need them instead of downloading them all en masse.  

Random piece of information this week is that it is Darwin Day.  I'm not sure it's something I will be celebrating and we didn't get round to organising an oriental meal for Chinese New Year this year either.   However, Pancake Day will always be celebrated here!  Have a good week x

Monday 5 February 2024

Me on Monday 5 February

Although we have lots of daffodil leaves peeking through the ground, there is just one solitary flower standing sentry in the front garden.  Come on sunshine, let's see if we can entice a few more to open up and show off their petals!

 After a full on week of helping out here, there and everywhere, it was nice to have a weekend with very little on the calendar.  Just a meal out as a belated birthday celebrations for my friend whose birthday is Christmas Day and for Paul whose birthday was on 12 December.  As December is always super busy they decided to celebrate at the beginning of the year when things are somewhat quieter.  

It was nice to catch up on doing some baking and a few more rounds of my crochet this weekend - square number two is now complete!  I'm trying to pace myself more with this blanket.  Normally I start and then can't wait to have it finished but I'm going to take my time over this one and enjoy the process more than just wanting to see what the end result is!

So today sees me meeting up with my friend Sally.  We were really close friends after meeting back in 1986 when we were both expecting our first babies and that friendship has continued despite her moving away when her husband changed jobs.  Not too far that we couldn't still meet up but too far for a couple of hours to just have a cup of coffee.  Now she has retired too we have picked a point half way between our homes and will be meeting for lunch and I can't wait!  I haven't seen her in person for almost a year so we have much news to share and lots of grandchildren photos to share.

I shall be ending the week as I start it with lunch with a friend that I go to Zumba with.  Although we see each other every Thursday, there isn't time for a proper chat before or after class so we plan to have a nice leisurely lunch putting the world to rights.

Without giving the impression I do nothing but eat and drink, we also have friends coming for Sunday lunch next weekend so I really need to think about what I will be cooking. That's not a chore though, I enjoy looking through cookery books.

Nearly forgot my random piece of information; it was this day in 1924 that the Greenwich Time Signal (six short 'pips' to mark the start of the hour) was introduced. I feel that in honour of this, I should schedule this post to go live exactly on the hour of 8.00 am!

Is spring starting to come into sight where you live?  I think it is gradually creeping closer here, thank goodness.

Tuesday 30 January 2024

What I've been reading in December/January

I wasn't able to get hold of December's book club choice, I think it is later being published over here, so I downloaded the kindle version of the book that I had voted for instead.

Nineteen year old Jill Moss disappears near the Utah/Arizona border leaving a multitude of opinions as to where she may be or what may have happened to her.  One person knows the truth.  Norma Gallagher, who was part of the search and rescue operation, found Jill, safe and hiding in a cave. She confides to Norma that she had run away from her abusive boyfriend Jake Willis, fearing for her life if he should ever find her.  Wanting to keep Jill safe, Norma helps her reunite with her parents in California, keeping her whereabouts secret from the police, the press and most importantly from Jake.

Five years later, the disappearance of Jill makes headline news again when Jake is arrested for her murder.  Norma is conflicted, she knows he didn't murder her but to give that information to the police will divulge where Jill is hiding and potentially put her in danger.  

The trial approaches, press interest is reignited and public opinion is demanding retribution.  Jill's family refuse to come forward which means that Norma has to make an important decision.  Does she stay quiet to ensure Jill's continued safety from violence, or does she tell the truth, meaning that an innocent man does not go to prison?  Jake may be an abusive, violent man but he isn't a murderer.  Furthermore, would telling the truth put her, Jill and her parents in trouble for concealing information from the police?  What would you do?

My second book was The Roughest Draft by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka .

Katrina and Nathan are cowriters of a bestseller book.  They have a contract to complete a second in the series but between the completion of the first and writing the next, their relationship breaks up.  Dramatically. Neither will have anything to do with the other. There is no backing out of writing another book together even though they have spent three years avoiding each other.  After a lot of coercing from her partner, Katrina finally gives in and agrees to get the book over and done with.

To honour their contract they return to the house in Florida where they wrote the first book with the express intention of getting the second book written as quickly and painlessly as possible.  The book flits from 4 years ago to present day and you can feel the tension between them in the present day gradually ease as the book progresses.  The reader doesn't know exactly what has happened between them four years previously except at the time of book one, Nathan was married and Katrina was single, although the publisher, Chris, is obviously interested in her.  In the present day, Nathan is divorced and Katrina is engaged to Chris although it is quite obvious that he is very controlling in their relationship and something dramatic must have happened while writing the first book.

It feels as if Katrina and Nathan are living out their emotions through the dialogue of the characters in the book and in the chapters set in the past we gradually piece together what has happened at the time they wrote the first book. Was that chapter of their lives just a rough draft for their future?

I have to be honest and say I didn’t love this book. It was OK, but I felt it dragged in a few places.  I never felt that ‘I must just read one more chapter’ compulsion, at about 75% of the way through I simply wanted to find out whether Katrina had just vastly over reacted about something in the past and why Nathan couldn’t forgive her.  It did get very good reviews on some sites so maybe my expectations were just a bit too high!

Monday 29 January 2024

Me on Monday 29 January

 It's still January - how can that be?  It seems like Christmas was months ago!

According to my book of random facts, it was this date in 1942 that the first episode of Desert Island Discs was aired.  Where guests are invited to choose eight pieces of music, a book and a luxury that they would enjoy if stranded on a desert island.  Brian Bilston, the author, has written alternative ideas with a play on words for a dessert island choice, the last verse is this 

"It's a family eclair

Don't it make your brownies blue

In the gateaux


Can you think of more? 

We had all the family over yesterday and it's so lovely now Olive is old enough to join in with all the games the others like to play.  She is turning into quite a little character now, I love this age and even though she is now two, I don't see many 'terrible two' incidents.

There's a bit of life admin on the cards today.  We had an appointment with a local solicitor to prepare our Lasting Power of Attorney paperwork.  It's one of those things we've been meaning to do for ages as we know it's better to have it in place before you need it, so when you do need it, one phone call should be all that is needed to implement it.  All that legal work is thirsty business so we popped over the road to a little Italian deli for refreshments

As you will see, the thought of a bite of Sicilian lemon tart was too hard to resist before I remembered to take a photo ๐Ÿ˜‰

The rest of the week is going to be busy with Leo and Rosie sleeping over on Wednesday night due to their mum and dad both having heavy work commitments and Rachel having to be away overnight and her husband having a very early start the next morning.  Much easier for them to sleep here rather than them being dropped off here before 6am on Thursday! 

After that it is a nice social end to the week with afternoon tea with friends and then a nice meal out at the weekend.  I think I shall probably need it after an unexpected sleepover midweek!

Have a good week! 

Friday 26 January 2024

#WBOYC January


The first WBOYC of the new year and the twelfth one that I have done in this format ... time for a new look next month maybe?  In the meantime, in what seems to have been the longest month of the year, we've reached the last Friday in the month and are ready to share what we have been doing.


Jigsaw puzzles and January sales.  My daughter gave me a couple of jigsaws to keep me occupied - one down and now the more difficult one to go.  I didn't actually buy much in the sales - I use the mantra of if you had the money and you didn't feel the urge to buy it before the sale, do you really need to buy it now just because it is on special offer?  But I did succumb to a rather lovely Katie Loxton bag which I know I will use a lot and is in a different colour to the rest of my handbags.


After far too long a gap since our last meeting, I had lunch out with an old school friend.  She is still working and had rather too many health issues for us to get together last year, so we are both hoping that this lunch would be the start of getting back to our regular meet ups.


National Theatre productions have started to be live streamed via our local Arts Centre so we went to see 'Dear England' to get the atmosphere of a London Theatre without having to embrace the somewhat unreliable winter train journey into London.  It was so good; the time flew by and it was great to find something that both of us thoroughly enjoyed.


Unhappy news from the family of an old school friend to say that he had died really made me stop and take stock.  I'd known him for 60 years, our claim to fame was that he'd been my partner on stage at the Royal Albert Hall in a schools country dancing festival and he was genuinely a lovely person.  


As soon as my friend Sal retired we made arrangements to meet up for a midweek lunch.  She really was my best friend when our children were small.  We met at ante natal classes and just hit it off so well.  The bonus being that our husbands got on well too.  I was sad when they had to relocate due to their jobs changing.  Not hundreds of miles away, but far enough not to be able to get together so easily.  She is happy to say that she is a few months younger than me so not at official retirement age yet, but she finally took early retirement from her job and we quickly made plans to meet up at a half way point for a long lunch.  Here's to many more!


Routines - getting back into them after Christmas is quietly comforting as life gets back to normal.  I did have intentions to declutter a room a week but have only really managed to do two and so that would mean there were two weeks where I failed miserably at sticking to my intentions!


Yay!  We booked a holiday!  After much deliberation we have booked to go to Mallorca.  We last went there about 20 years ago and have very happy memories.  We aren't ones to return to the exact place we have been before, so as our previous holidays were on the north and east coastlines we are going to the west coast, to a resort called Puerto de Soller.  There's some nice walks around there and an old tram which takes you to the town of Soller and it's not too far to the capital, Palma. It's nice to have something to look forward to because, between you and me, I've had enough of dark mornings, early sunsets, and drizzly damp weather. 

I guess it is time to share the 1 Second Everyday Video clip!

Please also pop and see what Australian Deb has been up to in her summertime January.