Tuesday 31 May 2022

What I've been reading in May

 It's not been the best book reading month for me this month - that's not to say that I didn't read any books, but the books that I read don't leave me wanting to recommend them to anyone as 'must read' books.

Our book club choice this month was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Well, this is quite unlike any book I've read before.  It is the true story of cells which were taken from the body of Henrietta Lacks, a poor black tobacco farmer, when she was being treated for cancer.  Scientists refer to her as 'HeLa' from the first two letters of her name.  Her cells were found to be quite unlike those taken from any other patients and they have been reproduced over and over and still live on today.  They have been used in the medical industry for vital research on new vaccines, treatment for illnesses, and investigation into how our bodies work.  They have brought new knowledge about chromosomes and the disabilities that are associated with them.  They have even been sent into space to research how human cells respond to such environments.

Yet neither Henrietta nor her family were aware that her cells had been taken and were being used for such research. It was not until 20 years after her death that the story of the immortality of her cells was discovered.  The book throws up so many questions about consent, and how people of that era would not dare question a medical professional especially if a patient was black and the doctor was white.  Not an easy read at times, but so interesting to learn about medical research and the way that one woman has quite literally saved so many lives and helped in the development of new treatments and vaccines.  

It is a fascinating tale, yet ... I did not finish the book.  There is no doubt that the story of the invaluable medical research that one person enabled is huge, but I just found it a bit hard going the further into the book that I read.  According to my kindle, I read 56% - I learnt so much, yet didn't feel that I was enjoying the writing.

So I then went on to try The Hummingbird by Sandro Veronesi.

Paul had bought it as a recommendation by a local bookshop as he is always keen to try something that he hasn't heard of before.  If you click on the link above, you will see that the reviews were good so he decided to try something new. He finished it and when I said I was looking for another book he said I 'might' like it but possibly not!  Well never let it be said that I don't try different styles or authors.  This is actually a translation of an Italian novel, which may explain the language style in some places. 

The Hummingbird is Marco Carrera, given the nickname due to his short stature plus the fact that he seems to be able to remain still, even in the midst of a lifetime of loss and challenges.  He has to deal with the suicide of his sister, care of elderly parents, his unhappy marriage, psychological problems of his daughter, the need to take guardianship  for his grandaughter and his love for another woman. This poor man has so many tragedies in his life!  A therapist tells him that in order to be able to properly care for others you have to remember the advice given on a plane in the case of loss of air pressure - you need to put on your own face mask before you can look after a dependant.  He needs to look after himself in order to have the strength to weather the storms that life throws at him.  

I did finish the book but it didn't make me want to read 'just one more chapter' before I turned off the light.  It's an interesting story but it's not one I'm going to urge you to try.  

Let's hope that June's reading choice is more to my taste! 

Monday 30 May 2022

Me on Monday

 It's been all change here this week.  Well, on the vehicle front that is.  My new car which was supposed to be here in March had been delayed due to world events so it was a lovely surprise to get a phone call at the beginning of the week to say that it was here!  Would I like to come and pick it up?  What a silly question ...

How lovely and shiny she is!  My plan for today is to take her for a little trip to Saffron Walden. I only picked her up on Friday and there's been lots of road closures around here this weekend due to the Ride London Cycle event so I've been very restrained in staying at home to avoid traffic queues and diversions, I want to enjoy my first proper drive out.

Talking of road closures - after Rosie and Leo had gone home on Tuesday I turned on the tap to fill the kettle and found we had no water.  It was there 10 minutes earlier!  I rang the water company and was told there was a burst pipe along the road from us and they were on the way to fix it.  Six hours later, at just before midnight, the supply was reconnected.  A water pipe had not just leaked, it had exploded making a huge crater in the pavement and they had to dig up the whole main road into our estate.

This was Tuesday; as you can see there is a tree cut down and a mound of earth completely blocking the road.  The diversion is still in place today!

So we spent our sunny days in the garden and it's getting more colourful by the day.

I do love this time of year when everything springs into life.

On Sunday we were supposed to be having Rachel and Jon and all their families here for lunch but I woke in the morning to see a message on my phone from Jon 'Bad news, Olive looks like she's got the beginnings of chicken pox'.  So we were one family down, but on a positive front it is good for her to get it now, and they are off on holiday next week so she will be out of quarantine and feeling better for that.  

So this week is the Queen's Jubilee celebrations!  We plan to go and see the beacon being lit on Thursday evening, then we have Rachel and family coming round for a Jubilee lunch on Friday (need to give the menu a thought as so far all I am thinking of is Coronation Chicken and a Victoria sponge!) then we are invited to friends for a barbecue on Saturday.  Our road is not having a street party but I am sure there are lots of others around us which will.  If you are in the UK, do you have any jubilee plans?

Lastly, don't forget that the 2022 Summertime Photo Scavenger Hunt starts on June 1st - a full list of prompts can be found on Marie Lou's blog Patio Postcards.  Once again she has chosen titles which can be interpreted in many ways and it's always fun to see what people choose to photograph.  Come and join us!

Monday 23 May 2022

Me on Monday

 Another week begins, another Monday begins ... another crochet project begins 😊

It's hard to believe that there was a time when I didn't know how to crochet, and when my husband sees me with something new on my hook today I would like to predict that he may mention something along the lines of 'how many blankets do we need?'  What a question!  The answer will obviously be 'at least one more'!  My last blanket was a project to use up left over wool from previous blankets, so logically cost me nothing and it's become quite a decent size now and at a point where I could leave it as it is or add to it now and again. 


So whereas before I have used patterns that I have downloaded and worked at my own pace, this new one is a 'crochet-a-long' where one week of pattern is available at a time over a period of six weeks.  Will I be able to keep up?  I would like to think I might but it doesn't really matter if I fall behind, I'll get there in the end!  This one is different to my previous blankets in that I think you work on various blocks and then join them together at the end to make a whole blanket.  Lots of new stitches and techniques to learn I think so watch this space!

Last week was a break in our normal routine and we had no childcare days due to R not working on Tuesday and taking Rosie out for the day with a friend, and Max getting chicken pox.  So it was a week of a patio awning being fitted, a trip out to Cressing Temple, gardening, garden centres, afternoon teas with friends and ending with Sunday lunch at my cousin's house with my sister and brother in law.  All in all, it was a good week! While scrolling through Netflix for something to watch on Saturday night we came across  The Good Liar. Some big names appeared in it, with the main characters being Helen Mirren and Ian McKellar. Definitely worth watching!

Back to normal this week though, although my Zumba teacher is on holiday so I will have to find another way to get some exercise - and hour long extra dog walk maybe?

Have a good week! 

Friday 20 May 2022

Is it just me?

 Does anyone else share these moments?

  • Writing out a detailed shopping list, then leaving it on the breakfast bar when you go to the shops
  • Remembering almost everything on that list but then realising that you have forgotten the one crucial ingredient you need for tonight's dinner just as you are loading up the car in the car park
  • Parking in a different area of your usual car park in town then having a minor panic when you go back as normal to level 2, 3rd row in, close to the pay and display machine and your car isn't there
  • Throwing away the packaging for something you are cooking then immediately remember you didn't notice how long it needs to cook for and having to sort through the bin
  • Going to the local shops, buying too much to carry, then remembering that today was the day you decide to walk instead of taking the car
  • Forgetting someone's name about 30 seconds after you were introduced to them
  • Asking a group of people what they want to drink when not concentrating and then forgetting who wanted what when you get back to the kitchen - coffee? tea? milk? sugar? Too many variations!
  • Asking supermarket staff where an item is when you have been searching up and down the aisles only to be shown that you are, in fact, standing next to it
  • Checking your bag dozens of times at the airport to make sure that you definitely still have your passport, purse and tickets in there
  • Putting dark framed glasses on a dark worktop while you put your make up on, then can't see where they are because you need to be wearing your glasses to find your glasses
Hopefully I'm not alone with all of these! Do you have anything to add to my list?

Thursday 19 May 2022

Cressing Temple Barns

 It feels very strange this week to have no childminding days in the diary - strange but nice too!  

When we go on holiday this summer, Coco is going to stay at my sister's house so we thought it would be a good idea for her to go there to get to know the lie of the land and for us to leave her there for a couple of hours to see how she settled.  So with an unexpected day off, we went yesterday.  We dropped her off and then wondered where to go.  There is a place not far from my sister's called Cressing Temple Barns; Paul had done a detailed inspection of them when he was studying for his degree in Building Surveying and he has often said he would like to return.  So this was a good opportunity.

The barns are mostly used to host craft fairs nowadays but you can still wander around them.  It is less a tourist destination and more a project of historical interest.  The barns date back to the 13th century and are very well restored.

I don't have the same architectural interest that Paul does so while he inspected the way the barns had been constructed and how the restoration was being carried out, I wandered around the lovely walled garden.  

Isn't that wickerwork clever?  The weaving on the tail of the peacock was absolutely beautiful.  There's also a lake in the grounds and there was a mum and her babies making the journey from the gardens, across the picnic area to home.

Needless to say, when we returned back to my sister's Coco had been out for a walk and was lying in the garden in the sun, making herself totally at home and I don't think she'd even noticed we were gone!

Monday 16 May 2022

Me on Monday

 Welcome to the start of a new week!  Last week was a real pick 'n' mix of days and left me with similar up and down emotions.

The news from 'Bowelbabe' Deborah James to say she is now receiving end of life care was so sad, she has given hope and inspiration to so many people and raised awareness that you are never too young to receive this diagnosis.  Her fundraising page is overwhelmed by donations and the fact that Prince William went to her home to personally present her with her Damehood brought tears to my eyes.  

Following on from this we attended a memorial gathering for my ex work colleague who died during lockdown last year.  Pam was over 20 years older than me but we became good friends while working together and remained friends long after we both left work, her to early retirement and me to raising a young family.  Pam was one of those people who grabbed every opportunity that passed her way.  The fact that some people may say 'you're too old to do that' would only spur her on to prove them wrong!  She took a real interest in people and genuinely cared.  Her family were truly blessed to have her at the top of their family tree and it is my intention to 'be more like Pam' whenever I am waivering on a 'should I? shouldn't I?' dilemma.  The family had compiled a video display of photos of her over the years and her smile - which was reflected on the faces of everyone she was with - absolutely beamed out of the images.  

Phew.  So those were the bits that hit me emotionally last week.  There were also the routine childcare days, catching up with housework days, and a lunch out with friends on Friday.  

So what does this week currently hold for us?  Well, at the risk of jinxing the weather for the rest of the year we are having an awning fitted on Tuesday.  It will reach over the width of our patio where we have our dining table and hopefully will get a lot of use when we eat outside this summer.  So, if we have a disastrous cold wet summer this year, you know who to blame!

We won't be having Max here this week as he woke up on Sunday a bit spotty.  On Friday there were only four in his class at nursery as 14 children had chicken pox and it looks like he's now become number 15!  It will be strange to have a Wednesday free, we've been talking about going to a garden centre to buy some summer plants, looks like Wednesday may be the day.  I really am tempting fate with the weather aren't I? I'll probably be spending my spare day wrapped up warm indoors working on my blanket.  Would you like a progress report?

I think I am 10 rows from the end although it's one of those patterns you can pick up and put down as the rows are quite long now and take longer to do.  However I do have a bit of added pressure as I have signed up for a 'Crochet-A-Long' project which starts next Monday.  You are given a set number of rows to do each week - I hope I manage to keep up with everyone else as I still consider myself to be new at this craft.  This is going to be a big challenge and unlike anything I've made before but after a lot of procrastination I channelled my inner Pam (as I mentioned before!) and went for it.  If the weather is nice this week, my almost finished work in progress won't have grown much by the weekend, if it's been raining I can guarantee at least another couple of rows!

So what are your plans for the week ahead?  

Thursday 12 May 2022

One photo - twenty words


Here we have rarely seen footage of the grubby cavapoo, emerging from her natural habit after digging her escape tunnel.

Monday 9 May 2022

Me on Monday


We had a weekend to ourselves this week which actually made a nice change!  I am very appreciative of being able to socialise again but sometimes just need some relaxing time at home.

As it is our anniversary at the beginning of September we usually try and organise a trip away somewhere around that time and so I used Saturday afternoon to look into finding a dog friendly cottage for us to book.  I found something that looks like it will be just right, dog friendly pubs nearby, interesting walks within a reasonable distance and in the area of the UK known as the Cotswolds.  On the subject of holidays, an ex work colleague of mine was on the ITV news on Friday, being interviewed on the subject of passport applications that have gone astray.  36 hours after her interview, her 'lost in the system' passport renewal suddenly arrived in the post.  Coincidence?  18 weeks and 3 days after she sent her old passport in for renewal.  It has taken her 400 phone calls, over 50 hours on hold waiting to speak to someone, many emails, a letter to her MP and a national television interview to finally get some action.  Just weeks before she is due to go on a big family holiday to Iceland to celebrate her son finishing uni and daughter leaving school to start.  All's well that ends well!

Lots of neighbourly speculation nearby too as work started on a house just around the corner from us.  As the days have gone by it has become obvious that the work that the builders have been doing bears no resemblance to the planning permission that was granted.  The people adjacent and behind the very obtrusive extension have complained to the powers that be and the extremely large new loft conversion has suddenly been removed.  You can imagine the local gossip!

So what does this week hold?  A real mixed bag.  Normal childminding duties, Zumba is back after a week's break and we are going out for lunch with friends on Friday. Saturday we will be going to a memorial service for an old work colleague of mine who died during lockdown restrictions.  Her daughter lives in New Zealand and this is the first time she has been able to return to the UK.  It will be bittersweet but I am looking forward to sharing memories of her with her other friends and family.  

I need to also crack on with my blanket making as I seem to have ordered some more wool in preparation for a new crochet-a-long that starts in a few weeks time 😀 The existing blanket is growing nicely

It sounds like we are in for a week of warm settled weather in this area so wouldn't it be lovely if some of that crocheting could be done sitting in the sun in the garden?  Sounds like a good plan to me!

Wednesday 4 May 2022

What I've been reading in April

 opened book on table

photo credit: Unsplash

Usually I would start the month with my online book club choice but I chose not to read the designated book this month; the book chosen was The Diamond Eye which is set in Kiev in World War 2.  Like so many other people are finding, the news from Ukraine is just too heartbreaking and at times overwhelming so in search of something easier to read and more lighthearted I downloaded The Break by Marian Keyes.

Following the loss of his father and a close friend, Amy's husband Hugh announces to her that he needs a break.  Therapy sessions and medication have not helped him, he has decided that he needs six months on his own travelling in South East Asia.  He isn't leaving her, he just needs to get away. He promises he will come back. Six months is a long time, will he be the same when he returns?  How will Amy be feeling after that much time alone?  Amy's first husband left her and she honestly believed that life with Hugh would be very different so she is in total shock by his announcement.

I haven't read anything by Marian Keyes for years but I had a feeling that this book would be just the kind of reading that I needed.  I found myself reading this with an Irish accent in my mind because I've heard Marian being interviewed so know what her voice sounds like!  

I enjoyed this book, I wasn't sure how things were going to turn out when/if Hugh returned from his six month break; I wasn't convinced it would be a 'happy ever after' ending as the book progressed.  I also went from feeling cross with Hugh for leaving to sympathising with him and not being surprised that he felt he needed to go and put some space between him and Amy.  In amongst the various threads of the book the author moves between the amusingly surprise internet vlog sensation that Amy's mother unwittingly becomes to the serious issue of the problems encountered by Irish girls who find themselves carrying an unwanted baby.  Marian Keyes seems to have a knack for mixing humour and seriousness into her books and I enjoyed dipping back into her work.


By now it was the middle of the month and I needed another book to read so I have continued with the next in the Inspector Gamache series, The Cruellest Month.  (The fact that I was reading it in April took me straight back to A level English Literature when we studied TS Eliot's The Wasteland where he states 'April is the cruellest month ...') 

Honestly, Three Pines is a very dangerous place to live because, wouldn't you know it, there is another crime to solve there!  Is it possible to literally be scared to death? A seance in a deserted house has tragic consequences and Inspector Gamache is called to return to solve the mystery.

These books can be read as standalone novels but I am finding it interesting to read them in sequence, with each book revealing a little more about a past event in Gamache's career and also the people who have been sent to investigate and solve the case alongside him.  This part of Gamache's story takes up a lot of the last few chapters of the book and ties up many loose ends.  While I enjoyed the easy reading style of this book, I don't think I enjoyed the story line quite as much as the last ones.  It won't however put me off reading the next in the series!

So that one was finished on the very last day of the month and I have now downloaded May's book club choice which is a non fiction novel this time and it sounds like it is going to be very interesting and thought provoking.  Come back in four weeks to find out what it was!

Sunday 1 May 2022

A sentence a day in April

Day 1 It was freezing cold, it snowed, we booked a holiday to Portugal and
 our daughter in law tested positive for Covid.  What a mixed start to the month. 

Day 2 Another cold day, walked into town with Coco in the afternoon - traffic was chaos so I'm pleased we hadn't gone by car

Day 3 Our pond is full of tadpoles - honestly there are hundreds of them!  How many will survive I wonder?

Day 4 Coco woke us up at 4am - felt tired for the rest of the day!

Day 5 Leo and Rosie here for the day, still full of holiday excitement so it was an exhausting day.

Day 6 I didn't have Max here today as his mum and dad both have covid and I didn't want to risk it in case he was a 'super spreader'!  Seemed odd having a Wednesday to myself as Paul was out doing his volunteer work over the park.

Day 7 Zumba was great fun, found out that we raised £1086 for the local hospice on our fundraising day

Day 8 Met up with an ex work colleague for a lovely 90 minute dog walk, Coco was thrilled to have such an unexpected long trip out in the afternoon, normally it is a quick half hour circuit for the 2nd walk of the day.

Day 9 Went to Saffron Walden in the morning then had friends over for dinner in the evening.

Day 10 We had Rachel and her family here for lunch, was lovely to hear all about their holiday

Day 11 A day to ourselves, we popped into town in the morning and relaxed in the afternoon, tired due to Coco waking us up at 2am to go out in the garden - Monday night again - coincidence?

Day 12 Leo and Rosie were here for the day, made gingerbread biscuits in the shape of the Easter Bunny, made a den outside and then came indoors to make Easter cards.

Day 13 Went to an evening event at our local book shop where my friend was promoting her new book and doing a book reading and signing.  

Day 14 Easter theme for Zumba today, bunny ears and everyone wearing yellow!

Day 15 Good Friday and we had everyone here for lunch - really sunny and lovely to spend the day in the garden

Day 16 Went to an arts and crafts fair in a local village, then spent the afternoon doing some gardening.

Day 17 Easter Sunday - cooked roast lamb puttansca which was delicious, there may also have been part of an Easter egg for dessert (quite a big part)

Day 18 Easter Monday and we went for a lovely dog walk through the bluebell woods in a nearby village

Day 19 Had Rosie here for the day and played hairdressers for much of the afternoon

Day 20 Max's turn to be here today, very excited to find that we don't only have tadpoles in our little nature pond, but a newt as well - Coco went to the groomers

Day 21 Missed Zumba today as I have 4 insect bites on my foot and I can't bear the thought of having a shoe rubbing on the back of my heel where the little rascal bit me

Day 22 Travelled to Amersham for our stay at The Crown Inn, fab meal at Hawkyns restaurant which is run by Atul Kocher   

Day 23 Explored more of the Chiltern area, visited Hughenden Manor which was so interesting

Day 24 Did very little!  Nice to relax and rest our weary feet after all that walking over the last couple of days.

Day 25 Went to the podiatrist to give my feet a little TLC and get them soft and pretty for when it finally becomes sandal weather! (I hate people touching my feet so this was not the relaxing experience you may be imagining)

Day 26 Rosie came for the day, she loves role playing and it is so lovely to hear her acting out scenarios with her dolls.

Day 27 Today we had Max here, his Mum is finishing her maternity leave in the next couple of months and when she returns to work Max will be going to nursery on a Wednesday and we will have his baby sister Olive instead so our Max Wednesdays are now numbered.  We will miss seeing him but will love to spend more time getting to know Olive.

Day 28 Our instructor really put us through our paces at Zumba today - at first I thought it was just me being less fit than I thought I was but at the end we were all exhausted!

Day 29 Housework in the morning and went to have drinks with friends in the evening

Day 30 What a lovely sunny day - parked my car just outside of town and walked the rest of the way to enjoy the sunshine and avoid the traffic, mowed the lawn in the afternoon as an excuse to stay out in the warm as long as possible!

Now for the roundup - 1 Second Everyday!