Saturday 30 July 2022

What I've been reading in July

 I always read at least a couple of books when I go away on holiday so I have a few books to share this month!

The first is The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley which was our book club choice for this month.

After an unpleasant incident in London, Jess decides to take some time out in France and visit her half brother, Ben who is a journalist.  On arrival in Paris she receives a voicemail from Ben with details of how to gain entry to his apartment block and to say that he will be there to meet her.  However, on arrival, Ben is not answering his door and seems to have mysteriously disappeared.

Jess finally manages to gain entry to the building but Ben's absence is confusing. She gradually gets to know the other residents of the block.  But there is an underlying feeling that no one is who they appear to be, and that everyone is harbouring a secret.  Jess also realises that the other residents do not seem to particularly like her brother.  She is also puzzled, because this is a very prestigious building, how on earth can Ben afford to live here?  He had come to Paris to visit his friend Nick while carrying out research and has now simply disappeared.  A more careful listen to his voicemail reveals background noises which may give some clues as to what happened.

I have mixed feelings about whether or not I would recommend this book.  It was a little slow in places and some of the characters seemed a little cliche but it has a twist at the end that I did not anticipate.


I then moved onto another mystery - The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex. 


In 1972 a ferry leaves the coast of Cornwall bringing over a crew member for his stint on the remote lighthouse, Maiden Rock.  When they arrive, the lighthouse is locked from the inside, there are the remains of a meal on the table, the clocks have stopped at exactly the same time and the three lighthouse men are nowhere to be seen.  When the investigations begin they find that the weather log which was completed daily by the Principal Keeper bears no resemblance to the actual weather conditions that the area has experienced.  He has noted storms raging around the lighthouse, yet in reality the weather has been fine.

Years later, a writer convinces the three women that the men left behind to speak to him about how they have coped and to ask them what they believe happened to the men they loved.  Instead of uniting the women, the tragedy has divided them and it seems impossible to find one true explanation of what happened.

Whilst this is based on a true story, I can only assume that the chapter which describes the final days of life on the lighthouse is pure fiction but it is an interesting theory on what may have happened to three very different men, with totally different life experiences, thrown together in a confined space in isolation for weeks at a time. In such unusual living conditions there can be a very fine line between reality and imagination. What really happened?


Time for a less mysterious novel!  Next on my list was The Distance Between Us by Maggie O'Farrell

On a winter afternoon in London, Stella thinks that she sees a man who she has not seen for years and the shock sends her travelling to a remote location in Scotland which has a special significance for her and her sister Nina.  Thousands of miles away in a crowd celebrating Chinese New Year, Jake is caught up in a dangerous situation which has far reaching consequences for him.  Feeling traumatised by his experience he feels obliged to make a decision that he later regrets.

As time moves on, Jake feels trapped in a situation which was never in his plans.  He is desperate to escape and in a quest to find information about the father he never knew, Jake leaves Hong Kong and finally ends up in the same location as Stella.  

This book receives conflicting reviews but I really enjoyed it!  The very odd relationship between Stella and her sister Nina is drip fed through the chapters and I felt real sympathy for Stella whose life has been shaped by an event that happened to Nina when she was growing up.  Stella clearly loves her sister, but oh how her life could have been different. 


And finally, How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry

Emilia returns to her childhood home in the Cotswolds following the death of her father.  She had promised that she would keep the bookshop that he opened following the death of her mother many years before.

A local property developer is anxious to buy the property and hopes that he will have more luck convincing Emilia that she would be wise to sell up, and her financial advisor confirms her fears that her father had been running the shop at a loss in order to provide a safe haven for the locals.  

Emilia finds that the bookshop is far more than just a shop which sells books, it is the centre of the community and the people who come in to browse all have a story to tell.  The lady of the manor whose association with the book shop is deeper than anyone realises.  The single dad trying to forge a better relationship with his son through reading to him.  The shy chef too timid to pursue her crush on a fellow shopkeeper.  The bride to be who cannot see the flaws in her future husband, and the man who tries to make her realise she may be making a big mistake whilst not letting her know that he has feelings for her too.

This was a nice feel good book - if you fancy visiting Peasebrook and entering Nightingale Books, I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Monday 25 July 2022

Me on Monday

 Well, last week was quite a week!

Oh the heat!  Highest temperatures recorded ever and what a shock to the system it was.  I had to pick Leo up from school on Tuesday and went by car so I could have air-conditioning on.  So my actual time in the sun was no more than 20 mins, just the walk from car park to school, wait in playground for him to come out and then back to the car.  When I got home I could not cool down and felt overheated for quite a while after.  Of course it's hard to cool down when you don't have an air-conditioned house and have to rely on two small fans to circulate cooler air!  

On Sunday there was a farm fire close to where our son lives. A spark from someone's barbecue flew into a nearby field and within a minute, had taken hold.  The whole crop has literally gone up in smoke.  J's father in law is a farmer who harvests the crop there and he was called on to try and save at least one field but although he did manage to reach that furthest field, the crop is smoke damaged and will only be able to be sold for animal feed.  

It was also a week for getting together with old friends.  I met up with my friend Judy who I met at my first job when we were both 18.  We used to see each other regularly right up until I went back to work in 2001, when life took us in different directions.  We think we probably last actually met up in person about 10 years ago!  So after just exchanging news on birthdays and Christmas it was so lovely to actually see her again for afternoon tea on Friday.

That same evening we met up with a couple who used to be our neighbours.  We hadn't seen them for about 4 years so it was a 24 hours of a lot of catching up with news!

The social events kept coming, and on Saturday we celebrated Max's 3rd birthday.  He had a wonderful time and it was so lovely to see him with all his cousins from both sides of the family.  Max's mum does make exceedingly good cakes!

This week isn't quite so full of parties, although I am going out for a meal with 11 ex school mates which will be lovely.  It's so good that 46 years after leaving school we still keep in touch, even though not all of us still live in the UK and very few of us still live in the same county!

But the only other thing in the diary this week is a trip to the vets for Coco on Friday.  When they last saw her they queried the possibility of a slight heart murmur so she is booked in for a heart scan on Friday.  Although we know she is getting older and inevitably she is going to start being less well, it's horrible when the vet flags up a concern.

Well, temperatures seem to have returned to UK normal now and I can once again pick up my crochet.  Somehow making a blanket hasn't been that appealing in the last week!  I probably ought to tackle that pile of ironing that has been growing during the days where it was too hot to turn on an iron!

Monday 18 July 2022

The wanderer returns

 It feels like it's been a while since I did my last blog post but I'm back and thought I'd share some photos.

Have you ever been to Portugal?  It's lovely there and we are so lucky that my sister has a house there, down in Praia da Luz on the Algarve coast so we have been several times.

All dressed up and ready to go out.  I saw a photo of a friend wearing this dress and loved the colours in it so much I asked her where she bought it.  Turns out it was a couple of years old and I couldn't find it in any store but I managed to track one down on eBay in my size and at a bargain price!

This is a view of the rocks beside the beach on our way back to the house after buying an after dinner gelato

Portugal is the original home of the Pastel de Nata, a delicious custard filled tart made with the crispest, most gorgeous pastry you honestly can't find anywhere else (and believe me I've tried!)

This coffee was bought in a lovely little rustic coffee shop just around the corner from this lovely green tiled shop in Lagos

The happy holidaymakers!

So we have returned to the UK just in time for the heatwave - 40 degrees forecast for our area today!  Sounds like a day for staying home with the curtains drawn to keep the heat out.  Definitely not a day for tackling that rather large pile of ironing that has appeared due to having to do all the holiday clothes washing!

Monday 11 July 2022

Summer Photo Hunt - 1st check in

I seem to be off to a slow start this year!  Hopefully some time away will help me fill in some more of the gaps, but at the moment I can offer these

3 - Stairs

Our annual visit to Frinton gave me the perfect excuse to photograph some of the lovely beach huts along the front

7 - Leaf vein

I love the colour of the leaves and the veins are such rich contrast

14 Leftover

This is the remnants of a tree which has been 'leftover' after being cut down and if you look carefully you can see that someone has carved a bird and an owl into the trunk

15 Windpower

Our friend had decorated her garden with red white and blue bunting and these lovely giant coloured windmills for the Jubilee party

So that is it for my first show and tell for this year's photographic scavenger hunt.  Are you joining in too?  Pop over to Patio Postcards  to see what everyone else has found.

Monday 4 July 2022

Me on Monday

 Preparing for a holiday never used to be this stressful I am sure.  What with flight cancellations and ridiculous queues at the airports on all the news reports it feels very hard to get excited about going away.  Will three hours be long enough to get through check in and security?  Is 4am early enough to book the taxi to pick us up?  Wasn't it lovely when all you had to wonder about was 'am I taking enough swimsuits?'

I guess I always have my crochet to occupy my mind in the lead up to going away - and the blanket is definitely coming together now.  I just have 2 more coloured 'postcard' block and a 'wish you were here' one left to do.  I have even joined the two completed end blocks to the middle section

I've even gone 'rogue' with my appliquΓ© decorations and made a whale and a sailing boat instead of the beach hut that the pattern suggests

in other news - guess who had a birthday this weekend?


Eleven years old!  This is her new favourite place to lay in the garden, she's completely flattened the flowers down and I can't believe it's comfortable for her but maybe it's slightly shaded there and cool to lay in when it's sunny?  

We stepped back in time yesterday and went to Leo's school fete - it's been 21 years since we last went to a fete there and at that time I was on the school PTA so was busy behind the scenes so it was nice to just be a visitor this time!  There was a great turnout so I'm hoping they will have raised lots of money for the school.

So Monday finds me in a bit of a dilemma, having left it until late to buy currency - just in case - I have been checking online for the best rates locally and Tesco came up on top.  So I've just been up there to buy some Euros and guess what?  The foreign exchange doesn't open on a Monday - doh!  Looks like my quest will be taking me into town later on ...

Friday 1 July 2022

A sentence a day in June

Day 1 Didn't have Max today as Jon has this week off work so childminding duties not needed.  Coco went to the groomers and I went into town to collect a dress I had ordered from M&S.

Day 2 Invited to our neighbours house for drinks and barbecue, went to the town park later in the evening to watch the lighting of the beacon to celebrate the Queen's 70th anniversary

Day 3 Rachel and family over for Jubilee lunch, weather was sunny, set up an obstacle course for the children in the garden.

Day 4 Street party after lunch then round to friends for a jubilee barbecue in their garden - it's been a very social weekend!

Day 5 The last day of the jubilee celebrations on tv, was lovely to see the Queen on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with Charles, William and George - all the heirs to the throne.

Day 6 Spent time on my crochet project as Week 3 instructions were published today and I had to join all my Week 1 and 2 sections together ready for the next part

Day 7 Had Rosie here for the morning, spent the afternoon doing some alterations to a couple of new dresses that I have bought for my holiday - the hazards of only being 5' 1" means you have to be ready to alter a few hems!

Day 8 A day to myself as Max on holiday and Paul doing his volunteer work, sat in the sun reading our online book club choice for much of the afternoon

Day 9 Zumba is back - was good to have a fun hour of dancing

Day 10 The tree surgeon came to shape the cherry tree in our garden, it seems like it may be dying on one side so this is a last chance for it to grow back

Day 11 Went to Saffron Walden in the morning, gardening in the afternoon

Day 12 Paul went to see his favourite guitarist, Pat Metheny, in concert in London with his friend - my sister flew home from Portugal 2 weeks early as she is very unwell.

Day 13 Went to churchyard to lay flowers for my mum's birthday and in advance of Father's Day - not to mention having a 'chat' with them about how worried I am about Gill.

Day 14 Awful day - my sister is in hospital having all manner of tests and CT scans, couldn't bear being at home with my thoughts so we went to the seaside for the day - reassuring results from hospital in the evening and she has been discharged.

Day 15 Had Max here for the day, was a lovely distraction

Day 16 Zumba in morning then popped over to see my sister before she went to have her ultrasound scan

Day 17 Coffee with my friend Denise! Was a very hot day - car thermometer showed 33.5 degrees when I got back to the car park - even though I was parked in the shade!

Day 18 Friends over for drinks in the evening - spent the afternoon madly tidying and dusting the house to be ready for visitors.

Day 19 Remembering my lovely dad on Father's Day. Rachel and Jon came over to see Paul in the afternoon, baby Olive is very nearly crawling.

Day 20 Did our online check in for our holiday and downloaded our Covid passes

Day 21 Went into town in morning, bought some new shorts as my other blue pair seem to have 'shrunk' {ahem}

Day 22 Max was here for the day, keeping us all on our toes, Olive was proudly showing off two new teeth when I went to pick him up in the morning


Day 23 Zumba was much cooler this week (thank goodness!) housework and crochet in the afternoon

Day 24 Hair cut and colour - that feels better!  followed with lunch at a local Turkish restaurant with two ex work colleagues

Day 25 Went to see Leo in a show that was being performed by his drama group - proud Nanny time

Day 26 Rachel, Jon and their families here for lunch, a lovely day and so warm we spent all afternoon in the garden

Day 27 How fortunate we spent most of yesterday outdoors as today Leo tested positive for Covid 😳

Day 28 Had Rosie here for lunch and early afternoon - news from my sister that they are doing extensive blood tests and are now considering that she may be coeliac

Day 29 Woke to sad news that Dame Deborah James has died, what a legacy she has left behind - had Max here for the day

Day 30 Really enjoyed my Zumba class today, lots of my favourite dance routines - caught up with a bit of crochet in the afternoon, after initially managing to keep up with the weekly portions of the blanket it was inevitable that I would fall behind but I didn't want to pressure myself just to keep up and then stop enjoying making the project.

You'll see various parts of it in my monthly roundup video - thanks to 1 Second Everyday


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