Thursday, 20 December 2012

Births, Marriages and Deaths and all that.......

Well this has been an interesting week or so, at a time of the year when it seems to me that there is more bad news than good (or is that my imagination?)  and this year is no exception.  I am a moderator on a UK book swapping site, and recently one of our longest standing members died after a long, long fight against cancer.  Never complaining, only noting what happened next, and offering so much advice to other members with problems, whether healthwise or not.  I met her twice, and "talked" to her on the site.  I liked her;  and now she is gone.

Then this morning, to my sad surprise, a lovely blog called "Letters from a Hill Farm" ( from a woman in New England who loves food, and books and music has closed.  She is sad herself but feels it is the right time.  She is leaving the blog up, but she has closed her "comments", so that (presumably) she will not have to cry over all the replies she was bound to get saying "Oh No!"........

But then two lovely things have happened.  First, our two Canadian friends were in the UK for the first time in several years.  We saw them last in Canada 5 years ago, so the gaps are long.  They have family here, so we managed to grab them for a couple of days at Pine Tree Cottage, and spent lots of hours talking and laughing, which was a great tonic.  Sort of agreed that we would take another trip to them in 2013.  They live in Nova Scotia - a lovely part of the world which always makes me wonder why people always think they must go to Vancouver and the Rockies if they are going to "do" Canada!  Go on, have a look at Nova Scotia!

Then last, but definitely not least, two other friends got married secretly - we got an email a week later saying "me and him, 2 witnesses, 12 noon on 12.12.12!"  accompanied by a lovely picture showing them both grinning their heads off!  As they have been together at least 20 years this will not change anything except tax and next of kin stuff some may just ask why?   But it was such lovely news.

So you see, it has been a sort of when one door closes another opens kind of time.  And when you think about it, life is really like that all the time, isn't it?

Wishing you a peaceful Christmas Season, and a very good 2013.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Miss Julia Speaks her mind - Ann B Ross

The Miss Julia books are wonderfully cheering books to brighten up a dull day.  They have no message, they just are.  Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind is the first in the series and was my first meeting with this former Southern Belle, a fiesty, interferring, self-opinionated middle-aged woman, who is just widowed.  When her late husband's constant lover Hazel Marie, and child of that relationship Little Lloyd,  turn up on the respectable doorstep of Julia Springer with nothing, what is a woman to do?  Well - get them off the doorstep and inside a bit sharpish, before the whole town knows, that's what!

The next in the series is Miss Julia Takes over and Miss Julia, having now taken Hazel Marie and Little Lloyd into her heart and her home, is distraught when Hazel Marie fails to come home after a dinner date with a church fundraiser.  Miss Julia must become detective (or at least hire one) to find out what on earth has happened to Little Lloyd's mama.

Miss Julia Throws a Wedding is entirely dedicated to just that..... Miss Julia's friend and lawyer Binkie is in love with Deputy Sheriff Coleman Bates.  They are getting married down at the courthouse on Friday, but Miss Julia decides that a courthouse quickie just isn't good enough and decides to have the wedding (a "proper" one) at her own house.  This involves moving all the furniture, filling the downstairs with flowers, hiring chairs and a piano, getting the caterers in.... and then Binkie decides she probably does not want to get married at all!

There are several more in the series, which I enjoy reading after I have finished a heavy read that either was draining, or took a lot of brainwork.  These stories are not taxing, they just take you smiling down a route you definitely want to go.  Not great literature, but then not every book has to be, they are just fun to read.  Miss Julia has a constant friend and companion at her house in Lillian, her black housekeeper of many years who although paid help, in fact has plenty to say, says it, and is much appreciated by her friend Julia.  They tend to argue and then agree on the right course of action when something needs doing.  Sam, the retired lawyer who truly loves Julia is always there, flirting a little with her and trying to get by her side for a quick hug when she least expects it..... and he will get her, have no doubt of that, eventually!

Miss Julia Hits The Road is the next in the series, in which she is involved with Sam and a Harley Davidson.............

Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake - Aimee Bender

If you like magic realism, read on:    Rose is only nine when she discovers her "gift" - that she can taste other people's emotions by the food they prepare, and she discovers that her mother is deeply unhappy on the inside. Food becomes something that cannot be enjoyed unless it is produced in a factory, in which case there are no emotions. To have to struggle with this makes Rose's life uncomfortable, added to which she has a brother that disappears from time to time. When Rose's Mum's cooking no longer tastes sad, but has an impression of youth, pleasure and smiles, she realises that there must be a lover around. When Joseph her brother disappears nearly in front of her eyes, she begins to understand why he has always been withdrawn from the family, and at last, when she eats at a French restaurant that night, she finds food that tastes of joy and pleasure. It's a restaurant she returns to again and again, and eventually begins to work there twice a week. Its not until near the end of the book that we find out that Rose's paternal grandfather had a strange gift too, and her own father fears he also has one, hence his inability to ever enter a hospital. Finally, we find out what her brother's gift was.......

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Shabby to shabby chic Wardrobe makeover!

At last!  Only had this wardrobe about 7 years, bought second hand  and knew it was just what was needed for our guest bedroom - as it is a multipurpose item (they used to be called "gentlemen's wardrobes").  So, this is what it looked like before:

 It has a hanging space, a cupboard (used to have sliding doors of some kind but those were long gone by the time I got it.... a drop down desk top (with pidgeon holes for envelopes, pens etc in this space) and then below that four good sized drawers.  It also originally had a covered wire especially to hang ties on the inside of the long door.

OH made two doors for the top space, mounted on piano hinges, and we had two little handles from other furniture, long gone and never used..... and also affixed a magnet to close the desk top as the key was gone and the lock b.uggered.

 So, full of tringum trangums which everyone has around the house, here it was in its former dowdy glory.

And now! Da da!
New doors and handles

 complete with tree for December guests!
 Desk top
and here she is in all her shabby glory.  Better in daylight perhaps, so I may do the pics again, but it was very satisfying getting it finished to tone in with the rest of the room.  So at last, room complete.

PS - in case you are wondering why the paint job looks as though it didn't go on very well, that it how I meant her to look, Honestly!!!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price Purveyor of Superior Funerals - Wendy Jones

The cover of this short novel is just perfect.  A shapely ankle, a nice waist, and a 
dress that Wilfred wonders how the wearer gets out of.......and that's the problem, for instead of asking the wearer how she undoes the dress, he suddenly proposes.  A batchelor and virgin at 27, Wilfred is the village  undertaker, and a rush of testosterone on a hot day leads him into a life he does not want, nor is he prepared for.  For the wearer of the yellow dress, Grace, the doctor's daughter, says yes.   Not so bad perhaps, except that Wilfred soon realises that he has no feelings for Grace, and we, the readers, also realise that Grace has a secret of her own, one she is unlikely to ever share.

Lovely writing style, conjuring up the small mindedness of village life in the 1920s, how important it was to have a career that would not fail you, and how important keeping up appearances was then.  The descriptions throughout - the polishing of the hearse, the brushing of the jacket, the willow pattern plates that dinner is served on at the doctor's house, bring this village and the story within it to life.  The author, Wendy Jones has captured the feelings of the three main characters so well, and although Wilfred starts off as a quiet, shy, keep your head down kind of man, just see what happens when true love gives him the strength to blossom.
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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Daniel Pennac's "Reader's Bill of Rights"

Now I found this today, reproduced on another blog..... and I am sure no-one will mind me reproducing it all over again!

Daniel Pennac's "Reader's Bill of Rights"

1. The right to not read

2. The right to skip pages

3. The right to not finish

4. The right to reread

5. The right to read anything

6. The right to escapism

7. The right to read anywhere

8. The right to browse

9. The right to read out loud

10. The right to not defend your tastes

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

King Peggy - Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman

King Peggy is Peggieline Bartels, a US citizen, and a secretary at the Ghanian Embassy in Washington.  Well, for around 11 months of each year, anyway.  But for the other month or so, she is the King of Otuam, a fishing village of around 7,000 souls most of whom are poor, and jobless.

When the ancestors chose her from the list of possibles (along with some of the village elders - more of that as the book unfolds) it was more than a shock.  She had a life elsewhere.  The last time she had visited the village was several years before, when her mother died.  So to step off the plane and be treated like royalty was something else again.  But it didn't take long for Peggy to realise that several things were wrong.  The village taxes were gone - and as they had been paid, someone must have recieved them and spent them.  Village land had been sold off, again, no money to show for it.  Her elders were at first very respectful, but only superficially, as it soon became obvious that a woman's place was not on the throne, but being subserviant to her male elders and betters. 

Peggy is not a rich woman.  She has to work, and lives in a one bedroom apartment in Maryland, USA.  In Otuam she is king, although the palace is only cement block built, leaky and is falling apart, and there is no money to bury the former king who has been in the fridge at the morgue for some time.  How to give him a good burial, how to raise money for clean water in the town, how to get more kids into school - and that's just for starters, for Peggy is king for life, and there is much to be done.  How she sets out to achieve those aims, get the village on her side, show up the people who have stolen village money and are trying to belittle her is Peggy's story.  She is assisted in the writing of this book by journalist Eleanor Herman, who herself paid for one of the two bore-holes bringing clean water up into the town, and has accompanied Peggy on two trips to Otuam.  Nice interview with King Peggy here

Alexander McCall Smith says "this is an astonishing and wonderful book about a real-life Mma Ramotswe.  It is an utter joy".  He's right.  It is.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The yellow and white border - Part 2.

If you look in the bar on my home page under Garden You will find the start of my yellow and white border.  It doesn't look much different now, except for the addition of paved edging, which you can just see in the last pic here.  Now for the second part of that border, which is cleared and ready for the off.   Dull colours, grey day, exposure on camera a bit off but its the best I can do for now. 
Now what you can see is the second half of the border, with fence posts up, wire on and topsoil added.  This has taken a while because we had a 30 year old Escalonia  in this area, which was up 12 ft+ high, and probably 15 ft in across.  It ate up half the grass as well, and was getting to the stage where it was not flowering abundantly anymore.  We cut it back by two thirds last year hoping that we would feel benevolent.... but no.  So out it had to come, and our great gardening jobber, Alan, arrived with a stump grinder, as once it was cut down to soil level there was still a load to get rid of.  The tree stump you see is not it!  That's Buddlia, "Dark Knight" the best and darkest purple.  Yes, I know it's in the yellow and white border, but it's so good each summer it has to stay.  The paved edge at the beginning, laid on sand, has settled in well, and will continue to the end of this border. 

So nothing else happening here until the Spring now, except for bulbs to be planted in various spots in the garden next month, for a good show in the spring.  More news on this next year.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Brooklyn Flea, and two nice guys we met there!

Yes, yes, I know!  this is my third post about New York - so you can tell I was pretty enamoured with it all, and I may have to bore you all with some more.   Now I want to tell you about Brooklyn's Saturday Flea Market - Get off at Lafayette on the C train and it's only a few blocks.  But you really MUST GO!  Not least because at the gate, for $10 only, you can buy a heavy canvas tote bag with FLEA BAG printed on it.  This is likely to be my favourite bag for a very long time.

We went on a Sunny Saturday in early October.  Loads of stalls, interesting mix of s/h clothes, furniture with good food, drinks not owned by a conglomerate (you know what I mean).  Nice craft stuff too, and in the middle of all the loveliness we found Mike and Frank of "Frank Fanzio Designs" whose website is  They are upcyclers (and so am I, so I was more than interested to stop, look and chat), and the day we saw them, they had a good mix of things I would have bought if I was living locally.  In particular, two dining chairs painted in seriously bright colours, with even brighter seat pads which I loved.  I could imagine them in a kitchen cheering me up on a cold rainy day.  I also saw a table that would have gone with them beautifully had it not already had a sold label on it.  Painted shabby chic style, and the thing that delighted me most was that on the long side of the table was one drawer, and, "hey presto!" a pull out preparation block for a bit of extra space.  I don't live in the US, so no chance of me buying either, but they were lovely guys - with some lovely stuff for sale.  I don't sell my own upcycled stuff, but for a look, click on House+UPCYCLING in the bar on my home page.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Rizzoli's - A Little New York Bookshop on 57th Street

My last morning in New York I just had to fit in a bookshop (bookstore to you Americans).  I found that on the same street as my hotel was a small-ish bookshop called Rizzoli's.  So there was just time to pop in there on my way back from seeing Bloomingdales before I got back to the hotel to await my airport transport.

It's a very narrow shop, on three floors.  It seems to specialise in coffee table books of the best kind, so if you like architecture, ballet, theatre, photographic tomes, this may well be worth spending an hour inside!  I was directed to the top floor for paperback fiction, and with only 10 minutes to look round I really didn't know where to start, and was then really confused, as whilst there were plenty of books, it seemed that, with the exception of a small amount of multiples, most books were just singles.  So I knew I would not have time to read along each shelf (and add to that the fact that I'd have to have my head turned sideways to read the spines!).  I did spot a Maeve Binchey there, but my book of choice was a New York Times bestseller, Rules of Civility by Amor Towles which I found in a pile of 3 only on the counter. 

Lovely old built in bookcases, floor to ceiling, and an eclectic selection of CDs also available for sale (1930s dance band music playing whilst I was there).  The ceilings are glorious rococco plasterwork, and they had a great selection of greetings cards too.  I would certainly give this lovely little shop more time if I had longer..... but I was flying home, and it was the only bookshop I had time for!

We visit New York!

We went with friends, stayed at a hotel on Virgin’s list, and found Manhatten easy to negotiate.  Here are our thoughts on the things we managed in case you too get the chance to go.  We found the people we met charming and polite (not only those who were staff in restaurants and in tourist areas either), and many times people just stopped and asked us if we were OK or if we needed directions..... once, a  guy sitting next to us in a square on a hot day when we were tired, not only asked , but used his iphone to look up the time of the next subway train, and what station we could get it from,  in order to get to a shop we thought we might visit!

Top of the Rock and the Rockerfeller Centre) – 70 floors up and a big viewing space giving views all round.  Particularly good for a view of Central Park, but if you have a pair of binoculars too you are going to have a great time up here!  The entire centre well-maintained, lovely art deco panels all over the place if only you look up.  The place where they have ice-skating all winter was just being prepared for that (starts October).  Somewhere on the ground (first if you are American) floor at the east end of the block is a silver, hand-made plane, made by Cartier and given as a gift from France following Charles Linberg’s flight.

Ellis Island – got tickets in advance on internet – good job as we took 5 minutes in the queue and 15 going through security.  Any other ticket you just joined the queue, and when we arrived at 11.00 am the queue was around 2 hours.  The ferry takes you out to Liberty Island so you get a good view of Statue of Liberty, but for us it was not worth getting off for – Ellis Island, however is a must-do – although give yourself several hours.  Great audio tour and extra sound bites in the   smaller rooms (voices of Ellis Island emigrees interviewed many years later were fascinating).

Chrysler Building – Just Wow!  You can only do the foyer as it is a fully occupied working building (go on a working day), but you only need to see this bit.  Covered in marble unlike any I have ever seen, and art deco signage, light fittings and a painted ceiling.  Their own postboxes;  oh, and of course the lift lobbies – if you like art deco – this is a must.

Grand Central Station – If you have never seen “The Fisher King” with Robin Williams playing straight, and Jeff Bridges – try and hire it now.  We went at teatime (around 5.00pm) and the celestial lights in the ceiling were on (constellations with the main stars lit show up on a blue ceiling)  The clock is beautiful, as is every single track door – and they are designed in several different groups.  Food court in the basement,  great food market mall, plus other shops.  In the Fisher King there is a great scene of commuters dancing, and we only just found out that on New Year’s Eve that actually happens – you can go there for the dance!
Maceys – old fashioned and large department store but not impressed.  However, Bloomingdales did impress us.   Still in its art deco jacket of black, white and aluminium, the doormen have proper uniforms of black with silver braid and caps, and if you are lucky enough to be there as they open the doors at 10.00 am you are greeted with “Good morning, and welcome to Bloomindales”  and  you walk through and up 10 or so steps to the shop floor to Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York.  Ladies rest rooms have been redone but still retain a line of original black and white tiles, and the lifts are all lined in black glass (although probable original doors of aluminium have been replaced by stainless steel – no matter).  Finest  (and probably biggest) iced yoghurt in NY on the seventh floor in a health food bar called Forty Carrots!  And Bergdorf Goodman? 
 I don’t think they let just anyone in there.  No prices in any of the windows, so I guess it’s a “if you need to ask you can’t afford it” kind of place!  Also Henri Bendell has several  real Rene Lalique glass windows on some of the floors.  Mr Mac says it is a must, although I was in a bookshop at the time.

Brooklyn Flea Markets in two different places on Saturdays and Sundays.  This is a “must do again” kind of place.  We went to Lafayette on Saturday.  Glorious sunshine, and just a market to watch people, eat good fresh food and drink handmade sodas – I had Lime and Shiso – which was so good I want to import it here! New and old clothing, All sorts of food, Secondhand furniture of all kinds – just a great morning.   Just outside the gate is a large Masonic Temple (Freemasons), lovely building.  Bought myself a canvas tote bag at $10, which has, appropriately, “FLEA BAG” printed on it.  Lafayette has a beautiful bookshop, which I promised to go back and mooch, but just no time.
USS Intrepid Museum – the aircraft carrier is the museum.  This was one for the guys, but if you like history and if you have children, loads of stuff to look at and listen to.  You can get to lie down inside an early space capsule, you can go in a G-force simulator.  The best for me was a film show for child groups, but good for anyone, which simulated a kamikaze attack during a battle in the Philippines in WW2.  Off the ship, over near Concorde, which you can walk right up to, there is a piece of dirty metal set up as a memorial.  It’s a piece from one of the World Trade Towers after 9/11, and marks the fact that the FBI set up office inside the Intrepid immediately after the attack, as their office was in one of the towers and of course had been destroyed.

The High Line Park – my most looked forward to, which did not disappoint.  Old rail track above the roads (remember that car chase with Gene Hackman as Popeye Doyle in The French Connection?) which had fallen into disuse and was going to be removed.  Fortunately, a group of worthies campaigned for its retention and it just is a most fabulous thing.  It runs through buildings, it passes expensive apartment buildings and poor housing.  Every block there is a view of the River to one side and the city to the other.  The plantings vary as you walk.  Some areas of prairie grasses and flowers, some summer perennials, some areas where there are seats in the shade of climbers and creepers, some woodland areas where the trees are already 10-15 feet tall.  Loads of city sparrows,  plenty of places to sit a while, everyone loving it.  Several covered areas (where it goes through buildings) to stop for a coffee.  A truly magic place to be, even for the male of the species – Mr Mac loved it.
A find!  Bryant Square, renovated in the 1990s from a place frequented only by bums and addicts but now an open space for everyone, plenty of seats and an area for another public skating rink (it’s fountains in the summer) just getting ready for the winter.  And, the most fabulous public toilet I have ever been in.  Its own little building – and as you walk through the door, Men to the right, Ladies to the left, you are confronted by a 12 foot high mirror, in front of which is an arrangement of fresh flowers (about £100 worth), and several tiny fresh flowers arrangements in between each sink.   Automatic toilet seat covers.... press the green button and the polythene seat cover moves round for each new user. This is immediately behind the New York Public Library.
Guggenheim Museum – fabulous Frank Lloyd Wright building (one of his last) that lived up to my every expectation.  No stairs, you just wind your way up six floors on a gentle slope, looking over into the atrium at every step.  Toilets on every floor, contained in one cylindrical drum from the top of the building to the bottom, each floor containing two toilets.   At the time it was being planned,  (1953/4) residents of 5th Avenue apartments campaigned against it (it is odd and very modernistic, like a space ship has just arrived on a street corner) but  Mr  Guggenheim had plenty of money and lots of pictures to gift to the city......... so there it is!
Central Park.  BIG!  46 miles of roads and paths, undulating and weaving round trees and rocky outcrops.  Joggers, runners, walkers, cyclists, horse drawn carriages,  bicycle powered rickshaws.  In the Summer I guess it’s manic!  We went on a rainy day and still managed to see loads, including a black guy selling $5 umbrellas (good trade for him that day) and introducing himself as “Prince Charles”!
Bronze Bull at the bottom of Wall Street (walk up from Bowling Green subway entrance outside the North American Museum of Native American Indians)  When we got there, it was surrounded by a huge  party of South American teens, all of which wanted a picture of every single group member individually with the bull.....
Another find – Battery Park.  Right down at the bottom of Manhatten, and the place where the Statten Island Ferry leaves from and where you find the ferry for Ellis Island.  Updated and beautifully done, there is a war memorial of all those who died in the North Atlantic in WW2, it’s centre  is a huge bronze eagle.  Park is lovely, little areas of shingle with seating, couple of coffee kiosks with high calorie cookies (of course), and the find within the find, the Battery Park Urban Farm which works like a UK allotment.... and eight schools are involving in the growing process. 

Carnagie Hall.  Just up there on  57th Street, it is quite small, and another of NY’s treasures that they nearly lost.....  We had a look at the lovely little original foyer, but didn’t go to a concert, as there was nothing for us on the nights we were free.  But it has an excellent programme of all sorts of stuff.
We recommend highly the Penguin publication The New York Map Guide.  Easy to use and easy to see how to link up various places as lots of them are marked on the pages.  Very thin at 64 pages,  can be slipped into bag or pocket easily.  Also the Dorian Kindersley  New York Top 10, which divides things into 10s!
Things we had to miss (no more time) were – Metropolitan Opera House,;  Roosevelt Tram(actually a giant ski lift thing seating 40) over to Roosevelt Island which is just housing;  The Tenement Museum;   African Burial Ground memorial;  Main US Post Office;  and so much more, we really are going again!!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Mesmerist - Barbara Ewing

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I loved the main characters, Cordelia and Rillie, two ex-actresses who put their past careers behind them and set up in business.  Each has a past they don't refer to - but in Cordelia's case, this past will come back to haunt her.  Set in Victorian London, at a time when Bloomsbury was only up and coming.... and when Seven Dials in Covent Garden was still a place of open sewers, pickpockets and tarts with raddled faces. 

When the two friends once again have their wages reduced by a theatre tour manager, they decide to walk home from Guilford to London and, over a glass of port, decide on a different way of life.  Cordelia will become, as her aunt before her, a mesmerist (a sort of forerunner of hypnotists), Rillie sees in the customers and plays the flute in the background whilst Cordelia does the treatment.  It isn't long before there is another string to her bow.  Lots of young brides-to-be come to her worried about their forthcoming wedding nights - and the ladies, over research at the library, realise that whilst there is plenty of guidance for young men, there is absolutely nothing available for young women.  Cordelia can find a way of explaining, very gently, what to expect after they are married - and this becomes a successful part of their business.  So successful, in fact, that they are able to move from their two homes (2 rooms for each of them, and Rillie sharing hers with her mother and a friend) into an entire house in Bedford Square.  They do not get above their station, but the past comes to haunt them and things start to go very wrong.

There are lovely Dickensian names throughout (Mrs Spoons, Rillie's demented mother; Mr George Tryfont act-or;  Mr Tunks, coronor are just a few examples);  descriptions of alehouses, back alleys, and also the smell of poverty everywhere.  This was a time when actresses were regarded by most of the rest of the population as just up from whores in the pecking order, and were treated accordingly.  How strange that two layers of working women where looked down on like that.  After all, if no money is inherited, we must all work at something.  And journalists?  Much the same as today, those that worked for the cheaper end of the market making up stories that fitted the persons concerned..... now where have we heard that one before?

Great romping read - easy to loose yourself in the story of Cordelia and Rillie and their friends and families.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey

 Inspired by a Russian folk tale about an elderly couple who make a child out of snow and she comes to life, this is a story set in the snowy wastes of early-settled Alaska.  If you like snowy stories, this one has plenty, and beautifully described, too.  What it also has is the kind of story that lots of us would have liked to have written ourselves, perhaps.   Oh! and a touch of magic realism (but if that is not your bag, please don't be put off).

Jack and Mabel are a childless couple in their early 50s, who, taking advantage of US Government payments offered to people who are willing to go homesteading in Alaska, find themselves in an alien landscape.  They lost their only child at birth, many years previously, and that loss has made them a sad couple, wanting to forget and being unable to do so.  On night, in a moment of uncharacteristic fun, they build a snowman, and before finishing, make the body part into a female by carving it into a skirt, and Jack makes the head like a real girl by caring the snow into a face.  Mabel adds hair, a scarf and some mittens on the twig arms, and they are done.  In the morning, the snowgirl is gone, broken and crushed - and so are the scarf and mittens.  So is it magic when a child appears in the trees, wearing those items?  Is it magic that the child disappears and reappears, apparently with no parents, no home, and in sub-zero temperatures?  Is it magic that gradually the child comes into their home for short visits in the winter, but is gone every single summer?  Well, it is certainly magic to them, the way she has come into their lives and into their hearts.

This is not only about Jack, Mabel and a snow child.  They have neighbours, George and Esther, who have several sons, one of which is a so much of a help to Jack when he is hurt that he becomes like a son to them helping out, sleeping in the barn, growing up.  Esther, a down to earth woman, full of fun and the joy of living, becomes the one who draws Jack and Mabel out of their sadness, and makes visits so worthwhile.  But she really doesn't believe in the snow child.  Thanksgivings are fun, ploughing is fun, even washing the dishes is fun now that George and Esther are in their lives.  And every winter, the snow child visits.......

Eowyn Ivey lives in Alaska and is able to describe so well those long wintery days when there is hardly any light, and those long summer nights when there is hardly any darkness.  The ever constant snow, whether down on the homestead in winter, or up on the mountain tops in summer;  the plants and flowers, birds and animals of that huge wilderness are all part of this lovely book, which will make you read on, getting toward the end with a sense of foreboding, but willing yourself on.  Worth every page turned.

Friday, 21 September 2012

House Leeks and the lazy gardener's guide to a spot of interest

I am a lazy gardener.  I want to just roam around, snippers in hand and dead-head so that everything always looks lovely!.  It doesn't really work like that, and as I have a big space I pay a man to do all the heavy stuff whilst I give the orders, and then I decide what to plant and how to make it beautiful!  Well.... in theory.  Anyway, I love to see things in pots in other people's gardens, but for myself, I just neglect potted stuff and then it gets straggly and dies.  So for all of you out there that might feel just like me, this is my own answer to that little problem - Sempervivums and Sedums!
Here are my first three (because as any designer or gardener will tell you, three is the magic number!), the bottom one planted last year and the one of the left planted this year both contain Sempervivums (old fashioned and common name, House Leek).  Above, on the right is a Sedum called Coca Cola.  All three pots are at different heights, and are different shapes, but all plain terracotta.  These sit out quite near our front door which leads up the garden and not onto the road.  I am already buying or finding other containers and plants - and of course, no water or care required once established.  I plan several groups of three (or five) in different parts of the garden for interest.  The Sempervivums do flower, but usually only one or two per group per year, and then of course the rosette that threw out the flower dies off, so it just has to be removed, and the hole it left will soon be filled in.  I also have them in containers off the ground.....

These two, on the shed wall, have been planted two years now, and you can see they are successful and happy (although neither threw up a flower this year, they look good without). 
Finally, here are two babies in pots which have no home so far - but they will have very soon indeed, so you can see that this is a nice way of filling pots with hardy plants that survive frost, snow, heat, rain, drought - and still give you something.  OK, they are not great beauties, but there they are, a constant in the garden, and cost little.   It's a pleasure to deal with them, really it is!                 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

My sister gets a desk!

My sister couldn't get her living room right.  She had it decorated earlier this year, and changed the layout of the furniture.  She has always wanted a desk, but so far has never achieved this...... until she told me again, that what she really wanted was a desk!  Did she want a table with drawers?  or did she want a desk with a drop down flap?  She didn't mind, as long as it was small to fit the allocated space.   So..... £16 later, this is what I found:


It had been painted black to cover an earlier paint job of red, which was left behind inside.  Actually, if only the mystery painter had left it alone, I could have delivered as was!  It was a nice job, with touches of gold paint to "antique" it, so it didn't take long before I decided that the red could stay.  But that badly painted black had to go.  My sister got 3 only choices of colours (it's always what's around the house at the time!), grey, olive green or cream.  She chose grey.   So, sanded down, and with two coats of paint and two coats of matt varnish, it now looks good!

First, painted and with added decoration (see the little red lines at the front of each shelf?) and ready for a new knob.  There was originally a key and no knob, and although the lock remains, cannot be used, so the OH made a new knob from a little bit of spalted beach - and that went on to the flap together with a final red line.

So glad I left the red, as I think it goes really well with the grey.  Delivered, and she's thrilled. From a bit of brown utility furniture into something nice, via a few other paint jobs (there was a russet brown there somewhere under the black, too!). It's always a truimph when a bit of treasure from trash is finished.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Brooklyn - Colm Toibin

Haven't read this?  Do try!  It's been on my shelves for three years, but as I am likely to be in NY later this year thought it might be a book to read.  And it was.  The first of Colm Toibin's books for me, but not the last.  Set in the 1950's  and following a common thread - set in America but starting in Ireland.
Product Details  Eilis (Aylish) is persuaded by her older sister and a visiting priest that she is likely to get on in the world in America.  Indeed, the priest, who's church is in Brooklyn, may be able to make some arrangements for her.  It's not long before he has arranged a job and lodgings, and the ticket is bought, and suddenly Eilis is travelling third class, puking her way all across the Atlantic.  She arrives in a different world, a world she could not have even imagined from her small town in Ireland.  But she is a thinker, not a doer, so she goes out to work, comes home to the lodgings, and at first, simply does not know how she is going to deal with her new life.  She mentions bookkeeping to the priest, and before very long he has arranged for her to take night classes.  She finds that she loves them gets through the first year with flying colours, and is told that if she passes the second year it is likely that there will be a job in the office of the department store where she works.  Life seems to be working out quite well.  And then, two things happen.  She falls in love, and a death at home in Ireland means that she must return for a visit........
Colm Toibin's writing has a wonderfully slow, lyrical quality.  I enjoyed that almost as much as the story itself!  A joy to read, a short, well written book which I recommend.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Far to Go - Aliison Pick

Product Details  At the beginning and the end of this book are a list of names with dates of birth and confirmed or possible dates of death.  I interpreted those lists in one way, another reader may interpret them in another.  They are not necessary to read the book, and they may enlighten or confuse, but they serve as a reminder that although fiction, this book is firmly based on fact, and makes the inhumanity of some towards others become clearer. Again, although fiction, hats off to Alison Pick - she's done the research and makes the book a persuasive read.
I knew of the Kinderstransport before I read this book; I didn't know much about the appropriation of Czechoslovakia by the N.azis - but I know more now.  I felt for the little family involved here;  the Bauers with their only child, six year old Pepik, and his nanny Marta.  The Bauers are non-practising Jews, Marta is a Gentile.  It isn't explained how Marta came to be working for the Bauers, but she's been part of the family for a very long time, and it's more than likely that her charge loves her more than he does his mother Annalise, a beautiful but rather self centred character.  His father Pavel, a successful factory owner looks to his own religion when he realises what is on the horizon. These main characters form a tight little group, each one seeing the future, all not really understanding how bad it may become.
In those dark days of 1939 diplomacy wasn't working.  Hitler knew what he wanted and it mattered not what any other nation thought, he was going to take it. He was also set on solving the Jewish "problem" once and for all, and you do get a glimpse of how he set out to achieve that.  The book is like a parcel at a party, gradually undoing the layers of the horror to come in Europe at that time, and I shared with the Bauers that initial feeling of "surely not?", even though I knew the outcome.  One of the layers is the insertion every so often of a letter from a parent to their child - gone from them, on a train taking them away from the horror to a place of safety until they could return home later.  As with the lists in the book, I didn't try to identify each family with a letter, but as I got nearer the end, I found little clues that put things straight for me.  A very short description of the rail station, and conditions on one of those childrens' trains was an eye opener.  War is not all death and destruction around you, but the very real fear of not knowing what it was that was happening to you.
And the kinder?  of course, there never was a "home" for those children to go back to.  No house, no parents, no loving family to return to.  Ever.  Some went to families who loved and cared for them. Some ended up in orphanages, homeless, stateless and alone.  All of them free of the N.azi threat, some made their way in life, some were lost and broken.  Poor Pepik.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Outlander - Gil Adamson

Product Details A widow at 19, we know from the very beginning that Mary Boulton has shot and killed her own husband.  She's on the run and her husband's twin brothers are following, relentlessly, to arrest her and avenge their brother's murder.  But it becomes obvious very quickly that your sympathy will lie with Mary and her travails, and you, like me, will find yourself willing her on, willing the fates to go her way.  Her head is full of memories.  Her sick mother who died young, her opium-addicted father, a dead child, the strangeness of her marriage, all continue to haunt her thoughts and make her (and the reader) wonder whether all is well with her mental health.
First published in the UK in 2008, I had this on my shelves for a while.  No longer!  This is the kind of book one longs to be left alone with, to keep on turning the pages and keeping up with Mary and her impossible bid for freedom.  Beautifully written with a quality that haunts the reader with its descriptions of the country, the animals, the humans she comes across and it would take a stone heart not to be involved.  We know she killed her husband from the start of the book, but how?  We know she killed him, but why?  This intrigue keeps you reading, and I had to stop myself dipping into pages further along in the book.  Whether Mary succeeds in her bid to escape from her brothers-in-law for good, and whether she will ever be truly happy is the draw of the tale, but I read on, hoping.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Neil Armstrong - magic and moonshine

It was reading my blogger-friend Josie's post* yesterday that told me the news.  Neil Armstrong dead.

Very few men have walked on the moon, and now the most famous of them all is dead.  I was 22, I watched the moon landing with stars (and tears in my eyes), prayed that they could get back up to the mothership, and get home.  There have been wonderful things happening round the world since, but few made us look up to the skies like the space race.  Some dreadful things too;  wars on earth, deaths in space, but somehow I always knew that one day...... it would be like flying the Atlantic.  But it was not to be.  I read an article today which said "50 years too early", and I think that is probably right.  We got there, and that was it. 

But for Armstrong, and all those others who volunteered to be astronaughts I spare a thought today.  Those still alive, those already dead - they were warriors of a different class and they, together, brought a magic to the world not often seen.  Thank you - it happened in my lifetime.


Tuesday, 21 August 2012

La’s Orchestra Saves the World – Alexander McCall Smith

Product Details  What a beautifully put together little novel I thought this was.  McCall Smith is well known for several series of fiction, the best known being The Ladies No 1 Detective Agency, set in Botswana.  This story is nothing like those books.  The heroine, Lavender (or La), is nothing like Mma Ramotswe.  It is not amusing, but serious – and about a serious time.
La’s husband has left her and gone to live in France with a woman he met during the course of work with his family’s wine import business.  When an accident in one of the cellars leaves him unconscious, we know that he will die and La will be on her own.   She moves from London to a cottage in a small Suffolk village owned by her in-laws.  Learning to live in a small village, volunteering to help a local farmer out with his chickens and learning how small a world a village can be,  La decides to set up a small orchestra, give a couple of concerts, and hopefully, if Britain wins WW2, to give a victory concert.
That’s it.  But it isn’t at all, for knitted into that little life are a few characters who are interwined with La’s, and one of them is Feliks, a Polish airman who can no longer fly.  He becomes part of her orchestra, and part of her life for a short while.  The doubts of a woman badly let down by her husband, the surroundings of war from the air base just up the road, the strangeness of  the Pole, who is obviously a gentleman rather than a peasant...... 
There are some uncomfortable truths here;  some people don’t like foreigners, and La herself discovers something very unsettling.  But it really is worth reading – and I had to go back to the first few pages as soon as I had read the last page – because the circle is joined.
It is a lovely, lovely read, and such a surprise from this author – I obviously missed it a few years ago when first published but I’ve made up for that now.  For those of you who love a well constructed story, do read about La – for although she is as pale a character as her name suggests,  you will be on her side.

Heft - Liz Moore

It was the cover that first attracted me. I guess that is often the case, and the blurb on the back was fascinating, introducing as it does Arthur Opp, former college professor, who is a very large guy at 550lbs. Arthur, now in his 60s, and as big as a house, lives in a brownstone in Brooklyn. He doesn't get out at all, living on a generous allowance from his estranged and very elderly father, and ordering food and everything else on the internet. He hires a cleaner, Yolanda, a very young, and pregnant Hispanic who proceeds to put his house in order.

Arthur has been writing, for 17 years, to Charlene, who once attended one of his evening classes, and who he fell in love with, but could not bring himself to tell. She has a son, Kel, 17 and at high school and aiming for a career in baseball; and she also has Lupus, a painful disease, and an alcohol problem.

Kel is looking for his father, Charlene is looking for a good life for her son, Arthur, praying every night that he might loose weight whilst spending all day eating, is looking for - something.

What a wonderful set of major characters - all damaged in some way, but all of them lovable for various reasons. A book that may make you question that old chestnut about blood being thicker than water. And a new writing style for me. Sections told by Arthur and Kel, both in the first person, which you may think you don't like, but which make you get to know and love those characters because you are in their heads, as it were. Written by a woman, but gentlemen, do not let this put you off! You will recognise yourself somewhere in one of the characters. I read it at one sitting, wishing at the end of each chapter that I could put it down because I was enjoying myself so much that I didn't want it to end but rushing toward the finish just wanting it to come to the right conclusion!

[copy of my Amazon review]

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Rush Home Road - Lori Lansens

Adelaide (Addy) Shadd, is an elderly black woman, living on a trailer park in a town hear the US/Canadian Border.  She's been widowed for longer than she cares to remember, her children dead, her life full of nothing more than memories and her cigarette habit.  And then, one day, a small brown child, with a white mother, is abandoned on her.  Too old for this, Addy takes a while to find out that the child's mother is never coming back, and in that time comes to know that she cannot pass the child over to the authorities.  She must keep her, love her and try and mend her. Sharla can only remember pain, a succession of boyfriends her Ma brings home, a dirty trailer and things she shouldn't yet know of.

During the course of this book, Addy's memories will take her (and the reader) back to Rusholme, a border town on the Canadian side, settled by runaway slaves in the 1800s, where she and her own small brother were born and brought up.  She will remember leaving, and why, she will remember lovers, children, folk who were kind and those who where not;  folk who loved her and those who betrayed her; and all the while she will struggle to stay well enough to help that little girl brought to her by fate.  Addy's story is intertwined with history - the Underground Railroad, the Pullman porter movement, and Prohibition all form part of her story, and show how hard life could be for African Americans, even over the border from America and memories of slavery.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Member of the Wedding - Carson McCullers

Product Details Frankie is a girl who doesn't know who she is, still young enough to be sure that her brother and his new wife will take her with them after their wedding, which she is looking forward to, and old enough to have caught the eye of a soldier in town.  She is a little girl one moment and wants to be totally grown up the next.  Her father is never home until bedtime, her mother died at Frankie's birth, and she is not a member of the "club" that girls in her class have formed for the holidays.  So she spends time with John Henry, her little cousin, and Berenice, the black help, who is around all day and most of every evening.  The story, short but powerful, takes place over a very short few weeks, and tells so well the "between times" of adolescence - the not knowing who you are, not knowing how to explain the feelings you have, not knowing how to put into words your thoughts.
At 190 pages, you could whip through this very quickly, but that would be a shame.  Take time to savour each page, for to me it was a revelation.  I have never read any of Carson McCollers, but will do so now.  She was damned with ill health and wrote just a few books and a play.  But you will feel what Frankie felt, you will laugh and cry at Berenice's views of the world at that time (1940's), and you will feel for Frankie when her dreams do not necessarily come true but can be easily forgotten.

London 2012 - Salute to the "Gamesmakers"

It's all over.  The lovely time that was the 2012 Olympics is done.  It seems to me that everything ran like clockwork, everyone was smiling, the sun shone, and it was a glorious time.  In fact, methinks a sprinkle of fairydust was in there somewhere!  We had such a lovely time watching from our sofa, shouting for the underdogs, cheering on the winners; smiling, laughing and crying all at the same time - Big emotions there!  And now, I need to say thank you.

I have three friends who were volunteers and they, and every one of the other volunteers,  were truly "Gamesmakers" - for indeed we couldn't have done it without you.  So to Maggie Wood doing Eton Dorney transport, Declan Cooke part of the opening ceremony, and Jenny Hurst in there somewhere - and to each and every one of the other volunteers -WELL DONE AND THANK YOU!  And old, cynical me, at my age - so proud of everyone.  The volunteers who pointed the way; the drivers, the organisers, the army personnel who stepped in to do a job a private firm couldn't finish.  The actors, the dancers, the musicians  for the opening and closing ceremonies, and every single one of you in the background -  unsung heroes and heroines.  You done good!

Monday, 30 July 2012

London 2012: Interview with a Volunteer!!

2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony...... and my friend, Declan Cooke, was one of those wonderful people who rehearsed for months to get the night right.  He agreed to be interviewed, and I think I got a scoop here! 

Hello Declan!  Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed.  An exciting time for us all, and so let’s get going.  When did you first realise that you could be part of this special event?

I applied on line sometime in September 2011.  I'd already applied to be a "Games Maker" volunteer and I thought, "why not?"  There was an audition that November followed by a "recall" (i.e.  if you'd done ok at the 1st one) 2 weeks later.   By the way - In between the two auditions, I challenged 3 yoofs who were loitering inside the locked inner doors of my small block of 6 flats. I ended up with 2 black eyes for my trouble. I was fairly traumatised but worse, I had to go to the 2nd audition with my black eyes - ALL my official passes throughout rehearsals and the actual OOC (Olympics Opening Ceremony) had my picture from that time -  looking like a right thug - I got endless comments from the squaddies on security duty - who by the way, did an amazing job - friendly but professional - so full of admiration for those men and women.

The auditions were crazy - hundreds of us in the huge 3 Mills Studios in Bow (where they filmed the 1st series of Big Brother) - walking up and down, moving from H6North to H6 East in the straightest line without bashing anyone, dancing movements, endless routines. I genuinely found dance moves difficult and I was out of time on so many occasions that I didn't hold out much hope.   But, I got an email in Jan 12 telling me I had successfully been assigned a role.   "Character based - utility - non dancing"  was all I knew - the non dancing bit didn't surprise me in the least but I was over the moon. They attached a schedule of rehearsals.
What was it like, turning up the first time?  Was there a moment when you realised how awesome this was going to be?

The first rehearsal in May 12 at 3 Mills.  I was given a bib to wear that said "WMW957" - it meant "Working Men and Women, number 957 of 1,000" - I'd wear this bib over my shirt to every rehearsal for the next 3 months. There were 750 of us excitedly chatting in a room, wondering what our role would be.  Up popped Danny Boyle (I was really shocked, I thought we'd never meet him. He was at almost every rehearsal, rain and wind, encouraging us, sending us emails, chatting to us all and signing whatever we brought him - the man is inspirational, truly inspirational.  Danny showed us a mock up of "Green and Pleasant Land" (real sheep; 70 real sheep? was all I could think). He took us through a 20 minute video of how he envisioned the content of Pandemonium (the title of our Industrial Revolution scene). I just remember filling up with tears and saying to people "he's got it, he's really got it, he's nailed the history so well". I just felt immense pride.

You actually spoke to Danny Boyle for a short time - as there were 1,000 of you, how did you manage that, and how did you get your photo (I have seen your facebook page!) taken  standing next to him)?

I looked on Wikipedia and saw that his mother came from the same small village in Ireland that my Mother came from, so as children we’d holidayed in the same place. He's also - like me - from (near) Manchester and moved to London in the 80's.  He was at the end of our row of seats in the stadium one day.   I had a sheet of paper in my pocket with a monologue from Julius Caesar that I was trying to learn for a drama school audition.  I HATE asking for autographs but I thought "I really want this one".  So I sidled along and asked him to sign it - he started chatting to me about it (I had a nightmare that night - MY GOD, DID HE THINK I WAS AUDITIONING TO HIM - AAAGH!!) and then we chatted for a few minutes - just one of the nicest guys I've met.  

The photo?  Someone from County Kent (we were divided into county groups, there were 50 of us in Kent and we had a marked area of the “green and pleasant land” that was our responsibility to transform; it also meant we got to know each other very well as we always worked by County) saw me chatting and took the photo - I could have kissed him!
Danny Boyle’s vision for this - was it inspired?

YES - everything he does is inspired!

Describe your feelings as you walked into the arena?

 It's weird as you walk into the arena!  A bit of background.....We'd done 2 dress rehearsals that week in front of a full stadium so while you couldn't say you were getting used to it, it really wasn't as scary as you'd think. We'd been in costume for about 3 hours and just done the half hour walk from the costume area so you're actually starting to flag a bit but at the same time the adrenalin is starting to really pump.

 The costume area - Eaton Manor, where the Paralympics tennis will take place - was definitely one of the most bizarre places I have ever seen in my life and needs a book to be written about what it saw that week.  Huge white tents containing 500 working men blacking up with industrial grime and changing into "working clothes" - segregated (i.e. separate tent) from the "working women" getting into their petticoats and bonnets and boots - segregated from 500 nurses changing into all in one body stockings, blue uniforms, heavy makeup and 40's style hair nets - segregated from - 1,000 "Thanks Tim" dancers changing into 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and NOW disco gear. You'd go to the loo and be met by a group of Bowie's - 12 guys in electric blue spandex with full Aladdin Sane make up - get a bottle of water and crash into the Doves (the people on bikes with the huge white wings), then walk round the corner into the green faced, black feathered Dementors from the Harry Potter books. And everywhere this huge camaraderie and excitement, everywhere colour and shouts and laughing - we clapped each other in and out as each group came and went.

Anyway back to Vom 3 (the tunnel leading onto the FOP).

Stop right there, Declan!  My readers may not understand Voms and FOPS! 

OK, I'll stop being an arse; Vom is short for Vomitarium (apparently where we get the word VOMIT from as in Roman times, gladiators would be sick before they went into the arena). There are 6 Voms in the Olympic stadium, our group entered from Vom 3 onto the Field of Play - the "stage" or "FOP". We all had In- Ear Monitors and could hear all the music and Shakespeare through our IEM's - we all knew our cues and how long we had.  It got strangely quiet in the Vom,  just the odd shout of "let's do this";  "come on"  or "my f***ing radio has bust".  You'd also hear occasional instructions from Steve, the head of MASS - the Mass Movement Team who co-ordinated all the entrances and exits. Finally Kenneth Brannagh finishes the words from The Tempest and we hear the words  "Standby Strike..." followed by  "Strike GO"  and off we march.

I didn't REALLY notice the audience at first because you're concentrating on marching on in time and listening desperately for the cue for the first piece of choreography (a series of 16 movements known as "levers pull"). You're concentrating really hard because you know it looks so good when everyone strikes out their right arm (to pull back the first "lever" movement) at exactly the same time. The noise of the drummers is beautiful and deafening, you're filled with excitement and pride and then you're up the steps and "striking" the Green and Pleasant Land" set and transforming it into the Pandemonium of the Industrial Revolution. Exhilarating and genuinely hard work - the sweat at the end is very real!

Hard work!  But was it fun as well?

Incredible fun - we were paired off into smaller groups and I met one of the funniest guys I have ever met, an engineer called Ben from Derbyshire. I think he insulted every nation on the earth without once being offensive. I think only Northerners can get away with this, I think it's the cheeky laugh we do as we let the insults fly. For example, we passed a group of waiting athletes when we came off, they were beginning to queue for the Parade - Ben started high fiving them as if he'd just won a Gold Medal - he spies the Argentinian flag and exclaims "Argentina! Yay! You're not getting those Islands back" and chuckles off into the night.    Great fun, the best fun I've had in a long time.

You live in London, but what time did you get home?  I mean what happened afterwards?

We decamped to the pub about 11pm. We had to go straight back to Eaton Manor, collect our clothes and things and exit the Olympic Park as there was a huge exclusion zone around the Stadium for the Fireworks. Miraculously we found a pub in Stratford where we could watch the athlete's parade. We got to keep our costumes so a lot of people wanted pictures with us. Fame!  We left there about midnight and watched the amazing fireworks from a very unglamorous bridge near the tube station. Brilliant view.   I must have left about 1.30 am after many heartfelt, tearful goodbyes. We had worked and played together for 3 months and we had played a part in creating something rather beautiful. We were proud, happy and sad. I cycled back from Stratford to Brixton in full costume, no-one took ANY notice of me, and I just looked like another London eccentric. I got home about 3 am, exhausted, and immediately sat down to watch the Opening Ceremony on my laptop. Remember, we hadn't actually seen ANY of the TV coverage.  I was so proud of the whole thing. Strange, beautiful and funny.  Danny Boyle often says "I'm just a story teller". Well he's a bloody good story teller in my opinion.

I know you are proud to have been part of this.  How proud? a) makes you smile all day b) chest nearly popping out of T-shirt  c) want to take up shouting from rooftops?  Seriously, Declan – how do you feel now it’s all over?

 Deeply, deeply proud and a huge sense of gratitude and privilege.

And your final memory, please.

Final memory - driving my speedboat down the Thames to the David Holmes soundtrack. Some people said I looked a little like David Beckham, I think I looked far better. Don't know who the woman was up front with the Torch but she kept hogging the limelight.

Was that you?   hahaha! 

Thanks so much Declan for sharing this so quickly after the excitement, it's been a pleasure to talk to you!

 You are very, very welcome Sue.

(copyright - Declan Cooke)

So..... a privilege for me too, to get Declan's thoughts like that. 

Here's a link to a YouTube mini film, so if you want to see how the magic was created... this may help.  and there are loads more clips there, too!

Early One Morning - Virginia Baily

I was attracted to this novel purely by the cover (as I suppose this is meant to happen!) and it has very little about the contents on the b...