29 August 2016

A Good Read

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger 

When Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer, she leaves her London apartment to her American nieces, twins Julia and Valentina. The girls had never met their English aunt, they only knew that their mother was a twin, and Elspeth was her sister. Julia and Valentina are fairly normal teenagers with an abnormally intense attachment to one another, and very little interest in college, finding jobs, or anything outside their cosy home in the suburbs of Chicago. 

The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders Highgate Cemetery, and soon get to know some of the other residents: Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword puzzle setter suffering from crippling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Marjike, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. 

As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbours, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including, perhaps their aunt, who can't seem to leave her old apartment and life behind. 

Niffenegger weaves a captivating story about love and identity, secrets and sisterhood, and about the tenacity of life -even after death. 
I thoroughly enjoyed it, well written, good characters and a good story. I thought Valentina’s talk of suicide was somewhat contrived but nevertheless the plot worked.

19 August 2016

All Sorts

brrrr I've just changed into a long sleeved t-shirt having suddenly felt a little chilly. I have been sitting reading for a while though, inactivity usually lowers my body temperature, need a sandwich and a cup of coffee to warm me up. Sandwich and coffee prepared and already I'm feeling warmer.

I made an effort to get up early this morning to take the dogs out because my car was being collected sometime after 9am for a recall inspection. We had the best of the weather as it has been raining gently ever since. I was hoping to do some gardening today but I'm pleased with the rain as my garden has been looking very dry, the lawn even has a few chasms in it - only small ones! I hope it clears up as I have two plants that have been in their pots for weeks, they are screaming to be in the garden as their roots need to expand beyond the confines of the pots.

I regularly wear jewellery - rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, but I've never been a huge fan of charm bracelets, I have a gold coloured chunky one that I wear in winter and the rest are just smallish wrist adornments. Two of my friends have Pandora charm bracelets, one a silver one with loads of charms on it, and the other a simple band with just 3 rose gold clips on it. For a while now I have wanted to own one, it's not that they're out of my price range just something I never got round to buying, until yesterday. We have a brand new Pandora shop in town, so no excuses now, off I went and bought this.




ok, so its not Cartier or Faberge but I love it, and I will love it even more when it has some pretty patterned charms on it. Pandora gift vouchers will now be on on my pressie lists :-)

I feel very sad about the demise of Bhs and all those people, who, in a few weeks will be out of work. Our store looked forlorn, huge signs advertising closing down bargains, the windows full of rubbish. I went in but then thought no, I'm not going to put any more money into, in my opinion, that odious little mans already ample offshore bank account. He must be the most reviled man in the country at the moment.


Does anyone have a foolproof cure for chocolate addiction?  This is my current favourite. 


I know, I should employ willpower and self control. I don't like Oreo biscuits but when it comes to this, I just devour it like a thing possessed. Over the years I have hoped that maybe I would be sick from chocolate binging and that would end my addiction, but I guess I will just have to cope with it.

My car is back and all is good.

The rain has stopped, the ground is nice and soft, perfect for re-homing my plants.

Thank you for reading, take care and have a good weekend.



16 August 2016

A Good Read

The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan


Pearl has a secret which she keeps from her mother Winnie, and Winnie has her own long kept secrets about her past and the confusing circumstances of Pearl’s birth. Fate intervenes in the form of Helen Kwong, Winnie’s so called sister-in-law, who believes she is dying and must unburden herself of all falsehoods before she flies off to heaven. Unfortunately unburdening herself would mean exposing Winnie’s secrets and thus having to expose the truth to her daughter. But truth comes in many guises, depending on who is telling the tale.... 
The story takes us back to 1920's Shanghai, through WW2 and the harrowing events leading to Winnie’s arrival in America in 1949. It’s a story of lost innocence, tragedy and survival, but most of all the endurance of hope, love and friendship. 

As well as achingly sad this is a mesmerising story, with wonderful strong characters, and a dramatic backdrop for the events of China during WW2 – the Japanese invaders, the Kuomintang, the Communists, all struggling for control and leaving a swath of destruction in people’s lives, relationships & families. 

Weaving together China’s epic tragedy with her characters’ predicaments Amy Tan has created an engaging read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

7 August 2016

August Already

It's that time of year again


 the wheat and barley have turned golden









the blackberries have flowered and fruits are appearing 


and, most important at this time of year


Buster has had his first application of this to prevent this


On our walk the other morning I saw this, or rather I smelt it before seeing it. It smells lovely, like a honeysuckle. I don't know what it is, and because of where it is I'm guessing it's a wild plant but I've taken a stem and will harvest some seeds and try to grow it in my garden. It might be rampant and take over!!



27 July 2016

Great Comp and Riverhill Gardens

Oh dear, It's ages since I posted anything, I seem to be very busy or very lazy! I love the hot weather but as I get older I need regular rests in the shade! 

In June I visited the horticultural gem that is Great Comp. Kent is a very pretty county with lots of interesting places to visit, and Great Comp is described as one its finest gardens. The gardens surround a picturesque 17th century grade II listed farmhouse. The house is built of lime-washed brick with stone dressings, and blocked up brick windows on the building's sides suggest a Tudor origin to the house. The interior features early 17th century panelling and a late 17th century staircase. The stables have been converted into the Old Dairy Tearoom. 

When Roderick and Joyce Cameron purchased the historic house in 1957 they decided to turn the grounds into a garden, beginning with 4.5 acres and later extending to 7 acres. They built an Italian garden, adding handmade follies to create extra interest, using sand and stone from the garden itself. These 'ruins' are an important part of Great Comp, creating a focal point for exploring the gardens. A trio of classical urns, dubbed the 'Longleat Urn', 'Pope's Urn', and the 'Doulton Urn' act as focal points to emphasise points of view.



A quiet corner

A quirky gargoyle






Central sweeping lawns are bordered with lush planting schemes of over 30 varieties of magnolias, crocosmias, dahlias and salvias. 



Great Comp specialise in salvias, they have one of the finest collections in Britain.


The magnolias and rhododendrons are underplanted with large swathes of bulbs and hellebores. A woodland area, with winding trails leads through beautifully planted trees and shrubs. Tucked away in a quiet corner is the hydrangea glade which at the time of my visit was just green, it would look stunning now. The thing is with all these lovely gardens, to fully appreciate them you need to visit at various times of the year.




Both formal and informal areas make careful use of statues and romantic follies to add interest.






What a lovely place to call home




Time for a healthy ham salad followed by a scrumptious cream tea!! Needed to maintain my energy levels for the next garden visit. 

Riverhill Himalayan Garden is an historic, listed hillside garden, a very imaginative garden where you can build a den, discover secret pathways and even spot a Yeti. Six generations of the Rogers family have lived at Riverhill and it remains a private home today. 
The gardens are delightful and on a clear day the views are incredible. After wandering around the extensive gardens you can browse in the shop or indulge in more delicious cake and coffee -  can you see a pattern forming? I don't spend all my time eating cake, honest, only on days out! :-)


It was a warm day and a fairly steep incline up to the viewpoint


(no Yetis up here)



but worth it for the pretty wild flower meadow 



magnificent views to the Weald of Kent 


rare an ancient trees, and a fledgling maze that I couldn't get to the centre of!! I mean, look, you can see over the top of the hedges, and I still couldn't find the centre!!



The gardens are renowned for carpets of bluebells in the woodland in early Spring, and a spectacular array of rhododendrons and azaleas in late Spring


Formal gardens


Modern Sculptures



a water feature and a beautifully manicured lawn.


the rose walk

It was about now that it started to rain very slightly 
so we made our way to the cafe for a cup of coffee and cake before departing.

14 July 2016

A Good Read

Testimony by Anita Shreve


This was my latest book group's read, and a very thought provoking one it was too. 
It deals with a sex scandal at a New England boarding school. Three males, aged between 17 and 19, and a 14 year old girl engage in an alcohol-fuelled evening of bad choices, immaturity and hormones. Their sexual acts are videotaped, which then turns up in the headmaster's office.
Nothing on the tape suggests the girl is unwilling, she had more sexual experience than most people would expect of a 14 year old. “She was damaged and hungry, and knew how to make others hungry” said one boy, but should the more mature 19 year old have stopped it happening? In the state of Vermont the boys have committed sexual assault. 
Although the sex scandal was the main issue, it was the trigger for the devastating consequences that followed. A town divided, marriages end, several brilliant futures never realised, and worst of all, a life ended. 
The story is told in the form of testimony, hence the title, skillfully drawing in the lives of adults who are indirectly culpable for what transpired. From the man who sold alcohol to teens, to the cafeteria staff, and to those more intimately involved, and finally from those who committed the offence.
To say I really enjoyed this read sounds slightly wrong given the subject matter, but this is such a well crafted book, it pulled me in from the very beginning. Shreve explores human failings and desires, the needs and fears that drive ordinary men and women into intolerable dilemmas. I like the way she tells the story one step at a time through different voices and perspectives.



8 July 2016

A Good Week, except for the tooth!

The tooth, oh dear the tooth, I will come to that later. 

Last Saturday I visited the town where I used to live 7 years ago. For 17 of the 20 years I lived there I belonged to a drama group. This year is the 60th anniversary of the founding of the group and they had a bit of  do - a splendid dinner dance in a very nice golf club. It was a very special night, I hadn't seen some of the people for over 10 years, we had great fun talking, laughing and reminiscing over photographs, programmes and my scrap books that I started from my very first production. 

On Wed my gorgeous grandson competed in the high jump at the Essex Championships and came first. He is officially the best high jumper in Essex in year 7. I'm beaming with pride as I write this. 

And now the tooth, the broken tooth and not much left of the tooth. As I was biting into a sandwich I could feel something hard that was clearly not part of a soft sandwich. The eye tooth on the left of my mouth had broken, completely broken away leaving just the root part in the gum and jagged edges around it!!! Thank goodness there is no pain, I seem to remember many years ago a dentist removing the nerve for some reason and saying that eventually the tooth would die and fall out. The gap feels cavernous and looks horrendous but it doesn't show when I'm talking, I just have to remember not to laugh too heartily!! I have an appointment on Monday to see what my options are, goodness knows how much a repair is going to cost. I will keep you posted.

Last night my bookgroup met to discuss our latest book which we all agreed was a very good read, more about that later.

And to round off the week I'm joining some friends for a picnic at our sports field this evening, egg mayo sandwiches, ham sandwiches, pork pies, pate, crusty bread, cream scones, rocky road bites, Eton mess and lots of my favourite bubbly :-) The weather isn't as glorious as yesterday but it's sunny and warm, although I will definitely have to take a cardigan for later!!

Hope you have a lovely weekend.

29 June 2016

Strawberries and a Bridge

Earlier this evening, inbetween showers I went over to my allotment to pick some strawberries. I can't keep up with them, l fill a huge bowl and give some to friends. I wore my waterproof jacket a) because rain was threatening and b) because it was chilly!! This is the third year they have rewarded me with generous crops of delicious fruit. The consensus of opinion is that they are only good for three years so I will need to train some runners from them. The raspberries are looking good too, I think they will be a bumper crop. 

We had a lot of rain last week and various parts of the village and surrounding fields were flooded. 



This bridge was picked up and swept along a couple of feet. It should be just about where that cow parsley is. 



It looks a bit precarious but we're still using it. Rufus goes across with no hesitation, Buster however isn't very keen. The first time I had to put his lead on and almost drag him across but he's much better now, he hesitates for a few seconds, gingerly gets on it then runs across to safety! bless him. I'm sure it will be repaired soon.



21 June 2016

A Good Read

Heartbreak Hotel by Deborah Moaggach



When retired actor Buffy decides to up sticks and move from London to rural Wales, he has no idea what he is letting himself in for. He has inherited a run-down B&B that leans more towards the shabby than the chic and is miles from nowhere. He soon realises that he needs to fill the beds - and fast. 
Enter his master plan of ‘Courses for Divorces’ and a motley collection of guests: Harold, whose wife has run off with a younger woman; Amy, who’s been dumped by her weedy boyfriend, and Andy, the hypochondriac postman whose girlfriend has become too much for him to handle. 
But under Buffy's watchful eye, this disparate group of strangers find they have more in common than perhaps they first thought.
Although the plots are a tad predictable and twee it is a charming, funny, heart-warming read.

17 June 2016

Celebrations

Last weekend was a time of celebrations in praise of our amazing, wonderful Queen's 90th birthday. 
Our village church hosted a grand fete. 
Inside were exhibits depicting the Queen's life and private interests over her 90 years.



I think this is a delightful photo, proud grandma and great grandma. 
The little girl holding her great grandma's handbag, isn't that sweet.


The children from the village primary school made this fantastic mural of some of the Queen's hats. 



Using photos of the Queen at various events they re-constructed her hats on the photos using ribbon, feathers, pipe cleaners, tissue paper, fur and buttons. How clever is that.


The Essex Chordsmen singers provided very nice background music


The flower arrangements were by ladies of the village


The school children also created this lovely display of toys from the 1950's to present day.




Her Majesty has always shown an interest in the WI and still attends Sandringham meetings from time to time.


farming through the ages

village horses through the ages

there were plant stalls

horse rides

a book stall

tombola

picnics on the lawn, ice cream, refreshments


and scrumptious cakes 
everyone had a great time and the weather stayed dry until about 4 o/clock.


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