The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht In a Balkan country mending from years of conflict, Natalia, a young doctor, arrives on a mission of mercy at an orphanage. By the time she and her lifelong friend Zóra begin to inoculate the children, she feels age-old superstitions and secrets gathering everywhere around her. Secrets her outwardly cheerful hosts have chosen not to tell her. Secrets involving the strange family digging for something in the surrounding vineyards. Secrets hidden in the landscape itself. But Natalia is also confronting a private, hurtful mystery of her own: the inexplicable circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s recent death. After telling her grandmother that he was on his way to meet Natalia, he instead set off for a ramshackle settlement none of their family had ever heard of and died there alone. A famed physician, her grandfather must have known that he was too ill to travel. Grief stricken and searching for clues to her grandfather’s final state of mind, she turns to the stories he told her when she was a child. On their weekly trips to the zoo he would read to her from a worn copy of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, which he carried with him everywhere; later, he told her stories of his own encounters over many years with “the deathless man,” a vagabond who claimed to be immortal and appeared never to age. But the most extraordinary story of all is the one her grandfather never told her, the one Natalia must discover for herself. His childhood village was haunted by a fierce presence: a tiger who escaped after the zoo was bombed and was befriended by a deaf mute girl who fed him under cover of darkness. “These stories,” Natalia comes to understand, “run like secret rivers through all the other stories” of her grandfather’s life. And it is ultimately within these rich, luminous narratives that she will find the
answer she is looking for. This is a lovely, magical, story. I liked the characters and felt very protective towards the tiger.
Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood Artist Elaine Risley, in her late fifties is revisiting Toronto for the opening of a retrospective of her work. This rekindles vivid memories of her childhood and teenage years. Her strongest memories are of Cordelia, who was the leader of a trio of girls who were both very cruel and very kind to young Elaine, in ways that tint Elaine's perceptions of relationships and her world, not to mention her art. Elaine’s early years were nomadic but not unhappy: the family moved around with her entomologist father. When she was seven, he took a university post and they settled in the Toronto suburbs, but her family was rather eccentric, and she didn't quite fit in, exacerbated by her being a tomboy and the fact she never really had the opportunity to make friends before. As children Elaine and her brother played marbles; Elaine kept a prized cat’s eye marble in her red purse. The cat’s eye later appears as a common motif in her paintings. I think Atwood is a very good writer, having a keen sense of human experiences but I sometimes struggle to understand her books. This one I enjoyed and understood it!
Menopause, oh dear what a state to find oneself in. Defined as the end of of fertility, it is a natural biological process that occurs most commonly between the ages of 45 and 55. For many women it heralds a new era of relief because they no longer need to worry about pregnancy. But for others it represents a time of misery and discomfort that can last for a year, two or three years or even longer. Years of hot flushes, disrupted sleep, low energy levels, and, for some women, anxiety or feelings of sadness and loss. It has to be the worst design flaw in the history of design flaws, I mean, I get that the child bearing years are over but if I had designed the female body it would just settle into comfortable retirement without all the side effects. WHAT IS THE POINT OF A HOT FLUSH? It starts with a few seconds of feeling pleasantly warm, but that pleasant feeling is swiftly followed by the face turning lobster pink and the body temperature gauge spiralling out of control from cold to roasting, resulting in a barely controllable urge to tear off all your clothes and dive into a freezer. I have seen a cartoon of a couple outside their home with snow on the ground. The woman is lying on the middle step of three steps leading up to the front door, the snow has been cleared from the door to where she is and her husband is telling her to get a move on and thaw the third step before her hot flush passes!! That sums it up very well. Thank goodness for HRT. I was taking it for 16 years until, in 2008 my doctor persuaded me to come off it. I struggled for the following eighteen months. I tried Red Clover, Soya products, Black Cohash, St John’s Wort, Sage, Ginseng. I even bought a strong magnet that is worn next to the skin, but nothing worked, the hot flushes were relentless. A pink face and perspiration dripping down the side of my face isn’t a good look in any environment, so my doctor agreed to put me back on a very low dose. It keeps the symptoms nicely
I had a wonderful weekend in Birmingham celebrating my birthday. Earlier this year I decided I wanted to go to the Miniatura Dolls House and Miniatures show at the NEC over the weekend of the 30th Sep and 1st Oct. My daughter then said she would like to come with me, not because she is into miniatures (she had a look around but isn't passionate about them) but because she had thought of a surprise birthday gift to add to the weekend. My youngest daughter and grandson knew what it was and said I would love it, "It is so you" they said. So on Friday we set off. I had been going over all the things I like, my interests, books I read, theatre trips, days out, I just couldn't think what the surprise was. When my grandson was younger I could get him to tell me secrets by tickling him, but now, aged 13 and 6' 2" that doesn't work anymore!! Besides I did like the idea of a complete surprise. As we neared our destination my daughter asked me to close my eyes so as not to see any signs, which I duly did until ...... turning off the main road she said "ok mum you can open your eyes now", we were driving into ........
Oh My Word, I was like a 6 year old, I was so excited, of course what better place to take a chocoholic than Cadbury World. On arrival we were each given a Curly Wurly, a Chrunchie and a Milk Chocolate bar. The tour around the factory tells the story of the beginnings of chocolate when the Maya Indians and the Aztecs used it as their special chocolat drink and coca beans as currency. Christopher Columbus is said to have brought the first cocoa beans back to Europe but they were ignored in favour of more exciting treasures on board his galleons.
The Spanish Conquistador Don Hernán Cortés was the first to realise their commercial value. Emperor Montezuma had introduced Cortés to his favourite "chocolat" drink. The humble cocoa bean was to become the downfall of the Aztecs. In 1520 they perished at the hands of Cortés when the Spanish attacked a peaceful Aztec festival. Montezuma was killed and despite forcing the Spanish out of the city and regaining their strength, the city fell, marking the end of the Aztec civilisation. Cortes was made Captain General and Governor of Mexico. When he returned to Spain in 1528, he loaded his galleons with cocoa beans and chocolate drink-making equipment. Some of the earliest cocoa makers were apothecaries who became interested because of cocoa's supposed medicinal properties. Apothecaries founded by Fry's of Bristol and Terry's of York, later became well-known names in chocolate production.
John Cadbury began by dealing in tea and coffee in his Birmingham shop. Mr Cadbury not only provided employment, he bought a substantial amount of land around the factory and created Bourneville which provided housing, a school, a hospital and leisure facilities. After more freebies - Double Decker bars (mmm love them) we boarded a lovely little train for a ride through a winter wonderland grotto, and then onto a chocolate making demonstration. More chocolate - chocolate sprinkles in a small cup with a choice of two toppings, we both chose popping candy and mini marshmallows - mmm divine. It was about this time that my phone rang, it was my surgery saying that my doctor wanted to arrange a telephone call to talk about my cholesterol!! Oh dear, I suspect it is quite high, the last couple of weeks have been a bit stressful, we are having a new kitchen fitted, I don't like upheaval and I have been comfort eating. I will be talking to my doctor on Friday, I know what she is going to say.
Back to the tour. This lady was showing us how chocolate was prepared prior to putting into molds. Before mechanisation it was all done by hand and was quite a long process. The liquid had to be cooled by scraping it back and forth over a cold slab, then all air bubbles had to be removed.
If it isn't prepared properly the chocolate will stick to the molds.
Decorating chocolate teapots for sale in the shop
The tour ended with an excellent animated 4D show taking us around the Cadbury site. Sitting in inter-active seats that made you feel you were really moving and wearing 3D glasses it was very realistic. The rollercoaster was so realistic that when it broke and plummeted downwards my daughter closed her eyes!
All good things must come to an end, our fabulous day ended with a scrumptious cream tea
We couldn't finish it all, they put some of the cakes in a box.
This was my first visit to Birmingham so we drove into the Bullring to have a look around.
By the time we got back to our hotel we were ready to polish off the cakes with a lovely cup of tea.
Saturday was the day of the miniature show.
I wasn't disappointed but it wasn't as big as I had expected it to be,
but there were still lots of lovely miniatures.
A retro 1960's house
I am in awe of anyone who creates 1/24th scale
This diorama was truly exquisite
The terraced houses at the back were made from tough cardboard document boxes,
with just the fronts decorated and holes cut out for the doors and windows
Sit in the park and watch the world go by
or have fun on the beach
Isn't it all absolutely gorgeous
I always ask if I can take photos and most people say yes.
This lady said yes if I would put a donation into her Air Ambulance tin,
which I thought was a very good idea.
I have heard of people taking photos and then passing the work of as their own.
I didn't find the bathroom or kitchen furniture I want but I did buy another lovely chandelier
this one is for the library.
I'm waiting for the call to tell me how bad my cholesterol is :-(