Monday, March 31, 2014

The Year in Books - March

The book I intended to read this month didn't get finished. Instead I picked this book up and it quickly became my preferred read.

It was a random selection from the train station but I really got into it and thought the premise was a really interesting one. It almost lapsed into self-help at times but I quite enjoyed that, although it made more sense afterwards when I read the author's biography.

My only disappointment was (and please don't flick to the back page if you come to read it) the last sentence. It felt really weak. Actually coming to think of it the closing chapters were a bit of a let-down insomuch as it felt that the author suddenly decided he had had enough and wanted to tie up the loose ends as quickly as possible.

Even so it was worth a read for the idea of the plot, and the unusual combination of fiction and life improvement advice in one.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Project 365: 82 - 88

82. Leaf skeleton on a weekend walk with Millie. I dutifully tried to carry it home, with visions of posting similar pictures to Gillian of Tales from a Happy House, and a whimsical idea of creating my own artistic display. Within thirty seconds Millie had clocked it and made it her mission to retrieve it from my hands. Apologies leaf, you survived a full winter intact, resisting floods and frost, the ultimate in self-preservation. Alas, you were no match for the wonder-beagle.

83. We got tickets to go and see Tom Wrigglesworth on tour as a Christmas present. It was a good night out, and was a lovely way to round off the weekend, which had also included my step-dad's much anticipated retirement.

84. Tulips in the hall, the perfect sign of spring. I spent a while trying to photograph them close up, then spotted the shadow they were casting and liked this picture much more.

85. I took this for the WriteALM prompt which was kitchen sink. I planned to have something pithy to write about it, but I've been struggling to write this week, quite a few started and deleted posts!

86. Another walk with the dog through the park. This picture is not my finest, but it is the best I can do with one hand as Millie lurches from tree to tree and insists I lurch along with her.

87. Midweek meal out to the Italian restaurant just near our house. The owner greeted us in Italian, and we both immediately chorused back in Italian, lapsing automatically into our Monday night class. Cue the owner thinking The Husband was Italian and a complicated explanation that we were trying to learn, which then resulted in every course being delivered with a miniature lesson. "Si subito" means "yes straight away" if you are of the linguistic persuasion.

88. Another weekend spent late-night supermarket shopping. Completely unnecessary shopping, as we had a delivery coming this morning, but The Husband wanted to put petrol in and so we just went for a wander. Bargainous flowers were bought so I consider it a worthwhile trip.

Monday, March 17, 2014

il cane ha mangiato le mie scarpe

Which I think is Italian for the dog ate my shoes. It makes a change from homework I suppose.

I am a shoe person. Shoes and bags. Probably because they always look beautiful whatever size you wear. Not expensive shoes and bags, I never spend a lot, and at least in the case of shoes, having long feet (sounds more elegant somehow than big – essentially the same thing) means that I can often find the right size lurking forlornly on the sale racks. I admire shoes, like I rarely admire clothes, and the shoes in question were a much admired pair.

Not pretty so much as classic. Tan leather, the smallest of heels, high enough to wear with longer jeans, low enough to walk for hours in. Casual enough for a trip to the supermarket, smart enough for work, comfortable enough for an afternoon at the shops. In short, the ideal shoe.

They were pretty worn. The heels were long gone, and they clip-clopped on hard floors where the metal had come through. I didn’t like wearing them if I might have to take them off and reveal the discoloured, dishevelled lining. They had come close to being disposed of on more than one occasion. I always held back though, instead opting to keep them until I could find a replacement pair.

I duly purchased some in a similar style for honeymoon, and nearly put the early kibosh on the marriage as they scuppered our day trip round Toronto, inflicting blisters the size of baseballs. So the replacements were put deep in the back of the wardrobe on our return and the old faithfuls restored to that prized position right at the front, ready and in reach.

Until last night. Last night when the dog seemed worryingly quiet. Just a little too peaceful curled up at our feet under the kitchen table. I am not naïve, I peered to see what was occupying her and was relieved to see her chew toy in her paws. However clever I thought I was being, Millie was smarter. The plastic bone may well have been in reach, however it was simply a decoy. Behind it, out of view was one of the shoes. A shoe, which, when we stood from the table, was in pieces. The elegant strip of leather that had been folded into a bow on the front was now fragmented across the floor. Admittedly it was worn to begin with, but now it had more hole than sole.

The shoe, and its partner, have been binned. The search for a replacement pair will have to begin. And perhaps the search for a replacement dog too…

Sunday, March 16, 2014

off to button moon

I went very late night supermarket shopping last night. I realise most girls in their twenties do not spend their Saturday nights perusing the fruit and veg aisles and trying to work out which packet of dishwasher tablets is the best value, but it is my favourite time to go.

I enjoy the calm, the space, and the fact that often the staff at our local store choose to crank up the music while they unpack the crates of produce. It's like some weird warehouse party (quite similar to other people's Saturday nights after all?!) except that someone forgot to turn the lights down. I wander up and down every aisle, buying those bizarre things you never remember when its the middle of the day, you're in a rush, and turning every corner feels like entering into a scrum.

I remembered tin foil, I took my time picking the perfect greetings card, I bought the refills for the air freshener, and even found a throw in the sale that is a perfect match for the new study. Alas they had none of The Husband's favourite brand of bread, the flowers were all half-dead, and I witnessed a woman unpacking biscuits by standing in the middle of the aisle and throwing the boxes along the floor to somewhere near the correct shelf (I think it was a sensible decision to forgo some digestives) but I can cope with all of that in exchange for a pleasant meander around.

As I got back to the car I spotted the full moon, apologies for the picture but you'll just have to believe it was far more beautiful than my photography suggests. Driving home I remembered that I used to be in awe of the moon and how I could always see it in the sky, wherever I was. Whenever Mum and I used to be in the car at night, I would look out for "magic moon" the whole journey home, making sure she (the moon is definitely a she to me) was staying with us wherever we went.

When I sat to write this just now, I got another childhood memory of going watching Button Moon at the local theatre. My mum surprised me one afternoon with a trip to go and watch it, and it has always stayed with me as being such a special day. Looking at clips now, I'm guessing the production costs for the whole tour were probably about £100! It's still one of my favourite memories, and hearing the theme tune takes me straight back to being sat in the theatre gasping with excitement at the huge button moon appearing and the music starting up. Geeky fact for you - the theme was apparently written and sung by Peter Davidson (of Dr Who fame) and his wife. Anyway, that's enough nostalgia for one night, I'm off to sing the song to the dog; I might look out of the window on the way and check the moon hasn't gone anywhere.

Project 365: 68-74

I am more than a little conscious that the only contributions on this blog seem to be linking in with other people’s projects, and I am a little disappointed in myself that I am not making the time to write much else. Hopefully I can get back in to the habit of that, and give this space a little more personality.

Project 365 this week seems to have been brought to you by the letter B:

68. Bedtime. The most glorious of bedtimes after a weekend of hard work getting the house in order. Clean pyjamas, hoovered carpet, and the brand new bedding waiting.

69. Beagle. The new study is where, as we expected, we spend most of our time in the house now. Millie is very pleased because the wooden floor means she gets to spend most of her time with us, which wasn’t the case with the living room. It seemed to take her a little while to get to grips with the fact that there was a room behind the door, but now she’s getting rather used to having the run of the place.

70. Book. My March book taking pride of place on the new desk. It amazes me how different the wall colour looks between this photo and the previous one.

71. Book. The first page of the book I picked up at the station to read on the way home.The quote seemed particularly pertinent as I travelled back from an interview, for a new job that I'm excited at the prospect of. I’m thoroughly enjoying this book, perhaps maybe two books this month.

72. Books. Or maybe even three. I haven’t started the middle one yet, but for the first time in ages I’ve got two books on the go at once. 

73. Buns. Freshly baked cakes in a traditional cake box. Walking home from the train station on Friday, and heading straight to my Mum’s house. Decided to call by the local café and get takeaway cakes for her and my Grandad (and me too!). These buns looked too good to resist. “Is it a special occasion?” – “Just because it’s Friday!”

74. Bulbs. Utterly uninspired on Saturday night I’m afraid, but I realised The Husband had replaced the bulbs in the bedroom light and it made me smile!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

the art of reading

The book I planned to read for February was Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451 (the first posts for this project can be found on my old blog here and here). Although I didn't quite manage to read it, I had it started and finished by the 2nd March, which surely shows how much I enjoyed it. (I'm chalking it down as a February read, after all I was cheated out of 2 days I would have had in any other month!)

Surprisingly for me, I do quite enjoy dystopian novels, of which this is one. I say surprisingly, because I would expect that kind of pretext to appeal to the worrier in me, causing me to contemplate the real-life likelihood of such a world becoming a reality. Instead, though, I revel in what is almost to me a dark satire.

I enjoyed Orwell's 1984 (which naturally draws comparisons with Farenheit 451) whilst in Australia, at a time when I was on a placement that involved quite a lot of daily travelling. There was something incredibly disorienting in looking up from the pages to alight from a bus in some unknown Sydney suburb. Whenever I think of that book I am immediately transported back to those commutes, and how they managed to be both mundane and exciting all at once.

In some ways I enjoyed Farenheit 451 more than 1984, the writing was more elaborate and descriptive, and I enjoyed the plot immensely. The edition of the book I had included a brilliant foreword by Bradbury about the process of developing the plot and then writing the book, and I think his description of himself growing up and his love for libraries made me like him from the outset!

Spurred on, I am now well along with my book for March, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. The Husband bought this for me after I heard about it on the radio when it first came out, and so far it's proving a good read. It's surprising me how quickly I seem to have re-developed the habit of reading. I have been travelling to London and back a few times on the train in recent weeks. Yesterday, at the station, I went and bought two books to have something to read on my journey. Usually I would have played on my phone, or bought a magazine, and I honestly cannot remember the last time I bought myself a book, usually receiving them as presents and never getting round to reading them (The Art of Fielding and Farenheit 451 both perfect examples of books I was given over 18 months ago!). Suddenly it seems the most natural thing in the world to have a book on the go again, and I am very glad to have rediscovered reading, and grateful to Laura for being instrumental in me doing so.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Project 365: 61-67

Today has been the busiest of busy in a lovely, productive way. The final item on my to-do list for today was to write my 365 post, and so, although my muscles ache from the excess of housework and ironing, and although the brand new matching bedding and freshly ironed pyjamas are waiting, I am first going to sit, in our finally finished study, and write. 

Transitioning to a new blog a few weeks in to project 365 has scuppered me somewhat, but I am not going to let that stop me from carrying on with something I have enjoyed so much.

61. I shared this last week, part of the Sunday brunch The Husband and I enjoyed as part of our weekend away. I fell in love with mini milk urn.

62. I think perhaps my concentration was waning a little towards the end of our Italian lesson on Monday, as I decided to give my coffee cup a little alteration. It was worth it just to watch The Husband try and stifle his laughter when I showed it to him. Put us in a classroom and we seem to regress back to childhood a little too easily.

63. Beautiful flowers from my lovely Mum brightening up the kitchen table.

64.  This caught my eye as it was back to front compared to all of the other signs on the platform, where the writing was facing towards the station, rather than this one which faced towards the train.

65. After getting in late from the second day of the conference, The Husband suggested we have a go at making pain au chocolat from the packet we had in the fridge. 

66. I won a pair of free tickets to The Manchester Theatre Awards through a competition The Royal Exchange ran on twitter. Here's the Rock Choir singing as everyone took to their seats, we had a thoroughly wonderful afternoon. My highlight was Ray Fearon winning best supporting actor for the Manchester International Festival production of Macbeth. We saw a live cinema screening of the show, and despite it starring Kenneth Branagh (who won best actor) and Alex Kingston, it was the incredibly moving portrayal of Macduff that stole the show for me.

67. I had been to London on Tuesday and we missed out on pancakes, so Saturday morning provided the perfect opportunity to have them for breakfast instead.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

been for breakfast

It has been a lovely weekend. After a late night catching up with The Husband's friends, we still managed to get up and checked out of the hotel relatively early, resisting the urge to lie in until just before the 12pm checkout time. Instead we were packed and took the brief walk across the water (via a bridge you understand, no miracles involved) to the town centre. The Premier Inn we chose, mostly on the basis of it having a £29 room and free parking, was in a brilliant location, and had fabulous service from every member of staff we came across. The sea breeze was bracing as we walked in search of breakfast.

And my what a breakfast we found. Having wandered past the usual suspects of coffee shops and chain restaurants, we spotted McCoys. I remembered it from previous visits, but couldn't think we had ever actually eaten there, and the taxi driver last night who was telling us all about how he didn't like eating out in restaurants had included this amongst the list of places that he would agree to eat at. With such a ringing endorsement we ventured in, got a cosy seat right by the log fire, and tucked in to one of the best breakfasts we have had in a long while.

Extra black pudding, white toast and poached egg for The Husband, an extra bubble and squeak cake, scrambled egg and wholemeal toast (all about the healthy) for me. We did the dance of the married couple, as I donated my mushroom to The Husband's plate whilst he transferred his tomatoes over to mine. Everything was beautifully cooked, and it was lovely to spend an hour chatting in front of the fire, and enjoying a leisurely morning.

After a wander through the town, it was back through the breeze, where newspapers were blown against the side of the bridge, the strong sideways wind holding them in place, so it looked as though they had been plastered there, posters of the front pages.

I read in the car on the way home, I have very nearly finished my book, but am saving the last few pages for bedtime. It has been a brilliant read, and it is taking all of my willpower not to race to the end. We called in to see family, drank tea and shared stories of our weekends, and now home. Fire on, Millie curled up at our feet, while I catch up with blogs and The Husband plays a computer game. Winding down before the week begins again.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

write the other way

The first post of a new blog, I love the new sheet of paper feel; resisting the urge to attempt to write something profound. We are away from home meeting up with The Husband's university friends back in his university city. I haven't been back since his graduation which I realise now was seven years ago. It is lovely to be back and bizarre to think how far we have come.

I started reading the book I didn't get round to reading for February on the car journey - Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and am loving it. Friends and food are calling so this is just a brief introduction but I hope you like my carefully crafted site, any comments gratefully received!