Books · Knitting · Witterings

Hiatus continues

I am here but I am not!

The laptop has a hard drive which rattles and the people in the know are trying to rescue the information off of it and get it put onto a new hard drive. So I am technically without a computer. Fingers crossed it is back with me this week.

I can check my emails at work and I posted my latest review that way as well. I highly recommend Dawn French’s debut novel. I am currently at my parents house where I can get on the computer and access my blog a lot easily than at work and with less distraction.

On the reading front – I have finished Juliet by Anne Fortier and have half written a review for this, but that is saved on the computer at work. I have also nearly finished Elizabeth Noble’s A Girl Next Door a fairly easy read. Having no computer has meant that I have probably read a bit more. No harm there then.

On the craft front – I have made two Christmas Decorations, and when I have the computer back I will endeavour to show you them. The knitting is coming along nicely, and I am now on the third strip of the blanket I am making.  The cross stitch has certainly taken a back seat, and currently seems to be just being moved around the living room. I will get the bug back I know but the knitting does not require a lot of concentration and is good when I am watching television; especially the wonderful Downton Abbey and the new Poirot. The only good or bad thing depending on your outlook is that with no internet I have not been able to look at new books and new craft stuff and obviously not able to order them either!

I do fill my days with work, chores and sleep and I make a point of not going about these as they are a part of life and sometimes we do not need reminding of them. Other time has been filled in on Sudoku – strange considering I work with numbers most of the day! I am hooked, but I am also very fussy – and will only buy a certain puzzle book brand (Take A Break) which do the ones I like – Killer Sudoku. I am fussy about the pages and the quality of them because I use a pencil to fill in the puzzles. Weird? Strange? I know but then that is one of my ‘things’.

You could say this is sort of an October round-up post – but I think I would like to mention more about the books I have read, so perhaps once back up and running I will be able to do this in a few days.

I wanted to include a picture of something at the top of my post to get noticed and also to break up the boredom of all the words! You might recognise HMS Victory – 2 reasons for this particular picture. 1. 21st October 2010 was the 205th Anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. 2. I went on a nighttime dockyard walk and to see the Victory in all its splendour lit up opposite one of the Royal Navy’s newest ships reminded me of a common ‘compare and contrast’. It makes you think.

Books

A Tiny Bit Marvellous – Dawn French

This is the debut novel of much loved female comedian Dawn French and I approached this book with trepidation – I need not have feared it is every bit marvellous as the title suggests.

The story about the Battle family is split into three members of that family, Mum; Mo, Daughter; Dora and Son; Peter. There is a dad and he has only one chapter throughout the whole novel but he is mentioned in all the other chapters by the members of his family.

We join the family when Mo, approaching fifty with an expanding waistline suddenly reaches crisis point in her life and nothing she can do at home is right for her family, her daughter venomously hates her, her son just thinks she is not in with his ever burgeoning interesting in all things Oscar (Wilde) and her work as a child psychologist suddenly has a new perspective when Noel arrives.

Dora is approaching eighteen and basically thinks that everything in her life is just soooooo not fair. Her boyfriend dumps her on New Years Eve, she has no interest in school, her best friend like forever then goes out with her ex and no one is around for her birthday – it is just like so annoying to have been born in the middle of the summer holidays for god sake, obviously another thing to blame her mum for. Facebook becomes her only friend, and if her mum or more commonly called wonk would let her then she would be on it all the time. However events take a turn and Facebook does not turn out to be a friend.

Peter, sixteen is in love with anything Enchanting as our other members of this exclusive club, smoking jackets, silk slippers, cravats and John Barrowman. Although still at school and quite obviously more academic and at times more mature than his sister he flaunts the rules so he can flaunt the fact he is developing his own personality and finding where his sexuality belongs. Even more so he prefers to be referred to as Oscar than Peter as everything is just so spiffing for one with his mater and pater and his new love which is hedonistic in all its forms.

French has created such wonderful characters and each chapter neatly begins with which member of the family we are hearing from in diary form. Each has their own unique voice, language and spirit and this really comes across on the page, you can just hear Dora talking as the atypical teenager with all the angst as fits the stereotype. Whereas, Peter/Oscar could actually be a 45 year old bachelor when you have to remember he is in fact a 16 year old boy. Mo is the struggling woman trying to be everything to everyone whilst finding herself at a crossroads in her life.

As readers you can relate to traits, family squabbles and modern day threats that appear in this family. This book is not telling us anything astoundingly new – French has picked on something and made it uniquely funny as well as sad all at the same time, a skill in my opinion for an author.

An excellent novel and I hope if Dawn French continues to write such quality, she will have a new burgeoning career. This book should sell in its own right on the strength of the story not by the famous author.

Thank you to Amazon Vine for allowing me to select and review this book – I am so glad I did.

I was very unsure about a ‘famous’ person writing novels, especially when I had read Dawn French’s autobiography ‘Dear Fatty’ which I was not a great fan of. This book more than makes up for it.

 

Witterings

Unplanned Hiatus

The laptop is poorly – and I have no back up computer. I have what they call the black screen of death! Please keep your fingers crossed that I can get some of the info and files back, especially my Itunes folders and also that I am not going to have to shell out for a new laptop.

It has been quite liberating not having the computer in some ways, although I miss searching through Amazon and catching up with blogs. I can check my emails at work(and have snuck on to do this as well!). Also if I have needed to look something up, I have resorted to my many reference books – what bliss because then I get distracted and starting reading about something else.

As for my reading I am on Juliet by Anne Fortier the jury is out at the moment, as to whether I am enjoying it or not – it seems to indepth and quite confusing at the moment, I am not quite gripped yet. I did notice that Amazon have a very middle ranking 3 stars out of 5. I will perservere but perhaps break it up by reading something else and see where I go from there.

I have also attempted to make a Weetabix Cake which I will chat about at another time when I am in the land of the online world.

Enough from me for now, as I had better get back to work…….

Books

Hand Me Down World – Lloyd Jones

This is the story of an African Woman working as a cleaner in a Tunisia hotel who becomes pregnant and has her baby taken. This is the beginning as we follow the woman across Europe to find her child.

The story is told by all the people who have met her along her journey, from the supervisor who used to work with her, to the truck driver that gives her a lift part of the way, the man who she works for and subsequently robs to fund her visits to continue her mission to find her child and also the inspector who is following her for reasons which not made clear until much later in the novel.

This is a new concept of writing for me as a reader but actually works very well. You form an opinion about the woman from each story and it changes progressively throughout from good to bad because of how others perceive her. A reflection of how others perceive us and it is never the same as the story we would tell. Eventually we get to hear the woman’s story and her side of the story. And your opinion is changed yet again.

A very good novel, which does stay with you after you have finished reading because of the shift changes so much. The lack of name for the woman, (although there is a suggestion of a name that reels you in to the way she is only for pages later to be  cast aside again), adds to the mystery of the story which really is not a mystery but a tale of determination of a mother trying to find her child. Many of the characters are also nameless, this does not mean they matter less but actually some only tell their story once and we are not forming opinions about them as people but about the woman.

A good challenging book which had me hooked at the beginning and lost me a way through it but I was as determined to complete it and the last 100 pages kept me gripped until the end of the tale for us but the beginning of the woman’s life.

Published 11 November 2010. Thank you to Amazon Vine for allowing me the opportunity to select and read this book.

I admit it was a bit of a struggle and I did nearly give up, but I am so glad I did not. It made me think about how others perceive you and what story they would tell about you if they were asked. We would never tell the same story I am sure.  Also the image we see in the mirror is a reflection not our true selves.  It reminds me of a scene in the TV adaption of Agatha Christie’s A Pocketful of Rye – but I am not sure whether this features in the book or only on the TV version. A similar comment is made about reflections in mirrors and images from others. I can see I am going to have to find this book and find out.

Books

Murder in the Museum – Simon Brett

There is nothing gentle about murder, however it is dressed up. But there is something gentle, cosy and reassuring about Simon Brett’s Fethering Mysteries.

Murder in the Museum is the fourth novel and one of the better ones. The main protagonists Jude and Carole are back. Carole happens to be around when a body is discovered, whilst she is attending a meeting of the Trustees of Bracketts House. (A newly acquired pastime or interest). But this body is 90 years old and cannot be immediately identified.

With some help from Jude who is somewhat distracted by a face from the past who seeks solace in her cottage, her company, her whiskey and her body. Carole thinks there is more to discovering this body at Bracketts and it is inextricably linked to the story of Barcketts itself and its former owner poet Esmond Chadleigh.

When another murder happens within days of the discovery, with even Carole witnessing the death. The true story of the 90 year old body comes to light. But why is a day release prisoner working at Bracketts confessing to the murder?

Paced enough story with background to keep you hooked and interested. A couple of red herrings, false clues and leads to make it a worthy crime story. Plus an interesting subject to base a murder/crime novel around.

A book to while away a couple of days for pure enjoyment and I defy anyone not to enjoy the contrasting characters of Jude and Carole who have very different takes on the worlds and how “one should behave appropriately”.

 

Cross Stitch · Knitting · Witterings

The Knitting and Stitching Show

Friday saw my annual trip to The Knitting and Stitching Show held at Alexandra Palace. A very long but satisfying day as the exhibition is full of all knitty, stitchy, beady, quilty and crafty things! Thank goodness for coach trips and not having to worry about facing London transport and the trek up and down the hill.

So after a very quick journey up (where was the traffic on the M25??) we were there just before 1200 and went in an attacked every stall! Plan is the same, go round the edge and then up and down all the rows. There was loads of stalls there, a lot more beading stalls than in previous years plus a lot of what I call ‘other’ stalls. Those stalls selling chocolate (messy business with wool and thread), handbags, shirts and scarves and of course the ‘wonder’ stall where a mop will just about clean everything in half the time with the half the effort?!!??? Weed all of these out and I will come to my favourite ones and where I made a couple of purchases. I did not spend the money I took with me and I certainly did not hit the plastic! All of which I am pleased about! Despite many offers there, some things are much cheaper online.

So first purchase was some wool to make a ruffle scarf. This wool was so popular at the show that many stall holders had sold out on the Thursday and there were a few disappointed people. Once knitted up, it has now been wound into a ball (thanks to my  mum) it will look something like this.

My other wool buy, was some more Aran for the blanket I am knitting which I showed progress picture of a few days ago. I had done my research for this one, and knew one of the stands there The Black Sheep would carry the wool so if I got nothing else my aim was to get this wool. This is the same brand of wool in Ivory Cream and will make the second strip of knitting – only once I have finished the first!

The other purchase was ribbon so I can make some more Christmas Decorations and perhaps in these economic times make them as gifts for presents as well.

These are from Springwood House Designs (the website is not fantastic but you get the idea) and last year I bought the kit for the Christmas Tree and the project book and have made many of the egg-shaped hanging decorations. Now the ribbon seems to be a special sort with wire in but not so stiff you cannot bend the ribbon and I have tried other sources for the ribbon and come up with some differing results but nothing beats the ribbon I originally got from Springwood. Hence why I have stocked up

Now I could have spent a lot more – I saw a couple (or more) of Little House Needlework Designs which I love and would like to stitch, but I was sensible and realised I have plenty at home that needs doing before I embark on buying anything else.

I have come away with some good ideas, but I need the time to do them all and try to fit going to work in as well! The first was decopatch. The website can be found here and goes into some detail about how to do it – but I have to say it appealed to me. Especially the letters, I have a thing about letters and words as decoration and have in the past decorated letters for friends for presents (I can see another Christmas Idea) but this was decorating anything and everything with these papers which are similar to tissue paper but made so that when you put the PVA glue on them, they do not disintegrate and the colour remains. At the show they were working on a giraffe and it looked just fab! Here is a picture of a cat  which I just love. The fact it is a cat but also the colours. A lot of these were done on paper mache boxes and letters (all available in Hobbycraft) and something which I have used in the past for many decorating and crafty things. This is just the next stage – I think it is going to be the letters for me but I am not sure what I am going to spell!

Apologies to anyone who has got bored by this point, I promise I will not go on much longer about all things crafty. My next big spend *could* have been at a lovely new company Blooming Felt they have some lovely bunting which seems to be the ‘in’ thing at the moment, I have to say I would not be averse to such a thing in my home. And I know exactly where I would like to hang it. (Another idea!) They had some Halloween bunting and whilst I may be late for this year there is always next! I think I am going to start with some simple triangular bunting and decorating before I progress to something like this. The website is so bright and colourful and it is nice to see a business that started as a hobby has progressed into something else. Sometimes you have to just have that drive and determination.

The other thing I saw was a peg loom which just looked so therapeutic – I do not know what I would do with the stuff I weaved but I would like to have a go, at the show they had torn up old shirts into strips and were weaving that onto looms. I would just be being creative and creating something different!

A long day and back on the coach at 1700 I was glad of sit down and where was all the traffic on the M25 on the way back? My only wish is that whoever was on my coach insisted that they knew exactly where we were on the road, and basically we had a running commentary of every car and bike that overtook, cut up, did not let us through for most of the journey. Everyone is suddenly an expert. However, when the said voice from somewhere in the middle of the coach (I was sat in the front seats of the coach) said we were on the M1! I wanted to scream – if we were on the M1 we would be going North and we live South! It is a simple journey, A3, M25, North Circular then oddly enough to some people’s surprise the reverse on the way home! M1 for goodness sake if you do not know where you are then just say nothing!

Books · Witterings

Booking Through Thursday

This weeks question: When you travel, how many books do you bring with you? Has this changed since the arrival of ebooks?

It depends on how long I am going for, but my recent 5 day break resulted in me taking 6 books, 5 I had not read and one I was in the middle of. I came back with 4 read, so that was not bad. A fortnight abroad, then I have been known to take about 10 and read 7. A friend of mine still says to me now and again – “7 Books!”. It really depends on how long I am going for and where? I always take more books than I would read, because I like to have the choice. Nothing has changed in terms of e books as I do not have an e reader and at the moment, cannot justify getting one when I know I love having an actual book in my hand!

Have a go at Booking Through Thursday yourself and let me know how you would answer the question!

Books

Radio 2 Book Club – First Book

This starts proper on Monday 11 Oct around 1745 on Simon Mayo’s Drivetime. The first book has been chosen Mr Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt.

July, 1964. In bed at home in Kent, Winston Churchill is waking up. There’s a visitor in the room, someone he hasn’t seen for a while, a dark, mute bulk, watching him with tortured concentration. It’s Mr Chartwell. In her terraced house in Battersea, Esther Hammerhans, young, vulnerable and alone, goes to answer the door to her new lodger. Through the glass she sees a vast silhouette the size of a mattress. It’s Mr Chartwell. He is charismatic and dangerously seductive, and Esther and Winston Churchill are drawn together by his dark influence. But can they withstand Mr Chartwell’s strange, powerful charms and strong hold? Can they even explain to anyone who or what he is? Or why he has come to visit? For Mr Chartwell is a huge, black dog. In this utterly original, moving, funny and exuberant novel, Rebecca Hunt explores how two unlikely lives collide as Mr Chartwell’s motives are revealed to be far darker and deeper than they seem.

You can download the first two chapters of the book from the Radio 2 website here and then you can get a taster of the book. This I must do, because I am not sure it is the sort of book I would necessarily pick up and when I am browsing for books I always read the first couple of pages to get a feel for it.

The Daily Telegraph have reviewed the book here and there are other reviews out there to be found if you do a Google search. I will probably listen again to the Radio 2 broadcast on Monday and revisit the website to see what others thought of the book.

Books

Stolen – Lesley Pearce

This is the story of a young woman, who is found washed up on a beach on the Sussex coast. A young woman who has had many things stolen from her and her loss of memory means that the police are baffled as to how she came to be on the beach and what the true story really is.

A young woman who has had her childhood stolen by her parents, she is made to feel in the wrong for everything that she does or does not do. Even her tragedy in her adult life does not make up for this.

A young woman who has had her sister stolen from her through no fault of her own.

A young woman who has her heart stolen more than once – but will it heal to be able to love after her memory comes back?

A young woman who has had her soul and personality stolen from her after she suffers some violence whilst abroad, but are these kind people really just trying to help her.

A young woman who has given birth but has no idea where her baby is.

However, Dale, Scott, Simon and Adam have all had this young woman stolen from them in many different ways, flatmates, friends, work colleagues. As Dale recognises the face on the front of the newspaper, she contacts the police and through meeting up with this young woman finally the pieces are all placed back together. But this young woman is still in danger and someone out there has some unfinished business and will stop at nothing to ensure that the young woman will be found this time – dead.

The characters perhaps are a bit superficial but I think that is the world in which they inhabit and at times, perhaps the storyline was dragged out a bit. But for me all it did was draw me into the story more and make me want to keep turning the pages. There is some violence which other reviewers have mentioned and it is not in the graphic sense of punches thrown and then a quick shake of hands and everything will be good again. This violence is the lasting sort emotionally, physically the wounds will heal. It was not very pleasant to read and it did make me feel sick at some point but it was relevant to the story – it was there to show why the young woman may have done what she did, after her ordeal.

Overall the book has enough to keep the reader entertained, it all its many definitions and although some found the story line a bit farfetched it is just a book and no one has forced you to read it.

This is the first Lesley Pearce that I have read and I did enjoy the book, it certainly whiled away a wet weekend! I was hooked by it and I did enjoy it but I feel guilty saying that because the subject matter and some of the violence was not pleasant.  The places that were featured are not too far from me, and I recognised some of the names. The spa where Dale and Scott had a familiar feel to it – having worked in such a place it could quite easily have been based there! I am not sure if I would read another Lesley Pearce? (this one was given to me after someone else had read it). But I do think I would perhaps pick one up from the library or the charity shop if  I wanted to read more. The author has certainly had a fascinating life, there is a bit about her at the end of the book and having just read the book I can perhaps see where she gets some of her ideas from.

Books · Knitting

Comfort Knitting

A while back I posted about my latest craft projects. One of my starts was some knitting, in this case a blanket and I had failed to mention the book it came from actually I could not remember as my mum had bought it. Well it is this book as pictured above Comfort Knitting and Crochet Afghans, the pattern I chose is actually featured on the front cover, the second one up from the bottom. It is a simple basketweave pattern; knit 4, purl 4 and I have decided to work it in strips of knitting which can then be sewn together rather than casting on the full 252 stitches, it also means that I can use different colours.

The wool I have chosen is Hayfield Bonus Aran in Purple Heather as you can see from the picture it is a large ball! I intend to see how much I can get out of this one ball before I go and invest in more.  Then I will have to decide what the next colour will be, probably a cream colour and then perhaps a pink then back to the purple. Here is the colour chart which I found online, plenty to chose from. I need to keep to the same brand of wool, otherwise I could end up with the pattern all over the place, because of the different tension that the wool can give you.

Here is a picture of some of what I have done so far, plus a close up of the pattern and the lovely colour of the wool,

This measures about 20 inches and comparing it to the bought blankets I have at home I have another 30 inches to  go. So I will leave this post here and carry on knitting it has been easy to follow whilst getting into the new series of Strictly and I do not have to concentrate as much, especially as I have been feeling poorly. I have not forgotten my cross stitching and have had made some progress on my Waxing Moon Summer and perhaps there will be a picture soon.