Cross Stitch · Witterings

Christmas is coming……

Probably many of us do not want to be reminded of how quickly Christmas is coming but today marks the first Sunday in Advent, four Sundays before Christmas Day. I am not a particularly religious person, but I think all the Christmas build up starts from today. No more so than the setting up of my advent calendar.

I do not go for a chocolate one and I cannot remember having one as a child, although I may well have done. Mine always displayed a Christmas scene and were not related to any cartoon character or tv programme, I think my mum was a bit old-fashioned about these things, and to be honest for that I am very grateful as I feel the same.

I have had the same advent calendar now for the last 4-5 years and it is homemade. Homemade by me and here it is

There is no glass so I can hang these little decorations on them which are also hand made and were rather fiddly but worth it for the overall effect. Plastic canvas is tough to stitch on.

I do not think this kit is available anymore so I am grateful for having seen it years ago and then spent 3 months making it at the beginning of the year to then have to wait 9 months before I could use it! I look forward to Wednesday when I can hang the first decoration on it.

This has given me some new enthusiasm to finish a christmas piece which I started last year but I am now stuck between that, the knitting and the decopatch letters which are for Christmas presents. Now if I did not have to go to work I would be able to fit it all in and also could read more as well!

So what next for the Christmas build up – the tree but I do have some other homemade christmas decorations which I will show you over the coming days.


The Fountain – Mary Nichols

I come to this book having never read any of Mary Nichols previous novels. So I have had no preconceived ideas as to what to expect.

What I got was a very enjoyable novel, which was easy to consume but I cannot fit into the correct genre. It is not really a family saga in the ‘aga saga’ category although it is based around a family. It certainly is not ‘chick-lit’ but I think would be enjoyed more by women than men. It is sort of romance fiction but then it is not. It is just simply a story and once I had stopped trying to pigeonhole the book I enjoyed it.

The book focuses on two main characters. Barbara who as a student in the Nineteen Twenties has the world at her feet but she is slowly swept off of them by George. Barbara throws away all her ambitions, her dreams and goals and to some extent her own existence and becomes George’s wife. Mary Nichols does a good job in showing the domestic side to that era, and where a women’s place should be and what they should do and how they should behave.
For the men though, it was a different existence. George has ambition and what he wants he gets. However it needs to be done and ‘oiling wheels’ where necessary this is his greatest strength and also his greatest weakness and you know as a reader we will see his empire build but also burn. What a lot of clichés! But this is how Nichols portrays this character and whilst she shows us Barbara’s role she makes it quite clear that she is just another part of George’s empire and property.

There are contrasting characters to show how life could have been for both Barbara and George but in my opinion none of them are worth a specific mention as they are not strong enough. The plot is rather vague and seemingly goes nowhere with no twists or turns, you know what is going to happen you just have to keep reading to get there. In some ways I enjoyed the book because of that, but I was also disappointed because there were no points when I went ‘oh’ because I was not expecting that plot twist. An average book.

The other 2 reviews on Amazon are do not particularly favour this book.  I am intrigued if anyone else has read it and what they thought. The Summer House everyone seems to have raved about and I am lucky enough to be getting this for Christmas. I am looking forward to reading it just to see the difference.

I have discovered the author’s website and interestingly enough she pitches the book as a Saga. Perhaps I need to look at what makes up a ‘Saga’?


Homemade Christmas Presents

It is that time of year again, when all things turn towards Christmas. As for presents for people, I have to admit I have done most of mine, thanks to the internet and online shopping. So the main people I buy for are pretty much completed, but it is all the other people who you would like to give but have not got much money to spend. So I turn to crafts and always think a homemade gift is just as lovely especially as some thought has gone into it and also I have got enjoyment out of it.

Back in October I discovered at The Knitting and Stitching Show something called Decopatch. Added to this is the big craze at the moment of words and letter as forms of home decorations. John Lewis calls them ‘decorative accessories’. Marks and Spencer do a range as well. I love letters and words and have quite a lot of this decoration already. I am not sure why the fascinate me but they do, probably linked to the fact that I like books as well!

So I wanted to do something myself and make it individual. Never having tried this before, I bought just one paper set from The Decopatch Place and popped to my local Hobbycraft for a letter, as these were the cheapest and if it was going to go wrong then I would  not have wasted much money!

So with all my tools ready I made a start.

The paper is very thin and has to be torn into little pieces, (or it can be used in large pieces and cut with scissors) and then glued onto the paper mache shape. In this case the letter K, the initial for intended recipient.

Now for someone like me who likes things ‘just so’ tearing bits of paper up into squares that did not match was rather liberating and strangely therapeutic. My only tip here was be careful when you breathe – as the paper all torn up in piles ready to be glued on can go everywhere.

Using the brush and the glossy glue, paint a section of the letter with the glue, then use the brush to pick up the piece of paper you want to put on there, and paint it in place, basically covering it with the glue again. It dries shiny. Another tip – the glue has a smell about it which could give you a headache!

Then all you have to do is keep going. Create a pattern if you want, it does not matter if you overlap, as it creates another good effect. And eventually after a while you get this result.

As you can see the glue is still drying at the bottom right hand corner. However once dry it is supposed to be waterproof but I am not going to test that theory out.

I am really pleased with the result, and I hope the intended recipient will be as well. So what next. There is plenty of paper left from the £2.50 pack I bought so if I had another letter, I could well have created another unique design. I do not think I could copy this pattern though and I think that is why I like them so much.

I have ordered more paper in all the colours and there are at least another 3 people who may benefit from this homemade gift for Christmas. I am tempted to create something for me as a ‘decorative accessory’ in my home. I have this perfect ledge above my window for it to go on when created. But what word do I have? I do not want my name, as I already have this created on another wall. I think on the ledge in the bedroom it has to say ‘sleep’ or ‘dreams’. Any suggestions?


Tales from a Honeymoon Hotel – Olivia Ryan

This is the third book in the trilogy of three subjects close to women’s hearts – Hen Weekend, Wedding and this book Tales from a Honeymoon Hotel. I think this a rather patronising assumption by the publicity team to assume that is the case. But leaving this to one side, what we have with this book and I have not read the other two, and the stories are not continual is a stereotypical chick lit.

Three couples arrive to stay at Hotel Angelo in Croatia for their honeymoon all with different experiences of life and the key to this book love. Gemma and Andy, childhood sweethearts, Jo and Mark, a rather odd matched couple and Ruby and Harold, older love which has had to overcome obstacles.

The stories of these couples are told through the eyes of the women – never do we get to hear the conscious of the men. If we did I think this would have made a better well rounded book. As readers we are left with the women to give their side of the story as to how they all come to be honeymooning in the same hotel at the same time. They share their experience of love.

In the case of Ruby she has waited until her real love was free. However the guilt of Harold has made her pine for the love the youngsters have as well as the attention and flattery of a local waiter.

Jo is pining for another love and cannot see what she has in front of her. All she knows is the love she has for the baby growing inside of her and wondering if she has done the right thing by marrying someone she is not “in” love with.

Gemma thinks that love is perfect and that in fact everything about her love with Andy is perfect and untouchable. Thoughts like that are always going to be brought sharply back to reality when someone threatens this perfection.

I found I drifted through this book, and I did not stay with any of the characters for very long. Gemma irritated me with her whole consuming perfection and she only realises life is not as perfect as she wants to create when it is almost too late. You have to accept flaws and weaknesses in the ones you love and even by the end of the book I do not believe that she had accepted this. I can imagine it would always be bubbling under the surface ready to be used.

A book for escapism, but one that will not leave much effect on you after you have put it down unlike the power and impact that the likes of Marian Keyes can have.

Books · Witterings

Booking Through Thursday

Who would you rather borrow from? Your library? Or a Friend?

And, DO you return books you borrow?

I would love to borrow books from friends, but I have very few who actually read like me! I do borrow and swap books with my mum all the time. I would also like to utilise my local library far more, but sadly it is rather lacking in choice of books and our main Central Library is closed due to vandalism and also has shorter hours when it is open due to cuts!

I always return books. Funnily enough I am not keen on lending them though.

Come and join in the fun at Booking Through Thursday a weekly meme about (mostly) books and reading.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.


Look who it is! My Story – Alan Carr

Alan Carr has grown on me over the time he has been known to the public. I have never watched The Friday Night Project or Ding Dong; just know him for the times he has been on Radio 2 covering and then when he got his own Saturday Night show. So I came to this book with very little knowledge about Alan Carr apart from the fact that he has made me laugh out loud on occasions.

I was pleasantly surprised, first off by the fact that I am the same age has him and I would certainly not consider writing an autobiography about my life (although I am not famous). However, actually what we get is a book which goes right back to his childhood growing up in Northampton with a father who obviously hoped and wished that his son was going to take after him and go into football.

In fact Alan tried his hardest to like what his father wanted him to like, but it was not to be. Although interestingly enough, it is football terms that are used as the chapter/section headings for this autobiography. Perhaps Alan is trying to please his father now. The early years of Alan’s life and the majority of the book is where Alan is trying to come to terms with who he is and where he fits into this world and what role he plays.

Here is a boy who was bullied because of his looks and his sexual orientation but only the former was known to Alan it has taken a long time for the latter to be realised as to that is why they were picking on him. Humour became his defence mechanism a common theme which I am sure many people can relate to. He does not make an issue of being gay apart from bemoaning the predictions of a fortune teller who said he would find true love by the time he was 30. That is just about finding love. He is still waiting.  His comedy routine is not based on this, but on observational comedy of those around him and his experiences. This is what this book fundamentally is; a wry look at how he has got to where he is through his travelling experiences and life working in a call centre. Where he admits, that he was shallow enough to have his head turned by a £13,000 salary. The characters he has met along the way just give him more material for the book, these people do exist and we can all tell tales, tall or otherwise about whom we have met in the past and how they influenced us in many ways.

There is obviously going to be more scope for another autobiography, but I think we will have to wait a number of years. Carr has written up to when he started the Friday Night Project and became far better known in the public eye. The story is continuing………………….


Posted on Amazon. I have come rather late to the party with this autobiography. In the main because it was not at the top of my list to read and I picked it up in a charity shop a few months ago. I still would not have bought it when it came out, but if you can understand my logic, I am pleased that I have read it.


The Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy – James Anderson

This is a book which mixes many well-known characters and settings into even more fictional ones. Imagine Miss Marple invited to stay with a friend, then gets involved with Poirot to investigate some strange events who be sheer coincidence is in the vicinity. Along comes Tommy and Tuppence because they are connected to the government in some way and are protecting something. Then up pops Bertie Wooster and the inimitable Jeeves; as there always has to be a butler.

If you are a fan of all these, then you are on to a winner with James Anderson’s book. Add the grand English Country House, a war brewing on the continent, a few undesirable foreigners with ulterior motives and even an American! Welcome into the world of the Burfords and the first of three of James Anderson’s novels.

The book appears to take a long time in getting anywhere, but there is a reason for this and it builds up the setting, the characters and the point when a murder seems to have happened to such an extent you have to keep turning the pages to find out exactly when, who and eventually how and why. Then comes the investigation and here we are introduced to Wilkins the local Inspector who quite frankly would rather be anywhere than solving a crime.  He perseveres and there are many red herrings and paths to go down, as Wilkins tries to piece together exactly what happened on that fateful night. The denouement fits as you would expect – everyone gathered in the room in the house, and one by one they are all revealed to be guilty of something with something to hide until finally we get to the guilty party. You can positively see all the brain cells (or should that be little grey cells) aligning together to discover the truth.

I have revealed very little about the plot as to do so would take up a considerable amount of space – there is much to the plot! I would also hate to inadvertently give the game away to any potential readers.

James Anderson has written a lovely book which really captures what you would expect from a good old-fashioned murder mystery set between the wars. It is in fact quite humorous in parts and I found this a refreshing change and made the book much more enjoyable. If anything perhaps Anderson has made it humorous to take the “mickey” out of people like me who love reading such stories. So what if that was his intention, I can laugh at myself when it comes to my taste in books! A thoroughly enjoyable read and recommend for sitting back and just enjoying some escapism.

Review posted on Amazon.

I picked this book because of the cover and the title, as well as finding out it was a murder mystery one of my loves and something I am getting more and more into. It is like an Agatha Christie and also Josephine Tey. Nicola Upson’s novels are also set in the 1930s and uses Tey as a character. The Jeeves and Wooster part is the humour and the reasoning all mixed into one. This really was a good book and the characters were so all different that brought together in a country house made them all react and behave differently. I was surprised to read that there were only three of the ‘Burford Family’ books as the author is no longer with us. Interestingly enough these were written in the 1970s although that is irrelevant as they are set in years previous. I am going to seek out the other 2 books because the covers appeal and I want to immerse myself in that world again knowing what I will get and wondering what else could happen to the Burford family.


The Girl Next Door – Elizabeth Noble

This is a typical ‘chick lit’ book and although there have been comparisons to Marian Keyes in other reviews this particular book reminded me of a Debbie Macomber novel.

The Girl Next Door is the stories of the people living in an apartment block in New York. The newest couple is Ed and Eve who have come from the UK and whilst Ed is fulfilling his dream of working in the New York office for Eve, there is something missing and only one thing will complete that gap but will it come at a price?

Trip has everything on a plate for him; money and women. He then bumps into another apartment resident and all of sudden everything has a different outlook. Is he really as conventional as his parents want him to be?

Jason is in love with Rachel. Rachel does not know and even if she did would not have time to even fit it in. In her planned and scheduled life including her children and husband are run like an operation in her business. But can anything upset that plan and cause her to rethink her life and her role in her family?

Jason has his own issues; Kim and Avery. One is his wife, one his daughter and both are growing away from him when all he is doing is trying to be a husband and wife but apparently that does not fit in with the post IVF challenge.

There are other characters, in the book which I think are there to act as vehicles for these main few. It is an easy and comforting read and despite having lots of characters and a list introducing them all at the beginning of the book you can follow it very effortlessly. I have read better books by this author, but this book would not put me off reading any of her others. For me it served a purpose when I chose to read the book. Though if I wanted a book which gave me lots of characters set in the US, then I would first start with Debbie Macomber and not Elizabeth Noble.


Books · Witterings

Secrets, Codes and Geese

What I am about to tell you , you must read, digest and then destroy! To be honest I am not going to tell you anything you probably did not know about, or could not find out about online. This is going to be my take on it.

Last Saturday I went on an organised trip to Bletchley Park. A lovely looking country house which housed for the duration of the Second World War many secrets. Secrets which were not made known to the public until after 1975 when the 30 year rule applies.  I have always been fascinated by Bletchley, because of reading Enigma by Robert Harris and watching the film starring Kate Winslet and Dougray Scott and wanted to get more close to the place itself and all its history. History is one of my passions, having got my degree in the subject, sadly I do not work in the area so I like to absorb myself in it in my spare time.

So once there, we were given Tea and Coffee with biccies in the mansion’s library. Oh what a wonderful room to start in. Full of books of all descriptions – works of Charles Dickens sit on shelves next to Public Health Act books.

There we were given some background on Bletchley Park:

In 1883, it became home to the Leon family, whose patriarch was a wealthy City of London financier. Herbert Samuel Leon bought over 300 acres of land beside the London and North-Western Railway line that passed through Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, developing sixty of those acres into his country estate. At the heart of the estate, he built a mansion in a curious mixture of architectural styles. One of Bletchley’s greatest benefactors, he was much-loved by the local people. He was awarded a baronetcy in 1911.

Following the deaths of Sir Herbert and Lady Fanny Leon, the Park fell into the hands of property developer Captain Hubert Faulkner, who intended to demolish the buildings and sell the land as a housing site.

But the Government was about to intervene.

So with that background we then set about a walk around the park and visited the ‘Huts’ where much of the codebreaking was done. Some of these huts need so much care and attention that it was sad to see – what they need is money. Progress is slow but it is slowly going to turn into a fantastic place to visit. Some huts we could only see from the outside and be told what went on in them. Hut 4 used for Naval Intelligence. Hut 8 where the Enigma code was broken. Hut 11 were the first Bombe was built and used. Hut 1 (pictured below) the first to be built.


This now holds wireless telegraphy both British and foreign, the hut smelt of everything old, all oily and cold but was wonderfully fascinating.

To go back to the bombe. There is a working replica in the museum which was used in the film Enigma.  A close up of all the workings below

I got to see this running and although we were not breaking any codes (well I do not think we were) but the end result gave you a small insight into the work that was done. I do not deny that some of it was very difficult to understand and at that point I would like to go back and see and listen to some of it again so some more if could make sense. I like logic problems, numbers and letters and part of me knows I would have liked the challenge of breaking a code. My work ethic now, is I will not give up until I can get a satisfying result, and when numbers are concerned I have to make sure it is right and I can check it and it still works.

There is so much to see at Bletchley Park as well as the National Codes centre, which relates to the Bombe, Enigma, Code breaking in the Second World War and also a working model of Colossus the earliest computer known. And a British invention at that!

I should be grateful that I have my laptop back working when I compare it to the picture of Colossus above.

O|ther things war related is The Churchill Collection – a whole room dedicated to Winston Churchill and held a collection of memorabilia of all things Churchill as well as some of his own personal stuff. There was plenty of related items as well and I got the chance to read the Order of Services for the funerals for recent deceased Royals. Lord Mountbatten, Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mother as well as Churchill.

Churchill made some fabulous quotes in his lifetime but ‘The geese that laid the golden eggs – but never cackled’ was the quote made about those who worked at Bletchley Park. This is what fascinates me so much, that no one knew for 30 years other than the people involved. I really do not think it would happen today – the media would not let it go. Not that I am cynical.

Other collections which are only open at certain times during the week. A garage full of vintage vehicles, cars and ambulances. Collection of model ships, model railway, a wonderful toy museum and not a computer game in sight and also the role pigeons played during the war to name a few. I did not get round them all in the day, and it is certainly worth another visit to experience some more.

The gift shop was the last visit, before the tea and muffins to send us on are way (after the Leek & Potato Soup at Lunchtime). I bought a bookmark, a tradition which I have had for more years than I care to mention now currently in my current book. And speaking of books I could not go without buying a book, there was quite a lot to choose from in Bletchley Park related books. The one I decided to go with was this one

I had not thought about reviewing it but I may well do when I finish it. I got the ‘guide’ book as well. Mum bought Enigma by Robert Harris, and I think I might do a re-read on that as well. I am truly fascinated about this subject, and I will certainly look out for more books.

Well that was my day out – a real thrill and no matter what books were involved! And as for the film Enigma – well although they used the Enigma machine and the Bombe from Bletchley in the film. The mansion itself was not Bletchley – no wonder I could not relate the film to the actual place when I went there on Saturday.


Juliet – Anne Fortier

This is the story of Julie Jacobs who upon the death of her Aunt, her guardian since her mother and father died in a tragic car accident, learns the truth about her name, her place in life, her background and her history. History which goes back to the 14th Century and involves a familiar story to Julie, in fact her favourite – William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Julie goes on a journey back to Italy, Siena in fact not Verona and begins to piece together the clues left by her mother about her rather strange heritage. What this then provides is stories of hidden treasures, family arguments and seeking out the truth. For me this part of the book, took a long time to really get anywhere and I was slightly bored by the constant descriptions of the buildings, and the routes to everywhere in the different sections of the city and which family ruled which part. However, it did pick up and I was rather intrigued to find out what was going on as Julie began to unravel everything before whoever was following her caught up with her. It has so much of The Da Vinci Code in it – all these clues and documents pointing to something that has never been proved or found, if anything was it intentionally written like this to make us as readers question a play which has been around for 500 years and has survived to this day. Was it based on real fact and real people?

Interspersed within this story is the story set in the 14th century of a boy called Romeo and a girl called Giuiletta, which is theorised to be the starting point of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet? Again we see the fights, the feuds, and the duels, the families at war over marriage, money and position. There are a lot of characters in this section of the book and it takes a while to work out who belongs to what family and whether they are friends, enemies or on the outside of them all. This part of the book relates to the present day and is narrated in the third person whilst the current story is narrated by Julie, this helps give a definition between the two stories and the two ‘Juliet’s’.

If you are a fan of Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet and theories about where Shakespeare got his stories from and where they fit into today literature then this is the book for you. If you are looking for something else I fear you will not find it. I struggled with this book mainly because of the characters and the amount, I lost who was connected with who and where. I cannot fault the wonderful descriptions of Siena and the architecture within the walls, the author has obviously done plenty of research with this one. A challenging book but I am not quite sure if I enjoyed it.

Thanks to Amazon Vine for allowing me the opportunity to read this book. I was tempted to buy it more than once in a bookshop but always hesitated. I hope review reflects that I am still rather hesitant about the book.