Pages

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Age of Miracles

I picked up this brilliant book from one of the local charity shops last Friday.  It has joined an elite band of books that I considered to be truly 'un-put-down-able'.  You know the ones - books that you don't want to stop reading, but you never want to end.  For 36 hours I cooked with one hand, ate with one hand and completely ignored my husband!


If you haven't read it, the basic story is a 'coming of age' tale about an 11 year old girl in California.  Julia has friendship issues, worries about her parents' relationships, deals with bullying at the bus stop and so on.  It's the backdrop to the story that makes it so gripping.... At the beginning of the novel we learn that the rotation of the earth has started to slow.  No one knows who and no one knows how to deal with situation. As the days and nights stretch, gravity changes and ecological disasters unfold, it's all narrated through the filter of Julia's own view of the world.   Gripping stuff!


Other books in my 'un-put-down-able' list are
~ Gone with the Wind (I lost several days to that book when I was a teenager!)
~ The Wine of Angels (the first in the Phil Rickman 'Merrily Watkins' series)
~ The Bronze Horsemen (Paullina Simmons)
~ The House on the Strand (the best Daphne Du Maurier.. but only in my opinion!)


There were others that were great at the time, the Da Vinci Code and The Rectors Wife for example, but lost their impact when their authors started to write more in the same vein and formula.

Have you got books that have hijacked your days?

Sunday, 27 April 2014

A Little Bit of House Envy....

On the Easter Bank Holiday I took Mum and Dad down to Newark Park in Gloucestershire.  It's a National Trust property at the top of a steep and secluded valley in the South Cotswolds.  The weather forecast for Monday had been really grim, so we had the added bonus of surprise good weather.  It was a perfect day to explore the house and grounds at a leisurely pace - which really suits my Mum.


The house was given to the National Trust in 1949, but it was let to a nursing home until 1969 and become increasingly run-down.  In 1970 a Texan-born architect called Bob Parsons took over the tenancy (joined in 1980 by his friend Michael Claydon).  The house and gardens that we visited were the result of 40 years of their hard work and vision.  (Bob Parsons died in 2000 but Michael Claydon stayed on in the property until 2011.)


The house is now cleverly arranged so that it feels like you are part of a house party and the tenants are just somewhere else, waiting for you to join them.  It's a technique that the National Trust have used in other houses where it feels a bit 'contrived'.  Here it seems to work perfectly... even on a busy Bank Holiday when the grounds were over-run with small people doing an Easter Egg Hunt!


In-fact I am now officially suffering from an acute attack of house envy.  This is my dream home and I'm sure that the National Trust could offer me a tenancy.....!  To see why - click here.


Back to the chalk face tomorrow...... but there's a day of trips on Thursday AND a long weekend coming up so I don't feel too bad about things!
Jx

Friday, 25 April 2014

In Praise of Blue and Yellow!

I'm not one for 'getting on Band Waggons' ~ in-fact I have a healthy distrust of many ~ but in early January I joined the discount shopping brigade.  I'd just got to a point where I felt that our household bills were way too expensive and we had to take some kind of radical action. We have a 'Blue and Yellow' store about two miles up the road from here.  There's a large car park (free) and it's just off the bypass in our local town.  If we get off the motorway one junction earlier, we can pop in on our way home.  It's not only cheap, it's convenient.


It was easy to see that we were going to save money, but I decided to monitor exactly how much.  For the last three months I've logged our savings against a calculated average weekly spend from the Autumn.  I've filled pages of my accounts book with everything we've spent (OCD!!!).  I've included house-hold items from the 'W' store, "top up shops" from anywhere and the occasional trip to our original food store to pick up special items.


I think our diet has improved in the last few months, largely because fruit and fresh veg were really expensive at our previous store.  It is a different type of shopping experience.... but it's funny how quickly I've got used to things costing less!


Anyway, the rolling savings total is already looking extremely healthy.  Once I'd added the lower winter fuel bills resulting from our mild winter, the total is bordering on the embarrassing!  Why did I continue to pay so much to these other stores for so long......  Mark (who is a great believer in 'designated savings funds') suggested at the beginning of the experiment that we should put the money into a pot for our 50th Birthday celebrations.  We are 48 later this year so that's going to be MONTHS of savings.  I'm not sure he realises quite how much money that might represent!  Oh well..!! 


The funny thing is that I can't persuade my family to try out the store.  My sister is completely loyal to 'T****' and my parents can't be separated from 'S*********'.  In the meanwhile, I'm a complete convert!!!


What are your top food-shopping tips?
Jx

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Remembrance of Things Past..

Mark and I 'got lucky' with the weather when we booked a short break in Swanage just before Easter.  We parked the car at the hotel and walked everywhere for four days.  It was a great way to get rid of the last of the 'winter fug' and a lovely chance for me to revisit one of my teenage haunts.


I've shared some of my teenage memories here on the WordPress blog.  I hope that they amuse you!


Since we got back I've gone down with a cold and chesty thing, which laid me a little low for Easter weekend itself.  Fortunately Mum and Sister decided that they wanted to do all the big family meals, so all I had to do was sit quietly in a corner and try not to cough.  The bug seems to be clearing my system now.... I expect that I'll feel fine by the time I go back to work next Monday!!!


Mark moved his holidays so that we could have the break in Swanage.  As a result it's been really quiet around here since Monday.  Yesterday I caught up with all the 'niggly' jobs that have been tormenting me for weeks (dealing with charity shop bags, rag bags, cleaning the cat flap...) so today I feel 'super-virtuous'!


It won't last.....!!!!!
I hope you are all having a good week.
Jx

Saturday, 8 March 2014

In the Footsteps of Jane Austin

After a bit of reflection I've decided to keep both my blogs 'alive' for the next few weeks.  This means I can more easily keep up to speed with all your news - especially as I've not been able to get my head round the Wordpress following system yet.


To read about my travels in January, please click here!


Thanks for bearing with as I try to bring order to the chaos!!!


Jx

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Hello....!

Thank you to everyone who realised that I'd 'gone to ground' for a while.


There have been several difficulties within my family which have taken up a lot of time...
There's been a visit from Ofsted...
There was the resulting Post-Ofsted exhaustion..
There's been some pretty stressful times within my friendship circle too..
I've ended suffering from a bit of depression (not nice while it lasted)
AND - to top it all - my blog has got a virus.... which means I can't upload photos.


In spite of all this, I have still been busy with my camera and I've got loads of photos I'd like to share.... so I'm in the process of trying to set up a WordPress blog.  Once I've got everything sorted I will come and find you.  Hopefully I will be able to follow you all from the new dashboard. 


I'll post a link to the new blog on blogger over the weekend.  Please come and find me!


Jx