Wow what a scorcher this week has been! It is a shame it isn't forcast to carry on through the weekend as we have a VW event going on, but it has been a lovely week for just living in the moment.
I baked some pretty damn good cakes for the charity bring and buy cake stall at Elsham Hall VW Collective this weekend, and I managed to resist temptation and haven't eaten any.
Also made a pretty snazzy salad to accompany homemade burgers for tea. It had watermelon in it, my first foray into fruit in a salad beyond a classic Waldorf, and it was delicious.
It was our regular VW meet on wednesday, and by a stroke of luck I was already very close to the venue due to something for work, so I had a couple of hours to spare to wander on the beach for the first time ages. It was so peaceful and relaxing as the summer holiday crowd were packing up and leaving. I climbed a breaker and just enjoyed the view.
James's dad had a birthday this week and it was good to pop round and just catch up. His mum also had some very important info for us that could lead to some exciting news in a couple of weeks time.
Katie, the cocker spaniel I pooch sat the other week, has decided I am her human, and the other dogs aren't allowed a look in. She was full on defending me from Max who is about three times her size the other day and she just looked so proud, they never fail to make me smile with how cute they are.
How has your week been? Did you get to enjoy the weather?
Only really have one thing this week, but its a big-un!
My little sister graduated from university on tuesday morning!
After some wobbles at the beginning, a whole load of hard work, and everything the last year has thrown at us, she did it, and she has also been given a deferred entry position at UCL for 2015 doing a masters course.
Howdy all, it seems every blog I have read in the past week has said something along these lines but I'm going to say it anyway, how is it already nearly half way through July? I had one of those moments earlier where I couldn't pin point what the date was at all and was quite shocked to find it was the twelfth. It felt like maybe half that, Oh well!
I don't feel like I have done a whole lot with the month so far, though I have actually achieved quite a bit. Lately I have been feeling like I haven't been getting weekends. You know when you just don't feel like you have had those days of rest? Work weeks have been pretty stressful, and then a lot of stress has been piled on by my family lately that I had just about got to breaking point with too. Add to that the never ending to-do list I have for household projects and I have been feeling really swamped.
Because things have been a bit manic lately and I have been struggling to keep on top and stay positive I have decided to borrow what appears to be becoming quite a popular regular post on a fair fewother blogs, and just give myself a reminder of some positive moments from the past week.
I finally managed to complete two decorative projects that I have been wanting to do for years, and I mean years. I have had a fan that was given to me when I went to see To Kill a Mockingbird on stage at the age of 16 that I had an idea for framing and never got around to. Now I have walls to hang things on it is complete and I felt so damn satisfied, it was incredibly relaxing to take the time and exacto cut my favourite quotes into birds to go alongside it too.
Room temperature watermelon for breakfast and snacks. I am an impatient person, but waiting a couple of minutes for it to warm up really allows the sweetness to shine through.
This weekend I should have shelves in one of the alcoves, this is going to be some serious progress towards tidying up the many piles of things that have no home in our new home. My mild OCD is being driven mad by these piles (I know I shouldn't really term it OCD as I am pretty certain it isn't so I apologise to anyone that offends, but I am not sure what it should be called, I am unable to sleep if there is too much mess and go all Monica on it). I do love James for all the hard work he is putting in to try and make my ideas a reality.
I pooch-sat Katie today (James's sister's Cocker Spaniel) for the first time in the new house, and she was good as gold, which means she can visit again! I miss the waggy balls of fluff being around and can't wait for us to get our own dog.
I treated myself to a subscription to BBC Good Food magazine as a pay day treat last month (mainly to save some £££ on the shop price) and my freebie came in the post this week, I have been devouring Nigella's Summer cookbook. I love the redesign and am trying to resist replacing my copy of How To Be a Domestic Goddess to match.
This is technically last week, as it was last Sunday, but I forgot to take any pictures so I will mention it here. James took me to a lovely little tea room in the Wolds as a surprise for brunch last weekend. I am not good with surprises, but he was determined and drove a good 15 miles out of our way just to keep me guessing about where we were going. The food was delicious, and I got to have chocolate cake with my breakfast, it was perfect.
I also thought I would tack on what I am reading this weekend, just in case you ever wonder what I am reading right there and then. This week it is The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker, it started off slow and I struggled to read the Hardback (think I was put off by the size) but since transferring to ebook I am steaming through it!
I thought I would have a little reminisce about June to keep things going while I slave away trying to get this blog shifted to Wordpress (SO not as simple as anticipated. It isn't just the moving of it, bright spark over here decided that if she was going to move it she might as well re-design the whole thing too, as my blogger layout just wouldn't work over there, if you want to monitor the progress, it is at the same domain just without the w's)
I finally replaced my very battered and bruised cream Toms with some lovely grey ones, my old ones were the best fitting shoes I have ever had, but I have to confess that they fit so well because they once got completely soaked at a Harry Potter premiere in the rain (remember the year when Emma's dress was almost see through, that one, LOVED that damn dress, so pretty!) and so were completely moulded to the shape of my dodgy arches. I adore those shoes but they had no grip left and had to go.
I am very tempted to wear my new ones in the bath... kidding (sort of not really).
I bought some rugs for the house, we have wood floors = cold even when it is boiling outside. Had to soften this place up a bit so got a bargain rug for £15 from B&Q. It is already a bit filthy but i like how it provides a bit of contrast and reduces the echoes.
I have cooked a million different things, and attempted to photograph them only to take half the pictures I needed, doh! Especially annoying when I made brioche buns from scratch and by hand this weekend, I was suitably damn well chuffed with myself for that one.
Lincolnshire show was an OK visit, but I got more out of Brocklesby Country Fair, I snapped pics at both so maybe I will do a bit of a piccy post. Suffice it to say there was an awful lot of moolah spent in the Joules tent at Lincs show, and I was oh so grateful for the chairs and posh loos that a vice presidential membership pass got me. Also ate quite possibly the best sausage sandwich I have ever had in my life at Brocklesby from Boston Sausage.
Must pause here for the Mr Whippy van, parked right outside my house!
James didn't want one, boo!
I went on a Lush spree (photos ago come) and subsequently sliced my hand open trying to chop a bath bomb in half. It needed butterfly stitches, was not good let me tell you. A lesson has been learnt.
I was bought some very pretty posies by my other half, and caved to blogger hype and bought myself some peonies when they died.
I am pretty sure there were many more things of note that occurred last month, but I will save those for another day, must get back to the grind stone and try and get my snazzy new layout fixed.
Last weekend J made a delicious Chili Con Carne for our tea. He started cooking first thing in the morning and by the time we tucked in around 7pm the flavours had all intensified and the smell was truly mouth watering. Unfortunately I forgot to get my camera out while he was cheffing away, fortunately I didn't forget when I cooked up my favourite accompaniment to Chili, Cornbread.
I always make mine muffin style, I think because the first time me and my Mum ever tried these it stuck to the pan big time, absolute disaster! You can make this in a cast iron skillet though if you prefer, just make sure it is well greased.
I also like mine plain, as there is nothing better than a warm cornbread muffin straight from the tray split with your thumbs and given a dollop of butter, it melts into a crumbly sweet mouthful that goes perfectly with the tang of tomato in the Chilli.
Adapted from about five different recipes over the years, but I started with Martha Hall Foose's version from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees Centigrade (Gas mark 5) and line your muffin tins with muffin papers, I made exactly 12 muffins from this mix.
In a large bowl mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and cumin.
In a medium sized jug break in your eggs and mix in the buttermilk, milk, honey and melted butter.
I don't know about you but I always have to warm my honey to get it to go liquid again, I stick the jar in a bowl of freshly boiled water and it does the trick.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the liquid mixture in while mixing on a low speed using a handheld mixer (or using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer)
Once brought together scrape down the sides and mix on medium until the batter is smooth but for no longer than one minute.
Leave to rest while the baking powder does its stuff for a couple of minutes, then using an ice cream scoop, or a spoon if you don't have one, scoop one measure into each muffin case. Lick clean the bowl and scoop.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden on the top and springy when pressed. Allow to cool in the tray for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack.
This week has been both boring and eventful but in small ways, we have made some progress with small things around the house, J has officially got a garage he can work in and I finally have shelves in my kitchen.
My jars of ingredients have a nice home that isn't our worktop, but I now have a dilemma with labelling (for J's benefit rather than mine) as you can't see the ones I stuck on the top. I may have to get creative.
My tomato plants sprouted mid week and I did a little dance of happiness, no sign of my strawberries yet though.
I have got into a groove with using my cookbooks to plan meals. I have been collecting cookbooks for more years than I can count and it feels good to be finally using them properly, the pork chops with apples in Rachel Allen's book pictured was delicious for friday night tea.
Our canine friends haven't visited for a whole week because it has been so wet out, I miss the magic that the lid lifting on this jar can create. Bums on floors pronto!
This book has been a bit of a god send lately, helping me to suss out my new-ish camera, I highly recommend it and may do a full review at some point.
How has your week been? I hope you all have a lovely bank holiday weekend :)
I did mention a couple of posts back that I was about to move house, and I have!
It has been a pretty manic couple of months that I have had away from this internet space, so much has happened I don't know where to begin really so a few pictures and a couple of bullet points seems like a good idea.
I turned 26 last week, though it didn't really bother me it was very nice to receive some pretty flowers and a very cool cushion for our sofa.
We lost a beloved canine friend suddenly in March, and I am even more grateful than ever that I took the photos on this walk because of that sad day as we all miss him so much.
We had the first anniversary of the loss of my Dad, and it wasn't great though not as bad as I thought it would be, hitting that milestone doesn't mean that it feels any different from the days and weeks previous.
I got fully on board with my new job and stuck in with making a difference and in the past week have finally had the rest of my team join me which is exciting and scary in equal measures.
I have spent a lot of stressful time dealing with the dreaded 'S' word (solicitors) fielding endless phone calls, but it was all made better when we got our hands on the keys.
I packed a mountain of boxes, and worried the whole journey from my Mum's to our new home about birds poo-ing on my mattress while it was on the back of a trailer. And the first thing we did once we were in was scrub until our hands were raw and slap a whole load of neutral paint on the walls, bye bye big blue wall!
There have been multiple trips to Ikea, meatballs consumed, and visits to the Krispy Kreme nearby.
My first VW show of the season has passed, a glorious day in the sunshine spent sipping cider and storing up on Vit D.
I have gained green tips to my fingers growing plants to brighten our abode up a little bit, this weekend I will be giving tomatoes and strawberries a go.
I have amassed a large number of food storage jars while I have been waiting for somewhere to store them, which arrived today in the form of the nice solid wood shelves for my kitchen walls that I pinned waaaaay back. Pin's do come true!
We are pretty much all moved in now, though there are a few lingering items at my mums and J hasn't even started on the garage (it is getting a make-over). We are experiencing life in our own space, and it really is beginning to feel like our space now. We are making changes, decorating and adding in furniture and I am sure I will be showing you projects we are working on along the way.
Currently I am oiling the shelving, and I can't wait to get creative in the kitchen trying a few more complex recipes and getting used to using both an electric and a fan oven! I have already been cracking on with trying a few recipes for meal times and yesterday whipped up home-made Naan to go with our curry, I was very proud. I may just have to turn that into a blog post in future.
I hope you are all keeping well and that you will enjoy this little home evolution journey we are going on :)
I accidentally appear to have had a week off blogging this week. I had the week off work too, I started my new job last week and lets just say that by the end of it I was glad I had this week booked as leave, I just didn't want to do anything, you know those times? I don't think the situation was helped by my coming down with a sudden cold last saturday. I initially thought it was allergies, but it didn't shift once I left the vicinity of the animals so I have come to the conclusion that it is rather more, and it is still hanging around.
If you follow me on Instagram you will know that there has been no rest for me to recover as I made another car cake this week for my other half's birthday. This year it was a little less to my ideal standards but it passed the test and apparently tastes delicious so there were smiles all round.
Anyway, update aside, this week I also received a few packages filled with skincare. Do all of your skincare bits run out all at the same time or is it just me? I mean exactly at the same time too, skincare always seems to need ordering all in one go, i needed day cream, toner, eye cream and make-up remover, and I had only dribbles of product left.
I started scouting around the internet just like I am sure all good beauty bloggers do, trying to see what was getting the positive votes lately, but I eventually decided I would try a few unheard of (to me anyway) products instead.
For my toner, I went for the Elemis Apricot soothing toner. I have to admit that first impressions of this aren't great as the smell is a bit funky, more like chemically tampered with apricots than the fresh kind. As it is only a toner I can look past that as I only use a couple of spritzes and it doesn't linger, but I don't think i will re-invest.
For make-up remover I ventured away from Bioderma and decided to give a high street micellar water a go. At £4.99 this Garnier offering is significantly cheaper and only 100ml less product than my french favourite, so if it continues to impress me this may become a new repeat purchase. I don't wear huge amounts of eye makeup, and don't use waterproof products so it may not work as well if you do, but so far I am impressed.
I suffer from really dry eyes, both my eyeballs and the skin around my eyes, and find that if i forget to apply eye cream even once it dramatically increases the irritation I feel so an intensely hydrating eye cream is what I have been on the hunt for. I tried a few samples of the new Chanel one and loved it but couldn't bring myself to spend £40 so instead I spent literally hours looking all over the internet for an alternative. I found this Mario Badescu one, and was drawn to the hyaluronic claims. On first use it felt amazing, I am not sure this is as good as the Chanel, but we will see if it has any long term impact on keeping that delicate area hydrated.
Also for the eyes I picked up an old favourite the Garnier caffeine eye roll on, as I used to find it so great for cooling and de-puffing the eye area. Unfortunately it seems I am too sensitive for this product, at least while my eyes are being especially irritable, so this one will have to sit in the cupboard for a little while, but this was an absolute staple for me for a long time, so I highly recommend it.
I also added the Ole Henrikson Truth is in the Eyes Eye Peel Concentrate that I mentioned in my wish list post to my basket, I thought it was meant to be used as an occasional treatment but the packaging recommends using it twice a day. So far I haven't been brave enough to try this to that extent, but I have tried it on my spa sundays and do see a little improvement so maybe I will use it more often.
I don't really do body moisturiser, I am really really lazy when it comes to using them, really really lazy! When people started talking about a lotion you could just spray on, get dressed and not worry about your clothes sticking it sounded perfect, so I grabbed the Vaseline Spray and Go the next time I was at the supermarket. I have used it a couple of times, but it hasn't been amazing enough to make me use it every day. I don't know if it is just my can but the spray isn't a mist which was the first surprise, which means it doesn't spray evenly and requires rubbing in. I will give it a few more tries but I am not completely sold.
Finally, I needed a new face cream. I really was tempted to grab the Antipodes one I have mentioned before, but then during a trip to my local Marks and Spencer's I discovered they have put in a mini beauty hall, and had to check out the creams there. This Skyn Iceland The Antidote lotion is amazing (and M&S currently has it in the wrong section on their website), I am not sure yet what it is that causes the effect, but when you apply it your skin feels cold, it doesn't just say it soothes, it actually soothes by cooling irritated skin! I have yet to see any more benefits yet, but so far I love it and am definitely going to consider purchasing more products from the brand.
The Floating Admiral is a murder mystery novel written by the Detection Club, a group of golden age authors who in their time were leading crime fiction authors. The collaboration featured Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and G.K. Chesterton among others. The novel is formed of twelve chapters, a prologue and a conclusion, each written by a different member of the club, each chapter had to make sense but the author did not know where the previous authors were leading the story. The authors had to submit a sealed solution of how they envisioned the murder happening, but it was left to Anthony Berkeley to bring all of the loose ends together into a neat bow, an amazing feat. In short I believe that this is a literary masterpiece.
When a body washes up in the sleepy town of Wynmouth stabbed in the chest Inspector Rudge knows that something fishy is going on. The body is in the vicars rowing boat, and he is clearly withholding information, the victims own identity is called into doubt and a key member of the family has disappeared. A real challenge for the inspector and the reader!
I was so surprised by this novel, I had huge reservations about it because I was convinced it wouldn't read smoothly, that I would note the changes between authors and that the story wouldn't gel together. I should have known not to doubt the Detection Club! All the writers involved are not only wonderful in their own right but also together. I am so glad they wrote this novel.
The story was complicated, that I will not deny, but it was marvellous, I rarely noticed the change in writing styles and actually found that it made the read more interesting and readable. The solution was clever, and masterfully composed, I did not suspect the murderer at all and was in fact convinced it was a different character, a true sign of a good mystery. The absolute gem in this book though is the range of closed solutions submitted by the authors which are included at the end. Each one produces an Ah-Hah! moment, especially that of Agatha Christie (and I'm not just saying that because she is my favourite).
If you are interested in murder mystery novels and haven't read this, I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy, it may have been forgotten for eighty years but it is an absolute gem of a read and you won't be disappointed.
When Jennie posted her response to this tag last month I knew I wanted to post my own responses. Blogging is all about sharing the love and feeling inspired, I know I am sadly lacking in that department, I try to comment on blogs as much as possible but I often feel like I fall short so it is time for me to share a few of my favourite blogs.
What was the first blog you came across?
I honestly haven't a clue for this one, it was probably a knitting blog, as they are my first real memory of regularly reading blogs, but I probably came across other blogs long before those.
Currently I would go with Sailboat, which is a delicate blend of bunnies, beauty and lifestyle all written by the lovely Jennie, possibly the most down to earth and realistic blogger I have come across, she isn't afraid to tell you about the negatives in life as well as the wonderful things.
Best blogging friend?
I find this a bit of a weird question because I wouldn't say I have blogging "friends" I find writing reviews to be quite insular, although I do enjoy commenting on other peoples blogs I am not sure they would be classed as friends yet.
Name a blog that enables your purchases
Absolutely without a doubt Bee from Vivatramp (and The Finer Things Club), I can guarantee that for every series of mini book reviews she does at least one of those books ends up on my shelves. Every. Time.
I know lots of people love Bloglovin, but I find it awkward to use, especially as I generally read on my phone. I use Feedly to collate my feeds and Reeder on my iPhone and iPad to read them on the go. I save my favourite items to my Reading List or to Pocket if I want to remember individual posts.
I really love designs that are quite neutral with a pop of colour but look very relaxed when it comes to reading other lifestyle blogs, they feel homely. My own is obviously quite clean and minimalist but that is supposed to be reflective of structure.
What is your favourite thing about blogging?
Honestly the creative outlet. For a long time my job hasn't offered opportunities for creative thinking and developing ideas and projects, and I crave the ability to say what I want to say about the world. Although that aspect of my working life is going to be changing soon I think it is still important to have a little space that is all your own where you can share your own opinions and that is pretty much what this space is for me.
I am always on the scout for new beauty products that I want to give a try, and in the olden days I probably would have splashed out on these as soon as they became popular without really worrying about unused products in my cupboard. Nowadays I make sure I have finished an item before I replace it with something new, which means I generally have a wish list running somewhere on my iPad with the items I am hoping to purchase next.
Ole Henrikson Truth is in the Eyes - £30.81 from Beauty Bay
This is a sneaky one, because I have actually already bought this and am just waiting for it to arrive. I have lots of little bumps around my eyes and although I am not sure that they are actually millia, since seeing Meg's post about this stuff I have been contemplating picking up a tube. At the moment it is reduced at Beauty Bay so I snapped some up.
Nars Narsissist Eyeshadow Palette - £50 from John Lewis
I know I will probably never get round to getting this, the difficulty I had in even finding it online testament to its probable scarcity, but I love the idea of it, I have 3 Nars eyeshadows that I absolutely love, in reality though I will probably just pick up singles that I want to try.
Bumble and Bumble Thickening Dry Spun Spray - £21.50 from Boots
This is one of those products that I want to try purely because it is the dupe for something else, the Oribe Dry texturising spray which at an eye watering £40 a can I know I will never buy. I have since heard about an even cheaper dupe though from Charles Worthington, so maybe I will try that instead!
Laura Mercier Mineral Powder Foundation - £31 from Space.NK
I have been contemplating going back to mineral foundations for a while now, liquid has been making me want to claw my face off within a while of applying because the cold air is drying out my skin more than I can hydrate it. I have heard great things about Laura Mercier and I think once I have finished a few other foundations off I shall treat myself to this one.
Babyliss Big Hair Styler - £44.99 from Boots
I really want this one, with me starting a new job soon I am going to be getting up very early so anything that can help make styling my hair easy I am on board with. The only thing stopping me at the moment is that I am debating wether to chop some more of my hair off, so am not sure which barrel size to get, as soon as I decide, I shall be buying this baby with my Boots points!
Glam Glow Mud Mask - £69.99 from HQ Hair (25% off the gift set linked until 3rd March with the code GLOW99, which makes this about the same price as one small tub!)
I have heard so much about this, and I really really want to try it, but the price is eye wateringly expensive for the size of pot, so this offer has actually got me realistically considering it. This mask is supposed to be amazing at sucking all the rubbish out of your face but also leaving it glowing and bright afterwards. Part of me is still so loyal to my Origins mask that I probably won't pick this up, but I fancy a splurge I know what is going in my basket.
Antipodes Vanilla Pod Hydrating Day Cream - £26.99 from feel Unique
Pretty soon my Kate Middleton face cream is going to die a death and being a fickle skincare person I want to try something new. I have read so many reviews of Antipodes products and this stuff sounds right up my street. Hydrating, bam thats what I am desperately lacking at the moment! This isn't too pricey for a day cream either so I shall probably pop in an order when my Karin Herzog runs out.
Kiehls Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado - £20 from Space.NK
If you follow me on twitter you will know about my love of avocados, I eat them just as they are all the time, can't get enough. So an eye cream with avocado in it? I suspect this will be too thick for my eyes, which is why I have held back until now but part of me really wants to just buy it to see.
So those are the items on my wish list, what do you have on yours?
What I Did by Christopher Wakling is the story of six year old Billy, who is having a grumpy day the same as his dad is having a grumpy day, while at the park he sees an opportunity for adventure and runs away from his father while he is on the phone and nearly gets run over. His father smacks him in his anger and his relief that Billy is unhurt, unfortunately for Billy and his dad a passer-by observes this event, reports his father for child abuse and the lives of the family are changed forever.
This is such a hard book to review as I had very mixed feelings while reading it, the concept was so interesting but reading it was like watching a car crash, I had very strong repulsive feelings while reading and I completely felt like I didn't want to keep reading. Being me, I have to finish anything I start, I know its stupid but I feel compelled to. It was definitely a weird feeling.
The novel is entirely told through Billy's perspective, and I really struggled with that. Having read Room and enjoyed it I didn't expect to find myself so frustrated by the child in this story, I found myself getting incredibly annoyed and angry with Billy myself basically because his childlike logic was so flawed, to the point where I felt like throwing the book across the room. That logic was basically that Billy's Dad had told him that the incident was over, in the past, and so Billy refused to tell the social workers what actually happened, but still told them enough for them to believe that he was being abused. Now I know I was a talkative child, so maybe a bit different, but even at six if I realised that things were serious and some scary grownups were asking me to talk I would have opened my mouth and talked for England.
Further frustrating is that the adults in the story didn't check all the facts, there is a moment where Billy is talking about his favourite David Attenborough documentary and the social worker thinks he is talking about being abused. I got so angry about that point in the story because a decent social worker would have profiled the child enough to realise that he was obsessed with David Attenborough documentaries and looked into wider possibilities for Billy's words. As someone who has studied child psychology (admittedly only at A Level) I know you have to think a little further outside the box when it comes to what kids say.
The ending of the novel actually turned out to be nowhere near as devastating as I had been imagining which was a huge let down for me, after persevering I wanted a strong conclusion, but the story was neither happy nor sad at the end, simply meh. The moral to the story lacked resonance because it was being taught to a six year old, if the voice of the novel had perhaps been Billy as an adult reminiscing on the impact his silence had on the situation, it may have felt more important, but as it was, the conclusion left me feeling quite empty of feeling.
Overall this book simply left me annoyed, which is disappointing because I wanted to love this book. I think if you are able to cope with being frustrated to the point of nausea while reading a book you could probably read this, but for me it was an incredibly difficult read!
Has pretty much been all about Pinterest. I officially have an addiction to scrolling the Home Decor section. We have had our offer accepted on the house we were looking at so my head is full of ideas for what we would like to do to it. No purchases are being made until we officially have the house but a girl needs to plan these things!!
Here are a few of my favourite pins from this week, you can see the rest on my "Home Stuff" board here
As you can see I have a bit of a thing for open shelving in Kitchens, and I am really loving the idea of Ochre yellow in the living room, but who knows what we will end up with eventually :)
What's your favourite home decor trend at the moment?
Did you watch The Bletchley Circle when it was on TV? I did, I was absolutely fascinated (and currently have season two, which aired last month, saved on my telly box to watch in one sitting.)
I had never, before the making of that television show, heard of Bletchley Park. I knew there had been code breaking as I knew that somewhere was a group of Brits that sussed out the Enigma Machine, but I didn't know that some of the code breakers had been women, and how bloody good they were at their jobs. Now to some, this may not be unusual as nothing at all was revealed about Bletchley until the 1970's anyway, but I am a librarian, and Bletchley Park was basically the beginnings of GCHQ, which is where librarians who want to be James Bond go to work, so for me not to know about this I felt like I had been living with a huge gap in my knowledge.
What happens when I find I have a gap in my knowledge? I go a little crazy trying to find out a whole lot of stuff about it, and that lead me to this wonderful book by Sinclair McKay. The Secret Life of Bletchley Park is most definitely a non-fiction work, describing what life was like while there, how the code breakers were recruited from the nations top universities, and how difficult life has been afterwards for the people who worked there, unable to share any of the information they gathered or even mention that Bletchley existed.
I am not going to sweeten this book up, it is a hard read, when I took this on I was not an experienced non-fiction reader and I really struggled to get into this as it simply didn't hold my attention at first. I remember sitting in my armchair exasperated thinking why do I need to know so much about each of these individual people's lives?!
This book is oh so worth persevering though, you need to know about those people because they are the ones who finally accepted they could speak up about Bletchley, and they passed on their knowledge before they passed away. As a Librarian (who, if you aren't aware, is essentially the preserver of knowledge for future generations) I struggle to not feel angry that so many of the people who worked at Bletchley still do not feel they should talk about it, and are letting a huge hole in our history stay covered up, I felt a deep pride for those people who have told their stories and allowed others to learn about their experiences so it did not take long for me to become engrossed.
Sinclair McKay took on a difficult subject, and though dry at times somehow he has managed to make it incredibly interesting, and I don't think that a better job could have been achieved. I could not wait to keep reading about the stages of the development of the Bombe machines, how close they were to cracking Enigma several times before the Germans got wise and upped their security. The tension of the time period is very accurately transcribed into the book, and by the end I was determined to go and visit Bletchley, something which is absolutely on my to-do list for this summer.
This has sparked a new interest for me, and the next book I fancy reading to do with Bletchley is Enigma by Robert Harris, a fictional take on code breaking, and I imagine that if you are not quite up to tackling the non-fiction Harris might be a good place to start for fictional renditions.
If you do fancy a challenge though I absolutely recommend you give this book a try.
I have a thing for wandering around the gardens of posh country estates. I know next to nothing about flowers (my poor much missed Grandad George is probably watching over us all absolutely appalled by this having been a gardener) but I do know that I love how they look, how they smell, and how they make me feel.
Different flowers invoke different feelings to me, and there is nothing I admire more during the misery of February than Snowdrops, their delicate stems that appear in swathes and brave the crisp winter winds remind me to persevere through the tough stuff to get the joyous outcome at the end.
This weekend me and James popped back to Doddington Hall, a new favourite place of mine to visit since my trip before Christmas. Their gardens officially opened on sunday for the season and their speciality is bulbs, every sunday they are open for you to wander around the grounds admiring the landscape and the beautiful views along with the pretty flowers as new varieties begin to appear.
Apparently, I had to post this last picture because James said it was the best thing we saw there, as Lister make old trucks. He will always choose engines over nature *sigh*
I am really regretting not just buying a season ticket for the gardens (£25), as I can see them being a new favourite haunt for the weekends. If you are nearby and fancy visiting it is £6 to get into the gardens, and when it is less wet there are hours worth of walks across the estate. The cafe is definitely worth wetting your whistle in too (best carrot cake I have ever eaten, no lie!)