Category Archives: reading

Books I read in January and February.

This year I am hoping to read 40 Books, a total I have set myself on Good Reads. I thought if I write a short description of each on my blog, this might encourage me to keep up with the challenge 🙂

The Black House ~ Peter May (2011). This is the first book in a bleak murder mystery trilogy set on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. My other half came across the series after we holidayed on another Hebridean Island North Uist last year. Fin Macleod is a homicide detective who returns to his childhood home of Lewis to investigate a grisly murder. Bereft by a recent personal tragedy of his own, Fin jumps at the chance of spending some time on the island. But as the detective hunts for the murderer, he finds himself being hunted too. The Black House flits between the past and the present and paints a picture of a rugged island with troubling secrets. I’m eager to delve into the next instalment. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

How to Be an Urban Birder ~ David Lindo ( 2018). I love how enthusiastic the author of this informative birding guide is. After seeing him promoting the book on Breakfast telly, I was delighted when Wil bought it me for my birthday back in November. Lindo’s motto is ‘Look Up!’ and this is certainly as true of our towns and cities as anywhere in Britain when it comes to spotting birdlife. If you imagine that urban buildings are cliffs ( they could be homes to peregrines) and rooftops are viewing platforms ( excellent bases for watching migrating species) then you get the idea. This book covers the best locations to look for birds in towns and cities and is packed full of photos , illustrations and useful tips.⭐⭐⭐⭐

The prime of Miss Jean Brodie ~ Muriel Spark ( 1961). I picked this renowned Scottish Classic up whilst away for a weekend in Edinburgh. Jean Brodie is an unconventional school teacher in 1930s Edinburgh. In a subtle almost sinister way she sets about grooming six of her pupils to become almost mini clones of herself. The book was made into a 1969 film starring Maggie Smith. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Dear Mrs Bird ~ A J Pearce ( 2018). Ahh I loved this story, set during blitz torn London in World War 2. Perhaps my favourite of the books I’ve read this year so far. Our heroine is Emmy who takes a job as a newspaper reporter , but due to a misunderstanding she is actually employed as lowly assistant to no nonsense ( and very unsympathetic ) Agony aunt Mrs Bird. Emmy takes it upon herself to answer the letters Mrs Bird discards. A light hearted but also sometimes heart breaking read. I hope there is a sequel. ❤️⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock ~ Imogen Hermes Gowar ( 2018). Who can resist a novel with mermaid in the title. Not me! A lonely childless widower and a high class ,but down on her luck courtesan’s paths become entwined, through the discovery of a mermaid. This is a discriptive historical novel set in 18th Century London , with a scaly touch of the supernatural. Although I was eager to see how the book would end, I did not find myself warming to the characters, some of whose stories seemed to end… unfinished. ⭐⭐⭐

Nightingale Wood ~ Stella Gibbons ( 1938). It seems that the esteemed writer of Cold Comfort Farm actually wrote shelve loads of books, most out of print until recent times. Nightingale Wood is billed as a modern version of Cinderella ~ modern in the thirties that is, when it was written. Viola is our Cinderella, a young widow now living with her stuffy in-laws. Her father in law rules the roost and his two daughters are dying of boredom. One wants a dog and the other wants the chauffeur. Viola herself falls for a dashing young man who lives in the big house through the woods, but his intentions arent exactly honourable. This book isn’t just a fluffy love story, it’s an observation of how the restrictions of sex and class in the thirties shaped everyday life. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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A Bird And A Poem ~ Magpie.

Returning to a blog post series I began twelve months ago, I’m posting a bird photo, along with a corresponding poem from this lovely book The British Museum Birds. Each poem in the anthology is matched with a gorgeous illustration from the British Museums vast collection of artworks. Today I’ve chosen a poem by W. H. Davies entitled Magpies.

In the book the poem is matched with this beautiful Chinese woodcut on paper, entitled Magpies and Plum Tree by Ding Liangxian.

Magpies

I have an orchard near my house

Where poppies spread and corn has grown ;

It is a holy place for weeds,

Where seeds stay on and flower, till blown.

Into this orchard, wild and quiet,

The magpie comes, the owl and rook:

To see one magpie is not well,

But seeing two brings all good luck.

If magpies think the same , and say,

Two humans bring good luck, not one’ –

How they must cheer us, love, together,

And tremble when I come alone!

W. H. DAVIES ( 1871 -1940).

England.

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Hello Mr Magpie!

Are you one of those crazy people ( like me) that always greets solitary magpies? I don’t think I’m a superstitious person, but I still find myself calling ‘ Hello Mr Magpie’ when I see one perched alone, cackling at me from a tree. P1000445

It is amusing to think that the magpies cackle may be a greeting to a solitary human too.

Are you superstitious about magpies?

Haworth ~ A Rainy December Walk and a Wander up the Cobbles.

Sunday mornings unpromising weather predictions didn’t put us off our intended trip to Haworth. Our plan was to take a walk from the town, over the surrounding moorland to Top Withens . The wild location of the ruined farmhouse is thought to be where Emily Bronte pictured ‘ Wuthering Heights ‘ in her novel.

We put Hugo in the back of the car, picked up my sister and niece and made our way to Yorkshire, wind screen wipers on the go. Amazingly the rain seemed to clear up once we arrived in Haworth. A walk over Haworth Moor was still on the cards.

Raincoats on, we set off from the Brontë Village Car Park, and would you know it within five minutes, the weather could definitely be described as wuthering! We were blown past the ‘Literary Landscape Sculptures’ two sets of five stone books peering up from the heath. The sweeping rain prevented me from getting any photos. At this point we decided to only walk as far as the Brontë waterfalls, and save Top Withens for another day.

The Brontë Waterfalls lie some 2•5 miles over the moor. A well trodden path leads all the way there and is clearly signposted too, surprisingly in Japanese as well as English. Described by Charlotte Brontë as ‘ a perfect torrent racing over the rocks, white and beautiful’ the falls on Sunday were definitely more of a trickle than a torrent. However the setting is lovely, even on a dreich December day. As yet,shades of copper bracken add colour to the rugged scenery and a babbling beck gives drama to the landscape. You can see why the Brontë siblings enjoyed walking here.

Below the falls a stone footbridge known as the Brontë Bridge crosses the stream and the path continues onwards towards Top Withens. We posed in the rain for a quick selfie and were soon joined by a group of hardy ramblers who chose this glorious spot for a lunch break. It was amazing how many other walkers we had seen along the way, despite the dreary weather. Our tummy’s rumbling and feeling rather like drowned rats, we decided to retrace our steps back to Haworth, where the promise of a hot meal somewhere warm and dry beckoned.

Haworth is definitely somewhere that feels incredibly festive at this time of year. After warming up in a welcoming ( and dog friendly) cafe on Main Street called The Cook House, we went for a wander along the cobbles, listened to Christmas carols, visited some lovely independent shops and found a bustling Christmas market in Central Park.

I’m sure we will return in the Spring, for another stride over the Moors, in the footsteps of the Bronte’s.

Sunday Sevens 18th November.

It’s a Sunday Sevens Birthday Edition!

I booked a week off work ~ you have to when it’s your birthday don’t you….

Anyway here are a few pictures from my week.

We spent last weekend at a mates Holiday Cottage in Ravenglass, a small seaside village on the Cumbrian coast. We were joined for two nights by some friends as well, and it was great to spend time with them. 😁

The cottage looked out across the Estuary and my God daughters enjoyed looking for ‘treasures’ on the beach. This anchor was a bit big to take home with them though!

The cottage was packed to the rafters with owls! They were everywhere. In the beams, on the walls, on the windows….

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A favourite tipple of mine this week was a Edinburgh Rhubarb & Ginger Gin Liqeur served with Gingerale. 🙂

Birthdays mean books! I received these three as presents and I’m excited to delve into them. 🙂

This week I got to make a chocolate bar and a box of chocolates at The Chocolate Works in Clitheroe. Definitely a scrumptious idea for a Girls Night out. 🙂

And I wasn’t the only one with a Birthday! Hugo’s pal Mick the Greyhound had a 3rd Birthday Party at his humans house. Oh my! If you can imagine five Springer spaniels, two greyhounds, a beautiful collie and a naughty black labrador all running riot ( whilst getting on amazingly well ~ Phew! ) in your home for two hours, you’ve got the picture. 🙂 They were a lot easier to entertain than children anyway. 😉 Hugo loved it!

Afterwards I got to party in town with my chums!

Thanks to Natalie at Threads and Bobbins for devising Sunday Sevens.

Hope you had a good week.

The Tolkien Trail On A Rainy Day.

Typically, the day we chose to walk The Tolkien Trail dawned damp and grey, a Ribble Valley rainy day. 😐 These kind of drizzly conditions are always a hit with our labrador Hugo though, so we didn’t let them dampen our spirits. Waterproofs on, we set off on our trek through boggy fields, and some of the loveliest countryside in Lancashire, unfortunately obscured by rain clouds.

Writer J. R. R. Tolkien often stayed in the area. He was writing Lord of The Rings , whilst visiting his son who attended Stonyhurst College. He and his family regularly stopped in the grounds of this stately pile, which became a boarding school in 1794 . I have no doubt the author, when out walking in the surrounding woodland and river meadows , drew inspiration from the lush greenery and rolling hillsides of this unspoilt part of Lancashire.

The route we took.

We had with us a walking guide book which contained a map and instructions for our route. Unfortunately after parking in the pretty village of Hurst Green and walking up the long drive to Stonyhurst College, we came face to face with several Private No Entry signs. Aaagh what to do! It turns out the guide book was written in the nineties, when maybe you could walk right up to the front of the building. After much discussion we decided to chance it and follow the route as it is written. Luckily it was such a miserable day that there was nobody about to challenge us!

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Cemetary on the way to Stonyhurst.
Sir Richard Shireburn started building Stonyhurst in 1592. Oliver Cromwell visited once , commenting that it was the ‘best half house’ that he had ever stayed in.
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There are two small lakes at the front of the college and lots of water fowl.

I didn’t manage to get very many photos of Stonyhurst, as I have to admit being a trespasser didn’t really help me on the photography front. 😗 Happilly we were soon back on track, heading through fields with Pendle Hill supposedly on our right, hidden in the clouds.

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Shy Roe Deer.
Woodland.
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Cromwell Bridge, also built by Sir Richard Shireburn. Legend has it that Cromwell’s troops crossed it at the time of the Battle Of Preston.
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Trespassing again! Hugo on Cromwell Bridge.
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Wood Anemone flowering next to the bridge.

The rivers Hodder, Ribble and Calder can all be found in the locality. Perhaps they were the inspiration for the fictional rivers of Brandywine, Shirebourne and Withywindle.

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We walked through Winkley Hall Farm.
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Farmhouse.
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Blackthorn in blossom.
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Saw lots of clumps of primroses.
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Tree Person…..perhaps?
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The point where the waters of the Hodder unite with the Ribble.

A good portion of the walk is on the riverside and at one time a Boat House housed a ferrymen who would take travellers across the Ribble between Winkley Hall and Hacking Hall below. Soon the river Calder also joins the Ribble as it curves through the countryside.

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Hacking Hall.
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Following the Ribble.
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Pussy Willows.
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Goosander. 🙂
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Hobbit Hill.

In the distance we spied the glamping cabins of Hobbit Hill perched above the valley. I wondered if anyone was staying there and if they too would try out the Tolkien Trail. Check out their website for a more up-to-date version of the walking route.

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A house called Jumbles.
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An aqueduct over the river.

Eventually the footpath passes through woodland again and then through a very muddy meadow , before we arrived back in Hurst Green. There are a couple of nice pubs in the village. One is called The Shireburn Arms and is named after the man who built Stonyhurst College and Cromwell Bridge, Sir Richard Shireburn.

Continue reading The Tolkien Trail On A Rainy Day.

Hawthorn’s Photo Scavenger Hunt ~ March.

It feels good to join in again with Hawthorn’s Photo Scavenger Hunt this month. Heres what I came up with for the prompts.

Hole. I guess the most famous hole in Clitheroe ( teehee) is the one in the front of our tiny Castle Keep. Local legends to how it got there include Oliver Cromwell fireing a cannonball from Pendle Hill. Even less likely, the devil himself flung boulders at Clitheroe Castle, also from the top of Pendle. Which do you think?

Making. I attempted to make some Chocolate Truffles from my Eat What You Watch ~ A cookbook for Movie Lovers cookbook. They ended up looking more like onion bhajis! But they do taste like chocolate truffles. Success! The recipe is inspired by Vianne’s chocolate creations in the sweetly sensual film Chocolat starring Juliette Binoche and a yummy Johnny Depp. Well worth a watch by the way. 😊. These truffles are very rich though, I can only manage one with my mug of coffee..

Reading Now. You may be shocked to learn that I have never watched Star Wars! Yet I am reading this book by Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher. From what I have read so far she was one very funny, bat crazy, inteligent and gutsy lady. Enjoying it so far. Oh yes I know, I am still using my snowflake duvet set. Hopefully this is not a future weather prediction!

Black & White. Last weekend we met a llama and some alpaca on a walk to a local village. This black & white llama was definitely the most inquisitive and demanding, he came trotting over when he saw us stop at the fence. Wil gave him a bit of loose hay, then he tried to chomp my rucksack! I do love llamas though and a couple of years ago I dragged my family on a llama Trek in the Lakes.

Starts with an H. Well I just had to include a picture of our gorgeous Hugo for this one didn’t I. I think he is as much a part of this blog as me really. 🙂 Hugo is a three year old black labrador and we have had him since he was a wee pup. I definitely have a thing about labradors now as before Hugo there was Jake, who came with Wil ( his faithful shadow) when I met him. They are such a loyal , loving , mischievous breed of dog. I can’t imagine life without a labrador.

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My Own Choice. The bright sunshine we have experienced recently has certainly brought out my blogs namesake, these cheery celandines. 😊

Happy Easter guys. Have a fantastic weekend.

A bird and a poem ~ Little Egret.

A few weeks ago I couldn’t resist buying a little book of poetry from a book fair that I came across. The anthology is full of beautiful poems about…..birds. And each one is paired with a gorgeous illustration. The book is actually a collection of stunning avian art works that can all be found in The British Museum. It is therefore called The British Museum Birds and if you find a copy, I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do. 🙂

Anyway I thought it might be a nice idea to pair the poetry in the book with my own photographs on here occasionally. Though I am cheating a bit today as these pictures of a Little Egret were taken by my other half on our walk by the river Ribble on Saturday. I think its quite unusual to see egrets inland, but this one has been spotted here in Clitheroe a few times recently.

The illustration in the book is Egret On Willow In Snow , a hanging scroll painting on silk by Oda Kaisen ( 1785-1862).

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Snow

In the gloom of whiteness,

In the great silence of snow,

A child was sighing

And bitterly saying : ‘ Oh,

They have killed a white bird up there on her nest,

The down is fluttering from her breast!’

And still it fell through that dusky brightness

On the child crying for the bird in the snow.

Edward Thomas ( 1878-1917)

Little Egret. Photo Credit D Wilson.

Sorry the first poem I included is quite sad. But I hope you liked it anyway. X