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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Street Art In Blackburn.

Finding myself with an hour to kill in Blackburn on Friday, I decided to check out some of the stunning street art that adorns the Lancashire town. Blackburn Open Walls features both local and international artists , bringing creativity and colour to the lesser known streets of Blackburn. The initiative began in 2016 and new murals have been popping up every year since. I didn’t manage to find all of them, but here is a small selection I discovered before catching my train home.

Colourful Kingfishers and Girl by Mexican Artist Goya Torres ~ above archway by The Mall.
Connect 4 by Boo_Who_Up_North.
Couldn’t find any info on this one. Possibly The BFG ?
Bird Art by Curtis Hylton.
Probably my favourite of the street art that I saw. A giant duck by Curtis Hylton on the side of Bar Ibiza, Mincing Lane.
Not really part of Blackburn Open Walls, but seen on a cafe window ~ Exchange Coffee Company in Flemming Square.
Artwork by Blackburn based Alphahol.
A nod to Blackburns industrial heritage. A fantastical creature on a Loom by Sheffield based artist Phlegm.
Bees by Jerome Davenport ~ Australia.
Mural by London based Dale Grimshaw.
Found some more beautiful birds on a carpark wall, mostly obscured by vehicles though. Artist ~ Alexandra Gallagher.

I find myself wanting to hunt out the rest now. And definitely hoping more artists will add to these incredible street murals in 2019.

Do you have any street art near you?

February Flora and Fauna.

A wonderful few days weather wise. Enough sunshine to put a spring in everyone’s step.😁 Here are some camera shots.. and a few phone photos of birds and blossom taken over the weekend ,and when out and about late this afternoon. The sun shone, bees buzzed and I even saw my first butterfly of the year flutter by. All this as temperatures hit 20°c in February!

Rook.
Wild Plum Blossom.
Mute Swan Mum & Offspring.
Gorse in bloom.
Sika Deer in Brungerly Park.:)
White Butterbur.
Pussy Willow.
Hazel Catkins.
Moorhen.
Celandine.
Owl.
Fell Pony.
Blackthorn Blossom.
Meadow Pippit.
Canada Geese.
Crocuses.
Pack horse bridge. Spot Hugo taking a dip in the brook.

What early signs of Spring have you seen recently?

Sunday Sevens 24th February.

Last weekend I joined friends for a walk and Sunday Lunch. The part of the A59 that by passes Clitheroe has been closed at weekends due to the building of a new round-about ( much uproar from residents), so this normally extremely busy road is eerily quiet on a Sunday and you can walk down it ( or indeed sit on it) without being squished by on coming motorists. We managed to walk part of the way to the village of Worston along the road, pretending we were in a zombie apocalypse. 🙂

Meanwhile my other half was decorating the bedroom, and what a grand job of it he has made too. I am super impressed! We went for a teal, mustard and white colour scheme ,which is a change from the pale blue & white it was previously. If your interested, the wallpaper and paint is from Twitter Lane in Clitheroe, the bedding and curtains are from Dunhelm Mill and the free standing lamp is from Next.

At the moment myself and my work colleagues are experiencing an unsettling time at work. Our department will be reducing its hours to Thursday to Sunday in May. My current hours are Monday through Thursday. Oh dear! Anyway we have to apply for the weekend jobs in April ( if we want them) and by then we should also know if redundancy is an option. So it’s looking like come May, I will be either working totally different hours…or be jobless! Neither are a very pleasant thought. I’m going to make the most of my weekends whilst I still have them and am still earning money. 🙂

On Friday I visited Mum in Cumbria with my sister, niece and nephew. The weather was lovely so we had a walk up Askham Fell and made friends with the fell ponies. The sky was blue, the gorse was in bloom and smelt of coconuts.

And yesterday was even more Spring like in Lancashire. It was actually t-shirt and ice cream weather. Wil, Hugo and I did a 12 mile walk and discovered an old pack horse bridge. Long may the sunshine continue!

Thanks to Natalie at Threads & Bobbins for devising Sunday Sevens, a collection of seven or more photos from the last 7 days.

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?

Winter walk in the Centre of the UK.

This afternoon we donned our waterproofs and walking boots, packed a lunch and flask of coffee and headed to the centre of the UK !

The pretty village of Dunsop Bridge in the Trough Of Bowland is the nearest village to National Grid reference SD63770 56550 Hanging Stones. Apparently this area has been determined to be the exact centre of the country.

From the village car park ( £1.40 charge for four hours) we walked past the green and took the tarmacked track to the left of Puddleducks Tea Rooms and Post Office. From here we followed the lane through a couple of farm cottages and up through the valley as far as the water pumping station and back.

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Heading toward the Dunsop Valley.

Hugo really enjoyed dipping in and out of the brook and chasing sticks. 🙂

Meanwhile the weather was a mixture of sunshine and hale stones, plus it was blowing a bit of a hooley.

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I think the weather conditions frightened off most of the wildlife. I saw a few ducks and the odd pheasant. Lots of purple catkins on the alder trees gave the countryside a lilac hue.

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I think the scenery in the Trough is every bit as beautiful as in the Yorkshire Dales or the Lake District.

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We didn’t venture further than this water tower but I’m sure we will return one day soon and follow the lane up into the fells.

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We turned back and headed for Dunsop Bridge. This walk covered five miles in total.

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It was lovely to see bunches of wild snowdrops growing by the stream and dotted round the village. Hopefully Spring is on its way..

Have you been out and about this weekend?

Edinburgh.

When Wil and I visited Edinburgh recently ,we decided to leave be the usual touristy venues such as the Castle, the Camera Obscura, Mary Kings Close and the Scottish National Gallery. All these wonderful attractions are definitely worth visiting ( and we will again, I am sure), but we wanted to explore some other parts of this beautiful city.

The Scottish Capital has extensive parks, extinct volcanos, hidden bars, Harry Potter inspired locations and the most listed buildings in the world. Here are a few images from our trip.

View of Arthur’s Seat from Edinburgh Castle. The peak is an ancient volcano, sitting 251m above sea level.
A William Wallace performs on the Royal Mile.
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A fairy on the Royal Mile.
The colourful curving Victoria Terrace is full of quirky independent shops, and happens to be the main inspiration for Diagon Alley, apparently. J. K. Rowling lived and wrote in the city, so could indeed be true.

Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden is just one mile from the city centre, and well worth the walk, if your feeling active. I must admit I was dying to visit the ornate glass houses, of which there are ten. The Victorian Temperate Palm house below is one of the tallest traditional Palm houses ever built. Because it was quite nippy, it was nice to keep warm inside for a while, so I recommend a Winter trip. Look out for the Gardens cat, a handsome black Tom, called Milo. I didn’t manage to get a picture, but he’ll be the one being fussed over by the tourists. 🙂

You can enter the Palm House for free, and there is a charge to explore the other glass houses.
I think we are in the Cacti Glass House here.
There are lots of quite tame grey squirrels in the park.

From the Botanic Gardens it is a pleasant walk alongside the Water of Leith into Stockbridge, an area of Edinburgh with lots of green spaces and a friendly village atmosphere. It’s plethora of independent shops and cafes makes Stockbridge a great place to linger.

Entrance to Stockbridge Market, a popular Sunday Market.
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Little Free Library.,
A lovely independent bookshop we found called Golden Hare Books on St Stephen Street.
Golden Hare Books.
Cheese and wine in Smith & Gertrude.

Edinburgh is a walkers city! We followed the Dean Path along the waterside to the Dean Village, a beautiful Edinburgh suburb. An Instagrammer’s delight , the Dean Village is incredibly picturesque, but bring a picnic if your planning to eat here. There are no shops or cafes, though plenty in nearby Stockbridge.

St Bernard’s Mineral Well. A statue of Hygeia ` Greek Goddess of Health’ resides here.
Dean Village.
Well Court, Dean Village.

One place we reserved a table for dinner was ‘ The Witchery By The Castle‘ near the castle gates. Fine dining in a gothic setting, this restaurant may set you back a few quid, but it is in a very atmospheric setting and the food is mouth watering.

The Witchery By The Castle.
Dessert at the Witchery. Yummy!

We also discovered some almost hidden bars on our explorations round Edinburgh. Venture down any ginnel off the Royal Mile, and you will find a traditional real ale pub such as The Jolly Judge ( look out for the nearby Writers Museum) and The Jinglin’ Geordie. If your preference is cocktails, The Devil’s Advocate in the Old Town and Brambles in the New Town are both quite hidden from the hustle and bustle, but can get busy even so.

On the Sunday before catching our train home, we took a stroll up Calton Hill which is home to several skyline monuments. From here there are far reaching views over the city and some quite interesting structures, including a building that was once called ‘Scotland’s Disgrace’. It is in fact a half finished replica of the Athens Parthenon , a tribute to the fallen of the Napoleonic Wars. The money ran out and building of the National Monument was never completed. I quite like it though! Other iconic buildings include The Nelson Monument, The Royal Observatory and Rock House, which you can actually rent as a holiday let.

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Nelson Monument.
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Dugald Stewart Monument.
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Royal Observatory.

National Monument.

So there you have it, a weekend in Edinburgh.

Where do you like to visit in the city?

These are a few of my favourite things.

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