Saturday 20 January 2024

The Annual Book Round-up

 This year I set myself the target of 50 books and managed 66. As ever when I am stressed I read avidly, it is an escape mechanism for me, so the end of the year was bumper.

It's been another year of plenty of 'Meh' books from the Had it for ages but never got around to reading it book mountain which I vowed to make a dent in this time last year. To be fair, I did make a dent in it. I also got rid of some unread when I had the cull before we moved because I just knew having put them off this long, I never would get round to them.

My only Janaury resolution for this year (which was actually decided upon in October) is to read my bookshelves. I did toy with saying no buying new books for a year whist I cracked on with this, but realistically I knew I would break the resolution, becasue if nothing else, my favourite author Kate Morton has a new book out. (In fact I've already broken it becasue I bought Judi Dench's book on Shakespeare over the Christmas holidays!) So instead I decided I would endeavour to keep the buying of new books as minimal as possible during 2024...wish me luck.  

In terms of reading my bookshelves. I made the decision for two reasons, one because there were some books I know I will move on, but I wanted some time to either re-read or skim through them before I did, so they moved with me. Second there were books I have kept for years because I read them back when I bought them, loved them then, so kept them but have not looked at them again since. (Some have now moved with me 4 times now.) I decided to see if they deserve to remain.

I also had sets. My brother and I were discussing this, that we were the generation that if you were into an an author or a band you bought everything they put out, and kept it even if you hated it, becasue you wanted to have the complete set.

As you will see from the list below that was certainly the case for Denise Robertson! I'm pretty sure I bought 'None to Make You Cry' first, really enjoyed it and bought more, 13 in total! I kept 2.

I know my tastes have changed because as said above a few of the books on the list I know I kept because I LOVED them when I first read them, but this time round they just left me cold. To the point I was actually questioning my own taste. Case in point 'The Rose Tree'. I can remember enjoying it and indeed bawling my eyes out at the ending. Yet this time round I really struggled, I actually had to force myself to finish it and then thought why on earth did I cry at this??  

Anyway below is the list including my rating score. I'm already a couple of books into 2024's challenge of 55 books. 

I shall leave you with a tweet that I loved from a publisher who had asked the public for their ideas for a vampire story. The one they quoted was; A woman deliberatly gets bitten by a vampire just so she can live forever and finally get through all the books in her 'to read' pile.  

Through the Keyhole: Sex, Scandal and the Secret Life of the Country House Susan Law 3

Fire Woman:The Extraordinary Story of Britain's First Female Firefighter Josephine Reynolds 2

The Wild Silence Raynor Winn 3

The Haunting Season:Ghostly Tales for Winter Nights Various 3

Mrs Benson’s Beetle Rachel Joyce 4

Nöthin' But a Good Time:The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion Tom BeaujourRichard Bienstock 3

Kitted Out: Style and Youth Culture in the Second World War Caroline Young 4

One more Croissant for the Road Felicity Cloake 3

Miranda’s Big Mistake Jill Mansell 1

This Much is True Miriam Margolyes 4

The Pathfinders: The Elite RAF Force that Turned the Tide of WWII  Will Iredale 3

Again Rachel Marian Keyes 3

Watchmen Alan Moore 2

The Fair Botanists Sara Sheridan 1 

Sisters in Arms:The Women Who Flew in World War II Helena Page Schrader 4

The Family Remains Lisa Jewell 3

Forever Home Graham Norton 2

The Dress Diary of Mrs Anne Sykes Kate Strasdin 4

Bleeding Heart Yard Elly Griffiths 4

Landlines Raynor Winn 3

The Newcomer Fern Britton 1

The Garden by the Sea Amanda James 2

The Bullet That Missed Richard Osman 4

Under a Cornish Sky Liz Fenwick 2

Lessons in Chemistry Bonnie Garmus 3

Yorkshire Women at War:Story of the Women's Land Army Hostels Marion Jeffries 2

Daisy Jones and The Six Taylor Jenkins Reid 3

A Spoonful of Murder J M Hall 2

A Pen Dipped in Poison J M Hall 3

V E day Russell Miller 2

Gatsby's Oxford:Scott, Zelda, and the Jazz Age Invasion of Britain:1904-1929 Christopher Snyder 2

Art Deco House Styles Trevor Yorke 4

A Brief History of Tea Roy Moxham 4

London Shopfronts Emma Page 3

Ravenmaster Christopher Skaife 3

Victoria Wood the Authorised Biography Jasper Rees 3

Pirates and Privateers Tom Bowling 1

Denim and Leather:The Rise and Fall of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal Michael Hann 3

Fred and Eddie Jill Dawson 3

Serpents in Eden: Countryside Crimes Martin Edwards 3

A Pin to See the Peepshow F. Tennyson Jesse 3

The Last Remains Elly Griffiths 4

The Lost Bookshop Evie Woods 4

Murder at the House on the Hill Victoria Walters 2

Murder at the Summer Fete Victoria Walters 2

Murder at the Village Church Victoria Walters 2

The American Airman in Europe Roger Freeman 4

Blood and Fears: How America’s Bomber Boys and Girls in England Won their War Kevin Wilson 3

The Anxious Heart Denise Robertson 2

The Land of Lost Content Denise Robertson 2

None to Make You Cry Denise Robertson 4

Irish Girls About Town: An Anthology of Short Stories Various 2

Girl’s Night In Various 1

Twenties Girl Sophie Kinsella 2

A Vintage Affair Isabel Wolff 3

The Cruellest Month Hazel Holt 2

The Rose Tree Mary Walkin Keane 1

The Second Wife Denise Robertson 3

The Stars Burn On Denise Robertson 2

Remember the Moment Denise Robertson 1

A Relative Freedom Denise Robertson 2

Act of Oblivion Denise Robertson 3

Daybreak Denise Robertson 2

Wait for the Day Denise Robertson 3

Illusion Denise Robertson 2

Larksleve Patricia Wendorff 2

Sunday 14 January 2024

December Round Up - Exhibitions, Friends and a lot of Eating!

 Hello and a very Happy New Year to you all. 

I had hoped to post a little earlier than this but January is always crazy busy for work and after a day glued to the work laptop I'm only too happy to get away from the screen and spend my evenings knitting/sewing and watching TV!  

For someone who wasn't hugely looking forward to Christmas this year December actually turned out to be a lovely and very busy month. It turns out I started as I meant to go on by meeting my friends Simon, Liz and Carole for lunch. Carole has had some health and mobility issues so Liz kindly hosted us as she lives closest to the station. We had delicious homemade soup and bread, followed by mince pies (also homemade) with clotted cream, all washed down with plenty of prosecco. We also got to meet one of Liz's new rescue dogs Mabel (so called because she has no teeth and is very nosy so Liz felt she needed an old lady curtain twitcher name.) She is an absolute sweetie. The other Sky had to temporarily go back to the animal shelter because it turned out they had missed she was pregnant! They had mixed up her notes with her mother's apparently (she was rescued with almost 100 other dogs from appalling conditions.) At that point she had just given birth, cue much oohing over adorable puppy pictures. Liz will collect her again when the pups are weened and Sky has had the snip. It was lovely to catch up and the afternoon was gone in a flash.

I got home and finished writing my Christmas cards. I was trying to do them super early as quite a few people were not aware we had moved. I also put up my tree and got some of the snowmen out of hibernation. Himself and I had decided not to do presents this year. Moving had made it only too clear just how much 'stuff' we already have, I saw no reason to add to it all just for the sake of having something to unwrap. 

My proviso was that Himself would still buy me my Rupert annual. I've had one every year since I was born (about 40 years worth are currently stored in my Mother's loft!) Himself took on the tradition from my Dad who took it on from my Nan who bought the first one when I was just 5 months old.

Of course we both broke our promise, but we didn't go mad. In my case I tried to made sure everything I bought him was either useable/needed like shower gel or edible/drinkable like posh coffee and beer. I did also impulse buy a board game based on St Ives and a lovely limited edition print of St Ives from an artist at the Christmas market in Oxford. 

The 2nd weekend in December saw the annual Christmas tree festival in our neighbouring village.

 Thankfully the rain paused on the Sunday so we headed out for a walk late afternoon to get there as it started to get dark.

It was beautiful, I love how many people get involved and the advent of solar powered lights meant you came across trees in very random spots, like this one sitting in the middle of a field!

The 12th December was our team Christmas lunch followed by a quiz. This year we went to the newly opened Cosy Club in Oxford.

I fell in love with the Deco style sunburst chairs. We were greeted by one of the staff who said there were a few parties that day so they hoped we didn't mind but we had been moved to the private dining room.

As you can imagine we didn't mind at all! Full of food and drink we headed back to work for the annual Christmas quiz written and hosted by my boss, he's a big fan of both quizzes and Christmas so takes it very seriously. It's great fun though, involving several other departments and lasts most of the afternoon. My team didn't win. I didn't go on to the pub afterwards as the trains had been all over the place with last minute cancellations and services ending early, I wanted to make sure I could get home. 

On the 14th I meet my friend Franzi after work for 2 for 1 cocktails and dinner. Franzi and I used to work in the same 'pod' in our team. We had a good bitch about work and caught up on news over Last Mango in Paris cocktails in The Lighthouse and a burger at GBK.

The 15th was the staff Christmas party at work. I haven't been for quite a few years now, I've never been a fan of enforced jollity, but this year I decided to go for once. I actually had a good time but left before the end, partly because I had had enough by that point and partly as someone mentioned there were yet more issues with the trains. Sure enough I got to the station to a tranch of cancellations and delays so was glad that I had left when I did. 

The 20th December I met my friend Charlotte in London for our long overdue visit to The Fashion and Textile Museum's exhibition The Fabric of Democracy. We were meant to go in October but the move put paid to that. On first glance I thought wow this is a small exhibition, but once you start going round it is exactly the right size. Any more would detract from the power of the message. It was fascinating and thought provoking. I was completely absorbed.

We left the Museum and found a little Italian where we tucked into bowls of freshly made pasta with tomato and aubergine sauce - Yum! We were going to mooch along the river to Covent Garden but ran out of time so settled for a browse around Borough Market and a huge cinnamon bun from one of the stalls for dessert.

Himself and I called in on Nephew Number One and his partner on the 21st to drop off presents and have a catch up on news. It was a lovely evening but we didn't stay too late as we were all working the next day.

On the 23rd Soo came over to have a catch up and exchange pressies. I showed her round the house first as she last saw it full of boxes and muddy footprints! We the headed out for a walk and a pub lunch. Stuffed full we waddled back and had literally just sat down with a cup of tea when my Mum arrived. Himself and I were going to stay with Mum for a couple of days, so once Soo left we jumped in the car to Mum's. As ever we were fed to within an inch of our lives whilst there. 

As we pulled into the drive there was a stunning rainbow or nacreous cloud over the village, so Himself and I both shot out of the car to take a picture.

On Christmas Eve we had a lazy start to the day. The weather was pretty miserable but we decided to take a chance and go out for a walk. We started at the church (seen above) so Mum could show us her handiwork, she does church flowers, then took a big circuit around the village. We were at the far end of the village when the rain really started to come down fortuitously The Lamb pub was in sight so we stepped in for a drink or two until it eased enough for us to head home to cook dinner. 

Christmas Day was another lazy start, we weren't due at my brother's until the afternoon. We drove over calling in here first to drop off our bags which would mean Mum could leave when she was ready too and we would walk home later. My brother had cooked a delicious dinner so again we ate and drank our fill. Mum did well and lasted until 8.30pm before she took herself home, we stayed until about 10.30pm before heading home. Himself had imbibed well so disappeared to bed as soon as we got in, but I sat down and let myself remember and miss my Dad at his favourite time of year.

Boxing Day we just slothed at home as Himself was back to work on the 27th. I on the other hand was off and had plans. On the 27th I jumped on the train to Oxford to meet Soo. We had tickets to see the Colour Revolution exhibition at The Ashmolean Museum.

Step into a revolution of colour and dispel our monochrome idea of Victorian Britain

Rediscover Victorian society as a vibrant colour-filled era – from dazzling dyes used in chic corsets, bold experiments by avant-garde painters, and the flamboyant use of nature's beauty in jewellery.

As Britain’s industrial revolution gained pace, new scientific breakthroughs allowed the Victorians to become increasingly revolutionary in their use of colour, with new hues greeted with both excitement and suspicion. This explosion of colour was embraced by artists, designers and many others in all walks of 19th-century life.
The exhibition includes fashion pieces – from Queen Victoria’s monotone mourning dress to the most daringly vivid clothing and accessories – and works by artists including Millais, Ruskin, Rossetti, Turner and Whistler, as well as objects from around the world and some of the earliest colour 'photograms'. It reveals the vital role that colour has played in shaping our art and culture and offers a rare opportunity to see some of these objects on public display.

It was such an interesting and well, colourful exhibition. I loved the mixture of clothing alongside the usual paintings and sculptures I'm used to from the Asmolean. 

We all know what this feels like!

It was pouring with rain when we left the museum so we decided to the Indoor Market and try Georgina's for lunch. I love it there, it's a tiny Greek cafe that has been there for donkeys years and does amazing food so it's always packed, luckily we nabbed the last table. After eating our fill we mooched some of the shops which were doping a brisk trade despite the weather.

On the 28th I popped down to my brother's house so Caron could give my hair a much needed cut and colour. From there I headed to the station and into Oxford again. This time to have a long overdue reunion drink with some girls I used to work with. Megan has moved to Scotland but was home visiting her parents for Christmas, Daniella and Franzi have both moved to different teams at the Business School but Daniella is also currently on  maternity leave. 

I arrived first only to find the pub we had planned to meet in was randomly closed. Thankfully the one around the corner was open so I dashed in there, as ever the weather was terrible, and messaged the others. Where would we be without mobile phones?

Daniella arrived first but couldn't stay for long as she had to meet her Mum and head home to her baby. Megan got there shortly after but frustratingly Franzi's train was delayed so Daniella had to leave before she arrived. We have been trying to get the 4 of us together on and off all year and every time something conspires against us. Anyway we three had a lovely catch up and took a quick selfie before Daniella left.

Franzi finally arrived. We were having such a good time we decided to get some dinner so we could carry on. I sent Himself a quick message to fend for himself when it came to dinner and we walked up to Ask Italian. We ended up sitting there chatting until they were ready to close!

The last few days of the year were spent pottering and doing housework. That's my December. I'll be back with the annual book round up very soon.