Tuesday 31 March 2015

March Books

March saw a total of 7 books finished, making me 8 ahead of schedule in my 2015 GoodReads challenge to read 52 books.

(March also saw the month I remembered to photograph some of the covers (unlike last month) but completely forgot to take a picture of all the books together...)
Shiverton Hall by Emerald Fennell

Shiverton Hall by Emerald Fennell

I picked this up because I recognised the name as the actress who plays Patsy in Call the Midwife (who was quite the socialite in her younger days apparently!). Shiverton Hall is a boarding school with a violent past which is uncovered gradually throughout the book with all sorts of demons and ghosts being thrown in along the way. It's written for children but is actually rather gory in places (graphic descriptions of people vomiting up their own intestines for one). I did think it was quite good though, well written and easy to bring the storyline to life - just the sort of dramatic plot a lot of children seem to enjoy but equally a quick and entertaining read for grown-ups.

Shiverton Hall: The Creeper by Emerald Fennell

Shiverton Hall: The Creeper by Emerald Fennell

The second in the series by Emerald Fennell, this one sees more adventures with ghouls and poltergeists and a plotline which develops a bit further with Arthur's background and his relationship to the owner of the hall. Just as good as the first book, possibly a bit better as there's more depth to the story and to the characters. I imagine there's going to a third book at some point as there's a few ends that were left open for the future.

Sew Over It by Lisa Comfort

Sew Over It by Lisa Comfort

I picked this up from a charity shop in Bath for 50p after spotting the Sew Over It brand on a few other different blogs. I don't think it's really aimed at advanced sewers (which is good because I'm definitely not that) but there's a good lot of information and ideas of ways to transform clothes and alter things. When I get my sewing and craft area tidied up I'm going to read it properly alongside my sewing machine and random bits of fabric.

This Old Thing by Dawn O'Porter
I watched the TV programme when it was on last year and thought it wasn't too bad (admittedly Dawn can get a tad annoying) but I did like the transformations they did to some of the vintage clothing. This book accompanies the show but it's a bit thin on the ground when it comes to actual instructions and ideas for what to do with your vintage and retro bits and pieces. Instead there's lots of advice about how to find and look for vintage clothing and how to identify things but it all seems a bit well, fluffy.

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

This is the next book for the Bloggers Book Club (as organised by Alice and Jenny, we're chatting on 16th April via Skype so I think there might still be time to join in, give them a shout on Twitter if you want to know more - Jenny is here and Alice is here). It's a collection of essays and short stories written by Marina Keegan, a Yale graduate who was killed in a car accident 5 days after her graduation ceremony. It's got quite a cult following after one of her essays was published in the Yale Daily News and then her parents collated lots of her other work together into the book. I thought some essays and stories were better than others and the ones that were good were very well-written. Others were okay but well, maybe it's just me but while you're reading it you can't help wonder all the time whether it would have become quite so famous if she hadn't passed away. There's no doubt she's a good writer but I'm not so sure she's a spectacular writer. Interestingly I thought it was also noticeable how many of her stories featured death in some way.

More Than This by Patrick Ness
I have to confess I must be one of the only people in the country who didn't really like The Knife of Never Letting Go. I read it when it was first published back in 2008 when I was working in my local library and spotted in arrive in the new stock boxes. I just really didn't get on with his style of writing and so never wanted to read the other two books in the trilogy. Anyway, despite not liking the author's other work, I thought the storyline of this one sounded intriguing - a boy dies at sea, being smashed onto some rocks only to wake in a strange new (apparently) desolate land. Is this the afterlife or something else entirely? Without spoiling the plotline, when you realise where exactly he is, it's certainly an interesting premise and one that actually makes you slightly paranoid for a short while. The world he wakes up in is very well-described and one of the only main downsides to the plot is that the twist in the tale is revealed about halfway through, which of course makes you think "well, how is the rest of the book going to pan out then?"

Martin Harbottle's Appreciation of Time by Dominic Utton

Martin Harbottle’s Appreciation of Time by Dominic Utton

I just snuck this one in, finishing it this evening. It's a series of letters and emails sent between Dan (who works at the Globe newspaper) and Martin (the managing director of Premier Westward trains, the line which Dan travels every day). Dan decides that every time his train is late, he'll write a letter to the managing director which lasts the equal amount of minutes. Through these letters we see Dan's home and work life slowly unravel and become more complicated. The idea of the letters is based on the authors real life blog documenting his complaints to First Great Western. I'm not sure how much of the storyline is based on the author's life but the trials and tribulations of Dan's work life very closely mirror the rise and fall of a certain tabloid Sunday newspaper a couple of years ago. It's quite a fun read even if Dan's style and tone of writing do seem a bit grating at times!

Monday 30 March 2015

This Weekend at the Duckpond

We have mostly been...

Getting - a bit of a trim. The last time I had my hair cut was the week before I broke my ankle, back in September and it's become a bit straggly and flat since then. I kept meaning to get it done but hadn't got round to it and then I found out a couple of days ago I'd been given an interview for a job I'd applied for (Wednesday morning, it's a similar role but the next grade up in a different department at the same workplace) so I thought I'd better try and get it smartened up a bit.
Stuck - in traffic queues in and around Bridgwater, on our way to Minehead to see the Spring Steam Gala at the West Somerset Railway. I knew Bridgwater had ongoing roadworks but we naively assumed they wouldn't be that bad. 45 minutes later in a queue that hadn't really moved much, Andrew did a three point turn and we headed to Minehead via Taunton instead. I did spot these lovely blossom trees while we were waiting though!
Blossom trees in Bridgwater

Enjoying - the steam engines in Minehead, once we finally arrived!
West Somerset Railway Spring Steam Gala

West Somerset Railway Minehead turntable
Meeting - up with both sets of parents for a meal on Saturday evening. All the family go to Minehead each year to see the trains and we all usually end up at Wetherspoons in the evening for food and a chat.
Baking - a cake to take out with us on Saturday. I went for a Pear and Almond Pudding Cake - quick and simple and also easily transportable!
Pear and Almond Pudding Cake
Repairing - a fence panel which had blown over in the wind and rain yesterday morning. It was pretty rotten weather all day long so it was definitely a day for doing jobs in the house rather than outside.
Collecting - a few books from the library; a couple of reserved ones, some extras that were just lying around waiting for me to pick them up and a map of Anglesey for our Easter holiday (not that we really need one, this'll be the 29th year in a row I've been up there for Easter).
Library books

What did you get up to at the weekend?

Sunday 29 March 2015

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

It's been six months since I took these pictures and only now, have I actually got round to editing them and writing a review. Pretty poor by anyone's standards, especially mine!
We visited The Lost Gardens of Heligan on 6th September, the same day we went to see Kneehigh Theatre's show, Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs). Our theatre ticket included entry to the gardens so we went along a couple of hours in advance to have a wander and explore.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - plant pots

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - bird house

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - Italian patio

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - sleeping woman
Despite visiting Cornwall rather a lot (with a sister in law living there it's hard not to) Heligan is somewhere I've never been to. I first heard about the gardens in a roundabout type of way in the late 1990s; I was (still am) a little bit obsessed with Kneehigh Theatre Company and when the Eden Project was being built, they were involved a bit with the artistic side of it. So naturally I wanted to find out all about this magical new place called Eden (if it was something Kneehigh were involved with, it had to be good). Of course, once I'd read up on Eden, I realised that the guy behind it all (Tim Smit) was the same guy behind The Lost Gardens of Heligan - which sounded equally delightful. I said back in about 1999/2000 that I should visit and well, I suppose it only took me 14 years to do it!

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - Tim Smit's words about the place taken from the book

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - wheelbarrows
The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - benches

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - sunken footpaths

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - tall trees

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - the toolshed
The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - well

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - conservatories
Heligan is a botanical garden estate, originally created by the Tremayne family from Cornwall in the mid 18th century. After the First World War the gardens fell into disuse and were only re-discovered in the 1990s when Tim Smit and his team took it upon themselves to bring them back to their former glory. It's a bit of a magical place, with landscaped gardens, secret passages, woodland trails and a farmyard.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - woodland trail sign

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall
The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - Dirty Daz the sheep

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - Dirty Daz the sheep

You're allowed to wander around in your own time although I could see how it would be quite easy to get lost. We almost ran out of time doing the woodland trails bit and ended up missing out a section near the entrance. That was probably because we spent far too much time peering at the Emus though.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - emu

Andrew grew up with an (cuddly) emu at home and then I bought him one for his 30th birthday, seven years ago which he absolutely loved. 

Emu toy

The Heligan estate had emus back in the 1920s and they used to roam around the grounds freely. I love the old photo of them, you can just see one of the birds scarpering on the right hand side.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - emu photograph from the 1920s
The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - emus Queenie and Edmund

These two were Queenie and Edmund, probably grandchildren of the original ones but they seemed pretty happy. I have to say though they did remind us remarkably of this…


As I said, we almost ran out of time and had to look round the vegetable garden really quickly which was a bit of a shame as it's easily one of the most spectacular areas of the Heligan estate. Established in the Victorian era as a production garden, it's been lovingly restored to supply heaps of heritage fruit, vegetables, salads and herbs and they try and use as many things as they can in their restaurant on site.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - vegetable garden

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - vegetable garden

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - vegetable garden

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - vegetable garden

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - conservatories

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - vegetable garden

Speaking of which, the food there was very tasty indeed. I'm not sure what it's like the rest of the year round but during the Kneehigh Theatre Asylum season they'd laid on a special menu for theatre-goers. I had a pulled pork bap and Andrew had a cheese and tomato pizza/quiche thing followed up with lemon drizzle cake and toffee cake. The salad though - look…all the colours!

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - pulled pork roll

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - cheese and tomato pizza/quiche

The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall - lemon drizzle cake and toffee cake
Obviously I'm going to say Heligan is well worth a visit but if you fancy combining culture and vegetables and feeling very high-brow for a night, then Kneehigh Theatre's Asylum is back at the Lost Gardens this summer. The show this year is '946', based on the Michael Morpurgo children's book 'The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips' set on the sands of Slapton, Devon during 1944.
It's on from July 25th to August 23rd most nights (plus some matinees) and tickets are available from the Hall for Cornwall box office. If you're in Cornwall this summer and want something to do for an evening, it might well be something worth considering.

Friday 27 March 2015

What Duck Wore...Thrifting Bargains

I'm one month behind in doing my whole "one outfit post every month" thingy for my 33 before 33 list. I think I'm going to blame the lack of decent daylight and busy weekends.

Green dress
I've picked up a few interesting little things from charity shops recently (if I can get away with December as "recently") and also took part in Janet and Steph's Big Blog Clothes Swap the other month so here's a bit of a roundup of bits and pieces. Some of them need a bit of alteration but nothing that can't be done at some point with my trusty sewing machine and a mug of tea.

This little dress is a modern one by TU at Sainsbury's and was a bargain £3.99 from a charity shop in Bath. One of those dresses you try on and then a little smile appears on your face at just how perfect it is.

TU by Sainsbury's flowery dress

Even though I tried in on in the shop though, I didn't actually notice there was a little button missing from the front but that's no bother to fix really. I've even worn it to work a couple of times and no-one's noticed yet anyway!

This one was picked up in a charity shop in Bath the other week. I love the colour of it and the pattern and I picked it off the rail to look at and then put it back because green isn't really my colour. It was such as lovely shade though and I loved the neckline on it; it was also Berketex and £8.99 so I thought well, what the heck, I'll try it on just for fun anyway.

Berketex green dress

In the mirror though, it didn't actually look that bad, which is quite amazing as like I said, it's not often I can pull off a green colour. I'd like to take it up a bit though as I think it would look slightly better if it was shorter but that's a job for another day. It also has the coveted 'Made in England' label!

This top and scarf were part of the fab package Janet sent me for the Big Blog Clothes Swap. I love Breton tops but don't actually own any, there's always a bit of me that remembers it being drummed into you as a teenager - "stripes make you look fat" - so I've never actually bought one.

Breton top and scarf with Lucky Dip Club brooch

This fits me perfectly though and I went for a casual look when we went out to see one of the Bath Lit Fest talks the other week. The jeans are just an old pair I've had for a while, the scarf is thrifted via Janet (White Stuff originally) and the brooch is fabulous sparkly heart from a Lucky Dip Club box.

This dress I actually picked up just before Christmas in a charity shop in Trowbridge, Wiltshire. It's supposed to be floor length I think but even so, on my 5ft 4in frame it's just a tad too long and needs taking up a few inches.

Long black dress

I do think it's fab though, it was one of those items that look a bit frumpy on the hanger but when you put it on, looks so much better and a lot more structured. There's no name on the label but it does say 'Made in England' and puts me in mind of something a bit early 1980s.

And lastly (not clothing) I've seen a few different bloggers make outfits based on the patterns from the Sew Over It shop and then in a charity shop in Bath I found this gem peeping out from the shelves for only 50p.

Sew Over It book

I do feel quite inspired to get making and crafting but the first thing I need to do it dramatically sort out my crafting area. At the moment, my sewing machine is rather buried under a large amount of detritus from Christmas and my birthday last December!
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