Sunday, 27 August 2017

Photo An Hour: Saturday 26th August 2017

I remembered Photo An Hour two months in a row - hooray! It's a rare occurrence for sure. Last year I missed it, but in August 2015 I was at my mum's for Photo An Hour with Thomas, who was playing in a football tournament and opening his birthday presents. 

This year? Sunshine, cat time, an afternoon jaunt to Rugby, and lots of food. Oh, and I had problems with both my camera memory card and my iPhone Photo Stream, which means that some of the pictures here aren't the ones that I Instagrammed. Oh well.
A slow start to the day. Missy very kindly allowed us a long lie-in before coming to ask for her breakfast.
After spending an hour cleaning the house, we rewarded ourselves with banana pancakes with lashings of the maple syrup my uncle brought us from Canada last month when he came for the wedding.
I've finished cleaning the bathroom; now it's time for a shower. 
Obligatory Photo An Hour picture of my outfit. Today it's a thrifted midi skirt, Primark tee, Fuck The Tories necklace and my favourite Make Zines, Destroy Fascism tote bag, because I'm never subtle in my politics or my fashion.
My photo for 1.30pm - some plants on a stall in Rugby market - has disappeared entirely. So onto 2.30pm, when we'd just bought a bargain Ercol chair and were browsing the secondhand books in British Heart Foundation.
A late lunch at the Bacco Lounge in Rugby. The Lounge chain have a reliably great vegan menu and often seem to have venues in smaller towns where otherwise we'd struggle to find vegan food - that being said, I am eating an extremely non-vegan steak & cheddar ciabatta here!
Complete lack of inspiration for a photograph so it's the Insta-cliche of my feet. I am so completely in love with my new tan Saltwater sandals.
Home after a diversion into Home Sense just outside Rugby that yielded some Orla Kiely bedding and the best smelling scented candle ever (Olivia Black Wild Pumpkin & Nutmeg). Excited about my bargain finds (and trying not to think about the £££ I've spent), it's time to find the new chair a home, and it fits perfectly into the office/craft room at the back of our house. 
Ok, I know I'm biased, but isn't this the most beautiful cat?! She sometimes holds her pose so nicely while I take a picture, like she's auditioning for America's Next Top Cat Model.
Neither of us are hungry yet (well, we did have lunch at half three after all) so we're using the time wisely and making a start on thank you notes. The beautiful linocut cards show our ceremony venue and I fortuitously stumbled upon them in a bookshop this week. We're saving them for our families: everyone else gets the beautiful Thank You stationery designed by my cousin, who also made our invitations.
Oops, missed a few hours there! We had dinner and watched Jonathan Creek, then spent a while messing about staring at our phones in an annoying manner, before coming to bed to read for a while.

Monday, 21 August 2017

A Short Break In Wales

As we're still waiting for our wedding photographs to be ready, I thought I'd start at the end: with our post-wedding trip to Wales. Unfortunately, we were both in the opening stages of the virus that's been kicking my ass for the past couple of weeks, so it wasn't quite the romantic mini-break we'd envisaged. Rather less champagne-on-the-veranda and more catarrh-on-the-sofa, but we still had a lovely time.

We started off with a night in Hay-On-Wye, Wales' official book town and somewhere I always enjoy visiting. We'd booked into Radnor House B&B and would heartily recommend it: a reasonable price for an insanely luxurious room in the centre of Hay, and the most incredible breakfast (French toast for me, a vegan fry-up for Thomas).
We spent some time on Thursday afternoon and again on Friday morning pootling around the town, popping into all of the (many) bookshops and picking up some bargains. I usually visit Hay during the festival, and it's always nice to see the town a little calmer and quieter (albeit lacking the exciting buzz of festival time). 

Having struggled to find vegan options for Thomas on Thursday, it was a relief to stumble upon the marvellous vintage shop/independent makers' marketplace/vegetarian cafe/venue space at The Old Electric Shop. Fully fed and watered, we set off to drive to our final destination on the west coast of Wales.
A three hour drive later and we were in Aberporth. I'd read about Wendy, the vintage train carriage-cum-holiday let located on the cliffs at Aberporth clifftop, years ago on Gemma's blog and had bookmarked it because I knew train-mad Thomas would love it. By some strange quirk of fate, the usually fully-booked carriage happened to have two nights free the weekend after the wedding: it was meant to be!
Wendy was just as charming as I'd expected, full of cute vintage details that had Thomas fantasising about living in a train carriage full-time (two days later and the reality of being a 6'4" man in a small space had sunk in and he wasn't so keen!).

After a week of rain, Saturday dawned bright and sunny and we took advantage of the weather to walk the coastal path - which runs directly in front of Wendy - to the nearby village of Tresaith for lunch at The Ship Inn. The coast of west Wales is just stunning, reminiscent of Cornwall at its finest (although with significantly fewer crowds), and the stretch from Aberporth to Tresaith shows it off at its best. After a pint or two, we retreated back to Wendy and spent the afternoon reading some of our Hay book haul, log burner lit for extra cosiness.

It was a lovely few days away and just what we needed after the wedding. And although it's a shame neither of us were well, it does give us a good excuse for another honeymoon!

Friday, 18 August 2017

What I've Been Reading Recently

July and the start of August haven't been great for reading: in July I was mostly incredibly busy and stressed with wedding and family stuff, and almost immediately after the wedding I fell ill and still haven't properly recovered. As a result, I've mostly been rereading for comfort - lots of Miss Marple mysteries and the whole Georgia Nicholson series - with a small sprinkling of new release thrillers and dystopias.

Deon Meyer
Rating: ****
When I was at school we read Z For Zachariah and I was completely absorbed by its presentation of not just the dramatic events, but also the minutia of daily life and survival after a nuclear incident. Fever provides something of the same reading experience, dealing as it does with the establishment - by narrator Nico Storm's father, Willem - of a new settlement in the South African Karoo desert following a disastrous global pandemic. There is a refreshing focus on the mundane realities of survival, from planting crops and building irrigation systems to producing diesel from sunflower oil. The challenges of not just scraping by, but building a successful community, are made clear to the reader without the narrative ever feeling bogged down with detail. Excitement is provided by the regular incursions by groups of piratical raiders on motorbikes known as the KTM, and the battle scenes have a harrowing realism. Meanwhile, tension is derived from the fact that reader, from the first few pages of the book, knows that we are building to the murder of Willem Storm. Meyer is best known as a writer of Cape Town-set police procedural thrillers (which are, in my opinion, criminally under-read outside of his native South Africa) but this departure into dystopian post-apocalypse fiction is hugely absorbing, combining Meyer's knack for characterisation with his ability to pile on the narrative tension.

No Dominion
Louise Welsh
Rating: ****
Welsh's Plague Times trilogy has been a timely and inventive example of post-pandemic fiction, spreading the action across three books of varying tone: the first book in the series, A Lovely Way To Burn, was a masterful murder mystery-meets-disaster novel and introduced us to the character of glamorous TV presenter Stevie. The second, Death Is A Welcome Guest, followed stand-up comedian Magnus' attempts to get out of plague-hit London and to his  childhood home of Orkney. No Dominion is the final book and opens ten years down the line, with Stevie and Magnus both on Orkney, where a settlement of survivors has been established with Stevie as president. The teenagers of the settlement, however, are getting antsy and difficult (as teenagers do), and when a group of new arrivals turn up, events are set in motion which mean Stevie and Magnus have to leave the islands and head to Glasgow. Essentially a dystopian road trip novel, No Dominion was grippingly brilliant and it was a real pleasure to be back with the characters of Stevie and Magnus. As is typical of the road trip genre, there's an episodic nature to it which I thoroughly enjoyed (with their encounters at the castle of Lord Ramsey being a particularly enjoyable episode, with what I assume was a deliberate take on Game Of Thrones as modern dystopia).

True Love At The Lonely Hearts Bookshop*
Annie Darling
Rating: **
Verity Love, our titular heroine, is a vicar's daughter. We know this because we are told it repeatedly, in lieu of providing her with an actual personality. She's also an introvert, something that we're again repeatedly told - with introversion presented here as a pathological condition unique to our heroine, instead of a way of being for approximately 50% of the population, Seriously, there's even a whole scene where she solemnly sits the hero down and explains this terrible affliction called introversion. She has a cat, likes Jane Austen, and is so much a romantic fiction stereotype that I wanted to scream. Anyway, one day she has a meet-cute with handsome architect Johnny which leads, inevitably, to a summer of being each other's dates at various weddings, baptisms, bar mitzvahs, etc. Love, of course, ensues. As does boredom, on the part of the reader at least. Romance is not a genre I know particularly well but one author I do like and respect is Sarra Manning, so it was on her recommendation that I decided to read True Love At The Lonely Hearts Bookshop. After this experience, I think I'll accept that romance isn't my genre and move on.

The Good Daughter*
Karin Slaughter
Rating: ****
I'd been craving a properly involving, gripping thriller that wouldn't make me shout in frustration at ludicrous plot twists or grit my teeth at sympathetic depictions of police brutality, and The Good Daughter ticked all my boxes and then some. Slaughter's standalone novel, set in smalltown Georgia, is on the surface about two tragedies within the community - a family attacked 30 years ago by masked gunmen, and a subsequent school shooting in the present day - but it goes much deeper than that, asking challenging questions about guilt, complicity, family and trust. Refreshingly for a US crime novel, the town police are portrayed not as highly trained investigators who'll always save the day, but as bumbling at best and trigger-happy at worst, while the central characters are all entirely believable and utterly sympathetic.

* This title kindly provided for review by the publishers via NetGalley

Monday, 14 August 2017

I Have A Wedding Hangover

Our leftover confetti, as seen the next morning when we went to clear up

I have the hangover from hell: a wedding hangover.

Two weeks ago today was the day Thomas and I had spent the previous three years planning and now I'm looking around my house, empty at last of wedding supplies, and feeling a bit empty myself.

Because it turns out that all of those old cliches are true.

It will go by in a flash.

Enjoy every moment, it goes so fast.

It's the best day of your lives.

This last I had been especially resistant to in the run-up to the big event. "Best day of my life," I scoffed, "I like to think my life is more interesting than one in which participating in an ancient patriarchal ritual is the best day I ever experience."

Well, don't I have egg on my face. What I should have realised was that, for us, the ritual isn't what makes it the best day ever, but the people who came to participate in it.

I can't properly describe to you how beautiful it was when I looked around the room and saw my family, who'd travelled from five different countries, the Nijmegen gang who'd decamped to Leicester for the weekend, Thomas' Scottish friends & family, and my local pals, all gathered together to celebrate with us. It's humbling to be faced with such love and affection: people who care so much about our stupid selves that they travelled hundreds or thousands of miles to share in our joy.

I'm tearing up writing this, realising that never again will that strange, wonderful combination of people come together, never again will we get to experience such a special day. So my advice to anyone planning a wedding at the moment? It will go by in a flash, enjoy every moment. And it is the best day of your lives.

Note: many more wedding posts to come, don't worry! (She says, as if you're all so desperate to read more of me boring on about it. Well tough cos I'm gonna). But I'm really sick at the moment so it'll have to wait until I'm better.