Saturday 30 September 2023

September 2023

We had a heatwave at the beginning of September. It was quite unexpected after the mixed summer we've had this year but it was nice to get some good weather at last, especially as autumn has now brought cooler temperatures with it.

The weather perked up just in time for my birthday on the 3rd. It fell on a Sunday so we booked a table for a lovely Sunday lunch for the six of us at a very popular pub less than five miles from home which I mentioned when I wrote my post about St Mary's Church, Lead. Afterwards it was all back to our house where we enjoyed the sunshine in the garden, ate cake and ice-cream, and played games. I can't think of a better way to celebrate my birthday. I received some wonderful gifts, a few of which are shown above. Some more books to add to my classics collection from family members. The note book, yarn and chocolate were from my lovely friend, Maggie, who blogs at Black CountryWench. The notebook is lovely, it's one of those with the loose cover so that the book can be replaced when full. Thank you Maggie, such a lovely gift. I also received perfume, a new case for my iPad and lots of chocolate amongst other things.

We don't visit Lotherton as often as usual during the summer months as it's much busier when the schools are on holiday, but come September, we're back to our usual walks. The red deer have lots of fawns in their herd at the moment so are rather skittish but this beautiful girl was very inquisitive and wanted to know exactly what we were doing. Archie's happy to be back walking at Lotherton too, his favourite place.

I've read five books this month.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte.

"This sensational, hard-hitting and passionate tale of marital cruelty sees a mysterious new tenant at Wildfell Hall, Helen Graham, unmasked not as a 'wicked woman' as the local gossips would have it, but as the estranged wife of a brutal alcoholic bully, desperate to protect her son.

Using her own experiences with her brother Branwell to depict the cruelty and debauchery from which Helen flees, Anne Bronte wrote her masterpiece to reflect the fragile position of women in society and her belief in universal redemption."

Anne Bronte wrote only two novels before her untimely death at the age of twenty-nine. I read Agnes Grey last year and enjoyed that so I decided to give her other book a go.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall reads as two books. First of all there's the story of Mrs Graham, a mysterious widow who has come to live at Wildfell Hall, a dilapidated mansion which has stood empty for years. She becomes the subject of neighbourhood gossip but Gilbert Markham believes none of it. She eventually gives Gilbert her diary to read and this is where the second story takes over.

Dealing with themes such as domestic violence, mental cruelty and alcoholism, Anne Bronte touched on subjects which were considered taboo and many now consider The Tenant of Wildfell Hall to be one of the first feminist novels.

I loved this book, I read it much quicker than I expected as I just didn't want to put it down. It's so sad that Anne died at such a young age, she was obviously a talented author and I'd have loved to read more.

The Year at Thrush Green by Miss Read.

"Following a bitterly cold snap in January, winter at Thrush Green turns into a beautiful spring and a series of local dramas takes hold of the village community. Plans for the village fete are hotting up, the illness of Mrs Peters at the Fuchsia Bush restaurant makes the future uncertain for its staff, and problems concerning the Rectory Cottages prove difficult to solve.

Meanwhile, the arrival of a stranger from America excites much interest and curiosity - who is this blond giant, and what effect will he have on the village?

Set against the changing seasons, exquisitely observed, The Year at Thrush Green is a rural delight."

This is the penultimate book in the Thrush Green series. Written month by month, Miss Read takes us through a full year of all the happenings in the village. One of the wonderful things about these books is how the changing seasons are observed, and as the story takes us through the calendar year, we get to see the changes in nature which each month brings through the beautifully descriptive writing.

Just one more Thrush Green book to go, I'll be so sad when this series comes to an end.

Someone Else's Shoes by Jojo Moyes.

"Meet Sam...

She's not got much, but she's grateful for what she has: a job she's just about clinging on to and a family who depend on her for everything. She knows she's one bad day away from losing it all - and just hopes today isn't it...

Meet Nisha...

She's got everything she always dreamed of - and more: a phenomenally rich husband; an international lifestyle; but...she's just been locked out of all of it after her husband initiates divorce proceedings...

Sam and Nisha should never have crossed paths. But after a bag mix-up at the gym, their lives become intertwined - even as they spiral out of control.

Each blames the other as they feel increasingly invisible, forgotten, lost, and desperately alone.

But they're not.

No woman is an island. Look around. Family. Friends. Strangers. Even the woman you believe just ruined your life might turn out to be your best friend. Because together you can do anything - like take back what is yours..."

I reserved this book a long time ago at the library and finally got to the top of the list. I didn't even know what the book was about when I reserved it but I didn't care. I've read every one of Jojo Moyes' books and there isn't one that I haven't enjoyed. I suppose other people feel the same because it's taken a heck of a long time to get to the top of that library list.

Jojo Moyes comes up with some great storylines, her books are never 'samey', she's very original and this is why I look forward to her releasing new material. She also comes up with great characters who you always end up rooting for.

Another great book and another I'd definitely recommend.

Three Sisters by Heather Morris.

"Their story will break your heart
Their journey will fill you with hope
Survival would be their victory

When they are young girls, Cibi, Magda and Livia make a promise to their father: that they will stay together, no matter what. Years later, at just 16, Livia is ordered to Auschwitz by the Nazis, Cibi, only 19 herself, follows Livia, determined to protect her sister, or die with her. Together, they fight to survive through unimaginable cruelty and hardship.

Magda, at only 18, stays with her mother and grandfather, hiding out in a neighbour's attic or in the forest when the Nazi militia come. Eventually she too is captured and transported to the death camp. In Auschwitz-Birkenau the three sisters are reunited and, remembering their father, they make a new promise, this time to each other: that they will survive.

Three Sisters is a beautiful story of hope in the hardest of times and of finding love after loss, based on the incredible true story of the Mellor sisters, as told to Heather Morris."

I've read books by Heather Morris before and this one is just as harrowing. It's so hard to imagine the atrocities which were committed in the concentration camps. This story, and others like it, are important because we must never be allowed to forget.

This book is so well written and I like the fact that a good proportion of the book is about the lives of the Three Sisters after their time in Auschwitz-Birkenau, how they got their lives back on track and the obstacles they had to overcome. I know not everyone likes to read this genre of book but it's definitely one I'd recommend if you do.

How To Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie.


Meet Grace Bernard.

Daughter, sister, serial killer...

Grace has lost everything.

And she will stop at nothing to get revenge."

I'm sure you can guess by the title that this is quite a dark book, but written very tongue in cheek and with humour. There are some rather long chapters where the story seems to drag a little but it did keep my interest. I'm in two minds about the ending though, on one hand I found it a little lazy but then on the other, it's quite inspired. Contradictory I know. All in all I found it a good read, something a little different from the books I usually pick up.

We said goodbye to a very dear family friend this month. Although she'd been poorly over the last couple of years, her health had improved somewhat and so her death came as quite a shock. Apparently, she'd left detailed instructions on how she wanted her funeral to be carried out and so her family knew exactly what she wanted. We found this bookmark on our car when we left the crematorium.

Strictly Come Dancing is back on our screens and what a great start to the series we've had. There's some fabulous dancers this year, hard to guess who will still be there at the end. Once again, I'm joining in with the Strictly Sockalong which is being held on the Little Drops of Wonderful podcast. This is the sixth year that I've joined in, with those taking part knitting socks whilst watching the show, though of course, cheating is encouraged so I may end up knitting the socks at other times too.

As we head into October, it's all about preparing for winter. We haven't succumbed and turned on the heating yet but I doubt it will be long before we do. I don't enjoy the colder months of the year, and as the clocks go back at the end of the month, the nights will be drawing in too which is something else I dislike. I don't have anything planned for the month ahead so let's see what it brings.

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Our Staycation

Mick took a week off work in August. Well, it was over a week really as he'd taken the Friday before off too and the August bank holiday was tagged onto the end, so he actually had eleven consecutive days off. We'd been umming and ahhing about whether to go away or not but at thirteen, Archie is really starting to struggle. He's healthy enough but very slow now and he definitely can't walk as far as he once could so we have to be mindful of his limitations. He always goes on our days out with us but a long day can wipe him out, so we tend to give him a bit of a rest the day following a full day out. In the end we decided to stay at home and have a staycation instead, going off for days but coming home again afterwards. It meant that it wasn't quite so full on for Archie and I have to admit that I do like my own bed so this suits me.

You'll have already seen my posts It's Scarecrow Time Again and Derbyshire Well Dressings, about the places we visited on the Friday and Sunday, so following a long day out we decided to stay closer to home on the Monday having a few hours at Cannon Hall in South Yorkshire before Mick and I had a meal out at a local pub in the evening while Archie relaxed after his walk.

On the Tuesday, following a more restful day for Archie, we had another full day out, this time in Chester. I've wanted to visit this city for a long time but I have to say that I was rather disappointed. The architecture is amazing, especially around The Rows with the Tudor style half timber buildings but many places we saw were so run down and frankly dirty, including areas around the river. I had imagined Chester to be comparable to York, though smaller, but what we saw definitely wasn't. Don't get me wrong, York certainly has its run down areas too, but on the whole, the touristy areas at least seem much better kept. It looks like Chester needs a bit of money spent on it and a some TLC. A bit of a shame but you can't win them all.

After a very long day we decided to give Archie a full day at home on the Wednesday to recover. It was a bit of a rest for us too if I'm honest, it was nice not to rush out of bed and get out the door.

We love the Yorkshire coast so no staycation would be complete without a trip to the seaside. We chose Saltburn-by-the-Sea, a small resort which still retains its olde worlde charm. It was a lovely day, not hot but warm enough and very still, so we enjoyed some time on the beach and Archie enjoyed a paddle. We stopped off in Pickering on the way home to have a meal in the pub we'd hoped to visit on Mick's birthday. They do the most amazing Yorkshire puddings with various fillings, Mick opted for beef. I confess it's just too big a meal for me so I had something a little lighter.

It was a slower start on Friday so that Archie could recover from his exertions of the day before. At lunch time we headed to Helmsley, a market town in North Yorkshire. Helmsley has a fabulous walled garden as well as castle ruins, neither of which we visited on this trip, but Friday is market day so we did have a wander around the dozen or so stalls and a mooch around the lovely independent shops. It's such a pretty village, we always enjoy our visits.

Mick was playing cricket on the Saturday so Archie and I stayed at home and then on the Sunday we ventured over to the east coast again, this time to Flamborough where I'd heard that seals were visiting. There were actually a great many seals that we could see, some sunning themselves on the beach and rocks and others frolicking in the sea. Everyone was being very respectful and viewing from the cliffs, leaving the seals to enjoy their visit without any kind of harassment. 

We ended our staycation with a trip to York on the bank holiday Monday. Although we visit often we love this city as it's close to home so we can be there and parked up in less than half an hour, and looking round the independent shops, visiting the historical places or taking a walk along the river are enjoyable ways to pass a few hours. We ended our day, and staycation, with an ice-cream, which Archie got his fair share of.

Mick's debating whether to take another week off work but the weather's holding him back at the moment. We've had quite a bit of rain and there's more forecast so he's just waiting to see if some better weather returns first. We usually get some fine weather in autumn so we may be lucky.

Sunday 10 September 2023

Derbyshire Well Dressings

I'm going back now to August when Mick has his time off work. On the Sunday during his holiday we decided to have a drive into Derbyshire. This county has a custom which is known to be at least 300 years old, probably more, well dressing. The Peak District is made up of limestone areas where water seeps away through fissures in the underlying rock and there are few streams. Wells formed from springs and this encouraged people to set up villages nearby. The tradition of well dressing, or adorning the wells with flowers, appears to have evolved as a way of giving thanks.

The displays are made from a clay base with flowers and natural materials pressed into it. We managed to find three villages which were having their well dressing celebrations during the week we visited. Other villages have their well dressings at different times of the year.

Foolow well dressing theme this year is Foolow Wildlife. They selected some local fauna and flora in celebration of the natural world around the village.

You can see on this close up of the bullfinch how the picture has been created with flower petals, feathers, greenery, bark, lots of different natural materials. It's so clever how they're made.

We then visited Barlow where there are three wells dressed, the Valley Rise Well, the 'Main' Well and the 'Small' Well. The first well we came to was the Main Well and the theme of the display was Fragile World.

The theme of the Small Well, known locally as the Children's Well, was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The third well, or Valley Rise Well, is commemorating the coronation of King Charles III.

Blackwell is a hamlet along the road to Taddington and their well dressing sits in the corner of a field belonging to a farm house. The theme here is caving, a very popular pursuit in the Peak District because of the limestone hills, there's plenty of caves to explore.

Onwards to Taddington, their theme was 'Unique to the Peak' highlighting some of the things which make the Peak Park a special place. Taddington's village fete was in full swing as we arrived, there was a brass band playing and stalls a plenty and we had a lovely time looking round.

We had a lovely day out, something a bit different from the norm. If you'd like to read more about well dressings, I wrote a post about our visit to the Tissington Well Dressing back in 2019.