Tuesday 31 October 2023

October 2023

October has seen autumn settle in. The temperature has dropped, the trees are beginning to change colour, some dropping leaves, and nature's bounty can be found in the hedgerows. We've had all kinds of weather, some beautiful sunny autumn days when it's a joy to be out and about, but storms have also hit the UK with devastation for some including, very sadly, loss of life. It's that time of year when we just never know what we'll get.

We've tried to make the most of the good weather when we've had it this month with a few outings, though we've stayed closer to home rather than taking long drives. Mick had a week off work in the middle of October and we spent a lot of it at home just taking some time to recharge our batteries while getting some outside jobs done ready for the winter months, amongst a couple of trips out. One of the places we visited was Knaresborough, a market town in North Yorkshire, about twenty miles from where we live. The photo above shows one of the Town Windows. Many windows in buildings were blocked to avoid window tax or incorporated in the building's design to provide symmetry. Artwork has been installed on many of these panels around Knaresborough which illustrate characters and events from the town's history. I keep saying that we'll visit one day with the intention of seeing how many we can find, but we haven't done this yet. You do see them all over though as you wander around.

I've read seven books this month.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

"Lewis Carroll's anarchic, disturbing and boisterously funny Alice stories, conjured up one afternoon to entertain a young girl, are a unique blend of wordplay, logic, parody, puzzles and riddles.

Their dream worlds of nonsensical Wonderland and the back-to-front  Looking Glass kingdom depict order turned upside-down: a baby turns into a pig, time is abandoned at an unruly tea-party and a chaotic game of chess makes a seven-year-old girl a Queen. But, amongst the eccentric humour and witty conundrums, are poignant moments of nostalgia for a lost childhood."

Actually two books in one as Through the Looking Glass is also included in this edition. I'd never read about Alice's adventures before, though I think most people know the general story. A perfect tale for children and adults alike, lots of word play and general nonsense. I have to say that I dream exactly like Alice, I wake up feeling shattered! I rarely read books with pictures these days but the story was punctuated with forty two illustrations by John Tenniel which I enjoyed. A true classic.

Christmas at Thrush Green by Miss Read.

"The villagers of Thrush Green celebrate Christmas in a way that has hardly changed over the generations, Children eagerly hang up their stockings, families go to church together - and when the snow arrives, it seems as if Christmas will be perfect this year. But not everything is as peaceful as it seems.

Phyllida and Frank have their work cut out when an outbreak of chicken pox disrupts preparations for the Nativity play. The indomitable Ella Bembridge has been behaving strangely, much to the concern of her friends. Then there are the Burwells, newcomers to Thrush Green, who cause a stir with their meddling and their tasteless Christmas decorations. And Nelly Piggott, owner of The Fuchsia Bush tea shop, receives an unexpected letter that sends her into a spin.

Full of nostalgia, warmth and brilliant characters, Christmas at Thrush Green is a truly festive treat."

Sadly, this is the final book in the Thrush Green series. I was sorry when I came to the end of the Fairacre series and didn't think I'd enjoy Thrush Green as much but I have. I do have to say that I was very disappointed in this book though. Billed as a Miss Read book, Dora Saint, who wrote under the pen name of Miss Read, was 96 when this book was published and it's stated at the start of the book that although the initial idea and developing storyline was discussed with her long-time editor, it was actually Jenny Dereham and not Miss Read who put it into words, and you can tell. When you've got to know the characters through a series of books you get to know the way they talk, the way they think even, and definitely how they'd behave in certain situations, and unfortunately, many of the characters just didn't ring true.

I'm sad to say this but if Miss Read was unable to write the book herself, then it should have been left well alone. It's a sorry end to a brilliant collection of books.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.

"Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing.

But it's the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute take a very unscientific view of equality. Forced to resign, she reluctantly signs on as the host of a cooking show, Supper at Six. But her revolutionary approach to cooking, fuelled by scientific and rational commentary, grabs the attention of a nation. And soon a legion of overlooked housewives find themselves daring to change the status quo. One molecule at a time."

I'd seen such good reviews of this book that I couldn't resist picking it up when I saw it in The Works. I'm glad I did as it deserved every one of the reviews I'd read.

Going back to the 1950s and 60s, this book highlights the plight of women, not only in science but in all sorts of different situations at that time. I loved Elizabeth Zott and what she stood for, in fact we're introduced to many wonderful characters but my favourite has to be Six Thirty, the dog. The book was witty but also sad in places too, and the story has a tidy ending. One of my favourite books of the year, I'm not surprised that it's being made into a TV series.

From a Far and Lovely Country by Alexander McCall Smith.

"Mma Ramotswe's birthday was not going to go entirely unmarked and there was the additional prospect of tea with a slice, or even more than one slice, of Mma Potokwani's justly celebrated fruit cake. There is always a silver lining, thought Mma Ramotswe - or almost always. The trick was to recognise the silver lining when it came. That was what needed to be done, Sometimes you had to look quite hard and the silver lining might not appear until rather late in the morning, as was the case that day.."

This is the twenty fourth book in the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series and I've read and enjoyed every one of them. Set in Botswana, a country I know little about, I love the feeling of the slow pace of life and learning about this country's customs. 

These books fit into the cosy crime genre but really, it's like catching up with old friends when you sit down to read the latest instalment in this series.

A Merry Little Christmas by Julia Williams.

"As the festive season ends in the village of Hope Christmas, what will the new year bring?

With four children, a Christmas cookbook to write, and her mum suffering from dementia, Cat Tinsall has plenty to juggle. When her eldest daughter, Mel, starts going off the rails, Cat has even more on her plate.

Pippa Holliday adores her family although often finds her hands full. But when her husband, Dan is involved in a terrible accident, Pippa's world is turned upside down.

Balancing her job as a school teacher with twins and her stepson Steven isn't easy for Marianne North. With her husband's ex causing trouble, life is getting even trickier.

As Cat, Pippa and Marianne help each other through a difficult year, they're all hoping for a much brighter Christmas."

Too early for a Christmas story in October? I don't think so. I've got a few Christmas books to read this year so I thought I'd start sooner rather than later. I received this book as a gift from my lovely friend, Lisa, in our Twelve Days Of Christmas 2022 swap, a gift swap we've been doing for the past ten years, and over those years I think I've received a book to read as one of the gifts every year, and I think I've sent Lisa a book to read every year too.

This was an easy read about three families who live in a village called Hope Christmas. I wouldn't say it's a story about Christmas other than the ending being at Christmas time, but it was enjoyable and I whizzed though it. I had the feeling that there may have been more books about the village before it and on checking afterwards, found that this is the second in a trilogy, but it certainly stood up to being read as a standalone book. Perhaps I'll look for the other two.

Strictly Christmas Spirit by Helen Buckley.

"From disco balls to Christmas baubles...

Ex-dancer Emily Williams turned her back on the sparkle of popular dancing show Strictly Dancing with Celebs to help those in need. Now the only dancing she does is teaching lonely pensioners to waltz, and the closest she gets to disco balls is making baubles with the homeless people in her Christmas crafts class.

She's certainly not star-struck when Hollywood heart-throb Blake Harris is sent to her at short notice for community service, and has no desire to babysit the arrogant actor with his bad boy antics and selfish ways. Christmas might be a time for miracles, but Blake seems to be a lost cause.

But Emily's reasons for abandoning her dancing passion means she understands the Hollywood wild child more than she'd like to admit. Could their time together, coupled with a dash of Christmas spirit, lead to a miracle change of heart for them both?"

This was another book I received as a gift last Christmas, this time from my pen pal, Pauline. I loved the story set around a community drop-in centre, quite an original idea I thought. Although the story is about Emily and Blake, it's quite a short book at just 212 pages so more could have been made of the other characters, who I wanted to know more about. A very enjoyable read, so much so that I read this book in a day.

The Merry Christmas Project by Cathy Bramley.

"Anything can happen at Christmas...

Christmas has always meant something special to Merry- even without a family of her own. This year, her heart might be broken but her new candle business is booming. The last thing she needs is another project - but when her hometown's annual event needs some fresh festive inspiration, Merry can't resist.

Cole loves a project too - though it's usually of the bricks and mortar variety. As a single dad, his Christmas wish is to see his kids again, so getting the new house finished for when they're all together is the perfect distraction.

But this Christmas, magic is in the air for these two strangers. Will it bring them all the joy they planned for...and take their hearts by surprise too?"

Another gift from my pen pal last Christmas. I've never come across Cathy Bramley before but after reading this, a bit of research has led me to discover that she's written quite a few books and there's even a sequel to this one which I've now bought. A feel good Christmas story, quite predictable but hugely enjoyable. I shall definitely look out for more from this author.

Does anyone else tend to get in a rut where cooking meals is concerned? Mick's a very plain eater so we get to the point where we stick to the same meals week in and week out. I got so fed up of this at the back end of last month that I pulled out the cook books and we've decided to choose one new recipe to try each week. Those of you who follow me on Instagram will see some of the things we've cooked so far: Cumberland Sausage, Chicken and Squash Tray Bake from the Hairy Bikers British Classics; Chicken Hot Pot from Mary Berry's Simple Comforts; Pizza-Stuffed Chicken from Pinch of Nom are the first three we tried. We've enjoyed them all and more besides. We're actually enjoying cooking and trying some new things. Sometimes you just have to shake it up a little.

It was Bakewell Wool Gathering on the 14th of October. I'd made a note of it in my diary but it wasn't until the day arrived that I made up my mind to go. It's a lovely wool show, very friendly and not too big. I was very restrained and didn't buy much but it was fun to look round all the stalls and chat to the stallholders. Afterwards, we had a wander around Bakewell, situated on the River Wye, it's the biggest town in the Peak District and we always enjoy our visits there.

During the summer months I find very little to watch on TV but as soon as autumn arrives, the TV schedules begin to look up again. As well as old favourites like Strictly Come Dancing and The Great British Bake Off, I've been watching one or two other things to note.

The Reckoning.

Steve Coogan portrayed Jimmy Savile in this TV mini-series and what a fantastic job he did. It was hard to remember that we weren't actually watching Jimmy Savile himself in some parts and it was rather chilling. The series told the story of Savile's life from his working-class upbringing to his rise to stardom, and ultimately how he was able to get away with sexually abusing hundreds of young girls and boys, including many children, before finally being exposed as a predator and paedophile after his death. It actually beggars belief how he got away with it for his entire life.

The Long Shadow.

A seven part true crime drama detailing the events from 1975 to 1980 when Peter Sutcliffe, dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper, committed his thirteen murders. I was just seven when he began his killing spree, twelve when it ended, but living close to some of the areas where he murdered his victims, I can still remember the fear of that time. This drama focuses on the victims rather than Sutcliffe himself, and the botched police investigation.

All Creatures Great and Small.

A feel-good series based on the early career of vet, James Herriot. Shown on Thursday nights, it's one of those programmes which lends itself to Sunday evening viewing when all the family sit down together to watch something gentle and entertaining. Wonderful characters and appealing storylines set amidst the backdrop of the Yorkshire Dales, what's not to love. 

I've got another yarny advent calendar on order to countdown this Christmas so I thought I'd better start using up the advent calendars I've still got from years past. I decided to cast on the Habitation Throw by Helen Stewart. I won a pattern of my choice from Alex at the My Yarny Corner blog quite a while ago, this is the pattern I chose and I'm really enjoying knitting it. I'm using yarn from the charity advents which Helen at Giddy Yarns put together last year and the year before, each mini skein is from a different yarn dyer and it's a treat to use such a selection.

Today is Halloween. We've visited the Spooky Skeletons Trail at Lotherton as we do just about every year, it's such good fun, especially for children. Mick's carved a pumpkin and we've decorated the front of the house so that any trick or treaters know that we're game for their visits. We love to see the creative ways they've dressed and enjoy seeing their excited faces. We've got plenty of treats waiting in readiness. 

Now that the clocks have gone back we seem to have much shorter days. It makes me want to go into hibernation mode, hunkering down until spring arrives, so I'm not sure what I'll have to report in November. On the bright side, the coming month will see the start of Christmas preparations so we may get out to an event or two. We'll see.


  1. I enjoyed Lessons in Chemistry very much too. The Alice stories were read to me by my Granny when I was a child and I have her copies of the books now. For someone with a vivid imagination, they took me away to a strange but fascinating place! We watched The Reckoning and The Long Shadow too and agree that Steve Coogan did a spookily accurate job. It can't have been a pleasant experience for him though. I found it very chilling. I liked the emphasis on the women in The Long Shadow, rather than the murderer - it's about time!
    Enjoy your knitting projects.
    Best wishes

  2. Happy Halloween.

    I am heading down a new "cooking" trail just like you are. Our son took us to a library book sale in his town and I loaded up on cookbooks from my favorite cooking magazines (that sadly no longer publish). Through the colder months we'll be eating some new things and hopefully *maybe* some healthier things.

    I didn't start my Christmas books in October, but I sure will be in November. It is time!!!

  3. I love your book reviews and am always pleased to see new recommendations.
    I've just started watching 'The Woman in the Wall', based loosely on the infamous Magdalene Laundries. I rarely watch live television, preferring to wait until a series is complete.
    Enjoy your trick or treaters.

  4. With the changeable weather we had been experiencing, it's almost a relief that autumn has now fully arrived. Dull and damp is usually the order of the day here. And the trees are shedding their leaves rather rapidly. It sounds like you've been keeping busy reading all those books.
    I visited Bakewell myself just last week. Its a lovely town. Xx

  5. Thanks for the book and the telly recommendations! Several I want to add. Lessons in Chemistry is now a series on Apple TV and I am planning to watch it. I wasn't as in love with the book as most people were---but I did finish it which is something. Hopefully the series is good.

    is there still a window tax?

    1. No, there's no window tax now. It was a tax in the 18th and 19th century, you had to pay a tax based on how many windows you had in the property and therefore, many windows were boarded up to avoid paying the tax.

  6. Wow you've done well with the book reading. It's so important to make time to read some fiction, it transports one's mind for a while, almost like meditating methinks. Thanks for the book reviews too, always handy to get the heads up. I too popped to the Bakewell Wool Gathering as I only live about ten miutes up the road, surprisingly i didn't buy a thing. Today I was in Yorkshire visiting Shibden Hall, such an interesting and atmospheric place. The guide there, Lynn, was outstanding.

  7. Sounds a lovely month and such a lot of reads there, plus a few days out. The Wool Gathering would be a nice outing & nothing like that here. Enjoy the month of November. Take care & hugs.

  8. I'm not reading much at all, I did enjoy Lessons in Chemistry, garden has taken up most time.

  9. You're a prolific reader, and your reviews are excellent!
    Wishing you a happy November, with good weather and good books!

  10. What a lovely blog post full of books to read, loved Lessons in Chemistry, but not read any of those others so I shall look them up. And what a good idea to choose a different recipe each week, something we could do, so thank you for that idea,

  11. I did enjoy your post and catching up with your October.

    I like the sound of the recipes you've tried.
    Tray bakes and one pot meals are great, so too are soups when the weather gets cooler.

    Have a happy month of November.

    All the best Jan

  12. Lots more lovely books to try. Thank you Jo. I didn't know about the Bakewell wool gathering. I must put it in next years diary as we so enjoyed our visit to Bakewell when we went.
    We sometimes try out recipes from one of those companies that deliver the ingredients in a box and then we make them again for ourselves. It has definitely changed our way of cooking and encourages us to try new things.

  13. Loving the window artwork. Interesting reads, as always. I must lookout for the Strictly Christmas Spirit. I need to shake my cooking up a bit, it's so easy to get into a rut! I never knew a soul who could stand Savile, everyone thought he was creepy.xxx

  14. It looks like you truly enjoyed the month of October. That is a nice list of books. It inspires me to try to make more time for some new authors. My hubby is a plain eater too, so I often get into a cooking rut. I have been looking at some new ideas though. Hopefully I will expand my recipe box.

  15. What a busy bee you've been! I loved tracking down the Knaresborough windows when we visited, great to hear they are still there. x

  16. Thanks for a lovely post Jo. It was fun to look through everything and enjoyed it all.

  17. Wow what a busy October Jo, I'm afraid I was sick for most of it. I have done quite a lot of reading too and listening to audio books, I loved the Ladies' Detective Agency series in fact it's quite a while since I read them, I may start reading them again, I love all the christmassy books but haven't read any yet this year something to look forward too and the Christmas films on TV. I love All Creatures Great and Small and am always quite sad when the series come to an end. I hope you have a lovely November. xx

  18. I remember the Sutcliffe era vividly a very scary time. The police suffered too much from tunnel vision.

    We're just the opposite with meals. Martyn often complains that when he's had a meal they he has really liked that it won't turn uo again for months. I like to ring the changes and gather recipes from all over the Internet

  19. I too watched those TV programmes, it's amazing how Jimmy Saville got away with what he did for so long, terrible. I read Lessons In Chemistry last year, it was easily the best book of 2022 for me. Good for you trying some new meals, we tend to eat the same things over and over, I don't like cooking though and Mark doesn't cook, lol. I should really look through some cook books and try something different.
    Hope November is good to you.

  20. LOVE the window. It would be fun to find lots of them. Hope you get to do that sometime. Cute Halloween decorations. What a fun project, so colorful with all those mini skeins. I wonder if you could send the link to the pattern you're using. I like the look of it. We tend to watch more tv in the cold weather months too.
    Sandy's Space

    1. The throw pattern is the Habitation Throw by Helen Stewart, available on Ravelry.

  21. Hi Jo, lovely to see you still posting. Love the painted fake windows...a very cool idea!! I'm really into the cosy murder mysteries at the minute...they make such good winter reading. I know what you mean about the same old meals...my hubby is a nightmare when it comes to anything different...I bought a thermomix last year so I am making him be a little more adventurous at times! things have taken a drastic change for me in the last month but I'm hoping this will give me more time to pick up the knitting needles and use some of that wonderful wool I have in the house...got to turn your negatives into a positive!!