Going Down Under

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Just over 19 years ago (eek!) I worked in Sydney for 3 months. I had an amazing time being an accountant by day and a tourist by night and at the weekends.  I had an inane grin on my face every day when I caught the bus (yes, Libby on a bus!) across the harbour bridge from my flat in North Sydney to the Deloitte office on George Street.  Thankfully there was no social media back then, so not much permanent evidence! This photo is when one of my BFFs came to visit as she’d been working on secondment too, up the coast in Brisbane. How young do we both look?!?! We didn’t look quite that fresh faced after a big night out last week I can tell you!!

The husband and I returned in 2006 when we had the eldest 2 kids. We had a great holiday on the east coast – here’s us on a rainy Bondi Beach and the children in Port Douglas – I’ve actually kept this photo in my wallet ever since (to remind me of when they actually liked each other!!)

Now we’re heading Down Under as a family of 6. We’re doing the recently started 17 hour direct flight to Perth – and catching up with some friends who emigrated a fair few years ago. We’re then flying cross country and time zones to the Great Barrier Reef for Christmas, and then, in proper bucket list style, Sydney for New Year!

I. CAN. NOT. WAIT! Given the festive stress levels, the 17 hour flight to sit (lie) down and drink fizz whilst watching films sounds idyllic – and there should be plenty of sunshine when we get there.

Obviously I will be blogging the sh*t out of the whole trip – so watch this space!!

Although not sure how many more of my husband’s Down Under jokes I can deal with…………………….

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay

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This book had been on my radar since it became a bestseller when first released – but I hadn’t got round to buying / downloading it.  I’d talked about it to a lovely friend – and next thing I know, Mr Amazon delivered me a hard copy through the post.   I love getting exciting post – especially books (although I did have a minor panic that I’d been ordering stuff after drinking again – so had to check with my friend that she was the sender!!)

Here is the blurb:

“Welcome to the life of a junior doctor: 97-hour weeks, life and death decisions, a constant tsunami of bodily fluids, and the hospital parking meter earns more than you.

Scribbled in secret after endless days, sleepless nights and missed weekends, Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt provides a no-holds-barred account of his time on the NHS front line. Hilarious, horrifying and heartbreaking, this diary is everything you wanted to know – and more than a few things you didn’t – about life on and off the hospital ward.”

This book is BRILLIANT – I loved it from start to finish.  Yes, Adam Kay is sarcastic, a tiny bit evil sometimes, and uses foul language – but that pretty much sums up me and my friends too!!

A large proportion of the book is set in labour wards.  Having been there 4 times myself it brings it all back.  I had 2 children on the NHS and paid privately for 2 to be delivered – in fact there’s a whole new blog post that’s sat in my drafts for months just about that subject (I bet my 15 year old daughter’s mates who stalk my blog can’t wait for that one!!) But the one thing I just have to comment on is that Adam talks about delivering a baby for a private consultant, when it would be the consultant getting paid a wedge for doing it – and it’s not like he’d give a refund.  Well!  When child number 3 was born, I’d been induced, and the private consultant decided he’d got time to go back to his office to do some paperwork.  The baby had other ideas and made a very swift arrival – ably delivered by the resident midwife.  The incredibly guilty consultant turned up afterwards – but did write us a 50% refund cheque!!  (Although the cynic in me would say that’s because he already knew we were planning number 4 and he didn’t want to miss out on those fees…….)

Whilst being very cleverly written, and an entertaining read, this book is also a real insight into the life of a doctor.  In fact, just after I’d started reading it, I went to an A Levels option evening for the aforementioned daughter – and was chatting to one of the other Mums whose daughter wants to be a medic.  A GP friend of theirs had given the 15 year old a copy of this book to show her what life as a junior doctor really was like.  Who knew it could be used for recruitment (or possibly anti-recruitment) as well as being an excellent read!

Don’t read this book if you’re easily offended or don’t like bad language – but otherwise, it’s a must read.

As soon as I’d finished it I passed it on to a friend, as I was sure she and her husband (who co-incidentally is also a clever, caustic, anti religion Adam!) would love it. I think wanting to share it is definitely the sign of a good book.

 

 

 

Book Review: I’m Absolutely Fine! : A Manual For Imperfect Women by Annabel Rivkin and Emilie McMeekan of The Midult

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‘I have been waiting for this book my entire life. It’s brilliant.’ – Claudia Winkleman

‘A genius book. So funny, so wise, so cool and above all so USEFUL. I couldn’t love it more. I am buying it for every one of my friends.’ – India Knight

‘I’m absolutely fine but I slightly need to pee, I followed the road less travelled and now I don’t know where the hell I am, I may bleed to death shaving my legs, my soul aches, another week has ended without me becoming accidentally rich, I just put my keys in the fridge, unexpected object in the bagging area, I’ll have a café mocha vodka Valium latte to go please, where’s my phone? My anxieties have anxieties, no… not like that – here, I’ll do it, do I have to do everything? WTF?’

Is it just me? We gnaw on that, don’t we? Is it just me? Well, look around. Look at the rage, the resolution, the ‘hear me roar’, the panic, the power, the chin hairs, the shame, the empathy, the conversation, the sheer potential.

Welcome to Midulthood. A place where we recognise that we are all more alike than we are unalike. Of course it’s not just you. If we’re not in it together, we’re not in it at all…

From sex (What Could Possibly Go Wrong) to self-image (Does This Straightjacket Make Me Look Fat?), I’m Absolutely Fine is a wry look at real life, real wisdom and real information framed in fun.”

 

 

A few weeks ago I was in hospital having (yet another) surgery on my piles – and whilst scrolling through Instagram spotted a competition to win a copy of this book on the lovely doesmybumlook40’s page:

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So, obviously I had to reply:

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A few days later I got a message saying I’d won copies for me and my friend and asking for our addresses – how exciting!

When it arrived (signed, get me!) I started reading straight away. In fact, I left it by the toilet as it was perfect to dip in and out of with my numerous post surgery toilet trips. (Although I DEFINITELY don’t think it was written as a toilet book, in fact who would have books in the toilet nowadays *whistles nonchalantly*)

On a geeky book loving note – it is a beautiful weight, and has a ribbon bookmark inside – retro and gorgeous!

Now I expected to LOVE this – the recommendations by Claudia Winkelman and India Knight added to my expectations (I secretly want to be BFFs with them both) and I really did enjoy lots of it.  Some of the lists had me crying laughing – just soooooo accurate.

This one in particular has been in the press loads, so I don’t feel guilty sharing it:

“20 THINGS YOU KNOW IF YOU’RE A MIDULT

1. Nothing good happens at three in the morning.

2. You should never buy the smallest size you can get into.

3. Everyone needs therapy.

4. Grey hair is beautiful, grey roots make you look deranged.

5. Time flies.

6. You are probably a little bit of an alcoholic. Unless you are actually an alcoholic, in which case you may have given up drinking.

7. You are always hungry.

8. If you check out of technology, you are checking out of life. Don’t do it.

9. If someone has no old friends, there is a problem.

10. Infidelity doesn’t necessarily mean it’s over. Contempt does.

11. Things get stuck in your teeth.

12. Something always hurts.

13. And then you think it’s cancer.

14. You know more and less at the same time. You think they might cancel each other out. So where does that leave us?

15. Good sleep is better than good sex.

16. Moths make you panic. Even talking about them: panic.

17. You have 25 different kinds of herbal tea. You don’t much like any of them. You’d rather have a Diet Coke. But you probably won’t.

18. Swearing f***ing helps.

19. This is the rush hour of life: we have spots, wrinkles and possibly braces.

20. If you need to cancel, you need to cancel.”

But lots of the other lists are even funnier (and ruder!) but you need to buy the book for those #nospoilershere!!

I guess the fact I overshadow ridiculously means I often know things aren’t just me (I was amazed how many friends had period issues / had had endometrial ablations and privately messaged me when I publicly discussed them) but I still enjoyed empathising no end.

Most of the book I absolutely loved – but occasional chapters I felt were a bit neurotic and self indulgent. Maybe if I was at a different stage in my life I may have empathised more – but it seemed like a totally different world that I didn’t quite get. I feel bad writing that – especially when it was a lovely free copy – but I do like to be honest.

Overall, though, I definitely enjoyed it – and will dip in and out of it again in the future – and probably quote the lists incessantly to people!

I now follow The Midult on social media – and totally concur with most of their posts – so I’m very glad to have found them.  This would make a perfect Christmas present for ‘women of a certain age’!!

Book Review: Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and other lies) curated by Scarlett Curtis

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This book – curated by Scarlett Curtis – had been on my radar, I’d seen some tweets and it had been reviewed in Red Magazine – but I hadn’t actually ordered it.  Then, on October 4th, after Penguin had set up a a pop up stall to sell the book in the flagship Top Shop store on Oxford Street in London, they were asked to take it all down again allegedly upon the instruction of Top Shop supremo Sir Philip Green. A Topshop spokesperson said: “…. we made the decision from a production and creative standpoint to retract the Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies pop-up from one of our stores. We are sorry – this in no way reflects our stance on feminism and we will be making a donation of £25,000 to Girl Up. We continue to fully support the sentiment of the book, Scarlett Curtis, feminism and equality.”  This was before the recent news reports about Mr Green hit the press, post House of Lords revelations, but I think the #pinknotgreen hashtag was searingly appropriate even at that point.

Anyway – in a fit of solidarity with Ms Curtis, I bought a copy!  Here’s the Amazon blurb:

We asked 52 women: what does the F word mean to you? 
The result is extraordinary.
The must-read book for 2018. Follow @feminists on Instagram for updates. 
Curated by journalist and activist Scarlett Curtis, with incredible pieces by:
Emma Watson – Zoe Sugg – Keira Knightley – Gemma Arterton – Bridget Jones (by Helen Fielding) – Saoirse Ronan – Liv Little – Dolly Alderton – Karen Gillan – Alicia Garza – Jameela Jamil – Kat Dennings – Nimco Ali – Beanie Feldstein – Olivia Perez – Amika George – Evanna Lynch – Akilah Hughes – Tanya Burr – Grace Campbell – Alison Sudol – Elyse Fox – Charlie Craggs – Rhyannon Styles – Skai Jackson – Tasha Bishop – Lolly Adefope – Bronwen Brenner – Dr Alaa Murabit – Trisha Shetty – Jordan Hewson – Amy Trigg – Em Odesser – Emi Mahmoud – Lydia Wilson – Swati Sharma
Warning: contains a lot of feminism and some explicit content!

**Published in partnership with Girl Up, the UN women’s foundation, royalties will benefit this amazing charity**   “

It is a really varied book – as you would expect from many women’s own experience of feminism.  Some of it was funny, some tragic, some historical, some forward looking, some educational – and I really enjoyed all of those different aspects.  It was perfect to read one person’s chapter at a a time (yes, it was a ‘toilet’ book for me post bowel surgery……)

Some of it has been horribly misquoted in certain elements of the press.  For example it was said Keira Knightley SLAMMED the Duchess of Cambridge, who gave birth a day after Keira herself, for posing on the hospital steps.  But it wasn’t written like that at all.  In my eyes, Ms Knightley was pitying Kate for having to be on show like that – not saying she was doing womanhood a disservice by doing it.  But hey – why let the actual context of a written piece get in the way of then newspapers stoking up a supposed catfight between celebrity women……

Some of the contributors were a lot younger than me – but I didn’t find that an issue – and I liked the different perspective.

Overall it was a good read – and I’m not sure I could have found a better book for my ‘A book about feminism’ prompt for my 2018 Reading Challenge!

In another review I read it said to give this to every teenage girl you know!  Well, I went for donating my copy to the teenage girl resident in this house.  She reckons she’s far too busy with Year 11 revision to read it – so I’ve just left it in her bedroom – and hope she’ll be inspired to read it in the future.

 

 

 

Piles of rubbish

So – the aforementioned piles op happened a week ago. There has been an unexpected whizz back to the hospital for an overnight stay for some post op bleeding – but I’m now at home and feeling loads better.

I am, however, using laxatives and lots of fruit and veg to ensure everything keeps ‘moving’ and my internal wounds can heal.

My stomach sounds like there is some kind of chemistry experiment going on in there with loads of fizzing and gurgling,

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and I fear I may never be able to fart again for the fear of horrific follow through.

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#neverknowinglyundershared

Book Review: Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal

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I am part of a Fitbit challenge group – and, thankfully, steps isn’t the only thing we discuss!  We cover a wide range of seemingly random topics for a bunch of 30/40 something women.  Recently we were reminiscing about the Sweet Valley High books that some of us read as teenagers.  Weirdly half of the group were obsessive fans – and half had never heard of them!  The groups didn’t appear to be defined by age or geography – so not entirely sure what prompted the split.  Anyway – one of the SVH virgins has now started reading an original book – and I purchased this book – based 10 years after the original series (of 181 books, according to Wikipedia!) to then share with my fellow fans.

Here’s the Amazon blurb

“It’s been ten years since the Wakefield twins graduated from Sweet Valley High, and a lot has happened.
For a start, Elizabeth and Jessica have had a falling out of epic proportions, after Jessica committed the ultimate betrayal, and this time it looks like Elizabeth will never be able to forgive her.
Suddenly Sweet Valley isn’t big enough for the two of them, so Elizabeth has fled to New York to immerse herself in her lifelong dream of becoming a serious reporter, leaving a guilt-stricken Jessica contemplating the unthinkable: life without her sister.
Despite the distance between them, the sisters are never far from each other’s thoughts. Jessica longs for forgiveness, but Elizabeth can’t forget her twin’s duplicity. Uncharacteristically, she decides the only way to heal her broken heart is to get revenge. Always the ‘good’ twin, the one getting her headstrong sister out of trouble, Elizabeth is now about to turn the tables…”

This is not a literary classic – but it’s fun to read about characters that seem like old friends.  The storyline was pacy – and as I remember from 20 years ago, I occasionally wanted to punch the twins – but it was entertaining and kept me reading.

It’s partly set in Sweet Valley and partly in New York – and there are flashbacks through the last decade to set the scene.  New characters are interwoven with historic ones – but it all flows nicely.

This is not going to set the world alight as a memorable book – but was some fun escapism for a few hours.

I think now, as a grown up mother of 4, I’m happier in my skin and being an Elizabeth (or in my case Elisabeth!) rather than a Jessica – which is what I aspired to as a teenager.

I’ve subsequently read reviews who have picked fault with some of the continuity from the original series – for example, people’s appearance has been described differently, and a teacher has an inconsistent first name – but my memory is so rubbish, I would NEVER have picked up on any of these things! The basics all seem right to me.

I’ve slotted this into ‘A childhood classic that you’ve never read’ in my 2018 Reading Challenge – which I freely admit is stretching the boundaries a bit – but it’s getting closer and closer to the end of the year and I still have loads of gaps!!

The book is now winging its way across the Irish Sea for another friend to be able to reminisce about the Wakefield twins and their family and friends!

 

 

 

Book Review: A Miracle on Hope Street by Emma Heatherington

A Miracle on Hope Street

This book popped up on my Facebook feed a few times and so I hopped onto Netgalley to see if I could get an advanced review copy – and I was accepted.

Disclaimer:  It was only when I read the ‘thanks’ at the end of the book that I found out one of my friends was the editor for the book!!  Thankfully that didn’t colour my judgement as I only found out afterwards.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Remember the true meaning of Christmas with this heartfelt and beautiful novel from bestselling author Emma Heatherington.

Can a single act of kindness change a life forever?

To many people, Ruth Ryans has everything: the perfect job, a beautiful home and a loving family. But as Christmas approaches, Ruth feels lonelier than ever.

Then Ruth meets Michael. A man who she showed kindness to during his darkest moment. That one single act, his miracle, helped change his life forever.

Ruth decides to make this Christmas the most perfect one ever, opening up her home to those who need her help – the lonely, the lost and the ignored.

Actions speak louder than words and Ruth Ryans’ kindness will create little miracles for everyone … including her own battered heart.”

Initially I was a big confused and overwhelmed by the number of different characters – but it soon became evident they’d all written to Ruth Ryans in her capacity as an agony aunt – so that then made sense!  I also wasn’t entirely sure where it was set – not that it matters – but I worked out during the book it was Ireland, but not Dublin, although can’t be more sure of the geography than that!

Once I got into it, I really enjoyed it.  It gave a true festive feel – and whilst it’s out now (I finished it on publication day!) – I think it would be a perfect read in late December – maybe over the Christmas holidays in fact.

You really get a feel for how lonely people can be – and how this is magnified at a time like Christmas.  It also shows how a bit of kindness can go a long way – from Ruth’s initial contact with Michael,  through to her opening up her home to the lonely, lost and ignored.  Each of the characters that write to Ruth are fleshed out and you feel you get to know them as Ruth does – which I enjoyed.

There is a twist in the middle – which I have to say I guessed – but that didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the book. (I won’t tell you what it is, as I hate book reviews with massive spoilers).

Overall I really enjoyed it as a fun, easy, but still thought provoking, read.  I also think it would make a lovely festive film.

I’m not sure I can fit it into a category of my 2018 Reading Challenge – as I’ve already got books in the slots it would fit –  but I’m trying not to get too hung up on that – and read things I want to read as well!

 

 

 

 

Oh, so tired…..*

* To the tune of Bjork’s ‘Oh, so quiet’
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Comes to something when you’re looking forward to your piles operation next week because you get a general anaesthetic and a chance to lie around in a hospital room for the day………………………

 

Book Review: Swim Bike Run: Our traithlon story by Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee

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A friend recommended this for the ‘a book about sport’ in our 2018 reading challenge.  She’s not a big sports fan – but had really enjoyed this – so I followed suit.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Swim, Bike, Run – The ultimate guide to triathlon by Olympics heroes Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee

A Number One Bestseller
This is the story of how two skinny lads from west Yorkshire became the best triathletes in the world.
Meet the Brownlees: Olympic Champion Alistair, World Champion Jonny. Brothers, training partners, rivals. They have obliterated the competition and set new standards for swimming, biking and running.
In this revealing, often very funny book they take us inside their world. It’s both a riveting story of the races, the success and the brotherly rivalry, as well as a guide to triathlon with sections on how to swim, bike and run and packed with advice on nutrition, injury, and mental approach.

This book will appeal to readers of cycling and running books like Mark Cavendish’s Boy Racer and Running with the Kenyans, as well as fans of Chrissie Wellington’s A Life Without Limits and Andy Beckett’s Can’t Swim, Can’t Bike, Can’t Run.
‘Sport has two new heroes: a couple of nice lads from Yorkshire’ The Times
Alistair Brownlee, 24, is a British triathlete from Yorkshire. He is the reigning Olympic champion, a back-to-back European champion and a two-time World champion.
Jonathan Brownlee, 22, is also a British triathlete from Yorkshire. He is the reigning World Champion, a two-time World Sprint champion and an Olympic bronze medalist.”

Bizarrely, the weekend before I started reading this, I’d been chatting to a friend whose eldest daughter does triathlons (like the Brownlees, she started as a competitive swimmer and has moved across) and she told be about the wetsuit temperature rules (and that the good swimmer prefer not to wear them) – and exactly the same information was shared within the first chapter or so – it felt like fate!  Given it’s the only triathlon fact I knew, I felt quite smug.

The book follows their lives and alternates between Alistair and Jonny telling the story.  It’s really interesting – even for someone like me who knows little about their sport (although, was screaming at the TV during their 2012 Olympic race – and any other time I’ve watched them #armchairviewer)

Whilst the sport story is interesting – and their dedication to their training – the relationship between them as brothers and competitors is also explored – which is very interesting indeed.

I did really enjoy it – it’s not a type of book I often read – but I kind of felt it finished too soon.  I would like to have known what happened afterwards and more recently (although I appreciate the book was written before their dramatic 2016 race in Mexico where Alistair practically carried Jonny across the line in a world championship race)

I almost felt guilty too – because the one time ever that Alistair has been disqualified in a race was last weekend – as I was finishing the book.  I sort of felt responsible – because I was reading about him and therefore super interested in the results…. #guiltcomplexextraordinaire.

As well as being interesting and informative – it’s also really funny at times – they seem like they would be a real laugh (and they like cake!)  Definitely worth a read.

 

 

 

Book Review: Happier Thinking by Lana Grace Riva

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I was emailed by the author of this book asking if I’d like a copy to read and review.  Never one to turn down a free book I said yes!  Here’s the blurb:

“Changing how you think is possible. I wasn’t always so sure that was true until I experienced it myself, but I know now we don’t have to just accept unhappiness. Not always anyway. This book is my collection of tips and suggestions that have helped me achieve happier thinking. It’s sort of a gym for my mind. I’d love to tell you it was easier than the real gym but well… it’s not really. It takes time, effort, and practice but it’s absolutely well worth the rewards.”

It is a little book and I read it in a couple of sittings.  Nothing in it is earth shattering, and you’ve probably read similar in magazine articles about positive thinking and being happy – but it was great having it all in one place.

I found myself thinking about what Lana had said later in the day.  Things like, just because the day started badly, you don’t have to assume the whole 24 hours will be a write off.

I can immediately think of a number of ‘glass half empty’ people that this book would be great for.  I can also imagine it’s the sort of book I need to read relatively regularly just to remind myself to be more positive and see the best in situations.

I don’t want to share too much of it – as that would ruin it if you read it.  The summary at the end is also the chapter titles – and a really good aide memoir for positive thinking.

Whilst I don’t think this is a world changing book – it could definitely be a mood changing book, and if it helps one person – then it’s definitely a good thing.