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.

fart-zone

#neverknowinglyundershared

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Book Review: Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal

Sweet Valley Confidential

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’
grapes

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

Brownlee book

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

Happier Thinking.jpg

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.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton

One of the prompts in my 2018 Reading Challenge is a book with an ugly cover.  I therefore contemplated reading Fire and Fury due to its very ugly cover:

fire and fury

but I just couldn’t bring myself to!  I kept seeing really positive reviews of Dolly Alderton’s memoir, and decided that was much more appealing than reading about the orange one – so I went for that instead, as there is scribbling on the cover so that can count as ugly?!

Everything I Know About

Here is the Amazon blurb:

“When it comes to the trials and triumphs of becoming a grown up, journalist and former Sunday Timesdating columnist Dolly Alderton has seen and tried it all. In her memoir, she vividly recounts falling in love, wrestling with self-sabotage, finding a job, throwing a socially disastrous Rod-Stewart themed house party, getting drunk, getting dumped, realising that Ivan from the corner shop is the only man you’ve ever been able to rely on, and finding that that your mates are always there at the end of every messy night out. It’s a book about bad dates, good friends and – above all else – about recognising that you and you alone are enough.”

And what other authors have said about it:

‘A wonderful writer, who will surely inspire a generation the way that Caitlin Moran did before her’ Julie Burchill

‘If Nora Ephron is the cool aunt you wish you’d had, Dolly Alderton is your favourite cousin. I loved it and I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t; it’s a genuine delight’ Kristen Roupenian, author of Cat Person

I’d already read Dolly’s article in the Sunday Times Style magazine called ’30 Things I’ve Learned About Life At 30′ – which I loved – so I guessed I was going to enjoy her book.

Now, I think I am older than target market (this is becoming a recurring theme in my book reviews.  Do I just need to accept I’m mid 40s?!?) as Dolly was 28 when she wrote it but I really enjoyed it. I also felt that Nina – in the last book I read – should really read it!

It’s sort of autobiographical – but jumps around rather than being strictly chronological.  There are also some hilarious random chapters which are (I am assuming fake) emails about weddings / baby showers / hen do invites – and texts to people – and these were all laugh out loud funny.  Totally should have written LOL to be down with the kids…….

Dolly’s reliance on booze / hard drugs / casual sex is also looked at in detail – so definitely don’t read if that’s not your bag.

What I LOVED was Dolly’s relationship with her friendship group – and especially her best friend Farly.  The friendship changed over the years – but was the one constant throughout the book.  They definitely went through their ups and downs together too – and clearly love each other completely and utterly as friends.

I read it really quickly as I was enjoying it – and Dolly’s writing style is great.  I feel like I want to buy a copy for all of my 20 something cousins!  I also really want a follow up in about 5 years to find out how everyone is doing…….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One night in Joburg

(To the tune of ‘One Night In Bangkok’ , or ‘One Night In Heaven’ – take your pick!)

This summer the Price family went on an African adventure.  Between our stays in  Zimbabwe and The Seychelles – we had an overnight stay in Johannesburg due to flight timings.  Joburg felt very different to Cape Town.  It felt more of a sprawling city – not hemmed in by a huge mountain, so it could just spread and spread – and there were people EVERYWHERE.  It felt a bit more daunting.  We literally travelled from the airport to our hotel and back again – so didn’t see anything that the city or surrounding area had to offer.  The Saxon hotel, however, was incredible.

We were lucky enough to stay in one of their villas – which are generally used by visiting dignitaries, celebrities and royalty to avoid the paparazzi in the main hotel!  We’d missed Katy Perry by a week, and Nelson Mandela by a few years (he finished his autobiography ‘Long Walk To Freedom’ in the hotel).  It’s joined to the main hotel by a skywalk (and as our son is Luke, cue lots of jokes about Luke Skywalker!)

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We had 3 of the 7 luxury suites in Villa One and it was wonderful.  Partly – it was nice to be back in proper civilisation after a week in the Zimbabewean bush – and to have Molton Brown toiletries (even if the husband did call them Melton Mowbray – a small village in Leicestershire, UK famous for pork pies?!?)

The kids loved the (heated) pool – and us adults loved the complimentary bottle of champagne in each suite.  I have to confess we didn’t quite manage all 3!

We all enjoyed the super quick wifi (the one thing Zimbabwe lacked!) and the most amazing steak we’ve ever eaten.  The food was great for dinner and breakfast – although slightly slow (I guess it has to come across from the main hotel) and that was the only minor negative of the whole stay.

 

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The stay was brief – but fabulous.  We managed to leave ‘liony’ behind – he was camouflaged by the white bed sheets, being a white lion himself.  However, a call from the airport saw him being chauffeur driven to be reunited with a distraught 8 year old before we got on our flight to Mahe!

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If you find yourself in Joburg – we would thoroughly recommend the Saxon – just a shame our stay was so brief.

Note:  This is not a sponsored post, we paid for everything we did.  All of it was organised by our wonderful Travel Counsellor Michelle.  We just wanted to share the amazing trip we had – and keep a record of it for us to look back on. 

 

 

 

 

Cape Town – with kids! A funpacked few days in South Africa.

I’ve mentioned before that we were holidaying in Africa this summer – well, that started in the city of Cape Town.  There were 6 of us – my husband and I, and our kids – who range in age from 15 down to 6.

Here’s a random selection of things we did during our stay:

  1. Our accomodationThe Cape Grace hotel – right on the V&A Waterfront was fabulous. All of us thoroughly enjoyed our stay there.  The location was perfect, the views stunning, the service exceptional – and the wifi strong (which is a pre-requisite when travelling with children!)

    We made use of the outside pool area – although admittedly were the only people in it due to it being midwinter! And I had a couple of excellent massages in the spa as I was struggling with a dodgy back.


    The taster menu in their restaurant was stunning – but equally, room service was also excellent – and very convenient in our 3 bedroomed suite, and we even ate on the balcony being hardy Brits!

    I had a slight work crisis whilst there – and the staff were great, printing out documents for me to work on.

    The suite was stunning – and perfect for our large family. We would definitely stay there again and highly recommend it for anyone visiting whether for work, as a couple, friends or families.

  2. Random dog charitySo this is a slightly weird one – and wasn’t in our planned itinerary – but was a highlight for the kids in particular! Close to the hotel, in Nobel Square, there was a pop up dog rescue run by a charity for re-homing dogs.  Whilst adopting a dog on holiday was clearly out of the question – you could also pay to take them for a walk for 10 minutes, or to play with the puppies and we did both!


    The children loved it! You could also pay to name a dog – but there weren’t any nameless ones when we were there – however, the 8 year old has told everyone how she walked ‘Tonya Harding’ #nottheiceskater
  3. The Big Red Bus TourWe did this on our first day – and it gave us a real feel for the layout of the city and close surrounding area.  The weather was kind so we could sit on the top deck of the bus and enjoy the sunshine and commentary. We’ve done bus tours in lots of cities and it really helps you understand the geography and history (I am such a geek!!)  Sadly the cable car to the top of Table Mountain was closed for maintenance, but the bus took us to the base station which still gave amazing views across the ocean to Robben Island and beyond.

    At one point we thought we’d spotted a whale – turned out it was a rock – but we’d somehow incited the whole bus into taking photos of it………

  4. Robben IslandTalking of Robben Island (or Robin Hood Island as my husband mistakenly called it – which is only amusing if you’re familiar with Hall Green in the South of Birmingham where a traffic roundabout is called that!) We were all really looking forward to this – especially the 6 year old who had learnt about Nelson Mandela at school last year.  But we were thwarted because the weather was bad and all ferries were cancelled. So it’s the on planned thing that we missed out on during our whole trip!
  5. The Cape WheelWe’d spotted this from our balcony and thought we should give it a go.  Like the London Eye – but smaller.  You had some great views from  the top – although it did make me feel a bit motion sick!  (It doesn’t take a lot, I feel sea sick on a swing or a lilo!!)

  6. Cape TourWe had been driven from the airport to the hotel by the wonderful Nazeem from Ilios Travel – and he was our driver for our Cape Tour – assisted by the fabulous guide Rian.  It was great to be driven around by such knowledgeable people – and they were both keen to answer any questions or queries we may have had.  We visited some great locations – explained more below – but it was definitely worth investing in a private tour as it gave us such flexibility with what we wanted to see -or not see.  We would definitely recommend Ilios to anyone visiting South Africa.

    We stopped at various points on the route to admire the views.  One was the beaches in Clifton which are numbered 1 down to 4.  1 is for the beautiful (or in some cases surgically enhanced) people – the husband is convinced that would be his?!?  Then it’s beach 2 for sports activities, beach 3 for the local LGBT scene, and beach 4 for families to chill out.  I feel we are far more beach 4 than 1 but didn’t want to burst his bubble!

    We also stopped at the Farm Village in Noordhoek for a coffee where our 15 year old managed to find a tack shop.  It sold the specific fly mask she’d been after for her horse that THE WHOLE OF THE UK had sold out of – so obviously we had to buy it and bring it back!!

  7. Cape Point LighthouseThis was great – although very windy!  We caught the funicular up and down – but there is still a lot of walking up and down steps to see both lighthouses and the amazing views.  Totally worth the effort though!

  8. Cape of Good HopeI had – mistakenly (although seemingly a common mistake) – thought this was the Southern most point of Africa – but in fact, it’s the most South Westerly.  But anyway – it was beautiful to see.  The sun was shining and it was REALLY windy – but great.  We had to queue to get photos taken – but apparently it was nothing compared to the queues at the height of the season!

  9. Penguins at Boulders BeachThe penguins were fab!  You get to learn a bit about them – and see all different sizes of penguins on land – and swimming.  We’d been warned it was a bit smelly – but it wasn’t at all – perhaps because it was winter?  The kids now also know all the facts about why African penguins are different to penguins that live on snow and ice!

  10. Kirstenbosch Botanical GardensThis was our last stop on our day trip – and everyone was getting a bit tired!  But we still had a great time in the gardens.  There’s lots to see – and we probably only witnessed a fraction of it.  At least we could tick it off the list!!

  11. Two Oceans AquariumWe hadn’t planned to go to the Aquarium – but when our Robben Island trip was cancelled, we thought we’d try it (basically as we were up early and it was close to the hotel!)   We were really pleased we did as it was great.  There were lots of exhibits to look at – as well as some interactive quizzes for the kids to do.  (Oh – and free wifi – which is always a winner!)

  12. Scratch Patch – and Cave GolfWe are lucky enough to have a number of friends from – or who’ve been – to Cape Town.  A number recommended Scratch Patch – which we may not have found without the insider knowledge!  The original one was in Simon’s Town and opened in the 1970s.  This one, just behind the waterfront, was great.  Our little girls loved ‘scratching’ to find  beautiful gems to bring home from the millions of rocks covering the floor. We started off with little bags (thinking of the luggage allowance!) but ended up buying medium ones too, as there were just so many to chose from!  Whilst the girls enjoyed this – the boys played Cave Golf – an inside mini golf course (thankfully with only 2 of them playing this didn’t descend into the argumentative chaos that whole family games of crazy golf have!)

  13. The Ferryman’s TavernWe ate and drank at the Ferryman’s Tavern on the V&A waterfront 2 consecutive days – and the waiter remembered our order!  I’m not sure if this was because my husband massively over tipped him the first day due to a currency conversion issue, or because the husband was drinking gluten free beer – or just that he was a great waiter – but it made us feel like locals!!
  14. The V&A WaterfrontWe’ve already mentioned lots of places we visited on the waterfront during our stay – but it really was a great location.  Lots of places to eat and drink and watch the world go by – and great shopping.  The shopping mall was a mixture of familiar names from back home – and also familiar names from trips to the US that aren’t on the UK high street – all in all we had a great time.   Generally things in SA seem cheaper than at home – which is always a good justification to buy more!

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    Chatting to Nelson in Nobel Square

 

Having missed out on Robben Island – and the fact that as we had the kids in tow the husband and I didn’t do any wineries – we kind of feel that we have unfinished business with Cape Town – but are already looking forward to a return visit in the future.

 

 

Note:  This is not a sponsored post, we paid for everything we did.  All of it was organised by our wonderful Travel Counsellor Michelle.  We just wanted to share the amazing trip we had – and keep a record of it for us to look back on. 

 

University (Parcel) Challenge

We have just seen my eldest niece for the final time before she goes off to a foreign country for University (Wales!).

a) How can she be old enough to leave home?
b) What excitement can we send her through the post?!

parcel

There is actually form for this where her family is concerned.  When her Dad, my brother in law, was on tour (with the RAF – he wasn’t in a pop band, despite how good he is at karaoke!) we took great pleasure in sending him ‘interesting’ parcels.  The first – which he was quite chuffed and possibly a little smug about (before he opened it) was a Cliff Richard calendar!!  That stayed on the wall in the mess long after he came back home.  We also sent a bucket and spade when he was in the desert (and some sensible stuff too I promise!)

Cliff Richard.jpg

Back when I was at uni – a quarter of a century ago – there was no social media or smart phones to stay in touch with family and friends at home.  Your options were to queue up for the payphone (with your fancy pants card that meant you could phone home cheaper than using cash) or rely on Royal Mail.  I remember being so excited whenever I got post.  My Nan would send chocolate, Auntie Mavis would send stamps, and my sister (my niece’s Mum) once sent me a letter with a little plastic bag inside with her nail clippings and the weird bits she’d pulled off her verucca using whatever the 90s equivalent of Bazuka was.  I am hoping her parcel sending will have improved since she was 13, or my poor niece is going to be very disturbed ………

So what to add to the first care package? I’m thinking multivitamins, ear plugs, alka seltzer, antibacterial handwash, Berocca, Pot Noodles, an ironic 90s indie poster to go on her wall, a pair of Doc Martens (all students still wear them, right?), sick bags, spare mobile phone for when she loses hers, name stickers for her contents in shared fridge, family photo, cuddly toy, sink unblocker (although she has a fancy pants en suite – none of the ‘sink in the corner of your room’ to vomit in and block), air freshener, Febreeze, can of Red Bull…….

and possibly a fake passport and a wad of cash in case my husband and one of her other Uncles do go down to fresher’s week like they’re ‘promising / threatening’ so she can leave the country very quickly…….