Book Review – The Roots of Tolkien’s Middle Earth by Robert S Blackham

I grew up in South Birmingham – and so have always been vaguely aware that Tolkien had grown up in the same area. I took the kids to Sarehole Mill over the summer and so learnt more about the connections there.  My Grandmother (who used to live practically in the grounds of the mill) mentioned that she had a book about it, and so I borrowed it to read – and it’s brilliant!

TolkienIt talks through JRR (Ronald to his friends)’s early life in the late 19th / early 20th century and the areas he lived in (totally my stomping ground as a child Sarehole / Hall Green / Kings Heath / Moseley) with historic photographs and maps – but it also cross references specific things to sections of his famous books.  In a number of cases it prompted an ‘of course’ in recognition from me!

I also hadn’t realised his later connections with Edgbaston (aside from the fact I knew he was a King Edward School alumnus) or The Lickey Hills and Worcestershire area (which spookily also follows the path of where I lived as an adult!)  If only he’d gone to Southampton Uni and not Oxford we could have been living parallel lives!!

  • Who knew Tolkien drank in the Ivy Bush on the Hagley Road, or The Prince of Wales in Moseley village?
  • Or that ‘Trittiford’ changed it’s name from Titterford for reasons of good taste in the 1920s?!
  • Or that the Great Hall at the University of Birmingham (which our company has painted a number of times, and featured in the televised leadership debates of the last General Election campaign) was used as a hospital in the First World War?

This is great if you are a lover of Tolkien, or know the South Birmingham area – and if you fall into both categories – it’s really interesting!

Mary Poppins Rage…

This morning I have just been judged by my butcher for having a nanny. And it got me to thinking – why is there such inverted snobbery about the word ‘nanny’? Surely it’s just another form of childcare – and anyone’s childcare choice is their own???

(And as I haven’t done a ranty blog for a while – I thought I’d sit down and vent before getting on with my day!!)


We have 4 kids aged 11, 9, 4 and 3, and have had our wonderful nanny since the 3rd child was born and we realised it was probably the most sensible childcare choice for us.

My husband and I run a construction company, which employees directly about 40 people, but indirectly through all the subcontractors we regularly use supports 100s.  As people with their own business know, it’s not a 9-5 role.  There are massive pros to both of us working in our own business (not having to ask your boss for permission to attend the kids’ assemblies, being able to schedule a gym session in the middle of the day etc) but also massive cons (working at random hours of the night to get work finished, clients phoning when you’re on holiday, having to be available 24/7 365 days of the year, when times are tough not having the safety cushion of someone else’s salary coming in from a guaranteed source) – but the unpredictability of it means you also need flexible childcare that’s up to the task.  For us, a nanny for 4 days of the working week is what we chose.

The 3 oldest kids go to 3 different schools. The logistics of this are a bit of a headf*ck some days – and knowing that there’s an extra pair of hands to share this makes all the difference. Yesterday the nanny was dealing with the 2 smallest at an afterschool theatre club, the husband had collected child number 2 from school and taken him to the next age group of the club, and I was collecting the eldest from  the train station to whizz her to it too – madness!  But it was our choice to have 4 kids, and our choice to have a nanny to support us in this.

I don’t sneer ‘Ooh, you use wrap around school care’ to people in the street – but it appears it’s acceptable to sneer at people who employ a nanny!

In fact I saw written on social media ‘I wish I had a nanny, so I could sit around all day whilst someone else played with my kids’ – which made me very angry.  I can’t remember ever ‘sitting around all day’ watching the nanny playing – I’m either ferrying other kids, attending a Board Meeting, chasing payments, helping on a school trip, paying the wages of our staff, doing the weekly shop, organising birthday cards and presents for the endless stream of parties the kids attend, organising the kids parties, washing clothes, helping friends with new business ventures, planning trips, buying clothes for the rapidly growing children, liaising with the company’s bankers, renewing insurance policies, sorting out HR issues – or sometimes fitting in the hairdressers or the gym  – but mostly just one big juggling act like most people.

So less of the nanny-employing-hate please. Our family couldn’t function without ours.  She comes with lots of childcare experience, appropriate first aid qualifications and most importantly loves our children dearly.  I know that from Tuesday – Friday they will be fed, clothed and in the right place at the right time (and we’ll muddle through Saturday – Monday!) I can go to work (or occasionally when the husband and I escape for some time away together) knowing that the children are in very capable hands.

Although I remember last year we were out with friends and someone said ‘I don’t know how you cope with 4 kids, Libby’ and the eldest child replied, deadpan, ‘We have a nanny.’

Wicked Wednesday – 7 January 2015

Happy New Year Wicked Wednesday guys!!

We were lucky enough to spend New Year in Dubai. We have some fabulous photos of fun in the sun – but this one pretty much sums up holidaying with a 3 year old. She’d stropped off in a mard and fallen asleep (I did wipe her feet with a babywipe – after taking the photo, obviously!!)

Dirty feet

This is my entry for Wicked Wednesdays over on Brummy Mummy of 2’s blog – do pop across and see what festive (or otherwise) rubbish photos others have posted!


Book Review – The Parisian Christmas Bake Off by Jenny Oliver

I’ve read Jenny’s other books and really enjoyed them both (The Little Christmas Kitchen and The Vintage Summer Wedding) so expected to enjoy reading this – and it was another bargain download at less than £2.

The Parisian Christmas Bake Off

Amazon say this:

“Welcome to the most celebrated patisserie competition in Paris – ready, steady, bake!

Watching snowflakes settle on the Eiffel Tower, Rachel Smithson’s cosy English village feels very far way – as, thankfully, does her commitment-phobic ex, probably already kissing someone else under the mistletoe. But Rachel hasn’t come to Paris to mope she’s come to bake. Hard.

Because the search for Paris’s next patisserie apprentice is about to begin! And super-chef judge Henri Salernes is an infamously tough cookie. But Rachel isn’t about to let her confidence (or pastry) crumble. She’s got one week, mounds of melt-in-the-mouth macaroons and towers of perfect profiteroles to prove that she really is a star baker.

As well as clouds of flour, and wafts of chocolate and cinnamon, there’s definitely a touch of Christmas magic in the air… Rachel hasn’t come to Paris looking for a fairy-tale romance, but the city of love might gift-wrap her one anyway…

Not even a dusting of icing sugar could make The Parisian Christmas Bake Off a more perfect Christmas treat!”

I am possibly one of the few people in the entire country not to watch The Great British Bake Off – but I didn’t let that put me off – and I’m glad I didn’t.  It was a lovely read – and the descriptions of the food were amazing.  I’m just glad I read it before my January detox as I would have been drooling even more!  I read it over Christmas – which was very apt – but not essential!

My only slight disappointment is that I’d read The Vintage Summer Wedding first – and this was actually written first – and some of the characters follow through, so I knew who Rachel would end up with because of that.  So – if you haven’t read either – definitely start with this one first,

I really hope we get to find out more about the residents of Nettleton in the future (pretty please Ms Oliver!!)

Book Review – The Story of Us by Dani Atkins

I am not sure how this ended up on my Kindle – if it was recommended by someone in person or on Facebook, in a magazine, by my Kindle itself – or just because it was such a bargain (currently 85p to download!)

The Story of Us

Here is what the Amazon blurb says:

“A gripping love story from the bestselling author of Fractured.

Emma Marshall can’t wait to marry her childhood sweetheart, Richard. But then a tragic accident changes everything, and introduces a stranger, Jack, into her life. Gorgeous and mysterious, Jack is like no-one Emma has met before. But Richard is the man she loves…

Two different men.
Two different destinies.
How will Emma end her story?”

It’s a real page turner – and I loved it – couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next.  I had guessed that the first chapter of each section wasn’t going to be predictable in what it was describing – and I was right – but I would never have guessed what it was setting up for in the last chapter.  I wept buckets.

There were great moments of drama, emotion, rude bits and intrigue – lots of bases covered!

I will definitely be investigating Ms Atkins’s back catalogue now – and would happily pay way more than 85p for this!

Book Review – The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes

Ok – at this point I need to confess to a bit of a girl crush on Marian Keyes. I follow her on Twitter and feel like we’ve watched the last few series of Strictly Come Dancing together. Hey – she’s even TWEETED ME BACK a couple of times (dances a jig!) We also share a love of Clinique Chubby Sticks. So – with all of these mutual interests – I had high hopes for her new(ish) book ‘The Woman Who Stole My Life’ and took it away with us to read over the Christmas break.

The Woman Who Stole My Life

Here is what Amazon have to say about it:

“International bestselling author Marian Keyes is back with another masterfully told story full of wit and charm.

‘Name: Stella Sweeney.

Height: average.

Recent life events: dramatic.’

One day, sitting in traffic, married Dublin mum Stella Sweeney attempts a good deed. The resulting car crash changes her life.

For she meets a man who wants her telephone number (for the insurance, it turns out). That’s okay. She doesn’t really like him much anyway (his Range Rover totally banjaxed her car).

But in this meeting is born the seed of something which will take Stella thousands of miles from her old life, turning an ordinary woman into a superstar, and, along the way, wrenching her whole family apart.

Is this all because of one ill-advised act of goodwill? Was meeting Mr Range Rover destiny or karma? Should she be grateful or hopping mad?

For the first time real, honest-to-goodness happiness is just within her reach. But is Stella Sweeney, Dublin housewife, ready to grasp it?

Marian’s stunning new novel The Woman Who Stole My Life is about losing the life you had and finding a better one.”

I have to say that I really enjoyed it.  There were some total laugh out loud moments (so I was ‘LOLing’ on my sunlounger in both senses of the word!!) but it is also really moving.  I thought the title was going to be predictable in the story line – which it was – and wasn’t!  It combined many different story lines woven together that if you set out as individual facts would look odd – but it all flowed brilliantly.  The fact that Stella is a slightly chubby, 40 something Mum also rang true (although not lots of the other stuff, before my husband gets concerned!!)  Also, having been to New York fairly recently – I enjoyed the bits set there.

It is not a deep, complicated read – but it is fun, easy, and you always want to keep reading to see how it’s going to develop.

Now – I must go and download some of Ms Keyes’s back catalogue…..