The Prices do St Lucia

St Lucia flag

14.5 years ago the husband and I got married in St Lucia.  Back then digital photos were a new fangled thing – so there weren’t many to chose from – but here you go! (Can’t believe how young we all look!!)

Wedding day 2003

We got married at The Body Holiday at Le Sport.  It’s a fabulous resort – and you get beauty treatments included each day as part of the ‘all inclusive’ aspect for the resort.  Even my Dad got in on the treatment action back in 2003. I  was actually 16 weeks pregnant with our eldest daughter (I’d come off the pill when we booked the wedding expecting it to take forever to get up the duff – but it didn’t!) and so was limited with the treatments, watersports, food and drink when there for the wedding.  But thankfully made up for that when we returned for our 5th and 10th wedding anniversaries!

40th birthday

Anyway – apart from this one ‘in utero’ visit for the eldest, the kids hadn’t seen where we got married – so we thought we’d take them across the Atlantic for a summer holiday in the Caribbean. Some friends have a timeshare slightly further down the coast from where we got married – and unlike The Body Holiday, this resort permits children to stay too.  We could have a large 5 bedroom villa in  the grounds of the hotel – so having the hotel facilities (room service, restaurants, water sports, spa etc) on tap but still staying in our own space.  So we booked a villa at Windjammer Landing through James Villas.

We headed of to St Lucia with British Airways (Virgin also fly there) – with the nice lying down seats!

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The youngest signing her landing card! 

We’d been given some top tips for arriving at Hewanorra airport (UVF if you’re interested in airport codes #usefulforPointless) – basically, keep left if you’ve got young kids with you, as there’s a dedicated ‘families’ queue at immigration which is loads quicker! And it was great – straight through, bags grabbed, men trying to charge you loads of money to help avoided and out into the every sweaty concourse to await our driver.

We knew the drive from the airport was arduous!  We’ve tried a helicopter transfer before – and with all the faffing about, and the fact it only gets you to Castries, not the actual hotel – meant we stuck with road transportation.  I suffer HORRIBLY with car sickness – and the roads in St Lucia are pretty windy, bumpy and altogether vomit inducing – but I managed not to chuck for the 90 minute transfer.

It was all a bit chaotic and ‘Caribbean’ in service levels when we got to the hotel. I’m not sure I’m cut out to be laid back and all ‘irie’.  Anyway – we got up to our villa and our view was AMAZING!!!  It was just the most stunning ever.  There were a ‘few’ issues – but I’ve saved those for the Tripadvisor review 😉

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The stunning view from our villa 

Whilst the husband and I had been to St Lucia before, we hadn’t ventured out of our resort – so we decided to do a trip around the island.  I – and 2 of the 4 kids – aren’t great on boats, so we did it by road.  This was not cheap – but we plumped for it anyway.  We saw Marigot Bay, did the sulphur springs, the waterfall and the Pitons.  The weather was FOUL, it took FOREVER to get anywhere – but we all survived (just!)  We’ve only seen rave reviews of doing these sites by sea – so it must just have been doing it by road that made it really hard work – of course, not helped by the fact the rain was pretty torrential.  It also highlighted just what a high proportion of the island is living in total poverty – quite sobering to see when you’re safely ensconced in your luxury resort most of the time.

On other days we did the zip wire over the rainforest (and the youngest and I did a cable car instead as she was too young to zip wire – and I’m too scared of heights!!)

The husband and girls also did horseriding – including a ride along the beach.

We also went to the water park in Rodney Bay with our friends which was brilliant (again the 5 year old was too young, and quite put out about this!!)  – but the older kids and the husband enjoyed it (although he struggled to move the next day!!) We also had an amazing meal at Spinnakers on the beach that night.

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And, of course, we took the children to see where we got married #romantic

The airport lounge for the flight back is not the best lounge we’ve ever been in (Dubai International – DXB – is the best if you actually want to know!) but we passed the time there, and then flew back (not the best flight ever either – a 5 year old with ear ache meant I spent a large proportion of the flight sat in the footwell of her seat comforting her – and my lovely bed went unslept in!).

But lots of family memories – good, bad, amusing and disturbing – were made over the fortnight!

The eldest daughter made this fab video of what we got up to – which shows what a great time we had (thankfully it doesn’t include the torrential rain, or the times the kids just wanted to sit and watch their iPads!!)

Thank you St Lucia – you’ll always have a special place in our hearts as it’s where we said ‘I do’.  I’m not sure in January 2003 I would have expected to return 14 years later with 4 children in tow!

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Kicking The Bucket List by Cathy Hopkins

Kicking The Bucket List

“Meet the daughters of Iris Parker. Dee; sensitive and big-hearted; Rose uptight and controlled and Fleur the reckless free spirit.
At the reading of their mother’s will, the three estranged women are aghast to discover that their inheritance comes with strings attached. If they are to inherit her wealth, they must spend a series of weekends together over the course of a year and carry out their mother’s ‘bucket list’.

But one year doesn’t seem like nearly enough time for them to move past the decades-old layers of squabbles and misunderstandings. Can they grow up for once and see that Iris’ bucket list was about so much more than money…”

I’m not sure how this ended up on my Kindle (potentially prosecco fueled late night purchase?!?) but I started reading it a few days ago and enjoyed it.

It’s based around 3 sisters – although they’re nothing like me and my 2 sisters so can’t draw any analogies there.

I found it really quite emotional – and sobbed a few times (but then I cry at anything – current fave being the Morrison’s pie advert, so other people might not weep as much!)

The chapters are told from the different sisters’ viewpoints – although fundamentally by Dee (official name Daisy).  I liked Dee (although occasionally wanted to tell her to man up a bit!)

The story ends up much more complicated than it starts off – but I don’t want to give any of the plot twists away, as it would ruin it knowing some of the stuff up front!  Occasionally it felt a bit repetitive – but overall I enjoyed it.

An easy summer read – exactly as it says on the cover!

Not sure where it will fit into my  2017 Reading Challenge (and it could easily have warranted a cat on the front cover which would have been one category sorted!!)

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Strong Woman: The Truth About Getting To The Top by Karren Brady

Karren Brady - Strong Woman

I’ve always liked Karren Brady (despite the fact that I’m a Villa fan!) and remember on more than one occasion, back in the day when I had a ‘corporate’ job, we were the only females on  the train from London Euston to Birmingham International.  A sea of dark suited men  – and me and Ms Brady.

I’ve followed her professional career from when she arrived at Birmingham City – despite them being my football team’s bitterest rivals.

Karren is 5 years older than me – but seemed so much more glamourous and grown up than me when I was doing my A levels.  A real aspirational role model – a successful businesswoman who wasn’t prepared to hide the fact that she was most definitely female!

I’m also incredibly nosy – and so have enjoyed following her personal life – marriage to a footballer (Paul Peschisolido), 2 kids, serious health concern – so I knew the headlines – but was interested to know more.

My 2017 Reading Challenge means I’ve been picking a more varied set of books than normal – so when I needed ‘A book with career advice’ – this seemed an apt choice.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Karren Brady is an inspiration to women everywhere, and her incredible success is borne of her passion, impressive business instinct, ambition, and her very genuine, honest, down-to-earth outlook.

This is Karren’s story… before being Alan Sugar’s aide on The Apprentice and VC of West Ham United, how she started out as a sparky 18 year old at Saatchi & Saatchi and at 23, went on to persuade David Sullivan to buy Birmingham City football club – turning that business round to sell it for an incredible £82 million 12 years later.

Strong Woman tells how she balances her personal life with her professional, her priorities, her life as mother of two and wife. Karren reveals how she coped when doctors told her after a routine scan that she had a brain aneurysm, that she must have a complicated operation immediately and had a 30% chance of not surviving, and how it has since influenced her outlook and priorities.

An overwhelmingly inspiring and real look at work and life, Karren Brady defies convention as a directional business woman in a male industry. This is the truth about how she does it, and through her experience, her drive and her skills – it offers brilliant advice on how you can do it too.”

I have to say I really enjoyed the book – for many different reasons.

I was reading it on holiday in the Caribbean – but whilst there, juggling family life with still working – as we have our own business – and so could empathise with a lot of  the content – about not taking days off, and being permanently ‘on call’.  People often say how ‘lucky’ we are to have the lifestyle that we do – and travel all round the world – but there’s not much luck to it – most is damn hard work, day in and day out, which is just what Karren says.

I liked the fact that Karren’s family is also, clearly, really important to her.  Like her, I juggle the kids and work – and sometimes feel torn in two, but wouldn’t be without either part of my life.  We have also been lucky with our childcare, like the Peschisolido kids were, having had one nanny for the last 7 years in our case.  It really is the simplest option when you don’t have a 9-5 job (and in our case, LOADS of kids!)  I’ve blogged about this before – and how people somehow seem to think having a nanny means you’re spoilt! The chapter looking back at Karren’s early years was also really interesting (I am just naturally nosy!)

As I said at the outset – historically on the train sometimes the male / female ratio was not very even!  Having been the only girl at my school wanting to do further maths A level, I had to do it at the boys school next door.  Then I did a maths degree at University – and the trained as an accountant with one of the ‘Big 6’ firms (that’s showing my age as there aren’t 6 any more!).  Finally, I’ve ended up running a construction company!  None of it is QUITE as male dominated as working in football – but I can definitely appreciate working in a male environment.  However, to paraphrase Karren slightly, I’m all for people getting a role because they are the best person for the job, not just because they need to fill a quota based on the shape of their genitalia.

The section about TV work – specifically The Apprentice – was also great, really feeling like you were getting a behind the scenes view.  It’s daft – but I’d never thought before about the long hours that the advisers would work as well as the competitors.  Having to fit the ‘day job’ in after filming hours must also be crazy busy.

I found the chapter on Karren’s aneurysm really moving.  It wasn’t written in an over hyped way – but very matter of fact with all of the issues that happened and how they were dealt with.  But still – it makes you think ‘what if?’  Having had a close friend go  through breast cancer over recent months – she said just the same as Karren did – the worst thing was having to tell her children that she was ill. But as with my friend sharing her breast cancer story,  Karren sharing her ‘journey’ with her aneurysm may help someone else going through the same situation – and definitely makes you grateful for your own health.

The photos at the end were fabulous – lovely seeing all the people that have been important to Karren over the years – and obviously the variety of clothes and hair styles! #priorities

This has turned into a bit of a fan girl blog about Ms Brady – having totally empathised with an awful lot of what she said.  I also think this would be a GREAT book for girls and young women thinking about what they want to do with their futures – lots of food for thought and inspiration to be had.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Break by Marian Keyes

The Break

I have blogged before about my love (bordering on total fangirl-ness) for Marian Keyes, and so was very excited when her next book was put on Netgalley – so I downloaded an advanced review copy for free in return for feedback!

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“The Break is the brand new, funny, touching and truly fabulous novel from Marian Keyes . . .

‘Myself and Hugh . . . We’re taking a break.’
‘A city-with-fancy-food sort of break?’

If only.
Amy’s husband Hugh says he isn’t leaving her.
He still loves her, he’s just taking a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. Six months to lose himself in south-east Asia. And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it.
Yes, it’s a mid-life crisis, but let’s be clear: a break isn’t a break up – yet . . .
However, for Amy it’s enough to send her – along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and troublemakers – teetering over the edge.
For a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns if he returns, will he be the same man she married? And will Amy be the same woman?
Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then isn’t she?
The Break isn’t a story about falling in love but about staying in love. It is Marian Keyes at her funniest, wisest and brilliant best.”

The central character is Amy – who at 44, is a very similar age to me, which is always a winner.  She and Hugh seem to have a secure – if slightly complicated – family set up.  I was concerned I’d be confused as to which ‘daughter’ was which – but soon settled in to it.

The extended friends, family and colleagues are also an important part of the storyline – and you feel like you get to know all of them – and most are really likeable in their own way.

I liked Amy a lot (although a couple of times wanted to shout at her to get a grip, or at least stand up to her mother about ‘babysitting’ her Dad when she had such a busy life already) but was always in her corner.

The way everyday references are brought in are great – social media, vlogging, internet shopping – all used in a totally ‘normal’ way.  I particularly liked the fact that not ‘liking’ a friend’s Facebook posts for over a week clearly showed you were upset with them!!

I also enjoyed the Strictly references – knowing that the author is a superfan (and quite frankly a joy to watch every time she’s on It Takes Two!) – I could almost hear her reading out that section of the book!

There was also an amusing section about people bringing round casseroles in time of trouble (although maybe the casserole is an Irish thing – as when a friend was having a tough time it was mince and tomato based meals in Worcestershire!!) – but the principle was totally the same.

I really enjoyed that throughout the book you didn’t know what was going to happen after ‘The Break’ – exactly as Amy didn’t.  And obviously I won’t give away what does!

There are so many interesting characters in the book, this could quite easily turn into the start of a series??  #wishfulthinking?!

Overall this is another great book from Ms Keyes – I would definitely recommend you read it when it comes out in September.  Now – to see if I can shoehorn it into my 2017 Reading Challenge! 

 

Book Review: The Forever House by Veronica Henry

The Forever House

I have enjoyed Veronica Henry’s books before (although having checked – none since I started reviewing my reading habits on here) – and we have mutual friends on Facebook (practically a claim to fame I know!)  Anyway – when I saw this had come out I downloaded it – although not sure how I can shoehorn it into my 2017 Reading Challenge – maybe there’s a cat hidden on the front somewhere?!

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Hunter’s Moon is the ultimate ‘forever’ house. Nestled by a river in the Peasebrook valley, it has been the Willoughbys’ home for over fifty years, and now estate agent Belinda Baxter is determined to find the perfect family to live there. But the sale of the house unlocks decades of family secrets – and brings Belinda face to face with her own troubled past. . . “

The book cycles between the present day, and present-ish day, and 1967. I enjoyed this aspect – and really wanted to know what was happening in both stories – which are clearly linked – and with ‘Hunter’s Moon’ as a main character in both.  The descriptions of the 60s were great – from fancy London town through to fancy pants clothes – it was all really evocative of the era.

The interactions between the different main characters was also lovely – although a little bit predictable (but lovely predictable, so totally fine!)

I was really rooting for Sally in 1967 and the present day – and Belinda too – both lovely central characters.

I absolutely loved the final chapter – set 4 years on from the bulk of the story – but still want to know what’s happened to everyone subsequently – which is always the sign of a good book.

All in all a perfect, summer, easy, escapist read.

So, to quote Jill Mansell off the front cover, ‘A delight from start to finish’!

 

 

Funeral

A couple of months ago I went to the funeral of a family friend.  A truly lovely man who’d been an ‘Uncle’ to me growing up – you know, not actually a blood relation, but I’m of the era when friends of your parents were called Auntie and Uncle.

They lived in Solihull (posh!) and had a stream running through the back of their garden (super posh!) – and I remember many a happy sunny afternoon creating dams to block it – or finding fish and other wildlife.

A few years ago I had bumped into this ‘Uncle’ at  a mutual friend’s house – and he had been incredulous that little old me was driving a Lexus 4×4 (it was a hybrid and cool at the time!) consequently I quite enjoyed turning up to his funeral in my Porsche 911 (even if it was a bit of a squash in the car park)  – he would have been suitably impressed!

I arrived for the service with my parents and one of my Mum’s sisters and her husband.  I was accused of being their other sister!!  Now admittedly that Auntie is 9 years older than me – but about 5 stone lighter – so I took it as a massive compliment!! I was also slightly nervous about what to wear – as the Auntie (blood relative this time!) in attendance is a colour consultant – but thankfully I passed the test as she told me how nice I looked – phew!

There are loads of old family friends at the funeral too (old friends in both senses of the word!)  One family we’d actually stayed with when we were between houses when I was a child.  One of their sons was a few years older than me (can I point out I was 2 at the time) and I was completely in awe of him (apparently – I don’t remember at all!)  Anyway – whilst we were staying at their house I was suffering with awful constipation (can I reiterate I was 2 – although still potentially TMI!) and therefore spent a lot of time sat on the toilet.  This time was not wasted (have you met my mother?!) and so I learned my letters of the alphabet from objects to hand.  Therefore the V-I-M from the household cleaner kept in the bathroom.  The M was for Mark – who was the son in question (and also, coincidentally, now my husband’s name!!) My father must have recounted this anecdote about ONE MILLION times during the funeral (not the actual service – that would have been disrespectful – but before and after to other attendees!!) .  The Mark in question was present – and is now a senior consultant at a local hospital and one of the UK’s leading expert on certain diseases – yep, wasn’t embarrassing at all!

But whilst we’re talking about embarrassing – a couple of times we were asked to move through to the buffet – to which my Mum (remember, I’m a 43 year old grown up) told people that I wouldn’t want to eat much as I was low carbing as I was trying to lose weight!! Thankfully the spread was prolific (M&S I think) and the cheese options were fabulous so my low carbing self was catered for.  I eschewed the amazing cakes too #polisheshalo

The service itself was so moving – he was really a loved man by his family – right down to Great Grandkids – but also friends too.  The singing was rousing (my Dad leading the harmonies – he’s legendary!) and emotional. So lovely to celebrate the life of a truly gentle man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner

PERSONS UNKNOWN.jpg

I read the first Manon Bradshaw book last year and really enjoyed it – so when the sequel came out I HAD to read it – even if it couldn’t slot into a specific category on my 2017 Reading Challenge #shocker (although I will try and fit it in somewhere, of course!!) .

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Manon Bradshaw is back.
As dusk falls a young man staggers through a park, far from home, bleeding from a stab wound. He dies where he falls; cradled by a stranger, a woman’s name on his lips in his last seconds of life.
DI Manon Bradshaw can’t help taking an interest – these days she only handles cold cases, but the man died just yards from the police station where she works.
She’s horrified to discover that both victim and prime suspect are more closely linked to her than she could have imagined. And as the Cambridgeshire police force closes ranks against her, she is forced to contemplate the unthinkable.
How well does she know her loved ones, and are they capable of murder?”

I read this in about three sittings (because I’m on holiday – and I was supervising the children in the pool – AKA reading on a sunbed!!) and it was BRILLIANT!

It follows on from the previous book (although could be read standalone – but I would highly recommend reading ‘Missing Presumed’ first!)  – and Manon remains a tortured soul in many ways (but aren’t all police officers in such books?  I guess crime dramas would be dull if the cops had a normal, stable home life!!

The chapters are told from different perspectives – I think (from memory, and I can’t be bothered to go and find my Kindle!)  Manon, her colleague Davy and Birdie. Initially you don’t realise how Birdie is going to fit into it – but it all intertwines cleverly.  It mixes the domestic lives of the main characters alongside the main ‘crime’ and keeps a real pace so you’re permanently excited to see what’s going to happen next!  There are twists and turns – and overall a really enjoyable book – especially if you’re a crime drama fan. I really hope this series continues!