Time capsule briefcase

Last night I sorted out a briefcase to take to fancy London today. These days it’s pretty rare for me to use such a bag – and that was clearly evident when I sorted out the contents of the interior pockets:

  1. Business cards from an office we moved out of over 5 years ago.
  2. Ibuprofen with a use by date of 2011! I’d forgotten just how many I use to pop – before pilates sorted my back out.
  3. Medium sized tampons – this was definitely pre children 3 and 4, super plus all the way since then!!

 

Because of all of the above, I didn’t risk eating the chocolate coins that I also found……………..

 

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Book Review: Letters to Iris by Elizabeth Noble

Letters to Iris

 

I am trying to be a bit more selective about what advanced review copy books I request from Netgalley – partly so I don’t get stuck with any more duds – but also because I want to be able to read them and give timely feedback so that I have a good reviewer rating and so when something I’m desperate to read comes along I can be approved!  (I am naturally a total geek too……)

Anyway – I saw this on there, and it really appealed so I decided to request it and was accepted (it still makes me do a happy dance every time this happens)

Here’s the blurb:

“Tess has a secret – one which is going to turn her life upside down in just nine months’ time.

The only person she can confide in is her beloved grandmother. But Iris is slipping further away each day.

Then chance brings a stranger into Tess’s life.

Gigi’s heart goes out to Tess, knowing what it’s like to feel alone. She’s determined to show her that there’s a silver lining to every cloud.

As their unlikely friendship blossoms, Tess feels inspired to open up.

But something still holds her back – until she discovers Iris has a secret of her own. A suitcase of letters from another time, the missing pieces of a life she never shared.

Could the letters hold the answers that Tess thought lost for ever?

An uplifting, unforgettable story about keeping secrets, taking chances and finding happiness where you least expect it.”

 

Initially the stories of Tess and Gigi appear completely separate and you’re not sure how they’re going to meet up – but then about 25% of the way through, they meet at a care home they both have relatives at. The care home sections were quite relevant to me, as my maternal grandmother has become a resident of one recently – so now they are much more on my radar than ever before.

I was immediately intrigued by both Tess and Gigi’s stories – I found both interesting, in completely different ways.  Tess writes to her unborn child – and that made me think about my own pregnancies – in a fond, reminiscing kind of way!

The book made me laugh – and cry – which is always good.  Whilst Tess and Gigi are the main characters, the supporting characters are also great and well rounded.  I particularly liked Tess’s friend Holly (whose daughter is a similar age to my eldest, and so was probably the character going through the most similar issues to me) and also Gigi’s daughter in law Emily – who was just lovely.

I won’t give too much of the story away (I loathe reviews that do that) and it is reasonably predictable – but in a comfortable and safe way, with some twists and turns along the way.  It does, as you expect from the start, encompass the whole ‘circle of life’ (sung in a Disney way, obvs!)

Now being a bit of a geek, I thought the book was really well written – it felt like it had been written with care and attention to detail and language.  Sometimes I feel some modern books seem a bit ‘disposable’ and have been written quickly by the author – this felt like it had been lovingly crafted rather than banged off to meet a deadline. (I hope you understand what I mean and I don’t sound like a total snobby weirdo?!?)

A big thank you to Netgalley and Penguin for my free advance review copy in return for my honest opinion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Sims

Why Mummy Drinks

I arrived home from work the other evening to find that our lovely nanny had left a copy of this book on my desk to read.  I’m not sure if it is a bit concerning that she chose a book called ‘Why Mummy Drinks’, I’m hoping she realised it was a novel and wasn’t giving me a self help book?!?!?

Another friend had raved about this last year – and I have read some of Gill Sims Facebook posts about ‘Peter and Jane’ which spawned this book – so I was looking forward to it.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Why Mummy Drinks is the brilliant novel from Gill Sims, the author of the online sensation Peter and Jane.

It is Mummy’s 39th birthday. She is staring down the barrel of a future of people asking if she wants to come to their advanced yoga classes, and polite book clubs where everyone claims to be tiddly after a glass of Pinot Grigio and says things like ‘Oooh gosh, are you having another glass?’

But Mummy does not want to go quietly into that good night of women with sensible haircuts who ‘live for their children’ and stand in the playground trying to trump each other with their offspring’s extracurricular activities and achievements, and boasting about their latest holidays.

Instead, she clutches a large glass of wine, muttering ‘FML’ over and over again. Until she remembers the gem of an idea she’s had…”

I have to say I enjoyed it straight away!  There have been other books written about motherhood – Hurrah for Gin‘s springs to mind immediately as one I’ve reviewed – and they were good, but in this, Peter and Jane are 8 and 6 – almost exactly the same age as my youngest two children, and so it was sooooo much more currently relevant than newborn related books.

As well as laughing (and shaking in an attempt not to wake my sleeping husband)  – I was nodding in total agreement (I have a 6 year old who still wants to keep taking the lovely pink Calpol and not to have to have the 6+ version. Equally I have a 14 year old who insists on still taking the 6+ sweets style Calpol rather than proper paracetamol tablets – I’m not sure 6+ Calpol is designed for period pain…….. )

The book is written in the style of a diary – school year diary not calendar year diary – and all the major events are covered!  Christmas was a particular favourite for me – but I won’t ruin it for you by telling you what happens.  There was also a family trip to The Savoy – which we did last year (and the stress about not having WAG style luggage was real!) – and the swimming pool, that we loved, got a mention too.

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Giving the Savoy bathrobes some good press for once!

There are people in it – from the school gates / friends / family – who you will recognise IMMEDIATELY.  Clearly I’m not going to name names (well, not unless you buy me a gin or two!) but you will totally recognise people you know.   I texted one of my sisters as I was part way through the book as I knew she’d love it (and she never reads my book review blog posts – how rude!) and she downloaded it instantly – and then texted me to complain she was not getting through any of her ‘to do list’ for the weekend as she loved it so much she couldn’t put it down!!

It’s a bit sweary, there’s a recurring alcohol theme throughout, it’s fabulously middle class and suburban – and just bloody brilliant!  It reminded me of the TV programme Motherland that covered similar topics (but I have to say, I think ‘Why Mummy Drinks’ is better, and I preferred Ellen to Julia as the main character.)

I’m not sure where this will fit into my 2018 Reading Challenge – but I don’t care!  It was worth going off piste because it was so good.  And I am DELIGHTED there is to be a sequel so we can find out what happens to Ellen, Simon, Jane and Peter next – in Why Mummy Swears which is out in July – hoorah!

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

A new deli opened in our village at the end of last year – Gin & Pickles.  I love it very much and am a loyal customer already – coffee & cake in the morning, lunchtime platters of cold meats and cheese, and evenings filled with gin have already featured in my visits.  Let alone the huge quantities of take away items we acquire most weeks to enjoy back at home!  I thought I couldn’t love it any more – until I popped in the other day and the lovely owner, who’d seen a couple of friends recommend this book to me on social media, gave me her copy to borrow!  Gin, pickles – and books to borrow – practically heaven on earth?!?

The Keeper of Lost Things

I had high hopes for ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ as lots of people had recommended it, so here’s the blurb:

“Meet the ‘Keeper of Lost Things’…
Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.

Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.

But the final wishes of the ‘Keeper of Lost Things’ have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…”

My high hopes were not disappointed – it is a truly lovely book.

The relationships, initially between Laura and Anthony, but then between Laura, Freddy and Sunshine are great.  Reasonably predicable but the interactions develop in a lovely and endearing way, and you want the best for all of them.

The story of these characters – and the house, Padua, which is practically a character in itself, are interspersed with stories from decades earlier about seemingly unrelated characters called Eunice and Bomber.  You kind of guess they’re going to end up converging – but I didn’t work out exactly how this would happen until very near the end of the book (I won’t ruin it for you!) The chapters set in a care home – well, two different care homes – were particularly poignant, as my Nan has recently become a care home resident.

There are also stories in italics – which ‘could’ be how the items that Anthony has been collecting were lost – but for the bulk of the book you’re not quite sure if they are his imagination or actual facts.

It is not a difficult read – and you have to go with the coincidences, particularly at the end, but it’s a lovely, escapist, enchanting read – which I think would appeal to a cross section of all ages.

Sunshine is my favourite character – I’d like her to come round and make me ‘the lovely cup of tea’ and have a chat sometime.  (That will make sense once you’ve read the book!!)

This is fitting into my 2018 Reading Challenge category of “A book recommended by someone else taking the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge”. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself and have ticked off two of the advanced categories without doing all of the initial ones – but we shall be optimistic for the next 9 and a half months!

Skiing funtimes

I am renowned for many things – but my love of skiing is not one of them.

I blame this on not learning until I was nearly 26 – and I came to the French Alps for the Ski-llenium New Year (1999-2000, when everyone expected computers around the world to fail, and NOTHING HAPPENED……..)  Well – that holiday could generate a couple of blog post topics for sure  – but we’ll gloss over that for now – and just say, I’ve never really been bitten by the skiing bug!

However, my best friend from school has lived in the French Alps for almost 15 years – and we’ve visited regularly – so I have done the skiing thing a few times (although being pregnant and having a small baby were damn good excuses four times.  This is not the reason I had 4 kids though (that was because the oldest 2 got old enough to realise I was nicking their Easter eggs, so I needed to have some more!!))

This year, when arranging ski lessons, I shocked aforementioned BFF by saying I would have lessons.  There was an incredulous WhatsApp response – as if she didn’t believe me!!  Anyway – 4 weeks before the holiday I had to have surgery, and was advised not to do anything strenuous for 6 weeks – so skiing, for me at least, had to be cancelled!!! Obviously I was gutted (not!) and planned lazing in a deckchair with my Kindle and a vin chaud…………

Now it should be said that skiing holidays are not for the faint hearted!  A bit like Disney or Centerparcs you arrive home feeling like you really deserve a rest.

At this time of year EasyJet do a direct flight from BHX to GVA – so that makes life simpler.  The flight was straightforward, quick and arrived early!  Baggage reclaim was straightforward, and as it’s an airport we know quite well, we were quickly on our way to get our vehicle.  To house the 6 of us and our fabulous nanny who came too – we needed a large vehicle – and a Citroen Jumpy it was.  When we picked it up we saw it had German plates – but didn’t think much of that at the time.  Until we started driving through Geneva and the Haute Savoie in France.  People kept pulling out in front of us – and generally driving aggressively near us. Seems the Germans are not particularly well liked in this area.  I’m not sure if putting a Union Jack in the window would have made this better or worse?!?

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Mini bus selfie in Geneva traffic

We stopped at a huge Carrefour to stock up on essentials – milk, bread, yoghurt, tonic (had brought our own gin from home!) and prosecco!

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Essential shopping

We made it up the mountain in one piece (this is not always a given, 9 years ago we managed to drive an Avis rental into a ditch and write it off  on this same route – hence we always take out the additional insurance when hiring from Geneva airport!!) and to our fabulous apartment in St Jean d’Aulps.  We’d booked through Chalet des Fleurs – who had been great throughout the whole booking process – but randomly the apartment used to be a restaurant my BFF’s parents owned, so it was slightly surreal going back to it as an apartment!

Skiing 7
A sign in our chalet – it would appear they’ve met my husband before….

The apartment was walking distance to the telecabine (and on the first day to the ski shop to get kitted out).  We’d booked private lessons through the local ESF office – who were brilliant. The little 2 had an instructor called Fanny, which caused much amusement for my husband, asking if anyone had seen Fanny (honestly, you wouldn’t believe he was 46!!).  The big 2 had the instructor that I’d had back in 1999 – and they were much better behaved students than their mother, I don’t think at any point they cried, took their skis off and tried to walk back down the mountain……..

We had 3 days of skiing and lessons – the first day was GLORIOUS sunshine, with the other days not so great – but still a good time had by all.  We even got to ski with our friends kids – who are AWESOME – we are very proud of them (and my husband does try to pass them off as his kids when people are impressed by their skiing / bilingual-ness!!)

 

 

 

A local lady had stocked our chalet with food – a tartiflette (local potato / bacon / reblochon cheese deliciousness), a Thai green chicken curry and a spag bol for the kids – along with a selection of fantastic cakes.  This really helped in the evenings being able to feed everyone with minimal stress.  We also managed take away pizzas from a place in the village – and ate up the slopes at a couple of different places – La Licorne being the best by far!

We were only away Monday – Friday, and this worked perfectly!  3 days of skiing for everyone, so no one was completely broken and exhausted – which seems to be the order of the day when away for a week.  I would suggest that all 4 kids are probably better skiers than me now – but I’m pleased they all have this skill at a young age – before being lumbered with ‘the fear’!!

Skiing 4
All 4 kids and our fab nanny. All of them can now ski better than me………

 

This is in no way a sponsored post – we paid for the whole trip ourselves – just wanting to share the love!!

Skiing 5

 

21st Century Parenting – part 2!

I blogged the other month about how the Alexa had assisted in 21st Century parenting – well, last night we had another ‘benefit’ of technology.

The youngest shouted downstairs that she needed me to go and lie with her to go to sleep – but the husband and I had a few minutes left on a TV programme we were watching – so I hollered back up the stairs that I needed 5 minutes, and she should count 300 elephants (if she doesn’t count elephants she counts too quickly!)

Anyway – after about 5 minutes I headed upstairs to be told it wasn’t yet time.  I was confused how she was so adamant (or that she’d counted close to 300 to be honest) to be told she’d set the timer on her iPad for 5 minutes so she could check I wasn’t fibbing!!

Technology can be very useful – but also catch you out…..

 

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