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. 

 

 

 

 

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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?!

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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!)

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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…….

 

 

 

Book Review: Nina Is Not Ok by Shappi Khorsandi

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I chose this for my 2018 Reading Challenge as ‘A book by an author of a different ethnicity to you’ because it popped up on Amazon as a book I might like – and I liked Shappi Khorsandi on I’m A Celebrity last year.  As good a reason as ever to read a book?!

Here’s the blurb:

“Nina does not have a drinking problem. She likes a drink, sure. But what 17-year-old doesn’t? 
Nina’s mum isn’t so sure. But she’s busy with her new husband and five year old Katie. And Nina’s almost an adult after all. 
And if Nina sometimes wakes up with little memory of what happened the night before, then her friends are all too happy to fill in the blanks. Nina’s drunken exploits are the stuff of college legend. 
But then one dark Sunday morning, even her friends can’t help piece together Saturday night. All Nina feels is a deep sense of shame, that something very bad has happened to her…”

I think I am slightly over target age for this – but it’s really good.  Whilst I didn’t drink quite as much as Nina as a teenager – I do remember the hungover shame the next morning in my mid 20s.

I like Nina a lot – and her friends.  I feel for her Mum – and wonder how I would cope if that was my daughter.  I also secretly really like Alan her step Dad – when the chips are down he is ace.

The book is brilliantly written with a really dry sense of humour – and just so true.  Little things like Nina kicking her dresser really hard (but not so hard that her jewellery fell off and got all tangled up).  Just very cleverly written.

The descriptions of rehab are also really interesting – and AA meetings / sponsor set up.  I can see the massive benefits – and detriments – of sharing with people going through the same or similar addictions.

It also highlights the issues that social media and smart phones bring to teenagers lives.  Yet again it made me incredibly grateful that my teenage years were in the 90s before the advent of such things.

A number of the reviewers on Amazon have said that every 15-25 year old should read this.  I squirmed a bit at this, as my eldest is 15 and there is quite a lot of sex in the book – but hey, at her age I could probably find you the rude bits in Judy Blume’s ‘Forever’ in a matter of seconds – and she watched bloody Love Island – and this is way more thought provoking than that drivel.  However, I’m sure if I recommend it she won’t read it anyway!

I would recommend this to the age range mentioned above – but also to those of us with kids that age – it is really though provoking.  I will definitely look for other books by Shappi Khorsandi as I really like her writing style.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zimbabwe – a once in a lifetime holiday destination

When people talk about favourite holiday destinations you expect the Caribbean, the Algarve, maybe the South of France or Italian Lakes, perhaps Florida for a Disney-fest – but I would like to add Zimbabwe to that list.

When we said we had Zimbabwe on our itinerary for our African Adventure this summer, friends vocalised their concerns with the political situation – especially with the violence after elections just days before we were due to travel. We were heading to Victoria Falls, over 900km from Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe and where the majority of the troubles have been, and so were hoping that all would be well.

We flew into Vic Falls and had to wait HOURS to get through immigration – as all visitors have to purchase a visa (in US$, as Zimbabwe no longer has its own currency) and then these are hand written and stuck into individual passports. It was a time consuming process – but eventually worth it.

So here are the Price family’s top tips for a once in a lifetime trip to Zimbabwe:

1. AccommodationMatetsi River Lodge

This was our first destination and it was AMAZING! We were lucky enough to stay in their River House – which sleeps 8 and has it’s own private dining room and kitchen, so you don’t have to go to the communal areas at all.  We honestly felt like the only people there – despite there being 18 other suites. Like the whole resort it is right on the banks of the Zambezi with stunning views across to Zambia.

The rooms are well appointed – with air con, loads of storage, modern bathrooms, mosquito nets – and stunning views out across the river.

We also had our own private pool. It wasn’t heated – but all of the kids, and the husband, managed a brief dip.  It was winter when we were there – but I can imagine in summer it would be a great place to chill and escape the heat.

Some of the wildlife does venture down to the lodge – so you do have to be a bit aware.  I have to say I never thought I’d hear my daughter yell ‘Mum, Mum, a monkey has just stolen my gluten free breakfast biscuits’!!  The cheeky thing had crept through a gap in the door as the girls were chilling in their room, it had swiped a packet of biscuits, climbed up a tree, perfectly opened the packaging and sat munching the gluten free delights!  It was quite a sight.

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The gluten free monkey!

On the subject of being gluten free, Matetsi handled this dietary requirement brilliantly – and made some fabulous GF options available.  They also coped with a very fussy 8 year old who pretty much ate chicken nuggets and chips for every meal.  The rest of us were more adventurous and the food was wonderful.  As were the drinks – gin and homemade lemonade being my tipple of choice after Chris, the wonderful butler, rustled one up for me the first day.  All of the food and drink was included in the price of the stay.

Our laundry was washed every day, also included in the holiday cost, which with 6 of us was incredibly useful.  The final evening the housekeeper had run us a bath and left a bottle of sparkling wine in an ice bucket next to it, for when we got back from our game drive – now that is perfect service! (I won’t include the photo of us in the bath – do not fear!!)

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Candlelit bath with wine #perfect

I managed to have an open air full body massage whilst we were there – there is a separate spa / gym / pool / wine cellar complex  – and it was wonderfully relaxing, and needed after being thrown around on game drives!

We have been lucky enough to stay in some amazing places around the world – but Matetsi will hold a special place in all of our hearts forever.

2. Game Drives

Matetsi allocated our Guide, Clever (yes, that really was his name) and Tracker, Mongoose (I don’t think that really was his name – but it was what Clever called him the day we met and it stuck!) the afternoon we arrived.  We went straight out on our first game drive and it was fabulous.

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Our transport for drives

Within minutes of leaving our house we’d seen loads of elephants at a water container.  Then we saw impala, zebras, kudus and lots more – along with an amazing sunset.  And this was just day one.

We were up early for our game drive the next morning and it was cold.  Proper bone chilling cold – which we hadn’t prepared for at all (the other mornings we layered up in ALL OF THE CLOTHES we had!) When we got in the vehicle there were blankets and HOT WATER BOTTLES – which was incredibly welcome.  We were delighted to see lions that morning- which is not a given – and it made the bone shaking coldness worthwhile.  We were also helped by Mongoose setting up a drinks station where we could have rangers coffee (coffee with a huge shot of Amarula in it!!) to warm up.

As well as game drives, Clever and Mongoose took us fishing on the Zambezi!  I am not renowned for my love of the water – but Mongoose having set up the drinks and snacks on the boat before we arrived definitely helped.  As the 15 year old so eloquently put it – ‘Mum’s only in it for the wine’!!

On one drive Clever collected some elephant poo, reconstituted it by soaking it in some water – and then drank the water!  This is seemingly a common thing for local people to do for its health giving properties!  Mr and Master Price both partook.  I didn’t (and informed Mr Price he had to clean his teeth before he could even think about a kiss that day!)

All of the drives were amazing – and we saw different things every time.

You do get a bit blase a few days in – with ‘oh look, more impala’ as if you’re talking about sheep when driving through Wales or such like, but to then see elephants walking across the plains as the sun sets – takes your breath away.

3. Elephant Interaction

We moved on from Matetsi to The Elephant Camp – about half an hour away, and closer to Victoria Falls itself.  We were lucky enough to have the 4 suites in West Camp to ourselves (there are 12 further suites over in the main camp).

It wasn’t quite up to Matetsi accommodation wise (but I’m not sure anything would have been!) but we were staying in tents (admittedly tents with a lounge area with sofas, and a full on en suite) but I’m taking it as a camping trip!!  (I’m renowned for my love of camping about as much as my love of boats!!)

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Every tent should have a living area with sofas and a minibar!

The main attraction about staying here was the chance to interact with the elephants who live on the camp.  In the 1980s Zimbabwe culled lots of elephants – this resulted in many orphans, and the Elephant Camp took them in.  They have continued to take in orphaned and injured elephants ever since.  The elephants can roam around the park in the day – but at night are stabled.  They are used to interacting with humans and so visitors can go and see them and feed them.  Having seen lots of elephants in the wild in the preceeding few days – it was wonderful to get up so close to them.  All of us enjoyed feeding them – and when one coughed all over the 15 year old, it was very amusing for the rest of us!

 

4. Sylvester the Cheetah

The other amazing thing that The Elephant Camp had to offer was the chance to interact with their resident Cheetah – Sylvester.  He was orphaned as a cub (his mother and the rest of his litter killed by a lion) and so has been brought up by the rangers.  He therefore lacks the hunting instinct to be let back into the wild.

Older children are allowed to take Sylvester for a walk – but because our youngest kids are only 8 and 6 that wasn’t an option, but we could still do the interaction.

It was amazing to see such a majestic creature up close.  The photos were incredible (although it does look like our 13 year old is trying to be all ‘gangsta’ rather than a public schoolboy from Worcestershire…….)

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Price family cheetah selfie (although it would make a good album cover!)

5. Victoria Falls

My parents visited the Falls at a similar time of year a few years ago, from the Zambian side – and there wasn’t much water, and they could actually walk onto the river bed – so we didn’t have high hopes for water flow.  However, it was perfect!  There was enough water to be truly spectacular – but we could see quite a lot without getting completely soaked (although we did by the end!)

We started off with a walk with our guide who had collected us from the Elephant Camp.  He was really informative telling us about the geography and history.  Interestingly whilst there is a statue of Livingstone at the Zimbabwean side of the falls, he didn’t actually set foot on that side, having ‘discovered’ them from the Zambia!

We walked along going to many different view points – which got progressively wetter as we went along!  We walked all the way down to the bridge across the gorge that connects Zimbabwe and Zambia (built in England and shipped across many years ago.  It reminded me of Ironbridge in Shropshire)

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After that we went to the Lookout Cafe for lunch.  The food was fab, as was the wine, and the view over the gorge quite spectacular!

From there we were picked up and taken to do ‘The Flight of Angels‘ – a 13 minute helicopter tour over Victoria Falls.  The 15 year old and 8 year old refused to fly – but the 13 year old and 6 year old did (there is no lower age limit).  The four of us had an amazing time – bucket list stuff.  It gave a real insight into the geography seeing it from the air.  And I managed not to throw up – which is unusual for me!!  It was spectacular.

 

The whole thing  really was a once in a lifetime trip – and one we would thoroughly recommend to anyone considering a safari.  We didn’t see any political trouble at all – and aside from a slightly ear flapping elephant, and being within striking distance of a lion, didn’t feel unsafe at all.

So there you go – Zimbabwe is now high up on the Price family favourite holiday destinations list!!

 

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. 

Book Review: The Anniversary by Hilary Boyd

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I was lucky enough to be sent an advanced review copy by Penguin of this new book out in September 2018 in return for an honest review.  Here’s the  blurb:

“Is the one you tried to forget the one you can’t live without?
Stella once thought that if she never saw Jack again, it would be too soon.
But life has other plans for her and her stubborn, handsome ex-husband.
Looking after their daughter in a time of need, Stella finds herself unwillingly reunited with the man she shared the best years of her life with – followed by the worst.
Where tragedy once tore them apart, now Stella and Jack are being drawn back together. But each of them has a new partner and a new life.
Should they fight temptation?
Should the past remain the past?
Or are some loves simply meant to be?”

The book is set in the current time – but with flashbacks to the family tragedy 27 years earlier.  The back story is filled out over time in a way that keeps you wanting to know more. Whilst you find out early on what the result was of the tragic event – you don’t know how and why it happened (and I won’t ruin it by giving too much away here – I loathe reviews that ruin a fundamental part of the story – and I’m pleased the blurb doesn’t in this case).

I really liked Stella and Jack – and you’re routing for them both in different ways.

Their daughter Eve (co-incidentally one of my daughter’s too) is very much stuck in the middle – and I found her a bit annoying at times, but pregnancy can make anyone a bit annoying (I’ve done it 4 times, and I’m sure was annoying every time!!)

I devoured the book in a few hours on holiday – but it felt like the kind of book you want to romp through as it moves at quite a pace – and you’re picking up the history too.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was a reasonably easy read – although appeared to have some randomly complicated words in at times – you could almost picture the writer using the synonym feature on her computer to get a fancy pants word as it generally wasn’t highbrow language!!

I don’t think I’ve read anything by Hilary Boyd before – but I will be sure to look out her back catalogue now for other holiday reads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap

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I was lent a copy of this by a friend – and told it was really ‘different’.  Now, I’m always nervous of ‘different’ having used exactly that word to describe Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’ – some of my friends still haven’t forgiven me for putting then through that!  Anyway – I read the book without reading the blurb first – which is always a risk!!

But here it is for you:

“Nova is 32 years old and she is about to see the world for the very first time.
Jillian Safinova, Nova to her friends, can do many things. She can speak five languages. She can always find a silver lining. And she can even tell when someone is lying just from the sound of their voice.
But there’s one thing Nova can’t do. She can’t see.
When her brother convinces her to have an operation that will restore her sight, Nova wakes up to a world she no longer understands. Until she meets Kate.
As Kate comes into focus, her past threatens to throw them into a different kind of darkness. Can they each learn to see the world in a different … and open their eyes to the lives they could have been living all along?”

I LOVED this book – from start to finish.  It’s difficult to know what category to put it in – there is a lot about the physical act of seeing, but also non physical blindness to things going on around you – as well as a romance and thriller aspects – very difficult to pin it down to a genre.

The whole concept of ‘curing’ a ‘broken’ sense is something I hadn’t even considered until a few years ago when a friend’s son was diagnosed as profoundly deaf at birth.  Cochlear implants were an option for him – and as someone with no experience of the deaf world at all, I just assumed it was a no brainer, and anything to make a child ‘normal’ (I cringe writing that now) should be grabbed at.  I hadn’t realised – until my very patient and forgiving friend – explained to me the complexities of ‘curing’ deafness has massively opposing views in the deaf community.  At the age of about 1, my friend’s son did have the implants and is thriving as a funny, feisty, bright, articulate, handsome, loving and loved 6 year old – and his implants are something that will be an intrinsic part of his life forever.

I think this gave me slightly more of an insight into Nova’s operation than I would have had if I’d not even considered ‘repairing a broken sense’ before. Obviously in her case it’s totally different as it’s sight not hearing, and she’s 32 – so has lived without seeing anything properly her entire life to date.  She’s an independent, successful woman working as an interpreter for the police – and the aftermath of her operation plays out for her professionally, personally and psychologically.

Nova’s path crosses with Kate in hospital. I have to say I’d made assumptions about how Kate’s injuries would pan out – and I was totally and utterly wrong! But their lives become entwined in a complex and ever changing way. The support they show each other – in different ways at different times – is beautiful and very real.

Also, being a ‘builder’ in my day job helped me appreciate some of Kate’s geeky architect references, for example the soundproofed new flat – I love it when there are seemingly irrelevant facts that interest me!

Nova and Kate’s relationships with family and friends are fundamental to the story but work really well – you see them as rounded people without any of it being forced – it’s just written really well. I don’t want to give too much of it away – you need to see what I mean when you read it.

This book does make you think about how we ‘see’ – and Nova’s rules of seeing are dotted throughout – some are practical – and some with a much deeper meaning – but all very cleverly done.

I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone and everyone!

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

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I am trying to tick off some categories in my 2018 reading challenge – and this book by Amy Schumer is a previous Goodreads Peoples Choice winner #yay. My husband and I watched ‘Trainwreck’ a few years ago – and he was surprised how much the Amy Schumer character reminded him of me…… (this is a compliment – I think?!)  We watched some of her stand up and found that very entertaining too (probably I enjoyed it more than him – even though he doesn’t mind a vulgar sex reference much!!)  Anyway – I wanted to find out more about the real Amy – rather than the semi autobiographical one from Trainwreck (and was hoping I wouldn’t be massively disappointed in the whole Greatest Showman / PT Barnum autobiography debacle from earlier this summer)

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy shares stories about her family, her relationships, her career, good – and bad – sex, recounting the experiences that have shaped who she is today: from the riches to rags story of her childhood to her teenage quest for popularity (and boys) to becoming one of the most sought-after comedians on the planet and an outspoken advocate for women’s rights.
Whether she’s experiencing lust at first sight in the queue at the airport, discovering her boot camp instructor’s secret bad habit, or candidly discussing her father’s multiple sclerosis, Amy Schumer proves to be a fearless, original, and always entertaining storyteller. Her book will move you, make you laugh, catch you completely off guard, and answer this burning question: is it okay for a 35 year-old woman to still sleep with her childhood teddy bears?”

First up – I really enjoyed the book.  It’s quite explicit sexually – but that’s not a huge surprise if you’ve seen any of Amy’s previous work!  But it’s also very soul bearing emotionally.  Both as a woman – but also in her role as a daughter.  I hadn’t appreciated that her father had multiple sclerosis – this touched a nerve having watched a family friend – the Dad of one of my best friends – go through this diagnosis and live with MS for 30 years until he eventually passed away a few years ago.  I note from a bit of Google research that Mr Schumer has undergone some stem cell research (mentioned in the closing chapters of the book) and has successfully stood again – which is AMAZING news.

Amy is very open and honest throughout the book – again, as you would expect from her stand up.  I thought it very interesting how she would class herself as an introvert – despite her chosen career.

I loved her relationship with her sister, brother in law and niece – they are clearly a really vital and loved part of her world.  Her relationship with her Mum is more ‘interesting’ and is explored in some depth at different times in her life.

The book also emphasised just how hard she worked for years on end before becoming an apparent ‘overnight success’ – and I hadn’t really thought before how a comic has to be continually working on their act – as she says, it’s not like being a musician where everyone wants the old classics people want new stuff all the time!  (The complete opposite of a Take That concert where everyone pops to the loo whilst they play the new stuff, willing them to sing Relight My Fire so they can do the Lulu bit – or maybe that’s just me?!?!?)

I found the book interesting, funny, thought provoking, emotional and really enjoyable.  And a million times better than the P T Barnum autobiography!!

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The House We Called Home by Jenny Oliver

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I have to confess to being a bit of a fan girl of Jenny Oliver’s (when I met her in real life I was a) a bit drunk and b) a bit embarrassing by introducing myself as THE Libby Price (as she’d named a character after me in a previous book after my husband bid for it in a charity auction!) )  She is a friend of a friend – and I believe this book in hard copy has dedication to the aforementioned friend – but I couldn’t find that on the Kindle version (which is currently 99p – what a bargain!)

Here’s the blurb:

“The house where Stella and her sister Amy grew up never changes – the red front door, the breath-taking view over the Cornish coast, her parents in their usual spots on the sofa. Except this summer, things feel a little different…
Stella’s father is nowhere to be seen, yet her mother – in suspiciously new Per Una jeans – seems curiously unfazed by his absence, and more eager to talk about her mysterious dog-walking buddy Mitch.
Stella’s sister Amy has returned home with a new boyfriend she can barely stand and a secret to hide, and Stella’s husband Jack has something he wants to get off his chest too. Even Frank Sinatra, the dog, has a guilty air about him.
This summer, change is in the air for the Whitethorns…
Warm, funny and gloriously feel-good, this is the perfect summer read for fans of Veronica Henry and Milly Johnson.”

I really enjoyed this from the start.  Stella is having difficulties with a  challenging 13 year old son – and I totally empathise with that! Not that I’ve dumped mine at my parents – yet!

I liked the fact that the book revolved around the extended family – and so there were lots of central characters. Whilst Stella was the one I empathised with most – I liked most of them – although wanted to slap some of the on a number of occasions!!

A chunk of the book is based on competitive swimming – we have good friends who swim in that world (ridiculous pun most definitely intended!) and so I could empathise with some of that too!

Having holidayed in Cornwall and Portugal in the last few months I had some of the locations in the bag already too – which is always useful!  I’m a sucker for any story that includes a pastel de nata reference! #Portuguesecustardtart

I have to admit that a couple of friends had said this was utterly amazing and they had wept through it – and maybe I’m a hard hearted cow – but I didn’t find it that emotional – but I did really enjoy it.

For 99p – you can’t go wrong!

P.S. Whilst I can concur with the Veronica Henry reference in the blurb – this blows any Milly Johnson I’ve ever read out of the water!!!

 

 

 

Book Review: Brave by Rose McGowan

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My friend offered to lend me this – and my immediate comment was ‘oh, the Harvey Weinstein book’ – I couldn’t have been more wrong – I will explain why in a minute.

First – here’s the blurb:

”  “My life, as you will read, has taken me from one cult to another. BRAVE is the story of how I fought my way out of these cults and reclaimed my life. I want to help you do the same.” -Rose McGowan

A revealing memoir and empowering manifesto – A voice for generations

Rose McGowan was born in one cult and came of age in another, more visible cult: Hollywood.

In a strange world where she was continually on display, stardom soon became a personal nightmare of constant exposure and sexualization. Rose escaped into the world of her mind, something she had done as a child, and into high-profile relationships. Every detail of her personal life became public, and the realities of an inherently sexist industry emerged with every script, role, public appearance, and magazine cover. The Hollywood machine packaged her as a sexualized bombshell, hijacking her image and identity and marketing them for profit.

Hollywood expected Rose to be silent and cooperative and to stay the path. Instead, she rebelled and asserted her true identity and voice. She reemerged unscripted, courageous, victorious, angry, smart, fierce, unapologetic, controversial, and real as f*ck.

BRAVE is her raw, honest, and poignant memoir/manifesto—a no-holds-barred, pull-no-punches account of the rise of a millennial icon, fearless activist, and unstoppable force for change who is determined to expose the truth about the entertainment industry, dismantle the concept of fame, shine a light on a multibillion-dollar business built on systemic misogyny, and empower people everywhere to wake up and be BRAVE.”

The book follows Rose’s life – not quite chronologically, but pretty much – and what a life it’s been.  She was brought up in a Children of God cult in Italy – and then moved back to the US as a child.  It was all very tumultuous, and she legally emancipated herself from her parents as a teenager.

It talks you through her time in Hollywood – which again has been eventful.  She doesn’t name Harvey Weinstein in the book (hence the fact I was so wrong in my description of it) as she doesn’t want to name ‘the monster’ – but what he did to her was horrific – and explained in great detail.  The fact that Ms McGowan was one of the first women to ‘out’ the monster has been widely reported – and thank goodness she had the balls to do it.  She is clearly (and rightly) very angry about what happened to her – and the knock on effect it had throughout her career in ‘the industry’.

Later on she talks about a Director she was in a relationship with – initially calling him RR.  But by the end of the book Robert Rodriguez has been fully named.  She also talks about her relationship with Marilyn Manson (which coincidentally was then mentioned in a film I watched yesterday)

I’m pleased I read this – and it was informative – albeit disturbing.  I feel much more briefed about the origins of the #metoo movement. Even in my accountancy profession I witnessed sexual harassment – but nowhere near on this scale – it really is shocking.

I wish Rose McGowan the best of luck for the future and applaud her for changing Hollywood, hopefully forever.