Book Review: The Other Ida

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It’s been a while since I did a book review on the blog, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. In fact, I’m reading a lot at the moment, as we have a fantastic library in the village. It has a great library, and Ben and I walk down there most Saturday mornings. As well as a huge range of books for younger children, Ben has recently discovered the children’s DVD section. Borrowing a Thomas the Tank Engine DVD last week turned out to be a pound very well spent, as Ben is currently obsessed.

This means that I’ve been able to pick up the odd novel and also a few cookery books. The Great British Bake Off Christmas book is currently in my possession, and I’m tempted to renew it until the end of December. I’ve also joined a local book group run by the Library service. This is great, as it means I have to prioritise my reading – this is never really a chore.

So when I was asked to review a new novel which had won the Dundee International Book Prize, I was happy to agree.

The Other Ida, by Amy Mason, is a fast-paced, original novel, with a great main character. To be honest, I didn’t think I’d like Ida, the main character very much – she drinks too much, is hopelessly chaotic, and seems to be on a path to self-destruction. But actually, she is a really complex character, and her journey of self and family-discovery is a really good read.

One of the things I love so much about reading, and Literature in general, is that it can transport you into the shoes of another person. In Ida’s shoes, there is an element of discomfort. Her experience and history is so far removed from mine, and yet, I could really relate to her. In fact, it made me think back to my teenage self and made me realise how much we do change in those formative years in our teens and twenties.

Suffice to say, Ida’s own teenage years were chaotic, and traumatic at times. As an adult, she is experiencing the fallout from that, and hasn’t spoken to her alcoholic mother for years. When her mother, the writer Bridie Adair, dies, Ida has to return to the home of her teenage years to help arrange the funeral. Her relationship with her sister is fractured, to say the least, and the spiky dialogue between them is vivid and engaging.

I really enjoyed this book. It is the kind of book I would choose, but I have to say, I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would. The non-linear structure means that the pieces of the puzzle fall together for the reader in the same way they do for Ida. Each evening, I couldn’t wait to find out just that bit more. Its fast pace kept me interested, as well as my real hopes for Ida.

I was sent a copy of the book by the publisher, but all opinions here are my own.

A Christmas Preview

SONY DSCLast Wednesday was a wild, cold and blustery night up here in Lancashire. As much as I wanted to stay inside in the warm, I ventured out into Whalley to a Christmas Preview night by Food by Breda Muphy.

Food by Breda Murphy is a lovely eatery in Whalley, opposite the train station. Part restaurant, part deli and part gift shop, I have already been in several times to find gifts and to eat. It’s a really lovely place, just outside the main village. The food is really high quality, and truly delicious. Plus, it’s a family-run, independent business.

The preview night was an opportunity to view their Christmas range of decorations, gifts and food hampers.

SONY DSCI love this beautiful pale blue glass jar. A lot of the items on sale were in icy tones of white and blue, with lots of sparkling lights and glass. It looked both festive and elegant.

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I could definitely see this clock on our mantlepiece!

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These socks hanging on the wall would make fun present. There were also lots of snuggly blankets and throws – necessary for chilly Lancashire evenings.

SONY DSCThese hampers had some lovely components. There was a real range as well, in size and price. I may have my eye on one or two of these for gifts.

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I did buy one of these signs, and they seemed to be very popular on the evening – most people had one or two in their basket! I think it’ll look great in our hallway.

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Christmas definitely needs a little sparkle, and this glass tree is just beautiful.

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These baubles look so beautiful in a group like this. They were really unusual.

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Stags seem to be very fashionable in home decor this winter. I thought this guy was gorgeous. I just need some furniture to put him on.

Add in some canapes, a glass of Prosecco, and by the time I left, I was feeling really quite Christmassy… is it time to start singing carols yet?

September and October

The last two months have officially been the busiest we’ve ever had. I knew it was going to be busy when we received two wedding invitation for consecutive Saturdays in September, both down South.

The first was down in London, the lovely wedding of our friends Jen and Rob.

We had a great time seeing the sights on Saturday morning:

London

The afternoon wedding at The Barbican was lovely too. It was definitely the easiest wedding venue I’ve ever been to with a toddler, as the venue had several pools with fish in to keep him entertained, and the whole venue was enclosed. The whole weekend was really made fantastic by the chance to stay at the Barbican, which meant we could walk to and from the venue – something that doesn’t often happen to us!

Thanks for inviting us Jen and Rob – and congratulations!

The week after that was crazy – Tim came down with flu and had to spend all week in bed. Working full time plus looking after Ben plus Tim was exhausting to say the least. I have such admiration for any parent who does a lot of flying solo. Anyway, I did manage to get to Manchester to see War Horse at The Lowry, which was amazing.

With Tim still ill, and faced with the prospect of a 5 hour drive on my own with a toddler, and back again, we pulled out of attending the second wedding. I was so disappointed, but honestly don’t think I would have coped with the rest of the term without that weekend at home. We hung out and did things like feed the ducks.

Feeding ducks

Sorry we didn’t make it Emma and Dan – but congratulations!

Me working full time has been a huge adjustment for us all. I worked part time last year (3 days a week) and loved my days in work and my days at home with Ben. With the change of job, I’ve had to go to full time, and it is really demanding. In order to spend a few hours with Ben each afternoon after work, I have to work every evening, and usually put some time in during the weekends. I know this is partly because I’m at a new school, but in many ways, this is the teacher’s lot: long holidays, but 60+ hour weeks in term time. So any quieter weekends have often been swallowed up in snatching moments to plan or mark books.

At the beginning of October, there was no chance for working. We had our niece and nephew to stay. It was loads of fun, and they were absolutely brilliant. Tim planned a whole weekend themed around the idea of knights and castles, and we took them up to Clitheroe Castle, dressed as knights with wooden swords and shields. It was a complete hit. All three children were exhausted by lunchtime on Sunday – as were we!

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That week, I had received news that I was really looking forward to: my sister had had a baby boy, Sebastian. We took the opportunity to head down to Somerset to meet him when he was less than two weeks old. They all seem to be doing really well, and Sebastian is absolutely gorgeous.

Ben loved seeing his new cousin, and, of course, his grandparents, aunt and uncle.

Taunton

Now that I’ve got half term, I’m finally able to catch up on some of this stuff – and catch my breath a bit too. It’s become known as The Time of the Crazy Weekends, and fortunately, it seems to be calming down a bit over the next few weeks. I’m hoping we’ll have some time to get things straightened out in the house, as we’re entertaining a bit too.

I hope you understand why it’s been so quiet on the blog recently. Bear with me while I try to get some perspective on things! As always, I love to read your comments, so please add them to the blog.

We moved house!

Back on 22nd August, we packed all our belongings into a fairly small removal truck, and locked the door on what had been our first home together: both our first married home, and Ben’s first ever home. I have to admit, it was a fairly emotional moment.

Sold

The move was going to mean a lot of changes for us. Not only would we be moving to a new house, in a new location, in a completely different area, but I would also be starting a new job at a new school, and Ben would be going to a new nursery. ‘New’ has been a big part of his vocabulary over the last few weeks.

The night before we moved, we thought we were totally ready. Of course, you’re never quite ready, and Tim was rushing around adding labels to objects right up until the removal men arrived. I was fascinated by how they managed to fit a lot of our stuff into their van.

Removal Van

After driving into Clitheroe, we had a fairly anxious coffee until we received the call we had been waiting for: “Congratulations, you have a new home.” I have rarely been so relieved.

The house is actually much better than we thought it was, if that’s possible. We had almost talked ourselves into not being disappointed by it, and our narrative had been so successful that we had forgotten how lovely it was. It is more spacious, and more lovely, than we remembered. Three weeks in, and we’re still incredibly pleased with it.

I’m taking ‘Before’ photos, but I’m not quite ready to share them yet. We brought very little furniture with us from the old house, and haven’t yet chosen everything for the new house. So in some rooms, we still have unpacked boxes, and in the living room, we’re using bean bags as our sofa and chairs are still being made. I will do ‘Before’ and ‘After’ photos when we decorate, but I won’t bore you too much.

Being in the countryside is just amazing though. We can see fields out of our windows, we walk along country lanes into the village and even in my classroom I look out onto hills. On our first night, I couldn’t get over how many stars I could see. Since then, I’ve mostly been too busy or too tired to look at the stars, but I must make the effort. Everything just looks so much more beautiful.

River

We are almost certainly becoming more relaxed, although it hasn’t felt like it in the first few weeks of term! We have less time in the car, and shorter commutes. Tim has been home before six every single day since we moved – that was a rarity when we were living in Manchester. That said, we seem to have so many events in the next few weeks and months that we’re grateful for the extra time in our home.

Ben KitchenBefore moving, I wrote a post about making an effort to get involved in our new community. I didn’t ever publish that post, but we have made an effort – I baked biscuits which Tim and Ben then delivered to our neighbours.

Biscuits

We think we’ve found a church that suits us, so we’re looking forward to getting involved there. I may also have found a book group to join, so that’s a start. As always at this time of the academic year, my evenings are mostly taken up with marking and planning, so I am trying not to over-commit myself. The adjustment to working full-time has been a tricky one over the last few weeks, so I’m being careful.

Tim gave me a huge surprise on moving day, which is something I’ve wanted for a long time. I am now the proud owner of a KitchenAid. I can assure you that it has been well-used already, and that I have a few recipes lined up to blog about. And I promise I will do a house tour soon!

KitchenAid

60 Days of Summer: Week 5

60 days of summer logoThis past week has been crazily busy. When I went through my diary last Sunday, we had something scheduled in every single day, and all of those things were out-and-about things. So it’s been a really fun week.Sunday 10th

Sunday was our Godson, Sebastian’s, first birthday party and dedication. We are really good friends with Carina and Andre, his parents, and they are godparents to Ben. We were privileged to be asked to be his godparents, and we really enjoyed visiting our old church for his dedication. Tim and I prayed over him during the service, and Ben had a great time too.

His party was lovely – an animal themed party in the church hall. Carina made an amazing lion cake, which Ben thought was brilliant. It was lovely to meet so many of Carina and Andre’s friends too, many of whom I had heard about but never met. 

Monday 11th

On Monday, I met up with my Sister in Law, Pippa, and my Brother in Law, Si, and their three children. We went to the viewing park at Manchester Airport. The children really enjoyed the play area and running around through puddles, and I think Si probably enjoyed the plane-spotting most.

Tuesday 12th

Another place on my ‘Places to go before we leave Manchester’ list was Dunham Massey. We’ve been several times, but I really wanted to go around the house as it is currently being the ‘Stamford Military Hospital,’ as it was during WW1. We met Tim’s parents there, and they kindly looked after Ben while I toured the house, which was excellent. I’m hoping to do a separate blog post on it when I have the time, so I’ll leave you with this photo of a deer. The deer were the most settled, and the closest to the house, that I’ve ever seen them. 

Wednesday 13th

 

On Wednesday, we went to Reddish Vale Farm with some of our NCT friends. Ben had a new splash suit that he was very proud of, and spend more time playing in the soft play area than actually feeding the animals. But we got him and Ariana to share a bucket of carrots and pose from some photos. 

Thursday 14th

We did do exciting things on Thursday – swimming and a play date – but I didn’t take any photos. So I took a photo of our trusty car going over 185,000 miles on the clock. Let’s hope it lasts until we move house!

Friday 15th

On Friday, I took Ben to ‘Play and Cake’ at the Chill Factore, Manchester’s ski slope, with real snow. This is a session aimed at under 4s, and is a combination of soft play and snow play. Again, I’d like to do a blog post about this, but let’s just say it was really good fun. 

We went to the Trafford Centre after this. I was hoping Ben would fall asleep in his buggy; he didn’t. Instead, he played in the Barton Square Beach – a huge sandpit, where buckets and spades are provided. Fortunately, he was then so exhausted that he didn’t protest too much as I dragged him round the home shops.

Saturday 16th

On Saturday, we headed over to Liverpool to celebrate our nephew Luke’s 6th birthday. He was on holiday in South Africa for his actual birthday, so he had his cake in the shape and design of the South African flag. Ben loves seeing his cousins, and we had a great time with our family. 

Andre, Carina and Sebastian came over for dinner on Saturday evening, which was lovely. We now have only 5 days left (all being well) in this house, so packing is well underway.

I think I will be taking a break with 60 days of summer for a couple of weeks while we move, and until we get our broadband set up. Instead, I’ll leave you with a photo along the lines of the next week.

Boxes

 

 

 

60 Days of Summer: Week 4

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This has been a week of birthdays in our home. We went to a 2nd birthday party on Sunday, and Ben had an incredible time on the bouncy castle.

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Ben also met up with some of his friends from his old nursery, which was hilarious as he remembered them. Thanks for inviting us to your party, Annabella!

On Monday, it was Ben’s 2nd birthday. We had three of his cousins, his grandparents and his Aunt and Uncle over for the morning and for lunch. He absolutely loved opening all his presents, and did recognise that his hurriedly-made cake was a dinosaur. I got to meet my newest nephew, Joseph, as well, so I enjoyed some baby-cuddles before my own son got too jealous.

Monday 4th Aug

 

On Tuesday, we took his new balance bike out to the park for a bit of a practice. Ben just loves pushing it along.

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We also visited the National Football Museum in Manchester, which was fun, and also heard that we have exchanged contracts on our new house, hooray!

On Wednesday, we had a quieter day and stayed at home. We did lots of painting and playing with glue and glitter.

Wednesday 6th AugOn Thursday, we went swimming and then went to the park in the afternoon. I went out for dinner with my NCT friends, and completely meant to take a photo of us for the blog. However, we were so engrossed in catching up that I completely forgot. So instead, here is a photo of Ben on the roundabout at the park.

Thursday 7th AugOn Friday, we went to a place I have been meaning to go to for ages, Brookside Garden Centre in Poynton, where they have a miniature railway. Ben is train-obsessed, and this place was perfect for him: a train-themed play area, a shop for all your Thomas the Tank Engine based requirements, and a really good miniature railway. Rides were a bit pricey at £1.80 for all over 2s (should have gone last week), but he absolutely loved it. It’s also a lovely garden centre, with lots of playhouses and a good aquatic centre where were spent a while watching the fish. I think we’ll try to go back before we go.

Friday 8th AugSaturday was the day before my birthday, so I arranged to go out for brunch with some of my best friends to The Ash Tea Rooms. If you haven’t been to The Ash, I highly recommend it: in a converted hotel, you will find a chocolatier, a cake-decorating business, and a gorgeous tea room. The food is excellent, and the cakes are divine.

Again, it was lovely to catch up with the girls, and really lovely to have some grown-up time – we actually managed to have whole, complete conversations, and the only distraction was the food.

Saturday 9th AugI hope you’ve all had a lovely week too. I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to.

 

 

 

 

 

60 Days of Summer: Week 3

 

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This week, we had our holiday in Northumberland. We went with my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, and my parents’ dog, Petra.

I love Northumberland. Tim knows it really well, having studied there, and we went 3 years ago for a weekend celebrating our wedding anniversary. So when my parents suggested going for a week for our family holiday, we signed up straight away.

We live quite a long way from my parents, so having a holiday together for a week in the summer is a great way for them to spend lots of quality time with Ben. We had a great time in Essex last year, and a great time this year. UK holidays are excellent when you have a small child: you can take your car, you don’t have to worry about the heat, things are familiar enough for the child to be happy and it’s easy to arrange a doctor’s visit or a babysitter if necessary.

 

Sunday 27th July.jpgThe house we stayed at was in Warkworth, and part of Tidal Properties. It was right next to the river, so on the first day we hired a boat and rowed upstream. Ben hated the first five minutes but loved it as soon as he got to help row. We didn’t let the men row the whole time, but they were a bit more skilled than my mum and I! I should also point out that in the photo we had our coats on because of a very short shower; the rest of the day was beautifully sunny.

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The one place everyone wanted to go to was Alnwick castle, so we planned this for Monday. Tim and I had been before as it was our main destination on our anniversary weekend. There was one reason for this, originally: some of the first two Harry Potter films were shot there. With me being a massive Harry Potter fan, we spend most of our time on that visit in the castle. This time, as it was a beautiful day and we had Ben with us, we only visited the gardens.

Alnwick gardens were surely designed with children in mind. These fantastic dumper trucks were occupied all day, and Ben was lucky to grab one as soon as we arrived. The children can scoop up water from the fountain and then redistribute it elsewhere. There was also a scheduled water fight, as well as loads of interactive water features. The rest of the gardens are both fascinating and beautiful.

We were lucky enough to grab a table at the Treehouse cafe for lunch, which was much more reasonably priced than I expected. We eventually left around 2.30pm, with Ben falling asleep in his pushchair on the way back to the car. I cannot remember the last time he just fell asleep in his buggy, so he must have been suitable exhausted.

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With family holidays, we’ve found it works well to alternate busy days with quiet ones, so we spend Tuesday pottering on Warkworth beach. Northumberland beaches are beautifully sandy, and with hardly anyone there. This was really the first time Ben has spent much time on the beach, and in between building sandcastles, paddling, collecting shells and pebbles, running and flying a kite, he had the time of his life.

I love this photo of my sister – you can really see her baby bump!

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On Wednesday, we went to The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, which gets cut off from the main land at high tide. This is a really beautiful, dramatic place, with the ruins of a medieval priory and a castle in a stunning landscape.

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We had another day on the beach on Thursday. Ben also tried beach cricket with his Dad, Grandad and Uncle Simon. We also booked a babysitter and went out for a grown-ups only meal.

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Friday was the only rainy day we had on holiday. After a morning trip to Craster and Seahouses, we had a little family party for Ben, who turned 2 on 4th August. Tim baked and decorated this cake, with a seaside theme. The party was complete with Pass the Parcel and ‘Hop Little Bunnies,’ and everyone joined in.

On Saturday we headed home after a lovely holiday. When I was putting Ben to bed, I realised I hadn’t taken a photo of him that day, so I snapped this quickly as he was brushing his teeth.

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I’m not very keen on the quality of my photos in WordPress at the moment. If anyone can give me any advice, please let me know!