Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Books - Climbing Mount Toobie - Book by Book

When I said I was hoping to start blogging again a couple of people expressed their hope I'd be blogging about what I was reading, as it gave them plenty of ideas. I've started several posts now - after all I've read over 30 books in this first 6 months of the year. But when I look at what I've read I've mainly read books by the same authors and apart from a couple of stand out books, I didn't know where to start.

This past 10 days or so I've been on a new book reading kick. I've been doing my best to reduce Mount To-Be- Read. Do you have a Mount Toobie - you know a pile or stash of books you've acquired and really mean to read but never quite have managed it? My Mount Toobie probably got out of control when I was a hard core Book Crosser - going to meets regularly and joining in with book swaps and Not-So-Secret online swaps. At times I literally had more books that I knew what to do with. Of course it's always good to have a selection of books to dip in so you have something for every mood.  Then of course I got a kindle and that created a whole other Mount Toobie. But as that takes up less space I'm not even going to worry about reducing the size of that! My  virtual library can rival the Bodleian as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, I digress. My plan has been to go through Mount Toobie and either read or get rid of the books on it. Sometimes the moment just passes to read something. I really want to rationalise the books I have squirrelled away so I ask myself: Why didn't I read this when I had it? Do I want to read it and if no I'll pass on/wild release.

The first book I started off with was Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.
  Summer Reading 2018 

I think I've seen the start of the film but I don't remember the plot and the story was totally unfamiliar to me. I think I'd been given this book by my sister in law who thought the book would be up my street. But to be honest I wasn't sure I fancied it. I've always said I don't like historical novels. Then some of the best books I've read have been historical novels! Anyway, I couldn't put it down once I'd picked it up. I loved the stories within stories and the amazing descriptions. I'm not particularly interested in the American civil war era but did engage with this story.

Inspired by the success of reading this I decided to read
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  Summer Reading 2018

Another book I couldn't put down. Why hadn't I read this before? Well, for every person that said I'd love it, there were others with cautionary warnings about this book and her other book The Little Friend. So listening to the naysayers I kept pushing this up Mount Toobie (or is that down?) Basically it's about a group of elite New England students that commit and act which leads ultimately to their downfall. It reminded me of something from the 1980's brat pack era.

Liza's England by Pat Barker was next up.

  Summer Reading 2018 

I'd read Union Street and Blow Your House Down and had picked this up in a charity shop because it was by the same author.  It was only when I started reading it I realised it was set in Middlesbrough where Chief is from. When I mentioned one of the streets that kept being mentioned it turned out Chief had lived in the street across from this one when he was growing up! He's since downloaded the book to read himself on kindle. This would be a great choice for book groups as there is so much in this book to discuss - history, great characters, great descriptions. If you like Pat Barker and haven't read this I would recommend.

After that I tackled Enigma by Robert Harris. Summer Reading 2018

This is a fictionalised thriller based on the Bletchley Park Code Breakers. I couldn't remember if I had this book because I'd seen the film and wanted to read it or if I had it then saw the film and didn't want to read it while the plot was so fresh in my mind. Either way I felt bad I hadn't read it as it was passed on by another book crosser and she was only getting shot because she wasn't going to re-read it any time soon and she wanted it read rather than languishing...hmm I think I've had it 10 years!

Next up I read The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.

  Summer Reading 2018

I remember buying this in the supermarket when you could get two books on offer. Then I think I was put off reading it because it's over 600 pages. Although I've since learnt that thicker books are often more gripping and easy to read than small ones. Anyway, I loved this and I definitely want to read more by this author. Again I'm wondering why I put off reading this.

Anyway, if you'll excuse me I have more books to read. So hopefully I'll be back with another book round up soon.



Friday, 6 July 2018

{Gertie} Our third trip to Lincoln Farm Park, Standlake

Lincoln Farm Park

The first trip Chief and I went on in Gertie together was to Lincoln Farm Park in Standlake, Oxfordshire. You can read about that trip here. We loved it and couldn't wait to go back, declaring it our favourite site. Last year when we tried to go back there was no vacancies and we had to look elsewhere. We always knew we wanted to go back and last weekend we got the chance to spend another two nights there. 

The site was not as we remembered it. Well, in some ways it was. But we felt the atmosphere had changed. Gone were the wardens on bikes that showed you to your pitch. In fact the only time we saw anyone remotely like a warden was when we saw a cart pass loaded with rubbish.  There were two things that took the shine off this trip and one was the pitch. One thing we'd loved about this site was the layout of pitches. We'd only ever managed to book standard pitches. But each one had been clearly defined with a decent sized hard standing and a nice patch of grass; flanked with trees and hedges to define its boundaries. The pitches - given the size of the park - were generous and far enough away not to feel neighbours were intrusive or we had a lack of privacy. Not so this trip. Our hard standing was wide enough, but no where near long enough to fit the whole van on. Which didn't really matter, but did lead me to suspect we had a tenters pitch really. It really felt they now cram on as many caravans and motor homes as possible. The problem with the closeness of neighbours on our far side was they sat up chatting and playing music right outside our window long after the 10.30pm noise curfew. Couple that with the near feral children running, cycling and throwing balls around the pitch - sometimes on the pitch (in fact I'd just got up from lying on a quilt to read when the quilt, my book and my legs got soaked in water that had been thrown by children.) Had there been wardens making checks as previously, I think everyone could have enjoyed their stay without spoiling it for others. Anyway, that's the negatives over. On to the rest of our fantastic trip.

Lincoln Farm Park

We didn't set up our bird feeder for the first time ever. Chief felt with all the noisy children and adults we'd get no bird life. It was fantastic to wake up and find we had a visitor after all.
Lincoln Farm Park

I hadn't take my DSLR - it was a bit nerve racking deciding to leave it at home. But I really wanted to get used to only using my new Lumix, as I hope to use this more for travels where taking my beloved DSLR would be too difficult/inappropriate. But I'm jumping ahead!

Lincoln Farm Park

On the right below you can see the large toilet/shower block.
Lincoln Farm Park

We didn't get to the site until late afternoon as Chief had had to work and then drive down from the North East of the country. We asked about private pool hire for Saturday, but they had no slots. Luckily they had a slot Friday night so we snapped it up and once we'd set up the pitch we headed off for a swim. The park boasts two leisure centres, each equipped with pool, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi (there is also a gym).  They have open sessions each day, but for £23 you can pay to have the facilities to yourself for 55 minutes.  Chief always treats us, as for us, it's a big selling point of the site.

iphone pics from Lincoln Park Trip

Leisure facility fun at Lincoln Farm Park

We couldn't be bothered to cook after our pool session so headed around the corner to The Black Horse for our evening meal. We should have booked as there was around a 45 minute wait to even see a menu! Once we did though, the food came our pretty quickly and turned out to be worth the wait.

Saturday morning, after Chief had cooked breakfast for us we headed off to to the Mosaic Trail which is a walk between Standlake and Newbridge. The map I'd printed off wasn't that clear or to scale and at first we headed off in the wrong direction. It was the perfect chance to take some pictures of the pretty main village of Standlake.

Standlake in Oxfordshire

Standlake in Oxfordshire

Standlake in Oxfordshire

Standlake in Oxfordshire 

Standlake in Oxfordshire

Standlake in Oxfordshire

The Black Horse where we had dinner on Friday and Saturday night.
Standlake in Oxfordshire

Along the Mosaic Trail are er... mosaics to spot of birds and other wild life.
Walking the Mosaic Trail from Standlake to Newbridge


Standlake is full of private lakes that used to be gravel pits. You can get glimpses of them through hedges and clearings.

Walking the Mosaic Trail from Standlake to Newbridge

Most of the walk was perfect in the hot temperatures as the path was covered by trees and created a cooling dappled shade.

Walking the Mosaic Trail from Standlake to Newbridge 

We rested at the picnic spot (and wished we'd bought a picnic) Do you like my new prescription sunnies?
Walking the Mosaic Trail from Standlake to Newbridge

Walking the Mosaic Trail from Standlake to Newbridge

There were little fish in the River Windrush

Walking the Mosaic Trail from Standlake to Newbridge

Walking the Mosaic Trail from Standlake to Newbridge 

Before too long we'd made it to Newbridge and The Rose Revived. After a very long queue for Chief we ordered lunch and drinks and sat outside under some willow trees.

The Rose Revived, Newbridge

The River Thames looks just perfect on a sunny day.
The Rose Revived, Newbridge

The Rose Revived, Newbridge

The Rose Revived, Newbridge

It's a great location but they need more staff as people were queueing out the door just to get a drink - never mind food!
The Rose Revived, Newbridge

Then it was time to head back down the leafy lanes to Standlake.
The Mosaic trail - Standlake to Newbridge

The Mosaic trail - Standlake to Newbridge 
Didn't expect to see these in the Oxfordshire countryside!
The Mosaic trail - Standlake to Newbridge

I couldn't stop taking pictures of this place. Just perfect English Country village scene.
Standlake oxfordshire

Standlake oxfordshire

Standlake oxfordshire

Then when we were back to our pitch I tossed down one of my quilts, put on my bikini top and read.

Relaxing on our pitch in the heatwave


Later we had showers and headed back to The Black Horse.  Heaving again - this really is a great little pub and if we return we'll book. Not too long to wait this time and great food. We had a slight query with our order and they dealt with it swifty and fairly. Mistakes do happen, but how they're dealt with really does make a big difference and we felt The Black Horse was spot on.

Saturday night meal at The Black Horse

Then back to our pitch to play with the features of my Lumix and do some more reading before we headed to bed.

Post pub relaxing

Unfortunately I woke up Sunday feeling really unwell and had a fever and have felt rubbish for the rest of the week. Chief packed up Gertie as we were due home, dropped me home and then headed back to the North East - begging the question - When and where can we go in Gertie next time?

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

My Cottage Garden Highlights in June

My cottage garden in June

Most cottage gardens reach their peak in May and June and mine is no exception. That said I have noticed that now we're at the end of June there is quite a lot of  'green' in the garden with the promise of more flowers to come out over the next few months. I'm sort of hoping I've managed to get enough year around interest. 

The real show-stealers this month have been the roses. This wild rose was a 'Volunteer' seeded by the birds at the bird feeder and because it's so pretty and easy to keep under control - with gorgeous hips in the autumn, I've let it stay where it is.

My cottage garden in June

This was the last rose I bought and I can't remember its name. I did take a picture of the label that was stuck on the pot because I can never hold in my head the names or roses when they are French. It's been in a year now and doing well and smells lovely.

June in my cottage garden

Bird life has been flourishing - well if they're tits as we have hundreds of blue tit and great tits around. At this time of year we hear more birds than we see.  This picture is not so good. I got a new camera at the start of the month. It's a compact Lumix and so far I've only used it on pre-set modes (I need to download a manual and work out the other settings.) and this managed to focus on the bush behind and not the birds. If I'd have been using my DSLR I've have seen what I was focusing on much better. With the Lumix I find the screen the better option than the view finder. I'd wanted a compact camera for trips when a DSLR is too big to lug and my iphone just not flexible enough.

June in my garden

I only have about three clematis now and this one always looks so striking. I think it's called Firework or something like that.

June in my cottage garden

In May the dark red peonies were the show stoppers. In June it's the turn of the pale pink variety and the two clumps in my garden lasted so well. Mainly due to the lack of rain to bash them down. Normally they come out and we have storms and this decimates them.

My cottage garden in June

I'm always looking for ways to get more blue into the garden. There seems so much pink in it and I like a cottage garden to have plenty of colour. Johnsons Blue Geranium always does well throughout June. It's even coped with a fair bit of trampling as it's grown so far across where we walk and there has been a bit of wheel barrow traffic to deal with. (That's a whole other blog post!)

My cottage garden in June

Asda has provided some great bedding plants these last few years and this Lily was £2.00 last month. No idea what colour it was going to be. It looks quite exotic and I don't have much orange/yellow in the garden so this is a welcome addition.

June in my cottage garden

As a child there was always a Maidens Blush rose near the front door. It had to be done away with when we had some building work done. I think having been there for 70+ years it didn't like being disturbed. When I re-did the front garden I knew I had to plant one. It has lethal thorns, the colours is so romantic and the smell makes up for the thorns.

June in my cottage garden

This white rose (again another French name I've forgotten) was a gift from my ex-neighbours. It was one of the few plants to survive the front garden re-do.
June in my cottage garden

I would love to find out the name of this rose. It's been in the garden forever. I'm not sure how long roses are supposed to live but my Mum is 85 and can't remember the rose not being here. We actually though my brother had killed it redoing the garden. You can read the story here.  This year it's been just incredible.
my Cottage garden in June

My brother came up and power washed all the patios. They look so much better after a clean, even if I have lost some of the mortar this time. (He's also been up to trim the hedge and mow the lawn!)

P1020292e

There's that rose again. It smells gorgeous too.

June in my garden

As we go into July (How can it be July already?) there is still a lot of white and green in the garden and I can't wait for a bit more colour to appear.

June in my garden

I bought one of these poppies - more for decor than to use as a bird feeder, but thought I'd put out some meal worms for the baby birds and hungry adults. But so far they're being ignored. Maybe they don't like the poppy for some reason? Normally any meal worms put out get snapped up straight away.
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