Category Archives: Holiday

Death at the Seaside

I recently went on a little trip to Norfolk, a place I had spent a few years living as a child. It was only a short trip, with one night in Norwich and then one night in Cromer, as a visit here was one on my list of 40 things to do. Norwich was an interesting city, although unfortunately I made the mistake of going on a Monday night. Just in case anyone is planning on a holiday there, Norwich is shut on a Monday.

20170411_150025Tuesday night was spent in Cromer. One of my main memories from my Cromer childhood was obviously crab fishing off the pier. Many a weekend and evening were spent hanging over the pier barriers dangling a length of orange baler twine into the sea with a piece of fish on the end. Inevitably either a scary seagull would swipe the fish before it hit the sea, or the hook would get caught on the pier, never to be retrieved again. This would lead to us being ushered home in disgust for loosing yet another piece of fishing equipment. Very occasionally the line would make it down to the sea and an actual crab would be stupid enough to think a piece of Iceland’s frozen fish would be a tasty snack. All eyes would then be on the Father as he slowly winched up the line with the crab dangling off. Just when our waiting bucket might actually see a crab in it, said crab would let go of the fish and wave at us all as he made his way back down to the sea.

Nowadays of course everything is done very differently. Everyone uses nets on the end of the lines so that the crab just crawls its way in and gets hauled out whilst tucking into its fish. No skill needed whatsoever. What’s the betting all the grown up crabs are sat around drinking seaweed and liquorice tea, telling the kid crabs how health and safety has gone mad. They used to have to negotiate a bungee jump every time they wanted a bit of Iceland’s best, today’s crabs have got it easy.

My other main memory of our move to the coastal town is of staying in the Hotel du Paris on the seafront, and eating a prawn cocktail. This was the first prawn cocktail I ever ate. It had been deemed that as we were not footing the bill for this particular stay I could choose anything I wanted off the menu even though I might not like it (we are not a family known for our adventurous ways!) I remember really enjoying this particular prawn cocktail, although it was probably also the last ever prawn cocktail I had as I became a vegetarian not long after. Sadly even if I had decided I would give up the values I’ve had for the past 30 years and start eating fish again, we were there on a Tuesday. Prawn Cocktails are only served on a Thursday. Looking at the average age of those around us in the hotel I suspect that this might be because Friday is the day that the denture fixture cream arrives, so by Thursday they can only serve soft food.

We were put on the top floor which was probably also due to the age of those staying. With no working lift all the zimmer frames would have struggled to get up the stairs without at least a few of the owners not making it. The view from the room however couldn’t be faulted as we looked out across the sea and pier. We would have had an amazing view of the sunrise that we got up at 5am to watch, if a load of clouds hadn’t descended just as the sun started to rise.

For a trip back in time I would definitely recommend a visit to Cromer, as 25 years since I was last there very little had changed. Cromer is still a beautiful place. Plus it was yet another tick of the list of 40 things to do, and a visit to a National Trust house on the way out knocked off another one.

 

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Changes in Latitudes

Obviously as you know this is a blog about books, and tends to stick to book related things. However in a quick book break, it’s impossible not to mention my recent holiday. Apparently most girls spend their time dreaming of their wedding day (really? Surely we can have a little more imagination in this day and age) Well it was never high on my list, I dreamt of seeing Orangutans and Sea Turtles. One of my favourite books as a child, which still makes me cry now, is called Changes in Latitudes by Will Hobbs. It’s about a family who go on holiday and the youngest brother tries to save a load of turtles. Since first reading the book I’ve always had as fascination with turtles therefore a trip to Borneo was the perfect opportunity to see them up close.

We started out in Bangkok. For me this bit was work related, which meant we got to stay in the Shangri-La hotel. 5 restaurants, 2 pools, and an outdoor bar. It was lovely, although the ten pound for a glass of wine meant that evenings were spent in Jack’s bar next door. This came complete with cheap beer, locals, wandering dogs and an open air toilet. Of course a trip to Bangkok isn’t complete without a visit to the infamous Khao San Road which was certainly an experience. However I’m not sure that a tuk tuk race through Bangkok at 3 in the morning with my boss in tow was necessarily my most career enhancing moment.

After Bangkok we had a short stopover in Kuala Lumpur. Whilst the difference in accommodation was a bit of shock, from 5 star hotel to a no windowed tiny room in the middle of Chinatown, the view from the top of the Petronas Towers made up for it.

From Kuala Lumpur we went onto Sandakan in Borneo. The town itself was a little fishing port, with only 2 bars. This was certainly a change from Bangkok where you couldn’t turn round without tripping over someone trying to sell you towers of Singha, or scorpions on sticks. Yet it was a perfect base for our trips out. We pretty much followed the plot of Paul O’Grady’s animal orphans programme. dscn2502We went to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre where we watched the young orangutans learn to climb. We saw sun bears lolling in trees. We even saw a wild baby orangutan spitting it’s own wee at those trying to get a photograph (Which clearly Mr F thought was the funniest thing he had ever seendscn3299). We went on a river trip and saw Sea Eagles and Probiscus monkey’s. However the promised gibbons and pygmy elephants were clearly off on holiday themselves as they were nowhere to be seen. We also spent a night on Turtle Island, where we got to see a Green turtle lay eggs, and even got to help some hatchlings reach the sea. It was absolutely amazing.

Unfortunately as well as a large number of fridge magnets, I also managed to bring back a dodgy stomach bug, not a diet tip I’d recommend. Yet it was completely worth it. Plus the 6 different flights that we went on gave me time not only to catch up with the new version of Ghostbusters, which had me laughing out loud, but also gave me chance to catch up on some reading. Therefore normal book related service will be resumed on the blog shortly.

 

 

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Monday Mourning

I love a bank holiday. Not only is it a day not having to work, it’s a free day off unlike weekends which are full of chores to be done. Plus weekends come with that pressure of a Monday morning back at work. If you have a bank holiday, the first comment on arrival at my work is ‘Where did the Bank Holiday Monday go’ Whereas after a normal weekend as soon as you bump into colleagues over the water cooler, out comes the dreaded question ‘Did you have a good weekend?’

You know it is coming and so end up desperately trying to fill the weekend with excitement just so you have something good to report to your fellow co-workers. Yet sometimes for me, weekends are just a flurry of list making, shopping and ironing. At least we always have a trip to the pub at some point. To be fair though where I work it’s not hard to win the accolade of most fun weekend. Past highlights from colleagues include: the opening of a coffee shop in the nearest service station, washing the windows (with accompanying diagrams), and the purchase of a new label maker to label their kitchen cabinets (from a middle aged married woman not a student flat sharer)

I don’t think bank holidays come with that pressure. It’s not a weekend, it’s a free day off so therefore if you want to sit around all day in pyjamas watching back to back episodes of Criminal Minds then it’s ok. It’s not such a waste.

However living on a street where the average age is 125 means that to most of our neighbours every day is a bank holiday. Not for them a nice long lie in and a day in front of the television. Oh no, bank holidays are a great opportunity for socialising. Especially as Mondays are also bin day. I remember the good old days when bin collections used to be put back a day when it was a bank holiday, not anymore. 6 o clock in the morning and people are banging around putting the rubbish out. Despite the fact that I’ve never seen the bin people turn up before 11am apparently there is always that danger that if you don’t have it out by 7am you might miss it and that as we know would be a disaster, especially if it’s been a busy week for the chopper. (see here for explanation)

There is added excitement at the moment, as there are two empty houses on the street, which means empty dustbin space up for grabs. I suspect that the dustbins are the substitute water cooler for people round here. As soon as it gets light the neighbours meet at the end of the street to plan their bin attack. Any spare bit of space in any unguarded wheelie bin is filled with the rubbish of others. The neighbours might be old but they can’t half move fast when the wheelie bins go out.

I am aware that I may have become a little obsessed by the rubbish disposal on the street, luckily it happens on a Monday so I only get to indulge on a bank holiday. Imagine if it was a Saturday, and I had to answer the dreaded question, Did you have a nice weekend? Yes thanks I spent all Saturday observing the bin habits of my neighbours. I think its probably a good job I do have chores to be done on a weekend or this habit could get out of control.

 

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A time of torment

I, like most people I’m sure, like to have a routine. It’s what keeps society ticking round. Whether it’s planning what to read next, or working out how to store my books, it all boils down to routine. I have the signed books on the top shelf, those to be read on the next one down, and the rest wherever they can fit. That’s my routine and it works well. Even purchasing books I have a routine. Into Waterstones, straight to the crime section at the back of the store, quick browse of the books on the middle tables, a scoot round new releases and then the main shelves from Z to A (I like to go against the flow)

Whilst I understand the need for routines I do find many people’s routines just odd.   There is a woman who goes swimming every lunchtime. She’ll swim for half an hour, she then gets out, blow dries her hair and then has a shower. Surely that’s just the wrong way round? I imagine the older people get the more they hang on to their routines. After all if The Chopper (see here for explanation) didn’t stick to his routine, bodies would soon start piling up and the whole streets business could fold.

However surely people should change their routines when they are not working? Supermarket shopping for example. As someone who works full time the only options for me shopping for food is either to go at 6.30am as I did Monday, or to go on a Saturday. This is not my idea of fun but it’s a necessity. If I was retired however I’d never go shopping on a Saturday. I’d pick the quietest day I could find. For some reason though old people still clog up the aisles on a Saturday blocking the path whilst they debate the best tin of spam to buy.

The whole  thing just gets worse in the run up to Christmas. Christmas shopping is like torture to me. Everywhere you go there are shops belting out Christmas songs over the loud speakers, groups of idiots in Christmas jumpers pretending they are having a good time and old people dithering around in Waterstones doorway. There should be dedicated days for people to shop. Retired people on a Thursday, those who work Saturdays could shop on a Friday, normal people on a Saturday and then people who like to aimlessly browse the shops for no real purpose other than to waste time could go on a Sunday.

In fact this system could be extended out not just to shopping but all sorts of activities. Swimming is a good example, I like to go if possible before work. Yet this is one of the busiest times with old (older!) women who stand around blocking the hair dryers whilst discussing the latest round of golf they have played. Pubs is another idea. I like a nice quiet drink on an evening, not to be surrounded by screaming kids. I have no problem with well behaved children in a pub at 5 pm, but surely they should all be in bed by 8? No pub ever survived by purchases of fruit shoots alone.

I actually think I’ve hit on something here. A little change in everyone’s routines and then everyone would be happy. Plus it would make my journey to the crime section a lot easier without the doorway ditherers.

 

 

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The Good Girl by Mary Kubica – a review

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica was a book I had heard good things of. Whilst it was technically not part of the TOPCWFC2015 I wanted something that was going to be interesting enough to keep me occupied on my recent plane ride. Therefore I added this to my very large download pile.

This was another book told from three viewpoints (I seem to have had a run of these recently) split into before and after time frames. Firstly there is Eve who is the mother of missing Mia and married to a Judge. Gabe is the policeman who is investigating Mia’s disappearance. Then there is Colin, who kidnaps Mia. Early on in the story Mia returns but it is clear that something very disturbing has happened, as she has complete amnesia about the time she was away. The story progresses through a series of flashbacks as Eve tries to help her daughter come to terms with her kidnapping and find out what went on.

I’m in two minds about this story. The premise was good, and it was an interesting take on a kidnap story. However there was just something that didn’t work for me. It all seemed a bit too cliché and the fact that I guessed the end twist about three quarters of the way through was a bit disappointing.

I unfortunately didn’t really like the characters and found the relationships to be a bit stilted. I was left really not caring about any of them or what was happening which is never a good way to read a mystery. I do think partly the problem is my expectations were quite high, and this can often lead to disappointment. Equally I don’t know whether my enjoyment was hampered by the fact that I read it whilst travelling and broke off half way through to watch the film of Gone Girl on the plane, or if it was just that the writing wasn’t really my style. I found that the switching between viewpoints was really annoying, and for some reason they didn’t flow very well.

It was a shame as the story could have been really good, and I had high hopes. However I’m afraid to say that for me although it certainly wasn’t a bad read and I wanted to read to the end, neither did I find it particularly ground exciting. Maybe it just goes to show I should stick to reading people who will be at Harrogate and concentrate on the TOPCWFC2015.

 

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Fear Nothing

I’m writing this sitting on my own in a lovely restaurant, on an incredibly busy street in Toronto. I’ve just finished a very tasty risotto with fiddleheads (I had to ask the waiter, they are basically rolled up green beans) whilst enjoying a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve had a very busy day, I’ve been on a bus tour of the city, I’ve been on a boat round the islands, I’ve visited a food market, I’ve found a bookshop that apparently has 12 miles of shelves although I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration and I’ve sat in a sports bar and had a beer amongst a group of blokes watching the blue jays play the Canadian version of rounders.

All in all it’s been a pretty good day. As I’ve been wondering around on my own it seems that everyone wants to talk. Everywhere I go people have been chatting to me, and without fail they always seem surprised I’m travelling on my own, and they tell me how they wish they had that confidence. Obviously it is not something I had a choice in as I’ve come for work (I volunteered purely for the good of the team obviously, I’d hate to put anyone else through this hardship) It was however my choice to fly over a few days early so that I could enjoy the city and have a couple of days holiday on my own.

I never think of myself as particularly confident, especially compared to others. I walk into a restaurant and I’ll sit at the table I’m given and stay there even if I don’t like it. I’d hate to cause a scene after all. Yet having sat here that is clearly not what others think as one couple I’ve been watching have sat at five different tables before they eventually ordered some food. I would avoid walking into an empty shop as I’d feel compelled to buy something I didn’t want just because I’d feel bad walking out empty handed. If I pick up a bottle of orange juice instead of apple juice, at the till I’ll pretend it is what I wanted rather than ask to change it and hold up a queue.

Canadian’s don’t seem to have any such qualms when it comes to causing a stir. I visited the CN Tower yesterday and unwittingly ended up causing havoc. I got to the ticket office which was practically empty and obediently stood where I assumed the queue started. Unfortunately this wasn’t the designated area for people to line up. When I stepped forward to buy my ticket a massive queue of people had built up behind me. Whilst I quietly bought my ticket and slipped away pretending it was nothing to do with me, the staff were threatening to call security in order to move people who were refusing to lose their place in the queue and move to the correct side. If anyone had asked me to move in the first place I’d have gone bright red, and moved as fast as I possibly good whilst mumbling apologies to anyone who was nearby.

I think the idea of confidence is often misrepresented though as I don’t believe it is something you are necessarily born with but it is something you can choose to have. I was nervous of flying alone to a foreign country. I could have chosen to wait and come out with others, but I chose to do it on my own. (I should point out here that whilst in my head I am now the modern day Amelia Earhart, I am aware that travelling to Canada is not exactly the same as back packing round India, or trekking through the Amazon rainforest on my own!) Once I got here I could have spent every night sitting on my own in my hotel room cooking my own meals (A handy travel tip for the middle classes – two Gideon bibles and an up turned iron is a great way to cook an egg apparently) yet whilst I’m here I want to experience as much as I can. I have one rule when away which is that I can only eat in places we don’t have in York, that is obviously a lot easier here in Toronto than in Birmingham.

I remember when I was young and went through a phase of thinking I was very cool and trendy and writing great life affirming slogans on my pencil case such as Don’t worry be happy. One such phrase was ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ As annoying as it sounds now, there is some merit in that one. Whilst clearly once I get home and the holiday spirit wears off I’ll revert back to my usual self. Someone who will walk into a shop and wonder round pretending to be really interested in purchasing items, even though I’ve accidently walked into Burtons for men, instead of Dorothy perkins. At the moment I think I am brave enough to return the wine I’ve just bought as it’s a merlot not a cabernet – then again let’s not be silly wine is wine after all.

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The Forgotten Garden

Due to it being my birthday, I took Monday off work. It was a lovely sunny day and I had a very enjoyable time pottering around in the garden, mowing the lawn along with the stepford wives up the road, and planting hanging baskets. This was the first time I’ve really done any gardening this year. I think this as well as the fact the daffodils are well and truly out on the York walls says that spring has most definitely sprung.
It’s amazing what a difference a bit of sunshine on an evening has. Everyone seems that much happier and despite there being exactly the same number of hours in the day, for some reason days always seem longer in the sunshine. It is nice to be able to walk home from work in the daylight again. However the sunshine does bring with it other problems, the biggest one for me being guilt.
Whenever the sun is out, I always feel the need to go outside and do something. Not a major three day hike over the dales, but mow the lawn, or visit a National Trust property, or walk someone’s dog. I blame my parents as I think it must be a hangover from when I was a child. Every day during the school holidays I was kicked out of the house in the morning and told to come back in time for tea. We were constantly informed that anything other than being outside was wasting the day. Although admittedly this came from the Mother who also told us that a television would blow up if it was left on for longer than half an hour at a time so we should have been suspicious (note this was only during the day, in the evening it could stay on as long as my parents wanted)
The problem is now as a grown adult, I don’t always want to have to go outside. Sometimes I just want to curl up in front of the television with a glass of wine and do nothing. Sometimes I just want to sit on the sofa and read a book. I’m a grown adult, so of course I should be able to do this. There is no one to tell me I can’t, no one to kick me out of the house until tea time, it is my house and I can sit around all day if I want to. Yet I just can’t do it. It is wasting the day don’t you know?
Sometimes I do long for the dark days of winter, when I can happily sit at home reading a crime novel pretending that if it weren’t for the rain and the sleet I’d actually be doing a 10k run before tea. There was a part of me hoping for rain on Monday so I could start my new SJ Watson book before I see him on Friday. Oh well, at least after a few months of being completely forgotten we now have a stripy front lawn and of course summer is always a good excuse for coffee and a few chapters of a book in the sun.

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