Tag 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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The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton – a review

I was given a copy of this via netgalley and took it on my recent trip to Canada. I have really enjoyed Rosamund Lupton’s previous novels so was looking forward to this one.

The Quality of Silence centres on young girl Ruby and her mother Yasmin. Ruby and Yasmin are travelling to Alaska to meet Ruby’s Dad who is filming over there. However when they arrive they are told he has been killed in a fire that has wiped out the entire village he was staying in. Refusing to give up hope Yasmin hitches a ride across Alaska to try and find him. The story is told from the two characters points of view. Ruby is deaf and refuses to use her speaking voice, yet she has found a new voice through the wonders of twitter. By ‘speaking’ through cyberspace she feels as though she is no longer disadvantaged and is communicating on an equal footing with everyone else. We also hear from Yasmin who tells us about the relationships within the family whilst she looks back on her life with her husband. As the journey continues we begin to understand more about the family dynamics and what is forcing her to risk the lives of her and her child in order to find out the truth about her husband.

This book had me in two minds. The idea was good, and the writing was excellent. Yet I’m afraid I was left a little disappointed by this. Some of it just seemed a little bit too far fetched for me. For example we are meant to believe someone who has never driven a truck before in their life can drive one safely across the ice and even manage to put on snow tyres. I’m just not sure it would be that easy.

I think for me, the issue was actually one of perception. I wasn’t really sure if it was meant to be an environmental story or a mystery or a love story and therefore I think this caused some confusion in my little brain. I am easily confused after all. Putting the far fetched bits to one side, what did stand out was the quality of the writing. Whilst I’m certainly no expert in literature, there were passages that actually made you feel as though you were stood in the middle of a frozen wasteland, and I enjoyed those bits. However there was just something lacking and I got a little annoyed by some of the repetitive descriptions of actions such as putting clothes on and off. Overall I’d say this was an interesting read and a good holiday story although very far fetched in places.

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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 October List

The blog has been a bit quiet for the past few weeks. Yet again work has gotten in the way of blogging, plus there was the small matter of a couple of week’s holiday in the good old USA to take up my time. Long distance travel is always a good time to catch up on reading as there isn’t much else to do on an 8 hour flight, especially one that didn’t even provide a tv (considering even the squirrels are obese in America, their planes are surprisingly small!)

However as much as I do love reading crime novels I like to start a holiday with a good selection of guidebooks, and lists of must see places. So with New York, Boston and New England to research in one trip the novel reading was put to one side for a bit. I’ve realised I do become a bit obsessed with ticking things off lists though, in fact I’ve been known to write things on lists just to tick them off. New York therefore became one long blur of tourist attraction after tourist attraction, punctuated occasionally by the search for a good pint of beer in order to keep Mr F happy. Luckily with the American’s love of all things Halloween there were plenty of festive themed ales to choose from.

It’s easy to understand how some of the authors of the best novels in recent times were inspired by America. We stayed in a motel at Weir’s Beach, which was a lovely seaside resort. I can imagine at high season the place would have been packed. However arriving the day before Columbus day things were rather more subdued. In fact other than the woman who checked us in, we didn’t see another sole. Apart from a bloke chopping what I hope were logs in the morning, I didn’t catch his name although it did sound suspiciously like he said it was Norman. Robert Bloch had probably signed in the visitor book if I’d looked closely.

During a session at the festival a couple of years ago there was a discussion around why so many crime writers hail from Scandinavia, and although I’m paraphrasing a bit they said it was because the Scandinavian countries had such a low crime rate and were so pretty that they had to make up scary things themselves. The same may be said of Portland, Maine. From my experience of a short drive to Portland, it’s a beautiful place and the views over the sea from the lighthouse we visited were stunning. Certainly not the stuff of horror, however it doesn’t stop the output of prolific horror writer Stephen King who is based there.

Probably the best views of the holiday (apart from seeing a baby black bear walking along the side of the road) came from a visit to a place called Castle in the Clouds. Although I was very disappointed to find it wasn’t a castle at all but just a big house built in 1914. I used to live in a flat that was built in 1620 so something 100 years old isn’t really that impressive. The view over the Lake was stunning however, and whilst not crime related was apparently where some of the film ‘On Golden Pond’ was set.

In between New York and New England we spent a couple of nights in Boston. One of my favourite authors is Tess Gerritsen, who sets her Rizzoli and Isles novels in the city. As a fan of the TV show as well I was quite excited about the prospect of finding the police department where it is filmed. Until Mr F did a quick internet search and found the show is actually filmed on set miles away from Boston. We had to content ourselves with following the freedom trail instead, which came with a handy painted line on the road to follow so no map reading necessary.

 

After a final night back in New York it was heading home time, and back to reality. It’s potentially given me an idea for a new challenge though, to read a crime novel set in every city I’ve visited. That sounds to me like its time for a new list to be created, and my train journey back from working in Manchester might be a good time to start.

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The murder room

Well this week acrimereadersblog has been on tour (that sounds better than admitting to another holiday) and has spent the past few days in Rome. As always a trip away no matter where to or for how long is always a good opportunity for reading, and thanks to the joy of the kindle I have no shortage of books to choose from. My choice for the flight this time being Lynda LaPlante, who it has recently been announced will be attending the festival next year.

With a bit of creative licence the P of Plante also continues the theme of the holiday which turned out to be things beginning with P. We saw Putin, the Pope, a political rally, a police museum and paid preposterous prices.
Of course we covered the usual well known sites. We walked round the Vatican, we saw the Sistine chapel with all the artwork and it’s amazing ceiling (I bet Michelangelo was gutted he couldn’t just have nipped to B&Q for a tin of magnolia) we admired the Coliseum and we forgot to throw coins into the Trevi Fountain.

However alongside the many stunning sites of historic significance we also covered the aforementioned 5 P’s. We caught Putin arriving at the Vatican surrounded by armed police. We waved at Pope Francis as he travelled round in his little popemobile before he made his regular address to the crowds. We then accidently got caught up in a Furza Italia political rally, with lots of flag waving and coloured flares. Of course not understanding any Italian we weren’t aware that had we waited for a bit longer we would actually have seen Berlusconi himself talking to his supporters. We visited the Police museum (otherwise known as the Museum of criminology) which was essentially a storage area for all the torture devices and murder weapons collected by the police force over the past few hundred years. Then to round off our 5Ps we also paid preposterous prices. Two cakes and two coffees cost us 39 euro’s, luckily they were very nice but you’d hope so for that price.

Rome was a lovely place, although one thing that seemed strange was the lack of seats in coffee shops. It seems that most Italians simply neck their espressos stood at the counter. I don’t think we saw anyone just sitting down leisurely in a coffee shop and reading a book. That did seem a bit sad, the coffee was lovely and therefore its a shame to not be able to enjoy it. Then again maybe different cultures enjoy books in different ways. We certainly saw a lot of bookshops during our visit and so I don’t doubt that the Italians love to read. Maybe they just keep it for travelling, certainly the Italian next to me on the plane was very interested in my kindle and how ‘esoteric’ (his word not mine) the range of books available were. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that mine doesn’t really contain anything but crime novels!

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Cue the Easter Bunny

The eagle eyed amongst you may have realised that the blog has been pretty quiet over the past few weeks. Sadly life does often have a habit of getting in the way of the blog and with so many other pressures on us things that you really enjoy doing sometimes have to be put on the back burner. In my case those pressures involved two weeks on all inclusive in the Caribbean with friends, and then a rather extended birthday celebration (I sense I may have lost any vague sympathy I was garnering at this point)

Whilst the writing may have been rather quiet, the same certainly can’t be said for the reading. In fact on the two week holiday I managed to get through 13 and a half books (yes I’m annoyed I didn’t make it a complete 14. I blame being introduced to electronic Sudoku on my phone which became highly addictive)

It just goes to show that if there is a desire to read then the time will always be found.  It wasn’t as though there wasn’t a lot of swimming, kayaking, chatting, eating and drinking to be done. Not to mention the nightly rounds of tequila shots, vodka and cocktails. Still I somehow went through a book a day almost. Of course sitting on a beach is much different to real life, it’s the first time I’ve ever spent Easter Sunday on a beach reading a book, drinking champagne surrounded by men dressed in easter bunny suits, but as I’ve said before if you want to find the time to read then you will do.

Holidays are often the only time that people do read and this is where the kindle really does come into its own. The luggage allowance on our flights was tiny. There was barely enough allowed to carry my shoes and sun tan lotion (plus cardigans) so had I had to include 13 books I would have needed to buy an extra seat just to be allowed to take them with me.

It is not just the weight or the space, having to have picked just 13 books to take with me would have been impossible. At the last count my kindle had around 60 books I’ve read and another 50 waiting to be read, the only way to carry them would have been to travel round in my own mobile library. Whilst I think that would have been great fun it wouldn’t be quite so easy to get the Caribbean in.

This does obviously now mean that I am very behind in my review writing, and to top it all off I’ve just heard that the full programme for the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival 2013 is being released on Friday. So although the blog may have been a bit quiet whilst I was topping up my tan (yes ok hiding under an umbrella covered in factor 50) It’s about to get a lot noisier, with the start of the TOPCWFC 2013!

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Black Coffee

Well the two week holiday is over, the suitcase is unpacked, and the summer clothes have been swopped for thermals. Hong Kong was an amazing city, although the problem with having such a busy couple of weeks is that there wasn’t much time for reading.

In fact I only managed one and a half books which is less than I normally read when working full time. The book I managed to complete was called Gweilo: Memories of a Hong Kong Childhood by Martin Booth. This recounted his childhood in the 1950s which he spent in Hong Kong.

Obviously this along with two big guidebooks was required reading for my holiday. It was a fascinating book that was brought to life by being able to visit the places he talked about. He lived in both Kowloon, and at the Peak on Hong Kong Island so many of the trips we took, he had been there first. Although I didn’t follow him in trying a 1000 year old egg, unidentifiable balls of gluten was as adventurous as my food eating got. I did however have the best cup of coffee I’ve ever tasted, not to mention the most expensive, drunk whilst gazing into the window of Tiffanys (how the other half live!)

Hong Kong was an amazing place, with some real contrasts of culture and scenary. We had a non stop two weeks from Big Budda’s at the top of a cable car ride, to light shows across the Harbour. From hiking up a mountain, to riding the worlds longest escalator. From sampan rides through a floating fishing village, to an express elevator to the 47th floor. Hong Kong really does have it all, including my very cute Goddaughter dressed for Halloween.

Whilst I would happily have stayed in Hong Kong a lot longer, its now back to reality (not to mention the cold and dark weather which was a bit of a shock after the sun and heat) At least dark nights mean more time for reading so normal crime blogging service will be resumed shortly!

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