Tuesday, 25 June 2013

This is Your Six Month Warning

This is a public service announcement.

It's six months til Christmas Day.

You're welcome :-)

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Catalan Capers

Family W had a lovely time on our recent holiday in Catalonia (the region of Spain that encompasses Barcelona and stretches right up to the border with France.) We're very fortunate in that Hubby's parents own an apartment in a lovely, typically Spanish (ie non-tourist-y) coastal town about an hour's drive up the coast from Barcelona. The nearest airport is actually Girona but because only Ryanair fly there and I refuse to fly with them, we have to fly into Barcelona and drive up the motorway. Sorry about that.
Anyway, enough of me and my airline snobbery; here's what we got up to.
Lot's of sandcastle building.
Lots of hot chocolate drinking (for me, at least.) Forget the Spanish vino collapso, give me one of these beauties any day (or every day in fact.) Would you like hot chocolate with your cream, Senora?
Splashing about in the pool at the apartment.
Absolutely freezing apparently. But I never found out as I wasn't foolish enough to get in.
Ice cream eating. Strawberry flavour Smurf promotion.
And wiping it in your hair to look like someone out of There's Something About Mary.

More sandcastle building.
A spot of the old Reggie Perrin-ing.
And some supervising.
Oh, and a spot of paddling.
A rainy day trip to lovely Girona.
Yep, still raining.
A shop that sells all the weapons a small boy could ever wish for.

A spot of posing.
To recreate this shot from exactly a year earlier. Ahh, haven't they both grown!
Just a little more ice cream eating.
A gentle stroll round the harbour.
You can even see our apartment from here; if you squint a bit.
A little more hot chocolate drinking.
More beach time.

Posing for family snaps.

And all too soon it was time to head home; just enough time to grab another hot chocolate on the way to the airport.
And hours later we were doing this.
Umm, wait. Surely, hours later we should have been sitting at home in the English rain? Well, technically, yes. But the French air traffic control peeps had other ideas and so our flight home was cancelled. Next avaiable flight (if we didn't want to fly to Liverpool or Gatwick or somewhere else that wasn't Bristol)? 48 hours later. Oh dear, an extra two days holiday? Oh well, if you insist.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Book Review No. 11

Ahh, Mma Ramotswe! Long time, no see. This isn't the latest book in the series (this is no. 11 of 13); I'm a little behind with my No.1 Ladies Detective Agency reading, but I always like to keep one or two in reserve in case I get the urge to drift away to Botswana and the company of Mma Ramotswe, Mr JLB Matekoni, Mma Makutsi, etc. This series is my fall back - if I'm ever disillusioned with reading or I just haven't read a good book in a while, I know I can pick up one of these and all will be good again. I've read some reviews of the series where readers have said they are getting bored but I find that if you leave enough time between each book (unless you are really, really loving them and just can't get enough) then there is something comforting about being back amongst the same characters who (sad to say?) feel like old friends.

As with all of the other No.1 Ladies Detective Agency books, there are several threads to the story with Mma Ramotswe and her assistant Mma Makutsi dealing with an errant (or not) husband, a bequest from a wealthy American, a scam artist, and a particularly unfriendly female relative. But, when all is said and done, it's not the content of the stories that are important in this series, but more the way in which the stories are told. If you've never read a book from this series, I really would encourage you to do so - settle into your comfiest chair, with a mug or glass of your favourite drink (Mma Ramotswe would recommend red bush tea) and a slice of cake (Mma Ramotswe would approve) and lose yourself in Botswana.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Book Review No. 10

Well, that really was some break in proceedings, wasn't it? Many apologies for the lack of posts recently - we went on holiday, we got delayed on holiday (48 extra hours of fun in the sun, thank you very much), we came back, I was super-busy with work and now, finally, I've got some time to blog. Phew!

So, without further ado, I'm going to crack on with this long overdue book review. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

This was a choice from Book Club No. 2 (I belong to two book clubs, although I tend to dip in and out of Book Club No.2 more than I ever do with Book Club No.1; it's a much more informal gathering of an evening at different houses, with drinks and nibbles; that's not to say BC.1 is formal, it's just different.) Anyhoo, back to the point. This book (or another by the same author, I can't really be sure) was on my unread bookshelf for a very long time, making me feel guilty about not reading such a 'worthy' book until I dispensed with it (via the wonder that is eBay) and the guilt was gone. Ha. And then someone at BC2 suggested we read this one as she had enjoyed it and it was short. Well, the latter was a definite plus for me, if not the former as we all know that just because someone else enjoys a book, it's no guarantee that you will do the same.

The basic story is that of a lowly Andalusian shepherd named Santiago who meets a mysterious old man who tells him he will find his fortune at the pyramids in Egypt. So Santaigo sells his flock and sets off overland towards Egypt. He doesn't get very far before losing all his money (not only is he lowly, he's also very naive), and so he is forced to stay in Africa and work to earn enough money to either continue his travels or return home. After a year of working and saving he joins a caravan and sets off across the desert towards Egypt, but rumours of a tribal war force the caravan to stop at an oasis, where Santiago meets and falls in love with a local girl. More travelling and philosophising ensue before Santiago finally makes it to the pyramids. And I'm not going to spoil it for you and tell you whether he finds a pot of gold, just in case you want to read the book yourself!

So, my thoughts: I've never been a great believer in/fan of what I consider to be tree-hugging, knit-your-own-yak's-wool-teabag kind of books. Philosophy/self help/call it what you will, I'm more inclined to just say "Have a piece of cake and pull yourself together", because that's the sort of kind and caring individual I am. And thus I tend to avoid these books like the plague; perhaps I'm wrong to lump Mr Coelho into this category, but I don't think so. Which of course meant that I started reading The Alchemist with more than my fair share of doubt and scepticism and mostly it was not unfounded. Basically this is a folk tale or parable, all about following your dreams but actually discovering that everything you wanted was right there all along, you just needed to go out, have a good look around and see that things weren't so bad where you came from after all. That's not to say that you wouldn't learn things and enjoy great and not-so-great experiences along the way, but the grass is always greener, etc, etc.
The book is only 170-odd pages long so I didn't mind reading it really - the end was always in sight as I huffed my way through some parts wondering at what sort of person takes this all to heart and finds inspiration within these pages. Hmmmm. Yes, there are a few sentences that make you stop and think, mostly those that encourage you to enjoy the time you have and live in the moment, which is something we all need reminding of every now and again, but then there are sentences like this: "when you really want something, the whole universe conspires in helping you to achieve it".
Really? Is that what happens? I really want to win the lottery, lose 2 stone and grow three inches taller. Universe, are you listening? You need to conspire and help me out here. That sounds to be a bit like wanting something and expecting it to happen just because you want it enough. I thnk you'll find that if you really want something, you have to do something to go about making it happen yourself - buy a lottery ticket, stop eating all that cake, wear high heels. For instance.
All in all, this was not a good book for me, nor I a good reader for the book.
But, I promise the next book gets a positive review. Honest!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013


Apologies for the blogging hiatus. We're on holiday right now; we were due to fly home today but our flight was cancelled due to French air traffic control deciding to go on strike. Hence, we are bring forced to endure two more days of sun, blue skies and 26 degree temperatures. Sigh.