Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Half Term in Catalonia

We made our annual (three years in a row now!) trip to Spain recently, this time it had to be during half term so as not to have the Education People hunting us down, so it was a week earlier than we have been on our previous visits. Not sure how much of a difference that made really; the weather was a bit hit and miss for the first three days, but otherwise everything was pretty much as it has been.

When I say 'hit and miss', this was the weather that greeted us on the first evening when we arrived at the apartment

Torrential rain that turned the road outside into a river, and some spectacular thunder and lightning. Still, we were content to stay in and get settled so it didn't affect our plans too much. And I was happy to unpack and make a start on my holiday reading...
You probably know all about how I choose which books to take on holiday - basically it's the ones that have been languishing in my unread bookcase for rather too long and/or ones that I know I'll be happy to leave behind at the end of the trip (this doesn't include the New England one which is where we're off to on our next trip.) Reviews to follow sometime soon-ish of the books I read (clue: I only read two, and one of them wasn't by Lisa Jewell.)
At least the weather had improved by the next morning so the boys were able to have a stroll on the beach and along the rocks
while I hot-footed it to our favourite cafe to check that they were still open and still selling my favourite drink. Of course I was only trying it out for market research purposes, you understand.
I think it's fair to say that a certain person was happy to be on holiday.
We made our annual day trip to Girona so that we could repeat this pose
and compare it to 2013
and 2012.
My, haven't they grown?!
A quick stop at our favourite ice cream shop for yum scrum dulce de leche flavour.
Before heading off to explore the city walls.

Luckily that weather in the distance didn't catch up with us til we were driving home.

The following day we enjoyed a walk around the marina in Sant Feliu (the town where we were staying)

And the day after, when the weather had finally decided to play ball, we made our first visit our favourite beach at San Pol. And we went back for more of the same the following day. Because why wouldn't you?

And relaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaax.
On our final full day we visited the gorgeous town of Callela de Palafrugell. Where a little walk along the coast offers glorious vistas at every turn.

  And what luck that there's a lovely restaurant right on the front.
 Not a bad way to end our trip. 
See you next year, Catalonia!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Book Review No.7: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Well, I can safely say this is my book of the year (so far.) I'm writing this review about three months after actually finishing the book (yes, it's fair to say I'm a bit behind with this blogging lark), and I still keep thinking about it. Safe to say, I LOVED it. If you've not read it, rush out and buy a copy right now. Go on, go, get thee to a Waterstones, or perhaps a lovely little independent bookshop where your £7.99 could help keep them in business. I'll wait here, patiently, while you buy the book and read it so you can let me know what you think...

Ok, have you finished it? Tell me, did you love it too? I do hope so.

And just in case you haven't had time to get to the shops, let me at least give you a little taster of the book and try to explain why I enjoyed it so much. This is the blurb from the back (the italics are as they appear on the book jacket):

"What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?"

Does it sound intriguing to you? I think I must have read a review or recommendation of this book in a magazine somewhere, which is what led me to seek it out. I decided to treat myself and buy it to take on holiday. For someone who professes to be such a book lover, I buy remarkably few books new, tending instead to scour the charity shop shelves, my saved searches on eBay or else Read It Swap It. The exception I make is for cozy crime books when we go to the USA (and it's possible that I might go a little bit craaaaazy at this point.) But I had some coins jangling in my pocket after counting up my tips from the tea room and there was a holiday looming (Hawaii, mid-Feb, which just goes to show how behind I am with these reviews), so I decided to push the boat out. Living life on the edge...

Back to the book. This is the story of Ursula who lives and dies many, many times throughout the course of the book. Each time she is reborn the story is retold with the changes that occur as a result of her not dying/being killed; sometimes big changes, sometimes minor ones. Changes that affect not just Ursula, but her family, friends and acquaintances too. The story begins in 1910, on the night that Ursula is born. And dies. And is born again, and lives. And so on and so on, back and forth across the first and second world wars, with a twist and turn, and we are drawn further and further into the lives of Ursula and her family. The details of their life at home in the idyllic Fox Corner where Mrs Glover the cook soaks kidneys in milk in the pantry, and the housemaid brings trays of drinks out to the family on the lawn are fascinating, and juxtapose with the chapters of Ursula's life in bomb-ravaged London as the Second World War rages. Ursula has vague recollections of her 'past lives' which fill her with a sense of dread and anxiety, as a result of which she is sent to a psychiatrist; these recollections also lead her to commit such acts as pushing the housemaid down the stairs to save her from a much worse fate.

In one of Ursula's adult lives she ends up living in Germany, befriending Hitler's longtime companion Eva Braun. This was actually the section of the book that I found least engaging. I felt like I really plodded through these 40 or so pages; but this was a minor blip in an otherwise wonderfully absorbing, captivating, and downright fantastic book. Can you tell I liked this one?!? I would absolutely 100% without doubt recommend it, and I'd love to hear if you've read it and what you thought.

Oh, and one last thing; there was a quote from the Greek poet Pindar very near the end of the book which I was rather taken with: Become such as you are, having learned what that isso I just thought I'd share it with you.

PS - I'm sorry for my lack of blog posts lately; the tea room is keeping me so busy that I'm struggling to find time to fit in 'normal' life.