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Happy things in August

August was a truly excellent month.

This is because my new niece arrived safely. She was a little earlier than expected but absolutely fine.

I had a wonderful trip to Broadway Market -with friends where I tasted a truly amazing G&T meringue.

A friend had a daughter after two little boys about five days after little niece was born.

I saw Gillian Anderson in A Streetcar Named Desire I’m not sure I actually have any words – still! I’d forgotten how brutal the play was and Anderson was superb but it was an ensemble piece it wasn’t a one star show. I also loved the set.

Before Streetcar L and I went for Cocktails in The Shard. I recommend the Beijing Fizz and the view is out of this world. I will never pay to go to the top again. It’s so much nicer to sit and admire the view with my cocktail in hand.

L stayed after our evening out and we were able to have a good gossip and catch up.

I went to Wavelengths pool with K. It’s a lovely swimming pool with a wave machine and sleds. I may have to take big niece there because I think she’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

I have a new to me phone. Don’t get excited it’s not the coveted iPhone, it’s still a dumb phone but a slightly less ancient Nokia than my previous one. It works rather more reliably and the battery is good for more than one phone call.

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I received a belated birthday present in the form of a Kindle Paperwhite. I have been ambivalent about a Kindle as I love proper paper books. However I already wouldn’t be without it. I love never running out of book to read on my commute and I am already used to its compact size and reduced weight. Being able to read in the dark is good too.

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My Sweet peas produced some flowers.

Self seeded nasturtiums did amazingly well.

I had a lovely dinner at Prezzo with my Mum and Fairy godmother.

Nice dinner out in town with K, S and L at a rather nice Italian S and I found in Villiers St.

There’s been some lovely cosy TV being repeated. I’ve had a wonderful nostalgic time rewatching Hamish Macbeth and Noah’s Ark. I loved them the first time around and I’ve enjoyed renewing my acquaintance with them while knitting now that the evenings are getting darker.

The return of the Great British Bake Off is also making me happy.

The simple joy of having knitting back on my needles. I’ve been busy working on a cross stitch sampler for a special occasion and had no time to knit. But cross stitch doesn’t have the same stress relieving properties as knitting.

A splendid dinner at Brawn for K’s birthday.

A Barbecue at another K’s.

Asters – my first this year.

Trip to Westfield with Mum.

Lunch at Wahacca.

A splendid chocolate mousse made by my Mum.

Another belated birthday present form my fairy godmother – this ace cushion. I love cushions and have them all arranged on my window seat. This one is just perfect and the colours are just right for my sitting room.

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Major progress on the cross stitch sampler I’m well ahead of schedule.

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L’s birthday dinner at Annie’s. It was a delicious dinner and super company. What more can one ask.

A wonderful surprise – more on that next month but it should be an awfully big adventure.

A lovely Team breakfast at All Bar One. Did you know they serve smarties in shot glasses with tea and coffee at breakfast time. This pleased the inner child in all of us and we took some back to the office to share which made us very popular.

Excellent yarn and pattern haul from Hobbycraft and John Lewis at discount.

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Seeing D even if it wasn’t under the best circumstances.

Reading with big niece and introducing her to Blackberry Farm. It was so nice reacquainting myself with old friends. I still love Naughty George.

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Learning to make Loom bands. My big niece enjoyed teaching me too. It’s a role reversal she’s not used to.

My loom band bracelet big niece made me.

Playing with our old farm with big niece. This was a treasured toy when my brother, sister and I were small. It’s wooden with knitted fields and Brittain’s farm animals. Big niece loves it as much as we did and much like us objected strenuously to having to put her carefully arranged animals away.

The light up ducks Mum bought in Tiger. It is fair to say big niece was not the only one who was fascinated by ducks which light up when placed in a hot bath.

Finding Smokey aka Millie the cat a new home with people who will look after her. My only regret is that I couldn’t keep her myself.

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Making strawberry jam. I was sold some truly appallingly soft strawberries but I decided rather than waste them I would turn them into jam and the result was really most satisfactory and very tasty on hot buttered crumpets.

A large bunch of Sunflowers.

Progress on a depressingly slow and tedious legal issue.

Some new GGBP books. I’m especially pleased to have Balconies and Blue Nets a Mabel Esther Allan I’ve never read before. It was exactly what I expect from an MEA. Not much plot but very atmospheric with sympathetic characters a great sense of place and vivid colours. It is a light frothy read perfect for morning commuting.

It was a good month for reading generally. I read Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoos Calling and although the plot was fairly predictable the characterisation was excellent and I loved the use of language. I also acquired ebooks of Pamela Cox’s Malory Towers continuations. I found them highly amusing. I hope it’s not a spoiler to say that I was pleased two characters had the opportunity to redeem themselves even though that’s more an EBD then EB trait. I was also pleased that the girls were given realistic but appropriate career aspirations.

As for the first Wells and Wong mystery Murder Most Unladylike by Tobin Stevens. I couldn’t put it down I was totally gripped. It combined my two favourite genres the school story and cosy crime. I liked the style, the two leading characters were engaging and there was a most satisfactory twist. It retained a sense of its time and place and yet avoided offensiveness. Hazel’s asides on the casual fascism she endures are understated but apt. I like to think they’d make a younger reader think – if they needed to.

Reading with my niece

One of my greatest joys is watching my niece become a reader. She is becoming a very competent reader and to my absolute delight a writer. She already takes great pleasure in a new notebook and sharp pencil to write with (Is this genetics or example?). She writes stories incessantly using more and more vocabulary. I should not have been thrilled when I was told to do something immediately instead of now (precocious child) but even as I rebuked her, inside I glowed at her increasing fluency.

I love sharing favourite authors with her. We’ve both loved Shirley Hughes Alfie books for years. Now whenever she sees a Shirley Hughes illustration there is a shout of that’s the Alfie Lady. We’ve both enjoyed Paddington especially the audio version read by the superlative Stephen Fry.

More recently I’ve introduced her to Dorothy Edwards My Naughty Little Sister. They are very old fashioned but my niece adores them. Whenever she has a sleepover at my parents they are her bedtime story of choice. The Shirley Hughes illustrations attracted her and then the simple stories about timeless small things that matter to a small person engaged her and that was it.

This evening I read her a bedtime story – or six and inspired by our toy farm being rescued from the loft for big niece – as she must henceforth be known to play with; (my brother, sister and I passed many a happy hour with that,) I renewed my acquaintance with another childhood favourite Jane Pilgrim’s Blackberry Farm. They are beautifully illustrated but they were old fashioned when I was small and now they are almost obsolete. However they are cosy and the characters appealed to her. I confess I still love Naughty George the kitten.

Please don’t think she only gets old books to read. We love Katie Morag, anything by Julia Donaldson or Mick Inkpen. Mog is a much loved friend – Big niece can read Goodbye Mog with equinamity. I cannot I still dissolve into floods of tears at the mere thought of Mog going to sleep forever. The Blue Kangaroo books enthralled us both and there’s the ubiquitous Charlie and Lola. There’s a reason I tell big niece she is my favouritest and best.

I think next time I might introduce big niece to Milly Molly Mandy and I’m looking forward to producing Dog Friday (Hilary Mackay), Fantastic Mr Fox, the Famous Five and The Secret Island over the next year. Soon I can start her on Mallory Towers and hopefully foster an interest in the school story.

I am looking forward to the joy of introducing the newly acquired small niece to Miffy, Spot and Maisie Mouse. However at three weeks old although she is read to she is currently taking no interest in characters or narrative. Sad but true. Big niece informed me she read her sister Dear Zoo but she did not stop crying. Big niece feels this shows a lamentable lack of taste.

A month or so ago big niece was spotted descending the stairs with her nose firmly buried in a picture book. My SiL remonstrated with her and said with some asperity “If you’re not careful you’ll turn out just like your auntie.” Big niece beamed and said ” Good she’s my favourite.”

I think my work is done.

Things that made me happy in July

I’m doing well, July has only been over three days and I’m writing this.

July has been a good month mostly because the sun has shone. Hence I have an incredibly long list of things which made me happy last month.

My walk to work and indeed back again has been sunny and pleasant. I’ve had to work hard to resist the temptation to linger in the park. Summer or not I can’t be late for work.

The intensive Physio is working for me. I can’t say I’ve enjoyed the process it’s been hard work and at times painful but I look and feel so much better. I don’t limp anymore, my painkiller consumption is vastly reduced and my colleagues tell me I look an inch taller and several years younger. The downside is the ghastly tendon tape I had to wear on both legs in various neon shades. I’ve done so well I only need one session a week from now on instead of two. The moral of that story is don’t soldier on hoping it will go away. Consult a specialist sooner rather than later.

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There are Cygnets in St James Park. When I took this at the beginning of July they were an enchanting mix of grey feathers and white fluff!

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A rather lovely Afternoon tea at C & K’s complete with a teapot wreathed in Ivy and hydrangeas on the table. The food was really rather delicious too.

The view from C & K’s sitting room window. They have a lovely light filled spacious flat but the view from the window was the chief selling point in my opinion. Just as my window seat sold me my flat.

The view of London between Nunhead and Victoria. Between a unheard and Victoria the railway line is elevated above the level of the houses and the view across London is superb. At different times I can see Battersea Power Station, the Shard, the Thanes, Canary Wharf, The London Eye even on a good day St Paul’s and this month the light levels have been such that visibility has been superb. I only wish I could take photos but South Eastern train windows don’t allow for photography.

Canterbury with H

Dinner at The Marine Hotel

Walking on Tankerton beach

Dinner at The Turkish

Mastering a rather complicated knitted cable pattern and finishing my first Christmas present into the bargain. This hat is destined for my Mummy and eventually will have a matching scarf.

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The Great House of Estraville. I have never read this Violet Needham as it’s one of her rarer books. Now thanks to GGBP I haven’t only read it. I own it. To be honest it’s not one of Needham’s best books the pace meanders and the plot is almost non existent but it is Ruritanian and there’s a lovely sense of place.

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Trying out the Mexican restaurant in the High St. There was delicious food and a rather splendid Mojito. I’ll be back.

The first Sweet Peas of the season. I love Sweet Peas and fail miserably at growing them in pots no matter how hard I try. These came from my Mum’s garden and made me happy while they lasted.

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I’ve been lucky with flowers this month. I’ve enjoyed Alostromeria, Gladioli, Sunflowers, Roses and Pinks. These pinks came from Stratton Ground Market and say on my desk at work so made my colleagues happy too.

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My parents went to Alaska (Oh to be a ‘poor pensioner’) and bought me back some lovely earrings in blue and silver.

I’ve been going to my physio sessions (autocorrect changed physio to punishing which is strangely apt.) in the City on the No 11 bus and it is a typical tourist route. It takes me past Big Ben and the Houses of Parluament, up Whitehall round Trafalgar Square and up The Strand. From there it goes past The a Royal Courts of a Justice up Fleet Steet, round Ludgate Circus and has a magnificent view of St Paul’s. I get off just after it passes Bank. I think the bus trips have been the silver lining of needing physio. Sometimes hating the tube has its advantages.

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Post work and post physio happy hour cocktails in Spitalfields. Surely a balanced diet is a cocktail in each hand. My friend L claims they are happiness and joy in a glass.

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Friday Night Pimms

Dinner with S in a lovely Italian

A work Champagne celebration

An unexpected compliment from the outgoing Director

The view as my bus crossed London Bridge – the photo of this was hopelessly blurry but this one of Monument with The Shard in the background is a little clearer. It was taken on a 48 between Liverpool Street and London Bridge. I feel TFL should make bus windows more photo friendly.

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There was a glorious ring around the moon one night. My photo is pretty hopeless I think I need a better camera for that sort of thing. My little Kodak aim and fire isn’t up to it.

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Thunderstorms – if only I could have photographed the truly spectacular lightening. The storms were very welcome as the reduced the humidity albeit temporarily.

Dad fixed my leaky roof – an unexpected and unforeseen consequence of the storms was water in my hall where I absolutely didn’t want it to be. My father got his ladder out, traced the source of the leak – a blocked gutter on my porch roof and fixed it. When it’s all dry I shall have to patch the decoration but it’s not as bad as it could be.

I gave an afternoon tea at my flat using my birthday vintage tea set, inherited crystal, my Nanna’s embroidered tablecloth and hung bunting.

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I served homemade lemon curd ice cream which was pronounced delicious.

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I’ve not forgotten how to plot a cross stitch chart or how to cross stitch

Postcards and other snail mail

Winning my appeal against an unjust parking ticket. They are annoying enough when you are in the wrong but being fined when you bought a ticket and did not overstay is just not on. Luckily whoever handled my appeal agreed.

I have 12 coloured sharpies!

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Six new to me dresses from a clothes swap

Trip to Bromley

Belated Birthday gift from K – new MEA to read

Starmints- these may be cheap as chips and handed out free in the USA but I love them. Fond childhood memories I think. Anyway my parents bought me back a bag.

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H came to stay

My ceiling fan has made me happy every hot and humid night this month. It remains the best £40 I’ve ever spent.

K came to stay

I took K for a River bus ride from Bankside to Woolwich. I’ve not done it for years but it was lovely. London is beautiful from the river. Just the right weather for it too.

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We also went to see Great Britain at the National. Billie Piper was superb and I was pleased to see Oliver Chris is even better on the stage than he is on TV. The police chief completely stole the show though. I was also thrilled to discover that Amex account holders can get priority booking and discounts. I don’t have one but I know someone who does…

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My niece was six! How has that happened? Anyway we went for her now traditional picnic on Greatstone beach to celebrate. It involved paddling, sand writing, kite flying, burying Grandad in sand, ice cream, the funfair at Dymchurch and this year a new amusement in the firm of a donkey ride. As always the day concluded with fish and chips – in my case just chips as fish isn’t vegetarian.

I received an amazing parcel from A. My friends do know me so very well.

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I was able to borrow a large fan to cool my downstairs and prevent me from melting.

My niece’s garden birthday party. This involved friends, family, food and Champagne. There are no photos due to an accident involving the camera and champagne but a good time was had by all.

I have new shoes. They aren’t particularly pretty in fact the biggest advantage of my Skechers sandals is that they don’t look like something my grandmother wouldn’t be seen dead in and I certainly would not wear alive. However the physio approves and I can eschew my trainers and walk almost pain free.

A very positive meeting with the incoming director at work where I was told I was considered to be business critical and the prospect of me moving on was a big risk. My rotation date has been renegotiated.

Then almost at the end if the month there was tangible evidence of how much better I am. I was able to get out of the pool under my own steam without using the steps. My arms could manage most of it but I just couldn’t push up with my feet. Now I can.

And my writer’s block went away. I wrote 6,000 plus words in July after months of nothing.

Happy things in June

I have just realised July is almost over and I still haven’t posted June’s happy things. I fear I will always be a procrastinator extraordinaire. So without further ado and before it is August here is my record of June’s small joys.

Birdkeeper’s cottage in St James Park. I pass this tiny cottage almost everyday on my way to work and this tiny country cottage in the midst of Central London never fails to please me. If you look at the right angle you could almost be on a great estate somewhere very rural instead of being in spitting distance of parliament. I think I like the garden even more. It is so in keeping with the cottage and so incongruous in a Royal Park.

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There were baby ducklings in the park to make me smile.

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There was a rather nice evening in with my Mum involving watching The Crimson Field, rose and violet creams and knitting/ crochet.

I had a gorgeous bunch of peonies. I love peonies but they are so expensive and their season is so short.

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I took my Mum and a Dad to see Relative Values with Caroline Quentin. Mum and I both love Noel Coward anyway and my Dad always enjoys a good comedy. Dad described it as a proper old fashioned farce and went home happy. Caroline Quentin was absolutely superb. She is if anything a better stage actress than she is a TV one.

Dinner out out with H

A good gossip on the phone with K

Dinner at the Turkish with my parents and sister

Girls night out with my mum, sister, godmother and god sisters

A sunny Sunday picnic in the park complete with dogs and small people

Going to see Good People with H – Imelda Staunton was amazing in this. The set was very clever and the dialogue faultless. The concept of who is good and what makes a good person was thoroughly examined and yet no conclusions were rammed down my throat.

I don’t have to have foot surgery. This is a big cause for celebration. My foot has been incredibly sore. I put off doing anything about it because I was being a spineless jellyfish (kudos if you know the reference) as it had been suggested it would probably mean surgery. Then the pain became so bad I could scarcely walk. Concluding I couldn’t limp for the rest of my life I decided anything would be better than this even 12 weeks on crutches. I also decided if my Great Aunt could be brave enough to have her hip replaced at 81, I could be brave enough to see a doctor and do something about it. The GP diagnosed severe Achilles Tendonitis said he thought I’d need surgery and urgently referred me to an Orthopaedic Surgeon. The lovely man rubber stamped my GP’s diagnosis but decreed no surgery and recommended intensive physio. I was delighted.

B’s first birthday party

First barbecue of the year

A flattering request – not sure if I will accept but flattering none the less

The Two Form Captains – I’ve never been able to afford my own copy of this rare EJO but thanks to The Abbey Chronicle I now have my own copy albeit a paperback. This makes me very happy and it is a rattling good read in the best girlsown tradition too.

A lovely cut and colour from the always amazing Jess

Trip to Calais for shopping, food and wine

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Waffles and cream just over the border in Belgium

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Standing at the Menin Gate remembering and being grateful to those who simply vanished into the Flanders mud and thankful I live in a world without the fear and uncertainty so many women endured. I thought too of the courage of those who played the Last Post at 8pm whenever they could in WW2 even though they knew if they were caught they would be shot! I hope I will never have to live through such madness.

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Buying my favourite chocolate in Carrefour

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The market at Calais – I wished I could bring the fruit and veg home and these Anemones were just stunning.

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Meeting Maisie – my godmother’s new dog. She’s such a friendly affectionate little dog.

Posh Afternoon Tea in Kent

Finishing Steph’s cardigan

Dealing with several things I’d been procrastinating about for too long. The relief of not feeling guilty about not having done them is enormous.

I managed to go swimming for the first time in ages.

A big bunch of Sunflowers

The first Roast dinner since a Easter

An unexpected meeting with my Uncle and Aunt

New authors Trisha Ashley and Elizabeth Taylor. They are very different and yet both are a gripping read. Taylor is technically better but a slow burn whereas Ashley is a page turner.

Contactless payment card. The simple my of being able to leap on and off buses at will without wondering if there is money on my Oyster card. Solves the cashless bus problem and my fear of being left stranded.

Surprise chocolate from K

Things that made me happy in May

It seems as if May was a long time ago and that’s probably because it was. However there were happy things in May so it’s only right I should share them albeit belatedly.

On the first day of May I went out with my friend L. We’d not seen each other for a year so spent a delightful afternoon and evening catching up. It culminated in cocktails in the Strand Palace Hotel which has turned itself into a Gin Palace. There were no complaints from me.

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I had a lovely sunny walk in a local park known as The Pleasance. It surrounds the Tudor Barn once the home of Margaret Roper now a restaurant. The park is on the site of the house where E Nesbit lived when she wroteThe Railway Children hence the sculptures inspired by Five Children and It.

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I finished the quilt I’d been making.

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A belated birthday present of Fortnum’s tea and biscuits from knit2pointe2

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Lilac. I love Lilac the scent and the colour both make me smile and it was a joy passing this tree everyday on my way to the station.

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There were baby goslings in St James Park.

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Pimmy’s birthday party

Learning to insert contact lenses

Breakfast with my team at the Cinnamon Club

First Lily of the Valley flowers

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Watching Born and Bred with my Mum on our monthly TV evening

Enthusiastic greeting from Steph when I babysat – she loves her quilt

Supper at FGT

Friends for dinner

Watching My First Coppelia with my niece

Reading Angela Thirkell for the first time thanks to L and realising what I’d been missing

Day at Southsea with H

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Evening out with the other H

My new blue crochet dress

Exploring Hoxton and Spitalfields with L

A Brick Lane Curry

Kindness from people I may not have deserved but definitely needed

New glasses – the simple joy of clear vision

Another trip to C&H Fabrics in Canterbury where yet again they came up trumps with exactly what I needed for a project

My Scottie Dog from Edinburgh – he still needs a name

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I wasn’t happy I needed to go back on steroids in May but I’m very happy that they worked and also that we have a health service which is free at point of use so I could ask for help without fear of a big bill.

Finding hardbacks of The Camp Mystery, Damaris at Dorothy’s and The Testing of the Torment in the Oxfam bookshop in Canterbury. All three books cost me £50 and Torment and Mystery have dust wrappers. I am aware if you are not a girlsowner this amazing find will be meaningless to you but if you’re not… I practically danced out of the shop.

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A belated day out in Canterbury for my Mum’s birthday

Coming top in my large Government Department for something which really matters – wish I’d got a bonus rather than warm Prosecco and nibbles but one cannot have everything. There’s quite a bit of kudos in ones name being right at the top f the list.

Watching the last performance of We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre. Brian May and Roger Taylor performed live. What more can I say…

I am also happy because I finally got around to taking my winter coat to be dry cleaned and washed all the hats, scarves and gloves that have been floating around since the winter. They are now all put tidily away. Better late than never

Things that made me happy in April

May is almost over but better late than never… April really was a fantastic month. Spring finally happened and I am not designed for winter. It was also a month of birthdays mine and other people’s.

So here are the things that made April splendid.

K, L and A came to stay for the weekend. It was a bit do a squash in my little flat but it made me happy

Cocktails in the Covent Garden Hotel twice. The Rose Martini is superb.

Chips on Greatstone Beach also twice once with friends and once with my niece

Sharing Romney Marsh, Dungeness and my conviction that the lighthouse is the one in Demon’s Rocks with friends

My boss made me birthday cake. No one at work has ever done that for me. Usually I bake the cakes.

A fantastic pay it forward parcel from L. She knows me so well.

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Blithe Spirit with Angela Lansbury – Noel Coward what’s not to like

A fabulous family birthday tea with the most amazing rose and violet cream birthday cake

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Visiting R, J and M – reading stories with J was a real highlight

Visiting A, A, E and M during my Easter break. It was so nice to catch up with people I’ve not seen for ages

Lunch with my cousin and her children

My birthday vintage tea set

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Wonderful birthday presents and cards. I’m a very lucky girl.

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An amazing birthday surprise in the form of tickets for August to see Gillian Anderson as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire. Another friend who knows me very well.

A birthday dinner with friends at Tas then drinks in The Swan with a lovely walk along Bankside on a summer evening.

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Morning Coffee at The Walpole Bay Hotel, Margate with my Mum

Walking in St James Park

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A fab cut and colour

Dinner in GBK with the girls

A came to stay again

Shopping in Canterbury – I browsed in my favourite C&H fabrics for ages and they have a Tiger now. Oh the excitement

Driving through Kent and Surrey on the old road

A successful raid on the library – I borrowed a whole pile of books I’ve been wanting to read for ages

Trying to spot the International Space station with S and consoling ourselves with wine when we failed

Collecting shells and making sand angels on the beach with my niece

A splendid evening with S involving delicious food and wine

A cuddle from baby G who is absolutely adorable

My niece’s Easter Egg Hunt

Making a fuss of Leo a truly gorgeous spaniel

The first time my niece and I have been able to go to the park after Sunday dinner

Walking down the Lane again with my niece and watching her excitement when she saw the horses.

Decorating my flat for Easter

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Geberas for my birthday

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Pink roses for my birthday

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Unexpected flowers which literally filled my flat post Mother’s Day

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Packing A’s Pay it forward parcel

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Finishing Baby G’s cardigan

Finding a new author – Mavis Doriel Hay. A lent me Death on the Cherwell and I loved it. Definitely an addition to the cosy crime genre I love so well

My end of year appraisal at work went well – needless to say I won’t be getting fired this year… I always worry that I will be.

Maeve Binchy

Yesterday I finished Maeve Binchy’s biography. I have enjoyed her books for years and when she died I actually felt bereft because there would not be any more books to immerse myself in.

I’ve always felt she was an old friend; even though I didn’t ever meet her, and to my eternal regret I did not ever write to tell her of the pleasure her books had always given me. On the one hand her books had indeed told me much about her and her life (There was lots of her in Benny from Circle of Friends) on the other hand there was much I had not known. I’d never have imagined she’d spent three summers working on a kibbutz for example.

I like her books because despite the fact she writes about Ireland – a place I know very little about I can relate to her characters and relate to the small town world she writes about. I may live in a London suburb but effectively it is a small town where everyone knows everyone else and there are no secrets.

I’ve always liked the fact that she doesn’t tie up all the loose ends neatly and there isn’t always a happy ever after but there is hope. There may be terrible betrayal and hurt but always there is the sense in a Binchy book that her characters can and will overcome whatever awful thing life has done to them. They are books you can turn to for comfort and wise counsel. I can remember a crushing, bruising day in the wrong job and knowing I had to travel alone to Sheffield that night then stay in a hotel in a strange city with a hostile office to face next day. I went to Waterstones on my way to St Pancras and bought a Maeve Binchy I loved but did not own. Suddenly it didn’t seem quite so lonely.

Binchy didn’t have the easiest life and there were some very hard knocks but she carried on anyway. One of her lessons is that when it all falls apart you can pick up the pieces and do something with what’s left of your life. I suppose it’s the whole taking charge thing and doing the best you can with what you’ve got. Taking charge of your own life is a strong theme throughout all her books. It’s a message I should probably aim to emulate.

She wasn’t a super, skinny, glamorous type but she was still successful. I like that. Like it or not (and I don’t) the prevailing message at the moment is that if you are not a size eight you are worthless. I have lots going for me but always at the back of my mind is the insidious message it would all be better if you were thin. I am well aware that this puts me in the majority rather than making me unique. This week I’ve lost 3lb – hayfever has stolen my sense of taste and with it my appetite. I should be worried about it but I’m thrilled. I love that not only was Maeve an overweight success story it wasn’t even an issue for her (in public anyway, I’m aware it was an issue for her when she was younger.) or her readers or the press. Her weight was irrelevant and that’s so refreshing.

I was also impressed that she did not allow a disappointing pass degree to define her life or stop her from doing whatever she wanted. I always assumed she was the kind of person to get a double first. Although on reflection I suspect she was simply too busy living to get a first. The strongest impression I got from the books was that she lived. She didn’t let bereavement, ill health or infertility stop her. She lived right up until she died and for that I really admire her. I’d like to have met her.

She wrote and held down a full time job. Her target was 800-1600 words a day to achieve 5000 a week and I thought with organisation that’s actually more than achievable. I suddenly thought I too could manage that. Maybe if I set an achievable target like 800 words I could finish my novel and still sleep!

I also discovered she loved a G&T and adored public libraries because they mean everyone has access to books. Maybe she’s a long lost relative. If we’d both been in a girlsown novel I’d have adopted her as a brevet aunt immediately. Like all the best girlsown heroines she had many brevet nieces, nephews, grandchildren etc.

In fact there are lots of aspects in Binchy’s books that link to my favourite genre. She writes about competent, capable women in charge of their own destiny which is of course what the girlsown novel does. Binchy also focuses on the theme of doing what is right rather than what is easy another perennial girlsown theme. There is also the ethos so well put much later by JK Rowling about “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors and not his equals.” (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Binchy shows this repeatedly throughout her novels. She writes about communities of women and their friendships. There is the same sense of the good (eventually) being rewarded and that sooner or later the bad will either suffer for their sins or they will realise they were wrong and make amends.

Of course I now feel like a reread. Should it be The Copper Beech (my comfort read on that long lonely train ride north in the dark), Tara Road or Light a Penny Candle – her first book, my first Binchy and also a link with my late adored Great Aunt for my copy of Light A Penny Candle was on her bookcase until she died. Now it is on my mine.

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