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Reading Challenge

I knew this year I wanted something to focus my reading. I want to concentrate on reading just a little outside my comfort zone and not falling back on the familiar comforting reads of cosy crime and girlsown. A friend posted this challenge and I realised it’s probably the answer. There’s still scope for my usual kind of reading but it pushes the boundaries just a little without forcing me to read anything. I decided when I graduated I’d never read or finish any book I didn’t want to ever again. Life’s too short.

I will try to review all the books I read for this which will help with the other promise I made to myself that I’ll make time to write more often.


January Jollies

 Just like last January this month has involved major orthopaedic surgery. Much more major surgery than last year as it turned out, more pain, much larger cast and longer bigger operation. I am absolutely hoping that this will be the end of it.

On New Year’s Day I went for a walk with K and H. In deference to my current limitations we stayed locally and walked along the Thames Path from Woolwich to North Greenwich. It was bleak, grey, industrial – a part of the city I never notice or that I am aware of. It had a compelling quality although I can’t say it’s beautiful. I loved watching the planes landing at London City Airport.

We’d intended to walk as far as Greenwich but it became clear that I could not do that. So we stopped for a delicious Brazillian lunch at the O2 and then I got a bus home.

It’s been such a mild January I was able to have a vase of the first daffodils of the year to cheer up my flat when the decorations came down.

First tulips of the year – I love tulips and it’s a moment of great joy when they are back in the shops.

My Orchids are shooting again and soon there will be flowers.

The immaculate cleanliness and space of a deChristmassed flat. I hate taking the decorations down the flat always seems so dark and gloomy but on the plus side there is more space without them. I cleaned and polished even using proper beeswax polish. It’s nice to start the year with a fresh shiny flat. 

I bought some hyacinths to cheer up my flat once the decorations were down.


I saw the surgeon again to discuss what could be done about my poor maltreated foot. He was very kind and understanding to the extent that I reluctantly consented to try surgery again. He also agreed to fit in with my fairly complex timetable for recovery.

My parent’s bought me back a lovely new Vera Bradley laptop back from Florida. I had saved it to use when I went back to work after Christmas to give me a bit of a boost.

There was some splendid snail mail from A, L, S, L and K L and a beautifully written note from my small cousins.

Pizza and TV night with Mum.

A friend had a baby son who arrived safe and well.

Mulled grape juice – I was looking for a new soft drink in Starbucks and saw that on the menu. It was really delicious and I’ve worked out how to make it at home too.

Coffee and gossip with the girls.

The discovery I can mute everything people share on Facebook I don’t want to deal with without muting them. Abhorrent (to me) politics, OTT animal rights (and I’m veggie so it has to hardcore to annoy me), misogyny, nasty guilt inducing equivalents of chain letters all gone. People have an absolute right (as long as it is legal) to post and share what they like but now I don’t have to read it. Hurrah!

Spontaneous Friday night work drinks to celebrate a colleague’s birthday.

A super sunrise – this was taken from my kitchen window.


An unexpected dinner out with R and a catch up.

Pizza supper with family.

A snowy awakening.


An amazing and congenial afternoon tea at FGT. There was tea, Prosecco, delicious cakes and conversation with good friends.

Dinner at GBK with the usual suspects.

A very peaceful pottering about kind of Saturday with lots of reading.

Watching Private Lives at the Churchill Theatre. Sam Strachan, Laura Chambers and Charlotte Ritchie were just fab.

A very nice pre theatre dinner at Aqua.

The arrival of my new cup and saucer to complete my beloved Royal Albert Primulette teaset.

New French pharmacy moisturiser. 

My skin is finally getting better. It has been horrendous blotchy, dry and spotty ever since I caught the nasty viral thing in December and finally it’s getting better.

Bronze Hema nail polish I got for Christmas. It goes on beautifully.


A walk in the dark with big niece and a fascinating discussion about her chances of going to Hogwarts and the difference between telling a lie and being creative with the truth.

Cuddles from small niece

Discovering Entrelac knitting and how deceptively easy it is.

Belated Christmas gifts from L. She knows me oh so well.

My Surgery went well – the surgeon is optimistic that my Achilles’ tendon will heal and I’ll be able to walk without pain. The nursing staff  were very kind to me as I surfaced from my anaesthetic haze. It took a while this time as I wasn’t as well as everyone expected immediately post op this time. Fortunately within two hours I was fine. I am now sporting the largest cast ever and a very unstylish compression stocking.

A lovely lunch out with my parents and sister despite the cast from hell and bloody crutches.

January TV. I’ve been saving up the programmes I enjoy for the sofa time I knew was coming. I’ve made a start on Death in Paradise, Shetland, Endeavour and War and Peace. Vera and Call the Midwife are still in reserve.

WPC56 I found this on Alibi and was accidentally addicted. I watched all five episodes of the first series in one sitting.

My handknitted cast sock a present from N to keep my poor toes warm.


My LimbO cast sleeve. It is an amazing device which was well worth what it cost (about £15) as I have been able to have a proper hot bubble bath and wash my hair while in a full lower leg plaster cast. I did it alone and unaided so my dignity and independence are intact. What’s not to like.

Pizza evening with S who generously came round with Pinot Noir to keep me company in my enforced immobility. I have the best friends. For future reference Pinot Noir makes for better pain relief than the stuff I was prescribed.

Delightful December

I can’t break this alliteration habit now it’s started…

I almost always enjoy December. I love the run up to Christmas, the lights, decorations, socialising, eating drinking etc.

I have struggled this month physically because my foot has been very sore and I caught some sort of ghastly adult slaying bug from my smallest niece which has knocked me for six and there have been entirely too many doctors visits. However I’m still here to tell the tale and the good things definitely outweigh the bad. So without further ado here are the things that made me happy in the last month of 2015.

I had a day trip to Oxford with my friend L and met our friend H for a delicious dinner at a Lebanese restaurant Al Shami. I was worried about this trip as it was taken entirely on public transport as I’m not allowed to drive very far at the moment but it was tremendous fun. We loved exploring the covered market. Just look at that beautiful fruit and veg stall. It looks like something from a fifties picture book.

L came to stay which meant joyous gossip.

Circumstances meant I could hear my friend S sing with her choir for the first time ever. Vivaldi’s Gloria gave me great joy.

I went to the London CS meeting for the first time in months and it was surprisingly fun

I had a wonderful Advent Candle


December brings the opportunity to use the Emma Bridgewater Reindeer China I adore again.


Amusingly this year Mum and I gave each other exactly the same Advent Calandar a chocolate covered marzipan one. It was a daily delight although five year old me would never are believed I could get four days behind with my advent calendar.


Discovering that I can use Dad’s Amazon Prime and as I was organised I was given Kindle vouchers for choosing slower orders

Dinner at The Real Greek with the usual suspects. Good food and good friends you can’t really ask for more.

The Christmas Lights in Trafalgar Square once again I was lucky enough to be passing as they switched them on.

Christmas Pizza at FGT. A delightful evening in connivial company.

My Christmas at Home – I invited the people I care about to visit and happily they are good enough friends not to mind that I wasn’t well enough to cater it myself and bought it all in so to speak.

Coleslavian Christmas – another happy sociable night with delicious food.

Work Christmas Lunch at the Cinnamon Club. The Cinnamon Club is always a delight.

Work Christmas drinks – a good chance to catch up with people I don’t always see anymore.

Cut and colour – nothing boosts the ego like a good haircut especially when it is accompanied by champagne.

The now traditional annual Christmas Concert at the Royal Albert Hall. I always leave on a high having sung Christmas songs for two hours.

Millie came to stay. I simply loved having a feline house guest and she was no trouble. She can come and stay again whenever she likes.


Margin Note Books republished Tony Among the Prefects which was the only Clare Mallory I did not own my own copy of. I do now.

GGBP published a brand new Chalet School filler Bettanys on the Home Front which I really enjoyed.

Mum made me a log cabin Christmas lap Quilt. I love it to bits.


She also crocheted me a Christmas hat and Scarf in a fantastic seasonal yarn as modelled by the swamped Teddy Edward.

There was a splendid pre Christmas Dinner and cocktails with the girls in TGI Fridays.

The Southbank London Chalet Christmas meet up

My Christmas decorations. You may by now have gathered that I like a decoration or two…

Christmas cards especially two unexpected ones

A friend’s very unwell mother is on the mend

My Godparents annual Christmas get together

Breakfast at Dishoom with my old team

Baking with my big niece. There’s something rather nice about using the same gingerbread man cutter that my Great Aunt used when baking with my Mum as a small girl to bake with big niece. It makes a perfect gingerbread man every time too.

Lessons and Carols at Westminster Abbey. I find it both reassuring and inspiring to know that people have stood where I am standing celebrating Christmas for thousands of years and that they will probably do so long after I’m dead and gone.   

Lovely Christmas presents – I was given plenty of books with offerings of chocolate, Gin, potions for the bath and stationery. My friends and family know me so very well.


Christmas Eve Dinner at the Turkish. I don’t normally like change but this was a change for the better. I hope it will become a tradition. We had a delicious meal,  there was no stress or mess for Mum and I to clear up and we were laying the dining room table for Christmas dinner by 5pm on Christmas Eve.

The kindness and straightforwardness of the surgeon I saw on Christmas Eve. He was very sympathetic but also spelt out my choices clearly. I also think anyone would like a doctor who prescribes afternoon naps.

Playing Articulate with the family. I like to think I’d have enjoyed it even if I hadn’t won.

Big niece’s sleepover: we had a TV supper of chip shop chips, watched Eloise at Christmastime and ate popcorn.

A quiet two hours with tea, Fortnums Truffles and EBD.

I’m filled with gratitude for the NHS who once again got me through a crisis quickly and efficiently.

Boxing Day at my sister’s.

Petrol below £1 a litre I never thought I’d see the litres go up faster than the pounds again.

The Christmas Call the Midwife – pure indulgent, escapist joy.

A little sales shopping. Father Christmas did not realise I longed for an Amaryllis or that I needed a diary so I rectified this. I’d also been coveting the Emma Bridgewater Hellebore mug but couldn’t justify paying full price for it. At half price it was destined to be mine. The tulips were simply irresistible temptation. A reminder that Spring will come and light and warmth will return however long it takes. Actually you can just see my Hedgehog measuring cups in this photo. They  were a Christmas present a couple of years ago but I still smile every time I look at them.


The Christmas bath foam I bought in Calais. It is supposed to be scented with orange and cinnamon but smells just like chocolate orange. I like it a lot.

New Years Eve spent with friends and another tasty meal in the Turkish restaurant.

Nice things in November

The alliteration truly is irresistible. I can’t think of any big excitements but there was lots of quiet happiness along the way to misquote Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Belated Halloween dinner – we had it on the Sunday which was the first rather than on the correct day as we were all busy doing other things. Big niece spent a long time decorating.  

Friends with a flat overlooking Crystal Palace invited me to watch the fireworks from their balcony. This involved me making some interesting journeys on public transport I’d never made before.

I read Val McDermid for the first time and wondered why I’d never done it before

Writing my name with a sparkler – that was sheer childish joy.

A nice evening of shopping and dinner at Bluewater

I had a Violet Needham reread

We had fireworks in the back garden for my nieces. Big niece was allowed a sparkler for the first time. I introduced her to the of of writing your name with it.  

The Abbey Chronicle republished Elsie Oxenham’s The Junior Captain. I now own my own copy and I was delighted to read it again.

In an amazing act of kindness Hilary McKay sent me a copy of her book Binny in Secret. I loved it and it was a welcome distraction during an unpleasant experience at the dentist’s.

After a ghastly week when I was not sure how bad the damage to my tooth was I discovered it did not need extraction, a root canal or a crown. I was very relieved.

The  Sainsbury’s Christmas  ad featuring my beloved Mog made me very happy.

I had Dinner with the girls  and it served as consolation after a difficult appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon – the foot saga continues.

Starbucks Honey and Almond hot chocolate

I hadn’t indulged in a Lush bath bomb for ages but then treated myself to a very indulgent hot scented bubble bath.

Kathye’s pampered chef party. It was just good fun.

Reward voucher from work for being a ‘good’ girl.

My sister gave me the New Mog book. My big niece and I read it at once.

Getting eyebrows threaded. I always think they look ok and then I get my eyebrows threaded and I realise how they should look.

The Christmas Lights in Oxford St and Regent St

Marmalade coloured ducks in the park – I’ve no idea what these ducks are called but I love them.

I managed to be very brave while having an MRI scan. I am not good with enclosed spaces and loud noises so find them challenging. This one was much better than previous scans. It was a newer quieter scanner and it came with noise cancelling headphones and I was asked which radio station I wanted to listen to while I was scanned. The radiographer was aware I was very anxious and made it as untraumatic for me as he could.

Mum and I had our annual Christmas Shopping day in Canterbury  

We also found a new small restaurant for lunch called Oscar and Bentley. We will be returning. This was Mum’s lunch my veggie one didn’t photograph as well.


Meeting S in town we prowled around  Fortnum’s Christmas displays and  rested at Patisserie Paul. I was entranced by the fruit and veg displays inFortnum’s    


Coffee and Cake with H and K in the British Library Cafe

Playing Chinese whispers with big niece we tormented her poor child by deliberately getting the messages wrong.

I finished Mum’s scarf at last – her Christmas present for 2014. It took much longer than I anticipated.  

Gentle morning pottering about

I took big niece Christmas shopping in London. We met a Clanger outside Hamleys. 

The kindness of the staff in Lush Oxford St towards an enthralled small girl

My MRI Scan showed no tumours and no fractures in my foot which was good news even if the less said about what the scan did show the better. At least I’m now sure I’m not imagining a problem where none exists. As I’d been reading a book about people whose own mind gave them seizures and paralysis this was a relief. 

I was elected Vice Chair of Governors – I think this is an honour. It’s nice my fellow governors have faith in me.

Victory over the local authority in a small but vital contretemps

A very quiet Sunday filled with gentle domesticity.

My godparents gave me a set of Poirot audio books which are making me very happy

The lights in Carnaby St, Jermyn St, New Bond St and The Strand   


October’s list of optimism

It’s very belated mostly because I’ve been busy living but here before the end of the year is my list of happy things in October.

October was on the whole a happy month. There were disappointments, petty annoyances and drama but to a certain extent that is life and makes me appreciate the lovely things rather more.

I went to see Crush at Richmond Theatre with K. It wasn’t the most amazing production in the works but it was an entertaining parody of the school story and good fun. It’s all about jolly japes in a girls boarding school. Think Daisy pulls it off and you’re more or less there. It was entertaining and fun but not much more if I’m honest I’m not sure the playwright was sure if the plot so the audience certainly weren’t . Although the second half was considerable better than the first. It’s also a lovely theatre and to add to my joy the travel gods were with me and I made it back to the south east London sticks in an hour and twenty minutes which frankly is nothing short of miraculous.

My friend S came for dinner.

The madness of a wedding fair – no you haven’t missed anything I’m not getting married but my sister is. It was a distinctly surreal experience with what could only be described as collective insanity. However there was lots of free Prosecco and a large supply of cake. There were also many flowers for me to admire.  I was quietly dumbfounded at the amount my sex will suddenly pay for not much because it is a wedding.
In the evening we had a child free family dinner at the Turkish restaurant and it was both delicious and peaceful. I love my nieces to pieces but it has to be said dining out without them is more civilised.

Finally watching the end of Call the Midwife – I cried but it’s still one of my favourite things on television.

Lunch with Helen.

Mum and I had our annual weekend in France which brought many cheerful things but also on of the saddest. We drove past the migrant camp and it was one of the saddest sights I’ve seen this year. I found I was more grateful than usual for the comforts I take for granted in the Holiday Inn Calais: Clean sheets, sprung mattress, flush lavatory, copious amounts of hot water and a sturdy door with a lock.

We didn’t go at our usual time and arrived on Sunday when Calais was all shut up which meant we couldn’t go to the market in Calais but we went down the coast to Belgium instead on our first day because Belgium is more alive on Sunday. 

We had a very early start so had a second breakfast of hot chocolate, waffles and a featherbed of whipped cream overlooking the Channel. Those little jugs hold thick rich chocolate sauce and it was delicious.


We spent most of the day in De Panne – We shopped: There was a huge branch of Leonidas chocolate and a large Hema where I did a little Christmas shopping. Then we had a delicious lunch in a beachfront restaurant and a walk on the beach. It was cold but bright with wonderful blue sky and sea.



We had dinner at our favourite restaurant in Calais – Le Detroit. The chef kindly cooked me a special vegetarian dinner as they don’t have a vegetarian choice. Just look at my Creme Brûlée.


The next day we shopped til we dropped in Cite Europe. As always the food shopping seems so much more exciting when it is done in Carrefour and paid for in Euros. I also got carried away in Sephora (The French are so much better at skincare) and bought my first few Christmas presents.


I had a glorious bunch of pink chrysanthemums 

There was Snail mail from K on her epic tour of Canada.

I had an ego boosting cut and colour

Mum and I found a lovely Italian in a side street by accident fora pod haircut dinner. The food was amazing but the service was atrocious.

I found a glorious shiny Conker and felt about five again.

Dinner with L

Dinner with K a long catch up after nearly a month and there was homemade guacamole.

I was passing the Star our local Indian on my way home and my parents were inside dining. They saw me and suggested I join them for a drink. I ended up being fed freebies by the staff for hours.

I began watching Downton Abbey again. I know it began in September but it was October before I had time to watch. It’s not as good as it was but it is still peaceful escapism.

I went to Eltham Palace with a group of friends to admire the newly restored sections and the WW2 shelter.

Afterwards I served Dinner chez moi and produced two successful new recipes and we had Kir Royale I’d bought back from France.

I bought and wrapped first Christmas presents

I was accepted onto professional training programme at work

Mid year review went well

H’s cheese birthday party was good fun.

D came to stay

Descaling the kettle – a tedious domestic chore but  strangely satisfactory and my tea tasted better afterwards

Hugs from my big niece

The joy of discovering a favourite Shirley Hughes picture book has been reprinted and promptly buying it for all the small people I know for Christmas. 

I have tickets to see Cursed Child albeit not until November 2016

I started attending the Waterstones BritishLibrary crime book club. I was brave I dint know anyone but I want anyway and contrived to enjoy myself.

A productive discussion with my GP not entirely positive – my foot is not better but we’ve planned the next step and a way forward

Dinner and coffee with the girls

Unexpectedly winning a competition – It was dinner for two at Roka. I unexpectedly won dinner for two at a posh Japanese restaurant – I’ve never won anything before. I gave it to my Dad for his birthday and he and Mum had a wonderful time.

A very enjoyable pre wedding brunch with the usual suspects.

That moment when you realise how amazing your friends really are. On this occasion we were all dressed to the nines, drinking cocktails and dancing at the wedding of the year. 

Making positive plans with S for next year.

Last but not least the wedding of the year itself

Super things in September

Sorry I couldn’t resist a little alliteration. This approximately 17 days late. What can I say – I’m a procrastinator extraordinaire.

The Rainbow that appeared in the sky one evening as I was heading home.

Mellow morning light the soft golden light you get at this time of year made walking to the station a little pleasanter.

K’s early birthday dinner there was ice cream and cake of course…

Curry at the star with my mother’s cousin. The meal was delightful and as always the staff treated us like Royalty.

Another K’s hen night. I had a particularly fine Gin cocktail at Browns and have plans to return and drink my way through all the Gin Cocktails on the menu.

Manifold kindnesses of my friends when I wobbled.

Morning in bed reading – a rare but special treat.

Central heating – every year when it switches itself back on I wonder why people talk about the good old days. I love knowing that I can get up in a warm house and return home to a cosy house after work. The new timer is simply superb.

Coffee/ dinner with the girls.

I had a long weekend in Riga. I’m not sure what I expected but Riga exceeded my expectations. The old town reminded me of Tallinn it’s medieval, full of steeples and turrets with foot crippling cobbles. It also had a faintly Ruritanian air. I could imagine all those aristocratic girlsown heroines living there and averting revolutions and coups with only their beloved horse and their own pluck to assist them.

Also what’s not to like about a city whose symbol is a cat pooing? There is of course a story behind that.

The cathedral is simply stunning.  

There was delicious cake.

The local delicacy is potato pancakes.

And two G&T’s were less than €5.

Our hotel had interesting decor but it was clean, comfortable and remarkably inexpensive for the number of stars it had.

We rode a Soviet era train 20km to the seaside. Marjori is a beach resort on the Baltic once a haunt of the Tsars and later like Tallinn it was a favoured USSR holiday spot.

The Baltic Beach Hotel where I had a delicious iced coffee has been refurbished but was clearly formerly the Intourist hotel.

We walked by the Baltic Sea on a bright crisp afternoon. It was a little chilly but the sky was blue and the sun shone.

New lights on timers this has been a revelation to me. I’ve set the timers to  come on as it gets dark partly as a security measure but also so I don’t come home to a dark empty house. Technology is a good thing. As one of my oldest friends says “I like living in the future.”


Google doodle for whatever reason this made me smile.

My free gift of a cookie from the Metro it amused me.


I finally finished little niece’s birthday cardigan. It’s too big for Teddy Edward but happily fits her.


Alostromeria in autumn colours
Holly berries supposedly if there are lots of berries we’re going to have a hard winter. Judging by the number I’ve seen it’s going to be cold but we shall see. Whatever they may prophecy these are still beautiful.

Unlooked for kindness from a neighbour.

The colleague who looked at me as I stumbled into work tired, grumpy and in pain then put a hot cup of tea and a Jaffa cake in front of me without a word.

I found the courage to do something I knew to be right even though I knew it wouldn’t be easy. It wasn’t but it was the right thing to do.

Unexpected kindness

I was walking home from the station this evening and I was feeling quite low. The foot I had surgery on in January has flared a little. I was in considerable pain and I was limping badly.

That was not the main reason I was feeling awful though. A fellow commuter had been outrageously inconsiderate and caused me more pain. I hadn’t called them on it because I didn’t have the energy and in any case however rude it is to display bad manners it is far ruder to comment on them (TM my paternal Grandmother). Then the commuter was excessively rude to me. It was probably nothing to do with me. She’d probably had a long week and a bad day which she took out on me. It was still hideous and could easily have wrecked my evening.

However as I dragged myself up the hill almost in tears, a car pulled up beside me and a smiling man of about my own age said “You live in [my street] don’t you?” I agreed I did and although shamefully I did not recognise him I did recognise the two toddlers in the car – I’ve seen them out with their Mum many times. It was one of my neighbours I’ve never actually spoken to him before. He then said “I’ve seen you dealing with that foot all year it looks very sore today would you like a lift.”

I wasn’t actually going straight home so I declined with a smile and polite explanation. If I’m honest despite the small children if I had been going straight home I still think I’d have declined I don’t think I know him well enough to get in his car but that act of kindness made my day and salvaged my evening.

This nice man will never know just how important that kind gesture was at that moment. My foot is still sore and I’m still limping but I completed my errand and walked home smiling. It was a reminder at just the right time that there are far more nice people than unpleasant ones in this world. 

Tomorrow I’m going to find out their names.


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