Fiction Friday

A postscript on the trip Oop North.

Sunday saw us shivering around Housesteads Roman fort.

Well, you can’t really visit Northumberland and not go to The Wall.

A masterpiece of ancient architecture

An unsophisticated attempt at apartheid

Bleak.

And very very cold.

I have never been to The Wall and not been cold.

It certainly makes you appreciate what those displaced centurions would have felt like, with the bitter winds whipping up their togas :-)

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And the thing the kids will remember from this trip?

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Roman loos.

And after an hour wandering around in the freezing cold, they actually started to look quite inviting.

Especially with the sound of moo-ing in the background.

It was just like being back in Hestons Little Chef.

Plus ca change…

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

Well unfortunately Gideon Mack has been put on hold whilst I have been racing through the first five volumes of The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

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Racing because oldest child has been voraciously devouring these books and as they are, again, young adult books I wanted to give them a quick scan before handing them over.

And I have to say, these are so good.

Gripping, excellent story line, nice dose of biblical references which went completely over Oldest Childs head (” Who was Cain mum?”), lots of teenage angst over identity and friendships but not in a navel gazing Twilight way.

So so good.

And currently on special offer in The Works!

Even better :-)

Next Week I Shall Mostly Be Reading

Bwa ha HA!

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The New Phil Rickman.

Bought today and delivered instantly to my Kindle.

Reasons to be grateful #564 :-)

Oop north again

Another weekend away.

This time visiting Averil ( of the Calendar Customs web site fame) and John. (Hi Averil and John :-) )

The journey up north, on a Friday, is always horrendous.

This time was no exception – nose to tail traffic, roadworks, fog. Lovely.

But we do have something en route to look forward to.

It’s a tradition.

We stop at the Heston Blumenthaled Little Chef on the A1 and visit the moo-ing loos.

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The loo ceiling is painted to look like a sunny day. And the toilets gently moo and baa at you as you relax to the sound of a stream gurgling in the background.

It really should be a tourist destination in its own right.

Saturday the boys stayed home for a mammoth board gaming session whilst Averil, Youngest Child and I caught the bus into Newcastle to try and wrestle up a bit of festive spirit.

Fenwicks Christmas window.

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You cannot see this and not feel like Christmas is just around the corner.

Youngest Child then attempted to eat her way around the world with Sushi for lunch followed by a Freshly cooked crepe from the French creperie in the Grainger market, followed by macarons from the French artisan baker, followed by bubble tea in Newcastles China town

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By the time we’d also gone down to see the revamped Quayside (not a dodgy nightclub in sight)

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St Nicholas cathedral

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And the disturbing vampire rabbit

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We were just about able to stagger back to the bus station to catch the bus back to Corbridge.

And I even heard a “bobby dazzler” and an “oh la la” during our wanderings

Perfect :-)

Remember

It’s funny how the things right on your doorstep are the things you cease to notice.

Youngest child had a homework assignment to find out about Warwick, our County town and right next door to Leamington.

I can’t remember the last time I actually visited Warwick as opposed to driving through it to get somewhere else.

It was a beautiful day yesterday.

The sky was blue

The sun was shining

The air was crisp and cool.

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We arrived just in time to watch the Remembrance Sunday service at the War Memorial near St Mary’s Church

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Beautiful and moving.

The gun shots scared a flock of birds that had been roosting in the church tower, and they swirled overhead throughout the service

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I tried to explain freemasonry to youngest child as we passed the Warwick Lodge

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But the more I explained the less it actually made sense :-)

The veterans from The Lord Leycester Hospital were at the Remembrance Day service in their finery, so we went to admire the Hospital

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And then warm up in their tea room

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Damn fine coffee :-)

Our tour finished with a trip to St Mary’s to admire the Beauchamp chapel with it’s superb monuments, possibly amongst my favourite group of dead people in the country

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And a final view over the river to Warwick Castle

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History, pageantry, memory and memorials.

A perfect winter Sunday.

Boo

Happy Dia de Los Muertos, happy Halloween. Samhain greetings.

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There were a few surprised faces when I answered the door yesterday.

And that was before I applied the make up (ba boom)

Five hyped up 8/9 year old girls.

And three trying to be cool but also actually quite hyped up nearly teenage boys.

I was ready for bed by 9.30.

But they were still going at 1am.

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A bowl of eyeballs

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Apple bobbing

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Red velvet blood cakes ready for decorating

And

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Death by chocolate cake.

The streets were packed with trick or treaters.

But I think the noise levels from our small group of girls outdid the rest of them put together.

Ears were bleeding :-)

May your Winter to come be a snug and cosy one.

T’North

It’s been another one of those weeks

Loads of teaching

A lecturer who was most insistent that we organise some sessions for his students

And then forgot to tell them.

A lecturer who arranged a session for approx 35 students and then phoned up the day before to ask if 81 would be a problem.

But it’s all fine.

Really.

And then this weekend a long anticipated trip to meet up with our friends in the north

Two days in York.

Shopping

Eating

Fabulous Tapas at Ambiente
And a fabulous Spanish waiter too (hi Carole! :-) )

A ghost walk

A sing song at the Golden Fleece (I blame the spirits ;-) )

A city of the heavenly

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And the diabolical

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And damn fine breakfasts at Bettys

Thank you Ladies, and here’s to the next one! :-)

Snot bubbles (AKA Fiction Friday)

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

20141017-063349.jpg The Fault In our Stars by John Green
I have seen the pictures of mass hysteria at the cinema with bedraggled, mascara smeared teens sobbing their way, blinking, into the daylight.
I approached the book forewarned and forearmed with a healthy degree of cynicism

By chapter two I was sobbing on the sofa.

Chapter twenty one had me in a state of collapse. Think Juliet Stevenson in “Truly, Madly Deeply”, raw and sobbing, snot bubbles and all.

Readers, it was not pretty.

It was at this point that Oldest Child staged An Intervention and wrestled the book from my tear sodden hands and told me to go upstairs and lie down and get a grip on myself.

He now refuses to touch the book with a ten foot barge pole.

So yes.

A book that goes through every cliche but still manages to suck you into the story and spit you out the other end.

Even whilst you are completely aware of how the author is playing you like a, like a banjo!

Remind me not to watch the film.

At least not in public.

Next Week I Shall Mostly Be Reading

20141017-064617.jpgThe Testament of Gideon Mack

A novel exploring faith and belief and the existence of Satan.

A bit of light relief after the last book then.

:-)

Pumpkin Spice (ish)

So, Starbucks have brought out their Pumpkin Spice Latte. It must be autumn.

I succumbed.

I bought one.

And having been mostly sugar free for weeks I found I couldn’t (gasp) drink it. It was so sweet I nearly gagged.

Which makes me worry the gingerbread latte they bring out before Christmas might be similarly un drinkable.

In which case I will be cast into a veritable slough of despond.

But I digress.

Pumpkin spice? How about pumpkin spice muffins?

Mmmmmmmm.

Only.

Being organised as always I didn’t actually have any pumpkin in the house.

So….

Taaaa daaaa!

Sweet potato spice muffins.

I know.

Not quite the same ring, but work with me on this one.

You Will Need
175g sweet potato (steam or boiled until tender then lightly mashed)
100g whole meal flour
100g self raising flour
75g butter, softened
2 eggs
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp stevia (plant based sweetener also known as xylitol)
2tsp baking powder
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to gas 4 or 180c

Put all of the ingredients into a large bowl

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And beat to combine well

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Spoon into muffin cases and bake for 25 minutes

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Once they are nicely browned and firm to the touch, remove from oven and allow to cool

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Now add your choice of frosting. I combined some cream cheese with maple syrup and spooned that on, topping with a pecan. I found this amply sweet but everyone else reacted like they’d just sucked a lemon so you may want to try a butter icing ( perhaps with a swirl of Dulce de Leche for a caramelly, sticky toffee vibe?)

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So, a serving of vegetables and sugar free.

Result!

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Fiction Friday

On Tuesday I decided to try a bit of yoga self practice.

Full of enthusiasm (ish) I took myself up to the peace and quiet of the guest bedroom where I could wobble and grimace without fear of scaring any passing postmen.

Immersed in the pain moment, I reached the, very attractive, karna pidasana pose which basically involves wedging your head between your knees, bum waving in the air, face as red as if you are trying to give birth to something the size of a baby elephant.

At which point I heard a faint scratching at the window and looked up to see the shocked face of the window cleaner.

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

IMG_0356.JPGThe Waterproof Bible by Andrew Kaufman.

A really interesting read. A disparate group of characters – Rebecca who broadcasts her emotions, Lewis who skips his wife’s funeral and then meets a woman who claims to be God, Aby, a green, gill necked aquatic woman trying to save her mother from damnation caused by living out of water – weirdness abounds, but in a good way. Kaufman weaves the separate stories together into an entertaining and compulsive narrative. Excellent.

Next Week I shall Mostly Be Reading

IMG_0359.JPGThe Fault in Our Stars. Thought I would check this out before setting oldest child loose on it as I’m not sure how “adult” this “young adult” book gets. Having seen the photos of distraught, tear stained teens coming out of the cinema after seeing the film am slightly concerned I may disgrace myself by weeping through most of the story.

Tissues are at the ready :-)

Fresh

Freshers week.

The week when we librarians induct Freshers into the joys of library use.

Only.

They don’t take place in the Library.

We have to trundle over to their departments and get them to use their imagination, shun, shun, shun.

I know. Weird right?

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And we don’t know what will greet us when we get to the allotted room. It could be a small, cosy broom cupboard with a handful of lovely postgrads.

Or as I experienced last week, walking through the door to be faced with a ginormous lecture theatre, tiers of seats rising before my horrified eyes.

A lectern stood in front of me. A lectern with 2 monitors and a bank of IT stuff stacked underneath it and another stack of IT stuff stacked off to the side.

And no “on” switch.

Or at least none of the buttons I frantically pressed turned anything on. At all.

Meanwhile the seats were filling up with a couple of hundred first years.

All obviously expecting entertainment.

I could hear the distant roar of the lions waiting.

And feel my face turning the colour of puréed beet root.

Reader, I turned and fled.

But only in search of a passing, random, tame academic.

Who came and found the cunningly hidden “on” switch.

Unfortunately :-)

And at the end, one little Fresher came up to me and said

“Well, at least you seem friendly”

I take my crumbs of comfort where I can :-)

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Clypping

If you’ve never tried it before, hugging a church is an interesting experience.

Sunday saw us at Painswick, a stunning Gloucestershire Cotswolds town of amber stoned buildings, to see the ancient clypping ceremony.

Painswick was also celebrating the Painswick Feast and the Apple Fair.

You could bring your own apples for pressing.

And buy puppy dog pie from the food stall.

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We were assured the pies contained beef and plum.

Much to the relief of the local puppy population.

Clypping is an olde English word meaning hugging or embracing.

Nothing to do with the topiary in the churchyard

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So after a procession around the churchyard

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The congregation forms a circle around the church, holds hands and then embraces the church

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Afterwards the children are given a coin and a clypping cake

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Sunshine, pies and mad English customs.

Unbeatable. :-)