Friday, 30 September 2016

The Big Sleep 2016 - Hastings

If you're on Hastings seafront tonight and notice a lot of folks in cardboard boxes, don't be alarmed! It's not a hobo convention, but a fantastic initiative to raise funds and awareness of homelessness within our communities: The Big Sleep. I learned about the Hastings event through our friend, Steve Royston, who is bravely taking part. If you know and haven't yet sponsored Steve, you can find out how to swiftly redeem yourself by clicking this link.

The Big Sleep team are building a cardboard city on Hastings Stade and the whole event will run from 7.30pm until 7am. Entertainment is free and open to all, sleepers and visitors, between 8pm and 10pm so do pop along to show your support before heading home to your cosy bed. Comedian Steve Furst will be hosting and headlining the music will be award-winning blues man King Size Slim and The Rufus Stone Band. The sleepout itself is a ticketed event which commences at 10pm and is only for those who have already registered. I understand that on-the-night registration is not possible.

Proceeds from The Big Sleep will go to Seaview, a worthy and unfortunately vitally needed local charity. For over 30 years Seaview has been supporting some of the most vulnerable people in Hastings and St Leonards, most of whom experience problems with their accommodation. They work with more than 1,000 people a year, and in the last year alone served more than 6,500 hot, affordable meals. Seaview finds up to 30 people sleeping rough each week on their outreach sessions and, in the last year, worked with 197 homeless people, including supporting 147 rough sleepers, aged from 18 to 60 plus.

I want to wish all the best to everybody sleeping out tonight! Fingers crossed that it doesn't rain.


Thursday, 29 September 2016

#ThrowbackThursday - where we were on this date in Septembers past

Porto, Portugal 
We've often been travelling at the ends of Septembers because Dave's birthday on the 25th is a good excuse to get away! I know then that during late September a decade ago we were visiting Austin, Texas, for the first time with our friends Andy and Barbara. Amongst other memorable experiences, Wednesday the 27th was the evening we went to an amazing small gig at The Cactus Cafe, discovering singer-songwriters Danny Schmidt and Anais Mitchell. They are both still favourites of ours! I wasn't blogging that long ago though so don't have photographs.

Instead, this first photograph is of a huge public sculpture in Porto, Portugal, where we had a long weekend in late September 2013. It rained. A lot! But we did still get out and about taking a tram ride to the coast, being awestruck by the gorgeous Lello bookshop and loving the art deco Fundecao de Serralves park.

Waiting for the tide at La Flotte 
On this day in 2014 we were caravanning on the Ile De Re in western France. This was before I had bought my Roquetas folding bicycle so I wasn't able to totally appreciate the miles of cycle routes criss-crossing the island. I must go back. We did enjoy fresh sardines and several good walks though. I remember the fishing villages here being particularly picturesque. We had to leave on the last day of September though because the campsites were closing down for the winter season. We weren't quite the last to leave and could happily have stayed longer.

St Nicholas' church window 
We were in the UK for the 29th September 2015 and it was the last day of our British summer tour which we had begun in the April. We were near to Weymouth and back on the trail of Lawrence Of Arabia, plaques to whom seem to crop up disproportionately often in our travels. We visited Moreton to see his grave and also the incredible engraved glass windows in nearby St Nicholas church. The day before we had met up with Dave's brother, Andy, and his wife Lynda for a pretty walk that included spying over a hedge to Thomas Hardy's cottage. The cottage is owned by the National Trust which I am considering rejoining, for a year at least, because there are numerous properties across south Devon that we haven't previously visited so a year's joint membership could be worthwhile.

I love being able to look back across my blog posts like this, reminding myself of how much we have done and seen over the years. I wonder where we might be this time next year?

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

A Month In Books - September 2016

Sixteen books read this month and there's some great literature among them. I think the oldest book I read in September was published in the 1890s and the most recent published just a couple of weeks ago. Authors come from as far away as New Zealand and Nigeria and books are set as far afield as Lithuania, Israel, Sierra Leone and Argentina. I have managed to actually read two of the books pictured in my Month In Books logo too - scroll down to discover which ones! Plus there's a travel memoir, young adult fiction and classic 1970s science fiction, and I might still sneak another book in for September as it's only the 28th today. (Other scheduled posts are taking up the 29th and the 30th spots on Stephanie Jane.) 
I hope some of the following suggestions might appeal to you for your next read. If so, please use these links to buy your copy - I would get a few pennies commission and every little helps!


Rosshalde by Hermann Hesse

Buy the book from Abebooks
Buy the book from Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

This is my 1910s book for the Goodreads / Bookcrossing Decade Challenge and I found it a beautifully quiet and thoughtful read. The novel focusses strongly on the creation of art and so reminded me of An Amsterdam Affair by Amanda Addison and of Mario Vargas Llosa's The Way To Paradise.


Words In The Dust by Trent Reedy 

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Buy the audiobook download from Audible via Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

This great book was one my AudioSYNC audiobook finds this summer and I was impressed by its realism and portrayal of Afghan life. Reedy is an American soldier who served in a peacekeeping capacity in Afghanistan and has used his experiences to brilliantly create our young heroine, Zulaikha, and her family.


Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Buy the audiobook download from Audible via Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

This is my 1950s read for the 2016-17 Goodreads / Bookcrossing Decade Challenge. A second AudioSYNC audiobook for the month already, Things Fall Apart is Achebe's, and arguably Nigeria's, most famous novel. I had frequently heard about the book and was pleased to listen to it, especially as I had already heard an audio version of its sequel, No Longer At Ease.


Deadly Ties by Maggie Thom

Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Smashwords

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

This was my first read for Beck Valley Book Tours and I was excited to get involved with the tour, but then found myself disappointed with the book itself which was awkward to say the least!


The Memory Of Love by Aminatta Forna

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Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
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Read my original book review on Literary Flits

There are three five-star books on my list for September, but The Memory Of Love, a novel set in Sierra Leone, is my standout favourite. Absolutely gorgeous writing! I was swept away by Forna's creation.


Route Number 11: Argentina, Angels and Alcohol by Harry Whitewolf

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Read my original book review on Literary Flits

This beer-fuelled South American travel memoir of an out-of-place Englishman escaping himself makes for surprisingly refreshing reading. Whitewolf's Tourist is searching for spirituality and life answers and I enjoyed his unusual poetic writing style.


A Straits Settlement by Brian Stoddart

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Read my original book review on Literary Flits

This is the first of two September books I thought had great cover art and I enjoyed both of their stories too. Here Stoddart evokes 1920s Madras in all its colourful atmosphere and has created a good mystery to boot. I was reminded a little of Steve Turnbull's Maliha Andersen series, albeit without the steampunk angle.



About The Night by Anat Talshir

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Read my original book review on Literary Flits

Another five-star read, this one set in 1940s Jerusalem, and I think if you already enjoyed The Memory Of Love then you will probably like About The Night too.



The Eskimo Solution by Pascal Garnier

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Read my original book review on Literary Flits

I was delighted to be contacted by Gallic Books and offered a copy of  this book - their newest Garnier English translation. I love his noir storytelling and this is a good one!


The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
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Read my original book review on Literary Flits

This is my 1960s book for the Goodreads / Bookcrossing Decade Challenge and my first of two classic books this month examining women's mental health. I liked the simple matter-of-fact writing which made Plath's descriptions of mental health 'care' at this time all the more shocking.


Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said by Philip K Dick

Buy the audiobook from Audible via Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
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Read my original book review on Literary Flits

This is my 1970s book for the Goodreads / Bookcrossing Decade Challenge. I bought the audiobook from Audible a couple of years ago, but couldn't get it to download properly and forgot I had it! It's good, but an odd mix of stark totalitarian dystopia with 1970s technology.


Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

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Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
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Read my original book review on Literary Flits

This is a superb, but upsetting read which is solidly rooted in fact and is remarkably powerful for young adult fiction. Sepetys imagines a teenage girl who, together with her family, is abruptly exiled from their Lithuania home to Siberia as a result of Stalin's manic paranoia.


Trust Me I Lie by Louise Marley

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Read my original book review on Literary Flits

My second indie author read of the month and I was already confident that this would be a good thriller because I had previously enjoyed another of Marley's novels, Nemesis. Central character Milla is great fun and (be warned!) the mystery goes to some pretty dark places.


The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
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Read my original book review on Literary Flits

This is the second of my women's mental health themed classics. The short story was first published in 1892. It's less than thirty pages long, but packs a hell of a punch.


Hutchins Creek Cache by Deborah Garner

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Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

More seconds here too as Hutchins Creek Cache is the second of the great cover art books I mentioned earlier and also my second Beck Valley Book Tour read. Fortunately this romance mystery is good and you will be able to read my full review - and enter the giveaway! - when my Literary Flits post publishes at noon today.


Omnia by Laura Gallego

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Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

My Omnia review is due to publish at noon on Thursday so, if you're reading this before then, that link above won't work just yet. Do come back! Omnia is a young adult book so has straightforward prose and is a compelling, fast read. The issues it raises are considerably more complex though and I think it would be a great book club choice instigating widespread and interesting discussions.


So that's it for September and despite a concerted month of reading effort, I have still managed to end up with more books awaiting me than I started with. Not that I am complaining, but best get back to it!!

Monday, 26 September 2016

Happy Birthday Dave!

Yesterday was my Dave's birthday!
Happy Birthday Davey!

I'd like to take this opportunity to pass on his thanks for all the messages, cards and presents he received. You all made his day!

We lunched at a new-to-us restaurant, Amici, which is on Torwood street in Torquay and serves Italian style cuisine. We were impressed! Firstly they blend a good Long Island Ice Tea cocktail which is Dave's favourite. He drank them on his 60th birthday in Austin, Texas, so had to have another yesterday. It's a tradition! Then we chose to share three starters expecting to also treat ourselves to a Chinese dinner in the evening so didn't want to be too stuffed. We had White Crab Bruschetta for one, Calamari Fritti and Funghetti E Panna Al Forno. All three were very good, but the simple mushroom dish was unexpectedly the highlight. As it turned out, we've had to reschedule the Chinese for later this week as Amici's food was not only delicious, but also so filling that we didn't bother with any dinner. Admittedly, a few Thornton's chocolates might have helped! Their Pudding Collection is gorgeous and is a limited edition intended for Christmas so snap them up quickly.


Excellent presents included Audio Technica headphones which are needed right now as Dave's got right back into music recording now that he has a room of his own and his old headphones are disintegrating more each day. We also both loved this olive wood chopping board which our friends Andy and Barbara got from The Rustic Dish. Isn't the wood gorgeous? It's far too beautiful to actually use! And the grain, to my eyes at least, resembles a man in a crown which seemed appropriate for a birthday boy! The 'Most Apt Card' prize goes to Steve and Frances for their brilliant choice. The design is by Pigment Productions and, although Dave was considerably more excited about his big day yesterday, it is still pretty close to the bone!


Saturday, 24 September 2016

The @NTlive Threepenny Opera in Torquay

It's a shame there weren't more of us in attendance for NTlive's broadcast of The Threepenny Opera on Thursday in Torquay because it was a fantastic filthy romp of a show. Sex, violence, cross dressing, x rated language - where were you all?!

Perhaps the Bertolt Brecht name put you off, but this Simon Stephens adaptation is easily accessible and I found it simpler to keep up with the narrative than when we saw his Caucasian Chalk Circle performed by Blackeyed Theatre back in Eastbourne. That was a good production too though. Rory Kinnear has received well-deserved acclaim for his role as Macheath, but he is surrounded by other fabulous creations and I didn't think there was a duff moment in the whole musical. I loved all three Peachams (Rosalie Craig, Haydn Gwynne, Nick Holder), the poor stabbed policeman, the bickering gang, hard-done-by Jenny, the Pastor ... pretty much everyone and I wish I had kept my printed cast list so I could name all the actors! As I expect from the National Theatre, the set and costuming were amazing and probably my only criticism would be that it was often a little too dark to see all the details of what was going on. I loved Kurt Weill's music too. It must have been a nightmare to learn as the melodies aren't at all predictable, but the whole sound is wonderfully evocative of 1920s Germany which provided a dark atmosphere to complement the blackly humorous libretto.

If this post has now tempted you to go and see The Threepenny Opera of if you just forgot it was on and are now kicking yourselves, there are a few encore screenings across the country in the next week or so. Nearish to us in south Devon, Exeter Picturehouse has it on Tuesday the 27th or The Plough in Great Torrington is tomorrow (Sunday the 25th). Further afield there are screening dates out until November and you can check your nearest here.

In the meantime, here's a short video of the show:


Thursday, 22 September 2016

#TreatYourself - special offers that caught my eye

Christmas kits at OhSewBootiful 
Welcome to September's TreatYourself quintet of special offers and discount codes that caught my eye. I was gleefully informed this weekend that there's now less than 100 days until Christmas which I must admit was underwhelming, but it does give me a good excuse to start this post with a distinctly Christmassy discount code.

I discovered embroidery kit creator OhSewBootiful via Twitter and I love these seasonal hoop kits which would be wonderful presents for crafty friends or, if bought early enough yourself, would make up into unusual Christmas decorations for your home. I am told that only beginner embroidery skills are needed for most of the kits and the repetitive nature of the stitching is great for people practicing mindfulness techniques. Are you tempted? If so, the complete kits are £16.50 each or £40 for three and there are many different designs including Halloween pumpkins or romantic hearts. OhSewBootiful also have a September discount code of 20OFF60 - use the code at checkout to get a generous £20 off any order over £60.

Biscuiteers biscuits 
Also in celebration, but this time of birthdays, did you catch any of the Biscuiteers Birthday blog posts across the web last week? This was mine! I was lucky enough to get to sample one of their gorgeous tins of biscuits and was seriously impressed. Biscuiteers offer a wide range of themed hand-iced biscuits which make perfect gifts for pretty much any occasion. You can give them a try with a nice £5 off incentive just by signing up to the Biscuiteers email newsletter before you place your first order.

Cornishware are another company offering a £5 discount in return for signing up to their email newsletter. Having done so, you can then benefit from £5 off an order of £25 or more. That's not all you will get though because Cornishware orders over £25 also get free UK shipping AND there's a 20% sale across all their ranges at the moment so this is a great opportunity to refresh your kitchen with classic striped cookware. The company has been in business since the 1860s so they definitely know a thing or two about manufacturing durable and stylish tableware. The iconic blue and white striped range was introduced in 1926.

Cornishware teapots 
Recycled Wool Throw / Picnic Rug 
It almost felt like summer was over once September began, but I have been glad to see a resurgence of sunny weather in the past week or so. Long may it last! If you're still eking out picnic season then English Heritage have a special offer at the moment which might just appeal. Their Recycled Wool Picnic Rug is a very reasonable £15 anyway, but until the end of September you can get an extra 20% off this price by entering the code APR20 at checkout. Each recycled throw-rug is made from approximately 85% recycled wool and 15% other fibres which have been re-spun to create this environmentally friendly product. The random nature of wools available for recycling mean that every throw-rug is individual and unique, but also means that you will have no idea what colours yours will be until it arrives!

Union Jack selection box 
Finally, you can join in celebrating our Olympic and Paralympic heroes in a burst of patriotic fervour with Twinings this month. Their Union Jack selection boxes each contain six different varieties of tea (10 bags of each variety) with each bag wrapped in its own envelope for extra freshness. You can choose from greens, blacks, infusions or mixed teas. The 60 bag Union Jack selection boxes retail at £13.50 each, but you can take advantage of a Buy One Get One Free offer by entering the code UNIONJACK at checkout on the Twinings website. The offer is valid until the 30th September or while stocks last so don't leave to the last minute or you might miss out!

I hope you like this month's moneystretching offers and I will look out for more ideas for October.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Enjoying a Square Mile Red Brick Coffee

If you pop over to my book reviews blog, Literary Flits, after noon today you will see my review of and giveaway for a brand new copy of The Bitter Trade by Piers Alexander, a historical fiction adventure set among the coffee houses of seventeenth century London. I received the giveaway prize from The Pigeonhole who also kindly sent a bag of freshly roasted coffee beans from the multi-award winning East London coffee roasters Square Mile. The chosen blend was Red Brick and its aroma - even through the sealed packaging - was divine! I learned that the composition of Red Brick does change with the seasons so my coffee's blend of 40% Rabanales from Guatemala, 30% Montanas del Diamante from Costa Rica, and 30% Kagurno from Kenya might not be exactly the same as is currently for sale.

I appreciate the ritual of making a proper cup of coffee so gathered together my tools to do justice to the first cup of Red Brick. My vintage Turkish grinder is from Kawaii Rose Vintage, bought to replace a worn out wooden version. This new-to-me grinder is entirely metal so should last for decades and its small size is both cute and ideal to take away on our next winter caravanning expedition. I discovered that filling the top section with beans results in the perfect amount of ground coffee for one good cup and that heady aroma again almost made the actual drinking superfluous! The Finum Brew Basket was also bought with caravan travel in mind and its compact size is ideal for minimalist living. It's perfect for making cafetiere style coffee hardly any washing up or the risk of broken glass in transit. I find it much easier to judge the strength of my coffee with the basket than I used to with a cafetiere as well.

Red Brick has a rich fruity and sweet taste which I loved. This id absolutely a high quality coffee and being able to drink it within a couple of weeks of its roasting makes such a difference to the flavour. I am thrilled at having a large bag of beans still to grind up and enjoy. Thank you so much to The Pigeonhole for their generosity! Don't forget to click through to Literary Flits for this week's giveaway ...