August Reads

August has been a slow month. The Summer holidays have felt loooooong. I am writing this during the last week of the school holidays. We are on holiday in beautiful Wales. We spent 2 nights in the Celtic Manor. This hotel reminded me of something you would find in the US. Absolutely massive hotel. I don’t think I have ever stayed anywhere with an underground car park and endless escalators. There was lots of stuff for kids to do and eating in the bar in the evening was fab as there were tons of kids so I didn’t feel self conscious being there with a crying baby. The downside was that we were staying in the Manor House which is part of the hotel but the other end….it’s a bit like the Celtic Manor’s poor relation. No escalators in this part of the hotel. Ozzie got proper annoyed with carrying the buggy. We also had a really dark and dingy room. Having a shower was like being at the bottom of a well.

We then spent 3 nights at a glamping site called Wild Wellingtons. This site is just beautifully done. It’s pretty small – 2 pods sleeping about 5, a shepherd hut sleeping 4, a communal kitchen, 2 beautiful bathrooms, fire pit and a great play area. We were in the shepherd’s hut which had 2 bedroom and the most comfy beds. Edie and Ceci had the most wonderful time running all over the place doing what kids do. Tom and Sinead the owners were fab. I was amazed to learn that Tom pretty much built the place by himself. Sinead added tons of brilliant touches – egg boxes for the kids to collect bugs, a beautiful welcome pack, activities for the kids.

We are now staying at a brilliant place called Clydey Cottages. I can’t recommend it enough if you have young kids. Accommodation is lovely and cosy. All cottages have wood burners. Warm pool, play room and soft play for kids. Big DVD library, tons of baby equipment. I feel relaxed and I even finished a book this morning!!!

  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. 5โญ๏ธ.

Yegondo, Korea 1911. A club-footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen-year-old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sunja. When Sunja falls pregnant by a married yakuza, the family face ruin. But then a Christian minister offers a chance of salvation: a new life in Japan as his wife.

Following a man she barely knows to a hostile country where she has no friends and no home. Sunja’s salvation is just the beginning of her story.

I am a pretty fast reader. I love nothing better than going to bed at the same time as the kids and reading for hrs! Beds are for books not sex!๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ“šAnyway since the summer holidays started and Maisie was born my bed is just for sleep…and not much of it. ๐Ÿคฌ. It has taken me a full month to get through Pachinko ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ. For me to enjoy a book I usually have to get through the first 60 pages in one go so I get hooked. It took me about 5 days to get through the first 60 pages of this book just due to lack of time and absolute exhaustion. That being said this is a 5โญ๏ธ read for me. I have lived with 4 generations of this Korean family for a month now and i feel a little bereft now itโ€™s finished. In many ways this was a quiet book – no major action sequences. It was just a beautiful book about family and how the decisions you make affect future generations. Anyway if you love a family saga pls read this book. I adored it!

  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. 5โญ๏ธ.
  • Kamila Shamsie born 13th August 1973.

For as long as they can remember, siblings Isma, Aneeka and Parvaiz have had nothing but each other. But darker, stronger forces will divide Parvaiz from his sisters and drive him to the other side of the world, as he sets out to fulfil the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew.

Wow this book. Just wow!!! It’s been a long time since I have found a book so sad, distressing and moving.

On 18th September 2004, Liverpudlian man Kenneth Bigley was kidnapped by an Islamic extremist group. The group said they would release Bigley and his two colleagues in 48 hours if coalition forces released their Iraqi women prisoners. Bigley’s colleagues were killed when the deadline expired. Ken Bigley was beheaded two weeks later. I remember Mr Bigley’s exhausted and terrified face on the front pages of all the papers. Each morning I woke up hoping that our Government had managed to intervene and save that poor, innocent man. On the 22nd September, the captors released a video of Ken Bigley begging for his life. Despite all efforts to save him, Ken Bigley was beheaded on 7th October.

Shamsie’s Home Fire won the a Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2018. I can honestly say it has been a long time since a book has moved me like this. This is a hard and uncomfortable read but Shamsie handles the subject matter with great sensitivity. Shamsie based the novel on on Sophocles’s play Antigone. Not having studied classics I rushed to Wikipedia….god it’s confusing so I shall save you from my opinions about Sophocles. I did manage to work out that Antigone is represented by Aneeka. Aneeka’s twin has followed in his father’s footsteps and joined ISIS, working in their media unit. Incidentally it’s the media unit that would have been responsible for filming the execution of Ken Bigley. When Parvaiz decides he wants to come back to the UK, Aneeka begins a relationship with Eammon, the son of the Muslim born Home Secretary:

โ€œI wanted Eamonn to want to do anything for me before I asked him to do something for my brother. Why shouldnโ€™t I admit it? What would you stop at to help the people you love most?โ€

This is a a relatively short book that packs an almighty punch. The first 30 pages were a little slow but after that I couldn’t put it down. I knew a story about a Jihadi terrorist was unlikely to end happily but I was unprepared for just how upsetting and moving the book would become and I know this novel will stay with me for a very long time. A book about faith, lack of faith, devotion, love and family. A brilliant read.

  • Caitlin Doughty born 19th August 1984.

As a practicing mortician, Caitlin Doughty has long been fascinated by our pervasive terror of dead bodies. In From Here to Eternity she sets out in search of cultures unburdened by such fears. With curiosity and morbid humour, Doughty introduces us to inspiring death-care innovators, participates in powerful death practices almost entirely unknown in the West and explores new spaces for mourning-including a futuristic glowing -Buddha columbarium in Japan, a candlelit Mexican cemetery, and America’s only open-air pyre. In doing so she expands our sense of what it means to treat the dead with ‘dignity’ and reveals unexpected possibilities for our own death rituals.

My husband’s nan died at the beginning of July. She was 96, so had had a good life. She left behind her 3 daughters, 7 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren. Luckily, she didn’t suffer a long and horrible illness. She slipped away in her sleep surrounded by her family.

The funeral was about a month after nan died. Driving back to London afterwards, my husband and I were feeling reflective. I haven’t been to many funerals and thankfully, I haven’t lost many loved ones, so death isn’t something I think about particularly. I’m not scared by it, more intrigued. It’s something I know I will have to confront…my parents and my own. I only hope that when death comes it will be like Nan’s and those I love, including myself will just slip away.

Last week, sitting in the funeral car, following the hearse at 19 mph, watching dog walkers and postmen remove their hats out of respect, I started to think what I would want, or rather, what kind of sanitised-death-spectacle I want my family and friends to attend. My husband decided he wants to be thrown into the sea and then for everyone to go to the pub and I see his point. I definitely don’t want the sombre funeral home send off – coffin disappearing behind little velvet curtains, undertakers (who I’m sure are lovely but people I have never met) loading my coffin into a slowly moving car. The whole spectacle of a funeral is quite scary. I don’t mean the nice readings, I mean the bare bones (pun intended), the logistics.

Where I live in SW London, there is a funeral home in between a Tesco Express and a Costa Coffee. There is no secret back entrance for bodies to be unloaded or loaded. We pass said funeral home on our way to nursery in the morning. We often have to wait while a coffin is loaded into a hearse. It obviously prompts lots of questions from my daughters. The coffin gets loaded and then people continue their day….taking kids to nursery, picking up milk and bread or buying a latte. It often strikes me weird – a life gone while we continue on. But that is what happens isn’t it?

This gets me onto Caitlin. If you haven’t heard of Caitlin Doughty she is a mortician, blogger, YouTube star and author. I read Smoke Gets In Your Eyes after it was recommended on the brilliant What Should I Read Next podcast. I loved it and have since suggested it to lots of friends. Doughty advocates death acceptance. She encourages us to accept death as something that will happen to all of us. She describes Westerners as ‘death phobic’ and suffering from ‘death anxiety.’ On reading From Here To Eternity it is clear that we are far from embracing death as readily as other cultures. I am happy that nan got the funeral she wanted….I’m not sure as a culture we are ready to live with our corpses like in Indonesia but it was definitely an illuminating read and provided food for thought!

Thanks for reading this month!!!

Friday/Saturday Rants

GRUMPYCAT

Hi everyone.

Three weeks ago I was in a terrible mood. I had had one of those mornings where nothing was right. I had battled with both children and my husband, walked the dog in the rain and had my period. I hated the world and I felt the world hated me. I needed to rant. I needed to moan. So I did what every slightly mad person does and put it on Facebook.

My rant was this:

  1. People who say hubby and hollibobs.
  2. Really long hair. By this I mean REALLY long hair.
  3. People who are unable to close their mouths when they are in stand-by mode.
  4. People who talk on their speaker phone when they are on public transport.
  5. People who get on the tube without letting others off.

I know, I know it is controversial and risky putting this on FB but it made me feel better. Tons better. I was almost goading social media into an argument. It was liberating. Well who knew that this post would end up having 68 comments!!! I was flabbergasted. I was amazed and I also felt vindicated. People commented who I hadn’t heard from in ages. People LOVED Friday Rants. Other comments included:

  1. Sunglasses on the tube.
  2. Men who wear hats indoors.
  3. Trump.
  4. Shops that are constantly on sale.
  5. People walking whilst looking at their phones.
  6. People who pronounce ‘pneumonic’ when its ‘mnemonic.’
  7. People who say ‘like’ like all the time.
  8. Starting every sentence with ‘so…’

I honestly felt that I was bringing people together with this 1 day of bad-tempered ranting. I also realised that i was guilty of texting while walking and saying ‘like’ and ‘so’ all the time. This has given me something to work on….to hopefully become less annoying.

Anyway, how exhilarating to discover that half way through the week, people tried to add rants. NO NO NO Friday Rants only happen on a Friday. I don’t want to start a club of Moaning Myrtles. This is a one day a week thang.

So………….(stop it Els). Week 2. 71 comments. Wooohooo. People commented immediately….literally within seconds. Rants included:

  1. Slow moving people.
  2. Online shops when they make ridiculous substitution. ‘No we have run out of milk but we had substituted it with a CBeebies magazine.’ WTF that is an unacceptable substitution.
  3. People who stop right outside the exit of a tube station.
  4. Sweat.
  5. Your and you’re.
  6. Eating on the tube.
  7. Bubs.

Interestingly a lot of these rants involve public transport.

Week 3. 69 comments. Rants included:

  1. Couples who have conversations with eachother on FB.
  2. Parma Violets.
  3. Bourbon biscuits.
  4. The crying emoji being used to express sadness about something really serious.

Interestingly after week 3 people started to say that I should blog about it and maybe record a podcast. I have to say what, in theory sounds an idea which promotes moaning, it is really feel good. I am British. I adore a moan and so it seems does everyone else.

Week 4. Rants have been up for 3 hours and we are already on 64 comments. I have heard from a friend who I was at school with….18 years ago!!!! Rants is reuniting lost friends!!! It is interesting to note that British Rants revolve around people getting in the way (either by being slow, oblivious or, interestingly by being friendly) of where you need to get to. Also public transport comes us A LOT.

Rants included:

  1. Cashiers at supermarkets who start a pointless conversation with you when there is a queue and you are in a hurry. ‘No I do not want to chat about what I do with avocados. I AM IN A RUSH.’
  2. People who stay at the bar after buying a drink so you can’t get near it.
  3. People who stand on travelators. Unless you are elderly, disabled or pregnant WALK!
  4. Hashtags. ilovemyjob.ย nofilter. Todaysoffice.
  5. Trump. (again)
  6. IKEA

Do you think in the Summer there will be less ranting? Do you think when it gets closer to Xmas there will be less ranting? I kinda hope not. So far, it has made me reconnect with friends i haven’t heard from in ages and people are enjoying it.

Happy/Ranty days

Autumn Motivation


I completely love it when the nights draw in. The start of Strictly Come Dancing and the shorter days signify the countdown to Christmas and I am definitely one of those people who genuinely wish it could be Christmas every day. 

The darker nights also give me the confidence to go running.  This activity has to be done in the dark because………

I look like this

And also I love being nosy and running past peopleโ€™s houses. 

This also comes at a time when we are thinking about having another baby. Both my previous pregnancies ruined me as I suffered with hypremesis gravidarum, umbilical hernia and also PND. I must be mad wanting to do it all again but I genuinely feel like Iโ€™m not done. Anyway I have set myself a goal. I am not even going to start to โ€˜tryโ€™ until I am fitter than I have ever been and I have managed to wean myself off my antidepressants.

So far so good. I even went running today after quite a heavy dinner party last night. I am slightly worried I have broken my dog though. 

I also wanted to list some podcasts that I use to keep me going.

  1. Casefile. Really good podcast which documents murder cases. 
  2. The Last Podcast On The Left.    This podcast makes me laugh a lot. Quite dark subject matter but the 3 guys who host it are hilarious.
  3. My Favourite Murder. This is also hilarious . Making murder funny should be so wrong but these 2 women manage to handle really dark subject matter in an often light hearted way and they also have a massive cult following.
  4. Womanโ€™s Hour. Radio 4
  5. All The Books. Really good book based podcast.