September/October Read

Apologies for Sept and Oct being lumped in together. I can only blame A Little Life which took me pretty much all of September and a little bit of a October to get through! Can’t say I regret it…..I think this book will be one of my all time favourites!!

  • Coming Through Slaughter by Michael Ondaatje. 3⭐️.
  • Michael Ondaatje born 12th September 1943.

In 1900, the Storyville district of New Orleans had some two thousand prostitutes, seventy professional gamblers, and thirty piano players. It had only one man who played jazz like Buddy Bolden. By day he cut hair in a barber shop and at night he played his cornet, which he’d polish up until it glistened like a woman’s leg. Then, at the age of thirty one, Bolden went mad. Obsessed with death, addicted to whisky, and in love with two women, this jazz legend’s story is beautiful and chilling, like a New Orleans funeral procession where even the mourners dance.

Coming Through Slaughter was published in 1976 and won the First Novel Award in Canada. Until this point Ondaatje was primarily a poet and this is very clear in the writing of Coming Through Slaughter. The language is so lyrical and the plot so meandering it felt like an improvised piece of Jazz. Interestingly, the Wikipedia entry calls each section a riff. I had a hard time for the first 20 or so pages trying to get to grips with the structure. I kept putting it down which was easy to do as it seems to be written a paragraph/chunk at a time. It almost seems like Ondaatje would write a section and then return a day later. This would make the novel seem quite disjointed. However, as soon as I stopped looking for a story and just allowed Ondaatje’s words to wash over me I really enjoyed it. I think this is a really useful discipline as a reader. I find I often approach books with my own assumptions on how the story should play out. This is definitely down to the control freak in me. Reading a novel like this which challenges me to just enjoy the ride is so satisfying.

  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. 5⭐️.
  • Hanya Yanagihara born 20th September 1974.

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an inspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel painter pursuing fame in the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as a centre of gravity.

Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realise, is Jude himself; by midlife a terrifyingly talented lawyer yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by a degree of trauma that he feels he will not only be unable to overcome-but that will define his life forever.

In a novel of extraordinary intelligence and heart,Yanagihara has fashioned a masterful depiction of heartbreak, and a dark and haunting examination of the tyranny of experience and memory.

Hanya Yanagihara lives in New York City.

This book was the reason I didn’t post last month….it took me ages to read. A Little Life is an epic work not just in terms of scale (720 pages) but also in emotion. I have lived with these characters for 4 weeks and now they are well and truly ingrained in my little life!!! I finished this book a couple of days ago and I feel bereft. Usually, I try to read as many books as possible in a month and that number combined with the fact that I have a clean bathroom (god I am a sad case) makes me feel like I have achieved something!!! However, when I started this book I knew my monthly book number was going to be LOW. That being said, this book is INCREDIBLE and without sounding like a bit of an idiot, reading A Little Life has changed me for the better.

A Little Life was written in 18 months which is incredible when you see the size of it. Reviewers have described it as ‘harrowing’ and ‘brutal.’ It is both of those things and then some. Yanigahara does not shy away from scenes of sexual abuse, drug abuse and self harm. The book is also impossible to put down, partly because you are desperate to know Jude’s story and also because Yanigahara has created some beautiful characters.

The characters are what drive this novel. Set mainly in NYC there is no mention of any major world events including amazingly 9/11. Nearly all the characters are male and you would think that such a long book would become tedious. Nope, not at all. This is a book that made me really question what I would do to help Jude. I went through great chunks being angry that that people were enabling Jude’s self harming. Then I started to wonder if some people are just too damaged to save. 3 weeks after finishing and I still can’t stop thinking about it. Definitely one of my all time faves.

  • Lowborn by Kerry Hudson. 3⭐️.

Kerry Hudson is proudly working class but she was never proudly poor. The poverty she grew up in was all encompassing, grinding and often dehumanising. Always on the move with a single mother, Kerry attended nine primary schools and five secondaries living in B&Bs and council flats. She scores eight out of ten on the Adverse Childhood Experiences measure of childhood trauma.

Twenty years later, Kerry’s life is still unrecognisable. She is a prize-winning novelist who has travelled the world. She has a secure home, a loving partner and access to art, music, films and books. But she often finds herself looking over her shoulder, caught somehow between two worlds.

Lowborn is Kerry’s exploration of where she came from. She revisits the towns she grew up in to try to discover what with being poor really means in Britain today and whether anything has changed. She also journeys into the hardest regions of her own childhood, because sometimes in order to move forward we first have to look back.

This was a book club pick and our second non-fiction having read Educated by Tara Westover the previous month. I mention Educated because I think this book had a real impact on how Lowborn was enjoyed. Both books tell of the author’s difficult childhood and the impact that childhood had on their adult life. The majority LOVED Educated whereas Lowborn left every member of our book club a little unmoved. It just seemed a little, well, lacking. We couldn’t work out if it was a memoir or a social commentary. We felt that Hudson’s writing was incredibly detached. Hudson had such traumatic and sad childhood but we felt that if as an author you choose to write a memoir, you have to let the reader in. A lot of her stories were left unresolved and as a reader I was left feeling frustrated and a little cheated. We were all shocked by the section about the STI but also confused by the fact that Hudson mentions it and then moves on. I have to say that this book prompted the best discussion we had had in ages. We were all slightly baffled why this book got such incredibly good reviews. We wondered if when a book has such contentious and emotive subject matter, do reviewers avoid criticism? Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad book, we just felt that this book offered Hudson a platform to really comment about poverty and maybe promote change but unfortunately she didn’t take up that particular gauntlet.

  • The Gathering by Anne Enright. DNF.
  • Anne Enright born 11th October 1962.

The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan gather in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother Liam. It wasn’t the drink that killed him-although that certainly helped-it was what happened to him as a boy and his grandmother’shouse, in the winter of 1968.

The Gathering is a novel about love and disappointment, about thwarted lust and desire, and how our fate is written in the body, not in the stars.

This was the winner of the Man Booker in 2007 but unfortunately it was one I didn’t finish. I persevered up until page 100 and then decided that I had spent the last week trudging through the pages and it was all feeling like a bit of a chore. So why wasn’t it for me??? I think there was potential – a complicated family, a hushed up secret etc but it was all a bit too vague. Veronica, the protagonist delivers the story as a stream of consciousness. I admired Enright’s ability to write Veronica’s memories as fuzzy, disjointed and unreliable as real memories often are but as a reader I just found it a little frustrating and hard to get my teeth into.

  • The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante. Translated by Ann Goldstein. 3 ⭐️ .
  • Elena Ferrante born 18th Oct 1943.

“One April afternoon, right after lunch, my husband announced that he wanted to leave me. He did it while we were clearing the table…”

This compelling novel that shocked audiences in Europe with its unsentimental and unyielding depictiom of motherhood, marriage and solitude, tells the story of one woman’s headlong descent into what she calls an “absence of sense” after being abandoned by her husband. Olga’s “days of abandonment” become a desperate, dangerous freefall into the darkest places of the soul as she roams the empty streets of the city that she has never learnt to love. When she finds herself literally trapped inside the four walls of her apartment in the middle of the summer heat wave, Olga is forced to confront her ghosts, the potential loss of her own identity, and the possibility that life may never return to normal again.

Rarely have the foundations upon which our ideas of motherhood and womanhood rest been so candidly questioned. Some readers have found Ferrante’s depiction of an abandoned woman scandalous and reprehensible, others relentlessly honest. But readers and critics alike agree: The Days of Abandonment demands serious attention. First published in Italy in 2002, it went straight to the top of the bestseller lists and stayed there for almost a year. It has been translated and published into over a dozen languages.

I feel I have read some pretty hard-hitting stuff over the last couple of months. I’m definitely due a comic read.

If I had to use one word to sum up Ferrante’s novel it would be ‘uncomfortable.’ I think perhaps reading this book at this time of my life made it particularly poignant and affecting. I am currently 17 weeks into my maternity leave with my third child. My days consist of looking after my children which I do love but I miss my work and my colleagues. My children are my world but I do think that since becoming a mother I have lost a bit of my identity. Being on maternity leave makes me feel particularly vulnerable. Olga’s situation in the book resonated with me a lot. How would I feel if my husband left me? Right now, as a mother with young children and without my job, I know my life would fall apart. As a mother of three girls I am a little mortified at how ‘un-girl-power’ this is but right now, more than ever before I rely on my husband. In the words of the great Phoebe Buffay, he truly is ‘my lobster.’ We are united in this roller coaster world of bringing up our children and if he were to leave, I am convinced I would fall apart.

‘I had put aside my own aspirations to go along with his. At every crisis of despair I had set aside my own crises to comfort him … I had taken care of the house, I had taken care of the meals, I had taken care of the children, I had taken care of all the boring details of everyday life…’

Abandoned by her husband, Olga’s life spirals and she essentially has a breakdown. She neglects her kids and dog and seems to abandon all sense of propriety. She hits her husband and his new girlfriend on the street, uses awful language and also embarks on one of the most awkward sexual encounters I have ever read.

Ferrante’s writing is brilliant. Reading this book is like watching a film that makes you feel uncomfortable but you can’t look away. It has been a while since I have read a book that has depressed me quite so much….2 weeks after finishing it, I am still thinking about it.

Thanks for reading.

October Beauty

I had my first proper night out since Maisie was born last night. Ozzie came back from work at 6 to look after the kids and I went out on the razzle. My trip out was heading into work to watch the first night of a show. The getting ready process was LONG. Trying to get yourself presentable when you have to keep interrupting your beautifying time to breastfeed, restart The Greatest Showman for the oldest one and cook bolognese for the middle one meant the whole ‘getting ready’ process took about 4hrs. Anyway, come 6pm I sprinted for the front door with my newly straightened hair shiny and my lips a glossy red. I was even wearing a normal bra. BOOM.

After the show I decided to go to the first night party for a glass of Prosecco. All going swimmingly until this was pointed out to me……

Yes, my left breast had been leaking milk all night. MORTIFIED!!!!

  • Little Aurelia Sleep Time Pillow Mist. £22.

I am stealing my 12 week old’s posh products….I mean anything that arrives in a bag from Liberty’s is too good for a baby. So, it is now in my sleep time arsenal. 😊😊😊😊 To be honest I don’t need help sleeping but this does mean I fall asleep in a delicious haze of Rose Quartz Crystal Water(!😂) which is a lot better than my usual Febreze. Really lovely gift for anyone you know who has just had a baby!!

  • Kérastase Elixir Ultime Radiance Beautifying Oil. £29.99.

I bloody love an oil. Face, body, hair, I don’t care, I just slap it on. I invested in this stuff after moaning to my hairdresser that my hair colour was fading. When asked which products I used I guiltily admitted to using anything that was handy (I’m embarrassed to admit, I have even used my daughter’s cradle cap shampoo if it’s the only bottle in the shower 😱😱). So after being made to feel suitably guilty, I invested! This oil came in a pack with a shampoo and conditioner and I have been using it since Easter…that is a long time people…..so yes, the price may be a little punchy but it lasts. In conclusion, listen to the advice of your hairdresser: IF YOU HAVE COLOUR TREATED HAIR YOU NEED TO USE THE RIGHT PRODUCTS!!! My hair laps up this oil. I use it to smooth and protect when I straighten and it smells lush!!

  • Avene Hydrance Aqua-Gel. £13.33. *
  • Avene Hydrance Hydrating Emulsion. £14.50. *

For a more ‘budget friendly’ brand, these two products are wicked! I have been using the Aqua-Gel for a few weeks now as a night cream. It is completely non irritating and I smear it all over my face, eyes and neck. It takes a while to sink in (which is why it’s best for night) but once absorbed my skin looks plump and feels brilliantly hydrated….so much so that I haven’t been using an oil afterwards. I also love the smell of it. I can imagine it would be completely lush out of the fridge on a hot summers day.

I must admit, that I usually avoid creams that are labelled ‘light.’ I wrongly assume they won’t be moisturising enough. This Hydrating Emulsion left my skin moisturised all day but non greasy. I have also worn it under makeup and my slap has stayed on all day.

As a fan of acids and retinol I like to use a moisturiser which doesn’t do anything fancy but is just gentle and moisturising. These fit the bill but the Aqua-Gel is my fave.

*Kindly gifted.

Thanks for reading people….and remember:

BREASTPADS ARE YOUR FRIENDS.

Spooky October Kids Reads

I’m writing this sat in the car heading back to London from my parent’s house in the midlands. It was lovely to spend the last week in the countryside. This is without a doubt my favourite time of year. The leaves are changing colour and there is definitely the winter chill in the air. Family chat has shifted from beaches and suntan lotion, to Halloween, bonfires and CHRISTMAS!!! Love it. Clocks go back tomorrow and the days get shorter. Woohooo!

  • Mrs Blackhat by Chloe and Mick Inkpen.

Mrs Blackhat’s cat is obstinately ginger. She needs a special spell to turn him black. So she logs onto her Shopalot account…

I wanted to put on some spooky kids reads for October. 🧙‍♀️🧙‍♀️🧙‍♀️🧙‍♀️🧙‍♀️Mrs Blackhat is by father and daughter team Chloe and Mick Inkpen. Mrs Blackhat loves the colour black. EVERYTHING is black except for the 🐈….which is ginger. As an internet savvy witch she decides to shop online for a potion to turn the moggy black!👻👻👻 I love reading this book. It’s really fast paced with great rhymes. Have you seen that vid where the dad raps the Gruffalo???? Well I sound just like that in a very uncool south west London kind of way. Anyway the girls think it’s hilarious!

    Usborne touchy-feely books.

Now I know Maisie is my last child, I feel the expiration date of these brilliant Usborne books is looming on the horizon. I’m generally not a particularly sentimental person but these books have been staples in my house throughout all three of my daughters baby years – trying to uncurl their little chubby fists so they can stroke the different textures and saying in my upbeat-mum-voice ‘can you find the mouse?’ Maisie is a little too young to do anything apart from dribble on them but what has been particularly special this time around is now Edie can read them to her sister whilst doing a very good impression of my upbeat-mum-voice. 😍😍. Right I have to stop now as I’m welling up…..get a bloody grip woman. Anyway thank you to Usborne and your touchy-feely books, you have been epic!

    Steve Backshall’s Deadly 60.

Ok, so this might be a bit of an unexpected entry for my month of spooky kids reads but I had to include it because Edie LOVES this book and she loves it because she loves the terrifying spiders, bats and snakes. The other day I asked my friend for some book recommendations for 6 year old boys. She suggested non-fiction in particular. Without a doubt she is right. What 6 year old doesn’t love showing off their random fact knowledge?? Edie has been learning about the Fire of London in school and you can’t shut her up with her Samuel Pepys banter. The bottom line is that kids love a good showing off session so give them a non fiction book and they will devour it.

I had my proudest mum/book worm moment at Parents Evening last week when Edie’s teacher commented on Edie’s love of reading. I told Edie what was said and since then there has been no stopping her….reading all the time….if there is an audience. I think Edie is competent enough to read pretty much anything now. Anything she can’t read she tries to sound out. Suddenly reading has clicked and she is enjoying trying out lots of different books. The Steve Backshall book is perhaps a little old, with quite a few tricky words but Edes loves a challenge. It did take us 45 mins to read the section on sloth bears but we are now world experts so its all good!

Thanks for reading. Happy Halloween!

September Beauty

Since embarking on the roller coaster whirlwind that is parenting I have really started to get into skincare. Before kids, I used to just slap on whatever products I could scrounge from the dressing room at the end of a show – nowt pricy, usually baby wipes and Simple moisturiser. I also used to wear a LOT more makeup. Since becoming a mum, I am constantly in search or that amazing glow you get during pregnancy. My skin has always been good when I have been pregnant. Skin is the only thing that I can rock when I’m up the duff. The rest of me is falling apart…varicose veins in my legs and foof, stretch marks all over, crazy hair colour, but my skin…yup my skin looks good.

It has only been in the last year that I have started to use retinol, glycolic and vitamin C. They are complete game changers and I am so sad they weren’t about in my spotty teenage years. Vitamin C serum is a product that is now a beauty staple for me. It is a holy grail because IT REALLY WORKS , really. I could clean my house all day for 24 hours and I would see less results than I do after a morning with a bit of vit c serum on my face!

  • Balance Me Vitamin C Repair Serum. £32.00.

Not only is this product recommended by the great Sali Hughes but it just won the award for best new ‘Skintellectual’ at the 2019 CEW Beauty Awards. This bottle of fab seems to be marketed at ‘mature’ skin. I think Vitamin C is generally great for mature skin which often needs a helping hand to create a glow and reduce sun spots. However, the Balance Me serum contains hyaluronic acid and it is definitely the most moisturising of the three serums in this review. I usually use my vitamin C serum before putting on a hyaluronic acid serum but with the Balance Me I just didn’t need to. My skin felt moisturised and looked plump. It doesn’t leave a sticky residue and smells lovely.

  • Vichy Liftactiv Vitamin C Serum. 21.00.

This is my fave product of the three! I just read a review by someone who basically hated the fact that it was in such a small bottle. “Hello? Mcfly?” That the USP dummy. The whole point of this product is that the brains at Vichy have given you a ten day shot of vitamin c power. They recommend you use this little vial of wonder about 3 times a year, for 10 days which will result in brighter skin. The best bit???? Because the light resistant bottle contains only 10ml, the product stays fresh and you will use it all up.

So what’s in the bottle:

15 % Ascorbic acid which is the pure form of vit c. If you have sensitive skin this percentage could be a little too much for you.

Alcohol Denat. Used to help the efficacy of the other ingredients and as a preservative. However it can be slightly drying. It didn’t affect my skin but if you are on the dry side make sure you use a good moisturiser.

Hyaluronic Acid. This basically acts as a magnet to draw in moisture. In this product the acid is hydrolysed which means the acid is broken down into smaller chunks which makes it a bit less effective.

As I said, I really loved this serum and saw a dramatic improvement in the brightness of my skin….which defo needs a bit of help in that department. I also didn’t find it drying as I use a hyaluronic acid serum afterwards anyway.

  • Glow Recipe Pineapple C Bright Serum.£46.00.

My husband says that I am an advertisers dream. The bottle for this serum is like a pineapple….a 🍍!!!! It’s utterly tremendous! I didn’t just get seduced by a pretty face however as this serum just won the Best Serum in the Instyle Readers Choice Awards.

This serum contains not one but three forms of vitamin C: Ascorbic Acid, 22% pineapple juice and 3-O-Ethyl Asorbic Acid (don’t be threatened by the chemistry lesson-it is basically just a more stable version of Vitamin C. This little bottle also contains hyaluronic acid, vitamin E and extracts of camomile and aloe.

The consistency reminds me of calpol….sorry, I don’t mean this in a negative way….I mean calpol is the drug we can’t do without in our house – it truly is the drug of the gods. What I mean is that it’s slightly viscous. It feels slightly tacky on application but absorbs really quickly to leave what Glow Recipe calls ‘glass skin.’ By this, they mean luminous and pore less.

Ok, ok my skin defo isn’t pore less but after applying this baby it is pretty luminous even if I do say so myself!!!

Thanks for reading. X

September Kids Reads

Well it is now the end of September and I feel like I have finally got some time to spend with Maisie. Edie went back to school on the 2nd and Ceci started nursery on the 19th. Today was my first empty day to spend time with my baby. Due to the fact that Maisie was born just 2 weeks before the summer holidays, I really haven’t spent any time with just her. Today was the first day that I just sat in bed and let her fall asleep on me without having to divide my time between my other children. It was so precious and for a good hour I just looked at her!!!! 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️I feel very lucky.

  • Arabel’s Raven by Joan Aiken. Illustrated by Quentin Blake.
  • Joan Aiken born 4th September 1924.

Rescued from a late night hit-and-run by kind-hearted Mr Jones, Mortimer the raven quickly becomes a rather unusual family pet, with a VERY large appetite. Though Mrs Jones has misgivings, particularly after Mortimer’s night-time activities in the fridge, daughter Arabel falls in love at first sight. But when Mortimer vanished along with a priceless diamond brooch and a criminal squirrel, poor Arabel fears he may have bitten off more than he can chew.

My husband doesn’t understand the concept of blogging or Instagram. He has become a bit social media phobic and is of the view that people become a bit mad and obsessed. The fact that I left my copy of Arabel’s Raven in the fridge after taking the above picture didn’t do much to convince him I wasn’t a little bonkers. 🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪

I remember reading The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and A Necklace of Raindrops as a child but Arabel’s Raven must have passed me by. Written in 1972 with brilliant illustrations by Quentin Blake. I started reading this to Edie last week but she got bored a bit too quickly. She enjoyed fridge-loving, staircase-eating Mortimer and the evil squirrel but wanted to see more of Arabel who is a little passive in this book. 🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿🐿

  • Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl.
  • Roald Dahl born on 13th September 1916.

Boggis is an enormously fat chicken farmer who only eats boiled chicken smothered in fat.

Bunce is a duck and goose farmer whose dinner gives him a beastly temper.

Bean is a turkey and apple farmer who only drink gallons of strong cider.

Mr Fox is so clever that every evening he creeps down into the valley and help himself to food from the farms.

Now the farmers have hatched a plan to bang bang bang shoot Mr Fox dead but just when they think Mr Fox can’t possibly escape, he makes a fantastic plan of his own…

I couldn’t let September pass without a mention for the great Roald Dahl. It seems particularly pertinent today as Ozzie won Matilda tickets in the lottery and he is taking Edie tonight….yes on a school night. Bad mum alert. I fear I will be reaping the rewards for this late night for a while!!!!🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️😱😱 Incidentally if you are London based and it’s relatively easy to get to the theatre it is totally worth putting your name down for the lottery. We also won front row seats to Hamilton a few months ago!!!

As a total book geek it has been completely wonderful re-reading some of my childhood favourites with Edie and Ceci. I am definitely guilty of being a little over enthusiastic and making a few book related mistakes. The Naughtiest Girl in the School was one such error. I am sorry to say I gave up after chapter 1….I had to stop every few seconds to explain words like ‘beastly’ and ‘governess.’ Roald Dahl is an author I was desperate to introduce Edie to. George’s Marvellous Medicine and The Magic Finger have been hits but nothing has come close to Edie’s love of Fantastic Mr Fox. Although the story is obviously brill I think it’s a hit with little ones because it’s fast paced, has short chapters and the pictures in the colour edition are brilliant. Edie basically needs a picture every page to keep her interested!!! For my kids, a short chapter is pretty much vital….each chapter in this book ends on a bit of an Eastenders-esque cliff hanger and they are short enough that if storytime isn’t going particularly well, it is easy to abort!!

  • The Usborne Book of Drawing, Doodling and Colouring Fashion.
  • Okay so this isn’t a story book but it is definitely worth a shout out as it kept my kids occupied during many a rainy day on our glamping holiday. This was recommended by a dad on Instagram. I love Instagram for book recommendations….particularly kids books. You get a lot of bang for your buck with this colouring book and what I particularly like is there is the opportunity for kids to develop their own creativity by creating their own designs. Edie was totally immersed as was Ceci who created some very Hannibal Lecteresque looking designs.
  • A story about a lion and a duck- and having the courage to be yourself.

    Where do you get your book suggestions? For children’s books I rely on the library. We go once a week and take out the maximum amount of books. Anything we really love, I tend to buy for the kids…..books are definitely what I spend my money on. I have cupboards and drawers full of them.

    How to be a Lion has been a huge hit. My husband did storytime last night while I went for a run. When I got back, he wouldn’t shut up about the ‘incredibly empowering’ book he had just discovered. . As a non reader, the only books he picks up are the kids ones at story time so it’s important to get him some top material.😊🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️A fab message to little ones just starting school…be true to yourself, be kind and stand by your friends. Ed Vere handles the subject of bullying in a really empowering way and it’s defo one of the best kids books we have read in a while. A big high five to all the Leonards who feel a little bit different but have the courage to stick to their guns. 💪 🦁 🦆

    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. 5⭐️.

    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!🤣📚Anyway since the summer holidays started and Maisie was born my bed is just for sleep…and not much of it. 🤬. It has taken me a full month to get through Pachinko 🤦‍♀️. 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 5⭐️ read for me. I have lived with 4 generations of this Korean family for a month now and i feel a little bereft now it’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. 5⭐️.
    • 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:

    “I wanted Eamonn to want to do anything for me before I asked him to do something for my brother. Why shouldn’t I admit it? What would you stop at to help the people you love most?”

    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!!!

    August beauty

    Hi all. Pamper wise this month has been a bit lacklustre. No lying in the bath with a face mask and a chilled glass of white. More like trowelling on concealer to hide my eye bags and more often than not realising I have forgotten to put deodorant on. I also stink of breastmilk which in all honesty is a smell that makes me heave. Anyway, the only way is up from here!!!

    • Midnight Recovery Concentrate. Kiehls. £38.00.

    Oh sleep how I miss you!!! Last night Ozzie and I had high expectations for a stay at home date night. He was going to cook and we were going to watch a film. 💪💪 By 5 pm he had been puked on by Maisie and I had been pooed on. We were in pjs before the kids. 💪💪At 4:30 we sat down for a romantic meal with the children… nuggets and beans. #winningatlife. I did manage a bath thank god and a tankard of wine. 🍷🍷🍷🍷So my prerequisite for a pampering product is that it has to smell lush. If it’s an oil it’s a bonus. This midnight recovery ticks both boxes. Smells of lavender which instantly calms me down. If you are an oil virgin give it a whirl…it’s quite light so you don’t go to sleep feeling like a chip and you wake up to glowy, clear skin. Lush.

    • Fushi Really Good Hair Oil. £18.00.

    I rant about my hair a lot on this blog. First world problems and all but it is a tough gig having dyed blonde hair. The reason it’s tough is mainly down to my laziness. The whole point of these beauty blogs is to highlight products that work for people who haven’t got time or money to waste on products that, well, don’t. Although being blonde isn’t a product, obvs, for me it just doesn’t work. This month I had a massive hair disaster. I decided that now was the time to go darker. Not mega dark but dark enough that when the roots come through children at the park don’t ask me why I dye the top of my hair darker than the middle and bottom.

    Although pregnancy has left me with 3 incredible daughters, it has also left me with hair that knows it’s own mind and will not be told how to behave (slightly like my daughters actually). A few months ago the wonderful Elthia (my hairdresser) noticed a black streak in my hair – just like I had slipped with the mascara wand. I hadn’t….it must have been those crazy pregnancy hormones. So, 3 weeks ago Elthia turned up ready to get my hair back to basics. We agreed on lightish brown with some honey streaks. All was going well until after the toner was applied. On removal of the towel my hair was grey!!! Proper granny grey. 👵🏻! Elthia and I both started to perspire. We decided to warm it up a bit and take out the ashy colour. The result….ginger. Proper Geri Halliwell ginger. We decided not to put my hair through anymore that day so I have invested in some of those massive hair bands to cover a lot of the damage. I have to say it has faded and I am now quite used to it. I couldn’t really tell you what colour it is now…a pinkish, reddish, blonde but I don’t have roots which is a bonus!

    As a result of the hair carnage I have been deep conditioning like a loon. A loon I tell you! So I received this Really Good Hair Oil to review. Firstly I would like to say as soon as a company choose to name their product ‘Really Good’ I think you are onto a bit of a losing streak. For me, I would name this product Pretty Mediocre Hair Oil. I mean it was ok, but just ok. To be honest I couldn’t be arsed with the faff of putting it on and then getting a steaming towel to put on my head for 30 mins. I don’t have 30 mins to sit with towels on my head.

    Nope, for me nowt has compared to this brilliant product which L’Oreal need to rename as Proper Mega Deep Conditioning Masque.

    If you haven’t tried it….DO! NOW!

    • Olay Deep Hydrating Eye Gel. £18.00
  • I have to say that out of all beauty products, I struggle to get excited by eye cream. Wrongly, the lazy tart in me relies on my facial moisturiser to keep my eye bags hydrated. I also believe that dark circles are often genetic or caused by being utterly knackered so unless I change my genes or get rid of my 3 kids I have to embrace my exhausted eyes.
  • This eye gel has made me a convert. It contains hyaluronic acid to plump and hydrate, cucumber extract to soothe, and witch hazel to combat puffiness. It is gorgeous straight out of the fridge for an instant cooling effect and it is absorbed really quickly. You only need a little bit so the pot lasts ages. Brilliant.
  • Thanks for reading.