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Sunday, 7 June 2015

First Monthly Post - May 2015; Eurovision and other parties

Apart from the General Election at the start of the month, and which I have already discussed, May had quite a bit going on!

WALKING:
Firstly, was my mini-adventure with Linda to Llangollen. We camped overnight in the shadow of Dinas Bran and Offa's Dyke, and walked along the canal, stopping frequently at eateries and wine selling establishments.


We started each day at the wharf (where the horse drawn barges start from) and walked up to the horseshoe falls at the start of the canal (and back, obviously) and then to the aqueduct at Trevor. We passed the Eistedfodd pavillion, the Motor Museum, some wildlife, the Chainbridge and a number of canoes on the canal.The views were spectacular, and it was so very peaceful. You can see the river for most of the walk as they both [the Telford canal and the river Dee] originate at the horseshoe falls, and we enjoyed watching the slightly insane people on the river rapids, including one confused man who thought he was a salmon and tried desperately to row upstream in the rapids. We overtook him on foot. Here are a selection of photos, starting with our tents and the view of Dinas Bran and Offa's Dyke!



















I am trying to walk more often, and during May have increased my daily step-count target from 10,000 to 12,000 steps per day. I have been doing quite well, and am hoping to increase my fitness levels so I can walk further, faster and increase my daily target again.



BOOK-CLUB:
The group read for May was Sea Witch by Helen Hollick. This came about after I met her briefly at the Romans to Redcoats event at Wrexham in April, and she kindly agreed to a skype session with us. We had a great turnout (10 members) on the night, and some good questions.

If you haven't read the book, it's good. Helen herself recommended it as her favourite of her own books, and it's about pirates. The way Helen explained it, is that after watching the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, she wanted to read something similar that wasn't a children's book. Alas (for Helen anyway), she couldn't find one, so she wrote one herself!

The skype session lasted around an hour, and she talked about her inspirations for the book, and her research. Where she's blended fact with fiction, why Tiola is a witch, where her name came from, and how Jesamiah Acorne simply appeared, fully formed, to her one day as she sat on a beach!

I had managed to finish the book only a few hours earlier, but I really enjoyed it and have put a short review a bit further down... 

This month's book to read is The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan, which I have already picked up from the library, but haven't started yet, as I've other books to finish.

In May, I also read, Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie, which apart from one single point of evidence, which I thought Poirot was grasping at straws with, had the single most satisfactory ending I think I have ever read. So, I've gone back to the first Poirot novel (incidentally also the first published Agatha Christie novel), The Mysterious Affair at Styles.


Review: Sea Witch, by Helen Hollick.

Jesamiah Acorne, pirate, and Tiola Oldstagh, witch, are destined to be together. Alas, between Jesamiah's half-brother, Tiola's guardian, and Tethys, the personification of the sea herself, it seems unlikely to happen.

This is, first and foremost, an adventure story for grown ups. Jesamiah thinks he's lucky, but between being arrested and almost hanged, having his ship sunk and then re-igniting a blood-feud with his half-brother, I don't get the impression that he's lucky, he seems (to me at least) to be cursed. Which, while it would be a calamity for the likes of you and me, for the central character in a book is marvelous!

The plot twists and turns, and moves at a reasonable pace throughout the book, starting with action, having a gentle exploratory phase and then building up to a crescendo for the climax of the book.

The characters are realistically drawn, and I felt real pity for one of the villains, the other, I loathe almost entirely. The locations in the book are also vividly pictured by the descriptions, and I warn you that the temptation to run away to sea may be quite strong by the end of the book!

The book contains adult themes, includes people who really existed (although it is explained in a note at the end of the book where fact and fiction diverge), and has a romanticised view of pirates, which is hard to avoid when your protagonist is a pirate. He has to have some redeeming features if he's to be the hero of a book!

I will certainly read the other books in the series, and would certainly recommend this book to other people.


CLANDESTINE CAKE CLUB:

This month's theme was Hidden Veg, and although it was only a small group, there was still an astounding variety. We met in the Queen's Head, where we occasionally meet for book club.

I used this chocolate and beetroot cake from Good Food, although I found the icing rather too rich, so I added sliced strawberry to the top to try and cut through the richness. The other members brought carrot cake, courgette cake and one lady brought a garden pea cake!

A number of other people in the pub were very interested in what we were doing, and a portion of each cake was left for the bar staff to try.

I couldn't try the carrot cake as it had orange in it, but I brought a slice home for Beloved who pronounced it 'good', it was moist and soft and cake like.

The chocolate and beetroot cake was more like a brownie, and not to my taste, but the ladies at cake club seemed to like it, and Beloved and LittleBit enjoyed finishing it off at home.

The courgette cake was very moist, I quite liked the lemon yogurt topping too, which Sharon had made at home herself to top her cake with!

And the pea cake was very moist, definitely cake like, and although you could taste peas, it wasn't overpowering.

Chocolate and beetroot

Lemon, poppy seed and courgette

Carrot cake

Garden pea - with lemon icing (we thought it was mash at first)

The inside of the garden pea cake

Just how green is that pea cake?

CRAFTING:

This month, I have mainly been cross stitching, working on a few projects, alas, none of which I have finished this month. 

Next month is likely to be a bit tight for time, so it may well be August before I have time to complete a full crafting project, but I do have a few ideas of things to try.


IN THE GARDEN:

We're so late sowing our seeds this year, but we've finally got around to it. We have sown;
Broccoli, pumpkin, peppers (orange wonder), tomatoes, poppies (I know you can't eat them, but we bought ladybird poppies and some of the RBL Flanders poppies), carrots, onions, spring onions, leeks, cucumber, strawberries, two types of melon, three types of sweetcorn, mange tout, celery, parsnips, spinach, sunflowers, radish, lettuce, pak choi, thyme, coriander, sage, sweet peas and two packets of free seeds which we know are herbs, but we don't know what they are! It was a promotion and the type of herb is a surprise!

In the front garden though, we received a rose bush as a housewarming gift, and although we planted it near to the front door, it didn't look too healthy for a long time, but recently it has bloomed!




PHOTOGRAPHY:

As if there aren't enough photos already, here's a few more, one from Moore Nature Reserve, and the rest from my walks along the canal. Not sure if the heron is the same one though!









EUROVISION:

I had all the very best of intentions, I was going to write down every aspect of the scoring, I was going to make tables from the statistics and deliberate over every song... and then on the night, I hosted a Eurovision party. We drank lots of wine, ate lots of food, and laughed a lot. This year there were a lot of ballads and I was disappointed that the Finnish punk band didn't get through the semi-finals. Sweden won, his song was good, but I would have preferred Australia to win so they could come back next year. I can't even remember which song I liked best! I did like the UK entry, but on the night I thought the lady struggled a bit in her opening lines and the choreography was stiff and unnatural. I think we finished something like 24th of 27 and didn't end the night with the dreaded nul points, but it's still disappointing. 

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