Reading My Way Around the World

Friday, 5 March 2021

Signs of Spring

 Joining in with Kates's weekly photo scavenger hunt today.   And the prompt is

Signs of Spring

We had a couple of glorious days last weekend and got lots of pruning done - the rhodedendron finally got its comeuppance, and it's now got a reprieve until it blooms when it's going to get another onslaught from my loppers.  

I've been setting seeds and in the music world I'm finally getting motivated to produce work - we're preparing for filming The Emigrant Woman's Tale next week and I'm delighted to have another deadline to work to - a song to record, pieces to learn and rehearse.   We've already done the outline and running order  and energy seems to be rising along with the daffodils and crocuses.  

I always bring in a stem of forsythia early in the year and the buds and flowers are just starting to show now.  

New neighbours have moved in next door ... 

and signs of spring are everywhere .... 

Things are looking up.  Take care and have a lovely weekend.  

Thursday, 4 March 2021

World Book Day

Image stolen from the World Book Day charity site (in case you're looking for any ideas)

I always thought this was a day just for school kids to get dressed up but it's given me a chance to do another update to my Reading My Way Around the World challenge - follow the link to get the full list for my challenge to read a country from as many countries in the world as I can manage - no time limit - and I'm taking a lot of ideas from a great blog called TaleAway where Ash sets a world reading challenge every year with 52 books from 52 different countries. 


The Sealwoman's Gift by Sally Magnusson

I loved this book  ****
1627 - In a notorious historical event, pirates raided the coast of Iceland and abducted 400 people into slavery in Algiers.   Among them a pastor, his wife, and their children.  
In this debut novel the writer imagines what history does not record:  the experience of Asta, the pastor's wife, as she faces her losses with the one thing left to her - the stories from home - and forges an ambiguous bond with the man who bought her.


She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore ****

This is a strange book - I enjoyed it, but I was a bit bewildered by it at times.   
It's a mix of fantasy realism and historical fact relating to the creation of the new country of Liberia.  It focuses on three characters who all have special powers and have come from backgrounds of all loss and tragedy.  

Here's what the cover notes say:
In the West African village of Lai, red-haired Gbessa is cursed with immortality at birth.  On a plantation in Virginia, June Day struggles to hide his extraordinary strength from the brutal slaveowners.   High in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, Norman Aragon discovers he can fade from sight at will.  
Cast out, forced to flee, sent away, they are drawn together in the tumult between settlers.  


The Orange Girl by Jostein Gaarder **

This is a very short book - a sort of modern day fairy tale.  

"My father died eleven years ago.   I was only four then.  I never thought I'd hear from him again, but now we're writing a book together."  

Georg's grandmother finds some papers stuffed in a chair that are a letter to Georg written shortly before his father died.   It's the story of a girl he sees and becomes besotted by and asks the now older son to help him solve the riddle.  


Number the Stars by Lois Lowry ***

This is a Young Adult novel telling the story of the Danish Resistance during World War 2 and their plan to smuggle the entire Jewish population of Denmark, nearly seven thousand people, across the sea to Sweden.   Told through the eyes of one 10 year old girl.    A part of history I knew nothing about.  

And my top selection from this group of books 

Kenya/Liberia/America and others

The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr ( Short Stories) *****

I've not been a fan of short story collections but seem to have been reading more of them in recent years.   And this one, as the critics said, was Exquisite.    Anthony Doerr wrote one of my all time favourite books "All the Light We Cannot See" and he has a beautiful way of writing. This collection starts with the title story which is set in Kenya and is a story of a blind shell collector who is an expert in his field. There's a story about a Liberian refugee; a couple of stories about fishermen in America - just a lovely collection.   5 stars from me.  

So, I hope you enjoy your reading and I hope there's a suggestion or two here for you.  I'm nearly caught up to date with my list and if you have any good suggestions for me of books you've enjoyed you know I'd love to hear.  Are you a fan of short stories?  or fantasy realism?  

Happy World Book Day

Sunday, 28 February 2021

Kezzie's Fancy Dress Online Birthday Party

Happy Birthday Kezzie.

I've had such fun dressing up as a character from Doctor Who for my blogging friend Kezzie's 40th fancy dress birthday party.   We're sci fi nerds in this house, and Tom particularly loves Doctor Who.  So it was an obvious one for me to choose Missy, the female version of the Master from a few series back.  Felt a bit more like Mary Poppins though lol 

I had a hard time trying to keep the stern face that Missy always wore and ended up laughing more than suitable - could do with her make up artist to finish it off too but she was a hoot to do.  Loved it.   Now I know what you get from cosplays Kezzie, which you do so brilliantly.   

Wishing you a wonderful 40th birthday.  (the 40s are good years) 

May the coming years keep you bright and wonderful- may they give you lots of adventures, some lovely surprises,  plenty of music and lots of fun.  

Thanks for a fun party :) xx

Friday, 26 February 2021

Delicious: Photo Scavenger Hunt

It's taken me nearly 12 months of this lockdown to start feeling rested enough to miss our old life.   I'm not complaining - we live in a beautiful place and don't want for anything and are getting enough work online to keep us going.   But I am really starting to miss getting out on the road, meeting people, performing live on stage and above all sampling food in the different countries we visit.  So today I'm joining in with Kate's blog for another scavenger hunt prompt - Delicious - and a wee trip around some of our journeys.   

Looking back over my photographs I'd not noticed before how big a part food plays in travelling and even in our day to day socialising.  

From the bratwurst at a stand in Germany to coffee at a terrasse cafe in France, or a beer under a heated lamp in mid winter in Holland, or Kaffee and Kuchen with friends on an afternoon off, or cake in Denmark or a really good curry in England or the best fish and chips I've ever tasted in Shetland, or even just an ice cream beside the seaside taking my mother to Bundoran.    I've not not got photos for all of these but so many of our memories are tied up with food that I can understand now why the early days of Facebook were so populated with pictures of people's dinners.   (Disclaimer here: I'm usually too busy eating to remember to photograph food, so it's not surprising most of these are of desserts when there was time to relax).  

One day when it snowed and we were stranded in England, my cousin Frances and Tom and myself spent our lay-over time until the next ferry in a fabulous restaurant near Chester.  

Browsing a market in France

A gorgeous cafe in Fife in Scotland with our good  friends Hugh and Doris

The biggest pizza I'd ever seen ... in Luxembourg with Aloyse

Mussels from the shore here. The ones closest to shore that the boats can't get at are ripe pickings, along with some sea spinach at the right time of year

A special breakfast in Germany

A gourmet meal in Denmark - wow.

The most enticing vegetable display I've ever seen in a supermarket - in Clonakilty, Co. Cork.  Only problem was you didn't want to take anything out of it to spoil all the hard work. 

Oh how I miss having a quick drink to welcome our friends to the Festival - another year will be missed sadly.  With Kanne from Denmark a few years back.

But best of all, pathetic and all as it looks, was our very first carrot that we'd grown ourselves lol.  The rest were a bit bigger than this, but it really made us laugh.   Hopefully they'll be a bit bigger this year :)

Take care of yourselves - and you can see what others have written about for this prompt HERE.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Books Around the World Update

I've been very lax about keeping up with my record of books read so here goes to try and catch up.   I'm now up to 49 countries - you can read the (almost) whole list here.  

I got a bit world weary into the Autumn and Winter and found that a lot of the books I was picking up, just to tick off another country visited, were very hard reading - a lot telling harrowing tales of war and cruelty.   So I had to take a pause and find lighter things to read and ended up with quite a few YA fictions, a bit of detective fiction and tried and tested favourite authors and bestsellers.   Anyway I've included most of them here.   

However, reading is without doubt one of my favourite ways to travel and even through YA fiction, you learn something about a country and its culture.  The book links here will take you to the Goodreads page to read more about them.   More coming in the next few weeks.    


Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens 

This was a big hit book a few years back and deservedly so.   Beautiful detailed descriptions of the salt marshes on the East Coast of America through the eyes of a poor neglected wild backwoods child who has a unique view of the world. 

What the blurb says:  For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.  But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life's lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies.   


War by Candlelight by Daniel Alarcón

This was Alarcón's first book, published in 2006, a collection of short stories set mostly in Lima in Peru.  I've not been a fan of short stories, but this collection drew me in very quickly to the stories about a varied collection of people - from an unrepentant revolutionary to a writer who gives up his typewriter to be a clown.   There are also a couple of stories set in New York.   


The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by  
This is one of the books I received through Shelterbox Book Club and was also a Reese Witherspoon bookclub choice and I enjoyed it.  It was a fun read travelling to the sunshine and a different culture.  

The British-born Punjabi Shergill sisters—Rajni, Jezmeen, and Shirina—were never close and are even further apart now as adults.   But on her death bed their mother has one request - that they go together on a pilgrimage to visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar.  
For me it was really interesting to read about Sikh traditions and to read more about the Golden Temple and the rituals surrounding it.  Thte three sisters are very different and their relationship is well drawn - one's a school teacher, the second a failed actress and the third in a bad marriage.  

A New World/UK            

1984 by George Orwell
This was on my "must read before I die" list and I have to say I really got into it.   Sometimes I think this world isn't too far from his vision but it's a frightening view of what could be.   
Published in 1949 it really is quite a spectacular view of the not too distant future.


Zorro by Isabel Allende

Growing up I loved the stories of Zorro - remember Errol Flynn playing the masked hero.  

This book tells the story for the first time of how Diego de la Vega became the masked man.  Born in southern California late in the eighteenth century, he is a child of two worlds - his father  an aristocratic Spanish military man turned landowner and his mother, a Shoshone warrior 

And it was a jolly good swashbuckling read - although I was a bit annoyed with him as a character at points.   However, he remains the hero in my heart :) 

Friday, 19 February 2021

Unexpected : Are we all sitting comfortably?

Joining in with Kate and friends at  I Live I Love I Am Me  for this week's Scavenger Hunt and the word is 


I had to scratch my head for this one for a while and came up with a boring outcome really although it's one that delights me.

The first unexpected thing was that the delivery arrived early - there have been having problems with receiving post and deliveries to NI since Brexit - this was due in about 2 weeks time but arrived 3 days after being shipped - perfect.  

For ages I've been searching for the perfect studio chair - it had to be comfortable for long periods of sitting for teaching and having meetings on zoom and for recording, it should have no arms for guitar playing and be able to double as a relaxing reading/meditation chair.   A tall order.

But -Ta Da -  the second unexpected thing  -  I finally found it - after months of searching.   

And the most unexpected of all - it fits all the criteria.

It's really comfortable

The arms lift out of the way

and, best of all, it rocks - like a rocking chair.   And I am delighted.  My legs aren't aching at the end of the day and I'm a happy bunny.   Now the other half wants one too.  

I should have guessed it'd be ok - it's made by a German company called SongMics - how perfect is that for a singer who plays with microphones :) 

Heading over now to Kate's site to see what everyone else has found this week.  

Friday, 12 February 2021

Begins with W - Photo Scavenger Hunt

Joining in with Kate at I Live I Love I Craft for the now weekly photo scavenger hunt - as someone said it's good to have prompts to make us think outside the norm.   

This weeks prompt is Begins With W ... so I headed down the road of water ... I think every photo I post has that, and Wind - way too much of it and no decent photos.   But I ended up with 


When we were in Australia, in March 2016, we spent a day in Dubbo in NSW on our way from an Irish Festival in Tullamore (that is out in the back of nowhere - an experience and a half - Tullamore has a population of 150, it really is in the outback and when we woke on our first morning there 5000 people had descended in camper vans for a brilliant festival - such an experience - I can't believe I hadn't written about it).   

Anyway, I digress.   
Dubbo has a huge Wildlife Park and we had booked into it a few days beforehand.  

Neither of us have had the opportunity to go on a safari or see exotic wildlife in nature so this was the chance of a lovely experience.   

And for me there was only one animal to see and that was the giraffes.  

I don't know what it is about them - even looking at photos makes me well up.  

Unfortunately, I got a tummy bug and was violently ill for several days, ending up in hospital, - we had only just driven in when I started to feel bad.   

But .... I managed to get to feed the giraffes.   

OMG - I felt like a 5 year old - such a beautiful experience.  Their soft blue tongues and gentle touch - it made my heart sing.  

I don't particularly agree with zoos and wildlife parks, but watching David Attenborough last night, the final programme of his Perfect Planet series - the threat of so much extinction in the coming half century is mind boggling and at least these places, when they're well run, protect so many animals that wouldn't survive much longer.  These guys looked very happy.