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Friday, 27 June 2014

Miss Marple and Shoko

Ok, so I am 35 and I have never read the Miss Marple books by Agatha Christie before. In all honesty, I only read my first Agatha Christie novel, The Mystery of the Blue Train, last year, so I am a late starter, considering that she has been a mainstay of family bookshelves my entire life!

It has been almost a year since I read the first Miss Marple book, Murder at the Vicarage, when I decided to start reading them in order. But then, I had other things to read and I kind of left it... However, this year, I am determined to do better.

First, I read the second Miss Marple Novel, The Thirteen Problems.
The first chapter of this one, The Tuesday Night Club, started life as a short story in a magazine. A group of friends gather together in an author's aunt's drawing room and begin discussing mysteries. Each tells a tale and the other's try to guess the solution. They are rather surprised when Raymond West's elderly spinster aunt, Miss Jane Marple, is far and away the best guesser.

The remaining chapters mainly follow a similar style, where we are in a third person pov situation at a dinner party conversation, where someone relates a mystery, with the exception of one actual crime. None are particularly in-depth or all-consuming, but they are all good. They are mysterious mysteries which no seemingly obvious answer, where everyone else guesses wildly more and more random solutions until Miss Marple puts us out of our misery and explains, usually confirmed by the narrator of each mystery! 

The solutions are neat, but not contrived, and overall, I gave it 4/5 stars.

Second, I read the third Miss Marple novel, The Body in Library.
Ok, apparently Agatha Christie wanted there to be a body in the library, but it had to be an ordinary, unassuming kind of library, and a very inappropriate body. It is obvious that she lived in a different time, personal libraries are far from ordinary in modern homes!

She managed though, it's 7am when the Bantry's are awoken to the news that there is a dead woman that no-one recognises, lying on the hearthrug of the Colonel's library. Naturally, suspicion will fall on the Colonel, and Mrs Bantry has a plan, by enlisting the help of Miss Marple, she can discover the real murderer and prevent the village tabbies gossiping about the Colonel and giving both him, and by association her, the cold shoulder.

No, I didn't get whodunnit (I had three suspects, it was none of them - but then, I NEVER get it right!), but again, the solution was neither rushed, nor contrived, it FIT. The clues Miss Marple references in her explanation were right there, and pointed out as the plot moved along. I gave this 4/5 stars too, but I may have been overly harsh... I'd have gone for at least 4.5 if they allowed half stars on Goodreads!

This takes this year's tally up to 23/52... so am currently only 3 behind, as it's week 26 now! Girl child has read 271 books ever... and was gloating that that is more than my annual tally... I was tempted to point out the difference, but then I counted, and she has read 90 books just in 2014 - so far... decided against pointing that one out!

So that's Miss Marple... what on earth is Shoko?

As you may have noticed, there's a football world cup going on... in case you missed it, England gave a disappointing performance, resulting in them being knocked out at group stage, along with Italy, Spain and Portugal. But, as is quite popular, beloved's workplace ran a sweepstake. Everyone chips in a set amount (usually a quid), pulls a team name out of the proverbial hat, and the winner gets the pot of funds. However, beloved's workplace, wanted to be a bit different. So, everyone was expected to make food from the country they pulled out. Beloved got Ghana. Neither of us have had any experience of Ghanaian food, so a googling was in order. We decided against trying to source goat meat, although one of my colleagues assures me there's a very good butcher quite near to the office that sells it, and we made a beef and spinach stew called 'Shoko', some 'jollof' rice and plantain chips.

It took over 4 hours to make the night before he took it into the office, but apparently the Shoko went down very well. The jollof was claggy and not entirely as pleasant as we'd hoped, and the plantain chips didn't last overnight too well, they went soggy... ick! But we gave it a bash. Alas, beloved didn't take photographs, he intended to, but he forgot and then it got eaten... never mind. I genuinely have no idea how close to authentic it was, I found all of it very spicy, but beloved (who likes spicier food than I do) said that it was pleasant, rather than spicy.

Anyway, even if you haven't noticed the football world cup, you might have noticed wimbledon... lots of people playing tennis, which I like. So, I am away to watch some more of 'today at wimbledon', before preparing for my walking club tomorrow (Ellesmere Port to Chester along the canal, not an epic, but should be nice if the weather holds out)... have a great weekend, read something you enjoy and eat something different! 
 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

GUEST POST: The Siege at Snape Castle - by Judith Arnopp



It is my very great pleasure to introduce a guest post by historical author Judith Arnopp, whose novel Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr, I reviewed in my last blog post.
 
Judith Arnopp
I have included an exerpt from Judith's Amazon Biography:
I live on a smallholding in West Wales with my husband, John, and two of our grown-up children. We used to do the whole self sufficiency thing but the fox ate all the chickens, the slugs ate all the lettuce and ill health forced us to give up the battle. Now we care for our daughter's three elderly ponies and wrestle with our two very naughty Jack Russells.
My greatest loves have always been writing and history. Since I was very small I have had a book in one hand and a pen in the other. These days, I have progressed to this wonderful machine which allows me to write the sort of books I love to read. Historical settings with a good strong lead female.


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The Siege at Snape Castle
In the aftermath of the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536 Henry VIII made and broke many promises. The following year unrest in the north broke out afresh and plunged the inhabitants back into danger.
The leader of this second rebellion was Francis Bigod of Settrington in the North Riding of Yorkshire. His infant son, Ralph, was betrothed to Margaret Neville, daughter of John Neville, Lord Latimer of Snape Castle in Yorkshire. Lord Latimer’s wife was the young Katheryn Parr, later to become Queen of England and last wife to Henry VIII.
Catherine Parr - attributed to Master John: photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Lord Latimer’s actual role in the uprising is a little oblique. It is not clear if his heart lay with the rebels or the king, but his friends and retainers were heavily involved on the side of the rebels, and he was definitely suspected of being part of it. 
Latimer was a keen supporter of the old religion, opposing the king’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn. During the Louth riots a mob arrived at Snape Castle threatening him with violence if he did not join their cause. He rode away with the rebels and it is there that his true role begins to become obscured. Rumours that he was not just a prisoner of the mob but had sided with them began to emerge, raising the suspicions of Cromwell and the King.
Latimer and other northern nobles whose loyalty lay with the old church were in a perilous position. If they were found guilty of treasonous behaviour their lives and estates would be forfeit, their families left penniless. 
While Latimer was in the hands of the rebels Katheryn and her step children were held under siege at Snape. The house was ransacked and there is some suggestion that violence was used against the women. The leaders threatened Latimer that if he did not support them, his family would be killed. 
Snape Castle: photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Latimer claimed to have been interceding with the king on the rebel’s behalf and, somehow, on his return, he’d managed to persuade them to withdraw and spare the lives of his wife and children.
As soon as it became possible Latimer moved his family south, out of the way of the rebels but into closer contact with Cromwell and the king. 
John Latimer resided for a while under suspicion of treason in the Tower of London; his reputation and standing with the king damaged forever. For the remainder of his life Cromwell bled him dry financially, confiscating his properties and rents but following Cromwell’s fall in 1540 Latimer’s life resumed some semblance of dignity.
But the stress of the recent years had crippled him and after a protracted illness he died in 1543 leaving Katheryn a very wealthy widow. Shortly after this she was invited to join the household of Lady Mary who, in the absence of a queen, was residing over Henry VIII’s court. It was at this time that Katheryn caught the attention of the King and shortly afterward, despite her wishes otherwise, became his sixth and final wife.
The siege at Snape Castle features in the early part of my novel Intractable Heart which traces the life of Katheryn Parr. Below is an excerpt told from the perspective of the young Margaret Neville; daughter of Lord Latimer.
 
A noise disturbs me. My eyes snap open, my heart begins to thump. I pull myself up on my pillows and peer into the darkness, listening. Footsteps hurrying along the corridor, a door slamming, and an angry voice cut off mid-sentence. I throw back the cover and slide from the bed.
The floor is cold underfoot as I creep to the door, open it just a crack. I sneak across the upper landing. The carved oak bannister is cool beneath my hands as I look over the balustrade to the hall below.
A huddle of servants, and Mother in her nightgown, her hair coiled into a serpentine braid, her face white and tight. My brother John hovers behind her, uncertain if, as acting baron, he should intervene.
Raised voices, crude words and a glare of torchlight accompany the gang of rebels as they intrude into the hall. The household, with mother at its head, retreats backward. One of the rebels is clutching a flagon, his lips loose and wet, his eyes unfocussed.
“It’s bitter cold in the stables, we’re coming in ‘ere, whether you like it or not.” He staggers forward but Mother does not give ground.
“Your leaders have forbidden that. I was promised you would stay outside the house. I have the servants to think of … my children …”
Only a slight quiver in her voice betrays her lack of certainty, her fear, but it is enough to strike terror into my very soul. I sink to my knees and press close to the newel post as the rebel spokesman steps forward, his face thrust menacingly toward mother. John moves backwards, treads on our dog Homer’s paw, who yelps loudly.
“Well, our leaders ain’t ‘ere, are they?” 
As the rebel shoves her aside Mother falls back against the wall, my brother darts out of the way. The servants fall like wheat as the mob passes through them, their snivelling protests robbing me of the last of my courage. The dogs will stop them, I tell myself; they will come no further. I dig my fingers into my face, praying I am right.
Behind the doors to the great hall the castle hounds are slavering and growling loud enough to deter even the most fool hardy. But, when the doors are forced open the dogs betray us, and the great fickle beasts leap up to lick the rebel faces in greeting.
 From my hiding place I hear the scrape of wooden chairs on the stone flagged floor as the rebels make themselves comfortable, calling for victuals, for more wine.
From my place on the upper floor it is as if the scene below is frozen. The servants are all looking to mother for direction but she remains where she is, hovering undecidedly. Then, suddenly making a decision, she turns on her heel, her braided hair whipping in her wake.
“Come,” she orders. “We must barricade ourselves into my apartments. Layton, be quick, see that food is brought up from the kitchens, enough to last a few days.” She ushers the snivelling women up the stairs. I feel the waft of their skirts as they pass me by, snatches of their terrified conversation instilling me with further dread.
I see Mother reach out and grasp the knob of my chamber door. I want to call out to her but she hurries in before I can speak, cries out in fear when she sees my bed is empty. The flurry of her skirts raises dust from the corners as she rushes out again, belatedly spying me cowering in the shadow.
“Margaret!” She grabs my wrist in relief and drags me in her wake to her apartments that stretch the length of the house. I drop my nightcap in our haste and my hair falls on to my shoulders. Once inside, she clasps me briefly to her chest. I close my eyes, hear her heart hammering, the energy pulsing in her throat. Then, she wraps me in a fur, sits me beside the hearth and her voice when she speaks is high and wavering. “We will be safe here once the door is locked and barred. Don’t worry.”

©Juditharnopp2014

To read more click here

Judith’s other books include:

Judith’s webpage: www.juditharnopp.com

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Book Review: Intractable Heart, Judith Arnopp

This is a book, as it says on the front cover, about Katheryn Parr. If you haven't heard of her, then shame on you, she was the sixth (and final) wife of the infamous Henry VIII, who, as the poem* reminds us, survived.

The book is constructed of 4 sections, each written in first person point of view, but from a different person's perspective.

First we read from the perspective of Margaret Neville, step-daughter of Katheryn Latimer (maiden name Parr). From Margaret's perspective we witness the siege of Snape castle during the Pilgrimage of Grace, the death of Katheryn's second husband, and the family's move to the court of Henry VIII.

Secondly, we move to the perspective of Katheryn herself, as she is woo-ed by, and then marries the King. She becomes Queen, she deals with the hazards and intrigues of the Tudor court, at one point, even facing the prospect of arrest and possible execution herself. Being Queen didn't protect her forbears, it wouldn't have saved her either. She is intelligent though and as history tells us, she survived when Henry died. 

We change again, and the story is taken up by Thomas Seymour, brother to the late lamented Queen Jane, Uncle to the new, young, King Edward, and brother to the Lord Protector, whose wife has taken possession of the royal jewels, including some which belonged to Katheryn's mother. He then becomes (I refuse to believe that this is a spoiler, it's history) Katheryn's fourth husband, and sort-of, in a convoluted way, step-father to the Lady Elizabeth (princess at this point, sister to the King), he also has a ward of his own, Lady Jane Grey, and the four (Thomas, Katheryn, Elizabeth and Jane) live together for a while, until Elizabeth moves away, and Katheryn has a baby girl, named Mary.

We change perspectives then, for the final time, and the remainder of the tale is told from Elizabeth's point of view. This ties the whole story off.

I'm trying not to go into too much detail, I know that not everyone knows Tudor History as well as I do, as evidenced from when The Tudors was on television and I was in trouble for 'spoilers'... Grr.

I really liked where the changes in point of view happened. The story is taken over by the next narrator at a seemingly random point, but it explains the next part of the previous narrators story much better than would be possible otherwise.

It's really easy to read. The language is modern in that it is easy to read as modern English, but not so modern that it jars in the historical setting. The story flows well, it isn't slow and plodding, but it doesn't rush, it flows, like a steady river and I read it much quicker than I originally expected to, if you excuse the fact that I didn't read at all over the weekend!

If you don't know the story, then it's a very good introduction, it covers everything you would need to know, and doesn't go off on a tangent of complex detail that hinders the story. If I want that, I can read non-fiction. The female characters are strong, without having to kick people, but still as vulnerable to mis-treatment (their Royal status notwithstanding) in the patriarchal Tudor court as any woman in that era. Better still, Judith Arnopp has clearly done her research. It's fiction, so on the grounds that there are some things that we can never know, there has to be artistic licence to fill the gaps, but she has blended it quite well.

Overall, I gave it a 4/5.



*Before you ask, the poem to remember the fates of Henry VIII's six wives goes as follows:
Divorced, Beheaded, Died. Divorced, Beheaded, Survived. If you are not sure, here's what it means, all spelled out!

Divorced: Catherine of Aragon was his first wife, Mother of "Bloody" Mary Tudor, and subsequently divorced in a bitter, and lengthy battle with the Pope, which resulted in the formation of the Church of England, and the reigning monarch being head of the church.

Beheaded: Anne Boelyn, his second wife, Mother of Elizabeth I. It was Anne that Henry wanted to marry so badly that he tore the country apart (religiously) and divorced his first wife for. Alas, she failed to give him a son and was later executed (having had their marriage annulled) on charges of treason, adultery, incest, and according to some, witchcraft. She was expected to be burned at the stake, but Henry was "merciful" and paid for a 'skilled' executioner to come from France with a sword, and as Anne said herself, she only had a little neck.

Died: Jane Seymour, third wife, mother to Henry's much wanted son, Edward VI. Alas, she died shortly after giving birth. She was so lamented by Henry (who hadn't had the chance to grow tired of her by this point), that when he was married to Katheryn Parr many years later, he had a 'family' portrait painted of Himself, Jane, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth!

Divorced: Anne of Cleeves. Also referred to, rather cruelly, as the Flander Mare. She was allegedly ugly and smelled. Whilst he had been hunting for his fourth bride, he had offered for the lately widowed Duchesse de Loungeville, Marie de Guise, who is alleged to have quipped that she would love to marry Henry, if only she had a second head! She later married James V of Scotland and became mother to Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots! Henry had his marriage to Anne annulled and she became known as his sister. She remained in England, being granted Hever Castle (former family home of her predecessor, Anne Boleyn). Astoundingly, she had a good relationship with Princess (and later Queen) Mary. And not only outlived Henry, in peace and with head still attached, but also Katheryn Parr! Whilst I pity her the humiliation she must have faced, living in a strange country, being called hurtful things, I can't help feeling that she was the lucky one!

Beheaded: Katherine Howard. Cousin of the ill-fated Anne Boleyn, little Kitty Howard was just 16 when she caught the King's eye, probably pushed into a position of prominence by her greedy and ambitious family. Alas, flighty Kitty was beheaded for adultery (and therefore treason), as her cousin before her had been.

Survived: Katheryn Parr. Katheryn had been twice widowed, having married much older men. she had had no children and was presumed barren, but a fantastic (and experienced) nurse. Henry still wanted more sons, he himself had been the second surviving son, but he was in bad health. Katheryn, like the two wives immediately preceding her, bore Henry no children, although she did bear a daughter later. She outlived Henry, and went on to marry the man that she had been courting before she had caught the King's notice.

I do love history, and King Henry VIII and his multitude of wives has always been of great interest to me!    

     


Friday, 13 June 2014

Recipes, Reading and School Sportsday Sunburn

This week, I have once again, attempted to make the recipe on my Good Food Magazine Calendar for the month. I have actually made 4 of the monthly recipes so far and I have made them in the right months. So this calendar is working out rather well!
I didn't make the chorizo and kale hash from January. However, in February there was a chocolate and pomegranate torte which I made twice. I tried making the torte as directed, but had lots of the mixture left over, so I made mini chocloate and raspberry tartlets, which were superb! We couldn't finish all of the large torte, so we blitzed it and made cake-pops too (no photos of those though)! 



I did make the lamb and mango curry in March (no photos, sorry) - which was alright, but not my favourite. I prefer the lamb rogan josh from my Three Sisters Indian Cookbook. I didn't make the hot-cross bun cupcakes in April... I did buy hot cross buns though, so the way I see it, we're even. Last month, I did make the salmon primavera (although I ditched the asparagus and broad beans, because none of us like them). It was nice. But not amazing, and I failed to take a photograph. I am noticing that I tend to only photograph sweet food, puddings and deserts, but not savoury food... ooh! I shall try to rectify that going forwards!

June, however, was the cover recipe! A Strawberry and Peanut Crunch Pie... and it was fantastic! It's looks awesome, it tastes great and it was a no-bake easy to make recipe! Alas, with 379kcals per serving, but it's utterly utterly worth it!
My take on the Strawberry and Peanut Crunch Pie
A sneak peak at July shows a Chilli-Lime Chicken Salad, which may not make the cut as none of us like everything in it!

Whilst beloved was out at a works do the other night, I had my favourite brunch dish for supper, which was a leek and gruyere cheese tartlet, the recipe for which I was given by a chef in the John Lewis cafe one afternoon! I did remember to photograph this! Served with a basic salad, with a balsamic low-cal spray thing... hence the unwiped plate. My pastry cases didn't go as well as I'd hoped, but never mind - it tasted awesome and I had enough left over for lunch!

This one, I'd like to give you the recipe for...
I'll presume that you can make a basic shortcrust pastry (or buy it ready made), line a tart case/tartlet tin & blind bake it? Good.

I don't have measurements, I never have had, I just guesstimate amounts, so I will talk you through what I used the other night, which made enough mixture for 4 tartlet cases;

Ingredients:
  • 3 leeks (finely sliced)
  • 200g of Gruyere cheese
  • 3 tbsps cream (I used creme fraiche last night as I was out of cream - it worked ok)
  • knob of butter
  • parmesan cheese

Method:
  • Heat the frying pan, and melt the knob of butter.
  • cook the finely sliced leek until it is transluscent - not browned!
  • Add the cheese (I add it one handful at a time) and allow it to melt. This will become a thick mixture quite quickly.
  • add the cream - again, a little at a time, and work it right into the mixture.
  • spoon the filling into the blind-baked pastry cases & sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan cheese over.
  • Grill the tartlets until the parmesan is golden brown.
As you can probably see, I oven baked the tartlets instead of grilling them, (mainly because I was being dim and distracted and forgot to change the settings on our combined oven/grill, but heigh ho). Then serve with side salad. 

Anyway, enough about food! Reading:

I am currently 5 books behind on my target of 52 for this year (most disappointing), but, I am 80% of the way through Judith Arnopp's Intractable Heart, which I will finish and review early next week.

Over the last week, I did finish re-reading one of my favourite books Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, as well as my Historical Fiction groups choice of The Greatest Knight, by Elizabeth Chadwick. I have read this before, and I loved it this time, as much as I did last time. If you haven't read it, I will recommend that you do!

Good Omens 

I love this book. It's funny, it's thought provoking, it's clever, it's easy to read, it's well paced (not too fast, but definitely not slow). If you haven't read it (firstly, you should) it's about the apocalypse.

It's written in third person pov, from multiple perspectives, we meet an Angel, a Demon, the Anti-Christ, an Occultist (who is also a professional descendant), the remnants of the Witchfinder Army, including it's newest recruit who is descended from a Witchfinder of yore responsbile for possibly the last witch-burning in England. There are also the four bikers of the apocalypse, and their four hells angels hangers-on.

The book technically starts in the year 4004BC, but don't worry, it fast forwards a little bit and concentrates on the last eleven years of life on earth before the apocalypse. 

I really don't know what else to tell you on this one. It is fantastic, if it doesn't make you laugh you must be dead inside, I gave it 5/5 stars (and it doesn't have a single viking in it, so it MUST be good).

The Greatest Knight

It's a fiction novel, but it is based on the biography of William Marshall, a real person who knew and worked with/for Henry II and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and most of their sons at various times. William's beginings were less than auspicious when at 5 he was taken as a hostage by King Stephen against his father's (John Fitzgilbert - the King's Marshall) "good behaviour". Alas, John later sided with the Empress Maude/Mathilde/Matilda and when they (King Stephen and his entourage) threatened to hang the five year old William, John is reputed to have informed them that he had the "hammer and anvil to make more and better sons". Considering that the hammer and anvil were the symbols of the Kings Marshall (or the Empress' Marshall, as John now was) this was, hopefully, more symbollic than anything. Luckily, King Stephen couldn't hang the small boy, and a good thing too.

The Greatest Knight covers William's life into the reign of Richard I, however, there is a follow up, The Scarlet Lion, which covers the rest, so I don't want to do spoilers. William Marshall was a real person though and his reputation as the Greatest Knight (or from the title of another recent book about him, The Knight who Saved England - which I have bought, but not read yet) is not undeserved. A statue of him stands behind the throne in the house of Lords, and (again not wanting to do spoilers) there probably isn't a better place for it!

Anyway, I gave this one 5/5 stars too, and this doesn't have vikings in it either... I may need to re-evaluate my criteria!

School Sports Day

Well, daughter had her second ever school sports day this week... From a sports perspective, she has had a pretty good week (since last Friday anyway)... she got 'person of the match' at football, graded at karate, was told she was 'the best' and bowled someone out on her first attempt at Cricket on Monday, it's all gone pretty swimmingly. Sports day, on Wednesday, started out pretty overcast. I wore a jacket and every second parent was holding a brolly... just in case. But the sun shone. Really shone, I got sunburned, and it was only on for about an hour!

Their team (yellow) came 3rd of 4 overall... the way it works is that the children are in teams (red, blue, yellow and green) then they are split into groups of 5 and sent off to compete in the events, which were, mini hurdles, the water race, the sack race, discs and domes, the relay, the egg and spoon and the bean bag race... they are allocated a card depending on where they come in each race and the captain runs with the cards, to a central desk. they get points depending on where they came, and the points for each group of 5 are added together to give a team total. Sounds complicated? At least I wasn't adding it up. Some of the smallest children didn't have any competativeness, urgency or motivation to run on a warm day, which frustrated the older children no end, but everyone seemed to have fun, everybody took part in every event and the emphasis was very much on taking part and having fun...

I took tonnes of photographs, but school rules are that you can't post them on social media (I presume that blogging counts right?) if there are other children in the shot... trying to get a photo without other children in, in the middle of a field full of children who are running around, is harder than you might expect... although I did get this one(----->) of her mid-sack race and then cropped the other kids out of it! I got an awesome shot of her over the hurdles (literally mid-jump) but cropping the other kids out of it will take far longer than I have the motivation to spend on it! Don't you love the school issue sun-hats? And because all of the children were wearing them, none of them felt left out. The sacks have certainly improved since I was her age, when we had hessian potato sacks, rather than these splendiforous specially made things with handles!

Anyway... Football club again shortly, so I really must dash. Don't forget that I will be reviewing Intractable Heart by Judith Arnopp early next week, and hosting the author herself on Sunday 22nd!


Sunday, 8 June 2014

and now we wait...

Busy, busy week!

Where to even start? Oh, first up... I have arranged a guest post for 22nd of this month by the fabulous author Judith Arnopp! About which, I am rather excited - so make a note in your diaries to check back!

I do have a copy of Judith's most recent book, Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr, which I will review as soon as I have finished reading it. So I hope to be able to blog that with at the end of next week!

In other news, our daughter passed her 9th Kyu karate grading... for those of you not familiar with martial arts... that's the first one. She had a white belt, she now has a red belt, and if she sticks at it, and works hard, she might get a black belt in about 5 years time! In case I haven't mentioned it previously, beloved is a karate instructor, so this is a big thing in our household... even bigger than getting player of the match at football on Friday (which she did btw... # Proud Mama Moment!) I do want to take a moment to point out, that while we are both extremely proud of her, beloved did not grade her. Her scoresheet was completed by the rest of the grading panel and so she earned that all by herself, and her 5th Dan Daddy had nothing to do with it... well, apart from the extra practice at home perhaps... but there are perks to everything!

And what is with the title of this week's post? Well, we are going through the process of selling one house to buy another... this week saw some monumental movement on that score... but there is nothing more that we can do at present, all we can do is sit and wait for other people to do whatever it is goes on behind the scenes... on the plus side, I am really enjoying going through our old things to start the packing process. The memories that we have evoked this week have been fantastic, and some of the old, old photographs we have re-discovered have lead to much laughter from our delighted six year old. I have been discovering that I have more than one copy of some books... cue a couple more car boot sales over the next few weeks to try and reduce the number of archive boxes that the removals guys will be charging us to lift and shift. We're hoping to leave them with only the really big stuff, or the really expensive stuff (that their insurance covers), you know, the foo lions, the sofas, the beds, the washerdrier, the fridge freezer, the tv, I want to say "you get the idea", but if stuff goes to plan, that will actually be all that they shift for us!

Anyway, wish us luck, and don't forget to check back next week for my review of Intractable Heart, and on Sunday 22nd for a guest post by the author, Judith Arnopp!