Wool Gathering and Armchair Traveling

Sometimes we are able to travel and see more of the world. Other times it’s armchair traveling through books and websites.  When we were able to visit England many years ago I did not seek out the typical touristy souvenirs.

I like to get something unconventional or useful, that way I think back on the trip when it’s put to use.  Charity or thrift shops are great places for me to go.  There was a shop in Cheddar Gorge (maybe it was a Sue Ryder shop),  I picked up this old and well used leather bookmark.  It’s my favorite and I use it constantly.  It brings to mind that shop, the day spent there and the wonderfully chatty lady who ran the shop.

She was telling us how she didn’t like how the “National Trust took our gorge” and complained about Tony Blair.  “Oh course, you have that Clinton fellow” and she also wondered why politicians were always smiling, she asked in a mistrustful way.  But what a delight she was to talk to and she gave us her opinion on so much.  See, I still remember her well.

bookmark

Perusing another shop I found this old thermometer.  We still use it.  I wonder who owned it before.

Other travels I have enjoyed, vicariously of course, have been through the excellent site A Bit of Britain.  As I read about places I want to visit I add them to my ever growing list.

  • One of my very favorite posts has a good accounting of Swinside Stone Circle complete with photos.  The scenery is breathtaking and of a great interest to me.   My great great grandparents were married and raised a family in Cumbria, formerly Cumberland county.  I hope one day to roam around Cumbria and see firsthand all the images I have been enjoying through the Internet.

Photo credit: This is from A Bit of Britain, post on Swinside

cumbria

Another excellent site is My Yorkshire Dales. Treat yourself to armchair traveling through either of these sites mentioned and you will be trying to figure out how to move there. The winters would be tough…..I may have been in Florida too long for that!

That’s enough wool gathering today.

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The Syndicate for #BriFri

syndicate

I have long been a fan of Anthony Andrews so when I saw he was in this mini series called The Syndicate, I had to get it from my library.  It’s 6 episodes total, 1 hour for each episode.

There were evidently two seasons prior to this one but you don’t need to see each season in order to follow along.  For a full summery of this show click HERE.

Basically, each season focuses on lottery winners, how their lives change and a bit of drama and mystery thrown in..  It’s a drama and we very much enjoyed it.  In All or Nothing we meet Lord Hazelwood (Anthony Andrews) and the small staff of Hazelwood Estate.  There was a large staff on this gorgeous estate but due to deepening debt, the staff is down to six people.

These six are loyal to Lord Hazelwood, a very down to earth fellow but Hazelwood’s wife and step-son seem to plot against him to sell the estate.  This changes quickly when the 6 staff members win the lottery.

The estate is stunning as are the landscaped grounds.  It’s filmed in the coastal town of Scarborough.  In real life Hazlewood Manor  is actually Bramham Park country house, located near Wetherby and Leeds in West Yorkshire.

It’s a good drama and I will certainly try and find the first two seasons.  Mark Addy stars in one of those seasons.  I liked him in The Full Monty as well as Game of Thrones.  This is another excellent show from Acorn TV.

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Living the Dream by Lauren Berry

living the dreamWhat a delicious romp through London.

Living the Dream by Lauren Berry is an entertaining book and I look forward to more by this new author.   What attracted me about this book was the description and the setting in London.

“Living the Dream is a cheeky, charming debut about twenty-something best friends in London navigating their careers and love lives past post-collegiate turmoil and into adulthood with lots of pints along the way.”

Sounded like a fun romp through London.  Certainly I am much older than our main characters – Clementine Twist and Emma Derringer – but I read for entertainment and traveling vicariously via books so this was perfect.  I can still relate to their frustrations in the workplace, looking for a job, enjoying a pub/bar get together with girlfriends and their youthful outlook on life in general.  Clementine is just back from New York after getting her degree in film.  She wants to be a scriptwriter and is apparently a good writer.  She just needs that big break and a paycheck so she can move out of her mum and stepfather’s home.

Emma has a job and while she has no enthusiasm for the work, she is awaiting her break as a writer for magazines.  The frustrations she goes through with her boss Adrian and interviews with pompous editors at magazines is spot on.  You can feel her frustrations.

Lauren Berry is the founding editor of satirical feminist ‘zine KnockBack and has been writing for and about women since 2005. Her work has been featured in Easy LivingGuardianObserver and Independent. She was born, raised and works in North London. Living the Dream is her first novel.

I won an advanced reader’s copy of this book from LibraryThing.  All opinions are my own and I was not compensated.

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When the Music’s Over by Peter Robinson

This is the 23rd book in the DCI Banks series. That’s it….no more books until Peter Robinson’s latest novel comes out in July. Naturally I am already on the list at the library for this publication – so excited!

This book has two investigations going on which has been par for the course in previous books.  Alan Banks has gotten a promotion and he is working on what is described as a historical rape case.  Danny Caxton is a celebrity accused of raping young women back in the 1960’s and 70’s when he was very famous.  The women, some now in their late 50’s and older, are coming forward and banks must investigate the now 85-year old Caxton.

Annie Cabbot and Gerry Masterson are also working on a rape case.  A  young woman raped and dumped in the Yorkshire countryside.  She was alive when she was thrown out of a van but someone else came along and murdered her later.

This is not a cozy mystery.

What I liked about this book

I love a good forensic mystery novel.
Alan Banks and Annie Cabbot are some of my favorite police characters.
Now they are introducing some new detectives and I like them as well.
Food and wine!  There is always mention of pub meals or something at Banks’ home. He is enjoying his journey learning about wine.

What I didn’t care for:

If we have two investigations going on at the same time, do they both have to be rape cases? I was thankful it wasn’t graphic.  I would have liked one case to be a plain old homicide.

Food and drink items mentions are Black Pudding and Smoked Bacon Scotch Egg,, a Prawn and Rose Marie sandwich, chilled California blush wine, Sam Smith’s ale, gin and orange, white wine spritzers, cheese and chutney sandwiches, veggie lasagna and Caesar salad.

It was the shrimp and wine that called to me with this book. A Greek Scampi with Chickpea, Feta, Tomato Salad and a lovely cool glass of Leese-Fitch Chardonnay.

Recipes may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.

shrimp

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In the Dark Places by Peter Robinson

darkPlaces This is # 22 in the Inspector Banks series. This book was much better than the last one. Be warned, there is another title for this book – the U.K. version is titled Abattoir Blues so don’t purchase that title and this title. I wonder why they have different names for the same book?

This plot was gritty and well written. A stolen tractor, a murdered man, a theft ring and more. The descriptive scenes would just about make a vegetarian out of you if you aren’t one already. That’s not the entire book, mind you, just the interviews at the slaughterhouse. It was necessary to the plot and worked well.

Winsome is back and has a big role in this book. I love her character – she is a hellva detective and I hope she is in more books. Annie Cabbot is also featured. One day I hope she and Banks will get together and he stops diddling around with younger women. Ok, one young beauty interested in him in a previous book was fine but seriously….there is another young attractive woman mentioned in the beginning of this book as well.

As for the mystery – it all ties up neatly near the end.  You are left guessing who is the thief and who is the murderer up until the last few chapters. I like it when it can’t be figured out early on.

Food mentions are frequent as British detectives do some of their meetings in pubs. But we also have Winsome Jackman out on a date. Check out the passages in the photos.

We have Beef and Mushroom Pie and haddock, served with fries / chips.

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Now this meal below….I could go for a glass of Rioja and a cheese plate.

banks2

Next up is book #23 and I will be caught up until the July publication.

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The Olive Farm. {An Irish woman starring in a BBC production landing in France. Very International.}

Expatriates-in-paradise genre – One of my favorites!

I have long been a fan of Irish actress Carol Drinkwater. She was my favorite Helen in the series All Creatures Great and Small, a series I very much enjoyed.  That’s where we got our son’s name, from the character Tristan Farnon.  She left that series in 1985.

When I read the books, after seeing some of the BBC television shows, it was her voice I heard when Helen was speaking.

When Carol wrote The Olive Farm  I was delighted to learn it would be a trilogy. Combining a favorite genre (expat-lit genre) with Drinkwater’s writing style makes for a winning combo. This is the first book in her bestselling trilogy, all of it set on her Provencal olive farm.

Carol met her husband Michel while they were involved in making a movie in Australia . He proposed to her on the first date and they married four years later.  Eventually they bought this gorgeous ruin of a villa built in 1904, located in Provence . The villa is named Appassionata – meaning passion – and very appropriate for Carol and Michel as they fall heels over ears in love with the place.

“I am in the south of France , gazing at the not-so-distant Mediterranean , falling in love with an abandoned olive farm,” Carol Drinkwater writes. “The property, once stylish and now little better than a ruin, is for sale with ten acres of land.”

After investing all the money she has they are able to move into their new home, devoid of electricity and water. French law is a different animal altogether from British and American laws as Carol learns while sifting through the endless paperwork and awaiting the many appointments to sign one or two papers. Finally, Appassionata is theirs!

Carol, Michel and his teen aged daughters Clarice and Vanessa arrive one extremely hot afternoon, with the promise of a swim in the pool. Alas….no water and the pool is a pit of sticks and branches. Carol struggles to make it a positive experience and tries to speak her limited French to the girls. The stepdaughters can speak English but make Carol work at communicating. Eventually they become a close knit family….. along with a number of stray dogs and good friends among the local citizenry.

The experiences she writes about were fascinating to me and she clearly has a better work ethic than I do. Restoring an old villa like that is hard work. HARD work! They uncovered ancient Roman looking steps and tiles. They found some of their olive trees were over 500 years old…..it’s an expat’s dream IF you don’t mind hard work – both physically and culturally.

Carol took language classes to improve her French, quickly becoming fluent. An engaging book about France , olive harvesting, conquering cultural barriers and love. Above alllove.

If you like the works of Peter Mayle and Frances Mayes I feel certain you would enjoy Carol’s musings about Appasionata and her love of southern France .

To learn more, check out the links below:

Carol Drinkwater
Home Hunts
It Shouldn’t Happen to an Olive Farmer!

Food: Caponata and Tahini Hummus on toasted baguette

The inspired dishes from this book include eggplants, caponata and tapenade. The little bites of appetizers you might enjoy sitting in the shade of Carol Drinkwater’s patio, the hot breeze licking your cheek as you sip an ice cold glass of white wine and nibble bruschetta.

Eggplants from the southern Mediterranean area would have a different taste from what I can lay hands on in Northern Florida but….still a wonderful treat.

An Irish woman starring in a BBC production landing in France.  Very International.

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Agatha Raisin – The books and the TV series

M.C. Beaton writes two series – 27 books so far in the Agatha Raisin series and 33 books in the Hamish MacBeth series. For years I have been enjoying the Agatha Raisin books but I am no where near caught up to her exploits.

I was delighted to see Acorn TV produced a television series based on the books. There is already a long running series for Hamish MacBeth starring Robert Carlyle, but I haven’t gottern interested in that one as of yet.

agathaRaisin So, how do the Agatha Raisin books compare to the TV show? From the first two episodes they actually follow the plot well.  The physical differences are quite different for me but then, we all get certain ideas as to what a book character looks like as we read.

TV Agatha is much prettier and more physically fit than the book version.  Also, the TV character James Lacey (a romantic interest of Agatha’s) is younger and quite dishy, in my opinion.  Overall the plot does follow the books and I hope they continue with the series.

There was a TV series on back in the 1990’s called Murder, She Wrote.  Jessica Fletcher was the amateur sleuth, using her charm and persistance to solve crimes.  This is rather an English version of that old show but with a Bridget Jones’ twist to our main character.  If you like mysteries and love to see the English countryside, this is a show I think you would enjoy.

There is a YouTube video at the bottom of this post if you’d like to get a preview of the show. I love the scenery!

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