Go set a Watchman – Harper Lee

Book 20 of the Reading challenge – 2nd in a series.

This book is set 2 decades after To kill a Mockingbird. Jean-Louise Finch ‘scout’ is now 26 and has been living in New York City. She returns home to visit her aging father, Atticus.

It is a time when civil rights tensions are high and politics are changing in the south. This book could have been so good, especially with the backdrop of To kill a mockingbird, however it is not good.

The characters are flat and boring. The book is flashback after flashback but these are often long winded and lend nothing to the story other than to show how obnoxious and selfish Jean Louise has become. Atticus is barely a character in this book, so lifeless and dull. The writing is clunky, stilted and rambling.

I loved to kill a mockingbird but this …. Well I won’t get those hours back again or waste any more time on it.

What have we been up to ?

If you read the previous post then you’ll know we’ve been busy having fun both as a couple and family.

Trying to find things to do with a teenager can be difficult, expensive or ‘boring’. However recently we sent an afternoon in Liverpool and booked a escape room, (one of The 100 ideas) with Escape Hunt based at The Royal Albert Dock. As it was our first experience with an escape room I chose a medium level room with a Wild West theme.

We arrived early, and it was a good job as we couldn’t find the entrance ! A cracking start. Once inside we packed away our phones and collected our Stetson hats. Then in we went, our host gave us some simple instructions. Check everywhere, if it moves it may be useful. If you need a hint ring the bell. Then the door was closed and our time began.

We started in a small room with panels, boxes and lots of locks, keys and codes. We split up and set to work. We realised quickly our own strengths and each worked on different puzzles and got the door to the next room opened quite quickly. One of the puzzles needed all of to sit, stand and move in specific ways before the ‘gold’ was released and was very funny. We didn’t find all the gold but did manage to get the train started and ‘escape’ in 55 minutes and 25 seconds. It was a lot of fun and we’re going to attempt another adventure soon.

I live in a very busy household, so mostly we have days out or spend time at Simon’s (much quieter) house. However recently we’ve started having some evenings at my house playing board or card games. Some aren’t grandparent friendly but lots of laughing usually brings them into the kitchen to see what is going on. We’re not too competitive, sometimes we start keeping score but then chaos descends and the points go out the window in favour of fun and laughter.

As well as games night we’ve had some movie nights. The teen has chosen a few of them and usually made good choices, although the last one was awful and almost 3 hours I’ll never get back.

We also have created a playlist together, we both add songs we like and have agreed not to remove any added by the other person (unless duplicates by same artist) and usually listen to it on journeys and around the house. Some interesting choices added by both of us, the younger generation don’t like most of it !

We are enjoying sending time together, as a couple and with each other’s children, learning how to be a family. A new normal.

A list update

I haven’t done a list update for a while, maybe a year ! So if you’re not aware my blog started because of a list. The reason for this list was a previous blog of mine. I was 42 and leading a very boring life. So with the help of some friends we made a list – a 50 things before 50 list. It was to give me a focus, bring some fun and adventure into my life. And on the whole it did just that. One of the things on that list was to start a blog. But how and what about ?

Well what better than the list itself and the adventures it lead too, and all was going well. I enjoyed writing and interacting with people in the comments. Then my life fell apart. In the space of three months I lost my partner and job. Everything crumbled. I stumbled along with the blog for a little while but it was all too much.

5 years later and a wonderful supportive new person entered my life and the (yet again) dull and boring life had a purpose. I wasn’t plodding on daily but looking forward to days out and adventures.

During a random conversation I mentioned the old blog and an idea was born. A new list, a new blog. This one. And The 100 list was born. That was almost 2 years ago now and we’ve made good progress. In 2021 we completed 13 of the 100, and last year we completed a further 19. Most have individual blog posts written, others I will write a round up of together.

One thing the list has done is bring us together. Some of the items are for us as a couple, whilst others are more family based so ensured a close bond is forming between us all. Life isn’t so dull anymore.

Life may not be perfect but it’s a lot happier with a little adventure in it.

Goodnight Mister Tom – Michelle Magorian

Book 19 of the Reading challenge – a childhood favourite.

I read this book in primary school, before the age of 11 and still have my original copy. I loved this book then and have re-read it several times since.

The story is of a young boy, Willie Beech, born and raised in London, a city boy. Brought up by a very strict mother. She uses religion as an excuse to ‘punish’ Willie on a regular basis. He has never known love.

Britain is at war, world war 2, and as the bombs begin to fall on the city the children are evacuated to the safety of the countryside.

Willie is put into a train with a change of clothes. Mr Tom is a gruff but caring old man who has lived alone since the death of his wife and child, with only his dog Sammy for company. He doesn’t want to take in a child but the law states he must. So Willie is allocated to him.

Willie is terrified of everything, the dog, the dark, the quiet and making a mistake and being punished. Tom realised quickly that this quiet, shy boy needs love and gently works to earn his trust. Soon a bond begins to form.

Willie is thriving, going to school, eating well, putting on weight, then a letter arrives from his mum and he is summonsed back to London. After a few weeks with no word from Willie, Mr Tom starts to worry and his journey to London begins.

This book is heartbreaking and heart warming in equal measures. Emotional but not sentimental or soppy. This book deals with some difficult issues with sensitivity.

London Part 3 – homeward bound

Sunday arrived with a problem, Simon was ill. During the night he had a temperature and very achy but he didn’t want to miss out on our plans. We had tickets for the Tower Bridge experience. Once again we jumped on the tube to get as close as possible so he didn’t need to walk too much.

We went up to the first landing to hear the history of the bridge with videos and photos of how it changed over the years. Actually it hadn’t really, only the colour and types of vehicles had altered. Then we went up onto the walkway across the road with the glass floor. There is another parallel walkway so you can see the views of London from both sides of the bridge.

From here we wandered back to Covent Garden and the London Transport Museum, it was supposed to be for Simon but by now he was really not good so found a comfy seat and dozed whilst I wandered (he insisted). It was very busy with families and children. It was interesting, especially the exhibition about the disused train lines and tube stations. One is now a bat habitat and park for people to enjoy.

After an hours rest Simon was feeling a little better so we left and walked through Soho and into Chinatown where we stopped for lunch. Soup and Sui Mai, delicious.

We had a little time to spare before our tickets for a West End show and Simon wanted to show me Liberty’s – wow what a beautiful building inside and out, although the chandeliers he wanted me to see have been removed.

It was time to head to The Lyric Theatre for 2.22 A ghost story – what a show. It is a very small cast, an interesting story, a few jump scares and what an ending ! No spoilers here. Well worth seeing. We both loved it.

Simon was starting to droop again. So back to the hotel and time to get packed up for our journey home the following day. An early night was needed.

Our journey home was very uneventful, we both dozed, listened to music and generally relaxed. Once home Simon took to his bed and I came down with it a few days later.

It was a wonderful weekend, I saw many new places, had little bits of Simon’s history pointed out and loved him being the leader around ‘his local area’ – Simon feels sad that he was ill for part of it but I loved our time together.

London Weekend part 2

Saturday arrived with an early start and rain, thankfully only light. We jumped on the tube to Notting Hill Gate and walked along Portobello road while the market was being set up. We spotted a small café down a back street, Mike’s café, with seats available indoors and what a treat. The food was delicious and not expensive, especially for the quality.

The rain had eased and we continued onwards. Our first visit was to be at The Museum of Brands. A relatively small museum packed with fun, facts and nostalgia. It was interesting to see how times, packaging and marketing has changed over the decades. Lots of childhood and recent memories were evoked in this museum.

After a couple of hours exploring it was time to leave, a five minute walk from here is Grenfell tower and the memorial to the people who died in the tragedy, we stopped to pay our respects before heading back along Portobello Market and Notting Hill tube station.

A short journey to Chancery Lane station and it was on to the Postal museum and the mail rail. I used to work for the Post Office so it was interesting to see the history of this company and how Royal Mail moved the post quickly around a very busy city by using an underground rail system. Unfortunately the reduction in post and letters means it is no longer used for moving mail but the mail trucks have been converted with seats and take people along the same tracks showing videos of the history. It was strange to think hundreds of people worked down there and many thousand letters moved through daily.

After spending a good few hours indoors the sun had made an appearance so it was time to wander the London streets. We walked through the city and down to Covent garden. Here we made a quick stop at the Opera House, one of my favourite places. I love the ballet and I did a tour of this beautiful building and behind the scenes a few years ago on my last visit to the capital.

After wandering through Covent garden, braving the crowds, we took a short stroll to Neals Yard. Home of the Neals Yard remedies brand, it started in this small courtyard and has kept the original shops and spa here. It was pretty although the trees weren’t in blossom.

Every visit I have ever made to London has included a trip to Trafalgar square and a meal at Saint Martin’s in the field church. The food is beautiful although the prices have really gone up.

It was a very long and busy day, both us were exhausted so we headed back to the hotel and an early night.

The crazy London break part 1

We had some annual leave to use up from work, so we set about looking for a long weekend break. We started looking for a city break but then inspiration hit. Why not London ! It’s where Simon spent a lot of his youth and there are a few places on The 100 list yet to be ticked off.

So Simon set me a task, make a list (yay) of all the places I wanted to visit, not just on this visit but ever, I’m a worrier, a planner for all eventualities. So Simon took charge of organising the hotel and travel and I started the list of places. Pages and pages later we sat down and started narrowing it down to the essentials (we only had 3 days).

My top priority was St Pauls Cathedral, I’ve walked past it so many times during previous visits but neve actually been inside. We made this our first stop on Friday morning at 8.30am as soon as the doors opened.

I was not disappointed, what a beautiful building. Stunning architecture and interior. We toured the inside with audio guides, included in the entrance price and then ventured the 528 steps to the roof. WOW, in many ways. The narrow passageways, spiral staircases and the view, hard work but worth every step !

From here we walked over the millennium bridge (no longer wobbly) and to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. We have recently visited the new Shakespeare North so it was interesting to see the original to compare the two – personally I prefer the North, but I might be biased.

Walking along the Thames and passed the Golden Hind we found ‘The Clink prison museum’. This prison dates back to 1144 – one of the oldest in England. It is filled with artefacts and torture devices, many can be handled (at your own risk). There are many stories of inmates and treatment they received. A very gory, gruesome place. It’s not very big but the entrance price reflects this. It is worth a visit though.

By this time we were getting tired and needed food and a sit down. So we headed to Borough Market. What an amazing place. Filled with artisan stalls, food and drink from around the world for all tastes. We walked up and down with too much choice. In the end we decided to try something new, with somewhere to sit. Gyros with goat. So tasty.

Then it was time to get going again, still lots to see and do. Next we walked into the City of London, and to the Walkie Talkie building and the sky garden. London’s highest public garden, although it is free to enter the numbers are limited so you have to book in advance and it’s only a very short visit. Honestly we didn’t go inside in the end as there is so much greenery around London and the planting inside isn’t anything overly spectacular. The view can be seen from many other building just as well. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan so had to take a walk through Leadenhall market, lots of filming done around here.

Our last stop was a welcome break from walking and allowed us to stop, think, talk and decide on the plan for the following day. It was a pub. Not any old pub, a beautifully decorated one. The Churchill Arms.

Inside was just as interesting as the outside, every inch of ceiling and wall space was filled with ‘things’ – chamber pots, lamps, airplanes, jugs, pictures, photos, books. Everywhere. It was amazing.

I couldn’t have asked for a better day. Simon was an excellent guide, I think my joy of seeing some of his ‘familiar places’ brought them back to life for him. The ordinary became interesting again.