The midnight library – Matt Haig

Book 8 of the Reading challenge – a ‘new to me’ author

This book was recommended by a friend, although I’ve not used it for that category as he also gave another suggestion (and the book) for that one.

This story follows Nora, bored, lonely, depressed and fed up with life she is attempts suicide and discovers ‘the midnight library’ filled with books of her life. The first book is the book of regrets, what could have been. We all have these thoughts, what if I’d said yes/no, taken that other job, etc and it shows her how life could have been different, but also how her current life would have been affected. It’s not always better and you don’t realise what impact you have had on another persons life. She starts to realise that she is lucky, loved and wanted.

This book is filled with self help and motivational ideas, although uplifting it does tend towards the ‘change your mindset’ and everything will fine, you’ll no longer be depressed and while this works for some people it isn’t always the case and medical help should be found.

In parts the book is a little weak (for me) but I did enjoy the idea behind it and was routing for Nora to get the help she needed and enjoy living. I finished this book with a much more positive mindset and actually being able to drop some of those past regrets.

Matt Haig has been very open about his own mental health struggles, especially with depression and suicide. He has written several books along these lines, as self help, motivational and to encourage people to ask for help, if this book encourages one person to seek help then it’s done its job. It certainly left me with a happier mindset and outlook on life.

The harvesting begins

The allotment has been and is my happy place. The place I go to get away from everything. There I can get lost in my plants and busy with digging and weeding, suddenly the big worries fade and the peace takes over. This year I’ve really managed to get on top of it and have planted up the majority of the plot. With the last section being covered and left unused.

The rhubarb bed was neglected the last 2 years so the harvest was a little lower this year, but we still managed 6 crumbles (with 6 portions per crumble) and I gave plenty away to friends and relatives. Our local supermarket was selling 3 sticks for £1.50 – I could have made a fortune if I’d sold it !

The new strawberry bed is looking good and the old bed is producing well. I have been harvesting strawberries twice a week for almost a month and again passing these on to family, eating plenty fresh and have frozen some. Simon has enjoyed a fair few.

The asparagus was moved to a new weed free bed earlier in the year so I didn’t harvest any this year to allow the crowns time to settle and develop but they’ve all produced well.

The raspberries are taking over everywhere, they are starting to ripen and are lovely and sweet especially the yellow variety. I will have to start digging them out later in the year before they become a nuisance.

The poly tunnel is growing well, the tomatoes took a little time to get going but now are romping away and getting flowers, the cucumber has become a triffid in the corner and the loofah plants are enjoying all the hot weather we’ve been experiencing, no flowers as yet but still time. I’ve also grown pak choi, basil and lettuce around the bottom of the tomatoes to make use of the space and give these tender plants some protection from predators. It’s worked well especially the pak choi which we’ve been enjoying in stir fries at least once a week for several weeks now.

The peas, beans, courgettes, pumpkins, sweetcorn, parsnips, Brussels sprouts and squash are all doing well and will be giving produce later in the year and I’ll update you on those another time.

One of the biggest achievements this year has been my flowers, Phils rose was moved last year and taken well with plenty of large beautiful yellow blooms in amongst the currant bushes. I’ve been cutting the sweet pea flowers for 5 weeks and it is still producing more and more scented flowers, which has been my mums favourite. I’m going to put in a few different colours next year and see how they get on.

All in all it’s been a success, so far and with the hot weather set to continue it looks promising for a bumper harvest (as long is I continue to put the work in watering, feeding and weeding)

The Manchester Weekend part 2

After a lovely sleep and shower we went for breakfast, and plenty of it. A good choice of hot food, cold meats, cheese, pastries, cereals and drinks. Never been let down by a Hilton breakfast. Then we checked out and moved the car into Manchester City centre and the AO arena.

We had most of the day so decided to have a look at the National Football Museum. It was right in the heart of the city. With a football themed play area in front for little ones to play.

The ticket was good value as it’s a year ticket, and they offered discount for NHS workers. It was really interesting, we found information about a local football team we had never heard of, even though they existed from the late 1800’s until 1986 ! We spent over 2 hours in here, lots to see, read and do. Plenty of football challenges, all included in the entrance fee.

After this we had a wander around the shops and went for a late lunch, knowing we wouldn’t be eating again. We headed back towards the arena and joined the queue. It was a little disorganised, the tickets said to arrive for 6.30 but they didn’t open the outer doors until 7pm then we queued again inside for airport style security. No-one objected, but the inner doors didn’t open until 7.30 so it was a lot of standing around in a cramped space. Finally all the doors opened and then we went to find our seats. Disappointed isn’t a strong enough word. Right in front of my seat was a huge camera blocking a quarter of the stage ! Over £100 ticket for this view, I called over a steward who confirmed I was in the correct seat and then went to get a supervisor, who saw straight away the issue and asked me to wait a moment and disappeared. He reappeared 10 minutes later with two tickets, he had moved us to the VIP section ! They realised some tickets had been incorrectly sold. Our new seats were closer to the stage and slightly higher from the floor.

The pre show lasted around 45 minutes, a French singer and band. Then the lights went off and Alicia Keys appeared. The show was amazing, she’s such a good singer and performer. My teen was in heaven, he danced and sang his heart out. She had Johnny Marr (The Smiths) on stage and sang This Charming man – I sang along to this.

After 2 hours of singing, dancing and cheering the lights came on and it was time to leave. Thankfully our car was parked in the arena and very close to the exit so we were on our way home by 11.30. The journey out of Manchester to the motorway was slow and steady, we got home just after 1am on Sunday morning. Very tired, hoarse but happy.

Photo Friday

Metal, Iron Men, Crosby beach, Anthony Gorman

The Manchester Weekend part 1

A chance remark and a relatives Facebook post lead to one of the busiest, craziest weekends making unforgettable memories with my teen.

Sitting at the dinner table talking music one evening he stated ‘I love Alicia Keys, I’d love to see her in concert’. I already knew this and had looked last year when her tour was announced but the tickets had sold out within half an hour ! However, my mum went online and discovered Ticketmaster had some returns being sold at face value, expensive but she offered to buy them as an early birthday present.

He was ecstatic, the plan was to travel into Manchester early on the Saturday morning, a day of sightseeing, then the concert in the evening and the train home. Busy but doable, that was until a relative asked if we wanted 2 Ed Sheeran tickets, it was the Friday evening (same weekend) also in Manchester. Well you can’t say no but I was supposed to be working until 5.30pm and had to be at the concert at 6pm. That was impossible, so a quick phone call to the boss and I was finishing at 3.30, that’s when the planning began. Less than 4 days to organise everything.

First I found a hotel, The Hilton at Old Trafford cricket ground, so the plan was changed. Drive to Manchester, drop the car and bag off, jump in a taxi to the concert. Then drive home on Saturday evening after the second concert.

Bag packed on Thursday and everything organised for a quick turnaround. I finished work at 3.30, was home by 3.45, clothes changed, then bag, boy and coffee in the car and on the road by 4.15.

Manchester is around 45 minute drive, although Friday traffic slowed us down a little. The glorious weather made the journey there pleasant and was perfect for watching an outdoor concert. The pre-show concert Maisie Peters, began at 6.30 just as we arrived at the stadium. We quickly found our seats, great view as the stage was in the centre of the football pitch with screens all around. An hour later and the stage was cleared, a large round screen came down and surrounded the stage and a 10 minute countdown began. The anticipation grew.

The show began, it was amazing ! One man, a guitar and a loop station. Wow. What a show it was, fireworks, fire, lots of dancing and singing (me). The 2 hours went quickly and it was over. Sadly, we left along with 60,000 other people and walked into Manchester city centre to find a taxi back to the hotel. It was 11pm when we got back, but our night didn’t end there. As we walked into our room we could see flashing lights so went out onto the balcony. The hotel overlooked the cricket ground and it was being set up for a different concert The Killers, the following evening. We watched them testing the lights for about half an hour then headed off to bed, hoarse but happy.

To be continued ……

A day by the canal

With glorious weather forecast there was only one thing to do, go out and explore. A few miles along the motorway is the Ellesmere Port boat museum, part of the National waterways museums.

The ticket is a reasonable price, under £10 per adult and is valid for a year. On leaving the entrance there are several ways to wander and no fixed route to take. There are several huts set out internally as they would have been during the 1800’s through 1900’s.

There is an engine shed, with several different types and sized engines used for many purposes on the canal and boats. There is also a working foundry which holds iron workshops. The smell of the coal burning was heavenly, thankfully only one furnace was burning and the heat bearable.

Next we clambered over the locks and went and looked around the worker’s cottages. A small row all decorated in different eras, around 20-30 years apart and showing the changes, from coal fires and candle lights, to gas lighting and eventually television. These cottages are tiny, 4 rooms on two floors and would have housed 2 families of approximately 10 people. You wonder how they all fitted in.

The small garden is full of vegetables, fruit and herbs, as it would have been in those days. There are old fashioned toys for the children to play with, quoits, hopscotch and hoops. Even the teenagers were joining in.

On the canal itself are several boats you can go aboard. From barges to homely canal boats. Working ships to homes. Some are out of the water, beyond repair but being cared for as they could be the last boat of that type in the UK.

Unfortunately they have stopped the boat tours of the canal now so instead we had tea and cake, well it’s almost Simon’s birthday and he does love tea. I resisted the urge to sing but we had a lovely few hours wandering, laughing and chatting.