31 July, 2018

Mamma Mia!

We went to see Mamma Mia 2 a couple of days ago. Our daughters had been dying to see this sequel, having loved the first film, so the anticipation was high.

The movie was good to watch -- very easy on the eye, pretty locations and, of course, fun songs. Lily James was excellent as young Donna and it was great to see Meryl Streep performing again, albeit for a short period of time.

The downside was that Mamma Mia 2 is very low on plot compared to its predecessor. It really does seem like the producers are just looking for an excuse to repeat the box office success of the first film.

Still, if you can suspend your disbelief for a couple of hours and concentrate on the music and images alone, then this is an entertaining enough way to while away an evening.

Holiday in Montenegro

We have recently returned from a family holiday in Montenegro. We had a great time there and I would highly recommend Montenegro as a destination.

There is a lot to see and do in this small country -- ancient walled towns, lovely mountain drives, pleasant coastline, Roman remains, and even a water park for those who enjoy that kind of thing.

We particularly enjoyed visiting Kotor. This Italianate walled city is particularly beautiful and boasts lovely architecture, grand old mansions, winding streets, and craggy walls that you can walk along for excellent views out to sea. Budva is another pretty, walled town; smaller and quieter than Kotor.

We also enjoyed driving up into the mountains via small roads that were full of hairpin bends. It was cooler up here (a welcome break from the searing heat below) and the houses looked Alpine -- quite different from the Mediterranean-style architecture that we saw elsewhere.

The people were very friendly and the food in the numerous restaurants good and plentiful. We had a couple of lovely meals in the old fishing village of Perast, overlooking the sea. Idyllic.

Finally, we were lucky enough to stay in a beautiful apartment (just one of four) in a remote village. Our host was charming and encouraged us to pick the fruit and vegetables that grew in abundance in the grounds.

All-in-all, a perfect holiday!

23 June, 2018

Giffords Circus

Every year we pay a visit to Giffords Circus and every year we love it. Yesterday's visit was no exception.

As usual, the performance was funny, thrilling and hugely entertaining. This year's theme was the 250th anniversary of the birth of the circus, and there was an even stronger focus than usual on 'traditional' circus acts, exemplified by the bigger-that-usual comic turn by Tweedy the clown.

We were delighted to see Nancy Trotter Landry back as the compere. She is very, very funny and can sing wonderfully. Not to mention those hugely expressive eyes!

The live band was excellent, the 1930s-style consumes beautiful, and the acrobatic acts were particularly impressive this year.

An excellent evening out -- highly recommended!

West Wycombe

I haven't written anything on my blog for a long time, due to a severe lack of time coupled with various family emergencies, so I'm going to try and make up for that somewhat this weekend.

So, first up, we had a lovely day out a couple of weekends ago vising West Wycombe.

We started off at National Trust property West Wycombe Park. This is a gracious Palladian mansion set in beautiful landscaped gardens. The house doesn't have that many rooms open to the public, but those that are open are well worth a look -- plenty of frescoed ceilings, interesting paintings, etc. The grounds are very pleasant to stroll around with a lake, pretty bridge, and several strategically-placed eye-catchers. It puts you in mind of Tom Stoppard's fascinating play, Arcadia.

After visiting the house, we walked from the NT car park into the village of West Wycombe, looking for some tea. We happened upon a really lovely place -- The Apple Orchard. This place combines a cafe with a very extensive gift shop selling all sorts of lovely stuff from jewellery and scarves to artisan furniture and high-end beds. The cafe has a beautiful enclosed garden at the back where you can sit and enjoy your meal at one of the wrought iron tables. The staff are incredibly welcoming and accommodating and the food delicious. I would highly recommend this place!

02 April, 2018

Easter weekend

We have had  a very pleasant, family-oriented Easter weekend.

On Friday we ventured out in the pouring rain to Waddesdon Manor to do the Easter egg hunt there. Our teenage kids are far too old for this now, but our youngest still (at fourteen!) has great memories of these hunts from when she was little and likes to re-live her youth. So, we duly did the hunt, claimed the chocolatey prize and had some yummy coffee and cake in the tea room.

Saturday saw us visiting my parents-in-law in London. We were treated to a lovely lunch (including a cheesecake decorated with Easter eggs!) and enjoyed having a relaxed day, chatting and catching up.

On Sunday, my husband and I went on a walk around University Parks in Oxford -- again it was wet, but the fresh air was great. We followed up with coffee and cake at the Barefoot Cafe in Jericho.

Monday saw us walking again -- this time in the Cowley area of Oxford, where we used to live many moons ago. It is always really interesting to see how areas that you used to know intimately have changed over the years. We even took a peek at the house that we used to live in. And we stopped for coffee and a brownie at the Magdalen Arms on Iffley Road.

Now it's back to work and back to reality -- but we are, hopefully, a bit more relaxed than when we left work on Thursday!

11 March, 2018

New book "Leaving London" available for purchase

Finally, my new book is available for purchase!

It's called Leaving London and you can buy it on Amazon.

Here's the blurb:

For Lucille Glencross, career is everything and relationships are nothing. Having experienced a fractured childhood, she is convinced that the only route to happiness involves standing on her own two feet and trusting no one. In this way, she protects herself from further hurt.

But when her best friend invites her to be a bridesmaid in Italy, Lucille’s orderly world is turned upside down. Whilst meeting new people and observing different customs, Lucille begins to wonder whether she’s got it all wrong. Could there be another, happier way to live her life?

Bella Napoli

My husband and I enjoyed a lovely evening out with friends yesterday at local Abingdon restaurant Bella Napoli.

I have been to Bella Napoli a few times recently and rate it highly. It is based in a lovely old building in the centre of Abingdon, festooned by creepers in summer, and inside has lots of dark polished wood and white linen table cloths. It is relaxed and frequented by an older crowd, which lends a very pleasant and easygoing dining experience.

The food is good and fresh -- pasta, pizza and Italian meat and fish mains; the house wine is surprisingly mellow and tasty; and the prices are pretty reasonable too.

The staff are friendly and attentive, whilst remaining low key.

If you're looking for good food in a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere and don't want to spend the earth, Bella Napoli comes highly recommended.