11 October, 2016

The Making of Us

I have just finished reading 'The Making of Us' by Lisa Jewell, which I really enjoyed.

The basic plot involves three young people -- Lydia, Dean and Robyn. All three were conceived from the sperm of the same sperm donor and, as the story unfolds, each learns that they are a sperm donor child. Furthermore, they each learn, via registering with the Donor Sibling Registry, that they have siblings. They are very curious about this and, in the end, they arrange to meet one another.

Despite the fact that they are all very different personality-wise, when the three meet, they immediately connect on a deep, emotional level. It is as if something was always missing from their lives and now they have found it. They are at ease and relaxed in one another's company, right from the word go. Their common heritage appears to override everything else.

It was this part of the book that I found really interesting -- the immediate connection despite the enormous personality differences and the absence of contact previously. I don't know whether that is true to life for donor siblings, but it is rather different from my experience of (non-donor) family. Having grown up in a very difficult family, shared inheritance -- the genetic connection -- doesn't mean a great deal to me. What matters from my perspective is that someone is a good, decent person who shares my values and understands my way of thinking. That may be a family member but, equally, it may not. There's no hard-and-fast rule: it all depends on your own personal experience, I think.

26 September, 2016


We spent the last couple of Sundays decorating the kids' rooms. This proved to be rather a different experience from that of a few years back. Now that the kids are teenagers, they are as (more?) capable of proficient decorating than we parents are. So, all four of us set to -- two with rollers and two with brushes -- and we were finished in a couple of hours. Amazing!

Of course, what took rather longer was sorting out all the junk in the kids' rooms. They did this themselves and it's incredible how much they have accumulated in a relatively short period of time. We had to do several trips to the charity shop to offload all the unwanted goods...

I've got my eye on redecorating the sitting room next, but somehow I doubt the kids will be so keen to help with a room that isn't all their own!

04 September, 2016

Life without kids

Every summer, our kids spend a few days staying with their grandparents. They always have a great time and, although we miss them hugely, it's a good opportunity for us to be a couple and do lots of nice things by ourselves.

Here's what we got up to last week:

  • We popped down to the riverside Nag's Head pub in Abingdon and sat in the lovely evening sunshine enjoying a glass of wine and a pizza.
  • We visited our local Thai restaurant, the Zabb Thai, and had a delicious (as always) dinner. We love this restaurant: the food's great, the owner is so friendly, and the restaurant is small and intimate.
  • We went to the cinema to see the latest Woody Allen film, Cafe Society.
All of this was great, but probably the best thing of all was what we did together with the kids when we picked them up. We we went to see Macbeth at Shakespeare's Globe. We really enjoyed the play -- it was imaginative and well acted and the setting was stunning.

And, of course, it was wonderful to see the kids again!

27 August, 2016

Chedworth Roman Villa

We had a good day out today at Chedworth Roman Villa, near Cheltenham.

Chedworth was a large and high-end Roman country house, with underfloor heating and on-site bathhouses, and is now owned by the National Trust. There is little left standing and as a visitor you are reliant on the plaques telling you what each room was. However, you can see well-preserved mosaics and the remains of the hypocaust. There is also a small museum displaying a variety of domestic artefacts.

The villa is set in beautiful countryside and manned by friendly and knowledgeable staff. There is a pleasant cafe on site, selling the usual National Trust fare, and a small gift shop.

We very much enjoyed our visit to Chedworth, not least because it made a change from the grand stately homes that are more generally the province of the National Trust.

The Happy Plaice

We had a really good eating experience at The Happy Plaice earlier this week.

The Happy Plaice is a mobile fish and chip van which serves Steventon and other villages in the Vale of White Horse. We heard about it from friends, who recommended it, and our kids were keen to try it out, so we decided to give it a go.

We didn't set off with very high expectations because we tend to find that, while fish and chips sound good in principle, all too often they are pretty horrible--unpleasant fish, soggy chips, etc., etc. However, The Happy Plaice really did live up to our friends' recommendation. Our meal was cooked to order (in fact we, had to wait 25 minutes as others were ahead of us in the queue, but that wasn't a problem as we whiled away the time by walking along the ancient causeway), and when it came was piping hot and fresh. The fish was of excellent quality, the chips were crisp and our meal even came with a slice of lemon! We picnicked on the village green at Steventon, which was lovely, and adjacent to where the van parks, so very convenient.

We would definitely visit The Happy Plaice again and would certainly recommend it as an unusually good fish and chip experience.

08 August, 2016

Summer holiday in Italy

We recently came back from our summer holiday in Italy.

We stayed in a beautiful spot in the hills about 45 minutes' drive from Naples -- Villa Le Favole. This was a privately owned villa with three apartments for guests and a handful of B&B rooms. The setting was wonderful -- in the middle of nowhere with a lovely Italianate garden and peaceful swimming pool. Highly recommended.

We did a lot of sightseeing -- Pompeii, Herculaneum, Naples, Vesuvius, the Amalfi coast towns of Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and Ravello, to name some of the places. We enjoyed it all, and left with a particularly soft spot for Ravello, with it's winding streets, lovely old church and gardens that were open to visitors.

My husband and I have visited this area of the world before, but about twenty years ago. Our kids were keen to see Pompeii and Vesuvius, which is why we revisited -- and we're very glad we did.

Fun-filled summer weekend

It was sunny this weekend just gone, and my family and I made the most of it.

On Saturday, we drove out to the Cotswolds -- to little-frequented Eastleach Turville, to be precise -- and enjoyed a beautiful, peaceful walk following the River Leach. We took a picnic with us and ate it sitting in the middle of a meadow. It was wonderful -- the warmth, the landscape, the company of my lovely family...

We came home via the heavily touristed, but still very pleasant, Cotwolds town of Burford. We had tea at landmark cafe Huffkins. What did we have? Their famous lardy cake, of course. Delicious! We also picked up some plants for our garden from a little nursery that operates out of the owner's front garden in the back streets of Burford.

On Sunday, we went for a late afternoon swim at the Abingdon open air pool, which was again lovely. Not too busy, dappled sunshine, pleasantly warm water. And we wound up with a post-swim drink at Abingdon's waterside pub, the Nag's Head. Their riverside garden is a great place to enjoy a drink in the sun.

Pretty good for one weekend, I think!