This month we have loved:
* Birthday season – 4 birthdays in 4 weeks mean a lot of presents and, most importantly, a lot of cake!
* It’s kind of related to the above ^^ but I very much enjoyed my birthday weekend in Hay on Wye. I’m so glad I finally got to go and will definitely be returning.
* Daddy being on 4 and 3 day weeks. Due to bank holidays and birthday celebrations he hasn’t done a full week at work since the middle of April and we have loved having him here.
* Building and (almost) finishing a playhouse.
* Making lovely new friends.
Did we take this photo last night? Maybe.
This month has been crazily busy and I’m afraid I let the side down and just didn’t even think about it until yesterday when I saw some posts popping up.
We took 66 photographs to get this one. The lighting was bleurgh and the kids were excitable; we have plenty of three of us sitting nicely and then one child doing an impression of scream…I fiddled and faffed with the settings but in the end we had to settle for the best we could get at such short notice. Naughty me, I must try harder next month!
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
Families have secrets they hide even from themselves…
The story begins in 1964, when the wife of Dr David Henry goes into labour in the middle of a snowstorm. David’s wife, Norah, delivers twins, a boy and a girl. The little boy is born first but when David delivers the second baby, a little girl, he sees that she has Downs Syndrome. David perceives this to be a tragedy and, marred by events from his own childhood and memories of his own sister, David asks the nurse on duty, Caroline, to take the baby away. When Norah comes around from the birth, David tells her that the little girl, Phoebe did not survive and that the body has been taken away to be buried.
Some miles away, Caroline has taken Phoebe to a home suggested by Dr Henry but on arrival finds herself unable to part with the beautiful baby girl. Instead, she makes the decision to take Phoebe home with her, and to move elsewhere. Over the years, as she raises Phoebe she sends David updates but never reveals the location they are living in, helped by a friend she makes in the form of her future husband, Al.
We follow the children (Paul and Phoebe) as they grow up, David’s inner torment at the constant betrayal of lying to Norah, Norah as she struggles to come to terms with the death of her baby girl and Caroline as she struggles to find equality for Phoebe in a prejudiced world.
Although I found the book quite slow moving, I enjoyed the premise and thought that Kim Edwards wove a beautiful story on quite a controversial topic. She covered each character in depth, whilst keeping the story moving forwards although I would have liked to have had more chapters from Paul and Phoebe’s perspective.
I also thought the ending was a bit weak. David never really gets his resolution for all the years spent deceiving Norah and that left too many questions for me. Kim Edwards ties it off neatly but without closure which I thought left the book lacking particularly as I really struggled to empathise with David throughout the story; I kind of wanted him to get his comeuppance and he never really did.
That said, it’s an interesting story and if you don’t mind having to doggedly stick with it, then I think you will be pleased you did so, even if the ending isn’t quite as you’d hope. It is interesting enough, and certainly provides food for thought.
I took two pictures for this week’s letter and I have ummed and ahhed over which one is better but I really can’t decide. I like the first shot, where you really see the blade, with the rust showing etc, but the second one is an action shot and I love the capture of the sawdust.
So…this week I am going to cheat and do two for the price of one. I will leave you to decide which you like best!
For many years I have looked on in book-loving envy as friends and family have visited the quaint little village of Hay-on-Wye. We’ve had a few ‘almost’ trips there but something has always conspired against us so this year, when my Other Half asked me what I wanted for my birthday I determined that instead of presents, what I really really wanted was a trip to Hay-on-Wye.
I won’t bore you with how amazing it was but, if you love nothing more than being surrounded by row upon row of books, then you really need to get yourself down there!
We found a gorgeous B&B in the village of Kington, which was about 20 minutes away from the centre of Hay and on Saturday morning we set off for the village, arriving just after 10am when the majority of the shops opened.
I think we might be showing our age a little bit though as just 10 minutes after we arrived we had stopped for our first coffee break!
It was a beautiful day, perfect for exploring all the little alleyways and corners which is essentially what makes the village of Hay. It’s really easy to get lost and a few times we realised that we had inadvertently wandered in a circle! Our daftest moment was coming across a gem of a bookstore, spending half an hour buying books and then leaving to go and look for Richard Booth’s. We found the back of a store which looked like it was Richard Booth’s but we couldn’t work out how to get in. After lunch we sought advice from the cafe owner as to where Richard Booth’s was…followed the directions and ended up at the very same bookstore we had gone into originally. Not our brightest moment it must be said!
We didn’t just spend our time looking at books however, there was a lovely antiques market which was equally like a rabbit warren, lots of rooms containing piles of items, all owned by different sellers. It was our first time in a place like that and we really enjoyed exploring and seeing what pieces of history we could discover. I fell in love with a 1950’s coat which would have been perfect for Meg…if she’d been about 6 months old!
Being with my Other Half we also couldn’t escape a walk along the River Wye which is what we did in late afternoon once we had deposited our piles of books back into the car. The weather was stunning and Hay-on-Wye is surrounded by picturesque countryside so we didn’t want to waste the opportunity. We found a quiet spot by the river and just relaxed for an hour…it was so peaceful apart from the occasional rowboat which passed us. I think if we went again we’d definitely look into hiring a boat; I think it would be a fantastic way to explore the area.
I could go on and on and on about what an amazing day it was. I could also have spent twice as long in each and every bookstore, exploring all the many bargains located there but I think 8 hours was about my Other Half’s limit! He likes his books but maybe not that much.
Places I would recommend visiting whilst there:-
– Richard Booth’s: Three floors of amazing books in a stunning setting, I particularly loved the top floor although the real bargain books are to be found in the basement. Just try not to be too put off by the constant creaking of the floorboards above your head! Books are priced depending on the quality and the age, but I didn’t pay more than £3 for any of the contemporary fiction ones I picked up.
– Addyman Books: I believe there a few Addyman book stores in Hay; we went to the general fiction one which is located on the same road as Richard Booth’s. It’s a bit more disorganised so be prepared to root through the towers of books on the floor if you are looking for a particular novel. Books are very reasonably priced, around £1.50-2.
– Hay Cinema Book Shop (HCB): I was a bit disappointed with this as reading around it seemed like one of the most well known shops in the village. There wasn’t much by way of fiction here although you can buy new books for the same price as second hand ones, around £2-3 which was good. It’s definitely the place to go if you are looking for non-fiction books though.
We are hoping to go back next year but would like to coincide our visit with the Hay Festival which I think takes place the weekend after the one we chose as a lot of the shops were preparing for that.
It was a brilliant way to spend my birthday and I’m really thankful to everyone who made it happen – you know who you are!
Okay, so it wasn’t exactly midnight, more like 10.30pm but on Saturday evening as we sat watching Rush Hour (oh the exciting life we lead…) torrential rain suddenly started falling and after a few minutes my Other Half turned to me, all excited and said, ‘let’s wake the kids up and take them out to the playhouse!’
I’ll admit, I shot him down initially. I said he was mad. I said we would all be paying the price the following day when they were grumpy and tired. I said he’d be lucky if we managed to get them to go back to sleep.
He looked at me, with sparkling excited eyes (he’s like a big kid really!) and I relented.
It did sound a little bit fun after all.
One of my favourite sounds in the whole world is the sound of rain. When I was a teenager my room was at the very top of our house in the attic and I loved nothing more than falling asleep to the sounds of the rain hitting the roof, or cracking my skylight open to hear it all the better.
So, we hurried outside with blankets and cushions by torchlight to make it comfy and warm, my Other Half made up some hot chocolate and we went upstairs to wake two very sound asleep children up for a midnight adventure.
Meg was wide awake straight away, bouncing with excitement, ‘can we really?’ ‘but it’s the middle of the night!’ ‘I’m so excited!’
Eli was a little bit more difficult to rouse. He woke and nodded his consent about coming out into the playhouse for a treat but within minutes of being inside the playhouse he had snuggled up under some blankets and fallen fast asleep again! Apparently, despite his own regular late night adventures, he’s not one for being woken up randomly by us.
Cuddling up, with our delicious hot chocolate to the sounds of the heavy drops of rain hitting the roof of the playhouse was absolutely bliss. It was our own little family adventure and (the snores of Eli aside) I’m actually really glad we did it.
Meg was all abuzz with what had happened in the morning and it was a lovely way of making a new memory here.
Of course, now she has all kinds of grand plans to camp out in the playhouse all night long which I have very kindly volunteered her Daddy for!