Happy 26 months to wee Sandy hamster….

Last month we had Charmer turning 25 years old, and this week coming our wee Sandy hamster turns 26 months…. making both of them actually very similar in age when calculated in “human years”… two distinguished gentlemen in their 70s!

While he enjoys spending most of his days cosy in his beloved little hamster pocket, we coaxed him out for a bit of a play with the wee ones and made him a little obstacle course he thoroughly enjoyed.

Usually Sandy’s out of his cage time takes place when the littlest among us are safely asleep and he can enjoy a pootle away from all the excitement that arises in his no1 fans whenever he appears for a drink of water, nods in our direction and slinks back to bed; but he cheerfully rose to the occasion of a play out with us all in his usual super way before cosying back down. ❤️

Hope you are all having a lovely week. X

March & April Reading Diary

📖 The Thursday Murder Club ~ Richard Osman 📖 Catching up on some reads from earlier in the year, having fallen by the wayside with both reading and book blogging for a bit! Back in February / March I’d got completely stuck with reading with lots else going on and the only book I finished in a couple of months was this, Richard Osman’s warm, funny, poignant and gripping Thursday Murder Club. This is simply a brilliant book, with characters so engaging that I was just sooo pleased to hear the sequel is due out this September, and am looking forward to returning to the world of Cooper’s Chase retirement village already. A compelling mystery written with touches of humour and understanding, some fast-paced twists and turns and throughout a much-needed light shone on the complexities of ageing; I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This was a book club read for us, our last of the full lockdown ones we chose ourselves while the library was completely shut, and I juggled our distanced catch-up on it with a farrier appointment for the fluffy boy who is so often my reading companion. ❤️ I’ve gifted, leant and recommended this already which definitely speaks for itself, and am looking forward to the next instalment very much.

📖 The Librarian ~ Salley Vickers 📖 Set in the 1950s in small-town England, this was a gently-paced and nostalgic novel with a steadying sense of place and lots of quiet charm. Following Sylvia, a young librarian, relocating to take her first major job in charge of the local children’s library, it has lots of lovely references to books throughout – particularly children’s books – which made for wonderful reading. As Sylvia settled to her new role and all that providing books for the children of the town brought with it, I really enjoyed some of the stories unfolding for both the librarian and the children. There were romances woven throughout too which I felt less invested in but I really enjoyed this as a story about stories and their undeniable impact.. it has left me with Tom’s Midnight Garden at the very top of my re-read list! This was our book group book for April’s meeting and I’d been so off reading I would never have finished this if it hadn’t been that – the first chosen by our own librarian again with the smallest of first connections with our library opened back up post-lockdown which I was so grateful for… and pressing on with this book about the power of books got me back out of my reading rut and enjoying at my usual pace again since. 💚

📖 Never Greener ~ Ruth Jones 📖 I had wanted to read this since it came out and had been planning to buy it new whenever I could justify it when I stumbled across this copy a while back in a charity shop on a lovely day out with a friend. I am a huge fan of Gavin and Stacey and have marvelled over and over at the writing of it and in particular just the perfect way relationships, homes, interactions, places are all drawn with such a relatable realism that can be painful or hilarious but that always rings so true. Having loved Ruth Jones’ writing in a different context, I was so keen to read her first novel; and I could definitely see in this book as expected more of that same ability to just capture people as they are in such a skilled way. The characters in this book are all flawed and complicated: The story of an affair and its impact on the lives around it, it’s not normally the kind of book I would jump to read, but there was something just so compulsively readable about it. In some ways it wasn’t exactly what I expected, and at times it was a struggle to find the characters likeable, but the story was so engaging and I found myself racing through it. I read that this was actually written as a screenplay decades before and eventually re-worked into a novel, and that Ruth Jones herself considers her second novel, Us Three, to be her first, being the first she’d actually written fully in that format, so I think I’d be really intrigued to get hold of that and read it too.

📖 The Day I Fell Into A Fairytale ~ Ben Miller 📖 This was a lovely Christmas present I got this year, and until I was given it I had no idea Ben Miller had written any novels. In fact he’s written three so far, one for each of his three children with the main characters named after them. After reading The Librarian, which was such a celebration of children’s books, I was in the mood for one for my next read (or even more in the mood than usual as they are so often my very favourites..) so I pulled this from the shelf. I really enjoyed this re-telling of well-known fairytales, and touching story of sibling relationships too. One of the things I love most about reading such a “young” book these days is being able to share it with the little ones – pages read aloud to a sleepless toddler, chatting about the illustrations (beautifully done by Daniela Jaglenka) with a curious pre-schooler – it’s such a lovely way to share reading. I really enjoyed this classically fantastical and heart-warming story.

📖 Why Not Me? ~ Mindy Kaling 📖 Another one I’d been looking forward to reading for a long time, after loving Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? a few years ago as well as the essays from Nothing Like I Imagined when they were published last year. Despite the wait, this second book definitely didn’t disappoint – so very relatable even in the midst of all the Hollywood stories and so funny I lost count of the amount of times I laughed out loud. I’ve always liked Mindy’s writing and admired her so much and I loved giggling my way through this uplifting book.

📖 The Summer Riders ~ Patricia Leitch 📖 Had a lovely venture back into my much-loved world of pony books a couple of weeks ago, to the fictional Finmory in the Scottish Highlands with Jinny and her Arab mare Shantih. I was always aware of the Shantih books growing up but I think I’ve only read an extract from one once before when I was younger, and had totally forgotten that they were set in Scotland; so just picking this up – a double-book volume I’d found along with a bundle of Jill books in a second-hand shop a long time back and never read – I really enjoyed discovering Jinny’s world for pretty much the first time. A flawed and relatable heroine with a fiery and challenging but rewarding equine counterpart, I liked Jinny for her determination, her dedication to Shantih and her desire to grow and change in her relationships; and I really enjoyed this story about friendships, family life and riding adventures in the summer heat of this beautiful stretch of Scotland’s coast. I just love reading pony books of a sunny day, at the farm or in the garden, and I read this through the beginnings of some properly warm weather here – and look forward to a summer of more!

📖 Northanger Abbey ~ Jane Austen 📖 I started re-reading Northanger Abbey earlier in the year, but had ended up pausing it for a bit and got back to it just this week, picking up where I left off, and absolutely loving it as it picked up pace. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility over and over again and love Jane Austen’s writing so much, but this is one of the novels I remembered less well, only having read it once in my uni days – where one wonderful semester an Austen module came up and I got to read these warm, smart and romantic novels for the whole term. I loved the humour in this book – despite rooting for Catherine Morland all the way, and enjoying the enthusiasm with which she met every twist and turn of her unfolding time in Bath and at the Abbey, I couldn’t help but smile along at Austen’s affectionate laughter at her expense throughout the story as well as her intelligent satire of the gothic genre in the mysterious halls of Northanger Abbey. The coming of age tale of this imaginative and endearing heroine, set to the backdrop of places that captured my imagination as much as Catherine’s, made Northanger Abbey just such an enjoyable book.

After a couple of months of not reading much at all, except the wonderful Thursday Murder Club, I really enjoyed reading such a variety in April, children’s and adults’, fiction and non, old and new; and am so glad to be back in a rhythm and already so enjoying my first couple of May books. Hope you are all having a really lovely weekend. xx

Last night of the holidays

It’s the last night of the Easter holidays, and it’s been a really lovely couple of weeks here in our little corner of the world. Weather wise it couldn’t have been more mixed, with whipping winds, days of glorious sunshine broken up by a string of unexpected April snow showers – a December-worthy blizzard swirling down outside as I type – , and in the middle – just when we needed it most – some wonderful warm and springy weather.

Right in the middle of the holidays fell Easter itself and for us it was an extra special weekend as our littlest girl turned 1 on Good Friday. We had a wonderful few days of celebrating her with visits from family over a few days for such memorable gentle but joyful garden visits that were so special. Born a week into full lockdown last year, we celebrated her 1st birthday on the very day that lockdown began easing this time around with the “Stay at home” advice being lifted in her honour! Next year hopefully a more normal world with family all able to gather together, but we were so very blessed to spend time with everyone individually and even more so to have some gorgeous sunshine to do it in.

We’ve really made the most of a lovely couple of weeks’ break. Our first “school year” is just about to enter its last term, with our biggest little having been at playgroup nearly a year now, the loveliest start to learning and playing for her before she heads to school nursery in August. After a delayed start to last term and a whirlwind of settling back into normality over a few weeks, she seemed to really enjoy the holidays, and we’ve filled them mostly with park trips, mornings at the farm with the pony and catching up with family and friends where we can, and have really enjoyed the change of pace and the quality time.

As we get ready to return to our normal routine again from tomorrow, after a wee family film night tonight and an evening pottering around packing gym shoes and spare clothes, it’s lovely to be settling back to many of the things that bring us our anchoring stability day-to-day – and that seems to be happening all around us as at long last our world begins to open up again. This morning as I drove up to the farm for Charmer’s morning visit, I passed a small group of people just coming out of the little church at the bottom of the track looking so happy to be back to a first service after a year of disruption; and when I got to the top of the hill some of the girls and ponies were loading up for a Pony Club day, horse lorries, fleeces, travel boots and the chatter of pre-show excitement filling the yard again. It’s wonderful to see people getting back to the things that are important to them after so long, and I’m really looking forward to the start of summer term, time with both girls, continuing to settle in again at work, the easing of lockdown and all the time with family and friends that will bring, and the sunshine slowly but surely edging ahead of the winter showers in their springtime wrestle!

Hope you are all well, and have a great start to the week xxx

Brighter days

It’s so long since I’ve written and life has moved on so much for us in some ways. The long-awaited return to playgroup for our oldest finally arrived after a two-month Christmas break and she is all settled back to long happy days of playing and learning with her friends and thriving on all the interactions and the re-instated routine. My maternity leave came to an end after a year fully at home, and I’m in the midst of navigating my first few weeks back at work, a mix of returning to some things with a welcome familiarity and of learning the ropes all over again with lots of completely new dimensions too. Our littlest one is approaching her 1st birthday and seeming so very grown up all of a sudden, and has been enjoying a bit of time geared more around her while her sister is off at playgroup, finding her feet in lots of ways. And as for the pony, turning 25 in a few weeks, his winter coat is coming out in handfuls and he is happily seeking out spring grass as he makes it clear he’s 100% ready for the season ahead.

But, in other ways, it feels as though life has stayed still the last few weeks and months, as we have reached 3 months since we last went into lockdown with no change, the weight of restrictions on time with family and friends and all our normal day to day activities still on us. I’ve found these last few weeks some of the hardest, and have been so looking forward to the turn of the tide. This week it feels that it finally is upon us, with the some of the springiest days we could have wished for – glorious sunshine from morning until night – and an announcement from Nicola Sturgeon on the easing up of lockdown over the next few weeks, with some very positive changes ahead and one already in place that lets us enjoy walks and garden visits with some family again after such a long wait since Christmas time.

Doing my mucking out at the farm last night, I stepped out the back and had to stop and just enjoy the sound of the birds singing and the sight of the bats swooping overhead against a sky that was just losing its light at 7pm. This has been a very long winter while we’ve waited and waited to feel a change in the air; but now at long last we can – and I am so, so looking forward to the summer ahead.

Really hope you are all doing well, having a good week and enjoying some of the first signs of spring. X

The Beekeeper of Aleppo ~ Christy Lefteri

Most of my reading in 2021 so far has been cosy and comforting – I’ve been heading off to the farm with pony books tucked in my jacket, slowly re-reading Jane Austen, breathing in the streets of Bath, finding my way through the week with Bridget Jones by my side for a bit of camaraderie and generally using reading as a lovely and reassuring escape from the world around us. This book was so, so not that (a book club pick I nearly didn’t join in with due to the reading mood I was in) and yet was one of the most wonderful books I’ve read in a long time.

This is the desperately sad and yet somehow – unbelievably – hope-glittered story of Nuri and Afra’s journey from their beloved Aleppo to the UK, seeking refuge from the war that had engulfed them. Beautifully compassionate and so painfully and perfectly written, this book is so important and so well done, shining an unflinching and much-needed light on the plight of the many refugees being forced to make such a dangerous and difficult journey. The beautiful descriptions of Nuri and Afra’s life in Aleppo, he a beekeeper and she a painter, their home life with their little boy Sami and their wider family, the peace and stability of their little world; are one of the things that make this book so wonderfully powerful, illuminating with painful truth how normal life was for these families before their world was turned upside down.

I read that Christy Lefteri wrote this after working with refugees herself, seeking to raise awareness and understanding of the crisis and the people trapped within it, and I think she achieves this beautifully with this book. Nuri and Afra are wonderfully engaging characters and their story together as the book unfolds is a deeply moving one. This is simply a very important book – wonderfully written, heart-breaking, challenging and ultimately uplifting against the odds.

January Reading Round-Up on a Snowy Sunday

2021 got off to a slow start for us all, the usual emerging from the cosy bubble of the Christmas period into a flurry of new year activity and starts never quite happening for all of us here, as lockdown began with the turning of the year and has continued since. We’re slowly edging now towards lighter nights and (hopefully) better days with some light at the end of the tunnel in all ways. But, for January at least, I sought out a few cosy reads and settled as much as possible to the extending of the lull.

Starting the year slowly, keeping the decorations up to the very last and finding myself hanging on to a bit of Christmas as long as I could, I enjoyed a major dose of nostalgia in a new book with Christmas at Mistletoe Cottage (enjoying writing some reviews on Instagram just now so will put some links in when not writing full reviews here!) returning to Animal Ark, the scene of many a childhood favourite story, in this new book series about Mandy Hope in adulthood, a really lovely read; before getting lost in Tom Michell’s lovely memoir of his time with his very characterful penguin companion Juan Salvador in The Penguin Lessons.

Over a few weeks I also read the short stories in Val McDermid’s collection Christmas is Murder, enjoying her masterful storytelling in so many different dark and unravelling tales; and got swept up in Cressida Ellen Schofield’s Incapability Brown, billed as a “pony book for adults”, a mix of a book with splashes of drama, unfolding relationships and, the parts I enjoyed most, often reading in the stable or while watching my boy graze, riding adventures. The horsey parts made me feel very nostalgic for my own riding days and because of that I really couldn’t believe it when my own came around again later the same month, my own boy, previously retired, improving in health and managing a couple of little ambles again, making my riding dreams come true. ❤️

And, lastly, I really enjoyed reading Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights, which I’ve just finally got round to posting a review on this morning, an action-packed and captivating journey and a book I’ve been wanting to read for a while and am so glad I have. For all I was looking for light and relaxing reads and all of these fitted the bill, it was the first month in a long time I didn’t find myself returning to any re-reads, the five books all new to me, and I really enjoyed my reading start to the year.

We are still in a snowy world here at the moment, and it’s now back to re-reading for me on an easy start to wintry Sunday morning. I’m lost in heroines classic and modern classic just now in Northanger Abbey which I’m loving, not having read in years, and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, much more frequently read but a true friend of a book. ❤️ Hope you are all well, staying warm and safe and having a lovely weekend. X

Pony diaries: New shoes, a happy hack and snow days

Despite ever-changing weather and a few challenges in getting to the farm this last week or so when the worst snow in a few years descended on us here; 2021 has got off to a very positive start for my fluffy boy Charmer, who has really enjoyed the past few weeks.

We started the new year in a cold snap of frosty weather, although on New Year’s Day itself there was a thaw and a bright warm sun that got our morning at the farm – and family ramble down by the horses’ fields, watching them graze – off to a beautiful and uplifting start.

Charmer continues to be doing really really well at the moment with his arthritis and in January enjoyed some in hand walks down the hill he used to struggle on, loving exploring. On the 22nd, it was New Shoes Day once again for him, and this time around – after being shod the last twice since his equilibrium shoes were put on with a bit of sedation to help him cope with it – he managed without any sedation whatsoever and without a hint of discomfort the next day which just made me so, so happy. It’s wonderful to see him thriving again – and unbelievable to see my brave boy have hot shoes put on unsedated for the first time in his life since a disastrous attempt when he was 4… who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!!!

He had his annual injections the same week, and both the vet who came out for them and the farrier were so happy with how well he was doing on his walks and in his day to day life, that we agreed if he seemed to be up for it there would be no problem with trying him with a little walk back on board to see how he managed. That’s a thing I never thought I’d do again, back in August when he was as lame as he was I was absolutely happy to retire him and didn’t expect to ever reverse that; but at the moment he is so enthusiastic about life and about his walks in hand and taking the lead from him he really did seem that getting out an explore together would be something he’d love.. so on one quiet morning when the conditions were briefly not too wintery, I just popped his bridle on and got on, just bareback and just for a quick wander around the yard, to see how he managed.

It was such a wonderful experience, I couldn’t believe how happy he was. As we wandered more of the hail stones we’ve got used to these days started, but this deterred him not one bit, and he was so keen to go. We ended up walking down the track a little, where he was pulling to just go on and on, so keen to explore, and when I turned him back, just wanting to keep it to a little wander, I had to hold him back to a walk, he was so enthusiastic and his wee head bouncing as he strained to break into a trot; it was beyond lovely to see.

So far that’s the only wee hack we’ve had, and I’ll keep them to occasional, as they always tend to be for us anyway, with some in hand walks and some little rides but everything still very steady for him. But it’s just lovely to see how much he enjoyed it and just lovely whatever he can manage to see how well he’s doing just now.

Yesterday was dentist day, with his teeth done by our same wonderful vet who has helped him so much over the last year first with his dental operation last February and then with his arthritis in the summer, and although he’s got a few things going on with his teeth that are to be expected for a boy turning 25 in a few weeks, and we’ll be keeping an eye on them with another appointment in 6 weeks time, he seems to be doing ok and at the moment is managing just fine to get his hay, grass and feed fully enjoyed. It was brilliant to have a chance to see his usual vet and get her take on how he was moving and thoughts for him, and to my relief his weight etc all seems ok and she’s happy with how he’s doing for the moment.

The last few days have been very snowy, which has been a beautiful winter wonderland (the difficulties of winter driving and practicalities of getting up to the farm aside, thankfully managed!) and Charmer has enjoyed a play in the snow as much as the kids have back at home, – rolling, running around with his field mate and some big happy bucks in the air I couldn’t quite believe his old legs could manage! It’s been lovely to see him out enjoying it.

We’re still under a blanket of snow just now, although thankfully getting around a bit easier these past couple of days, no need to park and hike up the hill anymore and just the perfect amount now for kids and ponies playing in. We’re starting to see the nights lengthening which is really lovely, and I’m really looking forward to getting my boy into spring; but am really so glad he’s managing (hopefully the last of!) the winter so well.

A happy Friday all from our snowy corner of the world. Hope you are all well xxxx

Blog birthday and a hello from Sandy hamster ❤️

It’s been 5 years this week since I started writing this blog, and I have really loved having a little outlet for all our adventures here at home and out and about enjoying the world around us. From the very beginning I’ve loved writing especially about the animal members of our family, starting back half a decade ago when we were loving looking after our rambling mischief of rats.

My lovely boys Harvey, Ty, Winston and Chae back in my very first post ❤️

Nowadays, we’re down to just one little furry resident in the house – Charmer of course a little further away! – and so it seemed a perfect time for a wee hello from our Sandy hamster, who has been with us a year and half now, unbelievably, and will be 2 years old in April.

Sandy

He is the most content of characters and a lovely addition to the household. Very happy in his own company and with his usual wee routines of reorganising his cage and keeping fit on his wheel, he also loves coming out for a ramble of a quiet evening and a cuddle on an armchair and as we find ourselves with a bit more time again, I am loving some extra time with him. He is also currently valiantly keeping the wee ones busy in lockdown, the oldest loving getting into a routine of his feeding and cleaning, and the youngest just in love with him, she could watch him scuffling about all day and he’s always happy to come up and say hello.

So a wee hello from Sandy, and a very lovely (beautifully sunny, if a little chilly!) Sunday to you all. X