On the Road Again…

In 2006, I was hit head-on by a drunk driver in Colorado. While I escaped serious physical injuries, the event left me mentally traumatised and I suffered flashbacks for years. One of the unexpected joys of living and working in London was the proliferation of public transportation options.

I spent many happy years without driving, though I did my fair share of grumbling about the freezing cold train platforms waiting for connections on the evening commute or the packed tubes with dodgy men and their wandering hands or the seemingly endless number of people coughing on me.

But I knew when we moved to Yorkshire that I’d have to get behind the wheel again. And in the past two weeks, I’ve driven more miles than in the previous five and half years down south. And, slowly, very slowly, I’m starting to remember the joys of driving. Continue reading


The Art of Walking with Henry David Thoreau

I believe in the forest, and in the meadow and in the night in which the corn grows.

There have been many times I’ve stood before the vastness of nature – taking in the valley views from a mountain top, watching the ocean throw its waves against the shore – and felt myself small, even insignificant. It’s a feeling I cherish, knowing that, in the grand scheme of things, my worries and quotidian affairs are unimportant.

It is the perspective that I seek when I go walking and one that Henry David Thoreau captures so eloquently in his essay Walking (free e-book | public library). It is the essay that contains one of my favourite quotes:

I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit. In my afternoon walk, I would fain forget all my morning occupations and my obligations to Society. But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village. The thought of some work will run in my head and I am not where my body is – I am out of my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?

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An autumn walk in Kew Gardens

We only have a few days left in London before we make our move to Yorkshire. Obviously, we can’t wait! But we’re also trying to make the most of our time here.

Almost on a whim, we decided to go for an autumn walk in Kew Gardens, London’s largest UNESCO World Heritage site. I can’t believe that I’ve lived here for five and a half years and haven’t visited Kew Gardens before. With my love of nature walks I feel I’ve left this way too late and I wish I’d seen it in every season. It definitely belongs on my favourite things to do in London list.

There is a delightful mix of Victorian architecture, modern art and botanical installations that will captivate you for hours. We loved the long stretches of grassy paths bordered by towering trees and bushes in gold, orange and red as well as the enormous glass greenhouses that house a profusion of foliage from around the world. Continue reading

Book Review: The Horseman by Tim Pears

On the Devon-Somerset border in 1911, twelve-year-old Leo Sercombe watches the world with dark eyes, a silent tongue and the desire to see and understand things for himself. As the year unfolds, keeping only to the timetable set by the seasons and the requirements of the land, Leo follows in the footsteps of his father, a carter on Manor Farm, one of the farms belonging to the estate of Lord Prideaux.

There were six farms on the estate. No two fields among them were of like size or configuration. No tracks ran straight but dipped and wove around the tumps and hummocks of land. Some hedges were laid, others left tall and wild. Conifers grew in neat yet oddly shaped plantations. Oak and ash and beech trees seeded themselves in hidden combes. Streams meandered in no discernible direction, cutting deep narrow gullies here, trickling over gravel beds there. Erratic walkways criss-crossed the estate. The boy’s father Albert told him that when God created this corner of the world He’d just helped himself to a well-earned tipple. His mother Ruth derided that blasphemy and said that much of their peninsula was so contoured, her husband had seen little of it.

Continue reading

Book Review: The Boston Girl

‘Ava, sweetheart, if you ask me to talk about how I got to be the woman I am today, what do you think I’m going to say? I’m flattered you want to interview me. And when did I ever say no to my favorite grandchild?’

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant (Simon and Schuster, 2014) is the life story of Addie Baum, as recounted by the 85-year-old woman to her youngest granddaughter. A descendent of Russian Jews who immigrated to America before the turn of the century, Addie was born in Boston in 1900 and her story touches some of the major events of the 20th century – World War I, the flu epidemic, Prohibition and the Great Depression – as well as the more quotidian experiences of women at that time. Told in first person narration, Addie tells Ava about her early struggles as a girl growing up in a Boston tenement, her introduction to love, her pursuit of meaningful work and self-sufficiency and the relationships that defined her. Continue reading

Escape to Tuscany

Tuscany. The dry, heavy heat enveloped us as we stepped off the plane. We turned to each other in disbelief, wide smiles on our faces. The England we’d left behind had been unseasonably cool and rainy for weeks.

We moved quickly through the airport and into the rental car to start the journey to our destination: Four adults with four large suitcases crammed into an Audi A3. Google Maps fired up on the phone. The road laid out straight before us. It wasn’t the smoothest two hours of our lives as we followed the map down narrow side streets in the technology’s misplaced efforts to take us by the fastest – though not the most direct – route. But we all arrived with our sense of humour more or less intact. And we managed to avoid the tolls. Score!

The landscape’s colouring around Pisa was flat: late-summer green that had all the moisture baked out of it, pale gold hammered thin and blanched by the sun, dusty terra-cotta red roofs and floors. There were fields of sunflowers, all their petals gone, row upon row of black heads bowed in defeat to the relentless summer heat. Successive hills with gentle slopes revealed a stone villa here, a walled city there. And we passed small, ramshackle towns in the blink of an eye. Continue reading

Book Review: Streets of Darkness by A.A. Dhand

In an episode of the BBC Books and Author’s podcast that aired in July 2017, Abir Mukherjee sent in a report from the Bradford Literature Festival. In one segment, he interviewed A.A. Dhand about his crime series starring Harry Virdee, a Detective Inspector working the streets of Bradford while trying to keep the dark secrets of his past and his family from encroaching on his day job.

As a son of Bradford, Dhand spoke about how the city is always evolving, comprised of many facets: monoculture meets multi-culture, East meets West; there is beauty as well as darkness. For Dhand, it’s the perfect setting for a crime series. I was intrigued, and with our move to West Yorkshire imminent, I wanted to dive into the modern literature of the north. Continue reading