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.

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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

A sunny day in Brighton

Escape to Brighton

In order to get to Brighton from where we now live in Kent, it’s easier to take a 25-minute cab ride west to a small train station than go into Central London only to come back out again. And so that’s what we do today. It’s overcast and cool, 18 degrees after a record-breaking week of 30+ degrees. And we’re revelling in the cooler temperatures.

We always seems to go to Brighton when it rains. In the past five years, I only have one clear memory of a sun-drenched day on the front when the tops of my feet got sunburned in my ballet flats and my ever-present jumper stayed in my bag the entire day. It stands out as a perfect day because I won at crazy golf – something that very rarely happens – though I still lost every game of air hockey.

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What I Learned Working at Agencies

Today is my last day working at a digital agency.

Monday I move client-side, and I can’t wait! However, like the reflective introvert that I am, I wanted to note down what I’ve learned from working at agencies and what I’m taking with me.

A quick tally…eight years, five agencies, two countries and dozens of clients. Roles I’ve held: copywriter, account manager, producer. Industries I’ve worked across: politics, financial services, hospitality, beauty, fashion, travel. Specialisations I’ve developed: direct mail marketing, subscription-based marketing, website design and build, email marketing, social media marketing. Photo shoots I’ve assisted: three. Video shoots I’ve managed: one. Influencer activities I’ve organised: upwards of ten.

No wonder I’m knackered! Continue reading

An introduction to Vancouver

To be honest, I didn’t have time to form preconceptions of Vancouver. We booked the trip at the beginning of the year, then proceeded to move to our dream house in Kent, which had to be fully kitted out, and I pursued a new role client-side (good-bye agency life!). Whirlwind doesn’t begin to describe it. I’d seen a few images of British Columbia, but my knowledge of things to do in Vancouver barely filled a hastily opened Google doc.

And so, we – inveterate planners who ran out of time – committed ourselves to spontaneity and word-of-mouth recommendations for things to do and places to eat and boarded our British Airways direct flight to Vancouver. A mere 8.5 hours later, aligned with the setting sun, we touched down in a city shrouded by twilight and clouds.

And what we found surprised us.  Continue reading

Book Review: A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

“In the Whitshank family, two stories had travelled down through the generations. These stories were viewed as quintessential – as defining, in some way – and every family member, including Stem’s three-year-old, had heard them told and retold and embroidered and conjectured upon any number of times.”

It is, in a way, this mythmaking that all of us take part in that A Spool of Blue Thread is all about. Anne Tyler’s twentieth novel is also – simply – about family. But that is a subject at once so ordinary in its familiarity and at the same time extraordinary in its unique complications and dramas, that it takes the deft hands of an author like Tyler to raise it above the commonplace or maudlin. Continue reading