Sunday, 19 January 2014

Maeve's Times by Maeve Binchy - A Great Collection of Articles from The Irish Times

Last year I wrote how Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without unwrapping a lovely book by Maeve Binchy, so I was very excited to receive Maeve's Times this year.
It's a selection of her work first published in the Irish Times over an amazing five decades!
Most people will remember Maeve for her wonderful novels full of warmth and humour, and indeed these articles reflect that too, such as A Week of Self-Improvement, where she attends an Italian class (which obviously gave her the idea for Evening Class); brightened herself up with a disastrous facial for £2.80 (well it was 1976); helped serve lunch to some elderly people and, impressed by their wisdom, came away not so afraid of getting old; dealt with her office being brightened up by crawling under her desk and getting stuck in the corner whilst the workmen got on all around her; and took a walk around the City and got her handbag knocked out of her hand by two men who were actually trying to kill each other!
Other articles are more serious such as two news reports about the Greek coup and Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster in 1987.
She was lucky enough to attend three Royal Weddings, perched high up with the Press in St Paul's or Westminster Abbey, and followed the story of Diana and Charles from their engagement in 1981 to his engagement to Camilla in 2005.
It is truly a fabulous book; one to dip into or read from cover to cover in chronological order. I really hope that Róisín Ingle, the editor, brings out volume two!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Night Music by Jojo Moyes is a Book Full of Passion!

Jojo Moyes has written another wonderful book, Night Musicfull of passion for music; passion between lovers, passion amongst families; and passion for the Spanish House.
The story opens innocently enough with Laura McCarthy taking chicken casserole and a baked potato over to the elderly Mr Pottisworth in the Spanish House, but although Laura plays a significant part in the story, it's really about Isabel Delancey, a recently widowed, gifted violinist who inherits Spanish House from a distant cousin.
Is this the end to all Isabel's problems? No, the grand old house is falling apart, and she hasn't enough money to repair it. There isn't even a plug for the fridge or a plumbed-in bath.
Now, step in Matt, Laura's husband who is also a  builder. The pair have always had their eye on Spanish House, and Laura has looked after Walter Pottisworth, hoping that he will leave it to them, and Matt has even drawn up plans for its renovation.
However, Nicolas Trent, an estate agent, who discovers the house and grounds, also sees its potential and wants to redevelop it and remake his fortune. He seems interested in Laura as well.
Therefore, the house and its lake provide the backdrop to the evolving story of how Isabel and her children: fifteen-year-old Kitty and her younger brother, Thierry, come to terms with living there, with Kitty often taking on the role of mother instead of Isabel, who drowns her sorrows by playing her cherished Guarneri violin late into the night, whilst the others plot to take Spanish House off her hands.
Other characters who add richness and depth to the story are Byron, a man about Isabel's age, with a secret past who works with Matt and helps the family settle in, and Henry and Isad, the 'cousins' who run the village shop after careers in the City, and observe the comings and goings of village life.
This is altogether a wonderful mixture for a novel to settle down with on a cosy evening. It's believable, it's great and I loved it!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year from Hogwarts!

Happy New Year from Hogwarts!
Over the holidays we visited the Harry Potter Studio Tour at Watford, and as Ron might say, 'It was bloody brilliant!'
We wandered through the Great Hall set up for Christmas, and saw costumes used in the films, then through sound stages J and K (yes, I know!) where we passed the Gryffindor Common Room, the boys' dormitory, Hagrid's house and Dumbledore's study and much more. Fabulous to think that the films were actually shot there over the years.
Only a certain number of people were let in at a time, by ticket, so it was never too crowded.
It's a great place to visit the next time you're looking for a day out!