Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Book Love - September


 This months book post reads like a September school timetable; featuring some problem solving, science, English literature and sports.
5 books to talk about this month:
- Mark Billingham - The Bones Beneath
- Nicola May - The School Gates
- Jonny Wilkinson - My Autobiography
- Nicola May - The School Gates
- Harper Lee - To Kill A Mockingbird.
  • Mark Billingham's The Bones Beneath is the 12th novel in the Tom Thorne series. Tom is a detective who heads up a murder team. Stuart Nicklin is serving multiple life sentences behind bars and is one of the most dangerous psycopaths that Thorne has ever put behind bars. Nicklin promises to reveal the whereabouts of a body he buried 25 yrs previously but only on his terms and if Thorne escorts him to the remote island off the Welsh coast. With multiple dangers and the body count growing, Thorne soon realises that Nicklins playing a game that he has planned for years and a race against time ensues. I'm a huge fan of the Tom Thorne series and once I got into this book I enjoyed it, however I didn't think it was as good as previous novels, I think it may have been that it was predominately set outside of London, which as much as a Thorne novel as is the character.
  • Nicola May – The SchoolGates. As titled this book revolves around The School Gates of Featherstone Primary in the small town of Denbury and is a fun read perfect for "Back to School" month. With no central story, this book centres around a number of people who all meet daily at the school gates of the primary school and how their lives layer  each other's and interlink. Gordy is a gay flight attendant, who is juggling parenthood that has been thrust upon him with twins of his much loved and departed sister. Joan is the earth mother who has a brood of children, and new born baby (who is transported around on a cat box strapped to the bicycle) juggling worries of health & her marriage. Alana is a very high powered career driven women who is hiding a very big secret from a work colleague. Dana is the ex-au pair, now 2nd wife to Mark, who is slowly realising that life as the wife isn't as exciting as the au pair mistress and desperate for a 2nd baby. Mo is the downtrodden mum who is abused by her alcoholic husband and Emily is the PTA bitch, who look's like she has it all, but crack soon appear in her perfect lifestyle. I loved these characters within this book and once I got used to how the books jumps between characters was soon deeply embroiled within the lives of the residents of Denbury. An easy fun filled read with realistic characters. Look forward to reading more from the author.
  • Jonny Wilkinson – My Autobiography. Jonny Wilkinson's career has crossed three decades and four World Cups. He has accumulated phenomenal achievements, world points records, an impressive list of broken body parts, and a drop goal that will be remembered for ever. But the peculiar calmness with which he played the game masked a very different reality. 
In JONNY, he reveals the extraordinary psychology that he had to tame in order to be able to dominate his sport. For most of his life, he was driven by a quest for perfection and an obsession to be the best player in the world; here he shows how these two facets of his competitive mind took such a hold of him that they sent him to the top of the world, then swept him up and dragged him down into a spiral of despair. Jonny's career has spanned the far reaches: amazing highs and iconic moments, then a fight against injury that culminated in a battle with depression. Here he tells of the physical toll he knew his body was taking from rugby, even from his youth; he tells of how he never wanted to be a kicking fly-half but learned to adapt his natural game to play the style that Clive Woodward believed necessary to win a World Cup, and how he nearly walked out on Martin Johnson's England team 13 years later. – this is a fantastic read and one I have returned to whilst travelling to the Rugby World cup games that I have attended. JW is one of my sporting heroes and this book is a fascinating read, his battle with demons off the pitch as big as the injuries he sustained on it.
  • Lynda La Plante – Backlash. From the author that bought us Prime Suspect, this is LLP's 8th book in the Above Suspicion (Anna Travis) series. The story centres around a man that is caught 'red handed' with a body in a van that has been sexually assaulted and murdered. Confessing to the killing and whilst under interview he also eludes to further killings, it is now up to the detective team to find the evidence and the bodies of previous killings. This re-opens a cold case of DCS Langton's featuring a missing 13year old girl. As the team become embroiled within the investigation the killer continues to play games with the team, believing that he has committed the perfect murders. This book grabs you from the beginning and it was nice reacquainting myself with the charters of previous books. The writing is gritty, graphic, and real which is the epitome of LLP's style. Loved it and can't wait to read book 9.
  • Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming-of-age story, an anti-racist novel, a historical drama of the Great Depression and a sublime example of the Southern writing tradition. Voted the most life changing book by a female author and this year celebrates its 50th birthday. This year I received the 50th birthday hardback as a birthday gift and have loved revisiting this story. It is one of my favourite books and I have read it numerous times, along with seeing it at the theatre and on screen. Studying it for my o'level many years ago, it is a book that has stayed with me over the years, I have many versions along with a much thumbed and loved copy from my teens (complete with notes in the margins) and I read it frequently. I loved the character of Atticus Finch who reminds me so much of my gramps.
  • " Shoot all the blue jays in the world, but if you hit them, remember it’s a sin to Kill a Mockingbird" A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel - a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man's struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.
    As you can see a very varied book pile this month and a lovely re-visit to a couple of favourites along with catching up with old friends in new adventures from 2 admired crime writers. A mixed book bag this month to reflect the new school year and even Taylor got in on the act of the back to school vibe!
    Here are some book posts from previous months, would love to hear what you have been reading or recommendations……
    Happy reading 
    Tx

    Sunday, 27 September 2015

    An Autumnal walk along the River...

    Last week saw the Autumn equinox begin and by far this is my favourite season.
    Determined to enjoy the glorious weather that descended upon us last weekend along with spending some time at the Rugby I opted to walk to Twickenham along the river on the Thames path.
    This was a first for me and had been on my "to do" list for sometime.
    The day was glorious and this was reflected in the number of people taking advantage of the late summer sunshine on the banks of the river at Richmond.
    Along with boats, canoes, and kayaks on the water, there were lots of rowing clubs in action for the afternoon. It was fascinating to see how local people utilise the banks of the river for their personal use for 2 legs & furry 4 legs!
     Lots of 'keep fit' activities  running and cycling and even a spot of yoga.
    Half way along the trail to Twickenham I detoured slightly to visit Petersham nurseries, which along with selling the most glorious array of plants, houses within a suite of vintage greenhouse structures a cafe and teahouse. The perfect place to stop for a spot of tea and cake!
    I opted for wholemeal apple cake which was amazing.
    The nursery gardens were in abundant with glorious autumnal blooms, my favourite being the beds of Dhalias.
    One of my favourite flowers which are making a huge revival over the past year. My Gramps would have loved these, he always had a huge bed of these at the end of the garden in amongst the rose bushes.




    Leaving the glorious gardens behind I headed back out on the trail towards Twickenham.
    Instead of walking down further along the trail I opted to cross the river by the small ferry boat which you call from a small deck on the river bank.
    I had lots of fun walking along a part of Thames that I had not explore before.
    A very lovely way to get to the Rugby and enjoy the autumnal sunshine.

    There are a number of trails along this pathway and next year I am going to explore a few further.



    Saturday, 26 September 2015

    My Rugby World Cup adventure continues.....

    Last Saturday in the haze of a glorious autumnal afternoon I returned to Twickenham for my 2nd Rugby World Cup adventure. Saturdays game was France v Italy. This allowed me to enjoy the atmosphere of the event and grounds without stressing about the outcome!.
    The stadium looked fantastic against the blue sky, festooned in flags and world cup collateral.
    I arrived into the Fanzone just in time to watch the South Africa & Japan game which was just amazing. Nearly every supporter at Twickenham rooting for the under-dogs of Japan. The whole place erupted when Japan slotted the ball over the try line with seconds to spare of the final whistle.
    The ground had a great relaxed atmosphere with a huge multi national attendance along with lots of passionate French and Italian fans. This was even more evident when the team buses arrived bringing in the French and Italian squads.
    With a great seat facing onto the pitch by the 22 line I got a great chance to watch the teams warming up.  It was very evident that warm-up disciplines were very different within the French and Italian camps!
    As with the previous evenings opening ceremony the world cup banners were escorted onto the pitch by members of the armed forces and the entry of the teams were preceded by a fantastic light and laser show.
    With national anthems sung with passion & pride and Twickenham stadium full to the rafters for a 2nd consecutive night it was time for the game to begin!
    The game was lively and involved lots of ruck's and scrums! Italy were the underdogs of the match and France soon overpowered the team, much to the delight of the very noisy French fans.
    With the final score of 32 to France and 10 to Italy it was time to head home after a great afternoon and with less stress than the day before!.

    Wednesday, 23 September 2015

    Hello Autumn....


    Today sees the start of Autumn, probably my favourite season. Time for ;

    -Woolly Jumpers, 
    -Warm drinks, 
    -Movie nights,
    - Pumpkins, 
    -Leaves changing colour, 
    -Long walks,
    - Apple picking,
    -Thanksgiving & Pumpkin Spice Lattes!!

      To celebrate the season changing I am sharing some instagram favourites from September.

      • Adore this gorgeous photo of  Afancifultwist 's retriever bringing the autumn countrylife!
      • Javan 's sunset in Brooklyn showcases perfect autumn evenings. His photo's across NY are stunning.
      • Greenhouse envy with Sally's MIL's greenhouse. gorgeous garden & wheel barrow of autumnal apples.
      • Fabulous chalk drawing for fall from Valerie McKeehan
      • Another glorious floral shot from Emily Quinton in her delightful studio.
      • Love this shot of Kate's terrier Minnie, in amongst the blackberry bushes.
      • Simple shot of autumnal apples featured on NYTimes instagram - simple food styling.
      • Jonny Wilkinson cycling across the English countryside pre world cup - autumn is the perfect season for bike rides.
      • Autumnal blooms from Mcqueens... loving their instagram pages from September.
      Here's to a gorgeous Autumn, filled with beautiful colours, cozy evenings and spice lattes.

      Monday, 21 September 2015

      Rugby World Cup ... kicks off!

      Unless you are living under a rock then you will have noticed that the UK is hosting the Rugby World Cup which kicked off on Friday.
      I had secured some tickets, but the elusive England games were out of my price range and completely unavailable. Can you imagine my excitement when my boss offered me a corporate seat with one of our suppliers at work!...

       The ticket arrived in a beautiful black box with the gorgeous Dan Carter on the front.  Complete with silver embossed hospitality tag, Lanyard and ticket for the match. With the opening ceremony starting at 7pm and pre-match activities starting from around 4pm.
      I left work early and headed to Waterloo to make the trip along with 80,000 others to Twickenham! I have travelled to Twickenham several times, but I have never seen the ground and surrounding areas that busy so early before the game. There was a great atmosphere everywhere I walked with everyone in great spirits and lots of white / red England shirts!. Twickenham had really been transformed with flags, fanzones, huge screens,and  hospitality.
      RWC had issued some key timings for the evening and I was extremely fortunate to be in the right spot for when the famous Webb Ellis Cup was walked into the stadium by the greatest No 10 for England!.... Jonny Wilkinson!... I can't tell you how excited I was.
      After seeing Jonny I joined my hosts for the evening in the box that we were going to spend some of the evening, along with a lovely little dining area where we had dinner & drinks.
      Starter: Rolled Gloucester old spot ham with a garden pea salad, mint coulis & apple puree.
      Main: 72 hr short rib tender loin of british beef, oyster mushrooms & madeira sauce with mash & seasonal veg.
      Dessert: Glazed lemon tart with raspberry meringues and lime marinated raspberries.
      with copious amounts of wine & coffee!
      I have never had the delight of corporate hospitality, food and company was great, with a TV screen on the wall you could see everything going on outside from the comfort of a comfy chair and great food. Starters & Mains were finished in time for the start of the Opening ceremony. With rousing versions of Jerusalem from the Royal marines band and Laura Wright it was time for the fun to begin!


      With pyrotechnics, fireworks and lots of lights the vintage rugby ball transformed into the Gilbert ball of the games and the ground broke to reveal a rugby representative from each country who was welcomes to rapturous applause from the crowd. The biggest and loudest cheer was given on the introduction of Martin Johnson captain of the winning squad for England in 2003.
      The ball soon became a steel frame that allowed a rugby climbing scrum to form to allow the young "Webb Ellis" to climb to the top and retrieve the golden cup!
      With the theatrics over it was time for the opening speeches... Prince Harry leading the way to a huge roar from the crowd, followed. With a great speech referencing both Mandela's world cup and that drop goal from 2003, he told the world we were ready... Game on!
      Lights dimmed and a fireworks lifted off the roof of the stadium, with a light show across the pitch it was time to bring on the teams!
      The noise was unbelievable, if Twickenham had had a roof then it surely would have been lifted off with 80,000 on their feet roaring for their team & country.
      Both squads lined up for the national anthems, the Fijians singing first with many crying as their anthem played out across the stadium. This was followed by a rousing rendition of God Save the Queen, with all squad singing with passion and pride along with a very loud and proud stadium of England fans in Twickenham.
      This was followed by the Fijian Haka before the start of the game.
      The game started well with England getting points on the board within 3 minutes of the game kicking off and 15 points clear by the 22nd minute. It was clear that nerves and a young inexperienced squad were playing a part with the game as silly mistakes were made.
      The lead slipped to a 10 points as the half time blew.
      Half time allowed for some dessert & coffee within the dining room and much conversation of the game.
      With multiple substitutions as the 2nd half started, with Burgess on & Wigglesworth & Farrel it was time to put some more points on the board. With many stoppages and referrals to TMO the game felt a little disjointed, however 2 fabulous Trys from Mike Brown (a well deserved man of the match) the game concluded with an England win of 35 / 11.
      With mini hot pies, coffee and beer on offer in hospitality I stayed around for a little while before heading out of the stadium back to the station.
      After a congested walk/queue to the station I arrived on the platform at 11pm, my last train was 12.46 so I knew I was going to be tight with timings!.... best laid plans blown when a man on the platform fell under the train as it pulled into Twickenham station. This was the low light of my evening as the station were not equipped to deal with 80,000 travellers stranded in Twickenham and no trains to London. This created a little stress and a bus trip to Richmond, and multiple trains to get to the station and collect my car, getting the last tube with seconds to spare.... arriving home a very tired but happy lady at 01.30!...
      Contrary to social media reports the man injured was not critical and was taken to a London hospital where he is said to be doing well, and it seemed that the station staff were better at controlling the crowds on my return to Twickenham on the Saturday.
      As well as having fun watching the team on the pitch I also had a great view of the Royal box , where I got to see Kate, William & Harry along with the Queen of Bakes Mary Berry.... who knew she was a rugby fan!. Very proud to see school friend and Barking boy Jason Leonard sitting alongside Kate during the game in his new role as president of the Rugby Football Union.
      I had an amazing evening and my Rugby World Cup adventures continue.....



      Monday, 14 September 2015

      Take That & Party with England Rugby boys!..

      This Friday sees the kick-off of the Rugby World Cup 2015, which the UK are hosting. As you can imagine being a bit of a rugby fan I am a little excited!
      Last week I headed to the O2 for the send off of the England squad and show my support along with 14,449 other fans.
      Unsure of what to expect and even how the O2 was going to stage a rugby/music event. I was extremely impressed by it all and had an amazing time.
      Attendees of the event were asked to #weartherose in support of the squad preferably rugby shirts and the arena was a see of white and red shirts. With a very fun audience participation warm-up (event being filmed) Vernon Key kicked off the event at 7.30 with a rugby montage and light spectacular welcoming in the squad to the arena.

      Between opening acts from Laura Whitmore (Jerusalem), Collabro and Ella Eyre (swing low. sweet chariot - RWC 2015 anthem) and fantastic renditions of some rugby favourites. Vernon introduced the squad to the stage for some fun questions along with some glorious rugby montages.
      As you can see the boys were suitably dressed in their grey suits & red ties.
      George Ford, Owen Farrell and Danny Care received some of the biggest cheers of the evening with Vernon introducing the Scrum Halves, Fly Halves & Centres.
      Vernon had lots of fun embarrassing Slade over hid single status, something I am sure will be rectified post world cup!.Also great to see Barritt and Burgess from the centres.
      The biggest cheer for the night went to captain Chris Robshaw captain of this years squad.
      Stuart Lancaster finished off the meet and greets with an empowering speech to the audience and the squad on what makes England players aspire to pull on the shirt of their nation and play for their country and asking for us all to be proud of being English and getting behind the team.... with a huge roar and applause from the audience and a standing ovation for the team it was time for the music headline act to take to the stage!.... Take That!
      Mark Owen belted out fan favourite 'Shine' as the band's opener, backed by bandmates Gary Barlow and Howard Donald and accompanied by a 48-piece orchestra.Next Gary lent his vocals to 'Patience', followed by 'These Days' (complete with 90's dance moves) and a few back catalogue hits like 'Rule The World' (complete with mobile phone light show) and 'Back for Good' Along with 2 of my favourites .... A million Love songs & Babe
      Take That finished with a fabulous rendition of Never Forget, complete with an England Rugby Squad backing singers ... and Danny Care on vocals!... a fabulous finale for a fantastic night.

      Had an amazing evening which was filled with pride, passion and huge support for our national side as it embarks on a world cup adventure... so over the next 6 weeks I am going to #Wear my Rose and make them giants.

      Friday, 11 September 2015

      9/11 - a reflective memorial....

      14 years ago the world that we lived in changed forever when at 8.46am a hijacked plane flew into
      the north tower of the world trade centre in New York, this was followed at 9.03 with another plane being flown into the South Tower. 2 further planes on course for Washington were flown into the Pentagon and one bought down in Pennsylvania. 2,753 people lost their life on that day.
      I have very special memories of the world trade centre and have visited every time that I have been in New York over the past 20 years and blogged many times about it.
      Last year when visiting New York I spent some time at the newly opened 9/11 memorial museum. I had previously visited the memorial pools and been completely humbled by the space and names engraved around the garden. I had mixed feelings on the museum, but so glad that I have been. It isn't easy viewing and its something that will stay with me forever, but a beautiful tribute to those that lost their life on that day, and have lost their lives since.
      The museum is largely underground at the original foundation levels of the trade centre towers, but due to the atrium spaces its filled with light and space. A vast amount of the museum photography is prohibited out of respect to those that lost their life and their families and loved ones.
      Along with a large amount of visual reminders from that day; including personal affects from the victims, their is also audio, messages left for loved ones, 9/11 calls and TV & audio footage from the day as the events unfolded.
      The museum houses 3 exhibitions, historical, memorial, and foundation.
      The historical charts the events of the day and how the history of the structures.
      The memorial is a space that houses a large number of personal belongings and a room of photographs of each victim which allow you to get to know about each through conversations with loved ones.
      The Foundation Hall is a room of massive scale and soaring height. A surviving retaining wall of the original World Trade Center is presented as a testament to survival and determination. Against this backdrop the "Last Column," stands 36-feet high and is covered with mementos, memorial inscriptions, and missing posters placed there by ironworkers, rescue workers and others. Removed during a ceremony to mark the close of the recovery effort at Ground Zero, the column, laid prone, was draped with an American flag and escorted by honor guard. Standing tall once again, the Last Column will encourage reflection on the foundations of resilience, hope, and community.
      Outside standing tall and proud overlooking the memorial pools and museum is the new One World Trade which was completed in 2014. This stunning building has opened to visitors in 2015 and I look forward to visiting when I am in New York in December later this year.
      This is a humbling, reflective beautiful space, which honours the lives lost with dignity, understanding and elegance. 
      I visited the site very early in the morning and the museum at 9am, a time where the space is relatively quiet. Due to the booking regulations the area doesn't ever feel like a tourist trap/mausoleum and is managed and co-ordinated well with vigilant security checks and large bags have to be stored.
      To understand how New York has evolved over the last 14 years, this area is a must visit. It shows how the shape and feel of the city changed completely on that day and remembers each and every person with a dignified memorial.
      So on this day 14 years on I pause and remember those that lost their life on that day and to all those lives lost since.


      Tuesday, 8 September 2015

      Book Love - New York

      This month I am going to share some New York adventures from my visit last year as I begin to plan this years trip, all with a "Back to School" vibe!
      Therefore I am starting with Books.. one of my favourite things and one of the perfect places to visit when in New York  is The Strand Bookstore.
      The Strand book store sits on the corner of 12th Street and Broadway and houses 18 miles of books, new, used and rare all under one roof. It is 86 years old and an absolute institution for book lovers to visit when in the city of NY.
      You can easily loose yourself for hours walking the aisles and rows of bookshelves. It is gorgeous and has that old books smell which is a rarity in many books stores now.  Along with selling great books, they also host some fabulous events. I am actively perusing the site to see what will be happening when I'm out there later in the year. Along with this their book gifts are perfect for read-a-holics like myself. Book tote, pencil case and coffee mug were Strand treats that came back in my suitcase... perfect for my commute. 
      Another thing I enjoy about The Strand is their Instagram feed, here are some favourites including a very famous visitor who frequented the store recently. 
      • Former President Bill Clinton book buying.
      • Book mountain of Harper Lee's ~ Go set a Watchman.
      • Book resolutions window display 2015.
      • Books & Coffee the perfect combination.
      • Chalkboard of reasons why books make the best gifts!
      • the most beautiful set of children's classics ever
      Another Instagram fun find has been Hot Dudes Reading which features guys travelling on the subway / bus / in and around New York snapped reading books. Kindles / Papers not allowed and its a great light heart lift. Here's some favourites.
      Hope that you have enjoyed my "Back to School" fun today... pop back later this week when I share some more book love from New York.

      Monday, 7 September 2015

      A Night of Rugby Heroes....

      Last week saw a friend and I attend the premiere of the Rugby movie Building Jerusalem. Some weeks ago when it was announced that Building Jerusalem would be showing in the cinema for one night only followed by a Q&A with some of its stars I knew it was something that I wouldn't be missing. Unbeknown when I booked my tickets for the Empire Leicester Square that I would be attending the actual premiere.
      My friend Susanne and I arrived following a torrential downpour and I was so busy faffing with my umbrella that I didn't realise that the guy that I had bumped into in the foyer was my sporting hero Jonny Wilkinson. He was so lovely and was happy to pose for photos with fans before the press junket began.
      The movie combines a mix of match action, behind the scenes footage and amazing original interviews with its key players Sir Clive Woodward, Martin Johnson, Matt Dawson and Jonny Wilkinson. It charts the roots of the game through to its professionalization in the 90's with some fabulous footage and very funny anecdotes. Above all Building Jerusalem tells the astonishing story of courage, pressure, and expectation of a team being built to win the world cup, something a country in the northern hemisphere had failed to do until England went to Australia in 2003.
      The movie opened with introductions and an opportunity for the director James Erskine to talk through the reasons and back story to the movie before introducing some of the stars from the squad onto the stage.
      The movie is fascinating viewing and showcases a team filled with passion, drive, courage and phenomenal team work, and an overall accomplishment of pride. There are some heart stopping moments, even knowing the ending the build to the final JW drop kick is pulse racing. Erskine when interviewed described it as a Rugby heist movie and that sums it up fantastically. A team of men that went down under and collectively pulled off the biggest world cup heist that the world had seen.
      After the movie finished to great cheers and applause it was time for some questions and answers from the audience and stars of the movie. All extremely humbled and overwhelmed a little by the response, but in great form and humour.
      I had a fabulous evening which culminated in me seeing the world cup before heading home.
      This movie is a must for any Rugby fan, but will equally appeal to audiences that like that under-dog story. I already have it on pre-order for when the DVD is released in a couple of weeks and can't wait to see it again.

      Wednesday, 30 September 2015

      Book Love - September


       This months book post reads like a September school timetable; featuring some problem solving, science, English literature and sports.
      5 books to talk about this month:
      - Mark Billingham - The Bones Beneath
      - Nicola May - The School Gates
      - Jonny Wilkinson - My Autobiography
      - Nicola May - The School Gates
      - Harper Lee - To Kill A Mockingbird.
      • Mark Billingham's The Bones Beneath is the 12th novel in the Tom Thorne series. Tom is a detective who heads up a murder team. Stuart Nicklin is serving multiple life sentences behind bars and is one of the most dangerous psycopaths that Thorne has ever put behind bars. Nicklin promises to reveal the whereabouts of a body he buried 25 yrs previously but only on his terms and if Thorne escorts him to the remote island off the Welsh coast. With multiple dangers and the body count growing, Thorne soon realises that Nicklins playing a game that he has planned for years and a race against time ensues. I'm a huge fan of the Tom Thorne series and once I got into this book I enjoyed it, however I didn't think it was as good as previous novels, I think it may have been that it was predominately set outside of London, which as much as a Thorne novel as is the character.
      • Nicola May – The SchoolGates. As titled this book revolves around The School Gates of Featherstone Primary in the small town of Denbury and is a fun read perfect for "Back to School" month. With no central story, this book centres around a number of people who all meet daily at the school gates of the primary school and how their lives layer  each other's and interlink. Gordy is a gay flight attendant, who is juggling parenthood that has been thrust upon him with twins of his much loved and departed sister. Joan is the earth mother who has a brood of children, and new born baby (who is transported around on a cat box strapped to the bicycle) juggling worries of health & her marriage. Alana is a very high powered career driven women who is hiding a very big secret from a work colleague. Dana is the ex-au pair, now 2nd wife to Mark, who is slowly realising that life as the wife isn't as exciting as the au pair mistress and desperate for a 2nd baby. Mo is the downtrodden mum who is abused by her alcoholic husband and Emily is the PTA bitch, who look's like she has it all, but crack soon appear in her perfect lifestyle. I loved these characters within this book and once I got used to how the books jumps between characters was soon deeply embroiled within the lives of the residents of Denbury. An easy fun filled read with realistic characters. Look forward to reading more from the author.
      • Jonny Wilkinson – My Autobiography. Jonny Wilkinson's career has crossed three decades and four World Cups. He has accumulated phenomenal achievements, world points records, an impressive list of broken body parts, and a drop goal that will be remembered for ever. But the peculiar calmness with which he played the game masked a very different reality. 
      In JONNY, he reveals the extraordinary psychology that he had to tame in order to be able to dominate his sport. For most of his life, he was driven by a quest for perfection and an obsession to be the best player in the world; here he shows how these two facets of his competitive mind took such a hold of him that they sent him to the top of the world, then swept him up and dragged him down into a spiral of despair. Jonny's career has spanned the far reaches: amazing highs and iconic moments, then a fight against injury that culminated in a battle with depression. Here he tells of the physical toll he knew his body was taking from rugby, even from his youth; he tells of how he never wanted to be a kicking fly-half but learned to adapt his natural game to play the style that Clive Woodward believed necessary to win a World Cup, and how he nearly walked out on Martin Johnson's England team 13 years later. – this is a fantastic read and one I have returned to whilst travelling to the Rugby World cup games that I have attended. JW is one of my sporting heroes and this book is a fascinating read, his battle with demons off the pitch as big as the injuries he sustained on it.
      • Lynda La Plante – Backlash. From the author that bought us Prime Suspect, this is LLP's 8th book in the Above Suspicion (Anna Travis) series. The story centres around a man that is caught 'red handed' with a body in a van that has been sexually assaulted and murdered. Confessing to the killing and whilst under interview he also eludes to further killings, it is now up to the detective team to find the evidence and the bodies of previous killings. This re-opens a cold case of DCS Langton's featuring a missing 13year old girl. As the team become embroiled within the investigation the killer continues to play games with the team, believing that he has committed the perfect murders. This book grabs you from the beginning and it was nice reacquainting myself with the charters of previous books. The writing is gritty, graphic, and real which is the epitome of LLP's style. Loved it and can't wait to read book 9.
      • Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming-of-age story, an anti-racist novel, a historical drama of the Great Depression and a sublime example of the Southern writing tradition. Voted the most life changing book by a female author and this year celebrates its 50th birthday. This year I received the 50th birthday hardback as a birthday gift and have loved revisiting this story. It is one of my favourite books and I have read it numerous times, along with seeing it at the theatre and on screen. Studying it for my o'level many years ago, it is a book that has stayed with me over the years, I have many versions along with a much thumbed and loved copy from my teens (complete with notes in the margins) and I read it frequently. I loved the character of Atticus Finch who reminds me so much of my gramps.
      • " Shoot all the blue jays in the world, but if you hit them, remember it’s a sin to Kill a Mockingbird" A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel - a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man's struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.
        As you can see a very varied book pile this month and a lovely re-visit to a couple of favourites along with catching up with old friends in new adventures from 2 admired crime writers. A mixed book bag this month to reflect the new school year and even Taylor got in on the act of the back to school vibe!
        Here are some book posts from previous months, would love to hear what you have been reading or recommendations……
        Happy reading 
        Tx

        Sunday, 27 September 2015

        An Autumnal walk along the River...

        Last week saw the Autumn equinox begin and by far this is my favourite season.
        Determined to enjoy the glorious weather that descended upon us last weekend along with spending some time at the Rugby I opted to walk to Twickenham along the river on the Thames path.
        This was a first for me and had been on my "to do" list for sometime.
        The day was glorious and this was reflected in the number of people taking advantage of the late summer sunshine on the banks of the river at Richmond.
        Along with boats, canoes, and kayaks on the water, there were lots of rowing clubs in action for the afternoon. It was fascinating to see how local people utilise the banks of the river for their personal use for 2 legs & furry 4 legs!
         Lots of 'keep fit' activities  running and cycling and even a spot of yoga.
        Half way along the trail to Twickenham I detoured slightly to visit Petersham nurseries, which along with selling the most glorious array of plants, houses within a suite of vintage greenhouse structures a cafe and teahouse. The perfect place to stop for a spot of tea and cake!
        I opted for wholemeal apple cake which was amazing.
        The nursery gardens were in abundant with glorious autumnal blooms, my favourite being the beds of Dhalias.
        One of my favourite flowers which are making a huge revival over the past year. My Gramps would have loved these, he always had a huge bed of these at the end of the garden in amongst the rose bushes.




        Leaving the glorious gardens behind I headed back out on the trail towards Twickenham.
        Instead of walking down further along the trail I opted to cross the river by the small ferry boat which you call from a small deck on the river bank.
        I had lots of fun walking along a part of Thames that I had not explore before.
        A very lovely way to get to the Rugby and enjoy the autumnal sunshine.

        There are a number of trails along this pathway and next year I am going to explore a few further.



        Saturday, 26 September 2015

        My Rugby World Cup adventure continues.....

        Last Saturday in the haze of a glorious autumnal afternoon I returned to Twickenham for my 2nd Rugby World Cup adventure. Saturdays game was France v Italy. This allowed me to enjoy the atmosphere of the event and grounds without stressing about the outcome!.
        The stadium looked fantastic against the blue sky, festooned in flags and world cup collateral.
        I arrived into the Fanzone just in time to watch the South Africa & Japan game which was just amazing. Nearly every supporter at Twickenham rooting for the under-dogs of Japan. The whole place erupted when Japan slotted the ball over the try line with seconds to spare of the final whistle.
        The ground had a great relaxed atmosphere with a huge multi national attendance along with lots of passionate French and Italian fans. This was even more evident when the team buses arrived bringing in the French and Italian squads.
        With a great seat facing onto the pitch by the 22 line I got a great chance to watch the teams warming up.  It was very evident that warm-up disciplines were very different within the French and Italian camps!
        As with the previous evenings opening ceremony the world cup banners were escorted onto the pitch by members of the armed forces and the entry of the teams were preceded by a fantastic light and laser show.
        With national anthems sung with passion & pride and Twickenham stadium full to the rafters for a 2nd consecutive night it was time for the game to begin!
        The game was lively and involved lots of ruck's and scrums! Italy were the underdogs of the match and France soon overpowered the team, much to the delight of the very noisy French fans.
        With the final score of 32 to France and 10 to Italy it was time to head home after a great afternoon and with less stress than the day before!.

        Wednesday, 23 September 2015

        Hello Autumn....


        Today sees the start of Autumn, probably my favourite season. Time for ;

        -Woolly Jumpers, 
        -Warm drinks, 
        -Movie nights,
        - Pumpkins, 
        -Leaves changing colour, 
        -Long walks,
        - Apple picking,
        -Thanksgiving & Pumpkin Spice Lattes!!

          To celebrate the season changing I am sharing some instagram favourites from September.

          • Adore this gorgeous photo of  Afancifultwist 's retriever bringing the autumn countrylife!
          • Javan 's sunset in Brooklyn showcases perfect autumn evenings. His photo's across NY are stunning.
          • Greenhouse envy with Sally's MIL's greenhouse. gorgeous garden & wheel barrow of autumnal apples.
          • Fabulous chalk drawing for fall from Valerie McKeehan
          • Another glorious floral shot from Emily Quinton in her delightful studio.
          • Love this shot of Kate's terrier Minnie, in amongst the blackberry bushes.
          • Simple shot of autumnal apples featured on NYTimes instagram - simple food styling.
          • Jonny Wilkinson cycling across the English countryside pre world cup - autumn is the perfect season for bike rides.
          • Autumnal blooms from Mcqueens... loving their instagram pages from September.
          Here's to a gorgeous Autumn, filled with beautiful colours, cozy evenings and spice lattes.

          Monday, 21 September 2015

          Rugby World Cup ... kicks off!

          Unless you are living under a rock then you will have noticed that the UK is hosting the Rugby World Cup which kicked off on Friday.
          I had secured some tickets, but the elusive England games were out of my price range and completely unavailable. Can you imagine my excitement when my boss offered me a corporate seat with one of our suppliers at work!...

           The ticket arrived in a beautiful black box with the gorgeous Dan Carter on the front.  Complete with silver embossed hospitality tag, Lanyard and ticket for the match. With the opening ceremony starting at 7pm and pre-match activities starting from around 4pm.
          I left work early and headed to Waterloo to make the trip along with 80,000 others to Twickenham! I have travelled to Twickenham several times, but I have never seen the ground and surrounding areas that busy so early before the game. There was a great atmosphere everywhere I walked with everyone in great spirits and lots of white / red England shirts!. Twickenham had really been transformed with flags, fanzones, huge screens,and  hospitality.
          RWC had issued some key timings for the evening and I was extremely fortunate to be in the right spot for when the famous Webb Ellis Cup was walked into the stadium by the greatest No 10 for England!.... Jonny Wilkinson!... I can't tell you how excited I was.
          After seeing Jonny I joined my hosts for the evening in the box that we were going to spend some of the evening, along with a lovely little dining area where we had dinner & drinks.
          Starter: Rolled Gloucester old spot ham with a garden pea salad, mint coulis & apple puree.
          Main: 72 hr short rib tender loin of british beef, oyster mushrooms & madeira sauce with mash & seasonal veg.
          Dessert: Glazed lemon tart with raspberry meringues and lime marinated raspberries.
          with copious amounts of wine & coffee!
          I have never had the delight of corporate hospitality, food and company was great, with a TV screen on the wall you could see everything going on outside from the comfort of a comfy chair and great food. Starters & Mains were finished in time for the start of the Opening ceremony. With rousing versions of Jerusalem from the Royal marines band and Laura Wright it was time for the fun to begin!


          With pyrotechnics, fireworks and lots of lights the vintage rugby ball transformed into the Gilbert ball of the games and the ground broke to reveal a rugby representative from each country who was welcomes to rapturous applause from the crowd. The biggest and loudest cheer was given on the introduction of Martin Johnson captain of the winning squad for England in 2003.
          The ball soon became a steel frame that allowed a rugby climbing scrum to form to allow the young "Webb Ellis" to climb to the top and retrieve the golden cup!
          With the theatrics over it was time for the opening speeches... Prince Harry leading the way to a huge roar from the crowd, followed. With a great speech referencing both Mandela's world cup and that drop goal from 2003, he told the world we were ready... Game on!
          Lights dimmed and a fireworks lifted off the roof of the stadium, with a light show across the pitch it was time to bring on the teams!
          The noise was unbelievable, if Twickenham had had a roof then it surely would have been lifted off with 80,000 on their feet roaring for their team & country.
          Both squads lined up for the national anthems, the Fijians singing first with many crying as their anthem played out across the stadium. This was followed by a rousing rendition of God Save the Queen, with all squad singing with passion and pride along with a very loud and proud stadium of England fans in Twickenham.
          This was followed by the Fijian Haka before the start of the game.
          The game started well with England getting points on the board within 3 minutes of the game kicking off and 15 points clear by the 22nd minute. It was clear that nerves and a young inexperienced squad were playing a part with the game as silly mistakes were made.
          The lead slipped to a 10 points as the half time blew.
          Half time allowed for some dessert & coffee within the dining room and much conversation of the game.
          With multiple substitutions as the 2nd half started, with Burgess on & Wigglesworth & Farrel it was time to put some more points on the board. With many stoppages and referrals to TMO the game felt a little disjointed, however 2 fabulous Trys from Mike Brown (a well deserved man of the match) the game concluded with an England win of 35 / 11.
          With mini hot pies, coffee and beer on offer in hospitality I stayed around for a little while before heading out of the stadium back to the station.
          After a congested walk/queue to the station I arrived on the platform at 11pm, my last train was 12.46 so I knew I was going to be tight with timings!.... best laid plans blown when a man on the platform fell under the train as it pulled into Twickenham station. This was the low light of my evening as the station were not equipped to deal with 80,000 travellers stranded in Twickenham and no trains to London. This created a little stress and a bus trip to Richmond, and multiple trains to get to the station and collect my car, getting the last tube with seconds to spare.... arriving home a very tired but happy lady at 01.30!...
          Contrary to social media reports the man injured was not critical and was taken to a London hospital where he is said to be doing well, and it seemed that the station staff were better at controlling the crowds on my return to Twickenham on the Saturday.
          As well as having fun watching the team on the pitch I also had a great view of the Royal box , where I got to see Kate, William & Harry along with the Queen of Bakes Mary Berry.... who knew she was a rugby fan!. Very proud to see school friend and Barking boy Jason Leonard sitting alongside Kate during the game in his new role as president of the Rugby Football Union.
          I had an amazing evening and my Rugby World Cup adventures continue.....



          Monday, 14 September 2015

          Take That & Party with England Rugby boys!..

          This Friday sees the kick-off of the Rugby World Cup 2015, which the UK are hosting. As you can imagine being a bit of a rugby fan I am a little excited!
          Last week I headed to the O2 for the send off of the England squad and show my support along with 14,449 other fans.
          Unsure of what to expect and even how the O2 was going to stage a rugby/music event. I was extremely impressed by it all and had an amazing time.
          Attendees of the event were asked to #weartherose in support of the squad preferably rugby shirts and the arena was a see of white and red shirts. With a very fun audience participation warm-up (event being filmed) Vernon Key kicked off the event at 7.30 with a rugby montage and light spectacular welcoming in the squad to the arena.

          Between opening acts from Laura Whitmore (Jerusalem), Collabro and Ella Eyre (swing low. sweet chariot - RWC 2015 anthem) and fantastic renditions of some rugby favourites. Vernon introduced the squad to the stage for some fun questions along with some glorious rugby montages.
          As you can see the boys were suitably dressed in their grey suits & red ties.
          George Ford, Owen Farrell and Danny Care received some of the biggest cheers of the evening with Vernon introducing the Scrum Halves, Fly Halves & Centres.
          Vernon had lots of fun embarrassing Slade over hid single status, something I am sure will be rectified post world cup!.Also great to see Barritt and Burgess from the centres.
          The biggest cheer for the night went to captain Chris Robshaw captain of this years squad.
          Stuart Lancaster finished off the meet and greets with an empowering speech to the audience and the squad on what makes England players aspire to pull on the shirt of their nation and play for their country and asking for us all to be proud of being English and getting behind the team.... with a huge roar and applause from the audience and a standing ovation for the team it was time for the music headline act to take to the stage!.... Take That!
          Mark Owen belted out fan favourite 'Shine' as the band's opener, backed by bandmates Gary Barlow and Howard Donald and accompanied by a 48-piece orchestra.Next Gary lent his vocals to 'Patience', followed by 'These Days' (complete with 90's dance moves) and a few back catalogue hits like 'Rule The World' (complete with mobile phone light show) and 'Back for Good' Along with 2 of my favourites .... A million Love songs & Babe
          Take That finished with a fabulous rendition of Never Forget, complete with an England Rugby Squad backing singers ... and Danny Care on vocals!... a fabulous finale for a fantastic night.

          Had an amazing evening which was filled with pride, passion and huge support for our national side as it embarks on a world cup adventure... so over the next 6 weeks I am going to #Wear my Rose and make them giants.

          Friday, 11 September 2015

          9/11 - a reflective memorial....

          14 years ago the world that we lived in changed forever when at 8.46am a hijacked plane flew into
          the north tower of the world trade centre in New York, this was followed at 9.03 with another plane being flown into the South Tower. 2 further planes on course for Washington were flown into the Pentagon and one bought down in Pennsylvania. 2,753 people lost their life on that day.
          I have very special memories of the world trade centre and have visited every time that I have been in New York over the past 20 years and blogged many times about it.
          Last year when visiting New York I spent some time at the newly opened 9/11 memorial museum. I had previously visited the memorial pools and been completely humbled by the space and names engraved around the garden. I had mixed feelings on the museum, but so glad that I have been. It isn't easy viewing and its something that will stay with me forever, but a beautiful tribute to those that lost their life on that day, and have lost their lives since.
          The museum is largely underground at the original foundation levels of the trade centre towers, but due to the atrium spaces its filled with light and space. A vast amount of the museum photography is prohibited out of respect to those that lost their life and their families and loved ones.
          Along with a large amount of visual reminders from that day; including personal affects from the victims, their is also audio, messages left for loved ones, 9/11 calls and TV & audio footage from the day as the events unfolded.
          The museum houses 3 exhibitions, historical, memorial, and foundation.
          The historical charts the events of the day and how the history of the structures.
          The memorial is a space that houses a large number of personal belongings and a room of photographs of each victim which allow you to get to know about each through conversations with loved ones.
          The Foundation Hall is a room of massive scale and soaring height. A surviving retaining wall of the original World Trade Center is presented as a testament to survival and determination. Against this backdrop the "Last Column," stands 36-feet high and is covered with mementos, memorial inscriptions, and missing posters placed there by ironworkers, rescue workers and others. Removed during a ceremony to mark the close of the recovery effort at Ground Zero, the column, laid prone, was draped with an American flag and escorted by honor guard. Standing tall once again, the Last Column will encourage reflection on the foundations of resilience, hope, and community.
          Outside standing tall and proud overlooking the memorial pools and museum is the new One World Trade which was completed in 2014. This stunning building has opened to visitors in 2015 and I look forward to visiting when I am in New York in December later this year.
          This is a humbling, reflective beautiful space, which honours the lives lost with dignity, understanding and elegance. 
          I visited the site very early in the morning and the museum at 9am, a time where the space is relatively quiet. Due to the booking regulations the area doesn't ever feel like a tourist trap/mausoleum and is managed and co-ordinated well with vigilant security checks and large bags have to be stored.
          To understand how New York has evolved over the last 14 years, this area is a must visit. It shows how the shape and feel of the city changed completely on that day and remembers each and every person with a dignified memorial.
          So on this day 14 years on I pause and remember those that lost their life on that day and to all those lives lost since.


          Tuesday, 8 September 2015

          Book Love - New York

          This month I am going to share some New York adventures from my visit last year as I begin to plan this years trip, all with a "Back to School" vibe!
          Therefore I am starting with Books.. one of my favourite things and one of the perfect places to visit when in New York  is The Strand Bookstore.
          The Strand book store sits on the corner of 12th Street and Broadway and houses 18 miles of books, new, used and rare all under one roof. It is 86 years old and an absolute institution for book lovers to visit when in the city of NY.
          You can easily loose yourself for hours walking the aisles and rows of bookshelves. It is gorgeous and has that old books smell which is a rarity in many books stores now.  Along with selling great books, they also host some fabulous events. I am actively perusing the site to see what will be happening when I'm out there later in the year. Along with this their book gifts are perfect for read-a-holics like myself. Book tote, pencil case and coffee mug were Strand treats that came back in my suitcase... perfect for my commute. 
          Another thing I enjoy about The Strand is their Instagram feed, here are some favourites including a very famous visitor who frequented the store recently. 
          • Former President Bill Clinton book buying.
          • Book mountain of Harper Lee's ~ Go set a Watchman.
          • Book resolutions window display 2015.
          • Books & Coffee the perfect combination.
          • Chalkboard of reasons why books make the best gifts!
          • the most beautiful set of children's classics ever
          Another Instagram fun find has been Hot Dudes Reading which features guys travelling on the subway / bus / in and around New York snapped reading books. Kindles / Papers not allowed and its a great light heart lift. Here's some favourites.
          Hope that you have enjoyed my "Back to School" fun today... pop back later this week when I share some more book love from New York.

          Monday, 7 September 2015

          A Night of Rugby Heroes....

          Last week saw a friend and I attend the premiere of the Rugby movie Building Jerusalem. Some weeks ago when it was announced that Building Jerusalem would be showing in the cinema for one night only followed by a Q&A with some of its stars I knew it was something that I wouldn't be missing. Unbeknown when I booked my tickets for the Empire Leicester Square that I would be attending the actual premiere.
          My friend Susanne and I arrived following a torrential downpour and I was so busy faffing with my umbrella that I didn't realise that the guy that I had bumped into in the foyer was my sporting hero Jonny Wilkinson. He was so lovely and was happy to pose for photos with fans before the press junket began.
          The movie combines a mix of match action, behind the scenes footage and amazing original interviews with its key players Sir Clive Woodward, Martin Johnson, Matt Dawson and Jonny Wilkinson. It charts the roots of the game through to its professionalization in the 90's with some fabulous footage and very funny anecdotes. Above all Building Jerusalem tells the astonishing story of courage, pressure, and expectation of a team being built to win the world cup, something a country in the northern hemisphere had failed to do until England went to Australia in 2003.
          The movie opened with introductions and an opportunity for the director James Erskine to talk through the reasons and back story to the movie before introducing some of the stars from the squad onto the stage.
          The movie is fascinating viewing and showcases a team filled with passion, drive, courage and phenomenal team work, and an overall accomplishment of pride. There are some heart stopping moments, even knowing the ending the build to the final JW drop kick is pulse racing. Erskine when interviewed described it as a Rugby heist movie and that sums it up fantastically. A team of men that went down under and collectively pulled off the biggest world cup heist that the world had seen.
          After the movie finished to great cheers and applause it was time for some questions and answers from the audience and stars of the movie. All extremely humbled and overwhelmed a little by the response, but in great form and humour.
          I had a fabulous evening which culminated in me seeing the world cup before heading home.
          This movie is a must for any Rugby fan, but will equally appeal to audiences that like that under-dog story. I already have it on pre-order for when the DVD is released in a couple of weeks and can't wait to see it again.