One Year

For me it’s been a year since Covid changed my world.

One year ago yesterday (7th March 2020) my friend Carolyn got the train to Birmingham. We had lunch in Pizza Express, sharing a bottle of wine. We wandered into a few shops. Asked for sanitiser in Body Shop but they didn’t have any. We bought books (we always buy books) and I was beginning to look for a new handbag because mine was developing a small hole. I saw one I liked but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted so I left it as it wasn’t urgent yet. A year later I’ve still got the same pink spotty Cath Kidston bag I was looking to replace that day. It’s had so little use in the last year that the hole isn’t any bigger.

We then went to the theatre to see Book of Mormon the musical. It was great but I don’t know if was actually as memorable as it’s been or if that’s just that it was the last thing we went to. As we waited for the lift at the end we chatted to another lady who was waiting. It was supposed to be on for the rest of the month and she was saying she was going to get tickets to go again. I’ve wondered, on and off, if she managed to do that before it stopped it’s run early.

We got the train into New Street (via Oxford) but came home from Moor Street station (changing at Banbury) because I couldn’t get a wheelchair space on a train from New Street without a wait. I hadn’t been to Moor Street before but it was really nice and easier than New Street. I planned to go via there next time. But there hasn’t been a next time.

It annoys me that I can’t remember who was doing assistance at Didcot and Oxford that day. Because I miss the assisted travel team, a lot of those guys have been a part of my life for over ten years and I saw them often.

On the Sunday we got together as a family for the first time since Christmas. Rafe was at that stage where everything goes in the mouth and kept chewing on my fingers. I was completely fine with that.

The Monday I went to CAB as normal. I did some shopping afterwards. I stocked up a bit more than usual. For weeks I’d been looking for thin hair ties but I wanted them in black which they didn’t have. I gave in and bought the brown because who knew how much longer I’d be able to shop?

Tuesday I stayed at home in the day, trying to avoid unnecessary trips to town and watched a news special with Jenny Harries. It was the first time I’d heard of her and I’d still never heard of Chris Whitty. We went to the pub for dinner that night for a birthday. I haven’t been in a pub since.

Wednesday was back to CAB. It was quiet but I saw one client – something run of the mill and forgettable, only I’ve not seen anyone else since so she’s stuck with me. We chatted as a group something we don’t often get time to do. Several people had said they weren’t coming in for a bit. I told the supervisor I’d keep going but I’d stop if the schools shut.

By the Monday when I was next due in it was clear I couldn’t go back. A few days after I said I couldn’t go in I was sent a google form to fill in about why. I wrote that I hadn’t been advised to isolate but I knew from previous experience my disability meant I would struggle with coronavirus and be more at risk. A few hours later the list of clinically vulnerable was released and CP was on it.

That same Wednesday evening I went to my photography course. I’d planned to go early and pop into Wilko but was late leaving so couldn’t. I really wished I’d made the effort in the weeks that followed. The final weeks of that course were cancelled.

Thursday I skipped Shut Up and Write on the grounds of avoiding unnecessary trips to town but in the evening went to a writing workshop five minutes from my house. Several others weren’t there because of the risk. There were tissues on each table that weren’t usually there and talk about “if the last week would happen.” It didn’t. As I worked with my friend on one of the exercises I could feel her breath as she talked. It bothered me in a way it hadn’t before but I didn’t say anything.

Friday was the gym. My parents came down to do some jobs in my flat while I was out but got there before I left. They wore gloves and it made it real. I looked around the Fit Zone as I left feeling a bit unreal. I told my trainer I wasn’t sure about the next week and she said she hadn’t taken it seriously until the day before. Dave, my most regular driver, dropped me home and said “hopefully see you next week.” I can’t remember what I said.

But that was the last normal day I had. When they were talking about 12 weeks it seemed unachievable. I can’t believe it’s now been a year.

Random Bullet Points of Quarantine-ish Life

I have been meaning to write a blog post for ages. And as always I’ve started writing a couple and not posted them. So here is a post of Random Bullet Points of Life, written whilst waiting for a carer.

  • I’ve been advised that it’s worth me started to look into a new powerchair. I’ve trialled the one they recommended three times (I trialled, then when the tech came back to work on my Jive and brought it a second time as the weather was better and I could have a longer go, then it turned out I’d have to have a different seating type if I got a seat riser so they brought one with that seating – but no seat riser – for me to try). It’s not a terrible chair but it’s different. And right now I’m not loving it. So that’s on hold but at least I have an idea what I might get and if I get to a point where I need a new one suddenly we aren’t starting from scratch. We’ve also been able to 100% rule out my getting powered elevating leg rests (something which has been being debated whether I needed since my lymph treatment started) which is very helpful.
  • I went to lymph clinic three and a bit weeks ago. It went ok, not exactly what I would like to have heard but nothing to worry about. And probably now I think of it, not entirely unexpected.
  • The new taxi/support company I mentioned in an entry a while ago took me to clinic and then dropped me in the centre of Oxford for two hours before bringing me home. I zipped through the shopping bits just to see (but didn’t go in any shops) and then went for a long walk through Christchurch Meadow. It was so nice to be somewhere different and walk in different surroundings
  • Just over a week later they took me back into Oxford to University Parks for a long walk. Again it was nice to get out of Didcot and see some different things. I haven’t been to University Parks since I did Race for Life there in (I think) 2008 and I didn’t remember much of it.
  • I took a lot of photos on those two walks which I think will be source/prompt material for my probable NaNoWriMo project this year. I’m feeling very inspired.
  • Last week I went to Millets with the same people and this time they supported me to do my shopping. I bought a few plants, some bits in the farm shop and because it was too wet to go see the animals, we had a jacket potato in the restaurant. It was lovely and it was nice to eat out for the first time in so long although really I’d have rather gone somewhere for a more interesting meal. I think that will be the last time they take me out for a while although I had hoped to do a couple more. Certainly the weather forecast for this week puts paid to all the places I’d thought of going, even if I wasn’t concerned about the increased risk with rising cases of Covid-19.
  • This last week the carers have started coming every evening again. I’m not sure if this is temporary or if I’ll cut it down a bit again – I have some new stockings (and am getting a different wrap for one of my feet) and there was concern if I’d still manage independently with those so we put the calls back in.
  • About five weeks ago the carers also started coming an extra time on a Tuesday to do my cleaning. It’s working very well and although more expensive than my last cleaner (she had only just started when lockdown happened and wasn’t really working out), it was much less than the agency cleaners I had. The really good thing about is that if we lockdown again they can still come.
  • I’ve seen friends (the same ones) a few times and family once or twice (my parents more often). My mum came round to watch Fame on YouTube and work on our crafts this morning. So I am getting some socialising in.
  • I’ve done some CAB stuff – R&C, not advising – from home in the last week or two. I am not good at working from home!

Hints of Normality

I’ve been quiet here lately as I experienced some ableism (that was made worse by the fact it was from someone I thought was a friend) and that took up a lot of head space made me withdraw slightly for a bit. But as much as I did need to step back for a few weeks I don’t want to stop blogging here completely.

The other thing that’s taken up rather more of my headspace than it should have is a problem with a carer. Now resolved and handled very well by the agency. It was sad for two reasons – one it was completely ridiculous and a carer I had thought I’d get on well with when we met and two, this agency have handled it so well it’s just another example at how bad the previous agency were at dealing with certain things. I keep having realisation moments like that and I find them difficult because it was a struggle with the previous one for a big chunk of the time (not always) and so many of my friends were telling me I needed a new agency for ages. But I didn’t think there would be a better agency out there.

Hints of normality are continuing to sneak in.

I’ve been briefly shopping twice, about ten days apart. I managed to get pretty much everything I wanted (of the things I could get in shops here) and the things I couldn’t get were mostly things I’d wondered if it would be tricky – like a couple of books that I’d thought might be too specific for our small Waterstones. I also managed to finally find and order myself a set of weights after trying for all of lockdown. I haven’t been to the supermarket but will probably go next week, at least to pick up my prescription.

Shopping was OK. M&S simply food was the only place it felt difficult and stressful but Mum had said it had’t been easy when she went. And I bumped into one of my friends from my writing group and her daughter (who I hadn’t met before) and have a long chat the first time I went shopping.

A few days before that first shopping trip a couple of my friends came to visit in the garden for just under two hours. We had a long chat and swapped some books. And the weekend just gone the new wheelchair taxi people I mentioned last time dropped me in the village I used to live in. Some other friends who no longer live in the county met me there and we sat in the park for a few hours then went for a bit of a walk along an old railway line. I went a bit further once they needed to leave then turned back and walked home. I would really like to get back up there for a walk again.

It’s been really nice to see friends again. I’m not sure how much that’s going to be possible but I’m glad to have done it. Sadly I think my other few good friends I won’t see in person again this year (or at all in one case) due to the distance.

One of the powerchair techs came out yesterday to service my chair. I hadn’t expected when I rang on Tuesday that they’d say “he can come tomorrow” I’d been expecting next week as it was routine so that threw me a bit. The verdict was it needs a few consumable bits (some of which I’d twigged and others I hadn’t but they’re either about due or not entirely unexpected) replacing, new footplates (I knew they were bent but had hoped it was just a new bolt required) and it is still rattling and squeaky! It’s going off the workshop at some point for some TLC.

I’ve seen both my nephews this week (each of them separately spent a day with my parents). It was the first time I’d seen Rafe since June and he’d definitely grown and was much more alert. Mum thinks he’s going to be Grandad’s boy (a bit like how Henry is all about Granny) but I’m not so sure. I snuck a quick cuddle with him which was lovely, if possibly not the most sensible thing to do.

I only saw Henry much more briefly because the powerchair tech rang when I was on the way out the door to ask if he could come three hours early. He (Henry) was busy looking at the things he and Grandad had planted but it was good to have a chance to say hello.

The only other thing I’ve done (other than you know reading and crochet etc) was sit in my mum’s garden for a few hours on Monday and teach her how to do corner to corner crochet. It took a fair few attempts and she didn’t think she could do it (I thought she could because it’s easy but it IS tricky to start a piece off). However a few hours after I got home she sent me a photo of her piece and she’d cracked it.

Mentally I did get quite fed up and down last night but I’m better today and doing OK overall.

Four Months of Isolation

It’s been a fair while since I wrote one of these “life in lockdown” posts and it’s definitely something I’ll want to look back on in future years so here’s another one. I just put the washing on for an extra rinse so we’ll see how far I can get before it finishes.

Monday was 4 months since I was last in a building other than my house (I went to the gym on Friday 13th March). I’ve probably written this before but although the panic buying that weekend would have made it unsafe for me to go out, I probably would have gone to town in the week after for more supplies if I’d known it would have gone on this long. I’m not sure I’d really have needed them but it feels like I should have done it.

Some hints of normality have snuck back in over the last few weeks.

The carers are now coming three evenings a week as well as the mornings. They are trying to keep it to one specific carer for the evenings or someone I’m already seeing in the mornings. They are managing that but having an evening carer really didn’t work very well for the first few weeks. It’s working better now they’ve changed who is coming but they are still turning up really early (several times an hour early) on a semi regular basis which is tricky. I keep changing my mind between just stop it again, permanently this time, keep it as it is and up to it five evenings. I can’t imagine going back to every night right now just because I like the independence.

The supervisor from the agency also came out with one of the morning carers this week to do what I’ve previously known as a spot check. They didn’t do any during lockdown so it was the first one. It’s done slightly differently to previous agencies but it was good to get it done and have a conversation between the three of us of how things are going. I continue to be very pleased with how well it’s working since I changed agencies. If I’m completely honest, as much as I miss several of the actual carers I had before but I wish I’d changed to this agency much sooner.

I’ve visited my parents house and sat in the garden several times since I last updated (and been for a couple of other walks). We had the entire family there for pizza at a distance early in June. I hadn’t seen any of the family other than my parents since then. But yesterday they had Henry for a few hours and I popped up to see him. That was fun to hear his take on things and see him chasing around the garden doing challenges I set him. He has an interesting press up technique and is good at walking like a crab.

The other hint of normality is that a new wheelchair accessible transport provider came last week so I could try getting my chair in their vehicle. That worked better than expected given problems I sometimes have with that. I plan to see friends in a few weeks and I might use them to take me to meet my friends near a local walk (one that I can walk home as part of).

Sadly, there has been some pressure from a few people for me to get back to normal quicker than I am and “balance the risk to my mental health”. In the case of one person it’s felt like no matter what I do, I’m doing lockdown wrong. It’s upsetting and frustrating to have to deal with that. I have a plan for getting more back to normal and am quite happy with things the way they are.

Some of the pressure to get back to normal is made doubly ridiculous because it’s already my normal, it’s not corona fear. The friends I’m seeing in a few weeks, I’m being told I could meet now. But they live a drive away and the date is the first one they could do. Visiting my parents in their garden has been our normal way of doing things for years because it’s easier than being helped up the steps. I basically only go in my parents house if I’m going to be there most of the day or other people are visiting. This is possibly a topic I should blog more about.

Otherwise I continue to read a fair bit (I’m up to 27 quarantine reads I think, must update on that). I’m not reading as much because I’ve been crocheting more though which I’m really enjoying.

“But what do you do in a crisis?”

I am something of a fussy eater. Much better than I used to be but still not great.

Two things I don’t like are tea and coffee. It doesn’t bother me, I’m more than happy to go to a meeting and drink water or get a coke or some juice in a coffee shop or whatever. It’s probably one of the least problematic of my dislikes. Because you just order something else. But it’s also a dislike that a lot of people find hard to get their head around. Why don’t I like it? I just don’t.

Years ago, someone I volunteered with went to get herself a tea and she asked me about not drinking tea. In all seriousness she asked me, “If you don’t drink tea, what do you do in a crisis?” Because whenever anyone came to her with a problem, the first thing she did was put the kettle on. It was something concrete to fall back on.

I can’t remember what I answered and how the conversation went on. I just remember finding the whole thing a bit of a non issue. If someone came to me with a crisis, I’d just help them deal with it to the best of my ability. And if a drink were required, I find alcohol much better in those circumstances than hot drinks.

A couple of people have been in touch over the last few weeks with crises. Thankfully, not corona related but still scary and unsettling for them.

And it made me think about conversation again. She’s no longer part of that organisation and we were never friends outside of it so have lost touch. If we were in touch however I could give her a much better answer.

It turns out, the first thing I do when dealing with a crisis is reach for my crochet hooks.

Because tea lasts a few minutes. Crochet is forever.

Value for Money

One of my carers has asked me about two things I’ve bought lately (a stocking aid and some cloth masks) and specifically how much they’ve cost. When I’ve said “about X pounds” she’s said that’s very expensive.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot since we had those two conversations. I think she’s wrong. But only because of the bigger picture.

The mask conversation was almost irrelevant. She’s told me how much she paid and said delivery was more. I didn’t pay delivery. Hers came from somewhere abroad (I forget) and took ages to come. Mine were here in a few days, from (I think) London. She wasn’t comparing like from like, even before you get to the fact that knowing it’s difficult to make a fair amount of money as a crafter, I was prepared to pay a bit more.

The stocking aid (one specifically for taking them off) was £22.40. Although I just had to look that price up and had told my carer it was “about £20” I thought that was very fair, particularly given that as soon as you put the word “disability” on anything it goes up in price and that the market for stocking aids must be a niche market within that already niche market.

But.

I’ve spent the two and half years since I started wearing compression hating having to have the carers twice a day. Hating the time I lost and the tie of always having to be home/free/awake at those set times and feeling like who I was, Emma, was getting lost in the wash of the woman with lymphoedema who needed this doing to her. It had a real negative thing for me and was part of the reason why my mental health was in such a downward spiral when I started needing compression.

Everyone who knows me and my history and my level of mobility (and the amount of problems I had when I used to wear normal socks let along compression stockings) was sure that there wouldn’t be a way of my getting them off myself. The lymphoedema nurse thought getting the stocking over my heel was going to be an issue.

Eventually coronavirus hit and the risk of my injuring myself trying to get my own stockings off was less than the risk of having the carers here twice a day so much. Very long story short: I got one in the hope I could go to once a day calls, it worked. It took some trial and error to find the easiest way to do it and it takes ages (but I’m getting quicker!) and in two and a half months I’ve probably had support to take my stockings off less than ten times.

Starting next week I am actually going to have a carer three evenings a week because applying my cream myself is still tricky and I think it needs doing better more often than the once a week or so Dad was doing it. But I don’t currently anticipate going back to having a carer here twice a day, everyday.

Should life ever go back to normal there will be no more leaving things early to be home for the carers or planning how I will manage to get my compression off if I go here. Or not going to things because I can’t work round an evening care call. Without being able to go out I’m already eating dinner when I want, sitting outside losing track of time for hours of an evening. Once the morning carer goes, my day is completely my own. I’m thrilled with that.

My carer has looked at it and seen a simple looking thing I can use to take my stockings off. But she’s missing what my being able to take my own stockings off means to me. And £22.40 strikes me as amazing value for money for something that’s changed my life.

A Month of Reading

It’s nearly a month since I last updated on here about what I’ve been reading. And there’s a fair amount of books to share about. There’s also quite a few I have read part of but not finished which I won’t list.

On VE Day I started reading a series of books set in the Second World War. Those were Quarantine Reads 12 – 15. I read the first one cover to cover in one day and finished book 4 in the series a week later. I enjoy books set in that period as it’s one that interests me and the books tend to be quite character driven rather than gritty. So reading them felt like a good way to have a relaxing bank holiday but also mark the occasion. This time it was the Rationbook series by Jean Fullerton. The books are A Rationbook Dream, A Rationbook Christmas, A Rationbook Childhood and A Rationbook Wedding. I found the first one took my a while to get into and I had to persevere almost but I was glad I did. Once I got into it I liked it and I enjoyed the later books in the series more. I hope there will be a book 5.

Book 16 was Spitfire Girls Fly For Victory by Jenny Holmes. Not the best book I’ve read mostly because the first one in the series was better (although now I write this I wonder if the problem was that with almost a year since I read that I didn’t remember the characters that well). But I did enjoy it and I’ll definitely read book three when it comes out later in the year.

Interestingly I read the first book last August when I was housebound due to my powerchair being broken. And I read this one before I started going out for little bits (I’ve since been to the post box, the park and my parent’s garden) so I was housebound then too. I hope not to be housebound when book three comes out!

Next I read The English Agent by Claire Harvey which has been sat on my shelf for an embarrassingly long period of time since a friend passed it on to me (it was a stupid long time before lockdown but luckily she understands). I discovered part way through that this is actually book 2 featuring the main character. I don’t think not having read book 1 made any difference to my enjoyment or understanding. I wont read book 1 any time soon because there were enough snippets to have a good overview of the plot and so it would be spoiled. Which is a shame because I might have enjoyed that more.

Going back to The English Agent itself, I would say it was OK. Part of the problem with my enjoyment was probably my mood in that it was getting a little flat at that point (looking at the date of my Facebook post about the book). But the other side was definitely that it just suffered from my having read so many war books in such quick succession.

Last week I read two books, each of which I read cover to cover in one day. And in the days in between I tried to read another book which has a premise I love but I just couldn’t get into it because I had a book hangover from the first one.

That was To Be Taught If Fortunate by Becky Chambers. Back in summer 2018 I was in a huge reading slump and her (then) three books were the ones that broke it – I read them all in 9 days, making two special trips to book shops for books 2 and 3.

So I was so excited one evening last September when I spotted To Be Taught If Fortunate in Foyles on a night away. And then immediately disappointed and put it back on the shelf. when I read the back and discovered it wasn’t part of the Wayfarers Series. I would still love another Wayfarers book (and a friend tells me one is being written) but after getting it for my birthday and few months later, then leaving it on my shelf for a few months after that I picked it up and read it.

I was wrong to be disappointed by that and also by how short it is. Because when you read the book, it’s just brilliant. Really well crafted and a powerful read. It is really short, and I definitely wanted more. But that said it’s pretty much the perfect length. I think to find out what happens next would probably have ruined it, despite my curiosity.

Next I read So Lucky by Dawn O’Porter. I read another book of hers, The Cows, last year. I’d read the back and liked the idea of The Cows but been put off by her fame (I’ve read other books by famous authors that weren’t good, just clearly published because of who they were) but when it came up as 99p on Kindle gave it a shot. And loved it, read it cover to cover in one day.

So when I heard about So Lucky I was really keen to read it. And I also really wanted to read it in one day like I had The Cows (some authors are “book in a day” authors for me) so it had to wait for the right time.

So Lucky is a story female friendship and the lies we tell ourselves (and others). It was well written, really honest, punchy and slightly gritty. Not your standard chicklit as it was slightly more in depth and unpredictable. And definitely not a case of a famous person having a mediocre book published.

Finally (for now) I read The House at Silvermoor by Tracy Rees. My Mum had asked me to get her a book for her birthday back in May and I added this and one other for me to the Waterstones order. I’ve had a lot of new kindle books (either bought or via NetGalley) since lockdown but it was really nice to have a new physical book. There’s just something about the feel and the smell of a brand new book that I really love.

This was another historical fiction book set in a time and area (1899, early 1900s, Yorkshire mines) that I know little about. So I enjoyed the chance to read about that and also the dual narrative of the story. It kept me guessing throughout (I was sure I knew what was happening but didn’t) and was just another stunning read from Tracy Rees.

Life in Lockdown

I feel like I need to update and write about what life is like at the moment because I’d probably like to have the record in future years. But I also feel like there isn’t a whole lot to say.

There’s no “what I’m reading” post this week because I’ve been reading the same series since last Friday and I want to post about them all at once. I’m on book 4 now which is currently the last one but I reckon the author will probably write at least one more.

I left the house for the first time in almost two months on Tuesday to go say Happy Birthday to my mum in person. I sat outside her house for a little while (it’s big enough to social distance). It felt OK actually and my powerchair managed it. I had been worried about managing to social distance when my chair means I can’t suddenly move into the road or on to the grass (in some places). And I’d also been worried about how the batteries on my chair would cope without having a proper use other than around the house/garden for so long. But there weren’t any problems. It is a relatively short distance though and I didn’t see anyone, things might change if I went a longer distance or it was busier.

I was really surprised by the colour I saw as I went past the park and also in the plants my parents had. I had been picturing the bare, beginnings of spring that there was back in March when I last went out (I don’t really have any plants in my garden). It shouldn’t have surprised me but I obviously hadn’t been seeing it and it just never occurred to me.

Getting food seems to be working quite well now, it was really stressful initially as I don’t qualify for priority slots and it still worries me but it’s working out.. I’ve had an online slot every week or 10 days at most since the 24th April. But I had quite a long gap before that (about two and a half weeks). I was getting a bit worried as the last slot I had was this coming Sunday and I couldn’t get anything else. It was looking from Tesco that it would be well into June and I was staying up until midnight to book and not being successful. However I then got an FB message from my mum on Weds saying there were slots (immediately followed by a text from Dad saying “Mum says….”) and I was successful.

I feel like I should be doing more with my time however at the same time I’m very content with what I am doing. There’s a lot of content and things to do and I want to do some of them but others times I just want to do my own thing. I’m also coming to the conclusion that I prefer zoom calls with only one other person or maybe two or three, not big group ones.

A friend and I were talking about that and we came to the conclusion that we both feel a bit like that because we live alone and in both our cases at least part of our people have always been a distance away (some of her family live abroad and most of friends don’t live in the same town as me). So we’re used to our own company, keeping in touch from a distance and doing our own thing.

I’ve made two finished craft projects since March (a knitted scarf and a loom knit hat), crocheted part of a blanket and several granny squares. But initially I planned to make a square a day until I had enough for a blanket, and finish the whole blanket.

I’m writing a bit but again not as much as I hoped to. And the same with reading. And using my motomed

I’m happy with everything I am achieving but sometimes I feel like I’m not doing enough. I am trying to remind myself what I have done however.

Wednesday was quite a flat day – the first one for a while. Overall I’m coping very well and surprised to find that’s the case. Personally it seems as though this is going to be the situation for a long time and I do wonder whether it will still be as easy on cold dark December days if it comes to it. But I focus on the next few weeks and the rest of the year will sort itself out when it comes.

What I’m Reading

I feel like it’s been a bit of a slow lethargic week or two – I wasn’t well for a few days last week with an ear infection – but looking at my list of what I’ve been reading since I last updated (and adding in that I’ve written a bit and almost made an entire hat) I think that might just be me being a bit hard on myself.

So what have I been reading in the last two or so weeks since I updated? A fair amount. I’ve started and not progressed with a few books but here’s what I have finished.

First up was The Spanish Promise by Karen Swan. That’s the second book of hers I’ve read and I will read more but probably not immediately. It was fab. I must say it was a much twistier book than I expected, so much so that I almost felt like I needed to read the end a second time to appreciate it properly.

Then I read A Postcard from Italy by Alexandra Brown. It combined a touch of historical fiction with travel and chicklit and I thought it well done. There was one disability related trope in the book which I thought unnecessary, poorly done and disappointing so as much as I liked it until that point I struggle to recommend it. And years later, I am still disappointed that Alexandra Brown has never revisited the characters from The Great Christmas Knit Off.

This was the point in my reading that I began to feel really rather fed up of chicklit. Although looking at what I read next I don’t seem to have done a brilliant job at escaping from it immediately (the two books I’m reading now are anything but chicklit but I’ve not finished them so they will be listed next time).

Darling Blue by Tracy Rees was a definite winner for me. It’s a longer read (and it was really nice to get my teeth into a longer book), historical and almost a saga. I had been expecting it to be more of a historical read based on having read two of her other books (and having a third on my shelf) but it was actually the exact amount of historical for the story Tracy Rees was telling.

I was really excited when I went to list this as read on goodreads to see two Tracy Rees books I didn’t know about. It actually turns out one of them was Darling Blue republished under a different title (The Love Note). But the other book is a new one and it feel into my basket when I ordered my mum’s birthday present. I’m looking forward to reading more of Tracy Rees writing soon ish.

Although the title suggests this is a book set in Venice, the last book I have to write about today, From Venice with Love by Rosanna Ley takes place in several settings. It’s a good read and we do visit Venice but this is not the book for you if you want one set solely in Venice (Or even Italy). I found it to be a good book and it kept me guessing (although I did figure one thing out). But having read the majority of Rosanna Ley’s previous books, I definitely enjoyed earlier ones more.

What I’m Reading

It’s been slightly more than a week this time (my intention is to post these every Monday but I’m not always good at following through on what I intend to do) because I wasn’t doing a lot of reading so on Monday I didn’t have a lot to write. I had a week’s free trial of Disney Plus so that filled a lot of my time last week. I haven’t kept the trial but will probably get it again for a month or two at some point as well I think there’s not a lot I’d watch regularly there are a fair few more films I’d like to see (I had originally signed up for the year and the trial wouldn’t let me change it to monthly).

I read two books in the last ten days or so and I’ve listened to a bit more of The White Tiger audiobook. I’m not sure if I’m going to finish that audiobook or not. I might put it aside for a while and listen to something else.

Both of the books I read I have ARCs of in exchange for a review.

Escape to the French Farmhohuse by Jo Thomas was first up. This is being published in paperback on 7th May and in paperback in August according to Amazon. I was late to a zoom drinks thing because I was two chapters from finishing it and couldn’t put it down! It’s the second or third book by Jo Thomas I’ve read and she is fast becoming one of my go to authors for relaxing escapism. I definitely need to explore her backlist books and see what I’ve missed!

Escape to the French Farmhouse is set on a lavender farm and I could really picture it from the descriptions. I had a squirt of lavender spray while I was reading it to help with the mood. Such a great setting. I really enjoyed it but with all the current social distancing we have at the moment all the French characters double kissing when they met felt uncomfortable (but to be fair I’ve never been a huge fan of hugging and kissing someone every time you meet anyway).

Second up was A Wedding at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry. I was so happy not to have to wait until this is published at the end of May to read it. I’ve loved pretty much everything I’ve read by Veronica Henry but I really love her Beach Hut books and this didn’t disappoint. In fact I think it might be my favourite of hers.

This was the perfect mix of substance, a few surprises, and a chance to forget about the outside world. Something that’s really needed at the moment! I particularly liked the fact that sometimes what I thought would happen didn’t. It made me dream of the seaside and hope I can get to the coast one day this summer.

One day I hope Veronica Henry writes another Beach Hut book revisiting all the various characters from the different books (they are same setting, different characters books) because I’ve loved them all. And Robyn and Jake from A Wedding at the Beach Hut would be my number one for a revisit!