Cycling fever in my handbag

French Revolutions:Cycling the Tour de France

Tim Moore

‘..clearly, here was an event that gripped the nation like no other and didn’t relax its grasp for twenty one whole days.’

Tour de Yorkshire fever is about to grip Yorkshire this Friday. In preparation for the race, I have placed a topical book, about cycling, in my handbag. Nowadays, I can’t wait to go and capture the atmosphere of this cycling event but I haven’t always been a fan! 

However, my husband has always been obsessed with the Tour de France and is glued to the television for three weeks during the tournament.  I could never understand the appeal; to me it seemed like endless scenery whizzing past.  I was not impressed when my husband decided to buy me a book about the event.  He assured me that I didn’t need to be an enthusiast to read French Revolutions by Tim Moore.

Annoyingly, I did love the book, and didn’t stop laughing; it was something to read whilst my husband watched the race.  It is an hilarious book about an amateur cyclist, aged 35, who decided to complete the Tour de France route six weeks before the big race.  Admittedly, you do learn about the event, but the book is crammed full of entertaining anecdotes. Moore’s style of writing just breezes along, punctuated with witty observations.

The book entertained me and managed to begin a revolution in my heart! I was nudged again when Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France, and then when the Tour de France visited Yorkshire.  It really was like a fever had swept through God’s own county.

Read the full article in My Reading .

 

I’ll leave you with the words of that great French cycling legend:

“It was like having a Tour de France stage in my home region, it was so amazing. I am not saying that because I am here, I really feel it. To see my name written on the road or on banners held by children really touches me. I have been a rider for 16 years and I have never seen anything like that.”

Thomas Voekler, France, Tour de Yorkshire Winner 2016

 

Books abandoned for sculptures…

I had the pleasure of visiting Yorkshire Sculpture Park last week. It is an open-air art gallery, set in the grounds of an eighteenth-century mansion.  The landscaped gardens work together with the sculptures to create an amazing creative harmony.

There is such a variety of sculptures and each one inspires questions.  Indeed, it is amazing the way in which perfect strangers are happy to discuss the sculptures without worrying about their interpretations. Perhaps the visitors feel uninhibited as they are not confined by the walls of gallery that echoes with knowledge. Who knows?’

During the walk, we stumbled on many people from different nationalities.  An Australian woman told me that she had been ‘startled’ by a wonderful sculpture of a woman’s head.  We agreed that the spirit of the woman seems to beckon you.  From a distance, the sculpture looks like a projected image – prompting: is she real or imaginary? As you approach, the sculpture is flat – like the silhouette on a stamp.  It is a beautiful form that seemed to appeal to women rather than men, on that day.  Despite the grey sky, the light was adding a mystical quality that gave the sculpture an air of confidence.  What this suggesting something about the modern woman?

Further into the walk, we were greeted by Highland cattle.  These creatures were so still, and at ease with the visitors, that we wondered if they were sculptures.  We also found a dead tree with ancient looking bark and a very twisted form.  Had the tree been left there to demonstrate how natural objects can also be sculpted by the elements? We were having this debate when another visitor overheard and said, ‘What a load of arty farty nonsense!’  This brought us completely down to earth and reminded me of how everything is open to interpretation.

Still laughing at the comments, we found some steps that were carved into the earth paving a way to some open woodland.  I decided that the steps were a sculpture but my husband was sceptical at this point; he had been influenced by our fellow Yorkshire folk.  A plaque marked the spot as if to reassure me.  It felt as if someone was presenting a hopeful message about the climb.  Pardon the pun, but I went a step further and commented that to me they represented the struggle for independent authors.  But that was my interpretation at that point in time: I was influenced by my emotions, experience, the weather and, of course, ‘arty farty nonsense’.

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a wonderful place to visit.  I wonder if you would be able to spot the sculptures that instigated our discussions?  Would you agree with the interpretations?  Did someone deliberately construct a place when art can be read according to mood, weather and other factors?  I don’t know the answer to this but invite you to have a look.  Perhaps some of the questions should be placed next to the sculptures?  Maybe, there will be a sculpture of a handbag in the future, or possibly a sculpture constructed of books.

Following the visit, I was brimming with questions and ideas.  Reading the sculptures inspired my own writing, and reminded me that it is so important to take some time for reflection.  I placed picture postcards of the sculptures in my handbag, rather than books.  However, I know that I will return to ask more questions and to find a suitable reading spot – or maybe several.

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Will I need space for a broken heart in my handbag?

Now and Then in Tuscany

Angela Petch

Will I need space for a broken heart in my handbag? 

 

 

 

Click here to buy on Amazon

‘In my heart there was a storm that needed to break and my heart hurt like thorns on the wild rosa canina growing in the hedgerows…’

If you embark on this journey of discovery then be sure to prepare some delicious crostini, in advance, as you will not be able to put the book down….

This is a story of love wrapped up in an insight into rural history and customs of Tuscany. Meet ancient craftsmen and farmers, of Montebotolino, and marvel at the tenacity of their families; see how they survived difficult times.

The history of Giuseppe, a farrier and a cobbler, is completely absorbing.  Giuseppe was born at the beginning of last century.  His naivety leads him down some challenging paths, but this shapes the man, and ‘suffering begins the journey to wisdom.’   I found myself wanting to shout at Giuseppe and send him in the direction of love; the loves story is beautiful.

For me, the novel unlocked secrets of the enchanting holiday destination.  I have often wondered who had once walked along the ancient tracks, and who once lived in the ancient dwellings that nestle in the mountains.   As the title suggests, the reader delves into rural Tuscany as it is now and as it was back then at the beginning of last century. The reader has the privilege of meeting characters from the different generations and has more knowledge than the characters:  it is satisfying to fit the jigsaw together.  Indeed, there is a cleverly crafted narrative, in which there are emotional parallels in the lives of the characters from the past and the present.

Giuseppe’s grandson, Francesco, and his English wife, Anna have turned the ancient houses into holiday lets. Their son, Davide, encounters some of the emotional challenges of childhood that Giuseppe, his great-grandfather, had to face. Alba, Giuseppe’s great-granddaughter, faces choices about education very different to her great-grandparents.   Whilst Giuseppe’s grandson Francesco and his wife face different daily routines; this reminds us of how life has changed. However, the tenderness between the couples from both generations is crafted skilfully, and there is an exploration of love.

Life, in Montebotolino, was hard at the beginning of the last century.  Yet, the people had to make the most of nature’s larder, and the peasant food is so tempting.  It seems that the working people, from the past, shaped the menus in contemporary Italy, sadly many of their homes have been left empty as their lifestyle was too difficult. The charm, and majestic beauty of the Tuscan landscape is still there to seduce the modern traveller.  Fortunately, we can still see:

‘Cypress tree lined twisting white ribbon roads up hills towards impressive stone buildings…trees like stakes holding down the land.’

This story takes the reader beneath the surface of the magical holiday destination, associated with a paradise for the eye and the belly.

The transumanza is the Italian term for transhumance, the traditional twice yearly migration of sheep and cows from the highlands to the lowlands, and vice versa. The word literally means “crossing the land”. Ref:  Wikipedia

 

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Meeting Jane Austen

Today, I attended the Bennet household. Alas, Elizabeth was not at home. I was rather shocked to be greeted by her father, Mr Bennet. I did not see a servant.

Apparently, Mr Bennet had taken refuge from the house as there was a quarrel afoot. He was a pleasant enough fellow but a little shabby.

Finally, he asked the parlour maid to show me into the library. Strangely, every book on the shelves has been penned by a Jane Austen. I was most impressed with a book entitled, ‘Pride and Prejudice’.

I made a note of some words:

‘I declare there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than a book!…When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if it does not have an excellent library.’

Lost in Austen’s books, I read until the clock struck four and my stomach rumbled. Venturing into the corridor, surprised that the house was silent, I decided to depart.  A Miss Austen opened the door and insisted on my company. She informed me that Mr Bennet lives in her imagination, but he had been seen loitering on the doorstop on many occasions.

Amused by my breeches, Miss Austen invited me to take tea with her. She smiled when I explained they are cropped trousers. We sat in a very modest parlour.  The maid served tea and a buttered apple tart.  Delighted that her books had made me forget time, Miss Austen commented that. ‘…for my own part, if a book is written well, I always find it too short.’

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death and her books remain popular.  It is a delight to own a beautiful copy of the books.  However, it never fails to amaze me that it is now possible to download the timeless stories for free.

 

Please see all my adventures at Handbag Adventures and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

Find a compartment labelled ‘do not disturb’ in my handbag

Just for the Holidays

Sue Moorcroft

A book about a midlife crisis and teenagers but the book had me at helicopter pilot! 

 

 

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I have been waiting for weeks to meet Leah. As soon as the book arrived, I made myself some strong coffee and lost myself in France.

As I opened the book, I could feel the ‘sheen on my skin where the sunshine streamed in through the window’. But the book isn’t just about the shimmering heat, a fast heart beat and copious amounts of rosé pamplemousse.  It is a wonderfully witty book that isn’t ‘Just for the Holidays’ because the consequences of the holiday will last forever.  This novel examines the fragility of the ‘protective shell’ surrounding teenagers that can shatter without their parents.  In turn, Moorcroft also shows how adult are left vulnerable and exposed when relationships breakdown.  However, you will still laugh all the way through novel and forget that you need to go to sleep – hence strong coffee needed.  You will also crave some expensive chocolate.

Prior to reading this novel, I was unaware of the challenges facing Leah as I had focused on the trail of clues in the #PostcardsJFTH.  One must admire Leah as she ‘rolls up her sleeves’, supports everyone and hopes that the ‘frost’ will thaw between her sister and brother-in-law. Leah’s ‘heart twists’ for the teenagers but also flutters when she feels the heat from a certain man. It is moving that Leah has an incredible capacity to empathise, putting the needs of others first.  It is equally endearing that she removes the halo from time to time. Who wouldn’t want Leah, with her ‘sunny personality’ and compassion, as a sister?

The narrative is as fast paced as Leah’s Porsche, but one longs to find out if the romance will become a harmonious melody rather than a sporadic drum beat.  Besides the events rolling on, there is a tremendous lyrical quality to the dialogue that drives you through the events.  The humour sparkles throughout the interactions and difficult situations. I am in awe of the way in which Moorcroft combines humour with a more challenging and sensitive subject.   Characters are built with precision as each word is selected with tender loving care: Moorcroft cares about her characters thus ensuring that the reader will also suffer from a ‘sore heart’ at times.

Read it and you will understand why Leah needs to get a massive ‘Do not disturb’ sign on her door.

A whole constellation of stars to be awarded to Sue Moorcroft for this funny, poignant yet heart-breaking read!  Must go now and bake the quick pecan toffee pudding to console myself for having finished the book.

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The Old Friend in my Handbag

Carol Drinkwater’s The Forgotten Summer is safely stored in my handbag and can be enjoyed at any time, but a generous glass of Chateauneuf du Pape is a recommended companion.

I devoured Drinkwater’s memoirs and drank up her wisdom, and her novel, Forgotten Summer, did not disappoint me.  Drinkwater wraps up her nuggets of wisdom, and powerful observations, in a beautifully crafted narrative.

This is so much more than the story of an English girl that fell in love with a Frenchman.  Jane’s memories of her life, thirty years on, are the starting point for Jane’s exploration of another world that her husband inhabited.

Read the complete review of Forgotten Summer in My Reading.

 

Drinkwater books are like my old friends.  I started this reading friendship with the Olive Farm books.

I escaped into the world of Apassionata immediately. I could feel the heat of the sun on my face as I ran away to the Mediterranean, with the narrator’s voice in my head. The descriptions are vivid, soothing and thoroughly necessary; they nourish the imagination and transport you.

Read the complete review of The Olive Farm in My Reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An Infuriating Addition to my Handbag

Yuki Chan in Brontë Country 

 Mick Jackson

 

This was an oddly infuriating and fascinating book.  I liked the character of Yuki and the bizarre insight into her world. 

I bought the book because I like the Bronte books, especially Wuthering Heights, and expected to find a kindred spirit and some insight .  At first, I was furious with comments such as:

‘In Japan, an old house like this would have been flattened and rebuilt half a dozen time, along with every other building in the town.’

 

 

Please the full review on My Reading page.

 

Check out my blog at jessiecahalin.com