Sunday, 1 May 2022

Beltane: Day 7


The big day is here! And, to be honest, we're absolutely shattered now! I think it's fair to say we've given our Beltane celebrations a really good go this year. We weren't quite as full-on as we are for Halloween, but I think this was a good try. Maybe next year we'll go even bigger with it, because I have to admit I love Beltane now (though, obviously, Halloween and Christmas are still the best).

Friends of Crumpsall Park Beltane Litter-Pick




The Friends of Crumpsall Park litter-pick is held on the first Sunday of every month, so it fell today. And, like yesterday's litter-pick, it had a Beltane theme this time. We had another go at making Beltane story sticks while we travelled round the park, though mine turned out a bit more Goth than the one I made yesterday.

Springtime Bath Bomb



A lovely little gift from Rob for a bit of seasonal relaxation!

Beltane Dinner



May Day concluded for us with the (now) traditional Beltane Dinner of sausage casserole, followed by strawberries and cream.

The Wicker Man



And what else could we watch to accompany our Beltane Dinner than The Wicker Man (the 1973 version... obviously!).

Beltane Gifts



We ended the night by sharing our (now) traditional gifts - more whisky (or Calvados this time for Rob) to add to our seasonal tasting sets that we'll enjoy at Christmas.

And so the wheel of the year turns... We'll be celebrating again at Midsummer.

My Year in Books 2022: April

Time for my monthly round-up of the books I read for fun in April. It's a little longer than my previous two posts, but it is a bit of a mixed bag this time. I did read one really good one this month though!

In case you're interested, here are my posts from the year so far: January, February, March

Black Mountain by Simon Bestwick (2021)


The first book on this month’s list was originally published as an eBook serial in eleven parts, but later rereleased as a collected paperback edition. I read the collected novel-length version, so that’s what this review is based on. Black Mountain is a horror story about an area of North Wales known as the ‘Bala Triangle’, which surrounds Mynydd Du (the eponymous Black Mountain). Over the years a series of strange occurrences have taken place in the Bala Triangle, suggesting something very old and very bad resides there. But that’s not really what hooked me in with this one. The way the story is told is very much the selling point of this one. The book begins with Rob Markland, a horror author, who stumbles on an odd little story about a place called Hafen Deg on an urban explorers site (and the initial description of Hafen Deg really hooked me in). From there, Markland discovers a couple of articles by a writer called Russell Ware, also a one-time horror author, who had done some investigation into strange events at Hafen Deg and the surrounding area, but who died before his work could be completed. The nested, unreliable narrations, incorporating a variety of supporting sources, are utterly compelling, leading the reader through a maze of unsettling vignettes that take in everything from religious history, farming, mining, archaeological research, an executive holiday village, and the perils of trying to open a B and B in a cursed landscape. Loved this one.

The Apparition Phase by Will Maclean (2020)


I have to admit, I really thought this next one would be right up my street. And, in some ways, it was. The story begins in the early 1970s, with twins Abi and Tim deciding to fake a ghost photograph in the attic of their suburban home. Proud of their creepy creation, they choose a suitable target – a girl from their school who they believe will be a good candidate for being duped by their fake photo – but then things go horribly wrong. Their target reacts in an unexpectedly dramatic manner, and then Abi goes missing. A few years later, Tim is introduced to a group of paranormal researchers who are investigating a supposedly haunted manor house called Yarlings in Suffolk, and various demons begin to surface. While I did enjoy the set-up and the initial setting of the story, I struggled a bit with where it went. The ghost-hunters in the mansion seemed to belong to a very different story to the fake ghost photograph, and I found the book a bit fragmented. (There is something that tentatively unites the two narrative strands, of course, but I won’t say what that is, as I think it would constitute a spoiler!) And while I’m more than happy with open and opaque endings, this one suffers for its lack of resolutions. None of the storylines (the fake photo, the missing sister, the incidents in Yarlings) reach a satisfying conclusion, which was a bit disappointing, and the book’s ending is somewhat abrupt.

The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse (2021)


I’m at a bit of a loss what to say about this one, as I’m genuinely struggling to say anything positive (and I don’t like these mini-reviews just to rip books to pieces). I bought this one from the supermarket, because the setting sounded intriguing. The blurb promised a murder mystery in a former sanatorium, now a luxury hotel, in the Swiss alps. An avalanche cuts the hotel off, and there’s a killer on the loose. While not the most original premise, it certainly sounded like something I might like. Unfortunately, the execution was surprisingly poor, given the huge marketing push the book has had. The central character is an apparently ‘rising star’ detective, who is taking extended leave after nearly being killed by a suspect. She’s at the hotel for her brother’s engagement party, but she intends to use the time to confront him about the death of their younger sibling twenty years previously. I’m afraid to say that this character is one of the most woefully inept detective I’ve ever read. She makes no headway with her unofficial investigation into the series of gruesome murders that take place while she’s at the hotel, and she puts herself pointlessly in danger on several occasions. She also takes a long time to recognize the meagre clues presented. Combined with a surprising (for the genre) lack of secondary characters/suspects, and very poor writing and editing (including continuity errors, unclear prose and a distractingly choppy style), this one was an utter let-down.

Beltane: Day 6


Another day of festivities... and oh, we do have a busy weekend planned! Today we combined Beltane with Walpurgis Night for an added celebration.

Friends of Bailey’s Wood Beltane Litter-Pick




The monthly Friends of Bailey's Wood litter-pick was on today (it's the last Saturday of every month). This time, there was (of course) a Beltane theme. As well as doing the regular litter-pick, we also made Beltane story sticks as we travelled round the woods.

Quick Lunchbreak



Not exactly Beltane-themed, but it was nice to take a bit of time out after the litter-pick for a quiet lunch with Rob, before heading off to buy some important stuff for tonight's celebrations.

Walpurgisnacht Earrings



I wore my Green Man earrings for the litter-pick in the morning, but I switched them in the evening for some little silver witches in honour of Walpurgis Night.

A Visit to Heaton Park






One of the Walpurgis Night traditions that I read about and was quite taken with is visiting 'the high places'. Luckily enough, the highest place in Manchester (the Temple at Heaton Park) is just around the corner from us. We had an early evening walk, and then a bit of quiet time contemplating the view. To accompany the peace and quiet, we had a little cup of tea as well - Bonfire Toffee from Bird and Blend Tea Co. (saved from last Halloween).

Walpurgis Night Dinner





The other Walpurgis Night tradition I wanted to observe was 'gathering with loved ones' and 'making lots of noise'. So, we had an awesome and rather boisterous family dinner tonight. I brought balloons that were meant to look like flames and a Beltane-themed cake. And me and my brother created a playlist of music for the evening, which was a bit of a rollercoaster, given how different our musical tastes are!

Saturday, 30 April 2022

Beltane: Day 5


It's Day 5 of our Beltane celebrations! Getting ready for a busy weekend! But first... today...

Beltane Earrings



Today's seasonal earrings were hawthorn leaves and blossoms.

Creative Writing Session






We had a lovely Springtime writing session at Castlerea Home care home today, where I do a weekly volunteering session. We were brainstorming the best bits of the season, and then writing short poems/stories inspired by these ideas.

Violet Liqueur



And finally for today... I had a cheeky Beltane drink with a friend this evening. We had a very seasonal Aber Falls Violet Liqueur!

Thursday, 28 April 2022

Beltane: Day 4


Last day of our holiday, so we were busy travelling and getting settled back in at home today (plus, I had to attend a work meeting this evening). We did fit in a little bit of seasonal celebration though.

Lunch in Bakewell




We couldn't go to Bakewell without visiting the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop, could we? We had a lovely lunch here before we headed back. I had a Derbyshire Rarebit and, of course, a Bakewell pudding (not a tart, which isn't native to Bakewell at all).

May Day



And this evening it was time for a bit of seasonal viewing for Beltane... we're watching May Day (the 2013 drama series with Sophie Okonedo and Aiden Gillen) over the next couple of days.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Beltane: Day 3


It's the third day of our Beltane celebrations, and we're still in Bakewell so more Peak District adventures for us today. We'll be heading home tomorrow, so today was our final excursion of the holiday.

Beltane Earrings



Today's seasonal earrings were a cute little pair of daisy chains (another surprise gift from Rob).

Monsal Trail





We've been for a walk along the Monsal Trail today. The Monsal Trail is a section of a former Midland Railway line that runs from Chee Dale to Bakewell and is now a walking and cycling route.) We didn't do the whole trail, but we did Bakewell Station to just after Monsal Head viaduct and then back again. My favourite part (apart from the views from the viaduct) was walking through the Headstone Tunnel. I wish we could have gone as far as the other tunnels, but we couldn't handle a 17-mile walk today!

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Beltane: Day 2


It's the second day of our Beltane celebrations - and it's been a bit of a tiring one!

Beltane Earrings



Today's seasonal earrings were a Green Man and stag antlers combo. The stag antlers were a lovely surprise gift from Rob this week.

Hob Hurst's House




We went to Hob Hurst's House today, an English Heritage site just outside Bakewell. Hob Hurst's House has EVERYTHING I want from a landmark. It's a Bronze Age barrow, discovered by the 'Barrow Knight' (a Victorian antiquarian), supposedly inhabited by a folkloric creature, AND it's one of the first monuments to be taken into state care under the Ancient Monuments Protection Act! Amazing place.

Beeley Moor



After visiting the Bronze Age barrow, we continued our walk over Beeley Moor. It was... a little more strenuous than we were expecting. But the views were amazing!

Cocktails!



We celebrated our successful (but exhausting) excursion with cocktails. I like to call these 'Travel Cocktails', but I couldn't possibly share the recipe!

Monday, 25 April 2022

Beltane: Day 1


It's time for our third event in our Year of Celebrating the Seasons. Beltane (or May Day) is an exciting one, as it sits on the opposite side of the Wheel of the Year to Samhain (or Halloween), which is my favourite seasonal celebration. We're going to be celebrating all week, and I'm determined to make this a week of Halloween-in-Spring.

Beltane Earrings



My first pair of Beltane earrings this year were these cute little bluebells.

Magpie Mine




We went to Magpie Mine in Sheldon, near Bakewell, this afternoon for a picnic and a wander. It's a disused lead mine, renovated and looked after by the Peak District Mines Historical Society.

Lathkill Dale




We also had a little wander in Lathkill Dale today. We definitely want to come back and explore properly another time. It's lovely!

The Reddening



Beltane feels like the perfect time for folk horror. I'm not 100% sure it's completely seasonal, but I'm reading The Reddening by Adam Nevill this week.

Beltane Candle




We lit our Beltane candle (from Chalice Creations) tonight. This season's scents are ylang ylang, jasmine, geranium and frankincense.