Friday, 24 June 2022

Midsummer: Day 6

Another day of celebrating the summer season! Today was a day of Midsummer-themed snacks and nice things with family members - and that's no bad thing at all.

Afternoon Tea at Heaton Park

Me and my mum went out for a nice spot of afternoon tea at the Hidden Gem Coffee Shop at Heaton Park Garden Centre today. Lovely carrot cake!

Midsummer Earrings

Since I was going out for tea, I wore possibly my weirdest Midsummer earrings today... a pair of cucumber slices! (Sadly, I didn't have cucumber sandwiches to go with them. Just cheese.)

Midsummer Tea

Today's Midsummer tea (from the Whittard selection box) was Earl Grey.

Midsummer Myst

My brother came round tonight for our weekly Myst replay session (we're up to Revelation now). Tonight had a Midsummer flavour, though , as we had Pimm's and Pina Colada-style fruit and nut mix!

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Midsummer: Day 5

It's our fifth day of Midsummer celebrations today, and it's had a very definite 'Summer Holidays' vibe for me (I even took my parasol when I went out this afternoon).

Summer Holidays Local History Talk

Today I gave a local history talk at the College of the Third Age in Crumpsall, and, in honour of the season, it was all about summer holidays, wakes, rushcarts and fairs. I got to talk about 7th-century missionaries and the Declaration of Sports, as well as sheep-shearing, morris dancers and rush-bearing, and Delaunay's dyeworks, working class respectability movements and the popularity of fortune-telling pigs. And the attendees shared stories of dads who refused to take their ties off on the beach, Yelloway coaches, going to the Isle of Man (because 'it felt like it was abroad') and (from my 90-year-old neighbour) being propositioned by soldiers on Blackpool pier. We also had a brief singalong to Cliff Richard at the beginning, some birthday cake for one of the ladies halfway through, and an inflatable palm tree.

Midsummer Earrings

So today's Midsummer earrings (in honour of my Summer Holidays history talk) were a pair of funky watermelon slices.

Midsummer Tea

Today's Midsummer tea (another of my Whittard selection box) was Mango and Bergamot.

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Midsummer: Day 4

Another day of celebrating Midsummer, and it was the Summer Solstice this morning as well. Work meant that we wouldn't be able to stay up all night to enjoy the solstice, so we decided to at least honour it with a beautiful sunset.

Midsummer Earrings

Today's Midsummer (and Solstice) earrings were these lovely suns, a gift from my equally lovely husband Rob.

Midsummer Tea

My dad gave me a little selection box of Whittard teas a couple of months ago, and they were so summery-looking I decided to save them as a tea-a-day treat over Midsummer. Today's tea was English Breakfast.

Saddleworth Moor

In honour of the Summer Solstice, we went out to watch the sun set over Saddleworth Moor.

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Midsummer: Day 3

It was a bit of a busy day at work today, so not a lot of celebrating sadly. At least we've got another week of Midsummer fun to look forward to though!

Midsummer Earrings

Today's seasonal earrings were a very cute little pair of purple fairies.


My seasonal reading for our Midsummer week is Weeds: The Story of Outlaw Plants by Richard Mabey.

Monday, 20 June 2022

Midsummer: Day 2

The second day of our Midsummer celebrations coincided with our monthly day off together, so we decided to have a trip out. Since Midsummer is (for some) associated with the Fair Folk, we decided to go somewhere that might (depending on what you believe) be a good place to spot fairies.

Midsummer Earrings

Since we were going to a (possible) fairy site, today's earrings were a sparkly fairy and star set.

Castlerigg Stone Circle

We took a trip out to Castlerigg Stone Circle near Keswick today. After a picnic near the stones, we carried on for a walk (which was a lot longer than we'd been led to expect!) through the stunning landscape around Blencathra to Tewet Tarn. When we arrived back at the stone circle, we took a bit of time just to appreciate the setting, accompanied by a cup of Fairies Chapel (lemon and wild berries) tea from The Tea Crew.

‘Sheep, Hay and Rushes’

I ended the day reading the second chapter about Midsummer in Ronald Hutton's The Stations of the Sun: 'Sheep, Hay and Rushes'.

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Midsummer: Day 1

It's Midsummer (Litha) time! We're onto our fourth event in our Year of Celebrating the Seasons! And it's a bumper celebration this time, as we've decided to do nine days instead of the usual seven (because we have stuff planned this weekend and next, so we wanted to include it all). So we'll be taking in the Summer Solstice and Midsummer's Day, as well as plenty of other days.

Midsummer Earrings

I've cracked out my next set of seasonal earrings... today's were strawberries and bees!

‘The Midsummer Fires’

I should probably have started reading this at the start of the year (tbh I've only just thought of it!), but I'm now accompanying our seasonal celebrations with the relevant chapters from Ronald Hutton's The Stations of the Sun. I read 'The Midsummer Fires' tonight.

Midsummer Candle

We lit our Midsummer candle from Chalice Creations for the first time tonight as well... jasmine, rose, lavender, ylang ylang, geranium, helichrysum and melissa lemon to last us through the week.


Not strictly a Midsummer thing, but I've decided to count it! We've been rewatching Waking the Dead over the past couple of months. Our Waking the Dead rewatch is an annual thing, and we like to make a bit of an event of it. This year, I've been making cocktails inspired by the characters. Tonight's cocktails were based on Felix (aka Miserable Frankie) and Stella (aka French Mel). The recipes are up on my Twitter.

My Year in Books 2022: May

This is a bit of a disappointing post to write. Once again, there's only one book on my list for the month, and I'm posting it terribly late. I still seem to be having a problem reading for pleasure. I've read quite a few other books this month, but they were all for review or research. When it comes to just reading for fun, I'm still a bit stuck to be honest. Possibly (I'm not sure), part of the problem this month was that I got bogged down in a book that I just wasn't that into. I don't know if that was the book's fault or mine, but I've reluctantly decided to set it to one side for June to see if I can find something that sparks my interest a bit more. Sadly, it's not the first time I've done that this year, which isn't like me at all.

I don't know if this is an aftereffect of lockdown, or just a symptom of being really tired and busy. I hope it passes soon though.

Anyway, if you're interested, here are my lists for the rest of the year: January, February, March, April

A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz (2021)

I bought this for the setting more than anything else. I like island mysteries, but I can’t remember reading one set on Alderney before. I also can’t remember if I’ve read any of Horowitz’s other novels, but I’m a big fan of his TV work (specifically Foyle’s War and his work on Poirot – which should come as no surprise!). A Line to Kill is the third book in his Hawthorne and Horowitz series. I haven’t read the other two, but that wasn’t a barrier to enjoying the book at all. Because of the conceit behind the series, there were quite a lot of references to the earlier two cases, but Horowitz avoids both spoilers and plot points that require some prior knowledge. The series features a character called Anthony Horowitz, a novelist who has previously worked as a TV writer, and who has now turned his hand to crime writing. This is an incredibly self-referential set-up! Horowitz (the character) is on Alderney with his detective muse, Hawthorne, to attend a literary festival and promote the first book in the series, The Word is Murder, ahead of the publication of the second book, The Sentence is Death. But wouldn’t you know it? shortly after the guests arrive, the festival’s sponsor is found dead. A Line to Kill is a lot of fun. I enjoyed the self-referentiality, and the use of the setting was nicely done. The influence of Agatha Christie is noticeable, but it’s definitely not derivative. I enjoyed this one.

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

OUT NOW: Face in the Mirror: A Students' Guide, ed. by Judy Morris (ZunTold, 2022)

A new student anthology of poetry, featuring my poems 'Isti Mirant Stella', 'table', 'Your Poem Here' and 'Delaunay's Dye'...

Who am I? Is it okay for me to be different? Just what is my place in the world?

Life can be a difficult path to walk. But poetry can be a powerful and loyal friend, bringing light and joy when things seem dark, helping us find our way.

This book is a unique collection of classical and modern poetry for young people, covering a vast range of human experience. You will find the voices of young people in these pages as well as poets who lived many years ago. Their words can touch our minds and hearts, unlock our emotions and help us maintain good mental health.

A poem can help you to say, 'This is how I feel: this is my reality.' And that can be the start of a journey towards personal happiness, inner peace and wellbeing.

Poetry by:

Paul Morris, Emily Dickinson, Peter Kalu, Edgar Albert Guest, Abbie Farwell Brown, Hannah Kate, William Blake, William Shakespeare, Rosie Garland, Judy Morris, Tesni Penney, Mojisola Oladiti, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, George Eliot, Mary Frye, Aya Ahmad, Marian Allen, Wilfred Owen, Elaine Bousfield, Emily Jane, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Christian D. Larson, Emily Brontë, Robert Louis Stevenson, Wang Zhihuan, Rudyard Kipling, Charlotte Brontë, Robert Frost, Sara Teasdale and William Ernest Henley.

This text accompanies Face in the Mirror: A Teachers’ Guide for using poetry to support good mental health in the classroom and beyond.

For more information, or to buy a copy of the book, please visit the ZunTold website.

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.