Tag Archives: Random Savidgeness

The Tomb of the Kings, Paphos

I was a huge, huge fan of the Indiana Jones films as a kid (not so much the last one as an adult, it’s probably best if we all forget that it happened) and have always quite liked the ice of going off for an adventure into some old caves, ancient sites or tombs investigating and finding old relics. It was possibly this side of me, along with the gothic elements to, that lead me to take up a role as a tour guide at Highgate Cemetery. So when I discovered that there was a necropolis in Paphos that looked like an Indiana Jones film set I had to go.

 
It’s is quite surreal as you enter the park that within metres you realise that you are not surrounded by natural caves but by tombs. From the outside they look like a rocky natural cavern and then you go inside and discover there is much more than meets the eye. Who knows what might be lurking in them.

 
These are not actually tombs of kings but really a series of tombs built by the rich and aristocratic of the area. As you get towards the centre it all gets more and more showy. The more tombs you go in.

 
Until you get to the centre and possibly the grandest tomb I have ever seen, and believe me there are some corkers in Highgate, nothing quite on this scale though.

 

Quite something indeed and actually quite spooky when you get down there and there is just you and all that space…

 
The spookiness (and stillness and quiet) was part of what I loved about it all. As you descended or ascended each staircase you were never quite sure what you might find.

 

Bar a few small incidents of some Cyprus Lizards (which are pretty big) a pair of unsuspecting pigeons and a pair of fellow tourists popping their heads out when I least expected it I was very brave. (I did almost scream in the couples face when they suddenly appeared.) So maybe there is still time for me to become an intrepid explorer…

 
…Maybe! Or I could move here and become a cave/tomb guide. I do now really fancy some tales of adventure in the Indiana Jones style though. Know of any series or novels like that? I fancy getting lost in a few jungles, tombs and forgotten/hidden valleys, any recommendations?

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A Cove of Ones Own, A Perfect Reading Retreat

So on our adventures after visiting one of the archeological sites, which I will talk about later in the week in bulk so you aren’t overwhelmed by ancient stuff, we accidentally came across a place which may be the closest thing to my idea of seaside heaven. A cove with caves and a shipwreck and stunning blue waters. Best of all with no one there but us, a picnic and some books. So I thought I would share it with you.

 
  

It felt like a Famous Five adventure might take place at any point and was the perfect place to read in the sun in silence. Wonderful. If you’re ever in Cyprus head to the Edro shipwreck and the coves around it, perfect hidden reading retreats.

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The Baths of Aphrodite, Cyprus

I mentioned a while back that I wanted to do more things on whim so I decided that this should be the case on this holiday to Cyprus with the beard and so instead of joining the various day trips out supplied (note – at extra cost) on this trip I insisted that we hire a car and go off on our own whimsical adventures. The first of which was to the opposite side of the island to the Akamas National Park and mountain range to find the Baths of Aphrodite.

 Aphrodite is everywhere on this island, in fact it’s become something of a joke with me and The Beard that everything secretly has Aphrodite in front of it from chemists to public restrooms, however she was born from the foam at the seas edge here so you can’t blame them can you? But the idea of seeing the place she bathed (below a palace, we mere mortals cannot see, on the surrounding mountains) and where she and Adonis met was just too tempting. It seems the classicist roots from my mother are still in my blood. And so off we headed and found the grotto in question.

 

I wasn’t as bowled over by it as I expected to be (we’ve slightly more delectable grottos in my hometown of Matlock Bath) this still didn’t stop us both using the water on our skin for its magical youthful properties which are supposedly magical.

 

As the sun was out and the surrounding area was an abundance of flowers, butterflies, lizards (two massive ones), goats and stunning views of the sea we decided to follow the Aphrodite trail to a temple above and an oak tree where she would sit and contemplate the world both mortal and godly. And 7km isn’t far is it?

 

Well it turns out when it’s up a mountain over rocky terrain it is but wow were the views worth it. I actually said at one point that I felt like I was up the beanstalk in the land of the Giants.

The Beard was slightly sniffy that an oak tree would exist in these parts and indeed if one did there were bound to be loads. How wrong was he? After quite a walk we turned a corner and suddenly were faced by a single oak tree, there were no others, and the most silent and still point in the whole wood on the whole mountain. A mini valley cum glade that honestly felt quite other worldly even if you can’t tell from the picture. I will never forget it.

 
After a small bit of contemplation we realised we weren’t even half way on the walk and so headed up even higher and we’re just beginning to worry the mountain would never end when we reached the summit and were greeted by this…

 
I could completely understand why people felt that this could be the home of the gods. And then we turned a corner and it got even better…

 
Just amazing. We sat and just watched the world in all its quietness and stillness for quite a while just taking it all in. We then had to get back down which involved some interesting manoeuvring following mountain goat paths and looking like graceless goats, of which thankfully there is no photographic proof. We had to remember to watch our step and not just stare at the scenery till we fell off the precipice. A hairy scary but stunning decent down where bar four other walkers we saw no one. It felt like we were the last people on earth. And we quite liked it.

Quite the start to the holiday. Heartily recommend it if you are ever in Cyprus.

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Savidge Reads in Cyprus…

We have arrived safe and sound in Cyprus after a very early start and a very pleasant flight, which didn’t take anywhere near as long as expected. Hoorah. You know how I feel about planes. We are now safely ensconced in our hotel, which is wonderful…

 

And have been off exploring the local Paphos area, mainly wandering along the waterfront as the sea is the harbour is mesmerising and very clear. I might have to have a dip or two at some point.

 
Next up planning what to do for the next week, most of it will be Aphrodite based (which my mother will be proud of as a classicist), halloumi based or reading by the pool/sea based. I may report back in between blog posts I’ve scheduled just to share the experience, hopefully it won’t bore you all too much – we all know what other people’s holiday photos can be like don’t we? Ha.

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Decorating Done, Reading Retreat Ready…

After what has felt like the longest two weeks in history, well in the last few years, I am thrilled to say that the redecoration is done. At last. It was actually finished earlier this week but then the furniture had to go back in and of course the books had to be sorted. I think it is looking pretty good though, a nice haven for me to sit and read in. What do you think?

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I only finished the shelves sorting about thirty minutes ago. Always a painful process; all those questions like ‘when on earth will I ever read all these?’, ‘why on earth did I get that?’, ‘hang on where have some of those books gone?’ Yes, sadly some books have been lost (about 35 we won’t speak of) and many have actually been culled today and amazingly somehow I have space for more books, which is quite exciting and is sure not to last. Let us mark the occasion though.

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As you can imagine The Beard and I (particularly The Beard who did it all) are blooming shattered from it all, so this morning we went crazy and I have booked us a week away in the sun a week tomorrow which I am most excited about. We are going to go to Cyprus for a week of visiting ruins, making the most of the all inclusive buffets and bars and lounging by the pools.

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It is going to be such a treat, our first holiday together in three years, and I am going to read like a demon. I have a pile of potential books at the ready but was thrilled to discover that the hotel prides itself on being the perfect place for book lovers, I might have to be dragged out of it’s library quite often.

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Can. Not. Wait. Anyway, apologies for the lack of reviews and posts, I didn’t intend to go as silent as I have. Things will be up and running as normal from tomorrow. Now I have to crack on reading as I need to be scheduling posts for when I am away! What is the latest news with all of you? Oh and obviously what are you reading? I am bang on half way through Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, which if any of you who have read it will know is when everything changes, I am most keen to get back to it.

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Books I’m Looking Forward to in the Next Six Months

I know we are past the middle of the first month of 2016 but, as is my want, I thought it might be a nice idea to let you know about some of the books that I am really looking forward to reading over the next six months published in the UK. I know, I know, it is the list you have all been waiting for. Ha! For a few years now, every six months, Gavin and I share 13 of the books that we are most excited about on The Readers podcast, based on which publishers catalogues we can get our mitts on – so sometimes we miss some, so I thought this year I would make it a new biannual post. Getting to that final thirteen is almost impossible (actually one year it was a struggle) and this year it has been particularly tough as it looks set to be a year of corkers. In fact my longlist of books I’m keen to get my hand on is 60 books (and would have been 62 if I hadn’t already read The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon and Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh) long. Yes that is right, 60 books. I have highlighted a few each month that I will definitely be reading or getting my mitts on. So, grab a cuppa tea and settle down with a notepad or bookstore website open next to you…

January

Mr Splitfoot – Samantha Hunt (Corsair)

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Nat and Rose are young orphans, living in a crowded foster home run by an eccentric religious fanatic. When a traveling con-man comes knocking, they see their chance to escape and join him on the road, proclaiming they can channel the dead – for a price, of course. Decades later, in a different time and place, Cora is too clever for her office job, too scared of her abysmal lover to cope with her unplanned pregnancy, and she too is looking for a way out. So when her mute Aunt Ruth pays her an unexpected visit, apparently on a mysterious mission, she decides to join her. Together the two women set out on foot, on a strange and unforgettable odyssey across the state of New York. Where is Ruth taking them? Where has she been? And who – or what – has she hidden in the woods at the end of the road? Ingenious, infectious, subversive and strange, Mr Splitfoot will take you on a journey you will not regret – and will never forget.

Human Acts – Han Kang (Portobello)

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Gwangju, South Korea, 1980. In the wake of a viciously suppressed student uprising, a boy searches for his friend’s corpse, a consciousness searches for its abandoned body, and a brutalised country searches for a voice. In a sequence of interconnected chapters the victims and the bereaved encounter censorship, denial, forgiveness and the echoing agony of the original trauma. Human Acts is a universal book, utterly modern and profoundly timeless. Already a controversial bestseller and award-winning book in Korea, it confirms Han Kang as a writer of immense importance.

The Widow – Fiona Barton (Transworld)
Paulina & Fran – Rachel B. Glaser (Granta)
The World Without Us – Mirelle Juchau (Bloomsbury)
The Outrun – Amy Liptrot (Canongate)
Sea Lovers – Valerie Martin (Serpents Tail)
Dinosaurs on Other Planets – Danielle McLaughlin (John Murray)
The Actual One – Isy Suttie (Orion)

February

The Sympathiser – Viet Thanh Nguyen (Corsair)

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A profound, startling, and beautifully crafted debut novel, “The Sympathizer” is the story of a man of two minds, someone whose political beliefs clash with his individual loyalties. It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. “The Sympathizer” is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. A gripping spy novel, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, “The Sympathizer” explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.

Under the Udala Trees – Chinelo Okparanta (Granta)

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One day in 1968, at the height of the Biafran civil war, Ijeoma’s father is killed and her world is transformed forever. Separated from her grief-stricken mother, she meets another young lost girl, Amina, and the two become inseparable. Theirs is a relationship that will shake the foundations of Ijeoma’s faith, test her resolve and flood her heart. In this masterful novel of faith, love and redemption, Okparanta takes us from Ijeoma’s childhood in war-torn Biafra, through the perils and pleasures of her blossoming sexuality, her wrong turns, and into the everyday sorrows and joys of marriage and motherhood. As we journey with Ijeoma we are drawn to the question: what is the value of love and what is the cost? A triumphant love story written with beauty and delicacy, Under the Udala Trees is a hymn to those who’ve lost and a prayer for a more compassionate world. It is a work of extraordinary beauty that will enrich your heart.

The Butchers Hook – Janet Ellis (Two Roads)
The Narrow Bed – Sophie Hannah (Hodder)
Scary Old Sex – Arlene Heyman (Bloomsbury)
The Children’s House – Charles Lambert (Aardvark Bureau)
13 Minutes – Sarah Pinborough (Orion)
The Catch – Fiona Sampson (Chatto & Windus)
Gold Flame Citrus – Claire Vaye Watkins (Quercus)
Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of Your Fist – Sunil Yapa (Little Brown)

March

Where Love Begins – Judith Hermann (Serpents Tail)

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Stella is married, she has a child and a fulfilling job. She lives with her young family in a house in the suburbs. Her life is happy and unremarkable, but she is a little lonely-her husband travels a lot for work and so she is often alone in the house with only her daughter for company. One day a stranger appears at her door, a man Stella’s never seen before. He says he just wants to talk to her, nothing more. She refuses. The next day he comes again. And then the day after that. He will not leave her in peace. When Stella works out that he lives up the road, and tries to confront him, it makes no difference. This is the beginning of a nightmare that slowly and remorselessly escalates. Where Love Begins is a delicately wrought, deeply sinister novel about how easily the comfortable lives we construct for ourselves can be shattered.

Hot Milk – Deborah Levy (Penguin Books)

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Today I dropped my laptop on the concrete floor. It was tucked under my arm and slid out of its black rubber sheath, landing screen-side down. The digital page shattered. Apparently there’s a man in the next flyblown town who mends computers. He could send off for a new screen, which would take a month to arrive. Will I still be here in a month? My mother is sleeping under a mosquito net in the next room. Soon she will wake up and shout, ‘Sofia, get me a glass of water’, and I will get her water and it will be the wrong sort of water. And then after a while I will leave her and return to gaze at the shattered starfield of my screen. Two women arrive in a Spanish village – a dreamlike place caught between the desert and the ocean – seeking medical advice and salvation. One of the strangers suffers from a mysterious illness: spontaneous paralysis confines her to a wheelchair, her legs unusable. The other, her daughter Sofia, has spent years playing the reluctant detective in this mystery, struggling to understand her mother’s illness. Surrounded by the oppressive desert heat and the mesmerising figures who move through it, Sofia waits while her mother undergoes the strange programme of treatments invented by Dr Gomez. Searching for a cure to a defiant and quite possibly imagined disease, ever more entangled in the seductive, mercurial games of those around her, Sofia finally comes to confront and reconcile the disparate fragments of her identity. Hot Milk is a labyrinth of violent desires, primal impulses, and surreally persuasive internal logic.

Patience – Daniel Clowes (Vintage)
Rain – Melissa Harrison (Faber & Faber)
A Girl in Exhile – Ismail Kadare (Vintage)
The Paper Menagerie & Other Stories – Ken Liu (Head of Zeus)
An Unrestored Woman & Other Stories – Shobha Rao (Virago)
Vertigo – Joanna Walsh (And Other Stories)

April

The Sunlight Pilgrims – Jenni Fagan (Random House)

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Set in a Scottish caravan park during a freak winter – it is snowing in Jerusalem, the Thames is overflowing, and an iceberg separated from the Fjords in Norway is expected to arrive off the coast of Scotland – The Sunlight Pilgrims tells the story of a small Scottish community living through what people have begun to think is the end of times. Bodies are found frozen in the street with their eyes open, euthanasia has become an acceptable response to economic collapse, schooling and health care are run primarily on a voluntary basis. But daily life carries on: Dylan, a refugee from panic-stricken London who is grieving for his mother and his grandmother, arrives in the caravan park in the middle of the night – to begin his life anew.

What Belongs To You – Garth Greenwell (Picador)

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On an unseasonably warm autumn day, an American teacher enters a public bathroom beneath Sofia’s National Palace of Culture. There he meets Mitko, a charismatic young hustler, and pays him for sex. And so begins a relationship that could transform his life, or possibly destroy it. What Belongs To You is a stunning debut novel of desire and its consequences. With lyric intensity and startling eroticism, Garth Greenwell has created a indelible story about the ways in which our pasts and cultures, our scars and shames can shape who we are and determine how we love.

The Trees – Ali Shaw (Bloomsbury)

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There came an elastic aftershock of creaks and groans and then, softly softly, a chinking shower of rubbled cement. Leaves calmed and trunks stood serene. Where, not a minute before, there had been a suburb, there was now only woodland standing amid ruins…There is no warning. No chance to prepare. They arrive in the night: thundering up through the ground, transforming streets and towns into shadowy forest. Buildings are destroyed. Broken bodies, still wrapped in tattered bed linen, hang among the twitching leaves. Adrien Thomas has never been much of a hero. But when he realises that no help is coming, he ventures out into this unrecognisable world. Michelle, his wife, is across the sea in Ireland and he has no way of knowing whether the trees have come for her too. Then Adrien meets green-fingered Hannah and her teenage son Seb. Together, they set out to find Hannah’s forester brother, to reunite Adrien with his wife – and to discover just how deep the forest goes. Their journey will take them to a place of terrible beauty and violence, to the dark heart of nature and the darkness inside themselves.

The Cauliflower – Nicola Barker (Random House)
Foreign Soil – Maxine Beneba (Corsair)
The Last of Us – Rob Ewing (Borough Press)
Fragments – Elena Ferrante (Eurpoa Editions)
A Different Class – Joanne Harris (Transworld)
Ladivine – Marie NDiaye (Quercus)
The Bricks That Built Houses – Kate Tempest (Bloomsbury)
Six Four – Hideo Yokoyama (Quercus)

May

The Doll Master & Other Tales of Terror – Joyce Carol Oates (Head of Zeus)

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Six terrifying tales to chill the blood from the unique imagination of Joyce Carol Oates. A young boy plays with dolls instead of action figures. But as he grows older, his passion takes on a darker edge…A white man shoots dead a black boy creating a media frenzy. But could it be that it was self-defense as he claims? A nervous woman tries to escape her husband. He says he loves her, but she’s convinced he wants to kill her…These quietly lethal stories reveal the horrors that dwell within us all.

The Gustav Sonata – Rose Tremain (Chatto & Windus)

It is the tutor who tells the young Gustav that he must try to be more like a coconut – that he needs a hard shell to protect the softness inside. This is what his native Switzerland has perfected – a shell to protect its neutrality, to keep its people safe. But his beloved friend, Anton, doesn’t want to be safe – a gifted pianist, he longs to make his mark in the world outside. On holiday one summer in Davos, the boys stumble across a remote building. Long ago, it was a TB sanitorium; now it is wrecked and derelict. Here, they play a game of life and death, deciding which of their imaginary patients must burn. It becomes their secret. The Gustav Sonata begins in the 1930s, under the shadow of the Second World War, and follows the boys into maturity, and middle age, where their friendship is tested as never before.

The Bones of Grace – Tahmima Anam (Canongate)
The Beautiful Dead – Belind Bauer (Transworld)
The Witches of New York – Amy McKay (Orion)
This Must Be The Place – Maggie O’Farrell (Tinder Press)
The Woman Next Door – Yewande Omotoso (Chatto & Windus)
Now and Again – Charlotte Rogan (Virago)
The Wicked Boy – Kate Summerscale (Bloomsbury)

June

Fen – Daisy Johnson (Vintage)

Daisy Johnson’s Fen is a liminal land. Real people live their lives here. They wrestle with familiar instincts, with sex and desire, with everyday routine. But the wild is always close at hand, ready to erupt. This is a place where animals and people commingle and fuse, where curious metamorphoses take place, where myth and dark magic still linger. So here a teenager may starve herself into the shape of an eel. A house might fall in love with a girl. A woman might give birth to a – well what? English folklore and a contemporary eye, sexual honesty and combustible invention – in Fen, these elements have come together to create a singular, startling piece of modern fiction.

The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry (Profile Books)

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Set in Victorian London and an Essex village in the 1890’s, and enlivened by the debates on scientific and medical discovery which defined the era, The Essex Serpent has at its heart the story of two extraordinary people who fall for each other, but not in the usual way. They are Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome. Cora is a well-to-do London widow who moves to the Essex parish of Aldwinter, and Will is the local vicar. They meet as their village is engulfed by rumours that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist is enthralled, convinced the beast may be a real undiscovered species. But Will sees his parishioners’ agitation as a moral panic, a deviation from true faith. Although they can agree on absolutely nothing, as the seasons turn around them in this quiet corner of England, they find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart.

Foxlowe – Eleanor Wassberg (Harper Collins)

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A chilling, compulsive debut about group mentality, superstition and betrayal – and a utopian commune gone badly wrong We were the Family, and Foxlowe was our home. There was me – my name is Green – and my little sister, Blue. There was October, who we called Toby, and Ellensia, Dylan, Liberty, Pet and Egg. There was Richard, of course, who was one of the Founders. And there was Freya. We were the Family, but we weren’t just an ordinary family. We were a new, better kind of family. We didn’t need to go to school, because we had a new, better kind of education. We shared everything. We were close to the ancient way of living and the ancient landscape. We knew the moors, and the standing stones. We celebrated the solstice in the correct way, with honey and fruit and garlands of fresh flowers. We knew the Bad and we knew how to keep it away. And we had Foxlowe, our home. Where we were free. There really was no reason for anyone to want to leave.

Daisy in Chains – Sharon Bolton (Transworld)
Everyone Is Watching – Megan Bradbury (Picador)
Addlands – Tom Bullough (Granta)
The Girls – Emma Cline (Chatto & Windus)
Black Water – Louise Doughty (Faber & Faber)
Early Riser – Jasper Fforde (Hodder)
The Little Communist That Never Smiled – Lola Lafon (Serpents Tail)
The Bed Moved – Rebecca Schiff (John Murrary)
Smoke – Dan Vyleta (Orion)
Our Young Man – Edmund White (Bloomsbury)

Phew! So that is the list, it has changed slightly since we recorded The Readers as Gav and I had a couple of snap choices and also I found out some other books were coming out earlier than thought or I simply only discovered them in the last few months. There will be many more I discover or hear about too I am sure. I have just thought of several I have missed (Kit De Waal, Nicholas Searle and a whole shelf of prrof I can’t get to due to scaffolding) so there will be many more. Anyway, quite a few for you to go and find out more about and a good list for me to have when I am stuck in a bookshop without a clue of what to by next – as if that ever happens. Right, I better get reading then. Which of these do you fancy? Which books are you looking forward to in the next six months?

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Redecorating Reigns & Reading Retreat Recommendations Wanted

Sorry for the slight radio silence, I am feeling my blogging and reading has already hit a rather turbulent period in 2016 and we are barely a few weeks in. I have not blogged, worse I have not read (for over a week) what with work being utterly ridiculous last week (at one point I thought I might have to make schedules in my calendar just to visit the bathroom) and the utter hell of living in a building site. Things are looking up though. After a week that has been filled with stubbed toes, expletives and never being able to find anything (seriously I couldn’t find my laptop until mere hours ago) it looks like the halfway point has been hit and the painting has started. This hopefully means things should improve blog and reading wise. Though to be honest the lack of reading has been as much a work thing as an aversion to reading in a room that will be a book haven but currently looks like something from DIY hell, see it appears I cannot read everywhere as I thought. Not long to go though, I have been promised.

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To rectify this reading error, and frankly to go and get away from it all and relax, The Beard and I have decided that we are going to go away somewhere hot, lacking in wifi but brimming with sun loungers, pools, sunshine and endless food. Yes, we are going to book a last minute holiday (or to my mind reading retreat) for the first week of February. We are currently looking at this…

… Paphos in Cyprus, as we have heard some wonderful things but if you have any other recommendations for sunny (but relatively cheap) places to go for a last minute week away from it all then do let me know. I will be booking it next Friday and I’m practically planning my reading pile for it already, so recommendations most welcome.

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