Monthly Archives

June 2011

Home alone

Just found this blog post idling away on my desktop, having been written a month ago and never posted. Not one for waste, I thought I’d better pop it up…

Living alone is great.  An old friend once said to me, living alone is something everyone should do, before settling down; to be completely comfortable in their own company and indulge in complete independence.  And she was right.

I spent seven great years living solo, in several different homes, and I loved it, doing everything for myself and being utterly in charge of my own life.

So, as my husband jetted off for two nights in Germany, I should have been excited at the prospect of a weekend of alone time, right? No more joint custody of the remote control, no more socks on the floor, no more debates over what’s for dinner. Three whole days and two whole nights of alone time, just me and the doggy, was something to be relished, yes?

Well, actually, I felt very out of sorts. Like something was missing, someone was missing, and I found it hard to settle or know how to spend my time. Rather than being productive like I would have been in my single life, I found myself floating through the weekend doing very little.  I’m still independent, but less so, and rely on my husband for companionship.

A quick trip to Ikea reminded me how awkward it is to shop there alone, heavy boxes not fit for singletons to move around so my trip was limited to smaller purchases.

What I found most difficult was bedtime; I was actually a little spooked. I spent seven years sleeping alone and wasn’t afraid of the boogie man then, so why now did every creaking pipe or floorboard make me shudder?

It was odd too that I found the laughter of children in the house next door reassuring. In my single life I would have scoffed at the sound of children.

It’s funny how things have changed. I wouldn’t change my solo years, they were great and taught me confidence, independence and that you can achieve a lot of things if you put some elbow grease in. It taught me to value friendships and that to be alone is not to be lonely.

But now I’ve entered a different era, one revolving around family. Now I understand why my dad gets all gooey-eyed when his four children are in the same room at the same time; he feels complete. And that’s how I feel at home with my husband and doggy, complete.

Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson

Before I Go To Sleep by SJ WatsonThis is the best book I’ve read in yonks, utterly unputdownable, intriguing, well written and emotional. Loved it.

SJ Watson has done herself proud with this debut novel which sees Christine wake up each morning believing herself to be in her 20s. In fact she’s approaching 50 and spends each day relearning her lost 30 years only to wake up the next day with a wiped memory. And she attempts to discover who she is and how she became to be this way, we’re taken on an emotional journey. Who do you trust when you have no memory?

And how uncomfortable to wake up each day thinking you’ve maybe had a drunken one-night stand when you open your eyes to the hairy back of an unknown man. Then, in the mirror, you’re greeted with the reality of wrinkled skin, grey hairs and sagging boobs and the fact the man in bed with you is the husband you have no memory of.

I read this book in less than a week, which is very quick for me and I was searching for every opportunity to snuggle up and pore over its pages, desperate to unravel Christine’s truth. And I felt devastation on her behalf; like there’s an emotional connection between the reader and Christine, like you can feel the mental torment at not being able to trust your own memories and having to live a life so far removed from normality.

Such a clever plot, gritty characters and there’s a bluntness to SJ Watson’s writing that delivers impact and depth that I haven’t come across in a while.

If every book I read was like this I’d be delighted. When I finished the final page I wanted to shout from the rooftops “this book is utterly awesome and I’m gutted I’ve finished it”.

Should you read this book? Yes, right now. There are twists and turns you’ll never see coming.

Robyn’s rating: 10/10

Posted: June 2010

On a serious note…

Domestic violence isn’t a topic I expected to be covered when I rocked up at the netball AGM this week. Umpire difficulties, fee increases, voting for a new chairman, yes. Domestic violence, no.

To hear that a member of the netballing community lost her life earlier this year to domestic violence churned my stomach and when I connected it to the local newspaper reports of past months, I just felt sad.

One in 10 people is suffering domestic violence in their life right now and one in four will experience it at some point in their life. Numbers don’t tend to mean much until it happens to someone you know, or, in my case, rubbed shoulders with on a netball court. Knowing the victim, even through sight alone, personalises it and the message hits home harder.

As a tribute to a netballer who lost her life so tragically and needlessly, a rep from MK Act came to talk to us about the help and support available to anyone suffering from violence or abuse at home. The Milton Keynes Netball Indoor League is a community of around 500 women, an ideal forum to pass on the message that there is help out there and no one need face it alone.

MK Act is a service for the victims and survivors of domestic violence and abuse, offering support, advice, emergency refuge or rehousing.

For most of us our home is our haven, where we feel safest and happiest and no matter how crappy a day we’ve had, we can return home, switch off and be ourselves. Imagine if going home is the worst part of your day, the place where you’re most vulnerable and at risk.

The speaker from MK Act asked that everyone pass on information about their services in the hope it may help someone, someday, avoid losing their life like one of our netballers did. So this is me doing my bit. To contact MK ACT call 0844 375 4307 between 9am and 5pm or to speak to a member of the Thames Valley Domestic Abuse Unit call 0845 8 505 505.

The Empty Chair by Jeffrey Deaver

Sometimes you don’t know a book’s going to be really good until you get to the end. For me, at least, the ending makes or breaks it. I’m much the same with movies.

The Empty Chair by Jeffrey DeaverAnd this is one of those books. I enjoyed the first two thirds, I did, but it was a tad slow, scene setting, building pace and working up to a worthy climax. What I was expecting to be the crux of the story happened far too early and I had no idea the twists and turns the story would take thereafter.

I’ve never read a Lincoln Rhyme novel before now, although I have made a dent in Jeffrey Deaver’s previous work. I have, however, watched the Denzil Washington/Angelina Jolie movie, The Bone Collector, which I thought was fantastic and a great introduction to the characters on the pages of The Empty Chair. Based on the 1997 book of the same name by Jeffrey Deaver, it helped me visualise the characters and understand their traits. Cranky Lincoln Rhyme, a quadriplegic prisoner to his own body, the only movement he has to call on, his little finger and his head. But his brain ticks just fine. His partner in crime and in life is Amelia Sachs, a New York city cop who knows how to walk the grid, collecting evidence that will reveal the identity of a killer, or in this case the whereabouts of the Insect Boy, who’s kidnapped two local girls and is considered a dangerous oddball.

Rhyme and Sachs struggle with the poor technology and slower paced policing methods in Paquanoke County but they help the local sheriffs with the highest profile case they’ve ever had to deal with, along with some renegade residents who insist on helping/hindering the process.

And the reader’s torn between turning their nose up in disgust at the whiffy and creepy Insect Boy and feeling sorry for a frightened and vulnerable teenager with not a soul in the world to call his friend. But who needs friends when you have insects, there’s a lot to be learned from them.

So, to the end of the book. It picks up pace, there’s tension between the characters and it’s incredibly hard to work out the genuine goodies from the baddies. We’re led down a road we don’t even think to question, but just when we get comfortable with a scenario, it changes.

The difference between this book and a lot I’ve read lately is that this one made me feel something. I loved or hated the characters, I felt gutted when bad things happened to good people and I felt the torment of the Insect Boy, the cancer patient police sheriff and the kidnapped girls. I always get a better read when I’m emotionally attached and the highly charged ending and twist in plots – I do love an ending I don’t see coming – sets this book apart from the rest.

This was a cracking read. Although I probably didn’t realise that until the last few chapters.

Robyn’s rating: 9/10

Posted June 2011

Early morning observations

It’s a little after 7.30am on a Sunday, a time of day I don’t usually see on a weekend. I hop out of bed to let the dog out at 6am usually, and then return to my slumber and let Ralphie find his way back to the bedroom where he lies in with us. Not today.

Today he swipes me round the head with a black furry poor and catches my ear with a claw, a claw too long because we walk him more in fields than we do on pavements. And now I’m awake, so awake I’ve chosen not to roll over like my husband, call the dog “a knob” and go back to sleep.

Now I’m downstairs in the living room, sitting in the pool of light flooding in through the bay window, the day’s way of telling me “I’m here!”. The house I lived in a month ago was old and dark and it’s nice to be able to enjoy what’s starting as a sunny day from indoors.

RalphieWhat else have I noticed this morning? For one, that Ralphie has very white teeth considering what he eats – dog and horse poo included – although he doesn’t drink tea or coffee which maybe explains why he has a whiter set than I do.  After jumping on me in excitement as I climbed out of bed I got a clear view of the inside of his mouth, his doggy smile. He’s now enjoying the day with me, perched on the single armchair looking out the bay window, watching the trees blow in the wind and on guard for cats, dog walkers or any sign of life which dares to pass our house. He’s not quite at ease, expectant. Waiting for some movement outside so he can leap at the windowsill, nudge the photo frames that show off wedding photos and commence his warning song which goes a bit like this: woof, bark, bark, woof, wag tail, bark some more.

I also notice that my lungs are not a fan of the morning air. I’m sleeping with the window open as the bedroom gets stuffy but my asthma-stricken self can’t cope with fresh air and pollen and I’ve woken up wheezy. While I love the summer my lungs sometimes don’t and a puff of my inhaler sorts me out. Hayfever’s hit me hard this summer and this past month has seen me pull out the inhaler and nose spray for the first time in several years.

And there we go, something’s moved outside and Ralphie’s barking, running between me and the window to tell me “Mummy, quick, something’s out there!” Only I’m not bothered like he is, not so protective of our boundary.  He shuffles uneasily, woofing, until I tell him to stop and he resumes his position as watchdog on the sofa’s arm.

I can hear a garage door close so at least one of my neighbours is awake too, no surprise as many of them have young children. But I can’t hear children playing just yet, it’s eerily quiet out there apart from the wind lightly blowing through the trees, the leaves shimmying like a bellydancer’s hips.

Gah, I just caught sight of my hands working the keyboard. I painted my nails a bright yellow last night and made a really bad job, the varnish is all over the place and my finger tips shine like yellow beacons as I type this. Am I too old at 31 to get away with fluorescent nail varnish?

I rub my eyes. My eyes are always the last thing to wake up; my body’s up and about, my brain is functioning but my eyes are struggling to embrace the day in the same way. It happens on early morning weekday walkies. I pull myself out of bed and head out, body and head co-operating but eyes blurry and full of sleep. It’s like I need morning eye drops or something, to flash some clarity into them so they can enjoy the morning at the same pace as the rest of me, instead of lagging behind and catching up eventually.

The sky outside is blue but if yesterday is anything to go by it won’t stay blue for long. It’ll swap between blue and grey, dry and wet, light and dark, all day long and we’ll be grateful for the intermittent bursts of sunshine – especially if I get chance to weed the garden today. That’s another observation – the back lawn is littered with weeds, growing like they’re in a competition with the grass, the winner the first to touch the sky. The weeds are in the lead, stretching upwards and outwards, demanding more room, and the mower’s only going to hold them back a little. “Off with their heads” the Queen of Hearts would say but their heads aren’t the problem. It’s the roots, doing the damage from below, digging their claws into the earth and hanging onto existence – and nothing’s going to threaten that existence like some elbow grease on my part. Will I be able to muster it later today?

Oh, I’ve just spotted something else. My ability to type is hampered in the mornings. I’ve just reread this post so far and it’s like I’ve tripped and fell into a puddle of typos, splashing them all over my sentences and paragraphs. I’m not so sharp in the mornings, in fact, I’m not so sharp at all. There were defo less spelling and typos when I was in my 20s!

So, to summarise, there’s something nice about taking in a morning that no one else can see. It’s feels productive to be up at this hour on a Sunday and extending my weekend. They go so quick, Mondays roll around in no time and my Sunday’s been extended thanks to Ralphie’s playful swipe and my inability to roll over and ignore it this time. Typically though, Ralphie’s chosen to curl up at my feet and go back to sleep so I’ll have to enjoy the quiet on my own.

Five for Friday – top TV

TV remote controlI’ve got, like, five minutes to write this post so let’s keep it brief. Much to my other half’s distaste there have been loads of great TV dramas on lately – which means I demand complete silence in order to watch them and he sulks because he has the attention span of a gnat.

Here’s my top five (in no particular order)

1) The Shadow Line
Dark, drug baron/police drama in eight episodes on BBC2. It finished last night and was utterly amazing. One of the most intelligent, complex and inspired dramas I’ve seen in a long time. I just can’t tell you how excellent – and unpredictable – it is.

2) Luther
Second series started this week with Idris Alba (Stringer Bell of The Wire fame) as a messed up copper with a good heart. It rocks.

3) The Good Wife
Series two just finished and I’m not sure if life will be the same until series three rolls around later this year. I love this show and once watched 10 episodes of series one in a single day. I LOVE all the characters, they’re fab in their own way, and the writers intertwine their personal dilemmas around some seriously wicked criminal and civil cases.

4) Scott and Bailey
It’s got some crime in it and some decent cases although they lack a bit of grit. What is likeable about this is the three main women detectives in this – flawed, likeable and funny. An easy watch at 9pm on a Sunday.

5) Casualty
Gotta love this. It’s an easy watch (apart from the odd gory, blood-spattered scene) and I like the characters and the medical story lines.