Interests, Leisure

This Must Be The Place (Maggie O’Farrell)

This was our Book Group choice this week, a really easy read (9 hours at my pace so should have seemed more work than it did). Maggie O’Farrel is a lovely author, taking the reader through situations, relationships and consequences in a chaotic, just-about-making-sense way that I find utterly engaging. the main character, Daniel, is definitely flawed. Mostly we like him, sometimes not. The leading Lady, Claudette, is engaging but completely mad. We see them together at the beginning and find out their back stories in the chapters that follow. O’Farrel doesn’t pull punches and allows the minuscule to appear mountainous while making the tragic everyday.  Every relationship is different and every decision has consequences. In Group we were asking if he really would just disappear because of “that” and not tell his wife, allowing her to think something awful. But actually people do, don’t they? Make imperfect decisions. Imperfect choices.

Mostly characters, even minor ones, are well described. some notable exceptions (like the first wife, his sisters) but then, it was a 9 hour book!


I’ve read another of hers and now want the whole list. Give yourself a treat and try her out.



Leisure, Sunday Photo

Lady Bird

It is Mothers Day today and my daughter took me to see this lovely film. I made it almost to the end before bursting into tears.  It’s a lovely take about a girl growing up with a mum who did not have the best upbringing herself and who finds it hard to show her love.



Do not say we have nothing (Madeleine Thien)

This book was our Book Group pick this month. It starts in Canada with the arrival of a Chinese teenage coming to the home of a second generation Chinese girl (10 years) and you would be forgiven for thinking that the story is going to be one of the integration of an outsider into “normal” society. Instead you are taken into a rich, complex, gripping reflection on China’s cultural history, told through the eyes of a group of young people whose talent for music takes them into the Conservatory.

I had Wiki open next to me for the first few chapters to help me work out who was who, who was real and who not, who was related to whom and how. It helped.

I was a new mum in 1989, thought myself politically aware and vaguely interested in the Tianenman Square protest as it happened (April – June) but had no idea of the lives of people involved, the cultural forces at work in China, the grip that the Gang of Four held on the minds and dreams of the people over such a vast area.

Madeleine Thien is a brilliant writer. Her words sparkle across the page. The clash between East and West, Right and Left, parent and child are all explored with wit, affection, intelligence and compelling insight.

It made me want to weep for the loss of dreams, for the awful, awful turning of the cultural wheel. The death of dreams, the dreadful stasis of fear. The mob, the overwhelming mob.

It is a long book and needs to be read when you really have time to get going with it (book group members who can only snatch 20 mins or so for themselves found it a little daunting) but it rewards the investment.

Awards and honours

  • 2016 Man Booker Prize, shortlisted.
  • 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize, won.
  • 2016 Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction, won.
  • 2016 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, longlisted.
  • 2017 Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards – Writing with a Sense of Place, won.
  • 2017 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, shortlisted.
  • 2017 Rathbones Folio Prize, shortlisted.

Food, Leisure

Mistley thorn (Sunday Lunch)

This pub / restaurant in Mistley sits a little away from the causeway, on the main road through the village. It’s menu is on the pricey side, and I will never mind making that choice if the food is excellent.



This however  was a mixed bag. The roast beef dinner was lovely – the meat beautifully cooked, melty and lovely. The veg was nicely cooked, the gravy not quite enough. But the Yorkshire (green inside, if you can believe that!) was inedible. I saw several go back.

For pudding I opted for the american pancakes with toffee sauce but was told they kitchen had run out.

Run out.

Its flour, eggs and milk, and children learn them as a first ever lesson at school.

(lesson learned – sometimes when a menu says these things are cooked at the place, it might not have been recently.) I opted for the rhubarb jelly with vanilla ice cream, thinking it a poor second place to pancakes, but I was delighted with it. The jelly was a delight, so wobbly the whole table giggled, the ice cream was soft and lovely and the shortbread biscuits were yummy.


At £9 a glass of red was a raising of the eyebrow (only flippin Malbec ffs, not a chateauneuf!)


So I may not go again, but I might. Its a bit far to go to be disappointed but when they get it right they get it very right indeed.



Oat cookies

These are the bestest, easiest cookies ever!


3oz each of SR flour, sugar, porridge oats and butter

1tbs each of syrup and milk

Mix all dry (I throw in a snack pack of nuts and seeds)

Heat all wet

Mix and bake at 180 for 10 mins

Makes 12


Yes, there are 11 in the picture.


(mental image of me wiping off a crumb………….)




never a bad choice, even if I have got a wedding to lose weight for…….


Now, that is an easy recipe and I do love those – do you have any to share?

Food, Leisure

Thatcher’s Needle, Diss

Yesterday I met an old friend in the Thatcher’s Needle, Diss. It is a very convenient place for us, half way between the two and cheap food. Word to the wise here – there may be no bad choices in that cheap food will keep you alive, but sometimes being kept alive is not the main reason for eating.I decided on the Chicken Club (forgive the fuzzy photo!)

What arrived was disappointing. A decent sized dinner place, half of which was chopped undressed salad greens (not a problem, nice to have salad with a club sandwich).

Let me describe the club.

Each slice of bloomer bread was half the plate. Each, just in case there was any moisture in them to help you eat, had been lightly toasted. Not enough to go brown, just enough to go dry.

It was unbuttered, again not a problem in itself.

On top of the first slice was one rasher of bacon, and one slice of tomato. about half the bread was bare.

Then the middle slice of dry bread

Between the second and third slices of dry bread were two thumb sized pieces of chicken, each about a quarter of the size of the slice of bread, and each topped off by a small Midget gem lettuce leaf (like one leaf taken from the middle of a midget gem lettuce.)

I asked the manager how this could be eaten as was and he apologised, saying that they should have been some mayo. He took it back to the kitchen and it returned with, I kid you not, one tiny smear of mayonnaise on each slice of bread.

Luckily there was plenty of mayo on the table, so I slavered it on – enough to make the bread edible. I think I missed the meat as it was so small.

No bad choices – I knew it was cheap –  but the next time I will be asking my mate to meet elsewhere.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering, the staff were really nice. Helpful, polite, apologetic and charming. Clearly this is how Marstons make enough money to keep paying them.)

My mate had a baked potato with tuna filling, which she ate without complaint.


Red Riding Hood – Rock n Roll Panto

Every year for the past 18 years the Wolsey theatre in Ipswich puts on a Rock n roll Panto. This year it is Red Riding Hood. I went to the late show last night (9pm curtain up to 12.15) and it was a complete riot. The caste were on for the second time and were clearing having a good time. They only have a couple more to do until the end of the run and it is sold out).

Voices were strained – they have done over 90 shows (!) but the singing was brilliant for all that.

Literally laughed til I cried a couple of times, possibly at bits that were unscripted.

It had everything you would want a Panto to have – plenty of contradictions of statements issued by the caste (“Oh no he didn’t!”) and indications of danger of which caste members were unaware (“Its Behind You!”)

The Dame was a delight, as raucous as a late night show allowed, the audience joined in right from the start, the musicianship was en pointe and the set was astounding.


Still not sure what Jack Frost was about but he had us in fits.


Go every year. Bit of a brightener in January.