Pull up a Pew!

Please, help yourself to a slice of cake! Would you like milk in your coffee? Sit down and I’ll let you into a secret.

Being barely permitted beyond one’s home does not need to result in ennui … many emotions have featured in our household these last months but boredom has not been one of them!

Rather the days have been packed with various activities, as a family or solo. From intense Scrabble tournaments (I’m still on a winning streak) to walks galore. More on these and our garden in the next post. From language studies to piano recitals (not by me). From ‘The Artist’s Way’ to photo filing! Outdoor projects delayed for years have been completed, indoor decorating starts this month!

Below are just a few images giving a hint of our new lives.

Jigsaws have not been on my radar for many years, yet with long evenings indoors looming we invested in a few new ones – surely 1000 pieces wouldn’t prove to be too much of a challenge!?

We loved the quiet companionship of rejoining the tiny pieces, deciphering the colours and hints of images, creating a wondrous whole. In the silence a new united resilience developed within us. Our son would pop in now and then, praising our efforts, or a quick nod if we had not had much luck. Of course, he’d reach out, pick up a piece or two, slotting them neatly into place!

The first jigsaw was a nostalgic scene from the picturesque North Yorkshire coastal town of Filey; a place I visited often as young. Unfortunately one piece went missing during construction – can you spot the gap?

Being keen, although more dabblers than professional gardeners, we couldn’t resist the flowers in the jigsaw below and thought we might learn something along the way. We did, mainly don’t get a 1000 piece jigsaw with many similar hues including purples, reds and blues! We are pleased however with the final completed ‘Gardener’s Palette’ taking in cottage garden herbs, vegetables and flowers in all their various hues and shades … and might even add a couple to our own haven!

Mother’s Day was bittersweet; a beautiful morning shared with my son, adoring the wonderful and thoughtful 3-D card, spending a couple of hours discussing life and music! Yet I was not able to visit my own mother in person, but fully aware I was only one from so many around the world missing hugs with their loved ones.

Creativity has flourished and I think more than ever we appreciate the simple art of making … something … anything!

My son and I have bonded ever closer over cakes, scones, buns; the Victoria Sponge of the first image was inspired by Charley and her recipe at Books and Bakes. Thank you so much!

The amount of butter and sugar is quite horrifying and in the end we forewent the buttercream; the cake still tasted sublime! Recipe books have been brought out of hibernation and we’ve experimented with new dishes, revisited old favourite ones forgotten along the way of busyness!

A busyness that seemed so-all-important, so-all-consuming, suddenly showing its true colours … there is nothing more important than family and friends. Here lies the richness of life.

A friend, working from home and no longer spending hours commuting, took that time to enjoy her knitting, sending us some of her creations! I love flamingos and these here are treasured by me!

Faced with the cessation of garden rubbish collection, my husband extracted unused wood from the garage to make this cute compost heap! It’s snuggly tucked in between a coupe of bushes.

The Eurovision Song Contest has been traditionally celebrated as a family all my life! First thoughts were that nothing would be shown in its place, instead the most amazing and heartwarming evening of the year (so far) lit up our hearts!

Determined to make it a party, even if only the three of us, I spent a morning making flags of the 41 participating countries. Many will be aware of the number of non-European countries allowed to compete … let’s not go there!

The specially organised show in the Netherlands entitled ‘Eurovision: Europe Shine a Light’ was inspired by the song ‘Love Shine a Light’ by Katrina and the Waves which won in 1997 for the UK. During the evening there were special features by old winners and a montage of 2020 performers who did not have a chance to compete.

The pièce de résistance was the incredible finale, singing alone at home, the performers as a whole sung ‘Shine a Light’. There was not a dry eye in the house as the full impact of the one joining forces to create a unity shone out across Europe!

Finally, amongst the frivolity of home life, the seriousness of life beyond is never far away. My only excursions for weeks were the forays to the pharmacy for medications for the family. These trips saw my skills at remarkable adeptness and speed develop, my evasion of others reach another level.

Touched by my worries, amused by my description of the dash through the shop, my husband penned the ‘article’ below. The most precious of gifts are not those of the highest monetary value, rather caring, thoughtful and loving actions and deeds! This made me laugh out loud and I recall it every time I visit Boots (name of the pharmacy).

“ANNIKA (THE SQUIRREL) PERRY
IMPRESSIONIST
(Well of a squirrel anyway)
Star of stage, screen and local Boots

Annika is an up and coming impressionist, currently appearing monthly at her local Boots, amazing customers and staff alike as she weaves her way along the isles avoiding contact with any unwary member of the public. In doing so she is amazingly lifelike as a squirrel jumping from side to side, speeding up and slowing down as the situation demands.

Her pièce de résistance is her amazing stopping, turning and reversing speed, enhanced by her clenched little fists held under her chin, if anyone gets too close. People cannot believe her performance, and neither could the staff, who have called the police on a number of occasions. (The police later described her performance as unbelievable.)

Annika is now looking to increase and amaze her audience and is available for children’s parties, local fetes and beer festivals. Cash payment (in a brown envelope) is preferred but hazelnuts will be considered as an available option where appropriate.

Annika can be contacted at Squirrel Nutkins Residence, Hole in The Old Oak Tree, Next to the big pond, The Nature Reserve!”

To finish the post, I would like to shared the 2015 winning song ‘Heroes’ by the gentle-hearted and humble Swedish singer Måns Zelmerlöw which he sung from the garden of his home in London and was featured on the Eurovision Song Contest show this year.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anaïs Nin

Hello, Again: A Book Review

Photo courtesy of Isabelle Broom

Philippa (known as Pepper to her friends) has lived her whole life in the picturesque coastal town of Aldeburgh in the East of England. A life numbed by grief following the accidental death of her sister Bethan two decades ago; a life only partly lived as Pepper has given up her dreams of travel and ambition to become a professional artist. Instead, she has sought refuge in teaching art through her own community project ‘Arts For All’. Outside of work, she socialises with a few close friends and her mother. A mother whose remote distant existence has been defined by her younger daughter’s death and no one, not even Pepper can find a way through to her.

Into this world Pepper’s older and feisty friend, Josephine, cajoles her to come along on a trip to Lisbon to try and discover what happened to Josephine’s first and true love, Jorge. What Pepper does not realise is that Josephine’s invitation becomes the catalyst which alters her entire life.

Wow! As the pair arrive in Lisbon the novel truly takes off and luckily this is only the first of five trips abroad that Philippa ends up making.

Lisbon is described in glorious lush technicolour detail, capturing the mesmerising beauty of the city and its people. The author paints a vivid image of the capital, the serenity palpable through the wonderful and magical depiction. I felt transported to Lisbon (and later the other destinations); yet I must reinforce that at no stage is the energy and ease of the narrative sacrificed for the sake of the locations.

Travel is so much more than sightseeing and this is the case for Pepper who finds herself transformed through her travels and experiences. First, in Lisbon she meets a German named Finn and the two of them seem destined to be together. As the story moves back to Aldeburgh, then to Hamburg, Barcelona and Guernsey, Pepper finds increasing creativity and freedom within herself as she faces the guilt of moving forward with her life, both personally and artistically.

“Guilt that her own pain did not run deep enough, that she dared to hope for elation in the wake of tragedy.”

Excerpt from ‘Hello, Again’.

Romance is interwoven throughout the book and interestingly played out across the various generations. Whilst the love interest between Pepper and Finn dominate, her enigmatic friend Simon becomes a frequent presence in her life. The romantic life of Josephine and even that of her mother and father also are explored with sensitivity and warmth.

Through this powerful portrayal of love, loss and friendship I found myself drawn ever deeper into the lives of all the characters, hooked by their tangled romantic encounters and I cheered along as they found a life beyond sadness. Nothing is predictable and the continual surprises ensure this is a rewarding, thoughtful and entertaining book.

Finally, a note to myself! How has this author not been on my radar! ‘Hello, Again’ is Isabella Broom’s eighth book and I now look forward to catching up with some of her previous works. I think I’ve got my summer reading sorted!

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest and impartial review.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Publication date: 9th July 2020

To purchase: Amazon UK Amazon US or any bookshops or book websites.

About Isabelle Broom

Isabelle Broom was born in Cambridge nine days before the 1980s began and studied Media Arts in London before a 12-year stint at heat magazine.

Always happiest when she’s off on an adventure, Isabelle now travels all over the world seeking out settings for her escapist fiction novels, as well as making the annual pilgrimage to her second home – the Greek island of Zakynthos.

Currently based in Suffolk, where she shares a cottage with her two dogs and approximately 467 spiders, Isabelle fits her writing around a busy freelance career and tries her best not to be crushed to oblivion under her ever-growing pile of to-be-read books.

Not One to Read in Bed!

This is definitely not a book to read in bed!

Weighing 1,420 kilos (3,130 lb) and measuring a ginormous 4.18 m x 3.77 m (13.71 x 12.36 ft) this colossus book needs six people and special machine to open the pages.

Not surprisingly, the book gained the Guinness World Record at the time for being the largest book in the world.

In its 364 pages, the book explores the flora, fauna, caves and architecture of Szinpetri in northern Hungary. It is here its creators, Béla Varga and his son Gábor, reside. They used traditional bookmaking techniques and upscaled them for this project.

Béla Varga, one of the book creators

In some ways, it is a global effort as parts were sourced from Sweden (wooden tables) and from as far away as Argentina (leather from thirteen cows). Paper and billboard printing was carried out in Austria.

Watermill that houses the book at Szinpetri.

Enjoy looking at this time-lapse video of its installation.

Note: I first read about this book in ‘Writing Magazine’ and learned more about it at World’s Largest Book.

Finally, I feel this post ties in perfectly with one I wrote in my early days of blogging. Then I explored the smallest books in the world and you can read this article by clicking on the link to Small, Smaller, Smallest.

OVERWHELMED!

“Without habit, the beauty of the world would overwhelm us. We’d pass out every time we saw — actually saw — a flower.”

“Imagine if we only got to see a cumulonimbus cloud or Cassiopeia or a snowfall once a century: there’d be pandemonium in the streets.”

“People would lie by the thousands in the fields on their back.”

From ‘Four Seasons in Rome’ by Anthony Doerr.

Note: Comments have been turned off for this post.

ON THE SOUND OF WINGS

After hours, days, weeks,
My body and mind in constant turmoil,
I find myself enjoying the warmth of the sun.

Lunch time sandwiches finished, I sit back.
The silence deafening.
My ears ringing.

No cars, no voices
No planes, no lawnmowers.

The world stopped.

Only now are we learning to cease.
To recall that we can think, feel.

Be one with nature.

In the loudness of nothing
I hear the buzz of a dozy bee
Just waking to a world
It thinks is the same
As before.

A constant cracking noise has my head swivelling
Where is it coming from?

I notice a blue tit on the seeds
With infinite peace, nibbling the inner goodness,
Cracking, cracking them open
To reveal the heart.

I move my legs and startle the bird.

In this moment a whoosh of spirit overcomes me.

With intense clarity.
I hear the flap of the wings
.

A light breeze wafts through the lilac tree
And in the process picks up my spirit
Sends it along the path of the departing bird.

A spirit that floats with oneness of the nature surrounding me.

A peace of such infinity overwhelms me,
I look back and see myself on the wooden chair.

Should I fly on, should I return?

The me looks a bit confused, lost, serene.
A bundle of emotions … I look forward,
Reminding myself never to forget
Reminding myself never to fear.

I drift back, re-joined, re-coupled.

An epic ephemeral epiphany.

©Annika Perry

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives 2020 – Elisabeth’s Lists: A Book Review by Annika Perry

Many will know how much I enjoy writing book reviews on my blog and it’s a delight to share ‘Elisabeth’s Lists’ as featured today on Sally’s blog as part of her ‘Posts from your Archives’. If you’re not a follower of her blog, you’re missing out on a treat! Do take a look around and perhaps you have a couple of posts to submit yourself for the series.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the current series of Posts from Your Archives in 2020 and if you would like to participate with two of your posts from 2019, you will find all the details in this post: New series of Posts from Your Archives 2020

This is the second postby author Annika Perry and is a book review for Elisabeth’s ListsbyLulah Ellender

Elisabeth’s Lists: A Book Review

My signed copy of Elisabeth’s Lists: A Family Story by Lulah Ellender

There is a word in Japan for unread books left to pile up around one – tsundoku! I’m guilty of a few tsundoku collections of books; ones bought with well-meaning and tingling anticipation. Somehow they become unintentionally forgotten and lay precariously balanced with other books, dangling over the edge of shelves.

Often treasures of literature are hidden among these and this is the case for one such book which…

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Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives 2020 – #Memories – I Remember by Annika Perry

Memories play a pivotal role in all our lives, and in one piece of writing, I let my consciousness take a back-seat as I explored my own past. I’m delighted to share ‘I Remember’ as it is featured on Sally Cronin’s inspired ‘Posts from Your Archives’ series. I’ve turned comments off here and look forward to seeing you on Sally’s blog!

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the current series of Posts from Your Archives in 2020 and if you would like to participate with two of your posts from 2019, you will find all the details in this post:New series of Posts from Your Archives 2020

This is the first post by author Annika Perry and I am sure as you read, memories of your own from your childhood and teenage years will resurface and be enjoyed…

I Remember

I remember the splash of the waves against the side of my grandfather’s wooden boat, my brother standing proudly by the mast.

I remember sitting in the back, snuggled like a chick under my mother’s arms, the sea salt and my long blond ponytail lashing my cheeks.

I remember being passed to land like a bag of sugar, an exulted terrified scream then the freedom of the warm rocks beneath my feet. Away…

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FROM HAVOC TO HARMONY

For years I’ve lain in bed studying the right corner of my bedroom. The mini alcove proved impossible to furnish, not for lack of trying though.

For nearly a decade a redundant large bookcase lurched out of the gap, encroaching into the room, looming over. It became an overbearing presence in the harmonious room.

Earlier a small hanging shelf fitted easily between the chimney breast and the wall, yet with only two shelves there was still the problem with the wasted space beneath. A small antique wooden box moved in for a while before becoming recalled for other purposes in the neighbouring room. Furniture seems to be itinerant in my house … restless, always on the move.

Enough is enough and one day I decided to take charge! A yearning cried out to be fulfilled, my vision for the corner, quietly resting in my mind longed for existence. It was time!

It never fails to astound me how one small plan leads to so much upheaval in a house! As I sketched my very rough outline for a fitted bookcase, my husband and I decided to invest in a new bed at the same time! And, oh yes, didn’t the paint need freshening up?!

By this time you might have realised there are a lot of books in my house … many of which needed to be moved for the project. The dining table and chairs moved into the living room (see what I mean about restless furniture!) With a heave and ho, with muttering galore, with logistics reminiscent of a battle plan we set forth!

We have a dog-legged staircase and on the middle landing are two beautiful bookcases both filled to the brim with books. Before any big furniture could go down and up these needed to be moved to the dining room. Gosh, did we add to the daily step count with these books alone! Over a hundred Encyclopaedia Britannica books moved down along with an old bible from my husband’s family as well as an abundance of fiction novels.

As the leather-bound Encyclopaedia Britannica books sprawled across the floor, their numbers seemed insurmountable as they lay in unread heaps. With thoughts to decluttering it was decided to sell them all … thank goodness for eBay and a lovely chap bought them and came to collect them the day after the auction ended. I bade the collection a fond farewell but no regrets and in the process greeted the extra space for other books!

Next to join the already burgeoning ad hoc library in the dining room (why does this post remind me of the game of Cluedo!), all the books from my old-fashioned bookcase and desk came downstairs. I cradled my children’s books in my arms, hello Heidi, ahh, the Children on the Oregon trail, there you are gold-embossed Ivanhoe!

Next step was bed removal and I’m always happy when one can donate to charity and the British Heart Foundation were only too happy to pick this up, along with the old bookcase! At last freedom … the painting soon got underway, the new bed was chosen and I’d found a carpenter for the bookcase.

A skilled craftsman, he immediately ‘got’ my vision for the corner, shared my enthusiasm for the design, adding his own additions to blend with existing old-fashioned bookcase and desk! I was skittish with excitement as I received the sketches! Perfect!

Four weeks later, the room had been reassembled and I am overjoyed with the result. The bed is a haven of comfort, I’m sleeping the cosy slumber from childhood, the corner bookshelf is a delight to see. Just as I imagined, sitting snugly into the gap, bringing light and warmth into the room!

Next came the most joyful of chores … arranging the books across the bookshelves in all the rooms of my home! Uprooting books from my study, the living room to create a cherished cohesion that I’d lost during numerous moves. I mulled over the location of books, their groupings. Where the Encyclopaedia Britannica books had resided I’ve now put my reportage and journalism books, memoirs and biographies! Already I’m finding my time going downstairs has exponentially lengthened as I take a halfway break, pick up a book, glancing through it. I’m having a wonderful time revisiting my old friends!

Unread books are safely stacked in the new bedroom bookcase along with inspirational books, poetry books ready for a perchance read are behind the glass doors, fiction books are scattered with my unusual known-only-to-me organisational skill! Ask me for a book, if I have it, I can find it!

The four weeks of havoc at home was more than worth the chaos, and I’m overjoyed with the peaceful harmony in the new bedroom with its enchanting bookcase.

Spring's Breeze & A Musical Interlude!

Spring’s breeze strokes my cheek
Star flower heralds warm days
Storm warning – keep safe!

These past few days have been the sunniest for months and numerous walks in woods, along the coast, inspired me to write the haiku above.

Spring is so close, almost tangible, yet the threat of the latest tempest this weekend returns us to the winter gloom. Before Storm Ciara, a severe gale, coursed its way across the UK we headed outside enjoying the glory of nature to the utmost. Soon enough we needed to retreat indoors to the cosiness of home.

Out on the daily meditations, I remember that not only Mother Nature can lift us high, music also has a sublime ability to reach our inner core.

One piece that recently touched me so is a piano cover by Sammy Perry of Odesza’s song ‘A Moment Apart’. It is one of Sammy’s favourite songs from their album.

Listening to this my spirits soar. I imagine spring, life itself, unfurling. It is peaceful, magical and inspirational. Enjoy!

Meet author Annika Perry and her love of writing on “A Better World of Books” #authorinterview

I was delighted recently when Alethea asked me for an interview as part of her fabulous series “A Better World of Books”. Here she wants to celebrate authors who inspire “hope, joy, positivity, or a sense of empowerment” through their books! Wow! I am honoured to take part.

Learn about the origins of my children’s book “Oskar’s Quest”, my favourite fictional creation and exactly how does this all fits in with talking to guinea pigs!

Click on the link to read the whole interview! Enjoy!

The Light Behind the Story

annika-perryAnnika Perry is an award-winning author, blogger and book reviewer. She has two books in print and is working on a third. I asked Annika to be a guest for A Better World of Booksafter I learned about the release of her childrens book, Oskars Quest. Bette Stevens, a reviewer of the book, had this to say about it, In this beautifully illustrated childrens book, author Annika Perry captures the importance of caring for others, overcoming fears and making new friends.

Annika, thank you for being a guest for A Better World of Books.Can you tell our readers how you came up with the idea for Oskars Quest?

Alethea, I am delighted to be here and thank you so much for inviting me on to your blog. I’m loving your insightful questions…

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