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This morning I finished reading the book; Arabia, A Journey Through the Heart of the Middle East by Levison Wood – curled up in bed, snug and warm with a cup of tea (me that is , not the author haha), I settled in to finish the last 100 pages of this incredible story….and from that, you can deduce that I did not go walking today…it’s cold and grey out and I’m still shattered after all the stress and trauma of yesterday’s morning visit to the labour ward…more about that in a separate article.

book reviews, book recommendations, walking the nile levison wood, arabia levison wood, travel adventures

Viking Bay, Broadstairs after lunch

As with Walking the Nile I am left feeling just a little bit bereft at reaching the end of this particular journey. Even if the book had been a massive tome of 900 pages or more, I would still be feeling sad that I’d read the last page…. this time even the acknowledgements had to be pored over – their names all bear witness! Of the many characters met along the way, their personalities briefly revealed, the one I liked the most is Nada. My kind of fiesty lady. Whereas the name of Khaled al-Assad left me in tears. I remember reading about this amazing man at the time…over 3 years ago already 😦 My heart aches for him and his family. My heart aches for us.

I feel as if there is a story waiting to be told for each country visited. Delving deeper into the lives of people met, the places they live and the fabric of their lives. Imagine what a collection that would make on the bookshelf!! I feel as if I would like to meet each and every one of them – even the bat-shit crazy ones, linger over a meal and learn more about who they are and where they live. After all, regardless of location, race, colour, creed, religion, beliefs or values, at the end of the day we are ALL just people living our lives with hopes and dreams.

I am left both inspired and saddened by this journey through Arabia – A Journey Through the Heart of the Middle East. I have learned SO much and it infuriates me that we in the West are fed so much misinformation. It FRUSTRATES and angers me that there are so many factions, and frictions, old betrayals and new. That we, the UK, have even had a part to play in this over the centuries is both heart-breaking and sickening. I’m not going to delve into my political thoughts and feelings, since it’s not appropriate for this particular article, suffice to say that my eyes are just a little more open and I can’t imagine the conflicting emotions the author must have felt at certain times considering his background.

I am inspired to learn more about the adventurer TE Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia), who travelled those paths before Levison. To learn more about the Victorian explorer Richard Burton and Wilfred Thesiger, and to visit some of the places mentioned in the book; Jericho, Bethlehem and Damascus  in particular, as well as the many, many wondrous and ancient places he visited, to stand on top of those mountains and see the verdant valleys below in Lebanon and to spend a few days in the desert with a Bedouin tribe. Petra has always been high on my list of places I want to go…..

The Middle East seems to be a real contrast of expectations and reality, and there is so much more waiting to be discovered just below the surface. I was left bemused, terrified and exalted at various points along the way. I also cried at times….tears of despair and joy – the event in Bethlehem in particular brought me to tears…in a good way. The risks the author took in order to follow through with his journey and to reach his destination were extraordinary. The people who helped him along the way, sometimes at great risk to their own personal safety are extraordinary. Where there is a will, there is indeed a way. And how lucky are we, the reader, that they all did take those risks.

This particular book; Arabia, is not your usual travel journey that paints a pretty picture of places explored. No, it’s gritty and harsh and at times you are left feeling devastated at the destruction of a people and a place…and I’m talking in particular of Syria and Palestine. (p.s. if you have myopic views about the situation in either of these two countries please do NOT feel the need to express them in the comments).

If you have read this far, then I can highly recommend both these books; Arabia and Walking the Nile. So what’s next? Well I guess I am going to have to track down Walking the Himalayas….no pun intended LOL and Walking the Americas and make a plan to watch the Channel 4 documentaries.

Unfortunately for them, the charity shops won’t be seeing either of these books, Arabia or Walking the Nile from me LOL. Instead I shall treasure them and encourage my grandson to read them when he is ready; hopefully to inspire him to travel the world. I will most certainly be delving into them again….hopefully at a slower pace next time. As with all journeys, I’m sad it’s over.

I am left with the words of the John Lennon song in my mind; IMAGINE – all the people living life in peace….

I can highly recommend this book as a damn good read; Arabia; A Journey Through the Heart of the Middle East and while you’re at it….why not read Walking the Nile. Author: Levison Wood.book reviews, book recommendations, walking the nile levison wood, arabia levison wood, travel adventures

Meanwhile back at Planet Thanet, I have the book I’m writing for my grandson to complete. He’s due within the next 2 weeks and I’d like to complete it before he arrives. The Incredible Journey of James Alexander McKenzie-Hoult aka Jamie aka Peanut 🙂 I am SO looking forward to saying for real….. #Peanutisontheway

And I have An Evening with Levison Wood to look forward to next week…my tickets have been purchased and I’m ‘praying’ that Peanut doesn’t decide to arrive on that day…..before would be good and after just as well. LOL We’re focusing on the 18th…..

Alhamdulillah and RIP Khaled al-Assad may you truly have found peace, I’m sure you will never be forgotten.

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I finished reading a book by one of my favourite authors last night, just in time for National Book Day – which is today 🙂

Val McDermid is one of my ultimate favourite authors and whenever I come across one of her books that I haven’t yet read, I grab the opportunity with both hands. I don’t often get to read a book much these days what with one thing and another….like planning a pilgrimage or two LOL and getting some miles under my belt (or is that feet?) for the #walk1000miles challenge.

As mentioned many time before, I’m really lucky in that my job takes me to so many new places around the UK and so the temptation to get out and walk and explore is overwhelming. But what with my unsociable hours whilst on the job, I seldom get time to sit down and just read.

However with the recent appearance of the #beastfromtheeast I’ve had a good enough excuse to not go out too often during my breaks and have instead snuggled up under the covers and read….I finally reached the last page of my current read; Splinter the Silence just after midnight, unable to put the book down at a reasonable hour. It’s just such a good read.

Prior to that of course it was Shetland on TV before bedtime so by the time I settled into bed it was almost 10:30pm.

Splinter the Silence is one of many books featuring the psychologist Tony Hill and DCI Carol Jordan. Of course Tony Hill is a favourite character of mine every since watching the TV series The Wire in the Blood with Robson Greene for whom I carry a schoolgirl crush LOL

The latest book (2015) in the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan novels, Splinter the Silence is fast paced, full of detail that gives you a clear idea of who is who as it wefts and weaves the characters together; the killer, the victims and the crime fighters, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses with snippets of background in an easy to read recipe for excitement as your pulse races along with the desire to get to the end and see ‘whodunnit’.

national book day, val mcdermid, splinter the silence, tony hill

Splinter the Silence – Val McDermid

I’m not one of those people who can pick up a book and put it down numerous times, I have to read as quickly as possible to get to the last page, often reading a whole book in one night – although I don’t do that anymore. I remember as a young girl I picked up the habit of reading the last page before starting the book….something that drove my Mother mad and she soon ‘beat’ it out of me…metaphorically speaking, and insisted I read the book through from beginning to end. Hahaha.

Splinter the Silence is a thriller and thrilling. I can highly recommend this as a thoroughly good read.

 

 

 

 

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31 Days of Gratitude and today I’m grateful for reading; the ability to read.

Being able to read is a huge privilege and an incredible practical ability. Although it’s something we tend to take for granted, millions of people are unable to read.

Besides the lack of opportunity to learn how to read, physical disabilities can affect our ability eg dyslexia. “Britain has up to eight million adults who are functionally illiterate. The World Literacy Foundation said one in five of the UK population are so poor at reading and writing they struggle to read a medicine label or use a chequebook”.

Can you imagine that? Reading is such a fundamental function that we use every day. We grow up learning to read and it opens up opportunities we tend to take for granted without a second thought. What if we never had the privilege or ability to learn to read.

Could we apply for a job? Would we be able to write a job application? Would we be able to function in a work place where reading is fundamental to the job?

I was lucky enough to learn to read and write from a very young age. I’ve always loved books; a real bookworm growing up I spent every spare minute with my nose buried in a book….transported to different worlds. A voracious reader I went through school books like water through a sieve. My teachers had a hard time keeping me supplied and I went through the curriculum selection in no time at all.

2015-05-18 21.44.36 987858039044173615_231798962

Going to The Chapel, and we’re…… having hot chocolate with oodles of cream. 🙂 The Chapel is a quirky bar/coffee/book shop. It’s actually a bar with hundreds of books that line the walls, from floor to ceiling in some places, where you can relax with a drink and read a book…you can also buy the books which is super cool.

Fundamental to reading is a good cup of tea and a packet of biscuits….my ideal day.

As a child my absolute favourite books were the Secret Seven or Famous Five books by Enid Blyton. Anne of Green Gables was a huge favourite and so many others. My Mother used to buy me comics every week when I was about 5 years old…I waited with anticipation for the latest to fall through the letter box. I loved all the fairy stories and the Brothers Grimm stories were read again and again. I remember in my teens and 20’s literally reading through the night and finishing a book a night. I used to read at least 2 – 3 books a week; spy thrillers, WW2 stories, conspiracy theory stories, love stories, historical novels, the list of my likes went on and on.

These are some of my latest reads as well as my fantastic collection of books about London. I adore London and love to read about her secrets and history.

 

book review

These days I don’t read hardcover books so much since most of my time is now spent writing, but I still read a lot via the internet – articles on travel – namely walks around the UK and the various Caminos in Spain. I read a lot about health and finance, as well as the occasional gossip column LOL Ergo, most of my day is spent in reading or writing.

Besides loving books, I love the English language; it’s such a rich repository of wonderful words that we’re able to play around with creating pictures using descriptive words to create an image or a story.

Alongside of reading comes writing. To be able to write is as much a privilege as reading. I can’t imagine not being able to read and write; it’s fundamental to my day to day life. My whole working life has involved reading and writing and even today in my current career reading and writing is a necessary ability. I’ve written poems, a short story and 3 London books, one of which is a travel guide.

I had a blind friend once who lost his sight when he was a young boy. He had to learn braille and over the years he managed to obtain a computer on which he could write using braille. He worked in the office of the Courier company I was working for and held down a most fundamental role in the company. But it was always a challenge for him.

If I was unable to read and write I wouldn’t have been able to take up most of the opportunities I’ve had in the past and certainly currently. My blog is a vip part of my day and besides sharing my stories, I’m able to follow the stories of those that I identify with. I’ve been able to follow walkers on the Camino, learn about health benefits and latest research. I’m able to follow articles on finance and learn about trends like Bitcoin and Litecoin…which I might add are bloody exciting.

I taught my daughter to read at a very early age and one of my most endearing and enduring memories of her childhood are the nights when I would read her bedtime stories. One of our favourite books (I still have the relevant book) was The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. An absolute favourite I would read two or three chapters, following the faerie characters on their many adventures. I would also invariably fall asleep…something that happens a lot these days too when I read a book LOL 2 -3 pages and I’m asleep.  Another favourite book was The Neverending Story….still a favourite and I hope to read these two books to my grandchildren one day.

One of the hardest of my possessions to give up when I packed up in South Africa was my books. I had to leave hundreds behind. But sadly I don’t have the space for them. I did keep many of the favourites though. One book I have is The Water Babies. An old book that belonged to my father as a boy….it’s a treasured item.

So today I am grateful for reading and alongside of that I’m grateful I can write. There are millions who cannot and I can’t imagine how debilitating and hindering that must be.

31 Days of Gratitude – Day 11 

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I love books. I have a weakness for books. I have a shelf of books (now in storage) that I love to look at and recall the tales between the covers. In South Africa I had hundreds of books…some as old as 60+. Sadly when I moved my possessions over from SA to UK I had to leave a great many behind due to lack of space in my current home and plans for the future….100’s of books won’t fit into a campervan 😉

I read voraciously as a child, seldom without a book in my hand, I read at every opportunity from morning till night and then some. At school my teachers were hard put to keep up with me….I’d get a class book and bring it back within a few days having read it right through. My teachers would get suspicious and ask me questions…..they soon learned to not bother but just kept me topped up.

Even today, I love nothing more than a quiet corner and a good book. As for organising them…..sometime, maybe, I may. But mostly they just live happily wherever they land. 😉 Most recently a very lovely and dear friend of mine sent me a book on the eve of my visit to Florence, Italy. – ‘A Florence Diary’ by Diane Athill.

a florence diary diane athill

One of the many fun things about coming ‘home’ after being away for 3 weeks is opening my mail. To my delight one of the envelopes contained this wonderful book ‘A Florence Diary’ from my lovely friend Lucy

 

What a delight. I started reading immediately, but unfortunately, once I actually arrived in Florence I was out from early morning till late a night, returning to the apartment only to brush my teeth, change into pyjamas and fall into bed till the morning; at which time I would repeat it all over again LOL So no time to continue reading in Florence I’m afraid.

But I have brought it with me to Ireland and with a few days of mucky weather in store I plan to read it…..Thanks Lucy my sweet, I shall treasure this little book and add it to my collection in the campervan 🙂

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After all the excitement of my citizenship ceremony and all the stress of the months leading up to this final step, I was quite worn out….I had also been working the last two weeks and that alone leaves me quite ready for a break. So to that end, I spent the first 3 days of my new found citizenship hibernating…..I didn’t step outdoors at all except once to throw out the trash. Instead I switched off all my social media, left my computer in it’s case and curling up on the couch I read and read and read accompanied by copious amounts of teaeverything stops for tea….I’m British now, it’s my obligation to drink tea!!

books i have read (1)The first book I read on Friday was by a hitherto unread author: Jenny Colgan – ‘Little Beach Street Bakery’.  A delightful romp in a Cornish village on a Cornish island off the mainland near Plymouth (which is in Devon). A comedic light read, I found the story enchanting and found myself yearning to pack my bags and move to Cornwall and open a bakery! The sense of community, albeit with it’s fair share of villains and crackpots, gave me a warm fuzzy feeling that ran from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. I can highly recommend this book for a Sunday afternoon when you can just sit and relax and let the cares of the world fade into oblivion while you slip between the covers and enjoy a delightful journey to Cornwall. Be warned though, there are some tears to be shed!

 

books i have read (2)The 2nd book that I read, on Saturday (I’m a quick reader and usually manage to finish a book in one day), was an old favourite: Ian Rankin – ‘Standing in another man’s grave’, featuring Inspector John Rebus, that curmudgeonly Police Inspector from Scotland. I love Ian Rankin’s books, tight, tense and fast paced but so highly descriptive you feel like you’re almost travelling in the same car as yer man Rebus.  I thoroughly enjoyed this story; with enough twists and turns to make you dizzy it raced through the Scottish Highlands at an alarming rate. It always gives me a thrill to read about places I have visited since living in the UK, and this book didn’t disappoint….with a visit to Chanonry Point of particular delight as I spent many an afternoon or early morning at that very place during an assignment nearby a few years ago.

However, I didn’t get to see any dolphins….perhaps a return visit is on the cards.IMAG8540

After reading the two books and returning briefly to instagram, I posted a photo of the books and commented on how much I had enjoyed them. One of my instagram friends then said she had ordered Jenny Colgan’s book for a friend and someone else mentioned a book that had been released by a friend of her that she thought I might enjoy: Clare Harvey ‘The Gunner Girl’. I ordered the book and look forward to sharing my thoughts once I have read it.

I’m heading up to London for the day on Thursday, one to finalise my passport application and please god it gets back to me before my SA trip and to visit the dentist….that I am not looking forward to, but it’s now rather urgent. Other than that I’m heading to Ramsgate on Saturday for the Spitfire 80th anniversary events. Well excited for that. On Sunday of course here in the UK it’s Mother’s Day and apparently my daughter has planned a super surprise which I’m really looking forward to.

 

 

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