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Friday 27 March 2020

Friday Favourites: Books, Viewing, Podcasts

Online workouts for kids are great for the over-50s too
G'day all. Nearly at the end of week 1, "gentle" lock down. The highlight was undoubtedly last night's "Clap for Carers." Putting on my anorak and opening the front door at 8pm, I was expecting to be the only one. But in fact nearly all my neighbours came out, clapping and cheering, with the distant sound of fireworks. Very moving.

I've started doing the live Joe Wicks "The Body Coach" workouts. It's 30 minutes and quite strenuous. Gets the heart rate up.

I planted some cerise parrot tulips and wallflowers in two containers outside the front door, and the first tulip is out. They're very early as they weren't supposed to be out until April-May. They're attracting bees, which is lovely.
The dramatic tulip Cerise Parrot alongside wallflowers yet to bloom, London, March 2020
Now for my Friday Favourites, recommendations for books, viewing and podcasts. I've chosen five of my all-time favourite books. Some of them are out-of-print but still available on Amazon as secondhand paperbacks or hard backs.

Memorable Reads - You Won't Forget these Heroines

Burial Rites, Hannah Kent

This is the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, a servant in northern Iceland who was condemned to death after the murder of two men, one of whom was her employer. She became the last woman put to death in Iceland. It's a haunting book, pulling you into an unfamiliar world and the mind of a condemned woman. It was shortlisted for several literary awards

Human Remains,  Elizabeth Haynes  

A large number of people have been dying from natural causes in their own homes.  Police analyst Annabel spots the spike in figures but can't get her colleagues to investigate. Is there something sinister at play? Also available in Audible.

The Skin Chairs, Barbara Comyns

This was the first book I read by Barbara Comyns, a much under-estimated British writer whose books were mostly published in the 50s and 60s. The Skin Chairs is written from the perspective of a ten year old girl, Frances. When her father dies, Frances, her mother and siblings are taken under the wing of their horsey relations, led by the formidable Aunt Lawrence. Living in patronised poverty isn't fun, but Frances makes friends with Mrs Alexander, who has a collection of monkeys and a yellow motorcar.  This one is quirky and somewhat eccentric, but laugh out loud funny.Middle aged woman reading a paperback novel from Virago, The Skin Chairs by Barbara Comyns

Never No More, Maura Laverty

"You were the purple blog and ripe wheat-field and a crab tree in May. You were good food, and songs in the firelight and the rosary at night. You were a welcome for my coming and a prayer for my going out. You were Gran."

If you want escapism, in the form of the homespun charm of a cottage in Ireland and a gran who was forever cooking, this is it. Delia goes to live with her grandmother in County Kildare, in the 1920s, Ireland and we find a close knit community, not inmune from social problems, and there are surprising acts of kindness. As Delia grows up, she decides to go to Spain. Maura Laverty also spent time in Spain, firstly as a governess and later as secretary to Princess Bibesco and eventually becoming a foreign correspondent based within Madrid.  It is such a charming, beautiful book. I have read it countless times.

A Five Year Sentence, Bernice Rubens

Rubens was the most superb writer. Some of her books became films - for example, Madam Souzatska with Shirley Maclaine.  One of my favourites is the story of quiet, mousy Miss Hawkins, who is planning to end her life after her last day at work. But her colleagues give her a five-year diary, and as someone who has always followed rules and instructions, Miss Hawkins feels duty bound to fulfill the expectations of the diary and its timeline, even though the diary starts giving her instructions to do things she has never done before in her life.

Podcast Pleasures

Now that I'm not driving 90 miles a day to work, I'm not listening to so many podcasts, although I'm going to use them on my daily walks when I'm walking alone. I'm gripped by The Dating Game Killer. It's the true story of a serial killer who was so charming, well educated and plausible that hardly any of his employers ran background checks, and he would quickly skip state and adopt a new identity to avoid capture. He actually was on a TV dating show and was chosen as the date of the female contestant.  Find out what happened.

Viewing Delights

The joys of Netflix have quickly worn off and we're not watching much on there at the moment, having enjoyed Cheer and a surprisingly engaging documentary series going behind-the-scenes in Formula 1.

My current favourites:
Hidden:  extremely atmospheric and beautifully filmed thriller from BBC Wales  (BBC iPlayer). It's a bit long and drawn out, but kept our attention.
Race Across the World:  the contestants are more varied, interesting and likeable than those in the first series.  Racing as couples, the contestants are not allowed to use planes and have just the price of an air ticket to get to the final destination.  BBC 2 and iPlayer.
The Nest - (below) - episode one of the new drama from BBC Scotland looked promising.  A woman desperate for a baby befriends a young girl with a troubled past who wants to become her surrogate.  But her husband (Martin Compston from Line of Duty) is less convinced.
Glasgow looks very aspirational and the riverside home of the glamorous couple is to die for. BBC1 and iPlayer. Three cast members of The Nest by the river
Belgravia:  the lavish new drama from Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey).  The first episode was very strong, the second less so. ITV 1 and ITV Hub. It's very Downton-esque, even down to the theme music.

I'll be back on Monday with the monthly fashion challenge, Style Not Age.

Sharing this post with Linkup on the Edge at Shelbee on the Edge. #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings, #ShareAllLinkUp with Not Dressed as Lamb,  Anna at Mutton Style

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