The End of Summer

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Our garden has been a bit neglected this summer as we’ve been enjoying day trips and little adventures around Scotland from rambling walks along the coast to picnics in castle ruins, though we’ve spent a few sunny afternoons in the garden playing with our wee daughter too.

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After a warm and sunny spring, a cool, wet July meant most of my broccoli bolted, and slugs devoured my squashes and courgettes one by one. My husband has had a bit more success with blueberries and Japanese wineberries, but less luck with raspberries, tayberries and white currants. Having said that, we’re leaning towards growing more fruit (strawberries, apples, plums and rhubarb) than veg in future.

SummerBerries

Unfortunately, we’ve had to let our neighbours know that a furry, little family of four rats have moved in under their decking after we spotted them scurrying back and forth under the fence to eat at our bird feeder.

Rats

We’re in the process of changing the layout of the garden, trying to make the best use of space by replacing the fence, moving the washing line, replanting the flower borders and removing a couple of raised beds, as well as planting more fruit trees, but still leaving plenty of space for our little one to play when she’s older. Our garden has always felt like an extension of our home, and changes as our needs do.

It’s been noticeably colder and darker in the evenings lately, and the sunflowers are still providing some late summer cheer but our garden is looking a bit bedraggled. I noticed some of the trees in the park are already turning from summer green to autumnal reds on a family walk this week, and I’m ready to embrace the changing beauty and coziness of autumn. Have a lovely week. X

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

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The Fifth Season is the first book in The Broken Earth Trilogy and it’s the kind of gripping story that swept me along before I had the foggiest idea what it was about.

Set in a dystopian future, The Fifth Season follows three protagonists, Essun, Damaya and Syenite, all members of a race of humans called orogenes with the ability to control seismic activity. Essun, who has been living in hiding, is searching for her husband after he murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Damaya is taken to an organisation known as Fulcrum to be trained in how to control her abilities and serve the human population, while Syenite is an ambitious and talented orogene sent on a mission by the Fulcrum, frustrated but resigned to the injustices and unfairness of the world she lives in.

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Each perspective is unique and intriguing, and how the characters intersect with one another adds another level of mystery and suspense. When the characters and timelines finally coalesce at the end, it sets the scene for the next part of the trilogy which I’m looking forward to reading.

The world building is brilliant, though the brutal dehumanisation, exploitation and subjugation of the orogenes is uncomfortable reading in places, and I wasn’t suprised to learn that it was inspired by the real history of slavery and the oppression of black people. The Fifth Season is a thought-provoking, absorbing and original read. Have a lovely week. X

A Coastal Wander

Portencross

We recently took a trip to another stretch of the coastline at Portencross in North Ayrshire, a place we first visited last year. It had been raining and overcast in the morning but just as we arrived the clouds passed revealing blue skies and beautiful views of the Isle of Arran and the Isle of Cumbrae across the sea.

Portencross Castle

There were quite a few other people there at the same time either visiting Portencross Castle (which we skipped), walking their dogs or fishing on the pier, but it never felt crowded.

Taking it in turns to carry our daughter, my husband was happy to explore the rockpools finding crabs and showing them to our daughter, while I picked out shells for her to see and touch.

We’re really appreciating the freedom to visit some of our favourite places around Scotland after spending so long at home during lockdown, and I always find a day by the sea refreshing. Have a lovely week. X

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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Gods of Jade and Shadow was one of a few books that I bought to help get myself out of my lockdown reading slump. Set in Mexico during the 1920’s, the story follows a young woman called Casiopea who happens to be the downtrodden member of a wealthy family, until one day she frees the ancient Mayan God of Death, Hun-Kamé, who has been imprisoned in a locked chest in her grandfather’s bedroom.

Casiopea agrees to accompany Hun-Kamé around Mexico as he attempts to restore himself to full power, and it’s a race against time as while he exists in mortal form, he draws strength from her, draining her like a battery. Their quest to retrieve Hun-Kamé’s essence (his eye, ear, finger and jade necklace) takes them across Mexico encountering all manner of ghosts, demons, witches and other supernatural beings before the final confrontation in the underworld, Xiabalba, itself, it’s delightfully sinister and macabre in places.

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Hun-Kamé and his treacherous twin, Vucub-Kamé pit Casiopea and her cousin, Martin, against each other as they battle for supremacy over the underworld; it’s an interesting dynamic as all four characters’ positions were determined by chance as firstborn Hun-Kamé became the ruler of Xibalba with his younger twin destined to serve him, while Martin is the heir to their grandfather’s fortune soley because of his gender with Casiopea assigned to a position of servitude.

Given that Gods of Jade and Shadow is just over 300 pages in length, I found it slow to start and if not for my 100 page rule I might have given up before it started to get interesting, I also thought the romantic subplot felt flat and predictable, however, I found the setting and Mayan mythology a refreshing change, and the final test of the champions and the ending itself were particularly satisfying. Have a lovely week. X

Here and There

Swans on the Sea

We’ve been making the most of our beautiful country over the last few weeks, enjoying the freedom to visit places and people we haven’t seen for months during lockdown.

At the top of the list of places we wanted to visit once restrictions around travel for leisure were lifted was Croy Shore. We were last here in January just before I gave birth, and it was so lovely to return with our little girl for the first time on a breezy summer’s day in July.

Culzean Castle Ailsa Craig

Even on a busy day, it’s a quieter beach than most so we had plenty of space to wander without bumping into anyone else, and we could take our time, relax and appreciate the refreshing wind, the crash of the waves and the familiar sights of the Isle of Arran, Ailsa Craig and Culzean Castle, and on this particular day the less common sight of swans.

Croy Shore

There have also been lots of catch-ups and reunions with our extended family dotted around the country over the last few weeks, chatting over tea and cake with some, and rambling through fairy woods with others. Grandparents were delighted to be able to cuddle our daughter again, and there were some very cute scenes when we introduced our daughter to her younger cousin (born during the lockdown) with the babies gazing and smiling shyly at each other for the first time.

My daughter and I had our first playdate at the park with a few of my best friends and their children recently too. While the youngest (my friend’s son and my daughter – born just a month apart) were too little to join in with the toddlers’ games, they enjoyed seeing other small people and grasping each other’s hands whenever they were close enough.

Here and There

Closer to home, last week I visited our local supermarket for the first time since mid-March to get a few essentials I’d forgotten to add to our click & collect shop, and had my hair cut for the first time this year. Wearing masks, standing behind plexiglass screens and all the other changes that are likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future still feel strange and it’s going to take some getting used to.

Life still doesn’t feel anywhere near back to normal, but all these people, places and shared moments that would have seemed ordinary a few months ago, now feel so precious. Take care, and have a lovely week. X