Tag Archives: writing

I’ve booked my next holidays – and I couldn’t be happier!

There are lots of things I miss about my pre-covid life.
Top of the list is meeting up with friends and enjoying long walks with my yellow Labrador James.
Second is eating cake – preferably from an independent coffee shop, home-made with heaps of tooth-rottingly good icing!
Third is going on holiday and everything involved with it, from the planning to the arrival.
We’re lucky to live near a beach – so James gets lots of play-time there and two walks a day – but we’re limited as to where we can take him as Mum and I don’t drive.
Eating cake is probably not good for me and luckily I didn’t latch on to the baking craze of the first lockdown!
But, last week I was finally able to book my first holidays in over two years!
Are your hackles raised? Are you thinking really mean thoughts about me?
Well, the good thing is that it didn’t cost me a penny!
I didn’t have to spend time squashed into a plane, ferry or train.
It was an immensely enjoyable experience – so much so that I’ve booked some more holidays for the next three weeks.
OK, I think I’ve wound you up enough now!
The first trip I booked was to Birmingham.
One of my lovely friends Ian is a tour guide – and him and his wife told me about a brilliant company called Virtual Trips.
The trips are all done in real-time by tour guides who take you on adventures in all sorts of places around the world.
All you need to do is sign up (for free) select where you want to go – and an hour before the tour you get an Email.
You can join 10 minutes before the live stream starts – and chat with other travellers (although not in person, only via a chat box)
You can also ask questions during the tour and you can even take post-card photos via a clever piece of software on the website.
The trips are completely free – but there’s the chance to give a tip if you’d like to support the guide.
I’ve already booked three more tours that Ian’s doing to Oxford, the Cotswolds and Stratford-on-Avon.
We’ve also been further afield.
Mum and I had a really enjoyable tour of Guernsey where the guide talked about the occupation during world war 2.
Last Friday I spent an hour in Berlin – then in the evening we went to Yellowstone.
I’d been feeling quite sad about the present situation – as everybody does from time to time.
However, being able to escape for an hour or two to somewhere completely different has made a real difference to my mood and general outlook.
We can also take James and he doesn’t need a pet passport!
I’ve booked three trips to New York, one to Lisburn and we’re hoping to go to South America and Italy in the near future.
You can see all the tours available at:
http://www.virtualtrips.io
Right, I must go – Mum and I are off to Dublin this afternoon!

the poignant symbol of Christmas 2020

When I went to New Zealand, the first place we visited was Christchurch.
It’s a wonderfully friendly city with heaps to see and do.
However, the part which stayed with me, more than the food *which is usually the highlight of any trip* was the memorial to the people who died in the 2011 earthquake.
185 empty chairs were displayed to represent each person who lost their lives in the earthquake.
I was really moved by this touching display of empathy to a city which lost so much!
Chairs have always had special significance in art and literature – from Van Gogh to Les Miserables.
I might even go so far as to say they could be a symbol of Christmas in 2020.
This Christmas will be especially poignant for people all over the world.
The unimaginable grief and loss is impossible to describe or comprehend.
I’m training to be a psychotherapist, and I have a special interest in loss and bereavement.
We’re all experiencing a sense of loss.
For many it is the loss of family and friends.
for others it’s the loss of jobs, homes and businesses.
Other people will be feeling an immense loss of control at having our plans curtailed at the last moment which for many will be incredibly difficult to deal with.
Compassion and empathy are especially important, for ourselves and to those around us.
Some of us will be able to see our family and friends over Christmas, and it’s OK to make it a time for celebrating and making special memories.
Many people will be facing Christmas alone – or without their parents, siblings, spouses or friends
That’s why, on Christmas day, I’ll be spending a moment to remember empty chairs.
We’ll put an empty chair at our table to remember everyone going through grief and loss.
To everyone reading this – I wish you a peaceful and compassionate Christmas.



How to help a person through the loss of a pet

I’m so sorry I’ve been neglecting my blog. The past six months has gone by so quickly. Mum and I continue to miss Chelsea every day – but I’m so glad for all the memories of my special, amazing little Labrador. I thought I’ write a quick blog though to try and help other people who may be experiencing the loss of their pet – and also to gently advise people of how they can help – or not help someone who’s pet has died. Warning: These are only my opinions – and I take no responsibility for any offence anyone may take at my suggestions. Things which are helpful: Let yourself grieve – in any way you want. Cry, scream, or, allow the numbness to wash over you for as long as it takes. Nobody can tell you how long to grieve, or how to do it. I’d describe my grief as being like a faulty bath. I’d be aware of it dripping away in the background, but I could more or less cope. Then something would happen and the taps would just burst into life. I was out with Friends the other day and I heard a song which my guide dog trainer played on the radio on the first day I started training with Chelsea. I just started crying! Talk about your pet if you want to – with those who knew them the most. Mum misses Chelsea lots as well – and we talk about her almost every day. Don’t do anything you feel you should. If you want to scatter your pet’s ashes – do it. If you want to keep them on your chest of drawers – or on your coffee table – that’s fine. Ask the person about their pet. I love talking to people about Chelsea. People who never met her don’t share the feelings I do – so it’s great to have a chat with someone about all the funny things she did. Lastly, pay special attention to any other pets you have – love them, hug them and tell them it’s OK. Jimmey missed Chelsea as well – and it was heart-breaking when he sniffed her blanket when Mum and I returned home after Chelsea died. Now, some things which I feel are not helpful to say to a person who’s lost a pet. Never, ever say “I know how you feel!” or “I know how it feels!” you don’t – because you’re not me! Also, it can feel quite false at times. I tend to say: “It’s awful isn’t it! I don’t know what to say!” You’re acknowledging the feelings of the other person – without making it all about you. A dear friend, who has had guide dogs but hasn’t had to face the awfulness of the last chapter sent me a lovely Email. It was straight from the heart and – like all the lovely messages I had about my Chelsea, I’ve kept it. Please don’t tell someone who loses a pet at an older age: “Well, she was 14!” It’s horrible when a pet dies young – I know that! But, it’s just as bad when the pet has had a long and happy life. I might say to someone who asks how old Chelsea was: “Well, she was 14 years and 3 months – but we still miss her heaps!” But that’s my choice and I wouldn’t tell somebody they were lucky to have her for such a long time. Now, this is tricky – people mean well when they say it – but be very careful about jumping in with: “So, will you get another dog now?” Timing is important with this one – as well as barrel loads of sensitivity. Lots of people asked Mum this – when it was the last thing on her mind. Lastly, don’t be afraid of talking about the pet. Funny stories, things they did. Not everybody will know your pet has died. I went to see a friend the day after Chelsea died – and a man came up to me and asked how she was. More crying – which is embarrassing for other people I know, but my friend explained to him what had happened – and I told him it was OK to talk about her. Not everybody will want to talk – and that’s totally fine as well. The last point is to just grieve how you feel you want to – and for anyone going on the awful journey of loss with a friend – be there, be kind and just listen.

The last word in silence

To end my selection of blogs on the theme of quiet and silence, I’m going to review two books I recently read.
They’re not to do with silence itself (I’m afraid my life isn’t short enough to laboriously read long tomes on how to achieve your inner quiet) but I found two books by searching for the word “silent” in my library of over 50 thousand titles.
Firstly, The Silent Child by Sarah A Denzil.
This was narrated by Joanne Froggatt of Downton Abbey, Coronation Street and Liar fame.
It’s about a six year old boy, Aidan who goes missing after a flood – but mysteriously turns up outside a hospital 10 years later. I’m not going to divulge anything else – but it has a lot of twists and turns before the true reason for his disappearance is explained.
The way the author draws out the “silent” part of Aden’s character was really interesting – and it is up to you to discover if – and when he’ll ever talk about what he’s been through.
The other book is The Silent Sister by shalini Boland.
I have to admit I liked this one more – it was fast-paced and had more twists and periods of me shouting: “OOOOOO, I didn’t see that!”
I was totally wrong about the outcome – I’m quite good at predicting *or guessing* what will happen, but the final twist was something I would have never have guessed.
The main character, Lizzie starts receiving strange letters – as well as having other things happen to her which she can’t explain.
The suspense is kept through what we don’t know – as opposed to what we do, which is always the best way I find.
Lizzie starts to mistrust everyone around her – including her estranged sister Emma – but could this lead to her downfall?
I’d recommend this to anyone who loves a good thriller.
You can find heaps of titles in the RNIB library- from animal stories to books about zoology.
You can also become a volunteer – and could even end up reading books for people to enjoy.
Please also take the time – if you can to visit my justgiving page – I’m trying to raise money for the talking books strand of RNIB
http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cantonelytalkingbook

the amusing side of being totally blind

Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. – Abraham Lincoln
I love that! It’s got nothing to do with my blog post – but I just thought I’d pop it in!
I’ve been blind since birth so I have a slight idea about what I’m talking about when I say sometimes blind people can experience silence.
It’s not sad at all – it’s the total opposite.
I remember one day going into my Mum’s room and regaling her with a hilarious incident which happened to me while I was walking home from college with my first guide dog.
I finished speaking, stood for a while then said:
“Mum?”
My five minute monologue had been unheard.
We also experience silence when I ask someone on a bus which stop is the next stop – or when I’m waiting to cross a road and turn hopefully to ask a person if it’s safe to cross, only to discover on closer inspection that the person is in fact, a tree!
But there’s another side to experiencing silence as a blind or partially sighted person.
We can feel ignored and rejected when trying to access or find things other people take for granted.
Whether it’s finding a job, trying to make friends or, in some cases finding a partner – it can be difficult.
OK, OK, stop whining love – it’s hard for me too – I hear you cry!
It is, I know, but you have something a lot of people without sight don’t have, the ability to raise your eyebrows, glare, nod, shake your head ETC. – you have the language of silence.
I remember wiling away ten minutes of my life which I’ll never get back when I asked a friend to try and teach me how to glare. I just ended up looking like a dog with a mouthful of bees!
I’m too smiley to glare – but I sometimes wish I could.
Even accessing healthcare can lead people who are blind or partially sighted people into a world of silence.
The lack of provision to access goods and services is thwart with dramas. How do you read the letter you get through the door? How do you find the hospital department in a huge, badly lit and not sign-posted properly building.
I totally appreciate it must be heaps worse if you can’t hear – but that’s not what this blog is about.
As I said, silence to me is often part of the hilarity of my life – as it is, as it has always been, and how it will always be.
I choose to try and educate people on how to break the silence – and I hope others will join me.
The RNIB does a heap of good work to try and break down barriers for blind and partially sighted people, as well as those who are in danger of, or are losing their sight.
Please try and become part of this brilliant organisation.
You can find out heaps of volunteering opportunities by visiting:
http://www.rnib.org.uk/volunteering

How to find silence in a whirlpool of noise

When was the last time you experienced true silence?
It’s quite a rare commodity in this age of technology, social media and constant demands on our time.
However, Whirlpool, a washing machine company *Yes, really* have introduced a “quiet” washing machine.
They’ve also come up with the concept of “National quiet day” which is today.
So, to coincide with that – I’ve been asked by RNIB Cymru to write three posts on the theme of quiet.
So, this first post will focus on how to find more quiet places – and make the most of silence.
I must add, I’m writing this in a really noisy office. There are people on the phone – photocopiers and printers whirring and the low buzz of air-conditioning in the background.
So, how do you find quiet in a world of noise and bustle?
Here are five things to think about.
1: Find somewhere relatively quiet. It might be an empty conference room at work or a park, anywhere where you won’t be disturbed.
Sit/Stand/Lie back and just listen. What can you hear?
I’m not going to tell you to do any type of deep breathing 0- or find a “Place where you really loved going on holiday” (Or did I just say that) anyway, just listen to the silence.
2: Pop Classic FM on. It works for my guide dog Jimmey – that and radio four keep him company on the rare times I have to leave him behind.
It’s been proved by several studies that listening to classical music is good for your health – as it helps to reduce stress and lowers blood pressure.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zsv6hyc

1. Cached
2. Similar

And

https://www.rd.com/health/wellness/classical-music-effects/

1. Cached

It really works. I listened to some classical music while studying for my theory exams during my post-graduate course and I did really well in the exam!
I doubt it’d have worked if I listened to Metallica!
3: Go for a walk in a forest/park/anywhere natural.
I’ve been an avid bird watcher since I was 3.
I say watcher, but there was more listening going on.
My Dad bought me two bird tapes and I learned all the songs and calls.
Bird song is calming and helps you feel less stressed.
4: Find a dog/cat and cuddle it.
During a period of severe stress – my guide dog Chelly (who is now retired) really helped me. She was the silent friend who sat by my side throughout and just helped me by just being herself – not making me talk, not trying to understand – but just being a quiet presence.

5: Read! I love reading – and it’s a way of escaping into other worlds – letting your mind wander and shutting the world out for a while.
In my next post I’ll write about another type of silence.
The silence some blind and partially sighted people can experience.

The RNIB has heaps of fantastic books – in Braille, large print and on CD and memory stick.
Why not visit them and find out how you can help – or how you could experience the joy of reading for yourself.
You can visit:

https://www.rnib.org.uk/talking-books-service

books and authors you simply must read – part 2

I’m going to continue with my A to Z of books you simply must read (which also includes authors and narrators)
K is for:
Kate Binchy
When I was younger, all the girls in my class were obsessed – and I mean obsessed with Catherine Cookson.
Personally I didn’t – and still don’t see what all the fuss was about.
One of my favourite authors is Maeve Binchy.
I read Light a Penny Candle about 10 years ago and have been reading her books on and off ever since.
The wonderful thing about the audio books of Maeve Binchy is that they’re read by her cousin Kate.
She brings every character to life and is a joy to listen to.
L is for:
Learning
I adore quizzes, and I’m a tiny bit good at them.
I absolutely adore learning random facts – and you never know when the information you’ve stored might be useful.
Earlier this year I read a book about a girl who wanted to play football, but wasn’t allowed to play on the boys team.
So she formed a girls team.
It mentioned a lady called Lily Parr, who was a Women’s FA footballer, most famous for playing for the Dick Kerr’s ladies team in Preston.
So, I was – to quote Jonathan Creek, “absolutely flabbergasted!” when a question about her came up in a quiz, three days after I’d read the book – and I got it right.
M is for:
Medicine
One of the most popular books of the past year is the excellent, brilliant This is Going to Hurt – by former doctor, Adam Kay.
I downloaded it from Audible – and it’s read by Adam himself.
It made me laugh, cry and feel very uncomfortable at times.
There was also an interview with him at the end of the book, which gave a bit more of an insight into why he wrote it – and why he finally left the world of medicine.
I’d also like to recommend the books by Max Pemberton as well.
N is for:
Non fiction
I’ll read just about anything, apart from horror, sci-fi and War and Peace.
I’d like to recommend a few non fiction books I’ve read over the last year.
101 Questions Your Dog would ask its Vet – if your Dog could talk: Bruce Fogle
How not to Travel the World: Lauren Juliff
Spectacles: Sue Perkins
The real James Herriot: Jim White
Shapeshifters: Gavin Francis
O is for:
Old favourites
I very rarely re-read books, as there’s just so many fantastic books and not enough time.
However, I recently re-read 101 Dalmatians – and a Paddington Bear book.
I also like re-reading the What Katy Did books by Susan Coolidge.
P is for:
Pi
I hate maths. Partly because I used to be really bad at it – but partly because, let’s face it, it’s just boring!
So, I was intrigued when I discovered a book called:
“As easy as Pi” by Jamie Buchan.
It was full of random facts about numbers – from why we use phrases such as: “At six’s and seven’s” to the significance of numbers in ancient times – and other numerical oddities.
I still zoned out during the “mathsy” bit when he described equations – but I doubt anything could make me “enjoy” maths.
Q is for:
Quizzes
OK, I’ve mentioned it before, but quizzes are great fun, and reading is a great way of learning information.
I enjoy dipping out of the University Challenge quiz book – and recently had a very useful book by Dan Smith transcribed by the lovely people at RNIB Cymru’s transcription unit.
It’s called, So you Think you know it all by Dan Smith – and let me tell you now – you don’t!!
R is for:
Really fast
I have recently discovered that the main device I use to listen to books has a new feature. I can now listen to them at a really fast speed (Imagine a horseracing commentator speeded up three times)
It means I can read heaps more books – yay!
S is for:
Sophie Kinsella
For all my friends – it was Harry Potter.
For me – the publishing phenomenon of the past 18 years is the Shopaholic series..
I might read a Harry Potter book – one day.
I’ve read all the Shopaholic series, about the hapless Becky Bloomwood and her adventures.
She’s the sort of person I can relate too!
I know not everybody loves them – I took my best friend to see the film “secret dream world of a shopaholic” and she didn’t like it.
But Becky is such a lovable character.
She always triumphs over people who try and belittle her – she’s quick-witted, vulnerable at times and is the sort of friend any woman would like to have!
T is for: Travel
You have to read at least one Bill Bryson book!
I’ve written about him in another post – but he’s brilliant.
I love reading books about travel.
I’ll recommend some other authors I’ve read who write about travel.
Sue Williams, Peter Allison, Jon Faine, David Attenborough and Gerald Durrell.
Next time:
More books, narrators and authors.

the best piece of tech ever invented

When I was younger, people used to ask me what products would help me the most.
I’d always reply with the same two things.
“I’d like a self-driving car and something which reads newspapers and magazines to me!”
The proverbial genie has granted one of these wishes – and half of the other.
We’ve almost got self-driving cars (I say this because, as yet, they haven’t met my exact idea of a self-driving car, with speech ETC)
But, I can read newspapers and magazines now.
We’ve had a service called Talking Newspapers for a few years. Lovely volunteers would select various items from the daily papers and read them onto a tape, which would plop through your letter-box days after the events had occurred.
But now I can read the papers, any paper, every day – by myself.
I use a phone device called In Your Pocket which allows me to loll around on a Saturday morning and read the supplements.
I say read (and I’m not prepared to get into a row about this, listening is reading – end of discussion) but I can listen to every daily newspaper, several local ones plus some magazines, including my favourite – Readers Digest.
Mum used to read snippets from Readers digest to me when I was little.
It was during these times that I learned about Mummies (Egyptian ones) and a myriad of other interesting facts which have come in very useful (particularly in quizzes).
Now I can get up each morning, make a big mug of coffee and read my papers!
I love it!
The same device has over 100,000 podcasts, 100,000 books and will also tell you the time, weather (in any country or city in the world) and allows you to make phone calls)
It costs £20 a month to access it all – but if you think about how much the Readers Digest, and other magazines/papers cost each month – you’ve more than covered the subscription.
I also love the pure simplicity of operating it.
You don’t have to faf around with swiping, tapping or waving the phone around!
You just use a voice command for anything you want it to do – for example: “Find podcasts about dogs.” Or: “Read the Times/Guardian/any other paper of your choice.”
You can skip sections, search for articles about any subject and slow down/speed the speech up.
There are about 8 different voices – including Australian and something I think is meant to be a Welsh accent but – but definitely isn’t!

At last, I can do something millions of people take for granted – and that, in my opinion is fantastic!
You can find out more about In Your Pocket at
http://www.inyourpocket.net

books and authors you simply must read

As many of you know, I adore A to Z’s.
So, to celebrate the fantastic world of audio books, here is the A to Z of audio books – in 3 parts.
A is for: Audible
I have been a member of audible for almost 10 years and during that time I’ve listened to over 100 books.
The first one I read was called The Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams.
I used to read them on the way to work on the bus. I worked in Bangor at the time and it was an hour long journey each way.
B is for: Breath
I’m going to take this opportunity *it’s my blog after all* to recommend some books, authors and narrators I’ve really enjoyed.
I moved to Cardiff 4 years ago and didn’t have any TV, smart phone (I know, can you imagine?) or CD player.
The only means of entertainment I had was a battery operated radio, but, much as I adore radio 4, there’s only so much you can listen to!
Breath is by one of my favourite male authors, Tim Winton.
It’s set in Western Australia which holds a very special place in my heart.
It is about a paramedic who explores the theme of “breath” as part of his work, and his time as a teenager when he and his friend used to dare each other to hold their breath underwater for as long as they could.
The first part of the story isn’t drawn to conclusion until nearer the end, and the outcome left me – well almost breathless! *sorry*
C is for: Catherine Howard
If – and it’s a big if I ever went on Mastermind, one of my specialist subjects would be Catherine Howard.
I’ve always been drawn to “tragic heroines” and there’s something really appealing and enigmatic about Henry 8’s fifth wife.
Suzannah Dunn’s excellent book The Confessions of Catherine Howard is about the relationship between her and Cat Tilney, a distant relative and eventual lady in waiting to Catherine.
It depicts Catherine’s total naivety – but also shows how in the end, even your closest friends can’t be trusted.
I’d really recommend this to anyone who’s interested in Tudor times – it’s easy to read and thoroughly enjoyable.
D is for: dogs
I adore dogs! One of the very first books I heard was 101 Dalmatians.
I heard it on a cassette (for anyone under 18 reading this – ask your parents what a cassette is)
It was read by Joanna Lumley.
I loved the stories of Pongo, Mrs. And Perdita.
I recently re-read it – and also The Starlight Barking (which I hadn’t read before) and it was great to be re-acquainted with this brilliant book.
E is for: Emma Powell
This is the first of some excellent narrators I’m going to feature in this blog.
Emma Powell’s voice is kind, reassuring and great to listen to.
I’d recommend you listen to The Little Flower Shop by the Sea by Ally McNamara.
F is for: favourite
I have so many favourite authors I thought I’d pop them in a big long list for you to check out at your leisure.
Lucy Dillon: (try Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts) I first read a Lucy Dillon book during an immensely stressful and traumatic time – and it helped me through the awfulness of the experience by providing a small crumb of comfort.
Lucy Diamond: (try The Secret of Happiness)
I love Lucy’s books so much, I’ve purposely not read them all, as there’s nothing worse in book land than reading everything by one person then waiting ages for their next book to come out.
Warning: You’ll need tissues when you read these authors.
Liane Moriarty: When I read The Last Anniversary it was like one of the characters had been written just for me.
I could relate so much – and when an author does that, there’s something special about them.
Liane isn’t afraid to explore deep and dark themes either.
I purposely didn’t watch Little Lies as I knew it would never be anywhere near as good as the original book (sorry Reece and Nicole)
Read anything by her – and also her sister Nicola who is a brilliant author in her own right.
G is for: giggling.
I giggle – a lot! In fact, I’ve often startled various animals, people and birds with a particularly uproarious snort or screech!
I remember reading a really hilarious part in Neither here nor there by Bill Bryson and I laughed so loud the whole train carriage I was in stared at me in a concerned manner.
I love Bill Bryson and have read nearly all his books as well.
I recently re-read Notes from a small Island and laughed at exactly the same bits I’d found amusing almost 20 years ago.
H is for: heavy going
I have five devices I can use to listen to audio books. They use a variety of speeds – but none of them can make a book, or a narrator sound interesting if they’re not!
Recently I had to abandon three books (I won’t name them) because the plot was heavy going – or too slow for me to commit to.
The same goes for narrators.
I’ve abandoned a book which could have been really good, if the narrator had injected some enthusiasm (or even a change of tone) into reading it.
I is for: Impossible to choose
How do you choose which book to read next?
I’ve written down a whole file of books, narrators, topics, names and authors to choose from. I like to pick something or someone in the manner a lot of people pick horses in the Grand National.
This has meant I’ve read things I might not have considered reading before – from children’s books to a book about Labradors by Ben Fogle (another book I’d highly recommend)
I also love the website Good Reads where you can recommend books – and find books and authors similar to each other.

J is for: Jeremy Paxman
I have always adored Jeremy Paxman. I was actually sitting next to him at the BBC once when I went for an audition for a quiz and was waiting in reception – but I was too star-struck to chat to him.
I read A Life in Questions earlier this year and it was one of the most interesting and enlightening books I’ve read.
He narrated it himself, which is fantastic, as most celebrities or famous people don’t do this.

Next time: more narrators, books and authors I’d like to recommend.
Please may I take this opportunity to ask you to consider helping me with a fundraising challenge.
I’m hoping to raise £1500 for a talking book to be recorded for children through the RNIB.
The cost covers narrator fees admin and other costs – but will have a dedication at the beginning to the Canton and Ely talking book challenge.
Every little helps- so please give whatever you feel you are able to – and share as far and wide as you can.
You can visit:
http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cantonelytalkingbook

Nicki’s adventures in bookland

When I was doing my English literature A level, we had to read – a lot!
Now I’ve been a prolific reader since the day I learned the last component of grade 2 braille, and would devour anything and everything.
Even now |I’m rarely found without at least two books on various listening devices.
So, I applied the same ferocity to reading the texts for our A level.
It was then that I discovered my favourite book so far – Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy.
Now, if you haven’t read this phenomenal book (and I would urge you to download it/buy it straight after you’ve read this blog) it is the best thing I’d ever read.
Tess is slightly marmitish, you either cry over her appalling treatment by most of the men in her life, or you just want to grab her and shout: “Get a grip love, you hate your life, OK, but change it and stop whining!”
I cried when I read it – and I still can’t read it or even consider the ending without my bottom lip wobbling.
I won’t say too much about it in case you haven’t read it, but it says a lot about the church in Victorian times and rural life.
Tess finally fights back, but the unanswered question she asks Angel Clare still has the power to haunt me when I re-read it.

I’d like to say the same about the other main text we had to read – but I can’t, because I hated every page of it.
So, what was the book which almost made me leave the course?
Pride and prejudice by Jane Austin.
What rubbish!
The other people on my course loved it, although this might have had more to do with the fact that there was also a dramatized version at the time on the telly where Colin Firth unrobed himself and jumped into the water.
Even with audio description it did nothing for me!
I guess I’m just not that into Jane Austin!
This is the start of a series I’m calling Nicki’s adventures in book land!
Periodically (as I’m a very busy person) I’ll write about books that changed, or didn’t change my life.
If you’d like to donate to my justgiving page, where I’m trying to raise £1500 to sponsor a children’s book, please do so.
It’s at:
http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cantonelytalkingbook
or follow me on twitter at:
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly
What are your favourite books, or books which you had to read, or were recommended and didn’t like!