Hay-on-Wye – Britain’s Book Town

I was a little underwhelmed by Hay-on-Wye, probably because I was there on an ordinary day.

It’s a pretty town with a river and some nice buildings and quite a few bookshops and a lovely cafe where I had the best fried egg roll ever for breakfast. Sounds like my ideal place? It was and if it had been any other town I would have been impressed and declared it a lovely little place. Continue reading “Hay-on-Wye – Britain’s Book Town”

Is Craven Arms Shropshire’s Best Kept Secret?

A sign about mammoths lured me into this little town I’d never heard of.

Why have I never heard of this town before?

I had no intention of going there (obviously, as I’d never heard of it), but ended up spending two nights. Continue reading “Is Craven Arms Shropshire’s Best Kept Secret?”

Ludlow in a Day

From eggs to aliens – my day in the Shropshire town of Ludlow.

Ludlow is known as a foodie destination. I wasn’t that impressed with the food side of things, but did find plenty to keep me interested on the day I spent there as part of my A49 road trip.

First up was the Ludlow Food Centre. This is slightly outside Ludlow itself along the A49 in Bromfield. Continue reading “Ludlow in a Day”

A Castle Themed Road Trip

My recent road trip took me down the A49 and into Wales. I saw a lot of castles.

Look at a map showing the route the A49 takes through the county of Shropshire and you’ll spot a whole lot of castle symbols. The county is absolutely packed to the brim with castles.

The Shropshire tourism website claims the county has 32 castles plus 25 hillforts and quite a few abbeys and monasteries. Continue reading “A Castle Themed Road Trip”

Road Tripping the A49

I’m sure there are more glamorous roads to take a road trip along and there are definitely more famous ones, but I’m also sure I’m not going to be the first person to trip the A49.

Where? What?

In the UK roads are labelled with the letters M, A and B with a number following the letter. Unless they’re really tiny in which case they may have a name, but they don’t have a label.  Continue reading “Road Tripping the A49”

What I Read in March

I read four books in March. That’s a slight improvement on the past few months, but I did cheat a bit.

March was a bit of a cop-out. I’ve been reading so little already this year and March seemed like it would be even worse, so I cheated a bit to up my count.

I read four books this month – one more than the last few months (yay!), but one was a play I only needed to finish, one was a young adult/teenager book and one was a children’s book. I did read one adult novel, but it was a very easy read (so not so yay!).

Three Birds by Janice Okoh

Three BirdsI took a group of drama students to see this play a few years ago and we all loved it. I had no idea what it was going to be about and I was kept guessing throughout about what the big ‘secret’ was. The main characters are three siblings who find themselves home alone in their council flat trying to keep life as they know it going whilst everything is crashing down around them. They fantasise about the future and the big house, musical fridge and real Ugg boots (that don’t go mash up at the sides) that they will have when they are older.

I bought my copy of the play whilst I was at the theatre and starting reading it straight away. Then for some reason it ended up on my book pile and never got finished. This month I finally finished it. I have no idea why it took me so long because it really is good and being a play doesn’t take that long to read anyway.

Mary Ann in Autumn by Armistead Maupin

Mary Ann in AutumnI loved the Tales of the City series when I first came across it back in the ’90s. I thought I’d read them all (books 1-6) so was quite excited to find this ‘extra’ one in a charity shop. A look on Amazon has revealed the series now runs to book 9. How did I not know?

This book follows on from the original series with the characters all a lot older now. The house they all lived in is no longer owned by Mrs Madrigal and has become a victim of gentrification and is a posh family home rather than the collection of ramshackle apartments it once was. The same could be said for the characters as they settle into middle-aged, middle-class life and a new generation of 20-somethings has superseded them as urban rebels.

I found myself comparing the way their lives have changed and how their friendships have adapted and endured with my own. As always Maupin tells a gripping and engaging story, but this is the first time I’ve found myself being so reflective as I’ve read one of his books.

Teen Idol by Meg Cabot

Teen IdolMeg Cabot predominantly writes books for teenage girls and is probably best know for her Princess Diaries series. Her books are a form of pubescent chick-lit and the type of books I would expect myself to hate. But I don’t. She gets inside her characters heads and writes in such a way that I have to keep turning the pages.

This is a stand-alone book about a teen idol (yep, it’s an appropriate title) who enrolls at an American Midwest high school as part of his research for an upcoming role. The story is told from the point of view of the girl assigned to look after him whilst helping him keep his true identity secret. Like that’s ever going to be an easy task.

Of course it all goes wrong. I’m hardly giving anything away by saying that because it’s only to be expected and where would the story be if it all went right?

It’s an enjoyable, quick, guilty pleasure sort of read. Not high-literature and not the sort of book that would do your street-cred any good if you’re seen reading it on the train. But hey, who needs street-cred anyway?

Akimbo and the Crocodile Man by Alexander McCall Smith

Akimbo and the Crocodile ManThis is a children’s book set in an unnamed African country. Local lad Akimbo gets a chance to spend the day with man whose job it is to monitor crocodiles. Akimbo learns a lot about crocodiles, but also learns about his abilities and strength of character when the crocodile man is attacked by a crocodile and it’s up to Akimbo to save him. Predictable? Of course. But it’s written by Alexander McCall Smith so of course it’s going to be told well.

As a children’s book it’s a very slim volume, with big font and illustrations. So not much to read at all. It took me minutes rather than hours to read, but it’s a book so I’m still going to include it here even if it does feel like rather a cheat.

What did you read in March? Share in the comments below.

Looking for Lava

Mt Etna erupts and re-ignites my lust for lava.

Bromo
At the top of Bromo with the sand sea in the background.

In 2008 I came close to achieving my dream of seeing lava. I was travelling through Indonesia and saw plenty of volcanoes in Java and Bali, but at none of them did I have any chance of seeing lava.

Not until Merapi that is. Continue reading “Looking for Lava”

Preparing to be a Practical Pilgrim

A rather long-winded explanation for why I’m walking the Camino de Santiago this summer.

Some walking trails jump out at me and demand that I walk them. (I’m thinking of you Kungsleden!). Others, not so much.

The Camino de Santiago is one of those not so much ones.

The scenery looks stunning (I’ve driven over the Pyrenees and would love to see them more slowly) and the tales of camaraderie sound like something not to be missed.

So why has it never really appealed? Continue reading “Preparing to be a Practical Pilgrim”

A Reading List for Shetland

The first in a series of posts collating books about a particular place.

I decided a while ago to start a series of posts where I collate all the books I know of that are associated with a particular place. Finally, I’ve got round to putting together the first of these posts. It took a lot longer than I thought! Continue reading “A Reading List for Shetland”