Posted in Book review, Books, London, Places, Reading, Romance

The Flip Side – James Bailey

Hello Fellow Book Lovers πŸ“š !

How are you all? I hope you’re all keeping safe, well and reading plenty. I’m sorry for the two week absence. I’m still at school but all of my lessons are online so I’m clocking up some screen time! I’ve been reading plenty, I’m on book 15 as we speak, but the words have escaped me. However, I’m hoping with this lovely read, I can get back into it. I have been reading a lot of thrillers so I wanted an easy, cute read – hence my choice for today! I read it today and I’ve had the urge to write ever since. The Flip Side by James Bailey was an utter delight. I really enjoyed it and I hope you do too!

What’s it all about?
The novel opens on New Years Eve where the protagonist, Josh, has prepared a magical evening for his girlfriend, Jade Toogood on the London Eye. After months of research, everything was in the place. With their own pod on the London Eye with champagne, truffles and the panoramic stunning views of London, it would bound to be a success. After all, this was going to be the perfect event which would start the rest of their lives, something they’d tell the grandchildren about. However, Josh doesn’t get the answer he expected. Jade says no. Unfortunately (and rather comically) for Josh, they still have a good twenty minutes, in silence, in their pod.

‘I check my watch. Twenty-seven minutes to go. What is wrong with this wheel? Is it broken?’

Immediately, I love the character of Josh. My heart just melts for him. This rejection is even worse. In the space of a few minutes he becomes single, homeless and jobless due to Jade’s father owning where they live and the hotel he works in. Josh has no other option but to go back to his parents. His return home isn’t the quiet non event he wanted, his mum seems to have the whole town there. Thankfully, Josh’s grandpa – Pap – is hiding in the bedroom watching a film. Josh joins him and this is the turning point of the whole story. Their indecisiveness about the film calls for action: a coin toss. And so it begins…

‘And then, just like that, as I flip the coin and watch it spiral into the air, the idea comes to me. And it’s fantastic.’

Josh’s friends, Jake and Jessie, naturally think he’s absolutely insane. For the next year, all decisions that Josh needs to make will be decided by the fifty pence piece in his pocket. Even though they’re dubious, they go along with it even when it cost them the quiz team win. After all, that’s what friendship is. Or maybe fate. Helping Josh to get back out there, his friends convince him to try dating apps or at least, finding someone to date. But his experience of a blind date was a complete disaster. His Tinder date was a little better until his parents came bumbling in, taking the fish and chip supper and scaring her off. Another date, another opportunity but with only Β£17 in the bank, it was going to be difficult. Thankfully Josh had 2-4-1 voucher (which didn’t quite go down too well), neither did removing the tip or charity donation, or forgetting his wallet…

‘Mum and I stand in the porch waving my Tinder date off as Dad drives her home. She sits in the front seat looking petrified. I didn’t need to worry about Emma being a weirdo. That was me. Poor girl.

However, fate had other things in mind for Josh. The London Marathon brought the friendship group into the city again to cheer Jessie on. The use the coin to decide who should go where to cheer her on. Josh ends up near the National Gallery and pops inside to use the loo. Once finally inside, he sees her. The one. Talking to her is easy. He shares with her a story from his childhood where he would go to the gift shop with his grandpa first and buy a few postcards. Then they would try and find them in the gallery, like a treasure hunt. They pick Canaletto by Renoir, a Degas and Sunflowers by Van Gogh. This was the reason she was in the city in the first place. But time was ticking and Jessie would soon be running past. They planned to see the Sunflowers painting after but fate would have other ideas. They lose each other. There is another problem – he didn’t ask her name.

“I’m working abroad at the moment in an English bookshop and saw his Sunflowers painting at the gallery nearby. I realised how bad it is that I’ve never seen this version, given I’m from London.”

The rest of the novel is a journey around Europe finding the Sunflower girl. She has to be out there somewhere and Josh just can’t seem to forget about her. Extensive research shows how there are versions of Sunflowers in Munich, Amsterdam, Philadelphia and Tokyo. He and his friends head to Bristol airport and flip a coin to see where he will end up: Amsterdam or Munich. (The other two are ruled out due to a lack of funds, naturally.) Munich it is, but it isn’t as successful as Josh had hoped. Amsterdam next and this provides luck but not as Josh expects it. He meets Eva who helps him with the local bookstores and learns he is an internet sensation, unbeknown to him. His friends have to be behind this.

‘I’m looking at an Instagram account with pictures of me. But it’s not my account. #FindSunflowerGirl.’

The fates don’t seem to want to help Josh find his Sunflower girl but he decides to head to Paris, following a phone call from Jessie who said that someone at work had seen Sunflowers recently there. Will Josh find her? Will the coin be right? It’s got him this far after all. Josh also had the voice of his beloved grandpa in the back of his head. He had to take this leap. Maybe his luck was about to change.

‘It’s her. It’s actually her.’

The stars align, he learns her name (Lucy) and they see Sunflowers with the postcard they bought in London. Life is complete. There are a few more surprises and bumps in the road for Josh in the way first but by the end of the novel, Josh has got his girl, a plan to go travelling in the not too distant future, and a sense of happiness and contentment. What makes it even better is knowing that his grandpa is right with him the whole time, the silent presence ever keeping him company and support. The novel ends in Rome without the coin. Time for a fresh start with the girl he loves.

‘Just as I have watched my coin spiral up in the air countless times over the past year, it twists and twirls in the sky, only this time it lands behind me rather than back in my hand… I wrap my arms around Lucy and kiss her strawberry gelato flavoured lips.’

Final Thoughts
This book was a lift that I needed. It was funny, heartwarming and just plain adorable. I even want to read the letters of Van Gogh because of it. The thing that intrigued me most was that the writer is male. Contemporary romances novels are normally written by women and it was this that drew me to this book to be honest. I wanted to see how it would be presented. As a girl, I only have my own experiences to go from. I found myself really feeling for Josh and secretly wishing that someone would want to travel Europe to find me. It’s a very modern romance and just made me feel really young at heart. I loved the friendships in the book and the role the family played too. I found Josh’s parents hilarious and I know we will all see glimmers of our own families in them. Honest and enjoyable, I loved this book.

Until next time where I will be reviewing my book choice for the reading challenge this year, stay safe all.

Big love xxxx

Posted in Book review, Books, Halloween, London, Reading, UK

The Ravenmaster – Christopher Skaife

Hey Loves!

Happy Halloween! πŸŽƒ

I hope you’re all well. Whilst the rain is sloshing down my windows, I wanted to share with you a little gem of a book I’ve recently finished. I had written this post once but somewhere along the way it did its own Halloween trick and vanished. So, I’ve written it again!

As you may be aware, I’ve spent a lot of time this year branching out into non-fiction. It wasn’t a genre I paid much attention to if I’m honest but I’m so glad I’ve pushed myself because I’ve found some absolute wonders along the way. Today’s post is all about The Ravenmaster by Christopher Skaife. I absolutely love London and I’m saddened that it’s been nearly a year since I was last there. In my eyes it’s a vibrant city full of life and wonder. This book then became a treat for me really because it meant I got to visit the Tower of London, in my head at least. I hope you enjoy it a much as I did!

What’s it all about?

Told through the eyes of the current Ravenmaster or Yeoman Warden, Christopher Skaife tells us what his job is like at the Tower of London and the history surrounding the Tower. It was Charles II who insisted that the ravens of the Tower be looked after and protected because without them, the kingdom will fall. There has to be six ravens at the tower for it to be deemed safe and for the kingdom to reign supreme. This has now become legend and firmly part of British history.

“And a good morning it is. The ravens are at home in the Tower. I can breathe easy again – the kingdom is safe for another day.”

The book begins with an explanation of what Skaife’s job actually is. It goes beyond feeding, nurturing and protecting the ravens, it’s about protecting the Queen. Likewise just like in his previous job as a soldier for the British army. I naturally warmed to him and desperately want to meet him now! As only the sixth Ravenmaster, Skaife is privileged to see another side to the ravens that challenges the historic and common perception of them. We learn that there are a number of rules regarding the ravens but the biggest one I related to was that they like routine and if their routine is disrupted, they don’t take too kindly to it!

“There was the time one of our ravens affectionally pecked a cameraman on the back of the leg during a television interview about the Tower, for example: that caused a bit of a commotion.”

We are introduced to the ravens of the book: Munin, Merlina, Erin, Rocky, Jubilee II, Gripp II and Harris. I am pleased to see that the majority of these ravens still remain at the tower, despite the book being published in 2018. Regardless, each raven has their own personality traits and quirks. I guess it is easy to forget that animals can be like us too. I particularly enjoyed the anecdote of Merlina and her love of Pringles – a girl after my own heart, clearly!

“She has a particular ability to be able to spot a tube of Pringles from the other side of Tower Green, hop right up to an innocent member of the public, steal the whole tube, pop off the lid, and cram as many crisps into her mouth as she possibly can before being noticed.”

Some days are more challenging than others. We get given an insight into days when ravens escape, causing panic and concern. We see the lengths Skaife goes to to rescue and continually protect the ravens. Even so, the paying public are there to hear the story and the story needs to be told. I am and forever will be grateful for the heritage, culture and history that we have in Britain. This book joyfully shows us a small part of it. I also really enjoyed the communication and understanding between Skaife and the ravens: the language they have between them. It isn’t a case of humanising them, it’s purely based on understanding them.

“They certainly seem to have the capacity to remember. When former Ravenmaster Derrick Coyle visited the Tower some seven years after leaving… Merlina came straight over to him. It was as if he’d never been away. Seven years!”

As an English teacher, I’ve taught Macbeth every year and every year have the same conversation about ravens in the Lady Macbeth scene. Ravens are prominent in English Literature from William Shakespeare to Edmond Spenser, Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe. Personally, the next time I teach Macbeth I will be mentioning this book for sure. Ravens may have been associated with death but there is such more to them which is fascinating. As another day ends at the Tower, so does the book. The ravens are at home once more.

“Rising above it all were the birds. They rise above it still.”

Final Thoughts

I love, love, love this book for SO many reasons. We are so lucky to have such a rich and deep history. This book made me want to return to the Tower of London and when the world returns to some sense of normality, whatever that may look like, I absolutely will. For now, I’m pacifying it by looking at Twitter where we can keep up with updates from the ravens and the Tower. I’m thrilled to see the beloved Merlina is still there, bless her! (See for yourself here!)

Despite being a short book, it is packed with the here and now as well as the history. I’ve definitely grown in appreciation for the ravens and for the role of the Ravenmaster. I’m SO glad I found this book and it’s one that will be a permanent feature on my bookcase as well as a gift for my friends and family.

Enjoy the rest of Halloween loves! πŸŽƒ Stay safe and well.

Big love xxx

Posted in Days Out, Harry Potter, London, Photography, Play, Remembrance Day, Theatre Review, UK, Weekend Trips

A London Adventure

Hello Loves!

So, I appears that I disappeared again. I wish I could pinpoint a reason for this absence but I honestly feel like I say the same thing repeatedly. The only thing I seem to do is work and go to the gym. This is indeed new! More on that another time. I made it to half term thankfully and jetted off to Cyprus for some last minute summer sun.

What this does mean however, is that I completely abandoned you all again. For this I can only apologise. Work feels like a battle at the moment so it’s very much a case of ‘head down, get through it’ mentality. I’m not feeling particularly great this weekend so it’s an opportunity to catch up! I promise I’ll catch up with you all as soon as I can. Please forgive me.

I wanted to share with you the utter joy that was my adventure last weekend. After waiting for three whole years I finally got Harry Potter and the Cursed Child theatre tickets. This of course meant a weekend away full of all things Harry Potter related and Christmas shopping. πŸ‘¦πŸ»βš‘οΈπŸš‚

Saturday

Saturday started with waking up in a BEAUTIFUL hotel near Buckingham Palace and getting ready for a day of hitting the shops. πŸ’‚πŸ»β€β™‚οΈπŸ› I went to Christmas World inside Harrods which was just incredible. I got some beautiful Christmas decorations and presents for my family. It’s a really glorious place with stunning presents. πŸŽ„ The window displays are lovely too. (Sorry about the reflection!)

One of the things I really love about Harrods are the staff. They’re just so so polite, courteous and lovely. This gentleman below, was one of the stars from my weekend. 🌟

From shopping it was time to get ready for the theatre. I was fortunate enough to see both parts in the same day so the first show was in the afternoon and the second was a couple of hours after in the evening. Every Potterhead knows to #keepthesecrets but all I will say is: it was awesome, amazing, incredible and the best show I’ve ever seen.

That’s all you’re getting from me about it but honestly it doesn’t disappoint. It’s funny, dark and incredibly clever. Get your house scarf on and head down there. 🧣 (I absolutely did not end up buying a Cursed Child hoodie, programme, tote bag, pens, owl toy and ANOTHER Gryffindor scarf…)

After the show I took a walk back to my palace of a hotel to see all the pretty lights and sights of London. The outside of the theatre was absolutely stunning.

First stop, Fortnum and Mason. Their Christmas windows are SO divine. I bought my own body weight in biscuits so I’m already feeling pretty festive to be fair! πŸͺ

I genuinely believe we are so lucky to have a capital city that is just so beautiful. Millions of people visit every year just to be a small part of it. The London eye was looking lovely as was Westminster Abbey which was all lit up ready for the night time. What I enjoyed most was that the streets were pretty quiet which meant a clear view for photos! πŸ“±

Sunday

Day two in my palace of a hotel and time to check out. The plan for the day was to visit Hyde Park, the Princess Diana Memorial and Kensington Gardens. The sun was shining and it’s that time of year when we can wrap up and bring our the fluffy scarves we bury ourselves in.

I’ve never been to Hyde Park so I was really thrilled to see it. It’s beautiful! You kind of forget you’re in the middle of a big city. The leaves are changing as we embrace Autumn with open arms. 🍁 It was also VERY exciting to see them setting up Winter Wonderland.

Kensington Gardens are equally lovely and home to the Peter Pan statue that I’ve always wanted to see but never quite got there. Just like Hyde Park, the leaves are changing but the sun was shining down offering some autumnal warmth.

The last part of my weekend away was to visit the Cenotaph. It was the Remembrance weekend so there was a real buzz around the city. I was fortunate enough to hear the cannon to mark the silence first hand. It was a humbling experience to be in the city at the same time as this occasion. It’s so so important that we remember all those who served and fought for our protection and freedom. #lestweforget

Overall

This weekend was amazing. I feel so lucky to have these opportunities and experiences. I hope you all enjoy the post and hopefully feel like you can experience this with me! Right now, I’m off to check out all the posts I’ve missed from you wonderful people.

Big love all

Xx

Posted in Days Out, Harry Potter, London

Harry Potter Studio Tour!

Hello Everyone!

Wow. January soon came and went. We are now into February which feels like quite a shock really. Anyway, I hope you’re all doing well.

Today’s post is rather exciting. After two years of waiting, this weekend I finally managed to get to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London. There aren’t enough words for how amazing this was. I was completely awestruck. I grabbed myself a Harry Potter passport and I was off on a magical adventure.

Without ruining any of the surprises, I just want to share with you some of my favourite bits (which could be difficult because I love every second.)

Firstly, The Great Hall. That was amazing. The magical ceiling, the carved animals, the character costumes. It’s really a sight to behold.

Next, Dumbledore’s office. That was just as mysterious and eclectic as it seemed in the films. It’s really quite small which makes it even more fascinating.

The Weasley Burrow was also really amazing to see up close. I walked around quite silently really. It was so overwhelming to see the magic right before my own very eyes.

Platform 9 and 3/4 is very special. I remember being desperate as a little girl, wishing for my letter so I could go and experience everything my favourite characters were experiencing. Seeing it 20 years after the first book was published, it still filled me with absolute wonder. The little girl in me was screaming. Dreams can come true.

Seeing Privet Drive really surprised me. It’s so small! Now, in reality, it’s obvious that it should be. I was still quite taken aback though. I’ve no idea how the cast all fit with the cameras too.

Next was Diagon Alley. Wow. Just wow. The shops, the cobbles. I could feel all the energy oozing from the floor. It’s incredible. To stand where those amazing actors have stood is just something else. My favourite was the Weasley shop; full of life and colour.

Lastly, and most amazingly was the castle. The home of Hogwarts for so many years. It took 8 weeks for the team to make it and you could see how the characters were placed within. It’s another world, literally.

A dream come true. A childhoods desires explored. Magic coming alive and being real. There’s not enough words for how incredible this place is. Every turn is a surprise, every moment is a joy. I am so so glad I’ve seen it. It’s a must for any fan. It’s a way of keeping the magic alive. Once it’s in you, it stays forever. I never want to lose the feeling I have whenever I read the books or visit a place linked. It’s so special. Get your ticket. Unleash your inner wizard!

Big love xx

Posted in Exploring, London, Photography, Places, UK

London & Matilda the Musical

Hi guys!

Happy July! I can’t believe it. July is my favourite month so I’m quite pleased it’s here. 


I started this month with a trip to London. More tourist time! Originally this trip was for my Mum as we got her Adele tickets for Christmas. However, you may have seen in the news that she cancelled the last two shows. This caused a slight problem for us, but, I managed to book us tickets to Matilda the Musical. 


This musical started in Stratford but my mum gave her tickets away, meaning we never got to see it. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to finally see the show AND on the West End.


I do not have enough words to explain or describe how amazing this show is. From start to finish I was completely hooked. The kids are awesome, loveable and incredibly talented. It stuck to the original novel, with some tweaks and added catchy songs that I’ve had in my head ever since. 


The set was really clever. It was full of books (I LOVE) and lights and things popping up and across. It was always moving and constantly changing, keeping the audience captivated. The lights were a really clever way of showing the chalk writing and the chokey. 


My favourite (well joint favourite) characters were Matilda, played by Eva-Marie Saffrey and Miss Trunchbull, played by Craige Els. Honestly, Matilda made my heart melt. Miss Trunchbull brought the humour and entertainment to the show. It was a nice surprise to see this part played by a male actor too! Now I’ve seen it, I can’t see how it could be done any other way. 


I realise in every post I say things like ‘you have to read/see this’, ‘I don’t have enough words to say…’ but for this, it’s completely true. It’s just magical. I knew the ending of the story and I still had a tear. I felt on cloud nine when I left. It was truly amazing. 


Well, you know me. I love an opportunity to go exploring and be a tourist. I certainly did that this weekend and it was fabulous. Making memories with my lovely family, spending time together and living for the moment. It was lovely. 

I especially love these signs at the tube stations around London. This one resonates with me because it is absolutely true. If you’re around London, keep an eye out for them. 


Until my next tourist adventure! 

Big love to you all xx