Well, what a week this week has been. I’ve been absolutely floored by flu I assume (7 negative Covid tests – no fear) but I can honestly say I’ve never been so poorly. It’s the first time ever that I’ve had time off school too. But, I’m coming round the other side now which is good. If you hear someone sounding like a seal, that would be me coughing haha! Anyway, onto more pressing matters and a very delayed explorations post!
Anyway, I want to share with you today the final part of my journey for honouring the late Queen. You’ll remember from a few posts ago that I was part of ‘The Queue’ (you can see that post here). There was just one final part I needed to do and that was pay my respects at St George’s Chapel which is within Windsor Castle. This is the Queen’s final resting place where she has been reunited in the royal vault with her beloved husband Prince Philip. My dad and I queued together and it was time for us to say bye together. My mum was also here for this too!
Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world. Originally founded by William the Conqueror, it’s been home to 40 monarchs which is incredibly impressive. The State Apartments are sublime, the contents are wonderful and I really liked seeing the different gifts received throughout the reign of Her Majesty the Queen. Photos are only allowed of the outside which I totally understand. You have to see it to believe it really. The one thing that has stayed with me from these state rooms is the colours: bold, vivid and flawless.
Naturally, there was a huge queue to be able to get this photo. It’s the closest you can get but we’ve all seen this on the television screens. It made me think back to the funeral of Prince Philip. The view of the Long Walk was one of my favourite bits but because this was inside the castle, you weren’t able to take photos.
It’s really quite hard to comprehend how lucky we are to have this amount of history around us. I’m fortunate in that my dad is just as interested as I am – it’s something that has been passed down through our family. It felt fitting and right to see the final resting place and to thank the Queen once again for all she has done.
I hope this little snippet has tempted you into visiting. The amazing thing is, your ticket can be validated for a whole year! And I can confirm, the gift shops are excellent. For more information on visiting, please click here.
I hope you’re all well. This week I’ve been really reflective because of the events in the UK. The sad passing of our dear Queen Elizabeth II on September 8th knocked us from our core. For me personally, she’s the only Queen I’ve ever known. She’s always been there everywhere we look: on passports, stamps, money and postboxes. She’s come to feel like everyone’s grandmother. So one week ago, I joined the queue to see the Queen lying in state. I knew it was going to be an experience but I didn’t expect it to be like it was…
Midnight, Saturday 17th September, Southwark Park. After obsessively watching the live tracker all day, this was where the starting point was. There was a buzz and a sense of electricity in the air with everyone having their own reasons for this journey. All I know is, I felt an overwhelming sense of needing to be there, like it was the right thing to do. The queue constantly moves which isn’t so bad and at 2:41am we had obtained the elusive wristband. The view was equally as fitting!
In my foolishness, I hadn’t realised that the park was the queue to join The Queue so the journey hadn’t actually really begun. Regardless, considering I’d done a full day at work I was feeling positive and very much like the hashtag ‘let’sdothis’. I knew it was going to be hard so I made sure I spoke to every single marshal on route. I mean, those in the queue were constantly moving but they had to stand in the same spot, all night. They were very positive and smiley too which helped.
I love Tower Bridge but I saw this bridge for 4 hours of the wait time. It was freezing cold but thankfully blankets were being given out. Later I saw a news report saying they were from the fire brigade – so thank you for that! Regardless, this was the lowest point. When the cold gets into your bones and you question why you hate yourself so much to have done this. The queue quietened and increasingly looked crestfallen and beaten. I dread to think how I looked. I’d been up since 6am so approaching the 24 hour mark was something I’ve not done in a long time. But then, 6:30am, a miracle was performed: the sun was rising and a coffee cup was spotted. I’ve never experienced a mood shift so rapidly. People went off to find hot drinks, the queue was moving again. Onwards! 6:15am.
This is my favourite photos of the whole queue experience. The best thing was that we were moving again. Feeling buoyant, the hubbub of the queue was increasing now everyone was warm and filled with coffee (hot chocolate for me) and the can do attitude from the marshals meant that everyone felt better. Of course we can queue and keep going – it’s the British way after all! The next stop: The Globe. I cannot thank the staff enough here. They’d opened the toilet facilities for those of us in the queue. I nearly cried (exhausted, emotional, grateful tears) because they had soap and hot water. I can only imagine what we all looked like, but it gave the queue another boost.
We continued walking and queuing. I saw this now as a mission I needed to complete. I hadn’t lost the overwhelming pull towards the Queen but foolishly did wonder how on Earth I’d look when I got there. 11:24am (many hours later) we see the London Eye. Everyone outside of the queue is supportive of the queue. Strangers asking how you are, saying you can do this, helped. Kindness was at the core of the queue. 11:59am – Big Ben. Surely the end is in sight? I’d been in the queue for 12 hours at this point but the sun, the people and the pull was still keeping me going.
The Covid memorial wall generated another moment of hush. It was at this point that I too went quiet. I don’t think any of us realised quite what trauma Covid created for the world. The memorial means a lot to many people so I was thinking of them too. But then the queue stopped. If the cold of 4am was the worst part, the stopping of the queue came a close second. At this point, the world’s press were all standing there making me grumpy. How dare they look fresh and well slept. Irrational, but true. However, the stopping this time was for a very exciting reason. King Charles and Prince William had come to thank those who had queued overnight. It was incredible to be that close to royalty. You could see the pain and grief in their eyes. It was emotional to see them. But it gave the queue another boost to make it over Lambeth Bridge and to the other side where in Westminster Hall, the queen was waiting for us.
Still we progress. Over the bridge, through miles and miles of zig zag railings, excitement building because we are at the last part before Westminster Hall. We can see Westminster Hall, see the security tents. This. Is. It. And then silence. It’s very hard to describe the feeling inside Westminster Hall. It was like nothing else mattered. There she was, the coffin of the only queen many of us have ever known. The crown twinkled under the lights. The flowers stood proud. I had my moment next to her. I bowed my head, my thoughts between myself and her. I’ve never felt emotion like it. Silent tears, immense gratitude. I was proud that I did it. I stood for 15 and a half hours for this moment. I’d not slept for well over 30 hours. None of this mattered though. This woman gave her life to our service, it was the least I could do.
11 miles. 15.5 hours. One experience I will never forget. Thank you to the many many people from the queue, local businesses, police, marshals, strangers passing by and the staff guarding the queen. You’ve made the experience easier for those people in the queue. Once I’d left the hall, the lady at the gate said thank you. That’s still with me now and will be forever.
I hope you’re all well. I’m back in the UK now with a special post all about one of my favourite things: telephone box book libraries! I think the one I’m sharing with you today is my favourite so far! This one is in Snitterfield, near Stratford upon Avon.
What makes this one so special, I hear you say. Well, there’s books everywhere! But they’re organised and there’s a really good range too. So far, so wonderful. However, the keepers of this phone box have also added two plastic tubs for people to share seeds. I love this! I found some dahlia seeds (one of my absolutely favourite flowers) and planted them with my dad. I think it’s genuinely so lovely of people to share extra seeds that they’ve got left over.
I left a few books for people to hopefully read and enjoy but I’m super excited to show you how beautiful these dahlias are. Fast forward a few weeks and ta-da! Aren’t they just gorgeous? So whoever was kind enough to leave the seeds there, thank you. The colours bring a smile to my day, seriously! I always find it amazing that a little seed can flourish into such beautiful flowers.
These flowers are so lovely and the weather is divine. It’s made coming back to the UK a bit more bearable. The littlest things really can make the most difference. I hope these flowers bring you a little joy too.
See you next time for my book choice for August – spoiler – it’s amazing!
I hope you’re all well and had a restful weekend. Today I’m very excited to share with you another blog tour I’m part of. This time, the book really appeals to my restless side. Have you ever just sat back and felt that you want to change jobs or move house or make a big decision in some way? Are you a lover of the outdoors, adventure and camping? Then this book is very much for you! A huge thank you to @jenandsim, @aurumpress, @clairemaxwell and @quartobooksuk for the chance to be a part of this phenomenal book tour! I hope you love the book as much as I do!
What’s it all about? Starting at home in Wiltshire, the novel is Jem’s voice and narrative. We hear about her husband, Sim and her children, E and H and their experiences in the great outdoors in their ‘Wild Year’ where they completely and utterly changed their lives. The pressure of mounting debt and having a family led the couple to making some drastic decisions. Surely life can be much easier than their current life? And more importantly be able to live by their own rules too. The joy that camping brought during various weeks in the year on holiday, surely that could be replicated and repeated long term? So their journey begins…
‘Camping was a basic way to live, but there was such joy in its simplicity. And such freedom in it being all ours: our warmth, our shelter and privacy, wherever we chose to pitch out tent. It was in that moment that I felt the first tinglings of a thought that made my heart race, and my mind jump at the possibility of hope…’
Having an idea is one thing, what was next needed was a plan. Thankfully, with the help from friends, family and kind strangers, various opportunities were created: book writing, a roof over their heads during bad weather, new friends along the way. The destinations were just as exciting, places like Dartmoor, Jurassic Coast, New Forest, the Cotswolds and the Lakes. They bought the biggest tent and gathered together all the items they would need for their experience. As you read the book, there are many lessons learnt all through experience. I found the honestly quite humbling and refreshing to be honest and supportive for those who wish to try something like this. The biggest barrier was always the weather. There’s nothing as unpredictable as English weather! However, this gave the couple the opportunity to regroup and start again, enabling them to come back even stronger.
‘It was hard not to feel despondent as we dragged everything out of the truck and tried to find places to hang it all out to dry. We were lucky that no rain was forecast for the next week, so we spread the tend out in the little field behind the cottage and spent hours sorting through the kit… In the end, destruction wasn’t as bad as we had feared.’
After the hiccups with the weather and potential damage to the tent, the family finally got going again and Christmas was soon around the corner. The family had a wholesome Christmas together, embracing their new lives and experiences. Despite the setting being dark and cold, it was one of the best Christmases because it was new and exciting. It meant more to them being part of the natural world rather than the commercialised one. As time rolled by, the young children also learnt more about the natural world they live in.
‘I noticed she was becoming fractionally more independent as each day passed, like a flower that starts as a tiny bud, wrapped up within itself, but in time opens its arms to embrace and engage with the world.’
After twelves months of camping, the Wild Year was coming to an end. The emotional pressure, the experiences, the growth in both Jen and Sim as well as their children E and H have been so worthwhile. I found myself gripped to this book because there is plenty that I could do to be more appreciative of the natural world. I found it remarkable and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in not only reading this novel, but being the first stop of the blog tour.
‘…it was a time unlike any other in our lives. One that changed everything.’
Final Thoughts I really loved this book for so many reasons. I always respect those who want to change their lives for the better and Jen and Sim absolutely did that. They took all the challenges they faced and turned them into learning experiences. I was surprised to learn that it took Jen five years to collate all the experiences together and write this book. I admire her as a mother, a woman and a writer. What this family achieved is nothing less than a lesson in resilience. It was a great read and one that I’ll be sharing with my friends and family.
I can’t wait to share this post with you all this evening. One thing I think unites us all is Lego. I haven’t met anyone yet who doesn’t know what it is or hasn’t had any experience of Lego. You may remember a post a few years ago now where there was another Lego exhibition in Hull – Brick History. That was so cool and used Lego to create different sculptures and scenes. Brick By Brick is an exhibition currently held at Ferens Art Gallery which brings together work by a whole host of international artists, designers and photographers who use Lego as their medium or inspiration.
As well as a range of differing artists, there’s also a huge variety of sculptures, pictures, jewellery and constructions. The humble Lego block is just the starting point to create a range of eclectic masterpieces. Each piece is thought provoking and sometimes humorous. I found myself thinking and contemplating a whole host of things when I was viewing the exhibition. The ‘Stop Wars’ piece is one of my favourites for its message but I also found the image below, ‘Dangerous CORNer’ hilarious.
I also felt incredibly inspired and in awe of the sculptures too. In the centre of the gallery is a stunning female piece. I can only imagine how many hours, let alone the number of pieces of Lego used to create it. It’s quite overwhelming in a way. The close up on the head shows you the detail involved in this piece. She takes centre stage so you have to look at her when you enter the gallery.
My favourite piece though includes one of my favourite things: food. Aptly named ‘Popcorn Time’, this huge model of a popcorn tub and popcorn pieces literally brought a smile to my face. There’s something incredible about seeing small Lego pieces but seeing them ginormous is also really cool! This is such a playful piece – perfect for younger audiences too!
Useful Information: If you’re interested in seeing this exhibition, it will be on display in Ferens Art Gallery, Hull from 28th May – 11th September 2022. You can find out more information here so you can plan your visit. Also, check out a gallery near you because this will be travelling!
Who doesn’t love Lego? You never know, with the interactive parts of the exhibition, you too may be inspired to create your own pieces using Lego at home. All I know is, Lego seems to be a universal thing and it really has united us all together in the world of play and creativity, not just in a child’s world. Lego is perfect for adults too!
Have you ever created anything with Lego? I hope this little snapshot into this exhibition has brought you a little joy on this Tuesday evening, like it did me.
I wanted to share with you today a new explorations post! This time I toddled off to the beautiful seaside town of Whitby. I’ve never been and literally only know about it because of a) Dracula and b) Lucky Ducks made by the Whitby Glass Company. Therefore, I decided it was time for me to pay Whitby Abbey a visit and boy, it did not disappoint.
Standing tall for nearly 1500 years, this monumental ruin features everything you’d expect from a gothic abbey.
Whilst the history is fascinating, for me it was learning about the links between this abbey and Bram Stoker. In 1890, Stoker stayed in Whitby following a gruelling tour of Scotland. Whilst staying here, he absorbed the views that Whitby offered and excited writers, artists and ‘romantic-minded’ visitors for the past century.
Gothic Literature of the time was set in foreign lands with eerie castles and/or ruins and Whitby’s windswept headland with the ruined abbey meant that it gave its own sense of horror; perfect for any story.
You may have heard just this week about the Guinness World Record attempt at Whitby Abbey to celebrate 125 years of Dracula. The challenge: to get the most people dressed as a vampire at the abbey. 1369 people did just that. Impressive!
For more information on this beautiful abbey, it’s history and it’s heritage, please chick here.
How are you all? Well, what a shocking couple of weeks I’ve had: flu, foot injury and then what I think was Covid (all tests were negative but I’ve never felt that ill before and I’m still coughing…) I am here to share with you another explorations post. To be honest, I should have done this before so I apologise for it taking me so long! Anyway, rather excitingly, I’ve only gone and found another Telephone Library / Book Exchange box! I am so excited. They’ve become my latest obsession to find one so full marks to my wonderful dad for spotting this one for me!
Hopefully you’ll remember my previous post where I found one of these beauties in a village not to far from my parents house. You can see my previous post here. This is slightly further away but not by much. This wonderful (yet slightly messy) book exchange is in the glorious Bearley, near Stratford upon Avon. I did leave a good 12 books for the next person to find. I love these community projects so much because I love finding some great books and I also love leaving some books for other people. We never really know when our next favourite book will come! I am desperate to find more so please let me know if you spot anymore and I’ll have to find them!
My TBR is so big that my shelves are full and I have three piles of books on the floor. Being poorly has meant that my reading has slowed right down again but I’m hoping to get back on it now! I did pick up three books thought which have been added to the collection. There were so many exciting ones, it’s really easy to get carried away. Do let me know what amazing books you’ve been reading recently – you know I like to add them to the never ending list…
I really hope to find more of these! As I said before, let me know if you find one near you! I’d love to visit and leave books for people to find. I hope as well that you all continue to stay safe, well and read plenty of wonderful books. Thank you all for being so patient with me and supporting me in my absence. I adore you all. Until next time…
How are we all? I really hope you’re all doing well and taking good care of yourselves and your loved ones. Naturally, I hope you’re all reading amazing books that I’ll want to add to my pile but I absolutely cannot buy anymore books…
Today I want to share with you a very exciting post based on something I stumbled across over my Christmas break. Now, the title of this post gives it away but it’s the first time I’ve ever found myself one. I’ve become so obsessed that before term started I visited three times making various donations too!
I stumbled across this telephone box library in Shrewley, Warwickshire when I was visiting my family over the Christmas break. I didn’t even realise it was there! I spotted it as I was driving past and now I’m desperately trying to find more. I think the thing I love most about it is the sense that my books are sitting there waiting to be discovered and loved by whoever picks them up next. I love the sense of community behind it too and the fact that they are there for everyone. This particular one has a whole range of exciting bits inside: fiction, non-fiction, cookery books, children’s books, DVDs, CDs and jigsaws.
Here I am, perusing the shelves! (Clearly I have no shame…) I did take three novels, one of which I’m reading now and will be reviewing next, and dropped ten off for others to enjoy. I’m really looking forward to going back there and seeing what treasures I find. I guess this is where the beautiful blogging community comes in… where are more of these gems? I’d be so keen to hear about where they are and the delights you’ve got from inside them. Here’s what I got!
If you love books as much as I do, keep an eye out for your own telephone library / book exchange when you’re out and about. You just don’t know what lies inside waiting to be discovered or quite realise what impact this will have on you.
Let me know about your experiences with telephone box libraries.
How are you all? I do hope May is treating you well and is providing you with some much needed sunshine and lighter days. I have say, it’s glorious not arriving and leaving work in the dark. It definitely does something to your mindset – that’s for sure.
Well, on the eve of the UK opening up a little bit further, following our roadmap out of lockdown, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you a stunning book I received this week: The Book Lover’s Bucket List by Caroline Taggart. Like the rest of the world, I’ve really missed visiting places, seeing new things and making memories. Don’t get me wrong, I love home and the comforts of home, but I’ve missed exploring too. It’s like we all pressed a pause button on the past year. Yet, we have made it and there are many more beautiful times to come. I, for one, am using this delightful book to make plans for the not too distant future and I literally cannot wait! Thank you so much to The British Library for this copy.
What’s it all about? First and foremost, this book is stunning. It’s got a beautiful cover and gorgeous coloured and black and white photographs inside – some of which I will share with you. It takes some thought to piece together out literary heritage. There are the obvious places in the United Kingdom that are synonymous with the writers that come from there or wrote there. For example, my beloved hometown of Stratford upon Avon and the playwright William Shakespeare. What this book does beautifully is takes the four corners of the United Kingdom and gives bookworms an itinerary and ‘to visit list’.
The book starts with our capital, London, a hive of literary history. As we read this chapter, we travel from Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey to P.G. Wodehouses’s Mayfair, from the Dickens museum to Dr Johnson’s house. London is a home across decades of literary genius. It also is a home to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (a place I am still yet to visit!) to Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park – prominent features of the works of Dodie Smith and A.A. Milne. Platform 9 3/4s aside, my second favourite place in London is Paddington Station. Who doesn’t love that little bear and his marmalade sandwiches?
‘…It’s the bronze statue in the station that brings Paddington (Bear not Station) to life…In fact, if you look a little closer, you’ll see that Paddington’s muzzle is a good bit shinier than the rest of him. Lots of passers-by have succumbed to the urge to stroke it.’
From here, we travel to the Southwestern points of England where we encroach upon Agatha Christie’s sublime Devon. The picturesque scenery is one that always makes me feel like I’ve probably rested and rejuvenated myself. One of the most popular and prominent places is of course, Hardy’s Dartmoor.
Central England boasts such names of literary heroes like Philip Pullman, C.S. Lewis and George Bernard Shaw. Years of my own existence have been spent in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford upon Avon, home of Shakespeare’s plays. Somewhere else I really want to visit is D.H. Lawrence’s Birthplace and Museum. I feel in love with Lawrence’s work whilst at university but I fear this is a love I have since neglected.
‘…If you want to make a day of it you can take a walk in Lawrence’s footsteps. Heading northwest out of the village you soon read Colliers Wood Nature Reserve, whose reservoir features as Nethermere in The White Peacock and as Willey Water in Women in Love.’
From here we head towards Eastern England which gives us the locations for George Elliot, Rupert Brooke and W.H Auden and Anna Sewell. Let’s continue to the North of our country where we see names like Elizabeth Gaskell, Ted Hughes, Winifred Holtby and Philip Larkin. I studied at the University of Hull. Larkin runs in the academic blood of the north. One of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever visited is Lyme Park which is a National Trust property. Lyme is infamous for it’s setting of Jane Austen’s BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Know the novel or not – you will absolutely know Colin Firth as the ridiculously handsome, Darcy. The North also gives us the indescribable Lake District, home of Beatrix Potter and the Peter Rabbit stories. Again, I am lucky enough to have visited here but I am desperate to get back.
Wales and Northern Ireland have produced some of the most influential poets we have ever experienced. Poets like William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Dylan Thomas and Seamus Heaney. The beauty of these two locations are seen in countless poems, for us all to enjoy and experience together. Lastly, Scotland too has gifted us with some talented writers over the years too. Who could forget Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and J.M. Barrie. Whether it be their childhood setting or where the most famous books and poems are set, we really are incredibly lucky to have all of these at our fingertips. Who could forget Dunsinane Hill and Birnam Wood, from Macbeth?
‘And here you are, in the very same wood, nearly a thousand years later. Gosh. Pause. Time for tea? There was a nice-looking place just over the bridge. What do you fancy? Eye of newt? Toe of frog? No? Well, I expect they have scones. And we don’t have to talk to each other. We can just sit and read a book.’
Final Thoughts This book has given me a real boost. Just as the world is waking up again from what feels like a very long hibernation period, we can start to plan and explore and live again. Pick a writer and visit all the places associated with them. Pick a location and see what you learn. Either way, if you love books as much as I do, this book is a must for your shelf. It’s more than that. It needs to be with you at all times, just in case you get an opportunity to explore someone or some place new.
I hope my small glimpse into this book gives you a gentle push to get out there and explore again. Thank you so much to the British Library for sharing this with me. I’ve loved it and will continue to love it the more I experience it. If you see a girl with her head in this book and a range of post-it notes sticking out of the top, the likelihood is, it’s me on my next literary adventure.
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 £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.