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 Days Out, National Trust, Photography, Places, UK

Bank Holiday! A visit to Rievaulx Terrace

Hello lovely people!

It’s May! The sun is shining, the skies are the clearest blue and we have a three day weekend. What could be better? I hope you’re all soaking up the sunshine and enjoying this little break.

For me, I’m playing host to my lovely family who have come to stay. My parents are so important to me so I wanted to make sure they had a lovely time.

Yesterday, we had a little trip to Nunnington Hall which was just as beautiful as ever. I’ve visited here before – see here for more!

What came next was really rather special. We decided to continue driving for 8 miles to find Rievaulx Terrace. None of us had been before so we were really excited to be outside, exploring in the beautiful sunshine.

The Rievaulx Terrance was created by Thomas Duncombe II between 1749-57. It took one hundred men, eight years to finish. Incredible! He wanted it to be a place where he and his guests could see a distant view of the medieval abbey ruins in the valley below. He also placed two classical temples at either end of the terrace. This terrace was one of the earliest triumphs of the Picturesque movement for landscape gardening.

We walked through the woodland forest which was so tranquil. You could only hear the birds and the wind. There is something quite beautiful about that and the feeling it creates. Along the woodland are different sculptures as part of an exhibition. My favourites were the little owls in the tree and the hedgehogs.

When you come to the end of the woodland, you walk out onto a lush, green terrace. Just hiding at the bottom is the first of the classical temples: The Tuscan Temple.

The temple is closed to visitors, however the windows and mirrors provide you with view points. There is rich plasterwork inside, a painted roundel of a winged goddess. The tiles are 13th century from nearby Byland Abbey.

Arthur Young who visited in 1770 said: “Ruins generally appear best from a distance.” I have to say, I completely agree with him. I didn’t know what I expected from this place, but I was completely overwhelmed and in awe.

Every step you take reveals more of the ruins from below. It completely took my breath away. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen.

Photographs will never be able to do it justice. A photo can’t capture a feeling. Yet, I do hope it shows some sense of the wonder that this place creates and embodies.

Continuing the walk along the terrace brings you to the second temple: the Ionic Temple. Just when I thought this trip couldn’t get any better, we went inside.

Here the Duncombe family would have fed and entertained their guests. The interior is lavish and oozes elegance. I honestly have never seen anything like it in my life. I probably will never see anything like it again.

The frescoes show mythological scenes and are the creative work of Italian painter Giuseppe Mattia Borgnis, dated around 1753. The centre of the ceiling shows Aurora, Apollo and the Muses. It is beauty defined.

This day meant so much more than seeing beautiful places. It was time for my family and I to relax, breathe and restore and value our time together. The view and the temples were an added bonus. It was exceptional.

I wish you all a wonderful bank holiday. Enjoy the sunshine, you all deserve it!

Big love all xxx