Slow Sunday Book Club: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

I really enjoy reading, and I just don’t do it enough any more. So when I saw Allie at Rush and Teal introduce the Slow Sunday Book Club to her newsletter ‘Slow Sunday Club’, I figured what a great opportunity to start reading again.

I find the hardest part about reading, other than finding the time, is choosing a book. And when it’s chosen for you, you often find you’ll read something you wouldn’t otherwise select.

The idea behind this book club is to deliberately find a reason to put down your phone, switch off the tv and take some time doing something more relaxing and a little less taxing on your brain and your eyes. I’m all for it!

So the first book chosen was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I’d not heard of it, but found it available cheaply on Amazon so I figured I’d go ahead and jump in.

IMG_4075

As much as I’m not going to describe the plot of this book, I’m going to be discussing parts of the story and my thoughts on the writing throughout this post, so if you haven’t read this book and don’t want to be spoiled then I’d suggest clicking off here. I’ll see you in my next post.

IMG_4092

Firstly, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read. It’s an easy read, despite my having to google the meaning of quite a few words used. Eleanor has quite the vocabulary.

Since I didn’t know anything at all about this book before I started reading, I actually found the reading process very similar to when I read Room. I went into that story blind too. I enjoyed the process of learning things about the character that they already know, but you don’t, as I read. I find that usually you discover new things in a story as the characters learn them themselves, but in this story it’s different; you discover little nuggets about Eleanor as she reveals them slowly to you, much in the way that she starts to remember things about her past during the second section of the book.

This is a very well-written, and delightfully funny book, despite it being truly heartbreaking in parts too. I found the story very relatable in parts (due to recognising the human condition, and not because I’ve been through any dramatic turmoil in my life), and also could see traits in Eleanor and the characters around her that I’ve seen in others during my life.

IMG_4093

It took me a while to realise this was set in Scotland, and I suppose this was deliberate as the author fed you little bits of information along the way, and accents started appearing on the page.

This is a heavy-going book, and if you have any sensitivity to abuse or addiction you might want to steer clear. This is, however an amazing story of human kindness and how the mind can both harm and heal. There’s a few twists and turns along the way, and reading as an outsider to Eleanor’s story allows you to both analyse and sympathise with her plight.

IMG_4095

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. According to the notes at the end, the film rights have been bought by Reese Witherspoon and I’d be interested if a movie does come out of it. If it does, I hope they leave in the Scottish aspect. I have one question at the end of all of this though. One little loose end I need answering – do pubs in Scotland really serve Dr Pepper?

Allowing the Storm to Pass

The last two weeks have been particularly volatile. Storm Abigail and Storm Barney have hit the UK and we have seen really strong gales and gusts. My drives home from work have been difficult mainly due to me driving a very light car. When being hit with 30 mph gusts I find I have to concentrate very hard – I’m a fairly new driver and this is my first experience of this!

I’ve also been dealing with stormy weather in my personal life. Hormonal changes and my crazy brain put me into a fairly dark place for the past couple of weeks. It’s lead to me stripping down my calendar, cancelling a lot of long standing plans and dealing with the present. I find in times like this that if I simply deal with what’s in front of me I can calm my nerves and start to feel much better.

I had a lovely long Skype call with my friend Tash last weekend. We chatted and chatted and I caught up with what she’s up to in Vietnam. It was wonderful to see her face and touch base with her. She’s only been there 7 weeks but I miss her a lot!

I’m also waiting on the imminent birth of the second Book Club baby. Hayley’s baby boy isn’t due until 27th November but people keep telling her she’s going to be early. She’s having baby twinges but no contractions yet. I can’t wait to meet him!

Christmas season is upon us now, and the TV is full of Christmas adverts. John Lewis have come up with another cracker, about the Man on the Moon – though their ads are becoming increasingly tenuously linked to Christmas. The Coca-Cola advert was shown for the first time this year, last night. It prompted me to YouTube their The Holidays are Coming advert because I always seem to remember it slightly different. Originally aired in 1995, the advert was much longer, had a longer song in it and in my opinion had a much greater build up. More exciting and prettier. But over the years it’s been shortened. I wish they’d debut the advert each year with the longer version and then show the shorter one after that, if they must.

I’m starting to feel a little more Christmassy, and since it’s only 34 sleeps until the big day I think it’s about time. Next weekend will most likely see our annual tree putting-up session, whilst we watch people squealing on The X-Factor. And speaking of the X-Factor…. Last year’s almost winner has released her first single ‘Sax’. It’s being played, ad nauseaum and even features on the new Christmas Asda adverts. But one thing is really really bugging me about the song (other than it’s Uptown Funk’s inferior cousin) – there’s no obvious saxophone in the song. In a song where she demands you ‘Play that sax’ repeatedly, you’d expect some obvious saxophone action – or at least a Baker Street-esque saxophone riff. But no. The song does have saxophone in it, but it’s an un-obvious muddy bass line and totally missable. Bad form Fleur, bad form.

Anyhow, I digress. I can foresee the next month being full of Christmas plans, babies (or one baby!) and hard work. Gary and I still have to plan some of our trip to New York, which is one of the things getting me through this difficult, cold and dark end to the autumn. I’m hoping some festive lights and festive activities will help me along.

 

A Magical Baby Shower

Last year Caz was expecting her baby, Leo and this year it was Hayley’s turn. We know she’s expecting a boy and wanted to throw her a themed shower to celebrate her geekdom and her pregnancy…. so we threw her a Harry Potter baby shower!

We all jumped into the planning, with decorations, food, games and gifts.

imageimageimageBanners, owls and house crests

imageimageimageimageFood, drinks, sweets and even a tiny baby Harry cake. We even created butterbeer and love potion to drink.

When Hayley arrived she knew nothing of what was planned. I greeted her at the door, which we had covered with brick wall paper. I tapped a few bricks and the door opened to Hedwig’s Theme from the Harry Potter movies. The girls yelled out ‘It’s a Wizard’! and then we tucked into the food.

We gave Hayley presents, including a tiny baby grow from me which said ‘I’m a Keeper’ and had the Quidditch rings on it. And then we played guess the baby food and a game where we tried to guess how big Hayley was round her bump with string. I was a bit rubbish at it!

It was a lovely evening and Hayley seemed to enjoy it! It was great to have everyone together, as it was the last time we would all be together until Sarah’s wedding next June. Tash has now left for Vietnam and won’t be back until then, so it was a tad bittersweet.

Hayley’s not due for another couple of months, but soon we’ll have our second Book Club baby. Exciting!

This Week I Have Been Mostly

this week i have been mostlyThis isn’t a real post – merely a checking in since not a huge amount has been happening here. This last couple of weeks I have been head down and getting over a cold, working hard and prepping for my upcoming holiday.

  • It appears it’s autumn already and the rain keeps coming. I’m currently wearing a thick jumper and fuzzy socks whilst the rain hits the windows.
  • Over the last week I’ve met up with my Book Club friends to finalise preparations for Ibiza.
  • Gary and I went to London for a day trip with Amy and her boyfriend Chris.
  • Today we attended a birthday party for Gary’s aunt and a retirement gathering for my Mum.
  • I was sad to hear of Wes Craven’s passing this morning. We’ve been watching Scream the TV series and I understand that the final episode, next to air, will have some kind of dedication to him.
  • We completed re-watching the whole series of Dexter and are now searching for our next tv show. Any suggestions?

My next blog will be post-ibiza. I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Summer, Fairs and Singing

Last weekend we headed off for Towcester racecourse, for their annual Food and Drink fair. The weather had taken a turn for the better, and despite it being windy it was mild and a great day to visit. Looking at the stalls only took us around an hour but we spotted a couple of dairy free stalls and some lovely places selling yummy sauces. We’re both partial to a good sauce, and since visiting Las Vegas I’ve been trying to find a mustard sauce to rival the one I had the Tap Sports Bar. We found one that came pretty close!

Heading back from there we realised that the West Bletchley Carnival was on so we walked down to the park where it was being held. It was the perfect day for it, and the musical entertainment was really good. Complete with mini fun fair and mini train rides, it was a great turn out!

Sunday was a busy day, as me and Mum were heading to the NEC in Birmingham, for Rock Choir 10 Live! A party to celebrate Rock Choir’s 10th birthday. The audience of the arena was made up of many choirs from around the country all sitting in their choir sections, with a catwalk stage down the middle. It was a great experience, with everyone singing along with the music they knew and the choir leaders performing too. We even had guests, Kiki Dee and Chesney Hawkes who came to sing with us.

RC5

It was a long day but really special to sing with everyone together and see how Rock Choir has changed people’s lives over the years. It was a great party!

RC8This past week has been another busy one, but made better by the weather seemingly improving for good. We’ve had some great warmth, but some crazy humidity with it. I’m hoping this trend continues because I’m on holiday at the end of this week and I’d rather like to work on my tan!

Also, great news is that all the Book Club are now back in the country after some amazing travels and we managed to get together (minus one of us who was on holiday in the UK – it’s hard to pin us down!) on Thursday. It was wonderful to be, mostly, back together again and start making plans for the rest of the summer!

More brilliant things are happening next weekend, but you’ll have to wait to hear about those!

Baby Shower Fun Times

On Sunday afternoon the book club girls descended on the Lady Grey Tea Room in Wendover for a very special occasion. Caz is expecting her first baby on November 1st – the first book club baby! and we wanted to spoil her rotten so she was collected at pre arranged time and whisked off to the tea room, not knowing at all where she was going or what she’d be doing.

The tiny tea room serves home-made cakes, salads, sandwiches and a huge selection of teas. The largest table had been reserved for us and we arrived early to set up and Sarah decorated the table.

tearoomA beautiful location, the tea room was decked out in pure English style with a chandelier, bunting, chalk boards and cake plates. Our table was already decked out with beautiful china which it turned out was over 100 years old and belonged to the owner’s Grandmother.

table

Caz arrived with beautiful neat bump and we all started to chat and catch up. We could talk for England. Non alcoholic elderflower cocktail was brought over in champagne glasses and we were able to toast the Mum to be with some fizz.

cocktail

Then the first platter of food arrived.

start

Home made sausage rolls and other pastry puffs with some yellow pepper and cream cheese as a palette cleanser. We munched on these and chose which tea we wanted to drink. All the time we were there the owners were checking on us, topping up the tea pots and bringing more fizzy cordials to drink.

Next was sandwiches:

middle

These were amazing finger sandwiches that tasted wonderful. Crusts cut off there was egg mayonnaise, roast beef and horseradish, salmon and cream cheese, cucumber and cheese and ham with mustard.

Next we had little shot glasses of jelly layered with pannacotta:

panacotta

Yes, it’s a cheesy photo but the only one of these yummy deserts!

Then lastly there was a cake plate chock full of homemade scones (which were still warm!), pots of clotted cream and jam, cakes, profiteroles and macaron. All amazing!

cake

By the end we were stuffed! The tearoom was closing but the owners allowed us to stay at our table so we could give out all the pressies, while they cleaned up! Up until now most of the gifts had been under the table so Caz was a little surprised when all this emerged:

pressies

We all wanted to spoil her so much – can you tell? We were able to spend a really relaxed time watching Caz open up the goodies and we all tried hard not to get too emotional! And then we left the tea room, after some wise words of advice from the owner who is a retired midwife.

Outside the tearoom was a little seating area which has been decked out around a tree, with bunting and dishes and it was beautiful, so we got some photos out there too.

cazMum to be with her neat little bump!

all

And the obligatory group shot taken by one of the lovely Lady Grey Tearoom ladies. It was an awesome day and we spent about 4 hours in the tiniest, cutest and friendliest tea room I’ve ever visited. Everything was perfect and I couldn’t have spent it with a better group of ladies. We’re all so excited to meet baby when he or she arrives, and even if it’s a boy we’ve decided he can be an honourary book club member 🙂

Thanks to the Book Club girls for an epic day and for letting me steal your pics for this blog!

Book Club Easter Day

I managed to stay in bed until 11am on Easter Day. We woke a little later than normal and then watched DVDs and ate breakfast in bed. The weather was a little gloomy so it was nice to snuggle under the quilt.

I was picked up at midday by Tash and Hayley and then we picked up Amy and Caz and headed to Sarah’s. We were so excited because we’d been invited for a proper roast lunch at Sarah’s house, near Oxford. The road trip began with much chatter and laughing – we started as we meant to go on!

Sarah’s wonderful annex flat was so cosy and decorated so well. Her bathroom is exactly the nautical type of affair that I want once we’ve ripped out the avocado three-piece! We started the day with some wine and lots of natter. Tash decided we needed to do our own version of the Oscars Selfie, and we all agreed that that was a good idea.

hollywood

I think we did quite well! We then went around the group telling each other what was new – we hadn’t all been together for 6 months we worked out! This took some time since a lot has been going on. Everyone had something amazing to tell, and it’s so good to hear every one of us moving on and progressing with our lives. It’s so exciting, as was some of the news that was shared!

Desktop5
The girls (minus Tash) sharing a toast; Hayley and I excited by the road trip; Actual books at the Book Club? Never!

I gave out some of my World Book Night books (a couple of days early I know!) and introduced books into our Book Club for the first time…. a novel idea! (Boom boom!) Then it was food time. Sarah had cooked roast chicken and pork (with crackling) plus all the trimmings. It was truly amazing and so yummy I had two helpings! Then the cheesecake came out, which was also amazing – I might have had two slices of that too…..

Desktop4

So feeling full and happy we sunk into the sofa and continued our chatter. It was amazing how fast the day went and I think we left Sarah’s at about half 7. The trip back was fun and we listened to the Frozen soundtrack and sung it out loud!

It’s amazing to spend time with this bunch of girls and I was very lucky to be able to spend most of the day with them! Next stop Eurovision 😀

Follow on Bloglovin