A lifestyle blog from a forty-something mum

Showing posts with label US. Show all posts
Showing posts with label US. Show all posts

Monday, 13 July 2015

Us by David Nicholls - Book review

Us, David Nicholls, Book reviewIt's not often that I'm compelled to write a book review on the blog. In fact, I've mentioned books only a couple of times previously in a cheats guide to my top five reads (how can anyone pick so few?) and a review of Life, Death and Vanilla Slices by Jenny Eclair.

I spied a review of Us back in November's Good Housekeeping and quickly added it to my reading list. I bought a copy just before we were due to leave for a recent holiday and thought it would make a perfect read - I wasn't wrong.

The follow-up to One Day - I have no idea how I missed all the hype as well as the film - but somehow I just did. I plan on reading this next and seeing the film very soon.

Us tackles the concerns of parenthood, middle age and what it means to stay in a harmonious relationship after so many years. It was a surprising choice for the Man Booker prize longlist in 2014, but failed to make the shortlist. 

Narrated throughout by Douglas Petersen, master of the killer one-liner and on such a different wavelength to the rest of his family that he often feels like an outsider. His wife, Connie is a flamboyant artist and their relationship is based upon the theory that 'opposites attract.' Only child, Albie, takes after his mum with artistic tendencies and plans to study photography at university. Before he leaves though, a Grand Tour of Europe is planned as a final holiday together as a family. Just before they're due to go, Connie reveals that she intends to leave Douglas shortly after the holiday. This throws Douglas into turmoil and he plots to make amends with his wife during the trip and save his marriage.

I identified completely with the character of Douglas as I used to be a biochemist in a previous career and scientists are renowned for their practicality, slight eccentricity and humour in its wackiest form. Hilarious descriptions of a pet drosophila (fruit fly) and the culinary 'delights' of his sister's tuna pasta bake were particularly memorable and deserving of some funny looks as I couldn't help laughing out loud while reading at the beach.

Connie, on the other hand, infuriated me at times as she came across as self-indulgent. I couldn't fathom how she and Albie failed to see Douglas's point of view on so many occasions. As I live with three family members with artistic temperaments it did make me wonder whether some of our miscommunications occur as a result of my completely different take on the world. It was therefore, very insightful.

The observations of a long-term relationship were astute and filled with pathos as well as humour. I willed for Douglas and Connie's marriage to survive as they'd endured several setbacks over the years and emerged from the chaos. Did they make it? I guess you'll just have to read for yourself.

One of those books you'd rather not finish as it's a pleasure to pick up and the chapters are so short that it's hard to find an excuse to put the book down. I didn't want this subtle, but soulful book to ever end.

Rating 5/5.

Until next time... 

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Bon Voyage

Bon VoyageWe're awake a little after midnight and heading down the M40 in no time at all. I'm not convinced of the merits of a couple of hours sleep, but I may have dozed a little, (unlike my daughter) and keep reminding myself that I have work to do once I arrive home.

Sophia bumps into a friend from university at Beaconsfield services which is slightly surreal at 4 am on a Friday morning, but they compare notes and fond farewells before we rejoin the motorway and head towards the M25. We arrive at Terminal 2, Heathrow and Sophia spies several Camp America T-shirt clad teens and twenty-somethings. They're all travelling to different US cities, but stick together anyway and talk of plans for the next three months. I guess this is how the summer will unfurl - they'll get used to talking to new friends with shared interests and support each other throughout. 

I have no idea how you're supposed to feel saying goodbye to your daughter for three months - but there's excitement mingled with apprehension. I hope that Sophia will stay safe, be happy and have a summer filled with adventure. When you head home with your newborn baby - you never imagine that someday she'll grow up and go exploring all by herself. Our children are not ours to keep however, and I have to remind myself that Camp America will be the first of many adventures.

After check-in, Sophia delivers a final hug and heads off to departures with new friends. The group have waited for everyone to get through check-in before leaving en masse, which is sweet. One hug is not enough with my daughter, but I manage to restrain myself, 'Have a great summer,' I say, but she's already gone and just like her first day at school, she doesn't look back.

We return to the car and leave the airport. Stopping for a crazy-early breakfast at a service station and arriving home again in time to start work. Who needs sleep?

Sophia has two flights, the first to Chicago, the second to Portland in Oregon. I check the flight status several times during the day and hope that my daughter is sleeping; by the time she arrives at camp she'll have been up for almost 48 hours. Why is it that she's never mastered the art of sleep before flying anywhere in the world? She's been the same ever since she was a toddler - this has always driven me slightly mad.

At time of writing I still haven't heard from my daughter... I'd been warned that the chances of finding a signal in the middle of the woods in Oregon was almost zero. This doesn't make it any easier. The eight hour time difference doesn't help. I've gone old school and written her a letter that will take between five and seven days to arrive. If all goes to plan she'll head into the nearest town at the weekend and find an Internet cafe - maybe we'll even get to Skype. I guess she's busy having fun and making new friends, which is exactly how it should be.

For now, it's just me, the cat and Mr A for the summer. I plan on borrowing my nephew for a few days as the house seems too quiet and the cat's already cross with me for scooping her up and extracting too many hugs.

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton
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Monday, 18 May 2015

Across the pond

There's excellent news from the Anderton camp this week and I'm happy to announce that daughter, Sophia will be heading over to the US this summer. She applied to Camp America back in August of last year and has been lucky enough to be placed at a camp in Oregon. She has wanted to do this for a very long time and I can't begin to tell you how excited she is.

I am going to miss her so much, but have to remind myself that our children are not ours to keep. If you love someone you have to learn to let go. She loves the great outdoors and has been a keen rower for many years - so her choice of activity for the summer months is perfect. Although I have no doubt that the summer will be challenging, as well as brilliant.

Sophia hands in end of year coursework on Tuesday and I suspect this will be accompanied by a request to move out of digs and return home shortly afterwards. I'm preparing myself for the onslaught of chaos as she negotiates packing, visa and insurance etc.

If all goes to plan she's planning a trek at the end of camp (destination to be confirmed). I'm hoping that she'll be home in time to celebrate her 21st birthday on 13th September along with her twin sister. I wish Sophia all the very best and know that this is a fabulous opportunity for her to experience a little of the big wide world and all it has to offer.

Note to self: try not to cry at the airport when I drop my youngest daughter off in June. She is going to have a wonderful time and will no doubt arrive home with many tales of life at camp and all that the US has to offer.  

In the meantime, I hope to spend a little time with both daughters before Sophia leaves - even if it's just for a few days - here's hoping they can make it home.

Here's to a wonderful summer and my daughter spreading her wings and having the time of her life.

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Monday, 6 April 2015

The Top Three Travel Bucket List

For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you'll know that I love travelling. So, when I spotted the chance to win a trip to see the Northern Lights over at Transun, I was inspired to have a go.

My Top Three Travel Destinations are...

Route 66
I've been lucky enough to visit the US on several occasions, but the trip that's eluded me so far is Route 66. How awesome would it be to ride on the back of a Harley Davidson for over 2200 miles? I've never ridden a motorbike before - but the chance to ride from Chicago to Santa Monica on open roads is most definitely at the top of my list. Note to self: book a few lessons with a qualified instructor before even thinking about booking this trip.

 Harley Davidson - Sportster (Image: Pixabay)

Desert Road - Route 66 (Image: Pixabay)

I'd plan on taking in the kitsch roadside museums, the majestic landscapes that define the American West, the ghost town of Calico and maybe take a slight detour to see the Grand Canyon before journey's end on the beach in Santa Monica. I have a sneaky suspicion that my hair would be the wildest it's ever been, but I'm certain that the trip would be filled with a sense of freedom and nostalgia.

Calico - Route 66 (Image: Pixabay)

General Store, Arizona (Image: Pixabay)
Santa Monica - Route 66 (Image: Pixabay)

For a holiday filled with unspoilt and natural beauty, my second choice would be Norway. I'm a huge fan of the great outdoors and I'd want to experience the awe-inspiring Fjords and gaze upon nature's own spectacular light show - the Northern Lights.

Voss, Norway (Image: Pixabay)

Northern Lights (Image: Pixabay)

I'd love to try a sled ride with huskies as this would be a new and exhilarating experience. And, as the opportunity to see some of the largest marine mammals isn't something I've ever had the chance to do previously, a whale watching trip would be high on my itinerary.

Husky Sled (Image: Pixabay)

Humpback Whale (Image: Pixabay)

 Finally, as I like to cram as much variety as possible into any holiday - I'd love the opportunity to visit Oslo and enjoy the world-class museums and galleries.

Oslo (Image: Pixabay)

New Zealand
My parents considered emigrating to Auckland back in the 1960s and I've always wondered how life might have turned out if I'd grown up there. I'd love to take a tour of the North Island all the way from Auckland to Wellington. Along the way I'd stop at Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve for a spot of snorkelling and enjoy the reef systems and diverse marine life.

Auckland Skyline (Image: Pixabay)

Cathedral Cove (Image: Pixabay)

I'd also visit Rotorua - a volcanic wonderland featuring extraordinary landscapes and geothermal attractions - each with their own unique features. And, as no trip would be complete without a little bit of adrenaline, I'd book a trip on the Hukafalls Jet to experience the exhilaration of an 80 km/ hour ride on the white water of Huka Falls. Finally, I'd head to Wellington and make the most of the vibrant culture before heading home.

Rotorua, Geyser (Image: Pixabay)

Hukafalls Jet Boat (Image: Pixabay)

Wellington (Image: Pixabay)
So, there you have it - my top three travel bucket destinations. What would be your top three destinations?

To enter all you have to do is:

1. Write a blog post about your top three travel bucket list destinations and explain why you'd like to visit them.

2. Tweet your blog post to @Transun using the hashtag #TransunLights

The competition closes on 30th April 2015 at 23:59 so don't forget to Tweet your entry before then.

Good luck everyone x

Until next time...

 Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton
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Saturday, 17 May 2014

Remote Parenting for Dummies

Hot off the plane from Paris last weekend and I was straight into a temporary contract working for a local company for the next couple of weeks. With our beloved daughters still at uni, I found myself looking forward to the challenge and have to confess that I'm really enjoying it. We had mentioned to our beloved daughters that we'd both be busy, and not to make plans that involved either of us. In hindsight, it may have been better if we'd said nothing at all.

Sophia has applied to work abroad during the summer. She learnt while we were in Paris last week, that she'd been given an upgraded status on her application. This means that she may have to leave the UK with only 3 days notice. Consequently, there's a panic on to get a work visa from the US embassy and she's on tenterhooks in case the placement doesn't actually come off.

This is how the week has panned out so far:

Saturday night (late)

Arrive home to a huge pile of post in the hall, including a tonne of stuff that needed to be sent to Sophia while we've been away. On the answerphone is a frantic message instructing us to call her as soon as we're back.

Sophia, 'Hi Mum, what time do you call this?'
Me, 'It's midnight, and we've just arrived home.'
Sophia, 'I need the documentation so I can make an appointment at the embassy.'
Me, 'I'll send everything off via recorded delivery on Monday. Hopefully, it'll be with you on Tuesday.'


Sophia, 'Will you come down to London with me next week?'
Me, 'No, I'm working.'
Sophia, 'Can't you take the day off?'
Me, 'No, because I'm only there for a couple of weeks and that wouldn't look very professional.'
Sophia, 'Oh.'


Sophia, 'Mum, have you sent the documents?'
Me, 'Yes Hun, sent first class, so they should be with you tomorrow.'


Sophia, 'Mum, I haven't received the documents.'
Me, 'They're probably in the post room, go and check tomorrow. If they haven't turned up, call me.'
Sophia, 'My internet's not working, can you ask Dad to call me?'
Me, 'OK, but I'm not sure what he's going to be able to do from 150 miles away.'


Phone ringing as I arrive home (late) from work.

Sophia, ''I'm just filling in my online application and need all the dates of my previous travel to the US.'
Me, 'I can tell you the months and the years, but finding the actual dates is going to take a while.'
Sophia, 'Can you let me have them as soon as possible? I need to do this now.'
Me, 'Yes dear, there's nothing I'd rather do for the rest of the evening. Have your documents arrived by the way?'
Sophia, 'Yep, thanks Mum.'

Spend rest of evening tracking down elusive dates and email 3 hours later with, 'Mums are amazing & take payment in hugs,' in the subject box.

Later that night...

Phone call from Olivia, 'You are coming down to help me move aren't you?'
Me, 'Hopefully, yes, but you haven't given me the date.'
Olivia, 'It'll be sometime in June.' Or, if I can't move into my new house right away, you might have to book 2 hotel rooms and I'll stash all my stuff in mine until I can.'
Me, 'Great, keep me posted.'

At this point I have a headache and retire for the night with a large glass of wine, promising that if the phone goes again, I am going to ignore it.


Arrive home to one answerphone message and 3 emails - all from Sophia. And later, we Skype for an hour. She has booked appointments at the embassy and with her GP. Oh, and she wants to come home next Wednesday with all of her belongings. Somehow Mr A gets cajoled into collecting her, as I point out (again) that I'm working. As she's booked the embassy appointment for the week after I finish work, there's another request for me to go to London, I'm guessing that's so I can pay for everything.


One message left on answerphone when I arrive home from work. 'I can't come home next Wednesday because...' at this point I'm not listening and that is because I am yelling, 'Aaaaarrrgggghhhh.'

Oh, and there's still no news from Olivia re moving dates.

One question: how can they cause so much chaos from so far away?

For anyone who has kids heading to uni later this year remember the following phrase - 'No news is (usually) good news.'

And yes, I am very happy that it's the weekend. At some point in the not too distant future, I may even get to blog about Paris.

Until next time...

Copyright©2014 Izzie Anderton

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