chestnut book blog

Read. Recommend. Revel.


Love in a Cold Climate

Nendaz Plateau

Courtesy of wikicommons and Norbert Aepli

On Valentine’s Day night this year, I will be throwing my things into a case as I prepare to leave for a week in Switzerland. Romance will have to wait until the next day when we are safely snuggled up by the fire in Nendaz. This is my first visit to the land of the clocks, chocolate, banking and snow and I’m excited. In theory, as well as sitting besides fires and doing some snowy walks, there will also be skiing involved. Staggering around like Bambi on ice might be the more accurate description of what I will be doing though! While I’m thinking about packing, I thought I might share a few of my holiday essentials with you in case you need inspiration for a get-away as well.

1. Books!

You didn’t really expect me to start with anything else did you? Whilst I am very tempted to take Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate as the title is so perfect,  I’m actually going to take Longbourn and How to be a Heroine. Longbourn is a re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of the servants. Normally, I’m not a big fan of meddling with the classics, but I think this sounds very interesting and I will make an exception. As for How to be a Heroine, any book that starts with the author realising that all her life she’d wanted to be Cathy (Earnshaw) when really she should have wanted to be Jane (Eyre) gets my vote! I can’t wait for more revelations and musings from author Samantha Ellis. I suspect it will make me want to go back to all my old favourites!

2. Suncream and Sunglasses

Hopefully it will be sunny as well as cold and snowy in Switzerland, but regardless, I’ll be wearing my favourite sporty sunglasses (these ones are fab too) and suncream.

3. Cosy knits and layers

Mountain Warehouse have some good offers on pure merino wool base layers at the moment. I’ll be wrapping up in these during the day beneath my outer gear and then relaxing in soft fleece and jersey on an evening as I tuck into my fondue. Hush does lovely soft leggings, knits and cosy, casual outfit ideas if you haven’t come across them before.

4. My new favourite film

I’m more of a reader than a television or film viewer, but I have been absolutely loving the film Paul recently. Have you seen it? It is incredibly silly, but I laughed so much I cried the first time I watched it and I may have indulged several times since as well! I’ve also got season two of Game of Thrones and all of American Horror Story to catch up on so I should have plenty of viewing choices.

5. Audio

On the flight out, it will be very early, so I thought I’d listen to some podcasts rather than reading. I’ve downloaded several episodes of Radio 4’s Book Club and Books and Authors programmes. I’m also trying out Audible, with a free download of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I’ll let you know how I get on! If you would like to try it too, you can get a free download using this link.

I hope you are all doing well and if you are going on holiday soon, have a wonderful time!

A holiday of a lifetime

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I am now back from the holiday of a lifetime. Over the next few days I’ll be sharing lots of photos and thoughts about my time in China. For now though, I’ll just say that I have had my eyes well and truly opened. China was vibrant, loud, hot, beautiful, contradictory and a little bit mad and I’ve fallen in love with it.

I’ll leave you with some Chinese roof guardians for now.  These little figures, found on the roofs of imperial buildings, really appealed to me. I’ve never seen anything exactly like them before, but they felt a little familiar, like the gargoyles on Fountains Abbey and York Minster. I’m not sure the gargoyles had such an altruistic purpose though – we were told the guardians look after people’s homes, preventing fire and flood. May they do the same for you. More soon…

Roof Guardians at the Summer Palace, Beijing

Roof Guardians at the Summer Palace, Beijing

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

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Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

Whilst I was on holiday, I read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. I must be one of the few people who have never seen the film so I came to the book completely fresh and with no expectations. What I found was a lovely story that warmed the cockles of my heart! To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of my favourite books, and because of that, I have a definite soft spot for novels set in the deep south. The same deceptively gentle storytelling that Harper Lee uses is at work in this book as well, masking some horrifically violent events that happen in the course of the novel. The way Mrs Threadgoode and Evelyn Couch’s conversations reveal the story of Idgie and Ruth is a very clever device and I cared about all the characters deeply. I had wanted to get to know Idgie better than this method allows though as for me she is such a central character, and yet remains a bit of an enigma. The other thing I really liked about this book was the recipes at the back. Food and feeding those you love was such a central theme to the book that the recipes feel like the perfect ending. I have yet to try Sipsey’s Fried Green Tomatoes, but I certainly will if I see green tomatoes in the shops! If you are looking for a heart warming easy read with love, food and triumph over adversity, this is the book for you!

Elephants at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

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Hello! I’m back for beautiful Sri Lanka. It was so different it feels almost like a dream now. However, to prove that it was not – here is a picture of some of the beautiful Elephants we saw. I’ve just noticed what is either a huge dragonfly or a helicopter in the background – I don’t remember that being there when I took the photograph! These Elephants were part of the family at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. I have never particularly liked to see wild animals confined. I avoid zoos for example. That feeling of discomfort was present for me when seeing some of the Elephants here in chains. I also felt some of the oldest, youngest and disabled Elephants were being exploited for the tourists rather than the sanctuary putting their welfare first. I felt guilty for being one of those tourists. However, our guide explained that some of the Elephants in the wild in Sri Lanka are at risk of being shot by farmers, exploited by private owners or blown up by landmines left in the ground after the civil war. Pinnawalla offers an important sanctuary for orphaned Elephants  where they are looked after, protected and get all the care they need. Despite that and being very grateful to see these amazing animals at close quarters, I couldn’t shake the deep feeling of unease and I wondered whether I should have stayed away…


Elephants in Sri Lanka

Holiday reads!

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Planning what to read on holiday…one of my most anticipated times of the year! On Friday, I am going to the beautiful pearl of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka, for two weeks.

With me, I am taking:

I am particularly pleased with this list and am quivering with excitement at the thought of opening their fresh pages! I enjoyed Wolf Hall, Matel’s prize-winning blockbuster hugely, although it did take me a while to get my perspective within the story – I found her lack of speech marks a bit discombobulating until I was used to it. This book will pitch my back into the heart of Tudor England with a front row seat to watch Anne Boleyn’s downfall. This is a story that has been told many times, but somehow it remains compelling. Perhaps it is because it has all the extremes of life inherent within it – love, wit, courage, politics, religion, obsession, jealousy, anger and tragedy. I can’t wait!

I have chosen Andrea Gillies’ The white lie for several reasons. The Scottish Highlands, and in particular the west coast, hold a very special place in my heart and so I am drawn to any fiction set there, which this is. I also saw the wonderful reviews on Amazon and so my decision was made.

Fried green tomatoes at the whistlestop cafe – a wonderful title and I can’t believe I’ve never read it or seen the film. It has been on my list of books to read for a long time now and a holiday seemed the perfect point to immerse myself in it. Finally, I feel that no holiday is complete without a book that my literary soul labels ‘trashy’ or ‘chick lit’ – this is my time off after all! This year, I have chosen Jojo Moyes’ Me before you. The cover has stared at me from the bestseller tables in bookshops for a while now and, having seen all the amazing reviews, I consider it an upgrade on Jilly Cooper or Tamina Perry’s latest offerings!

I will do a post about what I think of each of these books  as well as update you on which Shakespeare play I will be tackling in August when I get back.