The Course of Honour – Lindsey Davis

The Course of Honour - Lindsey Davis
The Course of Honour – Lindsey Davis

No, not another Falco (although I did think it was when I borrowed it!)

If anything, I enjoyed The Course of Honour more than any of the Falco series I’ve read so far. (As does Kate Macdonald, I now recall.) It’s Lindsey Davis’ telling of the life and loves of a Roman woman, Caenis. Born a slave, she is trained as a secretary and by good fortune finds herself scribing for Emperor Claudius’ mother, Antonia. In due course, Antonia makes Caenis a freedwoman.

While still a general secretary, Caenis crosses paths with two Flavian brothers, Titus Flavius Sabinus and Titus Flavius Vespasianus. And therein lies the story of a slave who became the lifetime love of an Emperor.

Author’s page: The Course of Honour – Lindsey Davis

Everest Trek Get Together No 14

On a sedate train service heading towards Cardiff, after another lovely weekend in Pembs, this time combining the 14th Everest Trek Get Together with the start of Steffi’s birthday celebrations.

Friday featured generous G&Ts followed by curry and then the onward drive Newgale and the Van. Dave and Gwyneth had met us in Newport with the usual smooth station rendezvous and a drive West that was somewhat wetter than desired.

The damp theme resurfaced on Saturday this time accompanied by strong winds – the forecast had promised heavy rain and winds over the 50mph mark, and proved accurate. The morning was slightly less bad, and we ventured out along the road to the cafe/paper shop. Huge waves and steady rain kept almost everyone else inside. The return walk, into the wind, took 6 mins longer than the outbound leg. A day in the caravan seemed the sensible option, with D&G driving back to the Duke of Cambridge to watch Wales romp to victory in the Six Nation final. We celebrated that and Steffi’s birthday minus 3 days with ginger tiffin, tea and sparklers.

Steffi and I ventured out to watch sunset from the beach, catching a final shower en route but one that delivered a wonderful full rainbow over the caravan park. Beautiful sunset, the sea still strong.

Sunset after the storm, Newgale Beach
Sunset after the storm, Newgale Beach

Back in the van, present opening followed together with further toasts, of champagne this time, accompanied by crisps from the pub. We dined on Steffi’s special soup, Cardigan bread, hummus and carrot sticks, cheese and biscuits.

Then bed.

Leisured breakfast on Sunday. No rain and crystal clear skies out over St Brides Bay. A beautiful walk along the beach, busy with walkers and dogs. Lovely.

Sunday stroll on Newgale Beach
Sunday stroll on Newgale Beach

Back to Mayhem for continued celebrations with more champagne and a slap up Sunday lunch cooked by Maurice and Maria. Yes, we did visit the Aisles of Aldi en route. It’s tradition.

Sunday lunch bonanza!
Sunday lunch bonanza!

Hazel and I caught the 15.54 from Whitland, changed onto the GWR service at Swansea and are whiling away the journey back to London listening to podcasts / watching downloads. Currently at Cardiff where our naturally quiet carriage now has a lady putting the world to rights on a phone call…

A Spool of Blue Thread – Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread - Anne Tyler
A Spool of Blue Thread – Anne Tyler

I’ve loved Anne Tyler’s novels in the past but I’ve put this one to one side half finished. Not even the 5 hour train journey back from Pembs provided sufficient incentive to continue reading about the Whitshank family. I wasn’t interested in any of the characters, nor their suburban Baltimore world.

Maybe later.

Author page: A Spool of Blue Thread – Anne Tyler

Dunstan – Conn Iggulden

Dunstan - Conn Iggulden
Dunstan – Conn Iggulden

Conn Iggulden’s fictional biography of Dunstan, a 10th century Anglo-Saxon Benedictine monk, Abbot, Bishop and Archbishop, and – later – Saint,  who lived through the lifetimes of seven English Kings descended from Alfred the Great: Alfred’s grandsons, King Athelstan, Edmund I and Eadred, his great-grandsons Edwy and Edgar, and great-great-grandsons Edward (the Martyr) and Æthelred the Unready.

It’s an era of great change – the emergence of England, Monastic reform and the building of great Abbeys, including two by Dunstan – Glastonbury and Canterbury.

I’m now planning to track down Tom Holland’s Athelstan in the Penguin Monarchs series to read more.

Publisher page: Dunstan – Conn Iggulden

The Muse – Jessie Burton

The Muse - Jessie Burton
The Muse – Jessie Burton

I enjoyed The Muse even more than Jessie Burton’s previous novel, The Miniaturist.

It’s two intertwined tales of female creators that transpire to be one. Set either side of the Second World War, we first meet protopoet Odelle, one of the Windrush generation lured to London from Trinidad by Empire’s promise of opportunity. Thirty years earlier the story starts with secret artist Olive and her Austrian-English parents who are renting a rural finca on the edge of a village north of Malaga, in the run up to the Spanish Civil War.

All the way though the novel I came across sentences that really resonated. Here are a few:

A church bell rang in the distance, a sombre line of twelve dongs to hold the time before it slipped away once more.

 

She was really laughing; her eyes were almost invisible, they were so creased. She had that cheery unselfconsciousness that always makes a person beautiful, however unremarkable their face.

 

The idea that anyone might be able to detach their personal value from their public output was revolutionary.

Author page: The Muse – Jessie Burton