Swing Time – Zadie Smith

Swing Time - Zadie Smith
Swing Time – Zadie Smith

Two girls on a north west London council estate join a community dance class and become friends. We follow their lives as they grow into their teens through their twenties and thirties.

One ends up a single mum living in the council flat she grew up in, the other PA to an international pop star doing Good Works in West Africa.

But, as always, Zadie Smith’s novel is about much more than this.

Author page: Swing Time – Zadie Smith

Herefordshire Week 086: Tuesday 17 – Monday 23 August 2021

Hay baling, bonfires and backroads.

Phil’s sister has been staying with us for most of this week, and Tuesday morning was spent driving to Birmingham and back to pick her up. Plans to see A&M were foiled by a potential COVID-19 exposure (and not enough time to get a PCR test to confirm either way).

Quiet week at work – how nice – and managed to finish up ‘early’ on Thursday which gave me and S sufficient time for a bonfire, getting through the large pile of garden cuttings plus 1 1/2 piles of Richard’s hedge trimmings. Up early on Friday to fit in the rest. A good job to have got done.

The highlight of the week was Ray and friends baling the hay in Kiln Field on Wednesday afternoon. Phil went to lend a hand. I delivered tea and cake after work.

Hay baling in Kiln Field
Hay baling in Kiln Field

More than a month later than last year.

We headed into Hereford on Friday afternoon and, after a mooch around the shops and sights, sat on the terrace of The Left Bank enjoying a (tiny) pot of tea and cake in the 30 minutes of sunshine there was, and watching a man in waders catch big fish in the River Wye. Lots of them. It is refreshing to see Hereford through someone else’s eyes, and to enjoy some of the more sociable things the city has to offer. All too often we just do a ‘tactical hit’ focused on shopping, library and admin.

Saturday was wet and with cloud so low we couldn’t see Cwm Hill let alone Hatterall Ridge. So we drove to Hay-on-Wye for an hour’s pottering, finding it full of posh London families on holiday and people dressed up for World War II. As Phil observed, reenactment and cosplay – what’s the real difference? Home via the back roads for a change.

Al fresco fry up on Sunday morning then drove S back to Birmingham Airport.

Al fresco fry up - Veggie version
Al fresco fry up – Veggie version

Plans to see A&M were scuppered again by another potential COVID-19 exposure (and not enough time for PCR results). Home around 6pm.

I’ve done the Bacton Square a couple of times this week – once before work on Thursday (backwards) and again with Phil on Monday morning (forwards). We measured our stride lengths when we got back, and I’ve updated my FitBit profile in the hope of more accurate stats. (0.83m if you’re interested.)

Rest of Monday was getting garden jobs done – weedkiller spraying, bramble snipping, black currant bush weeding – and catching up with computing. It brightened up as the afternoon went on and so I headed out for a late afternoon / early evening stroll – Cockyard & Kerrys Gate. Very sociable around Jury’s Farm.

TV: (Half of) The Lego Movie 2 (not that wowed; too frenetic), The Chair (not that wowed) and The Assassination of Gianni Versace (better).

Podcasts: The History of EnglandHistory Extra, In Our Time and Great Lives.

Photos: Herefordshire week 86 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-08-22.

Another Planet – Tracey Thorn

Another Planet - Tracey Thorn
Another Planet – Tracey Thorn

Growing up in Brookmans Park in the 70’s and 80’s, Tracey Thorn accumulated more music memories than I have, and definitely had a more ‘adventurous’ teenage experience than I did in suburban Solihull.

Scattered though out, and coming into focus at the end, are the relationships with her parents, and how you reevaluate them with hindsight and the benefit of your own experience.

Publisher page: Another Planet: A Teenager in Suburbia – Tracey Thorn

Herefordshire Week 085: Tuesday 10 – Monday 16 August 2021

Good walking in the Brecon Beacons National Park – Sugar Loaf and Waterfall Country.

More Mazda musing. FLIES, meet swat.

And I had to deal with a BIRD inside the CONSERVATORY!

Sugar Loaf Circular: Panorama to the north west
Sugar Loaf Circular: Panorama to the north west

On Tuesday morning I dropped off Phil at Abergavenny station then drove up to  the car park at Mynydd Llanwenarth and did Countryfile’s Walk: Sugar Loaf mountain, Monmouthshire, which I’ve christened the Sugar Loaf Circular.

Sugar Loaf Circular: National Trust Omega Sign - Sugar Loaf & Pen-y-Fal
Sugar Loaf Circular: National Trust Omega Sign – Sugar Loaf / Pen-y-Fal

It was a super 2 hour 20 mins walk summiting Sugar Loaf / Pen y Fâl (596m). Magic views all the way, especially from the top.

Sugar Loaf Circular: Sugar Loaf summit from the lower slopes
Sugar Loaf Circular: Sugar Loaf summit from the lower slopes

Tuesday afternoon brought some drama when I heard some bangs from the conservatory – and a quick look revealed a blue tit had managed to get inside and was flapping around, banging on the windows in its attempts to escape. I’d opened the windows in the morning but only a crack. Why on earth did it decide to come in, and WHY did it do it when Phil wasn’t around???? I really, really don’t like birds – or fish.

A little later, once I’d girded my loins, I crept in, opened the double doors and retreated back into the telly room, and then went outside to leave some peanuts and a dish of water on the patio by the doors in an attempt to lure it out.

Checking again at 6.30pm, it was still inside. So it was time to put an emergency call in to dad, half hoping he’d volunteer to come round to sort it out for me. But no. He did advise that my best bet was to open all the windows as wide as they can go, and hope the bird would find its way out.  So I did – after a lot more loin girding. Thankfully, when I checked before going to bed, it looked like the blue tit had finally worked out the way out. There hadn’t been any flapping or banging in the conservatory for a while and there was no bird to be seen. And so I closed all the windows and doors back up.

When he got home, I did ask Phil to check that there wasn’t an expired blue tit trapped by the flattened packing boxes behind the chairs.

My usual working week felt longer than usual, partly because I was Home Alone and partly because August is living up to its “isn’t it quiet?” tag. Sociable evenings with S&S, VWW and Family Zoom balanced things out a bit.

Picked up Phil on Thursday evening with a speedy shop in Morrisons en route.

On Friday I managed to rise and shine early enough for my morning walk – the first time this week – and then we headed up to Leominster, partly because Friday is Market Day and partly because I’d spotted another Mazda MX-5 which I wanted to take a look at.

After nice potter around Leominster, a visit to their J-Mart (most successful purchase to date – the fly swat!) we paid a visit to Leominster Motors to check out the MX5. I preferred the colour, the mileage, price and soft top were OK but I didn’t like the fact that they’d not bothered touching up the chips and scratches on the paintwork.

Back via Bridge Sollers and some of the black and white villages.

Late lunch then an afternoon mowing. The grass collector stopped working, but Phil came to the rescue raking up the grass as I did the edges with the Honda mower. Too tired for pizza so we foraged leftovers from the fridge.

Up early on Saturday to join the Excalibur Walking Club on their Waterfall Country Walk – a fabulous 12+ mile circular hike from Pontneddfechan along a connected set of the Waterfall Country Walking Trails in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Waterfall Country Walk: Waterfall Link Trail, following the Nedd Fechan upstream
Waterfall Country Walk: Waterfall Link Trail, following the Nedd Fechan upstream

Waterfalls galore. It more than lived up to its name.

Waterfall Country Walk: Sgwd yr Eira Trail - Sgwd yr Eira (Snow Waterfalls)
Waterfall Country Walk: Sgwd yr Eira Trail – Sgwd yr Eira (Snow Waterfalls)

A long day, especially given the Hereford – Neath drive at either end. Arriving home at 7.45pm (I’d left at 7am), Phil came to the rescue again, providing pizza and more of Ghosts.

Sunday was largely spent on the computer, flickring photos from yesterday’s walk and writing up this week’s walks. I’ve decided to add a new Category here – walking – and a new album on Flickr – Walks.

The teatime break was enhanced by the Abbeydore Golden Valley Tractor Run in aid of Marie Curie passing by our front door.

Finished off The Mystery of Mercy Close over coffee, toast and marmalade first thing on Monday morning, then did the Bacton Square backwards. Back at base, I hauled the bungalow’s surplus paving slabs over to the greenhouse to use as a border in place of the decking planks liberated in the dismantling of the outdoor train line. Staked up the tomatoes, picked the last of the tall lettuce (ie the ones that have bolted) and peas (5 pods). Pruned back some of the wild plum and brambles at the top of the lower path.

We had our first conservatory casualty for a while in the morning – a robin. But in better bird news I did manage to get some good shots of the green woodpecker that’s started feasting on creatures in the grass between the bird feeder pear tree and the kitchen window.

Green woodpecker
Green woodpecker

And we had a starling on the peanut bird feeder and font for the first time too. Just look at those polka dot spots!


TV: Ghosts (series 3). I have totally forgotten what I watched on Tuesday and Wednesday in Phil’s absence.

Podcasts: The History of EnglandHistory Extra, Books and Authors, Bookclub, World Book Club and SheDunnit.

Photos: Herefordshire week 85 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-08-15.