A Thousand Ships – Natalie Haynes

A Thousand Ships - Natalie Haynes
A Thousand Ships – Natalie Haynes

I am loving these recent retellings of the Greek Myths from the women’s perspective.

Natalie Haynes’ A Thousand Ships is, not surprisingly, the story of the Trojan War and the siege of Troy, triggered by Helen whose face launched those ships, and Paris – and the golden apple, but primarily for the story of where it came from and the three Goddesses vying for its accolade.

Penelope, relentlessly weaving and unweaving – and – my favourite chapters – writing increasingly exasperated letters to her errant husband-with-wanderlust, the wily Odysseus. Andromache, Cassandra, Hecabe (Hecuba when I was at school), and lesser known women whose passing mentions are fleshed out into, well, flesh and bones.


Author page: A Thousand Ships – Natalie Haynes

Herefordshire Week 074: Tuesday 25 – Monday 31 May 2021

A week off work; to Pembrokeshire for puffins. Summer’s here – AT LAST.

Looking back to this time last week, it’s hard to remember just how much rain we had in May given the past 7 days have, in the main, been hot and sunny.

Hazel and I did the Bacton footpaths route on Tuesday morning, a little muddy in places but not too bad. We found dad busy dismantling the garden railway when we returned – he came back during the week to finish off the job. The end of an era.

A leisurely afternoon, then packing three dining room chairs, the microwave, kettle, butternut squash curry and various other caravan supplies into the surprisingly spacious Nissan Note, and driving WEST, taking the A470 / A40 route north of the Brecon Beacons. Lovely.

Dinner at Mayhem then on to Newgale.

A fab five days at the van – Preseli Hills on Wednesday, Skomer on Thursday, rain and a brief foray out onto Newgale Beach on Friday, the coast path from Fresh West to Bosherton on Saturday and St David’s Headland on Sunday. K&D with us on Thursday and Sunday, and D&G Friday to Monday for the Everest Trek Get Together No 16.

Neolithic cairns (and bog) along the spine of the Preselis:

Along the tops of the Preseli Hills
Along the tops of the Preseli Hills

…. followed by a wonderful sunset and refreshments on the deck:

Sunset Gin, Newgale
Sunset Gin, Newgale

On Skomer, puffins galore plus swathes of bluebells, pink campion and sea campion. Rabbits and razorbills, oyster catchers and gulls, guillemots and kittiwakes – and, at The Garland Stone, basking seals and a glimpse of dolphins.

Puffins, Skomer
Puffins, Skomer

A super fried egg sandwich from Cafe Mor at Fresh West, and a paddle in the sea off Broad Haven South Beach. The Green Bridge of Wales, St Govan’s Chapel and seabirds on stacks galore in between. Sea Thrift and Spring Squill carpeting the clifftops.

Stacks and Seabirds, Freshwater West to Bosherton, around the Castlemartin Peninsula
Stacks and Seabirds, around the Castlemartin Peninsula from Freshwater West to Bosherton
Bluebells and Broad Haven South Freshwater West to Bosherton, around the Castlemartin Peninsula
Bluebells and Broad Haven South

Dolphins again, on a Hot Bank Holiday Sunday. This time in the Ramsey Island race, as we walked around St David’s Headland from Caerfai to St Justinian’s.

Rock Arch and Cliffs, St David's Headland
Rock Arch and Cliffs, St David’s Headland

And the mandatory Friday Night Curries and Slap Up Sunday Feast from Maurice.

Drove back Monday morning, dropping Hazel off at Carmarthen en route, and spent the afternoon on the patio recovering from Sunday evening’s over indulgences.

Good to be home. The front lawn is a mass of buttercups, and the grass has grown at least a foot!

TV: Not much, given I was away for most of the week. Motherland (series 3) and Have I Got News for You before and Ozark (starting season 2) after.

Podcasts: The History of England (late night /early morning listenings in the ‘van) and The History of English (on the drive back).

Photos: Herefordshire week 74 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-05-30.

The Grove of the Caesars – Lindsey Davis

The Grove of the Caesars - Lindsey Davis
The Grove of the Caesars – Lindsey Davis

With Tiberius Manlius away visiting his ill sister, Flavia Albia is in charge of their home and business and finds herself investigating (possibly ancient) scrolls unearthed by their builders during a project in The Grove of the Caesars – when the rape and murder of a respectable Roman matron occurs at an evening party near by.

Author page: The Grove of the Caesars – Lindsey Davis

Herefordshire Week 073: Tuesday 18 – Monday 24 May 2021

COVID Jab 2. IKEA. A lot more rain. Starting to see people. Holidays commence!

Walked over to Ewyas Harold for my second COVID vaccination jab on Tuesday morning. Took the direct route there, and returned via Dulas. Got very wet on the final stretch back from Abbey Dore. The rain came earlier than advertised and has stayed all week  No side effects at all from the jab.

COVID 19 Vaccination Jab 2
COVID 19 Vaccination Jab 2

Normal working pattern this week, with the upgrade / server migration finally completed overnight Wednesday / Thursday. Thankfully no presence from the UK required. Busy week, but managed to get things to positions where it’s OK to leave them untended for a week – and on Thursday evening it was a pleasure to activate my Out of Office just before starting Family Zoom, knowing that that signalled the start of a week’s holiday.

We drove to Bristol and back on Friday to go to the IKEA there. Foul weather meant we had to go M5 as the Severn Bridges were both closed due to high winds – 50mph gusts. Treated ourselves to a sandwich and crisp lunch from M&S – both slightly underwhelming – but M&S sultana scones made up for things – we scoffed two each once we’d got home.

On Saturday we headed over to Dinedor for coffee and lunch, and to see Judith, Mary, Colin and Finn, and Huw. M&C were on their way to Chepstow to start the Offa’s Dyke Path. Lovely day. Back home I had time to complete Cockyard in the long sunlight before we settled down for an evening of Eurovision. My top four: Malta, Italy, Ukraine, Iceland. Reckon Iceland would have come higher had they been able to perform in person.


Bacton backwards on Sunday morning, just beating the deluge that stayed for the rest of the day. Phil built IKEA things while I mixed lounging on the sofa watching telly and making scones for teatime.

I woke up on Monday with a big dose of the blues.

Hazel arrived Monday afternoon, and Phil and I made the most of the trip into Hereford with stops at the Donation Station, supermarket and petrol station before collecting Hazel from the station… only to find that signal failure at Colwall meant H was stuck in Great Malvern. So off we went…. eventually getting the the station after a sat nav tour of Great Malvern and its many tiny, twisting roads.

Later today (Tuesday) we’re off to Pembrokeshire to stay with Steffi for the week. D&G arrive Friday for the first Everest Trek Get Together of 2021. It’s 10 years this year since we met.

This week’s small birdwatch highlight: a gorgeous bullfinch tucking into the dandelion seed heads.

Beautiful Male Bullfinch with a rose pink breast
Beautiful Male Bullfinch with a rose pink breast

In between the rain, thrushes and blackbirds are busy extracting worms from the front lawn.

TV: Bit of a mish mash once we’d finished season one Mystery RoadI’m Thinking of Ending Things as our Friday night film (not what either of us expected), Eurovision on Saturday and my Sunday afternoon telly indulgence comprised The Dig (OK) and Medici season 1 episode 1 (“We’ve got a real version of GoT and we’re going to use it. And some of the GoT actors.”). On Monday we watched the last two instalments in Hip Hop Evolution.

Podcasts: Not much listening this week – mainly Tuesday morning’s walk and while doing my physio exercises – History Extra, In Our Time and SheDunnit.

Photos: Herefordshire week 73 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-05-23.

A Knife to the Heart – Barbara Nadel

A Knife to the Heart - Barbara Nadel
A Knife to the Heart – Barbara Nadel

A fast read; always the sign of a good read for me.

We are back in Istanbul, and it’s 2018/2019. Ikmen’s retired, Fatma’s died and their adult children are worried about the djinn in the kitchen.

Elsewhere in Istanbul, a cut throat property developer buys an old mansion where in 1976 a young woman committed suicide by stabbing herself in the heart. Or did she?

Publisher page: A Knife to the Heart – Barbara Nadel