‘Tis the season to be poorly tra la la la la la la la LA

christmas; flu
Acknowledgement – image taken from http://www.wales.nhs.uk

So I’m sick. At Christmas. And have been for the majority of my one week’s annual leave so far. And I am not a happy bunny. I had lots of lovely socialising planned, all of which I have had to cancel as my husband and I have both been struck down with some sort of flu virus that has left us fevered, bedridden and generally not people you want to hang out with. Now I pride myself on being a of ‘glass half full’ kind of person so thought that I would make a list of pros to being sick during the festive season. But for every action there is a reaction and apparently for every pro there is a con; as no sooner had I thought of a pro then I thought of an accompanying con. So here it is, my list of the good and bad things about being sick at Christmas:

PRO – I get to stay in pyjamas all day so the laundry basket isn’t exactly filling up
CON – Drinking endless cups of tea and eating snacks rather than going out for meals means that I have lots of washing up to do
PRO – I get to watch endless movies and tv shows
CON – I have to watch reruns as my head is too fuzzy to concentrate on anything more
challenging
PRO – I can have ice-cream for breakfast (it’s medicinal!)
CON – I can’t eat anything crunchy or spicy as it hurts my throat
PRO – I have an excuse to make myself hot whisky toddies (they’re medicinal!)
CON – I have an inability to drink wine as can’t taste it and quite frankly it makes me
feel sick right now
PRO – I can hang out on the sofa with my lovely fluffy cat giving me a big cuddle
CON – I have to keep pushing my lovely fluffy cat off my lap as he makes me too hot in my already fevered state
PRO – I have lots of spare time to work on my blog
CON – I am too fuzzy headed to work on my blog
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Anyone for Pimms?!

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I love summer, as it means I can make a jug of my favorite drink, Pimms.  It’s refreshing, fruity, and you can drink it all afternoon without getting too boozy (although that depends on how strong you mix it and how many jugs you make!).

Pimms No1 Cup, to give it its official title, was first produced in 1823 and is a type of ‘fruit cup’ (a specifically English drink designed to be made into a long drink with the addition of a soft drink such as lemonade or ginger ale, see Wikipedia entry on ‘fruit cup’ for a full explanation). Its base is gin and it is flavored with various herbs and spices, as well as having its strength reduced. Seen as the quintessential summer drink, Pimms is one of two staple drinks at Wimbledon, the Chelsea Flower Show, the Henley Regatta and the Glyndebourne Festival Opera (the other being champers of course!).

The most traditional way to make a pitcher of Pimms is to add three parts ‘English-style’ lemonade (e.g. the clear lemonade, not cloudy) to one part Pimms to a large jug with lots of ice then drop in a cup of chopped fresh fruit (such as apple, orange, strawberries) plus cucumber and fresh mint leaves (originally borage).

Top tip: Use frozen strawberries to replace some of the ice. They soak up the yummy Pimms and don’t water it down the way the melted ice does.

You can also make up the Pimms pitcher with half and half lemonade and ginger ale or replace the lemonade fully with ginger ale. Or rather than making a jug of Pimms, you can make a ‘Pimms Royale’ which is 25ml of Pimms poured into a champagne flute and topped up with champagne.

However you drink your Pimms, and I strongly advise you to try it, remember, it’s always Pimms o’clock somewhere!

Unread, now read book 3 – The Cement Garden, Ian McEwan

The Cement Garden, Ian McEwan, book cover

I have slowed down a bit recently, I am currently on book four from my unread books on my bookshelf list – hopefully with the Christmas break coming I can get through quite a few more of them as having a prescribed reading list is already bothering me!

However, I am starting to think that rather than not having the time to read them the actual reason is that it’s because I know that I won’t enjoy them so I keep putting off reading them. Admittedly, I loved The Sense of an Ending, but I really didn’t like The Machine. And now I find myself striking out again, that’s two out of three!

I am sure that when The Cement Garden was published in 1978 it was shocking and confronting and was condemned by the ‘family’ newspapers and magazines for being ‘unnatural’, etc, etc. But coming to it in 2013, I just found it unpleasant and a bit boring. McEwan’s writing is good, I like his strong, sparse style, but his depiction of a socially isolated family turned in on itself, with the requisite incidences of abuse, incest and violence, which I am sure seemed so unnatural and sordid to the reader in 1978, just didn’t  engage me. Perhaps because it has been done so many times in recent years, maybe I have become dulled to this particular plot device. Possibly if I had read it 20 years ago, I would think differently…

Here’s hoping book number four works out!

Unread, now read book 2 – The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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I have no idea why this was sitting on my shelf unread, as I love Barnes’ writing; it is always so full of clarity and offers such beautiful lyrical intensity. The Sense of an Ending is the story of how memory can leads us astray and how an angry act in a single heated moment can result in a life lived differently, a life unfulfilled. For such a brief novel, I found it gripping, particularly the ‘big reveal’ at the end of the novel. In fact I was reluctant to pick up another book for a while as I just wanted to mull over The Sense of an Ending and savour it a while; the characters stayed with me, as did their actions, for several days afterwards. Well deserving of its status as Man Booker Prize Winner 2011. Oh and it has one of the most beautiful covers I have ever seen.

It is a truth universally acknowledged…that there can never be too many Austen adaptations

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This year was the bicentennial of the publication of Pride & Prejudice and its hero(ine)s still speak as much to women (and men) now as they did then. Love him or hate him, two hundred years on, Mr Darcy is here to stay. As are screen and book interpretations and adaptations of Pride & Prejudice, of which the latest to grace the silver screen is Austenland, possibly the most Meta of interpretations yet (and based on the novel by Shannon Hale).

Keri Russell plays Jane, a modern American woman who has been unlucky in love. Obsessed with Jane Austen’s novels and holding out who she sees as the perfect man (Mr Darcy of course), Jane is struggling to experience real romance in her life as no man ever measures up to her fantasy man. Literally; Jane has a lifesize cardboard cut-out of Colin Firth/Mr Darcy in her regency-decorated apartment (there is a LOT of chintz) and the only man we see visit her flat doesn’t come close to Darcy’s stature!

Eventually in desperation Jane decides to sink her life savings into ‘the romantic experience of a lifetime’ at Austenland in England, a regency themed house party that guarantees the Mr Darcy experience. Unfortunately when she arrives Jane finds out that she has only managed to afford the ‘copper package’, rather than the other two female guests (enthusiastically and hilariously played by Jennifer Coolidge and Georgia King) who are experiencing the ‘platinum package’; this means that Jane is treated as the poor relation of the house party, placed in a plain brown dress with her hair undressed, and introduced to the house party guests as ‘an orphan with no money to her name and taken in as a charitable act’ by the snobbish lady of the house, played superbly by Jane Seymour. As a result, all of the gentlemen with their ten thousand a year pay her no attention at all, in keeping with the mores of the time. And so Jane’s time passes. However, Mr Nobly acts almost nicely towards Jane sometime and there is always the groundsman, Martin, played convincingly by Bret McKenzie who seems very interested in Jane. But who is acting and who is real? Is anything at Austenland real (I am still not sure of the significance of the orange-faced footmen, can anyone enlighten me?!)?

What I enjoyed most about this film was the number of layers in it; you’re the audience watching a film in which actors play actors, playing regency characters. About two-thirds way through the film, the regency characters put on a play, thereby adding another layer. All good fun and some of the best scenes are when Kerri Russell’s character, Jane, steps back from the performance and asks herself what she really wants. Is all romance just a game? Can she really find true love while playing a part?

Does Jane find her Mr Darcy? That would be telling, but what I can say is that you will be thoroughly entertained finding out.