November book review

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Havana

Good effort with 3 books read within the last month 🙂

Book number 19

Book read: Step by Step: The Life in my Journeys by Simon Reeve

An awesome book from TV presenter Simon Reeve and possibly my favourite book so far this year. Simon gives an honest account of his incredibly interesting life and he opened my eyes to important global issues.

Simon comes from a modest ‘normal’ background where he grew up in West London with his teacher father, mother and his younger brother. He describes his difficult teenage years where he left school with few qualifications, battled with depression and basically didn’t feel he had much hope in his life.

He got into journalism with a job in the post room and became involved in research. He wrote a book on terrorism before the terrorist attacks of 9-11 after which he became well known as an author, leading to TV appearances and a TV career.

Simon’s first TV travel adventure was called ‘Meet the Stans’ and at the beginning of Chapter 13 he describes the anticlimax felt when he arrived back in London after filming the first half of the series. For me, coming back from any trip and back to the routine of life is always an anticlimax although, as Simon points out, travelling around the world is an “abnormal privilege” and something unthinkable for the vast majority of the world’s population.

Simon describes the issue of migrant workers in Chapter 18, whereby countries such as the UK save money by recruiting Ghanaian health workers which is more than the money they give to Ghana in health aid! This is an issue I’ve never previously considered… how much of this goes on? ‘Rich’ countries making themselves look good with foreign aid donations while simultaneously saving millions with cheap migrant labour!

I resonated with a paragraph at the end of Chapter 19 where Simon suggests we should add meaning and adventure to our trips; for example, by going to strange places, taking chances and embracing risk, rather than “lying horizontal by the pool”. So delving into the culture of a place and not sticking within the confines of the hotel.

Furthermore, Chapter 21 was also close to my heart and values and offers Simon’s take on the environmental consequences of travel. He advises we seek out authentic travel experiences and understand that when we pay our national park entrance fees, we are helping to preserve  “the greatest wildlife on the planet”.

All in all, a brilliant and highly recommended book!

 

Book number 20

Book read: It’s on the Meter: One taxi, Three Mates and 43,000 Miles of Misadventure Around the World by Paul Archer and Johno Ellison

This was another inspiring travel and adventure book! This is about 3 lads who, after a drunken evening, agreed to buy a London taxi and embark on ‘the longest taxi journey in the world…’

A short while later they were en-route from London to Sydney… the beginning, the Europe section was ‘laddish’ with tales of getting drunk almost every evening with their couch surfing hosts. I had no problem with this given they were all in their 20’s and it was fun to read of their antics.

The book got more interesting as they ventured towards Central Asia and described the issues they faced with their journey across borders into countries such as Iran and Pakistan. And their drive across the highest point in the world, Everest Basecamp!

Their adventure was event featured in the Daily Mail!

Another exciting ‘hard to put down’ book!

 

Book number 21

Book read: Remembering Che: My Life With Che Guevara by Aleida March

I picked up this book in Varadero airport at the end of my trip to Cuba where, throughout a week of seeing his iconic image at almost every turn, I was intrigued to learn more about Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution.

Of over 20 books I’ve now read so far this year, this is only the third paperback with the rest being Kindle books as downloaded to my iPad. However with a recent holiday to Grenada I had saved this book until then.

Learning about history has interested me much more as I’ve got older; having seen places around the world I can now relate to them in a way that they seem much more real than ever being taught from a text book at school. To be honest, I was never keen on history lessons back then.

This book was written by Aleida March who was Che’s wife and the mother of 4 of his 5 children. Argentinian Che met Cuban born Aleida when they were both guerrillas in the Cuban Revolutionary army. The book describes her early life and her life with Che until the point he was assassinated in Bolivia in 1967.

This is an incredible story of her militant life back in the day when many women were housewives. The book was difficult to follow at times but gave a fascinating account of  Cuban history and a side of Che Guevara that would previously have been unknown.

Another fascinating book!

 

 

 

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End of Sober October!

Today marks the end of 4 weeks lasting through October without consuming any alcohol; the longest booze-free stretch of time since 1995 when I was pregnant with my daughter Zoe!

The most difficult thing has been the lack of variety of non-alcoholic drinks; basically the choices are: water, juices, tea, coffee and a very limited choice of non alcoholic beer or wine. I’ve acquired quite a taste for Fentimans ginger beer however!

Health-wise I don’t feel much different; maybe slightly more focussed and switched on? I haven’t lost any weight, firstly because I don’t want to and secondly because many non-alcoholic drinks contain as many calories as those with alcohol. Hopefully however my liver is now nicely detoxed which has made me conscious to take better care of it in the future.

Socially has been the most difficult time. Last week a few of my colleagues went out after work for my friend Teresa’s 50th birthday drinks and while they were enjoying the usual wines, beers and gins, I had a pot of tea…

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Time for tea!

 

 

 

Volunteer beach clean

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Last weekend I fulfilled another of my challenges and Chris and I spent Sunday morning walking up and down Gorleston Beach picking up litter! Gorleston-on-Sea is a Norfolk town between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft on the East Coast of England. The weather was awesome and a perfect 20 degrees which is unusual for mid October.

I’m keen that this is more than just a ‘tick box’ exercise, that is something to make me feel good just to tick off my list. Since our travels in 2016 and witnessing first hand the plastic pollution in beautiful locations around the world, I have felt passionate about the need to reduce plastic waste and do my bit to look after the environment.

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I signed up with the Marine Conservation Society and together with over 100 volunteers we scoured the beach and collected every piece of litter we could find. We were told to focus on the small pieces of litter as much as or if not more so that the bigger pieces. Tiny pieces of plastic are mistaken for food by marine life.

We found all manner of litter, most of which was plastic. Sometimes it was buried in the sand and difficult to spot. We found a lot of chocolate wrappers, plastic straws and plastic bags. One of the seafront cafes serves hot drinks and provides a small red plastic wrapped biscuit on the saucer. Needless to say, around this area of the beach we found several tiny ‘edges’ where people had unwrapped their biscuit and dropped the corner, or allowed it to be swept away by the wind.

I’ve since sent a message to ask the cafe to consider serving unwrapped complimentary biscuits!

I really enjoyed the beach clean and would far rather do this than sit on the beach and read a book. We’re going to look for more beach cleans and opportunities for something similar.

 

 

 

October book review(s)

Book number 17

Book read: Grand Adventures by Alastair Humphreys

A short but HUGELY inspiring book which has given me loads of ideas for my own adventures! Alastair is enthusiastic and he explains how, with an example of a £1000 budget, you can set about planning all kinds of exciting trips! As I was reading this book I started to jot down some ideas:

  • Drive across Australia
  • Drive across Canada
  • Drive around Europe
  • Travel by land and sea from London to Sydney
  • Travel across Madagascar independently by train
  • Climb Kilimanjaro
  • Trek the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal
  • Cycle Eurovelo routes
  • Cycle and wild camp around Iceland
  • Drive the Wild Atlantic Way (Ireland)
  • Walk the length of New Zealand
  • Walk to Rome
  • South West Coast path
  • UK Coast to Coast
  • Pembrokeshire Coast
  • Bibbulman track (Western Australia)
  • Routeburn track (New Zealand)
  • Dolomites trek

(Some of these are not new ideas but I thought I would capture them in any case)

 

Book number 18

Book read: Walk Sleep Repeat by Stephen Reynolds

This book was somewhat tame by comparison but still an enjoyable read. Once I got into it… I started to become a bit irritated by “Dear Reader” references on almost every page but I got used to this as being the author’s writing style. Although when he started waffling on about which flavour Weetabix drink to have in the morning I did start to question why I was reading the book…

Whereas the likes of Alastair Humphreys and Chris Pountney fill a book with a 12 month plus cycling adventure, this was an entire book about a one week trek along the 100 mile West Highland Way.

However as I continued to read I found I really like the way Stephen Reynolds writes. He has a lovely descriptive manner that makes you feel you are walking the West Highland Way right next to him. Which is nice.

He is really likeable and I started to think of him as a mate, an honest, down-to-Earth kind of chap, someone you would like to sit in a pub with at the end of a busy day and exchange stories.

And on a positive note, if he can string out a book from a week of walking, a popular walk that many thousands have done in the past, I’m sure there would be a market for my 2016 adventures!

  • Walk the West Highland Way (just adding another adventure…)

 

 

Sober October… half way point

Exactly two weeks into my four week teetotal challenge! And it has been a challenge this week… firstly being away for work in Liverpool and visiting the Spanish tapas bar which does the best ever Margaritas… drinking ginger flavoured Elderflower Presse doesn’t quite cut it…

Secondly being away on a walking weekend in Suffolk where everyone was drinking alcohol… I felt better when I had my non-alcohol ginger beer served with ice in a large goldfish bowl glass instead of a boring straight glass… at least I could pretend there was a shot of gin in there too…

On a positive note I slept far better in Liverpool than on the previous two occasions (in August and September). And I didn’t have to do the Sunday walk with a hangover!

I’m hoping that as I’ve reached 2 weeks without alcohol, my liver is starting to detox itself and get rid of any fatty things…

 

 

Sober October: one week down…

The first totally alcohol free week I’ve had in months, since early January in fact when I did a detox week!

It seems that many middle aged adults, me included, drink alcohol as part of their lifestyle. I am in a habit of opening a bottle of wine while cooking, drinking wine while out for a meal and generally drinking whenever the opportunity arises.

Last week coincided with our first ‘organic veg box’ delivery which encouraged Chris and me to cook more at home and cook more healthily. This would usually have been the ideal time for a bottle of wine!

On Friday evening we complemented our dinner with a bottle of alcohol free wine, which was actually quite tasty. Then on Saturday we discovered ‘alcohol free gin and tonic’ from M & S! Freshly chilled this was actually really tasty and gave us that drinking experience of having something a bit special with our dinner but without the alcohol.

Public Health England and Drink Aware recently launched a campaign called ‘Drink Free Days‘ to help people to reduce their alcohol intake. This will most likely be my approach once Sober October has finished where I’ll aim for 3 alcohol free days a week 🙂 Lets see how things go…

 

 

 

Organic fruit and veg box

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Our first organic fruit and veg box arrived yesterday and I was delighted that, other than the pack of salad leaves, there were no plastic bags in sight! The grapes were in a cardboard container and the rest was loose in the box (which we can return to the driver next week).

At £18.75 this isn’t a cheap option however from what we’ve tried so far the fruit tastes delicious and being organic it has to be healthier! We’ve already planned some creative meals to ensure we don’t waste any of this fruit or veg. This may even result in a more cost effective option if we plan our meals properly and stay at home and cook more often rather going out for something to eat several times a week.

While shopping for the extra ingredients for these planned healthy meals, today I made a conscious point of reducing plastic for example by buying black olives, tomato puree, herbs and spices in glass jars rather than plastic containers 🙂

On another note, Chris ordered a bar of shampoo for us to try rather than using plastic bottles.

Go us! We’re on a roll….

 

 

 

 

Sober October starts tomorrow…

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Chris and me enjoying a bottle of wine recently

My husband Chris and I are both doing a sober October challenge meaning today is the last day of alcohol for the next 4 weeks (ours is a ‘4 week October’ challenge to end on Monday 29th…)

No more bottles of wine to accompany meals… no cocktails when I’m in Liverpool again soon and no alcohol on a forthcoming walking weekend… maybe it should be ‘somber October’…

The main reason for this challenge is health in order to give my liver a rest and a chance to repair itself. Drinkaware has some guidance on this and its quite shocking that a woman who drinks a couple of glasses of wine a day for a couple of weeks can start to develop ‘fatty liver’ where the liver gets “stuffed with fat”… this doesn’t sound too good however the promising thing is that if you stop drinking alcohol for 2 weeks the liver starts to shed this excess fat!

I’m not sure if I have a fatty liver or not (quite likely as I probably do drink a couple of glasses of wine a day on average), but I’m hoping that 4 weeks should give it a chance to become much healthier.

Alcohol is also connected to 7 types of cancer so another good reason to reduce my intake.

I’m also interested to see if my sleeping improves… last night I had a large glass of red and a Cointreau and then found myself wide awake from 00:45 to 03:45.

Will provide an update in due course…

 

 

Plastic reduction update

According to Greenpeace, 12.7 million tons of plastic are dumped in our oceans each year, choking turtles and seabirds and ending up in the stomachs of sea creatures such as whales.

I’ve made some small changes throughout this year to reduce my plastic footprint:

  1. Using a refillable water bottle rather than buying single use bottles of water. The only exception I can think of was during my week in Cuba where I didn’t have my water-to-go bottle with me. In Croatia last week I drank tap water from our apartment’s kitchen tap every time which was apparently safe to drink… well, I had no ill effects throughout the week 🙂
  2. I was annoyed with myself for recently buying a 3 small packs of pineapple chunks which were supplied in 3 lots of plastic tubs. What an idiot… I could have brought a single fresh pineapple for the same price and with no extra plastic used.
  3. I’ve finally got myself organised and have just ordered an organic fruit and veg box from Riverford Organics. Riverford have an environmental policy for their packaging and use cardboard boxes rather than plastic bags. I’m hoping this is going to be viable to do on a weekly basis… my concern is that I have to be at home to take the order so I need to fit around my ‘work at home’ days which vary on a weekly basis…
  4. I use soap instead of shower gel… sometimes…
  5. I buy chocolate wrapped in foil and paper and try to avoid plastic wrapped chocolate. For example, a few months ago I brought a large bag of Dime bars from an airport and it only occurred to me when I got home that each of the 80 or so dime pieces were wrapped in 80 small pieces of plastic…

I haven’t done any research but from my own memories of the 70’s and 80’s, fizzy drinks and milk were supplied in glass bottles, sweets were put into small white paper bags, chocolate bars were wrapped in paper, fish and chips were provided in newspaper (and not placed in a plastic bag), packs of toilet rolls were produced in a paper outer wrapping, parcels arrived wrapped in brown paper (rather than plastic bags) and fruit and veg came in brown paper bags.

I feel I still have a way to go before I confirming I have significantly reduced my plastic consumption but will continue working towards this…

 

 

 

Job app news…

… “you have not been shortlisted on this occasion…”

Second job applied for and no interview for this one either. At least this one didn’t inform me that I must be disappointed! I was politely wished ‘every success’ in my future career!

I’m still thinking of this as a ‘win win’ situation… I now have an up-to-date CV and 3 pages of my work achievements all nicely summarised so if any future opportunities arise, it wouldn’t take long to put in an application.

And as a director role it would have meant more pressure, more responsibility and probably longer hours. At the moment I’ve got an excellent work/life balance and I’m in no hurry to work late or work weekends or have a stressy job.

Unless it pays a big fat salary… as this one did…

But all is good! I’ll continue to enjoy my current job and maybe apply if any more ‘exceptional’ opportunities arise.