Monday, 20 February 2017

It's time...

It's finally time. At the grand old age of 22, I am finally doing something I've been putting off for years now. In truth it's been more of an intensified avoidance the past 2 years. In today's post I'm talking about learning to drive. 
For me it's not a thing to take lightly, and actually causes me a lot of anxiety.
In fact I nearly started lessons 3 years ago but ended up instead doing my motorbike CBT. Through bittersweet circumstances I  owned a motorbike at 19, that was not in the best condition. However I really couldn't afford it, and  although I loved the actual riding, I hated how vulnerable I felt on the road. It was these two things that caused to sell my bike last summer after not riding it for over a year.
You might think that being a rider might give me more confidence as a driver. Nope! I was so nervous that I avoided booking lessons for another 6 months. Shock horror, my anxiety never improved  because I had no outlet for it. Avoiding learning simply fed into it. To the point where I've begun to feel anxious when I'm a front seat passenger. Yep...
I finally pushed myself into booking lessons a couple of weeks back and I'm due to start then soon. 
I don't have high hopes of it being an easy thing for me to learn, but I'm proud of myself  for taking plunge.

So watch this space, learner drive coming through.

Abi X
P.s. How nervous where/are you about learning to drive? 

Friday, 17 February 2017

Trainspotting 2: review

You may remember about this time last year I was reviewing Trainspotting(the book) as part of the Infinite Variety challenge( RIP). In a brief summary, I found if totally naff. It's funny how things come around again, don't you think? 
Well I eventually watched the first film a few weeks back and really enjoyed it. I'll admit this surprised me, but it just such a unique film it's hard not to enjoy it. 

As you can imagine, it don't take much persuading from Lewis to pop down the local cinema to watch the new sequel. 
In truth we made a nice date night of it, albeit a cheap one. 
We stopped at the neighbouring Nandos before the show ( 20% Nhs discount, thank me later). Then we killed time at the Asda nearby( also bought these amazing pug sheets!). 
Onto the film! Now Lewis is a student member of The Times so we made use of their 2-4-1 offer on cinema tickets and treated ourselves to "VIP" seats. Which were soooo comfy and reclined(hell yeah) and I would defo recommend. 

We were feeling pretty chill heading into the ads. This feeling lasted throughout the whole film to be honest. It not only lives up to expectations but personally I enjoyed it more than the first one. It has te same realistic yet outlandish feel to it. There's a few trippy moments as previous which are included as effectively as the original. A great music soundtrack was a must, and didn't fail to deliver with artists such as Blondie and The Clash featuring. 
We even get updated monologue on "choose life" which is both modernised and cutting.

The only part I didn't enjoy was a scene early on which made me gag for about ten minutes. Managed to avoid saying a second hello to my Nandos... 
Still I would 10/10 recommend the film to anyone who enjoyed the first film.

 Would you go watch Trainspotying 2? What should I go see next in the cinema? 

Abi X

Monday, 13 February 2017

6 times you know you're an adult

This isn't a whine. It's a full on rant. This winter I can't seem to last more than fortnight before I'm ill again. I usually am quite prone to catching colds but this year has really taken the biscuit. So take it from me I've got plenty of practise looking after myself these past few months.

It seems that being ill and nursing yourself back to health(eventually) is a right of passage in adulthood. It got me thinking at this tender age of 22, it's time I accepted that I am officially in the adult club. It can't be avoided. Instead I've decided on aversion therpay. I'v ecreated a list fo definitive moments which make you realise you impending adulthood.
  1. Being ill away from home//it sucks but hey ho we all have to get through it and provide our own TLC
  2. Council Tax// why are there no convenient guides? It's taken me a while to get on top of this. First underpaying, then overpaying. You're not an adult until you've had to faff around with your council tax.
  3. Doctors visits// Similar to number 1 oin this list, you're not really an adult until you have to sort your own quack visits out. No parents, no mates after school, all on your ownsome.
  4. Buying house things// that time you got excited about a new ironing board? Yep, definitely an adult thing
  5. Bedtime// being a grown up means that you go to bed when you want. It's especially gratifying when you realise you can go to bed early with no interrogation! 
  6. booking a holiday// okay, so you can do this as a late teen but still there's something satisfying about booking a cheeky weekend somewhere. Just. Because. You. Can.
Just a few ideas for you! What would you add o this list? 

Abi x

Sunday, 12 February 2017

My relationship with running

I can't run. These words crop up often in my thoughts. Running to me has always been a challenge. I've never had much endurance and frankly hated any long distance running forced on me at school. I'm lucky enough to work in an environment in which exercise is actively promoted. Part of that includes running. 
I see running as a challenge that I want to master. 
To that aim I've signed up for a few races. The first of which being at the end of May. It's scary but if I keep consistently training it'll be manageable.

I've been mad googling tips and asking people for advice. The best I've come up with is just to be consistent and sensible in training. 
I'll be talking about this new life development (haha) more on the blog in future. So if you have any advice send it my way! 

Abi X

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Part 2// Elisenda Domènech Investigations by Chris Lloyd

So, this is the second part of the City of Drowned Souls blog tour. In case you missed it (not sure how like) then I got to chat with the author Chris Lloyd here. If you read that post and wondered why I didn't talk much about the actual books, then this post is the one you're after!

Let's get down to business then. The series consists of 3 books all based on the investigations of the brilliant Elisenda Domènech...

Book 1: City of Good Death (Elisenda Domènech Investigations #1)
Originally published by Canelo in July 2015, it can be accessed on Goodreads and Amazon.
An intense and brilliantly realised crime thriller set in the myth-soaked streets of Girona

A killer is targeting hate figures in the Catalan city of Girona – a loan shark, a corrupt priest, four thugs who have blighted the streets of the old quarter – leaving clues about his next victim through mysterious effigies left hung on a statue. Each corpse is posed in a way whose meaning no one can fathom. Which is precisely the point the murderer is trying to make.

Elisenda Domènech, the solitary and haunted head of the city’s newly-formed Serious Crime Unit, is determined to do all she can to stop the attacks. She believes the attacker is drawing on the city’s legends to choose his targets, but her colleagues aren’t convinced and her investigation is blocked at every turn.

Battling against the increasing sympathy towards the killer displayed by the press, the public and even some of the police, she finds herself forced to question her own values. But when the attacks start to include less deserving victims, the pressure is suddenly on Elisenda to stop him. The question is: how?

The second book in the series is called  "City of Buried Ghosts" and arrived in 2016 courtesy of Canelo. It can also be found on Goodreads and Amazon.

Be careful what you dig up… Still recovering from the tragedy that hit her team, Elisenda takes on a new case. Except it’s not new. On an archaeological dig by the coast a body is uncovered, seemingly executed with a spike thrust through the base of the skull – an ancient tribal ritual. It soon becomes clear that this body is neither ancient nor modern, but a mysterious corpse from the 1980s. Assigned to the case along with her team, Elisenda soon uncovers a complex world of star archaeologists, jealousy and missing persons. They find a dark trade in illicit antiquities, riddled with vicious professional rivalries. And even though she’s staying close to the crime scene, Elisenda is also never far from enemies of her own within the police force. Just as the case seems to become clear it is blown wide-open by another horrific murder. Elisenda must fight her personal demons and office politics, whilst continuing to uncover plots and hatreds that were long buried. How far will she go to solve the crime? Is her place in the force secure? And can she rebuild her life? The atmospheric second crime thriller featuring Catalan detective Elisenda Domènech, for readers of Val McDermid and Ann Cleeves

The brand new third installment: City of Drowned Souls was realesed just two days ago! How neat, eh? It brings the most thrilling investication yet...
When a child disappears, the clock starts ticking Detective Elisenda Domènech has had a tough few years. The loss of her daughter and a team member; the constant battles against colleagues and judges; the harrowing murder investigations… But it’s about to get much worse. When the son of a controversial local politician goes missing at election time, Elisenda is put on the case. They simply must solve it. Only the team also have to deal with a spate of horrifically violent break-ins. People are being brutalised in their own homes and the public demands answers. Could there be a connection? Why is nobody giving a straight answer? And where is Elisenda’s key informant, apparently vanished off the face of the earth? With the body count threatening to increase and her place in the force on the line, the waters are rising… Be careful not to drown.

That's a wrap folks! It's bee lovely hosting Chris Lloyd on Bluestripedsquare and talking alll about his work!

Abi x

Part1 // Elisenda Domènech Investigations by Chris Lloyd

In all seriousness an unprecendented event is occuring in todays post! Not only is it another bookish post(hitting those goals or what this year?!), I'm happy to say it;'s a lovely and substantial blog post that even includes a few words from author Chris Lloyd.

A brief little snippet about our esteemed guest:
Chris was born in an ambulance racing through a town he’s only returned to once and that’s probably what did it. Soon after that, when he was about two months old, he moved with his family to West Africa, which pretty much sealed his expectation that life was one big exotic setting. He later studied Spanish and French at university, and straight after graduating, he hopped on a bus from Cardiff to Catalonia where he stayed for the next twenty-four years, falling in love with the people, the country, the language and Barcelona Football Club, probably in that order. Besides Catalonia, he’s also lived in Grenoble, the Basque Country and Madrid, teaching English, travel writing for Rough Guides and translating. He now lives in South Wales, where he works as a writer and a Catalan and Spanish translator, returning to Catalonia as often as he can.

With such a varied background it was only fitting I ask Chris alabout his favourite places! I've been lucky enough to pin him down on his top ten, with the small allowance of the list including both places already visited and those he'd like to visit...

Sitting down to look at the top ten places that have meant the most to me has made me realise just how much I love European cities – there’s nothing better than losing myself in their streets and finding somewhere to drink a wine or a coffee and watch the world go by. I call it research. It is, honestly. There are also a lot of places in Spain on my list. I lived there for 24 years and loved every moment – it still plays an important part in my life, so you’ll have to forgive me for a Spanish bias in the places below.

1. Since I write stories set in the beautiful Catalan city of Girona, it really has to be the top of my list. I first went there when I was 20 to work as a language teaching assistant, and I fell in love with it from the very first moment. At that time, it was recovering its identity after forty years of Franco’s dictatorship and over the years it’s transformed itself into a pretty cool, laid-back place with lashings of arts festivals, wonderful traditional and adventurous cuisine, and a fantastic café culture. And when you add to that the beauty of the city itself – with medieval walls surrounding a labyrinthine old town, a hugely atmospheric Jewish Quarter, a café-lined Rambla that’s perfect for people-watching, a cathedral towering over the city atop the highest Rococo staircase in the world – you’ll see why I’m smitten.
2. Staying with Catalonia for the moment, I lived in Barcelona for 16 years and it’s everything great you’ve ever heard about it and more. From the captivating views over the whole city from the terrace bars halfway up Tibidabo mountain, down through the Modernist architecture of the Eixample’s gridiron streets to the bustle of the Gothic Quarter and the port, it oozes cool delight. My favourite parts of town have always been Gràcia and El Born. Originally a village that Barcelona engulfed as it grew, the narrow streets of Gràcia are joyously out of tune with the wide boulevards around it and home to great bars and restaurants. El Born is near the port, and in just a small area there are world-class museums, including the Picasso Museum, stunning Gothic architecture and more than a smattering of traditional and modern places to eat and drink.

3. I know it’s probably not the most surprising of choices, but Paris has to be one of my favourite cities. We went recently for my wife’s birthday, when we stayed in our favourite place on the Left Bank: a hotel on a lively square right in front of the Sorbonne. Like all great European cities, it has the perfect blend of huge brushstrokes and delicate and almost hidden nuances. There are few places I know with a more enchanting contrast between the grandeur of the great buildings and museums and the charm of the narrow alleys and neighbourhood shops and cafes. A city to love and be loved.

4. Some years ago, I drove along Route 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and it felt exactly like being in my own road movie. It was winter and there were hardly any people in the various places I stopped, so it was like I had the coast to myself to make up any story I wanted. My favourite spots were the classical Spanish splendour of Santa Barbara, Morro Bay with its noisy seabirds, and super-chic Carmel and the stunning views of seal colonies from near the town. The trip ended in San Francisco, where I found the people incredibly welcoming and the choice of wonderful family restaurants in Little Italy too much to bear.

5. Sometimes it’s the small moments that leave a more lasting memory. I first visited Gernika in the 1980s, the town made infamous by the Fascist bombing in the Spanish Civil War – Hitler trying out his blitzkrieg tactics – and famous since for Picasso’s painting. In those days, not many people visited the town, and an elderly janitor at the Vizcayan Assembly showed me around the ancient building and the tree that had survived the bombing, a symbol of resistance. He then pointed to a road in the distance and told me that on the day of the bombing he and his mother had been bringing their cow to market when they saw the planes fly over. His mother had made him take shelter under the cow while they watched the destruction, his mother in tears. Now the building is open to the public and there are museums and shops selling images of Picasso’s painting on plates and tea-towels, but I still always recall the kindness of the old man to me and his story of hiding under the cow and his mother weeping.

6. Another of my passions is Roman history, so it’s no surprise that Rome has to make it into my top ten. It is just the most awe-inspiring city I’ve ever visited. The sight of cars and scooters racing blithely around buildings that have stood there for thousands of years and people of all ages drinking coffees and caught up in their own worlds on terraces opposite a jumble of Roman ruins and Renaissance architecture is completely surreal.

7. Linked to this is another place that has left me breathless. I’ve been to southern Italy a couple of times, both times fully intending to explore the area but both times spending the entire week wandering through the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The sheer extent of the excavations and the glimpse of everyday life of ordinary people two thousand years ago is just too exciting not to spend every minute possible there.

8. Until I was six years old, I lived in Sierra Leone, but my memories are the disjointed images of childhood: spiders bigger than my hand, driver ants cutting a swathe through the bush. My most vivid memory was my parents rescuing a baby pygmy hippo whose mother had been killed by poachers. He was tiny and they kept him in the bath until someone from a conservation sanctuary could fetch him. On the first evening, he cried like a human baby, a sound I’ve never forgotten, and my mum and dad took turns to comfort him through the night. I’d love to go back one day to put those random memories into some sort of context.

9. Somewhere I’ve never been but that I’d love to visit are the Nordic countries, and that’s thanks to a very great extent to the fabulous crime fiction that comes out of them. Landscape creates character and story, and they’re such a contrast to the Mediterranean area that I know that I can’t help feeling hugely intrigued by Scandinavia and Iceland. They’re very firmly on my to-do list.

10. To bring my list of places back full circle, I’m returning to Girona, but this time to its coastline, more specifically to the GR 92 coastal footpath. The Costa Brava used to labour under a fairly negative image, but in recent years, the local government has worked hard to undo a lot of the excesses of the tourist boom. A great symbol of this is the GR 92, restored drovers’ trails and coastguards’ paths, which swoops in and out of tiny coves and long beaches for 100 kilometres from tip to toe of the coast – a lovely contrast of tranquillity and vibrancy, where you can walk for hours by the sea without meeting a soul and then find yourself surrounded by a beach full of bathers. And, of course, where you can cool off in the Mediterranean anytime you choose.

That’s my top ten narrowed down as much as I can. I hope you like them and maybe agree with some of them. And maybe even want to visit the ones you don’t know. I know I’ve had great fun recalling them all.

If this post doesn't satisfy your wandering urge then do the next best thing. Dive into a new world from the medium of reading. In fact why not check out Chris's novels? Check out the second part of my entry to the blog tour.

What would make your top ten places?

Abi x