Six degrees of separation: From Daisy Jones & the Six to…

I came across this link up on stargazer’s blog and thought it was so fun! Basically the host – Kate – assigns a starting book from which all participants build a chain, adding six books, one at a time, with each having something in common with the one before it to see where they end up.

This month, the starting book is Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

Daisy Jones

I haven’t actually read Daisy Jones yet (or The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo… I know, I know. Am I even a reader?) but from what I am aware it’s about a singer called Daisy Jones and a famous rock band in the 70s. I’ve seen it compared to the actual story of Fleetwood Mac, which intrigues me. And now for my chain:

1. Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett features a character whose father is a formerly famous punk rocker, so that’s a connection with musicians. Tentative? Maybe, but I’ll take it.

A major component of this book involves camping in the wilderness and stargazing, which brings me to…

2. Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass. Three teens are brought together at Moon Shadow, an isolated campground where thousands have gathered to catch a glimpse of a rare and extraordinary total eclipse of the sun. Two of the three teens in the story find out that they’re going to be moving, one to Moon Shadow and one away from it, into the city, where she’s terrified that she won’t fit in.

3. Ella on the Outside by Cathy Howe is another book involving a move. Ella is new in town and is trying her best to fit in at her new school. When a popular girl befriends her, Ella finds herself dealing with blackmail and lies, and has to figure out the right thing to do.

4. What Lexie Did by Emma Shevah also has a main character who is struggling to work out the right thing to do, and the difference between being honest and telling tales. When one spontaneous, jealous lie ends up tearing her family apart poor Lexie is more confused than ever. Lexie is part of a Greek-Cypriot family and there are many descriptions of food in the book that made my mouth water, which brings me to…

5. Born Confused by Tanuja Desei Hidier. This book is about a teenager in the US, Dimple Lala, who has spent her whole life rejecting her Indian parent’s culture. But now she’s in high school and suddenly everything Indian is trendy. Like with What Lexie Did, there’s a lot of food in this book and every time Dimple’s mum started cooking I honestly started craving curries and samosas!

6. The Girl in the Broken Mirror by Savita Kalhan. Finally, I come to another book about the daughter of Indian parents who is caught between two cultures, in this case in the UK. When Jay and her mother are forced to move in with Jay’s aunt and uncle, life becomes very difficult for Jay. Her aunt is very strict about what a good Indian girl should and should not do and would absolutely not approve of Jay having non-Indian friends. But as it turns out, that’s only the beginning of Jay’s nightmare. This is a hard hitting book that absolutely broke me when I read it last year. Without meaning to spoil anything, I feel like I have to inform you that this book involves a sexual assault.

So, there’s my chain. I hope I’ve done it right! I had fun doing it anyway. Somehow all of these books are children’s and young adult fiction, which is interesting (and unintentional)!

You can see the original post (and chain) here and also find other people’s chains in the comments, where you can also add your link if you decide to join in too.

What I read in December 2019

Good morning friends! It’s the first Show Us Your Books link up of the year, and I’m here to tell you about the books I read in December. In terms of actual books, it isn’t as many as usual but I read most of It by Stephen King in December, which is a lot of pages! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning…

I’m linking up with Steph and Jana, of course.

show-us-your-books-2016-300by300

What She Saw by Wendy Clarke. First of all, the actual synopsis of this book is totally misleading so I’m going to try to write my own. Leona and her daughter Beth have always been close. But their closeness has meant Beth struggled to make friends. Her mother’s over-protectiveness has led her to be sheltered and totally reliant on her parents. Meanwhile, Leona has a secret that she can’t tell anybody – not even Beth. Something in her past has caused her to be wary of strangers and meant she’s had to lie to Beth ever since she was a child. Could that past now be catching up with them? This is a reasonable enough thriller but rather predictable. I guessed most of the twists, apart from being misled on one thing I expected to happen that didn’t. 2.5 stars. I think the author has potential but this particular book was average.

The Real Katie Lavender by Erica James. 30-year-old Katie Lavender thinks she is better than most when it comes to dealing with life’s surprises. But when she loses her job and receives a request to visit a solicitor all on the same day, she has no idea of the dramatic turn her life is about to take. The solicitor gives her a letter from her deceased mother that will change everything Katie thought she knew about herself. So. Much. Drama. This is more soap opera than book. Everyone is having affairs, half the characters are adopted. Suspension of belief is one thing but so much happening in one family eventually just became ridiculous. And most of the characters didn’t feel authentic – either cliché or too perfect. It’s an easy read and goes by quickly (with so much going on it has too!) but honestly it’s not that great. 2 stars.

The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf. When you’re a hypochondriac, there are a million different things that could be wrong with you, but for Izzy, focusing on what could be wrong might be keeping her from dealing with what’s really wrong. With her mother suffering from a rare disease, a best friend who seems to have suffered a personality transplant, and a way-out-of-her league maybe boyfriend who keeps blowing hot and cold, Izzy’s life feels out of control. But when the worst-case scenario actually happens Izzy realises there’s no handy list of symptoms to help her through. This book is a little predictable and there were almost too many issues, but I actually quite liked reading it. Parts of it are actually pretty funny. I felt bad for Izzy even if she caused some of her own problems. 3.5 stars.

Normal People by Sally Rooney. Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland, but the similarities end there. They couldn’t be more different. Connell is one of the most popular boys at their high school, handsome,star of the football team and an excellent student. The only thing he lacks is money. Marianne is from a fairly well-off family,  but she’s plain-looking, odd, stubborn and completely ostracised at school. However, there is a deep and undeniable connection between the two teenagers, one that develops into a secret relationship. When both are accepted into Trinity College in Dublin, their roles end up being reversed. This book follows the two of them throughout their university years, as they fall in and out of romance. And as Marianne experiments with an increasingly dangerous string of boyfriends, Connell must decide how far he is willing to go to save his oldest friend. I bought this on a whim at the train station because I needed something for the journey home and I’m so glad I did. I read the entire thing on the train and enjoyed every minute. It’s emotional, hard hitting, thought provoking. I can imagine a lot of people hating it but I loved it. It reminded me a lot of One Day. The characters’ failure to communicate drove me crazy at times but the author perfectly captured the feeling of not fitting in. Not quite a 5 star read, but almost… I’m giving it 4.5.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell. When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. Now, newly married, newly widowed, and pregnant, Elsie is sent to her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge. With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Behind a locked door inside her home, she finds a painted wooden figure – a silent companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of the estate are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition until other strange things start to happen. This is a great read. Very creepy and gothic. And I was not expecting the ending at all. 4.5 stars.

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen. This is the story of various people who all end up wearing the same little black dress for one reason or another, for example a Bloomingdale’s salesgirl who would love a way to get back at her lawyer ex-boyfriend who’s engaged to someone else after just two months, a woman has been quietly in love with her happily married boss for twenty years and, now he’s a widower, just needs the right situation to make him see how perfect she is for him, and a private detective specialising in finding evidence on cheating husbands. For all of them, everything is about to change, thanks to the dress of the season. This is a cute, quick read. It’s kind of fluffy and with so many characters it doesn’t truly go into depth with any story but it’s perfect escapism and I really enjoyed it. Definitely nothing earth shattering but a nice palate cleanser. 4 stars.

In the Dark by Cara Hunter. The second in the DI Adam Fawley seires. A woman and young child are found locked in a basement room, barely alive. Nobody knows who they are and the woman can’t – or won’t – speak. The elderly man who owns the house, and seems to be suffering from dementia, claims he has never seen them before.The inhabitants of the quiet Oxford street are in shock – how could this happen right under their noses? But DI Adam Fawley knows that nothing is impossible, and nobody is as innocent as they seem. I loved the first book in this series, but found the ending a little hard to swallow. This second book was even better. It’s a great thriller with many twists and turns – by the end you’re not sure whether anyone can be trusted! And I really didn’t expect the final twist. I am very excited to continue with this series. 5 stars.

The Clocks by Agatha Christie. Sheila Webb, typist-for-hire, arrives at 19 Wilbraham Crescent in the seaside town of Crowdean to accept a new job. Instead, she finds a well-dressed corpse surrounded by five clocks. Mrs. Pebmarsh, the blind owner of No. 19, denies all knowledge of ringing Sheila’s secretarial agency and asking for her by name, and neither does she own all those clocks. And neither woman seems to know the victim. Colin Lamb, a young intelligence specialist working a case of his own – and a friend of the police detective who ends up taking on the case – happens to be on the scene at the time of Sheila Webb’s ghastly discovery. Lamb knows of only one man who can properly investigate a crime as bizarre and baffling as this – his friend and mentor Hercule Poirot. This was the first ever Agatha Christie book I read, back when I was 10! I read it again for the first time in over 20 years on the plane home from England. It’s pretty typical Christie fare full of intrigue and mysterious relationships. I was certainly kept entertained, and after all this time I couldn’t remember who the culprit was. It’s a slightly bizarre addition to the Poirot series given that Poirot only turns up at the very end and doesn’t actually do any investigating, but following Colin Lamb is just as interesting. Maybe not Christie’s best work, but this was a fun bit of nostalgia for me. 4 stars.

It by Stephen King. Finally we come to the behemoth that is this book. I started it in October and read 212 pages then abandoned it for Believathon, which meant I read 1164 pages of it December! Most people know what this book is about, so just quickly: Only the children of Derry could see and feel what made their home town so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, It lurked, taking on the shape of every person’s deepest dread. Sometimes it reared up, going on a killing spree, before falling back into a sleep. Until one group of children figured out a way to stop the cycle for that year. Time passed, the children grew up, moved away, forgot. But now it’s starting again and the grown-up children have been called back again to confront It once more and this time, hopefully, put a stop to it for good. Stephen King certainly can write! It takes talent to hold my attention throughout most of a book this long. There were parts I didn’t like as much and I did think there were a few tangents that could have been left out. Also one particular scene was just horrible and entirely unnecessary! I’m sure he could have found a better way to renew the children’s bond (if you’ve read it, you’ll know). It definitely did not need to be over 1,300 pages long, but overall I really liked it. A solid 4 star read.

And that’s it. Nine books is relatively few for me, but as I said, in terms of page count I still read a lot!

TL;DR. If you really need this for a post with only 9 books I’m not sure you can be helped! However, I shall give you my recommendations anyway: thriller fans please read the DI Adam Fawley series by Cara Hunter. I promise they’re not your usual police procedural books. I feel like Normal People will be a Marmite type book (you will either love it or hate it) but I really liked it. The Silent Companions is a great gothic book and a fairly quick read. And I expect you will know whether you’re interested in reading It or not.

Check out the link up for more book recommendations, and let me know if you’ve read any of these books and what you thought of them.

That’s all from me. Hope you have an awesome day/afternoon/night/whatever!

Favourite books for each year of the decade

Yes, I am aware that I said I was going to stop dwelling on the past now, but Gavin made a video like this and I was inspired. So today I am bringing to you my favourite books of the last decade, by publication year (I can’t do my favourite book I read in each year because I honestly couldn’t tell you which books I read in 2010!).

books of the decade

I have decided to do two books for each year because in some years it was just too hard to choose just one… others were easier because for some reason I apparently haven’t read many books that were published in 2010 or 2012?

Anyway… let’s do this. I’m not going to give a description of the books, but the title will link to Goodreads if you want to read the synopsis and if I’ve reviewed them on my blog I’ll include a link to where you can find the review.

Here goes…

2010

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens. I had previously read a lot of murder mysteries and detective novels, but this was one of my first thrillers and I just thought the entire concept and way of telling the story were so unique! I still remember being shocked by the twist. I think I may have actually read this one the year it came out, or if not in 2011. No review because I rarely reviewed books on my blog back then.

Faithful Place by Tana French. I think I may have actually read this in the year it came out – or at least as soon as it came to German bookshops (which is sometimes later) – which, is rare for me. I buy most of my books second hand and when I actually do enter a bookshop I tend to pick up back list titles that I was excited about when I first heard of them. But I really enjoyed the first two books in this series and was actually waiting for this one to come out so I could buy it. There is only one book in this series that I’m not a particular fan of, but of the rest this is probably my favourite. Again, no review, but I am planning to reread the whole series so maybe there will be one on my blog eventually.

2011

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I knew this book was going to be included in this list no matter what, but when I looked it up I was shocked to discover it came out in 2011! I didn’t read it until 2015, having been given it for Christmas, and before that I hadn’t even heard of it. Where had it been hiding all those years! I actually wrote a review of this one on my blog, which you can read here.

Among Others by Jo Walton. I owned this for a few years before I actually read it and I actually think I remember picking it up once and not being able to get into it. But then in 2016 I picked it up again and was absolutely entranced. It’s a book about loss, and about growing up. It’s a fairytale, a boarding school book, a book about family. But most of all it’s a book about books. I loved it!

2012

Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Although this was published in 2012, I somehow didn’t get round to reading it until 2017! It’s both heart warming and heartbreaking and I wish I had found it sooner. I reviewed it briefly here.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Blunt. I can’t believe I didn’t discover this book until 2018! It’s a beautiful, emotional read all about grief. Here’s a review.

2013

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell. A lot of people think of Lisa Jewell as a thriller writer, but I first knew her as a writer of what would probably be labelled “chick lit” (my first Lisa Jewell book, many years ago, was 31 Dream Street). This one is a contemporary book centring around a family tragedy and it absolutely broke me.

Waiting for Wednesday by Nicci French. I love this series so I had to get at least one of the books in! I actually only gave book 1 in the series 4 stars, but they got better and better as they went along, and this one definitely beats all the other books I’ve read that I found out were published in 2013.

2014

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. This book has one of the most unexpected twists of any thriller I’ve ever read. It totally shocked me and I honestly still think about it although I read it in 2015! I reviewed it briefly here.

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley. I couldn’t write this entire list without including a Flavia de Luce book! This is book 6 in the series and in some ways felt like a filler book between Flavia at home and book 7 where she goes away, but I still loved it and we found out more about Flavia’s mother in this one, which was nice. I wrote a review of it here.

2015

Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne. This is the first book in the Spinster Club series and is also my favourite (of the main trilogy – there is also a special book 3.5 that I haven’t read). Such a great teen book. You can find my review here.

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge. I adored this book – it’s dark and twisted and Faith is such a fantastic main character! I read this in 2018 and have been meaning to pick up another Frances Hardinge book ever since. There’s a review in this post.

2016

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. I know a lot of people aren’t fans of this book, either because they don’t think it’s believable or they hate the romance, but I really liked it. I loved the characters and the writing style. Very brief review here.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. This is a strong contender for my overall favourite book of the decade (but seriously… do not ask me to make that choice!). It’s just wonderful! I read it in November 2019 and reviewed it here.

2017

Interestingly, the two books I’ve chosen for 2017 are ones where I would say if you liked one you will probably like the other. I loved them both and could not choose between them to include a less similar second book, so here they both are.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Most people know this book. I lot of people loved it, some people hated it. Obviously I belong to the former category. Review here.

The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard. A friend gave me this book, I think for my birthday, and I feel like it hasn’t got enough overall attention. I adored Elvira and honestly just wanted to give her a hug. You can see my review here.

2018

In the Dark by Cara Hunter. I recently mentioned this (in this post) as being one of my favourite books of 2019. I read it in December so I haven’t actually published my review yet – you’ll have to wait for Tuesday for that. But suffice to say it’s one of the best detective-based crime thrillers I’ve ever read.

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend. Another one that was mentioned in my favourite books of 2019, this is the sequel to Nevermoor, which I also adored. See my review here.

2019

As I’ve mentioned, I very rarely read books in the year they come out, so I was surprised to find that I had about 12 books to choose from that had been published in 2019. That was still a lot easier to narrow down than other years though! But if you’re thinking there were much better books published in 2019 than my choices, you may be right… there were many amazing sounding books published in 2019, but most likely I haven’t actually read them. Anyway, my choices:

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus. I really liked One of Us is Lying, so when I found myself in a bookshop earlier this year in need of something to read straight away, I couldn’t resist picking this one up, and I ended up enjoying it even more than her first book. You can find my review here.

The Star Outside My Window by Onjali Q. Rauf. This book is hard hitting and heart breaking, but it also manages to be beautiful and heart warming and fun, with a wonderful sense of friendship. I loved it! Read my review here.

Let me know what some of your favourite books of the decade were in the comments, or if you decide to also do a post like this leave me a link and I’ll come and take a look.

2020 goals

Hello! I’ve finally finished dwelling on the past (well, almost – Show Us Your Books is still to come, in which I will be recapping December’s reading) so now I can reveal the goals I want to work on for 2020. Like last year, I am breaking it down into different sections, namely reading goals, cleaning goals, health goals and social/life goals. So, let’s get on with it.

St Chrischona TV tower

Reading goals

Read 100 books (Good Reads challenge goal). Of these:

  • 10 should be non-fiction – I failed at this last year but one year I am determined to achieve it!
  • 12 should be from the BBC Big Read list – I managed 8 last year so I’m going to try and top that.
  • 36 should have been physically on my to-read shelf before the year started – I have way too many unread books that I really should be getting to before buying even more! 36 is just three a month, so that gives me plenty of scope for reading newly acquired books I’m excited about.
  • 6 should be in German – I have a few German books on my shelves that sound really good but I’ve fallen out of the habit of reading in German so I need to get back to that!
  • 12 should be rereads of books I already own and need to read again before deciding whether to keep them (the aim here being to hopefully make room on my shelves for more books).

Cleaning goals

Deep clean once per month. I did pretty well on it last month, so I’m sticking with it. This will include:

  • Cleaning the bathrooms/kitchen including mopping the floors
  • Changing the bedding
  • Cleaning the oven (although the new one has a “cleaning” function so that won’t be as hard as it used to be)
  • Hoovering and dusting the entire flat
  • Taking away recycling, etc. as needed

Some of those things I obviously do much more than once a month, but I want to check off that I’ve definitely done them at least once a month. Otherwise I can definitely go several months without ever taking out the mop…

Health goals

  • Eat a piece of fruit or a vegetable with every meal. Last year I tried to eat my 5 a day on at least 3 days a week, but it was too hard to track. Someone mentioned they eat fruit or vegetables with every meal (it might have been Hazel? If I’m wrong and it was you let me know!) and I thought it was a great idea so I’m going to try that this year.
  • No more than two cups of black tea per day. I did really well with this last year – I may have had more than two over Christmas in England, but other than that most days I actually only had one – so I shall continue with it.
  • Drink at least two pint glasses of water per day. I started well with this last year then started slacking around September so I’ll try again.
  • Go for a walk once a week. I did not get even close to enough exercise last year. This will be a start. I will allow walking to the supermarket and back to count if it’s the supermarket at the train station, but not if I walk to any of our local ones.

Social/life goals

  • Write at least two pen pal letters every month. I got way behind last year and didn’t write to some people at all. This year I will be better! I’ve already three in January so I’m winning 😉
  • Take some kind of in-person course. It doesn’t matter what, as long as it’s something I have to physically go to and interact with actual people.

That’s all I’ve got. I think it’s enough for one year. I will let you know how I get on with them.

Do you have any goals for the year (or month or quarter)?

A decade in review

People have been recapping their decades on Instagram and Facebook, and some (like Hazel) in blog posts. So I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and share a photo from each year of the last decade along with a brief outline of the main events of that year.

wire bridge
Steall Wire Bridge. Glen Nevis

2010: We started the decade at a house party in Padua, Italy where Jan’s sister was living at the time. Jan turned 30. We watched Germany play Argentina in Munich (the stadium was freezing!). Jan and I moved in together. I wrote my Master’s dissertation. We travelled around Britain with a friend – see photo above. I got my  Master’s in translation and passed my probation period at work. We spent Christmas in England and then went to Edinburgh for Hogmanay.

Paris Louvre

2011: My grandma’s dog died – RIP Copper. We took a trip to Paris to celebrate my brother’s 21st birthday. For the first time, we didn’t visit one of our families for Christmas, but spent it in our own home instead. I really wanted to see Austria again, so our New Year’s trip was to Salzburg.

De Valk windmill
De Valk windmill in Leiden – now a windmill museum

 

2012: Our family dog, Barney had to be put down. We visited friends who were living in Delft in the Netherlands – the photo above is from that trip. I randomly met K at a beer festival, and she became one of my best friends. My sister visited us in Karlsruhe with her then boyfriend and we took them to see the Formula 1 at Hockenheim. We had a holiday in Stockholm, which I loved. My godson was born and we got to meet him when he was just 10 days old. For New Year, we headed to Luxembourg to visit a friend.

Kilkenny
The River Nore and Kilkenny Castle

2013: Jan went to Turkey with work and ended up having his appendix removed there. We saw Eddie Izzard in Berlin. We saw a wheelchair rugby Champion’s League match in Karlsruhe. Road trip round Ireland with friends from our quiz team. I went to England for my mum’s 50th birthday and my godson’s christening – but Jan ended up going to hospital with stomach pains instead of getting on the plane! I turned 30, got drunk and cried because I was neither married nor a mother and felt like my relationship was going nowhere. We saw the Rocky Horror Show in its 40th anniversary year. I had my wisdom teeth removed. We returned to Feldkirch, Austria for the first time since I was living there (it hadn’t changed much). We headed to Madeira for the New Year, which I think was our best New Year’s trip yet (potentially tied with Edinburgh).

Wen Wu Temple
Wen Wi Temple, Sun-Moon Lake, Taiwan

 

2014: My colleague went on maternity leave (and my other colleague was still on parental leave) so I spent the entire year as the only English translator at work. It was a very busy year! Jan and I celebrated 10 years of being in a relationship. My Grandpa went into hospital in February and I was luckily able to get time off work at short notice to visit him. He turned 80 in April and passed away at the beginning of May. We saw Pearl Jam in Vienna (I gave Jan the tickets for his birthday). My brother visited us in Karlsruhe and we took trips to Strasbourg, Basel (little knowing we would be living there a year later!), the Black Forest and Frankfurt. Jan had to go to Taiwan for work so I joined him there for a week after the conference. Jan, K and I went to Paris for a Welcome to Night Vale live show. We visited what is still my favourite Christmas market at Burg Hohenzollern with friends. Jan was offered a job in Switzerland and we decided to start trying for a baby after the move. We decided on Zurich for the New Year so we could get a taster of our new country.

Samoa-Scotland
Rugby World Cup 2015 – Samoa vs Scotland

2015: We moved to Switzerland and I started telecommuting. I went to my cousin’s wedding, which was attended by the most family members I’d seen in once place for about 20 years! My friend from Luxembourg came to Basel to watch the Lion King musical with us.  We took a trip to England where we saw three Rugby World Cup matches. In October, once Jan was sure he would be staying at his new company, we started trying for a baby. For the first time ever, we didn’t go away for New Year, but instead invited friends to come and spend it with us in Basel.

Hobbiton

 

 

2016: My sister turned 30. We attended our first Fasnacht in Basel. Three old friends from university days came to visit. We spent two weeks in New Zealand! My mam and brother came to visit. The EU referendum happened (ugh). We attended my friend’s wedding in Luxembourg. Jan’s dad came to visit. In November, Jan’s mum turned 60. We were referred to a fertility specialist after 13 months of unsuccessful trying to get pregnant. My mam and brother visited for the second time in one year, this time with two of my mam’s friends. My sister and her fiancé (now husband) visited for a weekend to see the Christmas markets. We spent Christmas in England with my family and New Year in Glasgow with K.

Chienbäse4
Fire parade in Liestal

2017: Attended the Liestal fire parade for the first time. Spent Easter in Berlin with K. Took a trip to Champagne, where we drank Champagne (an item from my 35 before 35 list). Took a trip round England (and a tiny bit of Scotland) and got to meet Kezzie. I tried eating insects. My sister got married and I was a bridesmaid. For New Year, we went to Geneva with a friend.

Geneva light festival
Lights in Geneva

2018: Decided to switch fertility doctors. I got pregnant with twins via IUI. After months of being unsettled at work and being unsure what to do, Jan was offered a new job and decided to take it. My mam, brother and a friend of my mam’s visited. Just as we thought things were finally going well, I lost the babies. A week later, my maternal Grandma died. My other grandma had to have a pacemaker fitted and then my dad diagnosed with cancer. We buried the boys in November, then Jan started his new job in Zurich and immediately had to go to California – so my mam and sister came to keep my company for a few days (although I was back at work by then). We spent a quiet Christmas and New Year in Basel.

Gibraltar5
Monkey Mountain, Gibraltar

2019: Found out our December IUI had failed and tried another one, which also failed. Celebrated 15 years together. Started IVF in the middle of a renovation (in retrospect, maybe not my best idea?). Went on holiday to Spain and Portugal. I celebrated a decade in the same job. Had four failed embryo transfers and one successful and one failed hysteroscopy. Spent Christmas in England with my family, then ended the decade in Basel with board games, cheese and friends – a much quieter night than the house party the decade had started with!

2020 fireworks

It has certainly been an eventful decade! We travelled a fair amount – not as much as some, but given the state of the environment, I think it was enough, and we saw some amazing places. There were plenty of good times, but also some very, very bad times. I have grown up a lot, and I feel like we’ve also grown as a couple, particularly since we moved to Switzerland in the middle of the decade. Before that we almost broke up on more than one occasion, but now I feel like we’re stronger than we’ve ever been. We’ve made it through the toughest of times and come out the other side, still together and still in love. No matter what happens next, I know I’ve survived everything life has thrown at me so far and there’s something to be said for that. I’m hoping this new decade will bring more growth, more adventures, and lots of happy memories.

2019: Hold on for One More Day

Last year I quoted a song in the title of my yearly recap post, so I thought I’d do it again, and having found myself singing the chorus of this Wilson Philips song more than once this year it seemed fitting.

Don’t you know things can change
Things’ll go your way
If you hold on for one more day

That meant one more day of no proper toilet, one more day of dust, one more day of avoiding a kitchen and bathroomless home as much as possible. But also one more day of injections, one more day of progesterone pessaries, one day closer to finding out whether, this time, things had worked out. Usually there was actually more than one day still to go, but I kept telling myself to just give myself this injection, just get today’s appointment out of the way, and somehow it actually helped. But let’s start at the beginning shall we?

We pretty much started the year with the news that our second IUI had failed. Well, that’s not strictly true. My blood test was on the 5th so we had four days of thinking there was at least a possibility I could be pregnant. Alas, it was not to be. Other than that January was a fairly uneventful month. We took a couple of day trips within Switzerland but mostly I worked a lot and tried not to think about the fact that I should have been going on maternity leave at the end of the month.

Einsiedeln Abbey
Einsiedeln Abbey

My paternal grandmother turned 80 at the end of January (the 27th to be precise), so the weekend after her birthday we flew out to celebrate with her. We flew over after work on Thursday, 31st January, and after one delayed plane and running to catch our connection, we made it to Newcastle but our suitcase did not. It finally turned up the next day, but not until after we’d been out for a meal with my grandma. Luckily I’d packed spare underwear in my hand luggage and the outfit I wore on the plane didn’t look too awful ;-). And being forced to stay in all day gave me a chance to go through some of the stuff I still had at my dad’s. I got rid of a lot, but there are still many books from my childhood that I want to keep and therefore need to pick up eventually. I brought 7 books back with me from that trip but there are still many more waiting for me! The Saturday was spent with my mum and partly with my brother before he had to go to work. And then on Sunday, 3rd February, we flew back to Switzerland… it was the briefest of trips.

Emily Wilding Davison
Emily Wilding Davison statue in Morpeth

5th February was Jan’s and my anniversary – 15 years since we got together! We couldn’t celebrate that night since Jan was working late but we went out for a lovely meal at the weekend. On the last weekend of the month, we spontaneously decided to take a trip to Lugano. It was so nice to get away and relax for a weekend, just the two of us. Especially since I did a lot of overtime that month and, in between everything else, I had spent two weeks of that month giving myself injections for another IUI cycle. As you already know, it failed, which we found at at the beginning of March. With that went our last chance for a 2019 baby. We then made the decision that we wouldn’t continue with IUI, but would move on to IVF. A big step. March was also the month of my due date for the twins, would have been my maternal grandmother’s 90th birthday (you may remember she passed away a week after I lost the boys) and it was Mother’s Day in the UK. Definitely a month of just surviving the best I could. It wasn’t all bad though. Jan had his birthday on the 1st, we saw How to Train Your Dragon at the cinema and Sarah Millican in Zurich. Jan’s dad came to stay for a couple of days, and Jan and I went to Meiringen where we failed to see the Aare Gorge since it was closed, but did get to go up the local mountain.

Hasliberg view
View from Hasliberg

April was slightly quieter at work, which was nice after being incredibly busy up until mid-March. We also had a new colleague start so after two years I was no longer the only full-time English translator! Obviously he needed some time to find his feet and couldn’t do every job right away, but it did take some of the pressure of me.

I started injections for IVF the week before Easter, which meant we couldn’t go away as we had originally planned since I had to be around for appointments. Instead, we spent an afternoon at the zoo in Zurich (after a morning appointment at the clinic). The nurse called after my blood test result came in to tell me I needed to start Orgalutran that day – the medication to stop my body from ovulating by itself, which you obviously don’t want in IVF – so I had to go and do that in the toilets. That one involves a proper syringe rather than just a pen so I preferred to do it in private. Later, when I sat on a bench to do my hormone injection (the one to make the eggs grow) it decided to bleed madly all over the place, which had never happened before in 3 rounds of IUI! Luckily Jan being a diabetic is used to needles so he was able to sort out the used needle, etc. while I stopped the flow of blood. And my response to the medication wasn’t affected – my retrieval was the Saturday after Easter and they managed to get 22 eggs (18 of which were mature). We celebrated that success with a trip to Gruyère. Most people would probably go and lie down after an egg retrieval but by that time the renovation was in full swing and we really didn’t want to go home to dustville. I took it pretty easy – no massive hikes – and it all ended up being fine.

Since they got so many eggs, I wasn’t allowed to do a fresh transfer because of the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, so May ended up being a month off. Given that we were living on a literal building site at the time that was probably a good thing!

construction21

Then, on the 18th, we flew out to Spain to join my sister and brother-in-law, sister’s best friend and her boyfriend, my brother, my mum and my mum’s friend. We had a lovely long weekend in Ronda, then after everyone else flew back to England Jan and and I continued to Cádiz (via Gibraltar) and then to Lisbon. It was definitely a much needed break… from everything. Construction and infertility treatments (the latter only for me. Other than providing his “sample” and shelling out the cash, Jan wasn’t involved much). By the time we returned, the flat was basically finished… although it would be September before the various workmen were really, truly out of our hair. We still couldn’t use the shower since the glass door for that didn’t arrive until August, but we were able to shower in the bath, had flushing toilets and a kitchen that worked, so good enough. I had another week off work, which I mainly spent cleaning dust from places that hadn’t even been part of the renovation and filling the cupboards in the new kitchen.

Ronda
Ronda, Spain

June meant a long weekend thanks to Whit Monday. Since I didn’t have any appointments for a change we decided to go away for a couple of days. Jan booked a hotel in Interlaken and on the first day we went to Jungfraujoch then the next day we returned to the Aare Gorge and this time had better luck!

The rest of the month was mainly spent unpacking all the kitchen and bathroom stuff that had been living in boxes since the renovation began. Although everything wasn’t completely finished we were at least able to get back to some kind of normality! We also visited the two zero waste supermarkets Basel has to offer in preparation for plastic-free July. I had my first IVF embryo transfer in June as well. It all went smoothly, but as you already know, implantation didn’t happen.

As I’ve just mentioned, in July I attempted to go plastic free. If you’re interested in how I did you can read my posts here, here and here. Jan participated in the Basel Tattoo again (as a member of the choir) and I had a ticket for one of the evenings. I didn’t enjoy it as much as in previous years but it was still really good.

Basel Tattoo lions

I don’t really remember what else I did. Worked a lot. Had my second failed embryo transfer. And on the 31st we went to see the fireworks at the Rhine Falls in advance of Swiss national day.

Rheinfall fireworks

August started with a trip to Eguisheim in France. The 1st is Switzerland’s national holiday and I had taken the day off for it (reminder: I work in Germany so I don’t get it as a public holiday) and we wanted to do something. Eguisheim is a gorgeous village and we had a lovely day out.

Eguisheim1

I then had to work for 2 days before it was the weekend. We had arranged to meet up with a friend and her boyfriend in Freiburg, then two weeks later we took a trip to Karlsruhe, first to meet up with friends there and then to meet up with more friends the next day to go hiking. Jan’s mum and her partner also came to Basel to spend a day with us in August. So much socialising! I’m not used to it. LOL.

Freiburg
Freiburg from above

We took a month off from IVF in August so I could have a hysteroscopy… basically a camera inserted in the uterus. In the process, the doctor found some scar tissue, which she cut open and she also drained a cyst. Despite the painkiller I took beforehand it hurt and I was glad when it was over!

August is my birthday month and in 2019 I turned 36. It wasn’t the birthday I had been expecting a year before (when I was still pregnant) but I finished work early to read and then Jan took me for a lovely meal in the evening so it ended up being okay.

September went by way too fast and I didn’t really do much to be honest. Jan and I took a trip to Brugg, which turned out to be disappointing, and we saw John Cleese live with a friend. I also celebrated 10 years in my job… although I didn’t actually “celebrate” at all, just acknowledged it and moved on.

Brugg2
The “Storchenturm” in Brugg

October brought the one year anniversary of losing the boys and another failed embryo transfer. I spent the actual day of the loss showing my great aunt and great uncle around Basel, which was a great distraction (Jan was away with one of his choirs that week). At the weekend Jan and I went up to the memorial where their ashes are buried and then walked into town and had a hot chocolate – which is exactly what we did the day their ashes were placed there. Having a ritual feels like a good thing.

In the middle of the month, we took a trip to the Verenaschlucht (Verena Gorge) in canton Solothurn, where we had a nice walk. I think that was our only trip in October… for most of the month I was incredibly busy at work and didn’t want to do much more than sleep and read on the weekends. Also Jan had a million projects going on and was busy with rehearsals, concerts and meetings practically all the time he wasn’t at work. I did go to watch two of the concerts and went out to eat with the performers after each one though.

Verenaschlucht
Verenaschlucht

I was off work for the last week of October but it rained heavily almost the entire time so it ended up being a washout. We also met with the head doctor of the fertility clinic after our fourth failed embryo transfer and decided I would have another hysteroscopy in December.

November was the first time since May that I didn’t have any infertility related things going on. No appointments. No medication. No procedures. It was kind of relaxing, but also surreal. I had the first week of the month off and was actually able to spend it not thinking about doctors at all! It was also the start of my most sociable period of the year…

We went to Karlsruhe again on the first weekend of the month to watch Jan’s former choir perform and then to see a performance that a friend from student residence days was part of. While we were there we of course met up with various friends, including being invited for breakfast with one friend, his wife and their baby. It continued to pour down for most of the rest of my time off work, but luckily cleared up in time for my cousin and her boyfriend’s arrival on the 9th. They stayed with us for 4 days (one of which I was working) and we fit in a tour of Basel including a visit to the autumn fair and a trip up a mountain followed by a boat ride to Lucerne. Then they went to Colmar by themselves for a day while I worked. I had the absolute best time with them. Having them to stay was definitely one of the highlights of my year!

Rigi Kulm view
The view from Rigi Kulm

The following weekend, a friend (and former colleague) came to stay with us for a night on her way home to Luxembourg from Zurich. I hadn’t seen her since her wedding in 2016 so it was nice to catch up in person!

I also had my best reading month quite possibly of my entire life in November thanks to a middle grade readathon called Believathon. I had a great time reading nothing but children’s books for an entire month – it was honestly exactly the escape I needed from a not particularly great year.

And finally we come to December… which I’ve literally just recapped in a post so I’ll try not to say too much in this section. I had my hysteroscopy appointment at the beginning of the month, but unfortunately the doctor couldn’t manage to insert the camera properly so she had to stop (I still ended up with cramps later in the day though!). We went to the Christmas market in Baden-Baden, where we met up with the same friends we saw in Freiburg in August, who then also came to stay with us for New Year. I also met up with a pen pal from New Zealand who happened to be in Basel for one night only. I showed her and her family around Basel, and of course we had a Glühwein at Basel’s Christmas market.

Baden-Baden Weihnachtsmarkt
Baden-Baden Christmas market

I saw Jan perform twice with different choirs/groups and went out to eat with the performers afterwards both times, then we went to a birthday party the day before we flew to England for Christmas with my family. We had five days there, which we used to spend time with as many people as possible, but still managed to find some time to chill in between. We also got some lovely gifts and ate a lot of food. And right before Christmas my dad was declared cancer free after spending 2019 being treated for prostate cancer. We returned to Basel on 28th December and I spent the last few days of the year reading It and preparing for visitors while Jan had to work. Then, for the first time since we got together, we actually ended a year in the same place we began it… right here in Basel with friends, games and copious amounts of cheese.

While, unlike 2018, I can’t point to any one particular event that made 2019 terrible I have to say I think last year was worse than the year before. Although the end of 2018 was obviously awful (to recap: we lost our boys, my maternal grandma died exactly a week later, my other grandma had a pacemaker fitted and my dad was diagnosed with cancer), for a time before that things were looking up I was the happiest I had ever been. In many ways, the constant, ongoing stress of 2019 has felt so much worse than happiness followed by complete devastation. I feel like I spent most of last year very much in my own bubble, licking my wounds (which is also why I’ve been a horrible friend for the most part and have utterly failed to stay in touch with anyone or keep up with my friends’ lives). But over the last few weeks I’ve finally felt like I’m starting to emerge from the fog and I am hopeful that 2020 can be a better year, even if I ultimately don’t get my wish to start a family of my own. Here’s hoping for brighter days ahead! (And no renovations, thank goodness – I’m still dealing with dust in unexpected places from the last one!)

This has been longer than I intended, so if you’ve actually made it this far then thank you! I hope this new year is everything you want it to be.

A Photo an Hour: 21 December 2019

The final photo and hour of last year was the day before we flew to England, so I never got a chance to write this post. I spent most of the day doing my pre-Christmas deep clean so this won’t be very exciting, but for the sake of completeness I wanted to write it anyway.

As always, Photo an Hour was hosted by Jane and Louisa.

9 a.m. Tea must be consumed before I even think about doing any cleaning!

10 a.m. Time for a shower.

11 a.m. Folding dry laundry.

12 noon. Time to wash the dishes.

1 p.m. A break for lunch and to read.

2 p.m. One bathroom cleaned, on to number 2!

3 p.m. Hoovering.

4 p.m. Changing the bedding in the spare room – I did ours the following morning before we left for the airport so it would be fresh for our return.

5 p.m. Of to take away some recycling.

6 p.m. I changed out of the clothes that smelled of cleaning agents and decided to paint my nails for a change.

7 p.m. Checking in for our flights the next day. My passport is slightly faded (and runs out in 2021).

8 p.m. Arriving at KLARA for our friend’s birthday celebration.

9 p.m. Feeding my face!

10 p.m. Drinking beer… not much left. I stopped taking photos after that and socialised. I think we got home at around 1 a.m.!

I will be posting my 2019 year in review soon, then I want to do a decade recap, but after that I will finally actually move on to this year (at least until it’s time to talk about what I read in December ;-)).