I first heard English Passengers discussed on an episode of the BBC radio shoe A Good Read and it automatically found its way on to my TBR list. As always with a book I want to read I went on a frantic search of local charity shops – I am an expert and super speedy at this – and I was successful on my quest. Another common feature of my charity shop success is that the book spent a fair few months just on the shelf as it takes me forever to get round to reading it. When choosing my new read a few weeks ago I narrowed it down to three and then did ‘eenie, meanie, mine, mo’ an old fail safe that I haven’t done since childhood. I have told myself I will read the other two books next and so far I’ve been true to this as I’m currently reading the second book now. And so I began English Passengers.
It is a book set in two different time periods: 1850s England and Tasmania (or Van Diemens Land) of the 1830s, a narrative choice that makes it clear that both strands will eventually meet up. The English/Isle of Man side of the narrative focused on a smuggling ship, the Sincerity, and its mission to overload its secret cargo of Tabasco and brandy. Due to some tricky incidents at English customs, the ship – originally from the Isle of Man – is forced to take on board some English passengers who are on their way to Tasmania in the search for the Garden of Eden. These passengers include the Reverend Wilson, a botanist called Renshaw and Doctor Potterq, who has a keen interest in racial profiling. The Tasmanian part of the narrative largely focuses on Peevay, an aboriginal tribe member whose mother was raped by a white man, instantly making him an outcast from both parts of society. Throughout the novel we hear from numberous different characters in the build up to both narrative strands joining together.
At first I was unsure about English Passengers; it begins with the smuggling ship and to be honest I didn’t have much interest in this. I was starting to think I had made the wrong reading choice for that particular moment in my life when the Tasmanian part of the narrative kicked in and I was hooked. I found this the most gripping part of the entire narrative. There are just so many harrowing moments: from the description of Peevay looking at his reflection in a lake for the first time and believing he is a monster as he is mixed race to the unpresidented slaughter of an entire tribe of aboriginals on one of the beaches, it is just shocking that they received this type of brutality. I was aware that this type of massacre existed, especially after visiting various museums when I was in Australia, but it didn’t make it any less appalling to read about. The sheer arrogance of the British colonies is unbelievable, especially when they essentially round up all of the aboriginals and stick them on Flinders Islamd to attempt to ‘civilise’ them, but the reality is they watch them die out; an event that, along with so many others in the novel, is based on real life. It just amazes me that this lack of understanding for other cultures is something that is still so relevant today (especially as I’m reading a lot in the news about America this morning) and it is this part of the narrative that I found the most interesting and engaging. Although that being said the racist Doctor Potter has the best comeuppance at the end of the novel, possibly one of the best fates of a character I have ever read about.
For me this was an interesting, engaging and easy to read novel, although I was pretty much just living for the moments in Tasmania as these were by far the most interesting and the bits that made me want to go and discover other books about similar parts of history. And for me that is one of my favourite things about reading.
When I was very young I have a vague recollection of watching an episode of Knowing Me, Knowing You on BBC2 and having no idea what was going on. Was this man for real? Surely this can’t be a real chat show with actual celebrities I hadn’t even heard of. From that moment on I had an idea of the name Alan Partridge but I just dismissed him as some kind of ‘adult’ humour I didn’t really understand. Years later at university my best friend properly introduced me to Alan and since then I have become a huge fan, in fact boyf and I regularly rewatch all Alan Partridge series on Netflix (alongside The Office and Derek) when we can’t decide on what else to watch and we need to make a decision sometime this century. He is just ridiculous, but I think that is part of his everlasting appeal in my eyes…that and the fact his shows have some of the easiest to remember quotes that boyf and I can apply to most situations. Maybe the only reason we are still together is our mutual appreciation of Alan; I bought him three Alan based gifts for Christmas and he bought me two. It is safe to say, it’s a slight obsession. One of those presents was Nomad.
Nomad is Alan Partridge’s journey in his father’s footsteps, walking 160miles along the South East of England from Norwich to Dungeness. As a former BBC TV presenter he makes it very clear on multiple occasions throughout the book that this is truly an homage to his father, it is not because he would like a walking based TV programme similar to the ones presented by Clare Balding, Michael Portillo and Julia Bradbury. The fact he journeys 120 miles out of his way to accoost the aforementioned presenters’ agent to ask for the umpteenth time if he can get a TV commission should not make his walk seem like a desperate attempt to get back on the telly. His attention grabbing antics when gatecrashing a live TV interview should not been seen as another failed attempt to get on the telly. He is doing this walk in memory of his father who also once made the same journey – albeit by car – as Alan keeps reminding the readers.
You definitely have to be a fan of Alan’s to truly appreciate this book. Throughout there are comments about his life that link back to his TV shows, his autobiography I, Partridge and his film Alpha Papa, although Alan obviously doesn’t acknowledge that these are books, films etc. It is is complete and utter lack of self awareness that makes me love him and this is apparent throughout the book; he is just a desperate hasbeen who is determined to make some kind of mighty comeback and it is that delusion that makes the book so entertaining. It is a huge piss take on ‘celebrities’ and the desperation of fame and I think if you approach it with that in mind – which I am sure any fan of Alan’s would do – then it is an entertaining, light hearted read.
Whilst I didn’t do any blogging in 2016 I did spend the past year slowly falling in love with exercise. After years of spontaneously joining gyms or half heartedly running/doing yoga I came back from Australia (ok so maybe I’m lying a little bit about the time frame as I came back in August 2015) and I was determined to stick with exercise and ultimately feel fitter and healthier. I am lucky that I have always been slim, however as the fitness world keeps telling us that doesn’t necessarily mean you are healthy. Despite a minor blip towards the end of the year as the nights grew darker and shorter, I have been pretty good at sticking to my fitness goals and I am determined to up my game slightly this year and see it through to the end of the year.
I spent a lot of last year in the gym focusing on weights and toning, having been told on many occasions I need to be careful of the amount of cardio I do due to weight reasons, I have always avoided too much running despite being good at it at school. Some colleagues of mine ran The Great South Run in October in memory of another colleague who passed away last year and this year I have decided to join them. This comes with some challenges as I haven’t run in a long time and I need to make sure I build myself up slowly and keep a balanced diet that will fuel me in this challenge. I also need to work on finding some good music/podcasts to listen to as the realisation that I will be running for (hopefully) just under two hours means I am going to need something to keep me going…I forgot how boring running can be.
I love yoga. It is so relaxing and yet can be challenging. I love the principle behind it and how it can be used to help structure your life and your approach to life. In this increasingly busy and hectic world we live in it becomes more and more important to take that time for oneself and to really focus on what makes you and your body happy. I have followed Yogagirl on Instagram and her book for a few years now but I still haven’t found time to properly read it and that is something I would love to do this year. For a few months I attended a yoga class which I found really helped me with the basics, but it didn’t fully challenge me so I am looking forward to starting with a new class with a friend of mine. She currently goes to a yoga teacher who has worked with some celebrities I admire so I am really excited about this.
3. Women’s Health
For the past two Christmases my grandparents have given me a subscription to Women’s Health magazine. I have gone through phases in my life where I have been a magazine subscriber but I stopped bothering when I found too many magazines only focused on celebrity nonsense which I can’t be arsed with. However in Women’s Health I think I have found my perfect magazine. I find it so interesting and the mix of health, fitness ideas, recipes and interviews with celebrities who care about their health is just what I want from a magazine. I need to be better at finding the time to sit down and read each issue when it comes through my letter box, especially as I have tried a few recipes from them other the year and they have been amazing.
4. Healthy eating
I have a slight addiction to fitness cookbooks. I am a lot of fitness blogger/vlogger/instgram users’ dream as I get a little obsessed and always want their cookbooks on my shelves. Luckily I am not so easily led that I just buy them and never use them, with books by Madeleine Shaw, Deliciously Ella and Clean Eating Alice being some of my favourite and most used books of 2016. I am definitely starting to focus more on what I eat and trying to be healthier. I know it is a given, but I notice a real difference in my mood and my skin when I don’t eat well. In fact I know if I have eaten too much chocolate as I always seem to break out in spots the day afterwards. This doesn’t mean I deprive myself of chocolate, but I certainly try and limit the amount I eat as I hate having spots – who doesn’t! One book I am super excited about this year is Kayla Itsines’ first one. Having followed her on Instagram since my return from Australia I am looking forward to trying some of her recipes and hopefully seeing an improvement in my fitness and my skin in general.
This was originally a post about exercise, but I couldn’t think of five exercise goals and I wanted five so I changed it to a general well being post. I am terrible about moisturising my skin and this is my biggest goal of 2017. I have always been good at looking after my face and my sister’s very handy job as a beautician and Clarins expert means that I always have lots of lovely Clarins products to help me remain young (ish) looking and my skin feeling good. I am religious about removing my make up, cleansing and adding my face moisturiser and lip salve before bed (I always refer to “putting my face on” something my boyfriend particularly hates as he hates vaseline) and I am going to apply this religious regimeto moisturising my body too…no one wants dry skin. Luckily my boyfriend bought me some amazing body butter from The Body Shop, a shop I never think about going in to. I have the Fuji Green Tea one and the Vanilla Chai and both smell gorgeous which does make this resolution much easier.
Despite what the picture might imply I haven’t spent the past year just sunbathing besides the sea in a hot country. At the end of 2015 I decided I needed a break from blogging; I wasn’t enjoying it very much, my life had suddenly become much busier and I felt restricted by this constant need to write reviews of everything I had read. I didn’t intend to take an entire year off but that’s the way it went and I’m happy with that. In recent months I have started to reconnect with the blogs I follow, reading more book reviews and just general reviews and it has reignited my interest in blogging, so much so that I think I might begin blogging again. I say think because there is a chance I will start this up again and then find that life gets in the way, but that is just one of those things. I am going to make some slight changes to the content and the look of my blog as I would like to write about other things besides books; books will always be a key part of my blog, but I am aiming to capture other parts of my life too. For now we will see how it goes.