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Ode to the Bastard of a Week

Well, what an absolute shitter this week has been. The word ‘omnishambolic’ springs to mind and not just because it’s a damn fine word that should be used at every available opportunity. The word ‘clusterfuck’ could also be applied.

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I don’t plan on dwelling on the crap though, on Sunday I met my mum’s new puppy. His name is Mr Stockley (which is a silly name for a dog) and as he resembles a fluffy potato, I am taking affirmative action and renaming him Spud.

 

spud

Contrary to what this picture might suggest, the dog’s eyes do point in the same direction

Spud is an 8 week old  Jack Russell x Chihuahua, a Jack Uaua if you will. In this picture, he’s supporting a Pets At Home’s finest rabbit harness.

I’ve caught up with all my reviews for the week, I’m currently between books, my Chinese takeaway has arrived at my door and I have half a season of Masterchef to catch up on so this week may have been an absolute bastard but it’s over now and when push comes to shove…. I’ve had worse weeks and these crispy wontons are lovely.

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Tribute to the Unnamed Babies

Today I had the worst news. My close friend has lost his baby, 2 months before she was due to join us in the world.

Suddenly the miles between us feel greater than ever and I know there isn’t a damn thing I could do to help right now anyway because their hell has only just begun.

 

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This isn’t the first time I’ve had this news from someone close to me, my mum lost twins halfway through her pregnancy back in 2003. She didn’t even know she was pregnant until is was too late and it didn’t detract from the agony we felt a single bit.
In my mind, those beautiful babies survived and are now halfway through their highschool years. I help them with their homework, teach them how to deal with spots, bullies and relationships. I listen to them complain about their teachers and about each other, I’m a bad influence and give them too much crap to eat and let them stay up later. I’m all of these things but only in my own head in those grey moments between work and home, wakefulness and sleep. The rest of the time I only have an older brother and a half brother in his early twenties.

I would only have been a sister to those twins, not a mother so I can’t feel that extra layer of pain that a parent must feel. Especially the parent who carries them and nourishes them for those first precious nine months.

 

hand, child, baby

I can’t feel it, but I imagine it. Every time I think about my future and having a family of my own, I imagine the pain of losing it before it’s even begun, if it ever does. Miscarriages are far more common than most of us realise because we don’t talk about it, babies are lost at any stage of pregnancy and somehow it seems like the rest of the world thinks it doesn’t count if the child wasn’t born: it counts. Even if you didn’t know they were there before hand, the infinite possibilities of their lives being snuffed out is a loss to us all and should never be forgotten.

It sticks with you, 12 years on and I spend all of February thinking about them. Now my Aprils will be spent thinking about a little girl we never got the chance to meet, I feel that before this life is over I will have many more months dedicated to little souls.

black-and-white, hands, love

So here’s my tribute to all those babies – the ones without names, the ones that had names but never got to learn how to scrawl them in crayon, the ones who heard their names on their parents’ lips before they left us forever. I think of you all often and keep you with me, for the rest of my days.

 

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Review: Sacrifical Lamb Cake by Katrina Monroe

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4 stars

 

 

Synopsis:

Oh. My. God.


Rain Johnson escaped the insanity of her radical environmentalist family, only to end up waitressing for a
living. Her scale of success—with her at the bottom—only goes as high as that college degree she never got, until she gets one hell of an epiphany from a Trinity Corporation public-relations guy who calls himself Jude. He tells her she’s the Lamb of God, and it’s time for that whole Second Coming thing. But when her first minor miracle gets her arrested andan ecoterrorist using the name Messiah starts blowing up pesticide plants, Rain and Judas are in for way more apocalypse than either of them expected.

Jude scrambles to save his personal plan for salvation, but Lucy, the devil herself, has her own well-laid plans. It doesn’t matter that Rain’s a conflict-avoiding lesbian and Jude is history’s worst traitor. They’re all that stands between humanity and an end of the world that wasn’t supposed to happen.


*Many thanks to the author for a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review*

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing, LLC

Cover art: Red Adept Publishing, LLC (if you’re reading this, publisher- please administer a high five to the person in charge of designing this cover)

Amazon

Goodreads


This book came to my attention via Twitter and the cover sealed the deal, the title was perfect and the artwork appealed to me immediately. A cartoon angel sheep standing before the pits of hell – what’s not to love?

The premise of this book was highly original and very, very funny – Judas Isacriot is given the chance to redeem himself but not really given much to work with, as Rain the new Messiah couldn’t be more poorly suited to the role. Together, they have to avert the accidental apocalypse and save humanity – simple.

I liked the way in which this story brought the Bible into the twentyfirst century, acting out old stories in a modern setting with the weird and wonderful characters that we don’t even look at twice today – namely Rain, the underachieving, former-hippy lesbian.
The ‘deal with it’ approach to having a lesbian main character was also beautifully refreshing!

This book doesn’t criticise religion but is the product of an irreverent sense of humour, so if you don’t like Christianity being taken lightly then this isn’t the book for you but I definitely wouldn’t consider anything in it to be offensive.

In fact, this book is the first I’ve ever read that’s actually made me think about religion and reconsider my opinion. Specifically, the church that I grew up with was anti-Judas, painting him as one of the worst human beings that ever lived- whereas this book says that he was a man who made a mistake. This is something I’ve been pondering ever since.

This book was a little bit of a slow starter, but I was determined to stick with it and am glad that I did because the ending was phenomenal. It picked up the pace about halfway through and took a steady lope to the grand finale.

The characters weren’t particularly relatable but they were very entertaining, my favourite being Rain’s mother: the militant hippy with an axe to grind. She was definitely the funniest character, though this was unintentional on her part!

If you’re looking for a humourous and sarcastic read (if not, why not?!), this is the book for you – at 200 pages long, you have no excuse to pass it by!

 

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Review: Clutch of the Demon by A.P. Jensen- Audiobook

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4 stars

 

 

Synopsis:

Cara is a demon hunter. When she interrupts a chain of events orchestrated by a master demon, he punishes Cara by infecting her younger sister with a fatal disease.

Time is running out. Desperate for a cure, Cara hears a whisper of a mystical being trapped beneath stone that may be able to help her for a price…

 


I have read a couple of AP Jensen’s books before, both in the Unmemorables series (both of which are excellent) and so when she offered me a complimentary copy of the audiobook for this book in exchange for an honest review, I couldn’t possibly say no.

AP Jensen specialises in strong, kickass female characters and Cara is no different. She’s a demon hunter who enlists the help of a trapped Ancient to save her sister, she willingly trades her life for her sister’s and finds that the Ancient has no plans on killing her.

This story is a grown up fairy tale but with violence and top notch sexytimes. Cara’s open heart and mind allows her to free the Ancient from his prison and turn into a giant, delectable warrior with a vast sexual appetite (isn’t that what we all want?). This would be where a mushy fairy tale ends but Jensen tells us what happens next – there are more obstacles standing between the happy couple and eternity in a giant castle, with room service and a king size bed. Obviously they overcome these obstacles, cos love n stuff, but it’s a very compelling listen!

Cara is an excellent character, perfectly balancing her strength with her weaknesses. I really liked her attitude to the things around her and found her very likable.
Aodhan (pronounced ‘Aiden’) is a grumpy yet lovable dragon/warrior/sexpot who has been trapped in a cavern in Ireland for centuries to give demons a chance to take over the world. He’s a little bit too unconvincing in his beastliness for me, but adorable all the same. 

This book was filled with strong women, which is something I can always enjoy. Cara is strong both physically and emotionally, she sacrifices herself time after time for the wellbeing of her family and the world at large. She has cut herself off from other people to save them from becoming targets to the demons that hunt her and is prepared to spend the rest of her life alone if it means that everyone else will be safe.

The story was told primarily from the perspective of Cara and the narrator, Beth Stewart, embodied her beautifully – she allowed the right amount of vulnerability to show through Cara’s persona without belittling her strength. She was also able to cover a range of accents convincingly and voice male characters with skill, I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to listen to more of her work.

This books had a fair amount of sex, romance and paranormal violence – which are high on my list of criteria for a good book! If you like these things, this is the book for you.
If you like paranormal action books with strong female character in charge, I would recommend you have a look at some more of AP Jensen’s work and get as hooked as I have!

 

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Yonder: A Southern Haunting – THE AUDIOBOOK!

You may remember (or if you don’t, check it out by clicking on the cover) my review of Yonder: A Southern Haunting by LeeAnne Hansen just after Christmas.
I read it on Christmas Eve while snuggled up in a blanket fort with a huge selection box of Thorntons chocolates and a pitcher of Amaretto and Coke, it was divine.

LeeAnne has become one of my favourite authors of late, and the audio version of this book is another reason why. As an actress and the author, she put on the hat of narrator and read the entire book herself. I always think this is a risky move, narrating your own book, someone else may be better suited to performing your work but you’re too scared to let it go….

No risk involved in this instance, she nailed it. I can’t actually imagine anyone better suited to reading this book. Have a click on the audio sample here  and see what I mean.

Listening to this book in the voice of the author, as she meant for it to be heard, and while being 100% sober this time, I gained different perspectives. I definitely disliked poor Charles a lot less, even though he’s still an ass. I also loved Ben just that little bit more.

The creepy bits were less classically charming in the audio version and more outright terrifying, which was an amazing surprise! During a scene involving a mirror breaking, my heart was in my mouth.

Though very well executed, the sex scenes did make me giggle (the word ‘nipple’ is funny, you can’t deny it). They were seductive, professionally read and sent a shiver up my spine until I remembered that it’s like listening to your best friend reading out the embarrassing sex stories from a trash magazine, then I giggled some more.

Apart from her apparent talent  for reading naughty bits and doing character voices, it transpires that Ms Hansen is also a talented singer. There are a few songs in this book which she actually sang for the audio and it is exquisite! I don’t know how I’d expect another narrator to do these bits but it wouldn’t have been so beautiful. Another reason for my enthusiasm is that she sang one of my favourite songs which is played repeatedly on Fallout 3 and 4. She and I sang a duet…. she just doesn’t know it yet!

From what I gather, this may be the beginning of a career in narration for LeeAnne Hansen and I’ll be following with huge (I don’t like the word ‘obsessive’) obsessive interest.

 

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What A Jolly Day To Be In The Jeremy Kyle Audience

 

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The view from the top of the Media City car park

What a tremendous day I had yesterday!

Jeremy Kyle is the staple TV show of all students and night shift workers (I’ve been both), it’s absolutely awful yet wondrous at the same time. You get to watch bizarre people scream/swear/sob out their private problems on national television while feeling better about your own problems, smugly eating your super noodle sandwhich in your pyjamas in the middle of the day.

My university friend got in touch with me out of the blue to let me know that she had tickets to be in the audience and had one going spare…. would I like to go? Yes. Yes I would.
Clearly I agreed to it before arranging cover at work, but thankfully that all panned out.

The funniest thing about being in the audience is that you’re judged harshly by everyone you mention it to – I just don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to go and see this spectacle!

 

 

You line up at the doors first thing in the morning, tightly clutching your ticket and ID. Once you’re through the doors, you have your bag searched and a metal detector swung about your body – had I known this, I probably would have removed at least a few of the giant handful of tampons I’d thrown in my bag a few days ago, the lady doing the bag checks looked a little surprised. I told her it was a mouse conference, she didn’t look any less peturbed, oddly enough.

After a sit down and a brew, we were led through to the studio – my friends and I sat in the front row, so that’ll be a horror to behold when the episode is aired! We’re taught how to Ooh, Ahh, Boo and Gasp on cue and generally amused by a member of the crew who was the perkiest, bounciest and funniest people I’ve ever met. I kinda wish he’d get his own show instead.

Jezza

I’m going to skip the guests’ stories as the show will be aired in the next 4-6 weeks and I have no idea what the limitations are on sharing the stories in advance (I imagine no one gives a crap, but best err on the side of caution).

Jeremy Kyle himself is as much, if not more, of an ass is reality than he is on TV. A cheerful disregard for his guests, his audience and his crew – but we already guessed as much so I suppose it’s ok…?

I was fascinated by the guests, I think they’re given a general direction as to where to take their conversation but it is all done in one continuous take to be edited later – they seem to be genuine about their problems and have no issues with screaming at each other in front of a live audience.

 

So, my Friday was a shamelessly jolly and trashy day! Did you do anything that could possibly compare with this?

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BLOG TOUR: Death by Diploma by Kelley Kaye

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Red Adept Publishing

SYNOPSIS:

Emma Lovett leaves her philandering husband and crosses the country to begin her teaching career at a high school in Pinewood, Colorado.There, she meets Leslie Parker, a fellow teacher given to quoting Shakespeare to fit all situations, and the two become fast friends.

Arriving at work early one morning, Emma discovers the body of the school custodian, a man who reminds her of her late father. When the police struggle to find the killer, the ladies decide to help solve the murder. Their efforts lead them to a myriad of suspects: the schizophrenic librarian, the crude football coach, the mysterious social studies teacher, and even Emma’s new love interest.

As Emma Lovett discovers the perils of teaching high school, she and Leslie learn more than they ever wanted to know about the reasons people kill.

 


 

Amazon.co.uk

Goodreads

 


Welcome to my very first blog tour post and thank you kindly to the lovely Kelley Kaye for asking me to be a part of her very first tour for her debut novel! 

This book was introduced to me by the author as a cosy mystery and that is precisely what it is! It gave me the cosy nostalgic feeling of reading a Miss Marple novel, but with a contemporary twist.

I’m not going to go into detail about the plot, it is a mystery novel after all! I can tell you that the story is set in a school and you can instantly tell that the author has been a school teacher, it feels authentic and is completely enjoyable.

What stood out the most for me about this book were the characters. Though they were comically exaggerated in some aspects, they still completely won my sympathies and interest – my favourite characters actually come as a twosome. Emma and Leslie, to whom I shall henceforth refer to as Lemma, are hilarious. Leslie is a seasoned teacher with a strong moral code, access to tasers and is able to quote Shakespeare to suit any occasion. Emma is a bit more reserved as this is her first job as a teacher but together, they bounce off each other marvellously – they balance each other out and pick up each other’s best qualities along the way. Emma becomes more confident and adventurous while Leslie becomes more careful and

Together, Lemma uncover some of the secrets of their colleagues while they work to solve the murder of the bleoved school custodian. It is this friendship that makes the book stand out, it’s utterly charming in the manner of Rosemary and Thyme (my favouritest gardening sleuth duo of all time). It’s rare that you read a novel with two female lead characters who aren’t constantly talking about men/relationships and this one shows the realism of actual female friendships. Yes, they do hate on their exes together and talk about ‘boys’, but they also manage the terrifying workloads of active teachers and solve murders on their time off.

The pacing and suspense in this story was perfect, clues were dropped in at the perfect intervals to avoid frustration from working it all out too quickly or not being able to figure it out until the last page (both of those things drive me insane).
The writing was a perfect mix of suspenseful danger and witty humour, it was the dialogue between characters sucked me in to the story and will have me reading any subsequent books in this series.

If you’re a fan of cosy mysteries and irreverent humour, I would say this is the book for you – put on your comfiest clothes, climb under your duvet with a cuppa and dig in!

*Thank you to the author for a complimentary copy of her book in exchange for an honest review*


 

Kelley Kaye

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelley Kaye taught High School English and Drama for twenty years, but her love for storytelling dates back to creating captions for her high school yearbook. Maybe back to the tales she created around her Barbie and Ken—whatever the case, the love’s been around for a long time.

Kelley is married to this amazing man who cooks for her, and they have two funny and wonderful sons. She lives in Southern California.

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Review: Desiccation by Sarah Potter

Desiccation4 stars

 

 

SYNOPSIS:

For those who love retro fiction that’s a blend of sci-fi, fantasy, and quirky British humour reminiscent of old B-movies…



Perched on the clifftops at Helmstone-by-sea, English boarding school Toffdene exists in splendid isolation, pretending the Swinging Sixties aren’t happening outside its walls.



Janet is a science scholarship girl who believes that all paranormal phenomena have a rational explanation, until she meets a hippie pixie who lives in a dimensional transcendental toadstool.



In the dark of the old tunnel leading from the playing fields down to the beach comes the sound of scuttling plus the sliding, slippery susurrations of hostiles yearning for blood; whatever is living there will stop at nothing to survive.



Soon the teachers and pupils develop a hive mind determined to ensnare Janet in its collective consciousness. Furthermore, the head girl has started to stalk Janet in a sexually predatory manner, seemingly possessed by the delinquent mod fellow who’s been hanging about the school.



The hippie pixie might have cured Janet’s acne with a single kiss, but his claim that he can fix what’s wrong with everyone else by mending an interdimensional rift is quite another matter.

Goodreads

Amazon.co.uk

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As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a B-movie buff and have been for years. I love sci-fi, absurdity and silliness – this book had it all! The cover first attracted me, I have many a DVD cover that looks similar and knew that this would would appeal to me in the same way. I don’t know what it is exactly but I just can’t get enough of this cover, it’s something about the bold colours and classic cheesy design that rocks my world so we have Jamie Noble Frier (awesome name or what?!) at http://www.TheNobleArtist.com to thank for that.
This book was reasonably short but as I’ve had a bit of a nightmarish week I’m disappointed that I had to finish it in a series of small chunks rather than just settling in one evening and working my way through in one go (no doubt I’ll re-read it in the next year or so when my trademark shocking memory has forgotten the plot so I can experience it for the first time all over again). The plot of this story was fast paced and really did read like a B-movie: it begins with our main character Janet arriving back at her boarding school after the holidays, she settles into her school routine and then things start getting a little bit weird. Her classmates start behaving oddly and there are some giant woodlice wandering about, as we can see from the front cover (giant woodlice. I LOVE this).
I was a huge fan of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series when I was a little girl and this book has made me nostalgic enough to read them all over again. The tone and language of this book is very similar to the old boarding school novels, when girls go for walks through meadows to picnic on boiled eggs and sardines. It just happens that this boarding school includes mind altering aliens and some very odd sexual tendencies (ok, maybe not that odd. We’ve all heard the rumours).

Like this, but with aliens, swearing and hippies.

The characters in this book weren’t particularly deep or memorable, with the possible exception of Quillin the inter-dimensional pixie caretaker with a pechant for seducing schoolgirls. I found his character rather funny and compelling, with the ‘yeah, so what?’ attitude towards his being a pixie in a world under invasion by an alien race. That’s the thing I love the most about B-movies (what’s the book equivalent called?), that you have to accept the absurdities and move on if you’re going to get anywhere. The characters aren’t necessarily the focal point of the story, so much as the journey.
The ending of this book was very neat and satisfying, especially after all of the unexpected twists and turns it took to get there. The eccentricity and unpredictable story demanded a strong ending for it to be enjoyable and make sense, the author definitely delivered on that count!
This is absolutely the book for you if you’re a fan of ‘alternative’ sci-fi films, want a reminder of the old Enid Blyton novels with a twist or just want something different to read!

Sarah Potter is also a blogger and a delight to follow, so do have a nosy if you want to read about what she’s getting up to next!

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Nutrition, Health and Chocolate Digestives

I gave up on the Couch to 5K program a few weeks ago when it became clear that though the legs were willing (and starting to become more shapely! Until then, even I couldn’t consider marshmallow to be a shape) the lungs were not.

I’m not entirely sure what the block was, I would start to cough ALL the time (even when not running) and feel ill for days afterwards if I sustained a run for more than 25 minutes, it was making me miserable that I couldn’t accomplish this so I’ve put it to bed and decided to focus on other things.

 

I have several friends who are personal trainers and general fitness freaks and one of them has set me out a training plan. I call it a training plan, it’s actually some stick figures contorting themselves on the back of an envelope that I then try to recreate later on in the gym.

On Sunday, I experienced ‘leg day’.  Today is Wednesday and I can still feel the aches – it might be that I’m overdoing it at this stage or that being sat down in work for 9 hours a day has caused my muscles to turn against me (seems likely) but I’m going to have to figure it out and sort it so I imagine there’s a fair amount of trial and error ahead!

Things I’ve learnt since doing non-running training: 

  1. My shoulders are rubbish.
  2. My legs are freakishly strong
  3. My legs know how to hold a grudge
  4. Reverse crunches are really funny
  5. I enjoy it so much more than running

 

Seeing as I’m determined to maintain this gym thing, I thought I’d back it up with some dietary tweaks so it’s all about the wholemeal, broccoli and absence of cheese. I also had to buy myself some more iron supplements so I switched over from tablets to liquid – good in theory as it absorbs much faster but it tastes AWFUL.
As I’m allergic to most fruit, I can’t mix it up with fresh fruit juice so I have it down to a fine art: mix it with strong lemon squash, down it as fast as possible and then get started on a cup of tea followed by a couple of chocolate digestives to combat the foul after taste.

  

The Offending Article- looking all lemony and innocent

 None of this stuff comes naturally to me, I generally prefer to sit in a big squishy chair and read my books while getting fat on cake but I can’t deny how much more energetic and healthy all of this effort has made me feel so I guess I’ll have to champion the notion of exercise and healthy livin’ (and biscuits). There are so many more hours to the day in the evenings when you have more energy, I don’t think I could maintain this blog or read half as many books as  I do if I didn’t regularly wear myself out at the gym so it has been a life changing experience.

 

‘I keep trying to lose weight….. but it keeps finding me’

 

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The Wedding, The Reading and The Denial That I Sniffled During The Vows

Thursday was the day- My wonderful friends B and D got married!

I knew these lovely folks back in school (I now look back and realise that it was a decade ago, which is a little disconcerting), they were lovely back then in their teens and have both matured in their loveliness ever since.

A week ago, B asked me if I would do a reading at her wedding.
This led to a dilemma – my crippling fear of public speaking and my overwhelming love and appreciation of this couple, so obviously I agreed to do it! I’m so glad I did now it’s done and the nerves are in the past, this is the second time I’ve done a reading at a friends’ wedding and it’s always such an honour to be asked to stand up and be a part of their day. The only thing that confuses me though is that they’ve all been great friends, how did they not know about my fear of public speaking?! I suppose the irony would be too great if I stood up and announced the fact.

The reading was the lyrics to this classic Welsh love song:

 

 

The English translation of the lyrics on the program aren’t in the right order but on the plus side I’m not convinced there were any Welsh speakers in the congregation so the secret is between us!

B looked stunning in her dress, she really was the epitome of the beautiful bride and even D had a little tear in his eye when she reached him.
What came as a bit of a surprise though …. so did I.

I remember them being 14 and sharing laughter, holding hands and hugs in the school corridors, their ups and their downs and now – here they are after more than 10 years promising that they’ll be together forever. I really, really believe that they will and I can’t wait to go and see them once they come back from their honeymoon.

 


 

 

There was one slight issue regarding the reception though…. B and D had so kindly arranged the menu around my dietary requirements and made sure that the decorations wouldn’t cause any allergic reactions but something cropped up that none of us could have guessed! The party marquee had been set up on a 3G rubber pitch which was sadly a Nia-free zone due to my latex allergy.

All was not lost though! I’m pretty philosophical about these things because they do tend to crop up and there’s nothing that detract from the day, my friends were now married and over the moon so I couldn’t consider being anything short of giddy.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand the bar wasn’t in the marquee. So, I propped that badboy up and enjoyed a couple of beers, some tasty food and then strolled along the seafront in the sun to the train station.

There was a time, only a few years ago, where this kind of setback would have ruined my entire day but I think I’m starting to understand more about the bigger picture – there’s absolutely nothing that could have ruined that day after those wonderful human beings had announced in front of all their loved ones that they would be spending the rest of their lives together.