A night out in Reading, Berkshire

I must confess that there was a time when I was rather dismissive of Reading; apologies to anyone who lives there or originates from the town.

The only part of Reading I really knew was the train station. I would pass through on the way to the West Country or up North, often for work.

Then two events meant that I got to know Reading a lot better. Firstly, my eldest son moved there for work and secondly, our first TrustedHousesitters assignment was in Reading.

There is much more to Reading than first meets the eye. There are some fabulous walks. There is a great deal of history. There is the University. There is the River and the Canal. There are a wide range of cafés and restaurants. There are shops. In fact I think I will do another post about Reading when I have some decent photos!

The only photos I do have, feature the two dogs we looked after in Reading! They were very young when we first looked after them. These photos were taken during a walk alongside the Thames.

I digress…

Our night in Reading was to celebrate the birthdays of our eldest son and his girlfriend. They happen to share the same birthday, although not the same year. Mr FF also has a special birthday later this month, so it was celebrations all round! Youngest son joined us as well for a very special visit to ‘L’ Ortolan’.

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L’Ortolan is the only Michelin restaurant in the Reading area and we decided to have the seven course tasting menu. This was a new experience for all of us. I don’t think the photos really do the food justice. My favourite dishes were the hake, the venison and the divine desert!

 

The restaurant is in a former vicarage in Shinfield which is actually just outside Reading. The service was everything I hoped it would be and more.

However, I must confess that I am not a fan of foams and gels. I do find them – dare I say – a bit pretentious or maybe that says more about me!

I also think we have been spoilt by the amazing food we have been enjoying in France, at both ends of the scale.

When we have saved up again – haha – I would quite like to return to L’Ortolan and have a ‘proper’ meal! Watch this space…

Here’s the link to the restaurant’s website, if you’d like to find out more:

www.lortolan.com

4 recent reads

How do you prefer to read?

I still love the feel of an actual book, although when travelling I tend to use my Kindle for practical reasons.

Perhaps you are part of a book club. I don’t belong to one but I do swap books with family and friends.

In our village, we have an Oxfam bookshop which I frequent both to buy and donate. We’re lucky enough to have a library which I also use on a regular basis.

The first book I’m going to talk about is written by Joanna Cannon and is her second novel ‘Three Things About Elsie’.

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I loved her first novel ‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’, so I was very interested to see if I would enjoy this second book as much.

The book features Florence who is eighty four years old and lives in a flat in Cherry Tree Home for the elderly. When the story begins, Florence has fallen and is lying on the floor waiting to be rescued. One of the things troubling Florence is the arrival of a new resident who looks exactly like a man she used to know. The problem is that he died sixty years ago and Florence is extremely worried this could lead to the disclosure of a terrible secret from her past.

Florence tells us “There are three things you should know about Elsie. The first thing is that she’s my best friend. The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better. And the third thing … might take a little bit more explaining.”

I loved this book, party because I enjoy the author’s writing style but also because it’s quirky, funny, poignant and original.

The next two books, I bought at the airport, on my way back to France, which is unusual for me. It might have been because I was travelling on my own and had more time to browse.

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This book was highly recommended by my sister in law who is an avid reader and has made some excellent suggestions in the past.

This novel is set in Shaker Heights, Ohio, which is a ‘perfect’ suburban community. The plot focuses on the Richardsons who are the personification of the ‘ideal’ family. They have four teenage children. Mia Warren, a struggling artist, arrives in this community, with her teenage daughter and a very different set of values. The sparks begin to fly.

The story actually begins with a raging house fire but travels back in time to follow the chain of events leading to this catastrophe. There is the element of a thriller. Who lit the fire and why?

Central to the plot is a custody battle over the adoption of a Chinese-American baby which raises questions over race and motherhood.

I must admit that it took me a while to get into this book but I’m so glad I persevered.

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This was the second book I bought at the airport, as part of a buy one-get one free offer. It’s basically a love story but with a twist. We are introduced to Robbie and Emily who have been together for years. They met in the sixties and share a deep bond. However, there is a secret they’ve been keeping… One ordinary morning Robbie wakes up, gets dressed, writes Emily a letter and leaves for good.

The book is beautifully written and goes back and forth over the decades, until we discover the whole story. A perfect holiday read!

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This book is very different to many of my choices. It was passed on to me by a friend and I’m so glad I read it.

The main character is Tom Hazard who has a dangerous secret. He may look like a 41-year-old, but he has a rare condition and he’s actually been alive for centuries. We travel, with Tom, from  Elizabethan England to Jazz-Age Paris and from New York to the South Seas, encountering Shakespeare and Captain Cook on the way, amongst others.

There are two main problems that make life very difficult for Tom. He has to hide his condition from ‘normal’ people and he must not fall in love.

We meet Tom in the present where he has the perfect cover – working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. He can teach the kids about witches, plagues and wars as if he had seen them!

I loved this book and I didn’t want it to end!

Have you read any of these books or do you have any recommendations based on your recent reading? I’d love to know!