I was recently asked for suggestions on places to stop off after Bristol on the Narbeth and London route to break the monotonous drive of the M4 with small children. There’s plenty though in this recent heat I suggested Lagoona Park, Jocks Lane and California Country Park.
The M4 is my (not really) chosen specialist subject as I have driven up and down it countless times in different cars with varying ages of passenger over the years and once or twice in the cab of a breakdown truck or on a stiff tow.
Remember back in the day when the words spoken before any car journey were “have you been to the loo?”, “I’m not stopping on the way” and “we have to leave now to beat the traffic”. Not so these days with the motorway services and so much to see and do just off the motorways. As much as motorways are great for driving from A to B if there’s an issue you’re stuck, which is why I favour getting off at the earliest junction and going cross country. I tend to check Waze and sat nav for any traffic hotspots and of course listen to BBC Radio Berkshire for the travel updates. With the summer holidays come the requests for recommendations of summer reading and last week my 3 book choices on BBC Radio Berkshire were: TAKE NOTHING WITH YOU BY PATRICK GALE I have read A Place Called Winter and seen The Man In The Orange Shirt and loved them both. In Take Nothing With You we meet Eustace, recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer, who at the age of 50 falls in love with, though has yet to meet, Theo who is serving overseas. As he begins his treatment he starts reminiscing about his childhood and we learn more about the characters and events that shaped him. With every chapter there’s something amusing, thought provoking and a smidge emotional. I burst out laughing at the mention of George Best - my granny had no interest in football yet had a photo of George Best in her kitchen. She was also an avid tennis fan and used to hunker down and discourage visitors during Wimbledon, there was one exception. Me. Rebel. Take Nothing With You is beautiful book of Eustace’s memories which will no doubt trigger yours. I savoured every word, you will too when it is published on 21st August. THE YEAR OF SURPRISING ACTS OF KINDNESS BY LAURA KEMP Ceri Price arrives in West Wales to scatter her mother’s ashes not intending to stay long. Famous last words! A case of mistaken identity ensures she takes the job of barmaid and stays awhile in (my beloved) West Wales. Over time random acts of kindness happen to the close knit village community and by the end you will be laughing and crying, and if you know West Wales you’ll be longing to go back. Having read this earlier in the year I am re-reading it. Unheard of but when you find a feel good book such as this you can’t let it go! I have also said that this book is in my most favourite ever book list. I also adored The Late Blossoming of Frankie Green by Laura and have added Whatever Happened To Vicky Hope’s Backup Man to my Kindle. I can’t wait to chat to Laura at Crickhowell Literary Festival in October. THE WOMEN WHO FLEW FOR HITLER BY CLARE MULLEY I will be completely honest and say that I don’t read an awful lot of historical biographies but I met Clare’s partner Ian Wolter (look him up he’s very talented) at the London Launch of Henley Literary Festival and from his description I thought I’m jolly well going to read it. Clare is at Henley Literary Festival this year and I am very much looking forward to going to her talk. I was on the radio with Jenny Quintata whose debut novel The Missing Girl is quite something. I had heard good things about it and having read it I can see why, Jenny is also at Henley Literary Festival and her event onboard Hibernia will certainly be worth booking tickets for. One of my daughters is reading her way through the Enid Blyton series which takes me back to my childhood when I devoured them as well as horsey books, whilst the others are reading or have read “Mum, can you lend me twenty quid?” by Elizabeth Burton-Phillips. Elizabeth is also at Henley Literary Festival on Friday 5th October at 830pm, do come along. Tickets for Henley Literary Festival are available through their website.