North Cornwall

Treyarnon Bay

Treyarnon Bay

Sunshine, sea and surf in Cornwall

We have just returned from a lovely five-day stay in a mobile home near St Merryn on the North Cornish coast. Before we set off, the forecast didn’t look too promising, but in actual fact we had sunshine every day of our holiday, with temperatures averaging 15-16° C – warm enough for us to sit/play on the beach and dip into the sea for long periods in our wetsuits.

Another positive was the rapid journey to reach this part of Cornwall. It only took us three hours from Oxford, which is much faster than the four hours we predicted. Given that it was the half-term school holidays and that it normally takes us 3 ½ hours to get to the closer North Devon coast, it shows what a difference it makes when you drive on a dual-carriageway for most of the journey.

In terms of beaches, you are spoilt for choice here. In just five days, we visited five different beaches, none more than 20 minutes drive away. Here are our recommendations.

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The Two Faces of January

two-faces-of-january-posterThe Two Faces of January
Hossein Amini

This is an absorbing yet ultimately disappointing film set in a picturesque 1960s southern Europe. It tells the story of a rich American couple, Chester and Colette MacFarland, who are on a grand tour of Europe. In Athens, they meet a young American tour guide, Rydal Keener (Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis), who agrees to take them on a tour of the market the following day. Chester (played by an outstanding Viggo Mortensen, Lord of the Rings) is quick to mistrust Rydal, even though we learn that he has earned his own wealth by deceptive means. His wife (Kirsten Dunst, Spiderman) seems sweet and innocently unaware of her husband’s business, but as time passes we learn that she is not as naïve as she first leads us to believe.

Within hours, the trio are tied up in a crime of murder and deception, which they cannot escape, and the tensions and suspicions soon start to unfold. We, the viewer, cannot be sure at first where this is going to take us. There appears to be an undercurrent of sexual attraction between the two men or is it a father/son-like attraction? Colette is drawn to Rydal and he to her, but we’re not certain that this is true for either or both of them.

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Honey Cake

IMG_1780

Honey Cake

We got this recipe from last week’s Guardian and thought we’d give it a go, given that we had most of the ingredients in the cupboard. It was very easy to make and we’ve managed to make it last longer than four days, which is a record in our house when there are five sweet-toothed mouths to feed.

The cake seems to get tastier the longer you leave it and it retains its moisture. Delicious.

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Puttanesca Sauce

puttanesca sauce

Puttanesca sauce

This is a really simple pasta sauce to make and all five members of my family love it – no easy feat! It’s great served with spaghetti, although you can use any sort of pasta.  The main ingredients are tomatoes, capers, olives and anchovies, so it’s got a lovely tangy taste.  It originates from southern Italy and means ‘whore’s sauce’.  This recipe serves four people.

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Snow White Must Die

SnowWhiteSnow White Must Die
Nele Neuhaus

In 1997, Tobias (Tobi) Sartorius was convicted for the double murder of two 17-year-old girls: a childhood friend, Laura, and his beautiful girlfriend, Stefanie, aka Snow White because of her resemblance to the Disney character. Neither body was ever found so Tobi’s conviction was based purely on circumstantial evidence.

After 11 years in prison, Tobi returns home to find that his parents have separated, their successful restaurant business has closed and the premises completely run down. Tobi quickly realises that his parents have suffered just as much as him during his absence, and he sets about trying to make amends by cleaning up the property for his father.

The setting is a small, menacing village near Frankfurt, whose inhabitants are insular and wary. Everybody seems to have a dark story of his or her own. And, of course, as with most stories set in a village, there is one very rich and successful family, who appears to hold control over the villagers.

Tobi’s return stirs up the events of the past and he is subjected to a number of attacks. Then, just days after his release, Laura’s body is unearthed and this sets the action into motion, bringing in the detectives, Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein to investigate. Pia begins to question the findings of the original investigation and as she probes the holes in the case, another teenage girl, last seen in the company of Tobi, goes missing. Of course, the villagers are certain that Tobi is to blame.

There are a lot of characters in the book and you will need to concentrate to follow them all throughout this lengthy novel.  Some of them are referred to by their first name, others by their surname, and the author isn’t consistent in using the same name for the same character, which I found very confusing at times.

The characters of the detectives and their colleagues are well drawn and believable. They each have their own domestic issues to deal with, as is usually the case with crime thrillers. Their own stories interweave fluidly with the case they are investigating.

However, most disappointing for me was the character of Tobi who seems two-dimensional and without any real personality. He can’t remember the events leading up to the murders and he just seems to drift along, being far too trusting of everyone. I would have liked to have seen his character developed more by the author. His new friend Amelie, who disappears, has bags of personality and spirit, and the author could have used her as the catalyst to bring Tobi out of his zombie-like state and start working things out for himself much earlier on, rather than just leaving it to the detectives.

Verdict: This is a long and complex novel, which starts off slowly, as the scene is set. At first I was dubious that its contents would keep me gripped. However, it soon picks up pace, with so many twists, turns and red herrings, that I was kept guessing right up to the end.  I would definitely try this author again.

Rating: 3 1/2/5

 

 

Le Passé (The Past)

le passeLe Passé (The Past)
Dir: Asghar Farhadi, French/Iranian, 2013

This is an emotional drama with a strong cast of characters, which unravels slowly in twists and turns to keep you wondering who you should sympathise with and who you can trust.

The first shot is of Marie who has come to collect Ahmad, her estranged husband of four years, at the airport. They first see each other through a glass panel and try to communicate. However, neither can hear the other and perhaps this is what the director is touching on as his theme for the film: how we spend our lives not properly listening to or understanding each other.

Ahmad has come to Paris from Tehran, to sign divorce papers so that Marie, who is pregnant, can marry her new partner. Marie insists that Ahmad stays at the family house, in order to spend time with Marie’s daughters from a previous relationship and with whom he was once obviously very close. Ahmad learns that Marie and her eldest daughter Lucie are not getting along. Ahmad tries to bring mother and daughter back together, to reconnect, and soon discovers a secret, which Lucie has been keeping to herself, and which is causing her a lot of heartache.

Into this mix comes Marie’s new partner, Samir, who has a young son and whose wife is in a coma, having tried to commit suicide. Again more secrets are slowly revealed along the way until, at the end, although all is resolved, the viewer is left with so many questions to work back through. I had to sit in the cinema for five minutes afterwards to try and piece it all together. My friends and I continued to discuss it all the way home as it certainly raised many questions for each of us.

I loved this film and found it totally engrossing. It was refreshing to see a film, set in a Parisian working- class environment and the domestic scenes were incredibly natural and real for me. The performances by the children are outstanding in this film, especially Samir’s young son, who brought tears to my eyes in several scenes. As for the adult actors, you’ll recognise Bérénice Bejo from The Artist and Tahar Rahim from A Prophet. All of the adult performances were brilliant.

Verdict: a must-see if you like strong character films that don’t race along but move at a measured pace. It’s totally absorbing and is a good film to watch with a group of friends as it leaves you asking lots of questions afterwards, which you’ll want to talk through with somebody over a glass of wine.

Top tip: Watch the end carefully or else, like me, you might miss it and will need to find a clip on YouTube to replay it.

 

Topshop Sixties Lace Shift Dress

P1040604 I first tried on the cream version of this dress in Topshop.  I really liked the length on me (I am 5’ 4’’). It sat well above the knee but wasn’t too short, and was a good fit. The dress was really comfortable and easy to walk around in. However, as this was for my school prom, I wasn’t sure about wearing cream, so I ordered the mint green colour from the Topshop website. At £48, I thought the price was okay for a special event, if a little high.

When the dress arrived, I thought the colour was great and the fit was perfect.

During the evening itself, I had no problems at all and I got loads of compliments about the colour, how it suited me, etc. And it still looked okay when I got home at 3am the following morning.

The only thing I didn’t realise was that it’s dry clean only so that’s a bit annoying.

Verdict: a good fitting, dress to wear to a party, wedding or smart event.

Buy it here.