Posted in Health and Well-Being, Lifestyle, sport

How To Get 100 People To Run In Six Easy Steps

Summer in London means people are more motivated to go out and be active.

Or so one would think.

Operating theatre staff are notorious for being reclusive and exclusive (even though in reality we really are a nice and sociable bunch). Tucked away in some hidden corner of the hospital, we probably see more blood than sunshine (morbid, much?), so as some kind of team building activity, I thought it would be a great idea for us to join the annual run organised by the Institute of Sports, Exercise and Health. 

As you can imagine, when I raised this during the daily team brief I was met with reactions that ranged from skeptical to downright scornful. Team building for most people means having a sit-down dinner and maybe having a few rounds of beer afterwards, preferably sponsored by surgeons and anaesthetists. But. You can do that on any ordinary day. This activity is actually a chance to get everyone out in the sun and running for charity. Think of the health benefits!

But no dice. People heard the word running and they literally ran away from the idea. So I had to get creative (and manipulative) and think about how I can generate enthusiasm for my idea. I thought if I could just get 30 people to sign up, I’d consider that a good turnout. This was about two months ago. Here we are 60 days later, the event has just finished and I managed to get ONE HUNDRED people from the department to run the race.

How did I do it? I honestly have no clue. I had several moments these past couple of weeks as I was sorting out bundles of registration forms and actually collecting money in the form of COINS when I thought to myself, what in the world was I thinking? The whole thing had totally run away from me (see what I did there?) and I was petrified that I would fail to organise this properly now that its turned into such a large-scale activity.

But we did it. And a good day was had by all. Looking back I think there were six key things that really made all the difference. And I thought I’d share it with everyone just in case you’re thinking of getting your own department to do something active, and also I want everyone in my department to take note so someone else can organise this next year! Lol

Plan a picnic

I think food is the fulcrum around which all of society spins. Its not love or money that makes the world go round, its booze (haha). So when my team and I said that there will be a picnic afterwards, people became more enthusiastic about the whole thing. We told people to bring food and drinks potluck-style, and my colleague Joanne volunteered to head the food committee. Instant attendance-booster.

Appeal to everyone’s naturally competitive nature

I don’t know about other departments, but our theatre team consists of some of the most competitive bunch of individuals I know. So we made a competition within the race, telling people to get into teams, and the idea was that the first group to get all five people within their team to the finish line wins a prize. Suddenly everyone was coming up with team names, printing their own t-shirts, motivating each other to train and of course, ragging each other about whose team is going to win (mine won, by the way, JUST SAYING).

Open it up to family and friends

Look, we already work five out of seven days in the hospital. Its really difficult to get people to voluntarily come on a Sunday; for free I might add. So we made sure to encourage people to bring their family and friends and turn it into some kind of Family Day so that those with kids can be persuaded to come. It was good to see people mingling and having the kids play with each other.

I often think that seeing someone in a social situation allows you to relate better with someone. In a stressful environment such as the operating theatres, there are a hundred and one ways for people to end up in some kind of argument. There’s also a hierarchy, and in some ways that hierarchy is there for a reason, but it also makes it easy for people to forget that at the end of the day, we’re all human. We have more in common than we think.

Okay, I got a little bit sidetracked there. I was just really chuffed to see families interacting. It really warms the heart.

Un-complicate the process

I’d like to think that I have good insight and people skills. I have a sort of innate understanding about how people think and how to best get them to cooperate. And I know that in order for everyone to stay enthusiastic, I should take out as much of the administrative work as I can (and inevitably, have them fall on my shoulders).

So I asked ISEH if there was any way we could register as a group (this was back when I thought I would have at most 30 runners) and they were so great at helping me find a way to make it easy for people to sign up.

Of course, I did spend the last three weeks collecting registration forms, chasing people for payment, counting change and putting names on an Excel spreadsheet, but I looked around the number of happy, smiling faces today and I have to say, it was worth it.

Make running less intimidating

Honestly, when I first started running I never thought I could even finish a 3k, let alone a 10k (which is the longest run I’ve ever done to date). And I think most people feel that way. They think running is just for the fittest of individuals and that they’re too slow to participate.

Every time someone came up to me who was hesitant about joining the run, I told them, look, its not about finishing first or finishing within a certain time. The point is to do it, and even if you finish behind everyone else, even if you finish last, you still finish. That is an achievement in and of itself because on a Sunday, half the population of England are on their couches (or in a pub somewhere watching the Football World Cup).

Even if you choose to walk a 5k, that is literally 15,000 steps. It can be done in like an hour and a bit, which is still a good time for finishing a 5k run especially if you don’t run regularly or you’ve not trained. Also, it was good of ISEH to have a 2.5k option – especially for the kids – because that’s really what the majority of the our team chose to do.

It takes a village

The idea might have been mine, and I may have done the leg work, but this would never have been organised if I hadn’t had help from my team and if people didn’t embrace the idea. I’m really thankful for my bosses who were so supportive, and who actually came and ran themselves. It was also great of them to buy medals so we can have our own awarding ceremony. I’m thankful to everyone that came, period. I think everyone deserves a round of applause at this point.

At the end of the day, we were all there to support each other and have a good time. I lost track of the number of people who passed by me and took the time to slow down and give me encouraging words or a thumbs up sign. One of our theatre leads actually crossed the finish line AND THEN went back to encourage and motivate the rest of his team, it was awesome.

 

I’m realistic enough to realise that all the problems of the world, and the NHS and our department in particular, will not be solved by one little fun run. But i genuinely hope, at the risk of sounding too corny or maudlin, that we can keep the momentum going and be able to see work a little better with each other than we did before this run.

And if not, well, there’s always next year. 

Thank you everyone for your support!  🙂

 

 

Posted in bloggers, Books, Politics, Reviews, Thriller

Book Review: The President Is Missing – Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Well, I never thought I’d see the day when a former President of the United States becomes a novelist.

This is the book that is sure to generate a lot of discussion as readers flock to their nearest bookstores to buy the snazzy looking cover that has BILL CLINTON written in its front cover in big bold letters, all caps.

If nothing else, the strange pairing between the former leader of the free world and one of the world’s most prolific writers (so prolific that people suspect others ghost write his novels) will be enough to get even the most negative of naysayers so curious that they’ll actually end up buying the book.

This was how it was in my case anyway. I’m not a big James Patterson fan but the fact that a former president co-wrote this intrigued me so much that I put it in my to-read list and bought it the day it was released here in London.

I mean think of all the insider secrets he could couch as “fiction”; think about the possible dirt he could have on the world’s most powerful nation, and all the stuff he can share about what it’s REALLY like to live in the White House.

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I have to say, people who feared that he’d give away state secrets can rest easy. For all the hype, there wasn’t anything in this book that we haven’t read in other political thrillers and dramas except perhaps that everything in this book is validated and believed to be factual because of Bill Clinton’s presumed input.

Can I just say though, the fact that it opened on an impeachment trial was too ironic for words, and it had me pissing myself laughing. I didn’t know whether to mock him or to applaud him for having the balls to write what must have been one of the most embarrassing periods of his political life into a novel.

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I resisted reading the initial reviews on Goodreads so that I would go into it with an open mind. And I’m glad I did that because I know a lot of people are being really critical about it. Come on guys, give the man a chance huh? What else is he supposed to do now that he’s no longer politically active?

And I have to say, while this book is not going to win the Nobel Prize for fiction anytime soon, its actually not bad. It started off really slow, and President Duncan felt like a really bland character who is destined for martyrdom. It certainly didn’t feel like Bill Clinton was fictionalising himself, although it would have been more entertaining if he did. Everyone loves a good scandal, right?

Instead, President Duncan felt almost too perfect. Sure, he had moments of doubts and moments where the public questioned his motives but the readers always get the sense that this guy is a hero: he loves his country, he’ll fight to the death to protect it from people who mean to do it harm.

And while cynics may find this a cause for criticism, maybe we should take a good hard look at ourselves and question why we find it so hard to believe in a character who is still pure and driven by altruistic motives. I think the reason will show too much about ourselves and the world we live than is comfortable.

Anyway, I was bored for the first 50 pages of  this book. It felt like they were all wasting precious time endlessly discussing options rather than actually doing something, which is my whole beef with politics in the first place. I mean, they’re sitting on a ticking time bomb and they waste half a day to discuss all the 50 ways that things could go wrong? Come on.

We did eventually get some action when readers find out what it is our characters are dealing with, and the fight sequences were genuinely good. I also like the subterfuge, the misdirection and the subtle balance of keeping foreign relations friendly even when you just want to tell someone to f**k off.

However, the main plot was not too original. In fact, Dan Brown had already done something similar with Inferno and Origin. This felt a lot like the latter, only without the religious undertones and, of course, the intrepid Robert Langdon. I’m not going to give too much away, but I would say that the plot is another cautionary tale against our ever-increasing reliance on technology and the Internet.

I did like the twists and turns that the novel took, especially on the last few chapters. I did GUESS the twist as early as 40% into the book, and I thought the President was monumentally stupid for not having seen it coming, but hey, what do I know?

I did not like the ending. The whole chapter before the epilogue felt utterly self-serving and useless, it had no ties whatsoever to the book. I would have happily skipped it but I could never let any part of any book go unread, so I read the whole darn thing and was rolling my eyes the whole time.

So to sum it up, this book was OKAY. Forget everything you hear about its authors and read it with an open mind and you’ll find that the plot was actually good and the writing pretty engaging. I applaud Bill Clinton’s gumption to venture into fiction-writing, and I hope he’ll come up with another one soon, maybe something that has Monica Lewinsky in it. A romance, perhaps?

Who knows? If this book tells you one thing, its that anything is possible.

 

Posted in bloggers, Lifestyle, Travel

The Final Problem: Switzerland Part 1

The older I get, the more I need to find a place to hide for a little while and recharge. Work often gets stressful no matter how much I love my job, and the pressures of trying to make things work in a city like London sometimes get a bit too much. Its nice to have a place where I can just forget about it for a little while and just be able to breathe. Switzerland is that place for me, which is why I try to visit as often as I can.

Everything is so scenic in Switzerland, and there’s something about this country that just makes it a little easier to breathe. And I mean that literally. On my first full day in Schaffhausen I went for a 10k run towards the Rhine Falls, which is quite a hilly route.

Normally, I’d be huffing and puffing and getting side stitches once I hit the 3km mark but not only do I run faster in Switzerland, I also seem to have better breath control. I think its the clean air. You don’t realise it until you’re away from it, but London really is one polluted city.

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Wouldn’t you run everyday with a view like this?

 

I was blessed with absolutely gorgeous weather on this trip. So there were plenty of opportunities to go for a run and to do other activities such as going to a strawberry farm and picking fresh strawberries, the size of which were sometimes as big as a baby’s fist. If one wished to, one could also pick fresh roses off the rose garden.

 

While researching for this trip, I accidentally came across a fact that I really should have known ages ago, being a massive Sherlock fan. You see, despite the fact that Sherlock is OBVIOUSLY  a fictional character, the place where he appeared to have plummeted to his death in the book ‘The Final Problem’ is actually real.

The Reichenbach Fall is located in a small town in the north of Switzerland called Meiringen (pronounced My-ring-gen with a hard g). Because we also wanted to visit Interlaken and other neighbouring cities in that area, my cousin got us a Tageskarte (day pass, I think?) that will allow us to ride trains and buses to any destination within the country for a day, all for 45 CHF.

I think that’s a pretty sweet deal and something travellers should consider purchasing, because train tickets (like everything else in this country) do not come cheap. I think to get from Zurich Airport to Schaufhassen costs like 23 CHF for a one-way ticket. Its ridiculous.

Anyway, depending on where your base is, you might want to make an early start in the morning. It takes about 3 hours to get from Schaufhaussen (which is near Zurich) to Meiringen. You might also want to download the SBB app, which is their version of TFL, because it helps you plan your route and connections.

To get to Meiringen, we had to change trains three times. And we had to walk fast because for each change, we had about an average of 10 minutes to get from one platform to another or risk missing our connection. Needless to say, I was really glad I wore sensible shoes.

The train ride to Meiringen will take you amongst the most scenic and picturesque views that the country has to offer. I normally fall asleep as soon as the train gets moving but apart from the fact that I was scared as hell that we’d miss our stop, I really could not afford to close my eyes on the train ride because I’d miss one hell of a view.

When we finally got to Meiringen, we had to then figure out how to actually get to the bloody waterfall. Again, this is where the SBB app comes in use because it will pretty much give you a step-by-step guide on how to get to anywhere that has a bus or train station attached to it.

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A handy guide on the tram stations around Meiringen

For the Reichenbach Falls, we had to take a tram from Meiringen to a place called Alpbach, which is so close that you can WALK there if you’re not in any hurry or if (unlike us) you actually had a clue as to where to go. Also, it might be good to realise that this area actually has A LOT of waterfalls and you had to make sure you go to the right one.

From Alpbach station we had to walk to the funicular station to take us up to Reichenbach Falls. I didn’t realise how much of a presence Sherlock Holmes actually has in a town so far removed from England. They’ve capitalised on the great detective’s fame by doing tours and erecting museums in his honour.

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It cost about 12 CHF for a return ticket to and from the falls. Note: they only take cash. Also, if you’re planning to visit the nearby Aareschlucht (literally translated it means Aare Gorge) you might want to look into buying tickets for both because it will save you a few swiss francs.

 

The falls themselves are breathtaking. I don’t know, maybe its because I haven’t seen anything apart from buildings and man-made parks for a while or because as a traveller, I’m really quite easy to please. But I was ridiculously happy to have made it up there. I was even chuffed at the Sherlock Holmes cutout that they had near the funicular platform.

 

To get a closer look at the falls, and to get to the actual place where Sherlock fell to his death, you have to go on quite a bit of a hike. Again, wearing sensible shoes is key. Also, check the weather before scheduling your trip because I can imagine that it would get rather tricky to make the hike in unfavourable weather conditions.

 

Whatever you do, don’t forget to take your time and to take in the view from the top because its absolutely stunning. I’m pretty sure this blog post is now full of superlatives but even if I couldn’t find the words to describe how beautiful it is, the pictures should speak for themselves.

 

Don’t worry, falling is like flying, only a more permanent destination

The Reichenbach Fall, Sherlock

 

I think we don’t realise how much of a weight we carry on our shoulders until we go on a holiday and we shed that weight, even if its just for a few days. I have so much more to share about this trip, and I will be doing a series of blogs about it. But I just want to end this first one by saying that its my firm and unshakeable belief that travelling, despite its enormous cost to our bank accounts, is one of the few things that truly make us rich.

Travel on, wanderers and dreamers. 

 

Posted in bloggers, friendship, relationships

Dear Old Friend

Dear Old Friend,

It occurred to me that I very rarely take the opportunity to thank you for being the kind of friend that I never knew I wanted but one I so desperately needed.

You see, I had a moment of clarity this week when I realised that life very rarely turns out the way we want it to. We don’t always get the things we want when we want them, and sometimes our prayers go unanswered.

There’s a reason for that though. Time and some higher powers at work know something we don’t. Because when life doesn’t give us the things we ask for, its because it wants to give us something better.

I’ve spent the past ten years glorifying a relationship that was probably more one-sided than I would have liked. One of the life lessons I’ve learned over the years is that when it’s right it should be easy. You don’t have to bend over backwards in order to feel secure in any relationship, because the best kind – the ones that are worth keeping – are unconditional. 

Ours is the kind of friendship that is free from complications. We understand each other so well that when both our phones died one time and we didn’t arrange where to meet up beforehand, we both made the executive decision to go home and just call each other once we’ve recharged our batteries. And we both knew that the other person wouldn’t take it personally, because that’s just how we roll.

You are the only person I could ever imagine going on a Euro Trip with. I don’t know how we did it, but we both grew up together AND separately on that trip. There was an understanding that we were going to enjoy the experience together, and I was glad to be there with someone who shares my interest in art, history and culture.

But there was also an implicit understanding that if at any point you wanted to do your own thing and I wanted to do mine, that was okay. Like when the time I wanted to go drinking in Berlin and you wanted to take photos of the Brandenburg Gate at night; or when YOU wanted to go drinking in Rome and I just wanted to curl up in the hotel with a good book.

We never put pressure on the other person to always be in each other’s pockets. We don’t need to see each more than once a week to stay connected. Heck, sometimes we go weeks without seeing each other.

But I like how we make it a point to know about each other’s lives. When something big happens, or when I have some random thought about how I think you look like the Black Panther, a simple howdy on Messenger will start a conversation that usually ends with us talking for hours.

We never stopped to think about how unique our friendship is. What’s normal for us is actually incredibly difficult to find. How many purely platonic guy-girl friendships have we known to exist? The answer is none. Its not possible. But we’ve made it possible, we’ve created the kind of friendship that works for us.

I guess in a time where we’re reaching the peak of our adulthood and we start to take stock of the relationships we’ve created and maintained over the years, its easy to be disillusioned when we find that we’ve wasted so much time and effort on a relationship that turned out to be hollow, or a friendship that did not stand the test of time and distance.

We’ve both experienced what its like to struggle to reconnect with someone who’s become a stranger, and we both know what its like to be unable to relate to someone who’s life choices has led him or her down a completely different path.

Its nothing personal, and its not to say that the other person is necessarily a bad friend. But I think that making the effort to stay in touch and be friends with someone – no matter the distance – is a choice.

Its very telling, the friendships that we chose to maintain and invest effort into. I think deep down we know which ones are worth it and which ones are not even worth the effort of being upset over. Sometimes the thing to do is to just cut your losses and realise you’re too old to cling to something that’s not having a positive impact on your life.

So I suppose I just wanted to write this blog to celebrate that. I wanted to celebrate our friendship because it is one my constants, its one of those anchors that I need in order to keep myself sane throughout the crazy rollercoaster that is my life.

I will always be here for you, even if I appear to be too busy. I’m never to busy to spend 100 minutes talking about everything and nothing at all. In fact, at the rate my love life is going you’ll probably have me as a permanent boarder on that loft that your new home conveniently comes with. I’ve already assessed where my bookshelves are going, so prepare yourself. Lol

Seriously though, thank you old friend. Thank you for cheering me on even when I get crazy ideas, for never making me feel like I was stupid for trying something when there was every possibility I would make a fool of myself. Thank you for the sharing and the laughter.

Listen here.

We are not allowed to become the kind of friends that only see each other once every seven years. We are not allowed to be sitting across each other in a restaurant one day and struggle so much to find a single topic of conversation because we’ve let ourselves drift too far apart, so we end up being on our phones half the time instead of talking to each other. That’s not how this friendship is going to end up.

Please don’t ever become a stranger, I don’t think I would know what to do with myself if that happens. Wherever life takes me, know that I am taking you with me wherever I go. And believe me, I will bully myself into your life even if you don’t want me there.

That is how this friendship will end: with you, me and a bowl of curry reminiscing about the good old days.

Love,

Anj

 

 

Posted in bloggers, Careers, Self-Discovery

Learning how to ride a bike and other metaphors for life

I remember the very first time I ever got on a bicycle.

I was probably about seven years old and we lived in a village where all the kids used to come out and play in the afternoon and we’d all ride our bikes together, training wheels and all.

I have always been cautious by nature. I think I came out of the womb with a heightened sense of self-preservation. Even as a child, I was never one to take any risks. I was also quite conscious from an early stage of the things that were within my capabilities and those that weren’t.

Needless to say, basketball and other contact sports were not a big part of my formative years. Or anything that involved hand-eye coordination and stamina (I was a fat kid. Lol)

But I was quite happy with riding a bike. The training wheels were like my very own safety net. They ensured that I’d always find my balance, that I would never fall over and hurt myself. I was as happy and as carefree as it was possible to be, pushing pedal to the metal and going around the village without a care in the world.

Of course, the training wheels had to come off at some point. 

I was petrified the first time I ever got on a “real” bike. My uncle had one hand on my seat as he instructed me to take my time and to take it slow. He promised he wouldn’t let go unless he was sure I could do it on my own, and that he’d never let go before I was ready.

I didn’t think I’d ever get to a point where I could convince myself I was ready. I went around the block a couple of times with my uncle supporting me the whole time. He must have been exhausted, but bless him, he believed me when I said I wasn’t ready for him to let go just yet.

Inevitably though, we reached that moment where I had to be pushed, where I had to break through the barriers of fear and just do it. It was a real sink or swim moment. My uncle let go, and I either had to find my balance and pedal or I fall and hurt myself.

Those first few solo rides were shaky, and I fell and scraped my knees too many times to count. But I got back on that bike and tried again until I was cycling around the village without a training wheel in sight.

I needed that final push. 

Would I have been content to carry on riding a kid bike? Maybe. But it would only have taken me so far, and I would have missed out on the experience of being able to do something that I was initially fearful of.

Any new experience comes with fears and doubts, but that shouldn’t be a reason for missing out on them. I think continuously pushing and challenging yourself to do something you never thought you were capable of, especially if its something that scares the shit out of you, will only help you to grow as a person.

I have always been afraid of change. And these past couple of years I’ve attempted to make a big career change twice, and both times I backed out at the point of actually dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.

I suppose part of that was because I always knew that it wasn’t the right time or the right move. But now the right opportunity has come, and it would be remiss of me not to take the chance just because I’m afraid or because I insist on clinging to the comfort of what’s familiar.

I never expected to have to feel this twice in one lifetime; they say once you learn how to ride a bike you’ll never forget how to do it. But at this moment, that is exactly how I feel. I feel like I’m about to learn how to ride a bike for the first time all over again.

The training wheels have come off. I’m as ready as I will ever be. I suppose the only thing left to do is hang tight and pedal.

Posted in Books, murder mystery, relationships, Young Adult

Book Review: One of Us Is Lying – Karen McManus

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I freaking love being right!

So I’ve had this book on my to-read list for a while now and I bought it because its meant to be like a retelling of one of my favourite films in the world: The Breakfast Club.

But apart from the fact that five people who could not be any more different from each other, and who come from different high school cliques, suddenly find themselves in detention one afternoon, this book is NOTHING like that touchy-feely, feel-good 80s classic. Because five people go into detention and only four people make it out alive.

No one’s dancing on the library steps in this movie. Except for me, because I freaking solved this mystery halfway through the book. I dismissed it at first because it seemed far-fetched, and things kept cropping up that made me think another person did it, so I got a little bit sidetracked and confused. So when I got to the inevitable twist and the big ending, and it turned out I was right on so many levels? HAPPY DANCE.

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I am very selective about the YA books I read because I find that the older I get, the less patience I have for the unnecessary, pointless and ridiculous teenage angst that seems to make its way into a lot of these books. The cliches really push my buttons, and I feel like some of these books don’t give teenagers the credit they deserve.

This book sets itself apart from the rest by tempering the adolescent drama with humour, wit and most of all, intelligence. The main characters were really likeable. It heightens the sense of dread you feel when you’re reading the book because you really couldn’t imagine any one of the Bayview Four killing their classmate. I really felt like my heart would break if it turned out one of them did it.

I wanted to flip through the ending just to put myself out of my misery, but I resisted. 

This isn’t a lighthearted book, my friends. It has murder in it, but more than that it exposes all the ways that people can be so thoughtless of how they treat other people, and the devastating consequences that follow. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: teenagers are some of the most cruel group of people in the world, and high school can be a very dangerous place.

Think about it. An entire population of hormonal, confused and angst-ridden kids all gathered in one place? Its a disaster waiting to happen. Who ever thought that this was a great idea? I’ve lived through high school, and while I made it through unscathed, you could not pay me enough to go back there again.

I guess, apart from the incredibly riveting murder-mystery that is the central plot of this book, this is also a social commentary of what happens when we insist on using labels to identify people: the jock, the brain, the princess, the rebel and the outcast. Why does it have to be so definite and one-dimensional?

Why can’t the princess be smart? Why can’t the jock be rebellious? I think that human beings are capable of having so many different facets to their personality and doing so many things at one time, that putting them in the tight confines of a box that’s labelled with just one thing is the real crime.

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Social media just adds fuel to the fire too. I mean, back in MY day (God, I feel so old), you only have to worry about people whispering about you in the hallways of school. Now, any thing you do could be all over the internet in an instant, with one click of a Submit button. And it will be there for the world to see.

Sometimes I think technology, and certainly Facebook, has made a profit off making our lives miserable. And yet there we are, most hours of the day, logged on and being willing slaves to Mark Zuckerberg’s invention.

Anyway, the book does end on a positive and redemptive note. It was a very satisfying read for me even though I figured out most of the plot twists. It was good writing and good storytelling, and this isn’t a book that I will forget any time soon. Well done, Karen McManus.

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Posted in Books, relationships, Reviews, romance

Book Review: The Blue Afternoon – William Boyd

 

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One Tuesday morning, one of my favourite surgeons randomly said to me “So Angie, I never knew that the at one point the Philippines was at war with America.” I thought to myself that this was an incredibly odd topic to bring up out of the blue. I had no idea where this came from and where he was going with this statement.

It turned out he’d read a book by William Boyd that was set in the Philippines around the time that the country was under the rule of the US government, and he recommended that I put this book in my massive to-read pile because he was sure I’d find it interesting. I was curious enough to look it up on Goodreads, and I became convinced that I should read this book when I found out it was a love story.

I was under the impression that this was going to be another one of those war books that people seemed to like so much. In my head, I imagined scenes similar to Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale on Pearl Harbour and it would be all angsty and heartbreaking.

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Cue tears and boxes of Kleenex. 

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It soon became clear that this was in no way similar to Pearl Harbour. Sure the premise seemed to follow the pattern of romance novels set in that era. Daughter meets her long-lost biological father and ends up helping him in his quest to find his long-lost love.

With nothing to go on but rumours and an old photograph, they set out for Portugal in the hopes of a happy reunion and along the way, this epic love story was told to the daughter in retrospect. I thought for sure that I already knew where this was going. I was so smug in my belief that the ending to this novel was a foregone conclusion.

How very wrong I was. 

Warning, there will be spoilers ahead! 

To my everlasting surprise, this novel had mystery, passion, deception, intrigue and yes, a bit of romance if one stretches one’s imagination enough to call infidelity and faking your own death romantic. 

This wasn’t a story about love so much as it is a story about desire and the lengths someone would go to in order to satisfy that desire. I’m sorry, but the hopeless romantic in me still believes that love is not love if you can’t shout it out on the rooftops, and that when it’s right it should be easy. This pairing was neither right nor easy and it certainly wasn’t love.

So yeah, the love story wasn’t what I expected it to be. The good thing is, though, that this book had a lot of things going for it that kept me turning the pages even when I was so exhausted from work.

First of all, I don’t think I’ve ever read a published international novel that was set entirely in the Philippines. I’m glad we’re getting that level of exposure as a country and that our history is being discovered by people who read William Boyd.

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I often think its a shame that we don’t make enough of a point of sharing our vast, colourful and interesting history. We don’t make enough of an effort to invest in museums that show the world what we’ve gone through as a nation and as a people. They can and should make a large-scale Hollywood movie out of it, in my own totally unbiased opinion.

The description of the setting was also authentic and incredibly atmospheric. It felt like I was transported to Manila in the  turn of the century and watching the sun set over Manila Bay. I had the sudden urge to fly home and explore the remnants of the walled city of Intramuros.

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Sunset over Manila Bay. Photo credits to Pinterest as I’ve actually never been here myself. I KNOW. SHAME ON ME. 

The other thing I liked, and which should not have surprised me given that it was a surgeon who recommended this book, was that it showed the evolution of medicine in the Philippines.  The nurse in me found this all very interesting. Medicine and surgery play a central and pivotal role in this story, and my inner geek was shouting with glee when I realised just how pivotal a role it played.

Anyway, I’ve blathered on for far too long when all I really wanted to say was that I really liked this book and I’m glad I gave it a shot. I wasn’t sure about the author’s writing style initially, but it grew on me because the plot was just so damn interesting. There were a lot of unanswered questions at the end, and to be honest the ending was ambiguous as hell. But that’s part of its charm I suppose.

I really recommend this book to anyone but most especially for people like me who might miss home every now and then. 

Cheers bookworms! xx