Book review: the secret by rhonda byrne

Introduction:

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne is about the law of attraction.  The author says if you want good things then think positively about them and you will get them. Likewise if you think negatively you will attract negativity.   I find some of her ideas very relevant but others are very unrealistic.

Visualisation and Gratitude:

Rhonda Byrne sees visualisation and gratitude as the 2 most powerful ways of getting what you want.  It starts with imagination.  The Wright Brothers invented the aeroplane and Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone by creating the ideas in their heads and visualising them first.

She suggests that to make lots of money you need to visualise yourself with lots of money.  Personally this doesn’t work for me.   However, if I tell myself to be happy, I do feel happier and I am more positive about life.

The author also says that by being grateful about everything you have means that you will attract more of what you want.  Say thank you for your day, and your life, and mean it.  It doesn’t matter if you say it to yourself or to a higher being, just be grateful and you will be happy.

The Secret and relationships:

Rhonda Byrne states the obvious in this section, pointing out that if you feel bad about yourself you attract people who make you feel bad.  On the other hand when you have self respect and love yourself then you will attract people who treat you with love and respect.  I can relate to this section and agree that people treat me better when I behave in a confident way. 

The Secret and health:

The author believes that you can cure illnesses by visualisation.  If you want to stop wearing glasses then imagine yourself with perfect eyesight.  She gives an example of a man with a terminal illness who cured himself by laughing at comedies instead of worrying about his health.  I find these ideas interesting instead of realistic and the author does not provide a scientific explanation for them. 

The Secret:

The Secret was published in 2006 and sold 19,000,000 copies in the first year and has been translated into 50 languages.  I read some of the reviews on Amazon and people either love it or hate it. There is also a film with the same name which I haven’t seen.

Rhonda Byrne:

She was born in 1945 in Australia and is a TV and radio producer.  She has written other books on similar subjects, including The Greatest Secret, and her website: is http://www.rhondabyrne.com

And finally:

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Book review: diary of a lone twin by david loftus

Introduction:

David Loftus is a photographer and his identical twin John died 30 years ago when they were 25 years old.  Diary of a Lone Twin is written in the form of a diary, detailing his present day activities with anecdotes about his early life and his close relationship with John, and other family and friends.

Their childhood:

John was 10 minutes older than David and assumed the role of older brother. They grew up in Carshalton Beeches, Surrey, and played together in Nonsuch Park and on Box Hill. They were very close and read the same books and enjoyed competing against each other in cricket matches.

Early adulthood:

They dressed alike until they were 15, and were then put in different classes at school so developed different friends and tastes in music.  John became a graphic designer while David was an illustrator and later a photographer.

David as a lone twin:

However, John developed a brain tumour and was in hospital on their birthday when a doctor gave him a fatal injection by mistake.  He died 10 days later age 25.  David suffered from survivor’s guilt, and felt people would think the wrong twin died.  He distanced himself from people and developed post traumatic stress disorder as a result.

He married and had 2 children with the first wife, divorced and found happiness with the 2nd wife despite feeling no one understood what it was like for him as a lone twin.

David’s friendship with Timothy Knatchbull:

Timothy Knatchbull is also a lone twin and the grandson of Earl Mountbatten.  In 1979 the IRA blew up the family boat off the coast of County Sligo, Northern Ireland.  Earl Mountbatten and Timothy’s identical twin Nick were killed and Timothy was seriously injured.  He also wrote an autobiography about his experience as a lone twin, entitled On a Clear Day, which I have written about before on my blog.

David and Timothy met after both their twins had died. They had an instant connection and became close friends, and were each others best man when they got married, and have also been mistaken for twins.

Diary of a Lone Twin by David Loftus is an intensely moving story about bereavement and survival, with lots of details about his work as a photographer and holidays with his family.

And finally:

After I read David Loftus’s book, and the statistics on my blog kept telling me somebody had been reading my book review of Timothy Knatchbull’s autobiography.  It was as if they were telling me to write about Diary of a Lone Twin, so I have.

The photography of David Loftus can be seen on his website: www.davidloftus.com and both books are available on Amazon.

See the menu on the left for more of my book reviews.

Day out: The Langdon Down museum of learning disability

Introduction:

The Langdon Down Museum of Learning Disability in Teddington, Middlesex, is a huge Victorian building surrounded by mature trees and would be of interest to anyone who likes architecture, local history and museums which are a bit different. Click here for pictures.

The historical bit:

It was the home of Dr John Langdon Down (1828-1896) who began his medical career at The Royal Earlswood Asylum in Redhill, Surrey, where he identified the condition now known as Downs Syndrome.

He and his wife moved to Teddington and founded the institution at Normansfield in 1868 and it became a home for people with learning disabilities, where they were cared for and educated instead of being sent to an asylum. The building was a hospital from 1951 to 1997 and is now the head office of the Downs Syndrome Association and has a beautiful theatre and a very interesting museum.

The touristy bit:

The most interesting section is Normansfield Theatre which was built in 1877 and it still has the original painted Victorian scenery, very detailed and in good condition, with ornate fixtures and fittings.  The stage has Victorian side flaps in working order.  The architecture is beautiful and has lots of wood pannelling.

Dr John Langdon Down and his wife loved it. Their residents and staff put on lots of plays and other performances over the years, and the venue is still used today.  There is an exhibition of adverts and photos of past performances showing how popular it has been.

A separate display tells the visitor all about the Langdon Down family and the development of Normansfield over the years.  In the basement there are exhibitions boards with accounts of residents’ life stories, large model ships made by some of them and information on different sorts of learning disabilities.

Click here for pictures.

The practical bit:

The Langdon Down Museum of Learning Disability is easy to get to.  From Hampton Wick railway station, turn right and walk along Upper Teddington Road for about half a mile and you find the museum on your right.  There’s a bus stop outside and a car park.

I went there for the London Open House event, which is held every year in September.  Normally the museum is open to visitors once a month and they have talks, classes and theatrical performances, details of which are on their website.

And finally:

The museum isn’t well known and not really on the tourist route, being across the river from Kingston, but is definitely worth a visit.  I enjoyed it and found it very interesting.

See the menu on the left for more ideas about places to visit and books to read.

Book review: Too much and never enough by mary trump

Introduction:

Mary L Trump is the niece of American president Donald Trump.  Her book about the family is entitled ‘Too Much and Never Enough’ because there was too much verbal abuse and never enough love. 

In the Trump family there are several members with the same name, so to summarise…

  1. Fred and Mary Trump – Donald’s late parents
  2. Fred and Mary’s children – Maryanne, Freddy (died 1981), Elizabeth, Donald and Robert
  3. Mary (author) – daughter of Freddy

Fred Trump – Donald’s father

Mary describes the family background in detail.  Fred was a successful business man who made his money in real estate but was tough and unemotional towards his 5 children.  Fred’s wife was hospitalised for a while when Donald was 2 and a half years old, but Fred was more interested in running his business than in being a hands on father.

The children were emotionally neglected and when their father did pay attention to them he was very critical, especially of Freddy, and Donald learned to get attention by being a bully and a liar.

Donald and Freddy:

Freddy, Donald and Robert all worked for their father.  However, Freddy wasn’t happy and became a pilot instead.  Freddy married and had a son and a daughter, Mary, but wasn’t successful as a pilot, got divorced and became alcoholic. 

Fred Trump had little respect for Freddy and gave Donald much more responsibility in the business. Donald treated his older brother the same way his father did, with contempt. When Donald heard Freddy was seriously ill and probably wouldn’t make it, he went out to the cinema. Freddy died at the age of 42 when Mary was 16.  The family refused to discuss Freddy after he died.

Her grandfather’s will:

I had sympathy for Mary having to put up with her dysfunctional family, until I reached the chapter about her grandfather’s will.  Fred Trump died and left his estate to his 4 surviving children.  Mary and her brother received the same amount of money as their cousins.  According to Google this was $200,000 each, but Mary and her brother wanted their late father’s share.  They sued the family and eventually received enough to cover medical expenses for Mary’s nephew.  As a result of the lawsuit she had no contact with her relatives for 10 years.

Mary Trump:

Mary was born in 1965 and has an MA in English and a PhD in clinical psychology and teaches the subject.  She has written the book in an informative and detailed way, sounding rather detached when describing the deaths of her father and her grandfather. 

To write about her family in such detail and to describe her uncle as the world’s most dangerous man is a very brave and shocking thing to do and I wondered how it would affect her relationships with her relatives.   However, I found it very interesting to read about Donald Trump’s childhood and early life and it explains why he behaves the way he does.

Too Much and Never Enough‘ by Mary L Trump was published in 2020 by Simon and Schuster and is available on Amazon.

Day out: Kensington Palace, London

Introduction:

This summer is a good opportunity to visit London while it is quiet without lots of tourists and heavy traffic.  Some of the tourist attractions are open, with reduced hours, and one of them is Kensington Palace which would appeal to anyone interested in  historic buildings, art and culture.  Visits need to be booked online first and are good value for money.

I arranged to meet a friend at High Street Kensington tube station and we had lunch together first in Kensington Gardens where the local pigeons wanted to make friends with us and share our sandwiches.

Highlights from Kensington Palace:

There is a new exhibition about Queen Victoria who was born and raised at Kensington Palace by her mother.  When she was 8 months old her father died and she was educated alone under the Kensington System which was very strict.  We saw the toys she played with and lots of paintings of her and her family.  She moved to Buckingham Palace when she became queen at the age of 18.

The grand King’s Staircase in Kensington Palace is decorated with William Kent’s paintings of architecture and people in the royal court of George I, including the artist himself holding a palette.  The steps lead up to the King’s State Apartments with ornate ceiling paintings also by Kent, portrait busts of George II and Queen Caroline, and huge wall tapestries.

The Queen’s State Apartments were slightly less grand but also had impressive paintings and architecture.  They were home to King William III and Queen Mary II who bought the property when it was a small villa and transformed it into a palace.  They hosted many balls and other events there which were attended by lots of important people at the time.

The layout of Kensington Palace:

We followed the one way system from the displays about Queen Victoria, through the King’s State Apartments and then the Queen’s State Apartments, back in time to King George II and Queen Caroline and then back further to William and Mary’s time, a century before.  It was interesting but a bit confusing and we felt we needed a family tree to refer to.

We left the palace itself and went for a long walk around Kensington Gardens, which is huge, and we saw monuments such as the Physical Energy sculpture and the Albert Memorial opposite the Royal Albert Hall.  There were other people around but it wasn’t as busy as it normally is in the middle of summer.  Click here for pictures.

A few practical details:

The Palace has a small gift shop and a cafe with an outdoor seating area. There are other facilities nearby.  It is on a bus route and there are several tube stations nearby including High Street Kensington to the south and Queensway to the north.

And finally: we spent all day practicing social distancing, wore masks when necessary, washed our hands at every opportunity and at the end of the afternoon we parted with an elbow bump.

See the menu on the left for more ideas about places to go and books to read.

 

Day out: London without the tourists

Introduction:

London in the summer is normally very hot and very busy but 2020 is a bit different.  Lots of closed shops, businesses and tourist attractions, but we have to be positive.  I decided to go sightseeing to see what London was like without the tourists.

Starting point… London Bridge Station:

I hardly ever go to London Bridge Station and they keep rebuilding it so every time I go there it looks completely different.  It’s one of the oldest railway stations in the world and the original was built in 1836. It’s now very modern with a few historic brick arches.  During one of the rebuilds they found Roman pottery and mosaics which are displayed somewhere at the station.

Tower Bridge:

Tower Bridge is beautiful with Gothic towers and wonderful views of London. Many years ago I visited the Tower Bridge Experience.  I was surprised to see it’s open at the moment so you could have the whole place to yourself, go up one tower, walk across the glass walkway and down the other tower and visit the engine rooms.  The bridge is opened 800 times a year for river traffic to pass through.

On the other side of the river you will find the Tower of London on the left and St Katherine’s Docks on the right.

St Katherine’s Docks:

St Katherine’s Docks was a commercial shipping area from 1828 to 1968 and has been redeveloped to include shops, restaurants and a pub which used to be a brewery.  In normal times it would probably be a lively place but everything looked closed so  I didn’t stay very long.  Residents have included David Suchet, the actor, and Jo Cox, the MP who was murdered, but not at St Katherine’s Docks.

The Tower of London:

The Tower of London is partly open to tourists and you can visit to see the crown jewels, the White Tower dated 1078 and all outside areas.  The Beefeaters at the Tower, who provide demonstrations for tourists, are under threat of redundancy because there are so few visitors at the moment.  Now is your chance to visit while it’s quiet and support them.

London Bridge:

There has been a bridge on the site since AD 50 which has been rebuilt many times, like the station named after it.  It has been closed to cars and lorries since March, for maintenance.  Maybe it’s falling down again.  It’s scheduled to re-open in October.  Use Southwark Bridge instead.

Borough Market:

Borough Market near Southwark Bridge is one of the largest and oldest food market in London.  There’s been a market here since the 12th century and the present one dates from 1851.  There weren’t many people there but it’s still very atmospheric, with cobbles and is surrounded by railway arches.

Southwark Cathedral:

The cathedral is next door to Borough Market and at present is open for services and private prayer only.  When life returns to normal it is worth a visit as there are interesting things to look at inside and it has a cafe.

And finally:

I tend to avoid London in the summer because it’s normally too hot and too busy, but the reason for my visit was to experience it without all the tourists and although I enjoyed the unusual experience, I hope all the people come back because all the businesses, cafes, restaurants and tourist attractions need them in order to survive.

 

Book review: The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

Introduction:

The Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad went to Afghanistan after 9/11 to report on the situation. While she was there she met Sultan Khan and bought books in his bookshop.  After the fall of the Taliban a couple of months later he invited her to stay with him and his family in Kabul. She was with them for several months and as a result wrote The Bookseller of Kabul, a factual account of how different the Afghan lifestyle is compared to ours.

Sultan Khan – the bookseller:

Sultan Khan wanted everyone to share his passion for books but in a war torn country where most people couldn’t read or write, it was challenging running his bookshop.  He was imprisoned for it several times.  He was also passionate about the culture of the country and strict about his family following the rules for arranged marriages.

Family life in Kabul:

Asne Seierstad describes family life in detail, the extended family living together, the arranged marriages enforced by the men which the women are expected to agree to, and how women are treated as second class citizens and have to accept the male domination without complaining.

Sultan Khan married his young second wife when the first one was beginning to show her age.  The two wives live together and manage to tolerate each other. Like all women they are expected to wear the burka at all times.  They are not allowed out on their own and can only visit relatives if their husband agrees to it.

Miriam, for instance, is one of the youngest in the family.  She never went to school and like her sisters she isn’t allowed to speak until she is spoken to.  She is unlikely to have a marriage arranged for her because her hands are deformed and is told no man will want her.

The book itself:

The Bookseller of Kabul is written in the present tense.  It is non fictional account of life in Kabul but conversations are quoted verbatim like a novel although it is not a story with a beginning, middle and an end.  None of the characters are happy and no one can change things for the better.

Although it is called The Bookseller of Kabul, it focusses more on the lifestyle in Afghanistan than on Sultan Khan and his bookshop and I learned a lot about the culture of arranged marriages.  It is a way of life totally different to ours in the UK and hard to imagine how people can live like this. Many books make me want to visit the places described in them but this one doesn’t although I did find it interesting and well written.

The author Asne Seierstad:

Asne Seierstad is Norwegian with a degree in Russian and an ability to speak 5 languages. She is a journalist who has written about a number of war torn countries.  She was treated well while living with the Khan family in Kabul.  As a Western woman she was able to go out alone and as a journalist she observed everything in detail and discussed it with the local people but she admits she was angry with some of the things she saw.

She has also written One of Us: The story of Anders Breivik, a man who murdered 69 children at a summer camp in Norway.

And finally:

See the menu on the left for more of my book reviews and ideas for places to go for a day out.

My first experience of using Zoom

Introduction:

Having everything cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic has been very difficult to adapt to and I had missed Sutton Writers Circle meetings, so I welcomed the opportunity to attend a workshop online using Zoom.  People had been talking about Zoom and I was keen to try it out so I registered on their website and received a link by email.

Logging on:

After several emails and posts on Facebook with other people who attended the same workshop, we agreed to do it on the evening we normally have the workshop.

Getting ready for the first Zoom workshop felt like getting ready to go out.  I brushed my hair, cleaned my teeth and changed my clothes.  I even thought about having a shower!

I copied and pasted the password and followed the link and was happy to see several familiar faces on the screen.  It was interesting to see what people had in the background – whether it was bookshelves, displays of coats and shoes, or a blank wall behind them.  It tells you a lot about people!  It’s been the same with people being interviewed on the television. It’s made me want to re-arrange my furniture so that I would also have bookshelves in the background.

The social side of Zoom:

Talking to people on screen isn’t like talking face to face because you can’t make eye contact.  I found myself looking at the image of me, instead of at the others.  Also we couldn’t see everyone all at the same time and didn’t seem to have any control over it.  We all had our names at the bottom of the image of ourselves – useful if you’ve forgotten someone’s name.

Nevertheless, it was good to see people and have a chat and catch up on who had moved house, and who had been ill and got better.  When it came to reading out what we had written, it was just like a normal workshop, except one of us had a problem with the sound on their computer.  We each took turns at reading and then the others would express their opinions.

My story:

I had written a story about Peter Rabbit coming to Sutton, finding everything closed because of the coronavirus, and then logging onto Zoom to attend a workshop.  I read it at the online workshop and everyone said they enjoyed it.  The other stories were varied, with different styles and subjects, so the general format was the same as a workshop with people in the same room.

And finally:

Our first Zoom workshop lasted an hour and a half and I felt like I had achieved something and learnt something new from the experience so I’m looking forward to doing it again in a couple of weeks.

Further information:

For more about Sutton Writers Circle visit https://www.suttonwriters.co.uk and for further information on Zoom visit https://zoom.us/

 

Essential Exercise in Epsom

Introduction

Anyone reading my blog knows I like going out for walks and visiting historic places.  Due to the coronavirus pandemic I’ve been limited to walking the local parks, getting my essential exercise, admiring the trees, listening to birdsong and finding out more about the parks.

Rosebery Park

Everyone in Epsom knows Rosebery Park which is right in the middle of the town, with a duck pond and weeping willows in the centre and bordered by 2 main roads.  It’s named after Lord Rosebery, prime minister, racehorse owner and long term resident, who showed his love of the town by giving the land to the council to use as a park in 1913.

Mount Hill Gardens

Most people drive past the trees opposite the Epsom Playhouse without realising there’s a very nice hill behind them.  Mount Hill Gardens is ideal if you want to climb a short steep hill for your essential exercise.  It’s small – you can walk around it in 5 minutes – with lots of trees and flowers and it’s very quiet.

Court Recreation Ground

Court Recreation Ground, off Pound Lane, was originally the site of Epsom Court where Queen Ebba lived.  The town is said to be named after her.  Epsom Court became a farmhouse and was used as such until 1895 when it began to be divided up for building.  By 1915 the land was being used as the Horton Asylum Farm.  An ancient trackway, now called Horton Path, runs from the railway station to a 20th century block of flats built on the site of the farmhouse.  The park is huge with lots of trees and you only need to walk the perimeter once to get your essential exercise.

Alexandra Park

In 1897 110 young Epsom men signed a petition for a new park so the council bought the land and Alexandra Park opened in 1901.  In 1911 it was the centre of Epsom’s celebrations for the coronation of King George V which surprises me because it’s hidden away up Alexandra Road.  The football pitches were used for growing potatoes during World War 1.  In 1933 the old chalk pit was filled in and became the park’s first playground.  The site is fenced off and full of daffodils every spring and always looks beautiful.

Woodcote Green

Woodcote Green isn’t a park but a wooded area behind Epsom Hospital.  It has paths through the trees and a lake with a huge sundial and is another secluded area to go for a walk.  It’s very small so you won’t get lost in it but it’s an alternative location to go for your essential exercise.

And finally

I’ve been enjoying walking round Epsom’s parks and learning more about them, and would like to assure you that when I’m out I’m following the social distancing guidelines and as soon as I get home I wash my hands.

Book Review: Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald

Introduction

I read Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald for my A level English course many years ago and recently I had a dream in which I was told the main character blamed himself for his wife’s breakdown.  So I decided to read it again – the same copy I had at school, annotated with the notes I made at the time.

Tender is the Night

This is the story of Dick and Nicole Diver, a rich couple on holiday in the French Riviera with lots of friends.  They meet Rosemary, an 18 year old actress, who falls in love with Dick and they embark on a holiday romance.  Fitzgerald makes it sound idyllic and uses very poetic and descriptive language at the start of the novel.

Later, in a flashback, we are told Dick and Nicole met because he was a psychiatrist and she was his patient.  She had mental health problems as a result of being abused by her father.  They crossed the professional boundaries, got married and had a couple of children.

Nicole is mentally unstable and it was more a marriage of convenience rather than love.  Dick is in control until he meets Rosemary and after this everything begins to breakdown and he starts drinking too much.  Everything changes as the story develops, even the writing style, which by the end of the book has become more factual and much less descriptive.

The title Tender is the Night comes from a line in the poem Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats, which we also studied on the same A level English course. (I kept my copy of Keats’ poems too!)

My reaction to it:

What I didn’t like about the book is Nicole’s impassive reaction to her husband’s relationship with Rosemary, which should have upset her much more, especially as she was hysterical on several different occasions in the novel for other reasons.

Re-reading a book many years later is very different from reading it for the first time.  I understand it much more now, having known people with mental health problems and people who feel guilty and find it difficult to forgive themselves and others for their actions.  Dick was not to blame for Nicole’s mental health problems but was partly responsible for the breakdown on their marriage.

The Author:

F Scott Fitzgerald was born in Minnesota in 1896 and left home to join the army but became a writer instead.  Tender is the Night is his 4th and final novel and mirrors his own life.  He was alcoholic and his wife Zelda was institutionalised because of mental health problems.  He died in Hollywood in 1940 at the age of 44.

And finally, see the menu on the left for more of my book reviews.

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