Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Onwards from 2015 and Upwards in 2016

I know it's not quite Christmas  but, as I will not be adding to this blog until 2016 is well under way, now is he time to reflect on the past year and the year to come. And fear not. I do not make New Year Resolutions. After all, 2015 for me landed me a bitter blow with the totally unexpected death of my lovely, wonderful brother, Chris.

How can we know what the future will bring?

What I can do is concentrate on some of the many novels I have read this year and the wonderful writers I have met. Although I read a varied selection of books, I shall only mention novels. After all, that's what I do and that's what I mainly dwell on. (Of course, they are mostly historical.)

Firstly, I want to talk about a contemporary thriller that took the world by storm this year. It's easy to sneer at such novels but I have to say The Girl on The Train by  Paula Hawkins deserved all the plaudits it received. When I was in my twenties I commuted for a year in an out of London along. AS is the case of repetitive journeys, I knew almost every house I rattled (or sometimes crawled) past. Like Rachel, I often created lives for them in my head that were far more fulfilling than my own because I happened to be in a bit of a mess myself and didn't know where my life was heading. Fortunately, I soon pulled myself together. Rachel, on thre other hand, sinks deeper and deeper in the mess she makes for herself. She is the archetypical unreliable narrator, making me angry and frustrated by the mess she made of everything and the lies she told. However, her drunken confusion and the mess she makes are not entirely her fault. This is a stunning novel that still resonates with me

I know that The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton was first published in 2014 but its slightly surreal quality and its secure history still resonates with me even now. I shall definitely read her next novel. Unlike Jessie Burton who sprung on the scene so unexpectedly, I have been a fan of Esther Freud's novels for a very long time. I was therefore very shocked when Mr Mac and Me failed to hit the heights. I still don't understand why. It is a novel of the time during the Great War, that Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife lived in Suffolk. But as the title of the novel makes clear, the novel is actually about a boy who becomes obsessed with them both and what it reveals of the suspicions and paranoia of war and suspicious minds. Masterful fiction.

In the past few years, I have mentioned how much I love about the annual Harrogate History Festival, organised by the HWA. There have now been three of them. This year, it exceeded itself with the appearances by two of my favourite men: Neil Oliver and Melvin Bragg, both with historical novels out which I haven't yet read but will do so. Also speaking was Michael Morpurgo who, to me, should be classed as a National Treasure for encouraging children in a totally unstuffy way to love reading.He speaks to children directly without talking down to them.

I have always enjoyed engagaing with writers whose novels I admire. It was lovely to meet Emma Darwin and Andrew Taylor who writes brilliant novels that somehow, although they sell well, rarely win the big prizes. An Andrew Taylor novel is always a treat. This year, as well as The Silent Boy which centres on The French Revolution, it was also my pleasure to read a previous historical thriller of his: The Anatomy off Ghosts.

There are many times when I wonder why I bother writing fiction when I am not a patch on any of the writers I mention here.But, don't we all feel like that more often than not?

This year's HWA conference also introduced me to Anna Hope and her stunning novel Wake which tells most vividly of  the legacy of grief and mental disintegration of those 'left behind' by war. Three woman, seporated by class and their situation. One is a mother, another is a sister and the other is one who works although she is rich enough not to. Yet, all of them are linked by one particular vile even in the war. What ties them together and  determines ther novels structure, them and links, is the disinterment  and re-burial of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey.  Another novelist worth reading. And I am looking forward to her next novel, The Ballroom. It is set in High Royds Hospital, well-known, or should I say once notorious mental asylum in the Leeds area, where, incidentally, my brother in law once worked as a doctor and where he now lives in an house in the new housing development following its decommission.

Thanks to the conference I have also acquainted myself with drinker, gambler and bad boy with a heart of gold, Thomas Hawkins,  the hero of The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson. I am about the read his second outing, The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins.

 The nature of such book-related events is that you keep bumping into many people again and again over the course of three days. Then, when you get beck home you discover that plenty of people you know well were also there but you never even saw them even at a distance.

So it was while I sat on a bench at Harrogate station waiting for the York train where I would change trains. At my feet was a big bag (stuffed with books) with the Festival's logo emblazoned on it. Someone sat down next to me and we started taking about the festival that had just ended. And we talked and talked and talked on the train all the way to York where we had to go our separate ways. (Yet I hadn't seen her at all at the Festival  although she is a committee member of the HWA.)

Elizabeth Freemantle (for it was she) is a really lovely lady. Well, of course she is. She's a writer of excellent  historical novels, of course, which I have been reading with great plesure and admiration ever since we chatted. Although I thought that the Tudor period held nothing new for me, I was wrong and have already devoured Queen's Gambit and Sisters of Treason.

Then, as the New Year dawns with the popping of corks and the crackle of fireworks, I look forward to reading Watch The Lady.  

And, with the new year, with any luck I will have finished writing my latest novel and maybe even have it accepted by an agent and/or publisher. 

In the meantime, I would like to wish all of you who might have glanced at one or two of my blog posts this year - says she, always the optimist - A Very Happy Christmas and a Stupendous 2016. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Where am I?

Silly question. No, I've not just recovered from a prolonged blog-break with amnesia. I know exactly where I am physically and geographically, thank you very much. It's Monday 30th November, it's pouring with rain and cloud is shrouding the moors above the village. I know that because I can see it if I turn my head leftwards and upwards through the roof-light, which is a contradiction in terms because, even at one pm, I have my desk lamp blazing brightly. Now where was I.....?

...Oh yes. I'm sitting at my desk at home. This blog post is merely a report on where I stand here and now at this moment in time  (as they say but I don't) with my writing 'career' (cue canned laughter) as we approach the winter solstice. Because, being winter, I am spending more time at home and at my desk, I have spent the summer doing anything but: supporting husband Jon through his many iron-man-distance triathlons plus sightseeing, researching and restoring my batteries.

So I have re-opened my dormant blog which is now blinking and shaking off its layer of dust. I had intended to attach some photos here to show you where I've been but Blogger is increasingly driving me mad so you'll have to imagine them and picture Scotland's east coast, Northumberland and County Durham (a few times to visit our ticklish and giggly grandson), Nottingham, the Peak District and finally down to Dorset and Weymouth.

Back home now and with the short days and long nights enveloping me, I'm back to writing, writing, writing. As I have decided to stick to what I know best now and am most comfortable with after having made grandiose plans to publish shed-loads of flash fiction, enter lots of of short story competitions, test the waters with pocket  novels and women's magazine serials. I have since had a change of heart. Having said that I did have a tiny burst of success with, first of all, publication of the first 500 words of a contemporary crime novel in Writers Forum. Later on, that same lovely magazine awarded me 3rd prize in one of their short story competitions with publication of said story and a cheque. (I think that issue may still available from newsagents.)

However, having established that I can still write something that is reasonably publishable, my confidence has risen a bit although I still need more yeast. Basically, I need to write better. (As Samuel Becket said, 'Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better). So I've come to the conclusion to stick to writing novels in the traditional (and very difficult) way and not by self-publishing. I've discussed this before on this blog. I'm not against self-pubbing in any way, but have realised that it's not for me. I need someone else's approval for my writing which means probably an agent and, even if not, a traditional  publisher. Also because I  do not want to go all out with publicity, promotion and selling. 

So this is what I've done in my new resolute state of mind. I found an excellent experienced published writer to take a look at the first few chapters. I researched this person carefully and felt they would provide an honest opinion of my medieval novel that my (then) agent slammed in no uncertain terms. The report was very thorough and insightful and offered some brilliant advice to give the manuscript far more panache, more character motivation . A major rewrite with this in place could make it more publishable in these increasingly difficult times for fiction writers.

What with this, that and the other, I have gained more confidence to march forwards, I am now in the process of a major rewrite and guess what? I'm much happier with my manuscript now. I know there's a very long way to go and will have to set foot again on that steep and long agent-trail yet again - with  its steady stream of rejections. So what? If I get 100 rejections, I'll explore 100 more avenues. I will NOT  give up. After all, that is par for the course. I'm a writer. I've been writing for over 20 years. I'm not dead yet.

PS. I'm having repeated trouble with my Google account and it still won't let me download any of my photos because it wants to contact me by my mobile phone. Only, there is mobile signal here. I have a mobile phone which I use mainly in emergencies but can only use it when I'm not here. Grrr. Why won't these techie people realise some of us have slow internet speeds and NO MOBILE SIGNAL! Google are pretty awful. I can't even post a comment on my own blog. 

PPS Another of my future plans is to ditch Blogger (which is Google) and get a proper website with a blog attached.

Watch this space. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Harrogate History Festival 2015

Are you going? If you love to read, as well as write historical fiction, you most definitely should.

Next week's festival will be its third year (and I've been the the first and second.) Here's my post from 2014. Like all new events, it gets better and better. I mean just look what this year's has to offer.

I always treat myself and buy a rover ticket for the whole event. However, you can buy individual tickets or a one day ticket. You're spoiled for choice. As you know, I don't get out much and when I do it's to accompany Jon, mainly to include a triathlon event, or sometimes just to chill out. This year we've been in Aberdeenshire, Perthshire ans the Borders. We have also popped over to our favourite Barnard Castle and the Tees Valley (such an underrated area and such a wonderful museum.)

The  Bowes Museum - Barnard Castle

 Then down to Weymouth, and had trips to friends and family here, there and everywhere: Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and County Durham. We've been to Hadrian's Wall. We didn't manage tofit in Wales or East Anglia this year but next year; who knows?)

So therefore, these four days are 'My Time.' It's not often I can immerse myself exclusively in writing fiction and history. The writers I'm looking forward to see the most are: Neil Oliver and Lord Bragg. That isn't to say,

 I also hope to meet some of my favourite historical novelists. Last year, I bumped into lovely Elizabeth Chadwick and drank tea with her. Also I have met Emily Darwin at both previous events. This year, I've booked up to her workshop with fellow Sally O'Reilly on the Thursday afternoon. This is a new addition and reminds me of the annual Crime Festival's 'Creative Thursday'. The reason I love the History Festival is that, as much as the crime Festival is much, much larger and crowded, the History event is much less frenetic for an old thing like me, and dare I say it, far less boozy.Yes, wine flows but you never fight of attention at the bar!

So, I'll be there and I'll look like a right lemon if you don't come over and say hello. See you on Thursday!

Monday, August 10, 2015

What every (fiction) writer needs...

is a compost heap. Yes, you heard. A compost heap. So,  here, in best tabloid newspaper tradition is an anonymous snap of a slightly more sophisticated compost heap than mine.  (3 bins instead of 2.)

My two bins work like this. To one is added all my vegetable peelings and other organic (non-meat) waste such as discarded citrus peel, egg-shells, tea-bags, old plants (not weeds or woody stems) and grass-clippings etc. The second one is last year's heap which has taken a year to rot into a moist mush to add to the borders for plant growth and nourishment.

What on earth has this to do with fiction-writing? Well, I have had quite a few months recently when I didn't write a word. We've had several breaks in our camper van and soaked up the atmosphere of several parts of England. And it's not over yet. In the next few months we'll be spending some time in Scotland, then Dorset and several other places, depending on the weather and our inclination.

Jon, of course, has been triathlon racing and training. I've supported him on and off but, mainly, I've been sightseeing with him. We have visited some memorable places. For instance, Kedleston Hall and its grounds is a gem....

And do you, like me, find yourself playing an imaginary lady/daughter/grand-daughter of the house or maybe a scullery maid or governess - or even the cousin bent on revenge or jealousy?

I've also been avidly reading. Here's a little look at two of them with I enjoyed enormously.(I've been catching up with the Inspector Banks Yorkshire-based crime novels by Peter Robinson. I'm as far as number 16 and I'm hooked.)

I hope you see, I've been building up a fine compost heap. And my writing brain is beginning to bear fruit after months of laying fallow. You see, writers don't steal (apart from those unspeakable plagiarists) but they look around them, absorb sights, sounds, smells not to mention experiences from all around and within themselves; they read like sponges, filling their minds, memories and hearts with ingredients that, during those times when they are not writing, they are filling up the compost heaps.

This also goes to explain why I haven't been updating this blog for some time and why I won't be blogging for the foreseeable future. Nor will I until I've something writing-related I want to blog about. Until then, I'll be experiencing life, reading and writing, writing, writing fiction. In other words: building up compost and collecting the seeds of many projects.

For instance on my travels around the UK, last year,  I collected (but didn't steal) some poppy seeds which. I later scattered them over my enriched soil earlier this year And this is the result. Lots and lots of these and plenty of seed heads I've been collected to scatter next year!

In the meantime, here's to happy writing and composting, everyone! See you soon.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


And the living is easy. So George Gershwin wrote so beautifully about the life in slave-ridden Deep South of Porgy & Bess. Well, this is a village in the North York Moors National Park so it's rather different. Yesterday was a warm day for us so I decided it was time to take you all on a walk up and down our garden.

Some of you will remember the story of how we bought our current house. Whether you know or not, you might like to dip into my old 'The Old Chapel' blog. It was once a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel but when the various Methodist disciplines began to merge, it closed and everyone then went to the bigger Methodist chapel just around the corner. This also closed when chapel attendance fell away and was eventually converted into 3 separate properties. (The times we get deliveries and visitors for The Old Methodist Chapel!)

Anyway, back to our Old Chapel - as it's simply called.  It had already been converted into a house in the 1960s,  I think, and the garden was acquired. It was then altered several times. When we first viewed it, it had been uninhabited and for sale for quite some time. We decided not to buy it then but, one year later, we I spent a week in a holiday cottage nearby and fell in love with the village and persuaded Jon that we had to buy it!  Eventually we signed the contract and then began the slow progress that such a project needs. When work began more than a year later, it was  gutted it back to a stone barn with the help and guidance of our great architects and especially our local builder- with whom we have not only remained on speaking terms, but regard him and his family good friends.

To explain our garden... are you sitting comfortably?
Imagine our house at the bottom of this blue isosceles triangle (ie the garden) This elongated trangle lies between the second steepest road out of Rosedale Abbey called  Heygate Lane or Bank (R) and a field (L) on which,is held the annual Rosedale Show. As the widest part of the triangle is the nearest to the house, we wanted a lawn there but didn't like the very steep slope there. So small earth-moving vehicles were used to level the land and make drainage workable make workable drainage, too.  But we can't alter the fact that as the garden extends to its apex, it rises steeply as it narrows. With me so far?

In my Old Chapel blog  -  dated 2009 (almost at its end which, as is the way with blogs, is easily found at the beginning!) I took you for a walk up and back the garden. So I've decided to bring it up to date to show how it's matured since then.
So now it's few words and let the pictures tell their story with a caption or three.

Outside our east-facing conservatory is the terrace and steps up to...

the now-flat lawn 

..with its  herbaceous border on the lane-side

Look at our 'small' sequoia, 'chair' bench and the pond to the right...

Where we have friendly visitors every so often

up through the yew hedge

where I stop and admire the Gunnera

To the other side is our mini-orchard and little meadow (which as just been mown)

up again past our little knot garden and the copper beech hedge which hides the compost heaps...

...and onwards and upwards to a welcome bench, our 'famous' rock, maples and azaleas.

I'm finding it hard to balance now,  so to avoid falling over, I'll turn round and go down back through the maples

and over to the ditch - often dry in on summer days

and back to 2 more shots of the herbaceous border

and so back to the terrace and conservatory and a cup of tea. Care to join me?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Life goes on.

As I write that, I find myself, as you do, imagining I am a Roman centurion from anywhere in the Empire, but let's say for the sake of of it, North Africa who might find himself posted to the far edges of the Empire against his will and is shivering on Hadrian's Wall, demanding olives, blazing sunshine and er, a woollen cloak and thick socks. I mean, it is nearly July now and we were there in good weather despite one day of low cloud and drizzle last Sunday before things improved considerably and heralded the current mini heatwave.

For anyone not used to Northern Britain, moorland and its driving sleet and blasting winds any time between October and May, it can take a bit of getting used to. It is often bleak in June.

I love it! But then, I am an adopted northerner and wouldn't live anywhere else. Hadrian's Wall  is less than a two hour drive from our doorstep...

Here you will find - not the White Rose of Yorkshire but the fried egg and tomato sauce breakfast that is Northumbria's stunning flag:

So, we camped at the stunning friendly and comfortable Hadrian's Wall Camping where, in the snap below, you can spot the flags fluttering at the entrance gates and see our van basking in the sun despite the thin cloud cover:

And, only a hop, skip and a jump away is this...

Can my trusty Roman expert friends recommend a historical novel featuring a homesick, freezing cold soldier, wife or girlfriend or even camp-follower up here? Don't say I have to write it for myself!

Monday, June 15, 2015


St Mary the Virgin, Mainwell, Northamptonshire

We all know the Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard that begins: 

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
         The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
         And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

   To me, this poem is the perfect elegy for my brother. Chris was quiet, unassuming, loved to contemplate the countryside or the sea. But is too long to quote here in its entirety although the following lines are perfect.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
         The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen,
         And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

    So I shall pause a while and remember his sweetness and end with the poem's closing epitaph.

Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
       A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frown'd not on his humble birth,
       And Melancholy mark'd him for her own.

Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
       Heav'n did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Mis'ry all he had, a tear,
       He gain'd from Heav'n ('twas all he wish'd) a friend.

No farther seek his merits to disclose,
       Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
(There they alike in trembling hope repose)
       The bosom of his Father and his God.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Christopher Seymour Roff (May 1947-June 2015)

My beloved brother died in his sleep on Sunday Morning - cause as yet unknown. Born in the days when mentally handicapped' was the only name given for someone like him. This became 'special needs' and later 'learning difficulties.' Autism was not heard of at all. Not so long ago, I contacted The National Autistic Society as I believed he was a classic 'savant' although he was always too vulnerable and naive to be left alone. They said they could do nothing without a diagnosis. However, it was deemed too late for that. He had gone to 'special' schools and received what education that could be provided - which was very poor asnd inadeqate. (The family story is that I taught him to read and write by playing 'schools' with him.) The family alone knew to be patent, kind and never to shout or reprimand him in any way. And never did.

He was living recently with the best carers he's ever had: Bob and Brenda. They, too, are totally devastated. Ever heard of a beefy bricklayer? I have. I salute them. If I can I will recommend them both for an award.

Chris was a saint: always polite and uncomplaining, never ever angry, jealous or demanding.  He loved his TV - not satellite - as he never leaned to cope with the digital age. Best of all, he was forever tuned to one of 3 radio stations - BBC Radios 2 and 3 and Classic FM. He loved all music, especially classical. He was an encyclopaedia of information. Every birthday and Christmas, he asked for an LP - then CD - of classical music. From Strauss waltzes and Bizet operas to Beethoven quartets. He knew them all. He never missed a 'Prom' on the radio and, when we lived in Herefordshire, he attended one at the Albert Hall. He would have been thrilled to attend a first or last night but could not haver coped with being a 'promenader'. We always bought him a programme, year after year. There's probably still a collection in a cupboard somewhere. He never threw anything away.

He was also the family encyclopaedia. He knew the date in detail of every family member's birthday. His memory was phenomenal. He could give you chapter and verse of every childhood holiday we ever had.

For the past twenty years or so he was cared for through Northampton Council. Five days a week, he attended centres that provided exercise, gardening, painting craft-work and social skills of all kind. They all loved Chris and he was very very happy there.

Finally, I promise look at every tweet or Facebook message or blog comment I can. I regent, however,  I will not be able to reply. As my mum is very elderly, she is even more devastated that I am and needs my support. that is where I am devoting my time and attention. I apologise.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sentimental Value

Never fear, fellow writers. This blog post does lead to an idea I have for a collection of short fiction. But until I get there, please allow me to indulge in a little sentimentality. Or should I rephrase that and say that I find myself in a reflective mood lately. I think I've mentioned before that my mother has recently celebrated her 91st birthday. Here she is with my lovely Dad (who, alas, is no longer with us) celebrating their golden wedding anniversary in July 1996.

I was with her other week, glasses of wine to hand and, as one does when mellow,  we began to discuss her wishes when she eventually passes away regarding items of sentimental value; money and valuables have already been taken into consideration.

The chat was not in any way morbid. We were enjoying reminiscing and chatting about the trivia we all collect through life that mean nothing to anyone else but we wouldn't dream of throwing out. Fis instance I already own the art nouveau epergne given to my grandmother by her best friend of that time who had married a conscientious objector. There's the jug (broken and patched together) which once belonged to my great-great grand-father and was used to collect milk from the farm down the lane when my aunt went to visit.
My mum with her older siblings, Nina and Eric.

On my mum's lading sits an empty carved wooden box we call the thunderstorm box. She knows I adore it. It has no monetary value whatsoever.It's Indian, made of an unidentifiable wood elaborate carvings on it, including a fierce oriental dragon devouring a deer in its jaws on the lid. (Probably a folk tale I do not recognise.)

It now stands on a table on my mum's landing. When I was a child, it stood on her dressing-table and woe betide anyone who moved it! Why? Well, my dad bought it in India while on active service in India. He sent it rolled in a carpet to mum whom he married in 1946 two years before they married. I also remember the Indian carpet as it lay on several hall floors until pounding feet, sunlight and moths did their worst. Anyway, the story goes that my mother took delivery of this huge parcel during one of the most violent thunderstorms she ever remembered. Dad added that he dispatched  it during the monsoon season. And here myth begins to take over from reality. Every time the box was moved - even to a new shelf or table, it caused a thunderstorm. If you ask me, I would say, I happened time and time again. I was there!

My maternal grandmother, Laura.
Over twenty years ago when I started to write fiction, I wrote a short story called The Dragon Box and it was published somewhere. (I no longer have a copy or remember the name of the publication.) It did not have anything to do with my life., It is not about childhood in any way. But it did have the box and a thunderstorm.

So you see - threads of fiction are always weaving themselves together in a fiction-writer's head. I'm now even thinking of writing  a collection of linked stories under the working title 'Sentimental Value.'

However, I do worry how the word "sentiment" and its derivatives has been denigrated over recent years. How often do we read a book, watch a movie or even listen to a piece of music only to dismiss it as "sentimental" as if it's a bad thing. Critics are always sniffy about sentimentality.

Sentimental. I found these synonyms. mawkish, cloying, sickly, saccharine, sugary, syrupy, romantic, heart and flowers, touching, pathetic etc etc

Is this how I'm feeling?  Surely not. What do you think? Have you a better description of what I'm talking about.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Back to Books

Anybody would think, from my recent blogs, that I had abandoned reading and writing. Not so. Last weekend was exceptional. Mind you, you'd have to be a Yorkshire person (whether by birth or adoption) or a fan of top-rank road cycling to appreciate what an totally wonderful and uplifting occasion it was. I was in our village and boy, what a party is was. It was even more of a spectacle on the hill-climb further up the dale, which the French organisers have now named "La Cote de Rosedale Abbey.  That's where hubby, Jon went with his video. It's on YouTube here. Only a few yards further up, by the cattle-grid it was heaving with people (as was the village.)

Anyway, enough of excitement. Back to more sedate delights.

I read a wide selection of books; my favourites being what is dubbed as 'literary' fiction, more often than not of the historical variety. I love the British landscape and even more so when history, whether it be ancient or more recent, But first, I'd like to mention a book I've recently enjoyed that is neither.  Tilly's Moonlight Fox by Julia Green will appeal to young people, especially girls who may resemble the girl I was between the ages of 8 and 12 with my pressed (then legal) pressed and dried  wild-flower collection, my doll's house, my love of the countryside and Victorian clothes. This was all before I became temporarily distracted by boys and eye-liner! Tilly is a somewhat solitary girl because she has just moved into a strange old house. Her parents, whilst loving and caring, don't want to worry her unduly but by not telling her all the facts why her mother's pregnancy is making her feel unwell, she becomes subject to fear and anxiety. It is an atmospheric, slightly ghostly delight.

And now for something completely different. I am a fan of Polly Samson's short stories and was therefore looking forward to her novel The Kindness. I was not disappointed. Polly Samson has excelled herself. The protagonist is Julian. A promising English student, he comes across volatile and slightly older Julia when he comes across her on the South Downs flying a falcon. Symbolic or what? He immediately falls head over heels in love with her, thereby abandoning his girlfriend Katie, whom he practically grew up with. He is also in love with his childhood idyllic countryside  home, Firdaws until a legal tangle means it has to go . He gives up his studies for Julia when she tells him he is pregnant. Julian becomes equally besotted with the resultant daughter Mira. And so Julian's and Julia's life begins to unravel, first when Mira becomes dangerously ill and Julian has the chance to own Firdaws and bring his wife and daughter to enjoy it. Only Julia hates it.. There are some heartbreaking scenes set in Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. When Julia and Mira are lost to him, Julia falls to pieces, alone is his beloved Firdaws where he can't bear the windows open to smell hid beloved jasmine. This is a many-faceted story of love, betrayal and recovery. Exquisitely written, as Julian's memories are stirred by what hwe sees and remembers, The Kindness is redolent with the sightds and smells of the country, the harm we do to each other when aiming to be kind, is a delight from start to finish. It is witty asnd funny even when atmospheric. Like me, you will find you are annoyed and pleased with Julian and Julia in turn. But you can't help loving Mira. With suerpising twists along the way, I hope The Kindness with enthral you too.

The publisher, Little Toller first came to my attention when they published Deer Island the second book by Neil Ansell, the fine writer I had got to know online. And so I was hooked by all their books. I have alreasdy enjoyed several of their wonderful volumes on landscape, flora and fauna including On Silbury Hill and The Ash Tree. They publish brand new books as well as reprints of classics, such as The Pattern Under The Plough and Gavin Maxwell's Ring of Bright Water.

I recently ordered Rena Gardiner: Artist and Painter. A new name to me, this talented Dorset-based artist and printmaker illustrated many guidebooks with her idiosyncratic linocuts, paintings and pastels. This stunning volume contains 200 illustrations, many of them previously unpublished. This volume, compiled by her advocates Julian Francis and Martin Andrews, can be read from cover to cover or dipped into whenever the soul needs refreshment.

I am also hugely looking forward to receiving my copy of Mermaids: a study of their mythology and folklore throughout the world. Mermaids have featured in my fiction and will most likely do so even more.

That's enough for now. And I still haven't mentioned any historical novels I have enjoyed recently! Happy reading.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Rosedale Abbey is ready for the Tour de Yorkshire. Are you?

You've all heard of Le Tour de France. Of course you have. Well those lovely people  in charge of that major spectacular have launched Le Tour de Yorkshire. No. I've not made a mistake in its Frenchness. It's officially called that and May 2015 marks its inaugural outing. Three days of spectacular cycling beckon. 
And guess what?

Although a triathlete, Alistair Brownlee would be great at this event - if you added in swimming and running plus and a proud Yorkshire lad, to boot!

Well-known cyclists, including Bradley Wiggins, and prestigious teams such as Sky pass through our village on the first of the Tour's gruelling stages. On Friday May 1st, it traverses the North York Moors National Park (A very round trip from Bridlington to Scarborough with its stunning coastline and stunning moorland in the centre.) Then on the 2nd May, it's the turn of the lovely Yorkshire Wolds, beginning in Selby and its abbey and finishing in York with its Minster. The last day is further south in the old wool manufacturing heartland of God's Own County, then onto the Dales which was such a hit in the Tour de France last year and then culminates in Leeds. So, naturally we have all dressed up in blue and yellow, the official colours of Le Tour. The only sad thing is that the live TV coverage on ITV 4 and Euro-Sport channels does not begin until half an hour after the peloton has just passed through our village and its environs and will have seen Young Ralph, Castleton and and be its way to Whitby - and another famous abbey.
The Tour has named this part of the road north with its fine view of the dale as "Le Cote de Rosedale" which leads across the moor to...

...Young Ralph...

And then into Whitby, then Robin Hoods Bay and finally - Scarborough. Phew!

SO,  let's linger for a while to admire what Rosedale Abbey has done to welcome the riders!  Come and join in the fun on Friday. And please drive carefully.
Here we are.

Oops! But don't turn up there! Even professional cyclists fear the dreaded Rosedale Chimney Bank!

Come on in!

You can stay at one of our camp-sites.

But don't cycle here - it's a private garden!

But stop for a pot of tea and enjoy Anne's wonderful cakes!

...or relax on the green with home-made Yorkshire ice-cream

Rosedale School has very imaginative artists. 

And what's this guy doing?

Not a lot. He's been waiting patiently for a while for the cyclists

But where's he disappeared to now?



Oh sorry. He's had to attend to a call of nature. Hurry up! These cyclists are fast.

We're having a celebration. Why not come and sample the delights we have to offer. Cakes, ice-cream, and fine glassware to buy. Have a drink at The Coach-house Inn, The White Horse Farm Inn plus the welcome re-re-opening of The Milburn Arms. And much, much more. Enjoy!

Looking back; looking forwards

So it's that time of the year when we review what we did in 2017 and plan what we will do in 2018. All I can say is...