Friday, 31 December 2021

New Year 2022

 2021 has ended and I don't think anyone will be sorry!

The magpies are croaking outside and the temperature is, as it  always seems to be, averaging around 20 degrees. Some days, however, it shoots up to 35 and higher. Our first few days here were of that order and it made sleeping difficult. Overall it is a cloudy sky today  but it isn't 9am yet, so there is room for improvement. Even so, there are people on the beach and out walking their dogs - lots of dogs here! - before it gets too hot.

Part of the family is packing in order to visit rellies in Brisbane, and the rest of us are waiting to wave them Goodbye. Typically of Australia, they have 875 miles to drive to reach Brisbane from here. Everywhere is a long way from everywhere else. We as in dh and I, drove to Port Macquarie the other day and it seemed a long long way to drive but only a tiny distance on the map.

We will see them back again to take us back to Sydney.

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Slow cooking anyone?

 Terrific rainstorms over the last couple of days.

On Monday we set out to go to Forster, reached Tuncurry and the first roundabout and kept going round it and back home. 

There was no hint of the storm slackening and we'd have been drenched in seconds had we got out. Later in the day there were intervals of no rain, but it was not long before it began again. No wonder everything looks so green around us. There are many trees here that have fire-blackened trunks, but most of them have a glorious green canopy.

The brewing company has had one day closed - Christmas Day. Not a long break for the people who run it. Tuesday was a canning run, so dh and Paul went in at six am to help before the normal, "open for customers" day began. Today it is a brewing day and no doubt David and Helen will come home even more tired than they were yesterday. Running a small business is no easy ride.

We did sausage and mash with onion gravy for them last night. Today it is going to be slow-cooked lamb. Hope we get it right in a slow-cooker we have never used!

Sunday, 26 December 2021

Musical magpies

Christmas has come and gone once again.

Yesterday was blazing hot and most unlike a British Boxing Day!

I wrote a chapter yesterday - time to get back in the groove rather than all this lolling around relaxing.

Last night we had lightning and they tell me it rained through the night though I was fast asleep until six o'clock. I think it is the local magpie family that wake me so early. The family of three sit on the whirlygig washing pole, groom themselves and talk to each other and the world at large. It is quite musical (once the ear is attuned.) 

OTOH it could just be the light itself waking me.  What I can tell you that it is pelting down this morning and we can hardly see the beach. Right now the birds are ducking under the many balconies around here to take shelter, and no one is wandering abroad except for a couple of dog walkers.

 Update: Rain

Friday, 24 December 2021

Barrington Blonde and Double Treachery

 It looks a tiny journey on a map.

It comes as something of a surprise that the distance between Mosman and Redhead, near Forster, is a car journey of four hours. (Evidently the rail lines go nowhere near Forster, so that is a no-no.)

We travelled up Wednesday and our first stop was the micro-brewery - to greet David and Helen, who were hard at work serving customers. I have now tried several beers, all of them with exotic sounding names. They sell fresh craft beer to restaurants, bars, clubs and pubs and not least, onsite and through bottlestores and bars.

Names like Barrington Blonde, Black Head Milk Stout, Bluey's Brown, Bo Bo Blood Orange and Double Treachery figure in the list - you'll find them all listed on the website, with tasting notes. 

Next day Bill and I took a quiet walk on the beach for an hour in the sunshine. Only dog walkers and a few surfers were out that early - it was around nine thirty. Ten years ago we set out to walk from end to end of the beach you see in the picture - Diamond Beach - and we never made the whole nine miles. This time we did not attempt anything so ambitious. From the house it is an easy walk over the grass to the lookout point over the Pacific Ocean, and going down the five flights of steps (15-20 steps in each flight) was easy. Going back we stopped and enjoyed the view at every landing.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Anniversary dinner

 Tuesday 21st December - even though we are in Oz, we still remembered that it was our wedding anniversary - 25 years together and still happy!

We spent some time wandering around the main streets of Mosman (no double "s" as I had it earlier).

A day or two ago we walked down to Balmoral beach located at the bottom of the steep hill in the pic. Much of Mosman is built on hills with surprising views and steep descents around twisty corners, but today we walked in the other direction and sampled the shopping outlets which are thankfully line a long a street  that is mainly flat. We visited Harris Farms - the most gorgeous supermarket with wonderful fresh produce, and bought some sun tan cream which is necessary - we both got sunburned the first and second day out  - and I mean burned! 

A sandwich, freshly made, served as lunch and more strolling followed. The shops are small, no departmental stores, but they are expensive. When you live in an area where 34 million dollars is not unusual for the price of a house, then the folk who live there will have plenty of dosh to spread around. The designs are all individual  - no estates, council or private, here - and many are super luxurious. Many houses are a hundred years old and are built in what seems to me to be an ornate Edwardian style. Others are more modern. Some are white concrete, but Expensive White Concrete. After a visit to a pub for a swift half and a cool down in their air conditioning, I got very brave and bought a bra. Probably the most expensive bra I've ever bought, but hey! we're on holiday.

Visited a grog shop and bought some champagne to take to Redhead tomorrow and made our way home. Later Paul drove us down to Spit Bridge where Bill and I had an anniversary dinner at Chiosco - swordfish steaks and Cannolo with an Italian Prosecco to introduce a bit of fizz. The sun blazed down so strongly through the open side of the restaurant that I protected my denim-clad leg with a paper napkin for fear of being burnt again. We enjoyed a delightful meal served by a chatty waiter from Bergamo in Italy. (Earlier it was a bar keeper from Whitehaven in Cumbria who thought he  recognised Bill's accent) With water on two sides and some of the sleekest, most expensive boats all around us it was a lovely evening.

Monday, 20 December 2021

A bridge of wire mesh

 The fresh sea air knocked us both out and we had a very quiet Sunday.

On Sunday evening we went to the Plonk beach cafe and ate Tiger prawns and flatfish with chips and  a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. The bridge in the picture is the Spit bridge  - the only bridge I know built of wire mesh which means I can see through it as I drive over it or sail underneath it - and it is a drawbridge, timed to open at specified times. Boats queue up to move under the bridge, some going out to sea and some returning to harbour. This happened while we were there, so there was lots of interest which certainly kept the youngest members of the party happy.

Monday was another day out in the boat. An early start - 7.30am and by 9 we were unloading the boat on the Hawksbury River. Very different to the day in Sydney Harbour. I've never seen a boat backed into the water before, but everything worked well. We found a solitary seal sunbathing, got stopped by the marine police on a jet ski and were invited to display knowledge of the rules, regs, certificates and permission to fish - yes, yours truly did some fishing using a dead prawn (bought at a garage on the way out of Mossman) but did not catch anything. Paul caught one hand sized silver fish which he returned to the ocean. 

Lots of beaches with houses of various shape and sizes, but no public landing places.  So we ate our sarnies onboard thinking that if one buys a plot of land and builds a house, then one does not wish to have one's peace disturbed by the hoi pollaig in this case - us.  I found the day most relaxing.

Saturday, 18 December 2021

A day on the boat

 A splendid day on the water. 

 31 degrees and everyone in shorts and sandals 

Sydney harbour is huge and offers many kinds of beaches, from the sort only accessed by boat to those like Balmoral right next to main roads, shops and houses. In spite of the vast spaces of the continent, houses stand very close to one another and are built onto cliff faces and slopes, often on stilts and columns, all to enjoy the waterfront view.

And what houses! They say it is no good being a millionaire here today - you need to be a billionaire!

Most homes sprawl across the available space, but I spotted one tall thin building with five floors and 
possibly a garden level as well. I did wonder how people reached their front door. There are steps that
climb straight up the hillside, so steeply I would not dare attempt to climb them and driving to most of them seems impossible. Dh says some have lifts to take them up and down.

The new boat was lovely with enough room for four adults and two children to move around freely. 
Powerful, too, as we rocketed across the choppy 
waters between the headlands and bounced on the 
waves caused by the ferries and the speedboats.
Came home sunburned and yawning after all that 
fresh sea air.

Friday, 17 December 2021

First days in Oz

 We had to have a PCR test within 24 hours of arrival in Australia. So yesterday we set out to attend the local drive-thru test centre and were astonished to find that there was a 3 hour queue of cars ahead of us all waiting to access the Willoughby Centre. In actual fact it took closer to 4 hours, but eventually it was done. Evidently cases are rising here as well as in England.

We got the result within 24 hours, and happily we both registered as negative. We have to do it all again in 6 days time. So the precautions on the planes and in the airports of Newcastle and Dubai paid off. Because we had a longer wait in Dubai, we have not really suffered from jet lag, though I have to admit to feeling a little jaded today (Friday) What we need is a good walk in fresh air and we may do that this afternoon.

The temperature is 22 degrees and intermittently sunny. Tomorrow it is forecasting 31 and 33 on Sunday, so I may pick up a little tan before I arrive back in cold Newcastle. It was warm enough for the boys to play with a dinosaur spurting cold water this lunchtime! Rather them than me!
There are plans to take the boat out on the harbour tomorrow. Am I seasick on small boats? I don't know, but I will certainly find out. 

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

An eventful flight

 Car picked us up from home, 5pm, smooth ride to the airport. Check-in clerk says he must ring Australia. "We do it for everyone," he says with a reassuring smile. 

Reports back, minus smile, with another guy. "There's a problem."

One of our many, many documents states I am Mrs Jennifer Mary Black. The airline ticket has me down as Mrs William Black, and Australia won't accept me. 

I had visions of Bill flying off, and me heading home in a taxi. (Must remember to get house key from him.) Then I remembered Paul and his police training - smile and insist. "I am  both of those things," I said. "I am one person. Check my passport number. It is nothing but a clerical error." On whose part, I did not say. 

The manager spent ages hanging on to call Australia to try and change things. We stood at the desk, worrying. It must have taken an hour or more, and we finally paid £10 to get the name changed so Australia will accept me. We made it to the BL in time to have a swift glass of wine (2 SWIFT brandies for Bill to calm his nerves) and then onto the plane at 8.30pm, - the plane left 30 minutes late because "there had been so many problems." (Not just us, I hasten to add.)

The young guy behind us was flying to Singapore for work, and his PCR test was 5 hours out of time. We don't know what happened to him but he may have had to stay overnight and wait for a new test. Flying these days is no easy task. Check and treble check everything. I am braced for an exciting arrival in Sydney.....

Thursday, 9 December 2021

We seem to be acceptable

Excitement is starting to build in the household.

I actually packed my case yesterday. The hoops we have had to jump through!

Australia is very careful about who it allows to visit, but so far, we seem to be acceptable.

One more test to do and if that is OK then we're OK.

Now I have to remember all the little things I use every day - the sort of things that are easily forgotten. Like eyebrow tweezers, my diary, password book - yes, I know they should never be written down, but hey! Laptop mouse and batteries - without that I am sunk. Imagine being on holiday and no internet access! Unthinkable. How else will I show you all the pictures...

Thursday, 25 November 2021

TV thoughts.

 Shetland is a series I enjoy watching in spite of having to tune my ear in to Douglas Henshall's accent each time.  The last episode revealed all last night and then the last few closing words accused Jimmy Perez of aiding and abetting murder! 

Jimmy Perez! What are they thinking

I know that they filmed 2 series on Shetland back to back recently, but of course they are not going to release series 7 until next year. Hopefully, early in the year. I don't want to wait forever.

The other crime drama I began watching I'm not so keen on. Dalgleish. Oh, the acting is fine and the lead actor does a wonderful job but the story lines are so depressing. Always connected to the church in some way, in the dark colours of the 70s for accuracy and not a joke in sight. Now I know why I never read any of the novels of P D James except Murder comes to Pemberley, and I was not very keen on that.

There is a rumour that Happy Valley is doing a series 3. I hope so. Even my other half watched that, though we caught onto it quite late as in last year.

Hope for Last Tango in Halifax is fading, which is sad. I know they've all gone on to bigger and better things - well, the two female leads have; but I would like to see another series.

Thursday, 18 November 2021

November droops

 November means Nanowrimo.

Social media goes quiet, book sales drop off,  and many claim the month is filled with holiday prep  - which is odd because  we don't have any holidays in November and surely it is far too early for Christmas preparation? (But other countries do!)

Then there is tax preparation and end of year wrapping up of projects - now there I can relate, since I am desperate to finish my current novel and this week - or was it last? - Amazon told me it required a new tax form from me. 

I don't take part in  Nanowrimo because for me it takes all the pleasure out of writing. Besides, the editing afterwards must be horrendous

I'm one of those people who write a scene and then go back the next day and fill in all the "expression," as I call it. I sometimes go back two and three times, especially if my plotline is changing in any way- which it usually does!

It seems odd to lump book sales in with this list. Not all readers are aspiring authors, but mine do drop in November. I wonder if it possibly has more to do with people waiting for Black Friday reductions when they plan to have a a splurge and buy lots of cut-price books? That makes more sense to me.

Saturday, 13 November 2021

A big enough turkey

 We are currently waiting to see if Australia deems us worthy of being allowed to visit them.  Been waiting about a fortnight now. We have an exemption as parents of an Australian citizen - well two or three of them - but it doesn't seem to speed things along as we fondly imagined it would.

Once we do get there it will be heading up to midsummer for them - totally different to the grand Northumberland countryside closing down for the winter here. The idea of walking barefoot along Diamond Beach appeals very much right now and we are assured that Helen has bought a turkey big enough for everyone. 

Friday, 5 November 2021

The Ellsdon Affair under way

These, at the moment, are the first paragraphs of my new novel. They may yet change or be deleted as I am still very much at work on it! (The highlighting is for me to keep check of a sub-plot as I go through the chapters. So easy to forget things, or get them out of place in the time line.) he title will undoubtedly be The Ellsdon Affair. As yet I have no cover....

The coach rolled to a stop in the small Northumberland village of Ellsdon, the door opened and Miss Rosa Brewster fell out onto the stony track. By sheer chance, her cousin Louise, impatiently awaiting her arrival, dashed forward, caught her by the arm and prevented her from pitching headlong in the dust.

“Careful!” she cried. Young enough to laugh at mishaps, they clung together, chuckling. “What were you doing?”

“Thank goodness you were waiting for me,” Rosa gasped. She held her cousin at arm’s length and scanned her fair curls and amused blue eyes with pleasure. “I’ve been so cramped the entire journey I think my foot has gone to sleep because I can’t feel a thing. Do you think we might dare a quick stroll?” She waved at the village green behind her.

Louise darted a glance at the house behind her. “Quickly then. The others will hear the coach and be out in a moment.”

With Louise to steady her, Rosa hobbled a step or two until feeling came back into her foot. “I could not wait to get here,” Rosa declared. It was the truth, but she declined to speak of the reason for such longing. Time for such disclosures once she was settled in with her cousins.  

Louise snatched an assessing glance at her companion. “We shall have such fun.” For a moment, her fair brows drew together. “We even have a little mystery I think you ought to know about. It involves Grace.”

Rosa stopped brushing dust from her gown. “Your sensible older sister? What can Grace have done to cause alarm?”

Friday, 29 October 2021

 We liberated Tim on Wednesday 27th October at the high point of his favourite walk. In sight of home on the other side of the valley, in sunshine, a west wind to support him, and a rainbow on the other side of the hedge. So now my lad is free to do what he liked doing best.


Tuesday, 26 October 2021

Doesn't even have a title yet

 It has been a fortnight, and I still have Tim's ashes. 

At first I only peeped inside the smart carrier bag - the kind you might pick up from Bradley Hall Garden & Interior Design shop. Then I couldn't bring myself to look inside the presentation box. Finally I found the bamboo woven package that is surprisingly heavy.

The next step will be to scatter the ashes on his favourite walk. I don't know if dh wants to come with me or not. I know I'm being silly, but that's the way I am. I will get over him. 

We are going out - visited with Prue and Shirley last Tuesday, plus the Lion & the Lamb in the evening, York on Thursday, hairdressers Friday, the Coffee Barn this morning to have coffee with Pat and Alan. We've planned to eat out at the pub again tonight since we were pleased with the new management situation and I might go into town later this week. 

And all the time we are planning a trip to Australia if a) we are accepted as parents (which we are) and b) we can get flights and c) if lockdown doesn't strike again in either country. The garden is getting a lot of pruning, and everything that can be washed is being washed.  My writing life is busy with Amazon Ads and a new book that doesn't even have a title yet. 

Oh, and the good news is I've lost 15lbs since coming back from Ardverekie. I'm sure all those bacon and egg breakfasts piled the weight on!

Saturday, 23 October 2021

The empty house


We haven't adapted yet. We are keeping busy. It is not often you see me cleaning windows, but it seems to help hide the emptiness of the house.

Went to York on Thursday and I bought two pairs of shoes at Hotter. It seems criminal that we have to go all the way to York now when we used to have a branch in Newcastle. The city was busy and very cold, so we didn't stay much more than two hours. It has gone downmarket since I was there last. Not as attractive as it used to be.

I enjoyed Ardverekie's beach much more!

Saturday, 16 October 2021

My hero

I meant to write more about Ardverekie but I got side-tracked.

We travelled home on Friday without problems - we left at 6.32 am precisely in order to beat 
the traffic hold ups in Perth and Edinburgh, and succeeded.  

On Monday we noticed Tim was slowing down on his walk and I slept on the living room 
floor beside him through a very disturbed night.  By 8.30am Tuesday we were at the vet's surgery in Hexham and by 8.45 my beautiful boy had left me. 

We knew he had a tumour but we did not expect him to go downhill so fast, though as Tim the vet said - it's a  good thing. We didn't want him to have a long lingering death. 

He certainly enjoyed  his holiday in Scotland and he loved life. 
The problem is mine -  I keep expecting to hear him trotting upstairs to pop his head around the door to find me. Now I have to eat all those hard crusts off the toast and throw away the apple cores. He was short of his 9th birthday on New Year's Eve by a couple of months.

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Ardverekie continued


Entering  at fig. 2, we had the Billiard room on our right (fig 1) and my first impression on walking into Ardverekie House was of death. The entrance hall is a beautiful wood panelled space, but around the edges of the space between ceiling and wall are the heads. Deer skulls, some fully restored with fur and eyes, and all with antlers. When James Ramsden, the millionaire Huddersfield industrialist who built the existing house, went hunting, he aimed his gun at the perfect 12 or 14 point specimen.

Today game is stalked with different priorities in mind. But those heads filled the billiard room as well; many initialled by those who killed them. It took my attention from the full size billiard table and the ancient books and the even more ancient Persian rugs that lie rumpled, torn and wrinkled beneath my feet. They are part of a large collection of Persian rugs kept in the house. I’m happy to report that the others all seemed in better condition.

It is part of the charm of Ardverekie that it is a family home and nothing is behind glass or fenced off by ribbons.

We saw so much and before it becomes a jumble in my mind, and want to retrace my steps. The beautiful wood panelling is now drying out because of the modern central heating but so far I saw no signs of damage. We were shown through a door and tucked in the corner off the entrance hall was a wooden bench type toilet with a porcelain bowl. I remember it featured (or one like it) in the tv series with the banker having difficulties getting the loo to flush)

From there we progressed to fig 3, the main hall where we gazed at the stairs almost expecting to see a portrait of Hector MacDonald staring back at us. There isn’t a tartan carpet on the stairs; the tv company put it down and hung tartan curtains at the huge window, but when they left they took carpet and curtains with them.

From there we went into fig 5, the library with its fire and vast numbers of books plus a ladder to access them. The wood panelling made the room dark and by contrast the ladies parlour, fig 4, was much lighter and brighter, so that they could read and do their needlework. The huge dining room, fig 6, was also dark but I imagine with candlelight and ladies in diamonds and silverware gleaming on the table, it would look magnificent. The table seats 14, but if the guests number only 13, then a teddy bear seated in a baby chair  in the corner window takes his place at table to make up the numbers. A smaller round table in the window is where the family have breakfast when they are in residence. A dumb waiter at the side held pots of jam and tomato ketchup.

Just outside was the “modern” kitchen, fig 7, which did not look that modern to me until we went and found “Lexie’s old kitchen.” A monstrosity! The old sinks have been removed and new washing machines installed, plus a sheet press and iron. The old iron was almost too heavy to lift and the gas iron was a scary thing. I often wondered how Lexie managed her skimpy outfits in the Scottish climate (think heat, cold and midgies!) but the huge black cast iron range was taller than me and probably threw out enough heat to keep her warm.


Wednesday, 6 October 2021

My grand tour

 Tuesday we waited for ages and no one came, so we   took Tim for a walk on the beach, and came back to find maintenance men just  finishing cleaning the chimney. By 11.30 no satellite man had arrived off we went Newtonmore where I did some food shopping at the Co-op. On the way we saw the satellite van heading in the opposite direction, and Bill said that's the fella we were waiting for! We got the shopping done and drove back to Pinewood and there he was, just packing up, having completed the job. We now have a working television, a clean chimney and some wine to drink this evening.

Before that I had my tour of Ardverekie House - ground floor, cellars and grounds including the walled garden. Fascinating and more so because it is still a family home and the family had been in residence so recently the housekeeper was still processing bed sheets and tidying up.  More on that later.

Sunday, 3 October 2021

 At Ardverekie again.

We made 2 stops  for Tim, one at St Boswells, and one at Perth, where we gave him a walk and a chance to pee, and arrived at 4.01pm. Access to Pinewood is from 4pm! Swift unloading  and then a walk down to the beach, which seems larger than ever. 

Sadly, dh can't keep up with his 24 hour news because the tv isn't working. Nor could we get a signal to call the maintenance engineer until on Saturday morning we walked down to Gatehouse at the turn off from the main road down the Laggan valley. We made the call there and after a quick run on the beach went back to Pinewood to await the arrival of the engineer.

Two men arrived, which sent Tim into a frenzy, but they could not solve the problem.  Returned with a ladder and while one checked the tv, one checked the satellite dish. Still no joy, and there won't be any until Monday when thy plan to return.

So we set off on a three mile ramble and climbed onto one of the logging roads which you see in the pic.  As we went up the hill we were in full view of the opposite side of the loch, where one white house stood amidst trees. It sounded as if a dog there could see or hear us and barked its head off. Must have annoyed the owners, because it took us quite a while to make it up the steep incline!

Sunday morning and it is raining very gently. I suspect there's a word for it locally. It is possible to walk out and not notice until you get wet. I took Tim down to the beach where all went well until he found a rabbit. I suspect someone had shot it, but t wasn't dead and when he grabbed it, the poor thing squeaked and kicked its back legs. He let go when I insisted, but  he dearly wanted to go back and eat it. He didn't forget it until we were within 100 yards of home. Passed a man with a gun over his arm, so suspect hewas the hunter.

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Lurking in the attic

 Back in 1980 I spent nearly three months in America. Its so long ago I'd almost forgotten about it, but the other day I found a bundle of airmail letters - the kind that were folded, stuck down and super light - in a bundle of old university papers that my mother had kept. DH and I seriously considered cleaning out the attic and we made a start, which was how I found these letters. Sad to say, we never finished the task, but I enjoyed reading the letters and I thought I'd record the last one here.

"I am travelling around the great continent of America now in company with Maggie and John. You must excuse the hasty writing but I have to do it before the sun sets, which is imminent, or I shan’t be able to see to write. We are camping in a tent and have stayed at Montreal, Toronto and now just past Buffalo, which is the second largest town in New York state after New York itself.

Montreal was a pleasant, well-bred town, not rowdy and frenetic like the bit of New York I saw nor cool and precise like the bit of Boston I whizzed through. Montreal is set on an island in the middle of two rivers and a canal and has huge sea-going liners gliding past its gates every day. It has a hill in the centre, like Edinburgh, and the city swirls round the foot of Parc Royal Mount in all directions.

Everything in Canada is in French – I expected some French, but not 99.9% French like it is. Some people don’t speak English! The shops look very French, ie chic, and there are cafes in the Old Quarter (Vieule  Quartier!) where everyone sits out and drinks wine on little street balconies. We went into Notre Dame Eglise and found it very beautiful, looking like Notre Dame in Paris, but built here in Montreal in 1889 or some such recent date.

The French influence in driving is apparent, too, for navigating the motorways in and out of the city was hazardous to say the least. The legal limit in the US may be 55mph but here in Canada  its 100kmph and I’m sure they exceed that; I’m  inclined to write-off our correct selection of route 20 out of a handful of criss-crossing intersections taken at speed as due to Madame Luck.

The same thing happened at Toronto. I don’t know yet where the city began or ended. The map I had from Ontario Tourist Information Office just stopped communicating information about 15 miles from the city limits, and we hurled along a huge section of dock-land sub-auto routes with  crossing rail tracks for freight trains,  which regurgitated us smack bang in the middle of Canadian National Exhibition. The number of people collected around this centre was too much for us – used to rural Maine for two and a half months – and we just kept going. I never noticed where Toronto  ended either; one town just faded into another.

 But I noticed Niagara Falls, which we saw today along with  along with a million other tourists. (It is Labour Day, after all, the equivalent of out Bank Holiday). I took some pictures, so I hope they’re alright. We are now heading east again, for Boston this time, where Maggie and I have the offer of a floor for a night with Joanne from Camp Modin.* Then its off to New York on Saturday and then down to Pennsylvania to meet Nancy and her family. Take care, see you soon, about three weeks…"

 *Jewish summer camp in Maine where between university breaks I spent a summer working as Camp Counsellor. Still have vivid memories of swimming and canoeing in the freshwater lake every day and some of the personalities I got to know. Sadly, no pictures survived. Or perhaps they are lurking in another part of the attic.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Predicted trends for self-publishing 2021


Spotted this piece floating around the internet, and it seems to be proving pretty accurate.

1: More traditional authors will move to the indie model

Some indies are having major financial success, and the rest of the publishing industry is taking note. Dean Koontz and Patricia Cornwell have signed with Thomas & Mercer. Big publisher corporate mergers means traditional authors will have less negotiating power and at least some will be tempted by the indie path

2: More indie authors will collaborate or consolidate in collectives

From sharing production costs to combining marketing efforts, this is a great way for indies to publish quicker, expand back catalogues, increase output and earnings, not just by combining email lists, but actual books as well to compete on a level above.

3: Authors will benefit from competition in the eBook marketplace between Amazon, Apple, and Google

Amazon is the largest retailer for indies, but in 2020 Apple redesigned its author portal so authors without a Mac could publish to iBooks and Google Play revamped its publishing analytics interface in fall 2020 making it easier for authors to analyse their sales on the platform. Apple and Google are clearly investing in indies in 2021.

4: More platforms fighting for Audio supremacy will benefit
savvy authors

5: COVID-19 will impact book sales in different ways at different times

2020 saw more people turn to books for at-home entertainment and education via digital means and will continue in the first half of 2021. The second half of the year could mark a downturn for eBook sales if vaccination efforts in the US and Europe are successful. This could mean a temporary lull in eBook sales during the “post-Covid re-emergence” phase of our lives.

6: The overall eBook market will continue to grow

Overall industry stats show that upwards of 70% of people who read, still read print and haven’t yet adopted a digital reading. Covid 19 turned more readers to digital in 2020and more readers are joining the digital eBook market in 2021.

7: Authors will see more success with international sales

Authors willing to invest in translation could get a great foothold in this rising European eBook market. The German market first, but the French, Italian and Spanish ones will be catching up quickly.

8: It will be a volatile year for paid advertising

More retailers and brands will spend more marketing dollars in digital channels in 2021. Increased spend and competition will drive up the costs of digital advertising for authors.

9: Email delivery and engagement will become a focus for authors

Email lists become more important and the competition is fierce. Nothing prevents you from letting them know about your latest release. Other marketing channels will suffer in 2021, so email is more important than ever.

10: Authors who write into series, and with big backlists, will win larger pieces of the pie

Writing a series results in more sales, and authors know it. Expect to see more authors writing series, and those who do will see the financial rewards.


Thursday, 9 September 2021

It's OK, I've got the message.

Patterns in the fields?
 Do passwords give you a headache?

They do me. I thought I'd give spoken books (not a brand name!) a whirl and joined as a trial member. I spent a couple of hours trying to download the chosen volume. I was asked for my password every time I tried to download and each time they told me the password I had just entered was incorrect. After the fourth attempt  I gave up,  only to discover (eventually) that my ipad was not of a generation that could play spoken books.

 I don't want to sit at my pc or laptop and listen. I wanted to snuggle up in bed with my ipad and earplugs and listen to a bedtime story. Since my ipad won't play ball, I had wasted my time and decided to cancel the brand new membership and reclaim the whole 99p I had spent (!). 

Seriously, the 99p was not important, but I did not want to end up paying £7.99 a month if I did not cancel. Of course, you can guess what happened. Before I could contact anyone to cancel, I had to enter my password, didn't I? Incorrect, they said, over and over again. There is nothing more infuriating than a computer that tells you your password is incorrect. I had to input a new password twice, get it verified, purified, clarified or whatever the term is, and after three unsuccessful attempts, managed to get a new password accepted.  Then and only then, could I cancel the membership. 

It's OK, I've got the message. Spoken books are not for me.

Saturday, 4 September 2021


 I've never had to worry about getting bitten in this country before, but his year I've been bitten twice in the last fortnight. (I'm discounting the notorious Scottish midgie) 

But I have been bitten twice in the last fortnight.

It is happening when I walk my dog. The first offender was definitely a tick,  expertly removed with the correct tweezers by my husband. We are not sure what bit me this time, and I can't really see the bite area as it is at the back of my knee, but we are "keeping an eye on it" as they say. Drenched the spot in TCP, so I smell a little clinical this morning. I was wearing wellies and thick fleecy trousers on both occasions, too, but I must take care not to walk through long grass or I suspect it will happen again.

It must be another effect of climate change. I'm looking forward to autumn when the insect population seems to disappear in these regions.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

New Cover facts

 Been working hard  these last few weeks. 

I've been trying Amazon Ads and so far, I'm making a profit. 

Not a great profit, but  definitely in my favour.  In following the course I learned that my approach to marketing was dismal, and so I've been uprating my book descriptions, dreaming up hooks and renovating all my covers. They may not be perfect now but they are an improvement and may still change in the future 

It takes a lot of time and effort to do all this, because I have to find out where I'm going wrong  before I can try to put it right. I've lost count of how many videos on compositing and graphics in general I've watched - not to mention the talks I've listened to on the best way to use Ads. It has meant that I've been absent from Facebook and Twitter but then - would anyone notice my absence? 

It has also meant I've done no writing of fresh material though I have

 revised Alba is Mine. In doing so I discovered how much my writing

 has improved since 2005, which was a bit of a surprise.

I have put the new cover for Far After Gold up today as a comparison. It isn't that old, as my covers go, but I learned that a linked series of books ought to have the same font and cover treatment. If you check the pages for my books at the top of this blog, you will find that all my "Viking" books are now using the same fonts for the title, sub-title and author. (I've just noticed that the newest cover  I've put up here does not have a capital letter for Viking. I'll have to rectify that very soon.) So: Far After Gold, Viking Summer, Viking Bride and Magician's Bride are now "linked."

I'm happy. Now it is time to get back to planning a new book.

If you've ever wonder about the title I chose its an old saying that "Man will travel far after gold."

Friday, 20 August 2021

Head Hopping

Kahina Necaise has written (for the History Quill) a clear  description of the fault that often annoys readers – and so I have  jotted them down here to remind myself of What-Not-To-Do.

Read the whole thing here: Head-hopping: what it is and why you shouldn't do it - The History Quill


1. Head-hopping disorients readers, preventing their immersion in the story

2 compromises the emotional coherence of a scene

3. hinders connection with charactersBottom of Form

4. signals an unfocused scene

5. comes across as clumsy

 These notes are for me to remember:

 Less common in today’s fiction, the omniscient POV is still a perfectly workable and engaging way to tell a story…..

The  omniscient POV presents the story from the perspective of a single character: the narrator, who has a distinct voice. Even when it dips into the thoughts of a particular character and colours those thoughts with that character’s voice, it’s clear that this is not the narrator’s voice. We’re still anchored in the narrator’s POV………..

An omniscient POV narrator’s switching from one character to the next is strategic. All the POVs that it presents fit together in a way that supports the scene as a whole.


Monday, 9 August 2021

Always a sign of a good read!

 I have another review up on Discovering Diamonds today.


Many thanks to the reviewer ~ Anna Belfraga.


"Having married into an aristocratic family in Yorkshire, American Ellen desperately needs a child. The family expects an heir. After three years with a loving husband it seems the desired child will never arrive, and when a dangerously attractive estate worker makes an outrageous suggestion, Ellen is mortified. She dismisses the idea, but the temptation becomes irresistible and in the steamy sensuality of the long hot summer of 1911 desire consumes them both, with dire consequences for one of them."

It is 1911 and the heatwave that will plague England over the summer months is already becoming a nuisance. Or so Ellen thinks as she wanders off on a solitary walk, preferring to walk through the woods to avoid the heat. And there, just beside the gazebo she bumps into one of the gardeners.  Yes: it must be the heat. How else to explain how the wife of Charles, Lord Dipton and future sixth Marquess of Durrington, allows this unknown gardener to lead her inside the gazebo and there seduce her?

I must admit to having some initial problems with the premise. Ellen and her husband are desperate for a child—Charles’ grandfather is threatening to disinherit him unless there is the pitter-patter of small feet—but Ellen is also very much in love with her husband. She is also a lady, very aware of her station in life and in general not at all reckless. For such a woman to leap into the arms of one of the estate workers…well...? 

While it would—perhaps—have been credible to have Ellen consider just how to sort the child issue and do whatever she had to do (with closed eyes) to present Charles with the much-needed heir, what blossoms between Ellen and Tom is instant, fiery passion. This is not a solution to Ellen’s problem. In fact, it adds another complicating twist.

However, I may have had reservations about this premise, but Jen Black is an admirably competent writer. Not only is she adept at recreating the historical setting, she is also skilled at presenting us with complicated characters. In this case, it is Tom who turns out to be as multi-layered as an onion, much to the surprise of, among others, Ellen’s husband, Charles. 

The heat builds and builds. In casual bits and pieces, Ms Black presents the growing political friction in Europe. In England, there is a new king to crown, a young Prince of Wales to invest while the nation pants under a relentless sun. For Ellen, tension spirals, making it unbearable to see Tom, just as unbearable not to see him. Plus, there is Charles, the man she truly loves and admires.

And then finally, the heatwave breaks. The heavens crack open and in the resulting storm, life will be irrevocably changed for Tom and Ellen. This reader found herself reaching for the tissues repeatedly as the final chapters of Silver Season Affair rolled by. 

Always a sign of a good read!

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

 e-version reviewed

Sunday, 1 August 2021


 These last few months I have renewed most of my e-book covers.

The e-covers are easy and I enjoy doing them. Some turn out better than others, but even so, it is a pleasure, and gives me a task to do while I await inspiration as to the story I am supposedly moving forward.

I am finding the paperback covers much harder to change and given the low number of paperbacks sold, I'm wondering if it is worth the hours it takes. Or the frustration, for that matter. Amazon instructions are never harder to interpret than when loading book covers!

On the other hand, I should be able to manage it, given time and patience. 

It is hard to believe that the two boys in the picture are now in their fifties and one is actually having his sixtieth birthday this year! This is one of the many slides dh and I retireved using a film scanner.

Saturday, 24 July 2021

It's madness,

 It's stupid really. I now have two first chapters.

From not writing for weeks, I now have two ideas on the go - and that's all they are - ideas in my head.

I wonder if I could  bring them together somehow? It seems silly to write two stories at the same time, especially if one is  set 200 years before the other, with different characters and locations. Not to mention the missing plot, which I talked about in the last post. I don't know what is going to happen in either story.

This has never happened to me before. I don't think the two stories are combinable. 

It's madness, really, to keep going with them both. It's a bit like something I read about  that prolific American writer of contemporary romance - she said she wrote one story in the morning and edited a second one in the afternoon, and that way she kept herself fresh for both.

I think I shall see how I go. It is possible that both will go to completion, but it is also very likely that one - or both - will run out of steam very soon. As long as only one disappears that would solve my problem! 

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Does the novel have a PLOT?

Over the last few weeks I've swopped writing for reading.

While I have read McDermid's Tony Hill and Carole Jordan series beginning to end I have not been writing at all. I've done a lot of work on statistics and sort of have a handle on how I'm doing but no writing at all. 

Until this week, that is. Then I began with a heroine called Rose who journeys to a tiny village in Northumberland (- write about what you know!) to stay with rellies. I intend that she should (somehow) time shift, or time travel, but with chapter one done I suddenly remembered a piece I read sometimes last year - namely:

Does the novel have a plot? Without a plot, received wisdom claims it is difficult to keep a reader interested. A plot must involve a protagonist with a worthy story goal. 

Well, the honest answer is no, there is, as yet, no plot. Nor is there a goal, worthy or not and I haven't reached an inciting incident yet. You know - that thing that turns the protagonist’s life upside down in a negative way.

All this suggests that I am on a hiding to nothing as my Dad used to say. I knew what he meant, but I never looked at the peculiar way he expressed the thought. Just as it occurred to me yesterday that from age 7 to 23 I lived in Sydenham Road and never twigged that all the streets around me - Hampton, Osborne, Kensington, Marlborough, and others - were all famous buildings or locations. 

I shall keep writing - descriptive bits and locations, but I must lay down a plot line  in the next week or two or I fear I shall lose interest and go back to reading. 

I wonder when the next Hill-Jordan book is due?

Lost dog!

Sunday 8 th May Slow start to a sunny day with a promise of high temperatures. Bill took Perla out at 7.30 as he has done all this month ...