Writer of historical fiction, blogger, mum, pet lover :)


March 2015

Travel: Part Two

When I was seventeen, and taking my final year exams at school, I was given two choices by my parents. They were going abroad (the first trip overseas) to visit my father’s brother, my uncle Brian, who lived in Australia. Because it was a long way by plane, and because it was to be their ‘trip of a lifetime,’ they were going for at least 5 weeks. I decided to stay at home and keep house (and sit exams and look after the dog). I was also thrilled to be spending five whole weeks at home by myself, I could have friends over, stay up as late as I wanted, and buy all the groceries that I wanted to eat. Bliss! Well, they went, and I remember buying cakes and crisps and exotic ready meals such as chicken curry (this WAS the early eighties, curries were an innovative food at this time!), and having a couple of sleep overs with my besties.
Anyway, MY gorgeous holiday that year was to go to Italy after taking my final exams. I just fell in love with Italy the year previously (at sixteen) and still rave about this holiday to this day – and to anyone that’ll listen! I had been there the year before with my friend and her parents (they tagged along), but this year it was my first holidays sans parents. Double bliss! We stayed on the Adriatic Riviera (which is on the right side) and went to Venice on a day trip – I ❤ Venice! It is the romantic heart of the world, and we rode on a gondola, ate pasta ‘til it was coming out of my ears, and crossed the famous Bridge of Sighs. Back at the hotel, we enjoyed the bella nightclubs around our resort. We spent days and day’s sunbaking by the pool. And late afternoons were spent trawling the fab Italian boutiques, and sitting on the beach with the sun setting in front of us, watching the older Italian women enjoying the last rays, chattering away in their native tongue. We enjoyed the late night cafes/bars that had their chair and tables on the streets – unheard of in cold, wet Blighty.
I have to mention the holiday the previous year, which was the first time that I had been to Italy. We stayed at the same resort, but had gone on a day trip to Florence. We crossed over the mountain range (Apennines) that runs right down the centre of this beautiful country, which was an experience in itself (nearly brought up my breakfast). I have to mention this gorgeous city (to me as lovely as Venice), as I had never seen so many statues displayed wherever you turned: in the shopping areas, local parks, squares and along the roadside. Such culture and such art and displayed so frequently that you cannot miss it! We went to the famous art gallery (Uffifi) on the river, and saw the statue of Michelangelo’s David and The Birth of Venus. It was in the gallery that I had my bottom pinched! Love Italy – bella!Venice-(Italy)

Writing Quote

“Ninety nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses”
– George Washington Carverinspiring

Travel: Part One

Today’s subject on the 500 words challenge is one that is close to my heart: Travel. I love traveling! When I was a child growing up in Wales, my father always ensured that we went away every year for two weeks. I can’t remember ever missing a year.
Growing up in the late sixties/seventies, traveling abroad was an exciting prospect. I remember the girl at the end of our street going to Spain for a holiday with her family. The other kids were so envious of her – Spain seemed such an exotic place, far removed from camping or a day at the seaside!
We didn’t go aboard as a family, however but my dad ensured that we went on our annual trip! He had bought a VW campervan, and we spent the summers travelling up and down the coasts of Britain in it. I remember a trip to Wales, in which it rained a lot and we spent a lot of time playing cards! We did get to travel all of north Wales and the highlight for me was Port Meirion.
In the summer of 1976 Britain had a heatwave, and my family and I were touring around Cornwall and Devon. I remember the sparkling blue seas and coves that made up the coastline, and the little towns that were originally fishing villages, but had expanded with the amount of people that enjoyed the area. The cottages were nestled on the edges of the coast, with crooked cobble stoned roads running down into the sea. I loved the names of the villages too: Polperro, Mousehole, St Ives, Saltash and my favourites, Torquay and Babbacombe in Devon. I remember spending a day on the beach at St Ives and watching dolphins frolicking in the clear blue shallow waters! It was a gorgeous time and a lovely memory of my childhood. In Devon, Babbacombe has a miniature village which I loved to visit, with its little houses, towns and people. Glorious!
The following year, we made our way up to Scotland. By this time I was a self-conscious 13 year old, a newly acquired teenager who had a crush on John Travolta (in Grease) and had discovered boys! We toured all around Scotland, and my dad booked us into a lovely campsite at the base of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Scotland at the time (oh, and still is!). His intention was to climb it, but not by himself – we had to go along too! I managed the first part of the climb, and then gave up and went ‘boy watching.’ Ah, I remember it well!
It was in the wilds of Scotland in the summer of 1977, that Elvis Presley died. Little did I know at the time, but Elvis would become a big part of my life (even after death) as my husband is a massive fan of his – I barely gave him a thought at the time of his death, but since then we have visited his grave in Memphis, and have many records by him. I was more of a fan of the Bay City Rollers and Donny Osmond!Polperro_CornwallPolperro Cornwall

My favourite things


Apart from sounding like a line from a film (These are a few of my favourite things), my blog is about a favourite food of mine: Chocolate.
Now, I believe that chocolate was invented by a very special set of people, who appreciate the best things in life and are not afraid to share it with others – and thank God for them! Chocolate has been a part of my life since I was small. My first memories are Milky Bar buttons (which is white chocolate) and Cadbury’s buttons (which are brown buttons). I could never decide on which I liked the best! Today, I am in my middle age years, bur still cannot look at white chocolate in the shops without remembering the lusciousness of them as a child.
When I was around six years old, I has a new bike (it was for my birthday or Christmas, really fuzzy memory of which). The bike seemed to bit a lot bigger than me at the time and it had two wheels, which was the first time I had ridden them. I was so excited to ride it – I went straight outside to the next street and jumped on it. I remember that my best friend at the time lived here so I was calling on her. The street had a dead end at one side, and I remember going fast to her house, and a dog running out in front of me. I snapped on the brakes, and went head over tip over the handlebars and knocked myself out onto the road. The next thing I remember is my mother trying to wake me with ice cream and chocolate! Yum, I soon woke up and recovered, but the memory of that chocolate thrust under my nose is still as real as yesterday!
When I was a teenager, I liked all things ‘fattening’ including cakes, crisps and sweets, but chocolate will always be my favourite. By the time I reached by twenties, the taste of chocolate had diminished slightly (only slightly mind!), but my love affair with this succulent food was reignited when I had my two children. How I loved walking them to the shops, and buying those Milky Bars and then discovering that they did them in button form! I still remember the thrill of it.
Other foods have come to my attention over the years. I went through a fad of loving sushi and wanting to visit the ‘sushi train’ at least once a week (this was when we first lived in Australia). My daughter Jess has also gained a ‘sweet tooth’ from me, and we can spend literally hours deciding what chocolate to buy. At the moment, we like the Cadbury’s Marble bar, and the Cadbury’s Marvellous bar which has jelly beans and popping candy inside. Yummy!
For me, chocolate represents the pleasurable moments of my life; from childhood through to adulthood and motherhood. It will always help me in good and bad times, and all for the small price of a few dollars….

Novel’s End

I am writing my first novel. It is a historical fiction, and starts in Wales in the 1830’s (or thereabouts) and tells the story of a young Welsh woman who is accused of murdering a neighbour’s child, and gets transported to Van Diemen’s Land for life. Even though it sounds as if it is an intense story involving cruelty and injustice, I aim to make it an uplifting journey for my main character. She will encounter hardened and cruel people, but she will also come across humility and kindness in what is to be a degrading environment.
My 500 word challenge for today is dealing with an ‘ending’ in your chosen novel. It asks, ‘what happen to your main protagonist? Will they have a happy / unhappy ending to their story?’ Well, my protagonist will find happiness in adversity and hardship. She will lose track of her daughter; her new born baby will sadly not make the journey on the transportation ship; and she will meet cruelty with the arrival of the true murderer of the child (this will be a twist in the story). Ultimately though, she will find happiness from an unexpected source (in the shape of the naval officer who helped her on the ship over), and she will reunite with her daughter (now grown up and settled) and will end her days in contentment (maybe live with her daughter, am still deciding!).
These are the ‘bones’ to my story, and so far it is tootling along nicely. Because it is historical, I am having to research the period of time (ie Britain in the 1830’s; and the day to day lives of the women who are convicts). I have a history degree, and one of my units was this very period, and was the one that fascinated me the most. So, I am thoroughly enjoying doing the research and immersing myself in the plot and the development of my character. I spend days just scrolling through the internet, and looking for snippets of information on this period of Australian history. It was this period of time that has built the foundations of Australia, so it is interesting to research. Many of the convicts made really good lives, many went back home after receiving their pardons, and many turned to further crimes and were sent to even more hardened prisons such as on Norfolk Island. It is such enjoyable to write about….!
On another note, my little dog Billy is getting more attacks of anxiety. He feels anxious when there is any conversation in our house, and grabs his paws and yells as if in pain. He also still chews anything he can get a hold of, including shoes, clothes (such as strappy t shirts) and now the bedding on my bed, and the couch ( he started by scratching our leather suite, and now chews chunks out of it). We are concerned about his behaviour and am taking him to the vet for his anxiety…will discuss this further in future blogs.

Morning Walk

This morning I took my little fox terrier dog Billy, out for his usual walk. We have a flooded plain area at the end of our street that the council are trying to conserve for the local wildlife, and as I pass it every morning, I have encountered lots of movement behind the bushes; noises and the cracking of twigs. I am usually very calm when it comes to local wild life, but this IS Australia, the land that has the most poisonous wild life in the world.
So this morning, I was happily passing the outskirts of the flooded plain area, when a screeching and a flapping appeared on my nearside. It was a magpie which was perched on the lowest branches of the tree, just in my line of sight. I screamed, and immediately felt like an idiot, especially when the woman across the road (who was sitting outside her house, on a mobile phone) turned and looked at me open mouthed. Have you ever felt silly? I did just this morning!
I slunk away as quietly as I could after my outburst, to nearly step on a large black lizard that just slicked his tail at me and ran into the bushes. I nearly screamed again but restrained myself by putting my hand over my mouth…but this time my dog went bananas and started barking frantically as he dived in to bushes. For a small thing, he sure has a lot of strength when he’s excited. I nearly lost hold of his lead, which would be disastrous as he; 1) has no road sense; and 2) would run into the bushes which leads to Aussies outback and would never be seen again! Disaster abated, I walked quickly down the road, dragging Billy with me, who was still barking and pulling himself towards the bushes. No sign of the lizard of course, he was halfway up the mountains by now!
Crisis over, I thought over the incident last night when Billy and I went for our evening stroll. Before we had even got past the porch at my front door, Billy had grabbed a massive cane toad into his mouth and had started to shake it! I shouted and my hubby came running, holding a broom in his hand, ready to swipe the thing onto the lawn. What a drama! The toad lay on its side all ‘puffed up’ like the frog in Shrek (remember that scene?), and I frantically wiped the foam off my dog’s mouth with a damp cloth before we continued on our walk – and we hadn’t left the front door yet! Saints preserve us!
I think the next time we go for one of our lovely, leisurely, and relaxing walks again – I will ensure that I am properly prepared, with a cover over my head, a stick to shoo away the wildlife, and boots to protect my feet! The saying ‘taking your life in your own hands,’ is so apt when taking a short stroll down my street!

One Direction

I woke up this morning, put the kettle on, and made myself my usual cup of tea. My routine then is to put on the TV to see what’s happening in the world. This morning, the news greeting me is not good; Zayn Malik from One Direction, the biggest band on the planet, has left the band. He has cited the reasons for leaving as being ‘stressed,’ ‘worn out by fame ‘and having a desire to lead a ‘normal life again like a 22 year old.’ They have been together as a band for five years (a gruelling schedule if you read the press), and he was ready to throw in the towel.
I am a 50 + woman who really should not care less if a boy band splits up. I should be ‘past it’ when it comes to the pop music industry. Why should I take notice if the likes of Ed Sheeran is in town? if Adam Levine choses to get married last summer? if a member of a boy band ups and leaves unexpectedly? These things should not affect the hum drum of my life, surely?
The truth is, I AM interested in the people and events that surround the pop world. I have watched my fair share of award shows, such as the Arias, Grammys and the Brits with my teenage daughter, whilst secretly enjoying every moment of the shows. To me, pop music is a remnant of another time – MY YOUTH.
One Direction in particular, have a special place in my heart. My daughter Jessica first introduced me to them. She constantly talked about ‘Harry this, and Harry that,’ whilst I generally shut my mind to her drivel, but pretended to listen. This view changed however, when I bought Jess the DVD of their concerts, for Christmas 2014. I very reluctantly put the DVD on to play Christmas afternoon, and since then I have become hooked on these likeable lads. They seemed to be so cute that they brought out my maternal side – I just wanted to cuddle them and make that they had a cup of tea and a ‘nice’ biscuit to eat! I thought that they were adorable.
Over the years, my ‘favourite’ members of the band have changed. Just like a teenage girl, I have swayed back and forth on who is the one I like the ‘best.’ Firstly, it was Liam and his ‘granny type’ persona that made you want to ‘chat away with him for hours.’ Then, I loved Niall’s accent, and the cheekiness of Louis. But for me, Harry and Zayn became my favourites last year, and this has never changed. Harry is so lovely and cute, but my heart will always want to meet Zayn the most. He is the ‘mysterious’ one of the band, and the news today that he is leaving forever leaves me feeling sad. I believe that his mysterious image belied the fact that he is insecure and vulnerable; homesick and lonely.
He wanted out. He wanted to see more of his girlfriend. He hated the attention
that being in such a famous band brings with it; the earlier ‘golden days’ of gratitude to their fans that have made them, now seems to him to have become a jaded memory.
He must have asked himself over the last few months, when does the gratitude to our fans end? How much of ourselves must we sacrifice to keep them happy?
Well, I think he has answered that question, and believes that enough is enough. He wants to fade back into the background, and lead his ‘normal life ‘again. I don’t believe that life will ever be completely normal again however, as he has contributed so much in building up one of the most successful and loved bands of all time. But we can hope.
Good luck Zayn : 0(

Short story – ‘Jenny’

Monday morning and another gorgeous day on the coast. I have double English this morning. Yuck! We have been put into groups, and we’ve had to do an English speech by today. Our group is just four; me, Emmy, Thomas and Jack. Emmy was in charge of the project. I hope she remembers to bring the draft in today! The teacher, Mrs Stames is a stickler for getting homework done on time, and she’s not shy of giving out detention if we don’t do it either!

Mrs Stames looks around the classroom with an inquisitive look on her face,
“Right then class 8. Who has their English speech draft ready for me to look at? Don’t all crowd me at once!” she walks up and down each aisle, and stops at my desk.
“Group B! Are you ready with your speeches? Thomas, show me your work so far!” She leans over our desk, peering over her glasses. By now,Thomas has a very concerned look on his face. He looks across at me, and then at Emmy to gauge our reactions. Emmy and I both look at each other. She shakes her head.
The teacher catches our glances. Turning to me she bellows into my face.
“Jenny! Any thoughts on how you have put together your group speech? Do you have any input for me at all?”
By now, all the class is watching me, as I shrink further into my chair. I can feel my face turning red, making me feel more anxious. Emmy giggles beside me. How I wished I could be more like her! Nothing seemed to phase my classmate and best friend.
Emmy and I had known each other since 6th grade. She was always the liveliest one in our friendship. You could rely on Emmy to be the one who would take any ‘dare’ she was given. Just last year, she led us into the haunted woods after dark without any fear. We stayed there at least an hour, until Jack and Stefan decided to make funny crackling noises right near us! We all thought that it was the ghost of the old woman who died nearby, and we screamed and run back to the road. Emmy didn’t run away though, and she ended the night by scaring them! What a giggle we had.
Now though, she has left me to answer the teacher’s questions. Trouble is, I don’t know the answer to this one.
“We are getting together later this afternoon” I stutter, trying to think of something good to say. Emmy nudges me.
“I saw that, Emmy Franklin! What do you have to say for yourself?” the teacher has now turned her attention to Emmy. “Too bust dreaming over boys all weekend to think about English homework! Is that it?”
Emmy turns on her best sorrowful voice.
“Please miss, our dog died last weekend! I was so upset, and the others came over to comfort me. We had to give the dog a sending off in the backyard, and we all thought that we could do the speech this evening, when we are more clear –headed. Is that OK, miss?” Emmy gave Mrs Stames her best ‘sad face’ look. I think she even had tears flooding her eyes at one point, but I was too scared to look!
Mrs Stames gives Emmy a sympathetic look, and says,
“Guys, I’ll expect it by tomorrow, instead!”
With that, she moves away to another desk and to the next group.

After class, we all sit around the picnic tables in the lunch area. Jack opens his lunch pack, and passes his biscuits to Emmy.
“Take this Em,” he said. “I didn’t know that your dog had died,”
“Nor did I,” she said, taking the offered biscuit. “It was news to me too!”
And she gives a surprised giggle.

A gorgeous Monet

Claude_Monet_ 0005

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