Thursday, 30 June 2011

Spuds We Like and Other Growths

It’s a busy old time at Hotel H with every other phone caller wanting to book a visit to the new house. Down-sizing and building works is creating quite a waiting list and this week’s changeover day, when we took Stepson Two and Gorgeous Girlf to the station and collected Ma, wasn’t helped by a nine-hour power cut. It’s frantic enough running round the house changing bed linen and towels without the added frisson of wondering when I’ll be able to push a hoover round or make a cup of tea.

We may not be able to generate our own electricity – the small brook in the garden has dwindled to a tiny trickle, dashing our hopes for a micro-hydro power system– but, thanks to Tom digging a vegetable patch, we’ve been self-sufficient in salad. This week saw the very exciting digging of our first potatoes. And – fanfare of trumpets – here they are!

The moment captured on camera by Stepson Two. They’re Maris Peer – and very good too, the skin rubbing away to reveal a lovely pale flesh... hmm, that makes them sound a bit yucky, but they were delicious.

Well, Ma’s here and looking as perky as hell, despite her terrible accident in December. She’s worked amazingly hard at her exercises to regain far more movement in her shoulder than I would have thought possible. Yesterday we had a trip to Swansea where, in the market, I spied a Beautiful Eyebrow Lady, all set to thread eyebrows at the bargainous price of £4.50! Readers, go see her, she is the gentlest Beautiful Eyebrow Lady I’ve encountered and I was delighted with the result. Mind you, I could have done without her aside of ‘upper lip?’ which has left me scrutinizing my fair, and as I thought, hairless upper lip, for signs of an incipient Zapata.

‘Does that hurt?’ says Ma, who’s been watching the proceedings with her usual lively curiosity.
‘No,’ I lie – well, honestly, it only stings a bit and the results are worth it.
‘Okay, I think I’ll have mine done too,’ says Ma.
So there she is, the woman who only a few months ago was lying in a hospital bed looking very broken, now giggling, surrounded by bags of shopping, looking full of life and up for a new experience. It’s a good day.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Taking the Plunge

Well, our heating engineer
returned from his travels and we found not one but two electricians and a builder so it looks as if July will (fingers crossed) be the month when we take the financial plunge. The current boiler’s being put out of its misery and the wiring, which seems to consist of very few sockets and very many extension leads, will be replaced. If there’s any money left in the system we may even be able to spend it something more fun like, oooh, big whoopee, a kitchen or bathroom, but I suspect that things like new paint colours and fabrics are way down the line. Never mind, I’m not complaining, I’m still feeling very fortunate that we’ve landed where we have; I’ve had enough tough times to appreciate the good times when they come along.

Many years ago, I got into difficulties in very deep water trying to swim back to a boat. Worse still, I had my small daughters with me. I remember being underwater seeing Lily’s legs kicking above me as she broke the surface and the sense of relief that the girls were going to be all right. Clearly, we all made it back, but it’s left me with a very healthy respect for the sea. But when Tom proposed an early morning swim this week, I was more concerned about the water temperature, after all it hasn’t exactly been scorchio here lately.

A walk down the hill and wrestling into a wetsuit soon chased the cold away, but I did think I was going to bottle it at the eleventh hour when I saw how the wind was whipping up the waves. Thanks to some help from Tom, I managed to overcome my nerves and I was so glad I did! It’s pretty exhilarating splashing about in the waves, especially when there’s no one else on the beach, so we’ve every intention of making the most of it before the busy summer holidays. Once in a while, feeling the fear and doing it anyway is the jolt that reminds you how good it feels to take the plunge. The photographic evidence's at the top of this post... but, naturally, there are no big waves in sight!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Muck, Magic and a Mystery Man

Lately, I have been mainly composting. Well, that’s the answer I gave Kath Eastman yesterday when she kindly asked during a Twitter ‘conversation’ where I was with my writing. Only, instead of a series of wooden bins in a corner of the garden, I’ve got the notebook/box file equivalent. Hopefully they’re not filled with rubbish either, but with all sorts of ideas which, with a bit of alchemy, will transform themselves into a fertile growing medium for future work.

My current notebook is the one with the raw ideas, all the base ingredients I’ve picked up and collected, hoping to make them into something sparkly. Flicking through at random, there’s a cutting on the use of external landscapes in fiction to reflect internal portraits, a poem by Simon Armitage and a picture of a hamster sitting in a mug. There are lists of names, words, messages to self and stabs at haiku:

Winter clouds sinking.
Sear yellow; summer’s last grass.
Run it in colour.

By stepping back a bit, and this is where older notebooks come into play, I can pick out certain themes that attract me. For my work in progress, I’m drawing on a series of notes and pictures that are to do with... well, I don’t want to let too much light in for fear of spoiling the magic, but it’s both a frustrating and exciting time.

However, there are some things you shouldn’t keep in the dark which is why, if you happen to have a particularly delicious man lurking about the house, now’s the time to put him in the spotlight. The search is on to find the hero of fellow Choc Lit author Sue Moorcroft’s latest novel, Love & Freedom. There are prizes for the winning entrant and the nominee in this fun competition so don’t be shy, go ahead and click HERE to find out more.

Painting is 'Sea, Sky, Early Heather' by Tom Tomos

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Ruck it and See

Outside it’s 2011, but inside the cafĂ© Tom’s been keen to show me ever since he discovered it whilst I was running a Cardiff half marathon, it’s 1973. I keep looking up expecting to see the Welsh equivalent of Gene Hunt and Sam Tyler arguing at a table. Either the decor hasn’t been changed in decades or we’ve fallen through a time-space portal where murals, fake teak cladding and sage faux leather are all the rage. The service is old-fashioned too, in a good way; the staff are smart and courteous although I’m amused by a faint air of ‘Grace Brothers’ when one of the waiters makes an aside to his colleague about two disagreeable customers who have given him grief.

We’re here for brunch before the game, Wales v Barbarians. Despite the board outside advertising the ‘All Day Breakfast’, I’ve been told that breakfast is no longer being served, so I opt for the ‘Special Farmhouse Brunch’... sausage, egg, bacon and spaghetti, which sounds like breakfast by any other name to me. A student on the next table, with his parents, is also discovering that the menu means what it says; all the ingredients for a BLT baguette seem to be present, but it’s not on the menu so he can’t order it.

When my ‘Special Farmhouse Brunch’ arrives, it seems to be having an identity crisis until I realise that it’s doing exactly what it promised; two sausages, two rashers of bacon, a perfectly cooked egg and a big dollop of spaghetti bolognaise!! Not the tinned orange stuff I was anticipating at all. Then, because ‘main courses are served with chips and peas’ there’s also a big scoop of peas and a bowl of chips! Tom, in the meantime, is wading through a mixed grill (also with chips and peas) big enough to serve both rugby sides. Actually, it’s all good plain food and the prices reflect the interior so we leave with high happiness levels ready to enjoy the game.

Ah, the game! What an experience, even if Wales did manage, as our previous neighbour always says, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, yet again, conceding a try in the closing seconds to lose 28-31! We arrive early so we can enjoy a spine-tingling performance from the 1000 voice male choir brought together in honour of 130 years of the Welsh Rugby Union. There are plenty of asides to enjoy too; Jerry Guscott having his TV make up applied just in front of us, some eye-popping spectators - like the petite middle-aged woman in hot-pants and glittery Stetson sedately working her way through five pints (I would have been picking a fight, storming the pitch, or passed out long before then). A volley of flames leaping up from giant gas burners accompany the Welsh team on to the pitch, but first there’s a minute's silence for the four people who lost their lives at the Chevron refinery at Pembroke Dock earlier in the week.

The game itself is fast and free-running with plenty of tries. Gavin Henson, (not as tall as I expected, but, hey, he was surrounded by giants) in his first appearance for his country in two years, makes the pass that sets up a nice try for George North. Mike Phillips is still struggling to find his form, but there’s promise for the future in a powerful performance by Toby Felatu. There have been plenty of rumblings about the state of the game in Wales and the price of tickets, but I had a great time on Saturday so I’m not complaining. All in all, a good day out!

And finally...
Two more images from the garden. A wildflower patch...

And, for Frances, another sunset.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Guest Blogger: Pauline Barclay

Just for a change, I have a guest on my blog today, so pull up a chair, help yourself to a drink and join my delightful guest, author and blogger, Pauline Barclay...

Having read Turning the Tide, the debut novel of Christine’s, I am now looking forward to her new book. I know, Christine, you have had a year that has caused you much pain and anguish, but I also know you are now happily settled into your new home which you deserve so much. I am pleased that things are working out well again for you. Thank you for asking me to your blog and for taking time out of your frantic schedule to share your friends and followers with me.

I’m Pauline Barclay and I live in the Canary Isles on the beautiful volcanic island of Lanzarote. The sun shines most of the time, though like much of the world, our weather pattern has been strange this year. Having said this, I live in shorts, t-shirt and sandals, so you can guess it isn’t cold!

We live just a five minute stroll to the beach and from our villa we have a lovely view of the ocean, so in between sneaking a stroll to the beach or a peek at the view, I do manage to get some work done!

This month my third novel, Sometimes It Happens… was published on Kindle. I am an Indie publisher and for this book I did things differently. Firstly, I had an amazing mentor who is also a brilliant author, she saw me through the entire manuscript, checking for continuity, believability, repetition and so much more. Then to add the final sparkle, I had the cover designed by a Graphics design company. I just love the cover, it says so much about the story and the feed back has been very positive.

Sometimes It Happens…is about secrets, deception, lies, love and laughter. Winning the lottery was just the beginning. Nothing prepared Doreen Wilkinson for her holiday at Villas Bonitas and nothing prepared Villas Bonitas for Doreen Wilkinson. This is a holiday that will never be forgotten for many people!
Sometimes It Happens… Will make the reader laugh out loud; I certainly did whilst writing it!

Sometimes It Happens…
Nothing in her wildest dreams had prepared Doreen Wilkinson for something like this. But then, nothing had prepared her for winning the lottery either.
Several million. Several million. Eleven million, three hundred and fifty four thousand, two hundred and ten pounds and nineteen pence to be precise.
She had giggled at the nineteen pence. “Break the bleedin’ bank that will!”
The media had made the comment a headline, “19p to break the bleedin’ bank!” splashed all over the Sun and Daily Mirror accompanied by her smiling face and a fountain spray of champagne. She had thought it a waste shaking that great big bottle and letting it fizz everywhere, but the reporters had told her to do it.

You can download Sometimes It Happens… from Amazon

My other two novels, Magnolia House and Satchfield Hall are available in both paperback and Kindle editions. In between marketing and all my other commitment, I am busy with my fourth novel, though I confess to spending more hours marketing than writing at the moment!

Despite the different stories of my three books, one thing I can say about all my novels, and that is, you will need a tissue!

When you have time, please pop along and say hello at my Blog
Or visit my website where you can read sample chapters from Magnolia House and Satchfield Hall and also meet some of my wonderful guests, including Suzy!

You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter @paulinembarclay

Friday, 3 June 2011

Choc Lit Author's Corner

I'm blogging over at Choc Lit Author's Corner today about seizing the day, but telling you about here gives me another excuse to post this photo, taken at the bottom of our garden last night.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Shopping and Nightlife

‘So,’ says Ma, ‘are you any closer to the shops?’
There’s a petrol station about a mile and a half away and we’re fifteen minutes closer to Carmarthen which is still some twenty-six miles away. Ma, who’s still recovering from her accident, adores shopping, but will have to be content with her next-greatest passion, gardening, when she comes to stay with us in few weeks time.

The ongoing boiler saga aside, Tom and I continue to be thrilled to bits with the location of our new home, but it’s very tucked away, as the photos show, and wouldn’t suit anyone looking for shopping malls, pubs and clubs and a choice of restaurants and theatres. What many people would regard as essential services are thin on the ground and as for transport links? Well, it’s off to Carmarthen or Aberystwyth for the nearest train.

Fortunately with Lily and Russ living at Cardiff Bay we have the perfect excuse for a city break. Last weekend we stopped off for a quick fix of shopping at the retail outlet at Sarn Park before catching up with Lily and Russ in Cardiff. We were there for our Christmas present from Lily and Russ, a trip to the Millennium Centre to see the Welsh National Opera’s staging of Puccini’s Turandot. Okay, so three hours of Puccini isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but this was a stonking production and I had a brilliant time and a very good ice cream. Thank you Lily and Russ for looking after us so well.