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Showing posts from 2013

Swansea Market, Seasons Greetings

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Our Christmas plans, for various reasons, have been kept to a minimum meaning a last-minute trip to do some shopping. Swansea, some fifty miles away, is our nearest large shopping centre, but we especially like the wonderful indoor market there.
We bought some lovely meat from the Gower Butcher...


The fresh fish is superb from any of the fishmongers...  

Anyone for cockles or laver bread?

And two good loaves from Jan Evan's Bakery - properly made bread with bite, substance and flavour...

This year’s had its difficult moments, but as we drove home through stormy weather I had plenty of time to reflect on how fortunate I am to have good food to eat, clean water to drink and a safe bed to sleep in. Wherever you are, however you’ll be spending the festive season, I wish you the same.
And finally... Two writerly news items: The result of the Coastal Romance Christmas Blog Hop has just been announced.  Congratulations to the winner, Lisa Wohlgamuth. And, should you feel like treating you…

A Christmas Treat

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Here's a little something to help get you in the mood for Christmas.  My publishers, Choc Lit, are currently giving away twelve romantic stories for the festive season and today it's my turn with my beach hut inspired story, Present Perfect. Only another three stories to go, so get in quick!  Merry Christmas!

12 Christmas romances with discount codes for House of Dorchester Chocolates.
Simply email info@choc-lit.com with the subject heading XMAS TREAT! You can also add your Smartphone number and get a text each day telling you that your Xmas TREAT! has been sent - plus a link to read on line from your Smartphone. No ereader required.

In a Flash

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‘Yesterday,’ reads the email, ‘we came up with the idea of the Twelve Days of Choc Lit Christmas.’ Then follows an invitation to get involved by writing a 500 word ‘Chrismassy and romantic’ short story. ASAP.

This is what my dad would have called a ‘free’ job and, as a carpenter, he was never short of people offering him work without payment. Writers too, I’ve noticed, get a lot of free jobs which we tend to accept if there’s any chance at all of increasing our ‘discoverability’ (what a word). The fact is there are an awful lot of authors out there pushing an awful lot of books and a glance at my royalty statement, which also happens to come in this week, tells me I could do with increasing my discoverability quite a lot.

It’s fortunate then that the rewards of writing, for me, are to do with that alchemy of creating something out of nothing; locations that seem real to me, characters I live with during the writing process and who often remain with me afterwards. The sh…

Coastal Romance Christmas Blog Hop

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As a member of the Coastal Romance Facebook group, I’m taking part in our wonderful Christmas Blog Hop, organised by talented author, Annie Seaton. There are giveaways between now and Christmas Eve and a chance to win 26 great stories and a $100 Amazon gift voucher. But first this is what the coast means to me…

I’m far from being a natural sailor. I’ve sailed round half of Britain with my head in a bucket for the sake of a man who is never happier than when he’s surfing through molten glass waves with the wind filling the sails. I’m grateful for my creature comforts and that doesn’t mean a strip wash in a bucket or waiting for my teeth to stop chattering so I can pray for my freezing sleeping bag to warm up.

How strange then to discover that it’s only through being completely out of my element, sailing this beautiful and wild coast of West Wales, that I have felt most alive. The artifice is gone, the modern world recedes, the soft support systems stripped away; you come face-to-fac…

Paths, Tracks and a Hop

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Stepson Two and I are spending the day in Oxford whilst Tom attends a study day at the Faculty of Music. We wander into the Bodleian Library where there’s a small but rather lovely exhibition celebrating 800 years of Oxford’s contribution to the art and science of medicine. I’m particularly moved by the original manuscripts there; Thomas Sydenham’s careful and caring observations of his patients (written in John Locke’s hand), Dorothy Hodgkin’s letter to her husband as she worked to unlock the structure of penicillin, and a host of neat notebooks which convey a vivid sense of immediacy despite the faded ink and yellowing paper. 

At the Ashmolean museum, I take myself to see ‘Flesh and Bone’ a stunning exhibition which bring together works by Henry Moore and - a personal favourite - Francis Bacon. I enjoy the Bacon paintings very much but leave feeling faintly covetous and wishing I could take Pope Innocent X 1965 home with me.
There’s also plenty of time for Stepson Two and I to drin…

Friends and a Farewell

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Your blog,’ admonishes my dear friend, Julia, gently, ‘is appearing far less frequently. I settle down for a bit of ‘Chris Time’ and you’re not there!’. It feels a bit limp to say I’ve been busy when everyone’s busy now. A glance round the table at The Thursday Girls - my lovely friends of twenty-eight years - gives a snapshot of what we’ve been juggling between us; family illness, ageing parents, grown-up children, separations, reconciliations, bereavements, a house move, a house renovation, job applications, careers, new relationships, new babies, weddings and every emotion from the depths of despair to utter joy. 
Today though, the five of us are making the most of this rare opportunity to get together. After a lunch filled with laughter, Ann suggests a walk in the bright sunshine. The bright perishing-cold sunshine, as it turns out, in a truly bitter wind along a path which is suddenly crowded with hulking great schoolboys on a cross country run! Defeated by the savage tem…

香港日記 Hong Kong Diaries. Shaking a Stick at Wong Tai Sin

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After the studied serenity of the Chi Lin Nunnery and the drift of dark-robed nuns sliding silently to prayer, Hong Kong’s Wong Tai Sin Temple feels more like a grand bazaar with so many stalls selling aids to help prayers on their way. Bundles of incense sticks are best-sellers; clutched in hopeful hands, they send spirals of smoke up through spherical red and gold lanterns, past the terracotta flying eaves of the altar and towards the soaring white verticals of modern skyscrapers to touch the windows of everyday lives. Before the altar, querents, me included, rattling our fortune sticks in bamboo tubes, seek answers from the oracle.  ‘You’re supposed to let one drop out,’ laughs Tom when embarrassment forces me to beat an early retreat. Ah. I decide to pick a stick myself instead. I mean, it’s not as if I believe in fortune-telling, I’m just curious to try something new.
But before rushing off to the soothsayer, we visit the Good Wish Garden where a notice expressly forbids the re…

香港日記 Hong Kong Diaries. Part Four

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Strolling through the indoor market by our hotel, looking at the impressive displays of fruit and vegetables it’s clear that the people of Hong Kong like their food fresh. Very. Some of the smallest ingredients in the meat section and nearly all the fish are still alive. 
Walking past little faces staring out with doomed eyes is a disconcerting experience, but then I feel exactly the same way in this part of the world when I see sheep peering out from lorries on their way to slaughter.
We’re not stopping here though, just passing through on our way to the MTR station. Neither of us is a great shopper but since we’re in Hong Kong, we both have a small wish list of things we might like to buy; I’d like some perfume and Tom’s after a bike computer. Away from the side streets and markets, the lavish shopping malls reveal a completely different aspect of Hong Kong’s personality.
On the spotless trains, exquisite girls and sleek boys, straight out the pages of Vogue, are glossy with head-to…

香港日記 Hong Kong Diaries. Part Three.

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Saturday 19 October
We’re on our way by cable car to see the Big Buddha on Hong Kong’s largest island, Lantau. Now that we’ve got our Octopus cards, there’s no stopping us! Gliding upwards in a glass- bottomed cabin, I can see Tung Chung Bay sparkling beneath my feet and the green slopes of the Lantau Country Park ahead.
It might be an obvious tourist attraction, but it’s a good one and reasonably priced too for the breath-taking sky trail which takes the best part of an hour for the return trip. I’m not especially bothered by heights, but can’t help bracing myself whenever the cabin enters a station to turn; the sensation of the ground rushing towards me is quite unsettling!
At the summit in Ngong Ping Village there are plenty of ways for tourists to spend money, but we’re going to climb the 240 steps to see the world’s tallest seated bronze statue of Buddha.  I’m not sure I feel especially enlightened, just hot after climbing all those steps, but both the statue and the views from …

香港日記 Hong Kong Diaries. Part Two.

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Friday 18 October
Why not today?’ asks the concierge smiling patiently. ‘Much better you buy now.’ The debate is about when to buy an Octopus card, the smart card which covers fares on Hong Kong’s mass transit system and a whole host of other purchases besides. ‘But we like walking!’ we insist, ‘we’ll explore on foot today and buy a card tomorrow.’

Confident that we’ll prove that we’re made of sterner stuff than your average tourist, we step out into a beautiful, balmy day. Of course, the concierge knows best. Within a few blocks we’re wilting; the heat creeps up on you here, turning to a pleasant walk into a bit of a trek. Overcoming any slight apprehensions about trying something new, we head for the cool sanctuary of the nearest MTR station and after a quick, easy transaction we have our very own Octopus cards and are ready to go.
We soon discover that this cheap, fast, efficient transport system is the key to our successful holiday. It’s the pulse that keeps the life blood of Ho…

香港日記 Hong Kong Diaries. Part One.

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Thursday 17 October
While I’ve been sleeping, darkness has given way to a milky light. Some forty thousand feet or so below me, mile upon mile of snow-covered peaks rise up like islands through a sea of clouds. Siberia, I realise with a thrill. In a year filled with potent reminders about the brevity of life, Tom’s decided to make one of my long-held dreams of visiting the Far East come true by surprising me with this holiday. So let’s gloss over my initial reaction which, because I’m always worried about money, was as cold as those mountain tops and skip to the present as the plane prepares to land. The South China Sea is spread beneath the wings and I realise that after years of dreaming about it that very shortly I’ll be in Hong Kong.

Success! Our bags have arrived and we’ve been given a free map of the city. Now all we have to do is locate the minibus to the hotel. We’re mysteriously sporting stickers emblazoned with a large orange ‘k’ issued by a desk clerk who has pointed us …

When Fiction Becomes Fact

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It’s always strange when a topic I’ve been writing about suddenly pops up in the news or is reflected by real life. Have I picked up something in the ether or is it coincidence? It’s even stranger though to discover incidents which have shaped my imaginary landscapes taking place in their physical counterparts.

The heroine of my novel, Turning the Tide, Harry Watling runs a boatyard which is not based on any one place in particular but owes a debt to the sleepy backwater on the east coast where we bought our first boat. It’s a proper ‘boaty’ boatyard with a gentle bustle of activity which is all about enjoying being out on the water rather than showing off.

In my novel, Harry wants to preserve and protect her business without selling out, but her problems begin when a property developer buys the old yacht club across the water and turns it into a vast modern restaurant. It was a bit of surprise to see that not only had a number of the old sheds been spruced up as I’d imagined them…

Autumn Break, Last Part: Walking the Past

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‘I don’t know how you managed to find your way around,’ says Ma, ‘I would have been lost!’. We’re at my old university, UEA, making our way up from the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts through the campus, retracing a little of my past. I seem to remember my eighteen-year-old self was quite baffled by the concrete maze I found myself in too! First year students were accommodated at Fifers Lane, a former barracks at RAF Horsham St Faith, a bus ride away from the main camp. A mist, shrouding the place for most of my first week, only added to the sense of isolation, as did the trek to the nearest payphone to ring home. My worldly goods fitted in one small trunk and cooking and laundry (also involving a long and often rainy trek) were more logistical nightmares to overcome.

UEA’s celebrating its fiftieth anniversary and although my memories feel as they belong to another life-time, it isn’t actually fifty years since I enrolled there! Even so there are changes; accommodation blocks ha…

Autumn Break. Part Two: Boats and Backwaters

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‘You’re not going to buy another boat, are you?’ asks Ma, stunned. Like Pondside and Frances, she vividly recalls the problems of the naughty Pig Boat, but for me and Tom (who needs no encouragement) distance lends considerable enchantment to our view of sailing. Oh, I know I was sick half way round Britain on our lovely Veryan, but what about the amazing sights we saw? Steering by a star (Arcturus) though the Looe Channel, following a moonbeam into Salcombe, being surrounded by basking sharks yawning in a still sea off Penzance… just a few of the moments that will always stay with me.

Today we’ve come to look at a fat little boat which might be just right for some gentle pottering. Even better, she’s in the sleepy backwater where sailing all began for me and at the boatyard which worked its way into my imagination.