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Showing posts from 2016

2016: The Last Word

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Christmas isn’t a time of year I look forwards to; it’s too commercial, too full of expectations and false promises and the daylight hours are too short. However, I appreciate I’m very fortunate to have friends and family and I value the time the season offers to be with them. At the River Cottage Canteen in Bristol, just before Christmas, we celebrated Tom’s birthday with three of our four children, their other halves and Bee. A truly happy occasion was made even happier by the news that we’re anticipating not one but two new arrivals in 2017. It looks as if we’ll need a bigger table for my birthday next November!

Without my dad and Tom’s mum it felt important to make memories with our remaining parents so we drove to the south east to collect Ma and Tom’s dad, Ken, so that they could spend the Christmas week with us. We’re very happy that they’ve both been out on the boat this year, but we’ve added fish and chips at Tenby, beach walks at Aberaeron and Poppit and surprise Chris…

Autumn Statement

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Well, I knew I was in for some hard work and so it’s proved - and there’s more to do - but we’ve managed to find time for leisure and family too, so here’s a quick update of what we’ve been doing:
We went out for a late October sail and had visit from a seal who tapped the bottom of our boarding ladder hoping to be rewarded for a treat. There wasn’t much on offer but our visitor seemed happy to stay and chat for several minutes.

We had a sad but healing trip to Devon to scatter the final remains of my mother-in-law’s ashes in the village where she was evacuated to and spent so many happy years. On the way back we stopped in Cardiff to introduce my father-in-law to the delights of Welsh rugby… he says he enjoyed it, but he doesn’t look totally convinced in these pictures.

I also roped FiL into making marmalade with me. There are no Seville oranges but this batch should see us through until then. My poor elder daughter, a busy working mum, has had one illness after another, ‘I’ve got t…

Looking Glasses and Rabbit Holes

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No sooner have we waved goodbye to dear friends Jill and Martin who’ve been staying with us for a few days than I’m off to Aberystwyth with friend and blogger Preseli Mags to meet up with a group of blogging friends. Jo, Jayne and Jane are here, Mountainear has come down from her small mountain kingdom and Elizabeth has temporarily swapped one set of Welsh hills for another. We’ve ‘known’ each other for almost ten years now since we, and many others, started blogging for a competition in the hope of being picked to write a magazine column. Although none of us won we ended up with a much bigger prize, an enduring online friendship with bloggers across the globe. Today we have a chance to catch up; some of us have met before, others are new faces but those shared virtual glimpses of our lives make conversation easy. There’s lots of laughter, many cups of coffee but also an acknowledgement that real lives - with all the usual trials and tribulations - go on behind the looking glass…

Running The 'Diff 2016

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Some 22,000 runners are taking part in the 2016 Cardiff University Half Marathon but as I thread my way through the crowd to my starting pen, I feel lonely and a bit daunted. I know
people will be thinking of me, but I won’t be seeing any of my family en route as I don’t feel it’s reasonable to ask them to turn out for such a busy event. In my pen, however, I’m quickly gathered up by a group of blokes who offer Jelly Babies and talk race tactics. The fellow feeling between runners is a real tonic! I start to relax and enjoy the fantastic atmosphere. The race starts at 10 am - later than I would normally run - and it takes seven minutes to get to the start. Then I’m away!

It’s a glorious day in Cardiff; there’s no wind, the sun is shining… and it’s absolutely boiling! By mile 4, I know I’m not going to make the time I set for myself - that sub 2 hours so tantalisingly within reach. It’s just too hot for me and the busy field requires energy-sapping weaving between runners so I jus…

One Week to 'GO!'

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Well, that’s it! I ran my last long training session this morning and after weeks of hard work I’m counting down the days until the 2016 Cardiff Half Marathon on 2 October. I’ve quite literally run up hills and down dales, I’ve run short sharp races across sand and, thanks to the company of my running buddy Helen, the long runs haven’t been quite so lonely. All I can do now is to try to stay as fit as possible and avoid colds and lurgy before race day.

Thanks to the kindness of many supporters, my JustGiving page stands at £486.98 raised for Pancreatic Cancer UK. This LINK will take you to the page on Pancreatic Cancer UK’s website showing the valuable research projects the charity is funding. This LINK takes you to Pancreatic Cancer UK’s tribute wall and explains why this cause is so important to me.

Green Remembered Hats

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A quest to find old paperwork finds me sorting through boxes in the loft. Not that many, actually, since I’m not a hoarder and I’d rather look forwards than over my shoulder. I find the documents I’m searching for but also another folder which contains certificates. Leafing through them is quite unsettling as I discover records of achievements for everything from my degree and professional qualifications down to third prize in a miniature garden competition! Who was that girl, I wonder, who skied, swam, typed, quizzed and first-aided her way to success?


Prompted by the imminent arrival of a dear friend, I also recover a box full of our school magazines and lose an afternoon reading them. In a week that’s brought heated debate about Theresa May’s intention to lift the ban on establishing new grammar schools, I remember how liberating, exhilarating even, it felt to be in a place where academic excellence was celebrated and every girl - it was a single sex school - was encouraged to reach…

Back to Work

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Autumn’s in the air here in west Wales. There’s a heavy dew on the grass in the mornings, leaves are turning and a lower sun casts a slanting light across the landscape. We’re still trying to make the most of what’s left of summer and this week we enjoyed a very happy couple of days with my stepson and his lovely girlfriend in their new home, (you will see from the photos we also had a visit there from Bee who was keen to learn how to play the piano!) but now it's time for some hard work!


Our garden has ‘got away’ - so much so that I’ve been afraid to go down to the compost heap because of what might be lurking in the dense undergrowth. We spend a whole day chopping up a fallen tree and clearing the area round the septic tank (nice… actually it doesn’t smell at all which is how it should be!) just in case we have to call for Mr Sh*t , as the very cheerful man who empties the tanks is known round here. We achieve what feels like a lot …. until I look up and see how much more the…

The Wendy House by Pauline Barclay

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A big welcome to my guest Pauline Barclay who is sharing the news about her latest book, The Wendy House here.  Pauline says her passion is to write about life-changing events and those affected by them and in the her latest novel she shows she's not afraid to tackle the darker side of human nature. 



When Nicola changes overnight from a bright, happy young child into a sullen, rebellious girl, ceasing to show interest in anything or anyone around her, her parents struggle to understand why. As she develops into a difficult, troubled, hostile teenager they put it down to hormones, believing it will pass. Yet Nicola goes from bad to worse and no matter how much her mother tries to reach out to her, it seems she is hell bent on self-destruction. When she leaves home at seventeen, rushing into the arms of a man ten years her senior and quickly becoming pregnant, her despairing mother almost gives up on her. A decade later, the events that stole Nicola’s childhood and changed the cours…

Our Summer

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Yes, it’s been a while! There’s a limit though to how many times I can blog about sailing, running and spending time with family and friends without boring the collective pants off you. So here’s a glimpse of summer 2016 in pictures instead.
All the hard work Tom and I put in to get the boat back in the water has really repaid us.  We've taken every chance we can to go sailing.  A couple of days spend watching the world go by from Blue Nun feels like a proper holiday.

I've completed all three races in the Poppit Sands Race series - and I'm hoping that all the running on sand will help build up my stamina for the Cardiff Half this October. I'm also pleased to report that my JustGiving Page for Pancreatic Cancer UK now stands at £330 thanks to the kindness of many supporters.


I was delighted to be invited to write another feature to Alexander James’ photographs for the August edition of The English Home and, best of all, we’ve been very lucky to have spent lots of time w…

Raving, Waving and Racing

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The news from my consultant ophthalmologist is good, given the limitations of my myopic eyes with their defective tilted discs, but with my sight still blurred with drops we’re off to the south east to catch up with friends, family… and a rave.

Tom’s PhD research leads us to Bleach in Brighton and an algorave where music is generated from algorithms using live coding techniques. Having always felt a bit miffed to have missed out on raves and foam parties, I’m slightly disappointed that there isn’t a glow stick in sight. Actually there isn’t any dancing either - though the young man in front of us does go wild and nod his head from side to side at one point during the proceedings - but it’s certainly an interesting experience and I think my internal organs have now recovered from the bass notes.

After calling in to wish Stepson Two and his lovely girlfriend every happiness in their first home, we bring Ma back to Wales with us and introduce her to sailing. With her poor bad back, I’m a …

Precious Time

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June. The summer solstice. The year, it seems to me, is turning before it’s begun. At home, there are personal reminders of the wheel of life turning full circle. Was it only a year ago that I sat with my daughter and son-in-law, watched as Bee came into the world, listened as she took her first breath? We didn’t know this little person at all then, never imagined how much love she would bring. Now she’s very much a character in her own right, someone who on Saturday at her first birthday party, trotted round the room smiling and clapping with pleasure at everything that was going on. I’ve seen my daughter and son-in-law put Bee at the centre of their world, giving her all their love and care, and I’ve watched my daughter blossom into the most loving, attentive and generous mother.

June also marks the number of years since my dad died, eleven now, but the sense of loss is no less for the passage of time. I so wish I could tell Dad about all the things he’s missed. That’s part …

Heading for the Rocks

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Aaaah! The joy of having a boat again! Blue Nun’s so much more responsive than our wooden boat, lovely as she was, and so nippy too! We enjoy a brisk sail from Neyland to Dale where we spend a couple of restful days, reading, writing and generally watching the world go by. On the third morning we decide on a change of scenery and potter round to a sheltered bay where we can pick up a mooring buoy. Well, we would have, if I’d been quicker. Now, I’m pretty good at picking up buoys, but make a right dog’s dinner of it this time.


‘Never mind,’ says Tom, ‘we’ll give it another go!’ He puts the engine in reverse and Blue Nun obediently travels backwards (something no previous boat of ours has ever done!) … and a rope which trails the dingy behind the boat whirls round the propeller. Yikes! Tom manages to free enough to regain control of the engine, but he’s pretty sure that some of the rope is still tangled up.
Whilst I would quite like to pretend it doesn’t matter, ignoring the probl…

A little Mansplaining and a lot of Spa

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It’s raining in Cardiff but Lily, Rose and I are going to make the most of our long-anticipated spa day. Russ has arranged it as a treat for Lily before the end of her maternity leave and we’re going to make the most of every moment, heck, we’re even going in to town by cab! 

Unfortunately no one’s told the cab driver this is our treat, not his, as every time one of us tries to talk, he talks over us! There’s a lot of mansplaining about how many miles he’s travelled, he tells us about the ring he chose for his fiancĂ© (her birth stone in a heart-shaped setting, delivered to her with the bill at the end of a meal, (a lovely touch) in case you’re wondering. Apparently, she ‘liked’ it but before Christmas, she presented him a Samuel’s catalogue with a diamond ring marked out that she ‘liked better’ i.e. she hated it), and he passes us his phone to show off the many fancy dress costumes he’s worn to darts finals. And do you know what? Instead of saying, ‘do you mind, we’re trying to …

A Merry-Go-Round of a Weekend

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Whilst Tom is busy on a research day at the University of Kent, I have a freewheeling day in Herne Bay which has more than a hint of Little Spitmarsh about it and it makes me wonder what my characters who live there are up to. There will be some fiction - it’s not that I’m short of ideas - but, gosh, as I’ve said many times here, with so many readers expecting to pay as little as possible for a full length novel, it’s a lot of work for scant reward. However, Herne Bay in the sunshine is a fine place to be - even though that North wind is a bit nippy on my bare legs (sorry about that, people of Herne Bay). I tuck myself away in a sunny spot in the municipal gardens to admire the triumphant tulip displays and read for a while then I take myself off for a walk round the pier. A wonderful display by the Herne Bay Cosy Crew who’ve ‘yarn-bombed’ the railings with their brilliant knitted and crocheted creations makes me stop in my tracks. It’s not just the art work, but the smiles on pe…

New Adventures in a Small Boat

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It’s launch day for Blue Nun, time to see if all the hours spent scrubbing every bit of her, hoisting sails (during which I managed to turn the boatyard air blue as I fight with one end of a flapping Genoa (sail) whilst Tom bellows instructions from the other) and the long, hard, expensive fight to install a sea loo have paid off. Launching is always fraught but wondering if Blue Nun is about to leak like a sieve adds an extra frisson of danger and I have flashbacks to the our previous little boat, the stumpy-legged, evil-tempered Pig Boat which must have been a submarine in a previous life so keen was she to disappear underwater.

The sky's a beautiful blue and there’s a stiff, bitter breeze but at least it’s not raining. Alistair and Martin, who are in charge of operations, calmly scoop up Blue Nun in Rudders boatyard’s tractor contraption, trundle her down the hill and place her gently in the water beside a pontoon where Tom and I step aboard. If the new seacocks leak it’ll be th…

Breaking in the Sun

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‘You and Tom need a break,’ says Rose and sends us a link to the resort where she and Si stayed last year. Tom, who’s been telling me we need a holiday for months, books it immediately; twelve days in sunny Tenerife - what could be nicer?

A week before we’re due to fly I go down with the worst cold I’ve had in years. By the time Tom gets off the plane, he’s feeling absolutely wretched too. A few days later he picks up a stomach bug, which drags him down even further, and I get conjunctivis and have to wear my glasses for three days. 
It’s not just the physical ailments either; after running on empty for so long, I’m finding it really hard to switch off and just relax. It’s not as if it’s difficult; we have a huge, if slightly dated, apartment with an enormous terrace, sun-loungers and glorious views across the Atlantic, a maid arrives every day to freshen the place up, the weather is fantastic and, heck, we’ve even gone half board and the restaurant is jolly good. (As an aside, wha…

The Things We Do For Love

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The day before we take Ma home, we decide to poke around a cavernous bric a brac shop close to where we live. Above a sea of sad sofas and heavy dark wood furniture, something catches my eye and I feel a little sharp thrill and edge nearer but suddenly a hand shoots out and beats me to it. ‘I like this!’ says Ma, hanging on to it. ‘So do I,’ I gulp. I’m truly not a covetous person, but, gosh, how I would like the jewel blue vase with its mysterious swirly depths that Ma is holding. I tell myself to grow up and stop being a tad disappointed about something so trivial as we return to the car. Then suddenly Ma turns to me and places it in my hands. ‘You have it,’ she says. There’s a bit of a tussle but Ma wins again, so now this beautiful piece of glass lights up our room not just for its gorgeous looks but also a reminder of everything Ma’s given up for me.

We drive Ma back home to Surrey then continue on to West Sussex where FiL is trying to make sense of his changed world. When m…