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Showing posts from 2017

Roman Holiday

Unfamiliar sounds drift up through the open shutters from the narrow street below; excited Italian voices exchanging greetings, motor scooters sliding over the cobbles and city cars squeezing into non-existent parking spaces. It’s my birthday and I’ve woken up in a dusky pink room with flocked walls, gilt mirrors and I’m in ROME! It’s wonderful! After years of yearning to visit Italy I’ve made it; we’re here! First, I open my birthday cards and have a good cry because everyone’s been so kind to me, then we head up for breakfast in the rooftop restaurant with its amazing panoramic views across the city. There’s rain in the air so we book a bus tour so we can get a sense of the place. As we pass the Colosseum the commentary dryly informs us of the thousands of animals killed here, the 98% mortality rate for gladiators and then observes that the drink enjoyed by spectators would probably be distasteful to modern palates. What? Only the drink? We hop off at the beautiful P

Dairy, Sights and Fairy Lights

‘What just happened?’ asks a stunned Rose. I’m speechless. If I had a paper bag, I’d be breathing into it. Rose and baby Joy are staying with us whilst Si and the team are working on their house. Today’s plan is to wander up to the local goat farm, show Joy the goats and maybe buy some Christmas presents in the shop. As it turns out we’re wildly off the mark; it’s true the goats look adorable in their setting of breathtaking scenery, but this isn’t a petting farm. As we discover when we blunder into the office looking for a shop, it’s a serious business selling serious products. In an effort to save face I ask if it’s possible to buy some milk and in ‘lost in a translation’ moment find myself lashing out on the goat equivalent of Dom Perignon White Gold. Back home, I discover that what I’ve bought is a course of Chuckling Goat kefir , a very powerful probiotic designed to restore gut health and repair all the damage caused by sugar, stress, environmental toxins and antibioti

Cakes and Cadair Idris

After a particularly busy few weeks, Tom and I are off to the Fishguard Bay Hotel for afternoon tea thanks to very bargainous deal I’ve spotted on Travelzoo. It’s a beautiful day for a drive and the hotel’s in a wonderful location overlooking the harbour at Goodwick so even if the tea itself is a disappointment, we say to ourselves, we’ll still have a good time. Oh my goodness, what a treat we find waiting for us: service with a smile; a table with a view; a mini-bottle of Prosecco each; melt-in-the-mouth sandwiches; a very generous plate of delicious homemade cakes and as much tea as we can drink. How the hotel can provide such a splendid tea for such a modest sum is beyond me - but I’m certainly keeping a beady eye on those Travelzoo deals from now on! Making the most of a fair weather forecast at last, we make plans to climb Cadair Idris later in the week and walk off all those cakes. We set off just before 7 am and arrive at the car park just as the sun comes up so we’ve

Girl in Trouble: Blog Splash and Writing Prompt

I’m delighted to tak e part in a blog splash to celebrate the release of the third book in Rhoda Baxter’s award nominated Smart Girls series, Girl in Trouble . I rather thought I’d be putting my feet up and handing the blog over to Rhoda. ‘No,’ said Rhoda, ‘I’d like you to write on a prompt inspired by one of the story threads in Girl in Trouble . Ah. In Rhoda’s novel , both her heroine, Olivia, and Walter, the hero, undergo changes that they feel are bad, but end up being positive. So the prompt I kept returning to was, ‘ Have you ever had a blessing in disguise?’ Like everyone, I’ve had some truly bad, downright difficult and unbearably sad times which have led to changes in my life. Losing Dad was a turning point which gave me the impetus to compete a novel, but I’d give all of my writing success, such as it is, to have a single day with him again. Other turning points are just too raw or too personal for public consumption and then I thought about something that’s happened

The Difference the Diff Made.

After ominous forecasts for strong winds , race day dawns with cool temperatures, persistent drizzle but no wind. Hurrah! Tom and Ma head off to secure a good spot to watch the runners and I walk through Cardiff in my running gear, an old jumper to keep me warm and a tent-like rain poncho. There’s half an hour to go before I can enter my race pen, forty-five minutes before the elite runners set off. I faff around for a bit, skipping and stretching, brave the portaloos which are surprisingly ok and leave my jumper and poncho to be recycled. Then it’s time to take up my position in my pen. This point - the long wait for the starting klaxon - is a time for reflection. I think about Dad, I think about other families who have lost loved ones to pancreatic cancer, I think about my grandchildren and the future. I worry about how vulnerable we all are, some 20,000 runners and the spectators who’ve turned out on this damp day. I fret about about an outbreak of runners trots. AND THEN

255 Miles

On Sunday, all being well , I’ll be lining up with some 25,000 entrants to run my sixth Cardiff Half Marathon, my eleventh half marathon in total. All those miles - just by putting one foot in front of the other - which started when my dear friend Ann joined a ladies running club, Epsom Allsorts, and encouraged me to go along. In what’s been a particularly wet and gloomy West Wales summer, I’ve worked really hard for this race. With support from Tom and my good friend and fellow runner Helen, I’ve run 255 miles which have taken me three times across Poppit Sands (and up to my thighs in a stream) for the 5k race series, all round Tenby in a hot 10k and on a tough, wet, hilly 10k race round Newcastle Emlyn where I managed to get lost. Not en route, but at the very end when I could see the finish line, but didn’t have the faintest idea of how to reach it! A hot 10k in Tenby Which way to the finish? Soaked to the skin in Newcastle Emlyn. Training wasn’t my only goal. After t

Not Giving Up

I thought I’d give up this year . I decided that everyone’s seen enough pictures of me running in my Pancreatic Cancer UK vest so I’d run the Cardiff Half Marathon in six weeks time for myself. I thought it would be too embarrassing to open a new JustGiving page and announce - especially to those people who’ve already supported the charity I care so deeply about - that I’m fundraising for Pancreatic Cancer UK for a third time. But pancreatic cancer doesn’t give up . It’s still a silent killer and less than 7% of people with pancreatic cancer in the UK will survive beyond five years. A glance at Pancreatic Cancer UK’s Tribute Wal l shows what this means in terms of heartache and loss. At times it feels as if the sums I’ve raised through the generosity of others - some of whom are people I’ve never met but who have kindly lent their support nevertheless - are tiny drops in an ocean of need. What difference can such small amounts really make? Well, one of the reasons I d

Choc Lit Exclusive: Sample 'Summer in San Remo' by Evonne Wareham!

Fellow Choc Lit Author, Evonne Wareham is back with something a little different; a fun, flirty summer read set on the Riviera featuring mysterious strangers, confidence tricksters, film crews and cocktail parties.  Phew!  If that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite I’m delighted to bring you an exclusive from Evonne’s latest novel right here! "Cassie put her feet up on her desk and stared at the ceiling. She was too restless to settle to work for the moment. Images of Jake McQuire floated in her mind. And she didn’t like thinking about Jake McQuire. Too many memories. Benita and Tony, Cassie and Jake. They’d been friends all through school, part of a much bigger gang, but their foursome had always been special. Everyone had expected them to pair off. Tony and Benita had. That last glorious summer, in the weeks before Jake went on to university, anything seemed possible. Cassie had been seventeen and wildly in love. Recollection brought a lump to her throat. After years of abse

And You May Ask Yourself

‘Mummy’ says Rose, not quite believing it herself, ‘all your and Tom’s babies have babies of their own now!’ We’re delighted to welcome our fourth grandchild, a beautiful daughter for my younger stepson and his fiancee, which does indeed mean that our children have their own children now, yet we can’t help but look at each other and ask - as in Talking Head’s ‘Once in a Lifetime’ which is on constant repeat in my head at the moment - how we got here. Neither of us feels any different from when we met, yet here we are! I’ve found myself in some interesting places over the last few weeks. The Poppit Sands race series began in true bonkers form on a wet, cold evening with a slog through mud, across stepping stones and the seemingly endless trudge along the beach. The series marks a year since I met my wonderful running buddy Helen who beat me by a minute and several places! Two days later, I was treated to a splendid day out in London by my very dear friend Jill to mark my

The Past is a Foreign Country...

“… they do things differently there.” So begins L P Hartley’s 1953 novel, The Go-Between , with its ageing narrator, Leo Colston, looking back at one particular summer in his childhood and his unwitting part in a secret affair.  This opening line also serves as a reminder that we stand on shifting ground whenever we survey the past. Our perceptions of those retrieved memories change with time and experience as I rediscovered last week when Tom attended an academic conference at my old university, UEA. Although my experience of studying at UEA was a positive one, the cumulative effect of a couple of bad decisions took its toll during my final year. I've always looked back with some regrets about what could or should have been, but as I walked round Norwich revisiting old haunts I started to be a bit more forgiving towards my anxious and confused younger self.   I started St Andrew’s Hall which was the rather incongruous setting where I saw the Stranglers at the height of thei

Moments of Joy

“… because where can we live but days?” Kate Gross’s words from her Late Fragments a book I mentioned in this post, continue to resonate me in a year when it’s easy to be overwhelmed by so much bad, sad and downright stupid news in every direction. Another book which, to my surprise, has also stayed with me is Spark Joy , by Marie Kondo. On one level this playful little book is about decluttering but on another it’s a deeper reminder to choose the things that bring joy to your life. I’ve been wearing a frivolous pair of sparkly earrings even when they’re ‘inappropriate’ simply because they make me happy but this very busy month has also made me grateful for the good things in my life. My annual eye examination, which is always an anxious time, showed that my eyes, for now at least, are stable. Hurray!  The following day, Tom and I attended a birthday/anniversary party for my dear friend Hazel, one of the much-loved group of women I met at antenatal classes (we missed y

Ships That Go Bump in the Night

When a heatwave is forecast for Pembrokeshire , Tom checks the tide times and we decide to head for the boat. I pack thermals, a winter hat and gloves and, at the last minute, throw in my bikini. We leave the berth at Neyland late afternoon, when the tide’s in our favour. There’s very little wind so we potter down the Haven with the engine running. Apart from a few commercial vessels, there’s almost no one else about and it’s a real privilege to have the waterway practically to ourselves.   We pick up a visitors’ mooring under the fort at Dale just after half past seven and sit in the cockpit enjoying the evening sunshine, sipping Prosecco - because, hey, we’re on holiday - and posting smug pictures to social media. Mrs Smug-McSmugface At 1a.m. we’re woken up by a tremendous bang. Strong winds have arrived out of nowhere and are blowing in completely the wrong direction for our mooring. Blue Nun keeps trying to sail off the mooring and is snapped back by the lines li

Ups and One Down

There’s nothing like a new baby to make everyone smile and this year we’re very lucky to have not one but two new babies in our blended family; Rose and Si’s new daughter and, in a few weeks time, my stepson, Tom, and his lovely fiancee, Amey, expect their first baby. When Tom and Amey decide to get in a few early cuddles with the newest arrival, the rest of us quickly get in on the act too. It’s very special to see Ma with her great-granddaughters but naturally, because we want to take photographs, Baby Joy decides she’d like a really long sleep and Bee wears herself out chasing Grandad round the garden! We get there in the end with some lovely memories captured in pictures. The next day we're in Worthing visiting Father-in-law who’s tripped up on the device he’s designed to hold a mat in place to stop himself tripping up… He thinks his foot, which has borne the brunt of the fall, is probably ok. Tom and I inspect the damage and decide it’s not at all ok. After

Sea Stories

'Fish Shack' by Lane Mathias Sometimes a story comes along that demands to be written; the opening scenes of my first novel, Turning the Tide , came to me when we were pottering around in Veryan , our vintage wooden boat. Little Spitmarsh, the struggling seaside town where the novel is set, was inspired by some of the sleepy places we visited during our first Epic Voyage. I also loved writing  Follow A Star which drew me back to Little Spitmarsh. However, I also know how it feels to wrestle with a story; there were many times I felt like giving up with my second novel, Move Over Darling , so it was all the more satisfying when I finally typed ‘The End'. I’ve been ticking over with the novel that’s been taking me in a slightly different direction but progress has been slow. Even so, I’ve been happy to do the heavy lifting to get this novel going and then - contrary to all the advice to ‘finish the damn story’ - I was struck by an idea for a new Little Spitmarsh