Happy New Year, everyone!
I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and that those among us who need an extra supportive hug at this emotional time of year, received some comfort.
Looking back at my diary for December highlighted how dear to me my family and friends are and how their love and kindness has helped me through a difficult few months. I love them with all my heart.
The first week of December’s freezing temperatures made staying in the warm putting up the Christmas decorations, sparkle boots on my feet and a nice glass of fizz in my hand, all the more enjoyable. I was rather pleased with the results too. Nothing like a healthy dose of twinkle & a few festive faces to gladden the soul.
Sparkle Slipper Boots.
A day trip to York with Mr B on the 8th proved to be a magical tonic. Any excuse and I’m there and the good old promotional train tickets via Virgin Trains East Coast came up trumps again. St Nicholas Fair was in full swing, packed with glittering market stalls, the scent of hog roast, mulled wine and cinnamon hanging in the air. It was bitter cold but we had glorious blue sky and sunshine and the few flakes of snow that fell on the cobbles at our feet only added to the already enchanting atmosphere. The only downside was me dropping my phone on the pavement while taking the last of many beautiful photos I’d snapped throughout the day. The screen cracked and the phone went doolally, so much so, I lost all my York pics.
Gutted – definitely – but I refused to let it spoil our day and it’ll give me the perfect excuse to re-visit next Christmas.
This was me before the off, wrapped up, ready to face the chill.
I also spent a fabulous day in Canterbury with my younger sister and two of my lovely nieces – another f-f-f-f freezing cold day but sunny and bright which reflected the mood, – especially as we were bringing the elder of my nieces back home with us from university for the Christmas break. We had a leisurely browse round the shops, the city as shimmering and seasonally scented as York had been. I experienced my first Nandos lunch (yes, I know – where have I been?) which was delicious, and the whole day was a fun-filled triumph.
The run-up to Christmas was busy, so it was nice to have a peaceful, cosy Christmas day, just me and Mr B. And, of course, the turkey, the Christmas pud, the odd chocolate or five, mince-pies, turkey sandwiches, glasses of sherry, port, fizz … you get the picture.
We received some gorgeous gifts too.
Here are some of mine.
Boxing Day, by contrast, was a riot of family laughter, noise and games and one “slightly” merry husband and equally merry brother-in-law and nephew having a sing-off in my older sister’s kitchen. Food, drink and high spirits aplenty.
December blooms still reign supreme, from my perky Poinsettia to the fabulous Christmas Eve winter bouquet I received from a good friend, to my lovely holly and berries.
I finished reading Sue Fortin’s latest psychological thriller The Birthday Girl which I’d previously reported I was really enjoying. I love Sue’s writing and think this novel is her best yet. Friends Carys, Andrea and Zoe accept an invitation to join their friend Joanne in a remote cottage for a weekend who has implied it will be full of adventure in celebration of her 40th birthday. All sounds good until the three guests arrive and quickly realise that Joanne’s invitation isn’t quite what it seemed. Packed with secrets, mystery and sinister happenings, the pace of this book doesn’t let up and just when you think you’ve sussed who is guilty of what, another twist sends your thoughts on a U-turn.
A five-star read. Can’t wait to see what Sue writes next.
May 2018 be a happy, healthy, peaceful, prosperous and productive year for us all.
August Round-up ~ News, views & Reviews
Pondering. I love that word. August saw me doing my fair share of it too; thinking about what’s really important to me, how I’ve changed and about certain things I’ve shied away from facing up to. All sounds a bit deep, I know, but it’s put a few things into perspective.
It’s been a real family & friends month which has helped – various celebrations from birthdays to anniversaries to retirement cheer.
We had a lovely Mum & daughters lunch – my two sisters and I took Mum to a local carvery (cracking roast potatoes!) and laughed and chatted about things you might not otherwise get around to discussing in a bigger gathering. I’ve always been more of a 1-2-1 or small groups person, so really treasure these times. We have Dad/daughters lunches too (in case you thought we leave him out – bless him!).
I also met up with my youngest niece for a bite to eat and a chat which was lovely. Again, it brought home how fast the years have flown. I still think of Jess as being the age in the photo on the left. Instead of that she’s about to head off to college.
A family gardening day at Mum and Dad’s mid-month was a roaring success (if I do say so myself!) although my marathon weeding stint did leave me walking like a robot for two days. My chest muscles just about recovered for the Bank Holiday weekend, which saw us all gather together once again, along with some family friends, at my older sister’s house. Blue sky and sunshine meant we could spill out into the garden. With food aplenty and Sangria on tap, a good time was had by all.
I featured on two fab blogs in August, firstly as a guest of Louise Ross (L.J. Ross) author of the international bestselling series of DCI Ryan mystery novels, who, via her LoveSuspense blog, introduces authors in various genres. Here I am ~ LJ Ross Q&A
Secondly, I’m proud to say I now also appear in the Books in Handbags Gallery which is one of several superb features on Jessie Cahalin’s gem of a website ~ JessieCahalin Jessie is super-supportive of other authors and I’m delighted to be included.
Still badgering away with my sequel/standalone. I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with it and have been sad and disappointed with myself that it’s taking me this long, but I feel re-connected with it and really want to finish it and submit it. I’m enjoying spending time with my characters again and meeting some new ones (good and naughty!). I’m also really excited as Dave and I are off to York for the day in December (promo train tickets – absolute bargain!) As you know, York’s the main setting in As Weekends Go and a city I adore, so I can’t wait to get back there – especially as all the Christmas lights will be up and twinkling. VISIT YORK
Blooms of the month continue with the gladioli theme (or glads as I call them!) I think I’ve bought them in every colour this year.
Get a look at these beauties.
The month ended on a high note when I found out I’d won a bundle of Edinburgh book festival goodies put together by Kelly of LoveBooksGroupBlog and Joanne of PortobelloBookBlog Needless to say there will be photos to follow. Thank you, ladies. So thrilled to have won. 🙂
I only managed to read one book this month but boy was it well-timed. Shelley Wilson’s How I Changed My Life in a Year – is an inspiring, motivational, entertaining, sometimes poignant, sometimes comical, month-by-month account of how, having reached a crossroads in her life where she knew she had to make some changes, Shelley set herself twelve challenges over a year. This variety of challenges included everything from getting fitter to learning new creative tasks to facing her fears. I dipped in and out of the book with ease and it certainly left an impression on me. Well written and thoroughly engaging. An absolute pleasure to read.
Before I go, look at this gorgeous sunset I snapped earlier this week …
York, Leeds and a shedload of research all in one day …
I love York with a passion, so much so that I set a large part of my debut novel there. I’d visited enough times to feel confident about writing certain scenes but wanted to return to check what was new and to suss out the one or two places I’d yet to explore; one such gem being Rowntree Park (pictured below).
Well , get this …
I’d been keeping my beady eye out for cheap day return train tickets (didn’t really want to have to pay the usual £70-100 from London King’s Cross) when I only went and received an email from Virgin Trains East Coast advertising promo tickets – if you travelled on certain trains between certain dates – for … wait for it … £5.00 per person each way.
Well timed or what?
No way was I NOT taking advantage of that.
Mr B had said he’d come with me and I had this theory that whilst we were there we could also dash off to Leeds as I knew I’d need to do a fair amount of research there (among other places) for Book 2. It seemed silly to be so near and to not go there.
“Be a bit tight for time!” pipes up Mr B (bearing in mind we’d be getting up at 5am, racing up to King’s Cross to catch the 7.08, have a two and a half hour journey to York with a pretty packed agenda to fulfil once there and then have to make the 6pm train back to London or risk paying the full fare if we missed it).
Hmmm … let me just see if it’s do’able, thinks me, logging onto the National Rail website with no idea of further train costs or timings to Leeds.
Were my eyes deceiving me? £6.00 return from York per person if I booked in advance (in my case, the day before we were travelling!). Again, we had to get specified trains, but for that price, I was THERE!
I mean, £16.00 per person for our day’s travel overall is brilliant, isn’t it?
So … off we trundled to York, ticked off the first two things on my ‘To Do’ list, legged it back to the station, hopped on the 10.27 Northern Rail to Leeds – spent a crazy three hours pounding the streets, notepad and pen in one hand, camera in t’other, with Mr B as chief map reader, and saw 75% of what we needed to see. We even had time for a sneaky crispy duck wrap each in Trinity Kitchen for lunch. I was going to tinkle the ivories in the Victoria Quarter shopping arcade, but I think Mr B would have been on his toes, halfway back to York before I’d sat down! 😀
We were so pleased with ourselves when we got back to York mid-afternoon, we had a crafty pit stop in The Gillygate pub before tackling the last bits on my list. The sun was even shining for us.
By the time we sank into our seats for the return trip to London, my feet were waving the white flag, but it was so worthwhile.
Yes, it was a long, tiring day and I shall have to return to Leeds at some point, but that’s no hardship, and if I can get those promo tickets again, I’ll be well pleased. I’ll have more time to nose round too (especially at all those fabulous shops).
Might even get to play that piano!
Oh I do enjoy research.
Love Jan x