Month: September 2011

The Secret’s Out!

I’ve been tagged. Electronically. No, not around my ankle. I’ve been blog tagged. I’d never heard of it before. So, thank you Alison. Now I have to reveal ten random and unknown facts about myself, and then pass it on. Mmmm. Where to start? What exciting things would you like to know about me? Are there any? Any skeletons in my wardrobe lurking behind the clothes? Yes. One or two, but I’m not going tell you about them, I’m keeping those safely under lock and key for another day, another book.

Meanwhile back at the revealing, and in no particular order:

Fact No.1: My main ambition in life was to be a choreographer. I learned ballroom and Latin American dancing as a teenager back in the 1960s. Walter Laird, World Dance Champion way back then, was my instructor and my partner during my dancing exams but I gave it all up for a boy, well, a fella, actually. BIG mistake and my biggest regret. (Yes, that’s me in the photo aged 13, having just received my first medal and dipolma.)

Fact No.2: I learned to drive at the tender age of 15. Illegally, of course, on the main roads around my home town. This was way back in the 60s, the car an old Ford Classic. It all started as a bet that I couldn’t start the car and drive it to the end of the road without stalling. I said I could and I did, and so for the next couple of years learned to hone my driving skills in and around centralLondon.

Fact No.3: Clowns give me the creeps. Not sure if I hate them or spiders worse. Probably equally. Just don’t leave me in a dark room with either.

Fact No.4: I cannot sing. I wish I could. I do try, of course. In the shower, in the car, around the house, but only when no one’s listening (I hope!).

Fact No.5: I am not allowed to eat strawberries despite their being my favourite fruit. The drugs I’m on for a rare blood disorder prevent me from indulging in one of life’s sweetest pleasures.

Fact No.6: For a year back in the 70s I worked as a cook/housekeeper/mother’s help for a well-heeled titled family living in a Georgian mansion in Gloucestershire. Interesting, but not something I would consider doing again. The house became the backdrop for my novel Whitestones, not yet released.

Fact No.7: I appeared as an extra in one of the first episodes of The Rise and Fall of Reggie Perrin with Leonard Rossiter. A scene was being filmed at our local Carrefour supermarket; I had to stand at one of the tills paying for my shopping.

Fact No.8: I was a contestant on Channel 4’s TV quiz programme Fifteen-to-One with the lovely William G Stewart. I didn’t win but it was a lot of fun, especially the makeover beforehand. (Photo! I am in there. Honest! No prizes for spotting me, though.)

Fact No.9: One of my very best friends from childhood became a well respected poet, critic and playwright. We are still in touch and one of his books of poems he gave me containing a beautiful inscription to me is one of my prized possessions.

Fact No.10: I’m secretly in love with Ralph McTell, Kevin Costner and Christopher Reeve. One I have kissed (actually, it was he who kissed me), one I’ve no chance of ever kissing, and one, well… I can dream, can’t I? Damn! This means it’s not a secret any more. Ooops!

Phew! Enough said. Now time to pass the buck, or should that be button?

Ip dip, bird’s sh**, you’re It:
Tricia Jones:
Janice Horton:
Sharon Goodwin:

All in good fun and may I be forgiven!

A Sense of Place

Location plays an important part in novels. It sets the scene, helps brings the story to life with realism, especially when actual places are used, places readers may know and can envisage. In each of my novels location has proved invaluable to creating atmosphere: London and the River Thames in Every Step of the Way and Queenie Queenie, a Cotswold Georgian mansion where I once lived in Whitestones, and the Greek island of Thassos in Where Two Worlds Collide. This last location, although a very real island, is one I have not visited yet but, being a lover of all things Greek and having over the last 12 years had the fortune to visit many Greek islands, a vivid imagination knows how that island must look. That and images and descriptions found on the Internet, of course.

So it did come as a great shock when recently holidaying on Corfu when I found myself staying in a beautiful bay on the east coast that exactly mirrored the bay and location I had created in Two Worlds. In this novel, a time slip, I describe a large villa built against a cliffside, spread over three levels. There is a swimming pool on the second terrace and rough stone steps flanked by blue morning glory, oleander and hibiscus bushes leading down to a narrow sandy beach in a shallow bay guarded by high headlands. A short walk along the beach on a rickety boardwalk takes my heroine to the nearby village, otherwise reached by a dusty dirt road over the cliff before descending to a scattering of houses and tavernas. I have no doubt innumerable bays and resorts around Greece mirror this but there was something else about Agios Gordios that made this extra weird.

In my book, there is a cave leading up through the cliff to an old village set way back in the hills. The entrance is hidden from view by a rock stack in which there is a huge wasps’ nest at the summit. Just as at Agios Gordios!

Imagine then my surprise at finding just such things at the hotel I stayed at. Built over several terraces, a swimming pool on the second, stone steps down to the beach, the village reached by a short walk along the beach, the high cliffs flanking the bay and that eerie monolith of rock hiding caves. Caves, I did not venture into, I hasten to add. Weird things happen there in my book that I didn’t want to happen to me.

As I watched the sunrise over the bay that very first morning, it was like a homecoming. The sense of déjà vu overwhelming as the cicadas ceased their singing and slunk back into the dank undergrowth and the birds trilled in the growing light, for I knew the place well. It was scary and yet comfortable all at the same time. My travelling companions were taken aback when I led them to the village by the long route through dusty paths between semi-derelict and bougainvillea-clad houses and guided them to familiar tavernas spread along the beach, knew what time the fishing boats came into the narrow jetty. How? Because I had written about it all, described each element.

Perhaps I had been there before, in a past life or in a dream. Whatever the reason, Agios Gordios will remain in my memory for a lifetime. It will have to as I have probably lost all my holiday photos thanks to a computer error. Hopefully the Greek Gods will look down kindly on me and restore them or else take my path back there some day so I can take some more whilst sampling one of the many cocktails served at Agios Gordios.

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