Tag Archive | holiday

END OF A YEAR

So, here we are at the end of another year. It’s gone too quick. It doesn’t seem real that I have been home from work for almost 12 months following redundancy, and what have I achieved in that time? Nothing and yet lots. A big family wedding, a successful Walk for George and George making great progress, and following in artistic footsteps, two lovely trips abroad, read some great books, editing and proofing work coming in.

Yet, as an author, it’s scary to think I haven’t written one word of a novel although I have spent many hours editing and checking several works. Back last January I started writing a new novel with plans to do a lot of research and visiting the places I use in the book, but none of that has happened. Not because I didn’t want to, but last Christmas after my husband’s car let us down very badly on Christmas Eve, leaving us stuck in the perishing cold and snow on the M4, we decided to trade both his and mine in for another as we don’t need two cars now I am at home all day.

But my time home hasn’t been idle. I began blogging. If nothing else it has kept me writing and now I am ready to pick up the novels again and ensure that 2012 is the year hopefully I am published and in print.

I also met the lovely Linn B Halton, and helped her get loveahappyending.com up and running and editing Kit’s Corner and through the group, have made lots of new friends and colleagues who share the same passion for writing and books.

And for the first time in eight years I was able to host the writing group I belong to (the Ivy Writers) at my home. We meet one evening a month in one another’s home. Whilst I was working and with my husband working late shifts it was impossible for me to host this. Instead of meeting of an evening, we were able to meet of an afternoon.

I had planned to paint more pictures with so much free time, but that hasn’t materialised either. But I have been able to sell several, one before the paint even had time to dry! I had been offered a place at an exhibition but had to decline as I could not get to the venue on the required dates to deliver and collect.

So, what will 2012 bring? A hard, difficult few months ahead, that’s for sure. In a fortnight’s time my husband goes into hospital for a hip replacement, which isn’t as straightforward as it sounds as he has a spinal problem. The equipment needed at home to help in his rehabilitation and recuperation has been installed: the toilet seat has been raised and a frame around it so he can lower and raise himself properly.  I have to use this too and feel like a little schoolgirl again as my feet don’t touch the floor when sitting on this. His armchair has been raised on blocks, the walking sticks and knicker-puller-on tool, his gadget for pulling on his socks and a very long shoe horn delivered.  He won’t be able to drive for at least 8 weeks and it will be probably 3 months before he will be able to return to work.  So all in all, a good thing I am at home all day to help him. We will have lots of laughs and no doubt a few frayed tempers and tears, his and mine. But we will manage. And hopefully, once he is back in his workboots, out of pain and fit again, we will see our garden blossom even if it is me having to do all the backbreaking planting.

In 2012 I have the opportunity to exhibit art at two venues and, with many fingers crossed, will see my novel Every Step of the Way finally published. There’s a new birth imminent in the family which will bring much joy to all of us, a summer holiday already booked and no doubt a trip to Spain to visit my brother and his wife. And one or two other irons in the fire that need a bit of prodding to mould into what I know will be a great, happy and successful year. One I am looking forward to as I raise a glass to the midnight chimes and fireworks and say:

“HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS                                                AND WISH YOU ALL A SUCCESSFUL YEAR TOO!”

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A Few of My Favourite Things

  • Dawn, my favourite time of day. I live in the middle of a housing estate stuck between the junction of two motorways. Close by is an airfield, a large shopping mall and a railway, so you can understand why it’s not exactly quiet around here. Except for early mornings when all is calm, all is peaceful. I love to sit, preferably outside, and watch the sky lighten in all its ever-changing hues of blues and pinks, the play of light and shadows, and enjoy a feeling of anticipation of what the day will bring. Coupled with this, another of my favourite things — birds.
  • The dawn chorus is part of my enjoyment of dawn, but I also like to hear the birds singing at any time of day. I even have a CD I play frequently to feed what is a passionate need to hear them around me. If it wasn’t for the pesky pigeons and magpies that we have an overpopulation of here, where I live would be perfect. The birds like my garden and many of our native garden species can be found flittering and feeding and bathing here almost every day. Whenever I am out, no matter where or what country, I always take time out to watch the birds but can categorically say I am not a twitcher despite my binoculars saying to the contrary.
  • My garden, plants and other animals. My garden is my sanctuary, a small piece of tranquillity in an otherwise noisy, chaotic world. Here my husband and I grow and enjoy all manner of flowers and thrill at everything that mother nature decides to send to visit including the birds, butterflies, toads, frogs, slow-worms, lizards, field mice, hedgehogs.
  • Holidays abroad to warm locations. For many years now I’ve been fortunate enough to spend my holidays with just my two sisters and our mum. I live some way from them so our annual migration to the sun gives us precious time together. We chill out, read, do as we please, eat and drink what we please, go where we please and enjoy each other’s company without the tantrums of men or children. I never got on with my sisters when we all lived at home, always fighting and arguing. They are twins and five years older than me. Not a big difference now but that’s a huge ravine when you’re young. Next year will see our last holiday together. Mum is 86 next March, travelling getting too much for her, and with my sisters retired and my being recently redundant we will not be able to afford to do it again.
  • Greece and all things Greek. Of all the places abroad I have visited, from Barbados, Austria, Germany and Spain, through to holidays with my sisters, it is always to Greece we return. Each island is unique in its own way. I love the food and the people, the culture, the history and the climate. Especially the climate. I just love the sun although I am not a sun worshipper — you’ll never see me with tan. If I could choose one place in the world to retire to, it would be to a Greek island. And it’s back to Greece again next year for our last girls’ holiday.
  • Music. All types but especially classical and especially Andre Bocelli. What I wouldn’t give to see him live. His voice sends a shiver down my spine. I grew up with music, especially German folk songs and bands, I taught myself to play piano, my first husband was a DJ, and music is always playing at home when driving, be it ELO or Eric Clapton, Ralph McTell to George Michel, Bocelli to Rachmaninov, music is my world.

Each one of the above has been included in one way or another in my books: classical music is a central theme of Whitestones, along with a garden where the heroine seeks solace. In Every Step of the Way, the music of the 1950s features prominently. Sisters in a villa on a Greek island and happenings at dawn are elements running through When Two Worlds Collide. When I’m writing novels I like to bring some of my favourite things into the narrative; the premise being “write about what you know”. Hopefully, the things that please me, will please my readers, too.

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.