The Isles of Scilly – sun, rain and soft, sandy beaches

This week I have mostly been in the Isles of Scilly. Beautiful islands, but to me, quite remote. We had every type of weather; sun, rain and freezing, gale force winds. These islands are tiny but have so many amazing beaches with sand the texture of icing sugar. They can only be reached by a 2-3 hour boat ride (450 passengers, so it’s a big boat), which can be a big bucket of vomit on choppy crossings. Some people were telling us how the boat ran out of sick bags on Tuesday, which was the day we had gale force winds and squally rain. Locals were telling us that the boat often ran out of sick bags – which tells you how choppy the sea often is. Apparently, it was worse than normal due to high Spring tides.

We flew, which was much quicker than taking the boat; 20 mins out and just 15 back. Our outward journey from Land’s End was in a 19-seater plane which seemed very small, however our return journey was in an 8-seater plane, even smaller. It felt like two small cars welded end to end. This really isn’t a journey for those who don’t like flying or are claustrophobic. I was able to watch all the flight instruments as the pilot maneuvered us into the sky. If you’ve ever wondered what those switches are that the pilot flicks on once the plane is in the sky – you’ve seen it in films – I can tell you. They’re fuel pumps. That’s how close I was to the pilot, I could read the dials and I was sat a row back from him – we flew at 120 mph! Very cosy and quite scary.

The airports both at Land’s End and on St Mary’s Island (the biggest one) were great: minimal waiting, comfortable seating, great little café and best of all, stunning coastal views. If only all airports could be like these. Word of warning though, if you plan to fly there, go on a diet; they weigh you before you get on the plane.

We also visited, via tiny little boat, Tresco, St Agnes and Bryher islands. All stunning. And cute. Troy Town Farm makes ice cream from their ‘special’ cows. Everyone raves about it. I can confirm that it is amazing ice cream. Yummy.

One supermarket – a Co-op smaller than our Tesco Local – serves all the islands. It heaved with expectant shoppers every morning, stocking up on fresh bread and canned goods, which are apparently nearly as cheap as they are on the mainland. There’s also a trendy deli selling lots of fresh produce and designer salt, plus the usual gift shops and, inevitably, ‘island clothes’, ie sweatshirts, waterproof coats, strong boots. Cavorting about on the sea or climbing the hills – stunning views guaranteed – are the main pastimes.

There are many rocky outcrops and formations, even one called Queen Victoria – and is does look just like her from a certain angle. From out hotel window we could see a rock that looked like a pile of boulders rising out of the sea. I’ve never been to the Scillies before but if I had it could have been the inspiration for my Stonehaven series.

I’d thoroughly recommend if you want to escape and be with nature. But don’t go Bank Holiday weekend in early May, as we left 150 or so gigs (long rowing boats) were preparing for a weekend of racing.

 

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New release in the Stonehaven series: The Sister

Finally, after what seems a long wait, I’m delighted to announce that The Sister, the third book in the Stonehaven series is out.

This one focuses on Hannah’s sister, Helena and her husband Caleb. If you remember at the end of The Illusionist we left them celebrating the arrival of Marcus and Hannah’s newborns, just before they are interrupted by Ethan:

Are we finished here?’ Ethan’s voice interrupts us as he steps out from the stone stack. ‘Caleb and Helena, we need to go to the other world; there’s been a development.

You may remember that where Hannah is sweet and gentle, her twin sister is not. This book, a novella, follows Helena as she is despatched to a school and Caleb to a prison in search of their own kind. Will Ethan’s choices prove worthy as they continue the search for their kind? How irritated will Helena become with Ethan?

The Sister is available for 99p or FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited.

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The magpie knocked on my door #omens

magpie2016 was a good year for me! My best for many years . I escaped from a job, or moreover an organisation, I’d come to despise and, because they made me redundant (thank you, BCS) I was able to follow my heart and my dream and WRITE for a living. I’m lucky. I know it. New babies came into our family too – always such pure joy. We also went on a wonderful holiday to New York and Canada. So, despite all the Brexit and Trump voting, neither of which really affects me on a daily basis, 2016 was a good year.

Then came 2017 and the magpie knocked on my door – quite literally!

A soft tapping on the front door, not like the knocker which reverberates through the house, and I looked out of the window and saw a magpie. It was clutching onto the brickwork around the door frame, leaning over and tapping on the door with its beak. I watched in amazement.

That afternoon my dad died.

Whether you believe in superstition or omens, or not, it was certainly very strange. One for sorrow – they say of magpies.

Yes, he was very old and he’d been sick for a few days – that’s all – but we didn’t expect him to die. We thought he was invincible. But he wasn’t.

It’s fairly common knowledge that January has the highest death rate in the UK – I even mentioned it in one of my short stories in Twelve. It’s not surprising really when you consider it’s the middle of miserable winter, but it meant that we had to wait more than three weeks for his funeral. And everything stopped in those three weeks. WH Auden’s poem Stop All The Clocks (Funeral Blues) has never felt so true.

What now?

Life is short – no matter how long we live. I’ve decided that’s it’s my duty to seek out joy and pleasure. To love life, to live it – on my terms. To try to smile more often – difficult when your mouth naturally turns down! To enjoy the small things as well as the large. Not to take life too seriously. To be kind to others and try to bring joy to them also.

To enjoy life, because life is too short to be miserable.

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Christmas, dark days and bright lights

xmas-tree

It’s that time of year again – the dark, dull days of December. Still dark at 8am and twilight fast approaching by 4pm. After the long, warm summer we’ve had the darkness seems to have crept up suddenly.

Thank goodness for Christmas! We so need the bright lights and jollity now. Not to mention the day itself to look forward to. Whether it’s Christmas carols or boozy parties, there’s usually something to uplift everyone.

December, for me, is always a time of introspection. Maybe it is for most people, maybe that’s why New Year resolutions are so popular, though I gave them up years ago.

2016 has certainly been a momentous one for me. The biggest and best change has been the arrival of two new babies in our family – six months apart, they’re simple adorable.

The strangest, and I’m very happy about it, has been my move from day job to full time writing. It was something I’d wanted for a long time. I published my first book, The Finder, in 2013 followed by The Illusionist in 2014, but it was my third book, Blame it on the Onesie that became a runaway hit, spending two glorious months in Amazon UK’s top 100.  By December last year I was starting to think that maybe, just maybe, I could give this writing lark a chance and go full time. Then fate lent a hand and my crappy employer (sorry, I know it’s Christmas, goodwill and all that, but they are a crappy employer), made me redundant. Perfect timing and I haven’t looked back.

So where am I now? The Sister, a novella in the Stonehaven series is due out in January and then I’ll be starting work on my next full length novel – something completely different!

I’m lucky, I know that, especially with all the horrible things going on in the world – let’s pray for the poor souls in Aleppo, men, women and children trapped in a warzone. In the words of John Lennon: Happy Christmas – War is Over

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

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It’s the tea sets I find so sad

teasetWith so many charity shops on our high streets it’s hard to walk past them without peering in the windows, and, in my case, without being lured inside. I ignore the clothing and shoes; it’s the furniture and bric-a-brac that attracts me.

It’s apparent that a lot of the content comes from house clearances; relatives are disposing of someone’s life, probably after their death and what hits the charity shops is what family and friends don’t want.

In among the three piece suites and chipboard furniture are some gems: solid oak tables, walnut dressing tables, his and hers wardrobe sets. So much of it dates from the 1950s and 60s and some of this furniture has been in the same family for all this time. You can bag a bargain, upcycle it and enjoy furniture from a bygone era – with a twist.

But it’s the tea sets that really make me sad. Fine, white bone china, delicate flower patterns, sometimes roses, autumn leaves, occasionally lily of the valley, these tea sets are immaculate because they’ve been cherished. Brought out only on special occasions (usually Sundays), their gilded edges have never seen the inside of a dishwasher – the gold would not survive the temperature or the detergent.

Whenever I see a complete set: six cups, six saucers, six tea plates, one large plate (for the salmon sandwiches with their crusts cut off) a sugar bowl and a milk jug, I swallow a lump in my throat. I imagine the 1950s bride who received this set as a wedding present and spent decades ensuring it survived intact, immaculate. It was probably kept in a glass cabinet, on show but safe from dust and inquisitive little fingers.

What was she saving it for?

And now it sits in a charity shop waiting for someone else to love it. If you buy one, treat it nicely; remember the hopes and aspirations invested in it, and the care.

But use it, because after you’ve gone, if it survives intact it will be back in that charity shop – making me sad.

 

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Life is stranger than fiction…synchronicity

Truth is stranger MTIt’s said that life is often stranger than fiction, I think this is certainly true of synchronicity: the simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection. It was first described by Carl Jung in the 1920s.

We’ve all experienced it; you think of someone and within minutes they ring or message you. It doesn’t happen very often but often enough that it makes you think, makes you comment, sometimes makes you smile.

Recently I’ve experienced two weird incidents of synchronicity.

I was leafing through old photograph albums looking for a specific photo I needed. The albums live in a drawer under the bed in a spare room, so it’s not something I do very often; in fact it’s probably two years since I last even opened that drawer – we keep photos digitally now. Inevitably the photo I was seeking wasn’t in the album I thought it was and I soon found myself sidetracked and reminiscing, especially when I came across pictures of old work colleagues who I haven’t seen for over twenty years. There were four of us, all pregnant and we gave birth to our babies within a few weeks of each other. Those pictures made me smile, bringing back happy memories, then I put that album away and got on with my original task. Finally locating the photo I wanted, I closed the drawer and thought no more about it.

Until an hour later when this happened.

My daughter rang me: Did I know an Ellen Cole*?

Me: Yes. Funnily enough I’ve just seen her in an old photo album. Haven’t seen her in person for years. Why do you ask?

My daughter: I know her daughter through a friend of a friend. We’ve just discovered we were in hospital together as newborns.

Me: That’s right.

My daughter: Ellen wants your phone number – she wants to ring you.

Ellen and I spoke on the phone and I told her how I’d spotted her in my old photo album and she said she’d been thinking about me a lot lately – she wasn’t sure why. We plan to meet up in September, once we’ve tracked down the other two in those photos. We both laughed about synchronicity. So now I’m putting out a message to the universe to bring the two other people in the photo back into my life too.

The second incident happened about a week later.

A passport application for a child in the family was causing a few problems mainly because, due to divorces, surnames had been changed over the years and proof had to be supplied.

It made me remember an old friend who, after her divorce, had chosen a new surname entirely, something different and unusual, instead of going back to her original (maiden) name. It set me off reminiscing again – this was also a person I hadn’t seen for years. Then I forgot about it.

Until the next day.

The weather forecast came on our local TV channel and they display a photograph taken by a viewer as a backdrop. They also show the name of the photographer. You’ve guessed it – it was the person I had been talking about the previous day. What are the chances?

Ironically if these situations appeared in a book some readers would say they were farfetched and not true to life – but, as I said at the beginning: Life is stranger than fiction.

Life is infinitely ACD

When googling the above phrase it appears that many great writers agree with me, including Mark Twain, Lord Byron and Arthur Conan Doyle.

 

*name changed

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Win a paperback copy of Mermaid Hair and I Don’t Care

Mermaid Hair book Kindle smallGOODREADS GIVEAWAY

Released July 04 2016

Giveaway ends August 31, 2016

1 copy available

giveaway details »

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