Pop the kettle on, make a brew, and put your feet up for a few minutes and relax.
Comfy? Here we go:
The latter part of 2016 was really hectic for me with several writing projects to be completed, and my recent Uni courses taking up my time –Archaeology and Forensic Science – so getting away for a few ‘jollies,’ was really welcome.
2017 is going to be a busy year with another
Forensic course – my 5th – and the publication, possibly in May of Only One Woman which I’ve co-written with author Christina Jones.
I hope you enjoyed my first ‘jolly,’ to Dovedale in this series. Thanks to all those who took time to read it and leave me comments. It is great to know you are out there and enjoying my ‘jollies’ with me.
As promised here is my next post.
Let me know what you think.
After our wet and rather energetic morning in Dovedale we went on to visit the lovely Ilam Hall and Park just a short drive down the road from Dovedale. If it had been dry we could have walked.
llam Park is a 158-acre country estate situated in Ilam on both banks of the River Manifold, five miles north-west of Ashbourne. The property is managed as part of The National Trust’s South Park Estate.
Ashbourne is situated in Derbyshire and so is Ilam’s postal address, but the Park and Ilam are in Staffordshire – the county boundary being the River Dove.
I know it’s confusing, but we do things like that in Britain, just to keep you on your toes.
The property consists of Ilam Hall and remnants of its gardens, an ancient semi-natural woodland, Hinkley Wood, designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), noted for its small-leaved and large-leaved Limes and their hybrids.
The estate was owned for over 250 years by the Port family from the 16th century until it was sold to David Pike Watts in 1809.
On his death in 1816 the old hall was inherited by his daughter who had married Jesse Russell.
Jesse Watts-Russell, High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire in 1819, and Conservative MP for the ‘rotten borough’ of Gatton, commissioned James Trubshaw to build a new Hall to designs by John Shaw; the Hall, now a Grade 11 listed building, was built between 1821 and 1826.
By the early 1930s it had been sold for demolition.
The demolition was well advanced when Sir Robert McDougal bought it for The National Trust on the understanding that the remaining parts: the entrance porch and hall, the Great Hall, and the service wing, should be used as an International Youth Hostel.
Today Ilam Hall is leased to the Youth Hostels Association England and Wales (YHA).
Therefore our visit was confined to the park and grounds only.
The rain didn’t stop and so our first visit was to the Manifold Tea Rooms for a welcome snack and hot drink.
By the time we had finished our refreshments the rain had stopped and the sun had come out so we ventured outside and took a wander through the grounds.
The grass was rather wet and slippery but it didn’t matter, we were enjoying ourselves too much.
We took a wander down to the river via some very steep steps from the lawns above, and we walked along the path – Paradise Walk – running alongside the river bank leading eventually alongside fields with sheep grazing.
Following the river upstream a little way on our right, in the woods, lies a grotto where the playwright William Congreave is said to have written his first play, ‘The Old Bachelor’ in 1689.
The path emerges from the trees moving away from the river bank. This is still ‘Paradise Walk’, created as a place where the hall guests could take their exercise.
The path takes you past ‘The Battlestone’, a Saxon cross unearthed during the building of the new Ilam village and thought to commemorate a battle with the Danes.
The trees were still reluctant to indulge in Autumnal changes we noticed, few had their gold and russet leaves yet, but the sun which had come out was a lot warmer than you’d expect so late in the year. Apart from the sounds of the sheep grazing, our feet hitting the ground, and just the distant tinkle of the river, there was total silence. Wonderful.
I stopped to take photos of the sheep and the fungi growing along the path. Trees towered over the path and on the other side of the huge field the sides of a cliff were covered in forestation – Hinkley Wood. A picture perfect place to be and to commune with nature.
We came to a natural place to turn around and head back to the huge lawns and the Italian themed grounds near the house, as we wanted to see the Church before it got too dark.
We climbed the steep steps again and turned to our right to take a wander over St. Bertam’s bridge so we could watch the river a while.
The church was a delight and we found ourselves running inside as another downpour, much more intense than earlier, began as we began to look around the churchyard.
Ilam has been a place of pilgrimage since the days of St Bertram, a Saxon saint and hermit who lived there. Today there are more ‘pilgrims’ (in the form of tourists) than ever.
The saint was a Saxon Prince of Mercia who travelled to Ireland to marry an Irish Princess. On their way back to Mercia she had a child and they rested in the forest at Ilam while Bertram went off to seek food.
When he returned he discovered that wolves had killed both his wife and child. Broken-hearted, he lived as a hermit around Ilam for the rest of his life.
The saint’s tomb lies in the church, a trim little building sitting apart from the rest of the village. The church was originally within the village, but the village was moved by Jesse Watts Russell to improve the view from the hall he built-in the 1820s.
Some small parts of Saxon architecture may still be traced on the south wall where there is a walled-up old Saxon doorway. There are the stumps of two Saxon crosses in the churchyard.
Inside the church there is a magnificent Saxon font, which is worth a visit for itself.
When the rain eased off a little we left the church and made our way back to the car-park and headed for home.
Tired from all the exertions and fresh air I didn’t finish dinner and was in bed before nine o’clock.
I cannot remember the last time I did that unless I was unwell.
Next morning bright and early we set off for our next ‘jolly.’
Pop back soon and discover more about my week away in Derbyshire and Cumbria. I am writing it up now.
I really hope you enjoyed this, let me know.
All photos (c) Jane Risdon 2016 All Rights Reserved.
To visit Ilam:
Ashbourne, Derbyshire DE6 2AZ
Tel: +44 (0)1335 350503
My first blog of 2017. Happy New Year one and all.
Towards the end 2016 I managed to fit in several ‘Jollies,’ and as promised I shall be sharing them with you during the next few weeks.
Those familiar with my ‘Jollies’ know that when-ever I go anywhere I find interesting I like to share my experiences and photos with my friends here.
I wasn’t joking when I said several ‘Jollies.’
I’ve managed to visit lovely countryside, lakes, historical houses,
and enjoyed the run up to Festive Season in a famous Church and a historical house
which is in ruins at the moment, but with the love and care of volunteers it’s slowly being restored to its original state.
But I rush ahead.
The first of my ‘Jollies’ took me to the Peak District. I’ve passed through there before but never visited and looked around due to hectic schedules.
For those who don’t know:
The Peak District is an upland area in England at the southern end of the Pennines.
It is mostly in northern Derbyshire, but also includes parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire and Yorkshire.
The Peak District is supposedly the second most visited National Park after Mount Fuji in Japan which is saying something.
The National Park hasn’t any mountains the stature of Mount Fuji, yet it can boast some impressive hills, moors, outcrops, and gritstone edges with many having different characteristics, some being in the bleak gritstone moorland of the Dark Peak whilst others nestle into the beautiful scenic limestone country of the White Peak.
I don’t want to jump ahead so will leave talking about seeing spectacular views such as the rock outcrops of The Roaches – which I passed on my way to Buxton, and Curbar Edge which I climbed in the rain on a misty afternoon until next time.
I want to share the experience of visiting a lovely, seemingly unspoiled area on the edge of the Weaver Hills and surrounding area: Dovedale.
Dovedale is a valley in the Peak District of England.
The land is owned by the National Trust, and annually attracts more than a million visitors annually.
The National Trust acquired its first property in Derbyshire exactly 100 years ago when it was gifted the 17th century Market House in Winster in 1906, but Dovedale was not acquired until 1934 when, mainly owing to the generosity of landowners Sir Robert and Lady MacDougall, Mr. F. Holmes, and I.C.I. it was gifted to the National Trust along with a proposal to make it Britain’s first ever National Park. It was eventually included within the Peak District National Park in 1951.
Dovedale is the name given to an area of the Dove valley between Milldale and Thorpe Cloud, which has some of the most spectacular limestone gorge scenery available in this country.
The name Dovedale is from the Norse ‘dubo’ meaning dark.
Vikings settled in the area around 800 AD. Local place names such as Thorpe are of Scandinavian origin. These settlements became permanent, and Thorpe is mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086
Everywhere the river is flanked by steep cliffs, with many caves and rock pillars, of which Ilam Rock is the most spectacular.
My visit with relatives newly moved into the area was undertaken on a wet and misty morning with a distinct chill of Autumn in the air. The trees were on the turn and I kept thinking that had I visited a week or two later I would have been party to that wonderful show of colour and shades Autumn treats us to each year. I’m not complaining because what was on show was still beautiful…but just imagine the photos I would’ve taken!
Not one for climbing or hiking – I am more the strolling or brisk walk type of person – I determined to climb and amble and hike with my younger, more energetic companions, even if it meant puffing red-faced to the top of some pretty steep and rock strewn hills, ever mindful of staying upright and not falling and making myself look a complete idiot or worse still, injuring my shoulder which is still recovering from breakages following a tumble-down stairs some time ago.
My first challenge of the day was to cross the river Dove via a set of stepping-stones. Quite daunting when the stones are rather high, slippery, with nothing to hold on to. Another opportunity to make a complete ass of myself by falling in. I managed it but was filled with dread at the thought of returning later, after our walk and climb, to do it all over again. It’s not an age thing. Had I been twenty I’d have not wanted to cross. Me and water – not great pals – add in height and slippery surfaces and it is a recipe for disaster. Seriously, I am not safe.
The steps were built by Italian prisoners of war captured in WW2.
The river is a well-known trout fishing area, made famous by Izaak Walton in his classic 17th century book ‘The Compleat Angler’, and you will often see anglers by the side of the river I am assured.
Having crossed the river in one piece without shaming my companions by making a big splash, we walked along the river enjoying the sounds it made as it gently meandered past. Birds were singing and wind rustled the trees about us. We could smell the earth under our feet as we navigated rocks jutting from the pathway. On one side the river and a steep bank was covered with trees, on the other side a steep incline with rocks jutting out loomed high above us. If only they could talk. Imagine.
In places the water rushed over boulders and large stones and was quite deafening when up close.
We came across a Heron which was sitting on the opposite bank of the river, quietly doing whatever Herons do whilst remaining completely still. It allowed us to get quite close to take photographs.
More huffing and puffing (me, not the youngsters) up a steep incline with steps, passing others huffing and puffing either going up or coming down, each red-faced and concentrating on not slipping or falling.
After what seemed a lifetime in which I grew hotter and hotter and wanted to rip everything off in spite of the cold and damp, we reached the top and glory be, a seat. I almost ran to it anxious to get off my aching legs and knees. Climbing was never a problem just a few years ago.
I almost forgot:
On the steps beneath our feet as we climbed I could see fossils which were embedded in them. So clear to see. Really fascinating.
We sat and enjoyed the view of the steep cliffs opposite and the various trees rising high above the river, covering the sides dense and mysterious. My lungs eventually ceased hurting and I began to forget thoughts of oxygen masks and para-medics – well you never know.
If ever I was on the run, I thought, what a great place to hide out. Mind you, I might never make it if I had to climb the cliffs opposite to hide deep within the forest. Perhaps I’d be better trying the New Forest; far more civilized.
The rain started again and the mist began to descend as we made our way back down. Mindful of the slippery stones and gravel which didn’t help when trying to place one’s feet, we made it back all in one piece.
Back at the stepping-stones we encountered a queue to cross (in both directions), so it was good thing we came early. We started chatting to an American couple who’d escaped their large family to holiday in England. Both were anxious to tell us they didn’t vote for Mr Trump. A long discussion followed and we parted laughing and wondering what on earth was going on in the world.
Imagine coming to such a lovely spot to discuss politics and the new President Elect. Way too much culture in one day.
That is it for this part of the day. It was a lovely visit and I recommend it if you ever get chance. Wear good walking shoes and waterproofs (in-case you can’t manage the stepping-stones) and take your camera. Well worth it.
Part two to follow soon: A visit to Ilam is next.
All photos are (c) Jane Risdon 2016 All Rights Reserved.
to all my wonderful friends, old and new, who have been kind enough to join me here and who have read and enthusiastically commented on my posts.
Your visits are so very welcome and much enjoyed by me and obviously by those dropping by.
Thanks so much for all your support and kindness throughout this last year
and earlier years I’ve dabbled in this blogging lark.
It has been a busy year for me once more.
I’ve been treated to some really fabulous ‘jollies,’ and I have a lot more to post here as soon as time permits.
I’ve recently been on several – I’ve been spoiled rotten and it’s been fabulous.
I’m really encouraged by the reaction my little forays garner, especially the photos and the historical snippets I try to include with each post. It’s great to share my experiences and it seems that my posts have inspired many of you to visit some of these places.
I really hope you weren’t disappointed.
The feedback you give is really encouraging. Thanks so much.
After a very long pregnancy
‘ONLY ONE WOMAN’
has left the computers of both myself and Christina Jones (my co-author),
and is now with our publishers Accent Press Ltd and the delectable Greg.
The plan is for the novel to be published in May 2017 – watch this space. It should be in Paperback and eBook and I understand there are plans for an Audio-book too.
A departure – for me – from Crime fiction, OOW is a story we have both been itching to write for many years.
Chrissie and I have been friends since our teens – we move fast as you can tell!
She was my husband’s band Fan Club Secretary as well as a successful Rock Journalist interviewing the rich and famous, and the most gorgeous Rock stars. I’m not jealous at all.
She also wrote for a lot of the Teen magazines at that time.
Christina Jones is now an award-winning successful author of over 30+ books.
More details as and when we get them.
Christina Jones and her books:
In addition to the ongoing Work in Progress -‘Ms Birdsong Investigates’ – which seems to be taking me forever to write, I am been very privileged to have been included in three anthologies.
The first, Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror, still on sale but only until January 2017, has been the work of 29 authors and 2 illustrators and was the brain child of author Kelly Hambly.
Her link: http://www.facebook.com/newbloods
All proceeds go to Save The Children (The International Children’s Charity).
So far sales have exceeded expectations and this can only be good news for Save The Children.
The hardback edition is fully illustrated throughout. I love it.
The Paperback edition comes with a choice of 2 covers and they are both illustrated throughout as well – in colour.
Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror is published by Willow Creek Publishing.
My story is called ‘Haunting Melody.’
I got the inspiration for the story when looking at some photos of one of my favourite places, Big Bear Mountain and Lakes in San Bernadino, California.
The foreword has been written by iconic Hammer Horror movie actress and former Bond (007) girl Caroline Munro who has been a wonderful asset and has helped gain interest from many established and iconic Horror magazines such as Scream.
The links for these are:
I have also contributed towards
Ghostly Writes Anthology 2016
published by Claire Plaisted, Plaisted Publishing House.
Along with 26 other authors from around the world I contributed my story
‘The Beneficiaries of Secret Cottage.’
The inspiration for my story came thinking about Wills and those who have expectations and those who find themselves inheriting something out of the blue, from someone they didn’t even now existed.
Ghostly Writes is available in Paperback and eBook.
the eBook is FREE
for Paperback price follow the links.
The links are:
I have also written a short story for another anthology, A Stab in the Dark: Cons, Dames and G-Men
which is due for publication in early 2017 and is the brain-child of Adam Mitchell.
This eBook will be FREE
The Golden Age of Detection is the theme for these stories and this is a first for me.
I love the GAD but have never written anything set in the late 1930’s before.
My story is called ‘Cue Murder,’
and I was inspired by the story of Movie Star Lupe Velez – The Mexican Spitfire.
One of my husband’s great aunts, Elizabeth Risdon, was a movie actress, acting with some of the great leading men of the age and she starred in several movies with Lupe Velez and talking about her recently reminded me of how Lupe died.
I shall be posting more about Lupe and Elizabeth nearer the publication of Stab in the Dark.
Earlier in the year I was fortunate enough to contribute my short story
‘A Walk to Destiny’ to dottyandthedreamers online magazine.
The magazine is FREE
Here is the link: http://writingat.wixsite.com/dottyandthedreamers/issue-2
Late December 2016 they will also be publishing two more short stories I’ve written.
‘You can run, but you cannot hide.’
‘Murder by Christmas.’
If you read any of these stories or buy any books, do be kind and let me and the other authors know your thoughts and if you are able to leave a review anywhere, that would be wonderful. Thanks.
Whilst beavering away at all this I have been busy educating myself.
Last September (2015) I started the first of four Forensic Science Online University courses and in early December 2016 I completed my last.
I also managed to fit in another course in Archaeology.
Time Team was a huge favourite and I am still mourning its loss from TV.
I wanted to better understand Crime Scene Investigations, Forensic Anthropology and Forensic Science in relation to Criminal Justice, so that I might write Crime stories with more accuracy.
I may not actually include what I’ve learned in my writing – never one to blind people with science I hope – but for my own understanding of what happens at the crime scene (who is there and why for example) and during examination of unidentified bones, and also how to identify a victim given no items were left in a shallow grave for example, other than bones. Also the investigation of Witness Statements and eventual Prosecution of someone accused of Murder.
It has been so interesting, informative and enthralling to study this and have tutors world-renown for their expertise in their field.
I have learned so much. Even my Archaeology Course came in handy!
As soon as I get my act together I shall be posting more ‘jollies,’ undertaken since the summer which I hope you will enjoy.
Most activities, especially in the early Autumn, involved a lot of physical effort and outdoor activity.
I managed to amaze myself just how high I can climb in pursuit of ‘that view.’
Well, now you can see what I have been up to this year and I am looking forward to a busy 2017.
I’d like to thank you all for being here and for your kind participation in my blog. It’s been another blast!
I look forward to seeing you all again next year and do bring your friends along too.
For those celebrating
and to you ALL a very
HAPPY, HEALTHY, PROSPEROUS AND SAFE 2017.
I am not packing up shop just yet
I am hoping to feature an interview with an Accent Press Crime Writer here before the end of December so keep ’em peeled.
Do drop in and leave a comment – always welcome and appreciated.
All photos (c) Jane Risdon 2016 except book covers which are (c) to the artists/publishers and Lupe Velez and Elizabeth Risdon
Ghostly Writes Anthology: The Beneficiaries of Secret Cottage – October 2016 via Plaisted Publishing
Ghostly Writes Anthology Published by
Plaisted Publishing House
31st October 2016
My short story:
The Beneficiaries of Secret Cottage.
by Jane Risdon
The bed vibrated as if on some sort of mechanical device and her body shook and convulsed as she tried hard to hang on to the sides to prevent falling off.
She sensed that the room was still pitch black and she knew she wasn’t alone.
She couldn’t open her eyes, they felt glued shut, and anyway she was too afraid of what she might glimpse.
Faster and faster the bed vibrated beneath her making it almost impossible to keep hold of the mattress.
She prayed for it to stop but knew it would be a while longer. It always went on for an eternity it seemed and then, just as suddenly, all would be still.
And the terror would begin….
I do hope this has whetted your appetite enough to lead you to this anthology and the many stories on offer, and to reading the rest of my short story. The other authors are all blogging about this anthology and you can follow them by clicking on their names further down.
The eBook is FREE and will be available world-wide from the 31st October
and the Paperback edition is available for purchase:
And many other book sites.
A fantastic opportunity to discover new writers and their work; a great keepsake.
Claire Plaisted, of Plaisted Publishing says:
It is that time of year again when authors love to haunt you with our scary, horror filled books that will thrill anyone who loves Halloween.
Ghostly Writes Anthology is presented to you by Plaisted Publishing House, Ltd, New Zealand, with a contributions by 26 Authors from around the world.
Each story has its own focus, be it a haunting or not. There are creepy cottages, houses and creatures. Some you won’t want to read at night.
One thing you will notice is that we have left the English Grammar and Spelling in the country of origin – like it or not, it is what it is – English from around the globe.
This year our authors and their stories are:
Here are a few of the teasers to enjoy.
If you wish to have more information: www.plaistedpublishinghouse.wordpress.com
Our official book trailer is on YouTube along with two others made by authors who are participating in this years anthology.
I do hope you enjoy this anthology. It was fund writing for it. A change from Crime writing for me.
Thanks for dropping in, let me know what you think.
Late September I was fortunate enough to visit Chartwell, home of Sir Winston Churchill.
‘Some day, some year, there will be old men and women whose pride it will be to say “I lived in Churchill’s time”.’ The Evening Standard on the day of Churchill’s funeral.
A friend’s father – in the Navy at the time – was one of the men to carry Churchill’s coffin to the train for his final journey to Bladen, Oxfordshire, where he is buried.
Churchill lived at Chartwell with his family from 1922 until his death in 1965. In common with most people he moved home several times during his life-time, progressing gradually to a larger and grander property as circumstances and his finances allowed.
Those with an interest in Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill will know he was born at Blenheim Palace on November 30th 1874. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was the second surviving son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. His mother, Jennie Jerome, was the daughter of a New York financier.
‘I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.’ Churchill
Although born into the
English aristocracy he did not inherit vast riches and for most of his life he was only moderately wealthy. He made his living as a writer. Politics did not bring him great wealth either.
He received almost every honour his country and many others could bestow upon him. Knight of the Garter, Companion of Honour, Order of Merit, Nobel Prize, Fellow of the Royal Society, Honorary Citizen of The United States – voted for by the public, Man of the Century, and The Greatest Briton – the list is almost endless.
He neither sought nor received a Peerage which would have taken him to The House of Lords as that would have taken him from his beloved The House of Commons.
‘I could not live without champagne. In victory I deserve it. In defeat I need it.’ Churchill
Winston took part in many battles during his younger years, either as a war correspondent or as a soldier – in Cuba, on the North West Frontier of India (at the same time one of my relatives was also fighting in the same places), and in the Sudan, South Africa, and France.
‘Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.’ Churchill
Clementine, Lady Churchill, entered The House of Lords after she’d been created Baroness Spencer-Churchill in 1965 in recognition of her work for charity. She also
received many accolades and awards including The Order of the Red Banner of Labour, awarded by Stalin in recognition of her wartime work raising funds for aid to Russia.
Winston went to school at Harrow and from there entered the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst (a place well-known to my family because so many of them have also Passed Out as Officer Cadets, or have been Instructors there).
Sir Winston subsequently joined the cavalry.
‘History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.’ Churchill
During his time at Sandhurst it is well-known that his family kept him short of funds and he often wrote heart-breaking letters home begging for money to pay his way.
My Mother, a member of the local Historical Society, when researching information about Sandhurst for a book the Society was writing about the village, was given access to records (in the College archives) which included a viewing of Sir Winston’s letters home and the replies he received. She told me they were really quite upsetting to read.
Anyway, with all this information I was looking forward to seeing his home and the glorious grounds surrounding it. Unfortunately the day of my visit was a wet one.
It rained all the time. There was also scaffolding erected to the rear of the house which made getting a decent photo of it a tricky, and I was a little disappointed to learn that taking photos inside the house was prohibited.
The photos I took are of the grounds, his studio – where he liked to paint – and some other buildings in the grounds. I do hope you like them.
A collection of Sir Winston’s paintings are on show in his studio. I have to say a child could paint just as well, but I know appreciation of art is a personal matter. I know many love his art.
There is an appeal for his possessions to be kept at Chartwell. Funds are being raised to enable his paintings and other items in the collection, at Chartwell, to be saved by purchasing them from the Churchill family who loan them to the National Trust at the moment.
Text WINSTON to 70123 (in UK) to give £5 donation or donate at nationaltrust.org.uk/chartwell-appal
‘Just to paint is great fun. The colours are lovely to look at and delicious to squeeze out. Matching them, however crudely, with what you see is fascinating and absolutely absorbing. Try it if you have not done so – before you die.’ Churchill, Painting as a Pastime.
Because of the heavy rain (at times) a thorough investigation of the more than 816 acres, which included several individual farms at one time, was not practical. It was a mud bath on the walks and in the woodland.
Chartwell is older than it looks and although the external appearance of the house has the unmistakable 1920s look, the actual site, according to records, dates back to 1362 and there has been a house on the site since at least the early 15th century. Roof timbers surviving from the earlier house were ring-dated to between 1515 and 1546, and can still be seen in Winston’s study.
The house changed hands many times since the Middle Ages, and before Winston and his wife lived there. It had been a foundling house in the 18th century, a home for deserted children and for a long time was known as Well Street. It wasn’t known as Chartwell until the middle of the 19th century, taking its name from the Chart Well, a spring feeding the uppermost of a series of ponds north of the house.
The word Chart is Old English for a ‘rough common overgrown with gorse, broom and bracken,’ and occurs in place names throughout The Weald of Kent.
Churchill engaged architect Philip Tilden, who’d completed a new house for Lloyd George, to modernise and extend Chartwell when he and Clementine purchased it. It took longer than expected and they couldn’t move in until 1924.
‘A day away from Chartwell is a day wasted.’ Churchill
Over the years they made some small changes but today it is presented to the public by the National Trust, as it looked in the 1920/1930s.
‘Garnished and furnished as to be of interest to the public.’Churchill
The tour of the house takes in his library where he contemplated the D-Day Landings. it is a comfortable room, and like the rest of the house, is very much a family home.
‘Nothing makes a man more reverent than a good library.’ Churchill
The Churchills entertained many famous and influential guests at Chartwell including Charlie Chaplin, Harry Truman, Harold Macmillan, Bernard Montgomery, Friedrich Prince of Prussia, The Queen Mother, Laurence Olivier, Lady Diana Cooper and Ethel Barrymore, Lawrence of Arabia, The Mitfords, Astors, Guinesses, Randolph Hearst and many more.
Chartwell was given to the National Trust in 1946 on the understanding that Sir Winston and Lady Churchill could live out their lives there. It has been open to the public for 50 years (2016).
There are medals, awards and so much more to see inside the house. Wonderful Art Deco furnishings and many paintings by famous artists. I’d be here until Christmas describing it all and so I suggest you visit yourself and take the tour.
In addition to the house, there are gardens, grounds, and lakes to explore with beautiful views across the Weald of Kent in a relatively unspoiled part of England. It is nestled between the chalk hills of the North and South Downs in one of the most densely wooded areas of the country.
Upon seeing Chartwell for the first time Clementine wrote she could ‘think of nothing but that heavenly tree-crowned hill.’
Sadly in the storms of 1987 23 trees were blown over and many acres of woodland were laid waste. But there is still much to see, far too much to take in on one visit.
I’ll just post the photos I have taken for you to see, and leave them to tell their own story.
Chartwell is beautiful.
Lady Churchill left Chartwell in 1965.
If you’d like to visit or know more about Chartwell here is the information:
Chartwell: Mapleton Road, Westerham, Kent TN16 1PS
+44(0) 1732 868381
Entry to the house is by timed tickets which are available from the visitor centre from 10am.
There are toilets, but not in the house or studio, for the public – also baby changing facilities. Breast feeding is welcome (I saw the signs so I thought I’d let you know, in case)…
There are picnic tables in the meadow or you can sit on the lawns, a gift shop and garden shop, a kitchen garden, a cafe and dogs on short leads are welcome but not in the kitchen garden.
There is a Canadian camp where the kids can play and they can build their own dens in the woodland area.
Fabulous walks (even when raining, just be suitably attired) with lots to see and enjoy. One walk is a 5 mile circular walk and of course there’s lots for budding gardeners to enjoy.
I hope you enjoy my short ‘jolly.’ As ever do let me know.
I’ve been rather busy of late undertaking an Archaeology course (now completed) and another Forensic Science course (my 4th) – still underway, to keep me out of mischief. Not to mention various short stories for inclusion in anthologies and my co-written novel with Christina Jones has gone off to our publisher…
I’ll share some more ‘jollies’ soon. During the last month I’ve had trips to the Lake District and other lovely places, so I’ll be posting about these as soon as time permits.
As always all photos are (c) Jane Risdon 2016 All Rights Reserved.
Those of you who pop in here regularly know that in addition to writing related posts, I often include photos and information about my ‘jollies,’ – my trips out and about this beautiful country.
It’s been a hectic time for me of late. I needed a short break to recharge my batteries and when an old school friend invited me to stay with her, I couldn’t resist.
I will get to the ‘jolly’ in a while.
Not only have I been beavering away at Ms Birdsong Investigates (getting there, I promise) and other projects in the pipeline,
I also have the honour to be included in several anthologies of short stories.
My story, Haunting Melody
will be published on October 20th 2016
Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror
which is a 300 page collection of some fabulous short stories by 29 authors, including yours truly.
The book is in aid of Save The Children
and is published for hard and Paper back for a limited period only.
Madame Movara has been graced with a foreword by Hammer Horror Icon and former Bond girl,
My inspiration for this story, which starts on Big Bear Mountain, California, comes from a true experience in a recording studio some time back.
There will be Limited editions of the Hardback and Paperback copies available, illustrated throughout.
The paperback version has two different covers from which to chose.
Madam Movara’s Tales of Terror is already available via Lulu.com
Later in October one of my short stories is to be published in another anthology which is FREE.
Ghostly Writes anthology is published by Plaisted Publishing and features many fabulous stories including mine:
The Beneficiaries of Secret Cottage.
Be careful what you wish for when an unknown relation dies and bequeaths you all their world goods.
It is possible this will also be in paperback. Details as soon as I have more.
In November there’s another anthology, more in keeping with my writing as a Crime writer, which I have been included in:
A Stab in the Dark: Cons, Dames and G Men.
There are in excess of 16 authors contributing stories and mine is called:
Set in the 1930s of Hollywood and the Movie business.
Inspired by the death of The Mexican Spitfire, Lupe Velez with whom Elizabeth Risdon, one of my husband’s aunts, appeared in many movies.
The anthology is a tribute to The Golden Age of Detection and Film Noir.
And it is FREE and will be for Kindle. More details to follow as soon as I have them.
More details about all these publications later in the month. Do keep an eye out.
So as you can see I really needed to take a break.
Cornwall is gorgeous any time of the year.
I’ve spent many years in the county visiting friends, working and visiting many
National Trust properties and gardens. This trip I didn’t have time for such visits.
The weather was amazing considering Autumn had just started.
There was only one wet, cold, and windy day but I didn’t mind, we stayed in and nattered and caught up with all the news.
It’s been a while since we’ve been in the same country at the same time.
We had a lovely visit to Mevagissy where I used to spend a great deal of time some years ago.
I found it more crowded than it had been before, even though the ‘season’ is more or less over.
I hope you like some of the photos I took of the fishing village.
Here is the view from my bedroom window early morning with the sun playing off the sea. Magic.
To the left and right over the fields and down the cliff you can spot the sea.
The silence is endless and the sky is vast in every direction.
I recall seeing the Solar Eclipse from the same balcony in 1999 when we were staying there.
Our artist was performing at the Eclipse festival in aid of the charity, Surfers Against Sewerage.
Next we visited another famous fishing village, Fowey, famous for some many reasons including being the home of Agatha Christie.
Not far away is what was the home of Daphne Du Maurier, but this trip I didn’t get to visit Par where Menabilly (her huge home) used to be.
I was a little disappointed at both Fowey and Megavissy this visit.
Everything seemed so much more commercial and tourist-driven, which of course it has to be in this day and age. But the very quaintness, the real fishing village quality, seems to have been lost in endless tea shops, restaurants and novelty shops.
I know the fishing industry is almost non-existent and people have to make a living, don’t get me wrong. But the thing we all went there to experience, has been lost.
Because there were so many people (and dogs, dozens of dogs) everywhere it was almost impossible to take a photo without strangers in them and the number of cars up and down the ‘car-free’ streets was just too off-putting.
My friend told me that huge cruise ships come into the area just outside the harbour and boats of tourists now disembark and throng the streets most of the year.
So, not as peaceful and attractive as I remembered from my many visits and stays there in the past.
Also the popularity of the POLDARK TV series has caused an influx of fans looking for the locations of various episodes in the villages of Cornwall.
I recall the original series on BBC in the 1970s, with Robin Ellis in the role of Ross Poldark – who never had to strip to gain viewers – and it strikes me Cornwall was a bit slow back then to capitalise upon the popularity of an excellent series. I have read all of Winston Graham’s Poldark stories and I have to say I prefer the 1970s adaptation…personal taste of course.
Since the Cornish Pasty has been given a special status by the EU (European Community) bakeries have taken the utmost advantage and I nearly dropped on the spot when I checked out and compared Pasty prices from bakery to bakery.
I couldn’t find one under £6.50 – you have got to be joking! Not that I actually like them, but even so….
Cornwall is still beautiful, if somewhat crowded, even off-season.
My school friend lives on a wonderful spot high about the sea and with green fields, trees and hedgerows around her and not a sound to be heard other than the birds and the cows nearby. It reminded me of how things were down there less than 10 years ago.
My next ‘jolly’ took place a few days after my return and I shall post the photos and information soon.
I hope you enjoy the photos, not as many as usual but at least a taster.
Meantime keep an eye out for the anthologies I have mentioned. Links and details follow soon. Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror can be pre-ordered at Lulu.com
for the Scream paperback edition
Spider’s Web edition
for a limited period only.
Thanks for dropping in.
As usual all Cornwall photos are (c) Jane Risdon 2016 All Rights Reserved.
Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror:A Bond Girl and Hammer Horror Movie Icon, An International Children’s Charity and 29 willing Authors
Only Available until January 2017
All Proceeds in aid of Save The Children
Hardback and Paperback (choice of two covers)
Sitting bolt upright in bed, Spike listened hard. There it was again, a thin airy melody drifting just above the sound of the storm outside. He concentrated hard trying to pin-point where it was coming from this time. A few weeks ago when another storm hit he’d heard the same melody playing in the library of his ancient cottage, but when he’d entered the room the sound had gone. He’d put it down to his imagination. Now he wasn’t too sure. Now he was getting scared; it seemed as if the melody was in the room all around him, stronger, seeping into his very being.
He shivered. Surely someone was in the room. Dread creeping over his now sweating body, his eyes gradually adjusted to the darkness, and yes, in the corner he could swear he saw…something. Gripped by increasing terror he found himself paralyzed as, whatever it was, moved closer to him, the tune getting louder and louder almost bursting his eardrums. Feeling the weight of something pushing him down on the bed Spike fell into darkness, unable to breathe.
Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror Anthology
in aid of The International Children’s Charity
better known to most of us as Save The Children.
Early this year multi-genre Welsh author Kelly Hambly put out a call for authors to contribute to a book she wanted to put together in aid of a children’s charity and, having written for several other charity anthologies in the past, I couldn’t say no.
I know, I write mainly crime. But what a challenge for my imagination and in aid of such a brilliant cause.
So like the man from Del Monte, I said Yes.
Kelly is the power behind everything: she is project coordinator and editor of the Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror Charity Anthology.
So far as an author in her own right she has published ten novels, mostly Young Adult.
Her novel The Town Halloween Forgot is now set to be a feature film.
Back in February I had an idea to put together a book for a children’s charity. I’ve always wanted to create one but other things had got in the way.
What made this particular time apt was that I had read an article about a child who had been saved from starvation by this fantastic lady – (I forget the details now) and it was then that I thought – hey, why don’t I do this for real and give something back.
With a little encouragement I thought I’d give it a go and posted that I was looking for a 1500 word horror story and would anyone be kind enough to donate.
I honestly expected nothing and prepared to go and hide in a corner out of embarrassment.
What followed was nothing short of a miracle (for me anyhow) and since then the project has snowballed.
Of course, no project of this size can be done alone.
We’ve had a talented illustrator to work on the cover, horror artist and writer Charles E Butler and also
Artist, Jamie Jones, whose created the interior artwork for the paperback and the best of all – a foreword by
Hammer Horror and Bond actress Caroline Munro.
Our thanks to her.
Not forgetting the 29 talented authors who have given their time to write for us and without whom this book would not have been possible.
Andrew Scorah, Richard Gurl,
Simon Burnell, Ailsa Abraham
Jane Risdon, David Monk
Charlotte L R Kane
Loraine Von Tonder
JC Michael, Nell Peters, Alice J Black, Emily H King, Regina Reil, Beverley Lawman,
David Owen Hughes, Jack Rollins, Calvin Demner, Charles E Butler, K.A Hambly, Kevin Wimer, Kevin Kennedy,
Michelle Ledford, James Kinsbury, Alice La Roux, Ross Jones, Sue Barnard and Peter Oliver Wonder.
Since then we have been featured in the world’s number one horror magazine, Scream Horror Mag with more to follow.
The Anthology is in Hardback and is illustrated throughout.
Paperback editions are available soon and are Size A5, with a gorgeous glossy covers. You get a choice of two different covers for paperback:
Spider’s Webb edition:
Buy from Lulu.com
Follow Madame over on: facebook https://www.facebook.com/MadameMovarasTalesofTerror/
I hope you will check out the contributing authors too, who write in a variety of genres. And also the illustrators and artists involved in creating this wonderful cover.
For information about Caroline:
So, not long now to publication date 20th October 2016.
I know I am excited and I hope you will be excited enough to rush over and pre-order your copy now.
In Aid of The International Children’s Charity.
Don’t forget to give me your feedback once you have read all the stories.
Mine is called Haunting Melody.
I chatted to Kelly about it earlier this week:
Enjoy our anthology and thanks for benefiting
The International Children’s Charity.
Jane, Kelly and everyone involved in
Madame Movara’s Tales of Terror.
As you know I love to take photos and quite often they are visual notes for my writing.
But, I also take photos as reminders of places I’ve visited and experiences I’ve had.
Some I use to illustrate my blog and others are just filed away for me and family to look at now and again.
I always take far too many.
Thanks goodness for the digital age.
If I had to take photos on film and have them developed, I’d think twice before shooting a couple of hundred at a time.
These are not in any particular order or even taken at the same time or place, but here goes – let me know what you think.
Oh, and my camera isn’t fancy, often just my phone camera.
I just aim and shoot.
These photos are all taken by me during various visits to places of interest, or on my various walks.
Several visitors here tell me they love my photos which is so kind of them.
They tell me they love the little snippets of history or points of interest that go with each photo.
I must say, I enjoy posting them too.
I thought I’d take a break from writing today, to share some photos. No snippets today, I’m in a visual mood.
I’ve visited Wakehurst Place twice now and simply adore it.
I blogged about one such visit a while back.
You can see more photos and read all about it at http://wp.me/p2dg55-Z0
My visit to Canterbury Cathedral where I visited the tomb of a distant relation, a former Arch-bishop of Canterbury, can be found at http://wp.me/p2dg55-1sO
There are two parts, this is the link to part one.
My visit to Cowdray Park (one time palace) was wonderful too.
So much history and Midhurst was just so pretty.
I’ve written more and posted photos at http://wp.me/p2dg55-28O
Beaulieu House has the most amazing motor museum as well as wonderful gardens and ruins, not to mention the house itself.
I am yet to blog about my visit there.
I have not posted photos of animals before.
I don’t have any but friends owned the Alaskan Malamutes pictured, who are sadly no longer with us.
They were ancient.
Molly, Lola and Simba belong to a relative.
I do hope you have fun looking at these and taking a peep at my blog posts. Let me know.
All photos have been taken by me. (c) Jane Risdon 2016 All Rights Reserved.
Crime Writer Nell Peters is my guest author today: discussing research and the suspension of disbelief.
Today I am very pleased to welcome fellow Accent Press Author and Facebook pal,
Hi everybody! I’m very happy to be Jane’s guest today – she writes such informative and interesting blogs (with great pics!), I will have to mind my Ps and Qs and make sure I don’t send everyone running for the nearest stash of alcohol and or cake.
I thought I’d combine and discuss two already closely associated elements of writing here – research and whether fiction should always be 100% factual, as it were.
It was last autumn that I really started to mull over the latter in some depth, when I was a reader for the Romantic Novelist Awards, presented in March 2016. Though I don’t tend to read romance per se, that’s not because I feel it doesn’t warrant my attention – it’s simply that I have very little leisure reading time and I usually go for crime, which is what I write.
However, as a contest reader, I could legitimately sit and read other peoples’ books for most of the day without feeling the slightest twinge of guilt – such luxury! I was allotted five books in various categories and given strict scoring criteria to follow – so, there I sat like Lady Muck in a very dilapidated (but oh so comfy) big leather chair, with everything to hand, including the all-important pen and notebook, lest I forget anything along the way.
If someone else were judging my book, I’d want them to be scrupulously fair and that’s what I aimed for.
However, the first book I tackled had me bitterly regretting volunteering for the assignment. I drank far too much tea and ate many more biscuits than were good for me, just to sustain myself sufficiently to reach those longed-for words, The End.
I may not read the romance genre as a rule, but I do know a cliché-ridden, overly contrived plot when I see it. And there were a hefty number of inconsistencies in terms of the heroine – I don’t want to say too much, for obvious reasons, but the daffy woman supposedly had impressive qualifications all the way up her arm, well before the age of thirty.
I don’t question that someone can be academically able and daffy at the same time – I am reasonably well qualified, but a complete ejit when it comes to practicalities. I possibly shouldn’t be allowed out on my own and it never ceases to amaze me that I have actually reached my great age intact.
What I did question was the author’s blatant lack of investigation into exactly how long it takes to achieve these accolades – so, I did her digging for her and she was out by quite a few years, even allowing for the fact that parts of one qualification taken might preclude the need to complete some modules of another.
But this was a fictional tale – did it really matter? For many other reasons, that book received a minus score from me – the only one that did.
The other four books were much more enjoyable – one historical, one epic (though I couldn’t quite see why it would be called that) and two contemporary.
The subject of research was obviously a factor in the historical novel, but it was a well-written book with an intriguing then-and-now plot, and I was happy to assume the author had got her facts straight and woven her fictional tale around them.
One of the contemporaries had as a main character a young woman who was terminally ill with a very rare, degenerative disease. It was a stroke of extremely bad luck for the author that, having studied that particular disease, I remember quite a bit about it.
The author had obviously explored her subject to some extent, though not enough, and for me that grated.
But if I hadn’t had prior knowledge, I’d have accepted the facts as presented and read the otherwise agreeable book without a negative thought.
The score I awarded did not reflect what I felt was my unfair medical knowledge advantage (for want of a better term).
I do varying amounts of research for my books – as much as I feel necessary. For instance, I use a lot of psychology and so more often than not, I check data just to make sure the old memory bank is not playing tricks. Or sometimes to confirm the spelling of those seventeen-syllable words that social scientists are so fond of bandying around – Phenomenological anyone? And that’s one of the less-daunting terms.
With the world at your fingertips via the Internet, it’s hardly difficult to ensure you aren’t committing dreadful clangers to print in your name.
Putting me to shame, Jane is a positive demon in terms of the research she undertakes as background for her WIP.
Last year she took several CSI-type online courses in forensics, passing with a noteworthy high score, and more recently she was looking into the forensic psychology of witnesses to crime. Respect.
Nell, it’s not my aim to bamboozle readers with facts and figures, but I felt I needed to understand some basic facts about the processes undertaken by the experts and detectives following the discovery of a body; what anthropologists and archaeologists and crime scene investigation officers do at the scene of a crime, and how DNA and Fingerprints are used and what the implications are of keeping all this information on the National Data Base.
It led me to Criminal Justice and Forensic Science and as you say, latterly, Forensic Science: Witness Investigations. I’ve learned so much which I can draw upon in order to try and make my writing as accurate as possible, but my readers won’t necessarily ever see any of it in print.
Nell, sorry for the interruption:
However, knocking us all into a cocked hat (whatever that expression means!) is fellow Accent author Kirsten McKenzie, who lives in Auckland, New Zealand. Last year, Kirsten flew to the UK to take part in an archaeological dig – all in the name of research for her WIP.
I’d love to do that. Sounds awesome.
Maybe I could blag a trip to Barbados to check out what the effects of sunbathing on a white-sanded beach, surrounded by palm trees and cocktails with lewd-sounding names for a month, has on the human psyche – for inclusion in my next masterpiece, natch…
Hang on, I’m coming too….
All this swotting takes time and it’s easy to fall into the waiting trap of hitting the reader over the head with way too much information, just because you’ve invested the hours and effort necessary to read around your subject in depth, in order to appear informed in print.
Several days’ toil may end up condensed into a sentence or two – they will be significant sentences to move the plot forward, of course, but it’s not much to show for all the blood, sweat, gnashing of teeth and hair-tearing.
I read a lot of crime, thrillers, and espionage books and one thing I cannot stand, as a reader, is page after page of description of missile systems, crime scenes with lots of blood and gore, and the actual violent act itself.
I like to use (or not) my own imagination when it comes to a lot of what I read. I love Robert Ludlum, but sometimes he can write pages and pages of complex technological detail about weapons and such, which has me skipping great chunks of his books.
When the TV series Broadchurch aired in the UK, there was outcry over plot inaccuracies, in particular court procedure and the way solicitors conduct their business.
Like me with the terminal illness, I can see that if you happen to be a judge or other form of law officer, howling errors might gall – but do we not read or watch fiction with the sole purpose of being entertained, or as a diversion from the monotony of everyday life?
Authors of fiction are essentially taking the place of the storytellers of yesteryear who, without the dubious benefit of Wikipedia to check their every syllable, probably made it up as they went along.
And why not? A good novel will grab the reader’s interest from the first page, if not paragraph, its required function to transport imaginations to another place, time, dimension, culture, whatever – pure escapism and distraction, and if there’s a bit of thought-provoking going on in the background, that’s great.
The reader can identify with, root for, or disapprove of the characters manufactured by the writer and accept or reject the plot, however feasible or unlikely it may be – it is their choice whether to suspend reality and go with the flow, or give up on the book as a waste of time, possibly even an insult to their intelligence.
We ask our readers to suspend their disbelief, Nell, so I agree that it is possible to have some unbelievable events take place, and we hope the reader will go with it and enjoy the plot, getting caught up in the story. We do it watching television and movies all the time.
I am minded of the TV series Midsomer Murders for example – three murders in rural communities every week – and we all swallow it.
Enjoyment of all genres of fiction is a very subjective thing, as it is with art, music, fashion, sport and a whole host of other stuff – just as well, as it wouldn’t do for us all to be identical in our tastes. How dreadfully boring that would be …
Thanks for having me, Jane.
It has been a pleasure Nell.
I have read By Any Other Name and loved it. It’s a very clever plot which has me guessing all the way through.
I have Hostile Witness on my Kindle.
Wishing you much continued success.
Nell Peters writes crime novels for Accent Press and has other assorted publications festering on Amazon KDP.
She lives in Norfolk with a husband who works away a lot and (temporarily, she hopes) #3 son, who returned to stay at the family home for three months – a year ago. Nell has three beautiful granddaughters – quite a novelty after four strapping sons, and three handsome grandsons. If only she were rich and famous (easy on the famous), she’d be deliriously happy.
Her Accent books can be found at:
Samantha Connolly is my Guest Author today: she just got married on a Ski Slope and Taught English in China
Please welcome my guest author Samantha Connolly who is going to tell us about her writing journey.
She has just published her first book so I thought it would be interesting to chat to someone at the beginning of their career.
Let’s find out about her – here is Samantha in her own words:
I’m born and raised in England, travel part of the year to the US, and I love to write. Since as far back as I can recall, I was talking away to myself, telling myself random stories or whatever. I suppose I was a weird child!
I read a lot, got into writing poetry, and prose followed later. I’ve always loved writing. I find, too, that as an adult I really need to write. When I’m happy, sad, stressed, overwhelmed, I write.
I write fiction and struggle to journal because I always re-read what I’ve written and think that it’s just too personal. I almost hate to see it on the page – something I wish I’d hurry up and get over to be honest!
Whilst I filter some of myself into my writing in one way or another, there are times when I like to jump right outside of this world and myself altogether.
Fantasy comes in very handy for this – and I love fantasy, so it makes sense.
I have eclectic tastes in my own and others’ writing, and I also blog, as you’ll see from my website.
I’ve been working in offices off and on my whole adult life, taught English as a Foreign Language in China for all of a heartbeat – a heartbeat that I’ve never forgotten and am still so grateful for – and I work as a Writer and Editor.
Samantha, forgive the interruption:
We spent a lot of time (hubby and I) in Taiwan and Singapore working with Chinese artists.We picked up a few words in Cantonese and Mandarin, but they were so keen to speak English it was hard to get anywhere with it. I can, however, sing a whole album we recorded in Mandarin and apparently I sound very convincing. Just saying…
I got married to my long-term partner last year on the slopes; he had a ski and I rode the gondola up to meet him and marry him! It was amazing.
Other than that what can I say… lots of interests…currently trying to be a better baker than I have been in times past … I do love the process of baking. It’s therapeutic, and I’m (slowly) getting better at it! And as an overall? Screwy teen becomes real adult person should cover it – and here I am!
Sounds quite sane to me and fun. I love the marriage on a ski slope idea. But knowing me I’d break something.
What kinds of things have you written to date?
Tons of things!
My earlier work is all nicely hidden away in notebooks and computer files. But a lot of my stuff’s on my website.
Like me then, so glad I am not alone in hoarding material.
I write in all kinds of genres. I’m really interested in issues surrounding mental health and I like things that are a little off the wall, quirky.
I like deep and meaningful. And fantasy… and whilst I’ve not gone the route of having my own kids, I love childhood stories!
I recently published my first novel, The Sister Worlds, a young-adult fantasy, and this is available on ibooks
Good luck with The Sister Worlds, how exciting. I have never heard of anyone publishing on iTunes before.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently researching for and starting work on a new novel, whilst working on poetry and short stories. I’m also focusing on some lovely ideas that my close friend, Artist & Yogi Expert, Tracy Long, and I have been coming up with.
It’s so much fun! Let’s just say it’s a little magical! And it brings out all the best feelings in us Jane.
It sounds wonderful, I am sure you will have lots of interest.
In addition, an exciting development is my new role as Prose Sub-Editor for the magazine, Under The Fable, who previously published one of my short stories, and I’m just embarking on freelance copywriting.
Good luck with that also, I am sure you’ll find clients after being on here. Fingers crossed.
Is your novel writing focus on fantasy only?
No, I love to write fantasy, love all things mystical and magical, but I also want to produce works that focus on the human condition, so a more literary fiction, and historical fiction also.
What/who is your inspiration?
Philip K Dick, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood. All very different!
Philip K Dick’s famous ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ inspired Ridley Scott’s film ‘Blade-runner’ and I loved the book and the film was great. In that story, Dick focuses on what it means to be human and for me it reminds us what is good about humanity and all we take for granted, whilst being a truly impressive work of science fiction.
I hadn’t heard of Woolf until I was at uni – quite strange to think of that really now, as she’s an ingrained habit to re-read at this point of my life. Her first published short story ‘The Mark on the Wall’ was also the first of her works I ever read, and that was it, I was hooked. Woolf enjoyed exploring literary themes and her experimentation with the narrative mode stream of consciousness reeled me in.
Margaret Atwood is a wonderful Canadian author who focuses on society in so many varying ways and very much deals with issues of human relationships. One of her early works, ‘The Edible Woman’ remains my favourite with ‘Lady Oracle’ a close second.
Who is/are your influence? Why?
Life is my influence, not a person or people. Life is complex, straight forward, bizarre, mundane, and downright extraordinary. If I don’t write I will go mad making up stories in my head and mumbling them on the tube!!
What do you read mostly?
I read a lot of novels and short stories, and occasionally poetry. My tastes are in many genres.
I like to read the kinds of things I like to write although I absolutely love to be gripped by a good crime thriller. When I try to write those, however, I just wind up getting caught up in the detail of the lesser characters, and they become my focus.
I’m more about the weirdness or profoundness you find in the backdrop. Poetry is always my go to when I need to re-connect with my writing and have slightly lost my way…at those times I find it hard to consume longer works.
I tend to read several books at once, moving between them depending on my concentration span and mood. For example, I recently finished Atwood’s collection of short stories, The Stone Mattress, and am currently reading her latest novel, The Heart Goes Last, whilst also reading
The Strange Death of Liberal England by George Dangerfield, Sane New World by Ruby Wax, A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gayle, and two collections of poetry; Six Poets: Hardy to Larkin by Alan Bennett, and I’ll Dress One Night As You by Chrissie Gittins.
Who is your favourite author? Why?
Margaret Atwood. Because she gets it.
Well, I am sure there will be plenty of readers out there who will ‘get’ Samantha’s work too, and soon.
Samantha, thanks so much for being my guest today. I wish you all the best for your future writing success.
Here is the ‘official’ biography for Samantha:
Samantha holds a degree in English Literature with Film Studies from Kingston University, London, which she gained age 30.
Since then she has been writing seriously, having undertaken a fiction writing module via Open University and completed her first young adult fantasy novel, The Sister Worlds:
The story of two sisters, torn apart at just seven years old, who remain clueless of each other’s true fates – not to mention their real origins – until the world is facing chaos and they are re-united. As war breaks out around them, the girls steel themselves for what they need to do; getting re-aquainted while saving a world or two is enough to test anybody, after all.
Samantha began telling stories from a young age, hiding herself away for an hour or so here and there while she spun her tales, living by her imagination (as much as possible within the bounds of reality!) whilst growing up.
She began writing the odd poem during her teens, but it wasn’t until her late twenties whilst at university that she understood her true love for writing.
Her tastes are eclectic, not only in her own writing, but in the form and genre of the writing of others.
She is inspired by Virginia Woolf and Christina Rossetti, amongst many others, including the work of Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen, Philip K. Dick, Ellen Miller, and Zeruya Shalev.
She has most recently been drawn to the work of Abraham Verghese and Patrick Gayle.
Her love for the magical and fantastical in fiction is a constant; she has particularly enjoyed the work of Veronica Roth in this respect, and once studied Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep in relation to Ridley Scott’s film Blade Runner.
Samantha also has a strong interest in human relationships and mental health, and a love for the innocence of young children and the life and hope they instill in tired-out grown-ups.
With experience as an editor, proofreader and researcher, Samantha is well accomplished and finds this useful when writing and, of course, editing her own work.
Her previous proofreading and editing experience comprises a website research and editing project for the charity Re-Cycle, the proofreading and editing of a website story – also for Re-Cycle – together with the editing of their August and September newsletters; also a novel, short story, and flash fiction piece for author Elizabeth Los, a novel excerpt for author & translator Jasmine Heydari, and the website area and biographies for global broadcast production company Clean Cut Media Ltd.
She has also read and edited various documentation including minutes, website material, presentations and more, as part of her administrative background.
Samantha has had three articles published to date and some short fiction. She previously ran a creative writing group on a voluntary basis for Mungos charity.
She is currently writing her second novel and working on a number of exciting new projects, whilst working as Sub-Editor for UnderTheFable magazine and embarking on freelance copywriting.
She regularly writes fiction pieces both for her own website, and to be entered into various competition.
Well, I am sure there will be plenty of readers out there who will ‘get’ Samantha’s work too and soon.
Samantha, thanks so much for being my guest today, it’s been a blast!
I wish you all the best for your future writing success.
To connect with Samantha and find out more about her and to find her book
The Sister Worlds
Click on the links.
The photos on this page are locations which feature in Samantha’s writing:
China and Canada and any others are all (c) Samantha Connolly 2016
All Rights Reserved
Anyone visiting here often knows I enjoy photography, walking, and visiting places of interest such as ancient houses, cathedrals, churches and interesting old villages.
I love visiting the gardens of the great estates we are so fortunate to have in Britain. Not only are they interesting and relaxing…
They inspire me.
Rather than take a notebook and mess around finding pens, or typing notes on to my phone in glaring sunlight, I prefer to take photographs. I know these will trigger memories when I come to write.
Some walks are for sheer pleasure and I take photos just for fun and to create lovely memories. One such recent walk was at Virginia Waters in Windsor Great Park. I love it there, here are some of the photos I took during my second visit.
I don’t see violence or murder when I photograph something of interest. It’s hard to put into words. I suppose I get a ‘feeling.’ I look into a dark forest and I might get a flash of an idea for the location of a dastardly deed, or a character might pop into my mind, but what actually sets these thoughts in motion, I have no idea. Looking at a scene of intense beauty shouldn’t inspire images of death, or conjure up a personality type for a one of my characters. But they do.
Walking (often) on The White Horse in Uffington (Oxfordshire) is spectacular. You can see 6 counties from the top where there was once a Neolithic settlement, and archaeologists are often on a dig up there, and of course you can see the White Horse itself. The area is part of the ancient Ridgeway giving a panoramic view.
Actually, at one time you could walk on the horse and Dragon Hill and there wasn’t a charge for the car-park, as there is now…you just went there. Further down the hill and along a lane you come across Waylands Smithy…a Bronze-age burial chamber.
Somewhere our son spent the night when he was about 10, just to see if it was haunted and if there were witches there! I don’t think you can do that any longer. The National Trust runs the site.
It was whilst walking on White Horse Hill that I first got the idea for setting Ms Birdsong Investigates in the Vale of the White Horse. The rural setting, with its natural beauty and pockets of isolation seemed just the place to set her story.
Facing an uncertain future after ‘voluntary’ retirement from MI5 I could imagine her fleeing to a such place where she could try to come to terms with her changed circumstances and possibly reinvent herself.
The fictional village of Ampney Parva sprang to mind – an amalgamation of many villages I’ve visited over the years when travelling around England. It would be a rural village at the foot of White Horse Hill with few occupants, most tracing their families back over generations in the area.
There would be one or two newcomers – ‘new money’ – recently settled in the area occupying some of the big country houses which had been sold off to pay death duties perhaps, but some of the larger estates were still owned and lived in by the same family over many generations; landed gentry living just outside Ampney Parva, secluded and mysterious.
When I started the divine Ms B (as I call her) she was a very different character to the one she is today, as I work on completing the first book in the series of Ms Birdsong Investigates. Originally she was going to be a modern-day Miss Marple, but a family wedding in a lovely Manor House on a 6,000 acre estate changed all that and as soon as I got home I started writing book two, based on my experiences at the wedding.
I’d also been taken to Herstmonceux Observatory for a birthday treat, and suddenly I had book three ready to be written, which caused a serious problem for me; the original Ms B I had written about was nothing like the Ms B from two most recent books: Murder at the Observatory and The Safe House.
I’ve had to complete books two and three, returning to book one to re-write her story and change her character so everything would tie in together. It has been a long slog.
Book one has meant a great deal of research into the Security Services, organised crime and the various agencies trying to track and bring international criminals to justice, and a massive re-write…I am still battling with it.
Enjoy the photos. Quite a few have appeared in previous blogs I’ve posted on here.
Photos (c) Jane Risdon All rights Reserved.
Today I am pleased to welcome author
Thea Hartley (Phillips)
as my guest at the end of her blog tour.
I think you will agree, once you’ve read about her journey to writing, that she is a remarkable lady.
Thea was born and bred in Merthyr Tydfil, and attended Cyfarthfa Castle Grammar School.
She married young, and lived on the local Gurnos Estate, having three children by the age of twenty. Aware that she had not explored her educational opportunities, she became a mature student, obtaining a Psychology degree from The University of Glamorgan, followed by a Masters’ and PGCE at Cardiff University.
Thea became a practicing Psychologist and lecturer, a career which spans over thirty years.
During this time, she had research and educational papers published, plus some fictional articles and inclusion in two poetry anthologies.
Unfortunately, in 2007, Thea developed a degenerative eye disease, which deteriorated rapidly, until she was no longer able to work.
Finding herself at home, for the first time in many years, she decided to write the book she had always wanted to write:
A biography of her Grandfather, Tommy Horton, who moved to Merthyr in 1900 to pursue his fortune.
He had led a very colourful, interesting life, culminating in opening the first factory to produce ‘condoms’ in the UK which opened in 1913.
Thea got in touch with the RNIB, who were extremely helpful in providing the training and equipment to allow her to write despite her failing sight,
This new writing career led to “The French Letter King” her first, acclaimed novel.
This became the first volume of a trilogy about her family.
Since then, Thea has ventured into several genres, including a series of Psychological Crime Mysteries, featuring Resa James,
psychological thrillers, historical romantic fiction and her latest release
Wear Bright Colours for Me
which explores the fascinating subject of reincarnation.
Such a fascinating life and what an amazing person your Grandfather seems.
Do tell us about your latest book:
Wear Bright Colours For Me.
I wrote this book after reading articles and factual books about reincarnation and the theory of karma.
This made me think…” How could this work? What could happen throughout different lives? How would the same groups of people meet up? And Could there really be such a thing as Soulmates?”
Coincidently (or not!) my daughter had a dream in which my late husband appeared to her,
telling her to pass on a message to me …
“Wear bright colours for me.” Was that message. I took this as the book’s title.
In addition my small grandson had bonded with a little girl in nursery from the moment they met.
They really seem ‘attached’ to each other, as if they have always been together. This reinforced the idea of ‘Soulmates. ‘
I can related to this Thea. Our son was very young when he first went to nursery and had a special girlfriend – cute as a peach – who he declared undying love for and he told us he wanted to marry her.
He used to save any pennies or sweeties he had just for her. Very serious stuff at the tender age of three.
Back to you Thea:
The result of all these ‘coincidences’ is my book.
A fictional account of two main characters and their nemesis. The ‘Soulmates’ meet in life after life, but are always quickly separated due to tragedy mostly caused by their enemy, who also appears in each historical period.
Other characters also reoccur in different guises, as do common threads.
Each historical period and culture was fully researched, making them stories in their own right.
The question is…will these soulmates be able to finally be together by means of living in a way which produces ‘positive’ karma? Can they overcome the curse of many centuries past. ? What will happen to their nemesis?
This is a story of love, tragedy, mystery, the paranormal, suspense and history. A unique and fascinating read.
It sounds wonderful and a gripping read.
Do share and excerpt with us:
They had almost reached each other’s arms when froth bubbled from Asgaran’s mouth.
He took a cloth and wiped it, seeing that the cloth was now covered in blood.
Asgaran felt dizzy, all his senses whirling. He fell to the ground in a fit… every limb and muscle shaking violently.
“My God what’s happening?”, he tried to ask.
Alina knelt beside him, she tried to quieten him by holding his arms and wiping his head and body with a damp cloth.
However, this was ineffective. “I have been poisoned,” he gasped, knowing without doubt who had been behind it.
Asgaran’s eyes rolled back in his head, he stopped jerking and became still.
His soul departed his body and he too, found himself in a black, whirling, vortex with a small light at the end which became bigger as he was propelled towards it.
Asgaran was on his journey to rebirth, in order to resolve his karma and complete its journey.
No doubt Pylories was there also, waiting to challenge him once again.
Alina wept, large fat tears fell, as she lay on her husband’s body, covering his expressionless face with rivulets of sorrow.
Wow, thanks so much Thea, I’m reaching for the Kleenex now.
To find Thea on Social Media:
Face book. https://www.facebook.com/Theasbooks/
LinkedIn. Thea Phillips.
Wear Bright Colours for Me:
Here are Thea’s books – she also writes under other names:
The French Letter King
Secrets of the French Letter King (no cover available)
Kith and Kill
Sticks and Bones
Kill and Cure
Tooth and Claw
Thea also writes as Thea Phillips:
Rapture Recaptured writing as Thea Phillips (no cover available)
Sensuous Secrets writing as Thea Phillips (no cover available)
The Counterfeit Wife
No Refuge ( Amazon Number 1 in free Psychological fiction.)
Gossip Columns. ( winner of the Nano writing challenge 2013) (no cover available)
Thea also writes as T.M. James:
Necessary Deceptions. Writing as T.M. James (no cover available)
The Carousel …..a children’s book (no cover available)
Thicker than Blood.
Wear Bright Colours for Me (out now)
Please list books you have coming out soon:
Gone and Forgotten (no 5 in Resa James Crime Series)
The Fall of The French Letter King (Final book in The French Letter King, trilogy) (no cover available)
Thea’s Blog Tour – you can find her guesting on these blogs:
Thea thanks so much for sharing your writing story and telling us about your books.
I am sure everyone is filled with admiration for your achievements given your sight problems and they’ll be anxious to read your books, especially your latest, which is tantalizing.
Wishing you all the best, thanks again,
A little break from writing-related posts:
Here is the fourth post about the most recent of what I call my ‘jollies.’
Following on from our really interesting and enjoyable visits to Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral
and Eltham Palace
we stopped off in the village of Greensted, and had a look around what is known as
The oldest wooden Church in the World and the oldest ‘Stave Built’ timber building, still standing, in Europe:
St. Andrews Church, Greensted.
The church represents 1,300 years of English History and Christian worship.
It bears witness to the work of not only Norman, Tudor and Victorian builders who variously extended, repaired and restored the building over the ages.
The name Green-sted suggested that the Saxons who first settle there found a clearing or place (stede) in the West forest of which Epping and Hainault Forests are only remnants.
The Saxon settlers worshiped their Pagan gods in ‘grooves’ in the forest and at first the East Saxons resisted attempt to convert them to Christianity by Augustine and Mellitus from Rome.
Finally St. Cedd, a Saxon trained at the Celtic monastery of Lindisfarne was successful. His base was a deserted Roman fort near Bradwell and his cathedral (now called St Peter’s-on-the-Wall) can still be seen there.
St Cedd began his work in about 654 AD and it is thought the first church at Greensted was built soon after. An Archaeological dig in 1960 revealed the impression of two simple wooded buildings under the present Chancel floor which were thought to have been built late 6th or early 7th century.
51 timber planks (still visible today) date from about 1060 AD when the Nave was added according to Dendrochronological dating of the timber. The construction methods were more advanced that those for the sanctuary which can be viewed on the sketch notes still available.
The logs had been held upright by being placed into a trench. If the dates are correct it was most likely one of the many sanctuaries used by missionaries and priests.
The nave was windowless, except for a few ‘eye’ holes (eag thyrel) and light would have come from lamps around the altar.
The opening from the sanctuary to nave was probably small and surmounted by a crucifix.
Many know the hole (on the niche by the Saxon doorway) as a Leper Squint, but archaeologists doubt this, proposing that it is more likely to have been a small window or that the ledge held a Holy water stoup in the Middle Ages.
The dedication of the church to St Andrew suggests a Celtic Foundation.
In the 9th century Danish invaders became a serious threat and produced a host of Saxon martyrs, one of whom King Edmund of East Anglia is especially remembered there.
He was crowned King when he was 15, at Bures, Suffolk, on Christmas Day 855 AD, and was martyred by the Danes on November 20th 869 AD.
He refused to give up his Christian beliefs and was scourged, chained to a tree and shot with arrows and finally beheaded – depicted in a stained glass window in the church.
He was enshrined at Bury St Edmunds, attracting many pilgrims, and later he was moved to London for safe-keeping and eventually returned to Bury in 1013 AD.
On its way his body rested at St Andrews.
His martyrdom is depicted on a beam in the church. His head was thrown into a thicket in the forest some distance from his body.
When his followers found his head it was being guarded by a wolf hound which would not leave until the head was reunited with its body.
He later became the first Patron Saint of England but later the Normans replaced him with St. George.
William the Conqueror, having conquered the Saxons in 1066 AD set about making his mark on older churches, rebuilding them, and the flint footings of the Chancel well and Pillars piscina inside the sanctuary (basin for washing communion vessels) are all that remain of Norman work.
The coped stone coffin lid against the South wall of the Nave is thought to be the final resting place of a Crusader.
Being made of stone and not wood, suggests that he was seen as a local hero.
The oldest grave, lying adjacent to the entrance of the church, is that of a 12th century Crusader thought to be a bowman.
Henry VII’s reign was extensive alterations to the church. The Chancel was rebuilt in brick and the thatch replaced by tiles on the Chancel and Nave Roofs in about 1500 AD. Three dormer windows were added to give light to the Nave and the South porch was added.
Probably the Chancel arch was widened at the same time.
A fragment of 15th century glass can be seen at the centre of the Quatrefoil window at the West end but it was set there during Victorian restoration.
In 1848/49 the church underwent severe restoration works and in 1990 works were undertaken to stabilise the church as it stands today.
The Rector, Philip Ray recorded details of the Saxon joinery as it was investigated at the time and wrote the first account of the church. Diagrams from his book, ‘History of Greensted Church’, are shown in various brochures on sale in the church.
In 2005 the spire was completely re-shingled in Oak.
In 1987 the large Victorian font was replaced by a wooden one built of Oak using a hand adze. It was designed by Sir Hugh Casson R.A.
The earliest wall memorial is dated 1585 and is dedicated to Jone Wood.
Although the results of the dendrochronology indicates the church was constructed about 1060/1063 AD, rather than the earlier date of 845 AD, it remains the oldest wooden church in the world and the oldest wooden building still standing in Europe.
Little is known about the buildings which stood on the site before then although there have been interesting Roman finds in the area.
I discovered this interesting piece of history:
The Tolpuddle Martyrs: The six Dorset farm labourers who were taken to court on a legal technicality because they agitated for better wages and conditions by forming a Trades Union, are linked to Greensted.
After conviction in 1834 they were condemned to transportation to Australia for 7 years.
They had hard and harrowing times working in chain-gangs and being sold for £1 each.
There was a public out-cry at their treatment, in England, and a society was formed to try to obtain their release and eventually their sentences were commuted in 1837.
They were unable to return home due to opposition of Dorset farmers, but they were granted farm tenancies in Greensted and High Laver.
Whilst living in the Parish one of the men James Brine, of New House Farm (now Tudor cottage), married Elizabeth Standfield, daughter of one of his fellow victims, on 20th June 1839 and the entry is still in the present Register.
Their tenancy wasn’t renewed due to local opposition led by Philip Ray, who’d become Rector in 1837, and they emigrated to Ontario in Canada.
I loved this little church and all its history. The graveyard is pretty and the houses nearby fit so well into the landscape as does the church.
You can purchase gifts such as jars of marmalade, jam and pickles as well as booklets about the church and postcards and drawings.
Donations go to the upkeep of the church. If you are interested in visiting this delightful church here are the details. I couldn’t find a website.
St Andrews Church, Greensted-Juxta-Ongar, Near Chipping Ongar, Esssex CM5 9LD
Tel: +44(0) 1277 363268
The church is open daily as follows: Winter 10am-4pm and Summer 10am – 6pm
Guided tours by appointment and are free but of course a donation towards the church would be appreciated.
Guide books, Postcards, Pictures, Souvenirs, Pickles, Jams and Marmalade are on sale inside the church. There aren’t any toilets but the village is not far and you can park in Church Lane.
I hope you enjoy this quick look around the church. Let me know.
Don’t forget there are other ‘jollies’ on my blog. Just go to the menu/blog and scroll down.
As ever all photos are (c) Jane Risdon: All rights reserved.
Thanks so much for dropping in.
Welcome to part three of my recent ‘Jollies’.
In addition to our fab visits to Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral
we visited the amazing
set in 19 acres of stunning gardens in Eltham, Greenwich, London.
The palace was once an important royal palace, hosting Kings, Queens, and international statesmen.
It’s one of the few medieval palaces to survive with substantial remains intact, and was one of only six royal residences large enough to accommodate and feed the entire Tudor court of 800 plus people.
The court continued to host famous visitors there until well into the 16th century. These included John II of France defeated at the Battle of Poitiers, visiting on his way back to France and who was accompanied by Jean Froissart, who chronicled the event later. Froissart later returned to Eltham in 1395 to present Richard ll with a collection of his poems.
In 1385 Leo V the exiled King of Armenia came to seek support in regaining his throne from the Turks.
Richard’s clerk of works, the poet Geoffrey Chauncer, was mugged twice – in 1390 – on his way to the palace and lost £40 of official funds as well as his horse.
Henry IV received Manual Palaeologus, the Byzantine Emperor, at Eltham at Christmas 1400, where entertainment included a mime performed by 12 London aldermen and a parade with a jousting tournament on the outer court on New Year’s Day.
In 1416 Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, discussed Church affairs there with Henry V (r.1413-22) and forged an alliance with him.
Prince Henry (later Henry VIII) spent much of his childhood at Eltham and in 1499 as a 9-year-old met the Dutch philosopher Erasmus, who he embarrassed by challenging him to write a poem. Within three days Erasmus produced a verse in praise of England, Henry VII and the princes Arthur and Henry.
Christmas Eve 1515 Cardinal Wolsey took the oath of office of Lord Chancellor in the chapel at Eltham.
Queen Elizabeth I (r.1558-1603) visited Eltham occasionally.
James I (r.1603-25) found the palace ‘farre in decay’ and subsequent repairs were undertaken.
Charles l (r.1625-49) was the last King to visit the palace.
Anglo-Saxon pottery has been found at Eltham, although little is known about any settlement until mentioned in the Doomsday Survey of 1086 when the manor of Eltham is recorded as being in the possession of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, the half-brother of William the Conqueror (r.1066-87).
It changed hands several times until Bishop Anthony Bek acquired it from William de Vescy.
Initially a moated manor house, it was given to Edward II (r.1307-27) by Bishop Bek in 1305. Under Edward IV (r.1461-83) significant changes were made, especially additions to the great hall in the 1470s, which still stands today.
It is very impressive inside the hall, which has wonderful wooden beams and I had visions of Tudor kings eating great banquets there.
At its peak the palace occupied some 1,000ft by 500ft at its widest point, far exceeding that of Hampton Court.
Eltham palace was eclipsed by Greenwich and Hampton Court palaces in the 16th century and declined in the early 17th century.
Amazingly for 200 years after the Civil Wars it was used as farm.
The walk up to the palace took us from a cafe area where we paid our entry fees – the car park is close by which is convenient – along a lovely open garden area on one side and a more laid out garden on the other.
As we walked the palace suddenly came into view on our left hand side.
It is gorgeous, very impressive and magical.
Right ahead of us we saw lovely brown and black beamed cottages.
Turning left we crossed Edward IV’s 15th century moat bridge with weeping willow in the foreground.
The bridge once had a drawbridge at the rear end which was only discovered during repairs in 1912.
We saw Queen Isabella’s stone south moat wall (1315-16) in front of part of the great hall and what became the Courtauld wing.
1930s Stephen and Virginia (Ginie)
Courtauld were looking for a semi-rural property within easy reach of central London.
Eltham met their requirements – mine too, but sadly my bank account doesn’t – and the engaged architects Seely and Paget to build a house for them, adjoining the great hall, boasting an ultra-modern design, using the latest technology.
Leading designers and craftsmen were employed to create a range of lavish interiors and outstanding gardens (imagine the wealth), providing the setting for their extensive collection of art and furniture with ample space for entertaining which they went in for on a fantastic scale from what I gather.
The Courtaulds left Eltham in 1944 and the site was occupied by the Army educational unit until 1992. English Heritage took over in 1995, repairing and restoring the 1930s house and gardens.
In 2015 the rooms of Ginie’s nephews, Peter and Paul Peirano, her walk-in wardrobe, and the basement rooms were opened to the public.
The wardrobe displayed some of her evening dresses and some furs.
The basement was fascinating in that modern technology of the day was evident; all mod-cons as we say.
The home was full of labour-saving devices such as one of the most advanced system of electricity in the world.
The Courtaulds varied lighting effects to enhance their new home, with down-lighters, spotlight and concealed lighting.
Most rooms had electricity powered fires, servants’ bell pushes and synchronous clocks which were regulated by the incoming mains supply.
They had an innovative loudspeaker system which could broadcast records to rooms on the ground floor.
There was an internal automatic telephone exchange and a GPO payphone for the guests to use.
In the basement there was a centralised vacuum cleaner – the dust came down tubes from each room into a main cylinder in the basement and the kitchen contained two Jackson’s electric cookers and an electric Kelvinator refrigerator. – all rarely in use at the time.
They used electricity to heat the showers serving the squash courts changing room and a fire alarm system which could automatically call the fire brigade.
Gas powered the hot water central heating which fed pipes embedded in the ceilings.
In the entrance hall and great hall and bathrooms the heating was under the floor.
Eltham’s standard of design and services is unique for a British domestic building, and is comparable to that of a luxury hotel or ocean liner such as Cunard’s Queen Mary.
I think generally we all found the Palace a little disappointing.
There wasn’t as much Art Deco on show as we expected.
However, what was there was very interesting and worth seeing.
The Palace was very busy with visitors and so taking photos without including a complete stranger in them proved difficult.
The wooden marquetry on the doors and panels especially caught my attention. It was superb.
The dining table and chairs – designed by Malacrida – had been sold off years ago and were discovered by a property store manager of Pinewood Studio while waiting to see the doctor.
He picked up a copy of a 1999 World of Interiors to pass the time and it featured an article on Eltham’s restoration.
He realised that the photo looked familiar and tore the page out and returned to Pinewood where he found the furniture in the store.
It had been modified over the years. He contacted English Heritage who subsequently purchased the furniture for Eltham.
Stephen Courtauld intended the house to provide a setting for his art collection.
In 1919 he endowed a scholarship in engraving at the British School of Rome, serving on its council from 1921 to 1947.
Royalty and celebrities continued to grace the Courtauld’s home and they held large dinner parties, annual summer fetes with dance bands and fireworks, and during the war fitted the basement out as a dormitory where they and their guests retreated during air raids.
Over 100 incendiary bombs fell on the estate during the Battle of Britain.
We enjoyed our visit to the Palace, but we didn’t get into the grounds due to lack of time.
It is a fascinating place, mainly because of the history and the technological innovations in use in the 1930s as far as we were concerned.
If you have enjoyed learning little about Eltham Palace and its history you can discover more from English Heritage.
Eltham Palace, Court Yard, Eltham, Greenwich, London SE9 5QE
Tel: +44 (0)20 8294 2548
English Heritage is the custodian of over 400 historic monuments, buildings and sites with over 10 million visitors per year.
Today my Guest Author is
Back in February I was honoured to be a guest on her blog and so today I am returning the favour.
Anna is going to tell us something about
A Day in the Life of
DI Gillian Marsh
Anna, who is DI Marsh and where can we find her?
DI Gillian Marsh is the troubled heroine of my crime series,
published by Accent Press, launched on 28th April 2016.
The series includes Swimming with Sharks,
Nothing to Lose,
Thicker than Blood,
and a few more titles yet to be confirmed.
Impressive, good luck on your publication day.
Let’s drop in on Gillian and see what she is up to:
Meet Gillian – Gillian Marsh, DI.
DI Gillian Marsh begins her day foraging in her fridge for scraps of food. She is hungry – always hungry, which comes as no surprise as her fridge is habitually empty. She doesn’t have the time or the inclination to replenish it.
Grocery shopping is the last thing on her list (if there is a list). She’ll eat anything that will pop into her mouth, she isn’t fussy. Fritz, her cat, is. He only consumes freshwater fish, such as trout or salmon, straight out of a sachet.
Right now, as Gillian inspects a mouldy piece of Edam, Fritz is yodelling at her feet, demanding instant gratification. First come – first served, and he was the first one to cross the kitchen threshold.
Considering Gillian’s appetite, her frame is surprisingly tiny. She metabolises food faster than you can say instant coffee. She feeds Fritz, and begins to strip mould off that piece of Edam. Two pieces of toast jump out of the toaster, and another two go in. Gillian doesn’t sit down at the table to eat.
She eats on the move, a chunk of Edam in one hand, a piece of toast in the other. Her dressing gown has slid off her left shoulder and parted along her left breast, revealing her naked body, toned and alert, and totally unresponsive to the basic demands of modesty.
Anyway, Gillian has lost her dressing gown belt. Corky might’ve chewed it, or she might’ve strung it in the garden to hang her wet laundry on (the washing line broke ages ago and there’s no man in the house to repair it). Gillian doesn’t really care to remember such trivial matters – her mind is constantly occupied with the case at hand.
She is thinking.
She is always thinking, and as we already discovered, she is always eating – Gillian is a master multitasker.
Because of her preoccupation with the case at hand, Gillian tends to forget a lot of incidentals, like most of her appointments, like the Sunday lunch at her parents’, like the fact that she was supposed to collect her daughter from the train station at four– like the fact that she even has a daughter.
And a set of parents.
She forgets these things, and there’s no one to remind her. Gillian is a loner. People tend to get on her nerves (and on various other parts of her anatomy). Especially people in authority, like DSI Scarfe – Scarface.
If only he’d just concentrate on playing golf and attending garden parties and let Gillian get on with her job!
Six toasts and a black coffee with three sugars later, Gillian heads for the shower. She likes standing in the shower until the water runs cold, thinking. She is inventorising evidence from her current murder investigation.
Inventorising is Gillian’s own linguistic invention, a cross between revising and inventorying, the mental equivalent of a hamster in a wheel.
Gillian is churning facts in her head, facts and suppositions, scenarios.
She doesn’t hear when the phone rings downstairs and Tara (her daughter) leaves a message that she won’t, after all, be on the 4 o’clock train – she’s off to meet Charlie’s parents.
Not that the message would make any difference to Gillian’s timetable (we know already she remembers nothing about collecting her daughter from the train station later today).
There is no time for thorough drying. The towel is wet anyway – Corky had dragged it to the bathroom floor and slept on it (he doesn’t have any fixed abode). Putting a tight pair of jeans on your body is a tricky proposition – Gillian performs one-legged manoeuvers on the landing while, at the same time, attempting to negotiate the stairs.
She succeeds; did I mention that she was a master multitasker?
She arrives at work on a Sunday, which is all the same to her. Says hi to DS Webber, who is there for reasons of his own. He wants to know what happened to her hair. ‘I washed it,’ she tells him, and shrugs. It probably stands on end resembling an electric orgasm only her hair can achieve.
But her hair is an incidental and, as we might guess, she has missed all of her hairdresser’s appointments and doesn’t even know that her hairdresser has given her the sack.
What she doesn’t know, won’t hurt her.
Gillian and Webber determine to interview their prime suspect in a particularly gruesome botched exorcism case – Father Dreyfus. To their surprise, they find Dreyfus in the middle of Sunday mass (is it really Sunday?).
Gillian wants to interrupt the proceedings but Webber tells her to wait, so they sit through the liturgy until at last Gillian remembers the Sunday roast at her parents’.
She only remembers it because her stomach rumbles – she’s bloody hungry…
Anna, if Gillian could get you to alter some part of her personality, if you were writing her from scratch, what (if anything) would it be do you think?
I’ve been wondering about that one aspect of Gillian’s personality she would ask me to alter, given a chance, and I think it would be her disregard for incidentals.
Deep down, I think, she’d love to remember them all because otherwise she will have to live in constant fear of waking up one day and not remembering her own name.
In that respect she does take after me, her creator.
Oh dear, that could be embarrassing.
Do give us the blurb on your new book Swimming with Sharks:
Swimming with Sharks is the first volume in the series.
When forty-something Nicola Eagles goes on the holiday of a lifetime to the Maldives, she never dreams she’ll fall in love – she’s too shy, too set in her ways. But then she meets someone who changes her life for ever…
Just when things seem to be going right for Nicola, though, she disappears without a trace.
Was it a voluntary disappearance, or was she abducted – or murdered? When her absence is noted back in the UK, DI Gillian Marsh is sent to investigate.
Gillian is a good detective but her life is dysfunctional to say the least – and as she delves deeper into the case, she realises that she may be out of her depth professionally too.
For Nicola’s disappearance is just the start…
If you’d like to find out more about Anna and her detective, DI Gillian Marsh you’ll find them by following these links.
My guest spot on Anna’s blog: https://annalegatblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/13/jane-risdon-her-life-through-books/
We both hope you enjoyed A Day in the Life of DI Gillian Marsh and that you’ll leave Anna some comments here. I am sure she’ll really enjoy finding out what you think.
Thanks so much Anna, it’s been fun.
My visit to Westminster Cathedral is the next part of my March ‘Jolly, ‘which I really hope you’ll enjoy as much as I did.
Following a wonderful visit to Westminster Abbey we walked up the road to Francis Street, it was raining, and the street was busy with late afternoon shoppers and tourists, but nothing could ruin my first view of the largest and most important Catholic church in England and Wales.
I have no idea why but I can’t recall having seen it when I lived and worked in London. Again, I put it down to youth and the excitement of the ‘Swinging Sixties,’ and imagine my mind was on music, fashion, and all that went with living through those wonderful, crazy times. Well, that’s my excuse.
Later this year a novel I’ve co-written with award-winning author Christina Jones, about life and times in the 1960s, is due for publication via Accent Press. Keep an eye out if you are interested in the music, fashion and general vibe of those times.
The Cathedral is set back from the road and couldn’t be more different to the Gothic Westminster Abbey. The bricks are red and the style of the cathedral is early Byzantine. I just knew we were in for a special treat.
So, here’s a little history for those who enjoy it and for those who don’t, please just skip to the photos.
1248: A weekly market and annual fair are authorised to be held by the Abbot of Westminster in Tothill Fields future site of the Cathedral.
1651: Following the defeat of Charles ll at the Battle of Worcester, the defeated Scottish prisoners are quartered in Tothill Fields. 1,200 of them are buried there.
1665: Tothill Fields is used as a burial site during the Great Plague (Black Death).
1834: Tothill Fields Prison is opened on the site of the future Cathedral.
1850: The Diocese of Westminster is created by Pope Pius lX at the Restoration of the Catholic Hierarchy, with Nicolas Wiseman as first Archbishop. After centuries of discrimination and persecution, Catholics were given full rights as citizens in 1829. In the decades following immigration (from Ireland, above all) swelled the numbers and confidence of the Catholic community, so that when Pope Pius lX restored the Catholic dioceses and bishops in 1850, it was ready to assume a prominent role in the life of this country.
1867: Initial purchase of a cathedral site near the present Cathedral for £16,500. 1868 – more land is purchased for £20,000.
1883: Tothill Fields Prison is demolished.
1884: Cardinal Manning buys part of the site of Tothill Fields Prison for £55,000, offset by the sale of land purchased in 1867-68.
Cardinal Manning had hesitated about spending any more money following the purchase of the site in the rapidly developing area of Victoria, preferring that is should first be used for schools and the relief of the poor. Cardinal Vaughan had no such qualms.
1885: Herbert Vaughan, third Archbishop of Westminster, begins building on the prison site, with John Francis Bentley as the chosen architect. The first foundation stone is laid on 29th June.
Cardinal Vaughan’s first preference was for a Gothic Cathedral or a Roman style basilica, but subsequently adopted the early Byzantine style, for three reasons: Firstly, there would be no possibility of comparison with the exquisite and authentic Gothic architecture of Westminster Abbey, and secondly Byzantine churches allow for a large, uncluttered space, most suitable to the Catholic liturgy, and thirdly because decoration in Byzantine churches is applied (rather than integral to the architecture), they can be built quickly and relatively inexpensively, while decoration is left to the resources of subsequent generations.
The structure of the Cathedral is complete. First regular celebration of daily Mass and Divine Office on the Cathedral. Edward Elgar conducts his first London performance of John Henry Newman’s ‘The Dream of Gerontius.’
1906: Unveiling and blessing of the Baldacchino at Christmas Midnight Mass.
1910: Consecration of the Cathedral.
1918: Eric Gill completes the Station of the Cross.
1930: The body of St John Southworth is enshrined in the Chapel of St. George and the English Martyrs.
1935: The Lady Chapel mosaics are completed.
1948: The Cathedral domes are clad with copper, now an attractive shade of green by the way.
1955: Statue of Our Lady of Westminster is placed in the Cathedral and in 1962 Mosaics in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel are completed.
1964: Marble work of the nave and narthex is completed and in 1975 construction of the piazza is completed, opening views of the Cathedral from Victoria Street.
1982: Pope John Paul ll visits and Mass is celebrated in the Cathedral.
1995: HM the Queen visits during centenary celebrations. It’s the first visit of a sovereign to a Roman Catholic liturgy since the Reformation.
2005: The body of Cardinal Vaughan is re-interred in the Chapel of St. Thomas of Canterbury.
2010: Pope Benedict XVl visits and a Papal Mass and blessing of the mosaic of St. David is held. The opening of the Treasure of the Cathedral Exhibition takes place.
We were amazed at the numbers of people inside who were sitting in quiet contemplation and prayer and also at the long queue for Confession. With this in mind we kept a respectful distance and didn’t intrude where they were.
NOTHING prepared us for the amazing ceilings or the explosion of glitz and glitter all around us. After the grey stone of Westminster Abbey, this was such a surprise. In fact the camera had a job coping with the dazzling reflection coming off so many surfaces.
It is a lovely building inside, quite surreal really. A stark contrast to Westminster Abbey. We spent most of our visit with our eyes turned upwards, marveling at the wonderful ceilings and each little chapel we entered almost made us gasp out loud.
Westminster Cathedral, Cathedral Clergy House, 42, Francis Street, London SW1P 1QW
Tel:+44(0) 20 7798 9055
Service Times; +44(0) 20 7798 9097
I hope you have enjoyed these photos and the brief history of Westminster Cathedral. Let me know your thoughts. All photos are (c) Jane Risdon 2016; All rights reserved. The next installment of my March ‘jolly’ follows soon.
Today I am pleased to welcome Mystery writer Gerald Darnell to my blog as my special guest.
I’ve asked him to tell us something about himself and his writing.
I was actually born in Florida (where I now live) but grew up in a small West Tennessee town. After graduation from college (University of Tennessee) I joined the working world and remained until my retirement in 2007.
My working role was mostly as an executive for a few Fortune 100 companies, and I spent the last 20 years working with a major computer manufacturer.
But, basically what I did was travel – and I definitely did a lot of that. Out on Monday AM and back on Friday PM – flying around the world. Somehow I managed to find a wonderful woman and made her my wife. And we ‘somehow’ managed to have and raise a wonderful daughter together.
Incidentally, my wife is a school principal so I understand the rules and FOLLOW them well.
I’ve lived in a number of places, going basically where my company told me to go. However, except for a short stint in Boston I managed to remain mostly in the south – Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky and Florida.
My travels did give me opportunity to read, and I read a lot of books on a lot of airplanes. They are mostly in the attic now, but when I open one an aged boarding pass will usually fall out – reminding of how long it had been since reading the book and where I was going.
Do you think your location (where you live now) is important as a source of inspiration and setting for your work, or doesn’t it matter? Do you find the story finds its own location?
Oddly where I live now has little to do with my writing inspiration – it’s where I lived before. My novels take place in the 1960’s around Memphis, TN and a small southern town, Humboldt. That’s where I grew up.
My character, Carson Reno, has an office in the Memphis Peabody Hotel and manages his Private Detective business from there. In the late 60’s I ALSO had an office in the Memphis Peabody Hotel, so my fiction has a lot of FACT to it…sometimes.
Tell us how you first began writing and why. What first inspired you to write? Was it a life-long urge pushed to the background whilst you earned your way in the world, or have you always written?
My first experience in writing (for money) was penning stories for outdoor magazines. In addition to traveling, I also spent a lot of time in the woods and wilderness – fishing and hunting. It wasn’t much money, but it sure was an experience seeing my name in print for the first time.
Along with reading while traveling around the world, I also kept some pretty good notes about my adventures. One day, 14 years later I decided to organize these notes and put them on paper – this became my first (and only) non-fiction work,
‘Don’t Wake Me Until It’s Time to Go’.
How do you describe your writing and genre? Do you think you fit into a particular box or have you created your own?
I definitely write mystery novels, there is no question about that.
I have two series published ‘Carson Reno Mystery Series’ and ‘Jack Sloan Mystery Series’.
The first is about a Private Detective in the 1960’s and the latter is about a ‘down on his luck’ former cop who travels some of the darker areas of Miami and other cities during the late 1990’s.
I call my writing ‘Fiction for Fun’.
I use real places with semi-real characters to tell a story that didn’t happen…but could have.
Who or what inspires you?
Interesting question and I’m not sure of the answer. I write for a hobby and simply enjoy the task.
Getting into a novel and having the characters talk to me is inspiration enough, I guess.
Whose books do you read and do you always read similar genres to your own? If not, why not?
I spoke earlier about my reading habits and I’m sorry to say that I don’t get to do enough of that anymore.
But…yes I would say the majority of the thousands of books I’ve read were in similar genre to what I write today.
Who are your favourite authors and why?
I don’t get to read enough (as I just said). However, I try to keep up with John Grisham – mixing in with James Patterson and Robert Ludlum. No panty waist stories for me – I want my books full of mystery and excitement!
Can you recall the first book as an adult you read?
Agatha Christie ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’
Do you have a brain spewing ideas or does an event set the little grey cells dancing? What kicks an idea into words?
My motto is ‘a little libation never spoiled a book’.
Never really ‘brain spewing’ ideas, but a little bourbon and water tend to move things along faster.
Tell us about the first book you ever had published and how this came about – are you self-published or do you have a publisher?
I have used publishers and I have self-published.
My first book took 14 years to write, so I had plenty of time to think about. Publishers are fine…sometimes. However, gratification or failure can certainly be realized faster with self-publishing.
How many books have you written and do you have a favourite and why?
I have written 15 fiction novels and one non-fiction.
My favourite is my Carson Reno Mystery called ‘the Illegals’.
Not sure why, but I guess because some of the story is closer to real life than I wanted or perhaps because of things that were happening in my personal life while writing it.
Please list your books and a little piece about each.
14 Carson Reno Mystery Series books.
Period set is the 1960’s and the place is Memphis, TN.
Carson is a Private Detective along the lines of Phillip Marlow or Sam Spade.
The books contain humour, period relevant pictures, no graphic violence and no graphic sex. All are PG13 rated.
1 Jack Sloan Mystery novel.
Quite different from Carson Reno, this book contains all the things Carson Reno books don’t!
1 non-Fiction. “Don’t Wake Me Until It’s Time to Go’.
A humorous story about me and my adventures in the woods and in the business world.
Do you write in long-hand or are you straight to the computer when working?
Only notes in long-hand, all writing is on the computer.
Do you ever stare at that blank page and wonder what the hell? How do you motivate yourself? How do you work?
As I said earlier, ‘a little libation never spoiled a good book.’
Do you work silence or do you have a soundtrack as you write, and if so whose music do you play?
Mostly silence, but I do enjoy Jazz music sometimes when it fits my mood.
When you get an idea do you have the full story in your head and write from beginning to end, or does your story just spill out as you write without any real idea where it is going? Does it write itself?
Never a full story, my characters take me where they want. Occasionally we will go back and turn left instead of right, but more often than not they know where the story needs to go.
Have you any formal training in writing? Taken classes in Creative Writing for example? If not, would you ever consider it or do you think learning on the job is the best route to take?
No…no and no.
I wasn’t even a good English student in school, but some of my friends tell me that our old High School English teacher would be proud of what she created in me.
If they only knew…
What are your aspirations as an author? Do you want to be a NY Times best-seller or are you writing for your own satisfaction; fame and fortune would be a nice by-product but not your sole motivation?
I write as a hobby, not for fame and fortune.
I have another motto that I like to share with young authors “Don’t write to get rich, write to enrich others’.
Describe your writing day – or do you write at night?
Do you write every day?
I write usually at night and I don’t miss many days at my keyboard.
What are you working on now?
My second Jack Sloan novel, it’s called ‘Ghost.’
I understand you are about to have a new book published?
Pre-released and available for purchase on May 1. It’s called ‘Murder and More’
Good luck with this.
Please provide links and back cover blurb.
Website link http://carsonreno.wix.com/murderandmore
Here is back cover blurb.
Carson’s feud with a local crime reporter continues, and then suddenly the husband of his client is brutally murdered – a husband he’s been hired to investigate. Mysterious characters weave a web of blackmail and suspense, while leaving Carson with more clients than he can handle.
The Memphis police have warned Carson to back off, but an employee of a friend is missing from a murder scene and he’s determined to find her and the killer.
Follow Carson to New Orleans, Humboldt, Memphis and Florida where he chases numerous suspects trying to track down a missing person and the killer he’s been hired to find.
Enjoy this unusual adventure for Carson Reno, as he struggles to solve the case of ‘Murder and More’.
Wow thanks so much.
If you wish, share a couple of paragraphs or a short chapter from one of your books here.
From my most recent book ‘Dead End’
A filthy mixture of snow, ice, Arkansas mud and blood filled my mouth – the gritty mess was making it almost impossible to breathe. Eyes still closed, and trying not to choke, I rolled my head to the left and spit the nauseating mixture onto the bright snow. Apparently my nose was broken, because after relieving my mouth of the irritation, it quickly filled with the warm and sweet taste of blood – my blood. Oddly, despite the trauma of the last few minutes, my thoughts and head were remarkably clear – making me wonder if I might be in the early stages of shock – I’d never been there before.
Silence was everywhere, only disturbed by the sound of light snow falling, and thankfully covering my dry lips. I licked at the welcome moisture and slowly opened my eyes – not knowing what I might see.
A fuzzy grey sky, white falling snow and fading daylight stared back at me – looking down at where I lay – in a dirty, wet ditch, somewhere in Arkansas.
The human body is a smart and complex machine. When any of the five senses aren’t working properly, it directs another to pick up the slack. Without sound or vision, my suffering nose was receiving input about my current situation and relaying that information to the brain – it didn’t like what it was hearing! The smells of burning rubber, radiator fluid, raw gasoline and the heat associated with a crashed car engine were reminding me of why I was in this ditch and why my mouth was full of blood – the real world was coming back and it wasn’t pretty!
Our getaway was cut short by the wrong turn down a dead-end road – but pursuers had left us no choice. The dark, snowy, lonely roads of rural Arkansas weren’t familiar to the driver, and what seemed like the perfect opportunity for escape, quickly turned into disaster.
Straining to add vision to the messages from my nose, I looked to my right and confirmed what I already knew. The car was resting nose down in the ditch and only a few feet from where I lay. Steam rose from a broken radiator, and its warm fluids dripped onto the snow; then the melted mess found its way to the bottom of the filthy trench I was in.
The engine stopped running with impact, but somehow bent and crushed headlights remained on – dimly shining against the ditch bank and tall grass. Light reflecting back on the destroyed car, painted a surreal and bizarre picture for my weak eyes.
An open passenger door was the reason I was in this ditch, and my ejection spared me most of the shock from the crash. I knew my nose was broken, and I certainly had other injured parts not discovered; but I was alive – for now. Somehow I’d managed to avoid the bullets, and only escaped the violent collision by choosing the peril of jumping from a moving vehicle – unfortunately the driver wasn’t that lucky!
The head and face made a perfect imprint in the smashed windshield – open and lifeless eyes staring at me through the bloody glass and asking for help. I had none to offer. Impact from the sudden stop against the ditch bank was enormous – however, I don’t suspect the body felt a thing. Moments before running out of road, a bullet crashed through the driver’s side window; taking most of their head with it, before slamming into the dashboard.
Even knowing it was useless, instinct told me to get up…get up and go check on my friend – the one I had promised to protect. Whoever fired the bullet that removed most of my friend’s head was probably only a few yards away and already rushing over to finish their work.
Unfortunately, my .38 wasn’t in its holster where it belonged – I knew that. During the short and speedy chase I had managed to fire two rounds at our pursuer – neither one having much effect on their aggressiveness. The gun was in my hand when I left the vehicle, but it wasn’t there now – apparently separating itself from me somewhere in the process.
Weapon or no weapon, I needed to get out of this ditch and on my feet – stand up to run or stand up to fight. Either way, I needed to stand up!
Putting my right arm against the soft ground, I rose slightly before moving my left – the pain was deafening! I slumped back into the mud, cursing myself for letting this happen. My left arm was useless, either broken when I left the vehicle or from another bullet that I never felt.
Looking away from the carnage I closed my eyes to help tolerate the pain and tried to recall recent events. Events that led me to a ‘one horse’ town in Arkansas, events that had killed my friend and events that put me in this dirty snow filled ditch without the ability to get out!
It started only a few days ago – which now seemed like forever. A client I was hired to protect – a simple task – had gone badly. Now, I have a dead friend, a dead client and a task not so simple.
Many thanks for agreeing to be my guest author Gerald, it’s been a pleasure having you here and I wish you much success.
If this has whetted your appetite for Gerald’s books do check him out here:
Thanks for visiting here today and finding out about Gerald and his writing. Do let us know what you think. x
Every now and again I like to have a change from writing about writing so:
Welcome to the second of my recent ‘jollies.’
I am so happy my photos and posts about a few of my visits to some of our great houses, gardens, cathedrals, churches and other places of interest, are so well received.
Your comments are always welcome and much appreciated.
My last ‘jolly,’ to Waltham Abbey Church was very popular and I learned a great deal from those commenting and telling me about their own visits and what they’d learned of the history of the Abbey Church. Thanks so much everyone.
The day following our visit to Waltham we visited Westminster Abbey.
A year or so ago I was supposed to take a guided tour around the Abbey with my younger brother and two of his friends, one of whom was using a wheelchair, the other friend was her carer. Sadly, due to a few problems before we left home, with our disabled friend, we arrived at the Abbey just as they closed the doors at 1pm.
Apparently the Abbey closes to tourists at 1pm on a Saturday. Something we failed to know.
We attempted to gain entrance to St Margaret’s Church close to the abbey so as not to go home without our fiend at least visiting one place of interest after so much effort.
After a bit of a to-do we succeeded in getting the wheelchair up the steps kindly helped by members of the public, only to be told off by some security guys who appeared from nowhere and insisted they find and lay a ramp for us.
It seems that they don’t usually allow wheelchair access. We had the not so funny experience of being half up and half down the steps waiting for the ramp to be laid, so we could wobble up the rest of the way on the ramp. Pushing the chair was a feat in itself and all three of us had to push.
By the time we entered the church our friend in the wheelchair had had enough of it all. She was tired and cold and disappointed. It was all getting too much for someone as frail as she. So we only had a glance inside the church before she wanted to leave. The ramp had disappeared (health and safety reasons apparently) so we had to carry her and the chair back down the steps.
Not very impressive.
Before I leave St Margaret’s behind here is a little blurb about it.
In Westminster Abbey the public were not allowed inside the Quire area which was reserved for the monks , so the monks built St Margaret’s for public use. The abbot appointed a monk to take services there.
The present church was built between 1482-1523. In 1614 it became a ‘parish church of the House of Commons’. The front pew on the south side is reserved for the exclusive uses of the Speaker.
The stained glass windows are gorgeous. The east window was made in the Netherlands around 1526 but not installed until 1758. It commemorates the marriage of Henry V111 to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.
Over the west door is a window commemorating Sir Walter Raleigh, who was buried beneath the altar.
We were amazed to learn that Frank Sinatra is among the names of people from around the world who donated money towards the restoration of St Margaret’s at the end of the 20th century.
We were all bitterly disappointed but managed to enjoy the rest of our afternoon elsewhere and we even found time for lunch next to Tower Bridge.
We even managed to see the Jubilee Barge which has been used by HM The Queen
So back to the Abbey.
Anyway, this time my brother and I were early and spent several hours wandering around and enjoying its splendour.
I know we didn’t see everything – I think you’d need several visits and I suggest if you decide to go you look at their website and plan what you really don’t want to miss seeing.
Also use the audio guide, as we did, otherwise you’ll possibly walk past so much without knowing what you are missing.
Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside the Abbey, and of course reproducing photos from their brochure is not legal, so my apologies for the sparsity of my own photos.
Westminster Abbey is a magnificent building which I’m sure you are all very familiar with. Because of the vastness of the place and the enormous number of things to see I can’t cover everything I would have liked, so I thought I would give a few snippets of information, perhaps not that widely known.
There is a lot of information about the Abbey with photos, on their website.
I used to work not far from it and the Houses of Parliament, when I was at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which back then had various offices around the city, as well as offices in the Old Scotland Yard building – The Curtis Green building – where I worked.
If you recall the TV series – in the days of Black and White only – called No Hiding Place, you will probably be familiar with the building which housed Scotland Yard back then: the opening shot has a black Police car coming out of the parking area, between two brick pillars, with its bell ringing.
Strange then, that all the time I lived and worked in London, I never managed to go and look around either of them. But, it was the Swinging Sixties and I was young, and my head was elsewhere obviously.
My older self is horrified that I didn’t .
I didn’t realise so many people are buried or memorialised in the Abbey – more than 3,000 people in fact – and there are more than 600 tombs and monuments. They are running out of space and so many have stained glass window memorials to commemorate their lives, or the wealth that enabled them to buy their piece of immortality.
Founded as a large Benedictine Monastery it is uncertain exactly when the first church was built upon this site, the Abbey has served not just as a place of worship, but has witnessed the coronation of kings and queens for over a thousand years and still welcomes members of the royal family to services throughout the year and serves a local congregation and others who visit.
It has been at the heart of the nation, standing alongside the Houses of Parliament, The Supreme Court and the offices of government and is a symbol of the connection between Church and State, and welcomes visiting heads of state and other distinguished visitors at many special services marking occasions of national celebration and mourning.
George ll as the last monarch buried in the Abbey, but royal funeral services are still held in the church. Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, in 2001, had their funeral services held there. The Queen Mother’s service was the 13th funeral of a queen consort, the previous one being that of King Edward V11’s consort, Queen Alexandra, in 1923. The first one was that of Queen Edith, wife of Edward the Confessor, in 1075.
The first church built upon the site stood on an island which, at the time, was called Thorney Island – a swampy inhospitable place, then on the outskirts of London, surrounded by the tributaries of the Thames. Myths and legends have sprung up to explain its origins.
One such story says that King Sebert (died AD 616), king of the East Saxons, founded the church in 604. Monks in the 14th century exhumed what they thought were his bones from the cloisters and reburied then in a place of honour by the high altar. However in 2003 archaeologists found what they now believe is the king’s grave, miles away, in Essex.
Those of you who have read my post about Waltham Abbey Church will recall that King Sebert (Sabert) also founded a wooden church in the area of the present choir in that abbey in c610.
It is thought the monks embellished a lot of these stories claiming ancient origins, to establishment of their abbey – the west minster, or church – was older than St Paul’s Cathedral, the east minster. We do know that in 960 Dunstan, the bishop of London, brought 12 Benedictine monks from Glastonbury to found a monastery at Westminster.
100 years later King Edward the Confessor founded his church on the site and from then on the history is certain. Unfortunately the day we visited his tomb was closed off from visitors – we only got a glimpse of it from its rear.
Edward the Confessor’s church was the first in England to be built in the shape of a cross with north and south trancepts forming its arms. If, like us, you enter the abbey via the north transcept, you’ll be impressed with the height of the vaulting. At 102 feet, it is the highest in Britain.
The area called the Quire was the scene of a horrific murder in the Middle Ages. Back then criminals could seek sanctuary within the abbey and once within the precincts the law could not reach them. In 1378 50 of the king’s men ignored the rights of sanctuary and chased a prisoner into the Quire. One of the soldiers apparently ‘clove his head to the very brains,’ and also murdered a monk who tried to rescue the prisoner.
We saw the Cosmati pavement, something I was eager to see. It is in front of the high altar and well worth seeing. It is one of the Abbey’s most precious possessions – a medieval pavement designed and laid in 1268. The abbot of the monastery, Richard de Ware had admired the pavements laid in Italian churches and invited them to England to lay a similar one in the Abbey. It consists of 80,000 pieces of porphyry, glass and onyx set into Purbeck marble.
The patterns recreated also incorporate an inscription in brass letters, which seemed to foretell the end of the Universe as the year 19,683 after the Creation.
The 700 year old pavement was recently cleaned and restored which took 2 years and was completed in time for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in April 2011.
In Henry V11’s Lady Chapel, at the far east end, is the RAF Chapel, dedicated to those who died in the Battle of Britain in 1940 (World War 11) and was dedicated in 1947. A small hole in the wall, now covered in glass, was made by a bomb that fell just outside the chapel.
Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) and several of his colleagues, who were responsible for the trying and beheading of King Charles 1 in 1649, were also buried in this are, but their bodies were thrown out after the monarchy was restored in 1660.
In the north side of the Lady Chapel is the tomb of Queen Elizabeth 1 (1553-1603) and in the vault beneath her coffin rests her half-sister Mary (1516-1558). In the north aisle is an ornate casket designed by Christopher Wren, set into the wall, and thought to be the remains of the ‘Princes in the Tower,’ 13 year old Edward V (1470-83) and 11 year old Richard, Duke of York, (1472-83).
In a vault beneath the eastern end of the south aisle are members of the Stuart dynasty, including Charles 11, William 111 and Mary, and also Queen Anne. The vault was last entered in 1976 when there was a suspected gas leak – there wasn’t one – but what they did discover was that Charles 11’s coffin had collapsed and it was possible to see his funeral clothes and his buckled shoes, plus the ring he wore on his little finger.
Westminster Abbey is a wonderful place to visit, I could have stayed there for days, obviously there’s so much history to take in and the carvings and architecture alone would keep me more than happy, but alas, there is only so much time…we had to leave. I was very disappointed at not being able to take photos except in a few areas, however, I hope you enjoy those I have taken. I don’t feel I have done our visit justice given the restrictions, but hope that you’ve discovered something new and of interest in spite of this.
Our next ‘jolly’ will be just as interesting and with photos. After the Abbey we wandered off for something to eat and then visited Westminster Cathedral…talk about a lovely surprise. I had no idea….but that’s for my next post.
Westminster Abbey, London SW1P 3PA
Tel: +44 (0)20 7222 5152 Email: email@example.com
Check their website for times of services, events and when tourists are allowed in.
Photos (c) Jane Risdon All Rights Reserved unless otherwise stated.
Do pop back and leave me your comments and share your experiences. Always fab to hear from you.
A couple of weeks ago I was taken on another series of what I call ‘Jollies.’
Those who pop in here from time to time know what I mean – a ‘jolly’ is when I am taken somewhere wonderful for a treat. My latest series of ‘jollies’ was absolutely awesome and I shall post each visit in due course.
Today I thought I would share my visit to Waltham Abbey Church.
I have visited the Church before and I took loads of photos, but for some really weird reason not one of the photos survived my camera locking. So this time I was feeling rather paranoid about the whole visit and decided to use my phone camera.
Waltham Abbey Church has been on the site it now occupies for a 1,000 years and a church has been on the site since the 7th century. When people first worshiped here they had to trek across fields to reach it. Today we parked in a busy street surrounded by lovely old buildings, and walked about 20 feet to the main entrance.
We picked a fabulous afternoon to visit. No-one else was inside the church other than my brother and I and the Verger, David Smith, and a man, Jonathan Lilley, playing a grand piano to the accompaniment of a young Chinese Flautist, Yao Yao Lu, rehearsing for a lunchtime performance the following day of French Virtuoso Flute Minor and C.P.E Bach’s Hamburg Sonata. The young girl was from a music college and don’t be surprised if you to hear great things of her in time to come; amazing.
We crept around as you can imagine, stopping now and again to watch the performance which sounded so wonderful throughout the church. Our own private virtuoso performance. Such luck.
A small wooden church was founded by King Sabert of the East Saxons in the area of the present choir c610. Offa the Great, King of Mercia founded the first stone church c780 – some of its foundations support the present church.
The stone church was erected by Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex, later King Harold ll, in the 1060s, and replaced the earlier one which had housed a famous cross, brought from Somerset c1020. Harold had been healed of paralysis after praying before the cross and it remained a focus of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages.
The life-sized stone cross with a carved figure of Christ on it, was found buried at the top of St Michael’s Hill in Montacute, Somerset and brought to Offa’s church in Waltham on the orders of Tovi the Proud, Lord of both Montacute and Waltham. It became and object of pilgrimage – The Holy Cross of Waltham.
The carvings and woodwork are breath-taking. We wandered around, all alone with haunting music of the rehearsal filling our ears. The acoustics were just perfect. If we hadn’t got plans for the following day, we would have returned to hear the recital. The Verger told us that they frequently hold such events.
A community of 12 secular canons (priests) was established by Harold to serve the church and parishes belonging to it. The canons lived in the town and most were married.
On his way from the Battle of Stamford Bridge to face William of Normandy at Hastings, Harold stopped at Waltham to pray. The Sacristan, Turkill, recorded that the figure of Christ bowed to him and afterwards looked down instead of upwards, which was taken to be a bad omen.
Harold was killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and his body was brought to Waltham and buried before the high altar. Today it is believed that his grave lies outside the east end of the present building which is greatly reduced in size since Harold’s day.