My Review of Bethulia by Thorne Moore #TuesdayBookBlog #DiamondPress

I have read all of Thorne Moore’s books, so far, and I can honestly say this is one author who can turn her hand to any genre.

From her days when she was published with Honno and her domestic noir stories such as: Motherlove, to being published by Lume and the enthralling Llys y Garn books that hold a blend of gothic mystery and family drama, for example: Shadows, to her ventures into Indie Publishing and her powerful Sci Fi novels, beginning with: Inside Out, and now as an author of Diamond Press (her first book with them being Fatal Collision) this author has a talent for compelling plots and characters (to quote a well-known cliche) that leap off the page and live with the reader well after the story is finished.

And so it is with Bethulia.

Book Description:

Alison, Danny, Jude. Three girls bound closer than sisters. Nothing can divide them.

Until Alison falls for Simon Delaney. Handsome, successful and ambitious, what woman wouldn’t want him? He’s surely her perfect husband. So why does she commit suicide?

If it is suicide. The police say yes, except for the driven DC Rosanna Quillan. She says no, but she can only watch as Jude and Danny fight for the prize – the widower. How far would either of them go to have him?

My Review:

This is a story that grips from the start; the death of one of three women who have been friends from childhood. Initially drawn together by grief as young girls, and now, two of them again, Danny, Jude, as young women, with the apparent suicide of the other, Alison.

I say, ‘apparently’, because, thrown into the mix we have an unreliable narrator, the protagonist, Judith Granger. Brought back to England, from her work abroad by the dreadful news, her part of the story is told in first person point of view. And, to be honest, I was completely taken in by her actions. As always, I won’t give any spoilers in my review, but this is so difficult with Bethulia, because there are two plots here, but the same scenarios: one ambiguous, one explicit. And it takes the reader quite a while to get to that, “oh!” moment; that realisation of what is going on.

Because there is also an omniscient narrator, who follows the other characters, and relates their actions in a third person perspective.

And then there is Simon Delaney, the antagonist, who tells his story from his viewpoint, – a man it is easy to dislike, distrust, yet still wonder about….

And each point of view brings conflicting emotions in the reader. And that’s about all I can say about the storyline. Suffice it to say, it’s riveting.

And, as always in Thorne Moore’s novels, every character, even the minor ones, have distinctive characteristics and dialogue that bring an instant image of them. The major players are multi-layered, well rounded, their personalities evolving; being revealed, as the book progresses. Those you learn to love, those who from the beginning reveal themselves to be … shall we say… dubious ( or worse!) Besides the three main characters, Alison, Danny, Jude, I particularly like DC Rosanna Quillan. There is a small but dramatic twist at the end of Bethulia, which makes me wonder if we will hear more of her.

A short word about the settings in Bethulia. Whether it’s the interior of police stations, churches, or the description of houses such as Jude’s memory of Alison’s childhood home, Summervale, “a forbiddingly brown house”, or the secluded converted boathouse, Bethulia, which was to become a haven for Danny, or the snow-filled streets of Oxford, and the ethereal Teifi estuary in Wales,the portrayals give an evocative sense of place.

This is a well written story told in the usual confident and erudite writing style of this author, weaving themes and plot twists effortlessly throughout. As you may have guessed, I really enjoyed this book, and I would thoroughly recommend Bethulia to any reader who enjoys psychological and action thrillers with a strong plot and and memorable characters. You won’t be disappointed.

About Thorne Moore:

Thorne was born in Luton and graduated from Aberystwyth University (history) and from the Open University (Law). She set up a restaurant with her sister and made miniature furniture for collectors. She lives in Pembrokeshire, which forms a background for much of her writing, as does Luton.

She writes psychological mysteries, or “domestic noir,” exploring the reason for crimes and their consequences, rather than the details of the crimes themselves. and her first novel, “A Time For Silence,” was published by Honno in 2012, with its prequel, “The Covenant,” published in 2020. “Motherlove” and “The Unravelling” were also published by Honno. “Shadows,” published by Lume, is set in an old mansion in Pembrokeshire and is paired with “Long Shadows,” also published by Lume, which explains the history and mysteries of the same old house. She’s a member of Crime Cymru. Her latest crime novel, “Fatal Collision is published by Diamond Crime (2022)

She also writes Science Fiction, including “Inside Out” (2021) and “Making Waves” (2022)

Links:

Website: https://thornemoore.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thorne.moore.7

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThorneMoore

Places in our Memories: With Kathy Miles #poet #MondayBlogs #Memories

Today I’m really pleased to welcome wordsmith extraordinaire, Kathy Miles, to tell you about her memories. I’ve known Kathy and her works for some years, and today, for a change, I’m going to leave it to her to express her thought on Places in our Memories.

The places in our memories are constantly changing. New insight or knowledge might lead you to view a cherished place with different eyes; sometimes the place itself will have altered beyond recognition over the years, and your memory of it becomes elusive, so you ask yourself whether what you remember is the truth, or built upon a desire for it to be so. Sometimes they vanish. I live near the coast at Aberaeron, and sea-mists often obliterate the landscape so completely that it becomes hard to remember what it looks like on a hot summer’s day:

Some days the land is stolen from itself,

chimneys and slate roofs swallowed, village

and pit-head lost to this cold mouth of mist

as it muffles hymn and chapel bell, silences

the scold of crows that crowd around

the plough like a flock of ranting preachers.

(‘Vanish’)

In my case, these problems of recall are compounded by a breakdown I suffered in my mid-forties, which wiped away a good many of my childhood memories. What remains is fragmentary and fleeting; a series of impressions that appear occasionally, like landmarks emerging from a sea mist, or footprints that might at any moment be washed away by the tide.

Growing up in Liverpool, the sea and river were constants. My paternal grandfather and great-grandfather had been merchant seamen, and their love of the sea passed to my father and on to me. I remember standing with my Dad on the Cazzy, the Cast-Iron Shore on the banks of the Mersey, where the sand was rust-coloured from the residue of an old iron foundry. Dad was wearing a shirt and tie as always, jacket slung across his shoulders. His face had already reddened in the heat. We kept a wary eye on the tide. The river creeps quickly and silently over those mudflats, brimming up as suddenly as an unwatched bath. A slub of saltmarsh, shards of driftwood, and just up the river bank, old shipyards festering in the sunshine. From there you can see the outline of Welsh mountains across to Moel Famau. But it was the water Dad was staring at, with a kind of longing, as if he wished he could be whisked away to far horizons.

It was inevitable that our annual holidays would be taken by the sea. Cemaes Bay, Cornwall, and later on, Guernsey and Sark.  Mum would pack a picnic basket with boiled eggs and sandwiches, a thermos of tea, and the three of us walked to the nearest beach, stopping on the way to pick field mushrooms for next day’s breakfast. I’d head for the nearest rocks, fishing net in hand, and was soon absorbed in a rock-pool, catching tiny shrimps and sometimes a rockling or blenny. Dad fished for mackerel from the shore, whilst Mum would scoop out limpets to use as bait, and patiently rewind my crabbing line when I’d tangled the twine.

Home in Liverpool was a small bungalow, built on farmland in the 1930s as the edges of the city expanded. It was eight miles from the Mersey, but still close enough for us to be able to hear the ferry hooters blasting out in chorus to mark the start of each new year. Dad took the train to work each morning, and in the evenings I’d race up the road to West Allerton station and stand on the bridge as his train came in, usually getting covered in steam and smuts. If trains can be special memories of place, then these old steam trains are mine, with their plushly-covered seats, leather strap to pull up the window so the door could be opened, and pictures hung above the luggage rack. Even now I still feel the excitement of boarding a train, the promise of new experiences and unknown places.

At 18, having failed most of my A levels, I went to work in the Everyman Theatre for a year. I had to retake my exams if I had any hope of getting into university, and we also needed the money. The Everyman at that time was a shabby building in Hope Street, in desperate need of renovation, but with a fabulous bistro in the basement run by Paddy Byrne and Dave Scott. My job was a combination of ASM and general dogsbody. I helped out in the wardrobe department, sourced props, answered the telephone and manned the box office. On one occasion I even appeared on stage, though as I was crammed into the frame of a large fabric-covered snake, it was hardly going to make my fame and fortune as an actor. The company then included Antony Sher, Jonathan Pryce, Roger Sloman, Alison Steadman and David Goodland, and the director was Alan Dossor, who produced gritty, contemporary agitprop plays.  The actors shared a single dressing-room; costumes were often held up by safety pins or my dangerously-loose tacking stitches, and in one notable production of Caucasian Chalk Circle, Roger Sloman was carted off to hospital after being hit on the head by a large iron hook that descended from the ceiling at the wrong time. It was chaotic, but it was also fun. Everyone worked as a team, and when I left – very reluctantly – to go to university, I was presented with a large publicity poster of the whole cast as a present. Although the Everyman is now a state-of-the-art modern theatre, I’ll never forget that old building, which stank of fags and paint, sweaty tights and damp wood, and to me was as glamorous as anything in the West End.

When I came to Lampeter, however, I finally found my special place. The Everyman had been a wonderful experience, but I’d never felt truly at home in Liverpool. My Mum in later years said that Wales had stolen me away, and she was right. I had grown up with Welsh-speaking aunts, and from the moment I stepped off the rickety old Richards bus that brought me from Aberystwyth, I felt I had truly found my cynefin. Here I was near my beloved sea, and a landscape I instantly felt rooted to. In 1995 I published an anthology of poems and photographs, The Third Day; Landscape and the Word (Gomer Press), commissioning work from poets such as Dannie Abse, RS Thomas, Gillian Clarke, Sheenagh Pugh and Raymond Garlick. Travelling around Wales to photograph old Welsh sites gave me new places to tuck away in my memory, including the then-unrestored Aberglasney, where the photographer and I kissed surreptitiously in the Yew Tunnel, and a different chapter of my life began. If my memory of those early years is sometimes veiled in sea mist, and many of the places of my childhood no longer exist, the ones I have gained since then provide a constant source of delight, and inspiration for my writing.

About Kathy:

Born in Liverpool, Kathy Miles is a poet and short story writer living in West Wales. Her work has appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, and her fourth full collection of poetry, Bone House, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2020. Kathy is a previous winner of the Bridport Prize, as well as the Welsh Poetry, Second Light, Wells Literature, Shepton Mallet Snowdrop Festival and PENfro poetry competitions. She is a regular book reviewer and workshop facilitator, has co-edited The Lampeter Review, and guest-edited Artemis magazine.

Poetry Collections

Bone House  (Indigo Dreams, 2020)

Inside the Animal House (Rack Press, 2018)

Gardening With Deer (Cinnamon Press, 2016)

The Shadow House (Cinnamon Press, 2009)

The Third Day: Landscape and the Word (Gomer, 1995)

The Rocking Stone (Poetry Wales Press, 1988)

Other

Ugly as Sin and other clichés (Pentad Books, December 2020)

Links

https://www.indigodreamspublishing.com/kathy-miles

http://welshwriters.co.uk/kathy-miles/

http://www.poetrypf.co.uk/kathymilesbiog.shtml

Famous Sisters: Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell and Laura Makepeace Stephen #FamousSisters #relationships #families #artists #authors #lostsisters #Sisters #PreRaphelites #MondayBlogs

“Words are an impure medium; better far to have been born into the silent kingdom of paint.” © Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf and her sister, the artist, Vanessa Bell, were the daughters of the historian Sir Leslie Stephen and Julia Prinsep Duckworth.

Left: Vanessa Bell, 1902. Right: Virginia Woolf, 1902. Images via Wikimedia Commons © https://tinyurl.com/5n7z87cs

Their mother, Julia Prinsep Stephen had become a widow in 1870 after her first husband, Herbert Duckworth, died of a burst abscess. She already had three children:  George, Stella, and Gerald. The latter was born shortly after Herbert’s death in 1870.

Eight years later Julia married Leslie Stephen. English society in the late 1800s was built on a rigid social class system, and as a graduate of Eton and Cambridge, a respected literary critic and biographer, Leslie was seen as one of the literary aristocracy. He was also a widower and father of a girl, Laura, who had a learning disability, and who, incidentally, was the granddaughter of the Victorian novelist William Makepeace Thackeray.

Laura Stephen at Earlswood Asylum: Reproduced by permission of Surrey History Centre © https://tinyurl.com/36sj5mc5

Despite Leslie doting on Laura as a tiny child, by the time she was nine it was obvious that something was wrong; she was slow to talk or read, and veered from total fatigue to violent tantrums. It was a problem for both her father and Julia (although Julia, as friend of the family, had already partly taken on the role as a surrogate parent after Leslie’s wife, Minny, had died when Laura was five). But marriage and producing four children in quick succession: Vanessa  in 1879, Thoby  in 1880, Virginia in 1882, and  Adrian  in 1883, increased the difficulties for the two parents. Neither of them were equipped to deal with a child who had special needs.

Besides being agnostics, both Leslie and Julia were humanists, who advocated the rights for women to be the same as for men, to reach their own conclusions in matters of religion. Yet both believed that the home was the true basis for morality, a sanctuary free from corruption, and therefore home was the place for women. So Julia, who despaired that she was unable to discipline Laura, or train her to carry out domestic chores, apparently felt that her stepdaughter was deliberately wilful. And Leslie, who, during a time when society viewed anyone who was not seen as “normal” as undermining that society, was ashamed of her. His domineering patriarchy in in this upper-class, intellectual, and claustrophobic household would be viewed as bullying these days.

He must have been very frustrated by Laura, and it was a conflicted family: having little parental authority over one daughter, whilst succeeding in having total control over the other two.

Unlike their brother, Thoby, neither Vanessa nor Virginia were allowed to go to school. It was still not considered suitable to send girls to school, so they were educated at home by tutors.

Initially, as small children, they spent their days inventing whimsical stories about their neighbours, then progressed to writing illustrated stories and poems, and making up riddles and jokes for a family magazine they called the Hyde Park Gate News. In years to come, biographers of the two sisters were to declare this as early proof of the reciprocal nature between them that, well before any formal training, they nurtured each other’s art, acting as the other’s friend, adversary, and creative muse. And they must have decided between themselves which of them followed which creative path: Virginia the writer, Vanessa the artist. Yet each one’s individual talents led to the same ending, an endeavour to tell stories through their craft, Virginia with words, Vanessa through her paintings.

But, in the background there was always the perceived family problem of Laura. And, in 1886 at the age of sixteen, when Vanessa was seven, and Virginia was four, Laura was sent away to live with a governess. And was absent from the public family.

This is a family photograph of Gerald Duckworth, Virginia Stephen, Thoby Stephen, Vanessa Stephen, and George Duckworth (back row); Adrian Stephen, Julia Duckworth Stephen, and Leslie Stephen (front row) at Alenhoe, Wimbledon. (Reproduction of plate 37a from Leslie Stephen’s Photograph Album Original: albumen print (7.8 x 10.4 cm.) Presented by Quentin and Anne Olivier Bell. Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College) © https://tinyurl.com/3mjxe2uw

Four years later, despite being deprived of any early official schooling, and notwithstanding the Victorian restrictions on girls and women, Julia and Leslie decided to encourage their other daughters to pursue their talents. Over time, Vanessa  studied both at the Royal Academy Schools and the Slade School of Fine Art, Virginia took classics and history in the Ladies’ Department of King’s College London.

Laura, on the other hand had been diagnosed by psychiatrists as suffering from ‘imbecility’. However I do need to point out that, despite extensive research, I could find no established medical rules of defining mental illnesses at this time. Yet in law, under such acts as the Lunacy Act of 1845 and the Idiots Act of 1886, there were precise specific and distinct legal classifications for certain conditions. These groupings fluctuated though. Laura was initially admitted to Earlswood Asylum in 1893, aged twenty-three, as an “imbecile” but in the 1901 census she was labelled a “lunatic”. which  could suggest worsening symptoms

Virginia and Vanessa had battles of their own to contend with; both, as children, were sexually abused by their half-brothers, George and Gerald Duckworth. As an adult Virginia Woolf wrote extensively about this incestuous abuse in her diaries and letters, although there is little I can find about the abuse with either sister. Understandably, many say this was the origin of the fragility of Virginia’s psychological state.  But It needs saying that it has been suggested in various papers that there were genetic connections of mental instability on the paternal side: Leslie Stephen was prone to violent mood swings, his father suffered from depression, a nephew had a bipolar disorder and was admitted into an asylum for mania. Virginia herself suffered from depression, and Vanessa is reported to have had at least one nervous breakdown. I should also add here that therefore it could follow that this family history of the Stephen family means it is likely that whatever condition Laura suffered from in her life, her genetic composition means she was more susceptible to other mental disorders.

In 1895, their mother. Julia Stephen died of heart failure, following a bout of influenza. Shortly afterwards, Virginia had her first mental breakdown. And, when their older half-sister Stella Duckworth, who in the absence of their mother had stepped in to run the household, also died two years later, and after their father died in 1904 after a long battle with stomach cancer, Virginia made her first suicide attempt.

Vanessa took charge. After dealing with all the domestic affairs, she moved the family (Vanessa, Thoby, Virginia, and Adrian) from Hyde Park Gate to the Bloomsbury district of London in 1904 to begin a new life.

Here Vanessa, Thoby, Adrian and Clive Bell started The Bloomsbury Group with friends who were writers, intellectuals, philosophers, and artists who rejected the oppressive Victorian principles of their parents’ generation, and they adopted creative freedom, sexual permissiveness, and atheism. They became known for their unconventional lifestyles and love affairs, shocking many outside their social group.

Vanessa Bell © https://tinyurl.com/5n7944n4

As the older sister Vanessa dealt with many of Virginia’s emotional and mental breakdowns. But she also held true to her own code of conduct; her lifestyle, her unconventional, sometimes eccentric relationships, were reflected in her art: the nude portraits of her friends and family, the use of design in her work. (both considered to be the prerogative of male artists)  Yet her loving care for her sister was balanced by the long term and continuous rivalry in their separate spheres of creativity. Reading through the lines during my research I wondered whether, sometimes, this conflict was wearisome for the older sister; whether Vanessa’s marriage, in 1907, to Clive Bell was subconsciously an effort to distance herself from Virginia.

circa 1927 Harvard Theater Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. https://tinyurl.com/mryj58p5

The marriage, a  year after their brother Thoby’s death from typhoid, made Virginia descend again into some sort of nervous breakdown. The marriage meant that Virginia and their brother Adrian had to move out of the Bloomsbury house, thus providing a distancing between the two sisters.  A distance Virginia resented, because, before long, she began to pursue Vanessa’s husband, Clive. Their love affair lasted, intermittently, over six years. And there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that reveals enough proof, I think, to believe that the underlying reason for the affair was so that Virginia was once again at the centre of her sister’s life.

In 1914 Vanessa began a life-long relationship with Duncan Grant, who was bi-sexual. Taking Vanessa’s two sons, Julian and Quentin, from her marriage to Clive, and accompanied by Duncan’s lover, the writer David Garnett, they moved to Charleston Farmhouse, Sussex. In 1918 Vanessa and Duncan had a daughter, Angelica.

Because I have concentrated on these two women as sisters, and because much has been written about their achievement by far more scholarly people than me, I have left out details of the body of work that both women produced. I was more interested in what made them ‘be’, what formed them as human beings.

 I found an extensive amount of articles, journals, newspaper reviews, discussions, diary quotes, lectures etc. on Virginia that revealed much of her personality and mental health. But far less details on Vanessa’s character. Because she didn’t keep a diary as Virginia did there is little written about her personally, except for the time of her son, Julian’s death during the Spanish War, when she became extremely and understandably depressed. But, mainly, there are only facts about her place in the family, about her marriage and relationships, her part in the Bloomsbury set, and the cannon of her work. And I found almost nothing on Laura. Having left few records of her own, she’s as invisible in history as she was in her family. And yet, her small story needs to stand alongside her famous sisters, because, I think, her presence (wherever she was during her life) must have had some effect on Vanessa and Virginia. There had to be some experiences, some memories they shared, that would always have impacted on the three of them.

Troubled by mental illness throughout her life, Virginia was institutionalized several times and attempted suicide twice before drowning herself by filling her overcoat pockets with stones and walking into the River Ouse on March 28, 1941. Her ashes are buried in the National Trust garden of Monks House, Rodmell.

Vanessa died at Charleston Farmhouse, at the age of eighty-one, after a bout of bronchitis, on 7th April 1961. She was buried on 12th April, without any form of service, in Firle Parish Churchyard.

Laura Stephen, c.1870 Reproduction of plate 35f from Leslie Stephen’s Photograph Album.© Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College.https://tinyurl.com/2zxbrek8
Laura Makepeace Stephen (1870-1945) was born prematurely on 7 December 1870. She was the only child of Leslie and Minny Thackeray Stephen. Laura was “mentally deficient,” according to Leslie Stephen, and may have suffered from a form of autism. She lived at home with a German nurse, Louise Meineke, when Virginia Woolf was a child. In 1888, Laura was settled with Dr. Corner at Brook House, Southgate, and she died at the Priory Hospital, Southgate, in 1945. https://tinyurl.com/2zxbrek8. Her burial details are unknown.

N.B. Leslie and Julia visited Laura until Julia’s death in 1895. Stella visited her until her death in 1897. Her aunt Annie Thackeray Ritchie visited her until her death in 1919. Annie’s daughter Hester Ritchie brought her home for visits on occasion. Then the visits stopped. When Laura died in 1945 the asylum did not know of any living relatives, though both Vanessa and Adrian outlived her and even inherited the remainder of the legacy Leslie had left for her care

Sometimes, family members can become estranged from one another, either by choice or by circumstances. “In one of her informal reminiscences from around 1922, Virginia describes ‘Thackeray’s grand-daughter, (Laura) a vacant-eyed girl whose idiocy was becoming daily more obvious, who could hardly read, who would throw scissors into the fire, who was tongue-tied and stammered and yet had to appear at table with the rest of us.’ Virginia makes the difference between them clear: Laura was not, in fact, one of “us,”’ https://tinyurl.com/36sj5mc5

And, in a way, this is how Lisa (formerly Mandy) feels about her sister, Angie, in my next book, Sisters, when she says, “I never wanted to be in Micklethwaite ever again. Yet here I am. And meeting the one person I never wanted to see again. “

Sisters will be published by Honno on the 26th January 2023, It’s available to be pre-booked:

My Review of Fifteen First Times: Beginnings: A Collection of Indelible Firsts by D.G. Kaye #Memories #Humour #Nostalgia

Book Description:

This book is a collection of stories about some of Kaye’s first-time experiences with life’s most natural events. Told through the intimate conversational writing we’ve come to know from this author, poignant personal steppingstones to learning moments are revealed. She encompasses the heart of each matter with sincerity and sprinkled inflections of humor.

From first kiss to first car to walking in the desert with four-inch heels, Kaye’s short coming-of-age stories take us through her awakenings and important moments of growth, often without warning. Some good and some not, life lessons are learned through trial and error, winging it, and navigating by the seat of her pants.

My Review:

Fifteen First Times is a collection of short but evocative memoirs by D G Kaye. I actually wasn’t sure what to expect when I first started to read. All I knew was that, having read various other books by this author, and having always admired her intimate writing style, I was in for a treat. I wasn’t disappointed.

 Although brought up in a different country with a background that was poles apart from my own, I found myself nodding, reminiscing, and recognising so many of her firsts. Indeed I would go so far as to say, that many women would recognise something of themselves, something of their own experiences, in what these recollections bring to mind, wherever they have lived.

 The poignancy of some of the stories brought tears, others a “laugh out loud” moment. But all are written with integrity and complete openness, something I always anticipate from D G Kaye. It’s like sharing and swopping tales from our youths. We have all had our “firsts” in our lives, and this compilation of memories is a treat that makes the reader sit back and reminisce – very satisfying.

So I would urge any reader to immerse themselves in this book… to enjoy and reflect on their own “firsts”. That’s what this author’s words brought out in me. Highly recommended.

As I say above, I have read other books by D G Kaye, and never been disappointed. The following are a couple from quite a while ago; around the first time I came across this author. As you will see, I’ve been impressed by her writing for many years. Do check them out…

https://tinyurl.com/547bkmz4

https://tinyurl.com/mt7ftnem

And this post from Debby when she took part in my last series of Places in Our Memories: https://tinyurl.com/2mcnz87s

Places in our Memories: With Hugh Roberts #MondayBlogs #Families #Christmas #Chocolates

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today I’m really pleased to welcome Hugh Roberts to Places in our Memories.  Hugh has been a friend for many years and, besides being a writer, has a wealth of knowledge on blogging and how to get around all the glitches that WordPress throws at us. And he is always so generous in helping those of us who are technophobes. But, today, he’s here, telling us how he’d much rather have chocolate for Christmas dinner.

I have always been a lover of life. Yes, it’s thrown many curve balls at me and said: “here, deal with that!” but my love affair with life has never ended or been anywhere near ending. I could just ‘like’ life, but I have always adored it and will continue doing so until my’ sell-by date’ comes along. If I could marry life, I would have proposed many years ago.

There is one part of my life that I especially enjoy – Christmas. Unlike others who quickly grow out of Christmas after they reach teenager years, Christmas has never lost its magic. In the 60 years I have been on this earth, Christmas has never failed to deliver its magic to me.

The memory I am sharing with you today is extraordinary only because it includes three wonderful ladies I will never forget. So, let me take you back to a day I can remember and tell you what it means to me.

I’m sitting on the floor in the huge living room of our house. It’s the second home I have lived in since the day I was born. In front of me is a big high, dark wooden table and, on top of the table, I can just make out the brightly coloured yellow truck I had been given that day. The colour fascinated me and became my favourite colour until about twenty years ago when blue took over.

Sat at one end of the table, to my right, is the first of these ladies, my grandmother, Nana Wallington. She looks down at me and smiles. She has thick, black-rimmed spectacles, which make her eyes look huge. She’s wearing a green pork pie hat with two red cherries and a bit of tinsel stuck to the side and is dressed in a velvet green two-piece jacket and skirt. I wonder if the house isn’t warm enough because she hasn’t taken her hat off.

Underneath the jacket, I can see a cream cardigan helping her keep warm. She’s quite a chubby lady and adores me because I am her first grandchild. She has some white pearls around her neck, a Christmas present from my Grandfather Sam. He’s not my real grandfather but has always been in my life. Her lips are painted a bright red, and she has a pair of flat, black shoes and beige-coloured stockings on. They remind me of the stocking I was given the night before to hang on the bottom of my bed. My sister had the other leg of the stocking to hang on her bed.

To my left is the kitchen. I can see the back of the second of these extraordinary ladies, Mum. She’s busy peeling sprouts, and my grandmother reminds her to put little crosses on the bottom of each sprout with the knife. I wonder why the sprouts must be crossed. As if by magic, my mother asks the question. Because that’s what your grandmother did with sprouts at Christmas, my grandmother replies.

I can see lots of steam from various pots boiling away on the stove, and the house smells of ‘roast dinner.’ But I’d rather delve into some of the selection boxes I’d been given that morning. Full of yummy chocolate, I’d much rather eat chocolate than cooked dinner.

Mum is wearing a green and red festive dress and a new pair of slippers, which are tartan green and have cream-coloured fur inside them. She continues to talk to my grandmother about how long it will be before the men return from the pub.

Behind me, I can hear a baby stir. My baby sister, Jayne, is the third of these special ladies in my life. She doesn’t understand what day it is. Stupid girl, I think. You’re missing all the fun.

I look behind me. In the corner sits a small, artificial Christmas tree lit up by colourful Victorian-looking lanterns. I love looking at bright red, green, blue, and yellow lights. I squint my eyes to make the colours blend into each other. For the rest of my life, coloured lights will always be a part of Christmas. The tree is on a small table to prevent me from getting my hands on the pretty foil-wrapped chocolates which hang from some of its branches. There are no gifts under the tree because they’ve all been opened, most of which are scattered across the living room floor.

Jayne starts to cry, and my grandmother gets up and peeks inside the carrycot while my mother continues to prepare dinner. Besides me, I notice some of the selection boxes my mother forgot to move, one of which is opened. On the front of each selection box is a picture of Father Christmas in his sleigh, pulled by some reindeer over some snowy roofs and chimney pots of houses. The scene on the boxes gives me a peaceful, snug, cosy, happy feeling.

Pictures of the various chocolate bars and sweets inside the box are displayed on the back of each box. To my grandmother’s dismay, I’ve eaten most of the contents of the opened box. She tells Mum that I won’t want to eat my Christmas dinner! She’s right. I’d much rather have chocolate for dinner.

On the ceiling are two colourful honeycomb paper bells, one just above me and the other down the room’s far end. When taken down, unclipped, and closed, they both look like the shape of a boot, the type of boot my mother wears when going out. When taking them down from the ceiling, my father would always say how when folded back, they reminded him of a country called Italy and that one day he would like to take us all there for a holiday. Only I ever made it to Italy.

My grandmother and Mum continue to talk while I play with one of the toys delivered the night before. It’s a spinning top that makes a whirling noise when I push down on the handle. Letting go, I watch with amazement as all the colours on the toy merge into each other.

Mum eventually comes into the room with two small glasses of sherry and hands one to my grandmother. Even though I am just coming up to school age, I already know that these three special people will be the three most important ladies in my life and that the date will always be special to me.

“Merry Christmas,’ says my grandmother as she raises her glass.

“Yes, Merry Christmas, and Happy Birthday, Hugh,” replies my mother.

Hugh W. Roberts – Social Media and other links.

Blog: Hugh’s Views and News

Twitter: @HughRoberts05

Flipboard

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads

Link for Glimpses

Link for More Glimpses

Ann Hatton ( Ann of Swansea) and Sarah Siddon #FamousSisters #relationships #families #stage #actresses, #authors #poetry @honno

Sisters Ann of Swansea and Sarah Siddon

Ann Hatton and her older sister Sarah, were the daughters of Roger Kemble and Sarah Ward, who led a troupe of travelling actors. Sarah was born in Brecon in July 1755, Ann, otherwise known as Ann of Swansea, in Worcester in April 1764. There were ten other siblings.

All, except Ann, were early performers on stage with their parents.Considered by her family to be unsuitable to be on stage, owing to a disability (she had a slight limp), Ann was more or less excluded from the family. Later in life she often said she received little love from her parents, and that her education was neglected.

In contrast Sarah was well educated, adored by her parents, and performed her first major Shakespearean role, as Ariel, at the age of nine.

Yet both fell in love with men whom their mother and father thought unsuitable. Ann, at the early age of sixteen, married a man called Curtis who was actually already married, and was later convicted and jailed for bigamy. She was considered to have brought disrepute on the family and was cast out by them; their only concern was their determination to validate their respectability within the theatrical world.

Sarah was dealt with in a different way. Initially sent away to work as a lady’s maid because she began a relationship with William Siddons, (one of the members of her father’s troupe), she was soon forgiven by her parents, who gave their blessing for her to marry William. Sarah was then allowed to continue her acting career. She was so outstanding that she was noticed by David Garrick, actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer, who took her to London to appear on the stage at Drury Lane, although her first role at Drury lane wasn’t a total success.

Rejected and isolated Ann became increasingly depressed and suicidal, actually attempting suicide in Westminster Abbey. She lurched from one catastrophe to another. After her failed marriage she attempted to earn her own money by working for a Dr James Graham, a sex therapist, who ran a business called the Temple of Health and Hymen, in Pall Mall. Her family was enraged to discover he advertised the lectures Ann gave as “given by Mrs Curtis, Mrs Siddons’ younger sister”.

In 1783, Ann produced her first volume of poems, (Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects). Again she gained her family’s wrath; she published the collection under the name of “Ann Curtis, sister of Mrs Siddons”.

The Kemble family was determined to disassociate themselves from Ann, so Sarah, joined with one of their brothers, granted Ann a yearly allowance, but only with a condition that Ann lived at least a hundred and fifty miles away from London.

The annual payment meant that Ann’s reputation and station in society became more acceptable, and in 1792 she married William Hatton.

They emigrated to America, and it was here that she wrote her opera libretto Tammany (otherwise known as The Indian Chief), which was given its première on Broadway. This was the first known libretto written by a woman.

Following the triumph of her libretto, Ann and William returned to Britain, and by 1799, had settled in Swansea in South Wales, where they ran a bathing-house and lodgings near the coast until William’s death in 1806. She then moved to Kidwelly. One of her poems, Swansea Bay, describes her emotions as she left Swansea. Eventually, she returned to Swansea in 1809 where she settled down to write her poetry and Romantic novels. These encapsulated themes of social and moral parody,(sometimes with gothic leitmotifs). She used the pseudonyms of “Ann of Swansea” and Ann of Kidwelly.

Many of her books were set in Wales; Cambrian Pictures, published by my publishers, Honno, is one of them.

Sarah and her husband William, took up the life of a travelling thespian, playing many parts all over the country. She cleverly chose roles that made her more popular, that protected her image and preserved her reputation as a wife and mother of five children, as well as an actress. This helped her to avoid any rumourmongering and scandal that usually plagued actresses at the time. She ultimately became Britain’s most renowned and highly paid actress in the 1780s, much sought after by equally famous painters, such as Sir Joshua Reynolds, to sit to have her portrait painted. She even gave private readings for the king and queen at Windsor Castle and Buckingham House. Reputed to have a striking stage presence she became most famous for her role as Lady Macbeth; a role she was reported as played to perfection, and she was also called the Queen of Tragedy.

But, after thirty years the marriage between Sarah and William became strained and they separated.

She retired from the stage in June of 1812, playing Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. So enthralled by her performance were the audience that they continued clapping when she finally left the stage and the play ended there.

She died in 1831 and was buried in St. Mary’s, Paddington. Her funeral was attended by thousands, and a statue of her was later created by Francis Legatt Chantrey and erected in Westminster Abbey (ironically, as I said, earlier, the place where her sister, Ann attempted suicide after her first marriage to the bigamist, Curtis, and when she was both ostracized by her family, and desperately poor). .

Ann died and was buried in 1838 in a churchyard in High Street, Swansea. She left most of her belongings to her servant Mary Johns, executor of her will, as a “very small remuneration for her affectionate, honest and undeviating conduct” for almost 16 years.

At no time in my research for this post, did I discover that the two sisters ever met again.

It occurred to me that, sometimes, it is only through fate and coincidence that estranged families are forced into contact. And so it is for the two sisters, Angie and Mandy (later known as Lisa) in my next book, Sisters. Due to be published by Honno on the 26th January 2023, I’m thrilled that it’s now available to be pre-booked.

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My Review of Murder & Mischief (The Victorian Detectives Book 10) by Carol Hedges #crime #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

I received a copy of Murder and Mischief from the author as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, in return for an honest review.

Book Description:

It is January, a time of year when not much crime usually happens. But when Inspector Greig is unexpectedly summoned to the opulent Hampstead residence of Mr. James William Malin Barrowclough, a rich businessman, he embarks upon one of the strangest and most bizarre investigations that he has ever been involved in.

Why has Barrowclough been targeted? What is inside the mysterious parcels that keep arriving at Hill House, and why won’t he cooperate with the police? The case will take the Scotland Yard detectives on a journey out of London and into the victim’s past, to uncover the secrets and lies that haunt his present.

Murder & Mischief is the tenth novel in the series, and in the great tradition of Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it entices the reader once again along the teeming streets and dimly gas~lit thoroughfares of Victorian London, where rich and poor, friend and foe alike mix and mingle.

My Review:

I’ve heard a lot about Carol Hedges’ Victorian Detectives series over the years, and been promising myself I will read one of her books. How I wish I hadn’t waited so long!  Murder and Mischief is a brilliant read; I loved both the story and the author’s distinctive writing style. I actually resented having to put the kindle down when other things needed doing.

Murder and Mischief is number ten of this author’s series, but I read it as a standalone book, and that was no problem at all. I’ve since checked some of the others in the series, and even though some of the characters are in the other books, and most of the settings are similar, this is a complete story in itself. There are no loose ends. In fact I should imagine that, for those readers who have followed the series, familiar characters and backgrounds must add to their enjoyment of each story.

The first thing I have to say is how much I enjoyed the voice of the omniscient narrator. Told from the various points of view, in the present tense, and in the first person, I could actually hear him (yes I do think it’s a “him”) in my head. The conversational tone, the way the reader is directly addressed, gives instant imagery to this shared observation. We are encouraged to view the disparate and unfair class divide, and actions of all the characters  in the same way as the narrator does.

The dialogue is skilfully written and adds another layer to each character, their standing in society, and their role in Murder and Mischief. And here the narrator comes into his own again, revealing often that the direct speech doesn’t reflect their internal dialogue.

The descriptions of the settings that the characters move around in are flawless – extremely atmospheric, and adding much to the story. In fact, the sense of place is so redolent that the streets, the houses, the workhouse, the public houses, the Chinese mission house, all almost become characters in their own right.

There are two main plots that intertwine and coalesce, threaded throughout with various themes of honesty and crime, indifference and cruelty, love and hatred. Sometimes the plot leaps from one thread to another in startling speed, and yet it works, reflecting the change of circumstance the characters find themselves in, and, for me, kept me enthralled.

 As I always say, I try not to give spoilers in my reviews, the book descriptions reveal enough of the story. I can only give a subjective appraisal. But, for anyone who likes the crime genre, a book with an utterly compelling plot, and an insight to Victorian London, this is for you. Murder and Mischief is a novel I can thoroughly recommend.

Carol Hedges

Carol Hedges’ writing has received much critical acclaim. Her Victorian Detectives series is set in 1860s London and features Detective Inspector Leo Stride and his side-kick Detective Sergeant Jack Cully. The ten books in the series are: Diamonds & Dust, Honour & Obey. Death & Dominion,Rack & Ruin, Wonders & Wickedness, Fear & Phantoms, Intrigue & Infamy, Fame & Fortune, Desire & Deceit, Murder & Mischief.

Today I’ve been invited onto @JanBaynham’s Blog #MondayBlogs #Interviews #Research #GuestPost #Authors

When Jan asked me to write about research, I started with one purpose, to research the subject of research, and then to explain how I use it…

If we knew what we were doing, it would not be called research, would it? – Albert Einstein, (1879-1955), German physicist who came up with the theory of relativity, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921.

Here’s the link to Jan’s website: https://janbaynham.blogspot.com/

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Places in our Memories: With Jane Frazer #Memories

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today I’m really pleased to welcome Jane Fraser to Places in our Memories. Jane is a a Honno author like myself, I’ve known her quite a while, and know how much she loves Wales. Here she tells us how, although enjoying a wonderful holiday in… she missed her homeland… and how it brought other thoughts.

Hiraeth

Home Thoughts From Abroad

I am in the elevator going up to the condo on the 6th floor. It feels moist: a stale smell of sweat and coconut sun-oil cloying the cramped space I’m sharing with my husband and another couple. We’ve all rushed off the beach because of the squall. The sign with the palm tree on the wall tells me to have a nice day.

         “Where you guys from?” asks the man with the baseball cap.

         “Wales,” I say.

         “Oh, part of England – we passed through it on our way to Ireland when we did Europe a couple of years ago, didn’t we Jo? he says to his wife who says: We sure did. It’s where Princess Diana was from.

         I don’t bother to even try and explain but say, Bye, enjoy your day as we make our way back to our little rental overlooking the Atlantic which is now stewing, a nasty grey, with white spume peaks whipped by the wind as far out as the eye can see. I sit on our balcony, my mind’s eye can see far across this ocean, as far as the wet west coast of the home I’ve escaped this Christmas.

         “You homesick?” my husband asks.

         “A bit,” I say. “The weather, probably.”

         “Least it’s hot rain. Won’t last. They’re not there anyway.”

         He’s right. My daughter and the kids are in Australia to see the in-laws; my son is happy with his girl-friend in the north of England. My parents are sorted going to my brother’s for Christmas lunch in Cardiff and I know they’re OK as I see them all year, living just a couple of miles away. I’m guilt free. I haven’t left or abandoned anyone. No person I love. It’s just my house I see empty and forlorn; standing unlit and unloved, in the place that tugs at my insides.

         “Don’t you miss our house? Our beach?” I ask my husband.

         “It’s just a place, “he says. “C’mon. We’ve worked all year for this.”

         I continue looking at the ocean, listen to its constant churning. It sounds the same as home. And it’s beautiful. But at 27 degrees north 80 degrees west Hutchinson Island is not 51 degrees north and 4 degrees west in Llangennith. The tide hardly budges here between high and low water, no vast expanse of sand exposed on the ebb. When my wind blows from the south west it is mild and wet, it cakes my windows with salt and browns and bends everything I try to grow in my garden. Everything here is back to front: the north-easterly brings the rain, steamy and sticky; and when the wind blows from the south-west, it’s off the land, hot, dry on the skin, giving respite from the humidity. When my sun rises it is behind me, comes up over Llanmadoc Down and when it is done at the end of the day it falls into the sea just to the left of Burry Holms. I just cannot come to terms with the sun coming up over the ocean and going down over the land.

         “You’ve got no sense of home, have you?” I snipe at my husband.

         “What Merthyr Tydfil? London? Gower?”

         “You don’t belong anywhere, do you?”

         “No. Happy in a camper van, me. Don’t need that stuff.”

         “What stuff?”

         “Roots.”

         “Running away all the time, you are.”

         “Nothing to run from.”

         “No place you see yourself dying? Spending your last days?”

         “Jesus. We’re supposed to be on holiday.”

         I see myself in my own bed at home. I am lying propped up on pillows, looking out through the sash windows at the expanse of ocean. The window is pulled up slightly at the bottom and fresh air rushes through the gap, making the silk curtains billow, and cooling my face which is warmed with the sun in my south-facing house. If I had a choice about the last thing I’d like to see in life it would be the view through this window: the bronzed burrows, the conical dunes, the limestone island of Burry Holms which when the tide is high rises like a turtle out of the sea.

          But it is beautiful here in its own way. Now. The scale of the views astounds: big skies; big seas; but too much sea if there is such a thing. Sea that is not broken up or interrupted with headlands or coves or churches or castles that run down to the water’s edge. There is but one long, straight continuous ocean’s edge strung out along the rim of the pan-handle. I long for things to shrink, for the familiar littleness and quirkiness of my peculiar patch of earth.

         I’m in the tropics in a flat right in the dunes and I am happy and grateful for what life has dealt me. But they are not my dunes. My dunes are golden and soft-sanded, carpeted with marram grass, sea holly and thrift and all manner of orchids and blackberries when autumn comes. Here the sand is greyer and grittier, a flat colour pitted with holes where ghost crabs burrow. Where blue and pink-bubbled Portuguese men of war with foot long tentacles lurk ready to sting at the tide’s drop line. Here everything grows quickly, too quickly; it is hard to keep things under control, to hold back the mangrove to prevent the railroad vine choking. Here the dunes sometimes cannot hold back the hurricanes. Here there are signs that say evacuation route.

         My husband goes back inside the condo to the chill of the air-con, sliding the door behind him. Even though it is raining, I am covered by the popcorn roof of the balcony and shielded from the wet by the sliding concertina-folded shutters. The heat is sapping the life out of me. I consider life’s evacuation route. When and how my end will come. There have been a few near-misses to date and again, I am grateful that I’ve still got a few lives left. My mind wanders and I hope I will have what my grandmother used to call a ‘good death’. A death that is in old age, that is relatively pain-free. One where there is time to say goodbyes.

         I open the sliders and go inside. The air-con confronts me like a fridge.

         “Do you want to be buried or cremated?” I ask my husband. But he cannot hear as his earphones are on and he’s on the iPad catching up with latest episodes of ‘London Spy’.

         “What?” he shouts, taking out one of his ear-pieces.

         “When you die. Buried or cremated? We need to make our wills.”

         “You need to see someone. Seriously.”

         “I want to be buried. In the church. Near the wall. Gets the sun all day. And I can keep an eye on what’s happening in the pub opposite!”

         “Just feed me to the birds. Or drop me overboard near Burry Holms.”

         “I was thinking Burry Holms to start with too: though sprinkled like your mother. Then I changed my mind and fancied the crem. But thought, no. Production line. So it’s to be burial. But not in Llanrhidian with my mother’s lot. Too dark. Damp.”

         “Long as I know.”

         “Don’t you want to be buried with me, then?”

         “Don’t believe in all that tosh.”

         “Is it ‘cos we’ve got different names? Shall I change my name to Griffiths?”

         “You do what you like. I just want to go back to nature. No fuss.”

         “That’s great. Buried alone. That’ll give them something to talk about.”

         “Who?”

         “Villagers.”

         “Well, you won’t hear them, will you?”

On Christmas Eve the sun has decided to shine again. It is in the high eighties. The checkout girl in Publix tells us the weather here is Bipolar. My husband tells me he thinks I am too.

         We hit the beach again with our striped canvas chairs, turning away from the sea to follow the sun as the day progresses. We watch fisherman landing croakers and pompanos, their rods bent like arcs over the sparkling ocean along the water’s edge as far as the eyes can see. One man is sweating with the effort of reeling in a big fella that’s been taking line for over an hour as far south as Miami. Must be a shark or a stingray his friend says who stands at the ready with a rope to help him when the time comes. But the line snaps and it was the one that got away.

         The sun is high even in mid-winter, searing the crown of my broad black-rimmed hat which I notice is fading so fast. I look at my watch. 3pm. Eight o’clock back home. It’ll be dark and raining and the teles will be blaring and the pubs heaving. At this precise moment I’m not missing it at all.

          But at six o’clock, when the light goes yet the heat remains locked in, I’m out of kilter again. The condo looks bare even though we’ve tried out best with potted red tulips and white lilies and red and gold baubles which are too glitzy for my liking. The Christmas cards we’ve bought each other in Barnes and Noble are too schmaltzy and shmucky: like the apples and the vegetables in the supermarkets, too big and shiny and perfect that look lovely but don’t actually taste of anything.

         The tele goes on but it’s all American Football and medical adverts every few seconds with lists of alarming side effects of certain medications. It’s Fixer Upper then, nothing but edition after edition of Fixer Upper and houses that are transformed in Wacko Texas for under $80,000 including land. Next is Chopped which I tell my husband is a poor imitation of Bake Off and even worse than Australian MasterChef.

          I turn to my iPad for comfort and start googling Llangennith. I get the Gower Webcam from The Worms’s Head Hotel looking across Rhossili Bay. But it’s dark there, the sea hardly visible just an eerie rippling. It will restart live at sunrise tomorrow morning the message promises. Apparently it’s been a great day for surf. Overhead and light winds from the south west. I go to Wikipedia: pictures emerge of a village on the Gower peninsula near Swansea in Wales. It has an 11th century church dedicated to St Cenydd. It is the largest Church in Gower and the only one with a lych gate. I know. We were married there. I am suddenly in its nave, in its chancel, standing among the choir stalls with a bouquet of lily of the valley, taking our vows. It’s where I’ve recently told my husband I’ll be buried. I can see the unkempt grass, though not onscreen, see the weathered tombstones, tottering at all angles, see the names of generations of Taylors and Groves and Bevans and Beynons. I think I’ve made the right decision about being buried there, I say to my husband but he’s engrossed in Dallas Cowboys v Pittsburgh Steelers. I can smell home through the ether, pine and Christmas pudding.

         “You umbelicalled to that thing?” he shouts from the sofa.

         I’m on Google Earth now, I’ve keyed in my postcode SA3 1JE and I’m being taken from the beginning of Cock Street following a white arrow like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs, past Gill and Paul’s at Bullen’s Well – I can see the spout from the well, taste the spring water I always taste in cupped hands when I’m finishing up my daily walk. The camera takes me on along the single track lane – there’s Cock Street Farm with the gate with the two horses’ heads and the Land Rover parked in the yard. Must have been taken a few years ago as Joe Grove has changed it now for an Isuzu Trouper. And it must have been early summer too as the gorse is out, a blaze of yellow and the ferns at the lane’s edge are hip-high. I press the arrow with a compulsion, I’m at Long Offing now, and then the old barn in the field next to mine – Steve Taylor’s Fiesta is parked outside the gate – probably watering the plants in his polytunnel. And then there’s my gate. From 5,000 miles away right in front of me is my five barred farm gate and my drive with the car parked in it. CF13 MFU – all my personal things there for me to see, but not to touch. I can hardly bear it. I zoom on to the front of the house. It’s white and lime washed and perfectly symmetrical. Surrounded by newly ploughed brown-earthed fields it looks like it’s growing there, like it belongs there, like it’s been there for all time.

         It looks sad without us there. The windows at the front look as though they are crying. The wooden loungers are in place on the patio, perfectly positioned to take in the views of the ocean and the full sun. But they are empty. The stone pots of lavender are in full bloom but there is no one to smell them or water them. The seeds I must have planted back then are sprouting in the raised beds and the olive trees standing tall in the terracotta pots on the plum stoned driveway. They say all roads lead home at Christmas, I tell my husband. But he doesn’t reply.

About Jane:


Jane Fraser is an award-winning fiction writer, based in the Gower peninsula, south Wales. Her debut novel, Advent, was published by Honno, the UK’s longest-standing, independent women’s press, in January 2021. It was Book of the Month at Books Council of Wales in February 2021 and in June 2022 was announced as winner of the Society of Authors’ Awards – The Paul Torday Memorial Prize for a debut novel in English. Her first collection of short fiction, The South Westerlies, was published by Salt, the UK’s foremost independent publisher of literary fiction, in 2019 and her second short fiction collection, Connective Tissue, in October 2022, and also published by Salt.

She has been widely published in anthologies and reviews including New Welsh Review, The Lonely Crowd, Fish Publishing, TSS and The London Magazine. Her fiction has figured highly in major international competitions: in 2017 she was a finalist in the Manchester Fiction Prize (and has also been highly commended eight times), and in 2018 was a prize winner in the Fish Memoir Prize. She has also long and shortlisted in the Cambridge Short Story Prize, the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Prize, the Rhys Davies Short Story Competition and Retreat West Short Story Competition. She is winner of both the British Haiku Society and Genjuan International Prize for haibun. Her work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 as part of its ‘Short Works’ series.

She is a Hay Festival Writer at Work, a prestigious creative development award for emerging writers. She has a B.Ed as a first degree, and an MA (distinction 2013) and PhD in Creative Writing from Swansea University.

Jane Fraser is proud to be represented by Gaia Banks, Literary Agent at Sheil Land Associates Ltd. http://www.sheilland.com

When she is not writing, Jane Fraser is Co-Director of NB:Design a brand and digital agency along with her husband Philip Griffiths, a designer and photographer. When she is not working or writing, she walks her home patch of Gower and tries to be a good grandmother to Megan (13), Florence (11) and Alice (8).

Find Jane on:

Twitter @jfraserwriter

Instagram @janefraserwriter

@jfraserwriter@mastodonapp.uk 

Website www.janefraserwriter.com

Email: jane@nb-design.com

My Review of TimeSlip by Phil Rowlands #Crime #Thriller #WeekendRead

Book Description:

Ian Chambers is in trouble and under pressure, guilt ridden and struggling to complete the first draft of his novel.

On a stormy night on a Yorkshire beach, he experiences something so terrifying that he questions his sanity.

In a desperate search for a rational explanation, he risks losing not only reality as he knows it… but his very existence.

My Review:

I really enjoyed TimeSlip, both for the narrative and for the Phil Rowland’s writing style.

This is a book that runs on two timelines that merge and separate throughout the story. In 1943, during a raging storm, a policeman is stabbed to death on Bridlington Beach whilst on a stakeout – fast forward almost eighty years and a writer experiences an attack on his life in the same place. This turns out to be a dreadful flashback – one in which his experience duplicates that of the policeman. Or was it himself in another lifetime? Whatever the truth, he can’t escape the terror that haunts him every day.

The protagonist, Ian Chambers, an author, is a multi-layered character who comes alive in the page – so much so that I became alternately exasperated and sorry for him as he wrestles with both his emotions and his lack of an ability to, “just sit down and write the book he is being paid for, before his agent sacks him”. That and his infidelity tempered my sympathy for him at times.

And he is supported by an excellent cast of minor characters, both from the story in the past, and from the contemporary narrative that adds an interesting complexity to the plot.

The brilliant descriptions of the settings give a good sense of place to the dangerous time during WW2, and of the sometimes frenetic changes of background as the protagonist strives to find answers to his dilemmas in his present life.

TimeSlip is a fascinating and thought provoking psychological  thriller, and I recommend it to any reader who enjoys a book that crosses genres. This is a contemporary story of a man struggling with marital and work problems of his own making , and a preternatural mystery. One that almost costs him everything he holds dear  – including his own life.

About Phil Rowlands


I am a screenwriter, author and producer.

After many years as a ‘safe pair of hands’ actor, mainly in film and television, I moved into the production side as a freelance writer and producer. I’ve written feature films, TV and radio dramas, documentaries and animation series and worked on productions as a script doctor and consultant.

In 2009 I was one of the co-founders of Funky Medics, a production company focussing mainly on innovative health education. Its projects have included heart disease, diabetes, smoking and drug abuse.

Currently, I have four screenplays under option, one for production in 2023, the other three at various stages of draft development.

Siena, my first novel, was revised and republished by new indie publisher Diamond Crime along with my second, Single Cell in April 2021. A new book, TimeSlip, was released in late March 2022

I write in a shed at the bottom of my small garden.

Originally from Pembrokeshire in West Wales, I now live near Cardiff and have British nationality and Canadian citizenship.

Find Phil here:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PhilRowlands2

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/phil.rowlands.906

My Review of The Nesting Place by Jacqueline Harrett #TuesdayBookBlog #TuesdayBook Review #crime #DiamondPress #crimefiction

I gave The Nesting Place 5*

Book Description:

Megan Pritchard is reported missing during a party in an isolated house in the Vale of Glamorgan.

A short time afterwards, her body is found. It looks like an accident, the result of consuming too much alcohol. But DI Mandy Wilde is suspicious. And Megan’s friends are hiding something.

As Mandy and the team dig deeper, they uncover a catalogue of secrets, and reasons why being friends with Megan could be difficult.

My Review:

I love Jacqueline Harrett’s writing style, the excellent narrative of The Nesting Place slots seamlessly into the crime genre, with a main plot that moves along at a steady pace and has enough twists and turns to keep the reader engrossed. And, threaded throughout is a subplot that strengthens the story by revealing the emotional stress that the protagonist, Detective Inspector Mandy Wilde, is battling with as she and her team struggle to uncover the truth of the mysterious death of a young woman.

Mandy Wilde is a many layered character, her professional façade, shown through both the spoken and internal dialogue as curt, stubborn, often irritable, sometimes cracks to reveal a more sympathetic and empathetic personality… when earned by any of the other characters. And also reveals a conflicting familial wish to concentrate on a search for her missing twin sister and taking care of her deserted niece.

This is a distinct contrast to the ambiguous emotions of the four friends of the victim, Megan Pritchard, who is discovered dead after she has walked away from a party in a house in a remote area of Wales. Each of them has an unresolved issue with the dead woman. Each of them could be responsible for her death. Or not…

A good plot, characters that evolve as the story unfolds, dialogue that identifies every character, descriptions that bring instant images to the settings, and themes of love and loyalty juxtaposing distrust and suspicion. I couldn’t have asked for more.

 Except more was what I wanted when I reluctantly left the world of Mandy Wilde. So I was delighted to discover that Jacqueline Harrett has written a second Detective Inspector Mandy Wilde novel, The Whispering Trees.

 I’m looking forward to reading it.

In the meantime I thoroughly recommend The Nesting Place to readers who enjoy well written crime drama.

About Jacqueline Harrett


Former teacher and lecturer with a passion for storytelling. Retired from education but still loves learning. Writes in different genres. Crime series with DI Mandy Wilde as the detective. Women’s fiction with Janet Laugharne as J. L. Harland – What Lies Between Them.

Places in our Memories: With Liz Hinds #MondayBlogs #Memories

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today I’m really pleased to welcome Liz Hines to Places in our Memories. She brings to life her memories of growing up in a house that was once a public house, and living in a strong matriarchal family.

Home

It took the builders three days to knock through the wall of my bedroom to put in a window. Day after day, they chipped and hammered and swore until the hole in the four foot thick wall was big enough to let in the sun, but bigger than the view of Polly Garter next-door’s garden deserved.

The slate steps that led up to the always-open front door featured in countless family photos

My bedroom was at the back of the house in the part that had already withstood eight generations. In my great-great-great-grandfather’s day it had been a public house. Years later, when it was finally rid of the smell of ale and gin, my great-grandmother wanted the front, which at that time still bore the legend, ‘Albert Inn’, fashionably pebble-dashed. The work had scarcely begun before the local bigwig, Harry Libby, came thundering to the door, ‘What are you doing, woman? This is sheer vandalism, destroying the heritage of the village.’ My great-grandmother didn’t give birth to twelve and raise eight children to be told what she could or couldn’t do with her own home — especially not by an upstart village boy — and she told him so.

That house, the place of my birth and my home for twenty-five years, stands in the middle of a terrace in the heart of the village. It was a matriarchal household: throughout my childhood there were four generations of women living there, my grandmother being the dominant force. My grandfather was a quiet gentle man, content to sit in his chair by the window, listening to the wireless and smoking his cigarettes. The room he sat in we called the kitchen, though all cooking, and washing of clothes, dishes, and bodies, was done in the scullery under the corrugated tin roof.

The kitchen was a low-ceilinged room where the light was always on and the fire always lit. The one window looked out onto a limed wall, eight feet high and three feet away. It was a small room crowded with furniture  – a settee, two armchairs, a bureau, and a dining table with assorted chairs. Shabby but clean and polished.

I see my grandmother now, bustling in.

“Put some more coal on, Jack, the fire’ll be out in a minute.”

Her husband chooses to not hear her.

“I suppose I’ll have to do it myself. Wait till I see that coalman, giving me this English rubbish, I’ll tell him.”

She rakes the fire and shovels on more coal. Standing up she wipes her hands on her pinny and then stops in her tracks. She picks up a candlestick from the mantelpiece and tuts.

“I’ll have to clean these tomorrow.”

It will take her all morning to polish the candlesticks and horse brasses and souvenirs of trips to Tenby, and when she’s done, the house will smell of Brasso for the rest of the day.

It is she who is largely responsible for my upbringing, my mother having to go out to work in order to keep me fed though I was clothed in hand-me-down dresses from my conveniently six-month older and much richer cousin.

My grandmother’s father had died the year before I was born leaving a legacy of legend. He – almost single-handedly if family history is to be believed – built Ford’s first factories in America. When the hiraeth became too strong, and he returned home to Wales, Henry Ford himself – again, the stuff of family myth – came to our village and begged him to return, offering to transport the whole family back to the States. But the women wouldn’t go and a good thing too else my story would be completely different.

 As I said, my great-grandmother had eight surviving children and her presence in my growing-up home meant a constant flow of visitors. The encompassing of me within this extended family provided a shelter, the walls of which were stronger than bricks and mortar, and it was easy to ignore the non-existence of one person, to have only a vague awareness that something was missing but that it didn’t really matter much. I was surrounded with love and its Welsh synonym, good home cooking. When there were lots of us, the family, there for dinner we would pull out the table and I would squeeze onto the bench next to the wall. This was my favourite place, where the bricks I leaned against were warmed by Mr Shires next door’s fire. I sat quietly in the glow of conversation and knew that here I was safe.

Back in the late 1920s, two of my gran’s sisters were married from Albert House in a double wedding.

In 1964 I passed my eleven plus and the door to the another world, to Glanmor Grammar School, a more precarious world of Latin and physics, was opened to me. There was one other fatherless girl in the class but her father had had the decency to die. I lied to those who wanted to know that my father worked abroad. The summer of love was still to come and, in any case, free love only applied to the beautiful people out there, not the parents of good grammar school girls in South Wales.

My French teacher was called Miss George. She was soft-spoken with a gentle face and greying uncontrollable hair. In her lesson she asks around the class the question, “Est ce que faites votre pere?” Thirty three girls sitting in rows waiting for their turn, or in my case, praying for the bell to ring, please, before Miss George gets to me, please don’t let her ask me. Shall I lie, make up an answer? “Il est un medecin. “”Tres bien,” where does he work? No, I’d blush, stutter, be caught out. “Mon pere est mort.” Convenient but they all know. The bell rings, the problem goes away for today, and I go home to steak and kidney pie and rice pudding.

 So was that it? The worst I had to bear? It stands out in my memory but when I stop and think, try as I might, I cannot recall one unkind comment, not one slur on my parentage through the whole of my childhood and adolescence. If that was as bad as it got, then surely the family did its job well.

When I enter the house that is now my home, I breathe in the same sense of security that my first home gave me; I hope my children feel it here too.

Albert House has been in a state of disrepair for a few years now

I was the last of the family to be born in Albert House and I linger over the link with the past. I’ve looked on old maps, tried to locate the public house that was to become my home. I’ve never been able to find it.

About Liz:

Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/3njxzep4

https://www.facebook.com/liz.hinds1

Twitter: @LizHindsAuthor

My Review of Shape of Revenge: (A Shade Darker Book 2) by Georgia Rose #DomesticThriller

Book Description:

His secret’s revealed… Her revenge is silent…

A woman wronged. Her husband a cheat. Can she get her revenge without him realising he’s being punished?


Sharon Beesley, owner of Sharon’s Stores, discovers by chance the secret life her husband Eric is living, and once she begins to take her revenge she finds she’s unable to stop.

Meanwhile, their schoolgirl daughter Daisy follows the tempting trail of breadcrumbs left by a much older man. But when they meet, all is not what it seems. And no one knows where she is.

With Daisy in trouble and her parents distracted by their own problems, everyone is surprised when help comes from an unlikely place. As does retribution…


Shape of Revenge is a gripping domestic thriller. If you like character-driven action, suspenseful storytelling and unexpected twists then you’ll love this exciting novel.

My Review:

I’ve read quite a few of Georgia Rose’s books, and enjoyed every one. My latest review, of Georgia’s first book of the series (A Shade Darker Book 1)  A Killer Strikes, here: https://tinyurl.com/597raer2

Like all this author’s stories, Shape of Revenge has a brilliant plot, but it’s also character led. We met Sharon Beesley in A Killer Strikes, as a minor character who is an unpleasant gossip, and here she takes centre stage as a fully rounded character, equally unpleasant, and campaigning a personal vendetta against another inhabitant of Melton. Yet, in a way – and only sometimes – I felt an unwelcome glimmer of sympathy for her; she’s a victim of her own misguided aspirations and denial of her background, with a deep-seated resentment against the life she is living. But, equally, I had empathy for her downtrodden husband, Eric, a man whose facade is that of a loyal husband and is a loving, yet ineffectual father to Daisy, the daughter. A young teenage girl, not as streetwise as she perceives herself to be, Daisy is still recovering from an incident that completely changed her life, and who now reads so many wrong signals in so many situations, that she lurches into danger.

I always try not to give spoilers in my reviews, and feel that I’m in danger of doing just that, so I’ll stop there. But what I do need to say is that all these characters are multi layered and immediately identifiable through their dialogue, both spoken and internal. And, together with a cast of wonderful minor characters,( some of whom reappear from A Killer Strikes), they are embedded in a community that is indicative of so many villages and small towns. I almost felt like on onlooker to life in Melton.

As with all of Georgia Roses’ books the descriptions of the settings give a good sense of place: the shop that is Sharon’s domain, Melton Manor, the home of Lord and Lady Cavendish, the village pub, The Red Calf, and the village itself.

Shape of Revenge is a convincingly realistic read, with themes of revenge, deception and suspicions, yet also holds threads of subtle humour. The plot weaves along at a satisfying pace, and there’s a brilliant twist at the end.

I agree with the above description of Shape of Revenge: it is a gripping domestic thriller, and, as such, is a book I would thoroughly recommend.

Shape of Revenge: https://tinyurl.com/2s4aryer is available to preorder

Meet the author:

Interview Resources & Information for Georgia Rose

First NameGeorgia 
Last NameRose 
Emailinfo@georgiarosebooks.com   
HeadshotAttached 
Websitehttps://www.georgiarosebooks.com/   
Twitterhttps://twitter.com/GeorgiaRoseBook   
Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/georgia.rose.books   
Facebook PageGeorgia Rose – Author | Facebook 
Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/georgiarose4481/   
Pinteresthttps://www.pinterest.co.uk/georgia2471/   
Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7776633.Georgia_Rose   
BioGeorgia Rose is a writer and the author of the romantic and suspenseful Grayson Trilogy books: A Single Step, Before the Dawn and Thicker than Water. Following completion of the trilogy she was asked for more and so wrote a short story, The Joker, which is based on a favourite character from the series and the eBook is available to download for free at the retailer of your choice.   Her fourth novel, Parallel Lies, encompasses crime along with Georgia’s usual blending of genre and its sequel, Loving Vengeance, has now completed The Ross Duology.   She is now embarking on her third series – A Shade Darker.   Georgia’s background in countryside living, riding, instructing and working with horses has provided the knowledge needed for some of her storylines; the others are a product of her passion for people watching and her overactive imagination.   She has also recently started running workshops and providing one-to-one support for those wishing to learn how to independently publish and you can find her, under her real name, at www.threeshirespublishing.com.   Following a long stint working in the law Georgia set up her own business providing administration services for other companies which she does to this day managing to entwine that work along with her writing.   Her busy life is set in a tranquil part of rural Cambridgeshire in the UK where she lives with her much neglected husband.   

My Review of The Bubble Reputation by Alex Craigie #socialmedia #TuesdayBookBlog #Review

Book Description:

If you want to destroy someone’s reputation, social media provides the perfect tool.

Emmie Hobson, children’s author and TV presenter, is riding high on a wave of popularity when an unscrupulous newspaper editor, desperate for a scoop, brings Emmie’s world crashing down.

Social media picks up the baton and a terrifying backlash of hate and abuse is unleashed. Threats are made and there are those, inflamed by the rhetoric, prepared to take the law into their own hands.

My Review:

I’ve read previous books by Alex Craigie and thoroughly enjoyed them all, my latest review, that of Means to Deceive, is here: https://tinyurl.com/5y98ak9e

The Bubble Reputation is a story with a chilling message, but it’s not overtly didactic; as usual with this author’s work, this is a steady unveiling of the plot; the revelation of how evil social media can become when driven with the intent of ruining someone’s life.

The character of the protagonist, Emmie Hobson, is well rounded and it’s easy to emphasise with her. And when her optimism and confidence, the enjoyment in her life, is gradually reduced to despair and uncertainty, it’s heartbreaking. This is a book where the reader can see what is happening and wonder how far her jealous antagonist will go, and what Emma can do to stop the malice.

And with a cast of realistic and credible minor characters, some of whom are spreading the spite and others who seem incapable of stopping it, it becomes frustratingly impossible to see who will finally win in this struggle.

The dialogue carries every character’s personality, leaving no doubt who is speaking. But, sometimes, that spoken dialogue becomes unreliable, and leaves the reader to question the words when they don’t match the inner dialogue and actions of of a particular character. The narrative is often the only disclosure of the reasons behind the actions. It’s a clever ploy by the author.

And, as I’ve said in the past, Alex Craigie has a talent for writing descriptions which give a great sense of place. So it is with The Bubble Reputation. But, equally fascinating for me, is the way she has brought the world of social media to life with all the possibility of the inherently manipulative and dangerous behaviour within it. Social media becomes a character in its own right and intrinsically carries the warning that is the main theme threaded throughout the story.

Above all else, this is a tale that is well written, with strong narrative, convincing characters and a plot that progressively moves onwards, taking the reader with it towards an accomplished ending.

I enjoyed The Bubble Reputation and have no hesitation in recommending Alex Craigie’s latest offering to anyone who enjoys a slow-burning psychological drama.

About Alex Craigie

Alex Craigie is the pen name of Trish Power.

Trish was ten when her first play was performed at school. It was in rhyming couplets and written in pencil in a book with imperial weights and measures printed on the back.

When her children were young, she wrote short stories for magazines before returning to the teaching job that she loved.

Trish has had three books published under the pen name of Alex Craigie. The first two books cross genre boundaries and feature elements of romance, thriller and suspense against a backdrop of social issues. Someone Close to Home highlights the problems affecting care homes while Acts of Convenience has issues concerning the health service at its heart. Her third book. Means to Deceive, is a psychological thriller.

Someone Close to Home has won a Chill with a Book award and a Chill with the Book of the Month award. In 2019 it was one of the top ten bestsellers in its category on Amazon.

Book lovers are welcome to contact her on alexcraigie@aol.com

Places in our Memories with Phil Rowlands #Mondayblogs #Memories

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today, I’m so pleased to welcome Phil Rowlands. I seem to have known Phil as part of the writing world for as long as can remember. I have interviewed him a couple of times for and he was always a very welcome addition to the Narberth Book Fairs. Here Phil tells us, in a very poignant account, of the many special memories he has of Newgale, Wales.

Phil Rowland: screenwriter, author, and producer

A chorus of waves and pebbles washes over me as I stand in the place where, back in the folds of time, the five of us, Mum, Dad, my sister, me, and Bob the sheepdog dallied one year for the summer weeks of school holiday, in an old caravan owned by a distant relative.

One night our little van fought so violently with the raging winds and torrential rain and my six-year-old self fretted so passionately, that we returned home, a journey of eleven miles away, to spend the night. Returning in the sun and light of day, I searched for the scattered wreckage but there was none. Even the tent toilet, attached by top and bottom ties, still stood proudly. It was the first sight of my ‘what if’ irritation of the years ahead.

It is beautiful here, a mile of golden sand, patterned with the crisscross current cuts of the angry sea. The warriors of foam, riding the crest of the curved waves, invade the beach and then pull back to regroup for their next attack. High stacked stones lining the edge of this ‘sandy battleground’ look impassively on. They have seen it all before. I wonder if they remember me, the day I lost my Mum and ran through the forest of adults, tears in my eyes and my ever-present smile slipped away in the desperation of the search. Each step I took seemed to drag me deeper into the roots of fear and loss. Then, at last, after a panting panic run, in the shimmering distance, I saw her yellow flowered frock and was soon locked in the solace and safety of her suntanned arms and the warmth of the smell that was and always will be her. We always loved a cuddle, my Mum and me, right up to the end. I miss that most.

Which way to walk? What box of memories shall I open? I think I will head towards Cwm Mawr, the little cove that became ours during the six weeks sojourn. Sunburn, grainy cheese and tomato sandwiches, jellyfish, crabs, and ice-cold rock pools mingle with caves, cliffs and the corpses of sheep that couldn’t stop in time but floated down to become a picnic for the parasites.

The Duke of Edinburgh pub, hidden on the other side of the pebbles and across the road, was once the only barrier for the sea, facing the elements with the bravery of one who knows it cannot win. A tidal wave in 1900 swept in the stones, washed the pub away, swirling the frantic souls as they sank to their deep and watery end and flooded the valley for a mile or more. My great grandfather, a postman, sitting on his delivery trap, watched it happen in helpless fascination. Or so the family folklore goes.

A flick of time to my early teenage years and Wendy from Windsor. She was a sultry sixteen-year-old who caressed my libido and was the best French kisser I had ever found. She showed me that oral was not just the spoken word and led me to what suited her best. How could she know so much at such a tender age? But, oh, how grateful I was that she did. We spent many a happy, messy hour in her parent’s tent as they washed the London cobwebs away with the fresh and salty Welsh air and a pint or two of Scrumpy in the lounge of the Duke.

Most of the summers, in my early years, my family stayed in one of a cluster of chalets with wood and glass verandas, overlooking the beach, the cliffs and the steep road leading down to the village. My dad, who worked as a car salesman, would have his two weeks holiday, and then commute until we returned home the Friday before school went back. On his daily drive, mum and I would travel with him to the top of the hill that led towards Haverfordwest and then walk back, calling into the farm for eggs or buying hot bread from the seaside shop. The boy who worked there thought he was Johnny Cash, wore a cowboy shirt and hat and strangled words that were more Nercwys than Nashville. Still, he helped to colour the landscape of those early years of freedom, and fun.

In later times, when we owned a caravan at the top of the other hill that led to Solva and St David’s, we would walk back over the cliffs, climbing up through the carpet of moss and heather, pausing at the top, hand in hand, to survey our borrowed world of sand and sea, the horizon distant and hazy in the early morning misty sunshine.

Sometimes, though, it rained for days and, if not walking on the sands enjoying the wet, we would sit in the dryness of the veranda, watching the flooded campsite with its array of sunken canvas wrecks and try to count the blow-up beds, bags and plastic cups being chased around by the, determined to not let it spoil the holiday, tourists from Cardiff, Glasgow, London or Hull. Often, I felt a perverse pleasure in this unfair act of God. It was a payback for their invasion of my private holiday space.

Cwm Mawr could be reached three ways. By the beach when the tide was out or over the cliffs, down past a cottage which sat a few yards from the drop into the sea. I was drawn to it and was desperate to live there.  It had a windmill, small windows, and a constant pile of logs. Always when I passed, I could feel it drawing me to look in through its dusty glass or daring me to knock on the door and ask to go in. I never did. I might have broken the spell and that would never have done. The last way to reach the little bay was to walk up the road to Penycwm and then go through the gate with its ‘Farm Animals. Please Shut the Gate.’ sign, and down the rough-tracked valley passing, on the right, the green wooden colonial-style bungalow that was known, to me and my peers, as the TB house. It was once a Convalescent Home, and its shadow of infection and danger still loomed large as I hurried on my way to the safety of my little cove. I always meant to chance a night-time raid but never did. Perhaps, if it’s still there, I might make the effort though I do not wish to shatter the thin film of time that protects it from the present.

After crossing a cool, clear, pure stream, and scrambling over the shingle of long-gone ages, you reached the rock-strewn beach with its high walls and sculptures. A picture book of past and present. A ‘Boy’s Own’ landscape of adventure and fantasy. There were large water filled hollows, big enough to swim in, if you wanted to risk disturbing their hidden dangers – the anger of awakened crabs or the poisonous puffs of Portuguese Men O’ War, imprisoned when the tide retreated, easily ballooned in my fertile mind.

They were happy, carefree times, uncluttered by the responsibilities and shattered dreams to come. A protected world, in which laughter came easily and old age lay hidden slyly in the shadows of future years.

A great treat was to go to the cinema once a week and then on the way back to fill up the roasting pan with fish and chips from Dew Street. We would wait until we got back to Newgale, almost beside ourselves with desire, as that special salt and vinegar smell wrapped itself around us and we almost drooled in anticipation of the delights to come.

The first time I saw the seals it was early evening. We were sitting on the rocks, halfway up the broken cliff, tired from long hours of sunshine and salt. A family of three swam up and basked on the flat rocky plateau below us. Glorious silky bodies, faces twitching to give warning of the first scent of danger. They didn’t mind us being there and seemed to sense that we intended them no more harm than to share in their lives for this moment of time. I can’t remember how long we stayed but dusk was slipping its curtain over the light as we reached the caravan. Dad had been home for four hours and was beginning to think that Neptune had taken us to lodge in his deep and mysterious home.

Next night he came back early and joined our little group. The seals glanced upwards as he arrived but relaxed when he sat with us. He was overcome by their innocence and peace, and I never felt as close to him again.

About Phil Rowlands

I am a screenwriter, author and producer. After many years as a ‘safe pair of hands’ actor, mainly in film and television, I moved into the production side as a freelance writer and producer. I’ve written feature films, TV and radio dramas, documentaries and animation series and worked on productions as a script doctor and consultant.

In 2009 I was one of the co-founders of Funky Medics, a production company focussing mainly on innovative health education. Its projects have included heart disease, diabetes, smoking and drug abuse.

Currently, I have four screenplays under option, one for production in 2023, the other three at various stages of draft development.

Siena, my first novel, was revised and republished by new indie publisher Diamond Crime along with my second, Single Cell in April 2021. A new book, TimeSlip, was released in late March 2022.

I write in a shed at the bottom of my small garden.

Originally from Pembrokeshire in West Wales, I now live near Cardiff and have British nationality and Canadian citizenship.

Find Phil here:

phil@philrowlandswriter.com
twitter @PhilRowlands2
www.philrowlandswriter.com