Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas Kitten

Rum the dog says "Hrmph. Wish Santa would take that pesky
 little black thing someplace else!"

Friday, 3 December 2010

More photos of Miss Mab

also known as Trouble.... :-)

Trouble? Me...?... Ow?
^ ..^

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Our New Kitten

Meet our kitten - officially named Mab - but more commonly known as Trouble

She's already shown she can write better than me by pouncing on the keyboard -   loves chasing the cursor on the screen. and spent the night asleep on my desk. 

Obviously keeping watch for the mouse.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Appledore - North Devon

The Bar (looking out to sea)

Looking towards Instow

Where the Taw and Torridge meet...

One End Street

Add caption

Market Street

Market Street

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Five Days in Devon

Two highlights of my few days away - strolling through the narrow streets of Appledore, and meeting with Mandi from Bideford People to chat about Jesamiah and the Sea Witch Voyages.

photo - courtesy Bideford people

Ripples In The Sand is set in and around Appledore and Instow and the estuary of the rivers Taw and Torridge along the North Devon coast. A sand bar has always made shipping coming into the safety of the rivers hazardous, yet Bideford and Barnstaple were huge centrees of trade in the 16-1800's.

I wanted to bring Sea Witch and Jesamiah to England to make a change of scene for the novels, and decided on the Instow area because that's where my editor, Jo, lives and I'd had a chance to do a fair bit of exploring around there. Plus I could use the enigmatic Exmoor for a few scenes (and bring the famous Doone family into the story!)

When I started writing Ripples I had decided that Jesamiah would be bringing in a cargo of tobacco from Virginia, so imagine my excitement when I discovered that Bideford was the main centre for the tobacco trade in the 1700's. I couldn't believe I'd stumbled on a fact I had no previous idea of.

I also found that there are the remains of a very old chapel on Crow Point, opposite Appledore, of Celtic origin. A place of birth and fertility. The remains of a  Stone Age causeway was discovered - leading towards the Isle of Lundy, which is one those Celtic places, like Glastonbury, that has association with the dead. So - a link with birth to death. And Tiola, of course, is a midwife - birth, and midwives also laid out the dead.

So by sheer chance I had found an ideal spot that fitted perfectly with my idea for a plot.

I was to have another of those OMG hair prickling moments when I started investigating the cobbled streets of Appledore with Jo on the first full day of my Devon Break. The old Appledore streets are very "quaint". narrow, twisting and turning; a rabbit warren maze - a smugglers' haven if ever there was one.

I needed to find a suitable location to place my fictitious tavern where Jesamiah and Tiola are going to stay. I had decided on a name before I'd even started writing - either the Triple Moon or the Full Moon.

Wandering along Market Street, and studying the guide book, Jo and I came to One End Street. Named for obvious reasons. Originally it was called Cock Street, however.

Rather coyly the guide writer assumes the name was given either because a man named John Cock lived there or they held cock fights in the street. Ahem. Appledore was a sailor's port. Cock Street was not a thoroughfare (only having one entrance/exit) so any "street entertainments" would not be interrupted by passers by. Cock Street, I'm afraid, probably has a far more, um, robust - origin!

 I wandered on along Market Street reading the guide book. The present Coach and Horses Tavern was there pre 1800 - though called something different, and at that time it would have had frontage onto the river and harbour (there is a later-built row of shops and cottages there now)

Then my jaw dropped and I felt that prickle of excitement mingled with an "oo-er" moment.
There had also been a tavern in Cock Street.

I'll give you two guesses as to what it was called....

Market Street - an old photograph.
In Jesamiah's time there would only have been the left hand side buildings

... Answer:- The Full Moon.

an OMG  spine shiver moment! I had no idea when I chose that name for my fictitious tavern!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Me, Michael Portillo and the Microphones!

Radio 4  - Part 1
I was a bit stunned last week to receive an e-mail from the BBC (oh-oh not paid my TV licence? Hang on ... Ron is over 75, we don't pay for a licence any more....) It was from someone from Radio 4 wanting my phone number (oh yes....????) Well I looked him up on the BBC website, and his credentials seemed legit. So I mailed my number.

Glad I did!
I was asked if I would take part in recording a Radio 4 programme The Things We Forgot To Remember. The subject was to be Harold Godwineson -basically,  why should we remember someone who lost a battle?

Was I interested? Daft question!

Arrangements were made and yesterday (Friday 29th) I trotted off to Waltham Abbey, Essex, to meet with producer Tom Alban and the programme's host Michael Portillo. Most people in the UK have heard of Mr Portillo, but for those outside of Britain, he used to be a Member of Parliament and a Minister for various departments during the years of Margaret Thatcher. Recently, however, having quit Parliament, he has been known for hosting various TV and Radio documentaries, and as a journalist. He studied history at Cambridge.

Why Waltham Abbey? Well the original abbey was founded by Harold circa 1047, probably in thanks to God for Harold's recovery after a serious illness.
And because he is possibly buried there ... read on!

When I got to the abbey the two guys had also just arrived - said hello to Michael (nice man) and Tom(another nice man). Introductions over we wandered round to the rear of the present abbey (much smaller than the Medieval one - though possibly about the same size in ground area as Harold's original church.) We stood and chatted (into microphones) by the Harold Stone - the marker of where King Harold was possibly buried and a tribute stone to him - both set where the Medieval alter would have been. The stone was covered in floral tributes left there on 14th October. (Mine, of course, was placed at the similar stone at Battle Abbey) Michael read out the wording inscribed there.

We talked about Harold's resting place. I am certain his bones are buried on the south coast at Bosham Church, near Chichester, the Godwine's main manor house. The bones discovered there, some years ago, consist of a headless torso and only one leg - and are buried beneath the chancel arch. It doesn't take a lot of working out to realise this is Harold. (who else would it be? The only other important people would be Godwine himself or King Cnut - both of whom were buried at Winchester)

However: I am also certain in my bones that Harold's head and heart were taken to Waltham and placed beneath the alter of his original church. A full skeleton has never been found at Waltham in the area where Harold was supposedly buried - but a heart would deteriorate rapidly, and a skull could easily be missed or also deteriorate over the years.

Harold's body and soul rests at peace at Bosham. His Life and Love are at Waltham. I think that is the truth - but we are not meant to discover it as a certainty.

We then went inside because it was one of those days when the passing traffic of the busy main road was noisy.

Michael was very professional and calm and capable - I fluffed things several times, and completely forgot what I was supposed to be saying. I was trying very hard to be calm and capable as well though! This was very important for me and I will have no idea whether I've blown it or not until the programme is broadcast. I expect they'll cut most of me out and stick to other calm and capable professional historians, not just little me with my huge passion for supporting Harold as our rightful King. Oh well. Such is life.

I listen to radio 4 a lot, especially the Today programme (wish James Naughtie would read one of my novels for his book programme :-( Woman's Hour, Start the Week, In Our Time etc. 

One thing I hadn't realised with recording for radio - we had two microphones  (one each) and it was important to make sure they did not get "switched" i.e. if I was on the right, talking into the right hand mike, then moved to the left as we walked away - the right hand microphone had to stay with me... otherwise the voice direction would be different in the broadcast. Interesting!

Quite a few people came up to shake Michael's hand. Hmph. No one shook mine :-/ LOL.

The programme is to be broadcast on November 15th at 8 p.m. on BBC Radio 4. There will be a "listen again" option via computer link - so anyone, anywhere will be able to listen (probably a day later)  but I will confirm all this nearer the time

 I had a giggle afterwards when I popped into the White Witch in the Abbey Square - a lovely shop owned by lovely, kind people - it might be Wiccan/Pagan orientated, but if you want something different as a gift for someone - a beautiful mobile, or a ceramic fairy, that's the place to go. I often pop in for a chance to chill, relax, and receive a genuinely given hug. While in there someone remarked about seeing Michael Portillo in town - I was delighted to explain why!

By the way, there is also an excellent Pie & Mash shop in Waltham Abbey. Highly recommended.

Back to the radio.... I fluffed the ending a bit. For the life of me I couldn't remember the line I had suggested on the phone to Tom - that Harold was the last English King to die protecting his kingdom from foreign invasion. He fought for us - for the people of England - against a tyrant and a bully. That he lost in the attempt was not his fault. William had no right to the English throne. None at all - I don't know if I got that across in the recording. I don't know if I conveyed any of the passion I feel for Harold, my hero.

I did my best though. I did my best.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Ladies Who Lunch

I haven't met up with Elizabeth Chadwick for a couple of years - then twice in one week! As I was in Nottingham for the New Writer's Book Fayre, I made arrangements to meet her and her friend, Alison King, for Friday lunch.
Elizabeth & Helen

Needing some help with writing Ripples In the Sand, the Fourth Sea Witch Voyage, which involves Tiola seeing into the past, I made the decision to have an Akashic Record session with Alison, an Akashic consultant.

In Elizabeth's words from her website, The Akashic Record  is based on the belief that everything that happens in the world is imprinted on the Akasa which is: ' an unseen substance which is all around us all and present in every atom of this world and of the universe. This substance is capable of being impressed by the images, thoughts, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings of what it comes into contact with, and because it is in contact with everything, everything is recorded. It is like having a multi-sensory photograph or holograph being constantly taken and kept on file.’
(The quote is taken from this explanatory page by  Alison - click the link above to her blog page)

Alison & Helen

I'm not ready, yet, to talk publicly about my highly interesting Akashic session as I am still digesting everything, but I will do, soon.

Alison is a lovely lady, and lunch was a couple of hours of good food and very, very good company.

Thank you, ladies, for a delightful day!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

An Evening to Dine For

Dinner at the Reform Club, Pall Mall, London UK, hosted by Dominique Raccah, MD of US publisher Sourcebooks Inc.

A whole host of authors were there but I was lucky enough to sit between fabulous authors Barbara Erskine and Elizabeth Chadwick, two very lovely ladies.

Very good company, very good food - a very good evening!

Thank you Dominique.

Barbara, Me, Elizabeth

Photo stolen from Elizabeth Chadwick's Blog - thanks Elizabeth! :-)

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Battle of Hastings re-enactment 2010

After the pouring rain of earlier in the week, the glorious weather over 9th/10th October at Battle Abbey, Sussex, for the annual re-enactment was incredible. In fact it got too hot!
I was opleased to be in the shade in the main English Heritage tent down on the field - made welcome, as ever, by the staff of EH.

Living History. Paula, Connor & Rich

As with last year, I noticed Saturday was more given to the "enthusiasts" those who were interested in the history, and those of us who were there to pay our respect to Harold II. Sunday was more of a family day, grandparents & parents taking the kids somewhere for the day - a good percentage of them not  knowing what the history was all about, and sadly, not caring.
I did notice very few people were cheering for the Normans again this year. Definite 'boos', while 'Godwineson! Godwineson! Godwineson!'  was very distinctly heard.
 As ever, of course, the Normans won. :-( Boo! Hiss!

I met so many lovely people - couldn't possibly name you all. Paula & Connor especially though, and I had a chance to chat to Robert Cronin who has posted a topic for debate on my Let's Talk of History & Kings  blog.
 I also met Daphne & her husband from the USA - Daphne was traveling to Nottingham on the Monday (yesterday as I write this) to meet up with author Elizabeth Chadwick, so she was on a bit of an "authors tour". Fabulous to talk to you Daphne, & I hope the rest of your trip goes well! Safe journey home & stay in touch!

The weekend was very tiring - standing most of the day and getting up & down that hill is hard work ( to add to my dodgy hip I had slightly twisted my ankle as well). Tiring but oh so very worth while!

See you all again NEXT year! Thank you to Paula Lofting Wilcox & Rich Price for the photos. I stole them from their Facebook pages, Dearest Daughter not having got around to downloading our own yet. Thanks you two!
I don't suppose anyone took a picture with me in it? :-/

Anyone interested in the battle itself go to for some great photos

At one point on the Sunday afternoon - just as I was speaking to Daphne and Chip from Colorado USA  I turned round to discover my chair had gone missing. I was stunned! My chair? Who stole my chair! Bloomin' Normans.... I have just received this from Daphne:
'After the battle was over, we walked around the abbey for a while waiting for some of the traffice to clear out.  As we were walking back to the car, we saw something that we thought might belong to you.... '

That's it! That's MY chair! A victim of the battle, cut down in its prime, a Saxon chair.... LOL :-D

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Guest speaker King Harold Day buffet supper

Reading from Harold the King

about my area - Waltham Abbey

click the links to read the articles
Guardian Series - Waltham Abbey

Laughing with Vice Chair Isabelle

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Battle Abbey 2008

Helen & Robin Jacob (1066 the Movie producer)

Signing copies of Harold the King in the English Heritage tent - Battle of Hastings re-enactment.
I'll be there again this year 9th/10th October

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Forever Queen - Publisher's Weekly Review :-)

excuse the self-promotion wide grin - but I've had a fabulous review from Publisher's Weekly and I'd like to share it with my blog friends:
The Forever Queen
Helen Hollick, Sourcebooks Landmark, $16.99 trade paper (656p) ISBN 978-1-4022-4068-3
Hollick gets medieval in this excellent historical. As a young teenager, Emma of Normandy is married off to Aethelred of England to secure an alliance in 1002 C.E., and though initially frightened of her crude and violent husband, she soon learns that his bluster is a cover for his weakness and cowardice. When Aethelred dies, his throne is taken by a Viking usurper, Cnut, who claims Emma along with the crown. In him, Emma finds a love that she doesn't expect, but constant political treachery threatens their marriage, their lives, and the inheritance of their children. Hollick does a remarkable job of bringing to life a little known but powerful queen, as well as the milieu and world she inhabited. The scope is vast and the cast is huge, but Hollick remains firmly in control, giving readers an absorbing plot that never lags over the course of a fat, satisfying book.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

More Horse Stuff!

Kathy did well at the National Side Saddle Association show in Buckinghamshire. Wearing the same costume as pictured below for the Royal International, she was awarded third place. She was up against some stiff competition, so we were delighted!
Then Shinglehall Casino, our two year old youngster, received First Premium at the British Equestrian Federation’s Futurity Grading. To non-horse people, this means Lexie (as we call her) has been assessed and passed as a prospective UK sports horse – the human equivalent would be getting an A+ grade in an examination. I'm very proud of Kathy, Ace and Lexie! Well Done!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

My daughter at the Royal International Horse Show 1st August 2010


My beautiful daughter, Kathy, competing at the Royal International Horse Show in the side saddle concors d'elegance costume class.

We were rather gutted that although the judge loved her outfit she couldn't award her a "place" as Ace (the horse) was too upset by annoying flies & was not behaving in his usual gentlemanly manner. The idea of the class is elegance & having your horse fidgeting & kicking out (even because of irritating flies) is not "elegant". I entirely agree with the judge - but the judge said Kathy would have come 2nd or 3rd! :-(

Never mind. Next time Ace will be drowned in fly repellent!

Enjoy the photo's!