I honestly can’t believe that it’s that time again: my quarterly catch-up is upon us once more. How can it be September already? It was May only five minutes ago, surely?
Anyway, as is my wont (I have no idea what that means but I’ve read it in various books throughout my life and it sounds good) I now bring you the story of my life – or at least the part of it that took place between when I last spoke to you all at the end of May and today.
I was racking my brains, actually, trying to think what I’d done this last three months. I couldn’t really think of anything much but, luckily, I do keep a diary, so I flicked through it and the little grey cells started sparking once more, and here we are. My September catch-up. Fascinating stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree …
What I Watched on the Gogglebox
I never seem to find anything particularly enticing to watch on television and usually end up on the ITV Hub or BBC iPlayer, watching old episodes of Inspector Morse, Lewis, Midsomer Murders, Poirot, Marple, Upstart Crow and Two Doors Down. At night when I go to bed I watch DVDs. This last month I’ve been working my way through the complete boxset of Bewitched. Current TV fails to entice me, mostly. There have been some notable exceptions, however and, for me, the standout programmes of the summer have been Gentleman Jack, Years and Years, Good Omens and Poldark.
I absolutely loved Gentleman Jack, which was a jolly romp set in Yorkshire and featuring Suranne Jones as real-life larger-than-life, sharp as a tack Anne Lister – a smart, independent businesswoman who also happened to be a lesbian. This was such an appealing, funny, interesting and emotional series and I was enthralled. Really pleased there’ll be a second series.
In complete contrast, Russell T Davies‘s gripping drama, Years and Years, terrified the life out of me. Unlike Russell’s other fantastic drama, Doctor Who, there were no Daleks or Cybermen or any other aliens to frighten or threaten us. In Years and Years, the monsters were in government, and ordinary people sat back and watched as the planet slid into hell. The truly terrifying thing about this programme was that it was all so relatable. Not far-fetched at all, given what’s been going on in our own country and others around the world these last few years. It was so cleverly done and really made you think. It deserves a whole shedload of awards.
If you haven’t seen Good Omens you really ought to give it a go. An angel and a demon, played respectively by Michael Sheen and David Tennant, strike up an unlikely friendship over the centuries, and join forces in modern times to prevent the rise of the antichrist and an end to their rather enjoyable lifestyle. It’s witty, sparky and clever, and I loved it. It’s on Netflix but I think it’s coming to mainstream television soon.
And Poldark. Oh, what a sobfest that was, as we finally said goodbye to Aidan Turner‘s delicious Ross Poldark, and Eleanor Tomlinson‘s wonderful Demelza. The entire cast was perfection and I’ll especially miss the brilliant Jack Forsyth as George Warleggan. He was so good in the role. I admit I cried for ages as the final credits rolled, and I am keeping everything crossed that one day Poldark will return to bring us Winston Graham‘s later stories, featuring the same cast. That would be incredible.
What I Watched on Film.
I always say I don’t watch films and I really don’t – at least, not often. So I was surprised to look back over the last three months and discover that, lately, I’ve watched quite a few.
At home, I tend to watch old Cary Grant movies on Amazon Prime. I can never watch them enough times. I did, however, try something new recently, when I rented Kenneth Branagh‘s All is True – the story of William Shakespeare‘s return to his home and family in Stratford, following the destruction by fire of The Globe. Written by Ben Elton, who also wrote the fabulous Upstart Crow, this had a very different feel to it, but I really enjoyed it. Over on Netflix, my favourites this quarter have been Stan and Ollie, and Victoria and Abdul. I’ve just realised that all those films are based on the lives of real people. Hmm. Never noticed that before.
I even managed two trips to the cinema! Now, that is unusual as I rarely go to the cinema. First, I went to see the new live-action version of Aladdin, with Will Smith as Genie. I wasn’t sure what to expect, given that Robin Williams so completely inhabited that role, but Will made it his own. It was brilliant. More recently, I went to see Yesterday, which featured the music of the fabulous Beatles. With a quirky sort of screenplay by Richard Curtis, providing you can overlook the plot holes and just accept it for what it is, it’s a fantastic film with a good, strong cast and – obviously – an amazing soundtrack. Recommended.
What I’ve Been Reading
I confess I haven’t done as much reading of published books as I’d like this past few months, as I’ve been busy beta-reading forthcoming novels by other writers, but I did read and enjoy Jo Bartlett‘s Return to Port Agnes (you can find my review here), Pat Posner‘s The Right Mr Wrong (review here), Veronica Henry‘s How to Find Love in a Book Shop, and Jennifer Wilson‘s Kindred Spirits: Tower of London. I will get round to writing reviews for the latter two as soon as I can.
Out and About
Yes, I did get out of the house this quarter! Many times in fact. Apart from regular lunch dates with my lovely friend, Jessica Redland, and a catch up with Alys West, I also attended several chapter meetings of our local branch of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, which I always enjoy as there’s loads of writing chat and much laughter – and hardly any alcohol consumed, honest guv.
On 19th August I went to an event at the Hull branch of Waterstones. Local writers Val Wood and Nick Quantrill were “in conversation” there, and it was a lovely evening full of interesting stories, background information, good humour and the chance to ask questions about their books and careers. Drinks and nibbles were provided and there were books on sale which both authors were happy to sign. I already have most of Val’s books, but I confess *whisper* I’d never heard of Nick, so I bought the first of his Geraghty series, which features a private detective based in Hull. He signed it for me, and I was really glad to meet another local author. I will definitely be reading the book!
On a different note, Jessica and I had an amazing time at Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre on 1st August, when we went to the Kylie Minogue concert. Wow! Kylie was amazing, and she sang almost all her hits and put on a fantastic show. Lots of costume changes, great sets and the sound was incredible. Mostly the weather was kind to us. There was a brief downpour, but Jessica is a seasoned visitor to the open air theatre and had come prepared. She whipped out two folded rain ponchos which may not have looked particularly fetching but did the trick. It was a brilliant evening.
I had a real treat in July, when my daughter and daughter-in-law took me out for the day to the Howardian Hills in North Yorkshire. We visited Yorkshire Lavender and had a marvellous time strolling around the grounds, taking pictures of the beautiful flowers and the dozens of bees that were visiting them. We spent a small fortune in the gift shop, buying various lavender-scented products including drawer sachets and candles, then visited the teashop where I tasted a lavender scone with clotted cream and blueberry jam. Despite my reservations, the lavender tasted lovely and I’d certainly recommend it. There were lots of other lavender flavoured desserts available, too. It’s definitely worth a visit, and only £3 admission!
If I thought that was a treat, I was in for a huge surprise in August, when DD and DIL took me, along with DIL’s lovely mum, out for the day. They’d refused to tell us where we were going, and we only found out the day before. What a fabulous surprise to discover we were heading to Halifax, to Shibden Hall and the home of Gentleman Jack herself, Anne Lister!
Shibden Hall really is a beautiful old house, set in stunning grounds with a view to die for. It’s full of ancient dark beams and lots of wooden panelling. Some of the costumes from the programme were on display, and we spotted a couple of top hats dotted around the place, too! Outside is a variety of outbuildings which house different “businesses”: there’s a pharmacy, a blacksmith’s, an inn and a cooper’s, for instance. There’s also a huge barn which contains a selection of carriages, and even a horse-drawn ambulance. We did marvel at how female servants, with their long skirts, managed to hoist themselves up to sit on the outside bit of the carriage. It’s very high up! We had a fantastic day out (all for only £5 admission!) and called in at a pub near Leeds for a carvery on the way home. Perfect day!
Back in June, DH and I had a day out in Skegness. It was a very hot and sunny day, with clear blue skies and acres of golden sand spread out before us. We had fish and chips and ice cream and strolled up and down the seafront, only stopping for the obligatory cup of tea. We even got to see a lifeboat drill. The place was heaving, I must admit, but we’d expected that. Sometimes you just can’t beat a day at the seaside and we’ve always found Skegness to be a glorious, clean and friendly place with plenty to do. The kids used to love it when they were little – particularly the fairground rides. It’s a proper “bucket and spade” resort, with donkeys on the beach and sticks of rock on sale everywhere and a beautiful, tidy beach. Plus, the countryside around Skeggy is stunning. The drive home through the Lincolnshire Wolds is one I always enjoy.
It’s been a bit manic at home lately, as we decided to decorate. It all started with my shoulder. Yes, I know that sounds odd but bear with me. I’ve been struggling with pain in my arm and shoulder for months. The GP thought it was a sprained deltoid muscle, although it turns out that it is, in fact, bursitis and an impingement. Anyway, I was pretty convinced that it was caused by the position of my arms when I’m typing at my desk. My desk is quite high and my chair isn’t adjustable, and my arms were therefore in a permanently raised position to type. I decided that I deserved a proper desk and chair.
Now, once I’d decided that, I looked around my office and decided the whole room could do with a tidy up. It hasn’t been touched by us at all since we moved into the house, and I wanted to “make it mine”. After all, I spend a lot of time in there.
DH and I had a chat about what we could do with the room and, bit by bit, more and more things got added to the list. I’m not sure how it happened, but the upshot was that, not only was the office going to be decorated, but it was going to have all new furniture, lightshade, blind, pictures etc. And somehow, the decision was made that, while we were doing the office, we might as well give the living room a makeover, too.
For the last six weeks or so, we’ve been surrounded by mess as we work our way through decades worth of junk and argue about what to keep and what we should throw away. I’ve been to Ikea and purchased a new desk, chair and bookcase. After much debate and soul-searching, I narrowed the choice of colour for the office walls down to three and we went off to B&Q, where we bought sample pots and somehow managed to fill a trolley with loads of other stuff we hadn’t budgeted for. We got home and I went upstairs to try the samples, only to discover I didn’t like any of them. In the end we went to Homebase where I took a gamble and bought a completely different make and colour of emulsion. As I write this, DH is putting the finishing touches to the walls and, thank goodness, I really like it!
The living room is almost finished, and the office should be done in a few days’ time, but boy, it feels like forever since I first casually mentioned that maybe I should treat myself to a new desk …
Oh, and it was my birthday in June. I think DH had somehow cottoned on to the fact that I really, really loved Game of Thrones. Definitely sensed a theme emerging with my birthday presents …
And so to work.
In June I was honoured to guest on Tracey Scott-Townsend‘s blog, Traces in Time, where I wrote a post entitled, What I Did at Fifty. It was quite an honest post, and I did hesitate about revealing so much of the real me, but decided there was no point in writing it if I wasn’t going to tell the truth. You can read it here.
The first of July saw the publication of my fourth novel for Ulverscroft’s Linford Romance Library. These are large-print paperbacks which go into libraries – something which never ceases to delight me. This time, it was the turn of Fresh Starts at Folly Farm to get the large print treatment, and I received my author copies in mid-June, when I was absolutely thrilled to discover the cover was a picture of a woman with a horse. The pony-mad, pony-book-loving child that I was screamed in delight. If anyone had told me back then …
Anyway, 24th July was publication day for the fifth and penultimate Bramblewick novel, Summer at the Country Practice. Featuring new GP Dr Abbie Sawdon, who appeared very briefly at the end of A Merry Bramblewick Christmas, and Jackson Wade who featured a bit more frequently in the same book, this is a story of two people who have an awful lot to overcome. Jackson and Abbie couldn’t be more different, but those differences are the very things that – in a roundabout way – bring them closer together, and just might be the making of them. The book is available on Kindle here, and it will be out in paperback some time around Christmas, as part of Bramblewick Volume 3, where it will be joined by the Christmas Bramblewick novel that I’m about to start work on any day now …
On 14th August I was delighted to feature in a post on Samantha Henthorn‘s blog: Memorable Books I Have Read During the Last Twelve Months or So, and to discover that not only did I have one book mentioned, but two! Both Belle, Book and Christmas Candle and My Favourite Witch were given the honour of selection, and I was absolutely over the moon. Samantha is always so supportive of my writing, and it’s lovely to know that someone is enjoying your work that much.
My shoulder and arm are still giving me pain, but I have an appointment for steroid injections in a few weeks and then I should be able to start physiotherapy. Hopefully that, combined with my new user-friendly desk and chair, should ensure that I have no more problems.
Right now, though, I am struggling to type much. You have no idea how long it’s taken me to type this post! This HAS affected my plans for the rest of the year and it does look as if there will be a delay with one of my books.
I’ve got a short Christmas novella coming out at the beginning of October, which will be the second in the Home for Christmas series. After that, I’ll be getting the sixth and final Bramblewick novel ready for publication. Gosh, that’s going to be an emotional moment, when I finally say goodbye to my little village on the moors …
My third and final Witches of Castle Clair novel has a prologue and a plot, but I haven’t been able to do much else with it so far. I am now expecting that to be ready in the new year, rather than for Christmas, but if plans change I will let you know. As the book doesn’t really feature the festive season, it made more sense to focus on Bramblewick for now, as that takes place in December. Hopefully, once my arm is back to normal, I will be able to pick up the pace again.
I hope so, because I have three more books planned for next year – and all of them are final novels in a series. After that, all my series will be complete and I am looking forward to starting fresh stories in new locations with a whole new bunch of characters.
So that was my summer, and now I’m looking forward to autumn. Candles and firelight and cosy nights snuggled in my lovely new living room. It will be finished by then, won’t it? Won’t it? *Gulp*. Fingers crossed …
Have a great week!