Another Week is Over…

Heavens, Christmas is waiting in the wings, although it seems to me festive TV ads have been flitting across our screens since mid-October (or was it earlier?) Anyway there are now four more shopping weekends until the great event and I’m trying very hard not to panic.  The trouble with  not working is that – for me at least – if I have less to do, being organised ends up in free-fall.  When I was in the world of work most of my jobs were pretty full on.  I think the busiest I ever had was when I was in my late thirties.  I worked for the NHS within their Community Health Unit which looked after services like Child Health, Family Planning, Services for Children with Learning Difficulties, Chiropody, Dentistry and Speech Therapy.  My job, besides acting as PA to the Unit General Manager, saw me managing 9 secretaries, two admin staff and keeping 112 community vehicles on the road.   Yes it was pretty busy but I found the more I had to think about, the better organised I was.  For me, work has never been enjoyable unless there was a challenge and boy was that one of my biggest!

Now I no longer have responsibility for anyone else, just me – and my OH of course.  I do find with no time constraints apart from writing, things tend to fall into mañana mode – a sort of ‘Oh I’ll do that tomorrow‘ approach. Although after years at work when maybe I should be taking my foot off the gas, I do really feel the need to maintain some sort of organised existence within my new self-employed world.  However as far as Christmas is concerned I’m afraid I’ve failed miserably.  No cards yet, no gift purchases either, although I have managed to put one or two items of festive food by.  Never mind, I’m promising myself this week will see a total change.  Cards will be purchased and written ready for posting during the first week in December.  Then the week after a day out Christmas shopping followed by the purchase of the tree, decorating and then bracing myself for all the run up to Christmas socialising that normally takes place.

Well I’m stopping and thinking now. After sharing this with you all maybe, just maybe I’m beating myself up just a little over this.  There are still elements of my former self in this new life of mine – a  methodical approach to writing for a start. And on the kitchen front I’m well organised with weekly menu plans and grocery lists.  Then  there’s an appointments diary for dentists and all other necessaries and lastly an up to date list of friends to dip into to organise lunch meets.  So if I’m not quite ready for Christmas then it seems my day-to–day existence still appears to run quite smoothly does it not?  Although it’s not as busy as I used to be maybe on reflection I should take comfort from that.  Because if I had to drop myself back into the skin of a thirty something now and do all the things I used to do in that job, working full time as well as running my home and writing I’m sure the men in white coats would soon be beating a path to my door.  That was then, this is now, so maybe I should both embrace and enjoy my new ‘liberated state’ as one of my friends once termed it!  After all, I’ve earned it haven’t I?

And returning briefly to Christmas, I’m finishing with a plug for my favourite city’s forthcoming festive market

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Bath Christmas Market 2013

Thursday 28th November – Sunday 15th December 2013

For 18 days, the quaint streets and square between the stunning Bath Abbey and the internationally renowned Roman Baths are transformed into a Christmas shopper’s haven – Bath Christmas Market.

The opening times for the market this year are:

Monday to Wednesday – 10am to 7pm Thursday to Saturday – 10am to 8pm Sunday – 10am to 6pm

In the heart of Bath’s main shopping district, more than 150 traditional wooden chalets adorn the streets; each one offering unique, handmade and unusual gifts, decorations and food items – everything you will need for the perfect Christmas celebration.

In 2012, Bath Christmas Market became the first Christmas Market in the UK to be awarded a Visit England VAQAS award for being a ‘Quality Assured Visitor Attraction’.

Shine On Award

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The SHINE ON Award

7 Random Things About Me

Posted on November 23rd 2013

by  Jo Lambert

I’m proud to be the recipient of the prestigious SHINE ON Award in the ‘books inspired by music’ category. In order to accept the honour bestowed upon me by fellow Canadian writer Melanie Robertson King, I have to share seven random bits of information about me with you – my readers.  So for better or worse here they are:-

One)  I’ve been married twice and both my husbands have the same star sign – Pisces.

Two) I have never changed my initials.  No, it’s not that I preferred to keep my maiden name after marrying, both my husbands just happened to have surnames beginning with the same letter as mine.  As a child I owned a small brown case which had belonged to my father and had his initials  – which incidentally were the same three as mine – set into the lid.  I remember telling my grandmother on more than one occasion that these initials were never going to change, I would always have them.  This pronouncement, however, had absolutely nothing to do with eventual my choice of husband. A little spooky though, don’t you think?

Three) I sat next to Jamie Cullum in the cinema.  It was a long time ago at the beginning of his career; he was with his family and I remember he demolished a very large tub of popcorn through the film!

Four) I have a complete aversion to men’s ginger suede shoes. Not wanting to go too deeply into this, but years ago when I worked in Bristol for an international building company one of the guys in the office behaved in a way to women that would absolutely not be allowed today – and got away with it.  He wore ginger suede shoes and every time I see anyone wearing anything remotely similar, it brings back memories of that particular office predator.

Five) I am a member of MENSA with an IQ of 151.

Six) I adore cats. I’ve owned 8 at different times in my life. My favourite has to be Ziggy, a half Burmese boy who became diabetic at the age of 10 and had to be put to sleep two years later when insulin shots failed to control the disease.  A great loss, miss him very much – he was almost human!Intense Ziggy (640x480)

Seven) Like Melanie I could not exist without chocolate.  It’s my absolute downfall as I can definitely identify with ‘a minute in the mouth a month on the hips’ . I do tend to damp down on my sweet tooth, only indulging at Christmas.  Now if they could make a low calorie chocolate that tasted like the naughty variety I’d be in absolute heaven!

So that’s it, seven random things about me. Read Melanie’s SHINE ON random personal facts on her Celtic Connexions blog found via: www.melanierobertsonking.com

I have to confess this SHINE ON award has been so popular that most of the writers I know have already opted to join under someone else’s banner.  Therefore I am only able to pass the baton for this award to my good friend and writing colleague Kit Domino, Writer and Artist, Author of Every Step of the Way.  However if I do manage to enlist the support of any others I will rope them in and let you all know the details.

If it’s Tuesday it must be…

My Book Covers1

Tuedays are earmarked as a day out for both my OH and me.  Usually it’s a drive out to a local pub for lunch and maybe a wander around the nearest town or country footpaths afterwards depending on where we are eating.  Today was a little different, a bit of a trek back in time.  Our destination was Marlborough.

When I was eleven years old I passed my eleven plus and started at Marlborough Grammar School. Marlborough, for those who aren’t acquainted with the geography of Wiltshire, is a provincial town on the A4 between Calne to the west and Hungerford to the east with Savernake Forest sitting to the south.  Its charter was granted in 1214 and it is the home of Marlborough College, a co-educational public school whose fees can set you back around £32,000 a year.   The name of the town is derived from Merlin’s Barrow as legend has it he was buried here – OK I know what you’re saying, isn’t he supposed to be buried in Glastonbury?   The town’s motto is Ubi nunc sapientis ossa MerliniWhere now are the bones of wise Merlin.   More plausibly,however, the town’s name probably derives from the medieval term for chalky ground “marl” – thus “town on chalk”.  Marlborough also boasts the widest high street in the UK.

As someone who had grown up cycling to the next village to school, starting senior school was a total culture shock.  At the age of eleven I suddenly found myself catching four trains a day, two there and two back, a round trip of 30 miles.  Scary?  Well maybe for a while, but I soon got used to it and grew to love the journeys, especially as the small train which took us from Savernake High Level to Marlborough was quite sweet like Thomas the Tank Engine!

I only spent one year at the grammar school.  During that time they were constructing a new fit-for-purpose building on the edge of the town.  The new school was necessary because basically the current 500+ pupils needed more space.  When the grammar school vacated it was taken over by the local junior school which also had a pupil expansion problem. Little did I know that experiencing life in a new school would happen, but not in quite the way I had foreseen.  By the time I started my second year I was 28 miles west in Bradford on Avon after a family move.  For a while I kept in touch with the friends I had made during those three terms, but as happens, in time sadly I lost touch.  Today was a great way of taking in the town again and bringing some of those memories back.

DSCF2790 (640x480)The main school building (pictured) was quite old and backed onto the River Kennet.  First years were expected to christen their berets by dipping them into its waters (cue Health and Safety – today’s 11 year olds would not be allowed anywhere near water let alone a wide fast flowing river!) Hats replaced berets when I was fourteen and I can no longer hear the word mentioned without seeing Frank Spencer of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em fame.  They were hideous things and I think everyone was relieved when they became school uniform history.imagesDSCF2791 (640x480)

DSCF2792 (480x640)Our sixth form was housed across the road in Wye House (pictured) and that is where we also had music lessons.  Today it is a private residence.  The school also had nowhere large enough for assembly so instead, we used the local Methodist Chapel (pictured) which was situated a few hundred yards from the school’s front gate. That one year saw me introduced to netball and hockey, cookery and languages.  It was a huge leap in education for a girl from a small village school, but then I’ve always loved challenges.

On the way home we passed by Silbury Hill, one of Wiltshire’s most famous prehistoric monuments after Stonehenge.  Further on I stopped to take a shot of the Cherhill White Horse and monument.  The latter has my grandparents’ initials carved in its base.  My maternal grandfather came from nearby Compton Bassett and this is where he ‘courted’ my grandmother just after the end of the First World War.  So that’s it, a lovely day out filled with memories and great pub lunch all wrapped up in a beautiful sunny November day.  Wonderful!

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Another Journey Begins…

My Book Covers1For some time now I have been throwing around ideas for my next book.  A few months ago I had the wisp of an idea but was not sure how this would develop – or whether it would at all.  As usual  once something grabs me I let it expand, mostly by thinking about it and jotting down notes.  Fairly early on I can see whether this is going to go anywhere and I have to admit I knew the initial brief outline in front of me was going to involve me in some pretty complicated information gathering.  That, for me, was where the idea began to stall and to take on a different and more impossible challenge with all the associated headaches.  Now I do like challenges, it’s all part of the writing process but there are sensible challenges and downright crazy ones.  This initial nub of thought eventually morphed into one of the latter but it didn’t quite fade away.  I held onto my usual basic principles, a village and a town location, a relationship gone wrong, one young woman with two love interests, lots of conflict and, of course, a background story to support the central characters and the supporting players.  The more I gave it thought the more it expanded into scenes and situations which I knew would work and turn into a commercial story.  More notes, a cast list with their own personal histories and I was almost ready.  This book will be in three parts: a prologue in the present day, part one set in 2007 and part two taking us back to the present day.  So I have a double-decker sandwich, three pieces of bread with the filling (main plot) still to be finalised.

On Thursday I began and the rough draft of the prologue is now complete.  I’ve just begun the first scene in 2007 and at the same time I’m jotting down ideas for the progression of this section of the book, putting some flesh on the bones of the outline I’ve written.  Of course, I know I’m going to be in for another magical ride.  As for the last five books, once the story gets underway it tends to make its own mind up about where it’s going and will always take me off course on a journey full of surprises.  I do envy those writers who are really organised, sort characters and plot out and faithfully write to plan.  But that’s not for me and one of the greatest buzzes I get from writing is the unexpected.  None of my finished books in any way resemble the way they were originally structured and I’ve now come to terms with the fact that is how it has to be, for me anyway

Walks, Guy Fawkes and Writing Stuff

My Book Covers1This country never ceases to amaze me – one day grey skies and pouring rain and today the most amazing cloudless blue sky and brilliant sunshine.  So on a gloriously sunny afternoon what better an activity than to walk off Sunday lunch?  As usual I took my camera with me, it’s always an opportunity to take shots and we do live in a most wonderful part of the country.  It’s recently been included as part of the Cotswolds and is also in an area of outstanding natural beauty.  I do bang on about this I know, but growing up in a small village on the edge of Salisbury Plain I have always been in awe of not only the countryside around me but how, if you walk and then look at it again, the aspect of it all is subtly changed.  Yesterday was a good time for a walk as the trees are now the most glorious shades of yellow, red and orange.  In a month’s time they will be totally bare and we will really feel winter has arrived.  But yesterday in sheltered spots it was really warm.  Certainly I found my quilted jacket quite hot; however as soon as we were back in shade is struck not only cold but damp as well.  I didn’t realise how much rain we’d had, it was only when we reached a spot in the lane where water was pouring off the fields that it was apparent.  I’ve included some of my shots with this blog.DSCF2751

Moving on, I’m beginning to wonder about our annual celebration of Guy Fawkes night.  When I was young it used to be one night of bonfires and fireworks and we either had a family event in the garden or went to a public display.  This year, however, the whole event  appears to have lasted all of a fortnight!  The fifth was a Tuesday and locally public parties on Bath Rec and the University took place the weekend before, so it was always going to be a protracted event – but I heard my first fireworks even before November had arrived and last night the bangs and crashes were still in evidence.  I am hoping it will have run its course by this evening – whoever is letting them off may be having fun but I do have concerns for those poor animals who must be hiding somewhere, paws over their head thinking ‘Oh no not again!’

Now onto writing.  Firstly I’d like to take a moment to congratulate the lovely Linn B Halton on her Innovation Award at last weekend’s Festival of Romance.  Here’s a lady who truly lives life in the fast lane!  If I was her I would need to clone myself to cope with all she does – and she still finds time to write great books!  Well done Linn – very much deserved!

Since my last post my newest project has moved on some.   It all started out as a single ‘what if?..would that work…?’ thought and now it’s progressed a little farther down the track.  There are some ideas I’ve had in the past which I realise after a while simply aren’t going to work.  This isn’t one of them thankfully, although at the moment I’m running some ideas through my head in order to expand the story.  My books start with a beginning and an end and the rest tends to come as the writing begins.  It’s a bit like making a sandwich and not yet deciding what the filling will be.  This book is set in a village as my others have been but don’t be fooled into thinking I write cosy country-based stories, far from it!  This time unlike my previous Little Court novels which have worked from the mid-sixties to the mid-nineties this book is bang up-to-date in its timing. So this project will be completely new territory for me.  The last books have been easier due to the fact that I’ve been working in a familiar environment, adding new characters to existing ones as we move on in time.  On this occasion, however, I’m starting from scratch – scary or challenging?  Well a little of both but one thing is certain it’s definitely going to be a voyage of discovery: a journey I don’t have a map for. Hopefully once I’ve written several chapters and the book begins to bed in it will seem like I’ve known them for ages!

November already??

Apologies if you’ve read this post before but according to my WordPress account it has never been published and is still in draft form. Therefore am re-issuing.

This time last year I was working and most of the men in the office were growing moustaches – yes it was Movember, or rather November.  And now I’m six months into a new life without the daily 9 -5 and there are some aspects which I miss but others I do not.  One of the things I most hated working during the winter months was when the clocks changed and returning home from work meant walking home in darkness.  By the time we got to December it was going to work in the dark as well.  I almost felt I should be hibernating somewhere buried in straw or under some garden bonfire like a hedgehog.  I suppose the only comforting thing was drawing the curtains and curling up in an armchair for the evening with a book or a good TV programme.  I always knew, however, that by the last week in January it would be twilight as I was coming home and from there things got better.

This year has gone so quickly.  It seems like only yesterday we were in Oxford in February celebrating my OH’s birthday.  We had a wonderful hotel and I absolutely loved the city but boy was it cold!  In early April we spent a break in Chester.  The cold continued and I remember walking the city wall and wondering if it was ever going to get warmer as currently there had not appeared to be any increase in temperature since February!

In early May a big group of us had a long weekend in Lynmouth.  Four of us arrived on Friday and we took the cliff railway up to Lynton on the Saturday morning and walked to the Valley of the Rocks.  It was FREEZING!  Luckily we stopped for hot chocolate at Mother Meldrum’s Tea Rooms just before continuing along the cliff pathway back to Lynmouth with a  force ten gale helping us on our way!  I remember sitting in the B & B breakfast room on the Monday morning just before we were due to return home, looking out at the trees across the valley and wondering whether they would ever come into full leaf.  Of course they did, and we were treated to some really good weather later on in the year.  That, unfortunately did not include the week in Kingsbridge, Devon in late June – more rain than sun but we still had a great time, meeting family and running into friends and work colleagues who had all headed to South Hams at the same time we had.

I think the jewel in the crown for me as far as holidays were concerned was Lake Garda.  We’d been there in 2001 and loved it and decided to go back again.  Now this can be dangerous; you are setting yourself up for disappointment – but we weren’t, it was even more magical.  I absolutely Italy and its people and it has become my number one destination in Europe.  I think if was asked what I remembered most about Garda it was the cleanliness of the place – they seem to take pride in their environment.  Then there were the flowers – even in September such a lot of glorious colours.  Italian food, of course, rated highly and then there was the easy pace of life there even though it was a big magnet for tourists.  We visited Riva Del Garda at the top of the lake and the heat haze which rises out of the water in the early afternoon looked quite magical.

Last month we were off again.  Early October saw us in Bruges, another great place to stay and I’d highly recommend the Hotel Pand – wonderful champagne breakfasts and amazing service.  We ended our year’s travel in the UK with a stay in York.  Here I went on an ancestor hunt.   John Hewetson was made Freeman of the City of York in 1537 and I knew he was buried somewhere.  Certainly not in the Minster, where most memorials date from the 1600s.  As it was, tucked between the sightseeing and retail therapy, the search did not unearth anything positive.  It was only on my return home that I discovered by searching on line that he was in fact buried in All Saints Church.  I will, therefore, be checking it when I return to York again.

So here we are on the evening of the 6th November, by Sunday we’ll be in double figures and then it’s the gradual slide down to Christmas with all its associated expended energy – what to get people, who to invite to what and how much food to buy.  And then when it’s all over, the New Year and then the reality check.  How much money did I spend over the festive season? Is there enough left for that dress in the sales?  Am I really that heavy?  Cue fitness regime and financial tightening of belt then out with the brochures again to plan Holiday 2014.  Oh yes and I’ve a book coming out too!  Ah the cycle of life, never a dull moment!