As 2013 closes…

My Book Covers1

I’m amazed that we’re actually looking at three more days before we’re into a new year.  It hardly seems possible that twelve whole months have gone.  This time last year I had five more months at work to complete before waving goodbye.  What lay beyond May 31st was totally unknown territory and quite exciting. Since I was 18 I’ve been at work and at one time for me there was nothing better than the world of work.  In the early days of my working life I looked forward to progressing up the ladder.  If I came to a stage where I found I wasn’t going anywhere, that what I was doing was not rewarding or stretching enough  I simply jumped ship and found another job.   Those were the days when you could walk out of a job one day and into another the next – something which does not happen anymore.  Years ago, for the average woman, work was seen as something they did before marriage and children came along.  Once the first baby was on the way they disappeared from the workplace only returning when their children had reached senior school age.  In the first company I worked for there were no women in senior management, in fact the most senior post a woman held there was Technical Librarian.  How things have changed – and for the better!

I have to say by the time I was looking at the end of my 9 – 5 working life I was glad to go.  I’d been unsettled for quite a time, wanting to become a full time writer but knowing the moment was not quite right for me to part company with my current employer.  When June 1st came it was like a breath of fresh air.  For the first time in my life I was answerable to only me.  No more meetings or deadlines or being the wind beneath other peoples’ wings (apologies to Bette Midler!).  No, now everything I did was for my benefit.  Since I’ve become a full time writer I have never felt happier.  I guess I always wanted to do this but my parents had more traditional ideas about where my future lay – secretarial job-meeting the man of my dreams-marriage and children.  And yet strangely I felt there had to be more than this.  I worked, OK I got married, but the children didn’t arrive .  So I studied instead, eventually moving from secretarial into management.  I’ve had some fabulous jobs and met totally amazing people over the years – some real characters.  And this must have been part of a grand master plan somewhere because if this had not happened I would not be able to write the way I do today.  I have to thank my time at work, the things that have happened and those I met for  my stories and character creating.  Yes my working life has been a strong influence on my writing.

I guess looking back on 2013 I also have memories of some wonderful holidays and breaks.  In February when we usually go down to Dartmouth to celebrate my husband’s birthday we decided instead to go to Oxford.  We had a wonderful four days;  an amazing city and a great boutique hotel – but it was SO cold!  I remember sitting in All Bar One on one particular morning with my hands around a large mug of hot chocolate wondering if the weather was ever going to get any warmer. In April we had a short break with friends in Chester.  The Cross Country train which takes you from Newport to Chester revealed some beautiful Welsh countryside with the hills still topped with snow.  Again we had fabulous hotel but the cold stayed with us.  We walked the city wall one morning and despite being well wrapped up I was absolutely freezing!

In May it was my turn for a birthday break and eight of us went down to Lynmouth.  A couple of years ago we found this wonderful 5* B & B called The Heatherville.  Richard and Kay who run it are such amazing people, nothing is too much trouble and the breakfasts are to die for!  Four of us went down on Friday with the remaining four due to arrive sometime after lunch on Saturday.  I remember coming down off Exmoor and taking the road along the East Lyn valley.  Hardly any of the trees were out as we had had such a cold spring and I remember wondering at the time whether there was ever going to be a summer in 2013.

On the Saturday morning we took the cliff railway up to Lynton and walked to the Valley of the Rocks.  More hot chocolate was needed by the time four rather wind battered walkers reached Mother Meldrum’s tea room.  Fully revived we then took the cliff path back to Lynmouth with gale force wind at our backs to help blow us back there – luckily we did not run into any goats!  The next morning (Sunday) after breakfast we all walked up the East Lyn to Watersmeet.  The river valley was sheltered, the sun was out and it felt much warmer – thankfully a happy ending to our long weekend.

June saw us in Kingsbridge at the Crabshell Quay apartments overlooking the estuary.  I love this place; we have been here many times.  Being beside the water is for me very restful and I took my laptop with the intention of catching up on my latest WIP in quieter moments.  When we arrived late afternoon on a damp and drizzly Saturday there was a music festival on.  We walked into town and booked a table in one of the restaurants then returned early to listen to the music before going in to eat.  Despite the unimpressive weather the place was packed and everyone was having a great time either joining in with the music or dancing.  There was a huge variety of really good music going on, from folk to rock plus food galore with stalls offering beer, wine, local cider and deli food.  There was even a converted Citroen HY van selling hot dogs.  The rest of the week I remember was pretty grey, although we did have a couple of days when the sun decided to put in an appearance – sadly not the June weather we’d been used to!

The jewel in the crown as far as holidays for 2013 were concerned was Lake Garda.  We returned to the Regina Adelaide Hotel after an absence of 12 years.  We weren’t sure whether this was a good move, after all things might have changed but we need not have worried.  It is an amazing place with a great welcome and fabulous food and eating breakfast outdoors on the hotel terrace was a great way to start the day. We had brilliant weather all week and visited several of the towns on the lake. Bardolino, within walking distance of Garda where we were staying, was one of my favourites as was Riva Del Garda at the very top of the lake.  We flew back to the UK feeling we’d had a wonderful week and we would definitely be back again.

In October a friend’s birthday had us bound for Bruges via the Eurostar.  The Pand, an amazing boutique hotel with champagne breakfasts set us up for walks about this beautiful city. We also  shopped and ate out at some amazing restaurants.  And then finally at the end of that same month we found ourselves in York, another fabulous city.  The apartments at The Laurence were a great find,  only a short case tow from the train station.  If you don’t want a hotel stay then these apartments are just right and only five minutes from the centre with its tourist attractions, shops and restaurants.  Despite some rain the weather was generally kind to us, making up for the horrendously cold months earlier in the year.  There had been quite a lot of rain prior to our arrival however and the River Ouse had burst its banks with the Fire Brigade on regular standby while we were there.

So where to next year?  Well, only two trips are planned at the moment.  We’re flying to Guernsey in March and have a week in Dartmouth booked for June.  As for anything else, well that’s still under investigation.

Now back to the end of the year. Have I made any New Year’s Resolutions?  Well no actually.  It’s dangerous to set in stone something that you may well drift off course with only weeks into the New Year.  So instead I’ve decided to keep positive, to coax off the unwanted pounds from Yuletide and get my latest novel The Other Side of Morning out for public view and purchase as soon as possible.  In the meantime while I’m awaiting final editorial scrutiny, I’m pushing on with my new WIP.  I’m 40,000 words in and currently on a roll, everything is falling into place very well.   Jane Dixon Smith my amazing cover designer is about to deliver another inspirational cover which will act as an incentive to keep writing as it did for The Other Side of Morning. So at the moment life is good and hopefully will get better as we launch into 2014.

Here’s wishing you all a very Happy New Year and that 2014 brings you everything you hope for.  I’ll be back again next year!

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2 thoughts on “As 2013 closes…

  1. Great year you have had and I wish you another wonderful year in 2014 Jo. You certainly get around too. I hope your books do well and that you have a peaceful, safe and happy year with lots of good things. Thanks for your friendship here. I have loved knowing you. 🙂

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