General

STRIKE A POSE…

This is my last post before I disappear on holiday. This time we’re heading north-east to Derbyshire and the Peak District. I’ve only ever driven through here on my way to somewhere else, but can remember it’s very beautiful so there’ll be a lot of photo opportunities. We’ve a rented cottage in the village of Over Hadden which is just outside the town of Bakewell. The good news is that the cottage is equipped with every modern convenience; the bad is there’s no wifi. However, I will have my phone so I won’t be totally out of touch. I do, however, have issues with typing on a microscopic keyboard. I have very small hands and that means small fingers but I still fail to cope with a simple message without backspacing and cursing. I’m totally amazed as I watch people beating out a message with their fingers in overdrive, making it look so easy.

One of the nicest aspects of holidays is the opportunity to take photographs but I don’t just restricted this to times when I’m away.  Whenever I go out for walks locally my camera comes too.  I have always loved photography, the only trouble is very often my visual expectations far exceed the capabilities of the camera.  This means what I’m seeing is not what I get when I take the shot – oh and I guess I ought to throw the limitations of the photographer into the mix too – with the best will in the world I’m no David Bailey!  Too optimistic I think is the word we’re looking for.  However that does not take away the love of seeing things and wanting to capture them on film (or memory card as it is now).  A lot of my good shots I have to say are luck rather than judgement.  My friend Jane Risdon is the lady with the camera.  She has posted some wonderful shots and I bow to  her expertise!

One really funny memory wrapped around photography was when we went on holiday in Spain back in the eighties.  The husband of the couple we went with was a total

Guadalest
Guadalest

photography geek – it was a major hobby and he had his own dark room.  This was the first time we had been on holiday with them and although we knew about his passion for photography we  had no idea what what lay ahead. Every time we left the villa it felt like an expedition – the stuff he insisted carrying with him was amazing, including, of course, a telescopic tripod – he almost needed his own private Sherpa!  We went up into the hills one day to a place called Guadalest.  There were fabulous views right back down to the coast and he took ages changing the lens and getting this damned tripod set up to capture each shot while all we wanted to do was to find a bar and a cold beer! These were the days before digital cameras were generally available so all his shots were taken on film. A few days after our return home his girlfriend rang to tell us that when he went to take the film out it had broken off inside the camera.  In his dark room when he took the back off he discovered there was no film – he had forgotten to put one in!  Total geek then!  All that effort, all that fussy preciseness in setting up shots of views had been a complete waste of time! Not sure whether he learned any lessons from what happened as a job move saw them leaving the area later that year and we never went away with them again. Having said that I’m convinced had they stayed we would not have put ourselves through a holiday with a photographer with OCD for a second time!  Once was quite enough!

Denim Patchwork Horse, Bruges
Denim Patchwork Horse, Bruges

Of all the couples we know it seems I’m the only female who likes taking photos.  Not only do I find it a good pictorial reminder of where I’ve been, I’m one of those people who find things beyond beach and cityscapes and want to capture them if only to show other people – much easier than trying to describe what

View from Corfu Villa
View from Corfu Villa balcony

I’ve seen.  Like the denim horse in Bruges last October when we were enjoying a city break there.  It was in the entrance to a number of clothes boutiques and was too good to resist.  Then there was another the year we went to Corfu with friends.  We arrived at the villa and unloaded the luggage.  The men carried it upstairs and we opened the doors to the bedrooms trying to decide who was having which room.  I went into one of them pulled open the shutters, walked out onto the balcony and was totally blown away by the view.  I knew if I left it I would never be able to capture that shot again so grabbed my camera.

My local ventures into photography have come about because even after years of living here I am totally mesmerised by this area on the eastern side of Bath where I live.  Bath is all hills, built in an extinct volcano, you cannot enter or exit the city without negotiating some sort of gradient.  On our side of the city we have Solsbury Hill, made famous by Peter Gabriel’s song of the same name.  It looks across to Bathampton Downs to the south of Bath.  The River Avon, main rail line to London, theKennet and Avon Canal and the A4 trunk road all run from east to west along the valley floor between these two hills.  The place where I live is slightly east of this and gives us amazing views both across and down this valley.  Tucked against a hill with a large sprawl of wood above it, it became the inspiration for Meridan Cross, the fictional West Somerset village which features in my books.  I never tire of watching the cycle of the year and the ever-changing colours of the trees. I had always imagined that leaves were all the same shade of green. Not so, there’s an amazing variety as I have come to learn.  When it rains there is always low cloud which threads its way eerily through the wood and if we should  by any chance get snow it looks as if someone has taken a huge icing sugar shaker and dusted the trees – absolutely magic! Next week the Peak District’s dramatic landscape will no doubt be offering more good photo opportunities. I can’t wait!

Take care and I’ll  be back blogging on 20th July.  In the meantime there’s a slideshow below of some of my favourite shots – enjoy!

 

 

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Jo x  

Writing

ON THE HOLIDAY TRAIL…

This is my last post before I pack for holiday.  The thought of going away for a whole week is a great feeling. In fact I have to admit I do love holidays.  OK I know what you’re all thinking.  I quit my job last year; I’m a self-employed writer so I’m my own boss. That means I’m no longer tied into a nine to five. If I don’t feel like working on a particular day I don’t have to and I can organise a lunch meet or a day shopping with friends any time I want. In a nutshell I’m director of my own destiny.  So that must mean my life is almost like a permanent holiday right? Well, yes in a way I guess that is true. However, with this new life comes a level of responsibility.  I do have a time plan but it’s not as fixed as when I was working for someone else.  I do still have to work though.   Therefore what I term ‘proper’ holidays are still very special to me.  It’s the ability to get away from all that the normal stuff and go somewhere completely different to chill out, relax and take in some new experiences.

Since I’ve been a published writer I’ve drawn on some of my travel destinations for settings. I’ve found it’s much easier to write about somewhere  I have actually visited as I can call up the sights and scenes I’ve experienced and make everything feel much more authentic. Dartmouth, where we’re headed this coming Friday was featured in The Other Side of Morning and I’ve also used Italy in three of my five books. The Ligurian Coast featured in Love Lies and Promises. Venice in Between Today and Yesterday and for The Other Side of Morning Lake Garda.

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Hotel Regina Adelaide, Garda

We holidayed in Garda last September, returning to the Regina Adelaide where we’d had a wonderful vacation in 2001.  Because we loved the lake and all the towns there so much we had decided it was time for a return trip. Booking into the same hotel again there was a moment when we wondered whether we might be making a mistake.  Our twelve-year absence meant both the hotel and resort were now a bit of an unknown quantity.  There was the worry that so much might have changed and not for the better.  What crazy people we were worrying!  We found Garda exactly the same; friendly people, beautiful flowers everywhere and that laid back continental atmosphere each evening in its bars with their live music. Trips to Riva, Sirmione and Salo didn’t disappoint either. And as for the hotel, well there was the same warm welcome and excellent service. And there was an added bonus because not only did we have a fantastic holiday, I also sorted out a seemingly impossible problem I had been having with my current WIP.

I had been struggling to start the final chapter of The Other Side of Morning but the more attempts I made the more it refused to come right.  At the very beginning of the chapter I had to bring Marco and two of the key characters together.  I had a few ideas about where they would meet but every time I attempted to write something, I wasn’t happy with it and I ended up deleting everything.  Had I been using paper I’m sure the office floor would have been overflowing with my failed attempts! With the holiday imminent and rapidly running out of patience, I decided to shelve the whole thing, contenting myself with the fact that I would be a lot fresher to do battle with it when I got back.

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That inspirational place in Bardolino!

Our first morning in Garda saw us walking to neighbouring Bardolino.  After a wander around and some shopping we stopped for a glass of wine outside one of the hotels. It was a beautiful morning and the four of us sat under a large canvas sun shade watching people passing by and the ferries coming and going.  All of a sudden it hit me that this could be the place to begin that last chapter with Marco sitting here drinking wine just like us. The scene started to come together in my head and I managed to hold it there until we returned to the hotel. I quickly scribbled down my thoughts and on my return home began to write – and everything fell into place perfectly!

 

 

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Storks in Caceres
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The Alcazar on Toledo’s city skyline
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The Mesquita, Cordoba

During the 1990s we spent a lot of time in Spain.  Our friends owned an apartment just outside Marbella and we had some really good holidays there. Some years we would use it as a base and travel inland for stopovers in places like Granada, Seville and Herez.  The apartment was sold in 1998 which coincided with a milestone birthday for all four of us.  To celebrate we decided on a Spanish road trip.  We booked a flight to Madrid, hired an MPV and arranged three two-night stopovers in Toledo, Caceres and Cordoba.  This would take up one week of a planned fortnight and then we would drive down to the coast where, for the final week, we had rented a friend’s house.  It was an amazing holiday.  First Toledo with its narrow streets, swords and suits of armour – a place where El Cid was reputed to have captained the garrison.  Then on to medieval Caceres with its nesting storks who flew about at night reminding me of feathered pterodactyls. And finally Cordoba and the fabulous Mesquita and Palace of the Christian Kings.   All three place left special memories, whether it was joining in with the fiesta which was going on in Toledo when we arrived, watching the eerie flight of the storks at night as they circled over Caceres or embracing Flamenco in Cordoba. This was the real Spain and absolute magic!

 

 

We last holidayed on the Costa Del Sol in 2003.  A joint wedding anniversary trip with friends.  We rented a villa just west of Calahonda, minutes from the beach.  We had a great time, toasted our skin, ate and drank far too much and made our usual pilgrimage up into the hills above Marbella to Benahavis – the place for great Spanish food and hospitality. There was a boutique hotel there – the Amanhavis –  each of its nine rooms themed to celebrate either a period of the country’s history or a famous Spaniard.  The Galileo room had a large telescope and a glass ceiling so you could lie in bed and look at the stars! Checking on-line today the hotel is still there and receiving good reviews – an average of 8.5 out of 10. So if anyone wants an off the beaten track stay at a hotel with a difference then that’s the place to go.

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Cabopino, Costa Del Sol, Spain

It’s always a little sad when a holiday comes to an end; you’ve had a good time but now it’s time to leave and return to the real world. That Sunday morning we vacated the villa early and on our way to the airport stopped off in Cabopino.  If any of you remember the ill-fated British soap Eldorado, Cabopino was used for the marina scenes in the series.  We had coffee there and then wandered out onto the breakwater where several elderly Spanish men were fishing.  I remember looking back in land and all I could see were cranes and building work going on. I remembered 1991 when we first made this coast a holiday destination. It made me realise not only how fast the urbanisation had spread over those twelve years, but given the extent of the current activity, how much more there was to come.  I realised then that maybe our time here was coming to an end.  Far better to move on and hold onto those memories of what a good place it had once been before the building tsunami had taken hold.   As we all climbed back into the hire car it appeared that everyone had been thinking the same thing.  It was time to look for new places to spend our summers.

Tamariu, Spain

Since then we’ve been all over Europe, Greece and Italy being the favourites. We did actually return to Spain in 2010 to a place called Tamariu just up the coast from Barcelona.  It’s a small quiet coastal village, favoured by Spanish holidaymakers – in fact while we were there we hardly heard a British accent. It was early July and we arrived during the time the last matches were being played in the World Cup; evenings when the bars were full with enthusiastic locals watching on wide-screen televisions.  We were eating out in a beach restaurant the night Spain won. The atmosphere was electric and the partying went on well into the early hours.

So now I’m back in the present quietly sorting out what to pack and crossing fingers for some decent weather. Nothing, of course, is guaranteed in the UK.  We might hit a heat wave or we could well spend the week trudging around in wet weather gear, who knows?  See you all in a fortnight.

JO