May ramblings

Salutation opener

I’m writing this on a June day, so wet and cool that I’m trying to decide whether I can justify putting the heating back on! I can see from my photos that May, too, was a mixed month, weatherwise. But when the sun did come out, it made the garden put on a growth spurt.

I paid a visit to Godinton House near Ashford – it’s a house with a fascinating story, set in lovely parkland with formal and informal planting. Had to dodge the showers, though.

I managed to fit in some grandson time with Ellis in London on my way up to the midlands for a catch up with long-standing friends, before heading further north to Harrogate for a couple of days at the invitation of another friend. There was time for a couple of country walks and a visit to Harlow Carr gardens, before an evening spent chatting to her lovely book group.

Harrogate book club

Two days later, I was back home to give another talk – this time in the imposing setting of the Jury Room in Sandwich Guildhall – on the part played by gardens and the landscape in my writing.

Still on the subject of writing, I completed Book Five and had a little break from it before starting the edits – the sun was shining for a visit to Dane John Gardens in Canterbury.

The sun kindly stayed out for a weekend visitor – we headed to the Salutation gardens (top), where we saw bronze iris (am I imagining that it was this year’s Chelsea Flower Show thing?) And there was an amazing dragonfly – a yellow one – which I’m told is a broad-bodied chaser. At first I thought it was a giant hornet! Apparently it’s pretty common and the males turn a chalky blue colour (I’ve definitely seen them at the pond in Goodnestone Gardens).

The next day found us in Margate where there was a Mods festival to see as well as the Turner Contemporary, and the day after that we took a trip to Deal.

It was Ramsgate harbour on Bank holiday Monday, the Belle Vue hotel and then a clifftop walk in Pegwell Bay where sainfoin (a plant I haven’t seen in a while) was plentiful on the chalky soil.

Pegwell

At the end of the month, the foxgloves were flourishing and the garden was having a purple phase.

And another trip to the Salutation gardens produced super-sized poppies and more purple, in the form of a rather spectacular iris.

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April ramblings

Deal

The month opened with a visit to the Salutation Gardens – the sky was grey-white but the tulips, daffodils, wood anemones and flowering currant made up for the lack of sunshine.

I was so thrilled to get this lovely review for Book 3, Sarah’s Story, that I typed it up and pinned it to the wall in front of my writing desk to remind me why I write.

I spent two days looking after my favourite small person in London – we had a trip to the park each day and we did so much playing back at home that I had bruised knees from crawling around after him!

Back home again, my tulips at the front of the house had been battered by the wind but their fabulous colours drew lots of compliments. And they lasted for ages – thank you Peter Nyssen nurseries.

In the back garden, a few Pheasant’s Eye narcissi popped up, and lots of forget-me-nots in different shades of blue, as well as pink. And the pear blossom was out in the orchard.

Pear blossom

The weather at Easter was absolutely glorious. Ellis came to visit (with his Mum and Dad) and we had breakfast and lunch in the garden each day. We really only left home to visit the new local playground, just across the field.

Ellis was frustrated by his shiny new cars on Easter Sunday – until he discovered what they were made of. His first taste of chocolate! And we got some toys down from the loft – including a tray with legs that must be thirty years old and once belonged to his Uncle Jack!

Ellis tray

The end of the month brought the flowers that I call snub-nose daffodils – they remind me of the 1930s and Clarice Cliff pottery for some reason! The quince blossomed in the garden, the hawthorn started to bloom in sheltered spots and the apple blossom appeared in the orchards. And I found this log bench, returning to nature, on a walk at Quex house.

At the end of the month, I took a trip up to London for lunch in Hampstead with four lovely ladies who all went to the same university as me in the ’70s. I shared a house with three of them. There was so much to talk (and laugh) about that lunch took four hours!

Hampstead

March ramblings

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After a glorious end to February, March was a more changeable month (and one sadly bedevilled by insomnia). There were plenty of signs of spring, though – the lambs were in the fields, the blossom looked lovely against blue-washed skies and the Stour sparkled in the sunshine.

Lambs

The beginning of the month found me in London for Ellis’s official birthday party – the cake, courtesy of his auntie, was fabulous. And it was a chance for me to do some storytelling, as usual!

I visited Margate a couple of times, under blue skies (top) and grey, once for book research and the second time for my own family research. Turns out I have an ancestor called Pendred Pegden – now there’s a name that belongs in a book!

Back in London we had a cousins and second cousins get-together – and some wonderful biscuits that looked too good to eat.

At home, the spring flowers popped up in the garden and there were celandines and violets along the lane. And I disturbed my first-ever garden frog when I did some rather brutal weeding and border clearance.

FrogBack to London for Mother’s Day and more cuddles – only rarely tolerated now as there is too much playing to do!

Ellis

February ramblings

Palms

Half of February was spent in Goa, in temperatures around 34 degrees, with nothing to do except relax, swim, eat, drink, shop – and repeat.

I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days there with the grandson before he flew home.

Then there was yoga by the pool and the boutique night market.

River views from The Lazy Goose after a wonderful lunch for ten.

A sightseeing day in Old Goa and at the spice plantation.

Agonda beach with cows at sunset and the bird (and monkey) trip that I missed out on last time.

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Sunrise, a bird trip on the Mandovi river with egrets a-plenty and exotic kingfishers among the mangroves

The beach walk to the Chalston hotel and cocktails as the sun went down…

Local sights – Panjim, golden lions, a dog on a roof and Eddie the Egret (our new friend at the pool)

And just a small sample of the wonderful food – the thali at Corvo Rindo, Agonda, rosti in Calangute, shakshuka and meze at Goa’s Ark in Anjuna

Then it was back to Kent to surprisingly lovely weather. The snowdrops were out, the skies were blue and the temperature almost balmy.

GoodnestoneA friend came to visit and we took in Deal, Margate and the Turner Contemporary (Cornelia Parker and Katie Paterson) and Goodnestone in brilliant sunshine, along with breakfast and lunch in the garden!

RamsgateA trip to Ramsgate resulted in a photo of the harbour that was compared to the Mediterranean, such was the amazing light over the sea.

Lunching in the garden continued with a visit from the now one-year old Ellis who, we discovered, hated the feel of grass underfoot so could be happily parked on a blanket while we ate. He’s into everything now that he’s crawling, but a story still has the power to make him sit still!

January ramblings

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This has felt like the longest month ever. It seems like an age since the Christmas decorations were up and I was rather dreading taking them down, to plunge the house into January gloom. A horrible head cold floored me for what felt like forever, but I still managed to get out on the brighter days.

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The first two weeks were spent mainly lying low and getting some writing done, but a visit to the new Deal Kitchen café on the pier provided glorious views on a sunny day.

Mid-January I headed to Rye to meet a friend, visit the Ypres Tower and generally wander through the streets, admiring the buildings (and marvelling at the contrast with a previous visit on a sunny summer’s day years ago). The following day, after a muddy woodland walk, I had a welcome veggie curry at the Goods Shed in Canterbury.

Flowers inside and out helped to lift the January blues – some of the most beautiful roses I’ve ever received (a gift for storing logs and a chicken house for a neighbour…) brightened, and scented, the dining room. Outside, winter honeysuckle offered a few tentative blooms, as did the Daphne odora by the front door.

On a chilly afternoon I gave my first-ever library talk in Sandwich Library, full of nerves, but supported by friends and a lovely audience. There were at least three people there with Yorkshire connections (the books are set in west Yorkshire) and the questions I was asked at the end showed real interest and engagement. I came away feeling quite buoyed up – so good to have face-to-face contact with real people, rather than social media conversations.

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We had some spectacular sunrises, not always easy to catch via my phone camera, but this one was particularly special.

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Still on the subject of skies, the day leading up to the lunar eclipse (the last for 29 years?) was a chilly one. The moon over the sea was spectacular and I managed to catch a glimpse of the super blood wolf moon at 5am in all its glory. A small orange ball in the sky, I couldn’t photograph it, but at 7am it was a huge silver disc, vanishing over the horizon. And it gifted us a really sharp frost that took most of the day to lift.

A glorious sunny walk along the River Stour heading out of Sandwich towards the sea was followed by a day of snow, sleet and gloom.

I spotted my books on offer in The Works and I got my first statement via PLR from the libraries, showing 1200 books borrowed in around 5 months (mainly for one title), which felt like a real achievement. I did my second library talk, in Broadstairs, and was so flustered by arriving with only minutes to spare after unexpected road closures caused terrible traffic delays, that I failed to take any photos. But it was another great audience and a little less daunting than the first time!

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In the final days of January, a sunny walk in Deal was accompanied by a windchill of what felt like minus 5. But, with a trip to India just days away, I can hardly complain…

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December ramblings

Horse fieldIt felt as though December was rather a gloomy month, with lots of leaden skies, although looking back at my photos perhaps that mainly applied to the latter half – when I was also poorly. The month opened with me getting into the Christmas mood much earlier than usual, with a bit of shopping at an Open Studio weekend in Deal, quickly followed by putting up the new Christmas wreath, and decorating a large pot plant instead of a tree. A scented candle and a card from my lovely publishers added to the festive feel in my writing room.

There was sunshine to be seen in the first week, with a fiery sunrise one morning. A lovely crisp walk through the orchards and past the horses alarmed the blackbirds, thrushes and maybe redwings feasting on the fallen apples, causing them to take off in frenzied flocks. And the berries on the Asparagus (a new one on me…) added a welcome splash of colour when the skies turned grey.

The writing group I belong to produced an anthology, launched at the Astor Theatre in Deal with lots of lovely readings, and I now have three volumes to dip into, with the most beautiful covers.

Christmas week brought a bit of publicity for ‘Sarah’s Story’, my third book, in the local paper and a delicious lunch at Namaste in Sandwich – Goan fish curry and dum biryani in the photo – was a non-festive treat.

Christmas itself, and the weekend before, was spent with Ellis and family, who provided much joy – as well as a couple of viruses!

I’m writing this on New Year’s Day 2019, which began with some glorious sunshine. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a bright year ahead!

November ramblings

IMG-8663November already – I can’t begin to think how the year has flown by so fast…. The first of the month found me in London on a wet and gloomy day, lunching on amazing gnocchi at Bancone before wandering through Trafalgar Square to the Courtauld Institute exhibition of The Impressionists at the National Gallery.

There were poppies everywhere for Remembrance Sunday – these knitted ones are in Sandwich and just one of the amazing displays and moving events all around the country to commemorate the end of The Great War.

PoppiesThe Kent MOMI was a wonderful place to spend a few hours with family on a wet day – I absolutely loved the magic lantern slides.

The following week, a walk at Bishopsbourne yielded wonderful unspoilt countryside (top) and the surprise of a Burne Jones window in the local church.

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The month brought two or three lots of babyminding with the delight of lots of cuddles, some early reading and two trips to the park. Ellis wasn’t too sure about the swings but the see-saw was fine – with company.

Still in London, I went to the Romantic Novelists Association winter party in the Mechanics Institute Library. I failed to take any sensible photos – the one on the left is out of the back window onto an eerily quiet Westminster, which was odd because on the other side Parliament Square was full of  excitement on the day that the Brexit deal  finalised – possibly. The other is of Rachel from my publishers winning Publisher of the Year but clutching the only prize worth having – a knitted Poldark.

Off to Edinburgh and I was blessed with glorious weather – clear and sunny if a bit chilly. The city was a revelation, as I haven’t been there since I was about five years old. Walked up Calton Hill and then around central Edinburgh, having a Middle Eastern afternoon tea sitting outside a restaurant on the two-tier Victoria Street in the sunshine.

Then more walking,  around the castle and past a splendidly OTT fountain in Princes Gardens.

The following day was a day of culture – a Liberty exhibition at the Dovecot Gallery and beautiful Scottish Samplers at the National Museum of Scotland – where there were more great views of the city from the roof.

My final day found me at the hugely decorative and fascinating Rosslyn chapel – it’s full of intriguing puzzles, but no photos allowed inside…

Back home in Kent on a cold and sunny day there was another trip to Bishopsbourne church and more photos of the stained glass and beautiful altar decorations. This time, the visit was followed by tea and cakes at Tadpoles tea room.

The weather took a downturn and while family and friends were sending me photos from sunny Goa and Thailand, this was my view from the window on different days – although I managed to get out for a sunny walk after the mist had lifted.

Back in London at the end of the month I made a visit to the Burne Jones exhibition at Tate Britain. Tapestries and stained glass as well as paintings. I so loved his work when I was a student – and still do!

Then later in the day, some publishing events – drinks with fellow authors on the 5th floor of Waterstones in Piccadilly, followed by the Avon Books Christmas party in a cellar bar in Covent Garden, with a digital media training day in the News Building the next day. Managed to snatch a few photos of the wonderful views from 17th floor, in between bouts of hard concentration!

A busy month, and very little writing was done… although I did do a bit of planning for Book 5 and editing of Book 4, at least. Meanwhile, Ellis was loving his first trip to Goa, aged 9 months!

October ramblings

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The sunny skies continued into October, along with the mild weather. I escaped from my desk for a walk around Sandwich, when it looked as though I had the place to myself!

The quince was a bumper crop – at least twice as many as last year, but the fruit was smaller. I gave away half of them and made two batches of quince paste and jelly.

The glorious skies continued with this mackerel sky, which I was lucky enough to capture one evening from my garden, and some spectacular late afternoon light looking across the fields towards home.

Research took me back to Faversham to Stonebridge pond and Chart Mill, the oldest gunpowder mill of its kind still in existence, and then onto the Oare Gunpowder works country park, where lovely walks and history are combined on one site.

The sun was still shining for a trip back to Rochester and an exploration of the streets behind the castle, followed by a visit to the Chatham Naval Memorial park, with spectacular views over the Medway towns.

‘Sarah’s Story’ was released as a paperback, to join Ella and Alice on the bookshelves, and a visit to Sandwich library in Libraries week to arrange an author talk for next year also yielded a whole knitted world, created by some very talented local knitters.

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News that beavers were living close by on a special nature reserve took me on a walk in their direction, which yielded some lovely wildlife spots and a very unspoilt stream – but no beavers (by appointment only…) The flowers carried on blooming in the garden, while the berries around and about were spectacular.

Just before the temperature dropped by a good few degrees, I fitted in a lovely walk through the woods at St Margaret’s Bay and then on to the clifftop at the South Foreland lighthouse. There were sightings of some stunning raptors before it was back down to the water’s edge to bask in the sun eating lunch while people swam.

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An electrical storm, which I witnessed from Ramsgate as it headed over from the continent, woke me just before 2am on the night that the clocks changed. The most spectacular overhead combined lightning and thunder took out my TV aerial… And finally, the end of the month brought Halloween and a repeat gift of beautifully carved pumpkin lanterns. Of course, the month wouldn’t be complete without more photos of baby Ellis!

 

September ramblings

Swallows

September came in with some lovely weather, sunny and still warm but not too hot. My garden enjoyed it – the containers that had struggled all summer finally came into their own.

The weather wasn’t quite as kind when we went for a family weekend to the Cotswold Water Parks – not quite a theme park but a bit Truman Show… We stayed in a New England style house overlooking a water sports lake and we got off to a flying start on the first evening when we saw a sundog or parhelion (two suns shining in the sky!) as the sun went down.

It turned a bit cloudy after that but lunch and a walk for 10 of us across three generations on Saturday, and a Sunday lunch in a village pub on Sunday kept us entertained, as did Ellis who has just started to eat solids. You’ve never seen such excitement as when food appears!

The sun was out for the Deal Braderie and Sandwich Arts week the following weekend and, after a talk by the local writer Jane Gardam who has just turned 90, I got stuck into one of her books straight away in the garden when I got home.

Jane Gardam

Later that week, the dahlias were looking splendid in the Salutation gardens but there were plenty of other delights, including some rather scary (and toxic) pokeroot berries.

And I had a surprise success with an orchid at home. In its second year with me, it produced flowers after a friend explained the correct way of watering.

Orchid

A research trip to Faversham museum, to look into the making of gunpowder in the area, set me off on the start of a few scenes for a new novel, even though I also had to re-work the last 15,000 words of a novel that is waiting to find a new home. The two are linked, so fingers crossed…

Then it was up to London, on a very wet weekend, to re-visit Hampstead, close to where I went to university, and for a lovely lunch with friends who went to uni with me. Much regret over not still living in that beautiful area! Also passed the spot where I had my wedding reception. The marriage didn’t last but the venue is still going strong! Then a quick trip to the university site, now all developed into luxury homes and flats. We had a  glimpse inside one of them, converted from halls of residence built in Victorian times and now over a million pounds for the smallest flat…

As the end of the month approached, the apple boxes were out in the orchards ready for picking the last of the crop and the last of the swallows gathered on the telegraph wires, ready to depart. A willow warbler kept me entertained as it searched the roses for flies, seemingly unconcerned that I was close by. A better camera than my phone might have done him justice – can you spot him?

The wind was brisk but the sun was out for my first, but hopefully not last, visit to Dumpton Gap. Tea and cake in the sun afterwards at the Italianate Greenhouse, with the agave flower stem poking through its fabulously ornate glass roof.

It was farewell to September on the last day of the month with a walk on the cliff top at Dover, to the lighthouse for lunch and back for tea, sun sparkling on the water and the ferries coming and going

The end

August ramblings

BroadstairsThe hot summer weather continued into early August. The Salutation garden in Sandwich was filled with hot colours, spectacular against the brilliant blue sky. And the newly opened Gazen Salts nature reserve, just recovered after an inundation with sea water a few years ago, was very peaceful. Buried at the heart of it I stumbled across a ‘green’ lake.

IMG-7554In Pegwell Bay the following day, the breeze off the sea made the heat much more tolerable and the fennel looked fabulous against the blue sky.

At the weekend, in Walmer Castle Gardens, the borders and containers were thriving despite the weeks of heat and no rain.

A new ring was as an e-book publication day present to myself for book three, Sarah’s Story, and there were more treats in the form of flowers from the publisher and a visit from my daughter. We headed to Broadstairs and marvelled at the packed beaches (top), then went to the Bella Vista Tavern in Pegwell Bay, for drinks and the view. An Indian meal at Namaste in Sandwich – delicious, unusual and beautifully presented – rounded off the day.

Then the weather seemed to decide that it might be time for autumn, with the harvest already done. The orchards looked about ready for picking and there were misty mornings and spectacular sunsets.

Another visit from my daughter took us to Whitstable, on a pleasant and sunny afternoon, where we were both very taken with the houses along the front at West Beach, even if the beach appeared less appealing with the tide out.

An open-air performance of ‘Sense and Sensibility’ in Walmer Castle Gardens was delightful, although there was a definite chill in the air as the evening progressed. Jumpers and blankets required! Then it was off to London for a spot of babysitting for Ellis and my first solo car journey with him – slightly nerve-wracking!

I drove back to Kent (without Ellis) through torrential rain and, after telling myself it was still August, had to give in and light the log burner – it was so cold and miserable.

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Puff balls on the lane, fallen plums and rosehips as fat as cherry tomatoes added to the impressions of autumn in August.

But there were sunny skies again for my first visit to Faversham – a lovely town to wander around – followed by a trip to Oare marshes and Dan’s jetty.

Dan's Jetty

The month ended with a lovely surprise – a delivery of copies of the paperback of Sarah’s Story, not due for release until October 18th.

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