A couple of weeks ago, Sarah and Joanna took you on a virtual tour of some of their favourite places. We hope you enjoyed the ruins — from all around Britain — and the other inspirational locations they took you to.
Now, since we’re still in lockdown, Liz and Sophie are going to be your guides for a second instalment.
Ready? Your trip starts here…
Libertà’s Favourite Places #3 : Standen House & Garden (Liz)
At the first sniff of spring, the DD and I usually head off to our nearest National Trust property,
Welcome to Dawn Chorus Day. Yes, it’s a thing. It’s been a thing since the 1980s apparently, Started in Birmingham. Now it’s international. Makes me feel sort of proud and very grateful.
I was talking about birds with my friend Susan last week, We hear them so much more clearly during lockdown. We both bemoaned the fact that they’re yelling their heads off and yet we can’t identify them.
Times are difficult, scary even, for all of us — especially the older or vulnerable ones — so I thought I’d add a bit of light-hearted distraction. To wit: earwigging.
I do it. Don’t you?
An Earwigging tale
I was in a pub, on my own, having a quiet meal. There were four elderly gents — nattily dressed, clearly ex-military — sitting across the way, drinking various beverages and gossiping. They were not trying to keep their voices down, though they must have known other drinkers could hear every word.
One of them was even louder than the others, very keen to be heard. All The Time. And even when the others were trying to hold a conversation about something else.
Epiphany — 6th January — marks the end of the 12 Days of Christmas, and the day when the Three Kings brought gifts to the infant Jesus. The tryptich above is by Hieronymus Bosch, dated to around the end of the 15th century. But, with apologies to those who prefer the religious meaning of Epiphany, that’s not what I’m writing about in this blog.
In the UK, Epiphany can be a bit of a downer, an end to things. It’s when we take down our Christmas decorations, put the cards in the recycling bin, and chop up the tree ready for the bonfire. We go back to work, if we haven’t done so already. The fun and games are over. Once we’ve hoovered up all the pine needles and the glitter that gets absolutely everywhere, the house looks a bit drab, doesn’t it? (And, next year, glitter is definitely banned in the Maitland house!) Continue reading →
Those who know me from Social media will probably realise that I have moved. A big move. Massive. After 30 years in one house I have moved to the Scottish Highlands. To Wester Ross. It has been described as Britain’s last great wilderness, and with good reason. Moving here is not just another country, it is another life and a very different one. The language is almost the same. Almost, but not quite. One has to think more about it. No one asks where you live, it is where are you staying, as if you are just passing through.
Hospitality is generous, tea, cake or biscuits are often offered as a matter of course. Which means I need to brush up on my baking skills.
Okay, I doubt I will EVER bake anything this good!
The Scottish Highlands from a writer’s point of view
I travel through this land with my writer’s hat on. The landscape feels old. Continue reading →
Last week, I attended The Writers’ Summer School at Swanwick for the first time. I must say that I’d forgotten what it’s like to be a writing conference newbie — I’ve been going to the RNA Conference for more years than I’m prepared to admit — and it was salutary to experience newbie-dom all over again.
(At my first RNA Conference, I wasn’t published and didn’t really know anyone. But I met loads of writers whose books I’d read and loved. I remember chatting with Nicola Cornick who was then one of my writing heroes, and still is. The RNA sort of enfolded me, from that point on, it seemed.) Continue reading →
Last year I received an invitation from three authors I know and whose books I love – Donna Alward, Nina Singh and Barbara Wallace – to complete the quartet to write a mini series called “Bucket List Brides”.
Four young women, attending a charity auction, bid on an adventure. What happened to them after that was entirely up to each author.
The auction was to take place at the Merchant Resort, a fabulous hotel resort complex on Nantucket Island.
I needed a suitably gorgeous resort location, a beach and the kind of cottage that an islander family could have lived in forever. It was time for a little online research. I disappeared down the Pinterest rabbit hole for more time than was strictly necessary and followed #nantucketisland on Instagram. But that wasn’t the beginning of the story. This is the beach – with the necessary sunset – where it all began.
This is play time. The best part of writing – apart from the moment you sit back and know the book is finished – and a visit to that island location is now very high on my own bucket list! Continue reading →