Thursday, 19 February 2015

Is it spring yet? France in February.

The trees are still skeletally bare -  dead-looking, if we didn't know better. Globes of mistletoe hang from leafless branches, and tiny birds are visible, hovering hopefully, waiting for a turn at the seed-and-fat balls I distributed around the big magnolia that grows not far from the kitchen window. The blue- and great tits hang perilously, blithely upside down, the robin is more tentative, and the chaffinches don't even try; they're content to peck in the sodden grass for fallen treasures. The greenfinch, though, while a shy visitor, is surprisingly adept at managing a tremulous fat ball, and the bold wren perches on the edge of my plant pots and eyes me beadily.
Several mornings dawned to a mantle of crackling frost, slowly melting as the sun rose, and dripping from the twigs. On two days it rained almost unceasingly, turning our steeply-pitched long drive (truthfully, a track) into a muddy stream. It was cold enough for many warm layers outside and a good fire indoors. But there are signs: a clump of snowdrops, a few brave daffodils hesitantly showing their colour, a solitary primrose protected by the house wall; and in the field next door a batch of noisy energetic lambs, two white, four black, with their dams.

 In our water-meter pit the fire salamander that I wrote about a few months ago has acquired a - what? Visiting relative? Consort? Offspring, even? I couldn't get a picture because they were lurking in the pipe, showing a tantalising tangle of shiny black-and-yellow legs, heads and tails.
 I don't know much about these curious creatures. Perhaps someone can enlighten me.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Closing down for the winter

We have just spent a week at our house in France, and with all that's going on and all our commitments as we approach Christmas that will be the last visit of this year. There's little to do in the garden now, but I did plant another tree: a white poplar, so that when the trees are in leaf we will have a range of colours, from shades of green (apple, catalpa, willow, oak, hazel)  through deep reds (plum, redbud, flowering crab) to almost black (physocarpus) and now silvery white (birch, poplar.)
We took down with us a massively heavy log-splitter, in an attempt to save my husband's back as we chop up chunks of tree for our wood burner. In a very short time he amassed four barrowloads of usable logs from huge trunks which had been lying around for years, too big to go on the fire. This impressive machine works with a resounding crack as the log splits apart.

This was our second visit with no landline and no internet. In our experience getting things fixed in France is not a speedy business, and so it proved this time, despite my attempts to get someone out to repair the fault in the line. I realise just how much time I spend (one might say, waste) on the internet! However, it has had a fruitful effect, because without its distractions I have made good progress with the first draft of novel number 5. The finishing post is in sight, and this is the part of the whole process I find most exciting as all the plot-strands, so carefully laid down, start to come together and draw tight. It is also often one of the points where characters start to behave in unexpected ways and the story takes a turn I hadn't envisaged. A good story is a living thing - maybe that's why (for me, and I'm sure for many others) it's so engaging and engrossing. I'll report on progress here from time to time.

Our next visit to France will probably be in late January or early February. As plants grow from bushes into trees they need to be shaped and pruned, and I'll do it before the sap starts to rise in the spring. One day we'll have to give up our house and garden across the Channel, because it'll involve too much work for two creaky old-timers, but I hope to leave behind a park, however rough, dotted with beautiful trees.
Almost the last of the autumn colour- a berberis.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

A Shed in a Cucumber Field is launched

I held a bit of a party last Saturday to celebrate the 'coming-out' of my new novel.  It was a good evening following a long day and I am tired, but what really stands out for me is the realisation of just how blessed I am with loyal friends:absolutely priceless.

With fellow-author Susan Pope ('Lighter than Air.')

Friends and supporters



Saturday, 8 November 2014


As it happened, happily my books vanished from the internet for only a few hours. A rescue package was made available to affected authors and I hope and trust the books are now safe and available around the globe. It was certainly a bad few hours. Bad for longer, sadly, for the company and its loyal employees: no quick fix for them.
This episode made me think about the worst things that could happen, and in what order of  devastating effect. For me, it came to this: first  would be to lose my faith; that would be a disaster of immeasurable proportions and eternal effect. Then, like most of us, to lose a family member or close friend - or my dog, come to that. Perhaps next might come some physical disaster, such as the chimney falling off our house in France, or one of the big trees coming down and taking the roof with it. But clearly losing years of work would be up there too, very close.
We are sometimes asked to consider what would be our dream come true; more rarely what our worst case might be. I wonder how you would answer this rather sobering question.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Important news

I have just heard that the company which has published all my books has ceased trading, owing to competition from a well-known internet giant. This of course is a disaster for me and many other authors. I hope in due course to have my books back in circulation and available online but this will take time. Meanwhile you will as of now find me nowhere on the internet! I do not plan to stop writing, nor to making my books available, but patience will be needed. I will post any progress here.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

An eye-opening trip

My husband and I have just returned from a week's tour of Cappadocia in central Turkey, what was once called Anatolia. It was a very different experience for us in a country we have never visited before. We travelled everywhere by coach, and two of our journeys were very long: twelve hours on the road, counting stops for coffee, shopping and lunch, driven by a man perhaps not naturally gifted with charm, but safe and steady, including in some quite challenging conditions of weather and topography. By contrast our guide was a gem. His knowledge was wide and  his English very clear, though sometimes unwittingly hilarious (speaking of a questionnaire he said, 'If you haven't got enough room you can write on the backside.') His enthusiasm for his work led him to make room for trips not on the schedule so that the last drop of experience was squeezed out for us in that one short week. The majority of the party were old enough to be his parents; perhaps that accounted for his consideration and helpfulness. He also had an impish sense of humour, and he said he had fun too. We certainly did, even though the trip was very full-on and somewhat tiring with frequent early starts ('On the bus by 7.30!') We were, I think, most fortunate, not only in the usually kindly weather and the  excellence of our guide, but in the rest of the party, who seemed good-hearted and good-humoured people, not  a difficult or fault-finding one among them.
We visited a number of interesting sites, including the ancient city of Aspendos with its huge and beautifully-restored amphitheatre, near the modern city of Antalya.

We crossed the majestic (and sometimes frighteningly sheer) Taurus Mountains to Konya, familiar to me as Iconium in the Biblical narrative of St Paul's missionary journeys, and there we visited the museum and shrine of Mevlana, more often known in the west as the  C13th poet, jurist, theologian and Sufi mystic, Rumi.
We visited an underground city, hewn out of rock by the inhabitants of the town above to escape from invasion or persecution.

Finally arriving at our destination, near the central city of Nevsehir, we explored  extraordinary rock formations, cliff-face dwellings and ancient frescoed Christian chapels in valleys with rock-faces striped in sulphur yellow, iron red and copper green.

And I met a local inhabitant...

We also visited a carpet centre, where we saw an ancient treadle-type machine for drawing the threads from silkworm cocoons, women at work on looms not for weaving but for knotting, and of course glorious carpets of many sizes, patterns, colours and materials.

Yes, it was a fascinating trip, with many good memories. But it also gave me much to think about. I remain convinced that Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of the nature of God, and in him is summed up - however mysteriously - God's purposes for our race. Nevertheless, I could not help but be aware of the devout Muslim pilgrims - all women, as far as I was able to observe - praying in Mevlana's shrine, and the social outworking of the piety of the order of dervishes, for example. Since returning home I have done a little reading and reminded myself of something with which I was already acquainted, but which this trip has brought home: the profound wisdom, knowledge and humanity of  Mevlana and others of his kind down the ages. Then I look up at our world and the things that are happening today, and the polarisation of opinion and belief. I have come to no clear insights about all these things, and maybe I never will: perhaps it's all too big. But if anything comes of these churning thoughts, I'll share them here.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

An update

'A Shed in a Cucumber Field' is now available to download to your Kindle, if you have one. It should also be possible to download it to a host of other e readers, and very soon the paperback version will appear on Amazon, I hope and trust. There's already a review, by that most perceptive reader Carol Brown. Thank you, Carol. As time goes on I hope to see other reviews posted. I also welcome your comments here on my blog. It's by hearing what people honestly think that writers can improve both their work and their readership.