Sunday, 28 February 2010

Heritage Britain Part 2

In April we took a tour around Britain and by May we had reached Scotland. We bypassed Edinburgh, drove across to Glasgow where we took in an antiques centre, and then set off down the west side of England towards Blackpool. By now the weather had turned glorious, and finding ourselves midway between the Pennines and the Lake District, we decided to make the most of it. We headed for Dufton, a village on the Pennine Way, which is a stopover point for hikers. This photo was taken from the garden of the Stag Inn, a beautiful spot.

A full day's drive in the Lake District took us along Ullswater to Keswick and then along a road which ended on a footpath which would takes the hardy traveller towards Scafell Pike.

We are great fans of 'Strictly Come Dancing' so we just had to get to Blackpool to see the famed Tower Ballroom. It did not disappoint. Its opulence was beyond anything I could imagine. Wonderful atmosphere. The organist was playing and a few couples danced. I think we could have happily lounged around the dancefloor all afternoon. The staff in the complex were so easy-going and friendly.

Being in the area, we couldn't miss out Holmfirth in Yorkshire, where 'Last of the Summer Wine' is filmed. 'Ivy's cafe' is just out of sight, tucked away in the corner on the right hand side of this little square.

We like antiques so we went to Derby to an auction at Bamfords to discover that an episode of 'Bargain Hunt' was being filmed. We then toodled off to Stanway House where an Antiques Roadshow was also being filmed. Then it was home. But that wasn't the end of my travels last year. Well it was only May after all, and I already had a holiday in Cornwall booked!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Heritage Britain 2009, Part 1

I am currently constructing a website, and needing a visual for the header I started going through our digitised collection of photographs. Some of those I took last year were a strong reminder not just of me being a gadabout, but of what an enjoyable year 2009 was. I've heard the opinion expressed that the weather in the UK last summer was naff, but it seems that every time I went out for the day, the sun shone effortlessly!

In January, I kicked off with a visit to Polesden Lacey. This is my local National Trust House and rarely does a month go by without me trotting up there, if only for a cup of tea and a cake in the cafe. The Regency house was extensively remodelled at the beginning of the 20th Century by the Edwardian hostess, Lady Greville.

In February it snowed heavily, in Epsom to a depth of 18 inches, which is exceptional for Surrey. This is the photo we took at dawn the next morning. As you can see, it was still snowing.

Most of the NT houses open at the beginning of April, so on 1 April, The Vyne in Hampshire was the target. This house was well known to Jane Austen who socialised with the Chute family. There she played cards and danced. At the time her father was Rector of Steventon, just a few miles away.

The bluebells were out in late April and as there is a bluebell wood at Hatchlands in Surrey, that is where I went. I was probably a week too early, but it was still a beautiful display.

A week later, I set off on a touring holiday around the north of Britain, visiting the Elizabethan Bess of Hardwick's Hardwick Hall, also NT. Equally impressive, although on a much smaller scale, is Washington Old Hall, a modest Jacobean house, south of Newcastle. It is pictured below. Here the ancestors of George Washington once lived.

A visit to the North has to include Hadrian's Wall. Vindolanda is the Roman fort where the written tablets dating to the first century AD were found beneath the layers of later building. And it wasn't just the tablets which were preserved. This makes Vindolanda Museum as absolute gem to visit. Housesteads Fort occupies a more romantic location right on the Wall, as you can see below. What you cannot see is the fact that while we were there it was blowing a hoolie!

Our tour of Britain took me up the east side of the country so we also took in Durham and its Cathedral, Holy Island. Lindisfarne and Dustanbrugh Castle, then it was over the border into Scotland to see the Wemyss collection of pottery in Kirkcaldy Museum.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Westminster Abbey

Monday was a miserable day weatherwise - wet and cold - therefore the sightseeing trip I took to London with two friends required a venue which was under cover. No strolling along the Embankment or through St James' Park for us! Westminster Abbey was the perfect choice. Trouble is, it was everyone's else's choice so it was packed. Expensive too, although the entry fee did include an excellent acoustic guide. This gives snippets of the Abbey's history, with musical excerpts, and even short videos of areas not accessible to the public. For me the most impressive sight was the Lady Chapel, built by Henry VII. Most of the Tudor monarchs are buried here. It has an absolutely stunning fan-vaulted ceiling and is beautifully lit by multi-paned and stained glass windows. There is nothing gloomy about this chapel, which in direct contrast to the interior of Westminster Cathedral, just a mile up the road from the Abbey.

This Catholic Cathedral was built in only 1895 in the Christian Byzantine style, and a more oppressive interior it would be difficult to imagine. Unlike the Lady Chapel at the Abbey, there is almost no natural light and the barrel-vaulted, brick-lined ceiling high above the Nave, gives the impression of the interior of a huge fire-blackened kiln. The decoration appears to be an ongoing project.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Epsom Book Fair

In February every year, when the children are on half-term holiday, the Methodist Church in Epsom holds a three-day Book Fair. It's well-organised with sections for history, biography, music, and travel. There is also a massive fiction section.

I haven't missed the Fair in five years because it's such an excellent opportunity to build up my own library of research books, particularly out-of-print historical non-fiction. My library is important because although I'm currently to be e-published in contemporary romance, I love history and have written so-far unpolished and unpublished historical romances.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Book edits

Oh deary me, you don't know what you don't know until you realise you don't know it. I'm talking about edits. I've just received my very first edits on my very first book to be e-published. I've opened the word document sent by my editor, and I'm sitting here staring at the annotated text, and it is sitting there staring right back at me. I learned French at school but the language of red strikethrough and yellow blob is alien to me. Steeeeeeep learning curve ahead! I feel a wail welling up inside me - "I'm too old for this lark!" What's on telly? Don't I have some ironing to do? I could make a Victoria sponge. No. No, no, no, no, no. This is a Challenge. I must face up to Challenges. Who wants to watch the Winter Olympics anyway? And if I make a cake I'll end up eating it all. No. So I'm rubbing my hands with imaginary dirt, and flexing my fingers over the keyboard like a concert pianist. "What's that dear heart?" (There is a voice calling out from the living room.) "Do I fancy taking a walk into town for a coffee?" Eeeeerm.....