What is Your Favourite Pastime?


Someone asked me this question the other day and I had to hesitate before answering. I thought it would be writing or reading, but other hobbies pushed the word aside. And it is true, there are so many things that I enjoy doing. There are also many things I no longer have the time for.

The next question is usually, “but one of them must be special in some way?”

Again, there isn’t just one that comes to mind and this must be true for most people.

Depending on our mood, we like doing different things. For instance, my writing mind works best first thing in the morning. Later in the day, I have trouble writing anything. And when I am tired, I like to spend time in the garden with my bonsai.

I love jigsaw puzzles too, but these days I prefer to do them on line. So much choice, easier to do, no more juggling hundreds of pieces on limited table space. You can’t lose any of the pieces either.

In many ways, I realise that all my favourite pastimes are very similar. They all involve a degree of patience, attention to detail and an over active imagination.

At the moment, I have a huge pile of work in progress. Two fiction books to finish, a collection of short stories to prepare for publication and various editing jobs for Anita’s books, not to mention a veritable queue of reviews to finish.

My collection of bonsai should come quite high on my list, as they always need something doing. There is a very good reason they are never considered finished. They continue to grow and need constant attention. Plus, they are all different ages with different needs.

Add to this list, two crochet projects and a pile of dressmaking as yet unfinished. And all those other urgent things that hide in my brain, lulling me into a false sense of achievement.

So the answer to the original question, what is my favourite pastime, should be . . .

 “My favourite pastime is living and enjoying everything I do get around to. . .”

When Problems Pale…


I am digging into the archives to post a few times this week. Not feeling 18 carat, and wrestling with everything.  Hopefully, my problems will pale into insignificance when seen from another viewpoint.

I awoke this morning with the usual week day feeling. Then I happened to watch some of the breakfast news on TV, not something I do very often as it usually depresses me. Today turned out to be worse than usual. It was far too early in the day for such worldwide confusion and I really wish I had been writing my book instead.

The human race seems to be doing its utmost to ruin everything it touches and I don’t understand it. It’s as if we don’t care and I am sure that most of us do. None of the people who are in charge (politicians and world leaders alike) seem to think logically anymore (if they ever did!)
People have said that we are ‘going to hell in a handcart’ but they are wrong. The vehicle we are travelling in has a supercharged engine and will get us there in no time at all!

Seen from space, our world is a really beautiful place. A stark contrast to the scenes of anger and poverty that most of us see every day.
We should be taking better care of our planet, as we wouldn’t dream of wrecking our own des res, now would we?
Enough of all that. I said that I shouldn’t watch the news, so now you know what happens when I do.

I have been working hard trying to finish my WIP, PayBack, and for once my characters are not talking to me at all. I fear this may be bad news, for I already know that editing any book is hard, if not downright impossible. The thought that I may have bitten off more than I can chew comes to mind. Coupled with wondering if I have lost the plot!

I have a very sneaky feeling that I have made this one far too complicated, resulting in one hell of a tangle. None of this makes me want to finish it, but I know I must. If I can find where I have put my eternal optimism, there could be a diamond nestling among the dross. Pretty sure there is, for I distinctly remember some really good chapters…


The Church in the Woods



One of my granddaughters has inherited my love of discovering and exploring unusual places. Not surprising really, when I think of some of the places we visited when she was small.

So when she announced that she had found something that I had to see, her excitement rapidly transferred to me. Rather than wait for a better day, we set off late the other afternoon. She assured me that with a bit of luck, we should get there before the light faded.

She also said it wasn’t far, and I eyed the gathering evening clouds with suspicion. I hoped it wouldn’t turn out to be a wasted journey, becoming too dark to see anything for I wanted to take some photographs of whatever it was.

On the way to Winchester, we turned down a leafy lane and found ourselves driving through a beautiful forest. I would have to come back here one day and explore for I feel very at home in a forest. The magical closeness of all those trees does beautiful things to my soul.

We passed a massive ragged tree stump that had been hit by lightning, the eerie sight reinforcing the feeling that we were far from civilisation. What on earth had my grand-daughter found, way out here? There didn’t seem to be anything but trees for miles.

We drove into a clearing and stopped. We were here, wherever here was. It was getting darker, although the forest was so dense it probably always looked like this.

A small overgrown path wound its way through woodland plants of ferns and mosses, and I still couldn’t see anything. Surely, we hadn’t come all this way to look at a tree?

The smell of leaf mould was strong, wrapping itself around me, making me feel like some kind of wood nymph. My steps were getting lighter and I wanted to run, my heart soaking up the wild greenness of this magical timeless place.

Then, just as the light faded away, I saw something.

In a clearing, I caught the glimpse of some kind of building. It wasn’t very big and looked old. What could it be?


As we drew nearer, it began to take the shape of something out of a fairy tale. Enclosed by a fence was what could only have been a church. Built of corrugated iron and painted green, it sat in in the middle of the clearing as though dropped there. I had expected some ruin, an old building barely standing, but the church looked to be in pristine condition. Someone must spend a lot of time here, I thought.


It had a steeple with a bell and one window was stained glass, although it would only have been visible from inside. Through another  window, I could see rows of old wooden pews and an altar. I retraced my steps to the gate to read the plaque to discover the history of the place, eager to know all about this “Church in the Woods”.


The following information and the photographs used are supplied through the courtesy of Hampshire-History.com

It took just five days to build this mission church in 1883. The great sheets of corrugated iron and timber frame would have been carted in and the whole constructed with missionary joy and zeal. We are uncertain what the base would have been constructed from but a small flight of steps brings you to the doorway. Above it, the church bell sits in its turret and an iron steeple points skywards, topped with a weather vane.

Many of these iron churches or ‘tin tabernacles’ as they are known were built around the country. Hampshire has a few more of its own, the church of St Peter’s at Beech near Alton and St Francis Gosport included.

The iron church was a Victorian solution to a number of problems

Population growth was rapid during the Victorian period and a new wave and enthusiasm for church and chapel building began. Although the Victorians wanted their church structures to be magnificently designed and beautifully decorated, for those on the margins of society, the architectural designs were sometimes an expensive step too far. Many of these churches had to be raised at the cost of the congregation and clerics themselves. The new flat pack corrugated church was the solution. This allowed missionary churches to spring up wherever there was thought to be a need. Local populations could build them for themselves. They could also be sent overseas and were ideal for those settling in frontier lands.

The corrugated building started to be mass-produced and were sold through catalogues. There were not just churches for sale, cottages, schools and even railway stations were sold. Each was illustrated with a picture and a price. The size could be altered according to what the customer wanted.

Prefabricated iron churches were relatively cheap to buy, costing anything from £150 for a chapel seating 150 to £500 for a chapel seating 350.

By 1875 hundreds of iron clad churches were being erected, many with extensive gothic style embellishments as can be seen at the church in the woods at Bramdean in Hampshire.




Don’t Hurry…



Cold nights, lonely hearts

Lay on pavements forgotten

Walked by, busy minds too hurried to see

Young and old, they sleep alone

Under paper, cardboard, barely visible

To those who pass by

A warm cup of tea, coffee

Would take a moment to buy

A sandwich to fill an empty space

See the look of sorrow

Change to one of gratitude

To know that someone noticed

Is more than thankyou can say

Please don’t hurry by, as if blinded by the light

Underneath those rags, a brother,

A son, a father, a daughter lies…


The joys of writing and bonsai…

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As much as I love a good book, I also love many other beautiful things. Like the bonsai in the picture above for instance, I think it is stunning. I wish my own bonsai looked as good.

I have been writing a series of murder mystery novels, inspired by the books I have read and all Anita’s work that I have helped to publish. Whether they will be any good at all remains to be seen, but I am determined to give it my best shot. After all, I think I am a good editor/proofer, so what do I have to lose?

Anita started writing when her life was at a low ebb. She always said that losing herself in creating fictional plots and characters turned out to be very therapeutic- not to mention relaxing and soothing, the list of advantages seemed to go on and on. Also, knowing she was in control of this brave new world, controlling everything that happens, was a very special feeling.
Anita used to tell me that sometimes the characters took over and told her what they wanted to do. Something I have since discovered myself and it is truly amazing!

As Anita’s editor, the process worked for me too. It was bliss to immerse myself in this newly discovered world.
Mostly tired (or sick) of the way the ordinary world is, what better than to create a world where literally everything can be the way you want it? A chance to show the world that life doesn’t have to be like that. A chance to experience what your heart desires, if only for a while.
But do it well enough and it will be remembered.

I can see a similarity with writing and my bonsai hobby. Some of mine I have grown from seed and tended and cared for, trained, encouraged and celebrated as beautiful things. Patience is the first thing you learn when you get involved with a bonsai, for they grow so slowly and some of them live longer than we do. I sometimes think they need as much care and attention as children do, and I love them just as much.  Hopefully my efforts with the pencil will be just as rewarding for me…







#ThrowbackThursday~ The Power of Books x4…An excerpt from Simple


There has been a lot of talk lately about bullying and how wrong it is. How damaging and cruel and all the places you find it. One of the worst places, I think, is inside the family unit.

Ordinary people who wouldn’t dream of bullying in the general sense can be guilty of the quite severe bullying of a family member. Most families have at least one relative whose modus operandi is to shoot people down. Usually condoned as ‘being for their own good.’
As if nagging someone to the point of insanity can ever do any good.

Sometimes, even the kindest people think they have the right to do it, simply because they are family, especially if they think the recipient deserves or needs it.

I am sure quite a lot of us have been on the receiving end of severe nagging that all too often can slide into bullying. There is a very fine line separating ‘helpful suggestions’ from the cruel taunting that is present in a lot of our homes.

Here is an excerpt from Simple by Anita Dawes, a story about such family bullying. Even more despicable in this case because the abused is a mentally challenged man, someone with the mind and heart of a child. Someone who only had one friend in the world, his half-sister, Leanne.

“Simple was almost well enough to leave, but Belle made us stay a few days more than we needed, said she liked the company. As we left, she said I should come by some time, ‘Bring Simple if you want. There’s a bed and food on the table whenever you have need of it.’

I thanked Belle for her kindness and told her I understood there was more than one way of telling a story. Simple was pulling at his ear, the way he did when Lizzie cries, or when his thoughts won’t settle, or his mind won’t let him hold on to one long enough to say what he’s feeling. He didn’t need to tell me, I could feel his fear alongside my own. I took his hand, the one that didn’t want to let go of his ear and led him towards the clearing, to the path that would take us home.

On the way, I told Simple that Gran wouldn’t be mean to him anymore, that I wasn’t going to let anyone hurt him again. We walked slowly; there was no need to hurry as I was in no rush to see Gran. When we stopped every now and then to eat the food Belle had given us, I wondered how it would be. Simple was still pulling at his ear while trying to tell me Gran was gonna be mad at him. Then he said he couldn’t go back. ‘Lizzie s-sad, Simple didn’t get b-baby.’
It didn’t seem to matter what words I used, his mind was stuck on Lizzie having what she cried for.

Then it hit me. I would work on Lizzie! The thought came like a flash of lightning. If I stopped her from carrying on, Simple would stay out of trouble. I was feeling better about going back with every step we took.We needed to reach the caves before it got much darker. I could feel the rain coming and the need for sleep was slowing my body to a stumble. We staggered on and finally saw the mouth of the caves. I never thought the sight of them would be welcome, but it was a temporary haven. Better than what awaited us at Gran’s.”

Will they escape to a better life? Can there be a better life for Simple?

You can find Simple here… myBook.to/mySimple



Progress Report!




Today dawned dry and bright. We have sunshine, well sort of, too many clouds up there for any great warmth, which kind of reflects where I am at. Not exactly a crossroads, but a definite milestone. Or it would be, if I can pull myself together and finish the first draft of book three. I’m almost there, only another 10.000 words, but knowing this could well be the end of the series, it has to be good.

This worrying has crept in over the last few days, as certain elements of book two have started haunting me. The ending on that one was weird, and now I think about it, not great either. So, a major rewrite might be on the cards. I have been looking at the covers too. Why are we never happy with our covers?

But I digress. Someone stop me please. Finish this draft I must, and let the editing have its way.

I think I know what my problem is. Far too many irons in the fire, so to speak. Or the wrong irons, or maybe I am losing the plot. Probably all of the above. I have been so tired lately, with no reason for it that I can see. Housework has ceased, and the garden is a mess. Non writing jobs are piled up and haunt me every time I walk into the room. All my careful planning and scheduling has failed to streamline my working day, and its driving me mad.

I should take a break. I always go for a long walk when things get away from me, but for some reason (book three?) I just can’t do it.

In my defence, I have been prescribed another course of antibiotics for a kidney infection, as the first lot didn’t work. I am also approaching the six month check-up at the cancer clinic, and I have mixed feelings about that. I think it will take another scan to convince me I am clear, for the messages from my body tell a different story.

But all of that is not important. The third book of a series I never thought I could write needs me to buckle up and get cracking.

So I will, after all, I have danced in the rain. Thanks for listening!

“I’m Bouncing!

images x22

Let it Go x14

Don’t panic… I’m not begging today! Just had to tell you all the good news, for if I bounce any higher, I’ll be in orbit!


And I know who to thank. EVERYBODY!!!!

Thank you all for caring enough to nominate Anita’s book, it means so much more than I can ever hope to express. She will be here tomorrow to thank you too when the campaign  ends, right now, I think she’s in shock!

Bless you all………….

meme x17

Just when I thought this world couldn’t get any worse, that we had already seen enough disasters, suffered enough injustice and fought our way through disappointment after disappointment to be immunised against any more pain, there was so much more.

I heard it coming, we all did.

More of the same, we thought, expecting to shrug it off and get on with our lives. We have long lived with the knowledge that we are at the mercy of those in charge, and that tilting at windmills isn’t really an option.

So why does it feel different this time?

Why do we feel so completely abandoned and betrayed?

We have joked about going to hell in a handcart, but it was still a shock to see it trundling down the road towards us.

I have been waking up in the morning feeling ill, trying to convince myself it is yet another symptom of old age. I am normally an enthusiastic person. Glass half full and all that, but these last few days have seemed empty and hollow. I can usually summon up the energy to fake it until it comes back, but for the first time in my life, I don’t really want to.

But supposing the enthusiasm never come back, what then?

In a way, I am rather glad to be old. Life doesn’t mean the same to me as it once did. I have passed the point of worrying and making plans, content to potter along in my relatively peaceful retirement.

But my little boat seems to have lost its moorings, been cut adrift and left to sink into deep water, with no visible means of reaching the shore…

Five Things We Should Know By Now…


These are some of things I have been reliably informed, are essential if we want to make a success of our writing. In retrospect, there is possibly too much information out there and all of it supposedly the right way to write, that it can be downright confusing.

And to think, all this time I assumed it was a simple as picking up a pen!

1. There is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ book.
This came as quite a surprise to me, because I’m sure I have read quite a few that are, at least in my opinion. But according to some of these experts, I shouldn’t be striving to produce the perfect book. (I shouldn’t?)
All this time I have been trying to write well, constantly comparing my feeble efforts with that of my idols, something I have been told in the past was a good idea.
But what I should be doing, apparently, is simply the best I can. (who would have thought of that?)

2. No matter what you do, it takes time.
I have discovered that writing is all about improvement.
Every time you pick up a pen or switch on your computer you will have improved since the last time you did. That’s how the brain is supposed to work when we let it, you know, practice makes perfect?
The trick is not to argue with it, which is something I still do sometimes. It has been hard to trust in something, which lets face it, has let me down big time in the past; but by using what I have learnt, I think I may have found the right work ethic with my writing. And the experts were right; it did take an awful long time.

3. How do you make readers care?
This one still stumps me, either they will care or they won’t, how can you make them? And if you do find a way to do it, how is it real? Then I read that you should try to treat writing like any other job. One that doesn’t make you feel good every day. One that frustrates the hell out of you, but one you have to commit to, for better or worse.
That makes it sound like a marriage, doesn’t it? But maybe it is a partnership of sorts. In a marriage, you usually get out what you put in; in other words, if you care so will your partner, so I do get their point.
But trying to get anyone to care has never come easily to me. In my youth I was convinced that I was unlovable; indeed, I have several failed relationships behind me, nothing to be proud of, ever.
Now I am older, I find I can communicate better, so that might be the answer. Personally, I think becoming a silver surfer was the solution. Through the Internet, I have met so many interesting and lovely people all over the world, far more than you could meet in a lifetime without a PC.
The Internet also removes the awkward shyness that most people have, meeting people for the first time, for which I will be eternally grateful.

 4. How to make friends and influence people.
I try to make our posts interesting; although I am still not sure I’m doing the whole blog thing properly. Being self taught can be a problem, I think. You can never be sure if you have absorbed all the information needed, or missed a valuable point that would make all the difference in the world. Let’s face it, some of the stuff we have to learn would try the patience of Job and I didn’t have much of that in the first place!
We are supposed to be trying to attract the kind of people who would be interested in us as writers, who might like to read our books; and although we are getting more interest these days, not many people comment which leads me to believe that maybe something vital is lacking.

 5. Whatever happens, don’t give up.
Sometimes it seems an impossible task, all this marketing and promoting. As if writing wasn’t hard enough. You don’t have to self publish, I hear you say, but we have tried the conventional route.
To say we are stubborn is probably an understatement, but we are great believers in ‘how hard can it be?’ and despite finding out that self publishing is, indeed very hard, we have no intention of giving up just yet. We are having too much fun and meeting so many lovely people!

The last photograph on this page is by Jonathan Gunson from BestsellerLabs.com and I have it pride of place on the wall above my computer. Just so I can remember his advice on a daily basis; for of all the people I have listened to, he manages to make everything I am trying to do, that much more achievable.

Signing off now…

PS; again no photographs, not sure why they won’t load…