Woo hoo; girls jolly!

Woo hoo; girls jolly!

I’m off to Suffolk this weekend, with my girlies. We call it a girls’ weekend, but we go for four days, and none of us, it has to be said, qualify as girls anymore.

A big house in the country; shopping and hikes. Far, far too much wine. Ditto the food. We used to book adventure experiences, back in the day (we’ve been doing this for a lot of years), but we’ve grown lazy. The sheer consumption of food and alcohol is adventure enough these days. (Note to self; don’t forget to pack the antacids)

None of us will forget the weekend we spent on a barge. The living accommodation was  rustic (The Sister had to sleep on the kitchen floor, with her head in the fridge), and the only loo had a louvred door. I was born too old for that lark. I mean, how do you actually do your business when you can see six other people going about theirs? One of our number, I’ll call her Oooh!J (we’ve got a lot of J’s so I’m not giving much away), is particularly sensitive to her toilette surroundings. We inflated a rubber glove through the slats of the door while she was on the bog, and she didn’t go in there again for the rest of the trip. We opened both sets of lock-doors on one of the locks (too many cooks) and risked the whole bloody canal draining away downhill. And we crashed into some rowers. Good looking lads, we bumped into them again in the pub.

Oh, how we’ve laughed. Segways and four-wheel driving experiences, arts and crafts (Married-too-many-times-J painted a rabbit, and not of the furry sort.) We’ve dressed up for murder mysteries and belly dancing classes, boated and climbed, sculpted, shot arrows and played balloon games. You never recover from seeing your friends thrusting their groins against the wall to burst a balloon which is clasped between their thighs.

We’ve cried a fair bit too. We call it Suicide Sunday, when the booze and lack of sleep combine to overwhelm us and our traumas leak out. We’ve cheered each other off on new life exploits and mopped up after ordeals. Seven batty women with a horde of children (and a fair few grand-kids) between them, who chickened out of paint-balling when some men showed up in full combat gear. (Ok, so the men were actually 14 year old lads, but that was even scarier: Soft-J actually cried when she saw them). I said there were a lot of J’s. I think that particular escapade was our adventurous swan-song. We went and had fish and chips instead.

No photographs to illustrate this week’s blog. What happens on the girls weekend stays on the girls weekend. Thank the Lord. I’m thanking him, too, for my colourful, wildly indecent, loud, outrageously funny mates.

I might not be quite so thankful by Suicide Sunday, but here we go again. Hang on to your bladders, ladies, I predict a riot.

The devil makes work for idle typists

The devil makes work for idle typists

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here before, but at the same time as I publish my sequel I’ll be re-publishing Barley Straw as a second edition.

There were a couple of things which led me to make that decision. The actual manuscript hasn’t been massively altered, some minor text changes and additional material that I either didn’t have or didn’t think to put in the first time around (author bio, chapter one of the sequel and a plug for the new book). Edition two will get a brand new cover which will sit nicely with the sequel (If you follow me on facebook or twitter you might have already seen my cover for the sequel A Bed of Brambles). The new cover for A Bed of Barley Straw in on my book page here…but it isn’t actually on the book yet and won’t be until I release edition two, so it shouldn’t be there. I was playing on WordPress and suddenly lo – there it was. Tech tinkering is a dangerous pastime for me. I ought to remove that cover (I don’t want to be accused of mis-selling, am I breaking any laws?) but in the meantime I’ve done even more tinkering, to build a book page with both of my books on it (ooh that sounds good) which is currently lounging in cyberspace on WordPress auto-save. I fear if I update anything I may launch the sequel by accident (and you may also notice that the heading on the page now reads my bookswith one poor friendless novel featured below it.)

Doing the second edition is a logistical nightmare. Four manuscripts to format and upload (2 x paperback, 2 x Kindle) along with their respective front matter/back matter and the right covers. I see the potential for cock-ups, and I promise I will embrace that potential. I’m fearful of losing sales and reviews on Barley during the change over, and right now I’ve got no idea when I should take edition one out of publication (I’ll ask my mates at ALLi, they’ll know the answer).

This week I’ve been reading Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing by Catherine Ryan Howard. Great book. Everything you need to know about self-publishing in an entertaining package which flows as sweetly as a novel. My copy is riddled with turned down corners to redirect me to the legion of useful tips (sorry Catherine Ryan Howard, but I was reading it in bed and I’d run out of tissue bookmarks). A lot of delicious lures back into techno-tinkering, don’t read it if you’re fighting a habit. Lord knows what you’ll see on my website next week. You may have noticed that, on Catherine’s advice, my blog has a new, more enticing name – welcome to Rustic Romance. Does it tempt you in?

I won’t tell you how many colour theme changes I’ve made this week. I’ve updated my header image too (my idea, not Catherine’s). Carried away by autumnal romance…pic taken out of the window of the tractor this morning while I was grass cutting (it’s a long climb down for a shorty, that’s my excuse. You can pick the blackberries from the cab too!)

My editor needs to send that manuscript back, and fast, to bury me so deep in edits that I haven’t got time to be led astray with this tinkering lark.

Six for five, three for two…or a baker’s dozen and a cappuccino?

Six for five, three for two…or a baker’s dozen and a cappuccino?

Our supermarket has had a makeover. The car park is fantastic. An entire level for blue badge holders (which, given the battle anyone has to park within a mile of our market must be a godsend for those less sprightly on their pins) AND there are always spaces!

Incredible, remarkable. But it may have something to do with the fact that you can’t find a bloody thing in the shop any more. If you can find the shop at all. The lifts have been reversed and you’ll see many a confused shopper (yes all right, me) stuck in the lift staring hopefully at closed doors while a trick-or-treat set opens and closes behind them. When you park the signage tells you that you are on level G+1. There’s a level G+2 and a level G-1 as well, but the buttons in the lift do not correspond with any of that (the stickers which the staff helpfully sellotaped up failed to stick). So your hallelujah joy at escaping the lift is short lived when you discover you have arrived at a floor which doesn’t exist, and you can’t even remember which town you are in any more.

Now I could be accused of being change averse, but don’t get me started on the shop’s new lay-out. In our uber-quaint market town, cafes and tea rooms are three a penny. There isn’t a combination of hot drink plus calories which you can’t locate within seconds of arrival. So why oh why did our town centre supermarket think it was necessary to add not one, not two, but three areas inside their shop where you can now get a coffee?

You fall over the queue for the first one as soon as you walk in. A coffee machine wedged conveniently (not) between Customer Service and Quick-Check hand-set collection. Slow quick-check hand-set collection (sounds like a line from Strictly Come Dancing.) Very slow shop, because nothing is where it used to be. Trip over second cafe in the bakery section, notice the seated diners judging as you try to buy cake covertly.

I fear there is a clash of customer versus marketing going on here. Me, I just want to do a grocery hit and run. Marketing wants me to be distracted by all the fripperies they have on offer. They succeeded in distracting me (before I got out of the lift) and they have well and truly slowed me down. Too many special offers for a befuddled brain to cope with…six for five, three for two…or a baker’s dozen and a cappuccino? Four backtracks to hunt out items I’ve missed and I still turf up at the ‘quick-check’ (note ironic inverted commas) with less than half of my shopping.

Cafe three, I see what they’re doing. You do actually need pit-stops to break up this ordeal. And…a security check. The final insult to prove it would have been quicker to grow the groceries myself. I remind myself to be polite. It isn’t the shop assistant’s fault, and given my now total confusion there is actually a very good chance that I’ve stolen something…three for two, seven for six, one for nothing? I smile at her sweetly, I may need her in a forgiving mood before this shopping trip gets a whole lot worse.

As it is, I’m out! Now I just need to find the bloody car. And breathe.

Early awakenings and oh, what a beautiful morning

Early awakenings and oh, what a beautiful morning

I’m so blessed to live in the country-side, with a 360 degree view of the sky. A blessing which it’s easy to be thankful for because nature reminds you so often. I confess I’m not always grateful when the wind is hurling rain horizontally across the farm, or snow drifts cover the drive. It’s a rare winter when we don’t lose electricity, telephone, internet, and satellite (occasionally all at once). But I figure that’s a small price to pay for the everyday glories we get to enjoy (she says valiantly, while the October sun is shining).

Today the terriers got me up early (they’re playing innocent in this shot but don’t be fooled. And yes she is sitting on him).


Terriers can be the cruellest of alarm clocks. A bark sharp enough to rouse you from sleep with instant palpitations. A sense of smell so keen it can sniff out varmint from three fields away, and a dogged (sic) determination to tell you all about it. I say varmint, but often I haven’t got a clue what has set them off. A fox, pheasant, or deer? More likely devilish spirits which drive them to wake me at an hour when all of God’s creatures should be tucked up in bed (apart from the nocturnal ones of course). Credit where credit is due though, this morning the moon was worthy of howling at.

fog and sunrise oct 15

A crescent so perfect it’s a cliché. I was out there, in my nightshirt, with the dogs, taking pictures which would never do the view justice. Nature does beauty on an epic scale which scoffs at my camera and photography skills. All the same, pretty eh?

An over-blanket of mist rolling across the fields…

fog Oct 15

And then the sun came up…

Sunrise Oct 15

Sometimes I’m thankful for yappy dogs.

Swallows, migration and ploughing serendipities, all on a Saturday morning

Swallows, migration and ploughing serendipities, all on a Saturday morning

Swallows circling the tractor and plough – dozens of them. We wonder, are they playing, or harvesting the flying insects which are put up from the stubble.

There’s a lot more like that, but my editing skills are worse than my filming skills and I had my finger over much of it.

It looks like a game, they swoop dangerously close to the tractor, as if surfing the thermals rising off of the engine, and dive across the plough to come around again. Maybe this is fitness training for the arduous journey ahead of them. Migrating birds, with hundreds of dangerous miles to cover. Topical at the moment. I wish all who embark on such fearful travels could be offered Godspeed and safe arrivals.


Here’s what the RSPB  says about their journey:

By early September, most swallows are preparing to migrate. They flutter about restlessly, and often gather on telegraph wires. Most leave the UK during September, with early broods of youngsters being the first to go. But a few stragglers may hang around into October. 

The return journey to Africa takes about six weeks. Swallows from different parts of Europe fly to different destinations. Ours end up in the very south. They travel down through western France and eastern Spain into Morocco, before crossing the Sahara Desert and the Congo rainforest – finally reaching South Africa and Namibia.

Swallows migrate during daylight, flying quite low and covering about 320 km (200 miles) each day. At night they roost in huge flocks in reed-beds at traditional stopover spots. Since swallows feed entirely on flying insects, they don’t need to fatten up before leaving, but can snap up their food along the way. Nonetheless, many die of starvation. If they survive, they can live for up to sixteen years.

Hard to believe that a small bird can conquer such an endeavour.

We unearthed a horseshoe too.


Every year the plough turns up interesting treasures, but this one intrigued us because it is round. Remedial shoeing for a horse which once pulled a plough? Or possibly more recent, it looks small for a heavy horse (5 1/4 inches across). Like many of our finds, it throws up more questions than answers.


It must be autumn.