A Bed of Brambles teaser…

A Bed of Brambles teaser…

In case I haven’t teased you for long enough, here’s a sneaky extract from the new novel (no spoilers, I promise).

The rural lanes were familiar now, white painted signposts to places she knew, remembered landmarks. They crested the hill, the scenic approach, and their journey took them onto the Cotswolds Romantic Road, the route that didn’t pass the industrial estate or the council houses to the east of the village. Driving it after an absence, Hettie could see what the tourists saw, the contrast of chocolate-box houses and lush, picturesque landscape. She was lucky to call this place home.

Ahead to her right the village still slept in a leafy green hollow of clotted cream cottages and pantile roofs, with punchy chimney pots rising above their ridges. And off to the left, Draymere Estate, its dry-stone wall curving alongside the road, softened by the years and the tall grasses clustered at its base. The Hall wasn’t visible yet, as it would be if they drove on through the village. Alexander swung the car off the road at a break in the wall, the back entrance to the estate.

They passed her old cottage and the stable block. Hettie looked at the clock on the dashboard. It would be another hour before early stables and horses wanting their breakfasts. The thought made her smile, a reminder of snuggling down in her bed in that cottage, with time in hand before she had to get up.

‘What are you thinking?’

‘I’m thinking it’s good to be back.’

You might get another one next week,  but then I’ll be stymied for passages that don’t reveal too much of the plot (or need an adult rating) winking-emoji

The tail-end of summer?

The tail-end of summer?

What a shocker! Hot sunshine right through August and it’s still going now! It must be an Indian summer, because an English one doesn’t behave like this.

The quickest harvest I can remember, although the elders tell me that in ’76 it was so hot that they combined right through the night. I do remember something of ’76; the grass died in the pony’s field, and we made hay when the council mowed the meadow. Not just in the proverbial sense,  we actually made hay. But our DIY efforts over-heated in the hay-barn. We had to drag the grass-cuttings back out and spread them across the yard for fear of spontaneous combustion. There was camel racing at the village fete that year too. Those camels must have felt right at home on the desert which our village green had become.

This summer has its share of memorable moments too. Rebellious voters and gob-smacking Olympians spring to mind, although I also swum in the North Sea without freezing my extremities, and that was a memorable first too. Nick Skelton became a poster boy for the hip-replacement brigade (me); Theresa May became prime minister, and Jilly Cooper published her new book.  Ok, I get that you might not think that’s up there with Olympic gold medals or running the country, but come on guys! Six-hundred-and-forty pages of steamy English saga! And, right now, I can empathise with the effort that Jilly must have put into that, because I’m still slogging away editing my three-hundred pages of steamy.

I’m not wishing the summer away. Oh, no. I mean, no one in their right mind would be dreaming of cool weather, when the sun is blazing every day. It’s hot, hot, hot. Even in the middle of the bloody night.

I’m not missing that snuggle under the duvet, or winter stews for dinner. Salad is good, so are burnt barbecued sausages, and I love wearing shorts. Who could be nostalgic for comfy jeans, or baggy jumpers, and who would even think about slobbing on the sofa with the log burner going when it’s 30+ degrees outside?

The Farmer might want rain, instead of drought and the pestilence of beetles which this summer has visited on us, but not me. The drumbeat of rain on the lean-too, the gushing of water through ditches, our view from the farmhouse soft-focused  by the the mist of autumn drizzle. Nothing to enjoy there.

But what do we do for small-talk, if we can’t bemoan the disappointment of the English summer? I can answer that question myself, actually, because I’ve already been given pessimistic warnings of the savage winter that must surely follow. It’s nature’s payback, you see. The warnings are delivered with gloomy foreboding, and yet… some weird, English part of me is hoping that they just might come true.