Saturday, 28 December 2013

Plastic Bags for Profit

There's nothing like jumping on a bandwagon to increase your profits, is there?  For all the Government's wittering on about the ecology being the reason to have shops charge for the plastic bags, it isn't going to cut down on the use of plastic bags.
Those of us who are into recycling and our own personal economy have been using the free supermarket plastic bags for years as bin liners. 
I suspect that the only reason for charging for the bags is because the manufacturers of plastic bags aren't selling as many bin liners as they used to - before most of us became more economically  minded!
I have a few ideas of how to cut down on buying bin liners or paying for the shopping bags:
1.   How about those small clear plastic bags for fruit and veggies?
2.   Use empty cereal packets in which to put rubbish before putting it into the dustbin.
3.   Wash out soup tins etc and us them for recycling.
I'm sure you can think of other items that can be used instead of bin liners and expensive plastic shopping bags.  Do remember to DRY OFF wet things before putting them into cardboard cartons!
If the plastic bag manufacturers were really concerned about the ecology rather than their profits they would make all plastic bags biodegradable.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

In Memory of Wartime Fathers

William Bothwell (RAF) off duty in Italy
On Monday the Eleventh day of the Eleventh Month at Eleven Hundred Hours I will, like thousands of others, congregate at the local War Memorial to remember those who lost their lives in War.  As well as those whose lives changed due to their injuries.

But during that minute’s silence I will also remember my darling father.  He wasn’t killed or injured but he (like other fathers) did miss my early years – those important bonding years.

My memories of the war include seeing him occasionally when he was home on leave, especially one day standing in the garden with him watching a Dog Fight in the sky above.  I wasn’t scared – he was my Daddy and he was invincible.  Then he was sent to Italy.  By the time he was demobbed I was nearly seven years old.  Yes, I was excited that he was coming home but, as he was a comparative stranger I was shy with him.

It wasn’t until the 1960s when my marriage broke up that the glass wall finally broke.

Dad was terrific with children, including me – except on the occasions when we were alone together.  Then we barely spoke as we didn’t know what to say.  He was an artist and I so longed to emulate him.  Nope, I can’t paint for toffee.  My sister can but doesn’t very often do so – no self discipline!

My sister?  She was the post war baby – my real live baby doll.  I remember during the early 1950s that on Saturday mornings Mum often wanted to go to the shops and always took me with her.  My sister had to stay at home with Dad.  Ironically she wanted to go to the shops and I wanted to stay home with Dad.

I often wonder whether my dislike of shopping and my sister being a bit of a shopaholic has anything to do with that!

I’m sure that those of us who lived through the war years look back and regret not having had the opportunity to bond with our fathers.

Here’s looking at ya, Dad!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

How I Saved by NOT having an Annual Season Ticket

I first published this blog a year or so ago and with the Southern Rail problems it seems appropriate to re-publish it. 

When I began commuting to the City of London I was encouraged to buy an Annual Season Ticket.  So that it wouldn’t be such a big expense the following year I opened a savings account and put the appropriate amount into it each month. 

THEN I had a brain storm.  I was only using the ticket 5 days a week.  I never used trains to go anywhere else.  I also realised that the ticket didn’t get used when I was holiday nor on bank holidays.  Working out how many days a year I used that ticket and dividing its cost by the number of days I found that it was more expensive than using a monthly/weekly season ticket.

For reasons that I won’t bore you with I ended up buying daily tickets – the amount saved over the cost of the Annual Season Ticket paid for a holiday!  Yes, with the advent of ticket machines I succumbed to the daily ticket and for those of you who say you don’t have time…..  Work it out!

Am I glad I no longer commute.  Soon it won’t be worth the expense of working, will it?

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Antiques in the Attic - an Excerpt

Sarah's and Zelda's holiday in Torremolinos seems to be heading into trouble:

Later in the afternoon as they lay on sunbeds on the beach, Zelda told Sarah, "That guy is beginning to creep me out."
"Yeah.  He's still hanging around.  I'm sure if there was another sunbed near us he'd be on it instead of at the bar."  She was referring to the bar across the road from the beach where the man was drinking a beer.
"I know what you mean.  D'you reckon he's stalking us?"
"Could be.  I know he's in the next door apartment but even when we've crept out and avoided passing that side of the building he still turns up."
"He does, doesn't he?  Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"  The women exchanged a look.  "No, that's too far fetched.  We're not in a spy film."
Zelda laughed.  "Shades of James Bond.  No, he looks more like an English version of the Pink Panther."
"Zel, I don't want to be a scaredy cat, but he does make me nervous.  I'd suggest we check our bags but if he's looking he'll see."
Her friend looked at her closely.  "You're serious, aren't you?"
"Wouldn't you be?  Actually, after all that's happened and the reason why we're here, you should be worried too."
"True.  Sorry, but an unexpected free holiday has gone to my head.  Look, I'll go to the bar and get a couple of beers.  And get chatting to him.  You check our bags."


As well as being available on Amazon (via the link), this book is also available on Kobo and for other readers via Smashwords.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Lavender is Good for You

Not only does lavender smell delicious, it has many useful properties.  My mother taught me about it in two ways:  small sachets of the flower heads tucked into the drawers and hung on hangers to keep our clothes smelling fresh.  And to keep the moths away.  The other thing I learned was the drops of lavender on the pillow.  At the time I didn’t understand why. 

Whenever I have a cold or my sinuses are playing up a few drops of the oil on my pillow help with breathing.  The fumes do a magical job of clearing the nasal passages.

If I’m having difficulty getting to sleep because my brain won’t switch off, the relaxant in the oil on the pillow is a miracle.  As all writers know, when you’re in the middle of creation there are many nights when your brain is on the hamster wheel.

Got a headache?  A few drops on a tissue held to the nose and/or a few drops on the temples.  That reminds me – Eau de Cologne is also good on the temples.

Lavender oil is also a bug repellent and good to massage into the aches and pains.

Did you know that lavender is also good in cooking?  My favourites are lavender scones.  There are lots of recipes online as well as web sites explaining the healthful properties of lavender. []

Lucky you if you have a garden in which to grow the bushes!

Lavender beds at Ham House

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Knitting is Great!

Following a week of jokes about a knitted kangaroo and some people denigrating knitters, I have decided that it is time to tell my story.

My mother taught me to knit when I was four years old.  There was good reason for that.  I discovered her bag of odds and ends of wool!  By the time she had untangled them there were hundreds of short lengths.  Out came a pair of knitting needles and my lesson began.  Two squares of garter stitch in all colours of the rainbow, plus some.  Mum stitched them together, leaving the appropriate holes – a tea cosy for a small teapot.

A couple of years later I was in trouble at school.  We (boys and girls) were to be taught to knit.  Garter stitch of course and an oblong shape.  To be folded twice to make a purse with a strap.  (Green and red cotton yarn, I think).  I suspect it was meant to last for several lessons, but my flashing needles…..

I must have saved my parents a fortune with my knitting.  All of my sweaters and cardigans plus some for them and my young sister.  And, of course, I had the best dressed dolls in the neighbourhood.

I have also used knitting as a means of supplementing my income.

There is another excellent reason for me to be thankful to knitting.  When I developed Repetitive Stress Injuries in my wrists/elbows/shoulders, the rheumatologist told me that my fingers hadn’t ‘frozen’ because of my knitting – and playing the piano.

Unfortunately, due to the RSI I cannot knit as much as I used to, but wool sweaters are definitely warmer than flimsy ones in man-made fibres.

One thing I’ve never really mastered is crochet.  I have tried it but find it a bit too fiddly.

I can remember a great-aunt who always seemed to be crocheting.  We little girls in the family were very lucky – she would make us very pretty and very fancy socks.  Were they ever painful to wear!  But, of course, whenever we went to visit we had to wear them. 

Whether you knit, sew or crochet, I’m sure you enjoy your handicrafts as much as me.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Too Old to Drive?

Whenever safe driving is being discussed this is one of the questions that crops up.  Too young?  Too old?  Rather like the question of whether men or women are the better drivers!

Having lived in Florida (sometimes called God's Waiting Room) for some years and seen people in their 90s still driving, I do know that there has to be a definite cut-off point.  For example, it was a 98-year-old who made an illegal left turn (equivalent of a right turn in the UK) across in front of me.  Fortunately I was slowing down expecting the lights to change.  I smashed his front passenger door but there weren't any personal injuries.  Just my lovely, lovely car written off due to a cracked chassis.  The Highway Patrol officer kept the other driver's licence!

I know people in their 80s who are still capable drivers but I would still question their doing long distance driving.  Let's be honest, the older we get the less stamina we have.

I am in my mid 70s, have loved driving and in my youth participated in motor sports but I have now given up driving.  A couple of years ago I became aware that my reactions had slowed down and my concentration sometimes wasn't all that it should be.  Then I found that every time I drove long distances my eyes started watering and blurred my vision.  Not good so no more long distance driving.

When I realised six months after the MOT that I had only driven 300 miles I decided I no longer need a car.  (The money saved goes a long way towards a holiday!).

I am fortunate enough to have a High Street with proper shops, can order heavy and bulky grocery items online and have them delivered and have a very reliable and frequent bus service.

I know that not everyone is that lucky, but for people living in or on the edge of towns there are taxis.  Work it out, if you only use your car once or twice a week to go to the supermarket a taxi is probably cheaper than running a car.

As my father (who had had open heart surgery a few years previously) had a stroke at the wheel of his car - fortunately whilst putting it in the garage - I am doubly aware of the dangers of us oldies driving.

To those of you of my age and older who don't agree with me, I am sorry, but we have all seen many accidents involving elderly drivers and followed some of them who were driving carefully at about 10-20 miles an hour.

I do think that we - responsible and experienced drivers - should know when to stop.

Friday, 24 May 2013

'Murder in the Monastery' by Lesley Cookman

If you haven't read any Libby Serjeant books you haven't lived!  These books are set in the Kent countryside - with forays to the coast for Libby to visit her psychic friend, Fran Wolfe.  There are some lovely atmospheric descriptions of the county.

As well as Fran there is Libby's Partner, Ben (who tries to keep her grounded), Peter (his cousin) and Harry, the chef, (who runs The Pink Geranium) and is Peter's Partner.

In this story Libby and Fran - plus friends - help their favourite detective CDI Ian Connell to solve the riddle of a reliquary and why someone was murdered in the monastery.

As in all the Libby Serjeant books there is theatre.  This time not at the Oast House Theatre but in the Monastery grounds plus preparations for a music hall at another theatre.

I found the book un-put-downable (good job I was on holiday!) so it is definitely worth 5 stars.

Waiting for more, Lesley!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Slow Progress

Since I've been publicizing the fact that I am writing a new 'Cleo Marjoribanks Mystery' people keep asking when will it be published?  Please be patient - it takes time to create a well written book.  And, of course, life tends to get in the way.

Since starting 'Poltergeists in the Parador' I've visited Cuba where I caught a virus and ate some contaminated food which meant that for two weeks after the holiday I was too ill to write or even think.  Then it was necessary to deal with publicizing 'Antiques in the Attic'.

Eventually I got back to Cleo, who was getting impatient.

The next interruption was the London Book Fair last week which meant a couple of days in London.  I had forgotten how large Earl's Court is and, unfortunately, there weren't enough places for a good sit down.  The result for me was that by midday on the first day my back (a damaged lower spine) and one foot (arthritis) were rebelling.  I had no choice but to return to my hotel so that I could put my feet up.  And decided not to go to the Book Fair the next day.

Note to whoever organizes the Authors' Lounge in future - make it at least twice as large.  It was divided into two, one part being a mini auditorium which became so overcrowded that it was standing room only.  The other half did have a few tables and chairs but it was more for companies to chat with authors rather than a comfortable space where authors and agents could network.

I saw several fellow authors with whom I wanted to touch base but the density of people made it impossible.  Sorry to have missed you!

Yes, alright, Cleo, I hear you and will get out my notebook and pen as soon as I can.  (For those of you not in the know, Cleo Marjoribanks has so far solved mysteries in Homicide in Hampshire and Dirty Deeds in Downdene.)

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Hemingway Trail

Hotel Ambos Mundo

There are times when I have to put up with a single size hotel room and want to scream. But…. looking around at Room 511 at the bed in the alcove and typewriter on a desk in the centre of the room I am amazed.

Ernest Hemingway and his wife lived in this room? The guide told us that friends also visited. All I could think was that they either sat on the bed or on the floor. It may be a corner room but how small it is.

Where is Room 511? At the Hotel Ambos Mundo in Havana, Cuba.

Hemingway stayed here in 1932 and again in 1933 where he made it his home until his wife Marta Gellhorn (they married in 1939) decided she couldn't live there and found the farmhouse where they subsequently lived.

Hanging in a small cupboard are some of Hemingway's clothes and on the walls are displayed photos of him with various famous friends. And, as already mentioned, his typewriter is on a small desk in the middle of the room.

Not far from the hotel is one of his favourite bars, La Bodeguito del Medio. In this small space it was standing room only and I bet Hemingway wouldn't have recognized it.

The Hemingway Trail usually includes a visit to the farmhouse at San Francisco de Paula which his wife persuaded him to buy. Unfortunately, for me, it had been raining quite heavily for a couple of days so there was no chance of going there. Presumably because the narrow road was impassible. (I was told that you can only look into the rooms from the outside - as it is a three storey structure do they provide ladders?)

Among the books that Hemingway wrote whilst living in Cuba are The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Winnie-the-Pooh Country

Looking North

With spring on the horizon lots of us are thinking of long rambles in the quiet of the countryside.  In East Sussex the Ashdown Forest is always popular as here, apart from the birdsong and the wind soughing in the tall grasses and occasional trees, all is quiet.  And there are the scents of the flowers and herbs which are delicious.  Of course it depends on the time of year you are there as to what you see and smell.  For example, in spring it is possible to find cushions of pale yellow primroses, drifts of bluebells, bright yellow gorse and, someone once told me, they had seen wild irises and orchids.  Later in the year the moors acquire a lavender carpet as the heather blooms.
Ashdown Forest is an ancient forest upon which, fortunately, builders no longer encroach to create more towns.  The 10 square miles/2,396 hectares of woods themselves consist of oaks, ash and beech with a floor of ferns.  Deep in the forest look out for the Fallow deer.  Shy creatures and delightful to watch.

Probably the most famous resident of Ashdown Forest is Winnie-the-Pooh.  A.A. Milne, who wrote the Christopher Robin stories, lived on the northern edge of the forest and in his books re-named some of his favourite places.

For example, Gills Lap became Galleons Lap where there is now a memorial to A.A. Milne and E.H. Shephard, the illustrator of the Pooh books.  There are also designated Pooh Walks which start from here.

All of Pooh’s fans have to visit the Poohsticks Bridge and I am no exception.  Obviously playing Pooh Sticks is more fun when there is more than one of you, but I usually manage by using ‘competing’ sticks.

The Bridge is just outside the village of Hartfield which is a good excuse to go and visit Winnie-the-Pooh Corner, a shop in a 300-years-old building, and buy yet more souvenirs.  The Church of St. Mary the Virgin is even older – 13th century.  It is more famous for its high points - these are the West Tower and the Broach Spire.

Like Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends, Piglet and Roo, at the end of the day it is time to head for home after a day of adventures in the Enchanted Places of Ashdown Forest.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Photographing the Royal Family

A Smiling Queen

I’ve often wished I could take photos of the Royal Family just like the ones we see in magazines.  Not the posed ones but those taken at events, walkabouts and on casual occasions.  I know I never will because I don’t have one of those big expensive cameras with all the bells and whistles.

Like the majority of us my cameras are small and basic.  They have changed over the years from the wind-on by hand to the general point and shoot and now digital.  But I still have problems.

There was the occasion when one cold day I stood in The Mall to see The Queen and Prince Philip heading for the State Opening of Parliament.  She looked lovely with a flashing diamond coronet and a white fur wrap.  Camera up, finger poised and - click!  Photo of the hand of the lady standing beside me as she waved.  I waited for over an hour for the return but as I was on my lonesome I wasn’t spotted.  I did get a photo but Her Majesty wasn’t looking my way.

With older cameras taking so long to wind on I did get quite a few photos of royal chauffeurs and the back of the car.  When the Queen Mother visited the Guildhall in the City of London the person standing beside me told me she had given me a lovely smile.  Wish I’d caught it on camera.

When Princess Diana once attended a concert at the Barbican Hall I managed to get a distant photo of her receiving a bouquet.  As the camera took so long to wind on, by the time it was ready for the next snap she was climbing a staircase.

So far as distance photos are concerned, you definitely do need a good telephoto lens.  For the 50th Anniversary of VE Day I got myself to Buckingham Palace at about 6.00 a.m.  And only just managed to squeeze myself in at the railings between a tall Australian and one of the concrete pillars.  Yes, I took several balcony photos but when printed all they showed were small figures.  Mind you, now I’ve put them onto the computer I’ve managed to improve them slightly.

During the late 1990s The Queen and Prince Philip visited Croydon, not far from where I was living.  By this time I was an accredited journalist and was allowed into the press photographers enclosure outside the building they were visiting.  After the Royal Party had gone in all the photographers left to take up positions behind the crowds from which to take their photos.  (They stand on step ladders).   I stayed where I was.
A Royal Smile would have been nice.

I have a wonderful photo of Her Majesty looking at me - and frowning.  There I had been hoping for a smile and she was probably wondering who I was.  A stranger in the camp!  I did, a bit later, get a snap of her smiling.  But I wish I had had a more professional camera.

None of my Royal photos are very good, but to me they are precious.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Roman Ruins and Walking in Solin, Croatia

The Church of St. Mary in Solin

Croatians are very proud of their history and love showing it off to visitors so when visiting the country do be prepared for plenty of visits to ruins.
The Cellars below Diocletian's Palace
In Split (the nearest town to Solin) is Diocletian's Palace. Don't be misled into thinking that it is just ruins. Despite several centuries of changes and additions, some of the original palace still exists. Nowadays this area is known as the Old Town which is confined within the palace walls.

I found it fascinating to stand in the main street watching people strolling and looking in the shops - exactly as they may have done 2,000 years ago. (I had visions of Frankie Howerd's 'Up Pompeii' sitcom). But where to start looking at the remains of this Roman palace - at the Cathedral, the Golden Gate, the Piazza or any one of several other locations. Best idea is to pick up a map at the tourist office and follow the walking tour.

On the outskirts of Solin are the ruins of Salona which was the original capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia. Now all that remains of this city are the ruins showing temples, an amphitheatre, the governor's palace, the forum, Christian churches and cemeteries.

Discovering the Fort of Klis
On clear days in the pass between two mountain ranges can be seen the fort of Klis which was very strategically placed to ward off enemies. It was originally built by an Ilyrian tribe and from the 7th century it was the castle of the Croatian kings. It subsequently became a fortress to repel such enemies as the Turks.

My bad luck was rain. On each of the three trips it rained - to a lesser or greater degree. So if you are planning a visit to this area in the winter there are two important things you need - wet weather clothing and some warm clothing - especially if planning a trip to Klis!

I chose to stay in Solin because I wanted a quiet and restful holiday, but it is also an excellent location if you enjoy walking as there are many walks available. There are also plenty of buses to Split and other surrounding towns.  There is just the one hotel - The President Solin - which is a 5*. Built in 2011 it overlooks Our Lady's Islet and the church of St. Mary. I enjoyed strolling along the footpath around the edge of the park alongside the River Jadro and its tributaries. The hotel is beautifully decorated, the staff are friendly and efficient, the rooms and public areas are kept clean and the food is excellent and plentiful.

One last word of warning - if you are even slightly disabled and need help dealing with steep steps (which often don't have a handrail) or cannot easily cope with hills or rocky footpaths, take a walking stick. I recently bought a folding one which is very useful as it can be packed into my suitcase.

This last bit of info may not come as a surprise - I went with Saga. The rep, Tatiana, is one of the best Saga reps I've ever met. Even though there were only a few of us she worked really hard and organised lots of local walks for those who wanted them.
Looking across the park towards the hotel.

Irresistible You by Jemma Linley

I had hoped to publish this romantic novel before Christmas but it was a case of the best laid plans going awry.  Eventually I managed to publish it a couple of days before flying to Croatia for a couple of week rest (and to avoid the snow and ice in England!).  Rest?  I started writing another book - the third about Cleo Marjoribanks and Steaming Kettle.

But, back to Irresistible You.  The idea came about following several visits to Miami Beach, Florida.  I was living in Florida at the time and enjoyed several breaks in this city famous for its colourful Art Deco architecture.

Mel Sheridan, singer, and Andy Lomax, guitarist, once worked on the same cruise ship.  Now after failed marriages they meet again - on Miami Beach.  Andy is playing with a jazz combo and Mel is on holiday and they fall in.
When Mel left the ship moved to California and married singer Charles Prince.   He didn’t live up to his name and Mel divorced him.
Andy left the ship to form the combo with his friends.  He married Joanna who had also worked on the ships. 
Now Mel is considering moving to Miami Beach - provided she can get a Green Card, which can take a long time to obtain.
Although she has to spend time in England (between visits to Miami) both she and Andy have problems with their former spouses.  But that doesn’t affect their love for each other.
Will they live happily ever after or will a tragedy destroy that dream?

I should also mention that I once spent a year working on a cruise ship that sailed out of Miami.  And my experience of getting a Green Card also came in useful in the creation of this story.

No, I’m not going to tell you how it ends - you’ll have to buy the book to find out.

Irresistible You is available on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, I-Pad, Sony and other e-readers and can also be downloaded to computer via Smashwords.  (

Friday, 4 January 2013

"I'm writing a book".

All writers hear this admission from strangers. My most recent one was whilst in Spain.

As my books are e-published I always carry some brochures with me and, whenever I see someone with an e-reader, I try to get chatting to them and hand over one of my brochures. The first evening at the hotel I did meet a lady with an e-reader and did my public relations bit. A little later in the evening I was chatting to a couple - or rather, he was doing the talking. His wife said barely a word and, as I soon realized, it didn't matter what I said, he wasn't listening.

Eventually he brought the conversation round to the brochure he had seen me give that lady. I handed him one…. "I'm writing a book. Doing it all by hand." And, no, I didn't believe that he was doing it in the way so many of us do - write then type. I remembered that during his chatting he had mentioned that they don't have a computer.

Having told me what it was about - no, don't ask, my eyes glazed over. I assume it was the usual retired man's expertise on running the world. Eventually he wound down with those famous words, "I'll send you a copy and you can let me know what you think." Didn't ask, you notice. (This was the same man who wished his wife on me so that he didn't have to bother going on excursions - see blog on

I side stepped the issue every time it came up during the week. On the last day I sat down and wrote a 'dissertation' on what he needs to do if he wants to get published - including the various expenses. That was followed with information on publicizing oneself via Twitter/blogs/web pages. After dinner that evening I handed it to him. He glanced at it and said "Oh I know all about that," and stuffed it in his pocket. Then told me, "I'll go to Waterstones to buy your books."

You should have seen his face when I told him he won't find them in there. Of course he hadn't read the brochure properly nor had he listened to what I had told him. Once he had recovered he told me that my address and telephone number aren't on the brochure. "No, I don't have them on there. Neither do I have any business cards with me." Bye-bye, sweetheart. Did he really think I was that stupid? Probably. Especially as he had offered to share his profits with me. The way I see it, 50% of nothing is nothing.