Attempting to make it as a writer

Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Chicken or Egg


Visit or make up?

I found myself in Ireland the other week celebrating St Patrick’s Day with my brother who reached his significant half century on the very day.   “As the Irish have so kindly laid on a party each year for my birthday I felt this was the year to attend the celebrations” was how the invitation began.  Well not one for missing the opportunity for adventure I agreed to join him taking Sexy Sporty Dad and Number 1 Son, along with other members of the family.

DSC_0298All the arrangements made we waited through the autumn.  Christmas came and went and life began a fresh hectic New Year of work commitments, socialising and motherhood.  I woke early each morning and did a small amount of writing noticing that the dawn rose earlier than I these days.  Some mornings were dedicated to editing rather than the far easier subject of writing.

Oh a writer’s life would be so much more productive and even lucrative if we could skip the editing.   I know all about “honing the story” and ”crafting my tale” but I cannot get in to the “ editing zone”, no matter how I try!

This month I had reached, eventually, a really critical editing section of my story “Memories”.  The story was at a point where all the evidence had come in and the fighting really starts.  The scene where my protagonist has to get her family into hiding as the information breaks to her antagonist and the world’s media.   For some inexplicable reason I had put them on a plane from Bristol to Cork and out to the tiny cove of East Ferry.   (First rewrite after NANO 2010 had finished).DSC_0269

I do not believe in co-incidences; but I happened to be editing this very journey about four weeks ago. I thought about my protagonist’s trip and how I was travelling from Bristol to Cork for St Patrick’s day. Cork is not the out of the blue location you may have thought; my Grandfather was born and raised in Cork or just outside and our plan was to visit his home town while there.  So when looking for a place for my novel family to visit in Ireland; Cork was the obvious choice.  The characters live near Bath so Bristol Airport was also eminently sensible.

How many other parallels will I find in my stories?

DSC_0292Five years later I was now following her footsteps.   (Is there something spooky or stalkerish about retracing my fictional heroine?) A visit to Cobh was on the cards for the historical value linked to the Titanic, and as it was not far from Monkstown where my grandfather was actually born.     Another look at Google Earth was called for and confirmed East Ferry was just beyond Cobh.  The train and ferry plans abandoned while a search of the internet revealed many car hire firms from the airport.

We did make it to Monkstown where my brother and mother knocked on the door of the family home (long since sold) to apologisDSC_0320e for the torrent of photographers and attention the house was receiving.  The door slowly opened and expecting a short apology, we all stood agog as they were invited inside and the door closed.   10 minutes of cold and discussion led us to the warmth of the tiny Italian coffee house round the corner where the smell of cappuccinos and lattes infused the nostalgic aura surrounding us.  The others joined us later; the house owners knew of my mother’s family but they had all gone a long time ago.

With the St Patrick’s parade due to start back in Cork, Cobh was the dropped excursion from this visit’s itinery.   I kept East Ferry on my agenda for after the parade.

DSC_0590East Ferry was not quite how I imagined it to be.    There is very little there; a few houses, a pub and a view right up and down the River Lee estuary, and not forgetting a small ferry crossing. The internet claims it to have a fairly major sailing school.  However, the house I was looking for was not.   I remembered looking on Google Earth; the house had been there, I had checked it several times in the run up to the visit, the view from it photographed and uploaded to the web; I knew it so well.  Could I have the wrong place?   Could there be another East Ferry?

Sexy Sporty Dad who had accompanied me on this particular quest suggested hesitatingly as we drove away from the few village houses, we find somewhere on the narrow lane to turn round and get back to the hotel for dinner.    Well DSC_0569at least I had found the village, I was full now of reservations whether it would serve my purpose and which house?  Does it really matter in a story if you use a real house or made up one? He pointed ahead, a small row of cottages at the end of which a wider area leading into a drive way where we can turn.


DSC_0576The row of cottages, the middle one! It was not the most dignified of stops and luckily the road was fairly deserted as I would have blocked any passing traffic.  I was out of the car, camera in hand shooting shots for posterity.  Clambering through a small gap in the hedge to the precipice of the cliff drop I found the internet view shot taken from the house.  Coming back through, I could see in all its glory, the very house my fictional family stayed in.  Apologies to the current owners who have probably owned it for years but this was to be my holiday home.

I took the obligatory photos and shots of the river looking both up and down.  I dictated how we had  got there.  We turned round and drove back through the village or rather past the pub which seemed to provide the only cDSC_0596hange of use other than the church, and along the coast.  We reached as far out the other side as the house had been and turned the corner away from the tiny port.  Here we found another cottage with an even better location that fits my story. So back to my question should I visit the places first or make them up to suit my purposes?

How many novels have real places but with made up parts and how many are set in fictitious worlds that resemble visitable places?

Ireland DSC_0595was just a short stopover and I would have loved to have stayed longer but my research was a very powerful emotion.  I had lived with my fictional memory for so long; then finding the reality of its existence provided an unexpected climax to my trip.

Back to reality and editing has taken its place back in the lower etches of the pecking order.  Just  a few days break allows my priority list to reach urgent and important again. I am managing to keep writing fresh work but nothing to send out yet and the synopsis and cover letter await my attention once the edit is finished.

Maybe next NANOWRIMO I will base my story on a wonderfully relaxing holiday on Bermuda or Hawaii, scuba diving, swimming and eating exotic fresh fruit!DSC_0597


Seize that Intention


Is it me?   Or has the last year gone so fast I cannot catch my breath.

As far as writing is concerned I have done sporadic in depth sessions and certainly have a new Nano book “Destination” waiting for editing.  I managed to blog LEJOG as it happened, which was harder than I expected, and hope to fill in some other missing trips soon.   Swanwick was again a week full of inspiration, momentum and love which left me determined to find the time to produce more writing.

As the year turns to 2016 I need to think about my aims and plans for the coming 12 months.  Where do I want to be then.  My family have all grown older and wiser with No 1 Son now settled in an estate agency and playing his beloved rugby fortnightly (on his Saturday off).   Middle Son is working hard at his chefing where he is learning far too much fine dining and not enough serve it up to the family meals, the down side is the daily split shift that Sexy Sporty Dad and I have to deliver or collect him from.   Mini Son has found his voice and musical talent joining the Jazz band at school planning for a big trip later this year.   Sexy Sporty Dad still cycles but is training hard for a half marathon in the Spring and then planning a mountain to climb with school friends later on in the year.

It was such an odd December to end the year so to begin with I would like to take you back to a date in the summer.

It was an inevitable decision.   A 90th birthday is an awesome achievement in anyone’s eyes and it was very fitting that we should make the effort.  Which is how, I came to take four sisters out to lunch.

My mother had spent months preparing and liaising with other members of the family over what to buy their sister on this prestigious occasion.   What does one get or need having reached the incredible age of 90?

There was a photo that all the family loved; it was a photo of the 7 siblings taken at my wedding some 21 years ago.   They were all dressed in their finery, all Seven Siblings 2happy with smiles on their faces and it was a reminder of happier times as two of the brothers have since passed away. It was a great photo; the River Exe burbled and meandered its route to the sea as in the foreground, 7 happy smiling faces enjoy the celebrations.

Sexy Sporty Dad and I had been able to send copies of the photos to each of the siblings in the photo, the Christmas after our wedding and we know that all are still displayed prominently in their homes.

This summer my brother had been able to scan a copy of this photo and had it made into to a large canvas to go on a wall as a birthday gift.   The rest of her family were happy about the choice of picture but nobody would see the delight on the birthday girl’s face as she opened it.

That is where I came in.  Did I have a choice?

We found ourselves on a Monday morning in July crossing Cranborne Chase, passing the village my parents had moved from when I was 4.  My mother had not been back since moving away.  The local town had changed beyond all her recognition, with the bridge at least being one of the few landmarks she remembered.

We gathered the other two little old ladies and took them to the pub where we met the fourth, kindly brought by my cousin whom I had not seen since I was about 14.  Unfortunately we had both aged far more than the group of sisters we had reunited.

We sat down; two blind, 4 deaf, one diabetic with a wooden leg and proceeded to order meals.  It became obvious that none of them eat particularly heavily now as any thing bigger than a starter was too much for them.

The conversation flowed as it always had done with this group of sisters, we sent non-alcoholic cheers to absent husbands and brothers who had not managed to keep up with stamina and determination of their wives or sisters.    The combined age around that table of 6 was 460 years.  One brother was absent; too poorly to travel the very long distance it would take for him to have joined us.  The picture was definitely well received and a triumph declared in the surprise and delivery of the present.

DSC_0077A question was asked and another answered as misunderstandings were rife.  A conversation started but left part way as they all forgot the topic and moved on to the next. Confusion rose around the modern card machine and payment.  Then, began the operation to manoeuvre them all back in to the cars, together with one wheel chair, a variety of sticks and several slow paced steps.

Maybe it was all over too quickly but this group of formidable sisters all needed to get back for their afternoon naps.  They would be sure to speak to each other very soon on the phone.  It amazes me how information is passed to each other through the medium of a telephone as none of them could hear each other properly around the dining table.

“and we must do this again soon” was our parting words.

We did do it again this past month of December but the occasion was not as happy.

One of the sisters has passed on and we all again came together at her funeral.    There were a lot of tears, there was a lot of laughter as we each recounted a special time this lady had meant to each of us.  There were more family members as cousins and the next generation of 2nd cousins met again with hugs and tears and promises of “let’s not only meet at funerals and how can we get them all together again”.

There being no possible weddings imminent we have vowed to put something in place.

I think the farewell would have delighted my aunt, the one who I am named after.  It was very apparent that she touched people in very personal ways and was an incredibly wonderful woman despite all the suffering she endured. “There are some people who come in to your lives and then leave but there are others who leave a footprint on your heart” this was a quote used to describe her; I hope I can live up to her memory.

I remember a time in the past when we lived not far from each other.  I worked for the same company as her but a different office. I would be given a lift across town to her office and she then drove me home.   One evening my lift and I were involved in a car crash resulting with me going through the windscreen of the car and ending up in the local hospital.    She was there waiting patiently for me after I was de-glassed, and bandaged more than most Egyptian mummies.  Gently they coaxed me back into her car and she drove me on that hurdle building journey home.

It was she who introduced me to the theatre, a love of which will never leave me. And it was she who so loved reading my blog.   Not owning a computer or able to access any kind of web link, she is the only one I would print my blog off for and send, in later years for others to read to her.

The day of the funeral made me realise that time is so short, our busy lives take time and effort from us; that we sometimes forget to make the arrangement that we truly meant to make.

Suddenly it is too late.

I have some wonderful ideas but I don’t have the time to follow them through, then the opportunity has passed by. I reflect on all the resolutions I was going to achieve in 2015; some just simple ones that got left, and I am ashamed to say, are still floundering at the bottom of the “to do” pile.  I am such a advocate of  the expression “carpe diem” but maybe I should follow my own advice.

May this wonderful lady leave her legacy that we action our ideas, seize the moments and days and fulfil all our plans and opportunities.  This year will be even quicker than the last so don’t just think about it, do it!  If ever I needed a resolution that will be it.

May I wish you all a very happy new year and let this one be full of opportunities and achievement….hopefully



Drive across Britain – Home

IMG_0681I woke up today in a nearly familiar bed!

It wasn’t me that leapt out of bed to go running, I crawled still numb from the drive yesterday and snuck downstairs to leave a tired and achy husband in bed.  Moments later in a change from his Lycra, Sexy Sporty Dad appeared in running shorts and left the house.  He completed a childhood run that he had done many times before but not for a long time.

Of course Sexy Sporty Dad has now completed his challenge.  He has cycled end to end across Britain, and I have driven the distance almost with him.  My job however is not quite complete we need to get home from the most easterly point in northern Britain all the way down to the south coast.

DSC_0706My trusty Sat Nav discarded by Sexy Sporty Nav and his cherished map, more or less as soon as he got in the car, not that I have found the journeys difficult to navigate.  I have found the roads in Scotland particularly, very easy, very smooth and very empty apart from the odd cyclist.

There was one place I still had on my list to visit whilst in Scotland.  I had planned to visit theDSC_0642 Morangie Distillery as I was almost sleeping in the vats but as luck and planning would have it; they were closed on a Sunday.  Fortunately I had noticed as I passed through Fort William the first time that Ben Nevis Distillery is on the edge of town.

DSC_0652Monday morning saw both of us being shown round the distillery,  taken between the vast wash back vats full of fermenting beer and the huge heating bins. Watching the steam from the first heat of liquor,  I realised I have not smelt malt since my parents brewed their own beer.  The strength of that heady childhood smell followed us around as our guide shouted his information.

I feel my hero Matthew and his wife now take a new twist as they will most certainly have to be involved or linked with whiskey.  Every tiny town seems to have its own distillery.  Whether he plays a hand inventing whiskey, developing the amber nectar or just drinking it you will have to read the book to see what I decide.  He will DSC_0650have to stop here in Scotland as the journey back is too far for Sexy Sporty Dad to try cycling home just yet.  Let me knit his story from the Cornish mining backdrop through the rich and dramatic tapestry of Scotland’s landscape and furnish him with a fitting finale in or around John O’Groats.

IMG_0690We set off again to retrace our separate routes through the most glorious Glen Coe.  The weather cannot be normal, the sun shining, not a cloud in the sky and the view of the valley mind-blowing.  I complained at the slow progress it took me on the way up due to all the cyclists but today I had a photographer in my midst and we had to stop for each wow vista and there were so many. Every turn opened up another stretch of valley enclosed by the shadow of the mountains reaching to the sea.

A brief stop at Gretna Green shopping outlet gave us a chance to catch our breath and move around from the position imposed by the confines of a car seat.    Then we were back in England.  I had one quick stop to make.   I wanted to visit the house backing on to the graveyard where my friend and fellow writer Shelley Stewart’s based her first children’s book DSC_0742Templeton’s Tale.

Then we ploughed on suddenly meeting traffic for the first real time since the journey to Land’s End.    We reached DSC_0736Manchester and a welcome from Sexy Sporty Dad’s father with fish and chips on the table and a nearly familiar bed ready and waiting.  It did not take either of us long to melt into the softness and warmth of sleep.

Lands’ End to John O’Groats

The statistics are:

We drove 188 miles to Lands’ End

Sexy Sporty Dad cycled – 970 miles in 9 days

I drove 1140 miles to John O’Groats in 9 days

We drove 2111 miles in total over 12 days.

We did 778 miles in just 3 days to reach home

And let that be a salutary lesson to anyone who suggests travelling via any form from end to end.

Home to my own bed, to my three boys who we have missed dreadfully, and back to work that maybe we haven’t missed quite so much!

IMG_0691My trusted companion the credit card will now have to be paid back but, we had such a blast just spend spend spending.  There were far more important things to prioritise such as which hotel or B&B to stay in, where I might find my next meal from the chequered choice available, and of course how much support, sympathy for the sores and succour I could give Sexy Sporty Dad.

I could never do what he has done but driving is no lesser achievement in my eyes.  Each person has their own capabilities and talents to be used in the way only they can.  In all the celebrations surrounding my beloved husband someone said to me;

“You can always pretend you did it too; especially if you don’t mention the car”.

My reply;

“Read the blog!”



The official results are just in; Sexy Sporty Dad came 43rd out of all those who took part over the whole week.  Which I think is quite an incredible achievement although we are constantly reminded that it is not a race!  It also opens the scary question what will he do next?

the route

Drive across Britain – John O’ Groats


Well guess where I woke up?

Back in Fort William at the very beautiful Dalchreggan House.   The house looks out over the sea and again tactically I had re-opened the curtains after Sexy Sporty Dad had closed them last night.

Yes I did say Sexy Sporty Dad; he is with me this morning and as I glance from my bed  I can see my running clothes beside my overnight case laid out in readiness.

I could go and run along the coast with the breeze tagging gently at my hair.  I could breath in the fresh Scotish Air one more time leaving Sexy Sporty Dad to sleep in and wake up all alone, wondering where I had gone. Or I could sit here in my bed and watch the sun wake up the world; in particular the sea with the mountains in the background.  The windows are open and I can taste the salt in the air as the fresh sea breeze seeps into my room and tussles my already tousled hair.

DSC_0607Well that is one question you will never know even if you read the book.

I am afraid yesterday was about one thing and one thing only; John O’Groats.    I checked out of the hotel and pretty much raced to John O’groats.  As I left the breakfast table I had received a text to tell me he had just arrived at Pit Stop 2 and only had 30 miles to go ‘cold and windy, want it to end now’

As if I would allow him to stop now!  I told him I would meet him when he got to John O’Groats.  I was able to send some more good wishes from Facebook friends I had picked up that morning, plus another large dose of my own good luck wishes.

For the only time on this trip, it was important for me to get to the arrival venue first. I checked with the ever faithful Sat Nav, we had 86 miles about 1 ½ hours journey to reach the rendezvous.

I did it!

I drove all the way, 1145 miles from Lands End to John O’Groats with a map and a Sat Nav;  Thelma without her DSC_0585Louise.  Ellen MacArthur without  her crew and Amelia Earhart with only her plane.

I met people along the way, but always carried on alone.  I investigated places on the map and I took a 9 day journey of discovery about me.

I have plotted and woven stories and ideas to be fleshed out in a novel during NANOWRIMO this November. I have explored places that will not be woven but held important meaning or interesting facts for me.

And I have discovered that I am an amazing person too.   Don’t underestimate me….  The power, determination and enthusiasm I can put to a project is just as staggering as the physicality of the honed athlete.

But of course it has not been about me.  The reason I have taken this journey is because Sexy Sporty Dad had begun a DSC_0564

challenge some long months ago possibly even years when he took up regular Saturday morning cycling.  Was that where the idea came;  I know for a fact I did not plant the seed.

I arrived as 12 riders had come through and hoped he had not pushed himself too much and got there before me.  No text so I felt I was ok.   Camera in hand and smile upon my face I wheedled my way through the growing band of supporters to the barriers just over the finish line and waited.

800 odd riders still to come over the line, it is not easy to see who they are until they are close enough to read the number on their bikes.  They all wear similar lycra and Sexy Sporty Dad had not let me know which of the kit I had been washing over the week in my hand basins and baths he would choose to wear.

My wait was not a long one as he came in about 61st over the line, this of course would be amended when the results DSC_0573of all came in and there may be others who left after him and will come in a little later.   A build-up of emotional pride as he came through the inflatable finish, the threatened rain must have drizzled at that point as I felt damp cheeks while I clicked the moment.

He has ridden 970 miles (he obviously took the short cut), 9 days up mountain and down dale, blazing sun and pouring rain and he has been true to the torture and camped every night when most nights there was a spare space in luxury just nearby.

DSC_0579The physical effort has been phenomenal.   It was all a bit bewildering and surreal as he came through the finish line and received his medal.  The ‘I done it’ medal, that no doubt will decorate our house and conversations for months to come.

After a shower and cup of soup, he appeared nearly normal.  He was far better than I expected him to be and even the saddle sore did not prevent him sitting in the passenger seat to help me learn how to drive the car!  It was going to be emotional this journey back, I knew about the twists and turns and high cliff edges I was about to take him.  I also know from long experience he is a hopeless passenger, nervous, fiddling and finicky.

We eventually reached Inverness as the rain finally caught up with us and dusk began to settle.   We found the Cinnamon Restaurant not only open on a Sunday night, they were serving a buffet style eat as much as you could meal.

Back on the road again we travelled along the side of Loch Ness, I met a young deer waiting to cross the road, dusk had definitely fallen and darkness enveloped the car,.  As I came round the corner my lights reflected her eyes standing in all her glory. Thankfully she did not step out but there no chance of a photo; by the time I had swung the car out to overtake her, the moment was gone and so was she back into the trees.

Further down the Loch as I pressed on towards our bed for the night a creature ran across the road in front of us.  Was it a fox?   No we knew it was not a fox.  Was it an otter?  All the signs say beware of otters. Or was it a baby loch DSC_0603ness monster being called home by its mother after an evening’s exploring.  Will we ever know?

The other man in my life at the moment my hero Matthew, a determined, challenged and highly fit young man , who does that remind you of, also made it,  Now he has reached the very top of Britain,  there are not many opportunities for him to carve out a life for himself.  He may have to find another challenge or learn to grow old gracefully running a tea shop for visitors, few and far between in the 1700s.  NANOWRIMO is not so far away only 6 weeks, you will have to read the book then to find out what he does.

The results came in once all the cyclists came over the line and of course every single one of them is a hero and successful but Sexy Sporty Dad’s place today was an incredible 74th, out of all those guys and some incredible girls (don’t even go there) who completed the Deloittes Ride across Britain 2015.



What have I learned today;   Behind every man reaching his goal  – there really is a supportive, determined, and caring wife.


Drive across Britain – Tain

So guess who got the Hotel Morangie  in Tain – hope my family are proud  as I know one or two of them at least are partial to a wee dram of Glen MorangieIMG_0625

A management decision this morning I am not running as I have 84 miles to go to get to John O’Groats and then another 184 back to Fort William; I stayed in bed and although I could not sleep, I did doze.  The cyclists, 16 miles away were going to be up and out from 6 am to give them a good chance of finishing and setting off home in daylight.  I did manage a final ‘good luck and keep going’ via text, but suspect he will not read it till later.

DSC_0513Yesterday I left Fort William and took the road along to Fort Augustus where the road split to travel up either side of Loch Ness.  What an incredible sight as you get your first view. The road is windy with places to stop and photograph or marvel, which I did many a time so it took a long time to reach the Exhibition Centre.

This was one interactive tour I was going on.  So having done the tour, am I convinced either way.  They were able to explain many sightings and photographs with a lot of highly creative plausible explanations .  The one thing they cannot prove is the truth of the monster; but of course she is not going to show herself to us mere mortals is she?

Could Matthew and his new wife, yet to be named, meet up with the monster.  They will be travelling up one side or IMG_0613the other of the loch.  The monster was very popular in the 1700s, so could they have a pet? Or be involved with a discovery.   Read the book to find out how I decide to weave this into the plot.

Base camp tonight was at Bonar Bridge.  A very damp and dismal camp.  People were coming in late, cold, wet and wishing it was all over.  Sexy Sporty Dad reflected the same reaction and having droped back to 86th, which I thought was still impressively brilliant, was tempted to curl up in a warm bed without the requirement to leap on another bicycle.  But having done this far and only one day to go had enough determination and will power to complete one more day.  He is not as tired as last evening and not too battered, and quite happy to loll in the comfy chairs provided.

IMG_0642The kind people from Deloittes had provided a drying room , which was in constant use but very effective. I left him to his buffet meal and an early night.

I on the other hand had struggled to find a B&B in Bonar Bridge and discovered which ever search engine I tried they all came back with Hotel Morangie  which was over 16 miles from base camp.  So having done the wifely duty I came back to my Scotish hunting hotel 200 yards from the entrance to the distillery for Glen Morangie Whiskey.

Luckily they also had a restaurant where I was treated to haggis filled chicken with a whiskey cream sauce.  Middle son might be able to replicate the meal for me but I suspect would not be able to readily lay his hands on the Haggis.IMG_0650

The building and fine stags head in the hall may be dated but the internet and wifi were very up to date.

I have learned  I cannot do bridges.   I love bridges you know the little old stone ones with the slow nearly dried up river still struggling to flow underneath.   It’s the big ones – I discovered going across the Severn earlier in the week that I felt ill driving across – well I have been across a few yesterday and now know I have a fear of driving over large expanses of water.   I was overtaken going over one today, which was nearly enough to push me over the edge!

Drive across Britain – Fort William


I have lost the sun.

Well that is an abrupt change of weather, overcast  and threatening but I did manage to stay dry and even keep a pathetic run up the hill along the bridge and back down the lane.  I watched as base camp woke up and got ready.  It occurred to me that if I was running back to the main road amid a group of cyclists I may not last, without being run over, knocking someone off or worse, collapsing in an ungainly puffing and spluttering heap as all these fnely tuned athletes pass me by.

I saw the first runners leave the camp and push up the hill to the main road and wished them off and I waited till the DSC_04617.15 lot had passed by and then I headed back to my hot shower and good scotish breakfast.    Sexy Sporty Dad was either running slightly later or had snuck through the groups without me spotting him but I felt I had done my bit as the rain began to trickle down.

Yesterday the weather was very different with blazing sunshine and a real touch of summer.   I set off to pass through Stirling but saw a sign for Bannock Burn, yet another battle field I know nothing about.  I detoured. I had just missed a tour and next one was not for an hour – not sure why except that the experience was interactive…. I couldn’t stay. But this as with many events took place long before my hero Matthew reached the Scottish borders.  It didn’t stop me having a coffee though.

DSC_0480Then I headed over to Glen Coe.  I suspect that this is the hottest, sunniest day Scotland has ever seen and the views down the Glen and back up again were actually breathtaking.  But picture this on a cold and wet 1743 winters morning with the wind howling up the valley.  And a young lost Matthew with no bicyle, no car and not even a horse to ride running along frightened, not sure where he was or where he would end up, hungry and alone……

Next time I will not stop for a convenience stop at the same place as Pit Stop 3 for the cyclists.  I probably got there a few minutes after Sexy Sporty Dad left but as soon as I drove in I realised my mistake.  The car park was heaving with bikes, cyclists and tag on vehicles.  Not to be beaten I noticed a car beside me waiting to pull out,  fab I could pull forward let him out and then reverse into his space and turn before finding a stopping point further on.   As I pulled forward a car pulled right up behind blocking both me and the chap trying to get out in.  The driver leapt from the vehicle and ran; you make your own mind up where.  20 minutes later he had not returned and nature was calling me.

The blocked in car had managed to squeeze out just nudging  the blocker slightly, but he had a small van. I was blocked in every way.  A wee stop and a coffee later and the blocker had been replaced by one of the support vehicles but left me space to reverse slightly and move out.  My fear was cyclists have their own agenda.  One of the crew saw my dilemma and having the power to direct bikes he guided me out and back on my way.

Hoping to stop off at the house Skyfall  and naturally the thought that  James Bond might rush out and need my help solving his latest adventure.  I always did fancy myself as a Bond Girl.   Ah well if not then I could always see the bridge the Hogwarts Express travels across.  A little magic in my life would never go amiss especially cleaning up the home when Sexy Sporty Dad and I arrive back from our travels.

I missed both as I was too busy overtaking cyclists. Here is yet another place to be added to my ever lengthening, toDSC_0469 be revisited list.  What happened to the once in a lifetime trip?

The whole journey through Glen Coe and many miles before and after I spent on the wrong side of the road.  Probably not a feat I will admit to Middle Son while I spend a lot of brave journeys shouting at him to stay on our side of the road.   I did have a valid reason, it was the easiest way of going past groups of lycra clad wobbly bottoms and actually moving out of 2nd gear.  Perhaps not mention to Sexy Sporty Dad who would hate the thought of me driving on the right.

I arrived at Fort William still in sunshine, later than planned but with Ben Nevis towering above me.  The town and base camp lay at the foot of Ben Nevis and I could only glance up and up and up to the train on the top.  It was later at the camp I discovered that the train had other littler trains which turned out not even to look like trains or swans as someone pointed out, but to be the unmelted snows from previous years going up the North Face of the mountain.

How am I going to weave my newly named hero Matthew up the mountain and does he have a wife in tow at this stage? I IMG_0559decided not to climb it even in the name of research but maybe he could be one of the first to get to the top with James Robertson in 1771 or possibly with the mining man John Williams in 1774?   We will find out.

So I didn’t run this morning and I certainly couldn’t be seen out in my running gear  in mid-afternoon but I could go for a casual walk, which is how I came to be walking the 20 minutes over to base camp from my lovely   Torlundy House.  The trip took far longer than planned as I stopped and looked at everything and photographed each new vista I was met with.

I managed to persuade Sexy Sporty Dad that although he had been on a bike all day, a stroll would do him good so he walked back with me to the B&B, before I had to drag him off the bed, and I thought I was tired,  to go for yet another excellent meal in Fort William at a place called Browns

DSC_0459He is very tired, and quite snappy, but today was the most gruelling one of the whole 9 days.  It was 120 miles with three pit stops.  Maybe if he had taken it slower but then he would have been out for even longer, some were out for 12 hours!   He came in an incredible 49th.

We have decided to amend our plan slightly and rather than stay in John O’Groats on the last night we will come back to Fort William to break the journey the following day.  Unfortunately the B&B is fully booked but we will find somewhere.

Today I learnt that I am not very observant, having missed completely the two places I really wanted to see, and not very patient when I am on a timetable  – not a good traits for a writer.


Drive across Britain – Hamilton Park


That fitness fad was short lived:

I didn’t run this morning as the idea of getting lost in the outskirts of Glasgow was not a thought that appealed to me.   Not that I have had anything but great treatment up here but the area is far more built up and busy than I am used to, with not a lot of fresh air or wildlife to interest me and too many people to be seen by.

Yesterday I left England and Arrived in Scotland.  Wow already!DSC_0344

The most obvious place my hero is headed will be Gretna Green and I would hate to disappoint, – this plays an important part in his  journey and as you might imagine he is joined by a heroine – or will she be a nemesis…..  time will tell and you will have to read the book.  Oops I will have to write the book first.

I had a strange sense of urgency as I went round, even the air seemed to be rushed.   I could almost hear them whispering hurry up and I kept looking over my shoulder expecting someone to come hurrying in…  Who could I introduce at this point?

Now I am guessing the big shopping outlet didn’t exist in 1743  so my hero, maybe we should come up with a name, could not shop till he dropped.

I mistakenly first went into Gretna Hall who also have a blacksmith’s anvil and a kissing gate but no signs to say this was not the original blacksmith’s shed just a lot about the DSC_0407history.   It is now a licenced venue for weddings with lots of evidence to point to the perfect setting.

Although it did not look like the one I had studied on the internet and it cost nothing to go in, to a visitor attraction! It was only as I drove off looking for Glasgow that I saw my mistake and doubled back.   However the Hall may well now play an important part.  Isn’t that how research works!

DSC_0440The original blacksmith’s shed and anvil now house an exhibition of the history of why Gretna was such a popular place with English runaways.  Certainly I hope to use some of the fantastic coaches that are now housed in the exhibition and possibly a wedding dress.  Although I am not sure how couples marrying in haste had time to consider a dress or ceremony when all they needed was the certificate and bed as quickly as possible.

As luck would  have it there was a wedding taking place or that had just taken place, meaning I could go round the exhibition.    The bride, the groom and DSC_0429guests, a handful did not appear to be in the  least bit rushed, as they sat leisurely soaking up the blazing sun.

Having left the celebrations in Gretna, I drove up through Lockerbie.   I did not see much but it had been important for me to drive through there as the plane crash had affected me quite emotionally at the time and I felt I needed to go and just be there.  Then on to Hamilton, in the outskirts of Glasgow.   I have been very impressed with the motorway system and the roads in general up here in Scotland.  This may not last as I travel further north but considering my lack of idea where places are I have been able to find my way round fairly well.  My opinion of course!

IMG_0534And then; it’s funny how often you can miss a turning into such a big place as Hamilton Race Course, but on my third attempt I found the way in.

So Sexy Sporty Dad had passed through into Scotland even before I had left Penrith and came in to Hamilton, a scorching 61st in the ratings.   He is starting to look a tad tired but still able to speak in understandable terms. There is at least  less comment on how to do it next time.

He allowed himself to come out for a meal with me tonight and we met a group of 4 cyclists who had opted for a night in the hotel as a change.  A thought akin to cheating in the eyes of Sexy Sporty Dad.  Keeping them a degree further down the insanity ladder in my eyes.   I think quite a few cope with the rigorous routine in different ways.  These guys are not going for the fast timings on a daily basis but have found they can cover short bursts at a very fast pace indeed but then need a stop and a couple of pints before the next very fast pace.  Each to their own torture but I feel  if Sexy Sporty Dad tried this I might well be cashing in his insurance earlier than planned.

Today I learned to trust my instincts –  and read the instructions, especially if I have written them myself; as they will be thorough! (am I OTT? – no I haven’t learnt that about myself!)


Drive across Britain – Penrith


Over half way,  well by tonight we would be. We had already reached day 5 of 9!

Tucked away just off the main B5305, minutes from the motorway junction I was booked into yet another fabulous room at Smithy Cottage.  Deep in a forest and just up from the huge cycling camp, I had left the curtains open overnight.  As the sun woke up I watched the colours and shapes emerge from their sleepy darkness.

IMG_0501It was such a beautiful morning, I was not going to miss the opportunity  to enjoy the fresh open countryside that I found myself in.  I snuck silently out of the front door and woke  up the sheep in the next field.

What a busy road, I had not expected that. But I kept up an intermittent speeded up walk and  slow down as I battled against the traffic zipping along.   I ran, well made it up to near the base camp where cyclists had already IMG_0510started leaving.  Like Lady of the Manor I grandly waved and wished them luck as I  saw many off from the huge imposing entrance to Hutton in the Forest, in whose grounds the bikes had been camping but I had not been staying.

Sexy Sporty Dad, struggling with the early mornings had still managed to get out before I got there but I felt I had done my bit for some at least.   Trotting back, it is always faster going home, to the hot shower and full English breakfast two groups of cyclists passed me.  Duty calling I told them to turn back and go the way the others had.

DSC_0313Yesterday I had decided that I would investigate the Pendle Witches although their murder took place long before my story happens I might be able to weave the journey around the area.  I went to visit the Pendle Heritage Centre which is housed in the Park Hill house home of the Bannister Family, whose descendant Roger is best known for running  the mile in under four minutes.  I am not surprised, if he ran up and down some of those hills no wonder he was fit.

I then went onto Pendle Hill itself.  Apart from a huge hill there is not a lot to it.   Although I took a wronDSC_0329g turn at some point and Sat Nav led me round and round some very deserted moorland roads across cattle grids and down some incredibly narrow lanes; for which I was somewhat glad Sexy Sporty Dad was not in his car with me.  His nerves
are not as steely as mine needed to be.

Finally I found a main road and followed it along for many miles only panicking as I read the sign on the side Yorkshire West Riding.  Suddenly an element of fear embedded itself as I realised that I was driving along not having a clue where I was in the country and I could quite easily be going way off track.  Wasn’t I suppose to be going up through Lancashire.  I was quite at the mercy of Sat Nav on my phone and not sure how much faith he deserved!

I have failed abysmally on my quest not to use motorways; they do provide a great catch up and give me an opportunity to actually spend time where I want to be.   As I drove swiftly along the M6 I noticed the signs saying “cycle race – hold ups beware” , it was only later I realised the Tour of Britain is going around the same area over next couple of days, passing by the B&B but I was not going to wait around for it to pass I had my own tour of Britain IMG_0517to complete.

What has struck me suddenly is the tiredness.   Sexy Sporty Dad, I can understand, he is putting so much effort in and sleeping in a tent does not give you a good night’s rest but it is my tiredness that surprises me.   I too am exhausted by the end of each day,  driving really does take its toll.

So how is he doing; Sexy Sporty Dad, even after taking a wrong turn came in at an incredible 50th.   He still seems to be enjoying the rides and is getting in with plenty of time to have a sleep before I get to him.  He is bright and full of the tales of his route and who he rides with and which bits were hard work and which worryingly he found enjoyable.

IMG_0521So today I have learnt how much I rely on the internet and phone, and how frustrating it is without them.  It is like losing a limb!


Drive across Britain – Haydock

DSC_0266This morning I decided not to run or to try and see the cyclists off.   I had booked into the Haydock Park Hotel, by far the most expensive bed I will have all week.   The hotel boasts a pool, spa and a steam room.  It feels churlish not to make the most of every single facility laid at my feet.  Hence I find myself trotting for miles through the corridors that all look the same, dressed in my complementary robe and slippers.

With the whole depth at 1.5 metres I cannot even pretend that I leapt in, but took the more leisurely route down the steps straight into the beautifully warm water.   The pool was not big so I managed a few lengths before hauling myself and my soaked costume out of the pool and into the Jacuzzi before testing out the steam room.

Yesterday I was going to pop into Ludlow again and check out a few more places even try to get in to the Feathers for a cup of coffee, but as with all my plans it didn’t happen like that.   I got a text from Sexy Sporty Dad to say he was being patched up by the medical team having come off the bike.  Ludlow is definitely on the list to come again.

What do they say about pride before a fall except that it was my pride and his fall, not sure its suppose to work that way.

DSC_0259The great thing about covering the whole country is that in some places we will go through places we know or have a connection with.  So it turned out that the route cycled through Lymm and past the Green Dragon where I had already met up with his father and two brothers among  others.   We were able to cheer on several cyclists before Sexy Sporty Dad arrived for a quick drink with us, all patched up and raring to go.

His family joined us at base camp before we all went on for a meal at my exclusive hotel.  Despite all the style and DSC_0278expense there was a lack of personal service and I was just another paying guest rather than someone special with a story.  It is odd to say but from all the places I have stayed this is probably the only one I would not wish to revisit except in rare circumstances.

DSC_0283Despite his antics and the delay in Lymm, Sexy Sporty Dad still managed a very credible 102nd.   It is still not a race but he seems to be getting the hang of it and has now passed the 4th day which is the most difficult in terms of psychology.

So today I have learnt that the cost of something does not always reflect the quality.




Drive across Britain – Ludlow


fogWell that is a surprise!

I probably have the most fantastic view from my bedroom that I will have for the whole trip.  I have a huge corner window looking from Ludlow over the Shropshire hills to a place called Long Mind.  I hoped to wake up just before sunrise and watch it from my bed.

As we already know; best laid plans etc.   it wasn’t that I overslept, but when I awoke I could see nothing.  The view was clouded in thick, impenetrable fog and I could not see the cows just below my window let alone a view to die for.

Well that wasn’t what the forecast said….  For the cyclists I hope it improves quickly

I took a stroll this morning down the long drive of 17 Populars, I had expected them to be Oak as the house is the lovely Acorn Place.    I poplarswas told about a short route to go for a run and meet up with the Alpacas in the fields beside the public path. So here I am trotting along at a swift walk possibly jog steps thrown for good measure.  I am slightly off the beaten track but just gone past a tiny golf course.  Well by tiny I mean it is more or less within the grounds of a small hotel/B&B and not obvious even as far as the main road.  There are  lots of rabbits skipping all over the smooth lawns and checking out the holes.

It sounds like an echo, the traffic, not far away it is slightly haunting as I can see very little except thick white fog.   Although I am a little damp from the fog I don’t appear to be getting wet from rain but there are large drops landing on the leaves of the trees beside me, and there is a chill in the air.

I have come to a style which was not too difficult to vault or inelegantly climb over.   But the downside is the path is no longer tarmac so I have landed in wet grass.  My feet are already damp and the socks are not offering any protection.  I don’t run on grass as you never know what holes may be underfoot.  Another excuse!

I have got to the end of the path and now it opens into a field.  I was lost before I set off so now I have no idea where I am going.  I will turn around and the Alpacas will have to wait for another time. I don’t expect they will miss me.  I can just make out a possible building over the other side of the field but the cows are the ones I recognise from my room.  I am in fact just across from my B&B to which I will now return as I know a fantastic breakfast awaits.

DSC_0165Yesterday having seen off some of the cyclists from the heights of Bath I took the route through to Wales over the M48 bridge.  A seriously terrifying experience but even worse than that was the thought that the riders were going over the same bridge along a specially designated route even closer to the edge.  If I never need another reason not to do the same route as Sexy Sporty Dad, there it is!.  (Up date on this – Sexy Sporty Dad led his group over here – he loved it!)

I know Tintern Abbey was vacated at the time of the reformation and began to fall into disrepair and had a lot of it torn down and put to DSC_0213other uses, long before my story will take place but I did want to go and see it.

Although mainly ruins there is still enough to imagine what life was like.   Maybe my hero might pass this way on his journey north.   Unlike Poldark Mine, I could not feel  the past  but I was amazed how sophisticated they were.  The underlying drainage system, the warm room in the centre which kept certain rooms warmer.  They had a kitchen and dining room and the bedroom cells just above a flight of stairs so they could feel their way to middle of the night prayers.

DSC_0179I left Tintern and followed the incredibly beautiful Wye valley up through Monmouth and on to Ludlow where I rested for the night.  Knowing how old it is I entered the famous feathers hotel which will be of relevance to my hero but was very disappointed that they were unable to fit one person in for a quick dinner.    So I went round the corner to the ’Ye Old Bull Ring Tavern’ who were happy to feed me, before joining a fresh looking Sexy Sporty Dad.

He seems to be coping well , today was hot but not too hilly and he slowed his pace to take in the scenery but still managed to come in 85th.   Worryingly he is discussing who he is going to persuade to join him next time!

I have learnt today that it’s the little things that make the difference, particularly in a bed and breakfast  – see the dustbin.dustbin


Tag Cloud