Wednesday 26 July 2023

A hidden gem

 It's always interesting to find something in your local area that you didn't know about. I've recently discovered a hidden gem in Cardiff. It's a tiled corridor in the old library, which is now a local museum. 

I know a bit about the life of the library during WWII thanks to the PhD thesis, mainly about the fire watchers on the roof who operated in shifts to spot and deal with incendiary bombs that might threaten the building. Didn't know a thing about the corridor until a visit with  a friend. It's covered floor to ceiling with colourful tiles depicting the four seasons. I have a thing for Victorian tiles, so I was thrilled to find it. I took pictures, but the corridor is quite dark - probably to preserve the colours? Will it find it's way into a future book? Maybe. As I said, I have a thing for those tiles and I like to feature Victorian and Edwardian buildings in the books. One of the ones I'm currently incubating has an Arts and Crafts house. I need to do some more research about the style of the interiors of those homes - at the moment I'm researching the garden. The dates suggest it might be feasible that highly decorated tiles might feature. We will all have to wait to find out. 

The drinking fountain in the foyer
 is in the light and more visible! 

Wednesday 19 July 2023

Just a sandwich

 On my trip to London last week I took the opportunity of revisiting old haunts from the time when I lived there. It was nostalgic and interesting to see how things had changed and also stayed the same. One of the things I did was have a hot salt beef sandwich in the Brass Rail in Selfridges, in Oxford Street. Now the place is a fully fledged and busy cafe, with waiter service - when I first went there in the 1970s you could sit at the bar to eat and watch the food being prepared. It was worth buying a sandwich simply to watch the knife skills involved in chopping a gherkin - in slices but not cut right through, and very fast. I enjoyed the sandwich and the trip down memory lane. It also stirred another  memory in another city. It was during a fabulous trip to attend Thrillerfest in New York. As part of the event the FBI hosted a group of authors for a day of talks - and lunch was provided. The catering was from a local deli, including salt beef sandwiches, And very good they were too.

It was interesting to note how threads of memory linked. Making the connections that provide the elements of the plot of a book have a similar pattern - lots of small things that add up as clues and twists. Sometimes. which is really spooky, you don't discover why you did something on page sixteen that finally makes sense on page two hundred.

Even something as simple as a sandwich can carry a lot of baggage with it. Witness my salt beef and gherkin. It might be the sandwich you remember your Mum making when you got home from school. It could be a posh afternoon tea at a fancy hotel as part of a celebration. It could be a soggy specimen from a less than attractive packed lunch. 

Writing a book is all about making those connections and plumbing memory and experience - that's what makes it fascinating.  

Wednesday 12 July 2023

Visiting Hampton Court - for the flowers.


I used to be a enthusiastic attender of flower shows - then came the pandemic - but last week I treated myself to a nostalgic trip to the Royal Horticultural Society show at Hampton Court. I had an afternoon ticket but sadly it was not possible to make the trip from the station to the showground via a boat on the river this year, which was always a high spot.  When I arrived, after a lengthy walk along the river bank and through the grounds of the palace - the gravel paths were hard going, like walking on a pebble beach - I was a bit disappointed, as everything seemed to be a bit low key and very crowded as it was a public day and I usually go on a members' day - but then I found the gardens and the flower tents and everything was fine. I didn't want to carry plants on the train back to Cardiff so I took lots of pictures of plants and labels so I can order and get them delivered to the door. 

I enjoyed myself - and collected plenty of ideas for when my mostly container garden stops being a building site again. (I told you that the wall that appears in the picture at the top of the blog was coming down - when I got home from London it was gone!) What did I learn? The plant of the show seems to have been the Achillia - everyone seemed to have one in their bag, although I have to say they do nothing for me. There was the usual sprinkling of brave souls with plants that were bigger than they were. I picked out two roses I would like to try, lots of grasses and ferns and I'm going to have another try at Hostas. although that will be a running battle between me and the snails. Lilies, ditto. The overall look of the show I would say was ethereal - lots of wispy plants. meadow flowers and things beloved of insects. I fell for a stand of Angels' Fishing Rods - Dierama - which were delicate and pretty. Will have a go at those too. My ego was stoked at a stand showing agapanthus - a lot of buyers and the stall holder herself had lost plants in the winter. Mine are magnificent - more flowers than I have ever had.  Even a mystery clump of leaves that I suspected was an offshoot but which showed no sign of flowering and which I have been threatening with the compost heap  for several years has produced one flower stem - proving that is a cutting off the big white one that I brought back from Madeira a long time ago, when one was still allowed to do that sort of thing.  At the moment they are all shoved out of sight around the corner at the end of the house away from the builders, but I hope they will still look good when they finally re-emerge. 

I had a nice afternoon and I have pictures to prove it. 



Child of my Heart

Angels' Fishing Rods

The meadow look

Wednesday 5 July 2023

Posh new office set up

 Backache. Occupational hazard for writers, except this time it wasn't going away when the round of intense editing and computer hunching was over. Old age? Yes - but also time to do what I've been promising myself for a very long time - spend some serious money to get my workstation properly assessed. 

I had a visit for an assessment, a report with recommendations, ordered the kit and talked to my computer guru - thank you Simon - about the technical bits and bobs and had an expedition to Ikea for a stand to put the laptop on, which of course involved  meatballs,. but did not result in the extension of the houseplant population. I'm already severely outnumbered in that regard - the dominant species in the house is fern - or maybe orchid. Or size and age wise it's aspidistra - because they are the biggest and older than I am. 

The specially constructed chair arrived and was assembled and now I have to get used to sitting up properly to type, not slumping over the laptop. I've not yet had the nerve/time to sort out the new mouse, which looks fearsomely complicated, but we will get there. 

So - I thought I would treat you to some pix of the new set up. I intend to remodel the whole room and move the desk away from the window, but that is future plan. As the wall outside has to be demolished and rebuilt - to great expense, it is going to take more time and saving, but in the meantime, I have my new chair. Now you can envisage where the books are being produced.