about writing and life and God

Second bite

Yes, I know I’ve posted something today, but this afternoon’s excursion offered such amazing pics, I couldn’t keep them to myself!

We’ve been to Thrumster House, just a few miles south of Wick. Th estate now offers country pursuits, self-catering and bed and breakfast accommodation.

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The gardens were open today, the sun was shining, and we were ready for a nice walk. My sister had been speaking about celandines – some of her favourite flowers – but nothing could prepare me for the blankets of yellow covering the ground under the trees.

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Another highlight was the broch: enough remains to show just what a substantial stone-built place it was. Originally it would have been a bottle-shaped tower several stories high, built during the Iron Age.

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You can see the double-skin walls and the steps of the spiral staircase that wound up inside the walls.

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Just to prove we do get lovely weather in Scotland, I’ll mention that when we came home, we sat outside with our tea!




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On the road again: day one

It’s been five months. And now, like a newborn wobbly calf,

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I am struggling to my feet and setting off back into some kind of a life again. The spring weather has encouraged me to spread my wings and I’m halfway to John O’Groats for the first Book Festival there. I have a ten-minute slot as a local author tomorrow night when I can promote the new book, Necklace of Lies, and then my sister and I can relax and enjoy all the other speakers on Saturday.

1st John O_ Groat Programme v2

I set off at 9.15 this morning and arrived at my chosen destination – the Day’s Inn hotel at Annandale Water – six and a quarter hours later and 351 miles into my journey.

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En route, I found good places for comfort breaks and lunch, and arrived at one of my favourites – Mainsgill Farm Shop and Cafe – in time for afternoon tea. And there to my delight the first things I saw were camels. Not what you expect in the north of England!

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I have a soft spot for camels so I had to go and talk to them. Two were busy grazing but one was prepared to pose for the camera. They paid absolutely no attention to the heavy lorries roaring past on the road above them

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I wondered had they ever been used as beasts of burden, Camel Logistics Inc., as used by the three wise men?

Now time for a peaceful walk round the lake and a quiet evening before I set off on the next leg of the journey.




Day Nine: Serious snow, and evening sunshine

On the road again – and by 5.30p.m. I had clocked up 330 miles – and I’m not out of Scotland yet!

It’s been an interesting and challenging drive. I left Wick in sunshine but by the time I reached Berriedale, it was clear that there had been significant snow, and it was still falling.

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Looking back towards Berriedale

And the snow continued all the way, varying from white-out to pretty fluffy showers.

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Temperature dipped to 1 degree Centigrade

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At least the sheep have warm fleeces!

Even the hills of Perthshire were topped with snow, but down in the sunshine the temperature managed a balmy 9 degrees – very briefly!

I was glad to arrive at Annandale Water in sunshine and had a relaxing walk around the lake before tea.

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The prettiest service station in the UK?

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The terrace will be brilliant in the summer

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Day Eight: Snow, hail and daffodils

Spring is definitely here in Wick. The day began with a wander down to the library

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Wick Public Library

past the greatest mass of daffodils I’ve seen anywhere.

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Daffodils on the Academy Braes

I spent hours in the Caithness Archive Centre reading back copies of the newspaper I worked on during my gap year: The John O’Groat Journal – but I was researching the pre-war and war years. Wick was a busy place during the war. Because the aerodrome had been built before the war, it appeared on maps – so the Germans knew it existed and it received plenty of Luftwaffe attention – as did the houses nearby.

It began to snow as I walked back to my sister’s for lunch – the blurry bits are the snow!

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And then I went back to the library for more research and came back in fierce hail!

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Deep hail outside the house


Day Two: North!

Another long’s day drive. I set off in sunshine from lovely Annandale Water at 8.30,

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Swan on Annandale Water

and hove to at my destination in Wick, Caithness, Scotland at nearly 5 o’clock. Whew!

And yes, I’d forgotten Scotland has a different climate from the south of England! There is still plenty of snow on the hill-tops so I was glad I’d decided at the last minute to pack a vest!

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A9 south of Inverness

Then once I’d got north of the tree-line, the cloud came down and it was a challenging drive with full-beam headlights all the rest of the way on switchback roads. But within moments of arrival I was comfortably ensconced at my sister’s with a mug of tea in hand.

Who said it’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive?Nonsense!

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Day One: On the Road Again

It’s been a long day. I left home just after 9 a.m. and I arrived here at 5.30 ish. Yes, I had three stops (to rest the ancient arthritic knee!) but I have covered 346 miles. And I’m only half-way. This little island is bigger than it looks!

It’s a long haul to get out of East Anglia but once past King’s Lynn, there are fields of daffodils to alleviate the boredom of the flatness and heavy traffic – blocks of different yellows from vivid egg-yolk to creamy-white.

My sat-nav took me up the A1 – horrid from start to finish. I will not come home this way! I had to resort to McDonald’s for my first stop – still the coffee was hot and the loos clean! My second stop was a Little Chef at Markham Moor with delightful young staff.

But once I turned off the A1 at Scotch Corner onto the A66, the first opportunity to stop was at the wonderful Mainsgill Farm – an  amazing farm-shop emporium with more cake than I have ever seen in one place, and a roomy cafe/restaurant with friendly cheerful staff.

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tea and scone!

The drive along the A66 was spectacular – rank upon rank of craggy hills darkening into blue in the distance. And the fields close to the road were lush soft green velvet with mummy sheep and lots of little lambs. Real aaah! factor!

And at last, as I was tiring, into Scotland and the last twenty or so miles to Annandale Water service station and the Day’s Inn hotel where I’d booked myself in for the night. Delightful friendly lady manager welcomed me and sorted out breakfast for tomorrow. Then she gave me two keys: one for my door – the other for my balcony! And yes, I have a little blacony overlooking Annandale Water itself – and it is lovely!

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view from my room

So now I can relax and watch tv and have a good night’s sleep in preparation for tomorrow’s 340 miles drive!


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Charity begins…

This morning I had to go to Southwold for the quarterly holding-back of the tides of life – i.e. having my hair recoloured. And yes, my roots were pristine white  in what Ann, my hairdresser, described as a halo round the top of my head. Seemingly all the rest remains my natural brunette. (For those of my friends who thought from my ditzy behaviour that I’m naturally a blonde, sorry! I just enjoy playing blonde sometimes.)

Anyway, Southwold was cold. No surprise there. But at least it was dry. And after the chop and chat and colour session I went for a browse round the charity shops. Now I have two theories about charity shops:

1) the posher the town, the better the quality of the clothes in the charity shops.

2) the posher the town, the poorer the quantity of clothes in the charity shops.

I came home with four books (yes, I know: do I really need any more books, and when will I ever get round to reading them considering I’ve a full flush of library books to finish?) and one chunky sweater, hand-knitted and possibly quite new.

The first charity shop – Sue Ryder – was well-stocked but I came away with only two books. The second one was middling – and I got the sweater there. The third – furthest along the street – was very poorly stocked with clothes and again, I only bought books.

I wonder do people get tired lugging their bags of cast-offs along the street, dumping them thankfully at the nearest shop from the parking space they have miraculously been able to find. (For those of you who don’t know, Southwold’s that kind of town.)

How do you choose which charity shop to take things to ? They’re all supporting good causes. I suppose you could do it on a rota system: this shop this time, the second one the next time and so on. But I reckon you’d forget. Or I would.

Does having more than one charity shop in a town divide the take? Or is competition good and increases the total market?

I like charity shops.

I like being able to find quirky interesting books, books I didn’t get round to reading when they came out but I’ve since heard were good so now I want to read them. When I was losing weight, I loved being able to purchase in-between-size clothes that I knew would be too big in a couple of months. And I love off-loading my mistakes on charity shops – whether it’s bedlinen that looked lovely but rucks up and is uncomfortable, clothes that really don’t flatter (I won’t boast here about trousers that have become too baggy!!), presents that just aren’t me… It feels good to clear the space at home and make a charitable donation that basically costs nothing. My Scottish soul loves that!

So with a small glow of satisfaction, I’m going to declare the weekend starts soon (I’ve got a synopsis to run through one more time to see if I can squeeze it into one page) then it’s kettle on, new sweater on and settle down with one of the books.

Then it can rain or snow or whatever! Have a good weekend. And here’s a cheerful pic of a robin that was singing its little heart out when I went past today. Yes, it’s still January and grey and miserable but tomorrow’s February and spring is on its way!

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And here’s another one of Southwold in the summer. Yes, we will get back to the beach in the sun this year!!!

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Hope that never dies

Hi there. It’s been a while – last year, when everything was rather miserable and foggy – my life and the weather, both! Today’s still grey but I’m glad to report the fog seems to have lifted on my life. And looking back over the past couple of months, I’m amazed at the changes – and how delicately God has woven in perfect timing and paths that crossed and good things.

My husband, John, is now very happily settled in a specialist dementia-care home. We’d been to see it when he was well enough to agree it was the right next place, but also to decide that the time for a move had not yet come. When a room became available, it was time for a move – and John was enthusiastic about it. He loves the new place – and so do I. I am welcome there and treated with kindness. John is receiving the care he needs, from cheerful compassionate people. And my visits are enjoyable and therefore more frequent.

And yes, I know about honeymoon periods!  But I’m counting my blessings and thanking my heavenly Father for His goodness.

It may be a grey day out there, but where God is there is hope that never dies, so here’s a hopeful picture to brighten today!

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Trusting, despite the fog

We’ve had fog. Damp, dreich, grey.

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It matched my mood, where I feel I am in my life, unable to see the way ahead clearly. Like the cat peering through the murk.

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Yet there is something soothing about walking round the garden in the fog. There is beauty here, and I am reminded that so long as we are walking with God, all is well, as Julian of Norwich tells us. All things are well and all things will be well.

And in my perambulation of this December garden, I come across a sudden brightness. Yellow leaves and glistening drops of water. But more powerfully, this little bush is covered in sharp pointy alive buds! Buds that point the way to spring.

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Buds that assure of spring and reassure that what I’m going through now is not everything. There is hope and a future, because God says there is. He has planned it (Jeremiah 29:11). All I have to do — all we have to do — is trust.


Lots and lots of blessings

The birthday was great and became a full week of outings and lunches and general good things. Now it’s definitely time to get back to what is known in ecclesiastical circles as Ordinary Time.

I am not, however, convinced that such a thing exists. Especially once you get into the swing of blessing-counting a la Ann Voskamp.

Today my blessings include:

  • my two lovely cats
Lucy at the water bowl, Bella lounging negligently

Lucy at the water bowl, Bella lounging negligently

  • the glorious lilac blossom which has suddenly appeared everywhere


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  • my wild-flower-lawn!

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  • the blossom buds on the holly

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which reminds me that the prickliest person is a child of God and therefore beautiful, and that there will be berries by Christmas!

  • and I did get stuck into the novel today…
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