Birthday, Time to talk

If you were me how would you spend your last day of being 45? At Sissinghurst Castle of course. P.s. It’s my birthday

It’s my birthday. I am 46. How we feel about age is a very personal thing. To some that will seem young, sprightly even and to others… well it’s getting on a bit. To me I’ve been back and forth. As any fellow Facebook users will know there are constant reminders of what you were doing, thinking and maybe even eating in years gone by and today a couple of memories flashed up for me on how old I was starting to feel. It made me realise how irrelevant these feelings actually are because within a moment they are lost as time continues to march on. Then before we know it another year has gone and we’re feeling older yet. 🙂 But the reality is that to get older is far better than the alternative.

So how did I spend my last day of being 45? I had a rather wonderful time at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent. It was the home of Harold Nicholson and Vita Sackville-West and boasts stunning gardens and the most beautiful tower that is home to Vita’s writing room, filled with personal objects and books that have been in place since her death in 1962. It provides a fascinating insight into this fascinating author and gardener. It was the most splendid of days spent with dear friends and ww were blessed with lovely weather. As we wondered and chatted we moved on to the subject of getting older and I remarked how strange it was that I felt the same inside as I was twenty years ago and it was only when glancing in the mirror that I saw the advance of age. Of course my life has changed greatly in those twenty years but I feel as though they have gone in a flash. ‘That is what I find difficult.’ I said. “How quickly it all seems to go.”

She agreed and it reminded me that it is the same for each and every one of us.

The Gazebo offered stunning fews out across the beautiful Kent countryside.  A perfect place to escape for some peace and quiet.
The magnificent tower that held Vita’s writing room. She spent vast amounts of time here, generally after a day spent gardening.
Stunning views from the top of the tower.
Beautiful inside and out.
This was a beautiful spot looking down the moat.  It was incredibly peaceful.  The seating area was a also home to a new ‘Thyme Lawn’ whose planting was inspired by Vita herself.  

It was the perfect way to spend the day before my age goes up another notch.

Of course I do have to play the ‘female’ card when it comes to getting older. I never imagined just how challenging the changes we go through would be. There is of course so much more understanding of the way the female body changes. Not that long ago the peri menopause wasn’t really recognised but now I know that my hormones are to blame for a great deal. This understanding really is helpful in those times when I struggle. Of course anxiety is something that I have lived with for quite some time but hormones bring a whole new level to this rather debilitating condition. The nights when my heart races and I feel hot, stuffy and panicky for absolutely no reason at all, the times when my mood swings like a pendulum and I have no idea why I’m suddenly so bloody pissed off. Aaaah.. 🙂 I write this only for other women out there going through the same or similar symptoms. It’s normal. I could go on and on of course. The weight gain (especially in the stomach area), the sensitivity to certain foods that leave me blown up like a balloon (although having been a sufferer of IBS for some years now this can not be entirely blamed on PM). For the female body it’s a beautiful time – not. I have moments when I have no idea who I am anymore… it has been rather unnerving but I am coming to terms with the changes and I hope I can navigate my way through to the other side.  There is no reason why I shouldn’t after all it’s not a new thing, women have been going through it for ever.  It’s finding the antidotes that work for you that is important.  For me yoga, sleep, reading and gardening all seem to help.  I try not to pack too much into my life and skim down the things that I really don’t enjoy or bring me only stress.   I have come to the conclusion that to say NO is okay and is something I need to do. I know what is important now.

As I woke today on my 46th birthday I thought ‘actually I feel okay’. Yes I do look older then I did 5, 10 and 20 years ago but I am older and with each year comes a bucket full of wonderful memories and experiences that make me the person I am. I am very blessed in my life and to be honest there isn’t much that I would change. We all have challenges to face and things that make us unhappy but I think the key is to have gratitude for the good in life, the things that make our hearts smile rather than hurt.  The smiles are like a plaster, they can’t take a wound but they can help it heal.

Today I shall be mostly enjoying tea, cake, a glass or two of gin and perhaps a good book.  What else can a (slightly older) girl ask for. It is raining though which means that I just spent a good 10 seconds blowing a raspberry at the weather as I would have rather liked a nice ride on my next bicycle.

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Summer 2016
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Summer 2017
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Summer 2018
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Spring 2019
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Off to bed and ready to turn 46!
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And me… once upon a time.
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Original writing, Short Stories, Time to talk

Boys Don’t Cry

Boys don’t cry. That’s what they told me. Be strong. Stand tough. Don’t be a sissy. You’re weak. Pathetic. Make us proud. Score high. Be popular. Head Boy. Be. A. Leader.

You can be ANYTHING you want to be. The world is your oyster.

Now my head is filled with their screams. Do they adore me? Have I made them proud? Is this what they wanted?

I remember when I was a small boy. The memories flicker in my mind like an old cyni film constantly projecting into the backs of my eyes. You don’t see it do you? I was extraordinary then. So filled with love. Your love.

‘Have a wonderful day my little darling. Mummy will be back in a few hours.’

And then as I cried and called out for her ‘You’ll have fun my love. It’s just for a little while. You’ll make lots of friends.’

I can still see you walking away. No backward glance. It was best for me that way, they said.

Who remembers such details of that time? I don’t really. As I said the memories just flicker in and out.

I miss that time. All that was required of me was to have fun and to make new friends.

“It’s so important for their social skills.’ Someone said.

I was ‘darling’. I was your little boy. Your everything.

So when did it change. When was I not quite enough. When did I have to try harder? Always try harder.

Reach for the stars. You can be anything you want to be. You have so much to be grateful for.

Can I be happy? Can I wake up and feel good about myself. Feel that I am enough?

There was a summer, not that long ago. We stayed at home pretty much all of the time. It rained a lot. I was bored, you said. But so much was going on. My head was full of adventure. The games I played. The films I watched. They took me to places away from being me. I could be anyone. Anyone else. Even outside with only a football for company I was being someone else. But then it was over and I went back to school.

‘Work hard and then when it’s all over you’ll be able to do what you want. You’ll be a success.’

Success criteria. We hear that all the time. What criteria do I have to follow to be successful with this task? If only we were given a success criteria list to make us successful in life. Oh but we do don’t we. It’s being drummed into us.

Work hard

Study hard

Follow the rules

Dress in this way

Don’t do that

Don’t do this

Look like this

Eat this

Don’t cry

Be strong

Make us proud

make us proud

make us proud

Are you proud now mum? Are you proud now dad?

The screaming is still there. People are shouting for me. My names carries through the crowd. There are flashing lights now too. The air is cool up here. It feels good and my hair, cut just right, moves gently in the breeze. I can smell perfume. I’m not sure where it’s coming from but it smells nice. A memory stirs. A hug. A warm embrace that made me feel safe. When I was little.

I step forward and look over the edge. The noise comes up to meet me. I think I see you there mum. Would you hug me now if you were next to me. Would you tell me not to cry?

‘Mummies here darling. Everything’s going to be okay.’

Would you dry my tears and let me feel I am enough just as I am or simply tell me to stop making a fuss and that boys don’t cry.

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A little bit about this piece – So, it’s been an age since I did any creative writing and so I wanted to give it a crack and get the creative muscles working again. Over the next few days I aim to sit down and spend a few minutes writing. These will be short snippets of stories, pockets of time that I will allow my imagination to wander in for a while. I will then share them on here. Please forgive their rawness. These are quite literally first, rough drafts but I want to allow the freedom to not worry too much about the finished result at this stage.

The inspiration for this piece came whilst listening to Boys Don’t Cry by the Cure. It’s funny where the mind goes to…

Please feel free to comment and share, and even join in and write something yourself. I sat down for 20 minutes to write this but do feel free to set your own time limit.

Literary Festivals, Time to talk

Chiddingstone Literary Festival – A treasure trove for literary lovers in the South East.

Just four years ago the very first Chiddingstone Literary Festival was held in the splendid grounds of Chiddingstone Castle near Edenbridge, Kent, bringing a missing element of unadulterated literary indulgence to the south east. It has gone from strength to strength, each year attracting a diverse range of authors to entertain and inform in the most glorious of settings. ‘The four days of talks, performances and workshops are set in the historic house and grounds and have been carefully curated to ensure there is something for everyone, of all ages and interests.’

Tickets are available to buy either per event or as day tickets and whichever way you choose to buy includes entry into the castle and grounds.

Personally, it already holds some great memories. In the first year I had the joyous privilege of introducing the then Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell, to his eagerly awaiting crowd. He then proceeded to hold the audience completely spellbound whilst he chatted and drew his way into our hearts.

Introducing author and illustrator Chris Riddell in 2016

Each year there has been a whole host of authors, illustrators and performers at Chiddingstone. Last year I was thrilled to catch talks by Abi Elphinstone, Philip Ardagh and current Children’s Laureate, Lauren child.

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Author Abi Elphinstone weaves her magic over a full house in the marquee
Talking adventures and catapults…
Philip Ardagh being fantastically funny as always.

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Children’s Laureate, Lauren Child

This year includes another impressive line-up of events with talks and workshops so much so the adult day has increased to two days (Saturday and Sunday), with the family day still making a brilliant bank holiday Monday day out.

Inspiring Creativity

As well as listening and watching there are also many opportunities throughout the event to get creative and last year I was invited to run several children’s creative writing workshops on both the family and school’s days. I have to say, it was so much fun and the atmosphere was wonderful. Work commitments unfortunately mean that I am unable to run them again this year but I will be attending and writing about the event over the weekend.

One of the beautiful rooms within the castle ready and waiting for our budding storytellers

There are of course plenty of workshops available for both adults and children. Why not indulge in a spot of poetry, creative writing or life drawing? For children there is also plenty going on including film making workshops, creative writing and even Wallace and Gromit clay model making workshops with Aardman Animations.

Furthermore, there is a feast of events waiting for you in the Castle grounds across all four days.

‘Our adult events take place on Saturday, Sunday and Monday with the Festival’s most ambitious programme yet – spilling over with riches and diversity. On Saturday we will also hold our Festival Drinks Party at Stonewall Park, kindly hosted by the Fleming family. Come and celebrate our opening day with a glass of wine from Squerryes, delicious canapés, meet some of our authors and enjoy a stroll through the glorious bluebells and rhododendrons.

Bank Holiday Monday is our Family Day, with events for children and adults.We have our festival favourites Pericles Theatre company performing The Little Mermaid and clay modelling workshops with Aardman Animations, who are celebrating 30 years of Wallace & Gromit.You can watch their films, learn how to make an animated film with Press Play, meet the illustrator of children’s classic Giraffes Can’t Dance and enjoy live drawing and funny antics from duo A F Harrold and Emily Gravett.

Tuesday sees the return of our annual Schools Day, with another wonderful line-up of children’s authors and performers including Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Maz Evans, Dan Freedman and poet Joseph Coelho, alongwith a fun-filled show from Really Big Pants Theatre Company.’

There are too many highlights to mention so do check out the website (link here) where you can view the full event programme and book tickets.

I have already booked my ticket to see Joanne Harris but I am already starting to wish I had just gone straight for a day ticket. :). There is just so much going on.

In a previous life I had the great privilege of working with Chiddingstone Literary Festival’s Artistic Director, Victoria Henderson. She has been at the helm since the very start and does an incredible job each and every year. I’m delighted that she has had time to answer a few questions for me ahead of this year’s festival.

In conversation with Victoria Henderson

Chiddingstone Literary Festival is now in it’s 4th year and has extended to a 4 day event. Why did you decide to add an extra day?

Last year’s festival was such a success and we were overwhelmed with the positive response, so we felt it would be a good idea to introduce a 4thday to include the Saturday of the Bank Holiday weekend. We also felt that running 7 consecutive events in a day for those who bravely bought All Day tickets was a bit of a big ask, so we’ve reduced the number of back to back events to 5 each day and introduced more time between events so visitors have more time to have a book signed, get something to eat, visit the Castle’s collections and enjoy the Castle grounds. This year we have also added more workshops for adults and children so people can really get involved. We have Life Drawing, Creative Writing, and Poetry classes and a session on How to Get Published, running alongside the author talks and conversations.

Each year from the very first has seen a collection of interesting and varied authors and events. What factors do you consider when putting together your plan ?

We start planning and researching authors about 10 months before the festival. It’s a mixture of following up authors of interest, talking to publicists about upcoming books, browsing through publishers’ catalogues and keeping an eye out for subjects that are topical. On the whole we look for new authors although we’ve had a couple of returnees such as Anna Pasternak who last year gave a fascinating insight into the life and work of her great-uncle Boris Pasternak, and this year is publishing her biography of Wallis Simpson, which has attracted attention because of the recent arrival (and very different treatment) of another American divorcee into the Royal Family. We like to feel that there is something for everyone on offer at the festival so we try to keep the subjects as varied as possible. This year we’re covering cookery, science, history, biography, poetry, fiction, politics and real crime. The family day is a lovely mix of children’s and adults author events with a performance of The Little Mermaid for all the family, workshops from Aardman Animations, Press Play Film and Creative Writing classes.

Do you have a favourite part of the festival?

I love the Schools Day. It’s such a joy to see the reaction of the children as they listen to some wonderful authors who inspire them with their enthusiasm to think about books and reading in a new way. We’ve been lucky enough to host two Children’s Laureate’s – Chris Riddell and Lauren Child – and How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell. We have over 1500 pupils visiting the festival on our Schools Day and it’s an emotional moment watching them empty out of the coaches and minibuses to enjoy a day devoted to the joy of books. A number of the schools make a day of it and set up camp in the grounds, playing games between events, exploring the lake and the woods, visiting the Castle’s Egyptian and Japanese antiquities and enjoying a picnic. They get to meet the authors who sign copies of their books and they go home with lots to fire their imaginations.

What do you feel is the key to the festival’s success?

I think it’s a mixture of the glorious setting of a historic house in the beautiful Kent countryside and the warm and intimate atmosphere we’ve created for both authors and visitors. The festival is a small but beautifully formed event, in the heart of the Chiddingstone community, bringing top quality writers to this idyllic corner of West Kent.

The British weather can be rather unpredictable. Of course Chiddingstone Castle is stunning at any time of year but what is the greatest challenge you face with the festival weather wise?

Don’t tempt fate! We’ve been incredibly lucky over the last 4 years with the weather and have enjoyed some glorious Spring sunshine, including last year’s mini-heatwave which was almost too hot! We had one downpour in the second year during Nicholas Crane’s talk about the British geography and climate which seemed highly appropriate! Almost all the events take place either in the Castle or in marquees with the exception of Pericles’ Theatre Company’s performances in The Orangery, where the audience sits on chairs in the gardens. If it does rain the show goes on – with brollies!

Who are you most excited about seeing at this year’s festival?

I am looking forward to seeing Joanne Harris talk about her latest novel in the Chocolat series, 20 years after the first book was published. We have Giles and Mary, the unlikely stars of Gogglebox who will be very entertaining, and we’re honoured to be hosting Jackie Kay, the Scottish Poet Laureate. We have a conversation between a forensic scientist and a barrister on some of the most sensational dramas played out in court, and two eminent scientists Dr Giles Yeo and Vybarr Cregan-Reid talking about the obesity epidemic and how humans are adapting to the technological age.

After four years, what is your most memorable moment at the Literary Festival?

Memories of the last four festivals include an extraordinary conversation between a former Commissioner in the Metropolitan police and a convicted murderer about the effects of crime on their mental health, meeting Terry Waite in the Green Room and feeling awed by his presence, his height and his astonishing survival in captivity. I remember Rev Richard Coles falling foul of the Bank Holiday train timetables who arrived with only minutes to spare and Chris Riddell spontaneously volunteering to illustrate the winning entries of the children’s Short Story Competition whilst they were being read out on stage, to the delight of the winners.

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Chiddingstone Literary Festival has all the ingredients for a fantastic weekend of everything literary, no matter the weather. It is a real gem for us here in the South East and I urge you to pop online and book your tickets just as soon as possible. Perhaps I’ll see you there.

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Blog Tour, Books that adults should read, Debut, Fiction, Teen, Time to talk, Young Adult, Young Adult Fiction

The Burning by Laura Bates

NEW SCHOOL.

TICK.

NEW TOWN.

TICK.

NEW SURNAME.

TICK.

SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILES?

ERASED.

There’s nothing to trace Anna back to her old life.

Nothing to link her to the ‘incident’.

At least that’s what she thinks.

Until the whispers start up again….

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So today I am thrilled to be hosting the Blog Tour for The Burning, the first YA novel by Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project.  Laura is the author of three non-fiction titles exploring gender inequality and the difficulties still facing girls and women in the world today.

Last week I was invited along to the launch of The Burning and to listen to Laura in conversation with Anna James at Foyles Bookshop.  She was incredibly inspiring to listen to, especially after reading The Burning just a few days before.

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This book is incredible and as a piece of YA fiction very, very important. The Burning is not only a great piece of fiction, but will also help others who suffer from any similar form of abuse and bullying.  Anna is a character that sadly many girls and women will be able to identify with.  In the author’s note at the back of the book Laura yells us that ‘almost everything that happens to Anna is based on the real-life experiences of students I have worked with in schools, or young people who have contacted me online.’  I find it absolutely shocking and this book, I hope, will give those who face such experiences the courage to speak out and, at the very least, to know that they are not to blame. There are SO many discussions that this novel can inspire. I urge you to read it, no matter what age or gender.

Anna’s world  falls apart when she shares an intimate photograph with someone she trusts.   To use something so intimate that has been shared with trust is an even greater betrayal and yet she is the one who is vilified.  This isn’t a simple girl against boy story.  It shows the power that rumour has and the effect it can have over people.  ‘A rumour is like a fire.  You might think you’ve extinguished it, but all it takes is one spark…’ Girls, boys and adults are seen as behaving in a terrible, unacceptable manner but we also see great courage and support within the pages of this story too.

‘The Burning tells the story of fifteen-year-old Anna who has moved to a small Scottish village with her mother.  There’s nothing to trace Anna back to her old life. Nothing to link her to the ‘incident’.  At least that’s what she thinks… until the whispers start up again.

Desperate for a distraction to escape the brutal bullying at school, Anna finds herself in a history project about a young girl, Maggie, who was accused of witchcraft hundreds of years before.  Anna finds herself irresistibly drawn to the tale of Maggie, a girl whose story has terrifying similarities to Anna’s own…

The Parallels between the persecution of medieval witches and the social burning of modern day Anna become unnervingly apparent.  the reader will be left in no doubt: it’s time to extinguish society’s sexist attitudes.’

I found this book deeply unsettling and I believe that parents, teachers and adults in general should read this story. It gives us an insight into what our young people face. It stirred certain memories hidden in my subconscious. Those moments growing up that we ignore and try to bury. Yet in comparison, back in my teenage years, we had so much less to contend with.  Social media has moved the goal posts dramatically and opens up the possibility of being mercilessly hounded and bullied at any time of day or night to an ever growing audience.  We need to sit up and take notice now.  With an ever growing online-presence,  our past and experiences really never leave us. They are there for all to see and the level of abuse possible through these mediums is scary. The dual time frame brilliantly shows us that the problems girls face aren’t a contemporary problem and that even after years of feminist campaigning things haven’t changed, there are simply new ways for women to be persecuted and mistreated. The term witch-hunt for so many girls and women is still very real.  This snowballing form of abuse at times can feel like a form of torture. The constant ping of social media notifications gradually pushing them to the limits and offering no escape or peace of mind.

As a parent I will look to inform my son. As a Librarian I will make these stories accessible to my students and teachers. As a book blogger I will share the word as much as I can. This book has made me stop and think. I was shocked at how those who should have been protecting Anna were simply not equipped to do so with either experience or understanding.  It has made me so much more aware. Feminism isn’t just about equality. It’s about a woman’s right to feel safe. To not be used and abused simply because she is a woman.

About the Author

Laura Bates is the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, an ever-increasing collection of over 100,000 testimonies of gender inequality, with branches in 25 countries worldwide. She is author of Everyday Sexism, Misogynation and the Sunday Times bestseller Girl Up. Laura writes regularly for the Guardian, New York Times and others and win a British Press Award In 2015. She is a prolific commentator, appearing regularly on Newsnight, The Today Programme, Woman’s Hour, Channel 4 News, BBC News, BBC Breakfast and others. She works closely with politicians, businesses, schools, police forces and organisations from the Council of Europe to the United Nations to tackle gender inequality. She was named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2015 and has been named a woman of the year by Cosmopolitan, Red Magazine, The Huffington Post, and The Sunday Times Magazine. Laura is a contributor at Women Under Siege, a New York-based project tackling rape in conflict worldwide and is patron of SARSAS, Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support.

You can follow her on Twitter: @EverydaySexism and Instagram @laura_bates_

To find out more about the Everyday Sexism Project or to add your voice visit the website here.

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Time to talk

2018 – What a great year for books!

I wanted to send out one last post in 2018, a post to celebrate all the amazing books that have visited Tales Before Bedtime.  Over the last year I have seen my blog grow incredibly.  My visitors have increased massively and come from all over the world.  It never ceases to make me smile when each and every one of you take a moment to read my posts.  So I’d like to take a moment to thank each and every one of you.  Also a big thanks must go out to the publishers, authors and blog tour organisers who send me books to read and feature on my blog and via social media.  I appreciate each and every book that comes my way and I do read them all. The book world is a friendly one and I’ve met so many wonderful people both on social media and in the flesh.  I hope that I have helped, in my own way, bring new books and authors to you too.

So now on to 2019.  The New Year always brings great excitement – all those new books we’ve yet to discover! Already my review pile is growing and I can’t wait to read and share them all with you.  Please keep on checking in to see what I’ve been up to; follow, share and do comment too.  It’s always lovely to hear from you.  Now all that’s left for me to do is wish you all a very happy New Year – may it be filled with peace, love, good health and of course great books!

Time to talk, Travelling Tales

Cornwall, Daphne du Maurier and me – my summer with Daphne.

Cornwall has always been a place that I have loved to visit. There is an energy about it that refreshes and invigorates.  For our holiday this year we craved an escape to the coast, a chance to recharge batteries and share some family time together. Cornwall was the perfect choice.

After searching the internet a few months ago we came upon a holiday let that looked cosy, was big enough for our small family of three, and was close to Fowey, a place that I have often been drawn to. The name of our home for the week was Jenny Wren which was located in a small village called Tywardreath about three miles from Fowey and within walking distance to Par beach. It was perfect and just right for our break. Comfortable, very clean, with stunning views across the village and continuing countryside, I felt very much at home from the moment we arrived. We were tired from a long, slow journey and happy to make the most of our accommodation after an exploratory stroll down to Par beach.

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Upon the bookshelves in Jenny Wren were a wide selection of novels, biographies and non fiction titles including a short book entitled The Cornish World of Daphne du Maurier, which had been published by Bossiney Books, a small publishing house based in North Cornwall specialising in books about the West Country. I knew that Daphne had lived for some time in Fowey at Ferryside and also at her much love home Menabilly, which was close by but I didn’t realise just how soaked in her history the local area of Fowey, Par and Tywardreath is. The book was fascinating and perfectly placed upon the bookshelf of our summer home. Reading it during my visit bought me a little closer to this author who has fascinated me for so long. Over the years I have been discovering her work, beginning with one of my all time favourites Rebecca and most recently The House On The Strand. It seemed utterly right that I should begin the latter whilst staying in the very village in which the novel is set.

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For the first few days of our holiday we were treated to glorious blue skies and warm temperatures. Ideal beach weather in fact and as I sat on Par beach enjoying the stunning coastline I felt a little closer to her still. I can understand why she felt such undying love for Cornwall. There is a sense of calm yet also an unrest, a peace yet a thousand stories waiting to be told. It feels rather exciting and inspiring and I felt very at home there.

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We discovered Par beach on the night we arrived and returned many times over our stay. Only a mile from our home for the week, it was a pleasant 20 minute meander away. The bay itself was unspoilt and enjoyed a lovely view. Although busy it never felt crowded and indeed we did feel rather put upon when new arrivals plumped to set up towels right behind us when there was so much space to choose from. I took with me books and notepads but my attention was stolen by my surroundings and the sea, and I felt content to simply soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the moment. A natural mindfulness perhaps, with very little effort required. The sand cold and damp beneath my feet. The salty freshness of the sea air. The chatter of people. The holler of others. The cry of the seagull chasing the breeze and the rumble of the waves gently coming closer or moving farther away.

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There is something rather wonderful about mornings in Cornwall, even on a cloudy day. There is a fine mist in the air or ‘mizzle’ as I’ve heard it referred to. The birds are louder, their cries cutting through the air, shattering the silence. At home they are gentler in their song, more like the softer side of the percussion section in an orchestra. Yet here in Cornwall they boom, dramatic and clear across the Cornish skies. There are of course many gulls but also other birds each with a unique voice which when combined creates quite the orchestra to awaken me from my dream filled sleep.

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The weather can be moody and incredibly atmospheric as captured so perfectly in any of du Mauriers tales. Glorious blue skies and sunshine or clouds tumbling dark and sinister filled with menace, or light and whispy, like the breathe of an angel. Our holiday home rose high up on a residential area which enabled us a view far across the countryside. From the kitchen we could sit and watch the weather roll in, distant clouds carrying rain which we could see falling on the hills, whilst we sat emersed in the warmth of the sunshine until the clouds would finally reach us before disappearing as quickly as they had arrived.

I love this place, it soothes my soul and I can see why Daphne du Maurier and so many writers and artists have been inspired by it. The history, the atmosphere and the dramatic coastline all hold such magic.

She was never anything but perfectly suited to the place in which she lived. Without that stability, I very much doubt if those novels would ever have been so immensely enjoyable. For that, we can thank the Cornish landscape that she so loved. Above all, of course, she was the supreme story-teller. A master craftswoman in the fine art of narration.

An excerpt from The Cornish World of Daphne du Maurier

It does make me question if the Cornwall we see today would have existed if not for Daphne du Maurier, or even would the Daphne du Maurier we know and love have existed without Cornwall? So intrinsic each was to the other.

Towards the end of her life Daphne wrote Vanishing Cornwall, a fascinating insight into the Cornwall she knew and loved.  I have since purchased a copy and look forward to returning via the pages of her book over the coming winter months.

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We spent only a week in Cornwall this summer, but on that visit we travelled in time, back to where knights protected our shores from enemies across the seas, to the future and a visit to Mars via a speedy tour of our wonderful solar system. It filled me with such wonder and we returned home with so many fantastic memories.

Walking through history at Tintagel

and Restormel Castles

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Meeting King Arthur at Tintagel

And river adventures with Fowey River Hire

A visit to The Eden Project took us to Mars

Family fun on the Lanhydrock bike trails

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Daphne first moved to rented accommodation in Readymoney Cove in 1942. She’d discovered and fell in love with Menabilly many years before but it wasn’t until 1943 that her perseverance paid off and she convinced the owners to lease it to her. Menabilly was then her home for over 20 years but when the lease ended she was forced to move on to her final home, Kilmarth. Sadly her husband of many years died just before they moved and so the house that they had chosen together would be hers alone. Yet she found contentment there and made it her home for the last twenty years of her life.

This grand old house, overlooking the majestic sweep of the bay beyond began to spur Daphne’s curiosity and imagination and the result was The House on the Strand, first published in 1969.

An excerpt from The Cornish World of Daphne du Maurier

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Cornwall is steeped in history, mythology and legend. There are stories in every corner and for me it is somewhere I feel at home. I love the sense of space, the fresh air, the feeling of becoming whole again – if only for a brief time. I feel I can stretch and breath deeply. Indeed a holiday should give you a sense of freedom, freedom to relax, to take in the world around you. To just be. Yet this Cornish landscape also feeds the soul from the moors to the coastline, it fires the imagination and for me, provides a sense of balance. I wish I could stay but I know that it will always be a part of me and I’ll be back.

When I made the booking I had no idea that I would be spending quite so much time with Daphne du Maurier. Yet I could feel her there with me, in the smells on the air, the sea breeze, the summer rain, and the birds as they flew through the air, sending their message out to the world. Perhaps that is why it feels so familiar and so much like coming home. I have visited many times before both in person and through her novels. Cornwall is ever-changing and yet its ghosts surround you as you wonder. Their stories permeate through sand, stone, grass and skyline, and there still so many yet to be told.

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We booked our holiday through Sykes Cottages.

You can find out more about our fabulous holiday let, Jenny Wren here. It was absolutely perfect for the three of us and had everything we needed. The owners, Dave and Dianne were incredibly friendly and welcoming. The location was very peaceful but close to the village centre. We slept well throughout the week and were very sad to leave.

We booked our kayaking adventure through Fowey River Hire ( it was excellent)

We had a fantastic day at Lanhydrock where we hired bikes and explored the cycle trails.

We visited both Restormel and Tintagel Castle – both were excellent and full of history and atmosphere.

There is always something new going on at The Eden Project and on this visit We travelled to Mars.

One favourite pub was The New Inn in Tywardreath.  They have wonderful food, good beer and a warm welcome.

The Yummy Scrummy cafe in Par was an absolute find and did THE most delicious savoury pancakes and cooked breakfasts. We visited throughout the week. Yum.

And finally… visit Cornwall. It’s wonderful.

Blog Tour, Someone Else’s Shoes, Time to talk, Young Adult Fiction

Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow Blog Tour – seeing things from another perspective

This is a blog tour with a difference and I’m delighted to be kicking it off today on Tales Before Bedtime. The tour has been inspired by the novel, Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Siobhan Curham which is published today by Walker Books. As Siobhan’s book is about empathy and seeing things from others perspective I’m delighted to have the opportunity to step into someone else’s shoes and post a piece by a fellow blogger and book lover.

Our lives are often touched by people who leave a mark: perhaps a light in dark times or kindness, love and laughter. Perhaps they’ve reminded us of who we are or who we’d like to be, or simply they’ve become part of memories that stay with us long after we’ve known them. Quite often we never get the chance to let them know what they mean to us and Amy has expressed this perfectly in her piece. We should never presume that others know how we feel about them. Some things just shouldn’t be left unsaid.

 

So now over to Amy.

Open Letter: To those, I still love but have lost

To those, I still love but have lost,

I have wanted to write this for the longest time, but this was finally the right time. For this blog tour but also because I finished university recently. University was a place where I met so many new people, but my life seems very up in the air.

You might be wondering who this is about, and the truth is: this is for everyone. Anyone who has made an impact on my life. My friends. My family. Those who are no longer in my life anymore. Although this is my side of the story, I respect your OK too. After all friendship is a two-way relationship.

Life has a way of making us lose touch with people. People you think will be in the longest time in life. You make plans. Going to university. Even bridesmaid at a wedding. Then BAM. Life gets in the way. You move. Someone else moves. You lose contact. Your life becomes liking each other’s posts on Instagram or Facebook. You become someone’s old friend rather than someone’s friend. It’s weird.

So, this is for you. You may never see this, but I know that you mean something to me. We may have lost touch, but I still love you. Like you. Remember you. I remember the times when I laughed so hard that I cried. The films that we saw together. Our days at school. The lessons and the inside jokes that only worked at that times that we would laugh at and everyone would think we were crazy. The lunchtimes. The breaks. The throwaway conversations about our day. The nights that we stayed up too late and the sleepovers that we had.

I remember it all. And I hope you do too. But I don’t mind if I am just a distance memory. We needed each other at that time. We moved on and that’s OK. A piece of me would like to talk to you. See you again. See where you are now. But I don’t mind if I don’t. I hope you are well. That your life is great. Because you deserve it. You really do.

So that’s you. If you wonder about me. I’m good. I’m really good. I’m doing what I love, and I am working towards where I want to be. I hope that this is enough. I really do. But if that’s not. Do what I am scared to do. Because I’m here. I’m here.

The weird thing is that I don’t know how to end this, so I’ll leave it here. If you read this and think it sounds like you. Then it probably is. Know that I remember you. That I love you.

Amy

Thank you Amy for sharing such a personal message with us. It was lovely to read.

Do make a visit to Amy’s blog here where she shares her love of books and writing.

And readers do share your thoughts on this post by leaving a comment. Do you have anything you wish you hadn’t left unsaid?

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Want to know a little more about Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Siobhan Curham? Here’s the synopsis.

img_0022Fourteen-year-old Stevie lives in Lewes with her beloved vinyl collection, her mum … and her mum’s depression. When Stevie’s mum’s disability benefits are cut, Stevie and her mother are plunged into a life of poverty. But irrepressible Stevie is determined not to be beaten and she takes inspiration from the lyrics of her father’s 1980s record collection and dreams of a life as a musician. Then she meets Hafiz, a talented footballer and a Syrian refugee. Hafiz’s parents gave their life savings to buy Hafiz a safe passage to Europe; his journey has been anything but easy. Then he meets Stevie…

As Stevie and Hafiz’s friendship grows, they encourage each other to believe in themselves and follow their dreams.

 An uplifting story of friendship, unity and hope that highlights the important and topical issues surrounding young carers and young refugees.

Find out more about this title from Walker Books by visiting their website here.

Thank so much to Kirsten and John at Walker books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.