Thursday, July 02, 2015

On the move...

Blogger has been getting really weird and unreliable lately, with error messages popping up every time I try to do something, and ominous attempts to get me to update my browser.  Since I'm already running Internet Explorer 11, which is the most up to date version, I can't for the life of me see how I can update... but Blogger is now admitting it 'doesn't work well' with Internet Explorer and that there may be 'unexpected results'.

I'm not going to go off on a rant about blogging sites being equally useable no matter which browser you happen to have loaded.  Instead, I'm voting with my feet.  After many, many years of loyal service, I'm now switching to Wordpress instead.  This will have the added benefit of being able to 'follow' friends' blogs that I want to keep in touch with.

You can find my new blog here.  There isn't much posted yet but you might be interested in some of the old book reviews and I'll obviously be updating it on a regular basis so do keep checking back for new content.  I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Gleams at Kendal Library

I can't remember if I ever got round to mentioning, but Kendal Library are now selling print copies of Gleams of a Remoter World in their in-house shop.  Even better, they're selling them at £7.00 each, which is a nice fat discount on the usual Amazon price of around £12 or £13.

So if you'd like to get hold of a print copy and you happen to be in the South Lakes area, don't forget to pop into the library and ask.  For those of you who don't know Kendal, the library is on Stricklandgate/High Street, roughly opposite MacDonalds.  And I know which one I'd prefer!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lake disappointment

On Friday evening's local news there was a piece about the last Vulcan bomber.  It's coming up to the end of its flying days, and is doing a flypast around the country to celebrate and/or say goodbye.  And it was due over Windermere on Saturday afternoon.

We last saw this very aircraft, over the lake, two years ago at the Windermere Air Show and an incredible sight (and sound) it was too.  Seeing a massive bomber doing aerobatics over the water, standing on its tail, weaving, rolling, and all to the backdrop of that staggering engine roar, was something neither Dave nor I will ever forget.  So we cancelled any plans for the afternoon and braved the hot sun to toddle down to the lake.

We got there a little early, just in case, and found a convenient bench in the shade with a great view up the lake towards Waterhead, and settled down to wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Around us other frustrated viewers waved binoculars and expensive cameras, and checked details of the Vulcan's itinerary on its Facebook page.

By ten past three we realised we'd long since passed the point of no return and set off home, with never a glimpse of the Vulcan.  We heard later that it did indeed fly over the lake, but due to an emergency involving the air ambulance near Ambleside, had had to alter its flight plan.  When it passed overhead it was so high up that it was barely visible, or audible.

It's obviously just 'one of those things', and if the air rescue was indeed the reason for the change then it's entirely understandable.  Very disappointing, though, as that was almost certainly our last chance to see this majestic aircraft in flight.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Strawberries and peacocks

Yesterday afternoon we were invited by a couple of our friends to a strawberry tea in aid of the charity organisation The Soroptimists.

The event was held at a big Edwardian house on the hillside above (lake) Windermere.  The weather wasn't the best for garden parties, with clouds, a strong if fitful breeze, and frequent heavy showers, so the hostess was forced to move indoors, but it was still very pleasant.

Tea was laid out in the dining room (with a big bowl of strawberries and some delicious home made cakes and scones); there was a raffle to raise funds for the charity, and our friends took us on a tour of the owners' large and stunningly beautiful gardens, with views across the lake to Claife Viewing Station (a Victorian tourist attraction, newly refurbished by the National Trust and on our list for later in the year) on the opposite shore.  And when we strolled round to the rockery, there was even a peacock scratching about in the undergrowth!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Another reduction

Riptide's sale to celebrate National Pride Month continues, and this week it's the turn of the Riptide Rentboys collection.  This features my novella-length story Necessity's Door, and the whole collection of four e-books is reduced from $11.96 to just $4.99.  The offer only lasts for a week and you'd be daft to miss it, so hurry along to the Riptide catalogue now!


Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Wordsworth House

We had a really nice day out on Saturday, visiting Wordsworth House in Cockermouth.  This is a National Trust property, but not one we'd ever been to before.  In fact, we'd only ever been to the town once, years ago before the devastating floods, on a terribly wet day which we spent mostly doing a tour of Jennings Brewery to get out of the rain!

Going back was great.  The town has recovered from the 2009 deluge remarkably well and looked lively and buzzing, full of attractive independent shops, antiques centres, cafes and galleries.  We mooched up and down the main drag, had a coffee, mooched some more, poked about in the antique shops, had lunch, and finally headed for Wordsworth.

The poet lived in this house before moving to its more famous counterparts, Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount.  He and his family were tenants of his employer, the Earl of Lowther, who may even have partly furnished the property to show off his own wealth to their visitors.

The National Trust have done a super job with the place.  Where Dove Cottage is all about Wordsworth the word-smith, this is far more about his life as a family man, and as an employee.  I hadn't even realised that he was employed as Lowther's estate manager - and, judging by the tone of various letters scattered about, very much at the Earl's beck and call.  "You will receive this letter on Monday and will travel to Millom on Tuesday..." without so much as a please or thank you.

The house, although one of the larger properties on the High Street, was by no means a stately home and the interior room sizes and furnishings seem to have been relatively basic.  Ann, Wordsworth's wife, apparently didn't even have a cook or housekeeper, just a single live-in servant, which was surprising for that age.  It all built up into a fascinating portrait of a man who was by no means a 'gentleman of leisure' and had to work hard for his living - not at all the impression you tend to get of one of our most famous poets these days.

The garden was also a delight, with lots of fruit trees, hidden corners, old state roof tiles with bits of Wordsworth's poems scribbled on them, and even some chickens!

Personally I got rather put off Wordsworth by having to wade through 'Michael' at school, but this is still definitely recommended as a day out, whether you're 'into' his poetry or not.

Monday, June 08, 2015

And again...

This week it's the turn of 'Gleams of a Remoter World', which is on sale via the Riptide catalogue for only $2.99 for the ebook - a reduction of $4. 

The book, set on the stunning west coast of Ireland, is a poignant ghost story intertwined with an intriguing mystery.

Grab it now before it's too late!

Tuesday, June 02, 2015


Riptide are currently holding a giant 'blowout' sale with quite a few titles priced at only 99c - and Necessity's Door is on the list!

This is my short and somewhat naughty novella about undercover hi-jinks, heavily based on all those stories about undercover police doing things they shouldn't have. 

You can find out more by following this link to the full list of 99c titles at Riptide's catalogue.  If you can't see Necessity's Door straight away, you may need to click over onto page 2.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Wot no poltergeists

Over the last couple of weeks we've been enjoying a new series on Sky Living, 'The Enfield Haunting'.  This is based on real life events and tells the story of a family in 1970s London who appear to have been subjected to a quite horrific haunting event by a poltergeist, which was investigated by various official bodies and never, quite, disproved.

The series includes some big names (Timothy Spall as Maurice Grosse, the main psychic investigator) and some lesser known but no less impressive talents (including Eleanor Worthington-Cox as the young girl at the centre of the haunting).  And it seems we're not the only ones enjoying it.  This review in The Guardian is also full of praise for the writing, the acting, and the atmosphere, which is nicely creepy with occasional moments of real shock, but without the nastiness or suffering so beloved of horror these days.

The article is more than just a review of the series, going into some depth about the psychological aspects of poltergeist activity and whether or not the Enfield case was genuine, or an elaborate hoax played out by an unhappy schoolgirl (with or without the knowledge of her family).  We'll probably never know, but the article's author makes one surprising and valid point: what has happened to poltergeist activity in the modern technological age?  I hadn't realised, but apparently this kind of psychic activity, which used to be linked on a regular basis to disturbed teenagers, simply no longer happens.

So, was it always a fake?  Are we all so cynical that we assign mundane explanations to anything the least bit weird?  Or have the poltergeists got bored with Age of Warfare and moved on somewhere else?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Garden surprise

It's amazing how places can still surprise you, even after you've lived there for years.  We've been in Windermere full time for three years now, part time longer than that, yet there are still hidden corners to be discovered.

Yesterday, thanks to the NGS 'gardens open for charity' scheme, we found a gem only a few hundred yards up the road: Gatesbield.  This is an arts and crafts house dating from the 1920s, built by a local furniture maker and his wife, and bequeathed by them to a Quaker housing trust for the eldery and infirm.

Normally this is private land, unless you're a visitor or a Quaker attending the weekly service.  But yesterday we had carte blanche to wander the grounds, investigate nooks and crannies and even go in the house.  The gardens aren't huge, but are very pretty with outcrops of natural rock, dells, rockeries, trees, and a nice 'wild' feel in spite of the clustering neighbouring properties.  The house is fascinating: a real Arts & Crafts throwback, surprisingly old-fashioned for 1926, but filled with carved wooden doors, roof beams, carved wooden lintels over the windows, and some examples of the furniture made by hand by Stanley Davies, the original owner.

We paid £3.50 each to get in (most of which goes to some very deserving charities) and the princely sum of £2.50 each for a cuppa and a slab of delicious home made cake.

It made for a fun 'time out' in an otherwise busy day, and a fascinating dip into a previously unknown slice of the town's history.  There are several other local properties open under NGS later on in the year; now we know how interesting they can be, we'll be trying to fit a few more visits in.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Northern lights

Yesterday afternoon we hopped on a train to Preston, mostly to attend the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN)'s spring astronomy lecture on the subject of the northern lights.  The last of these we went to was just before Christmas, and ended up being a little disappointing as the subject matter (comets) gave way to primary school level magic tricks.  This time we were hoping for something more, and weren't disappointed.

We got to Preston early enough for a mooch round the shops, and a quick zoom into the city museum which neither of us had ever visited before.  This is surprisingly small for such a large town, but was still very interesting and packed full of beautiful objects, in particular a wonderful collection of antique perfume bottles which I could happily have marched off with if I'd had a handbag the size of the Royal Albert Hall!

After a disappointing meal at a Chinese buffet (fine at Christmas but has mysteriously gone downhill) we headed to the university for the talk.  This was given by Professor Jim Wild, a staff member at the nearby Lancaster University, and very fascinating it was.  He managed to cover a surprising amount in just over an hour including the history of the study of the lights, some cultural stuff about how they're viewed by different cultures around the world, and the science behind them, as well as a brief 'how to' guide at the end on maximising your own chances of seeing them.  Something we could do with as in spite of living in such a northern location, and in spite of being here during a solar maximum when aurora activity should be at its height, we've still never seen them.  Ah well, keep watching the skies...!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dumb questions

There's an amusing piece in local news magazine Windermere Now this month, about daft questions put to members of Windermere Lake Cruises staff.

The magazine lists their top ten, including these gems: 

How long does the 40 minute cruise last?
Can I go to the front of the queue as I've got ice creams?
Years ago I went to Ambleside.  Is it still there?
For my sat nav, what is the postcode of the mountains?

And number one, and my own favourite as well:

Can the boat come and pick me up from Blackpool?  (This on a lake that's completely land-locked and about 50 miles from Blackpool...!) 

There's no information on how the staff managed to answer those questions without either splitting their sides laughing or thumping the people concerned... but it really does show there's nowt so queer as folk!