In search of the Cornish sun

Gyllenvase Beach cr Judy DarleyMy latest travel feature, covering my recent, very happy, trip to southern Cornwall, is now up on Travelbite.

We caught the train to Falmouth on the morning after St Piran’s Day (Cornwall’s patron saint) in early March, revelling in the fact spring comes fractionally earlier to Cornwall than to my home city of Bristol. Before long we were seeing fields of golden daffodils, trees laden with vibrant camellias and creamy magnolias, not to mention countless tiny lambs (we even glimpsed one sheep giving birth as we whizzed past!). Train is definitely the best way to do this journey – peaceful, comfortable and offering outstanding views of some of England’s most beautiful scenery, particularly the stretch between Exeter and Teignmouth. Continue reading

Travel, tales and imaginings

Carbis BayI’ve quite a day, tucked up in my writing room as rain has drizzled down the window. Hard to believe that this time last week I was enjoying Cornish beaches in the sunshine! I’ve been busy writing about that trip for Travelbite, and doing some other bits of travel writing for other titles too – some wonderful escapism.

I’ve also been very restless because A Dark Imagined Bristol – the first anthology from the Bristol Fiction Writers’ Group – went live on Amazon this morning, with two of my tales in it!

My stories are ‘Restoration‘ and ‘Untrue Blue‘. The former is a tale of two sisters wrangling their differences in a cemetery.

On a separate but equally happy note, I’ve spent the latter part of my working day struggling with the back cover copy for my debut short story collection, Remember Me To The Bees, due out later this year from Scopophilia Publishing.

Exciting times!

Writing a wedding reading

St Ives, Rob and EmmaThis week we’re at the wedding of a couple of friends who are getting married near St Ives, Cornwall. They asked me to write a poem for the occasion, to read at the ceremony. This is what I came up with.

The Beginning

The beach sweeps around the lip of the bay,
bright in the afternoon sun, glinting
in places like diamonds are scattered
across its surface. Embedded.
Shield your eyes with one hand:
You’ll see a lone figure silhouetted against
the silvered sea, body tense,
Hands buried deep.

Then another figure moves into view, steps
before them, coaxes one hand from one pocket.
They walk with mutual accord, close
to the incoming tide,
waves lapping at their heels like a small dog.

As the wind builds up, they lean together, hands clasped.
Stretched ahead of them on the sand, their shadows
extend, entwined.

Happy wedding day!

Midsummer in March

Saskia Portway as TitaniaAs a pre-birthday treat my hubla took me to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Bristol Old Vic. It’s truly my favourite Shakespeare play, in part because of the many ingenious and creative ways theatre directors have interpreted it – the magical madness seems to allow their imaginations free rein!

Last night’s performance was comical, beautiful, grotesque, eerie and wonderful – using puppets (thanks to Handspring Puppet Company) and planks to great effect.

As a special cherry on top for me, actress Saskia Portway was playing Titania (pictured left in Simon Annand’s photo. Saskia once played one of my own characters, in a monologue written of Show of Strength‘s theatre in shops. She’s a fabulous actress, so to see her as the fairy queen and Hippolyta (Queen of the Amazons!) was a real treat.

Gossip, literature and cocktails

Arnos Vale twisted treeI don’t believe a birthday should last just a day – I think it should be at least a week-long celebration. So I began my birthday week yesterday, with two very different revelries. 

Gossip From The Forest coverThe first was an event at Foyles bookshop in Bristol as part of Bristol Festival of ideas. One of my favourite authors, Sara Maitland, was there to talk about her book Gossip from the Forest: The Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales, which she described as part natural history, part a history of forests and part an examination of her theory that we have the kind of fairy tales that we do because we have grown up surrounded by forests.

It’s a gorgeous idea, and utterly plausible – in woods things are often heard and sometimes glimpse yet not seen fully – the perfect measures for fertile minds to make something from. They hold in atmospheres that reflected and deepen our moods, so that if you enter warily you can become properly afraid, and if you enter contemplatively, you can sink deeper into yourself.

They’re places where wildlife rustles all around you, and whose to say that those creatures springing and pausing unseen overhead really are nothing as innocuous as squirrels or birds?

I’ve yet to read Gossip from the Forest, but utterly loved Sara’s previous book, A Book of Silence, which I’ll review here on Monday.

I was sooo overdressed for this event, to the extent that one of the book sellers crossed the room drawn by the twinkles sewn into my dress! The reason for this is that the next chapter of the night was speakeasy The Milk Thistle. I hadn’t been there before, but had head many enticing things about the place, not least its lengthy cocktail menu, but its house rules, which seem like a list of etiquette from yesteryear, with favourites including:

  1. Name dropping is very much frowned upon.
  2. No fancy dress, except of course for period attire
  3. Swearing, hooting, shouting or shrieking shall not be tolerated; there are other people here too
  4. Gentlemen will refrain from approaching ladies they are not previously acquainted with, unless of course they are invited to do so

Milk Thistle doorwayEven gaining entry is something of a game, as there is no sign and you have to ring a doorbell then wait for a member of staff to open the door to you. The menus are printed in the form of a newspaper (presumably in case the police burst in searching for prohibition infringers).

We broke one rule by having more than 10 people in our party, but were very well behaved considering. I did wonder if we might get chucked out for an overuse of bubble mixture though. What? It is my birthday!