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"You shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, say it often."

April
 2014

Phew! What a busy few weeks! I know I am always saying this recently, but March has been even more hectic than usual. I keep hoping for a quiet season, but I think the hope may be in vain.

Of course most of the hecticness (is that a word?) was due to Kathy and Adam's wedding. Which was a fabulous day. There are some unofficial photos from family and friends or a few of the official ones on my Devon Diary Blog.

We had a bit of a panic at home on the night before the wedding because our house guest, James, managed to get poked in the eye by a snooker cue while waiting to have dinner at a local pub. I was expecting a black eye the next morning, but he suffered a streaming eye instead. We did wonder about an eye patch and pirate outfit for him, but anxious that it might need medical attention we phoned the new 111 advice line. Fortunately the eye was quite a bit better than the evening before and was OK. I wasn't really looking forward to spending my daughter's wedding day in A&E!

A great treat for me, my good friend Mal (in fact my dearest friend) stayed on with us for an entire week after the wedding, in the official role of Keeper Of The Horses. I think he enjoyed playing ponies all day, and having the fun of running his own yard unmolested except by a bolshy Exmoor pony who always appears so cute at first glance!!

The most fortunate thing, for the wedding and the week after? It actually stopped raining!


March has also been taken up with finalising plans for an extension we're having built. The West Wing extension is to be further extended, so it will have four rooms instead of the present two (two up, two down) and should make a nice flat for Kathy and Adam, or Ron and I as we get older. Our wedding present to the happy couple!

Not looking forward to all the noise and disruption though, not when the loudest thing we hear at the moment is the cock pheasant squawking, or the owls hooting. I guess I'll have to find the charger for the laptop and disappear down into the woods to write come the Build. Fingers crossed the rain stays away.

Still, by Christmas 2014 all should be finished. She said with everything crossed.


I'm getting ready, as I write this, to gallivant off to Leicestershire for a self-publishing conference being organised by Matador Books.

They are not my publisher, which is SilverWood Books, but as I was asked to attend and do a talk about reviewing Historical Fiction, in my capacity as Managing Editor of the Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews, and also as expenses are paid, I thought 'Why not?' It's always good to get out and about to meet fellow writers and readers, especially if I can simultaneously promote Indie publishing. I'll probably be doing the same sort of thing at the HNS London Conference in September this year - and, here's the really exciting bit, very possibly at the HNS 2015 conference in Denver Colorado USA.

I passed through Denver back in August 2008 when I visited the USA and went by train from San Francisco to Colonial Williamsburg via Chicago and Washington. The journey up through the Rockies was fabulous, and we spent about half an hour at Denver Station, so it would be nice to see more of that lovely city than just the platform.

I have very fond memories of that trip: meeting Connie in San Francisco and spending a wonderful week with her. Meeting Jansy and Susan and her family, and Joyce - and everyone else - at Salt Lake city, then on to Williamsburg where I stayed with John and Cathy Millar of Newport house B&B and where I might well stay again if I go on this 2015 trip. May as well do a bit of a tour round!

John and Cathy are lovely people and often help me out with information if I need it, from sailing detail to beekeeping! The latest help was in the form of advice about a suitable dance for the present Sea Witch voyage that I am writing - On The Account. John and Cathy host English Country Dancing, which is based around historical dance (Think sexy dance scene in the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice TV drama). I wanted a dance that was subtly erotic: Tiola is dancing with a rival for Jesamiah's affections. Hah! I will say no more, the rest is a secret!

Talking of dancing, Kathy and Adam had the most wonderful violinist playing for the wedding ceremony and afterwards. Finding the main room empty while the last of the photographs were being taken, Ron and I had a sneaky dance together. Somewhat ruined by me bursting into giggles and quoting the judges on Strictly Come Dancing: "Shoulders Dahling, and feet - feet!"

Which is where I shall end this April Newsletter, and repeat the current quote: You shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, say it often.

I am so proud of my beautiful daughter and her wonderful new husband.

I love you both.

Lege feliciter (read happily).


 

March
 2014

I am writing this a few days before the end of the month because the beginning of March is going to be very busy - and very exciting. Kathy is getting married to Adam. And a nicer son-in-law I could not wish for!

I'm going to break with tradition, make this news journal short and add further information in a few days' time after the wedding, so I can share the (hopefully!) lovely day.

Addendum: Due to the demands of a certain pirate - and at last writing a few more chapters - the concluding part of this post will be featured in the April Newsletter. Suffice to say, a Good Time was had by All!

Adam met Kathy several years ago and asked her out. Because of circumstances, that initial date did not lead to others, and they moved on to different relationships.

Six years later, both of them on their own again, they re-met. Unfortunately we were about to move from London to Devon. That didn't bother Adam, who had made up his mind that he wasn't going to lose Kathy a second time.

Once we had moved he motored down from London every weekend, then almost a year ago in March 2013 he moved in with us, got a job in Exeter and proposed. Lovely.

Adam used to read this journal (not sure if he still does!) and I had included him in the November 2006 entry although at the time I did not know who the young man was. I remembered the entry, though - and so did Adam.

I had written and published Sea Witch, Pirate Code was being written, and Kathy was happy to dress as a pirate: Jack Sparrow and my Jesamiah Acorne were well and truly spreading their influence.

This is the relevant entry:
NOVEMBER 2006
My daughter is now heavily into pirates. Fancy dress parties abound this time of year, and her pirate costume is creating quite a stir. We both laughed when a new friend asked what she did for a living and she answered: "I'm a pirate." To give him his due, his response was quite calm: "Oh. I've never been out with a pirate before." I'm not sure how long into the date he realised she was pulling his wooden leg.

Now Adam knows that a fictional pirate resides in the house alongside us, albeit mainly in my study, and as part of the family, he has become part-pirate by entering into the spirit of Kathy's side saddle costume classes.

Click 'ere m' hearties t'see the fine lad in all 'is piratical paradin'!

Arr!

And this month's quote is not correct. You will be hearing a lot about the hero after he has married my princess!

Lege feliciter (read happily).


 

February
 2014

The person who invents the 36 hour day will make a fortune. Or maybe someone who can really multi-task - like Hermione in one of the Harry Potter movies. She manages to manipulate time so that she can be in two places at once and therefore do two things at once. I could do with a magic gadget like that!

I am supposed to be getting on with the next Jesamiah novel. (titled On The Account) And I am well aware that I have been saying this for months now. The reason I have not written more than three chapters is because I am drowning in my somewhat extensive ‘to do’ list.

Has anyone any idea how such lists manage to double during the course of a week, even though you were positive you were managing to clear it?

Take the other day for example: Ron sets off for his annual jaunt to the huge Pigeon Show held in Blackpool. Everyone who is anyone in the pigeon racing world goes to Blackpool. This year Ron signed up to go by coach with the Pigeon People of Devon, which is nice because he wanted to meet more of the local Fanciers. I, meanwhile, was looking forward to a weekend of ‘me time’. A chance to get on with Jesamiah's next adventure as a priority, and catch-up with some missed Dr Who episodes on DVD as a second.

What a silly idea! First, take Baz for a walk. We actually had a lovely time wandering up through our woods, investigating all the new spring growth which is determined to think it is March, not January. Baz and I had a paddle in the raging torrent that is our stream, and we poked about at some debris clogging up the waterfall. Baz enjoyed chasing a squirrel, even though it cheated and ran up a tree, thus spoiling the fun. I very nearly lost a wellie in the mud - all very enjoyable, except it was raining. Again. Not ordinary get-you-wet rain. This was pouring like a hose turned on full. Soak-you-through-to-the-bone rain.

By the time we got back to the house we were one very soggy doggy and owner. So: Dry the dog. Hot shower. Elevenses. Get my breath back. Respond to e-mails. Write the last of the articles I was asked to do. Edit the one I had completed the day before. Answer the phone. Answer the door and sign for a parcel. Answer another phone call. Deal with more e-mails, suddenly urgent... Do you get the picture?

With all that eventually completed I settled down to write. The phone rang again. It was Kathy calling from the stable yard at the other end of the garden. Could I come up? Lexie has cut herself.

Several hours later, after the vet had been, after we arranged transport for Lexie to go to Vet Hospital (Ron not being here, and Adam at work so therefore no one to drive our horsebox) I was too tired and stressed to think of enough words to write a shopping list let alone my fifth pirate adventure!

The following weekend (25th/26th January) I was unable to write because I had the pleasure of an adventure in Bristol. Helen Hart of SilverWood Books Ltd had arranged for an Author's afternoon at Bristol Foyles in Cabot Circus, followed by a meal in a nearby restaurant.

The afternoon was superb, with the bookshop full of people - and not all of them SilverWood authors, although there were quite a few there. It was fabulous to be able to put real faces to on-line names: Alison Morton, Anna Belfrage, Harriet Grace, Peter St John, Paul Connolly, Ed Hancox, Mike Willis and many more.

My thanks to Helen Hart, Joanna and Emily for organising it all, and to Robb at Foyles for having the faith to agree to the event. Hopefully, as it was a great success there may be others - a huge boost to the respectability of quality Indie published books. It was the best thing I ever did, joining up with SilverWood.

I was also stunned by an amazing coincidence. Emily, who has recently started working for SilverWood, used to live in Devon. In a North Devon village. Yes, you've guessed it. My village!

So, after all that excitement, we have Lexie back home feeling sorry for herself with a deep puncture wound just above her knee. She has to stay in because our fields have a fantastic crop of Mud (it still hasn't stopped raining) and we are all going to be very busy in early March as we have a wedding in the family - but more of that in the next newsletter.

So, if I can possibly ignore all the things clamouring to be attended to, set off on the right path and follow the right track (preferably a dry, sunny one) I might be able to get a few more paragraphs written before the end of this month. My pirate is waiting so patiently for me...

Anyone know which way it is to the sea?

Lege feliciter (read happily).


 

January
 2014

I cannot believe that an entire year has gone!

15th January 2013 was the day the removal men came to start packing up our old home; the 17th January, we left London for the last time and drove to the hotel in what is now our Devon Village. That night, it snowed. and snowed. and snowed. On Friday the 18th, Ron and I woke up to find Devon had turned white.

The (then) hotel owners - the place has since been sold - invited us to their own dwelling for breakfast because the chef couldn't get in to work. I waited anxiously to hear from the removal men who were somewhere in Exeter with the contents of our home.

By 9 a.m Pickfords Removals had started transferring our contents from the big artic lorry to a smaller transit - essential because the lane to the house is narrow.

By 10 a.m we had started moving in, despite the cold and the snow.

A somewhat chaotic and tiring day followed, but most of the furniture was in by dusk. We had arranged to go back to the hotel that night though, just in case the beds hadn't been put in to our new home, or the food boxes had not been unpacked (they hadn't!).

And again we were kindly invited by the High Bullen owners to dine with them that evening. What a fantastic welcome to Chittlehamholt! Thank you Jane and Martin.

Saturday 19th January, the last of the furniture was in. We were the new owners of what I call online "Windfall Farm" - not its real name. The dream of a lifetime had come true.

Kathy and the horses, meanwhile, had been delayed in London. There was no way that a horsebox would have been safe to travel. By the time the snow cleared here in Devon - mid-week - it was thick snow in London, so Kathy and the horses didn't join us until the following weekend.

My main memories from those first few days?
Piles of cardboard boxes.
The darkness of that first night - we hadn't found the outdoor light switches!
The central heating going off because the switch operating the electric pump to the Range had been switched off - and how lovely and warm it soon got when we realised the error and turned it on again.
The moonlight on the snow.
The red deer in the field next door.
The owls calling.
Badgers fighting in the woods (a very scary sound!)
The first snowdrops appearing, and then the primroses and violets.

I still have not fully taken in that we live here, that this is our home, that it is all ours. Every so often I think that tomorrow we will have to pack up and go home. you know, like when you are on holiday and the week has almost gone.

And yes, I continue to have a few tears of joy when I walk down the lane of an evening with Baz and see out farmhouse lights twinkling through the hedges.

A lot has happened in the year that has just gone, and a lot will be happening in 2014. Kathy and Adam will be getting married, and I have numerous book-related conferences to attend. Hopefully there will be several good friends coming to stay at various times during the year and Ishi will be having her foal and I might actually get the next Sea Witch Voyage written - if I can tear myself away from looking out the windows, walking in the woods or generally enjoying my new home.

I love it here. I have waited so many, many years to live where my heart wanted to be, in the country. Living here has made me realise how very unhappy I was in London. There is a Devonian saying that when God threw Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, he sent them to Devon instead. And Devon is Heaven.

What else is awaiting around the bend? Who knows? But I can verify that even if six out of seven dwarves are not happy - I certainly am!

Happy New Year everyone.

Lege feliciter (read happily).