Sunday, 14 January 2018

Coming up for air.

After the onslaught of winter recently when the snow buried all the spring plants that were flowering early, we are pleased that they have all survived and throwing up fresh buds.

The cyclamen plants in particular were a worry as they looked so colourful and cheerful.
A low, round garden pot with white dianthus and a vibrant pink cyclamen flowering.

A garden boot with a vibrant flowering pink cyclamen

A message came from my husband that the plants had all survived the snow and bitter cold winds. I have had a quick look this morning and pulled off a lot of dead cyclamen flowers but was heartened to see many new buds pushing up from a nest of leaves which are sheltering them.

A deep garden pot with a ball of avibrant yellow flowering chrysanthemum

The big mounds of chrysanthemum plant are now looking sorry for themselves! They were such a lovely, bright addition to the autumn garden. They need cutting back now ready for next winter.

After the garden re-vamp before Christmas I am looking forward to the snowdrops, a variety of  miniature bulbs, and  all the salvaged tulips and daffodils pushing up to herald the coming of Spring.

A new season with new promises.

After the unexpected and intensive research project of the last few months followed by report writing and submissions, I am also looking forward to a quieter life and channelling my research more into Charlotte's story. It is time that she came of the back burner!


Sunday, 7 January 2018

Memories of Cordoba and Ronda, Andalucia, Spain.

We didn't manage in November to make what has become an annual visit to the warmth of Spain in the winter sunshine. Memories kept us warm. Those ancient cities of Cordoba and Ronda are worth a re-visit. 
We will also never forget that epic trip that we made on our Honda Gold Wing touring motorbike in 2001. Although an age away it still seems like yesterday.

The excursions that I chatted about in a previous post some years later were by other means.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

My Review of Hannah. by Jean Mead.

The latest historical fiction from Jean Mead.

3 January 2018
Verified Purchase

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Reading . . a window to the world. Not forgetting libraries.

Libraries have been part of my life forever.

As a little girl growing up in Lancashire it was second nature to pay a regular visit to that wonderful building in Railway Road, Leigh, where I could lose myself in a world of . .well . . . whatever I wanted to read. Growing into the teen years, I remember my father asking to see what I was reading to make sure that it was 'suitable'.

Later, as a young mother, I regularly parked our daughter's Royale pram outside and climbed the steps into the the hallowed depths of the library. There, my baby and I spent many a happy hour as she nestled comfortably on one arm while I held a book - usually a medical one  - in my other hand. To this day I swear that she absorbed the contents as she later became a nurse! 
Picture of a man reading in a library
Moving to Wales and the Dee Valley we were many miles from town with a bus -up a steep hill to the bus stop  - once an hour. We continued our regular practice  of library visits we trundled up another even steeper hill to the George Edwards Hall in Cefn Mawr. As our family grew the  three children were never short of a book to read as they went at their own pace. The new library was a joy. 

Mills and Boon romances and Georgette Heyer historical novels were another of my escapes in those days and beyond. Or biology books, food nutrition as I checked that I was providing healthy meals, gardening, travel . . . Occasionally, when funds allowed,we bought a book for the children; especially for Christmas, birthdays or simply after saving up our pennies. But with a lending library, cost is not an issue. Can't decide between two? Borrow them both.

Nowadays, living nearer to Wrexham town, I use the very modern Wrexham Library. Thankfully, in spite of there not being as many books on the shelves as hitherto, it has escaped a complete cut in services. The Internet facilities, reading corners for children, strategically placed chairs among the rows of shelves, and the research and study facilities upstairs are a joy.

Libraries - we already pay for this service in our Council Tax charges.

Two people in a library among the bokshelves.Not being able to 'afford' to read is not an option and  when we are ordering 'cheap' books on the Internet, let us not forget our libraries. They are free to join and you can now download eBooks as well. We already pay for this service in our Council Tax bill. Nowadays, I can come away with a huge pile of books . . . a recipe for escaping into my own little world as I have done all my life,delving into the world waiting for me among the pages.

If a book that you would like to read is not in stock, just ask if it can be ordered. Askews and Holts are the main library supplier in the UK but -for all our titles at least -there are other global suppliers as we use the global distribution services of Ingram Lightning Source for print and eBooks as well the US Smashwords eBook distribution to libraries.

You know what they say. 'Use it or lose it'. Happy reading.


Images-Google Images)

Sunday, 10 December 2017

A Winter Wondrland and the Best Laid Plans . . .

The snow has fallen a little earlier than anticipated.

After weeks of waiting, we are nearer to our garden re-vamp. Yes, tomorrow is the day. Today? We are covered with a smattering of snow. It looks beautiful but we are hoping for
a few degrees warmer weather this week.

You may ask 'Why December?' Why? Our chosen gardener is in great demand and is booked up some months ahead. The bulbs have been dug up and packed away in a dark corner. New plants are waiting. I have been busy with graph paper, pencil and ruler - the old-fashioned but satisfying way. It certainly exercised my brain as I marked out the squares and what they represented in cm/inches; converting one to the other. Pictured is a Viburnum Tinus or snowball bush. They are meant to flower in Jan/Feb but the mild winter so far gave them other ideas.

We have spent the late summer visiting garden nurseries and garden centres far and wide from Powys to Cheshire. We had some lovely trips out as we delved down  country lanes hidden between the lush green fields heavy with the fruits of summer. We had fun deciding what to keep and what is past its best. Two rose bushes are still under the chop. We will leave it to the gardener to decide if a heavy pruning will re-generate them or if they should go the way of other that are past their sell-by date.

For now, we are in the throes of pre-Christmas lunches with friends far and wide. This morning, I logged on to Facebook to find that they had helpfully compiled  a list of events in 2017. It reminded me that the year was more than 365 days. It reminded me how many people make up the fabric of our lives and that, without them, we would be poorer without them. This is the positive side of social media. 

With another fall of snow in the night we are hoping that the roads are clear this morning as we journey to meet up with some of these fiends - the ones that Gold Wing motorbiking brought to us.

A small thought to leave you with. I am trying to remember this - the accepting part - in the midst of our current challenge. 
It says, 'God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.'


Monday, 4 December 2017

Shivering into Winter

My last post was full of the joys and beauty of Autumn. 

Winter is here with a flourish. 

Two weeks on and we have had a severe drop in temperature. It is cold and damp where  
we are in our corner of North Wales. Winter however, has its own beauty. At the Ponderosa on the Horseshoe Pass, Llangollen/Llandegla/Llantysilio area the other week, all signs of Autumn had not only gone as those golden leaves blew away in the wind, there was a smattering of - yes - snow.

I am not going to bore you with Christmassy stuff; there is enough of that around. It is a pity that the true meaning of Christmas has been overshadowed by the increasing commercialism that we see around. Advent Calendars in particular have lost the true meaning of Christmas.

Normally, we would have just left Spain with a tan, memories of the wonderful displays of banks of Poinsettia plants that the Spanish use to decorate their roundabouts, streets, and hotels, a bag of carefully chosen Christmas presents for family from the wonderful shops in Nerja and Granada,before a hurried rush to catch up on writing Christmas cards. A change of plan in June hurtled us into unplanned and unknown territory as we faced a crisis.
Meanwhile, here is a flavour of what we have missed this year - memories:

Other matters.

All our previous skills and experience in the realms of construction, engineering, research, report writing etc has stood us in good stead. Hopefully their is light at the end of the tunnel.

For now, I sincerely hope that I can get back to my SEO [search engine optimization] and website updates along with  long-neglected Aquafit and Gym routine. It is looking good on that score at least. I have party clothes to get into!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Beautiful Llangollen in Autumn.

When all around you is fraught . . .

. . .the only solution is a walk along the Glan yr Afon - Riverside Park in Llangollen. So wonderful at any time of the year. The noise of the river rapids soothes. The timeless beauty of the towering mountain clothed in autumnal colours makes you realise what really matters.
Colours of autumn on the mountainside along the river Dee in Llangollen

Llangollen in the Dee Valley is beautiful at any season as is the drive down the A5 to Betws-y-Coed

Memories in the mists of time.

We are so lucky to live in this wonderful part of North Wales and thankful that we chose it all those years ago when looking for a better future. Times were a-changing in Lancashire in the late 60's with the closure of the coal mines and cotton mills - affecting engineering trades in the service industry. With hope in our hearts, we took the plunge and, with our small baby, went into unchartered waters in a manner of speaking.OH had passed his driving test but having no car, we hired one as he came for his second interview in a village nearby - the passport to a new life. 

We first saw Llangollen one snowy January as we drove down roads packed with ice and snow. The roads had only just become passable. The A539 runs alongside the river as it flows along the bottom of the valley. With snow-laden trees sparkling in the winter sunshine, to a young couple coming from a Lancashire mill town it was like fairyland. The street signs were - and still are -  in Welsh. Llangollen has a deep Welsh history and culture. Stopping for lunch at the Grapes Hotel just over the ancient bridge on the A5, we and our baby daughter were given a warm welcome and food.

Fast forward to November 2017

A view of the River Dee looking towards the bridge and rapids.Parking up in the car park on Market Street last week and hoping for an empty space I commented, " I think that Tuesday is market day". And it was. Stalls were spread along with market traders coming to the end of their morning's trading. We found a space. Coming out onto the street, we decided to head into town for a bite to eat. The Italian Fouzzi's Cafe Bar by the bridge and the Royal Hotel was again a good choice. Settling for a hot roast pork bap, side salad and fries, washed down with a cool drink, we had to hurry back to the car park to put in more money as OH must have pushed the wrong buttons when a 50p piece was rejected. One hour cost us £2.00 instead of £1  and we wanted 3 hours at £2.50.  Meanwhile, I wandered along to look in the range of independent shops of which Llangollen has many. 

Turning to head towards the side streets to the river, in front of us was that timeless view of the towering mountain that rises above and shelters the town. Today it was wearing its colourful autumnal dress. Passing the Cornmill riverside restaurant, we stopped for a while to watch the canoeist riding the rapids. This part of the river is a favourite for canoeists; the water races over the rocks as it heads towards the ancient bridge and beyond, through the villages and towns on its way to Chester and the sea.

This particular group appeared to be in training and quite young. Each waited for the signal from the instructor before they launched themselves off the weir into the raging river. So brave!
The rocks and changing scene of the river at Llangollen
Further along we were struck with awe and calmed by the sheer beauty of what nature had provided in this ever-changing scene. The photo above explains what I mean.

A little further along, we stopped to read the information board about the history of the Riverside Park. Retracing our steps, we took the easy, level  route back to the main road.

This little trip was just the medicine needed to soothe the soul.
Illustrated information board about the Glan Yr Afon Riverside Park.


Sunday, 12 November 2017

A Virtual Visit to Cordoba and Ronda in Andalucia, Spain.

Re-visiting memories as a consolation for not visiting Andalucia and Nerja this year.

Is it really three years since we re-visited Ronda and discovered Cordoba? Time flies. Unable to make our planned visit to southern Spain and Nerja this year, the first time for some years, I have been looking back on earlier blog posts. In 2013 we took advantage of the opportunity to re-visit Ronda in the mountains above Malaga and San Pedro on the coast. Ronda sits in the middle of no-where. When we rode there on our Gold Wing motorbike all those years ago we saw it sitting there surrounded by a 'nothingness'. 
Here is what I wrote in 2013.
Another Sojourn in Spain.


With four included trips during our stay in Nerja, Andalucia, (or Costa Del Sol) we hadn't anticipated wanting to take in any optional ones. However, Ronda called to us and it was a better alternative to hiring a car.
We actually first visited Ronda many, many years ago when staying further along the coast in Fuengirola. It was two bus rides and lots of winding roads up the mountains from the coast. Then we had a wonderful four days when we rode there on the Honda Gold Wing in 2001 as part of our Andalucian Adventure*
It was time to re-visit to see the gorge again. We were met by a local guide. This is normal practice in large towns of cultural interest. He was so enthusiastic and explained about the bullring before taking us around the side from where we could see over the plains - as well as a statue of a huge bull.
Walking around the side of the Parador to the distant strains of someone playing a Spanish Guitar, we all looked over the wall into the depths of the gorge below. 
Rounding the side of the Parador we came to the huge square in front of it - by the bridge. The guide was to take our party over the bridge into the old part of Ronda which goes back to Roman and Arabian times. I elected to stay behind as I wanted to wander at will and perhaps have coffee.

I found that the hotel in which we had spent our time in 2001 had changed its name. It is down a narrow street which leads from the square to the bullring. Coming back to the bridge, I noticed that the Hotel San Miguel across the road had terraces going downwards as they overlooked the gorge from the other side of the bridge. Taking the lift down, I settled down for coffee and to absorb the wonderful timeless view. Meeting my husband later, he was full of the tour and we elected to have lunch in this hotel - again on the terrace down below - and savour the atmosphere.


Cordoba was an extra trip which the Saga Reps organised. Being part of the 'real' Spain with so much history attached, we could not let this opportunity pass. Cordoba was occupied by the Moors in 711AD until reclaimed by the Spanish in the 13th Century. It is famous for its Mosque-Cathedral or Mexaquita as it is still known. It is actually now a Cathedral. It was too large to pull down so they built the cathedral inside.
On entering you are rendered speechless in awe at the wonderful design of arch after arch, one behind the other, going into the distance.

As we walked around we could hear the sound of an organ in the distance and a choir singing. Entering the main chapel we were fortunate to experience this at closer quarters.
Leaving the Mexaquita through the Orange Tree Courtyard, our guide - again a local guide - took us into the old Jewish quarter with its narrow streets and alleyways crammed full of shops of all description. All in all, the time there was not long enough. You need a few days and more to really explore but it was wonderful to get a flavour of this important city. After lunch in a typical tapas bar/restaurant (which had a wonderful display of richly embroidered and embellished matador outfits belonging to famous matadors) where we devoured a huge pizza each, we strolled back to our pick-up point by the side of the Rio Guadalquivir.
Stopping by the Roman Bridge we captured more photographs and reflected how the buildings in those early days have lasted all this time.
Needless to say, after an early start we slept on the journey back to Nerja!

Read about Part One of our sojourn in Andalucia - Nerja, Malaga and Granada. 

Publishing website: Facebook

Monday, 30 October 2017

Hello Kindle!

Good News. We are back in Kindle. Yes! All ten titles.

We have made some changes over the last twelve months but are happy to say that we are back in Kindle. And not just that. We have added our latest release Island Interludes to the extensive list.

Just Us Two Travel books have an increasing number of full colour photographs. Indeed, the last two have upwards of twenty full colour photographs to enhance your reading experience.

Just Us Two: Ned and Rosie's Gold Wing Discovery and Chasing Rainbows go together as Chasing Rainbows is the sequel and the real ending to Rosie's story as they finally say 'good-bye' to their Gold Wing years.

Debut Fiction the travel-based ORANGES: A Journey is not illustrated. It takes you through parts of Portugal and Andalucia in southern Spain from the coast to the mountains.

The Lifelong Learning Personal Effectiveness Guides for career, employability and personal development are all illustrated in full colour with images, diagrams, charts and/or tables as appropriate to the topic. Lifelong Learning is an educational research paper and reference book. The other four are user-friendly workbooks with spaces to pause, reflect and (in print) record your answers.(You need a separate pad of paper or your PC for this in Kindle.)

All ten books are also in paperback with the Just Us Two travel and Fiction books now on Glossy Hardcover.


Thursday, 19 October 2017

Seagulls and sea breezes in the late sunshine of Llandudno.

We finally made our escape!

After the fierce winds of Monday, when the tail end of the hurricane named Ophelia found its way across the Atlantic to the UK, Wednesday dawned bright and clear. Was that a hint of the rising sun peeping between the leaves of the trees?

With computer switched off and plans made, we headed down the A55 Expressway to Llandudno on the North Wales coast. It is some time since we have visited this timeless seaside town with its wide curved bay lined with Victorian/Edwardian hotels; the bay is backed by the mountains of Snowdonia in the distance. That great rock jutting out to sea called Great Orme was unchanged. The pier stretched far out to sea towards the distant windmill farm.

Our first stop, as we came out of the shopping mall under the car park, was a tea break in the upstairs cafe of the re-furbished Waterstones bookshop . I used to have book signings there in the early days before it all changed.

Strolling along the promenade, I stopped to take photos. While Allen concentrated on the map I focussed on the unbelievable fat seagull that calmly stood at the edge of the pavement. No doubt it was eyeing up unsuspecting tourists for its next 'sandwich snatch'. (This happened to us the last time we were there. I sat on a bench chatting to Allen, sandwich in one hand, when out of nowhere a seagull swooped down and snatched my sandwich out of my hand. All I felt was something bang against my head.)

A fat seagull by the sea in LlandudnoA photo of the bay in Llandudno, North Wales

A photo overlooking taken from the pier in Llandudno.We strolled along part of the pier. At least we found where the cable car station was and Allen had worked out from the map on the promenade how to get up to it in the car. Perhaps when in season? Leaning over the pier rail, I looked down at the sea crashing against the rocks and the huge wall of rock stretching away around a bend.
'Are we on the Balcon de Europa in Nerja?' I asked Allen. He laughed. The sea wasn't as calm, the sun not as strong.

Although the start of the pier was lively with the sound of music playing, further along it was all tranquillity. There are many seats along either side to rest and enjoy the gentle breeze and warm sunshine as you gaze across the vast sweep of the bay. Last time that we came, it was summer and a
perishing cold and windy day. That was the time that the seagull swooped down. We didn't walk to the far end of the pier. When you do it is as if you are far out to sea, the pier is so long.

Many of the hotels are privately owned; not all serve lunches. Having passed the famous St.George's Hotel many times we thought that this time we would see if they served a bar lunch. Perhaps in the conservatory that stretches along the front of the hotel? We were not disappointed and they even had the red carpet out for us. The sandwiches were delicious, the ambiance quiet and unhurried, the waiter service excellent.  Altogether, a good choice.

As we normally decide to do, we took the scenic route back home, travelling down through the ancient and pretty town of Llanrwst that nestled in the mountains to Betws-y-Coed, the A5 old Holyhead - London route, and home.

The sea air and sunshine the best medicine of all.