Rediscovering Alice

Rediscovering Alice

I first read Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice as a teenager. At the time I found it a gripping story, combining adventure, romance, war and an unparalleled portrayal of life in the Australian outback. I have since re-read this slim masterpiece many times, most recently this week. The Rider and I have been holidaying in Malaysia after a hot busy fortnight in Hà Nội, Vietnam [long story featuring two weddings and many family visits – see my other blog].

Continue reading “Rediscovering Alice”

Special moments in history

Special moments in history

Readers of my travel blog ( will immediately appreciate the serendipity of the picture above. Tracy Chevalier, my hero and talented author of Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Last Runaway, and most recently The Edge of the Orchard, was a speaker at the Historical Novel Society’s 2016 conference in Oxford last weekend, which I attended. (Apologies for the poor quality of the image, taken on my phone from way back in the hall.) Her wit, modesty and plain good sense are like gold dust. Coming only a few days after seeing the Vermeer original of Girl in The Hague on the final day of our European travels, her keynote address just seemed to really bookend that wonderful trip. Continue reading “Special moments in history”

A Moment of Madness

A Moment of Madness

A few weeks ago, I went to my local library in Cheddar on an innocent mission of research. I emerged having foolishly promised an enthusiastic volunteer that I would get involved with the upcoming Cheddar Arts Fringe Festival (CHAFF), taking place 29 April to 2 May in my part of Somerset, UK. Continue reading “A Moment of Madness”

Changes of scene

site of Shapwick villa

Doesn’t look like much, does it? Just a muddy field in a farm on the edge of the northern Somerset Levels. You’d never guess that under these grassy clods lie the remains of a large second century Roman courtyard villa.

In 1998 metal detectorists found a hoard of over 9000 silver denarii in this field. That is a serious amount of money, folks, something like £250,000 in modern money. The coins had been buried in the corner of a small room inside the villa. No-one knows by whom, or why. (The hoard is now on show in the Museum of Somerset, in Taunton). At around the same time as the hoard was hidden, c. AD 225, the villa was totally demolished, possibly after a major fire. Continue reading “Changes of scene”

Beach Walks


So here we are … Christmas has been and gone, and we’re looking 2016 firmly in the eye.

How about you – any life-changing body-morphing liver-mending resolves made? Fortunately for my liver, my appreciation of alcohol is correlated to quality rather than quantity these days. The Chief Medical Officer and I are so in alignment, with no effort on my part. Must be getting old. Continue reading “Beach Walks”

Cheddar library and meeting Maria McCann

Our local library at Cheddar in Somerset, largely run by volunteers due to funding cuts, whistled up a wonderful surprise last week when the highly-regarded historical novelist Maria McCann came to talk to library-goers and fans. Maria’s novels have been picked by Richard and Judy, and short-listed for the Orange Prize.

Not only is Maria charming and candidly entertaining, she writes excellent polished and very well-researched novels. Continue reading “Cheddar library and meeting Maria McCann”

Roman Britain wasn’t built in a day…

imageI think you could say it’s all gone a bit pear-shaped over the past two weeks. Not wanting to make excuses, but … since my last blog I have written a miserly thousand or so words for my NaNoWriMo draft novel.

Now this is not entirely my fault. In fact, I’ve got a pretty cast-iron excuse. That rumble with my orthopaedic surgeon in late October?   Continue reading “Roman Britain wasn’t built in a day…”