Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Gap of Dunloe

My daughters might never speak to me again for writing this. For the first time I crossed the Gap of  Dunloe we did it together, and the day was so wonderful it has become part of the family story, a 'do you remember when' that still makes us smile.

I simply couldn't resist doing it again, and it was different - my excuse for writing about it now.

For a start, we went the 'wrong way round', beginning with a boat trip across the Killarney Lakes. I had forgotten how long that takes, chugging across the water, the mountains benign in the sunshine. Holly trees clung to the waterwide. Reeds swayed in the breeze. From time to time the boatman told us Interesting Things, but I forget all of them. I was more intent on just being in the boat, bobbling along on the water and looking up at the mountains.

After several days with no rain, the water levels were very low - so low that at one stage we had to get out and walk along the bank or risk grounding. And when we arrived at Lord Brandon's Cottage the quayside was about a metre higher than the water, involving some inelegant scrambling to get out of the boat (and complaints from a heavy tourist who seemed to think everything should be organised just for him. There's always one.).

A quick sandwich (note for daughters - the little cafe is much improved, so no cotton-wool bread wrapped in cling film) and it was time to find a pony to take me over the Gap itself. And this is where things unravelled a bit. There was only one pony, defended by a determined Irishwoman intent on taking me in her pony and trap. Should I stick to my guns, ride alone across the mountain, or accept her offer (even though I knew she was probably taking a backhander for it)?

I took the pony and trap - and can tell you that it is as uncomfortable as riding but at least you can't fall off.

The main difference fom years ago - there is now a tarnacked road the whole way. Where there was once a stony track, now there is a proper road and even the occasional car. Which makes the whole thing more hazardous than it was, with pony carts, cyclists, walkers and cars all sharing a narrow road.

However, it is still astonishingly beautiful. The road winds along a valley before zig-zagging up the mountainside. Sheep nibble at the short grass; birds fly high above the mountainside. The ponies haul the traps up to the saddle and then the view stretches out below. The river burbles, lingers in small lakes, and the tumbles on down towards the sea. And the mountains, blue and mysterious, loom over everything. Trees dominate the lower slopes; the higher slopes are vast and craggy and wonderful.

So it wasn't the day I expected it to be. There are some magical days that should never be repeated. But would I go back to the Gap of Dunloe again and again - oh yes. And there are pictures, but they are still on my camera, so that will have to sit till I get home.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Off to Ireland

You're not off again ...?

Yes, this afternoon I'm heading for the airport, and flying out to Ireland tomorrow.

Why Ireland? I visited for the first time when I was 19, and have been back from time to time every since. And when I had to get my head round the fact I couldn't spend this September in Madagascar (I blogged about that decision here), the most obvious place to go to lick my disappointed wounds was Ireland. Now that I'm so close to leaving, I can't think of anywhere I'd rather go. For the music. For the Guinness. For the gentle people and glorious scenery.

So today I have a dilemma: I want summer to go on forever. Which means I want to pack summer skirts and floaty tops and maybe little light cardi in case it's chilly in the evening.

And then there's reality. I'm going to Ireland and it's September. Common sense says I should pack vests and waterproofs. Sturdy shoes and woollies.

I travel light - I learned, on the long trip, just how little I need. Filling a suitcase for all weathers doesn't sit easily. So much to squash in. So much to lug about. So little room for books!! (I've got my kindle, of course, and a couple of print books because I love them.)

Will I blog while I'm away?

We'll see - it depends on the weather. If the sun shines on me I'll be outside, in my skirts and floaty tops, enjoying the last rays of summer. If it rains, I shall read and maybe visit the blog.

But now for the packing. What would you take? Optimistic summer stuff? Or vests and waterproofs and good strong shoes?

Wednesday, 3 September 2014


Two winners, as promised, in my little competition:

Jacqueline Pye - who got it absolutely right, when she said Hove and Brighton (I was actually in Hove, and looking towards Brighton).

And Terry Tyler, who came out of the hat first of those who just said Brighton.

I'll be in touch with both of you - and this is what you will win:

Another book?

Yes, another book - a real book in response to all those who have asked me to put my Over the Hill ebooks into print. So here you will find my adventures in the Himalayas, including a rather alarming encounter with a tiger, how I shared a room with a rat in Laos, and finally my salsa through Cuba.

But, some will say, these are all available as ebooks - and you are right. They are. But many people have asked for print copies, to put on their shelves, to share with friends, and so I've put these three journeys together.

So, you might be asking, if I've read the ebooks do I find anything new in From the Inside Looking Out. No - only a brief introduction. If ebook are your thing, then there's no point in buying this purely for decoration. (Aren't I shooting myself in the foot - suggesting people don't buy it if they've read the ebooks? Maybe, but I'd rather be honest with a shot foot than have you accuse me of implying that I've deceived you)

I've got the proofs, and it's at the final tinkering stage - so my winners will have to wait a week or two. But I'll get in contact both of you to get your addresses and send it off to you as soon as the final copies arrive.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been? I've been ...

I've been here, there and everywhere. And what a wonderful time I've had. (And it's not over yet - I'm off to Ireland soon).

But here is a little competition to mark my return to blogland:

Where have I been:

Looking East from there - this is what I could see:

There will even be a prize!!

I have, at last, gathered my three Over The Hill ebooks into a print book. I've seen the proofs (and it is rather wonderful), and so - to celebrate it's arrival, I shall award two prizes of that book (picked at random) from those who get this right.

If no one does, then I'll begin to give clues. But for now - happy guessing!!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Today it is raining.

For months, years even, I have tried to be organised about blogging. Mondays and Thursdays, with an explanation for absences.

But it's August. There are gardens to sit in, books to read, grandchildren to be played with. And so, for a week or several, I shall be a bit more haphazard about the whole blogging thing.

I know - the received wisdom tells us that readers need us to be predictable. I will lose followers if I don't stick to a pattern. But, my loyal readers (you must be loyal if you are still connecting in August, when there are gardens to sit in, etc), let me ask you a question or two. Illustrate my choices.

When the sun is shining, and the bees busy on the lavender, would you rather be outside with a book or inside with a computer?

When children come to visit, on precious escape-days from school, would you rather paddle in the river and look for tiddlers, or be inside with a computer?

When you are offered picnics, or days by the sea, or a wander along the Ridgeway to look for butterflies ... would you choose to be inside with a computer?

I am sure there are those, diligent as ever, who will choose the computer option. I salute you, and your dedication to your writing (and your marketing). Me - I'm letting the side down. Maybe I'm a hedonist. Maybe, right now, reading is more nourishing than writing. Maybe ...

It's August. There are gardens to sit in, books to read, grandchildren to be played with. I'm not disappearing. I'll drop by to write when it's raining. I'll read blogs and comment and all the social media stuff - when the clouds gather. The rest of the time, I'm outside, in the sunshine.

Happy holidays!!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Where are you now?

Today, I'm over on Authors Electric, waxing seriously about why writing matters. (Check it out here, if you're having a serious day.)

But, you say, I could have wittered frivolously on this blog, just to entertain you. Why not? Because the sun is shining. I'd rather be outside than hunched over my computer. And I'm not even going to apologise!!

And next week ... I'll be playing with children. Which is even more important than sunshine and serious writing and reading and talking about the weather or what I'm having for tea or even books. I'll be paddling and pushing swings and being a gaolie. I shall crawl around the floor and make towers and read stories.

I'll be back here, when I've recovered!!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

A Day Out.

The sun is shining, the bees are buzzing, it all feels very summery and wonderful (I'm writing this with a storm brewing, so you'll just have to use your imagination).

It is the season for days out. 

Just suppose you could choose anywhere, reachable for just one day, where would you go? What would you do?

Of course, my little blog cannot claim to be representative. But I'm rather hoping for as many different ideas as I have visitors. Maybe you want to trek up a mountain, or soak yourself under a waterfall? Or you plan a trip to a stately home, where you can marvel on how the rich and powerful spend their money. Or you'd rather visit a small town, potter among the shops, pick up a trinket or two. Or you want to go to Open Golf at Wentworth, or the racing, or to play a game of tennis. You might sit in a cafe, eat cake and watch the world go by.

Days out are rejuvenating and wonderful. Preparatory days are full of organising: tickets, picnics, anxiously watching the weather. Should you take the dog? Will the traffic be kind? How early should you leave to give yourselves plenty of time? Check those opening times one more time.

Me - this is where I went:

Are there people who go to Ascot who are more interested in the hats than the racing? Or get tickets for Wimbledon and dream of strawberries? 

There is no point in going to Lords unless you are interesting in cricket. I know, if I begin to wax lyrical about the delights of cricket that most of you will move on. It's not your thing and there's nothing I could say to tempt you. That's fine - as long as you have something else that is equally special in your life.

And so I will only tell you that I had the most wonderful day. The sort of day all of us need from time to time. So - where are you off to?