A Psychological Thriller in #Sussex

With publication of LETHAL TIES less than a week away, I’ve been writing about my characters, the psychological issues that affect their lives, but this weeks post is about my book’s all important location: West Sussex.

Bognor Regis

I’ve lived here since 1996 and despite some of the adverse (and in my opinion), unfair publicity, Bognor in fact, boasts more hours of sunshine than anywhere in the UK, has a lovely stretch of beach and a unique coastal landscape to the west. The rocks lining the shore (Bognor Rocks) are haven to many fossils, a mysterious sight at low tide, even more so behind a sea mist or in the fading light of a sunset.

Bognor Beach

Woven into in the storyline, Sussex residents will recognise some familiar haunts: from meetings in the Waverley pub on the seafront, to a meal at Mamma Mia, and there is even a touch of romance when two character dine at Sen Tapas.

Bognor town centre features, as does the Job Centre and Marine Park Gardens. Maisie has a flat in Annadale Avenue (chosen for it’s proximity to the Station, a sneaky escape route through a garden) and Joe gets a job in Sainsbury’s as an online shopper, (a job I was hired for myself in 2016).

I have already mentioned the sea mists in Bognor Regis and in one scene, this creates an eerie atmosphere when characters find themselves at the centre of a police investigation.

sussex and the south downs

The story begins in Bognor. Maisie finds her old friend, Joe, sleeping rough in the beach hut opposite the Waverley and helps him to turn his life around.

That is, before Joe receives vile abuse on twitter. Clues in the tweets suggest they could be in danger but with a build up of suspense, one character is drawn further afield to other areas in West Sussex, fascinated by the countryside and various beauty spots.

Eartham

Nestling on the edge of the South Downs sits the village of Eartham, its idyllic pub, the George, and the Woods beyond. But when Maisie is invited on an impromptu day out, she has no idea what is in store for her.

The George at Eartham
The George is a pub where the characters enjoy Sunday Lunch
Eartham Woods
A lovely place for a walk… but for Maisie, forests cause panic.
Views from Goodwood Trundle
The view from Goodwood Trundle
The Pergola at West Dean Gardens
The Pergola at West Dean Gardens

The day takes many twists and turns. After nearly suffering a panic attack in Eartham Woods, (as a result of her phobia) she suggests heading over Goodwood way and a visit to West Dean Gardens, one of her favourite places. West Dean Gardens is an impressive estate which looks stunning in all seasons, notable for its pergola, mature trees and walled Victorian kitchen gardens.

“… as we strolled across the lawn, I could not wait to show him the pergola; a spectacular three-hundred-foot Edwardian walkway paved in flagstone. 
An air of mystery immersed us as we followed the path to the end; the climbing plants twisting around the pillars, a riot of wild roses fragrant against the feathery purple plumes of wisteria…”

East Lavant

The concluding part of the story takes place in East Lavant, a tiny village just outside Chichester. Maisie is lured to a mysterious but beautiful cottage nestling in the countryside beyond the village. Could this be the house of her dreams?

East Lavant, near Chichester

There is something about the remote woodland location that evokes suspicion in Joe. All he wants to do is protect Maisie yet fears she is becoming isolated. From the first trip to East Lavant however, the story gathers momentum, before the mystery that’s haunted them since childhood is revealed…

Pagham

The story ends in Pagham, with reference to the tranquil harbour, a nesting place for migrating birds and the tiny white herons known as egrets. Where do the characters go from here? You’ll just have to read the book to find out.

Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve, West Sussex

My debut Sussex based psychological thriller LETHAL TIES will be published this coming Sunday (April 18th 2021) and can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

It will soon be available in paperback too, and I am hoping to hold a Bognor book launch in the summer.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog in the run up to LETHAL TIES being published. For more information, stay in touch by networking with me on social media.

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Website: http://www.samefacedifferentplace.com/

The Finishing Touches

Bognor Beach

After two years writing my first psychological thriller I have finally reached the end, though looking back, it seems hard to believe it was in 2015 when the idea of this story first came to me. 

Inspiration

Walking the dog along the beach, reflecting on stuff in the news, I would occasionally stop to chat to a group of homeless men in one of the beach shelters – but somewhere in my sub-conscious mind, the threads of a new idea were beginning to unwind.

A professional career woman whose life appears balanced.
A homeless man who has lost his way in society.
Two characters poles apart, yet friends who share memories; a year they met in a children’s home, a sinister place where a third friend went missing.

This weekend, I will be sending the complete draft off to an editor. I won’t reveal who yet, but let’s say, I am both anxious and excited. 

So today I took another walk along the seafront and happy I chose my home town, Bognor, as the setting for this book. This blog is about some of the places I have featured but with many more to add as I go…

The Waverley Pub

The Waverley Pub. Bognor Seafront

The Waverley provides the local watering hole for main characters Maisie, her friend Jess, and later Joe. With outside seating it faces the sea. It was also at the Waverley I interviewed Graham (see previous post) so it has a special meaning now and a place I would most love to hold my launch.

Waverley Pub opposite the sea in Bognor

Mamma Mia Italian

This friendly Italian restaurant (which lies within walking distance from us) is a venue where two characters feel a first spark. It offers a nice selection of pizza and pasta dishes and just around the corner for a Waverley.

Mamma Mia Italian restaurant in Aldwick

Bognor Beach

Like Maisie I am always taking photos of the beach in different seasons which I like to post on Instagram. Her feed would be very much like mine, as mentioned during a conversation in Mamma Mia.

“Beach shots are my favourite. The way the light shines at different angles, it changes the colour of the sea…”
Scrolling through her photos, he understood her passion; the calmness of the sea at dawn so still it shone like glass – a stark contrast to the next image, a thunderous black sky folding shadows into the waves as they went galloping over the breakwaters.

My Instagram feed, showing beach shots

It is one of my favourite places for walking, where no two photos are the same depending on the time of day, the tide and weather.

Seaside Apartments

At least Jess doesn’t have to walk very far and with her own seaside apartment, she resides only a couple of blocks from the Waverley. The seafront is lined with flats, so it could be any one of these.

Bognor Promenade

The white posts at the bottom of the road led to the prom, the blueness of the sea dazzling. Gulls sat like sentinels upon a column of breakwaters and today it was high tide. Glancing out to sea, I heard an explosion of froth as the waves hit the shore, the rattle of pebbles that followed.

A bit like today then… a refreshing breeze perfect for blowing the cobwebs out and I always like to revisit the places I write about.

White posts at the bottom of Victoria Drive leading to Bognor Promenade

What will do with myself when this book goes off for a professional edit I do not know. Thinking about promotion, arranging blog tours for reviews, wondering whether to approach a few publishers or agents… we’ll see.

In the meantime I hope everyone gets to enjoy Christmas and let’s hope 2021 will be a better year.

Going #Green Gets Mean

Re-visiting Brighton in 2020 was something to look forward to, but for the unfamiliar motorist, it could be a trip laced with peril.

The weather was perfect; a crisp frost, an expanse of clear blue sky with not a cloud in it, plenty of sunshine. What better way to spend a Sunday than to find my way to Brighton, with the help of my trusty phone Sat Nav? Recalling last year’s highlights, (see Bright ‘n’ Breezy 2019) I was looking forward to exploring the North Lanes again, a feast of colourful shops, lively cafés, street art and plenty of places to grab a bite.

So here I was on the A23 descending a long hill towards the city centre. To the untrained eye this looked like a typical dual carriageway when I suddenly thought: ‘Holy Crap, I’m in a bus lane.’ A memory jolted me. Swiftly moving over to the right, I hope the realisation didn’t come too late. Like it or not, things have changed in the last year and I’m not having a go but if you dare enter the city by car, beware of the council’s new policies which could leave a rather large dent in your finances.

In 12 months more than 75,000 fines were issued for driving in bus lanes in Brighton & Hove. The fines totalling more than £4 million.

A report, issued by Brighton & Hove City Council, showed the number of bus lane penalty charge notices (PCN) issued between April 2018 and April 2019 had increased by almost eight times over the previous year. My husband was one of the unfortunates but where were the signs? No one drives into a bus lane on purpose. Peter had no clue and neither did I. So I’m bracing myself, waiting for a fine. Not a pleasant way to start 2020.

Stunning architecture near Brighton Pavilion
Stunning architecture near Brighton Pavilion, is this they lock up the naughty people don’t pay their fines?

Green Policies

A spokesman said: “Bus lanes in the city are there for a number of important reasons – to ensure public transport runs efficiently, to reduce the number of cars and lorries in the city, cut dangerous fuel emissions and improve air quality in the city centre and to make the city safer for pedestrians.”

I don’t have a problem with that. I would also say that on my journey I saw numerous ranks of ‘pay as you go’ bikes for hire, thinking ‘how cool’ and if I lived here, I would use one of those; enjoy cycling without the expense of owning a bike. We all need to do our bit protecting the environment. Of course we must cut down CO2 emissions, reduce plastic waste, recycle as much as we can and source cleaner fuels. I have every respect for the Green Party, but is lashing out at drivers and hitting them where it hurts the best way to press their policies? It seems a little Draconian to me.

Pretty Painted houses in Brighton North Lanes

“Western Road bus lanes are very clearly marked and there is plenty of obvious signage, so claims that driving in a bus lane is a ‘simple mistake’ or an ‘accident’ to ‘extract money from motorists’ is wholly incorrect.”

Reading various blogs and forums, it seems the signage is far from clear. I mean who the hell would deliberately enter a bus lane if they knew they’d cop a £60 fine? Reading on, their argument seems lame, a system fated to screw money out of motorists and if so, they do themselves no favours. What if it puts tourists right off visiting Brighton? How much longer do the Greens hope to cling to their power by penalising people?

Rant aside, I enjoyed wandering around the lanes. It’s a joy to see so many independent traders in today’s economic climate and I’m happy to support them above the multinational chains and online giants. But maybe next year I’ll get a train.

Brighton Sausage Deli an independent shop

Afterthought: Watching the news, specifically the World Economic Forum in Davos, I was stunned to see campaigner Greta Thunberg come under attack on the climate change movement by Donald Trump. While the US president blows his own trumpet about himself, that the US economy is burning bright right now, we have seen the gradual increase in extreme weather conditions including terrible fires that have ravaged Australia for months. How unbelievably short sighted.

Diplocks Yard junk shop
Second hand shop with some intriguing anti-capitalist posters

Escape to the French Riviera

View from GourdonImagine a retreat in the French Riviera, an area of such beauty and not just that; a place to unwind totally, learn meditation, yoga and discover a whole new lifestyle. With life on a downward spiral, since my husband’s mum ended up in hospital, we were lucky to get a chance to go back there…

So what drew us there in the first place?

In 2009 we met a lady named Penny Burns who needed help setting up a website. Penny is one of the most inspirational people I have met and not only teaches Meditation and Yoga in her gorgeous retreat in the mountains but has developed a holistic healing program to combat the stresses and strains of modern day living. Having beaten an aggressive form of skin cancer (in which she was told she had a 10% chance of survival), Penny is living proof that a change in lifestyle can work wonders for the mind, body and spirit.

You can read about Penny’s personal journey on her website: https://meditate4life.co.uk/introduction/

Penny’s villa is located at the top of a narrow and unbelievably steep road, which twists its way into the mountains, but has a view to die for. What a joy to begin each morning on the balcony, feasting on French bread, cheese, eggs, ham, gazing across a vista of wooded peaks, stretching all the way out to sea. If that wasn’t enough, the villa has a private pool and is beautifully furnished with colour and art all around.

Balcony at the villa

View from the villa

In the time we spent with Penny we enjoyed several dinners (I love cooking abroad) but in addition, she took us on a local walk. Drawn up shady, wooded paths, scattered with boulders, to reach the top of the mountain, we found the views up there even more stunning. Last but not least, we enjoyed a session of Amrit Yoga, which involved much stretching, followed by Nidra Yoga, where Penny guided through breathing and relaxation techniques, to enter a deeply relaxed state.

Furthermore, she offered us plenty of advice with regards the best local markets and places to visit, so here are our favourite beauty spots.

Highly Recommended

Tourettes-Sur-Loup: we visited for market day but explored the Medieval part of town with its winding labyrinths, lovely gift shops and flower-filled courtyards.

Tourette-sur-Loup

Stopping at the supermarket, we stocked up on fresh fish and shellfish to make our very own ‘Marmite de Poissons’ and garlic bread using a leftover baguette.

Marmite de Poissons

Gourdon: a winding ribbon of road draws you through outstandingly gorgeous scenery with stops to enjoy the views.

Gourdon mountain village

Gourdon itself is a pretty hilltop village with amazing views across the mountains and a great place to shop for for gifts.

Gourdon

Valbonne Market is huge! Being a wonderful place to browse, rich in sights and smells, it is impossible to resist such temptations as air-dried ham, honey, herbes de Provence, chimney cake and local wild mushrooms. I was in my element.

Mushrooms from Valbonne

We visited Grasse on the same day. You can visit the Fragonard Perfume Factory for free but we enjoyed exploring narrow alleyways, lined with tall houses in colours of pink, peach, cream and yellow, not to mention shops packed pottery and delicacies.

Grasse in the French Riviera

My favourite place was Paul-St-Vence, a haven for art lovers and stuffed with galleries. This little village winds its way up the mountain and with so many secret alleyways, luring you to hidden treasures.

Added to lovely views we discovered beauty in every corner. This a place I would be happy to revisit again and again and as far as places go, it ticked all the boxes.

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On the writing front, I found time to tinker with my new book and even started editing it. Stumbling through the first chapter, the sun rose at 7:00am and cast its fiery rays across the mountains, filling my environment with a warm orange and pink glow… and suddenly I was on fire, where I couldn’t hammer the keyboard fast enough, at the same time getting a complete re-write planned. It was a good feeling while it lasted but now we are home, the same pressures prevail. I am sure I will get back to it one day but for now it is nice to relive our memories of France, a most beautiful retreat, away from the trials and tribulations of normal every day life.

Eulogy to a Special Friend

In loving memory of Barney

Scotland with our beloved border collie, Barney

You were one of two brothers in need of a loving home. When we met you at the rescue Centre in Liss, the moment you trotted through the door, your chocolate brown eyes met mine and I felt an instant bond. What a wonderful day that was when they told us said we could adopt you.

Eleven years later, it feels hard to imagine where that time has gone but these are just a sample of the memories we hold in our hearts for you.

You loved your walks, especially on the beach. Winter took on a special meaning, the days getting shorter, as you bathed in the sunset.

Gorgeous winter sunsets on Bognor Beach.

Then came the snow, a thick white carpet in West Park where you played football with other dogs. I’ll never forget how much you loved that baggy old football!

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In the summer you became a big part of our holidays. Our first was in Dulverton with my family, days when you loved kids throwing stones in the river and we watched with pleasure as you dived in to retrieve them. I never met a dog who so much enjoyed swimming either, seeing your little head bobbing along in the river when we stayed at Sandy Balls in the New Forest.

Barney after his swim. We sourced a doggy bathrobe (though I was reminded of the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood dressed as Grandma.)

Our favourite holidays were in the UK as you were a very special part of them. Ever since you became a part of our life we explored new places; Scotland, Cumbria, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, the Cotswolds, Cornwall and Wales.

Barney got to ride on a steam train in Yorkshire.

Securely nestled in a holiday cottage.

In a dog friendly cafe in Hebdon Bridge.

Fun and games in Camarthen, Wales.

The best ideas for my novels arose when we were walking along the beach. I still write. Yet this morning I was aware the huge empty space on the floor where you should have been lying. I’ll forever cherish the companionship you gave me in the morning.

It seems strange not to hear your incessant barking when people knock on the door. You always yearned to protect us, a devotion that manifested itself in the way your eyes used to follow us.

The silence in our house feels very deep right now but your presence resonates in our thoughts.

We miss you dearly old friend. You gave us eleven wonderful years and we will treasure every single one of them.

Taking a well earned rest in Ferryside.

Bright ‘n’ Breezy 2019

How Traditional High Street Shopping can be a Feast for the Senses (re-blogged)

Brighton Pavilion

January is a pretty dismal month for all of us but if there is one highlight for us, it is the Bright ‘n’ Breezy 2019 backgammon tournament. My husband plays in the tournament. But for me it is a perfect excuse to enjoy a day’s shopping in Brighton. This weekend I mooched around the North Lanes near the Station and discovered sensory overload.

But as more and more people are seduced my online shopping, I cannot resist extolling the merits of supporting local shops.

Knitwear on showSo here are a few things I discovered that the internet simply cannot match:

  • You might like the look of an item of clothing but you cannot pick it up and hold it up against yourself.
  • You cannot feel the softness of the wool, the weight of the fabric nor appreciate the colours in a different light.
  • I would never have imagined how much the stones sparkled on a brooch I found in a Bric a Brac shop called Snooper’s paradise. I didn’t even know such shops existed any more.
  • Furthermore there were shops selling crafts, paintings, books and vinyl. How cool is that?
  • With lots of food shops and delicatessens to visit, there is an array of local and hand made goodies to sample. You would never be able to taste that cheese on a website.
  • Added to the flavours are a medley enticing smells be they garlic bread, mexican street food, home made cakes, perfume, patchouli oil and many more.
  • You cannot feel the breeze on your face or the warmth of the sun when it breaks out from behind a cloud.
  • Last of all, you cannot hear the buzz of conversation or see the smiles on people’s faces.

Online shopping has changed our lives but I hope we never lose the personal touch, that part of us that reminds us we are still human when we visit our high street.

A Short Break in #Wales

Funny how our travels often take us to the homes of famous writers.

In June 2014 we visited Grasmere in the Lake District, home to William Wordsworth (famous for his poetry, “I wandered lonely as a cloud.”) July 2016 is best remembered for our trip to Yorkshire where I had a spooky experience in the home of the Bronte sisters. I never forgot my pledge, where a brand new book of character stories is well underway.

This year, we enjoyed an unplanned diversion to Wales.

The beach in Ferryside

I haven’t actually travelled around Wales much, a delightful country with a wild coast and miles of unspoiled countryside. I have vague recollections of a geography field trip near Snowdonia but apart from a week in the Brecon Beacons with my family, that’s as far as my exploration goes.

My brother in law, Garry, is Welsh and loves the country with a passion. More recently however, two of our best friends embarked on a life-changing move.

Up until summer, Nicki lived in North London working for various ethical companies. I enjoyed staying in her flat on occasions, between yomping around the Capital, doing research for my books. Jason (who my husband has known since school days) is someone I’d describe as entrepreneurial and adventurous. More accustomed to a unconventional lifestyle that combines living in a narrowboat and working as a carer, he has a talent of crafting old bits of wood into beautiful pieces for the home and selling them at craft shows.

To cut a long story short, they have embarked on a move to South Wales, having invested funds in a fabulous house in Ferryside, (an idyllic coastal village in Camarthenshire.) The house is simply gorgeous with exposed brick in the dining area, terracotta tiled floors, a homely interior and plenty of space. With four bedrooms, the couple plan to start their own Air B&B next year, so both hubby and I had the pleasure of staying with them.

So what does any of this have to do with writers?

It was Garry who recommended a visit to Laugharne. He must have guessed we’d love it there, a pretty town with pastel coloured houses, enchanting tea houses and the rambling ruins of a castle.

Laugharne

Visiting the castle, we enjoyed the views over the richly wooded hills, marsh lands and long sandy beaches. There is a gazebo in the same grounds, where Dylan Thomas did much of his famous writing. Even the guidebook suggested I would find inspiration there, as a budding writer. (The photos below are in a slideshow format.)

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Seated by a very old typewriter with the sea shimmering through the glass, I scribbled out a few lines just for the fun of it. A glance out to sea drew my attention to a sunken puddle in the middle of the marsh, so I let my imagination run loose… but didn’t keep it.

Talacharn Town Trail sign

Moving on from the castle, you can take a circular walk which brings you along the coast to the boat house of Dylan Thomas and also his house. It’s a pretty route and you do eventually end up by the church where he is buried.

Sun dial near Laugharne Castle

Seaview Former home of the Poet Dylan Thomas

Laugharne Square

So it was nice to pay homage to another writer, but purely a co-incidence. For the rest of our visit, we enjoyed relaxing with our friends in their lovely new residence, savoured the views of the coast, enjoyed many a walk there and were rewarded with a tranquil sunset.

The whole area seems very peaceful, far removed from the overcrowded roads back in Sussex. We hope to return next year when Nicki and Jason’s Air B&B is more established and will recommend it to others.. I will finish this post by saying I wish them all the luck in the world for their new venture and cannot wait to return.

Now we are home, I have resumed the writing of a new work in progress, the Rosebrook Chronicles, and hope to deliver the stories soon.

Riches and Rags, a Day Trip to #Brighton

Brighton is a town of Colour

Today’s post is a recapture of a recent trip to Brighton. I’ve been visiting this town since my early teens, in fact it was 1980 when I was first captivated by the quirkiness of The Lanes.

The Heart of Brighton, leading to The Lanes

Nowadays, I treat myself to a mooch around this lovely seaside town at least once a year. With an ever growing array of amazing shops and restaurants, it never fails to amaze me. Brighton has it all. Added to the cornucopia of clothes shops, I spotted a shop selling traditional sweets, another selling vegan sweets, there were bespoke cakes and macaroons in every colour of the spectrum… It seems impossible to imagine so many temptations, which leaves me wondering if there is anything left to invent.

A traditional sweet shop

Julien Plumart, Brighton

As for the choice of food… cafés and booths sell just about everything from homemade cookies to noodle bowls. Mexican, Spanish, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, I could go on forever listing the choice of eateries but I eventually stumbled across a little French Bistro; a traditional 13th Century Fisherman’s cottage tucked away in the oldest part of The Lanes. It offers an array of fresh seafood and shellfish but all I cherished was a tureen of fish soup. Warming and delicious it was packed with succulent fish and shellfish and a portion of rustic french bread, perfect for a light lunch.

D’arcys Restaurant in the Lanes

But a town blighted by Poverty

As I explored the streets, enjoying the decadence, I could not ignore the number of homeless people scattered around the town. Sadly, rising homelessness is the one regrettable downside of this age and this government conveniently choose to ignore it. It’s all too easy for people to say “get a job, lazy scroungers,” but the truth is NO ONE will employ a homeless person. To qualify for any type of work, you need a fixed abode. But how can anyone at rock bottom climb their way out of this trap? Rents in the south have quadrupled in the last six years but wages have not.

The reason for their plight is often more complicated than people think. Many turn to drugs and alcohol but in some way, I can empathise… No one chooses this existence and will surely turn to anything to numb the harsh reality behind their broken lives.

Graffiti in Brighton
Graffiti in Brighton (interpret this as you will)

I don’t want to end on a depressing note but I will finish my saying that in my next novel (a work soon to be in progress), one of the main characters will start off as a homeless man before the suspense gets rolling… and that’s all I’m saying.

Reflections of Christmas 2017

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat,
please put a penny in the old man’s hat.

Winter Sunset taken outside our house

There is something a little extra poignant about that song, which I can’t define, Christmas being the one time of year that stirs mixed emotions.

On the one hand, it’s a wonderful time of year to catch up with friends and relatives, send each other cards, exchange gifts and enjoy a traditional celebratory end of the year feast. On the other, it strikes me as being very commercial, with retail giants rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of how they can maximise their profits.

I wrote this blog to ponder over a bit of both…

Seasonal Weather

The weather really leant itself to the season; crisp cold walks, a sparkle of frost on the ground and beautiful winter sunsets. We were lucky this year to have an skating rink in Bognor, an absolute treat for families where even the more senior folk took to the ice.

Ice skating rink in Bognor

December, I also found myself coming to the end of a long edit of second novel, Visions. Filled with reminiscences of the 80’s, such memories provided inspiration for a Christmas scene, in which younger character, Elijah, found a visit to London quite enthralling:

“They were mesmerised by the window displays in the West End, the streets hugged by tall Regency buildings, not to mention the pretty street lights.”

It got me thinking how nice it would be to go back, after a 30 year absence. So on December 16th, a week before Christmas, my husband and I took a train and enjoyed an entire day mooching around London with friends. Despite the crowds, we immersed ourselves in a spectacle of sights, sounds and smells from live acts in Covent Garden to hot chestnuts in Oxford Street, also famous for its magical Christmas Lights.

Our Itinerary: (for those thinking of a tour)

Google Map of central London showing the highlights of our walk.

1. Covent Garden: bursting with character, live entertainment, shops, markets and eateries, this is a great place to start, have a coffee and soak up the atmosphere.

Some of the best bits in Covent Garden, this Christmas

2. Trafalgar Square: street artists, living statues and buskers fill this iconic place, flanked by the National Galleries and dotted with an array of monuments.

Trafalgar Square, London Just around the corner from Trafalgar Square, walking up towards Soho

3. Moving on to Soho: before we got there, we discovered an amazing Danish bakery for lunch. Ole and Steen in Bedford Avenue offers a delicious choice of breads, cakes and pastries, including a mouth watering focaccia with gruyere.

Ole and Steen Bakery in Bedford Ave, London

From there, feast your eyes on the bright city lights of Soho and wander into Chinatown.

China Town, London

4. China Town filters its way gently into Leicester Square, filled with theatres and famous for its West End shows such as Les Miserables.

China town leading into Leicester Square

5. From Leicester Square wander into Piccadilly but are the streets lined with gold? Just past the theatres of the West End, the shops are expensive, possibly the most exclusive to be found, including the Ritz and Fortnum and Mason, finest of all food halls.

The food hall at Fortnum and Mason

Various shop window displays and Christmas decorations in London

6. and 7. Short cut through the back streets: we stumbled across a craft fair, a peaceful church and a park, not to mention beautifully decorated shop windows and Christmas trees; a welcome diversion from the crowds.

One of the many pretty restaurants in London's west end. One of the many pretty back streets in London's west end. London christmas trees

8. Oxford Street: starting from Marble arch and moving east, the lights got better and better; a kaleidoscope for the eyes, before the tube station at the junction of Regent Street marked the end of the day and the start of our homeward journey (9).

Selfridges in Oxford Street Stunning Christmas lights in London, Oxford Street Regents Street in London and the spectacular Christmas Lights

Treasure the High Street!

Thinking back to that day in London, I cannot emphasise how much I enjoyed the tradition of shopping in the High Street. The local towns of Bognor and Chichester too, provided endless inspiration for gifts and put some ‘people power’ back into Christmas. I blatantly boycotted Amazon this year. I’ve seen hundreds of traditional retailers sinking under the swelling mass of online giants and if we’re not careful, this quintessential ingredient of British culture could be lost forever.

Don’t let it happen! High Street shopping is a far more personal, interactive experience, it supports local businesses and keeps our town centres alive.

Gotta love shopping in the High Street!

A Final Word

Before I round off my post, I’ll finish by saying this was a very special Christmas for me, but at the same time I want to spare a thought for those less fortunate. On Christmas Day, I read a most heart-warming story in which 200 homeless people in London tucked into a free Christmas dinner served by volunteers: (source: i newspaper 25.12.17). The article describes how “Euston Station opened its doors for the festive treat, thanks to a partnership between charities and Network Rail.”

My message for 2018 is, the world can be a better place if we all do our bit. Enjoy yourselves and have a happy new year; be thankful for everything you’ve got but most important of all, be kind to others.

The 1990’s, Princess Di, MC Hammer (not to forget the recession)

Well – I am over half way through the final edit of Retribution (Phase 1), Book 4 in my crime noir thriller series, based across the decades of Britain… 23 chapters have undergone a complete editting process with only 11 more to go, to deliver a total of 35.

Having gone through the story again, piece by piece, I have to warn readers, this story is a lot darker than the previous books!

Running from the year 1992, (where the last book, ‘Pleasures’ ended), we follow the characters through the next three years . But throughout the coming chapters, I have addressed some of the worse depravities human beings are capable of; from the abuse of children in the Catholic care system, to the sadistic cravings of those labelled in our society as ‘sociopaths.’ As I continue with the edit, I have already started thinking about the next Pinterest board for the 4th book in the series.

So here is a sample of the fashion, music, TV and current affairs that stirred our lives in the early 90s…

CURRENT AFFAIRS

THE CATHOLIC CHILD ABUSE SCANDAL

St. Vincent de Paul Orphanage

St. Benedict Orphanage – fictitious example of an orphanage where a character was abused by a Catholic priest. It is not a real location, but based on this sketch of St. Vincent de Paul Orphanage, Glasnevin, Dublin. Note the imposing chapel which dominates the design.

THE WAR IN BOSNIA

UN Peackeepers including British Troops

The war across Yugoslavia is an ongoing concern for army officer, William as depicted in one of my earlier posts (click to view the post.)

John Major

PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN JOHN MAJOR

(Source Wikipedia) Throughout his reign, John struggled with the early 1990s recession, the Gulf War, the Downing Street mortar attack 1991, ratification of the Maastricht Treaty and the Maastricht Rebels, Privatisation of British Rail, The National Lottery, “Back to Basics” campaign and the Dangerous Dogs Act to name but a few…

TV AND FILM

Robin Hood and the Prince of Thieves with Kevin Costner was a big blockbuster in 1991, never to forget the soundtrack by Bryan Adams which stuck at the number 1 spot in the UK music charts for 11 weeks. In 1992, the big movie was the Bodyguard along with its timeless track by Whitney Houston.

TV shows mentioned in ‘Retribution’ include the Australian soap opera Neighbours which is still going and the early series of Men Behaving Badly with Harry Enfield.

MUSIC AND FASHION

Princess Diana was an icon of fashion in the 90s. I can relate to owning a pretty, pastel suit very similar to this. Throughout the decade there were extremes in fashion, from the ultra chic, to the utterly outrageous, including Grunge fashion.

Princess Diana - Source Mirrorpix

In many ways, the 90s was a decade of huge diversity – something that is slightly lacking nowadays. It was the same with music; added to the echoes of early 90s rave, the hit parade was dominated by a mishmash of styles from the energetic beat of MC Hammer to the subdued melodies of Simply Red. But if there is one song that features prominently in this book, it is ‘Fairytale of New York’ by the Pogues, featuring Kirsty Maccoll.

You’re handsome – you’re pretty – queen of New York City…’ It delights me to hear that this is still a very popular Christmas hit and there was even a petition to get it to no. 1 for Christmas, this year (2016.)

SO THAT’S MY RESUME.
SAME FACE DIFFERENT PLACE ‘RETRIBUTION – Phase 1’ is due out this year, possibly in April but definitely before the end of Spring 2017.