Sunday, 2 August 2020

What I Did During Lockdown

If you've read the recent blog post I wrote for Juliet Greenwood you'll already know how I spent lockdown - and it didn't involve baking banana bread! Cooking, cleaning, and food shopping for a houseful of people (like every one else!) didn't leave much time for writing but I've finished the edits for my most recent book (a Christmas romcom) and I'm now a third of the way into a sequel to Trust Me I Lie. (You can read more about these books here).

One thing that helped keep me sane during lockdown was my evening walks with my family. We were lucky enough move to a village on the North Wales/Cheshire border two years ago but hadn't had the time to explore. Unable to go further than five miles from our home, we now had plenty of opportunity to explore!


We started by checking out the footpaths we knew about. They often led to the strangest places. Some we hadn't even known existed. I thought this path would take us to the local school, instead it was a back route into the churchyard, complete with fairy tale lychgate.


Although we knew the church was there, we hadn't appreciated how huge the graveyard was or how old some of the graves were.


We found the grave of a soldier who survived the Charge of the Light Brigade (living to be 88!), a row of war graves commemorating the pilots who died during training at the local airfield, and lots and lots of bluebells.


I got into the habit of taking my phone with me. I tried to take a photo each day and post it on Instagram. I went through a phase of taking moody shots of sunsets through trees


and found that by playing around with camera angles, I could make them look gothic.


We chose a different walk each evening and, as we became fitter, joined the walks together until we were doing a two-mile walk every evening. My favourite (obviously) was to the local castle.


Because there were hardly any people or traffic about, we saw a lot more of the local wildlife


and discovered a pond where we got to know all the geese (Canada and Greylag) and watched their offspring grow up. (This is why my Instagram feed was full of blurry photos of goslings.)


It turns out that our village is almost entirely surrounded by farmland and is one of the few places in this area that grows barley. (Yes, I did have to Google that. I'm such a city girl I had to Google that it was barley!)


As well as the goslings, we found lambs (who wouldn't stay still long enough for me to focus the camera) 


and curious cows who were happy to pose.


With the change in the weather, I'm still walking but taking less photos. There are only so many pictures of grey skies and blurry goslings that anyone wants to see! I've walked every footpath around my village (once accidentally ending up back at my house when I thought I was going somewhere else). I've learnt all the history and watched the goslings grow up - and fly away.


I've photographed the spring flowers in the hedgerows (and learnt their names!) and when I look back at my Instagram it's like flicking through a diary - with lots of good times to counteract the bad ones. So I'm going to keep walking, taking photos, and enjoying nature, and every day being thankful and very grateful for all that I have, and all that I was too busy to slow down and appreciate before.


Friday, 20 March 2020

How I Found the 'Write' Inspiration

Have you ever read a book that you loved so much, that as soon as you finished it you had to go right back to the start and read it all over again? Have you ever read a book so many times that it eventually fell to bits? And when you went to buy a replacement, although the book had been reprinted several times, you had to have the version with the exact same cover as the one that had disintegrated? Reading a book just like that led to me becoming a writer.

I was 13 years old and on a family holiday to the Isle of Wight. It was the height of summer, so it rained and it rained and it rained. While my brothers disappeared off to the amusement arcade, I found myself in a little café/bookshop on my own, sat next to a carousel stacked with books by an author I’d never heard of: Jilly Cooper.

I know what you’re thinking: Jilly Cooper writes huge, glitzy, blockbusting novels about horses. But before Riders and Rivals, Jilly wrote a series of romantic comedies with girl’s names as the titles: Emily, Bella, Harriet, Prudence, Octavia and Imogen.

I handed over my pocket money in exchange for Emily and was soon transported to Scotland along with the heroine, who finds herself married to a brooding artist, spends the night in a haunted castle and is caught stealing roses in a see-through nightdress. I quickly handed over the remainder of my pocket money for the other five books and my parents didn’t see me for the rest of the holiday.

I think the reason I loved Jilly’s books so much was that they were hugely funny and didn’t take themselves too seriously. The heroines made the same mistakes as the rest of us, but rather than whinge about it they just cracked a joke and moved on. My favourite (the one that fell to bits) was Imogen. The heroine falls in love with a bad boy tennis player and is whisked off on holiday to the French Riviera, which at the time seemed a very long way from a rain-lashed Isle of Wight.

Three years later, for my English Literature exam, I had to give a presentation on my favourite books. My friends (being complete suck-ups) picked authors like Dickens and Orwell. I chose Bella, Octavia and Imogen. Unfortunately, my passion and enthusiasm for all things Cooper failed to impress the examining board and I passed with only a B+.

I didn’t mind. If you’re the kind of person who loves reading, sooner or later you’ll want to create stories of your own.

And that is exactly what I did.


This post was previously published on the Chick Lit Club blog

Links:

If you'd like to find out more about Jilly Cooper, click here for her website.

Related Posts:

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Speke Hall, Liverpool


As some of you may already know, I moved house about three months ago, closer to the English border and the cities of Chester and Liverpool. This has opened up a whole new world of stately homes and castles that were always too far for me to visit before!

Speke Hall (front)

Top of my 'wish' list was Speke Hall, just outside Liverpool and run by the National Trust. I've wanted to visit this house for a long time because of the beautiful Tudor facade. Although, as it turns out, appearances can be deceptive!

Speke Hall (rear)

My favourite room was the Oak Drawing Room. The ornate plaster ceiling dates from the 17th century, and shows flowers and grapevines - and the occasional snake! The carved panelling above the fireplace dates from around 1560 and shows Sir William Norris surrounded by his two wives and nineteen children! But by the 18th century the house had fallen into disrepair, the floor had been used as firewood and ivy was coming in through the walls and windows.

The Oak Drawing Room

The Norris family owned a house on this site since the early 14th century but the building of Speke Hall began in around 1530 for Sir William Norris. The family survived persecution as Catholics, and were on the losing side during the Civil War,  but still managed to hold onto their estate until it was sold in 1795 to Richard Watt, who had made his money from sugar plantations in Jamaica.

The Great Hall

But the most fascinating character for me was the last person to own Speke Hall, Adelaide Watt, who inherited the estate at the age of eight, following the deaths of her parents. Brought up by her Great-Uncle in Scotland, he taught her all about estate management and when she came of age, she took over the estate and turned it into a profitable business. She sounds like an amazing lady! 

The Kitchen


Links:


Sources:

Speke Hall, A Souvenir Guide by Richard Dean

Photographs:

Copyright: Louise Marley 2018