Sailing Among Rocky Shores

It must be in the genes, or at least that is my excuse! For appointments, I will arrive early and not just by a few minutes. Twenty minutes ahead of time is standard for me, leaving me kicking my heels, scanning signposts, flicking through tattered waiting room magazines. It’s a trait that frustrates my son, yet one that I’ve instilled in him with perfection! When my mother is with us, the early arrival time exponentially increases! This was just the case one summer morning when we turned up nearly an hour before the trip departure.

This time the waiting was heavenly; standing on the quay, watching the fishing boats return with their catch, the sun wrapping its warmth gently around us, heralding another blistering day ahead! An idyllic morning in Grebbestad on the West Coast of Sweden.

Our ride for the day was already in, its wooden deck beckoning us aboard. M/S Donalda was a large fishing boat from 1926 and later converted to a charter boat traversing the beautiful archipelago. We scanned the seats of the boat, wondering which was the most comfortable, which would give us the best view. We need not have worried!

Our ride for the day – M/S Donalda

The sights were pure magic as we slowly eased out of the harbour and along the coastline. Early bathers were on the rocks, a few sleepy strollers ambled on the walkways. The sea was a milk pond of glittering crystals; painful to stare at yet my eyes were drawn to the sparkles of life.

One of the many sailing boats along the coastline

Our destination was Väderöarna – the Weather Islands! These consist of a few hundred islands and rocky islets in the Skagerrak and are located less than an hours sailing from the mainland. Interestingly it has one of the warmest and windiest climates in Sweden and was inhabited from 1700 until the 1960s by coast pilots and their families.

My eyes continuously studied the sea and islands. Camouflaged on the grey/pink rocks we spotted seals languidly sunbathing, at one with the solid foundation beneath them. A gentle joyful ‘aww’ rippled along the boat.

View from the Weather Islands – Väderöarna

Next to me, a couple seemed more equipped for a spy operation than a summer outing, wrestling with ease their giant binoculars and camera. My initial scepticism of their kit turned to slight envy as they viewed the birdlife flittering around us. Seagulls of course, yet so much more. Terns graced us with their presence and we watched in awe.

Looking out to sea from the Weather Islands – Väderöarna

I drifted in and out of the informative commentary; at one with my thoughts as the past merged with the present to a new harmony within me. The sense of freedom was indescribable.

The journey continued with just the odd swell. I was thankful not to experience the terrifying winter storms that face the fishermen when waves can reach heights over ten metres. On stormy nights, I often think of my family members who are out at sea.

Danholmen – Ingrid Bergman’s summer retreat

Yet, at the name, Ingrid Bergman, I tuned in once more. Famous years before my birth, her films featured regularly at home and I grew to appreciate her warmth, flair and skill. Yet far from the world of fiction she sought sanctuary on a deserted island called Danholmen. Incredible to believe that this Hollywood star’s summer retreat was visible from the boat. It was easy to see the attraction of what she described as: “So lonely. Huge skies, immense seas. An island full of enormous rounded boulders and little coves – the sea everywhere. In the summer, everything so bright and shining – sea and rocks and sky. And such a feeling of isolation.”

The habour of the main island of the Weather Islands and its restaurant/hotel

The Weather Islands greeted us with peaceful ambience, its stillness contagious. We all disembarked with quiet reverence on the main island of Storö (Big Island). A day of exploration awaited us but first refreshments beckoned at the one and only restaurant/hotel.

View of the harbour of Storö – the main island of The Weather Islands

Hours later my soul was satiated with the beauty of these wonderful islands; my eyes were like windmills, moving back and forth to absorb the breathtaking views around me, promising to never forget, to let the profound tranquillity remain within me. I will return!

Cairn marker – these are found all over Sweden

A PURPLE PASSION

Revered for thousands of years, Lavender still holds us enthralled. The fragrant plants are a delight themselves whilst its distilled essential oils have been used for millenniums for aromatherapy, perfume, herbal medicines, culinary herbs.

It was with excitement and joy I found myself at Jersey Lavender within a couple of hours of landing on this jewel of an island of Jersey. Established in 1983, the lavender farm boosts 9 acres with 55,000 lavender plants of six varieties.

As if in a trance I wandered amongst this haven, my palms gently sweeping across the flowers, inhaling the heavenly scent. I found myself closing my eyes … my emotions filled, a dream realised on this first day of my anniversary break.

Luscious lavender

Its fervent purple promise

With forced steam distilled

The golden essence freed.

©Annika Perry, July 2019

THE STRENGTH WITHIN

Anna hadn’t noticed the time slipping away as she worked in the library. Engrossed in her study of anatomy, books covered every surface of the desk, some lying on top of each other at an angle, others closed with scraps of paper marking various sections.

Suddenly the alarm rang, and a flurry of activity stirred Anna from her studies.

‘Ten minutes until closing everyone. Ten minutes. Please bring any books to the desk if you need to check them out.’ The librarian headed to another room repeating her message.

Where had the three hours gone? Quickly Anna slammed the books shut and dashed around the library returning a couple to the shelves. The remaining three she lifted into the crook of her arm and after putting her papers and ink pen into her satchel she headed for the desk.

‘There you are, dear. Better fasten up your coat, it’s a blustery night out there,’ said the librarian, recognising the diligent student from the past few weeks. ‘You’ll take the tram back, won’t you? Don’t get caught out in the rain.’

Anna nodded briefly, whispered a quiet ‘thank you’ before grabbing her books. She found it hard to talk to strangers and the warmth and kindness of the librarian only made her miss home more. There she never had a moment to herself apart from her brief solitary outings on the rocks, here loneliness engulfed her.

‘Goodbye. Have a good weekend,’ called the librarian.

‘You too,’ replied Anna with clarity and determination. ‘I wish you a lovely weekend too.’ There, she could do it. Everything would be fine.

The librarian had not been exaggerating about the weather as outside the wind whipped around Anna, sweeping her coat around her legs and rain spiked at her face. Undecided she stopped at the corner. To the left was the tram stop but she barely had any money and perhaps the girls might invite her out to a cafe with them tomorrow afternoon. She didn’t want to back out through lack of funds. To her right lay the shortcut to the school; only a kilometre, all along the streets. With a determined spin Anna turned and marched off down the road.

The lights were further apart than she recalled and as the temperature dropped mist formed on the ground and drifted around her ankles as she walked. Her feet scuffed the pavement and with a stumble she corrected herself, the books precariously balanced in her arms.

‘Not long now,’ Anna said to herself as she started to hum one of her mother’s lullabies. The fog became denser, the lights from the lamps dissipating until only distant balls of yellow hung ominously in the air. Where was everyone? Shouldn’t they all be going out to the cafes and bars? Of course, she realised, that was the opposite direction. Here there were only a few houses in the distance and to the left a park; she’d forgotten about that. She tried to peer through the murk into the park, to the lake she knew lay in the middle but saw nothing. Just blackness.

Anna walked faster, her shoes trilling along on the pavement, her breathing faster. Behind her she heard some steps. Loud and heavy. No, this was silly, she was imagining it. The steps sounded closer now and with a shock she started to run, the books flying in her wake, her satchel dropped to the ground.

Suddenly an arm violently grabbed her around the waist and started to pull her towards the park. Anna screamed and instinctively reached out to the black iron wrought railings at the park entrance. She must never let go.

The man had both arms around her waist, tugging, squeezing hard as he tried to drag her from the railings. Anna screamed and screamed. She couldn’t stop. Her shrieks pierced the air. His hands were over one of hers, trying to prise her fingers from their grip. She held on – just. All the time screeching for help. A feral animalistic wordless cry of sheer terror.

His fingers clawed at her fingertips and with another scream she finally let go. Her other hand remained clutched to the railing. The man released his hold for a fraction, Anna hoped for a second, he would leave her. In vain as she saw his arm rise and he threw a sharp punch in her stomach. Silence collapsed around them. Anna fell forward, her head slumping onto her knees, the man’s arms quickly around her and lifting her up. Like a rag doll she hung for a moment in his grasp. Limp. Lost.

‘What’s going on here? Let her go!’ The voice came from across the street and more shouts joined this first one. Footsteps echoed in the silence of the fog. ‘Let her go! Let her GO!’ On their command Anna was dropped to the ground like discarded rubbish and with a thud she hit the ground, landing on her side and rolling into a ball.

‘Are you alright?’ Tightly curled up, she lay unmoving.

‘Is she hurt?’

‘Where did he go?’

‘I’ll go and call the police, you stay with her.’

The disembodied voices hung around her. Anna felt a lady sit on the ground next to her, talking, saying something; the words remote and distant. Indecipherable. A jacket was bunched as a pillow beneath her head.         

‘Mamma, Mamma,’ moaned Anna inaudibly.

’She’s trying to speak. I can’t make it out. Can anyone give me their coats? Any blankets, anything. She’s shaking terribly. God, look, this is bad, I can’t stop her shaking.’

‘I’ve found her bag. And some books were scattered just a bit away from here.’

‘What’s your name? Where do you live? Listen, we need to call someone.’

The voice was becoming more emphatic, increasingly desperate.

‘I recognise the uniform. It’s Hellsson School – I’ll give them a call. I’ll be back in a moment.’

Hellsson School? Why did that sound familiar, wondered Anna. She was sure she’d heard of it before. Who were all these strangers and why wasn’t she lying in bed? With that thought she closed her eyes and found welcome oblivion.

©Annika Perry, July 2019

The above piece is a short snippet from my draft novel Island Girl. I know, it’s a long time coming and I wanted to share a little of it with you.

The weeks are flying past and owing to various commitments I am not able to be present on WP as much as I would like but this will change soon. Whenever possible I look forward to checking in with you all.

A WORLD OF ROSES

A proliferation of roses greets me every morning in the garden. Each one a blessing after the rather dismal and grey winter and spring here in the UK, and perhaps the damp weather aided the spectacular display. More than ever the rose bushes are in a glorious and abundant show of flowers with endless buds biding their time for their turn to bloom.

‘Queen of Sweden’ rose

As I view the flowers with awe, inspecting the new arrivals, snipping away those that have withered, I started to ponder about roses. How I’ve always taken them for granted yet know so little about them.

To accompany just some of my photos, particularly of my pink David Austin ‘Queen of Sweden’ which at one stage had over seventy buds, I’m also sharing some fun facts about roses which I encountered on my research.

  • There are over 100 different species of roses, and over a staggering 13,000 identifiable varieties!
  • Their cultivation began around 5000 years ago in Asia although the oldest fossil of roses dates back 35 millions years.
Hildesheim Cathedral Rosebush
  • The oldest surviving rose is over 1,000 years old and grows against the wall of the Hildesheim Cathedral in Germany. The roots of the rose bush survived when the cathedral was destroyed during bombings in World War II.
  • There are no black roses, although those referred to as such are in fact a dark red-crimson colour.
  • The buds of the tiniest rose is only the size of a grain of rice, whilst the largest rose, bred by a rose specialist in California, measures approximately 83 cm / 33 inches in diameter.
  • The leading exporter of roses is the Netherlands with 19,768 acres of land growing roses. Meanwhile, Bulgaria is famous for its Rose Valley which has for centuries produced up to 85% of the world’s rose oil.
Roses in Bulgaria
  • The world’s most expensive rose variety cost over £3 million / $5 million to cultivate during 15 years of work by the famous rose breeder David Austin. The ‘Juliet’ rose, with its neatly-arranged petals nestling folds within the heart of the bloom, is especially popular for weddings.
Bouquet of David Austin’s ‘Juliet’ roses
  • The ‘Shady Lady’, as it is unofficially known, or ‘Lady Banksia’, its official name, in Arizona is the world’s largest rose bush with a circumference of around 3.6 m / 12 feet. The seedling, brought over by a young bride from her native Scotland 134 years ago, has a canopy today that stretches over 800 square metres / 9,000 square feet and a forest of roses appear in Spring.
  • There are over 4,000 songs dedicated to roses and one that I’m most familiar is the moving ‘La Vie en Rose’. This has been covered by many artists and recently became known to a younger audience through its feature on the TV show “How I Met Your Mother”. I discovered this wonderful version by the fabulously talented Louis Armstrong and it’s a delight to share here.

Finally, in case you want to see some more roses, here is a video of my ‘Queen of Sweden’ rose bush. Enjoy and listen out for the ice-cream van tune … one that often has me dashing inside for money and then eagerly queuing for a ’99-Flake’ (which alas costs more than 99 pence these days!)

Note: Some of you might have noticed that I have been less busy than usual with blogging, All is well, however as so often happens life has been extremely hectic in recent weeks. With time I will be visiting as before, but ask for you understanding if I am less active for a while.

PARALLEL LIVES

The first time I met myself was a few years ago. Once again this Easter, after a  day of travelling, I arrived at last at the houses in the midst of the forest. And there I was! As if I’d never been away! A disconcerting sensation, a time-shifting eclipse. As if my conscious self in the UK had been switched off, just as the awareness of my Swedish self powered on.

It was as if I’d walked this gravel road every day, not just for the two weeks over Easter. One spectacular afternoon I witnessed the sun searing through the trees.

The forest itself proved startlingly alive, alluring; the air brimming with oxygen, the colours clear and vibrant. Certain events, unknown to my Swedish self, reminded me that I had not been there after all. When did the big fir tree topple down? Or rather break away as a neighbour later pointed out, the top half cracking away from the main trunk, to land neatly in the birch copse. 

By the coast the combination of sea, sky and rocks struck me anew, the views intoxicating, like a punch of joy to my heart. My other self had let me down, let me forget this body blow of beauty.

The blues all around were broken up by the array of colours of the rocks, the stark trees, the dainty flowers growing in the granite cracks.

Here and there people had contributed to the enjoyment with a sense of fun creating a child’s seat set amongst the rocks.

The two weeks were filled with overwhelming joy, laughter, conversation. Where walks transformed into meditations, where books became all-consuming, where thoughts sought and found clarity in the vastness of nature.

How could life be anything but this?

Yet I return home … my other home, to my other self. Yet the one in Sweden clings on to my spirit, not quite ready to release me from its hold, my soul swooping amongst the trees, across the waters.

I am here, yet there. I’ll never forget standing on the deck on Good Friday, gazing at the full moon in all-consuming awe of epiphany. The pink aura transported across space to minuscule us! The magic of the cosmos captured in a finite second. There am I, part of the wilderness, here am I, longing to return.

“We carry our homes within us, which enables us to fly.” John Cage

BOOKS AHOY!

I never imagined the evening would end up with me making a paper boat. 

‘It’s quite easy,’ one of the organisers reassured, ‘just fold like this.’ 

With intense concentration I looked on, thinking the little boat was the perfect symbol for this year’s Essex Book Festival. The theme was ‘Uncharted Waters’, inspired in part by the 80th anniversary of Arthur Ransome’s ‘Secret Water’. 

Wow! How far I’ve travelled this March —to India and back as well as to the 19th Century! All whilst remaining firmly seated, listening eagerly to authors!

A L Kennedy (left) with Festival Director, Ros Green

In January I was lucky enough to be invited by my friend & children’s author Josie Dom to the media launch of the festival. I was thoroughly inspired by the event and speakers including the renowned patron of the festival A. L. Kennedy. A winner of many awards including the Costa Book, A. L. Kennedy had me spellbound with her talk. Afterwards I found myself standing next to her but was overcome with shyness and utterly speechless!

The figures for the book festival are staggering. In this, its 20th years of existence, it is the biggest in the country, with over 130 events at 45 venues. The variety of events is amazing with such innovative interactive experiences as The Human Library, numerous writing workshops for all ages, storytelling, poetry jukebox as well as a host of author talks/interviews.

I went to a number of author talks and will feature two of these here. Each one was unique, exhilarating and thoroughly enjoyable! My first impression was how well-attended these all were; filled to capacity with lots of engagement with questions and discussion. In a world where we worry the population is reading less and less, I found the active and informed participation by the audience a postive sign that the love of books is well and truly alive!

The first talk I attended was by Vaseem Khan and I was intrigued how an elephant fits into a crime story. The author of ‘Baby Ganesh Detective Agency’ books, Vaseem spoke eloquently and passionately about his own route to writing. Born near London and an avid cricketer, his work took him to India twenty years ago and it is here he started to write. 

It was with the creation of Inspector Copra that he found an agent and quickly a publisher. He weaves the wealth and poverty of modern India brilliantly into his novels, and in this knowledgeable talk I learnt a lot about the country from 3000 years ago to the 21st century. Vaseem was inspired by his father (who sadly had passed away just ten days earlier), who, when faced with difficult situations, said: ‘To change the narrative.’ Vaseem has done exactly that with this unusual series of books set in India, refusing to depict the Bollywood image nor the stereotype ‘happy slum dwellers’. It is hard to believe that these books are written early in the mornings before Vaseem starts his full-time job as a management consultant. A meticulous planner, Vaseem Khan sets aside three months for planning each novel before spending another four months to write it.

I was smitten by the talk and the books and although I didn’t have time to buy a book on the day I did download the first in the series entitled ‘The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra’. I’ve just finished reading this. It’s thoroughly immersive and captivating (and my heart was definitely with the elephant!). This book definitely deserves the accolade of being in the vein of the hugely successful (and loved by me) Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ series.

Below is the blurb for ‘The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra’.

‘On the day he retires, Inspector Ashwin Chopra discovers that he has inherited an elephant: an unlikely gift that could not be more inconvenient. For Chopra has one last case to solve…

But as his murder investigation leads him across Mumbai – from its richest mansions to its murky underworld – he quickly discovers that a baby elephant may be exactly what an honest man needs. 

So begins the start of a quite unexpected partnership, and an utterly delightful new series.’

The next talk featured Bridget Collins, a full-time author who has already published seven YA fiction books. However, she decided to venture into unknown territory with her book ‘The Binding’ which quickly became a Sunday Times bestseller. At the time of writing, Bridget was unsure which market the book would suit; on completion her agent liked the book and advised her to rewrite it for the adult fiction market. The book winds the author’s interest in bookbinding with that of her work in the Samaritans and at its core is its exploration of memory. It sounds spellbinding and mesmerising!

Having trained as an actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Bridget Collins has a freerer approach to her books – with the main concept and theme in place she is amenable to being led by the characters or situations in her books.

The presentation of the book is stunning with its sumptuous paper cover, ex libris page, gold foil on the spine and hardback. This is a book that looks almost too beautiful to read. My signed copy has pride of place on my bookshelf and I can’t wait to read it.

Here is the blurb:

“Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a letter arrives summoning him to begin an apprenticeship. He will work for a Bookbinder, a vocation that arouses fear, superstition and prejudice – but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

He will learn to hand-craft beautiful volumes, and within each he will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, he can help. If there’s something you need to erase, he can assist. Your past will be stored safely in a book and you will never remember your secret, however terrible.

In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, row upon row of books – and memories – are meticulously stored and recorded.

Then one day Emmett makes an astonishing discovery: one of them has his name on it.”

Finally, as regards the origami boats, the Essex Book Festival has pledged 1,000 of these to charity for visitors to inscribe with their personal message of love and friendship … mine is still settled safely on my desk, waiting for the right moment to sail away, carrying its message afar!

As I am away on an Easter break at the moment I will not be able to reply or visit blogs as much as normally; please know I will catch up as soon as possible and always I look forward to discussions.

FLY WITH YOU

My spirit has been flying these past few weeks! Evenings and weekends I’ve had the joy of listening to my son as he composed FLY WITH YOU. As if by magic the melody appeared and the layers of instruments gradually added to the composition. 

It’s been a privilege to follow the stages of the song till its completion, along the way I’ve been taught how to attune my hearing to the individual instruments and sounds, shown how the piece sounds with and without the different elements! Who knew that the slightest hint of an instrument helps to build the foundation of the whole?! 

Although, I should not be surprised … isn’t it just so in life? As Vincent Van Gogh believed: “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

So it’s with great pride that I present FLY WITH YOU. 

“You were born with potential. 
You were born with goodness and trust. 
You were born with ideals and dreams. 
You were born with greatness. 
You were born with wings. 
You are not meant for crawling, so don’t. 
You have wings. 
Learn to use them and fly.” – Rumi

May we at all times recognise and remember the truth of Rumi’s words!

Many thanks for reading and listening to this post – and wishing you a wonderful final day of March and a beautiful April ahead! 

Dear Young Reader …

Imagine you’re writing to a reader in the future! To a new soul, yet to unravel the magic of books! What would you say to them? Would you share stories from your own life? Or inspire them with passionate prose or perhaps offer up playful poetic musings?

Just such a request was sent out to writers, scientists, artists, and other cultural trendsetters across the globe by Maria Popova. One hundred and twenty-one letters were received including ones from Mary Oliver, Jane Goodall, Neil Gaiman, from composers, philosophers to a 98-year-old Holocaust survivor.

Over eight years, together with her publisher friend Claudia Bedrick, they collated the letters, matching each of them with an illustrator, artist or graphic designer … bringing each letter individually and vividly to life!

I read about the creation ‘A Velocity of Being’ last year and ever since couldn’t wait to hold this treasure of a book in my hands. Although released in January, they had underestimated the demand and my book finally arrived last week.

With deep reverence I opened the box, with surgical skill (or so I liked to think) I cut gently through the tightly wrapped cellophane. I’m sure I heard a drum-roll as I opened the pages and started to read … my heart singing in harmony with the emotions and thoughts of the letters.

Here a just a few snippets:

“No matter where life takes you, you’re never alone with a book, which becomes a tutor, a wit, a mind-sharpener, a soul-mate, a performer, a sage, a verbal bouquet for a loved one.” Diana Ackerman

“Yesterday I swallowed a book. Opened it, read it voraciously, then gulped it down in a single sitting. … A book, and the universe within, is the touchstone for today, yesterday, and — wow, I can’t wait to find out what I read tomorrow.” Anthony Horowitz

“A writer can fit a whole world inside a book. … . Somewhere, is a book written just for you. It will fit your mind like a glove fits your hand. And it’s waiting. Go and look for it.” Neil Gaiman

THE SUNSHINE BLOGGER AWARD

Following the dark, often stormy, winter there couldn’t have been a better time to bring in some light! During the past few weeks I’ve seen several bloggers receive an award that brightens our days as well as theirs. Imagine the surprise, honour and delight when, within a few days, I received the double accolade of The Sunshine Blogger Award!

The Sunshine Blogger Award is a peer appreciation award given to bloggers who are creative, positive, and inspiring, while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.

Thank you so much to the two bloggers for thinking of me for this award. I deeply respect them and I always savour their posts, learning along the way, sharing their enjoyment of life, travels and books and I’m overjoyed for them and their publishing success! If you haven’t visited their blogs before, I highly recommend you head over … you’re in for a treat!

Darlene Foster

Darlene at Darlene Foster’s Blog mentioned me first. She is the author of numerous children’s books based around the central character of Amanda and she has also had several short story wins and some published in anthologies. She blogs about her books, writing, travels, family. She divides her time between Spain and Canada.

Brigid P. Gallagher

A few days later Brigid at Watching The Daisies also kindly nominated me for The Sunshine Blogger Award. Brigid’s posts resonate with wisdom and calmness, attributes reflected in her hugely successful book Watching The Daisies which is an Amazon no. 1 Inspirational Irish Memoir. On her blog Brigid shares news about her book, as well as articles on travel, health, book reviews, nature, gardening, recipes and healing. 

Rules for the award:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  • Nominate (at least) 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog

Here are the questions I received and my answers:

What was the driving force behind the creation of your blog?

First and foremost I wanted to share my experience of writing my first novel!

What was your vision for your future in blogging/writing when you first started this blog? How has that vision evolved?

Within a couple of weeks I realised that this this single-minded focus for my blog was untenable. My blog would quickly become dull and dry. Also there was so much more I wanted to share so I happily started writing about books, travels, nature, traditions, my short stories.  Later I shared the journey of the publication of my first book, a collection of short stories, entitled The Storyteller Speaks

What age were you when you realized you loved writing?

I was at primary school in a small Yorkshire village and think I was about nine-years-old.

Yorkshire Dales

How has your life changed as a result of the electronic age? Is it better/worse/the same?

On many levels electronic devices has made life so much easier. As a gadget-nerd I’ve always enjoyed using the latest devices and remember my mother with one of the earliest Apple computers at work, as well as seeing the magic of a fax machine! The internet, although filled with so much dark material, is still a positive force and how many of us don’t ‘google’ something everyday. As soon as I saw the iPad I longed for one and had to wait for prices to fall … it is my go-to device, for news, blogging, reading, writing (with aid of Bluetooth keyboard).

What was the very last website you visited today?

I love the eclectic nature of the blogs I follow and just as I was writing this a I received a notification that GP Cox at Pacific Paratrooper had put on a new post. 

If you could change one thing about your past, what would it be?

I was dreadfully unhappy in one school (an all-girls) for two years when eleven and twelve-years-old … one day I finally broke down and told my mother just how utterly miserable and depressed I was there and I never returned. I flourished at my next school and am still in touch with my friends from then.

How would your life be different today if that one thing from your past were to change?

To be honest, probably not too much as the warmth and love from home meant I recovered quickly and could see the problem wasn’t with me. It did steer me away from single-sex schools for life and I didn’t want that for my son either.

If you have children, tell me…how did your parenting change from the time you had your first child until the time you had your last?

As I only have one child I can’t really answer this one. I always used to joke that I would be far more relaxed and not so anxious with a second child – but I doubt this would have been the case! What I can say is that being a parent changed me absolutely and I could never imagine my life without my son. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that I am so lucky and it is real!

Tell me about the funniest experience you’ve had in the past month.

Ever since I was a baby I have approached new foods with trepidation … and this is still the case much to the amusement of my family and friends.

Thinking it might be a good idea to go ‘healthy’ I decided to try Benecol and one Sunday morning the little bottle stood eagerly on my placemat. I looked on fearfully, my husband gulping his down enthusiastically, showing me how to do it! 

Bottle of Benecol

Hmm… I sniffed the white liquid anxiously and still wasn’t convinced. I then went into my default mode and called my mother and told her I had a ‘scary prospect’ ahead of me! Concerned she asked what it involved and when all was revealed she just laughed and said, ‘That’s my daughter’. ‘Could I put it on my cereal,’ I queried? She wasn’t sure. I stared at the bottle and it glared back. The stand-off continued!

A while later I took a minuscule sip – it was delicious!! I now look forward to my new morning addition!

What do you have planned for the upcoming holiday season?

My husband and I are soon celebrating our 20th Wedding Anniversary (where did those years go???) and are travelling a few days to the beautiful island of Jersey. The hotel is just on the beach, overlooking the bay and I am already giddy with excitement! 

Finally, to the nominations!

I am aware that some of you might have received this award before or have an award-free blog, in that case please view this award as a compliment. There is no obligation whatsoever to respond. 

My questions are the same as those posed to me.

My nominees of bloggers who spread sunshine and inspiration are:

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST #NewRelease

It’s a delight to take part in Jacqui Murray’s Blog Hop for her latest novel, ‘Survival of the Fittest’!

Her previous books have taken us from the modern subterranean world of nuclear submarines and terrorism to an era over 1.8 million years ago at the very start of mankind’s development.

‘Survival of the Fittest’ is set 850,000 years ago and centres around five tribes with one leader as they face a treacherous journey across three continents in search of a new home.

As the blurb succinctly describes:

Chased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving behind a certain life in her African homeland to search for an unknown future. She leads her People on a grueling journey through unknown and dangerous lands but an escape path laid out years before by her father as a final desperate means to survival. She is joined by other homeless tribes–from Indonesia, China, South Africa, East Africa, and the Levant—all similarly forced by timeless events to find new lives. As they struggle to overcome treachery, lies, danger, tragedy, hidden secrets, and Nature herself, Xhosa must face the reality that this enemy doesn’t want her People’s land. He wants to destroy her.

As with all fiction writing, there is often an overlay of fact but with a book set so far back in time one wonders how much is artistic license, how much can be based on true fact? I put this question to Jacqui with regard to one angle in the book.

Survival of the Fittest hints at a spiritual side to man. Is that accurate?

Scientists have no idea when man’s spirituality started. Because 850,000 years ago (when Xhosa lived) is considered prehistory—before any sort of recorded record—there’s no way to tell. Survival of the Fittest offers one speculative theory of how that could have happened.

Finally, below is the beginning of ‘Survival of the Fittest’ and I as read the whole chapter kindly forwarded by Jacqui I found myself hooked! The story is thoroughly captivating and I was drawn immediately into Xhosa’s world, feeling her pain, fears, her strength! The writing is superb, taut, fast-paced whilst not rushed and the upcoming themes and plot lines are clearly outlined! Will you be as tempted by this extract as I was … a copy of the book is now on my kindle and I can’t wait to read it! Purchase links are below.

Her foot throbbed. Blood dripped from a deep gash in her leg. At some point, Xhosa had scraped her palms raw while sliding across gravel but didn’t remember when, nor did it matter. Arms pumping, heart thundering, she flew forward. When her breath went from pants to wheezing gasps, she lunged to a stop, hands pressed against her damp legs, waiting for her chest to stop heaving. She should rest but that was nothing but a passing thought, discarded as quickly as it arrived. Her mission was greater than exhaustion or pain or personal comfort.

She started again, sprinting as though chased, aching fingers wrapped around her spear. The bellows of the imaginary enemy—Big Heads this time—filled the air like an acrid stench. She flung her spear over her shoulder, aiming from memory. A thunk and it hit the tree, a stand-in for the enemy. With a growl, she pivoted to defend her People.

Which would never happen. Females weren’t warriors.

Feet spread, mouth set in a tight line, she launched her last spear, skewering an imaginary assailant, and was off again, feet light, her abundance of ebony hair streaming behind her like smoke. A scorpion crunched beneath her hardened foot. Something moved in the corner of her vision and she hurled a throwing stone, smiling as a hare toppled over. Nightshade called her reactions those of Leopard.

But that didn’t matter. Females didn’t become hunters either.

With a lurch, she gulped in the parched air. The lush green grass had long since given way to brittle stalks and desiccated scrub. Sun’s heat drove everything alive underground, underwater, or over the horizon. The males caught her attention across the field, each with a spear and warclub. Today’s hunt would be the last until the rain—and the herds—returned.

“Why haven’t they left?”

She kicked a rock and winced as pain shot through her foot. Head down, eyes shut against the memories. Even after all this time, the chilling screams still rang in her ears…

‘Survival of the Fittest’ is available at: Kindle US Kindle UK Kindle CA Kindle AU

Jacqui Murray can be found on the following social media:

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