Welcome to the World, Leo – WIPpet Special

Leo instigram close upIt’s been more than four months since I last wrote a post for this blog. It seems like a lifetime ago because on the 27th February Nik and I welcomed our beautiful baby boy, Leonidas (Leo for short), into the world. If someone had told me this time last year that in less than twelve months we’d have our long-awaited baby I wouldn’t have believed them. But miracles do happen and our little miracle is having a cuddle with me at the moment.

Leo will be 16 weeks-old tomorrow and the time seems to have flown by. The last four months have been hard work but absolutely magical at the same time. I lost count (by about day two) of how many dirty nappies I’ve changed and I spend most of my time feeding him, but it’s an absolute joy after wanting to be able to do these things for so long. What’s even more exciting is how interactive he now is and how interested he is in us and the world around him. And as for those smiles… just lush.

Car seat smiles instigram

So, my blog has been abandoned for quite a while and I won’t be posting regularly for the foreseeable future (although hopefully I will manage to do occasional posts including another one this week after being invited to take part in Debbie Young’s The Writing Retreat Blog Hop). Instead I want to spend what time I have available (usually when feeding Leo) to continue writing book two of The Time-Shift Trilogy. Which, as today happens to be Wednesday, brings me neatly on to today’s WIPet – admittedly a short extract but it is new stuff from the middle of book two. My WIPpet maths is simple: 1+8 = 9 sentences for the 18th June. This snippet sees Maisie in 1940s London contemplating time-shifting and the adventure she’s had so far.

The four of us fell silent. I scratched the groves of the wooden table with my fingernail. This time-shifting was getting way too complicated. As soon as we’d found one person, someone else would go missing. Wherever we’d been since time-shifting from Danny’s room we’d managed to put other people in danger and it was all my fault. We’d been chased in ancient Rome, nearly caught by Hunters in 1481 and attacked in Roman Chedworth. My heart skipped a beat. “We’re not even safe here. I mean, if Hunters managed to track me and Danny down in Rome and in 1481 Towcester, then they’re going to find us here too.”

By the way it’s good to be back and joining in with WIPpet Wednesday again. I’ve missed you guys. A big thanks as always to K L Schwengel for hosting. If you fancy reading or joining in with the WIPpeteers then click here.

I’ll get round to reading everyone’s WIPpet posts at some point today but that’ll have to be in-between Leo and I heading off to Bristol Zoo on this beautiful sunny morning for a picnic with a couple of friends and their babies. Have a great day everyone!

 

 

 

The Rather Fabulous TaDa Award!

ta-daIt’s the beginning of award season with the Bafta nominations recently being announced and the Oscars just around the corner. In the blogging world the talented ReGi McClain decided to kick off 2014 with the TaDa Award and I was one of the lucky recipients.

ReGi is a writer of fantasy and has recently been posting chronological snippets of her latest work in progress Queen of Bears on Wednesdays over on her fabulous blog, ReGi McClain’s Fortnight Stories. It’s well worth checking out. ReGi has also posted her own answers to the TaDa Award which you can read here.

So without further ado here are my answers to ReGi’s questions:

1. What was the best experience you had on purpose last year?

Finding out at our 12-week scan that I had a wriggly little baby on board with a good strong heart-beat.

2. What was the best experience you stumbled into last year?

Teaching at Bath Spa University (where I did my Creative Writing MA). I’d never taught before and it was completely unexpected. Emma Hooper, who I knew from the MA, had been teaching the course but ended up moving to the music department and so they needed someone to replace her in the middle of the year and she suggested me. I happened to know and had worked with the course leader previously and so thought I’d be in with a chance of getting an interview but was simply offered the job over the phone. Cue a huge amount of nerves – I can’t tell you how ridiculously nervous I was before the first class – but it was too good an experience to turn down (see question eight).

3. What was your greatest intentional accomplishment last year?

Finally publishing my novel, The Butterfly Storm. It had taken nine-years from first starting to write it to launching the book on the 12th June and I couldn’t be happier with how things have gone and how the book on the whole has been received over the past seven months.

4. What was your greatest unplanned accomplishment last year?

My greatest unplanned accomplishment was finding out I was pregnant. Although this was something we’d most definitely planned, these things don’t always happen when you want them to, and so became hope rather than a plan. For us it’s been a very long and difficult journey to reach this point. We decided in 2008 that we wanted a family and so started trying in 2009 only to be referred for fertility treatment two years later when we’d had no success. By May last year we had three failed cycles and one early miscarriage behind us and to be perfectly honest I knew the chances of cycle number four being a success were slim. But against all odds the pregnancy test on the 18th June was positive and that wriggly little thing that we saw at the 12-week scan is now a kicky and ever-growing baby who’s due in less than six-weeks time.

5. Did you spend time with someone you adore last year?

Yes, my lovely husband Nik.

6. Were you nice to someone you don’t like last year?

To be honest I can’t think of anyone I know that I don’t like.

7. What was the most amazing thing you learned last year?

That self-publishing is a viable and very satisfying option to being published traditionally. That first 5-star review for The Butterfly Storm from someone I didn’t know was truly amazing.

8. Who did you teach last year and what (G-rated thing) did you teach them?

Between January and May I taught the Lifewriting course at Bath Spa University to Creative Writing undergraduates. It was my first experience of teaching and it was both terrifying and exciting. There was a group of 20 or so students ranging from the age of 19 up to someone in their 50s and apart from a varied reading list the classes focused on teaching interview techniques, doing creative writing and work shopping each other’s work. Oh, and marking 40+ creative writing papers.

9. What events did you attend last year?

In March I went with my Mum to see author Hilary Mantel give a talk during the Bath Literature Festival and I also attended a fantastic day-long workshop called New to Teaching Creative Writing. In June I went to local author Lucienne Boyce’s book launch and then later in the summer, along with Elaine Jeremiah we headed to Bath for a talk about self-publishing. At the beginning of August there was a surprise 80th birthday party for my Great Aunt and finally in December a Christmas meal with work colleagues.

10. Did you travel anywhere? Even just downtown?  

There was no travel abroad this year but Nik and I did eventually get away to Norfolk for a few days (after the nightmare of our car breaking down), and we also visited my brother, his girlfriend and our little nephew at their beautiful home in Wales, once in the summer and the second time at the beginning of December.

*       *      *

I won’t nominate anyone in particular but I will instead pass on the TaDa Award to anyone who follows my blog and fancies writing about their year in review – or simply let me know what you got up to in 2013 in the comments below.

A Very Merry Christmas WIPpet Wednesday

Christmas FrodoMerry Christmas everyone! I’ve cheated this week by actually writing this post in advance because right now I’m cooking our Christmas dinner and singing along to festive songs. It’s just Nik and I this year (plus Frodo and ‘bump’ of course) and it will be our first Christmas on our own (we usually go to my Mum and Dad’s). We’ll sit down and eat about 1pm before opening our presents and then spending the rest of the day all cosy in the living room with the wood burner going, roasting chestnuts, playing board games and watching Christmas TV.

Everyone keeps telling me to make the most of one last quiet Christmas because next year will be frantic with a baby. But that’s what I’m really looking forward to, as in my mind that’s what Christmas is all about – family. I remember Christmas being such a special time when I was growing up, with my Mum, Dad, brother and I always spending the holidays with my Grandparents and uncle on their farm in Norfolk. To be able to replicate those happy times with our own son or daughter will be simply magical – however hectic it may be.

Maisie and Danny in today’s extract definitely aren’t having quite such a magical time in ancient Rome. This scene from page 25 for the 25th December takes place a little bit before this one that I posted a couple of weeks ago. Maisie and Danny have just been chased through the streets of Rome by two men and have found somewhere they hope will be safe.

The double doors were made from a rich-coloured wood and had carvings all over them. I looked closer at images of hooded riders on horseback, of battles, and characters eating from plates piled high with food. In the centre, and crossing both doors, three letters were carved into the wood:

D M L

“Danny, Maisie, Lizzie,” I said. “This is definitely the place.”

“Get the key Maisie – they can’t be far behind.”

I tipped the key into my hand from the locket round my neck. I searched the door. “Danny. There’s nowhere for a key to go. There’s no lock.”

“There’s got to be.”

“I promise you there isn’t.”

He had his back to me and was looking along the street the way we’d come. “We need to get inside, like now.”

The fabulous K L Schwengel hosts WIPpet Wednesday over on her blog, My Random Muse, so do pop over and say hello, have a read of the other diverse WIPpets or even post your own extract here.

I will get round to reading all the other WIPpets but with all this eating, drinking (non-alcoholic of course) and being merry to do, it might take me until the end of the week. In the meantime, have a very happy Christmas all my fellow WIPpeteers and blog readers and I’ll see you back here on the 1st January 2014!

Exciting Non-Writing Related News to Announce!

SleepsuitsMany of you who follow my blog already know my happy news but I thought I would officially announce that Nik and I are expecting a baby in February! It’s taken just over four years to get to this point and there’s been a lot of disappointment and heartache along the way but at last we can look forward to the future and the arrival of a little son or daughter in four months time! We had the 20 week anomaly scan yesterday which showed one very lively baby who just wouldn’t stay still for the lady doing the scan. Everything looked normal – heart, lungs, brain and spine plus all arms, legs, fingers and toes were accounted for. To say we were relieved is an understatement. Now all we need to do is get cracking finishing decorating our bedroom, turning our spare room into a nursery and generally sorting the house out. Oh, and buying stuff of course. We’d resisted buying anything as we wanted to make sure everything was okay first but yesterday I bought three very cute sleepsuits (see the photo).

I say the news is not writing related but in many ways it is. I now have a very real deadline to get things done, not least of which is to finish Time Shifters in preparation for publishing it in January (there will be no hope if I leave it until after the baby’s born). To launch Time Shifters will be a massive achievement, particularly as that will mean I’ll have published two novels in less than a year. Not bad going (and about time) considering I started writing The Butterfly Storm in 2004 and Time Shifters in 2008.

On top of that I have grand plans to start not one but two new novels. I’ve already made a start on Time Shifters – A Long Way From Home and plan to take part in NaNoWriMo next month to see just how much I can get written. I also want to get stuck into a new contemporary women’s fiction novel, The House of Stone. I’ve got a rough synopsis and just need to start putting words down. As for what happens writing-wise once our little one makes an appearance, who knows, (but I imagine not a lot for a fair few months!) so I want to get as much done as possible before then.

For a year that didn’t start off well 2013 has turned out to be incredible in more ways than one, and as for 2014, well that promises to be even more exciting.

The Versatile Blogger Award – Anniversary Special

On Wednesday the very talented Emily Witt of A Keyboard and an Open Mind awarded me The Versatile Blogger Award. So now it’s my turn to tell you a few things about myself and then pass on the award to seven deserving bloggers.

Today is mine and Nik’s 5th Wedding Anniversary, so in celebration I thought instead of telling you seven facts about myself I would share seven facts related to our anniversary.

 

  1. Nik and I met over 13 years ago when we worked together in a multiplex cinema in Bristol. We got together at the staff Christmas party on the 12.12.00 and we prefer to celebrate that anniversary in December rather than our actual Wedding Anniversary.

    The Proposal

  2. Nik proposed after a private dinner on a moonlit beach on Makunudu Island in the Maldives on the 10.05.07 and we got married exactly a year later in Greece.
  3. On the morning of our wedding, despite the best laid plans, we didn’t actually know where we would be getting married – yes really. But it all turned out fine, we managed to tie-the-knot and then had a fantastic reception with lots of food and Greek dancing.
  4. We had two honeymoons (greedy I know) – one was just a few days after our wedding when we went to Santorini and the other one was nine months later when we were lucky enough to spend two incredible weeks in Tanzania and Zanzibar.

    African Honeymoon

  5. On a day out to St Fagans: National History Museum a few years ago, I got accosted by a poet who was being filmed for a local TV programme about Valentine’s Day. She asked if she could write a poem about us, I said yes and to Nik’s dismay horror we ended up being filmed while she asked Nik what he loved about me the most before writing a poem there and then and reading it back to us – cue much oohing and aahing and appropriate looks of love from us both. He said my eyes by the way.
  6. Our 12th anniversary – you know the December one that we celebrate – fell on the 12.12.12.
  7. This evening, as befits a couple who met while working at Warner Village Cinema, we’re going to go and watch Star Trek Into Darkness in the Director’s Lounge of our local cinema (think big, comfy seats, a private bar and snacks such as nachos and chicken wings to eat while watching the film). Happy days.

Now, on to the important bit – here are seven bloggers worthy of an award entitled versatile (there are loads more bloggers that I could have chosen but Emily had already nominated them):

The rules of The Versatile Blogger are simple:

  1. Thank and link to the person who gave you the award.
  2. Tell seven facts about yourself.
  3. Pass it on to seven other bloggers.
  4. Link to specific posts on their blogs to they’ll be notified by pingback.

 

Woodsmoke – Thursday’s Children

Thursday’s Children – A weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them.

Walking beneath the gatehouse at Ashton Court the other morning and smelling woodsmoke immediately conjured up images of days gone by, of draughty castles with a fire blazing in the great hall, of cosy 18th century cottages and sprawling Elizabethan mansion houses. There’s a place in south Wales near Cardiff called St Fagans: National History Museum, a place where dozens of historic buildings from all over Wales have been re-erected in beautiful parkland, and that smell of woodsmoke on Tuesday morning took me right back there, to a cold day in winter warming ourselves up by the roaring fires in the cottages that were permeated with the delicious smell of woodsmoke.

The senses play a huge part in writing fiction and bringing scenes and places to life. I read a blog post yesterday on The Story of Ink and Papyrus‘ blog, which included an extract of her novel that made my nose wrinkle at the thought of the stink of rotting fish and human waste. Sometimes a simple description is enough because as readers we know what coconut, cigarette smoke, car fumes, fresh bread, or indeed rotting fish smells like (or at the very least we can imagine how disgusting rotting fish smells).

Just like listening to a piece of music can take us back to a certain time in our lives, certain smells can remind us of places we’ve been to or experiences we’ve had. I love the smell of woodsmoke – it’s an evocative and somehow comforting smell that not only makes me think of the past and St Fagans but it also reminds me of Christmas at my grandparents farmhouse in Norfolk where Grandma would go downstairs early in the morning to clean and reset the fire and by the afternoon the living room would be filled with warmth from the glow of the open fire and the whole family would be curled up on the sofa and armchairs watching TV or playing a game.

I use smells quite often in my fiction: honeysuckle framing a doorway; the taste of salt in the air; damp soil after rain; and the richness of roasting lamb being released from the oven. In fact the smell of woodsmoke and horses features in the first chapter of my children’s novel, Time Shifters. My new WIP, which I’m giving the working title of The House of Stone, is one where I think the senses, smells included, will play an important role. I spent two weeks in Tanzania and Zanzibar a few years back and I vividly remember the assault on my senses from the heavy sticky heat, the feel of hot sand been my toes, the pungent smell of spices and the less appetising stench of fish guts sweating and old blood drying in the sun that made me gag when walking through the fish and meat market in Stone Town.

Do smells play an important part in your writing? Does a certain smell trigger a memory of a good or even bad time in your life?

Inspire and be inspired by clicking on this linky and joining in with the Thursday’s Children blog hop. Big thanks go to hosts Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez.

5 Minutes With… Tom Frost

Straight up I have to tell you that Tom Frost is my brother, but he also happens to be a very talented print maker and illustrator making all kinds of magic with screen printing, vintage Meccano, wood and acrylic paint. He lives in Bristol with his girlfriend, Teresa Murfin (also an illustrator), and my cute-as-a-button nephew, Harry.

A week ago we met up at The Harbourside, a cafe-bar on Bristol’s regenerated waterfront, for a working lunch (any excuse, Tom, for a sneaky lunchtime pint or two…) and talked blogs, Pinterest, writing, print making, and the potential move to a house with a barn in a Welsh village just 20 minutes from the Pembrokeshire coast (that’s Tom not me).

Before launching into the interview we tucked into a peppery bowl of broccoli and potato soup followed by lip-smackingly good Cornish Mussels with Somerset cider and cream served with black pepper fries… come on, we had to get our priorities right…

How would you describe your style of work?

Err… (laughs) … it’s going to be really difficult to get started… it’s um a bold, it’s a screen printed, um… what a terrible start… (we both end up laughing and agree that we’d both be far more professional if we didn’t know each other – honest…)

So, it’s a bold style of screen printing?

The majority of my work is screen printed, which lends itself to a strong, flat, bold style of work with strong geometrical graphic shapes. I’m influenced by 1950s packaging, labels, tin toys, folk art – just a mishmash of styles.

You’ve been ridiculously busy over the last few weeks – what have you been working on?

I’ve been finishing off prints that have been commissioned by the V&A for their Spring/Summer collection. I’ve got five Affordable Art Fairs coming up this year, London’s just out the way and Hong Kong was on the 15th – 17th March. Then I’ve got a solo show coming up in August, a group show in Brighton with two other great artists, Graham Carter and Helen Musselwhite, which focuses on our 3D work. In amongst all of that it’s just keeping on top of selling my prints in my online shop, stocking galleries, and doing other commissioned work such as cider labels for a company in Somerset, doing a poster for Selvedge, a great textiles magazine, and all sorts of other stuff like that.

Where’s your solo show taking place?

The solo show is in Bath at the Rostra Gallery. It’s the first solo show where I can really focus on my prints now I’m up and running as purely a screen printer.

You graduated from Falmouth College of Arts in 2001 with a First in Illustration, is what you’re doing now what you dreamed you’d be doing when you left Falmouth?

It is exactly what I dreamed I would be doing but not necessarily what I thought I’d be doing, if that makes any sense! When I left Falmouth we were geared up to be freelance illustrators – that’s what we trained to be and I spent ten years doing exactly that, being commissioned for editorials and book covers, but I eventually realised that I didn’t actually like doing that. I didn’t like working for the publications, it wasn’t inspiring. What I’m doing now is very similar in the fact that it’s artistic and I’m still freelancing but I’m now doing what I love doing, which is creating artworks that people will buy and put on their walls, which means they like it, rather than it just appearing in a magazine because somebody’s asked me to be in it.

What do you hope to be doing in ten years time?

I would hope to be doing exactly what I’m doing now, which is being inspired to do more personal artwork such as prints, moving into creating 3D pieces, and for galleries to continue to show my work. Just be inspired to do different things and for it, not necessarily to get bigger, but to continue to be paid for what I love doing.

Apart from Harry, what’s your greatest achievement to date?

It is quite simply being able to make a living by doing something that I love.

Which is what most people, particularly in a creative field want to be doing, myself included.

Yes, exactly.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Everywhere, and from everything and anything. There are so many great blogs out there, websites like Pinterest are brilliant. Specifically my inspiration comes from things that I collect such as old tin toys, children’s books, old stamps, old packaging from the 1950s, and the fact as a creative person I’m surrounded by some brilliant people, lots of my friends are illustrators and artists, painters and writers.

Whose work do you admire?

I admire people such as Jonny Hannah, Mark Hearld, Angie Lewin, Ed Kluz and the other plethora of contemporary British print makers out there at the moment.

Name three blogs that you would encourage people to check out.

Pinterest because it’s a brilliant source for anything – it’s just very inspiring. There are lots of great interiors and illustrations and toys. As a sourcebook it’s brilliant. Also, Remodelista and All Things Considered for endless inspiration.

If you could only choose one piece of artwork to showcase what you do, what would it be and why?

I would have to choose two – just to be greedy. The first one would be the first stamp design I did, which was a puffin, simply because it was the first screen print that I did that got interest from galleries and through my online shop. It made me realise that I’m doing something that can pay the bills rather than an indulgent hobby.

The second one would be an image that’s called Even on Calm Waters, which is just a natural progression from where I started, to where I want to be. It’s been received very well; it’s the first large, more expensive print that I sold out of an edition of and cemented that I’m doing something that’s worthwhile.

If you could be any character in a book who would it be?

Huckleberry Finn!

Why?

It just sounds like an idyllic childhood. Who wouldn’t want to go on an adventure down the Mississippi?

Did you not have a good childhood…

(Laughs) Not as good as Huckleberry Finn… it’s weird I can’t actually remember the story… when I think back on it it’s an adventure but there’s probably a lot of slavery and oppression involved… I’d have to go back and look at it again!

That’s reminded me of reading Swallows and Amazons when I was a kid, I’d quite like to be someone from that.

That’s true. Yes, a character along those lines, or the Famous Five. An idyllic childhood.

*       *       *       *       *

We may not have had an adventure on the Mississippi or spent the summer camped out on a deserted island when we were kids but I can assure you that Tom and I had a very happy childhood (Mum and Dad I’m sure you’ll be relieved to hear that). With the voice recorder turned off we continue to chat over another pint and glass of rosé before heading our separate ways.

If you’d like to find out more about Tom and his work then take a look at his blog, The Boy Frost, or take a peek at his online shop. A Twitter newbie, Tom can now be found @theboyfrost and he also has a facebook page, Tom Frost Illustration.

12/12/12

Tomorrow is the 12th December 2012, or the 12/12/12. A pretty special day in itself but for Nik and I it’s the 12th anniversary of when we got together. We met whilst working at Warner Village Cinemas (now Vue) in Bristol and got together at the staff Christmas party on the evening of the 12th December 2000. Nik proposed during our holiday in the Maldives on the 10th May 2007, three days after my 30th birthday, and we got married exactly a year later in Greece. So the 10th May next year will be our 5th wedding anniversary but tomorrow we’re celebrating 12 years together.

Along with my parents, Nik has been a constant supporter of my writing dream and has always believed in me. In fact when life got particularly tough in the first few months of 2011 it was Nik who gave me the confidence and boost I needed to focus on writing non-fiction for a while instead of my novel.

As every writer knows, rejections come with the territory. At the start of 2011 I sent my second novel, Time Shifters, out to a handful of agents. (I’m self-publishing my first novel, The Butterfly Storm in 2013.) I then got what every writer and budding novelist dreams of, a phone call out of the blue from an agent. She said she loved the first three chapters of my novel and was excited by the sound of the rest of it and would I like to send her the whole novel? Would I? I could barely contain my excitement. I emailed her my novel that very day and then endured the dreaded wait.

What happened next was simply bad luck. When I queried the status of Time Shifters after a few weeks of waiting I had a very apologetic reply from the agent saying that unfortunately she was leaving the agency and so would be passing my novel onto one of her colleagues to consider. She also said that she hoped her colleague would ‘love it as much as she did’. As it turned out her colleague didn’t love it as much, although she did send me a lovely long email detailing what she did like and left it open for me to re-submit it to her on the condition I made the significant changes she had suggested. It was at this point with other negative stuff going on in my life that Nik said enough is enough and suggested that I put aside Time Shifters for a while and focused on making some money from writing articles again.

So, in May 2011 I stopped sending out Time Shifters to agents and started looking for article writing opportunities. I’d written articles in the past with some success and had been published in magazines such as New Welsh Review and Chapter and Verse but that was a few years earlier. Things had changed since then and there were far more opportunities and markets out there for freelance writers because of the internet and the explosion of blogs and online writing. I re-subscribed to Write This Moment, a fantastic resource for freelancers looking for work, and within just a few weeks I’d found various paid writing opportunities including regular freelance work with easyJet holidays. After just a few months the hard work paid off and resulted in me being able to reduce my hours by half at my ‘day job’ in November last year.

And that’s all thanks to Nik. Happy 12th anniversary. x

Taking Time Out

Since reducing my hours by half at my ‘day job’ last November (it’s really an evening job as I work out-of-hours shifts), I get a lot more weekends off. After years of working unsocial shifts and often only having two or three days off with my husband Nik a month, I’m still relishing that ‘Friday feeling’ and having a whole free weekend where we can do what normal couples do. (By normal couples I mean sensible people who work 9-5 Monday to Friday like my husband, rather than unsocial 6pm – 2am shifts any day of the week like I do.)

Even when I’m not doing the ‘day job’ the weekends will often be taken up with freelance work, whether that’s researching and writing articles, updating my blogs or editing my novel. However, this weekend just gone I took the whole two days off.

Saturday started off well with a lovely long lie-in (once we’d let our dog Frodo out into the garden at 6.30am), followed by a walk in the park and lunch at the Tobacco Factory Cafe. Dinner was homemade Mexican Beef Mole with rice and stir-fried cabbage and then we lit the wood burner, curled up on the sofa and watched Strictly Come Dancing.

Sunday was a perfect autumnal day; cold and sunny with a cloudless blue sky. Recently I’ve been going for a walk with Frodo through the woods and fields that surround Tyntesfield, an incredible Victorian country house owned by the National Trust. Now that it’s winter dogs are allowed into the formal gardens, so along with Nik and my Mum and Dad we took Frodo there for a walk. The gold, rust red and greeny-yellow colour of the trees punctuated with a vivid splash of scarlet red of an Acer stood out against the deep blue of the sky. The Rose Garden was serene and still beautiful despite it being the middle of autumn. The impressive house with its ornate turrets and towers overlooked formal gardens that had sweeping views of the surrounding countryside. Planted with a variety of herbs the kitchen garden had been carefully tended to with row upon row of Brussels sprouts, while the lush green fields that seamlessly continued from the gardens were home to cattle. After working up an appetite we headed to the cafe and sat outside in the sunshine with all the other dog owners and tucked into tasty homemade vegetable soup with croutons.

Slow roasted belly of pork with honey glazed crackling, pumpkin mash and peas were on the menu for our Sunday dinner, so we spent a good chunk of the afternoon cooking as the pork needed to be basted every 20 minutes. It was worth it though. Completely stuffed, we wouldn’t have been able to venture out even if we’d wanted to. Instead it was another cosy night in.

So, the moral of this post? Take time out – it’s good for you.