Posts

Found my niche

Image
Whenever I visit a garden, I’m drawn to the quietest corner, imagining how to recreate a mini-oasis of calm and inspiration.

Recently, I had the luck to visit Wallington in Northumberland, and found the perfect niche.


A joyous combination of modest asplenium ferns, alchemilla and lobelia set in a Regency-era horse-shoe enclosure facing the sun.

Frosted greens and navy are definitely my favourite combination for tranquillity. Add a lichen-encrusted stone feature, a bench and sundry hostas in pots, and I’m in heaven.


A small, naturalesque waterfall gurgled discreetly, reminding me of a wry comment by Alan Titchmarsh, amused at a large garden fountain, commenting that ot sounded like a large equine relieving itself into a deep trough. Oh, dear. I still can’t walk past ostentatious water features without wondering where the nearest loo is.

I may never aspire to the view they have at Wallington, but when we move house, I now have my wish list.

PS I discovered that the gardener at Wallingt…

Fact, fiction and fascinating foraging

Image
Cragside is a superb Victorian house in the North-East of England with an unusual claim to fame –it’s the first home to be lit using hydro-electric power.
It’s also well known for other gadgets inspired by the owner, Lord Armstrong, a Victorian inventor, innovator and landscape genius whose engineering skills made him a fortune.
There’s a hydraulic lift for the servants, for example, and the first electric dishwasher in the world.But some eerie personal coincidences have made the place even more fascinating.
I’ve been working on a sequel to The Lost Orchid, a tale of botanical skulduggery in the 1880s when orchid fever was at its height. (Doing the research I became something of an orchid addict - see Orchidmania, a small blog of mine.)
Ferns were massively popular in Victorian England, and much has been written about pteridomania, so I thought a fern-themed sequel would be appropriate.
It seemed a good idea to move the action further north and this is when I came across Cragside and its…

Vernal Equinox

Image
I am a creature of the seasons.

I used to think the four quarters of the year were all about temperature, but it’s much subtler than that.

The turn of the planet is crucial. Spring to summer to autumn to winter. A natural order of events. Until chaos intervenes.

Recently, my personal life has been chaotic and this is reflected in the stories. But that’s how we process difficulties, disorder and dissidence.

Seasonal Disorders is my take on a personal calendrical chaos. Four long/short stories (mini novellas), written at pivotal moments in my recent life, which has been so different from what it was that I scarcely recognise it.

Now I'm doing better, in case you were worried. Updates ensue.

Mad fairies, evil spirits, sinister coincidences, ancient beings, coincidental aliens ... Well. No madder than my than current existence. Bring it on, as they say.

Seasonal Disorders is soon out on Amazon ...

When you can’t see the view for the trees

Image
I need to start by saying I’m a paid-up member of the Woodland Trust. Many years ago, I placed myself in front of a large oak tree being menaced (both of us) by a big bloke with a chainsaw. Can’t believe I did, but it’s true. And we stopped it getting chopped down without permission.

I’ve planted sensible British trees in my various gardens over the years and I can tell a whitebeam from a hornbeam. A tree fan, I am. With a surname like Kelt, it’s not surprising.

But I had a bit of shock the other day. You may have gathered from previous posts that we used to live in Bath. One of favourite walks, especially after a broiling day at the old Chronicle offices in Westgate Street, was Primrose Hill. 
We’d drive up Lansdown Road, and before you get to the Hare and Hounds,  turn left and down a short road, over a style and then we were in open fields. Our dog Amber loved sproinging over the tussocky grass, as we followed behind in a cloud of butterflies. Down below, the city of Bath was laid out…

Full circle

Image
Some years ago, I was raiding a charity shop in Leamington Spa and came across a batch of classic murder mysteries. I forked out the princely sum of £20 for nearly 100 books. 


Several dozen were by Gladys Mitchell (below,right), a crime writer whose quirky style I came to appreciate. Gladys was something of a free spirit. The murders were all rather dashing, almost lurid. The characters so non-stereotypical it was hard to guess whodunnit. The settings were all so different and unexpected …
The investigative journalist that lurks in all of us got the upper hand a few years ago. I decided to drag Gladys into the spotlight and do a biography. Why not? It couldn’t be that hard! 

I rummaged around, tracking down some former neighbours and such. It’s only when I found some rare ‘Dark Lady’ sonnets that I realised she might have been secretly gay. If true, it suddenly made sense of so many of her plots in which sexuality and sexual orientation was a turning point.
In due course, I felt the publi…

Solstice surprise

Image
Many, many years ago, I used to be Features Editor on the Bath Chronicle.

A rollercoaster time it was, and, for the most part, a lot of fun, as we survived the storms of the 1980s and early 1990s, some literal, the rest figurative. I even wrote a book about it! Tomorrow's Anecdote is fiction but based on those turbulent days of Kinnock, Thatcher and Major.

Years passed. One of my former colleagues became editor after I left on maternity leave, and is now editor of the glamorous Bath Magazine. And to my surprise, I found myself writing features again.

Solace for the Solstice is a fun article about shunning plastic baubles this Christmas and releasing your inner Druid. I even took a few photos. You can find it here on pages 108-9.

Such fun. Thanks, Georgette. And I love the retro cover of this month's issue!

The storm of 1987

Image
Déjà vu all over again.

Tomorrow's Anecdote was inspired by the fateful storm of October 1987 so infamously unpredicted by BBC's Michael Fish.

Here I am again. Thirty years on, in Bath, working for the Chronicle, and life as manic as ever ...

As the sun vanishes and the skies darken once again, this is the unknowingly portentous blurb ...

Just another day in the newsroom? Hardly.

It is October 1987.

Clare Forester is an overworked and under-appreciated features sub on a provincial paper in Somerset, cheerfully ranting about her teenage daughter, her spiteful mother, her reclusive lodger, the Thatcher government, new technology, grubby journalists, petty union officials, her charming ex – and just about anything that crosses her path.

If things aren’t tempestuous enough, on Thursday, October 15, the Great Storm sweeps across Britain, cutting a swathe of destruction across the southern counties. At the office, Clare is pushed to breaking point by pushy bosses and inept colleagues, and …