The Perfect Blend: Coffee and Kane


Opening Lines; By Virtue Fall by Carrie Elks

‘Opening Lines’ time is here!

This week I’m welcoming romance writer, Carrie Elks, to the blog with her brand new release, By Virtue Fall.

Over to you Carrie…

First of all many thanks to Jenny for featuring me on your blog. I was excited because as an author I spend hours trying to get the first few pages of a book completely right. 500 words isn’t a lot – for me it probably works out at a third of a scene – but it SHOULD be enough to engage the reader, give them a bit of information about the characters and set the scene for the rest of the book.

The extract below is from my newest release – By Virtue Fall. It’s the fourth book in a series (The Shakespeare Sisters) but can be read as a standalone romance. It’s set in a small town on the East Coast of America (think Gilmore Girls meets the Chesapeake Bay), and features a single mother called Juliet who’s trying to juggle a divorce, bringing up a six-year-old daughter, and getting her new floristry business on its feet.

As if she doesn’t have enough to contend with, a new man moves into the vacant house next door. Ryan Sutherland is a travel photographer, a single father of a six year old boy, and is so attractive Juliet finds him impossible to ignore.

Here are the first 500 words.

‘But I’ve always dreamed of yellow roses,’ the bride said, leaning forward. ‘Yellow roses mixed with white lilies, hand tied with string.’

‘Yellow is very vulgar, Melanie,’ Mrs Carlton, the older woman replied, waving her hand as if to dismiss her future daughter-in-law. ‘At the Smithson wedding they had peach flowers. They were very elegant and tasteful.’ She gave a nod at the end, as if that was her final word.

Juliet chewed the top of her pen lid, watching the two women debating their wedding flower preferences. Since she’d started her florist business a year before, it had become a familiar scene. Sometimes she felt more like a therapist than anything else.

Pulling the blue pen lid from her mouth, Juliet scribbled on the pad in front of her. ‘You know, yellow and peach roses can look fantastic together,’ she suggested, quickly sketching out a picture of a bouquet. ‘We did something similar at the Hatherly wedding in the summer, and it looked divine.’ She leaned in towards Mrs Carlton, as if they were bosom buddies. ‘And you know how discerning Eleanor Hatherly is.’

She was name-dropping but she didn’t care. Though she was an outsider, she’d lived in Maryland long enough to know that in these circles snobbery was still a thing. Hell, she’d been married to one of the biggest snobs in Shaw Haven, after all.

Was still married to him, she corrected herself. For now, at least. Thanks to  Maryland divorce laws, she and Thomas had to live separately for a year before their divorce could be finalised. Six months in, and she was already counting the days.

Melanie looked up at Juliet, a flash of hope in her eyes. ‘I’d love a peach and yellow bouquet.’

Patting her on the hand, Mrs Carlton smiled. ‘I knew we’d be able to agree on this. It’s the small details that are so important. You’ll learn that when you’re a Carlton, too.’

Grabbing her tablet, Juliet scrolled through her catalogue to show them the different arrangements, helping them narrow down the choices until they found the perfect one.

Welcome to married life. A world where you’ll run yourself ragged pleasing your husband, your in-laws and even your friends, while putting all your hopes and dreams on the backburner.

Juliet found her thoughts drifting back to her own wedding. She’d met Thomas when she was studying Fine Arts at Oxford Brookes University, and he’d been a Rhodes Scholar, an American studying at the more prestigious Oxford University. It had been a meeting of pure chance – she’d been working in a local florist at the weekends to try and eke out her student loan, in charge of deliveries in the local area. As she was walking up the path to Christ Church College, dodging the students and tourists who were admiring the fountain in the middle of the green, she’d been practically run over by the suave American post-grad who was running late for dinner.

He’d swept her off her…

WHERE TO BUY BY VIRTUE FALL

By Virtue Fall was released last week on October 11th – and is available to buy right now!

Amazon UK ➜  https://amzn.to/2AcOP2h

iBooks UK ➜  https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/by-virtue-fall/id1363226299?mt=11

Kobo UK ➜  https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/by-virtue-fall-1

 

AUTHOR BIO

Carrie Elks writes contemporary romance with a sizzling edge. Her first book, Fix You, has been translated into eight languages and made a surprise appearance on Big Brother in Brazil. Luckily for her, it wasn’t voted out. Carrie lives with her husband, two lovely children and a larger-than-life black pug called Plato. When she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found baking, drinking an occasional (!) glass of wine, or chatting on social media.

***

Huge thanks Carrie. Good luck with your novel.

Come back next week to read another 500 words.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

 


Imagine Retreating

Last week, in the beautiful autumn sunshine, the first Imagine writing retreat to took place at Northmoor House, Exmoor – and what a week it was!

With 6 full-week guests,  4 part-week visitors and 2 very special guests (FaberFaber novelist Kate Griffin and Bloosmbury children’s writer, Dan Metcalf), it was nonstop creativity- be it writing, thinking, reading, tutoring or drawing.

Most of all, it was fantastic to be with so many talented folk in such incredible surroundings.

Our days were split into mealtimes (delicious food was provided by the brilliant Eve- caterer extraordinaire), optional one-to-one tutor sessions with myself or my Imagine partner in crime, Alison Knight, and free time to write.

The most important thing Alison and I wanted to provide at Northmoor, was the freedom to do as much, or as little as each guest wanted. Space to simply be.

Here are just a few photographs of the house, our guests, and a glimpse of the extensive grounds. (With thanks to our guests for sharing these pictures).

Dan Metcalf

Kate Griffin

If you’re sorry you missed out, then keep an eye on the Imagine website. The 2019 retreat date will be posted in the next few weeks.

Thanks to everyone who came along.

It was a joy.

Jenny x


Guest post from Phyllis Newman: The Vanishing Bride of Northfield House

I have a great blog for you today. Phyllis Newman is here explaining her motivation and how she satisfies her desire to kill…

Why not grab a slice of cake and a cuppa, and have a read?

 

What could be more natural than writing murder mysteries after a long career in finance and human resources? It satisfies in some small way my desire to kill someone!

I spent many decades at a large Midwestern university steeped in the various whims and vagaries of self-centered academics. As an administrator, I witnessed resentment, jealousy, fear, love, compassion, and hate (but no murders, fortunately! Not that promotion and tenure isn’t something to die for.) These emotions form the basis of all motives, the rationale for what we do in any walk of life.

Motivation is a theoretical construct used to explain behavior. It represents the reasons for people’s actions, desires, and needs. Motivation can also be defined as one’s direction to behavior, or what causes a person to want to repeat a behavior. A motive is what leads to all acts of love and devotion as well as every crime.

At the heart of every story you find motivation. Understanding one’s fellow man is essential if you are to write about people believably, for to reveal the rationale behind their behavior is to make them live and breathe. Real world interactions with people—especially those who are dealing with difficult situations—can yield a plethora of revelations about humanity. Every writer must search within themselves to find truth about their characters, and to reflect what they know, to write what they have experienced themselves. Yes, that old chestnut, write what you know! (It only now occurs to me that given the subject matter of THE VANISHED BRIDE OF NORTHFIELD HOUSE, this makes me look like a pretty creepy person.)

Motivation—whether to keep secrets, fall in love, or murder someone—defines the action in any novel but is most particularly important in a mystery. As a writer I must create events and portray thought processes that jumpstart and maintain the action. Without understanding what motivates them, your characters remain flat and unknowable to the reader. A connection with the characters is essential for a reader to identify with and appreciate the story.

 In this newly published novel, my main character Anne Chatham ends up in the English countryside typing scholarly manuscripts of an agricultural nature. What gets her there and into the ensuing intrigues is determined by the sweep of history following The Great War, the social and political upheaval of the times, and a rich tapestry of family lore, dark secrets, and forbidden love.

In THE VANISHED BRIDE, I believe I have delivered a fun-to-read ghost story. It is a creepy supernatural gothic tale with a spirited heroine, intriguing mystery, engaging romance, and spirits who make the action lively. The story is a mix of mystery and romance with touches of supernatural spookiness and gothic horror.

All the characters in The Vanished Bride are haunted, either by disappointment, the unresolved past, unmet desire, or guilt. They are motivated by the same desires, love, hatred, jealousy, and a whole panoply of human emotion, making them like people everywhere. This is a psychological thriller where the details unfold one by one, death by death.

Extract:

My dance partner bowed with the élan befitting a king’s guardsman and, with a little smile, took his leave.

I turned to Martha. “Mrs. Langtry, how nice to see you.”

She gave me a blank stare. “Have we met?” She balanced a plate in her lap littered with the remnants of an artichoke-olive canapé.

The other women, who nibbled on smoked salmon on toast, watched us closely.

“Yes, but it’s been a while. I’m Anne. I work with Mr. Wellington.”

“How are you, dear?” She looked past me into the crowd. “Have a seat and talk to an old lady.” She made a shooing gesture to the tiny woman in black sitting next to her.

The little woman shot me a look of disdain before vacating her chair.

Martha opened an elaborate fan and fluttered it before her face.

Feeling warm, I wished for a fan of my own. But what I really wanted was a mask to hide behind. The scarlet dress made my desired invisibility impossible. I scanned the guests and spied Thomas again, but not his brother.

“Have you seen the bride?” said Martha.

“What?” I asked, assuming one of the revelers was dressed as a bride.

“Just lovely,” said Martha. “All those flowers.”

I searched among the tumult of guests, both the originals and their doubles reflected in the mirrored doors.

“Eleanor has never looked more beautiful,” Martha said, beaming.

I was engulfed by a wave of pure pity. Martha was at another party in another time.

She eyed me with disapproval. “That dress, dear. I hope you don’t think ill of me if I suggest it is most inappropriate.” She shook her head. “Quite improper.”

I felt a stab of humiliation. My confidence wavered. But I called upon Eleanor’s supporting presence and decided to humor my elderly companion. After all, her suffering trumped any discomfort I might feel.

“I must apologize, Mrs. Langtry.” I bowed my head with mock contrition. “I’m a simple country girl and didn’t know what I should wear.”

She laughed. “There, there, my dear. Don’t be disheartened. No one’s looking at you, anyway. They’ll all be looking at her.”

“Of course!” I agreed. “Do you need anything, Mrs. Langtry? May I get you a glass of water?” I touched her hand.

She jerked away from me and snarled, “Don’t do that. How dare you touch me!”

My face stung as I looked about at our companions. No one seemed to notice that Martha was unstable. I said as softly as possible, “Would you like to go to your room? Lie down for a while?”

“Why should I? I’ll miss all the fun.”

I was wondering how much fun she could possibly be having when she turned to me, leaning close, and whispered like a conspirator.

“You forget,” she said. “I know. I know everything. I saw what really happened.” She drew herself up with smug hauteur. “I’m telling.”

Telling what? She might have been thinking of Eleanor’s wedding—or another event tangled in her jumbled mind.

Martha closed her fan. We sat in silence, peering at the assembled throng as they paused with the music.

A hush fell.

For a moment, anticipation hung in the air.

Then an excited murmur ran through the room.

All heads turned towards the entrance. Charlotte stood at the top of the steps. She was dressed as an ethereal moth. A shimmering white gown rippled across her body, falling from the high collar at her throat to the floor. Her hair was hidden under a close-fitting, beaded skullcap. A pair of gossamer wings with fluttering ribbons completed the effect. The translucent fabric revealed every alluring curve of her body, unaltered by any foundation garments. She looked like a silken goddess, lit from within by moonlight.

The crowd broke into spontaneous applause at her appearance, and Charlotte beamed a glorious smile at her adoring admirers. Cries of appreciation bounced about the ballroom like reflected light.

It was only then I saw Owen. Dressed like Edgar Allen Poe, he wore a close-fitting black suit with a silk bow tied loosely around a high white collar. With his dark, tousled hair and solemn expression, he most assuredly recalled the famous poet.

He stood at the edge of the dancers, his eyes devouring Charlotte.

Something inside me withered and withdrew. With Charlotte’s arrival in her diaphanous costume, I felt sure I looked garish and overdone. Whoever or whatever infused me with confidence had fled.

Perhaps this was just what she’d planned. Her image was that of heavenly angel, otherworldly sylph, ethereal sprite. Mine was smoking demon with my tumble of black hair and crimson gown. I might as well have been holding a pitchfork.

As I watched Owen, who looked mesmerized by Charlotte’s silvery figure, a young man appeared before me, extending his hand. I rose without thinking, without seeing his face, and we spun awkwardly about the floor. A jazz number gripped the crowd, and another man stepped forwards and pulled me into the circle of revelers. I moved to unfamiliar music, rocking and bouncing, ungainly and clumsy, back and forth and around.

Drums pounded and horns blared in propulsive syncopation. I continued to dance and dance, unable to catch the tempo. The beat of the music pulsed throughout the room, the rhythmical throb vibrating the floor, and we swayed and dipped through the whirl of sparkling color and grinning faces. I feared I was making a spectacle of myself, but felt trapped in the crush of dancers.

Charlotte drifted through the mob like a cloud, bestowing kisses, dancing with one admirer, and laughing with another. I heard a babble of praise follow her whenever the music paused.

Everything tilted for a second when a waltz seized the room and rolled over the dancers. Another man took my hand and we eddied and swirled, round and round. Yet another man cut in. I hardly acknowledged my partners, barely felt their hand in mine, the other resting at my waist.

 *** 

Bio:

Phyllis M. Newman is a native southerner. Born in New Orleans, she spent formative years in Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, and on a dairy farm in Ross Country, Ohio. After a long career in finance and human resources at The Ohio State University, she turned her attention to writing fiction. She published a noir mystery, “Kat’s Eye” in 2015, and “The Vanished Bride of Northfield House” in 2018. Today she lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and three perpetually unimpressed cats, ghost watchers all.

You may contact/follow/like her at www.readphyllismnewman.com, or Facebook  https://facebook.com/ReadPhyllisMNewman/  ; or Twitter @phyllismnewman2

Readers can find The Vanished Bride of Northfield House at Amazon.com/co.uk, Kindle, and Barnes & Noble

Buy link:    http://www.amazon.com/dp/1939403456

British buy link:  https://goo.gl/uU5QBC

***

Thanks for such a great blog Phyllis,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx


Retreating

It’s time for the Imagine Writing Retreat!

Based in the beautiful Victorian Manor of Northmoor on Exmoor, a small group of writers will be joining myself and my fellow ‘Imaginer’ Alison Knight, for 5 days of writing time, chatter, author talks and – very probably- wine sippage.

I’m banking on being considerably fitter on my return (there are lots of beautiful walks and plenty of stairs up to my attic bedroom)- and, hopefully, I’ll be in a position where my next novel is plotted, my latest proofing commission is complete and all my student workshops for the rest of 2018 are drafted. Do you think maybe I’m asking too much?

Our prime concern however, is to make sure that every single person attending has a fantastic time! We have two amazing guests (Dan Metcalf and Kate Griffin) a quiz, optional one-to-one advice sessions and lots of biscuits. What more could a writer ask?

While I’m on Exmoor the chances of decent Wi-Fi is slim, so there won’t be an Opening Lines blog this week.

If you try to contact me, then please be patient. I will get back to you asap.

See you on the other side…

Jenny xx

 

 

 

 

 


Opening Lines: The Mistress of Pennington’s by Rachel Brimble

One of my favourite people is joining me for some ‘Opening Lines’ this week. I’m delighted to welcome, Rachel Brimble, to share a little from her bestselling book, The Mistress of Pennington’s.

This is the opening 500 words to my latest release and first book in my brand-new Edwardian series, THE MISTRESS OF PENNINGTON’S. The series theme is ‘female empowerment’ and the first book deals with women in business and the struggles they faced against both commercial and social society.

Elizabeth Pennington is the book’s heroine and one of my favourite characters to date.

“Perfect for fans of Mr Selfridge and The Paradise.”

FIRST 500 WORDS

Chapter One

City of Bath – January 1910

Elizabeth Pennington turned off the final light in the ladies’ department of Pennington’s Department Store and wandered through the semi-darkness to the window. She stared at Bath’s premier shopping street below. Christmas had passed three weeks before, and all the excitement and possibilities of the New Year beckoned. Nineteen ten. Even the year held the ring of a new beginning.

A new start for something bigger and better. Yet, how could she revel in any possible excitement when her plans to advance her position within the store were still halted by her father? She crossed her arms as, once again, her frustration mounted. Would this be yet another year where she remained static? Her father holding her caged and controlled?

As the only child born to Edward and Helena Pennington, Elizabeth had been a happy child under her mother’s care, home-schooled by a governess, before being launched into society. Yet, the balls and teas, at home visits and theatre, had soon grown tiresome and she had longed to accompany her father on his days at work.

Edward Pennington, amused by his daughter’s emerging passion for all things retail, had consented to her coming along whenever possible, teaching her the basics of merchandising and marketing, allowing her to serve as a shop girl. A role that had satisfied Elizabeth for a while…

Until, in 1906, her father had opened the largest department store fashionable Edwardian Bath had ever seen. From the moment she’d stepped into its sparkling, breath-taking foyer, Elizabeth would not be shaken from working as the head of the new ladies’ department. Having finally won her father’s agreement two years ago, she’d launched herself into the role with determination and commitment, proving her worth through steadily increasing sales, footfall and morale amongst her staff.

Now, she wanted more… deserved more.

Elizabeth breathed in deeply as she stared at the hatted men and women who streamed back and forth on the busy street; the trams slowing to pick up or allow passengers to disembark. How many of these women had she dressed and accessorised? How many had she helped to spend their father’s or husband’s money? Did they, too, long to stand tall and proud and spend their own earnings, from their own success?

Although Bath was still only a small-scale industrial city, it was identified by its social elite. A city that was a bustling oasis of the firmly established upper class, but also a newly emerging middle class. It was these people that Elizabeth grew more and more determined to entice through Pennington’s doors, thus demolishing its reputation of being a place where only the moneyed belonged.

She turned from the window.

Twenty-four years old and still she had nothing to call her own, nothing to hold onto as evidence of her enthusiasm, vision and skill. If her father’s belief stood that women had no true place in business, why introduce her to retail’s excitement and possibility? Why pretend she was…

BLURB:

1910 – A compelling tale of female empowerment in Bath’s leading department store. Perfect for the fans of the TV series Mr Selfridge and The Paradise.

Elizabeth Pennington should be the rightful heir of Bath’s premier department store through her enterprising schemes and dogged hard work. Her father, Edward Pennington, believes his daughter lacks the business acumen to run his empire and is resolute a man will succeed him.

Determined to break from her father’s iron-clad hold and prove she is worthy of inheriting the store, Elizabeth forms an unlikely alliance with ambitious and charismatic master glove-maker Joseph Carter. United they forge forward to bring Pennington’s into a new decade, embracing woman’s equality and progression whilst trying not to mix business and pleasure.

Can this dream team thwart Edward Pennington’s plans for the store? Or will Edward prove himself an unshakeable force who will ultimately ruin both Elizabeth and Joseph?

BUY LINKS

Amazon UK: http://amzn.eu/2SvRcqp

Amazon US: http://a.co/3OFh9JK

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-mistress-of-penningtons-rachel-brimble/1128920728?ean=9781788546508

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-mistress-of-pennington-s

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Rachel_Brimble_The_Mistress_of_Pennington_s?id=dIFSDwAAQBAJ

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-mistress-of-penningtons/id1362129705?mt=11

BIO

Rachel lives with her husband and their two daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. Since 2007, she has had several novels published by small US presses, eight books published by Harlequin Superromance (Templeton Cove Stories) and four Victorian romances with eKensington/Lyrical.

In January 2018, she signed a four-book deal with Aria Fiction for a new Edwardian series set in Bath’s finest department store. The first book, The Mistress of Pennington’s released July 2018.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, and was selected to mentor the Superromance finalist of So You Think You Can Write 2014 contest. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England.

She likes nothing more than connecting and chatting with her readers and fellow romance writers. Rachel would love to hear from you!

Links:

Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Facebook Street Team – Rachel’s Readers

Amazon Author Page:

https://www.amazon.com/Rachel-Brimble/e/B007829ZRM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1490948101&sr=8-1

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1806411.Rachel_Brimble

Bookbub:

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/rachel-brimble

***

Many thanks Rachel. Fabulous 500 words.

Next week we’ll have a break from opening lines as I’m running the “Imagine” retreat on Exmoor- but we’ll be back on 18th October with 500 words from Carrie Elks.

Happy reading,

Jenny x


End of the Month: 273 days in

Yes- I know- you don’t want me to mention that another month has gone by…However, it must have because Nell Peters is here with another fabulous end of the month round-up.

Over to you Nell…

Hello, my sweeties – I trust all is well with you on this 273rd day of the year? That means there are just ninety-two to go before we get to sing Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne again. Tempus certainly does fugit.

Celebrating her Ruby Wedding anniversary today is Mary Louise (better known as Meryl) Streep, who married sculptor Don Gummer in 1978, having been in a relationship with fellow actor, John Cazale (The Deer Hunter, amongst others) until March of that year, when he died of lung cancer. Mother-of-four Streep’s versatility as an actor apparently knows no bounds, and she has won multiple awards, including eight wins out of a huge thirty-one Golden Globe nominations. She even somehow managed to pull off her British-accented roles as Maggie Thatcher in The Iron Lady (2011), Emmeline Pankhurst in Suffragette (2015) and sing a passable Abba in Mamma Mia! (2008) although she apparently only appears in flashback in the current sequel. And now I have the song rattling around my head, making a nuisance of itself.

Emmeline Pankhurst

On the same day that Meryl and Don were cutting cake and dodging confetti, American actor, comedian and ventriloquist Edgar Bergen (originally the Swedish Berrgren, meaning mountain branch) died – sadly, he was three days into his two week Farewell to Show Business retirement tour. While still in high school aged eleven, he studied a booklet called The Wizard’s Manual – nothing to do with Harry Potter, but a basic lesson in ventriloquism, and he then paid a carpenter $35 to carve the head of his first dummy, Charlie McCarthy, in the likeness of a red-headed Irish newspaper boy he knew. Bergen created the body himself, using a nine-inch length of broomstick for the backbone, with rubber bands and cord to control the lower jaw mechanism of the mouth. Gottle o geer, anyone?

Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy

Edgar and his wife, fashion model Frances, had two children – Kris, a film and TV editor, and the actress Candice. Her debut role was in the 1966 film The Group and this year she can be seen as Sharon in Book Club – with a whole lot of other TV and film roles in between. At one time, Bergen and her then boyfriend, Terry Melcher, lived at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles, which was later the home of Sharon Tate and her husband, Roman Polanski. This was where Tate and four others were murdered in August 1969, by disciples of Charles Manson. On September 27 1980, Candice married French film director Louis Malle and they had one child, Chloe Françoise, in 1985. Malle died from cancer a decade later and she went on to marry New York real estate magnate and philanthropist, Marshall Rose, in 2000.

Another American actress, Angeline (Angie) Dickinson, will need eighty-seven candles for her cake today – that’s going to take an awful lot of puffing and blowing. Born in 1931 to Fredericka (née Hehr) and Leo Henry Brown, she shared her date of birth with Teresa Ellen Gorman (née Moore), British Conservative MP for Billericay 1987 to 2001, who died in 2015. Angie became Dickinson when she married Gene, a former football player in 1952, and kept the name when they divorced eight years later. Although she’d had affairs with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and John F Kennedy (quite a line-up!) she married composer, songwriter, record producer, pianist, and singer, Burt Bacharach in 1965.

Burt Bacharach and Angie Dickinson

An American, Bacharach nonetheless studied partly at McGill University in Montreal – a little (actually, a lot!) before my time. While I was there, I vaguely remember chilling out by watching a so-so US TV series called Police Woman, which ran for ninety-one episodes from 1974 to 1978 and starred … drum roll … Angie Dickinson. Based on an original screenplay by Lincoln C. Hilburn, the police procedural featured Sergeant Pepper Anderson (our Angie), as an undercover police officer working for the Criminal Conspiracy Unit of the LAPD. She would typically masquerade as a prostitute, nurse, teacher, flight attendant, prison inmate, dancer, waitress, or similar, to get close to the suspects and gain incriminating evidence that would lead to their arrest. As I recall, Pepper – like the Canadian Mounties – would always get her man (or indeed woman), but Sherlock it wasn’t.

About thirty-five miles to the east of where we live in Norfolk, is the market town of Holt, its name taken from the Anglo Saxon for woodland. Almost all of the town’s original medieval buildings were destroyed by fire in 1708, which explains the abundance of Georgian buildings that now dominate the small, picturesque town. (I’m reminded here of a chap who worked for my dad years ago, who chronically mispronounced words – for example, picturesque was picture-squeak and chaos, choss.)

Back to the plot: Holt is also home to prestigious public school, Gresham’s, opened in 1555 by Sir John Gresham as a free grammar for forty local boys, following Henry VIII’s dissolution of the Augustinian priory at nearby Beeston Regis. Over the years, buildings were added and the footprint expanded, but in the early 1900s there were still less than fifty pupils – until ambitious headmaster, George Howson, arrived on the scene. On this day in 1903, The New School was opened by Field Marshall Sir Evelyn Wood.

Nowadays, Gresham’s is co-ed, having admitted girls from the early 1970s, and is one of the top thirty International Baccalaureate schools in the UK, as you would hope from an institution which charges fees well in excess of £30K a year (what ever happened to free?) for boarders – on a par with Eton. There are approximately eight hundred pupils, but needless to say, we didn’t send the four boys there – my last royalty cheque for 45p wouldn’t make much of a dent in £120K+ … Luckily for Old Greshamians, Sir Nigel Foulkes (Chairman of BAA), Sir Cecil Graves (Director General of the BBC), Lord (Benjamin) Britten of Aldeburgh (Composer), Sir Christopher Cockerell (inventor of the hovercraft),  poets Wystan Hugh (WH) Auden and Sir Stephen Spender, Olivia (first name actually Sarah) Colman (actress), Sir James Dyson (inventor and entrepreneur), and last and possibly least, Jeremy Bamber (convicted murderer) – plus many, many more – their parents weren’t such skinflints.

In 1929, Hungarian author, Frigyes Karinthy, suggested that all living things and objects are six degrees of separation away from each other, so that a ‘friend of a friend’ chain can be made to connect any two in a maximum of six steps. Putting that theory to the test, I have previously mentioned that when Super Blogger, Anne Williams, went to an all-girls grammar in Bangor, she and her fellow pupils would be invited to school discos at what years later became my two older sons’ alma mater, over the Menai Strait in Llanfair PG. The headmaster in post when our sons were at the small, all-boys boarding school on Anglesey had a brother who was also in teaching – their subjects were mathematics and history respectively – oh, and the brother was a deputy head at Gresham’s.

The OH’s solicitor is an Old Greshamian and in turn sent his own nippers there – he was on the Board of Governors, at one time along with aforesaid deputy head. The solicitor’s practice partner is my solicitor, who recently told me her family had increased by one; take a bow, Roxie, super-cute pedigree cocker spaniel. ‘How strange,’ I remarked, ‘our weekend neighbours have just got two cocker spaniel puppies, Hugo and Leo.’ (I am bitterly disappointed that Leo isn’t called Victor!) It turns out that the three wee dogs are from the same litter, Roxie and Hugo being almost identical.

Historically, On 30 September 1791, the French National Constituent Assembly was dissolved and the people of Paris declared lawyer and politician Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre one of two incorruptible patriots, honouring their purity of principles, modest way of living, and refusal to take bribes – in November, he became the public prosecutor of Paris. He was a big fan of the writing of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, especially The Social Contract, and the ethos of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. (Incidentally, Jacques Necker, French finance minister to Louis XVI, whose fiscal decisions contributed to the outbreak of the French Revolution, was born in Geneva, Switzerland on 30 September 1732.) In June 1792, Robespierre proposed an end to the monarchy, and in September the First Republic (officially The French Republic) was founded – after that, it was always going to end badly for Louis and he lost his head on 21 January 1793. One degree of separation, perhaps? So sorry!

The infamous Reign of Terror ensued, during which at least 300,000 suspects were arrested, 17,000 were officially executed, and as many as 10,000 died in prison with or without trial. Scary stuff. Opposition to Robespierre quickly festered on all sides and his influence was challenged within the Committee of Public Safety, resulting in him being declared an outlaw. He severely wounded himself with a bullet to the jaw at the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), throwing his few remaining supporters a curveball, and was later arrested there, prior to being  guillotined on July 28 1794 – ironically in front of a cheering mob on the Place de la Révolution (now Place de la Concorde).

On a lighter note, the last day of September in 737 saw the Battle of the Baggage. That’s not two good-time gals fighting over cocktails during Happy Hour, but when Turkic Turgesh tribes drove back an Umayyad invasion of Khuttal, followed them south of the Oxus and captured their baggage train. Nowadays, lost luggage is generally down to the shenanigans of airport baggage handlers.

Henry IV, also known as Henry Bolingbroke, was proclaimed King of England and Lord of Ireland from this day in 1399 and held onto the throne until 1413, asserting the claim of his grandfather, Edward III, to the Kingdom of France along the way.

More recently, this was a day of hope in 1938, when The League of Nations (founded on 10 January 1920, as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended WWI – the first international organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace) unanimously outlawed ‘intentional bombing of civilian populations’. That’s on the same day that Britain, France and Italy signed the Munich Agreement, allowing Germany to occupy the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. With the benefit of hindsight, neither of those undertakings really went to plan, did they?

Before you read this, I will have spent a long weekend in London with some of the family. #3 son is flying in from Thailand so that he and #4 can go to the Anthony Joshua v Alexander Povetkin boxing match at Wembley on Saturday 22nd. I’ve no idea what the pugilistic appeal is – I personally think it’s a wholly uncivilised ‘sport’ – but they went to watch Joshua fight last year and so obviously weren’t put off. Next day, the OH and #3 are flying to Johannesburg for a few days and then on to Cape Town as their base for two weeks. The OH spent his formative years in SA and that’s where #3 spent his gap year, so they both have an attachment to the country – plus the ma-in-law will be in J’burg for those first few days and the OH’s youngest sister is working on a film in Cape Town. Don’t feel too sorry for me – I turned down the chance to go. Of course, all this is assuming #3 manages to fly out of Hong Kong, where – as I type – he is stranded because of the typhoon. It’s OK though – he’s found the bar in his hotel …

Someone who also isn’t going anywhere is my mother, who now has a permanent room in the care home where she spent a respite period. Yay! I say permanent, but she can still be thrown out (according to the twenty-one page contract I signed) for conduct unbecoming. Not sure what you’d have to do for that action to be taken – certainly the lady who steals serviettes from the restaurant and hoards them, the one who removes greeting cards and trinkets from residents’ rooms and redistributes them à la ageing Robin Hood, nor the one who periodically rushes up and down the corridors like an octogenarian Jenson Button (Zimmer frame substituted for racing car), squawking for everyone to get out of her way because her taxi has been ordered and she doesn’t want to miss it, have been expelled. Neither has the lady who caused the whole place to go into lock-down one time when I was visiting, because she was trying to escape. She thought she’d spotted a relative in the car park and wanted to go out and see them, but because of the necessary security she couldn’t get through the main doors, so proceeded to try and kick her way out, setting off all sorts of alarms – she was certainly giving it some welly! Once they managed to calm her down, a carer took her outside to show her there was nobody there that she knew, and peace once more prevailed.

Now I need to escape – and I know the security codes!

Thanks, Jenny.

Toodles.

NP

***

Thanks Nell – another corking blog.

See you next month, when we’ll all probably have the heating on and scarves and gloves at the ready!

Happy reading,

Jenny xx


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