We were drawn back to the Hofburg like moths to a flame. Looking at the size of it, I was amazed to read later that the Royal Palace in Madrid is even larger, though it certainly didn’t look like it to me. The Hofburg is also home to some very special horses, the ones that perform in the Spanish Riding school.

The ancestors of the Lipizzan horses can be traced back to AD 800 when Barb horses were brought into Spain by the Moors. In the 16th century, both Spain and Austria were ruled by the Habsburgs and Emperor Maximillian II brought a few of them to Austria and his brother established a stud to breed them. All Lipizzaner horses are descended from 8 original stallions and are very good at haute école or ‘high school’ classical dressage movements, with stylized jumps and other movements known as the ‘airs above ground.’ (They jump incredibly high and seem to float around in the sir waggling their hooves).

One other interesting fact is that Lipizzaner horses are born black and go a lighter shade each year. (In horsey language you never have a white horse, it’s always called a grey).

They stable the horses and have a full-sized riding school within the Hofburg building complex.

We didn’t go to the show, as we’d seen the performance several times before near Johannesburg where they also have a stud and give shows to the public on Sunday mornings.

They look so angelic, but one bit me while touring the stables in South Africa, we’d been warned they can be very bad tempered, even if they can hop and jump around very nicely.


Over many months I have posted about every king and queen of England starting from the very first king whose name I’ve quite forgotten. I’m a little nervous that if I say the wrong thing then I might be had up for treason – although there have been some amazingly critical programmes on television recently which ‘lift the lid’ on the nefarious activities of the royals and their bad behaviour. The Queen at Madame Tussauds, London

However, they have not found any fault with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who at 66 years is the longest living monarch in the world. What is most amazing is that not once, in all those years have we seen her cough, sniff, scratch an itch in a personal place, pick her nose or do anything that wasn’t 100% ladylike. I wish I knew how she does it. Does she have special underwear that never wrinkles? Or special medicines that ensure her nose doesn’t run or allow her to sneeze in public?

She must be the nearest thing to a perfect human to ever grace this planet.

Next week in the history section I shall be telling the story of another great Queen. I have a few to choose from, any preference? Leave a comment.


I just wanted to share with you the fabulous news that Unhappily Ever After was the solo medallist in the New Apple Literary Awards for Excellence 2017 in the humour category.  (Love that excellence bit!)

2017 NEW APPLE AWARDS MEDAL AMedal1000x1000


the third book in the Amie series Amie: Stolen Future was the solo medallist in the New Apple Literary Awards for Excellence 2018 in the Action & Adventure category.

A huge thank you to all their kind judges whoever they are 😊

You can find both on my web page

or my Amazon page

As regular readers may have noticed every Thursday I host a guest blog. I am fully booked for March but no one earmarked for April. No publicity is bad publicity, so if you would like a feature, please email me   or   or you can pm me on Facebook.

Till next week, take care.






So there we were in the Hofburg in Vienna where they have an amazing permanent exhibition about Elisabeth of Bavaria, born in 1837, she was the Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary because she married Franz Joseph I.


She’d had a good childhood, but was horrified at 16 to be married off and then to live in a stuffy court full of rules and regulations. She was a bit of a rebel and fed up as she had nothing much to do. She had the mother in law from hell, the Archduchess Sophie who bossed her around and took over bringing up the children.


Sissi was very beautiful and her hair reached to the floor. She spent hours each day bathing, it took a whole day to wash her hair and exercising  – at 5 foot 8 inches, she weighed only 50 kg (110 pounds, 7 st 12 lbs) most of her life and cinched in her waist with corsets so it was only 19 inches in circumference. She had a pretty unhappy life and often went traveling. She was assassinated in Switzerland at the age of 61.

But the Hofburg had, even more, to offer which I’ll tell you about next week.


Now that we have come to the accession of Queen Elizabeth II of England to the throne, it doesn’t feel very historical after all.

The Princess and her husband Prince Philip were in Kenya on safari when the news came through. The press and paparazzi were asked to keep away from the bungalow she was staying in to give her some privacy – and they did! How times have changed.


This is a modern photo taken from Trip Advisor.

Although King George died on 6th February, the new Queen was not told until the following day. An urgent telegram was sent to Government House in Nairobi but it could not be decoded because the keys to the safe holding the codebook were unavailable.

Before our Queen even ascended the throne (they place them well off the ground so they can be seen), she promised faithfully to serve her country as ‘long as I shall live.’  A promise, she has kept for 64 years making her the world’s longest reigning monarch.


These are a few of the topics I wrote scripts for in the past:

medicine, productivity, toothpaste, manufacturing telephones, photography, power stations, pollution at sea, and distance education, bakeries, banks, nation building, tourism, diets, meat, margarine, aluminium, marathons, birds, splitting the atom, HIV / AIDS, crime, what to do in an emergency, legal information, modern classical music, maths, English literature, top athletes, lifestyles, science, mining, court cases, mayoral keynote speeches, oceans, honey badgers, African wildlife, religion, literature, safety, electricity, behaviour modification, self employment and so on and so on and so on. Too many for me to remember.

So, I guess it’s not surprising that I’ve written books in 3 different genres, memoirs, comedy and the Amie series.

Apparently, an author who does this shoots themselves in the foot, but I think I sound like me in all my books – OK, boring!  In case you want to check them out this is the link to my website which describes them in more detail.

Till next week, take care.


ALL AMIE BOOKS OCT 2017Now on the first Monday of the month, I usually write about a book thing rather than my travels – such as they are. Right now I’m in the “Shall I, shan’t I?” stage regarding my next book. Do other writers suffer a sort of empty nest syndrome after launching their latest offering out into the world to meet the general public? (Not that Amie has gone anywhere she’s still lurking in the shadows!)

This time after the flurry of all the screaming and shrieking about the launch – delicately of course – I sat back and thought ‘what now?’ I was physically and emotionally drained. At that point, I heard a little voice from under the bed crying out to me. Don’t laugh! I’m a very sensitive person and I have these flashes occasionally. It was Horatio, begging to be let out.


Back in the 1980s, I wrote several short stories for children which went out on the South African Broadcasting Service. They asked for more Horatio tales, but I had a miserly thought that instead of receiving a few Rand for every flighting I could add a few extra stories and have a whole book. Of course, this would sell millions overnight and I’d be off on my mega yacht in no time at all. I submitted a different series of stories about a witch to the SABC, completed Horatio and gave the manuscript to my then agent. I even produced what I now know is called swag to go with it.

I understand she tried Penguin in London who wrinkled their noses and that was that under the bed it went in South Africa, through 10 house moves, then packed into a cardboard box and flown to Spain and thrown under yet another bed, along with all those awards I shall never look at again.

So in my indecisive mood I decided to take action – not an easy feat getting under our bed the hydraulic lift thingie doesn’t work too well and I nearly sliced off an arm hoisting it out. Would you believe the two copies I have are typewritten on real, old-fashioned paper!


Yes, that’s how long ago I wrote it. So now I’m labouring away, got an illustrator lined up and soon I will pluck up the courage to tell DH that the next offering will have pictures in it! I must just tell myself that I will not have a nervous breakdown trying to get it out for Xmas, or I’ll aim for Christmas 2018.

Since I’m already out there in 3 genres, what’s one more? I’m probably schizophrenic as it is, and it gives Amie a break for a couple of months.


Not only was Edward or David as he was called – they like things to be very complicated, downgraded to a Duke, the British royal family refused to be friends with him. He had broken the unwritten rules by saying he didn’t want to be a king anymore.


That was not on. If you are born a king or queen then you become a king or queen and you rule whether you like it or not and you stay ruling until you go to the big throne room in the sky.

The House of Windsor does not do this abdication thing and let the youngsters take over and have a go. In the UK the Heir Apparent might wait for years and years and years.

But there was no stopping Edward from making history and after a lot of fuss, his younger brother had to step in and take over.



Just have to share with you that October was a great month with two really unexpected awards. Amie African Adventure was a Finalist in the Book Excellence Awards in the Adventure category and a Finalist in the IAN awards in Literary Fiction.

And, Walking over Eggshells was a Finalist for First Non-Fiction in the IAN Awards, so I am very thrilled.

Till next week, take care.



There is quite a town now around the castle and the basilica at Carcassone. Even though it was raining when we were there the place is packed with tourists.  The narrow streets are crammed full of eateries, souvenir shops, more souvenir shops and a few more souvenir shops. DH is always a little tetchy when there are swarms of people around but he does understand they were not going to clear the place for us.

There are also a couple of hotels in the citadel. I couldn’t find out – probably due to my appalling French – if any of these buildings had people left in them when they were all ordered to go and live across the river. Did they all flock back again when they heard the tourists were coming?

The only museum worth seeing according to the Trip Advisor reviews was the school. Now I’d hate you to think I am quite this old, but I did recognize some of the things I saw on display. And it was fun to practice writing with a nibbed pen and real blue ink in a pottery inkwell set into the desk. DH chickened out of that one.


Who knows if Edward thought through his decision to abdicate? His reign lasted 326 days one of the shortest ever (if you don’t count Lady Jane Grey who only managed 9 days). He couldn’t marry straight away as Wallace still had to finish getting divorced from husband #2.

300px-Wallis_and_Edward wedding

Edward was downgraded to a Duke and then took his new wife off to visit Germany (I showed a pic of this a couple of weeks ago). This was not a popular thing to do at that particular time, and from being wildly celebrated when he was younger, life didn’t seem like much fun. He also had to take a huge cut in salary of course. They don’t look wildly happy, do they?

I hope you don’t feel sorry for him, remember what he said when his younger brother died? Here is another quote:  from 1920 when he visited Australia about the indigenous Australians: “They are the most revolting form of living creatures I’ve ever seen!! They are the lowest known form of human beings & are the nearest thing to monkeys.”

So you can imagine how he felt down at being demoted, and serve him right.

BEGINNING OF Amie book 3 Amie: Future Shock

Behind her veil, the tears streamed down Amie’s face as she watched them lower the coffins into the freshly dug graves. She could remember little about the previous few days and constantly fought an overwhelming panic. Her mind was a jumble of disconnected thoughts, blurred memories and questions. People she didn’t know well had invaded her world to arrange this terrible funeral.

From where she was standing on the far side of the cemetery, partially concealed behind a tall Natal Mahogany tree, she could see Ouma Adede who had once foretold her future. What was she doing here? There were others: Mrs Motswezi from the orphanage where Amie had first found Angelina, half-familiar faces from the Club, couples they’d dined or swam with at the beach. There was a tall, very good looking man with blonde hair she had never seen before, he was probably from the embassy. And Ken, of course, the sun reflecting off his dark skin and black curly hair that showed his African heritage. Even Jennifer and Patrick were there, but Amie was not allowed to talk to them, neither could she approach them. At one point, without thinking, she’d taken a step forward as if to walk over and join them, but a hand had grabbed her arm and held her back.

stolen-future-kindle cover 150dpi

“You can’t go any closer, not now, not ever,” the stern voice displayed no emotion.

At last the preacher finished his eulogy. One by one the mourners filed past the graves on the way to their cars. Ouma Adede looked up and stared straight at Amie, even though she was shrouded in a black muslin veil and hidden behind the tree, and Amie could have sworn she gave a brief nod. But then the elderly witchdoctor walked out of the graveyard without a backward glance. Did their eyes really connect or was it her imagination?

Once all the mourners had departed and the preacher had hurried away, Amie was herded straight to the car, then back to her room and once more the door was firmly locked behind her.  Now Amie could weep in private.

Also available in Spanish.

Till next week, take care.




As we walked (well DH walked, I staggered) over the dry, grassy moat and the bridge to buy our entry tickets, I thought the castle was in a remarkably good condition considering it had been assembled in the XII century. It was built by the Trencavel family who added a bit more to it in the following century. Showing off how rich they were no doubt.

An interesting family they turned a blind eye to the Cathars, who’d developed their own version of religion and so the Pope of the day declared a crusade under Simon de Montford who laid siege to the city.

After all that was over, the town was declared French and they thought the castle would be very useful in manning the Franco/Spanish border. Which turned not to be such a good idea as someone went and moved the border further south. Now, Carcassone was several miles inside France. After all that effort!!


Now while George had 5 sons, one as I’ve said was locked away so you’ve probably heard about the two eldest Edward and George – though Edward was called David, just to be confusing.


  • File:Bundesarchiv Bild 102-13538, Edward Herzog von Windsor.jpg

He’d only been king a few months (his father George V had died in the meantime, so it was Ok for him to become king) when he asked a lady called Mrs Wallace Simpson to marry him and this shocked the whole nation.


Yes, here is where I mention my books, though I have far more fun writing about the other stuff on my blog.

I have 8 out so far, in 3 different genres which only goes to prove I’m a bit schizophrenic I guess. Memoirs x 3 – Humour x 1 – Adventure/thriller/spy x 4.

Worst Riding School - 2


Don’t forget my reader magnet which you can snaffle for free – short read embarrassingly all true.  All books are wide except for the Amie series.   Until next week take care.





Well, it’s a whole month already since my birthday, but I promised I would share my adventures with you as it was a bitter/sweet experience.

I’d been waiting in great excitement for the big moment when DH would ask me what I’d like as a present and I had my answer all ready.

blonde wig


I wanted proper publicity photos, taken at one of those places which provided the wigs, the warpaint, and the Photoshop experts. I would then burst forth onto Facebook and other places with my long, golden locks flowing over my shoulders looking 25 years old with ‘go to bed’ eyes the size of flying saucers.

It was not to be. Instead, he waved the bed and breakfast booking for 3 nights in Carcassone. This would have been my second choice and I was looking forward to visiting the medieval walled city in south-west France.

We set off in the car very early in the morning and after a few hours realized we were in France. We’d stayed on the motorway (the tolls were horrendous) but it cut the journey by hours. We whipped round the Pyrenees and reached Carcassone in the late afternoon. We had a bit of a battle with the GPS as it insisted on trying to take us down a pedestrian street to the B&B. Later, we discovered that everyone else drove down these walk only streets! We found a teeny, weeny parking place right outside the door, but by the time DH had maneuvered the Tank (that’s what I call his truck thingie) into the minute space there wasn’t room to put tissue paper between the bumpers.

The B&B was lovely, though by the time I’d climbed the 3 flights of tiny, windy stairs I was exhausted.

Now to my mind, a castle is in a town right? Not in Carcassone. The town is one side of the river and the castle is on the other, very strange I thought. The first evening we took a gentle stroll into the town, and had a highly priced coffee.

We also popped into a church and had a look round.

Next morning we planned to go to the castle, but I began to have my doubts – and this is where the bitter part comes in. It was perched somewhere up in the clouds!! DH goes mountain walking in the winter, and it was no problem for him. I, on the other hand, see no necessity to walk farther than from the front door to the car.

I huffed and puffed up this HUGE hill – honestly nearer to a mountain – with not a coffee shop open until finally, we got to the top. Imagine my fury when I saw a car park right next to the castle! I was totally exhausted by the time we made it up there, and it didn’t look as if there was any public transport going back down either! I’d not planned a workout on my special day. I was too tired to take photos of the steepest bit. More next week.


Now George V was probably a little worried about keeping his seat on the throne. Not only had his cousin Tsar Nicholas of Russia been cruelly disposed of, Kaiser Willhelm II of Germany also got the boot. George and his wife May had 5 sons and a daughter and he is quoted as saying “My father was frightened of his mother, I was frightened of my father, and I am damned well going to see to it that my children are frightened of me.” GEORGE v PLUS WIFE

See, I told you he wasn’t a very nice person. His sons were quite terrified of him. Yet, and this is a spin doctor’s dream – on his father’s death he wrote in his diary “I have lost my best friend and the best of fathers … I never had a [cross] word with him in my life. I am heart-broken and overwhelmed with grief but God will help me in my responsibilities and darling May will be my comfort as she has always been. May God give me strength and guidance in the heavy task which has fallen on me.”  Somebody’s telling porkies! (London Cockney rhyming slang – pork pies = lies).



By the time you read this Amie: Cut for Life book 4 will be off the pre-order and you can take a peep in the look inside. Book one is also available in audio.

You can find them all here on my Web page –

Till next week take care.




I can’t resist posting more pics of the cable car ride. I just adore these flights suspended in the air, swaying gently like a bird. The most frustrating thing is trying to clean the glass to take clearer pictures. DH wouldn’t let me open the door and hang out for the really good shots.

At the other end, our first port of call was Fort Soliso. DH took an inordinate amount of interest in this fortification built to protect Singapore. He simply had to explore everywhere and I got pretty fed up. The only picture I took was this peacock sitting on a wall.

I must admit they had set up some pretty impressive displays. DH spent hours yesterday looking for the ones he’d taken but they’ve gone to ground in some file on his laptop and so it was back to the internet.



George V’s full name was George Frederick Ernest Albert; I’m very puzzled why they give so many names to royal people, it’s not as if they are likely to get mixed up with the common folk.  I guess too they don’t have to fill in those fiddly forms which give you 2 centimetres to write a seven line address. Now that part would be easy for them, Buck House, London would find them I’m sure, but 4 Christian names? It’s just as well they changed to Windsor from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. I bet he never filled in a form at the post office NAME: ………   on which he had to fit George Frederick Ernest Albert Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.


Several people have asked me if there is a synergy between me and my heroine Amie. I have to confess there is, except she trained for film work and I fell into it. She was left destitute in the African savannah, which was similar to me being left in the bush with a 9 week old baby. Admittedly I didn’t slog across the veld for days, but I did plenty of walking looking for that one pony who escaped more often than Houdini. The one huge difference is she’s a brave heroine and I’m the world’s biggest coward!  Have you read her books yet (I’ve had very little to do with them).


Till next week, take care.