DH AND AMIE 3

Did you miss me last week? No, I thought not. Well for the last seven days I decided to get my head down and go over Amie 3 once again thoroughly before sending her off to my editor. I’d sent a very early draft through to DH and he found a few things wrong (of course he would).

So, come the morning we sit down together and I steel myself to hear the worst.

ME:    Well you can’t complain this time that she never goes off for a pee. She spends half her time in this book behind one bush or another. Her plumbing system is in full working order.

DH:    OK I noticed that but there are still no sex scenes.

ME:    I’m not sure my readers are looking for gratuitous sex, and I don’t use many swear words either.

DH:    I’m not talking bondage and erotica here but you’ve just told me she’s a healthy young woman. She has needs. (Every man’s dream right?)

ME:    You know I find sex scenes a little tricky. It must be the most undignified way to behave sober there is. And how can I possibly ever describe it better than millions before me? He whips his clothes off, she rips her clothes off and they wriggle around for a while praying she won’t get pregnant.

DH:    I still think you’re cutting it too short you could go into a little more detail. Right, what about this boring bit in the middle?

ME:    Boring? And what bit would that be? I can’t have her racing about on every page, it’s not natural surely. Fast paced is one thing, frenetic is another. Look we have her (spoiler) and then she takes refuge in (spoiler) and isn’t this bit (spoiler) exciting?

DH:    She’s crying again.

ME:    Well I’d cry if I saw (spoiler).

DH:    You might, but then you’re not superwoman.

ME:    Thanks.

DH:    She’s a strong heroine, and I think you’re basing her too much on yourself.

ME:    What! Hardly!

DH:    Well no, not the brave stuff, that’s not you, but she’s still snivelling an awful lot, toughen her up.

ME:    But she’s survived so far, that makes her tough. She’s not an Olympic weight lifter or a body builder. I want my readers to like her and feel for her. If she’s too tough they won’t relate to her will they? If you had your way she’d be dressed in black leather with boots and a whip!

DH:    Now that’s an idea.

ME:    Noooooo!

DH:    You want to sell to both men and women right?

ME:    Yes.

DH:    Then make her strong, not wet and drippy.

ME:    Amie won’t appreciate you saying that.

STRANGE LOOK FROM DH, HE MOVES A LITTLE FURTHER AWAY ROUND THE TABLE.

ME:    It’s a writer’s thing our characters live in our minds they are real people.

DH:    There’s not enough detail, all these guns for example. What size calibre are they?

ME:    Ah, now I did lots of research on the net and I did play with a gun once and those cartridge thingies…

DH:    (RAISES EYEBROWS) Magazines?

ME:    Yes those things it’s really hard to load the bullets into them and they hurt my fingers. I had a couple of dates with the policeman in Durban and he let me play with his.

DH:    (EYEBROWS FURTHER UP) His what?

ME:    His gun! I must have had a premonition I would need that experience one day so I asked him to show me where the bullets went and how to load them. It took me over an hour to get all six slotted in against that spring.

DH:    Figures. Good thing you weren’t in a shoot out at the time. Now Amie has a car in Durban, what kind?

ME:    Does it matter?

DH:    Of course it does, people want to know that.

ME:    (MUTTERING) If you insist, I’ll give her a Corolla, they make assemble those in Durban.

DH:    And a 737 will never get from London to Johannesburg.

ME:    Good point, I’ll up that to a 747. So is it as good as the other two? Did it hold your attention? Did you find it exciting?

DH:    I read it all the way through didn’t I?

(DH GETS UP TO MAKE COFFEE.)

Well at least I had a nice email from my editor this morning and she says it’s the best thing I’ve written so far (she’s terribly good at the sugar coating stuff), but of course there is lots of work to be done, including my tautologies – I really must look that up, I wonder what they are?

On the brighter side, Amie 1 an African Adventure got a Bronze in the Global E Book awards in popular fiction, so that cheered me up.

Have a great week.

PROOF I’M AN IDIOT – THE BIG TRIP VII – AND NEXT UP MONARCH

Just as you think you’ve got a handle on things life smacks you in the face. Last week I was so proud of myself. I wrote my blog in Word on the Sunday to free up my half day ‘me time’ on the Monday. I found all the pictures and popped them into the media box – so now all I had to do was quickly cut and paste and I’d be writing Amie 3.

Now if you are about to ask why I didn’t do the whole thing and then press publish on Monday, well I’ve yet to work that one out. The last time I tried it, it went live immediately.

So, all completed nice and early, pressed publish and then remembered that I’d not added the categories and tags. No problem I thought, I’ll just pop back and edit it. So I did and then I sent out a blog which was only tags and categories. A kind follower alerted me to this so I had to go back and do the whole thing all over again – sigh.

So, where were we in SE Asia? Oh yes, on the boat on the Halong Bay in Vietnam and believe me it was pretty cold, being January I guess that was to be expected. I had packed some winter clothes, in fact I was wearing all of them – at once, all at the same time.

IMG_3312

While DH had a massage down one end of the boat, I tried to relax with a book in our cabin, until I noticed it was getting colder and colder. The damn aircon was on full blast. I fiddled and fiddled with the remote- no luck. I then clambered up and pressed every button in sight, no luck, I tried to unplug it but it refused to cooperate. Finally in desperation, I went for help. The guide failed, the steward failed, the engineer failed and the captain failed.

After a long discussion they decided to give us another cabin – the presidential suite. Well this was the life – except you didn’t want to sit down on these chairs, unless you were very well padded.

IMG_3329

And the bathroom – or more correctly posh heads? When did you see a Jacuzzi this size on a boat?

IMG_3330

There were, however two small problems. We had been warned that after 8.pm there was no hot water on board. Time now? 8.30pm. I was already cold enough, and the thought of sitting in freezing cold water with even colder jets spraying over me was not too enticing. Also, there were no instructions and we hadn’t the faintest idea what you twiddled, pushed, pulled or thumped to make it work. We settled for admiring the red-brown coloured enamel work.

Then problem #2 arrived. Somehow, while using the sink, I managed to get the metal flip stopper stuck in place. There was no way to empty the sink. Frankly I just didn’t have the courage to call for help a second time, so for the rest of the time on board, we had to brush our teeth over the loo.

It’s not all fun in these posh places you know.

But all was not lost. We visited this pearl farm floating on the water, where they nurture and grow them in little pens and then kill them and wrench the pearls out of them.

IMG_3317

IMG_3321

IMG_3322IMG_3323

I passed on the cooking class, as by then I was feeling really ill – from frost bite I thought.

But I managed the trip to the fishing village, all on stilts. It was just amazing, set among 2,000 limestone islands but the kayaking, swimming and diving were a little out of the question. If you take a trip there, go in the summer!

IMG_3331

IMG_3335.JPG

We shared a boat with these nice people, and as we all remarked, when they get the pics developed we will all be asking “Who the hell were they?” Little did they know it was me!

Then it was time for bed, so I popped over the side to take a quick pic of the boat with its lights on.

IMG_3327

HISTORY LESSON PART SOMETHING

Sadly the little prince died when he was 11 years old, and then his Daddy died, and then Queen Anne herself popped off her mortal coil in – 17 something or other and now parliament was in a fix. No heir? They looked around Europe desperately and began offering current accounts at Barclays, books of green shield stamps, Amex cards and Debenham accounts to anyone who was protestant and would sit on the throne of England. They even threw in a free subscription to Readers Digest.

Eventually they had a taker in George who came from somewhere in Germany, only it wasn’t Germany in those days, just a lot of little states and I won’t bother to mention which one as I would probably spell it all wrong.

Enter George I and we’ll meet him next week.

 

 

 

THE BIG TRIP VI – AND ANNE’S DESPAIR

Once again we rose to the rattling of the alarm clock, had we fooled ourselves into thinking this was a holiday? After more unusual fare for breakfast – raw fish has never been high on my preferred breakfast menu – we were whisked off on a 3 hour road trip towards the coast. The scenery was much as I had seen on the odd television programme, small shops by the side of the road, millions of scooters, often carrying whole families and swathes of rice fields.

IMG_3310

Suddenly we turned off the road and entered a different world. The potholes had disappeared, the grass verges were neatly trimmed and floral displays abounded. Brand new buildings, retail space on the ground floor, offices or possibly apartments above. Not many were occupied but from a rural third world we were catapulted into the first world by turning a corner.

IMG_3306

At the end of the road we saw shelters, small offices and the river Halong. Hugging the kerb was a long line of tourist coaches and hugging the river bank a long line of small boats waiting to transport holidaymakers to the larger boats a little way off shore. We were provided with life jackets and catapulted onto a small boat along with our luggage. Why, oh why did I choose to buy a luggage set in white I asked myself.

I could mention at this point that it was pretty cold. The sun was shining, but gave us little warmth. I was muffled up to the eyeballs.

IMG_3307

We climbed aboard our boat, two decks, about 20 cabins and a dining room and a spa. I suppose it could cater for around 50 people, but it was less than half full. Our cabin was very pleasant and we settled in for a night on the water. I just loved the way they described this as checking in to our private cabin – we had not been planning on sharing it with anyone else.

IMG_3308IMG_3309

Soon we were gliding along, and the scenery was amazing. Tall rocky outcrops rose out of the water and the river stretched as far as the eye could see as we cruised up or down the river, I wasn’t sure which way we were going. We were transferred into a smaller boat and taken into an almost circular cave where, they informed us proudly, Leonardo de Caprio had filmed The Beach. Sad that their high point of tourist info came from the halls of Hollywood, when this World Heritage site was worth seeing simply for its beauty and grandeur.

IMG_3313

The itinerary mentioned sunbathing and swimming as leisure activities, but certainly not for me, and no one else ventured into the water either. By now I was wearing as many layers of clothes as I had brought. My suitcase was practically empty – I was like a Ryan Air passenger wearing more than I had in my luggage.

After dinner, while DH went for a massage, I decided to have a quiet read on the bed and it was then that the trouble started …  to be continued.

Poor old Anne – well of course she wasn’t poor was she, despite losing vast sums of money at cards and treating her favourite women to wads of cash on a whim. This must have been a particularly long card game as someone painted a portrait while they were at it.

Sarah_Churchill_and_Lady_Fitzharding

But she was beginning to realize that she was not going to have an heir. She’d been almost constantly pregnant since her marriage and one after another after another she either miscarried or the babies only lived for a couple of years until only one son survived.

He was a bit strange though, and sickly. As was common in those days posh women didn’t feed their own babies, they called in a wet nurse to do this for them. Enter Mrs Pack a Quaker woman who apparently was well, very well endowed in the milk production area. She saved little William’s life and was thus installed in the nursery.

little prince william

He suffered from hydrocephalus, so his head was out of proportion to his body, but this deformity was not reflected in his portrait, he was spared the vicious truth of the modern selfie. But he was quite bright with a burning interest in military affairs. He recruited 90 young boys, dressed them in uniform and drilled them daily. He even persuaded the king to come and review his troops. It’s just as well he had a big garden to play in. It must have been like the annual dreaded kid’s birthday party with hoards of screaming kids every day of the week. Sensibly, Anne gave him his own house miles away from the court.

 

THE BIG TRIP IV – HANOI AND A BOSSY WOMAN

Vietnam was my first visit to a communist country, and the first difference I saw was the reverence paid to Ho Chi Minh. I just had to google this man, I thought he was not much loved in the West. I was surprised to learn that he had died in the 1970’s but he is still remembered, you simply can’t forget him. Everywhere you look, there are statues, pictures and places named after him.

Oh. Before we go any further, a word of warning. If we thought this was going to be a gentle, relaxing holiday we were in for a shock. Our bouncy, friendly guides – Ming and Ling – insisted on collecting us around 8 am. At my tender age that meant rising around 6 am, to allow time for a shower, dressing and breakfast. So, just as I was being swept off my feet by George Cloony telling me I was the woman he’d been looking for all his life, I was rudely awakened by the wretched cell phone screaming its little heart out.

I just love the presentation in the bedroom. I was tempted to sleep on the floor so I wouldn’t disturb it all.

IMG_3189

We went first to the mausoleum where Ho’s body lies fully preserved. The streets around are kept clear of traffic and the area around is beautifully maintained.IMG_3210

 

IMG_3214

However when we arrived the mausoleum was closed, I understand for cleaning. But these friendly soldiers were guarding it. Don’t you just love the white welly boots?

IMG_3217

Next it was off to visit Ho Chi Minh’s house on stilts – built for him by a Frenchman so it looks as if it was transported straight from the Champs Élysées.

The first pic is the place he refused to live in

IMG_3221

and this is the one he preferred.

IMG_3226

That was very pleasant, except there was also a party of school children in school uniform also visiting and they were not doing it quietly.

Then we gawked at a pagoda standing on a single pillar.

IMG_3232

It’s a Buddist temple, as most of them are of course in this part of the world, but I’m still puzzling as to why they wanted it to build it on a pillar. The steps were quite steep and it is very tiny inside.

IMG_3231

We then peered at the Tran Quoc Pagoda built on an island and yet another pagoda called the Quan Thanh Temple.

IMG_3236

And then it was time for lunch after which, we were informed, they were going to take us by rickshaw round the streets. I nearly sent my lunch back to the kitchen. They were going to put us in little wheeled vehicles and push us head on into all that traffic! I trembled and concentrated hard on the excellent electrical wiring systems that hang in picturesque bunches as they led us to what I was convinced was my last ride ever on this planet.

IMG_3247

(Some naughty pictures coming next week).

Now I mentioned last week that Sarah was a very bossy lady. That social ladder soared onwards and upwards. She managed to drag herself up from this

Holywell_House

To this

bLENHEIM

She was no wilting violet. First she asked for a title – Lord and Lady sounded so much better than Mr and Mrs. They were now Lord and Lady Churchill. Next she asked for shares in Walmart and Tesco and a platinum American express card. Ann gave her wads of cash instead.

I just have to include this as it is so amazing. The coat of arms for Ann’s husband Prince George of Denmark.

coat arms George of Denmark

He was quiet, easy-going and what we would call today “a drip/idiot/nonentity,” that’s before the politically correct get to us. Of course the king could say what he liked. “God’s fish, what have we here? I have tried him drunk and I’ve tried him sober but can make nothing of him, but the Princess Anne seems satisfied, so it may be she has been more fortunate than I.”

food

George was called “Est-il-possible?” as that was all he was heard to mutter. But he and Ann had one thing in common, the love of food. Lots and lots and lots of food. So they both grew fat together.

Just one line about my new book up for pre-order  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DPVB4M8 it’s very funny.

UAE KINDLE COVER

 

 

THE BIG TRIP V – KUALA LUMPUR AIRPORT – HANOI

So, we were about to spend the night in the airport. I’ve done this several times before and always managed to keep myself amused and even grab a quick nap or five. This time we were doomed. DH settled himself in a chair – well it was supposed to be a chair, more an instrument of torture. Rows of little plastic non-human shapes were welded together with immovable arm rests.

AIRPORT CHAIRS

I wandered off to do some shopping. Ha! Wouldn’t you know it, they were all closing. I drooled in a jewellers with the assistant giving me very suspicious looks. I think this was because nothing in there was under $10,000 dollars and I didn’t look as if I could afford the door mat. He was quite right of course, but then I spied the perfect watch. I wanted it, oh how I wanted it. I asked him the price and his lip curled up as he casually flicked over the price tag and I left the shop at speed as he slammed the shutters down behind me with more force than necessary I thought. Then it dawned on me, we were about to spend a month in knock-off land!watch

The only shop open was a W H Smith, so I killed an hour or so making a very careful choice of the various paper hankies for sale.

After that thrilling experience, I wandered the full length of the transfer lounge which was ginormous and had a cup of coffee. I popped back at regular intervals to check that DH had not done a runner. I sussed out every nook and cranny but nowhere was there a single comfortable chair.

After another cup of coffee – only one place was open – I decided that I would visit the washrooms and then wished I hadn’t – but I had to by now.

This was the one downside of travelling in the Far East – the washrooms. In most of them there were several local loos and only one or at most two western ones. At my age, it’s enough for me to keep my balance on two feet without any acrobatics. Thoughtfully they posted pics on the back of the doors to show people how to use a western loo – you should not stand on it. I did take a photo of this but felt it might be a bit tasteless to post it here. If there are requests I will.

Each cubicle was equipped with a hose attached to the wall – and I’m still trying to work out how these are used without soaking yourself and your clothing from head to toe – and the drainage systems were not able to cope with such large flows of water. Even entering the restrooms was like paddling through a small river.

So, I had the choice coffee and restroom or dehydration and no restroom.

I did spy a couple of places where the passengers had literally ripped off the chair arm rests so it was possible to lie down, but as these were right outside the restroom I decided it wasn’t worth it. Not only that they were all occupied and I couldn’t find the fire alarm button which might have dislodged them.

IMG_3186

Soon we were airborne again, tired, hungry and thirsty. And guess what, this time there was no meal at all, we’d had two  on the first leg – the result of a misplaced key stroke on DH’s pc.

IMG_3200

We landed in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam to be met by our bubbly tour guide and driven to the hotel. Our first priority was to get something to eat, but before that we had to have a lesson in crossing the road. No Green Cross Code here, you walk, yes walk from one pavement to the other. You don’t look, you don’t stop and you don’t change pace, you just keep walking to the opposite pavement. Well that’s not quite accurate, because every pavement is nose to tail scooters so you can’t walk on them, you have to hug the kerb. After our quiet, peaceful well ordered traffic it was a huge culture shock. Cars, scooters, coaches miss you by a whisker front and behind, but the mantra is keep walking, keep walking.

IMG_3249

IMG_3244

Back in history, ‘Queen’ Sarah didn’t have a scooter, but she was a very bossy lady. She ordered the Princess Anne around as if she was a 2 year old. But hey, whatever it takes. Her husband was really good at winning battles and each time, it was lots more loot in the bank that Williamnmary had so thoughtfully set up for them.

In the meantime, Queen Anne was desperately trying to produce an heir. She enjoyed the practice and had one baby after another after another. Only one, Little William survived and sadly, he didn’t look too strong. This time the answer wasn’t to lop off the heads of husbands, (as King Henry VIII had done) as Prince George wasn’t really to blame, you could see he’d played his part properly. Apparently he enjoyed practicing as well.

PRINCE GEORGE OF DENMARKPrince George of Denmark

To really put her nose out of joint, Queen Sarah Churchill had 6 healthy, squalling offspring.

When Ann wasn’t getting pregnant, she spent her time drinking chocolate and stuffing herself with sweets till she grew so fat she could hardly walk.

Before I sign off, Truth, Lies and Propaganda, the first of my crazy life in the media in South Africa, how I became a writer is on Kindle Countdown this week at $/£ 0.99 here is the link – well i can hope can’t I? 🙂  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QE35BO2

THE BIG TRIP III HONG KONG TO OZ PLUS QUEEN ANNE

Hong Kong is one of the places I had always wanted to visit – and Singapore is another. I’ve read so many books set in these places and I wanted to see both of them. The whole purpose of the trip was to spend time with DH’s family in Perth, Australia and it seemed sensible to include a little side visit on the way there and on the way back. So I made a total nuisance of myself as it’s likely to be our last big trip – unless the world goes mad and buys millions of my books or they phone from Hollywood tomorrow – and I decided I wanted to see both.

I wasn’t disappointed in Hong Kong. I learned that it’s more than one island and the airport is on one, called Lantau – they have a Disney world there too, but there was no way DH was going there.

IMG_2753IMG_2588

The island next door is Honk Kong Island itself and then there is a large area called the Kowloon Peninsula which is also Hong Kong? Confused yet? Well you should be, if, like me you thought it was just one island.  To the north of the bit on the mainland is an area called the New Territories, and I think you need to travel north through that area to say “I have been to China.”  Hmm, not a politically correct statement I guess, as it all belongs to China now, but HK is still an autonomous area.

IMG_2591IMG_2613

We did all the touristy things, cable car to the peak, ride on the White Star Ferry which possibly gave Noah a ride on his way to the Ark. The night market looked a bit scruffy so we didn’t explore that but we saw an amazing laser show against the backdrop of skyscrapers which really took our breath away.

To our shame, and please don’t tell anyone, we had a Big Mac for breakfast – noodles just didn’t seem right at that time of day.

IMG_2777IMG_2793

This is the Taoist temple we visited. I would have liked to stay longer, but the smoke from all the candles made even my eyes water.

The people in the streets seemed to be constantly rushing, focused and quite serious. Many wore face masks, although the air appeared quite clean, and there certainly is a buzz.

This was an impromptu concert on the steps of some colonial building and the oldest can’t have been more than 10. Such concentration and they played really well.

The Christmas decorations made the city extra special and three days wasn’t really long enough to explore the whole island(s) and it was sad to drop off our luggage in the centre of town where it would be taken to the airport ready for our flight later in the day. Now if that’s not efficiency, I don’t know what is!

Back in time, and I was just checking out about Queen Anne and I realized that she was born in 1665  –  (I am putting together a talk on her for the History group).  Now you know how I hate dates and being even the slightest bit accurate about history in this blog, but I did notice that this was the year of the Great Plague in London and that’s exactly where Anne was born. So she must have been a tough cookie. Of the other 7 children born to her mum and dad, the only two to survive to adulthood were Anne and her elder sister Mary. Now what does that say about strong women?

In those days Mummy and Daddy were not to be bothered with screaming kids running riot round the palace, and getting underfoot, so Ann was shipped off to live in France and only came back home when she was five. Then she and Mary had their own establishment quite separate from their parents, who were taking no chances of being bothered by their play stations, and constantly ringing cell phones. Like most sensible adults they enjoyed their peace and quiet.

RICHMOND PALACE

Where Mary and Anne lived in Richmond. the rumours that this was a shed at the bottom of the garden are untrue.