Wednesday Wander – Stonehenge and Solstice

It’s Midsummer today, or Litha in the old calendar, the point where the great wheel of the year turns towards winter once more, the nights gradually growing shorter until Yule, the great festival of Light. On a hot day such as this one the thought of winter is almost welcome, to be honest.

Today is also one of two points during the year when the sun’s rising is marked at Stonehenge, the famous stone monument in Wiltshire. On Midsummer morning the sunrise aligns perfectly with the Heel Stone, and crowds gather to watch the spectacle, one of the few times in the year that people are allowed within the ancient circle of stone.

I have yet to mark Midsummer or Midwinter at Stonehenge, but it is on my list to do so. There is something about the tumbled grey stones, still standing proud upon Salisbury Plain, that tugs at me. The mystery surrounding their use, the precision with which they mark the turning of the year and have done so for millennia, and the astonishing fact that many of the massive stones came from miles away in Wales, brought to the site using technology that still remains undefined, despite efforts to replicate the feat.

I visited Stonehenge most recently in March, on a cool sunny day. Once again the stones remained inscrutable, their message like a song almost heard, dancing on the edge of sound. The light changed the shapes and shadows, and up above a small plane swooped and wheeled, coming so low that concerned staff came out to monitor its progress, worried it might perhaps crash into the stones. But it disappeared after a while, buzzing away across the plains, above the old barrows and hidden earthworks to destinations unknown.

I also visited the brand new visitor centre, set back some way so it is not visible from the monument. It is a vast improvement on the old centre. Shuttle buses take visitors to a point closer to the stones, the road that used to run past them on one side now closed except to walkers, meaning we reached the stones on foot as was done originally. The new centre is very well done, with some excellent interactive exhibits and artifacts excavated at the site – it kept the gorgeous girl busy for quite some time! There were also some replica Bronze Age roundhouses outside, the plaster walls and thatched roofs against a blue sky somehow timeless, and as though they could have been anywhere in the world.

I have wandered to Stonehenge before, and no doubt will do so again – a place holding such magic is worth more than one visit. Thanks for coming on this Wednesday Wander with me – see you again next time!

PS I LOVE this! Nothing like a Spinal Tap reference to make the day complete 🙂


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Now available in paperback

The wonderful Ordinary Handsome is now available in paperback – check it out!

Ordinary Handsome

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Fifty-seven years ago I killed a boy. Tonight, Euart Monroe walked into my room with a Mossberg 510 and a stained hobo mattress and fired a shot into my belly. It should have killed me right off, but he didn’t want that. He wanted me to know who pulled the trigger.

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I’m excited to announce that Ordinary Handsome is now available in paperback. It’s an oversize 6.69″ x  9.61″ book with a matte cover and cream pages. Pardon the indulgence, but it really is quite handsome. Weighing in at a whopping 187 pages, it’s got a spanky new cover and even a tiny author photo on the back for your mustache-drawing indulgence. Please check it out and let me know what you think. As always, thank you for reading. — Steve

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The Bloggers Bash – 2017!

Ali Isaac, Sherri Matthews and your truly

This time last week my bag was packed, my outfit chosen, and I was looking forward to attending another Bloggers Bash. I’d decided to stay over this year, as in previous years it all seemed to end too quickly, conversations cut short as the day flashed by.

And I’m so glad I did. The day dawned sunny and bright, and I headed into London on the train, getting off the Tube one stop early so I could walk through the streets to the hotel. As I came into Vincent Square I was greeted by the bucolic vista of the Westminster Boy’s School cricket ground (at least, I think that was what it was called) – hard to believe I was in the heart of London.

When I got to the hotel the first person I saw was Ali Isaac, my roommate for the night. And before our squeals of greeting were finished I saw Noelle from Sayling Away… After that it was a bit of a blur, seeing old friends from previous years, including Graeme Cumming, Lucy from Blondewritemore, Suzie from Suzie Speaks and Sue Vincent, who I hadn’t seen since the Silent Eye weekend I attended last September. I also met other bloggers for the first time, including Sally Cronin, Ellen Best, Elouise De Souza and the lovely Allie Potts – such a pleasure to turn digital conversations into real ones. And of course the rest of the committee – Hugh, Geoff and Sacha – I know I’m going to leave out some names so I do apologise. Let’s just say it was a fantastic crowd of bloggers from all over the world!

The day began with awards, then we were treated to the first of two masterclasses. This was presented by Suzie from Suzie Speaks, about how to monetize your blog. Her ideas were simple yet effective, and certainly gave me food for thought. Then Elena Peters, Canadian Pinterest queen extraordinaire, gave an inspiring class on how to use Pinterest in conjunction with your blog. Both classes were well worth the ticket asking price – in fact, I would have paid more to see both as they were so informative. More awards were given out, Lucy and I managed to sneak out for a lovely chatty lunch in  a cafe down the road, there was a lively panel discussion and Ritu won Best Overal Blog (as well as baking a wonderful array of cakes for the event – where does she find the time!?)

All too soon it was over and people began to disperse. But, instead of being one of the people leaving, I checked into my lovely hotel room and returned to the lobby, where the rest of those who were staying had congregated. I had a chat with the wonderfully effervescent Susie Lindau, then a group of us wandered out into the warm evening to find dinner and continue the conversation, which lasted, one way or another, into the night.

Me, Allie Potts and Lucy Mitchell

The next morning, after breakfast, Ali and I checked out and walked to Victoria Station, where Ali went on to the airport and I took the Tube to Euston and then home, getting in around lunch time. It was over, for another year… I had the most fabulous time and can’t wait for the next one (June 9th, in case any of you are planning to attend). Congratulations to all the award winners!

PS I also saw Christoph Fischer, Icy Sedgewick, Shelley Wilson, Steve Tanham, Adam Dixon, Marjorie Mallon, Sherri Matthews, Jools Lawson, Lance Greenfield… Sorry, I know I’m forgetting people – it was such a fabulous crowd!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

#writephoto – Twilight

I haven’t done a #writephoto for a couple of weeks, mainly because I’ve had a couple of quite insistent book ideas nagging at me, so have been focusing on them. Oh, and there was also the Blogger’s Bash this past weekend, where I had the great pleasure of seeing Sue, along with many other blogging friends – there is a post to come, hopefully this weekend, as it’s taken a few days for it all to sink in.

When I saw Sue’s photo prompt this week, words came to me straight away, and so here is my response to her lovely twilit hillside:

Love Song

At night he comes

My lover sweet

As twilight steals across the land

As birds lie still

And shadows fall

I feel the caress of his hand

 

He comes in blue

He comes in gold

Like mist and smoke, a dream of rain

He stays with me

Till morning breaks

I know not if he’ll come again

 

I sit alone

My window wide

The sleeping hills like folds of blue

And violet deep

I hear your song

Beloved, do you hear mine too?

If you would like to respond to Sue’s prompt, you have until Wednesday June 21st to post a link or pingback – head over to Sue’s blog for more details.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Wednesday Wander – Singapore

It’s Wednesday, and time for another wander. This week I’ve been inspired by a book I just finished reading, Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians. When I say I read it, I mean I picked it up to read on Sunday and didn’t put it down again until Tuesday, when I’d finished. It was a delicious, decadent, funny read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was also set mostly in Singapore and so, in honour of that, I’ve decided to wander back there again.

Some of the action in the book is set in and around Orchard Road, the famous shopping thoroughfare. Thought to have taken its name from the nutmeg, pepper and fruit orchards the road once led to, Orchard Road is now home to gleaming shopping centres and the finest names in fashion – I did joke to my husband that there must be some sort of law that you have to have a Louis Vuitton store every 500 metres, because there were so many along there (not that I went into any of them). Interestingly, many of these shiny new buildings are built over what used to be burial grounds, with Chinese, Sumatran and Jewish communities all having graveyards along the road during the 19th century.

When we visited Singapore it was just at the turn of the Year of The Dragon, so there were decorations everywhere. We had a few days there, stopping over on our way to live in the UK, so we wandered through the heavy heat and gleaming buildings, eating icecream and marvelling at the variety of architecture. There was a little bit of shopping, of course, and we also visited the famous night zoo, watching elephants sleep under the stars.

Looking back at my photos of this visit made me realise the way I take photos has changed since I started blogging. Most of my older photos have people in them, so I won’t share them – I’ve chosen to mention my family only in passing on the blog, as they prefer it that way, and so do I. So now, whenever I go anywhere, of course I still take lots of photos with people in them, but I also take plenty without, making sure I capture enough images for whatever blog post I have in mind.

Anyway, I digress. This is the famous Marina Bay Sands building, with its rooftop bar and infinity pool complete with palm trees. It’s also where the final scene in Crazy Rich Asians takes place, so it seems appropriate to end this post here. Oh, and you can’t see it, but there’s a Louis Vuitton store in there, too.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

Meet The Bloggers Who Are Attending The Third Annual Bloggers Bash #BloggersBash

Very excited to be heading into London tomorrow for the Bash! Looking forward to catching up with some old friends… and maybe making some new ones 🙂

Hugh's Views & News

On behalf of the committee of the Bloggers Bash, I’d like to extend a very warm welcome to everyone who has confirmed their attendance to the Third Annual Bloggers Bash. Bags are packed, votes have been counted, cakes baked, envelopes sealed, outfits chosen, and the fun begins at 10:30 when Sacha flings opens the doors, and the hugging begins (please – no screaming this year when you see Geoff’s beard or watch Ali multitasking at the registration desk).

Where & When?

Saturday 10th June 2017 at the Wellington Suite in the Grange Wellington Hotel. 71 Vincent Square, Westminster, London SW1P 2PA. Click here for full details on how to get there.

We’ve lots going on during the day, including a panel debate and, of course, the announcements of this year’s bloggers bash award winners. For the very first time, we held a Bloggers Bash writing competition, and the winner will also be announced during…

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Wednesday Wander – Mykonos, Greece

The Greek island of Mykonos, also known as The Island Of Winds, is part of the Cyclades, a group of islands set in Homer’s wine dark Aegean sea.

According to Greek legend, Mykonos got its name from its first ruler, Mykons, said to be a direct descendent of Apollo. Zeus and the Titans were supposed to have had a great battle on Mykonos, and it’s where Hercules killed the invincible giants of Mount Olympus, having lured them to the island. Also, and I love this, because I guess I have a weird sense of humour, the large boulders scattered around the island are reputed to be the fossilised testicles of those same giants, and this legend is the source of the slang term ‘stones’!

Mykonos has a long history dating back to at least the 11th century BC, and has been under Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman rule. However, since 1831, it has been part of Greece, following the revolution in which Manto Mavrogenous, one of the island’s noted inhabitants, played a part. Manto, a wealthy, educated aristocrat, sacrificed her family’s fortune to help the Greeks and became a national heroine – a statue to her honour stands in the main town square.

The island is well known for its vibrant nightlife and nude beaches (sorry, no photos), and also for its famous windmills. Built by Venetians in the 16th century, they were originally used to mill flour – nowadays most have been restored as homes or storage facilities. There are also several fine museums, including one of the oldest archaeological museums in Greece. I’m somewhat ashamed to say I visited none of them, however, quite unusual for me. But Mykonos was a stop on a longer trip and I suppose I just chose to relax, instead. Ah well, I guess I need to go back.

It’s been quite a few years since I visited, but I still have plenty of memories – of meeting Petros the Pelican, the island’s mascot, of tangy feta and fresh bread, of my washing being done and coming back smelling of sunshine and herbs, of an old woman kissing my cheeks and offering me sweets after I bought one of her hand knitted jumpers (which I still have). There was nightlife, of course, dancing and drinking, the streets vibrant all through the night. But my overwhelming memory is one of sunshine and warmth, of brilliant white and deep blue, and through it all, the sound of the sea.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me! See you next time.


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.