Living The Lockdown Life… Again #lockdownuk

As the nights draw in, the days getting colder, it seems natural to retreat into our own spaces, to keep warm and dry, cosy socks and slippers the order of the day.

And so it is now, as autumn gives way to winter, the last vestiges of red-gold still clinging to the trees. We’ve had frost here already, the mild panic when you realise it’s time to leave for the school run but the car is still iced over, the crunch of leaves underfoot, lines of glitter scoring the rooftops and windows.

And we’re also in lockdown again. The second one of the year, as Covid infections rise once more after our summer of relative freedom.

Things haven’t changed too much in our house, to be honest. My husband has been working from home since the first lockdown in March, and I’ve been working at home for a few years now. Schools are still open so the kiddo is out of the house, and the dog still needs to be taken for her daily walk, greetings still exchanged in the cool fields and pathways.

It’s been a bit of an eye-opener, to be honest. In many ways, I’m very fortunate that my life hasn’t been curtailed too badly by the current global circumstances. However, it’s also made me realise that, when this is all over, I would like to go out more, do more, see more people in person, rather than just participate online. I had plans to see people this month, but they’ve all been postponed – while the current lockdown is only supposed to be until December 2nd, I feel as though it’s more likely to run until Christmas, at which point I hope we’ll be allowed to mix in small groups, at least.

So for now, I’ll get out when I can with the dog, breathe in woodsmoke-scented air, look across the distant hills and dream of a day when we can all meet up again.

Stay safe and well, everyone xx

PS. I realise there is big news, and a big change, coming from the US. Let’s hope this will lead to brighter days going forwards…

#writephoto Arch – Through The Window

It’s Thursday, and time for another #writephoto prompt, courtesy of Sue Vincent. This week’s photo brought a character to mind, and here he is:

He liked to watch the world change. Today it was snowy, the little tree purged of leaves by winter, the land beyond carpeted white.

Some days he saw green grass and flowers, butterflies dancing. At other times wind blew the little tree, bending it so he feared it might break, russet and gold leaves streaming into the air. Lightning crashed, bright across the landscape, and sometimes, if he woke at the right time, the sky was clear and full of stars, silence ringing like a bell.

Around and above him the stones wept dampness, green moss blurring what was once carved precision. The rainbow of glass was long gone, the windows wide and open to whatever the elements brought.

But he was beyond it all as he paced the old pathway, no wind coming to touch him, no water cold upon his neck. He wondered at that, standing with arms wide beneath stormy skies, staring up to where the roof had once arched.

He couldn’t remember his name, anymore. All he knew was that he was stuck there. Sometimes other people came to walk the stones with him, but he couldn’t make them hear his voice, no matter how he cried and called to them. Children seemed more aware, jumping when he touched their faces, or trailed his fingers through their hair. One little girl had cried, telling her mother over and over about ‘the man in black.’ But she had gone, just like everyone else, leaving him alone beneath the stone arches.

Watching the world change.

Enjoyed this post? Want to read more? Find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, Under Stone (Ambeth Chronicles #4), is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

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Birthday Bug

I haven’t blogged for about a week, probably the longest break I’ve had since I started blogging just over three years ago. We’ve had a bit of a sickness bug in the house this past week, plus the gorgeous girl had a birthday with various celebrations to plan and enjoy, so it’s been a very busy time.

I even missed my Wednesday Wander last week – I had all good intentions of writing one, but the day just ran away with me. However, I have one planned for tomorrow so will be back to it again.

I haven’t even been able to get out for my usual walks – and I love this time of year. I love the way the sun slants low in the sky, the colours in the clouds and the trees, the last remnants of colour before the starkness of winter arrives. My apple tree still has a few forlorn apples left on it, and there are berries on the bushes – early Christmas decorations, perhaps?

I’ve also been flat out finishing some editing work – Ambeth is getting another instalment soon, as well as some different reading options, so watch this space (or sign up for my newsletter!) for more details.

Hoping to be back to a regular blogging schedule again soon. How is everyone out there? Wishing you all a good week 🙂


Autumn Leaves and Winter Work

It’s Sunday evening. The sky is washed with eggshell shades fading to blue, my cheeks still tingling from being outside. The working week awaits… and yet, the working weekend has just finished.

I’m currently deep into the final edit and formatting of Under Stone, book four in my Ambeth series, with a view to publishing very soon. This last push has been accompanied by lining up some associated promotion and deals, so it’s been a very busy time of late (which has made me a not-very-good blogger at the moment).

That being said, you may have also noticed a couple of new things on my blog. One is the mailing list sign-up. If you do sign up, I promise not to inundate you. Rather, I’ll just send through a newsletter once in a while with publishing updates, sneak peeks at upcoming books, the occasional competition and a few other goodies.

The other new thing is a shiny badge proclaming me a member of the 2018 Bloggers Bash Committee. I agreed (was talked into) joining the committee at this year’s Bash, and I’m enjoying being part of the team! Watch this space (and my newsletter) for news about next year’s event.

And now it’s back to formatting once more. The sky is now dark, the nights drawing in early. I don’t mind though – autumn, and the lead up to Christmas, are my favourite times of the year. I love the cold air and crisp leaves underfoot, the sparkle of lights and Christmas songs, good food and warm jumpers, Halloween treats and Bonfire night.

Wishing you all a good week, wherever you are! 🙂




A Ramble In More Ways Than One

I missed my Wednesday Wander this week! Not because I didn’t have anywhere to write about, but because I’ve been deep into Ambeth these past two weeks, doing a fine toothcomb edit of Under Stone, the fourth instalment in the series. The story has taken me over again and I’ve been immersed fully into it, emerging only to eat, sleep, go to work and take care of my (slightly bemused) family. Oh, and watch Game of Thrones, of course, because DRACARYS – how good was the last episode? It took me a day to recover, I swear.

However, last night I edited the final word in the final chapter, and so this morning I decided to take a break and walk to work along the canal, something I’ve not had the chance to do for a few weeks. Not much had changed along there – it was still green, lush branches almost trailing in the still water in some places, creating archways over the slightly muddy path. There were more ripe blackberries than before, reminding me to bring a container next time I walk that way, their juicy goodness destined for my freezer and winter pies. But mostly, it was just the same.

And that was just what I needed. A reminder of the real world. Not so far removed from the green gardens and hidden pathways of Ambeth, but real enough. The grey heron was in his usual spot on the fallen tree at the widest part of the canal, preening his feathers in the sunshine. Canada geese, ducks and swans sailed past, silver fish jumped, canal boats reflected in the dark waters. As I walked I felt in some way as though I were waking up again, from a self-imposed slumber where all I did was dream of another land.

This afternoon after work I watched the gorgeous girl in a show, caught up with friends and had dinner with my family. Later, I might take my tea and sit in the garden as dusk falls, watching the sky change colour and listening to the rustle of birds as I cradle my cup close, enjoying the warmth. The nights are cool, even though it’s August, a hint of autumn around the corner, my favourite time of year. The Perseid meteor shower is happening now, with the peak expected this weekend. If I can, I’ll sit out and watch the stars fall – I did so years ago, driving out to the countryside and sitting in the darkness, light streaking across the sky above. I’ve never forgotten it.

And then it’s back to work. A final edit, some work on the cover design and a few other related items, as well as another story begging to be completed. There are blog posts to write, as well, people to visit in their online domains. But for tonight I think I’ll just sit and consider, taking a moment to breathe and remember who I am before I dive back in again.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend 🙂

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.

Reflections, Fireworks and a Zombie Prom Queen

img_4273I’ve been out and about these last few days, as half term winds down and the celebration season winds up. On Saturday I walked along a stretch of canal I hadn’t visited before – I love reflections, and the calm water made for some interesting shots.

img_4276Yesterday was Devils Night, the precursor to Halloween, and also Diwali, so fireworks and light were all around, crackling in the night sky. The gorgeous girl and I headed into our Old Town, which was having a Halloween celebration complete with street stalls, rides and costumed revellers, culminating in a fireworks display at the nearby park.

img_4286It was great fun, with just enough spooks and thrills to get the atmosphere going, yet very family friendly. We met up with friends and managed to squeeze in a few activities before heading down to the park for the display.

img_4289However. It was a chilly night and a mist had descended, the air hanging still beneath the trees. When the fireworks started the lack of wind meant that the smoke just stayed put, drifting a little across the crowd but mostly just hanging in midair, mixing with the mist to obscure all but the most determined fireworks. Still, there was lots of laughter in the crowd, and cries of ‘That was a good one!’ after particularly loud bangs, even though we could see nothing in the murk.

img_4300Tonight is Halloween proper, or Samhain, in the old tongue. A night where the barriers between life and death are supposed to come down, and spirits walk the night. I will be walking the night as well, or at least the very early evening, accompanied, I am told, by a Zombie Prom Queen. Sweets will be sought and tricks avoided, although it will be a fairly early finish as tomorrow is a school day, sadly for her.

And then it begins. My favourite time of year. Bonfire Night, woodsmoke, the trees shedding the last of their leaves, Jack Frost arriving to line the fields and houses with silvery blue. And lights, everywhere, sparkling on rooftops and lamp-posts and high streets, an antidote to long dark nights. Gathering with friends and family, the warmth indoors counterpoint to the cold outside. Wishing you all a wonderful season, however you choose to celebrate!



Writing Updates And The Snot Monster

Kind of how I felt on the trip...

Kind of how I felt on the trip…

Happy Friday, everyone! Just a quick update post, as my week has been thrown into slight disarray by a snot monster who has decided to take up residence in my sinuses. Blegh! Could be worse, though, I know that.

Streaming eyes and the fact that the front of my face feels as though it’s about to explode off into the ether means that I’ve not been able to sit at a computer for long these past few days, so that meant no Wednesday Wander or Thursday Doors, as well as no popping round to visit other blogs as often as I like to do. I made the (huge) mistake of deciding to still go on a school trip on Wednesday, as I was feeling ‘a bit better.’ Hahahahahahahahaha. I was not. So, while wandering around an Anglo-Saxon village would have been right up my alley most days, all I could think about was when we were going to get back on the coach and go home.

Anyway. Enough wingeing about my cold. Like I say, it could be worse. So, in terms of actual writing, here’s what’s been happening:

A Thousand Rooms is in the final stages of formatting, and I’m hoping to have a cover design to reveal to you all soon. Also, if any of you lovely people would be happy to have me come over for a visit and talk about the book, I’d love to (and would be happy to return the favour). Let me know 🙂

Other than that, another book idea that’s been on the back burner for a while has surged to the forefront, with an opening scene (maybe the opening scene) playing itself over and over in my mind. The story is intriguing me, and I can see the layers forming, each character becoming more complex. So I guess it’s time to start writing it down…

Under Stone, my fourth Ambeth book, is also knocking at the doors of my subconscious, demanding I pay it some attention. It was already written, but some slight adjustments I made in the first three books need to be added and played out in this fourth book, so there’s a bit of structural work to do. How do I know it’s been knocking? There’s a piece of music I associate with writing the Ambeth books, and it’s been playing in my head this past week or so (it’s getting quite crowded in there now, what with the other book and the snot monster and life in general and now music – maybe that’s why I have a cold).

But the weekend now beckons, and hopefully a chance to rest and get back to health. Plus do some writing, of course…

Wishing you all a lovely weekend ximg_4023



The Turning Of The Season


Spring is here, at least according to the calendar, and with it the desire to wear something new, tired of the same old boots and puffa jacket, winter’s uniform of black and grey.

It seems the earth feels the same way. Perhaps that’s why spring is so gorgeous, the world clothed in blossom and wildflowers and bright green, buds blooming wherever they get the chance, the sky washed clean clear blue, light like pale golden wine slanting through the clouds.

I realise it’s not Spring everywhere. In Australia, where I used to live, autumn is in full glow, the nights growing cool though the days are still warm, grapes ripening on the hillsides, harvest bounty to be had before winter’s chill arrives. And it does, believe it or not – it was cold enough for frost where we lived down south, the ocean icy with currents from the Antarctic, winter storms pounding the jagged coast.

And so the seasons turn. Happy Spring (or Autumn), everyone!

Autumn Rambling




Today the gorgeous child found this lovely leaf on the way to school, so we stopped to take a photograph. Autumn is my favourite season, and I love the explosion of warmth and colour just before the dark of winter. I used to live in the east of Canada, where the trees lit up with glory around this time of year, and when I moved to Australia I really missed the changing colours of the season.

IMG_2350It was tough enough with the seasons being back-to-front (at least as far as I was concerned – I’m sure the Australians thought it quite normal). But Christmas in hot weather and bright sunshine never felt right to me. The trees also didn’t change, unless you were in the inner city where native bush gave way to imported species and the streets still swished with leaves when autumn came around. Out where we were on the coast, we had curving moonah, aromatic gums, spiky banksia and twisted ti-tree – all beautiful in their own way, especially in spring when the moonah and ti-tree would flower, small scented white blossoms making them appear as though they had been dusted with snow. But other than that, they were the same all year round. I grew to love the native vegetation, the way the gum trees smelt after rain, the dark bushy leaves and curling ti-tree bark, the beautiful seed pods our backyard banksia produced. And I began to recognise autumn’s arrival in other ways. The nights would grow cooler, though the days were sunny and warm. The tourists would all go home, vines on the hillsides ripening with grapes, the scent of burning wood in the air. And yet, I still felt there was still something missing.

IMG_2363So it was a pleasure for me today to walk in the leaves and see the trees turn. After dropping off the gorgeous child I had an appointment, so I got off the bus early and walked part of the way, wanting to enjoy the outdoors. The road I walked along is lined with fabulous homes, large detached properties, most in the Arts and Crafts style. There are a few older homes, one of which I particularly covet. It is a half-timber and brick house, complete with diamond paned windows and higgledy-piggledy roof. Its location several feet below the pavement level suggests it is as ancient as it appears and I looked at it in pleasure as I walked past.

Then I noticed a large blue circular plaque next to the front door. These plaques, if you don’t know, are placed on houses where someone of historical significance once spent time, so I was intrigued to see who was connected to my dream home. Craning my head and trying not to seem obvious (as the house is set back from the road), I managed to make out the words: ‘Dr Stephen Ward’ and underneath ‘was arrested here in 1963 for his part in the Profumo Affair.’

I was aware of the Profumo Affair, of course, but not of Dr Ward’s exact role in the whole thing, so I was led down an internet wormhole of vintage sex scandals and British politics as I waited for my appointment. In short, the Profumo Affair took place in the early 1960s and involved a young woman, Christine Keeler, who had brief affairs with both a British politician, John Profumo, and a Soviet Naval attache, Yevgeny Ivanov, at the same time. The issue was two-fold – Profumo was married and the resulting revelation of the affair cost him his position in the Goverment, and the fact that this took place at the height of the Cold War meant that Keeler being intimate with both men could have led to a possible security breach (it didn’t). Stephen Ward was an osteopath who moved in high society – it was he who had introduced Keeler to Profumo, during a legendary house party at Cliveden House. After the affair became public, he was arrested and charged with immorality offences – however, sadly, he committed suicide before the trial was completed. It was later found to be a miscarriage of justice, but too late for him.

IMG_2362So it was fascinating and a little morbid to find that this lovely old house was the scene of recent scandal and sadness, leading to a man’s death. I went home in a reflective state of mind, pausing only to take a photo of the river near my house, the changing leaves being carried along on the water somehow symbolic of how life changes and carries us along with it, sometimes to unexpected places.