Wednesday Wander – Manyana Beach

manana-2My wander this week is to Manyana Beach, on the NSW coast south of Sydney, Australia.

I visited Manyana many years ago with my now-husband. I think I’ve mentioned before that he’s Australian, and likes to surf. On this particular trip we were driving north from Melbourne to Sydney, a drive that takes seven hours or so if you head straight up the Hume Highway inland, or one or two days, depending how often you stop, along the winding coast road.

At the time we were living in Sydney, and had been in Melbourne for Christmas with his family. We’d decided to drive back up to Sydney in time for New Year’s Eve so set off a couple of days before. For some reason, even though we knew it was high summer, school holidays and the magic week between Christmas and New Year that pretty much everyone has off work, we didn’t book any accommodation, confident that we’d be able to find somewhere in the many towns and hotels along the route.

Haha. We spent our first night on the road sleeping in our car, parked in a grocery story car park near the beach. It wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had, especially when we were entertained by the local youth frolicking nearby, one girl squealing ‘I’m in a trolley!’ as they clattered past the car around 4am. Still, we were younger then so, after an early morning dip in the ocean, we hit the road once more, although with firm instructions (from me) that we were to find somewhere nice to stay that night.

And we did. The last remaining room in a small bed and breakfast, patio doors looking across a paddock lined with gum trees, curious horses wandering up to have their noses scratched over the wire fence. A place where the friendly owners told us about the time they swam with whales as they fed us an excellent home-cooked breakfast. To say it was a step up from the previous night’s accommodation would be an understatement.

And then we went to Manyana. I sat on the sand with my book and parasol, while hubby-to-be surfed the blue waves. It was idyllic, the beach almost deserted, the weather splendid. We left in the afternoon and headed north, arriving in Sydney that evening. I can still remember driving over the Harbour Bridge as the sun was setting, relieved to be almost home.

manana-1And now I sit in a different home, halfway across the world, writing my Wednesday Wanders. Thanks for coming with me – see you next time.

The InBetween


I’ve been mostly absent from the blogosphere these past few days. It’s been family time, of course, days spent away from home eating and drinking and sharing time with those I love most. I thought about you all, of course I did, hoping you were all enjoying a happy Christmas time too.

But it was also that I needed a break. I love blogging, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes it’s nice to have a few days where I don’t have to think about much except where the next Ferrero Rocher is coming from. 😉

Also, for some reason, I am spam. The Akismet elves, while protecting my own blog, somehow decided just before Christmas that my comments were in the same category as the ‘excellentwaytopromotecontent’ and ‘estepornovideo’ ones. No idea why but, if I do normally comment on your blog, please check your spam folder just in case.

And finally, editing. Having a few days of not doing much somehow freed my mind, and I have finally managed to sort out the first few chapters of Hills and Valleys. So it’s full steam ahead with the next book, as it’s due with the editor in three weeks time.

And here we are at what I call The Inbetween – the space between Christmas and New Year when I’m not sure what day it is, and my time is (mostly) my own. There is more editing to do, of course, plus, visiting and excursions and the usual things around the house. Yet somehow, the horizon feels open.

So I hope everyone is well and happy, and here’s to an exciting New Year!



Wednesday Wander – St Albans Cathedral

I haven’t wandered too far today. I live close to the ancient city of St Albans, and a recent visit to the cathedral had me considering what it had once been like.

The cathedral itself is mainly Norman, but is built from the bricks of Roman Verulamiam, once one of the most important Roman cities in the UK and the place where St Alban met his martyred end. I wonder how it must have been for the Normans to wander the ruins, nearly a thousand years old at the time, and whether they looked at the ancient walls with any curiosity beyond a source of building materials.


St Albans has a long history, being a tribal settlement before the Romans came, then growing into a city of such importance that it was sacked and burned by Boudicca of the Iceni, on her way to Londinium. Much of the Roman city still remains unexcavated, though there are bits and pieces to be seen, including a section of the old city wall and a wonderful mosaic floor with hypocaust heating, unearthed in the local park and left in situ.

The Norman cathedral was part of a prosperous abbey until the dissolution, after which time it fell into such disrepair that there was talk, in the eighteenth century, of having it demolished and replaced with a smaller church. It was saved, thank goodness, and eventually restored.IMG_0850

Today you can visit the cathedral grounds and walk the circuit inside, under soaring arches and painted ceilings. There is even a bit of St Alban there, enshrined, though it is a fairly recent acquisition,  and the centuries old graffiti carved into the stone pillars is well worth seeing.IMG_0852

The cathedral still holds regular services, and has an excellent gift shop and cafe. It also hosts a well-known Christmas Market every year, while the streets of St Albans bustle with shoppers just a few metres away.

IMG_0098And yet, when mist falls over the hill and the land is deserted, it is possible to just glimpse the ghosts of St Albans’ Roman past, built into the very walls.

Thank you for joining me on another Wednesday Wander – see you next week 🙂




Today I am trapped in a thorny tangle of structure, as I pull apart the first few chapters of Hills and Valleys in an attempt to get them into some sort of order. The book is written, the plot set, and I have a (self-imposed) deadline to get the MS to my editor. All sorted, right? Yes, except for the fact that I cannot get the first few chapters to read as I would wish, hence the de-tangling exercise.

Plus there is a tumble of ironing to be done, a plethora of presents to be wrapped and the myriad other responsibilities that make up my day. So this blog post will be short, yet (hopefully) still sweet. In an attempt to deflect you from my literary shortcomings, may I lead you to a few other places in the blogosphere, all of whom are offering some festive goodness? In the meanwhile I shall shuffle papers and mainline spiced almonds in an attempt to find order.

Ali Isaac is weaving legend and history to tell us about the Five Sacred Evergreens of Christmas

Mick Canning is sharing a Christmas story with a twist 😉

Sally Cronin’s Christmas Grotto is full of all kinds of books and gifts,

Hugh over at Hugh’s Views and News is having a charity Christmas Tree Topper Challenge

Marjorie at Kyrosmagica has found her Christmas spirit while working in retail

And Sue over at The Daily Echo has a post (via Barb Taub) about completely impractical gifts for writers

So there you go. Happy Tuesday all! I’ll see you tomorrow for my Wednesday Wander.


Hugh’s Photo Challenge: Week 8 – Charity Christmas Tree Topper Challenge

Hugh over at Hugh’s Views and News is always good for a photography challenge. However, this week’s challenge happens to be for a very good cause as well. For every Christmas Tree Topper posted in blogland between now and January 5, 2016, Hugh will be donating £1 to The Dog’s Trust (to a maximum of £250).

I couldn’t resist adding my own Tree Top to the list, and here it is:IMG_0893

As you can see, the top of my tree features a rather glam-rock style plastic star, as well as Fluffy the Angel, who we’ve had since the gorgeous child was very small. The tree itself is about ten years old, and was a $29 special from Kmart, if I recall correctly. I refer to it as ‘the Charlie Brown tree’, because it reminds me of the Peanuts Christmas Special where the kids go to get a tree, but the only one left is small and threadbare. However, when they dress it with decorations, it looks beautiful. That’s what our tree is like as well, although this year it is shedding rather more fake pine needles than usual, making me think it might be coming to the end of its life.

If you’re interested in seeing more Tree Tops, head over to Hugh’s blog. Or add one of your own!


A Question Of Orbs

A few weeks ago, Hugh over at Hugh’s Views and News posted an image he had taken on the beach which featured a strange glowing orb. We ended up having a conversation in the comment section, as I had also blogged about a photograph in which I’d captured some unexplained phenomenon. I mentioned I had a few other shots in which these ‘orbs’ had shown up, and promised to do a post. So here it is.

I took these images at Warwick Castle about five years ago when the Castle was all decked out for Christmas, so they are very timely. Warwick Castle is the ancient seat of the Earls of Warwick and has a building history spanning almost a thousand years, from the original Norman motte and bailey to the Victorian renovations done when Lady Warwick was a favourite of the Prince of Wales, who often visited.

The first image is taken inside the Great Hall, which, as you can see, was set up for a Christmas function. As you can also see, there are loads of orbs in this image, including a tiny one way up high, and another hovering like a bauble at the lower right of the Christmas tree. There is also a cluster of orbs running along the left side of the image. Perhaps a ghostly party going on? Or just a dusty old castle?

Warwick Castle Great Hall

This second image was taken in one of the drawing rooms, renovated in Victorian times but dating back several centuries earlier. In this image there are two visible orbs, one at the base of the wall sconce, the other by the curtain tie-back on the right.

Warwick Castle Drawing Room

And just for comparison, here is a shot I took just a few minutes later in the room next door – the Gift Room. As you can see, the lighting is similar, but there are no orbs. So I guess I can dismiss dust on the lens?

Warwick Castle Gift Room

All the photos were taking using a digital camera within a single half hour period. So I leave them here without any further comment. Looking forward to hearing yours 🙂