Thursday Doors – In The Pink

I spent this past weekend in Wales, my favourite place in the world, which is where I saw this lovely pink door. It belongs to a cottage high on a hill overlooking Swansea Bay on the Gower Peninsula, a picturesque part of South Wales.

It was a lovely weekend. We were with family, and visited several different beaches including one where, during the war, my grandparents had their honeymoon. The house where they stayed is now a hotel, but the views, and the hidden church in the trees, remain the same. The Wales National Air Show was also on in the area so, as we sat on the beach in the morning, we were treated to the sight (and sound) of the Red Arrows flying past.

The little road with the pink-doored cottage was a narrow one, with room for a only single car in some places – we had to flatten ourselves against the old stone walls several times coming back up! It was also very steep, but the views were spectacular – almost worth the thought of lugging your shopping all the way up if you lived there.

Whenever I see an interesting door I wonder about what it must be like to live in that house, about the stories inside its walls. I think I’d enjoy living in this little cottage with the pink door, looking out at sea and mountains.

Maybe one day…

This is my response to the Thursday Doors Challenge, courtesy of Norm 2.0. For more doors, or to add one of your own, head over to Norm’s site and click the link.

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.


img_4589It’s Christmas Day. As you read this post I’m with family, probably eating, definitely enjoying myself. I lived away from my family for many years and missed a lot of Christmases, so now I make the most of being in the same country with (most of) them once more.

And at Christmas time I remember. I remember my paternal grandfather in his church, holly and ivy in the snowy churchyard, the old carols I knew and loved ringing along the ancient stone walls. I remember my grandmother setting up the inflatable Santa and reindeers, sitting us in a small sleigh and taking our photos. I remember my nana and grandad’s house, the tree with old-fashioned glass ornaments and glittering tinsel, the way the sky turned purple over the fields as I looked for a star each Christmas eve. I remember Christmas dinners and laughter and most of all, love, like a great golden glow encompassing us all. I remember the time we had together and I’m grateful for it, just as I’m grateful for the memories we’re creating today.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas, wherever you are.

As well as a Christmas post, this is my response to the 30 Day Writing Challenge – it’s day 25, and today’s prompt is: Remember.

If you enjoyed this post, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

A Gift

It’s no secret that I like to write. These days, it’s my main creative outlet and likely to remain so, as I explore my ‘voice’ on paper.

I do, however, have other creative interests. Both my grandmother and grandfather were talented amateur artists, and I can remember sitting in the Sunday School room with my grandmother before class started, watching her draw an illustration for the lesson on the big blackboard, amazed by how she would use the limited palette of chalks to create a world of colour. Later, in the quiet warm space between Sunday lunch and high tea, she and I would sometimes sit in the big living room at the Vicarage, tick of clock on the mantel as she would draw something and then get me to copy it, my small hand struggling to repeat the lines that came so easily from her pencil.

Several years after my grandfather passed away, she gave me a tin containing the drawing pencils he was using on his last work, a keen painter up until his untimely death. We have some of his work framed, stone cottages on a jetty under a lowering sky, a canal boat dappled with light and shade, and of course his beloved church, snowbound. I’ve never used the pencils but keep them as a talisman of sorts, a small piece of memory.

I painted for many years, even pursuing a degree in the creative arts, sure my artistic calling lay down that path. But the twists and turns of employment and life meant I ended up working in advertising instead, swapping the joys of painting and drawing for producing and casting – still creative in its own way, but not quite as fulfilling. Painting was reserved for my downtime and, while I did produce some work that made me happy, I never had the time to pursue it as I wished.

I haven’t done much painting since moving back to the UK, simply because I was concentrating on my writing instead, capturing the world of Ambeth as it poured out onto the page. However, I recently picked up my brushes again to create a painting for my husband on his birthday. And here it is, just for fun (don’t worry, I’ve already given it to him):


What about you? Do you have any other creative strings to your bow?

Oh and yay! This is my 100th blog post – can’t believe it really 🙂 Thanks to everyone for reading along.

Ghosts of My Grandfather

My grandfather died in his church.

For many years he was vicar there, the ancient village surrounding it dating back to the Domesday Book (and possibly beyond). It was the kind of place that had a castle once, but ‘Simon De Montfort and his crew tore it down.’ Where the old manor house had fallen prey to post war neglect, where another old home had an indelible bloodstain by the fireplace, relic of misdeeds long ago.

My grandfather was a wonderful vicar. At least, that’s how I remember him. He preached love and tolerance, filling the church with vegetables and fruit at harvest time, the scientist and historian in him acknowledging traditions older than his religion. On Sundays, after the service and Sunday School and dinner in the old Georgian vicarage, he would sit at his desk and prepare his notes for next week’s sermon while I danced around the small circular table at the centre of the room, French doors open to let in the scents and sounds of the garden beyond.

He died when I was only nine, struck down by a massive heart attack as he readied himself for service in the small vestry. He was carried out through the packed congregation (which included my grandmother) and, several days later, laid to rest in the churchyard nearby. I still miss him (as I do all my grandparents), and feel glad I had the chance to know him for a few short years at least.

We sometimes visit the village where he lived, though I haven’t been for a couple of years now. It still slumbers peacefully among the fields, the small stream where I used to play Poohsticks with my grandmother meandering through the main street past half timbered cottages and Georgian houses. It’s a beautiful place and not much changed since I was small.

About eight years ago we visited, taking my husband and baby daughter to the church where my parents were married and my brother and I christened, a carved wooden memorial chair marking my grandfather’s years of service there. It was an auspicious time for me – coming out of a difficult spell after the birth of my daughter and reconnecting with my past, the trip we made to visit family in the UK was life changing for many reasons.

And so I stood in my grandfather’s church and I remembered. Singing in the pews next to my grandmother. My very-small-at-the-time brother deciding one day that he would rather stand with Grandad in the pulpit than sit in the pew (nobody minded). Taking my basket of apples up to the altar at harvest time, so heavy I had to use both arms to carry it. Years and layers of time and memory weaving around me. And then something, I don’t know what, prompted me to take out my camera. I held it up and thought (again, I don’t know why), ‘Grandad, if you’d like to be in this picture, please do.’ Then I paused for a split second before pressing the shutter.

And this is the image that appeared:

Church Interior

I don’t know how you feel about the idea of an afterlife, or our loved ones coming to visit after they are gone. I have my own opinions but I won’t bore you with them today. However, this photo seemed quite special to me.

Do you see the two orbs? The big one is directly above my grandfather’s memorial chair, while another seems to be ascending the stair to the pulpit. (it’s on the bottom step)

Church face image

And then who is this peeping around the pillar? The chapel to the right is called the Lady Chapel, and houses two very old and worn burials of a knight and his lady, their names lost to time. Did one of them decide to come back and have their picture taken?

I should go back, I suppose, and take another photo from the same angle. It’s a very old building, after all. Dust, tricks of the light and worn marks on the stones can sometimes present images that seem other than they are. So I leave this with you without further comment, although I’d be interested to hear yours.