What a Difference A Day Makes

I took this photo last Friday. The sun was shining, bees were humming among the blossoms, and it felt as though Spring was finally on her way.

What a difference a day makes.

This was Saturday morning. Overnight an arctic blast had come through, the temperature dropping to a face-freezing minus one, snow falling. It hadn’t quite begun to settle on the ground at this point, but it was resting on the tree branches where, less than twenty-four hours before, it had felt like Spring.

Nature has a way of doing the unexpected, doesn’t she?

A day later, this was the scene in my back garden. However, today temperatures are starting to rise, the MiniBeast withdrawing back to the frozen east where it belongs. The spring equinox is almost upon us, and there will be more blossom and bees soon…

…I hope.


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.

And don’t forget to get your Bloggers Bash tickets – follow this link to join the fun 🙂

 

Wednesday Wander – Natural History Museum, London

It’s Wednesday and time to wander again. This week, I’m not travelling too far from home. I’m lucky enough to live very close to London and all that it holds, including some wonderful (and very famous) museums. This week, I’m wandering to the Natural History Museum, arguably one of the best known.

Situated in the heart of leafy Kensington, the Natural History Museum was opened in 1881, and is home to 80 million specimens from around the world, including those collected by Charles Darwin on his historic voyage. The origin of the museum can be traced back to the collection of Sir Hans Sloane, an Irish doctor who sold his collection of specimens to the British government in 1756.

This collection was first held in Montagu House, Bloomsbury, but was so poorly managed by subsequent staff members, including destroying specimens and losing labels, that much of it was lost. In 1856 a palaeontologist named Richard Owen was appointed superintendent of the museum – it was he who finally managed to bring order to the collection, and saw that a new, larger museum space was required.

While attractions such as the dinosaur skeletons and the earthquake room, where you can relive the Kobe earthquake as it happened, are a major pull for visitors, I happen to think the building itself is part of the museum’s allure. Designed by Alfred Waterhouse and inspired by his frequent visits to Europe, the terracotta tiled interior and exterior of the museum are crammed with carving and decoration, beautifully and intricately done.

Interestingly, the relief sculptures of flora and fauna are split into living and extinct species, with living species in the west wing, and extinct species in the east wing. This was at the request of Owen, and is seen as part of his rebuttal of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, which stated (in part) that living and extinct species are linked.

We have a family membership to the museum, so we visit quite often – even though admission is free, you have to pay to see the temporary exhibitions, and the pass lets us get in to those for free, as well as jump the queue for popular attractions like the dinosaur skeletons. It’s also a great way to support our wonderful museums, of course! The earthquake room is a particular favourite of the gorgeous girl, as is anything interactive where she can push buttons, listen to whale calls or create waves, among other things.

Dippy the Diplodocus was a feature in the main hall until recently, when he was replaced by a blue whale skeleton diving from the ornamental ceiling – quite an awesome sight! Dippy is now on tour around the country, and is apparently having a marvellous time…

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.

Oh Canada! Happy Birthday to you

Today is Canada Day, the yearly holiday to mark the anniversary of Canada becoming a country. This year, Canada celebrates 150 years. However, 150 years is only Canada’s official age, and does not take into account the centuries of trade and exploration before that, including the founding of the world’s oldest department store, the Hudson’s Bay Company(where both my mother and I worked, though at different stores). It also does not include the rich history of the indigenous peoples, whose culture was almost destroyed by white settlement, millennia of art and language and living with the land dismissed by our more ignorant forebears.

I lived in Canada for fourteen years. It’s where I attended high school and university, where I learned to drive, where many of life’s milestones happened to me. It’s a country I love dearly, where I still have friends, and where I met my husband. I also hold citizenship, so am proud to call myself Canadian on this day.

It is a place of wonders, of glimmering mountain peaks, vast prairies and tumbling waterfalls. Of wildlife fierce, tooth and claw, of people kind and welcoming. Its cities are bright and clean and vibrantly multicultural, and regularly place high on the list of best places to live. Canada has spawned authors and dancers and musicians, actors and directors and doctors and scientists.

It’s not a perfect country – nowhere is. But it’s pretty damn close.

And so today, on its 150th birthday, I would like to say Oh Canada! Happy Birthday to you 🙂


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.

Reading, Writing, and Silver Fish Jumping

It’s been a little while since I’ve written an update kind of post, and so it seemed like today would be a good day.

A Thousand Rooms is currently available to read and review via NetGalley, and was recently in their Summer Reads newsletter. So far, so good. I’ve also been asked, via a NetGalley request, to take part in a blog tour for a new Random House/Penguin release, The Finding of Martha Lost. My review is due on May 24th – I’ve read the book already and can say it’s a lovely, whimsical read.

Writing-wise I’ve been forging ahead with Silver and Black, hoping to get a complete draft finished by the end of this month. I’ve been working on it, on and off, for over a year now, so it will be nice to get the structure sorted. There will be quite a bit of work after that, of course, adding in detail and finetuning things, so it’s a while away from being shared. However, the fourth Ambeth book, Under Stone, is now out for edit, and I’m sorting out the cover design with a view to publishing this summer. Then there’s The Grove, a story that’s coming to me in bits and pieces, and that I’m quite excited about. I foresee a lot of work ahead with that one…

Other than that, I’ve been looking at planning a few short trips over the coming months, so hopefully that will mean more material for my Wednesday Wanders (although I’m not close to running out yet!). Even though I’m not blogging quite as much as I usually do, I try not to miss posting those – it’s fun going back to places I’ve visited and I really enjoy hearing from everyone about places they’ve visited too. And does anyone else feel that Game of Thrones cannot return soon enough? I’m dying to find out what happens next, and think it quite mean that they’re making us wait so long. I also recently read The Handmaid’s Tale, and wish I could get the Hulu adaptation here – I hear it’s excellent.

And I’m still walking, enjoying the trees and canal and wild creatures, using the time to work out plots and ideas. Yesterday I saw herons, two swans building a nest, countless ducks and silver fish jumping, and was scattered with sweet scented hawthorn blossom as I wandered past water so smooth and still it seemed an extension of the path I walked.

Last night the gorgeous girl and I watched Eurovision together, as we usually do. We had snacks and supplies, plus I was tweeting with #BigUpYour Eurovision, which was hilarious fun. None of us, gorgeous girl included, were completely thrilled with the song that won – however, huge congratulations to Portugal on their first Eurovision win ever. Here’s to Lisbon 2018!

Happy weekend, everyone, and Happy Mother’s Day to those who are celebrating xx

———————————————————————————————-

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 – Powell St Cable Car, San Francisco

img_0315When we were visiting San Francisco just over a year ago, we took a ride on the famous Powell Street Cable Car.

img_0316The cable car operates between downtown San Francisco and the waterfront, and is one of the last hand-operated cable car systems in the world. Operators use a system of levers to drive the trams, and the brake blocks, which are made of Douglas Fir, have to be replaced every few days. Passengers (which included us), sit along seats on the outside, or just hang on to one of the poles. There are no seatbelts or barriers – you basically just have to hang on as you rattle through the streets, especially on the steep hills. It’s great fun.

img_0318And, when you reach the end, the bay and Golden Gate Bridge are there in front of you, all mountains and blue water. There is something about the Pacific West Coast of North America – it has a feel like nowhere else I’ve been in the world. The cities seem to perch precariously between the water and sky, as though nature has only been held back temporarily and could return at any time.

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


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

Wednesday Wander – Niagara Falls, Canada

Niagara Falls 1When I lived in Ontario, I used to live not too far from Niagara Falls. Close enough that I remember going on a couple of dates there during high school, close enough that it was where we took all our visitors whenever they came to stay.

It was no different when I went back to Canada for a visit with my now-husband. We had a few days in my old hometown before heading to Vancouver, so I took him (and his brother) to see the Falls.

Niagara Falls 2Because they are pretty impressive. Despite all the tackiness that has sprung up around them, the Horseshoe Falls are truly a wonder of nature. We were there in winter, as you can see, and the ice was thick on the river, hanging in icicles from the viewing area below. We also went in the tunnels behind the Falls. I still pause when I think about it. You see, the tunnels simply open out to the Falls. Literally, the water is falling at the open end of the tunnel. And the only thing there (or at least at the time we went) to stop you or anyone from just stepping out, is a wooden bar fixed about half way along the tunnel, waist height from the floor. So, not really a deterrent at all. I think I screamed when I saw it, the noise and proximity quite overwhelming.

And that’s the other thing about the Falls. They are very open. You can drive a little way along the Parkway and just… step into the river. Literally park, walk a few metres, and step in. No wonder so many people have tried the barrel stunt over the years. And the railing at the edge of the Falls itself is, as you can see, about waist height.

This is quite an old photo, looking back along the gorge to the Peace Bridge and the American Falls. There are a lot more buildings there now.
This is quite an old photo, looking back along the gorge to the Peace Bridge and the American Falls. There are a lot more buildings there nowadays.

And of course this is how it should be. This is nature, unfettered. To fence it and put up high nets and keep people away from it would destroy the experience. It’s up to us to be careful. To not lean over the railing or go beyond the wooden bar in the tunnels. And it’s part of the thrill, too.

Thank you for coming along on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time 🙂

Wednesday Wander – Twelve Apostles, Australia

twelve apostles 1This is the Twelve Apostles, a rock formation located on the southern coast of Australia, and probably one of the country’s most recognisable tourist icons.

I only visited the Apostles twice when I lived in Australia – even though we also lived on the coast, we were to the east of Melbourne, whereas these are to the west, several hours drive along the Great Ocean Road.

twelve apostles 2The Apostles are usually shown from the cliffs above, an ideal vantage point from which to see their arrangement against the blue ocean and sky. However, if you do get the chance to visit, head down to the beach for a different perspective . We did, the first time I went there, the boys surfing between golden pillars of stone as we lay on the sand and paddled in the azure waves. However, don’t get too close. The pillars have been known to collapse without warning – in fact, one if not two of the pillars in my first photo are now gone, the ocean that created them taking them back.

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