Wednesday Wander – Cleopatra’s Needle, London

I had an impromptu trip into London yesterday. I’m currently trying to sort out a new passport for a trip I’m taking in a few weeks time, which has necessitated two trips to the Canadian embassy in Trafalgar Square. Yesterday’s visit was to replace my passport photos with another, equally dire set of images, as the ones I’d originally provided were ‘too glare-y.’

However, I didn’t have to wait too long to be seen by the very helpful staff, so  was soon back out in the sunshine with some time to spare before lunch. I thought I’d take a walk along the Embankment, which is where I encountered my Wander for this week.

This is Cleopatra’s Needle in Westminster, London. One of three similar obelisks in London, New York and Paris, it is actually a pair with the one in New York, and doesn’t really have anything to do with the legendary Egyptian queen (other than being from Egypt).

The Needle is an ancient Egyptian obelisk, and originally stood in the city of Heliopolis, where it was erected around 1450 BC by the Pharoah Thutmose III. Originally it had a single column of heiroglyphics on each face, but two more were added around 200 years later, to commemorate the military victories of Ramses II. Around 12BC, the obelisks were moved by the Romans to a temple in Alexandria, where they remained, buried under sand, until 1819, when the ruler of Egypt and Sudan presented one of them to the UK in commemoration of Lord Nelson’s victories in the Battle of the Nile.

The British government were pleased with their gift (one would imagine), but not pleased enough to pay to have the obelisk shipped to the UK. That didn’t happen until 1877, when Sir William James Erasmus Wilson, a noted anatomist, paid the enormous (at the time) sum of £10,000 out of his own pocket to have the obelisk brought to England. The trip almost ended in disaster when the ship was caught in a storm, but eventually the obelisk arrived, towed up the Thames to its eventual resting place .

When the obelisk was installed in its current position, in 1878, a time capsule was placed in the pedestal base. It contained a set of 12 photographs of the best-looking English women of the day (!), a box of hairpins, a box of cigars, several tobacco pipes, a set of imperial weights, a baby’s bottle, some children’s toys, a shilling razor, a hydraulic jack and some samples of the cable used in the erection, a 3′ bronze model of the monument, a complete set of contemporary British coins, a rupee, a portrait of Queen Victoria, a written history of the transport of the monument, plans on vellum, a translation of the inscriptions, copies of the Bible in several languages, a copy of John 3:16 in 215 languages,[6] a copy of Whitaker’s Almanack, a Bradshaw Railway Guide, a map of London and copies of 10 daily newspapers. Phew!

The obelisk pedestal has several Egyptian embellishments, and is flanked by two cast-bronze Sphinxes. Placed incorrectly, they are looking at the obelisk, rather than outwards, guarding it. Benches in the area were also designed to reflect the Egyptian theme, with more Sphinxes holding up the seats.

Nowadays the obelisk looks out at the London Eye and The Shard, the waters running past it the cold grey-brown of the Thames, rather than the glistening Nile. It is an oddity, out of place and time, almost lost among the trees and buildings, traffic roaring past. I wonder whether it dreams of palms and blue sky, of desert heat, and a time when it stood, whole and proud, with its twin.

I guess we’ll never know.

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


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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Wednesday Wandering…

It’s Wednesday again.

This is usually the time of the week when I go on a Wander. However, this week I’ve not had the chance to do my usual hunt for photos and research, despite (or perhaps because of) being out for a wander yesterday.

My Wednesday Wander posts take a bit of work. I enjoy doing them, and haven’t yet run out of places to feature. However, I’ve had a couple of books take me by the throat and demand I write them, so this year my focus will have to shift slightly when it comes to writing.

I do have more travel booked, a holiday planned for April to somewhere I’ve not been before, so I will definitely be writing more Wanders. However, they may not be every week – I hope you don’t mind.

I thought I’d take a look back and see how many Wanders I’ve written since the first post in November 2015, and was surprised to see there are 92! So, if you’re feeling that you might need a bit of a travel fix, there are 92 destinations right here on this blog, from Paris to Morocco, California to Wales. I even went to Dragonstone last year (though the Targaryens weren’t in, sadly). Just search Wednesday Wander, and you’ll see them all.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering (wandering?), my most popular post, based upon the amount of comments and likes, was to a place not far from where I live. Highgate Cemetery, London, is the most popular Wander I’ve written to date – hop on over and check it out, if you haven’t already.

Thanks for coming on so many Wednesday Wanders with me – see you next time!


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 🙂

The Old Year Ends…

As the year draws to a close, I suppose it’s time to look back and consider how it was. For me, 2017 was a year of mixed blessings and a badly needed kickstart. I’d fallen into something of a rut, so being challenged and thrown out of my comfort zone, as I have been this year, has given me renewed energy for 2018.

In terms of blogging, 2017 was a quiet year for me. I didn’t post nearly as much as I had the year before, nor was I able to spend quite as much time visiting other blogs as I would have liked to. However, I did make it to the Bloggers Bash in London, and caught up in person with many lovely familiar faces, as well as meeting some new ones. I also spent a magical weekend in Scotland with the Silent Eye, discovering that we can be tested in many different ways.

When it came to blog posts a perennial favourite, Stuck Writing Your Author Bio, reigned supreme for the second year in a row, gaining more views than any other. The rest of my top ten consisted mostly of Wednesday Wanders, with Mykonos, Italy, Heidelberg, Stonehenge, Dragonstone and Bath ranking as the most popular destinations. (And my Wanders will be back in 2018, by the way – I haven’t run out of places yet, and have more travels planned). A post about a weekend in Paris with an old friend also made the top ten – looking at that list you wouldn’t think I started blogging about writing!

When it came to writing, this year was a busy one. I finished the first draft of Silver and Black, my vampire novel, as well as the final edit for Under Stone, the fourth Ambeth book. I managed to squeeze in a few short stories as well, and am looking forward to more writing and publishing in the coming year.

But for now the house is tidy, dinner is almost ready to eat and I’m looking forward to seeing in the New Year. Thank you to everyone who has visited, read, liked, commented and reblogged – you’re all wonderful. Wishing you joy and a prosperous 2018, wherever you are!

Happy New Year! x

Book Review – The Finding Of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace

“Martha is lost.

She’s been lost since she was a baby, abandoned in a suitcase on the train from Paris. Ever since, she’s waited in station lost property for someone to claim her. It’s been sixteen years, but she’s still hopeful.

In the meantime, there are mysteries to solve: secret tunnels under the station, a suitcase that may have belonged to the Beatles, the roman soldier who appears at the same time every day with his packed lunch. Not to mention the stuffed monkey that someone keeps misplacing.

But there is one mystery Martha cannot solve. And now the authorities have found out about the girl in lost property. Time is running out – if Martha can’t discover who she really is, she will lose everything…”

Welcome to the charming, quirky world of Martha Lost. A world of lost things, including Martha, set within the confines of Liverpool’s Lime Street Station.

It’s the summer of 1976 and teenage Martha has been at the station since she was a baby, abandoned in the lost property office where she was taken in by the proprietor, the rather unpleasant Mother. Her life is bounded by the station, for, like a modern day Lady of Shalott, she’s been told that if she ever sets foot outside the station it will collapse into the earth, destroying it utterly.

So Martha lives her life under the glass atrium, twirling across the platforms and concourse, interacting with the other residents, some obvious, some not so much. Until a series of events forces her into finding out the secrets of her lost past.

The Finding of Martha Lost is a sweet dream of a book, all cakes and characters and the innocence of youth. Yet there are threads of darkness in Martha’s world. Abuse, loss, death and shame twine with the lighter themes of her story to add a touch of gritty realness and, when the real world intrudes into her life with the arrival of an Australian adventurer carrying a mythical lost case of Beatles memorabilia, events build to breaking point and Martha finds she is no longer lost.

This is a book about the families we build, rather than the ones we are born into, and of how damaged souls can help each other to heal. Martha Lost combines whimsical storytelling with real events and a touch of magic to create a tale that lingers with the reader long after the last page is turned.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

I received my copy of Finding Martha Lost through NetGalley. All reviews and opinions are my own.

Mad March

I was a bit absent from blogland last month. I seem to be saying that a lot this year, mainly because my work situation has changed, but I was still finding time to check in every once in a while – at least until March came along.

But what a month it was! I can’t complain because it was wonderful. The first weekend happened to coincide with my birthday, and I decided to go to Paris with a dear friend just arrived from Australia. We had a marvellous time despite the rain and a delay on the Eurostar heading back – Paris is truly one of my favourite cities.

The next weekend was spent in London, a family wedding taking us into Shoreditch and to an ancient church for the ceremony. The old Courthouse, now a hotel, was home to family and friends for the weekend and it was an interesting place, the bar still featuring the old holding cells decorated with images of some of their most famous inmates.

The next week saw things return to a semblance of normality, though we were off again on Sunday to see family, then a snot monster descended and held me hostage for most of the following week. It did lead to some interesting writing, but was pretty awful for everything else.

However, I felt better once the weekend arrived, which was a good thing. It was Mothering Sunday and we’d decided to go on a family adventure, visiting Stonehenge on the Saturday and continuing on to the beautiful city of Bath for the night. We ate pizza, visited the ancient Roman baths and wandered the streets, taking in the sights. The weather was glorious, sunny spring days and clear nights, the warm golden stone of the city lit by fairy lights. I absolutely loved it.

And I’ve also been writing, finally finishing the edit for my fourth Ambeth book and sending it out for a second beta read. The responses are coming in now and are (thank goodness) mostly good – just a few small adjustments to make before it goes to the editor.

So I guess this is a long way of saying I’ve been away and now I’m back, looking forward to spending some time visiting in blogland again. Although I did sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo this month – what was I thinking…?

Happy weekend, everyone! xx


If you enjoyed this post and want 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.

A Weekend Jaunt

img_5399If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll probably know that I spent this past weekend in Paris. A quick trip, leaving London early Saturday morning and arriving back (late) last night, I went with a close friend from Australia who arrived in England on Friday.

img_5423And it was wonderful. Paris is one of my favourite cities – I’ve felt at home there since the first time I visited, almost thirty years ago. The streets, the language, the way the light falls, the art, the architecture and the atmosphere – something about it speaks to me.

img_5413Even though it rained most of the weekend, the streets shimmered with light. And the sun did, eventually, make an appearance, further gilding an already golden city. And, despite the rain, there was shopping and sightseeing and sitting in cafes talking, catching up on five years of distance and time.

img_5477It was a fabulous weekend, even with the two hour delay at Gare Du Nord, which meant I got home close to midnight, rather than the more civilised 10pm I’d had planned. And so I start the week tired but happy, the scent of coffee and roses lingering with me.

img_5456Happy Monday, everyone!


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, Sacre Coeur, Paris

sacre-coeur-1It’s my birthday in a few weeks’ time, and I’m very excited about it. Not so much for the event itself – I mean, I still quite like birthdays, but they do seem to be adding up in recent years. The reason I’m so excited is that one of my best friends from Australia is coming for a visit, and she and I are going to Paris for the weekend. We’ve booked rooms in a charming small hotel where we’ve both stayed before, although not at the same time, we have seats on the Eurostar, and really, it’s going to be lovely.

The hotel we’re staying in is not far from the Montmartre district and the imposing dome of Sacre Coeur. There is also a nearby street market where, last time I visited, oranges still with their leaves were piled high on tables, while the scent of fresh bread and raspberries filled the air.

sacre-coeur-2Construction on Sacre Coeur, or Sacred Heart, started in 1875 and was completed in 1914. Built as both penance and memorial for the 1871 defeat of French troops during the Franco-Prussian War, the basilica is located high on a hill overlooking Paris. It’s a beautiful building and the interior is spectacular, with four huge stone angels inside the large dome looking down at the worshippers – however, I wasn’t able to take any photographs. A perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has continued uninterrupted there since 1885, and so for that reason visitors are asked to dress appropriately, be as quiet as possible and take no interior photos, so as not to disturb the worshippers.

The view outside is also spectacular, and you can see Paris in all directions. My then four-year-old daughter took the photo below – I think the view impressed her too.

I’m really looking forward to seeing Paris again, and hope to visit a few other destinations this year. Of course, I’ll share them with you. Thanks for coming on this Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


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.