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.

A Visit To Kings Landing #GameOfThrones

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for Season 8 of Game Of Thrones, so if you’re not all caught up, read further at your own peril. Again, spoilers spoilers spoilers)

A couple of years ago, I shared two posts about visiting Dragonstone, the Targaryen island fortress from Game of Thrones. Of course, I didn’t really visit a fictional location – rather, I visited the two spectacular filming locations in Spain, Itzurun Beach and San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a writing holiday with three fabulous friends to my third Game Of Thrones location, the beautiful medieval walled city of Dubrovnik, which stood in for Kings Landing in the show. All of us being GOT fans, we decided to book a two hour guided tour taking in many of the famous locations from the show.

Of course Dubrovnik, a World Heritage site, was a tourist draw long before the Lannisters came to town and, according to our fabulous tour guide, Eva, the hugely popular HBO show hasn’t really done much to change visitor numbers to Dubrovnik. As she put it, ‘the city was already at capacity.’

Eva was uniquely qualified to be our guide, having worked as the stand-in for Cersei, Danaerys and several other of the main female characters on the show, as well as being a Production Assistant to the showrunners, Dan and David. She’d been part of the show since the very beginning, and so was the perfect person to take us around the fictional Kings Landing.

We visited key locations such as Fort Lovrijenac, which was used for several key scenes, including one in the Red Keep courtyard when Cersei uttered her famous line, ‘Power is power.’

We also saw Blackwater Bay, and the long quay where Sansa, Bran and Arya bid Jon farewell in the final series episode.

We stood on the Shame steps, looking up to where the fictional Sept of Baelor stands in the show, and listened to bells ring out across the city from the towers used in the show to signal the Lannisters’ (ultimately futile) surrender.

The tour was two hours long, which, at the end of a very hot day, was enough. We’d done plenty of exploring already, walking the city walls (location for the House of the Undying as well as plenty of other scenes in the show), and taken in the extraordinary romantic views of islands and blue water.We’d sat in the shade of a curving stone tower watching people swim as we chatted and rested our tired feet, and had snuffly wet kisses from a small black pug dog.

We’d wandered along the stone quays, marvelling at the amount of fish in the crystal-clear waters. Swallows darted above, their constant chirping part of the city soundscape, as were the bells from the many towers, striking the hours.

And, as we wandered the streets in subsequent days, along lantern-lit alleyways and curving flights of stairs, through sun-drenched courtyards filled with orange trees, I realised what Eva was telling us.

Game of Thrones has created a mythology around Dubrovnik, that of a city peopled with characters from fantasy. But Dubrovnik was already a place of wonder and magic, a city full of stories – Game of Thrones is just one of many. I’m sure it won’t be the last.


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.

Home Again…

Hello everyone!

I’m back from my adventure. The jetlag has worn off, the laundry is (mostly) done, and the holiday seems almost like a dream.

Yet it was real, and it was fantastic – I saw so much and have so much to write about I hardly know where to begin (there will be many blog posts!). New York was everything I’d imagined. I felt immediately at home there, perhaps because it’s a city that’s so pervasive in popular culture – yet it felt as though I knew it, as though I’d been before and was just being reminded of where everything was.

We wandered as much as we could in four days, including a walk through Central Park, where we took in the amazing skyline and I found the obelisk, partner to London’s Cleopatra’s Needle. We saw sights large and small, and didn’t let the weather, which included torrential rain and a snowstorm, stop us from getting outside and experiencing as much as we could.

The weather followed us, snow falling in Toronto on our first day there, Niagara Falls creating ice sculptures, the sun peering out from behind shifting clouds. Yet I basked in the warmth of family and old friends (and by old I mean fabulous), reforging connections and visiting familiar haunts, sad to leave when the time came.

But Boston, and the New England coast beckoned. We walked the Freedom trail, spent time in Salem, then followed the coast southwest through Plymouth, Newport, Mystic and Milford, finally ending up back in New York on a hot and sunny afternoon, ready to catch our overnight flight home.

And now it’s back to reality. The recent warm weather was a wonderful welcome home, and I’m away again this weekend, on a long-planned writing retreat with friends. Stories beckon….

It’s nice to be home x


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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Storycatcher

Inside me, stories wait.

I can plunge my hand in and stir them up, like brown leaves dancing in water.

But I cannot catch them, for if I try they grow wings like starlings and fly, scattering beyond my reach.

Instead I must wait, patient, like the fisherman.

Let my fingers tickle the water, rather than plunging in.

My heart open,

Hoping

That one will slide into my open hand

And decide to stay, for a while.


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 – Tower Of London

I could probably write about half a dozen posts about the famous Tower of London (and will definitely write at least one more). There are layers of history going right back to Roman times within the ancient walls, and the names of those who lived and died there are a rollcall of history.

The Tower, a World Heritage Site, sits on the banks of the River Thames as it has done for almost a thousand years. It was founded by William the Conqueror towards the end of 1066, the year he and his Norman forces conquered England. However, almost a thousand years earlier it was a Roman site, the nearby fragment of Roman wall and exposed Roman stonework within the tower grounds testament to that history. It is best known, however, as a prison, even though it was not originally intended as one.

The White Tower, from which the Tower takes its name, was the first major building on the site, started around 1078. Designed as a keep with lodgings fit for the new king, it has been described as the best preserved 11th century palace in Europe. Opposite the White Tower is the entrance to the Waterloo Block, where the famed Crown Jewels are held. We did go in to see them, but no photography was permitted, hence the lack of pictures here. Suffice it to say, it’s hard to believe they are real, such is the size and brilliance of the gems. I do recommend that, if you’re visiting the tower, you see the jewels as early as possible, as it does get busy later in the day. We went first thing and were able to move through the various antechambers quite quickly, as well as taking two passes on the moving walkways past the jewels themselves. Later, however, there were large queues stretching out the door.

The tower, of course, has a fearsome reputation as a prison and place of execution, where not even being royal would keep you from the axe. Three British queens lost their heads on Tower Green – Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey – as well as various members of the nobility. Others languished for years inside the various towers, or were sent to the dungeons to be tortured – this is a place where, if the walls could talk, the tales they’d tell would be difficult to hear.

Something perhaps not so well known is that the fortress also housed a menagerie. Founded in in the early 1200s by King John, animals from all around the world given as gifts or imported as novelties were kept for the amusement of the court. Animals housed there included a polar bear and an elephant – today, life size sculptures of the creatures can be seen around the grounds. Nowadays, the most famous non-human inhabitants of the fortress are the Tower Ravens, their wings clipped so they cannot stray far from the Tower. They are huge, the biggest ravens I’ve ever seen, their calls deep and barking and quite unnerving. There is a legend that states if they ever leave the Tower, the monarchy will fall and Britain with it.

We spent hours at the Tower, climbing worn stone staircases into creaking chambers, and down into dark dungeons, yet we didn’t see half of everything there was to see. One thing we did see, however, was a reenactment of sorts, where we had to choose an army to back when invading the tower. Each choice was based upon a real attempt, but only one, led by a woman, was actually successful (and she was the one we backed, too!). The reenactment was great fun – the actors really got into it and there was lots of audience participation. Set against the ancient backdrop of the White Tower it was very effective, one of those things English Heritage does so well.

As I said at the start of this wander, I could write half a dozen posts about this place, and I know I’ve only scratched the surface of the many stories held within its walls. However, in the interest of brevity, I’ll sign off here… for now. 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.

#writephoto – In The Flames

flameI do enjoy Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompts, and the variety of responses she gets for each image. I usually know, when I look at her photos, whether I have something. This is what came to me for this week’s prompt:

What do you see in the flames, little one?’

Her hair was burnished gold, little flickers around her rounded cheeks, small teeth like rice grains as she smiled. ‘I see stories, Nanna.’

‘Stories?’ I raised my eyebrows.

‘Yes,’ she said, reaching her small rounded arm towards the fire. I held out my hand, warning her back and she shook her head, curls bouncing.

‘Oh, don’t worry, Nanna. I know I’m not to touch, Mama said so. I just like to watch the pictures.’

I went still. A curl of excitement started in my stomach. It had been so long I’d almost given up hope. Our tribe had given up, too. I reached to smooth my hand over her soft hair, the fire casting spidery shadows from her long eyelashes as she watched the fire dance.

‘And so what sort of pictures do you see, my precious?’ I waited, half-holding my breath.

‘I see things that have been, and things to come.’ Her voice was deeper for a moment, her childish tones more grown up and I let out the breath. So here it was, here under my very nose. I closed my eyes, knowing that the path before her was long and hard, but that she was the only one who could walk it.

‘I saw the man, the man that came the other week? With the beads and the furs?’ She was all childish excitement again, grabbing at my hand. ‘I saw him ages ago, that’s why I knew what I wanted when he came.’

‘Did you now? Well, that is a fine thing.’ I laughed with her, remembering how she had chosen the small wooden boat, its prow carved like a dragon, like the ones the invaders rode on so long ago. ‘And why did you choose a boat?’

She turned to me, her little face all at once serious. ‘Because I saw them too, Nanna, in the fire. It told me the boats are coming. They’ll be here soon.’


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.

Thursday Doors – Silves, Portugal

img_0370This lovely little door is set into a wall on an ancient street, directly across from a twelfth century cathedral that may have even earlier origins, in the town of Silves, Portugal.

The street is sloping, as you can see from the line of the cobbles, and there is a view across red-tiled roofs to green hills beyond, the scent of blossom in the air. This little door has a history and age to it, but its story remains a secret for now. I wonder who holds the key?

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