Wednesday Wander – Mykonos, Greece

The Greek island of Mykonos, also known as The Island Of Winds, is part of the Cyclades, a group of islands set in Homer’s wine dark Aegean sea.

According to Greek legend, Mykonos got its name from its first ruler, Mykons, said to be a direct descendent of Apollo. Zeus and the Titans were supposed to have had a great battle on Mykonos, and it’s where Hercules killed the invincible giants of Mount Olympus, having lured them to the island. Also, and I love this, because I guess I have a weird sense of humour, the large boulders scattered around the island are reputed to be the fossilised testicles of those same giants, and this legend is the source of the slang term ‘stones’!

Mykonos has a long history dating back to at least the 11th century BC, and has been under Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman rule. However, since 1831, it has been part of Greece, following the revolution in which Manto Mavrogenous, one of the island’s noted inhabitants, played a part. Manto, a wealthy, educated aristocrat, sacrificed her family’s fortune to help the Greeks and became a national heroine – a statue to her honour stands in the main town square.

The island is well known for its vibrant nightlife and nude beaches (sorry, no photos), and also for its famous windmills. Built by Venetians in the 16th century, they were originally used to mill flour – nowadays most have been restored as homes or storage facilities. There are also several fine museums, including one of the oldest archaeological museums in Greece. I’m somewhat ashamed to say I visited none of them, however, quite unusual for me. But Mykonos was a stop on a longer trip and I suppose I just chose to relax, instead. Ah well, I guess I need to go back.

It’s been quite a few years since I visited, but I still have plenty of memories – of meeting Petros the Pelican, the island’s mascot, of tangy feta and fresh bread, of my washing being done and coming back smelling of sunshine and herbs, of an old woman kissing my cheeks and offering me sweets after I bought one of her hand knitted jumpers (which I still have). There was nightlife, of course, dancing and drinking, the streets vibrant all through the night. But my overwhelming memory is one of sunshine and warmth, of brilliant white and deep blue, and through it all, the sound of the sea.

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.

Wonder Woman, Ladybirds and Girl Power

I just got back from taking my gorgeous girl to see Wonder Woman. She loved it, as did I – the messages overwhelmingly positive, the women on screen powerful characters with their own strength and agency, refreshing to see. As the action progressed every so often I would hear her say ‘awesome!’ and, on several occasions, ‘girl power!’ When Diana emailed Bruce Wayne, she leaned over to me and said ‘Bruce Wayne is Batman, right?’ I nodded. ‘So she’s emailing Batman.’ I nodded again and she grinned.

When the movie ended we walked out into the sunshine. As we headed home I asked her what she thought of the film. She said she loved it. I asked her why. Her answer was simple. ‘Girl power!’ And I was quietly glad. She went on to tell me that women can do what they want to do, be who they want to be, and I was grateful that she felt that way, knowing that if she’d been born in another place or another time, things would be quite different for her. I mentioned how far we’d come in the past 100 years and she agreed, saying that we can now vote, something she seemed very pleased about. Then she went on to say, ‘But I think women should be paid equally.’ This is something that’s concerned her for a while, since seeing a headline stating it would be 2069 before we saw pay parity – that is, the same pay for the same job (not long to wait now, ladies!). I agreed with her, and said that, even though we’ve come a long way, there was still a way to go before equality.

As we walked and she pulled silly faces and did acrobatics, watched bees buzz and kites dance, we talked about women and what equality means. About equal pay, equal rights, equal opportunities. We spoke of how the fim’s director, Patty Jenkins, was a woman, and how that was unusual. And that, even though we’d come a long way, there were still women around the world who were being held back by old rules and old ideas, restricted from working or driving or visiting a doctor without a male in tow. I couldn’t explain why there were those who still thought that way.

Towards the end of the walk she stopped me, reaching up to disentangle a ladybird from my hair. We both smiled, then. A ladybird, to us, is my grandmother, a force of nature and one of the strongest women I’ve known. A volunteer since she was a teenager during the war, she ran her own business, was a magistrate and a school governor, in a time when women didn’t usually do those things. She was also a fabulous singer, performing with big bands in her youth, and never missing an opportunity to entertain – at the end of my husband’s and my wedding, when everyone else was flagging, she was still going, playing piano in an impromptu performance for the guests as they left the venue.

So it seemed fitting, on a morning when my daughter and I had celebrated women, and discussed women and all they can do, to be reminded of her.

Btw, Wonder Woman was awesome – five stars!


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.

Reflections on a Week Past

I missed my Wednesday Wander this week. It wasn’t because I’d run out of places, though – I’ve quite a few locations still to share, and more to visit, so will keep the series going as long as I can. No, it was for a couple of other reasons – one, I was part of a blog tour for a new book, The Finding Of Martha Lost, and my slot was Wednesday. The other was that it’s been a strange sort of week. Understatement, I guess. The tragic incident in Manchester affected me (as it affected a lot of people worldwide), and, once I’d posted about it, I just felt like hanging with family, especially my gorgeous girl, so blogging got put on the back burner for a few days.

I’ve done some walking, too, along my favourite canal route and past the river, taking photos of green calm and reflection. The swans I saw nesting the other week now have cygnets, three little balls of grey fluff following their parents across the water.

I did do some writing this week though, managing to sort out a few plot tangles in Silver and Black, my vampire novel. I know, right? I never thought I’d write a vampire novel, but a writing prompt almost two years ago via Ali Isaac brought me the character of Emelia Raven, and her story was too insistent to ignore. So, I’m pretty close to a finished first draft, which I’ll put away for a couple of months before coming back to, as I find that’s the best way to see what changes need to be made for draft two.

It’s a Bank Holiday weekend here as well, meaning Monday is a day off work and school (plus it’s the start of half-term). There’s work to do around the house, plus a bit of family fun, so I have fingers crossed the lovely sunshine we’ve had this past week sticks around.

Wishing you all a peaceful and happy weekend. Back to writing and wandering next week 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.

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day Twenty One – Everybody (also, A Wednesday Wander)

It’s day twenty one of the 30 Day Writing Challenge, and today’s prompt is: Everybody.

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The beach near my old house in Australia

It’s also Wednesday, which means I’ll be taking a wander. However, in line with the prompt, this wander will be slightly different in that I’ll be trying to answer a question that just about everybody asks me, once they hear I’ve moved back to England from Australia. And the question is: Why did I leave Australia to come back here?

The short answer is: because my husband’s work brought us over here. But there is more to it than that.

Melbourne and the Yarra River
Melbourne and the Yarra River

In the UK, Australia seems to be sold as a sort of dream destination, an island paradise with white beaches and blue water and a cruisy outdoor lifestyle, where wages are double or almost triple that for the same job in the UK. The people look the same, speak the same language, the cities are comfortably cosmopolitan and it’s just sun, sun, sun all year round. People cannot believe I would leave such a place to come to a small green island that, according to some, gets more than its fair share of rain.

A beach in Wales I used to visit as a child
A beach in Wales I used to visit as a child.

Don’t get me wrong – Australia is a fantastic place. I lived there for seventeen years. My husband is Australian. Our daughter was born there. I have a great deal of love for and fond memories of both Melbourne and Sydney, as well as all the other places I visited. It’s a beautiful country and a lot of people who I love live there.

London
London

Yet, there was always a part of me that longed for mist and green grass and ancient buildings. For cold Christmases and tiny villages, rain-soaked high streets and cool mountains. A part of me that never quite felt at home among the brilliant sunshine and blue water. I remember coming back for a visit to the UK just over nine years ago. We were flying over the coast heading towards London and I looked out of the airplane window. The sun was just rising and I could see the Thames like a silver ribbon, winding inland. My husband leaned over to look out as well, then said to me, ‘How does it feel, coming back here?’ I watched the green landscape unfold beneath us and said, ‘Like coming home.’


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.

 

 

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.

It’s A Hot One

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Well, it’s not exactly England… but it could be

It’s hot.

It’s wonderfully, sunnily, bees-buzzing-mightily, hot. Get-your-sunglasses, tie-a-hankie-on-your-head, hot.

This is an unusual thing for the UK, in case you’re wondering. It’s an opportunity to be grabbed by both hands and enjoyed, as it may be taken from us without warning, not to return until July, or even August, of next year. There is plenty of joking about it, that this week is all the summer we are going to have, even though certain of the papers, as they do every year, are predicting a six-week ‘heatwave.’  Who knows? This time next week I could be back in my winter coat, as I was three weeks ago. The vagaries of weather on this small green island have made us a nation hopeful and resolute: ‘It’ll clear later,’ ‘blue sky over there,’ ‘mustn’t grumble‘.

So on days like this, when the scent of rose and hawthorn and honeysuckle fill the air, when bare arms and legs are kissed with Riviera-like heat, we enjoy. When it’s warm enough to walk up to school in the morning without a jacket, to sit outside for an evening meal, to keep the blinds closed in an effort to keep the heat out, we revel.

And a few months from now when the nights draw in, cold with frost, we’ll remember. And we’ll hope once more, looking forward to when summer comes again.

Thursday Doors – Along the Canal

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I had a different door in mind for today’s post, but, on a walk with a friend past the nearby canal boat mooring, found the combination of tiny doors, sunshine and colourful boats too hard to resist.

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I live near to the Grand Union Canal, which links London with Birmingham. The longest canal in the UK, it runs for 137 miles through 166 locks. Canals are a feature of the British countryside, once the highways of the industrial revolution and many of them feats of engineering in themselves. There are more canals in Birmingham than there are in Venice, if you can believe it.

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Nowadays, canals are used mainly for recreational purposes, with day trips, weekenders or longer voyages available for those who want to give canal living a try.

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There are many people living full time on the canals, travelling the length and breadth of the country without having to leave the comforts of home.

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Not such a bad way to live, I think…

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