Saturday 20 February 2010


The scientists (and gardeners) tell us that spring will be late this year because we've had such a cold winter.  Good.  I love cold winters and there is a hard, white frost outside my window as I write.  As if Jack Frost has been out during the night coating every leaf and blade of grass with icing sugar.
But earlier this month, in Cornwall - I spotted some daffodils already growing by the road-side and so I lay down and took a photo (which isn't quite as good as I hoped it would be).

Never mind - it shows that wonderfully intense egg-yolk colour and gives me the opportunity to reproduce one of my favourite poems of all time.  And yes, yes - I realise that it's not nearly obscure enough to be trendy - but that's because it is brilliant and enduring.  Like a diamond.  Or maybe a yellow sapphire....

William Wordsworth


I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud
    That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
    A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
    And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
    Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
    Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
    In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
    In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
    Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

"They flash upon that inward eye which is the gift of solitude......"

What a genius that man was.

Tuesday 16 February 2010


Valentine's Day is traditionally the hardest-working day of the year for romantic novelists and when we're not busy relieving the postman of his bulging sack of admiring mail or running round the house frantically looking for yet more vases - we usually have to deal with a variety of press calls.

This year I did an interview with the GUARDIAN  - with a very engaging and perceptive journalist named Alison Flood.  There are some journalists with whom it's a pleasure to chat and she's one of them.

Next up (as they say - though usually on American sitcoms) was a review of the Sunday morning papers on BBC RADIO Solent.  Quite why I agreed to do this after only five hours sleep on Saturday night is anyone's guess - but I love radio stations and their strangely silent and surreal air.  Apart from muddling up the names of two rugby players - I think I did okay.  (Yes, I was talking about rugby in an attempt to break the stereotype of romantic novelists and because my son was in Rome watching the match - but that will teach me to try and bat out of my league or whatever the equivalent rugby metaphor is!).

The reason for the lack of sleep was a great gig on Saturday night.  My friend Martyn (aka Billy Sincere) plays in a band called Nark Drool And The Shudders and they were performing on the famous rock n' rock site of Eel Pie Island.  
Here they are.  Martyn's the one in the lairy red jacket and the cool shades.

Martyn and I go back a long way.  When he was working as a producer at Granada television, he arranged for me to visit the Coronation Street set - which was an  unbelievably thrilling event for this life-long fan!  (I know; it's sad).  On another occasion, he took my daughter onto the set of a show he was working on (The 8.15 From Manchester) - which was unbelievably thrilling for her.  He has always played a mean guitar and been one of the most enthusiastic people I've ever met.  He also married my flatmate, the lovely Amanda (now a wonderful photographer).  And here she is, with me - before we started bobbing to the incredibly infectious music.  So thanks, all you Nark Drools!

When was the last time you danced?

Friday 12 February 2010


Everyone has ambition. To see the Northern Lights, maybe. Or to swim with dolphins. Perhaps it's to make a million or the perfect Victoria sandwich.  Big or small - ambition exists in us all. Think of Macbeth......his was the vaulting kind which can  lead to downfall.
One of mine was to pick a pomegranate - a humble little wish, tis true - and it was granted last November, while I was olive harvesting in Umbria.

I wasn't disappointed. In the flesh (ha!) the fruit looked as magical and as rosy-golden as all countless images I'd seen of it suggested.  Luscious and decadent - I wanted to pick up a paintbrush and paint it.  But the only thing I was picking that day was olives....

Do you have any ambitions you hope to achieve this year?

Thursday 11 February 2010


Am back from my glorious mini-break in Cornwall - which ticked all the right boxes. The sun shone. The sea alternatively glittered/pounded/rhymically mesmerised. And made me feel very grateful as I lay tucked up in a warm bed, listening to the never-ending movement of the waves. Sometimes I take warmth and security too much for granted.....

On a long walk, we came across a beautiful little church - made famous because an illustrious person is buried there. Any idea who it might be?

Need a closer look?

The clue is in the title of this post.....

Sunday 7 February 2010


I'm off to CORNWALL the house with the amazing view of the ocean and sound of the nearby swish of the waves. Last time I was there, I used the atmosphere and the cawing of the seagulls in a book I was writing - the manuscript I'm taking this time is set on some (unnamed) brooding northern moor-like destination. So no salt-water mingling with tears on the heroine's cheeks! But both places have that certain sense of wildness and isolation - which are characteristics of my current hero....

In the meantime - here's a hideous but compelling sculpture which I discovered with Celia and Patrick when we were in Avignon last November. It's very scary, isn't it?

What do you think his name is?

Friday 5 February 2010


Thank you to all those people who came to Winchester Discovery Centre last evening to hear me giving away the "secret" of writing for Mills & Boon. The question and answer session was enjoyably lively (are you allowed to have two adverbs next to one another, I wonder?).
Here I am with one of my fans (actually, it's my friend Fi - who is head of French at our fabulous local sixth-form college, Peter Simmonds).

Thanks also to the lovely Rachel - who brought along a gift of two Cadbury's Creme eggs after I expressed a desire  to eat one on yesterday's blog. And I did. It was delicious. Here's the remaining one.  Let's hear it for Cadbury's!  

Were you there last night? And are you now inspired to write a romance?  Even if you weren't there - I'd love to hear about your writing.

As Virgil said:  Love conquers let us yield to love.

Thursday 4 February 2010


Yesterday, I was at the uber-buzzy Caprice for lunch with an urbane diarist from one of our national dailies and a famous spin-doctor who always makes me laugh.  He's a sometime food-writer and this is his favourite restaurant.  Easy to understand why.  The monochromed interior is pleasingly sleek and the walls are hung with stunning black and white portraits.   Images include a young, grinning Mick Jagger and a laconic Michael Caine (with fag dangling from lips) and reminded me what a genius portraitist David Bailey is.  

There was plenty of food for thought in the room - and lots to inspire any kind of writer.  The scent of money, the whiff of power and no-expense-spared dressing.  Thick clusters of diamonds dripping  from the bony fingers of ladies-who-lunch defined perfectly the term "knuckle-duster". 
It was impossible not to star-spot.  Viscount Linley and his father, Lord Snowdon were sitting on the next table (wait until I tell my Auntie Eileen!).  In 1960, Snowdon married the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret, who made a STUNNING BRIDE 

After squid tempora, I ate sea-bass (wrapped in a banana leaf) and then slivered golden mango with lemon sorbet.  Delicious.  And in the evening saw a disturbingly brilliant film called UN PROPHETE.  I thought that my French was getting worse instead of better - until I realised they were speaking Corsican!

Meals can be memorable for all kinds of reasons - hot chips eaten with icy fingers on a rain-lashed pier can taste ambrosial.
Eaten any memorable meals recently?

Wednesday 3 February 2010


I love stained glass - and my favourite place in Paris has an abundance of it.  
is a gothic masterpiece situated on the Ile de la Cite.  Built by Louis IV in the 13th century to house the crown of thorns - I first went there with an Australian medical student back in the eighties.  He was living in Paris and had a list of beautiful destinations to visit - but this one easily topped the list.  It was so gorgeous that I wondered if I might have imagined it - built it up in my mind and over-embellished during the intervening years.  Turns out I hadn't.  When I went back some time later it was, if anything - even more beautiful - because by then I had seen lots of other things with which to compare it.
It still feels like being inside a giant, jewelled box - surrounded by light and space and colour.  I was there a couple of weeks ago - and it took my breath away.
Which place takes your breath away?

Tuesday 2 February 2010


Arriving (deliberately) early for lunch near the National Gallery gave me the opportunity to go and look at a painting or two without having time to go round a whole exhibition.  Much better.  If you have no agenda then your imagination and your footsteps can take you where you please.
Found a wonderful Botticini hidden above a dull, grey lift and then I lingered awhile by this amazing painting by Botticelli.  It's one of those images which adorn a thousand post-cards - Mars, God of War - being vanquished by love and beauty in the form of Venus.  Sometimes well-known paintings are scorned simply BECAUSE they're well-known.  But there's always a good reason for popularity....
And I'd never noticed before that little wasps are buzzing around the ears of Mars - symbolising just how deeply he sleeps....