A Sense of Place

I have known Kristin Gleeson ever since I  tried to find a publisher for my first book, although I’ve never met her in the flesh. The Authonomy peer review website brought many of us close, and we’ve maintained contact through the years. If you want to experience a very real sense of place, I fully recommend her books, which have made a great impression on me. My review happens to top the Amazon site of In Praise of the Bees!

Enjoy the experience….

‘A sense of place’. It’s an idea that is very important to me. Whether it’s a setting of a book or a particular location, ’a sense of place’ conveys a deep, resonating connection to the reader/observer. A ‘sense of place’ features in many of my books, but in the case of my novel, In Praise of the Bees, the story actually began as a ‘sense of place.’

Even before I moved to the area in Ireland in which I now live, West Cork, I’d visited it several times, staying with family. The first time I visited I was taken to St Gobnait’s well, shrine and the old church with its graveyard. The site itself, along with its well dates back to pre-Christian times, but during the early Christian period, about the 6th century, it housed a community of community of women headed by St Gobnait. There she tended her bees and healed the sick and performed miracles. That’s what I learned on my first visit.

I saw a statue erected in the 1950s, dedicated to her, a well with cups lined beside it for use of those who still visited the well; ruins of a roundhouse dating to that time period; the site of her grave with many offerings beside it; a stone ball lodged in a space of the old church wall; and stone carving up along the church’s gable end depicting a man, the gadai dubh, or the black thief. The stone ball and the stone carving were part of the legend surrounding St Gobnait.

Walking around I felt a real sense of calm, a special stillness that held a numinous quality that marked this as a unique site, along with the ancient well nearby. It stayed with me and drew me back time and time again. The ancient well in particular stood draped with clouties and offerings of all kinds, showing that others marked it the same way. In some ways it felt like being transported to another time.

There are many legends and traditions surrounding St Gobnait who came to Ballyvourney, probably around the late 6th or early 7th century and established a community of women. One legend says that she was descended from Conaire, High King of Ireland. In Kerry it is said that her father was a pirate and that she came ashore in Fionntráigh. An angel came to her and told her to travel until she saw ‘nine white deer grazing together,’ and that would be the place of her resurrection. Her travels took her many places in Munster and eventually she made her way to Borneach (Ballyvourney) and saw nine white deer grazing at Gort na Tiobratan (the field of the well). There she built her community and installed her bee hives. The bishop, St Abán, was her contemporary and some legends have it that he set aside the land for her to begin her community.

During the course of her life in Gort na Tiobratan St Gobnait became known for her healing, using the honey the bees produced. She also performed many miracles, including sending a swarm of bees after cattle rustlers, throwing a bulla or heavy ball to raze a stone structure built by intruders, and the catching the gadaí dubh, the dark robber who tried to steal her horse and the stone mason’s tools (his image is inscribed on a stone in the church ruins at St Gobnait’s shrine).

Many of the religious communities of women in Ireland disappeared after the death of the primary woman who established it because the founder usually established it on her own land which would revert to her kin at her death. St Gobnait’s community was established independently of any kinship ties and the community continued after her death, but it is uncertain how long, another reason that I admired Gobnait and saw her as fairly unique in the Irish landscape of the time period.

St Gobnait’s shrine is still a place many come to say prayers for healing and complete the ‘pattern’ or ‘rounds’, a series of prayers said at specific places. The rounds are also said on her feast day and on Whitsunday. The area includes the church, the well, and her burial site. There is also a twenty-seven inch 13th century wooden statue kept in the Sacristy of the Ballyvourney Parish Church which is brought out on her feast day and on Whitsunday.

From the first I wanted to capture something of the place and St Gobnait in writing. The more I came to know about that remarkable woman, the more I felt I wanted to write a novel, but I waited years so that I could fully immerse myself in the place, the people and her story. The novel is centred around a woman who suffers appalling injuries and arrives at Gobnait’s community of women to be healed and discover who she is, though doing so may place her in danger.

I enjoyed writing the book so much I knew I would return to the location again. And lately I was asked to write a short story for a forthcoming anthology on the Black Death and it provided the perfect opportunity to do so. The story took hold of my imagination to such a degree a novel is now in the works.

In Praise of the Bees Cover MEDIUM WEB

The links for Amazon, apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo are:
Thanks for the opportunity!

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Originally from Philadelphia, Kristin Gleeson lives in Ireland, in the West Cork Gaeltacht, and works as a librarian, plays the harp and sings, in addition to painting the beautiful landscape around her.  
She holds a Masters in Library Science and a Ph.D. in history, and for a time was an administrator of a large archives, library and museum in America. She has also worked as a public librarian in America. 
Kristin Gleeson 
twitter @krisgleeson
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When Sales are Poor…

Sometimes people fall into a business without much thought. Authors, for instance  write books, and we only realise we need to be business-like when sales are poor.

Can you turn a hobby into a business? Lucky you, if you love what you do. But you cannot hope to love everything you need to do in order be a success.

There are so many types of business – a plethora of possibilities – which provide endless opportunities for RESEARCH, which is the essence of forming a PLAN… which is of course what my book is all about.

MARKETING is of vital importance and branding is a piece of jargon which you will learn about.

This was one idea for a cover of my book, brainstormed by a good author friend, Ailsa Abraham.

First banner

If you study the pictures below the title, you may be reminded of a gardener, a leather worker, a disco jockey, a computer expert and a jaguar – illustrating some of the clients who have come my way, whose stories I have used in my book.

I encourage you to revisit the dreams you wrote down for last week’s blog, and set a time frame for each one. It is important to state the actual YEAR you want to achieve it. Don’t agonise over this too much – you can always change the goal posts later.

Write a year against each dream, using a little bit of realism in your calculations.  


When I wrote down my dreams all those years ago, I didn’t state a timeframe. I didn’t think any of them were really going to come true. But these are the dreams I fulfilled:

EM waved albatrosI went to the Galapagos Islands, in 2004. It was a wonderful cruise.

124 First sight of the Treasury

My dreams of Israel and Jordan came true in 2008 when I experienced the peace of the Sea of Galilee, the bustle of touristy Jerusalem, and the wonderful ancient city of Petra.


Not only did my dream of finding a publisher for my book come true in 2013, but I’ve written several more since then.

– and, do you know? Five of my seven grandchildren have already claimed from the Granny Travel Fund and widened their horizons.

1 Jane (472x640)

But my biggest dream, when I blew the head off a dandelion at the age of six, was to go round the world….. that was achieved fifty-five years later.

I’ve blogged extensively on that in the past.

Next week, I’ll reveal the final link to making your dreams come true… unless you can’t wait, and would like to buy the book now!


A general step-by-step guide to keep beside you, which uses stories based on true experience to illustrate different scenarios. Most of it is just old-fashioned common sense, but when you start a new venture, common sense seems to go out of the window. This guide will help you focus on making your new business a success.
Universal Amazon link: https://bookgoodies.com/a/B07DN2RRXD



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A Taut Crime Thriller

I know Val Penny has visited my blog before, but I cant wait to introduce you to her very latest news… over to you, Val:
I am delighted to be visiting the blog run by my friend and fellow author, Jane Bwye to discuss my new novel, Hunter’s Revenge.
The main protagonist in my police procedural crime thriller series, The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries, is DI Hunter Wilson. He is a very loyal man, a good team player and determined to solve the crimes within his city.
The basic idea of the new novel, Hunter’s Revenge, published by Crooked Cat Books on 09.09.2018, is, if a friend of Hunter’s were the victim of a murder, how would Hunter and his team cope.
In order to add depth to the story, I chose George Reinbold as the victim. The case has a distant beginning in time and space.

This is where DI Hunter Wilson operates….

And here’s a taster from Val’s recently launched book: I warn you – it’s absolutely riveting….

“East Germany, January 1968

The last thing Georg did on his eighteenth birthday was kill a man.

He really hadn’t meant to kill the Stasi officer in front of him, but it was him or Georg – and Georg did not want to die. It was the first time he’d seen a corpse. The streets were slick with ice. The man lost his balance and cracked his head on the pavement. Georg stared down at the body: there was blood and brains all over the pavement. He looked into the officer’s eyes. They stared blindly to heaven, but Georg knew there wasn’t a Stasi officer on earth who was going there. He looked away from death and towards his friends in horror, but when they saw what had happened, they scattered. Georg picked up the officer’s gun and began to run.

More Stasi officers appeared as the boys fled.

Georg was out of breath when he got home.

“What’s the rush, son?” his father asked.

“Shit, Dad! It’s bad.”

“You’re drunk! No language in this house, boy,” said his grandmother.

“Dad, the boys and me were leaving the bar to come home and we saw a Stasi officer”


“We were laughing and having fun.”


“For a laugh I knocked his hat off.”

“Idiot! You know Stasi have no sense of humour. Ever. So what next?”

“He pulled his gun and told us to stand silently against the wall.”

“And you apologised and complied, I hope.”

“I panicked and punched him. He slipped on the ice and fell over. He hit his head on the ground, and when I checked him, he wasn’t breathing. He was dead. I just took his gun and ran.”

The silence in the room was deafening.

“You did what? You fucking idiot! Did you really punch a Stasi officer? Are you mad? You know we don’t even have to openly engage in resistance to draw the attention of the Stasi and incur its retribution. Just failing to conform with mainstream society can be enough. Shit! I sired a fool.” Georg’s father’s red face reflected his rage.

“And now you are here,” his grandmother added. “You ran home, leading them straight to us. We will all die now. Thank you.”

“What is all the noise?” Georg’s mother came through from the kitchen, drying her hands on her apron. His twin sister Ingrid and younger brother Wilhelm followed her. They looked bewildered. Their father rarely raised his voice, especially not to Georg.

As his father explained the issues, Georg’s mother burst into tears.

“They will kill him,” she whispered.

“They’ll kill him?” his father shrieked “Fuck, the rest of us will be lucky if all they do is kill us too! Have you any idea the danger you have put this whole family in, you young imbecile?”

“God, that’s true!” his mother sobbed. “Georg has to leave. He must escape right away. Maybe, when they come and find him gone, they will believe we had no part of it.”

“You and I both know that is not going to happen,” his father said. “They know everybody in the town, and even if they don’t already know it was Georg, one of their informers will turn him in for reward or to save their own skin. They will soon find out where he lives.”

His wife nodded.

“Mum, where do I go?” Georg pleaded. “Dad, what will you do? I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just fooling around.”

“Then you are more of a fool than I ever thought,” his father said. “It’s a bit fucking late to worry about us. We will cope, but we must deny you and any knowledge of this atrocity. I love you always, but you must leave, son. Now. There is no choice, and you must be quick because they will be here all too soon. Make a start on your escape tonight. It’s your only hope, and ours.”

“Quick, Wilhelm, fetch him my savings and your grandfather Georg’s book,” said his grandmother. “Georg will need the money, and he can always sell the book.”

“I’ll pack a meal,” his mother said. She gathered up the family Bible, along with some bread, ham, cheese and apples.

“Don’t give him too much, it will slow him down,” said Ingrid.

“Pack everything in a rucksack. You can put it on your back, Georg, and still run,” said Wilhelm as he handed their grandmother’s meagre treasures to George.

“I am so sorry, Father. Where do I go? Where am I running to? What will happen to you?” Georg’s voice raised to a scream.

His mother held him and kissed his head, but his father grabbed his arm, pulled him from her and shook him.

“You got yourself into this; we will get you out of it. No point in worrying about us. Get out of this country. Don’t look back. Just run. Go west, go to Britain. Stay alive. Get out of this house, get out of my sight and never come back. Do you hear me, Georg?”

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until his friend’s death is revenged.

 DI Hunter Wilson is called to the scene of a murder. He is shocked to find the victim is his friend and colleague, George Reinbold. Who would want to harm the quiet, old man? Why was a book worth £23,000 delivered to him that morning? Why is the security in George’s home so intense? Hunter must investigate his friend’s past as well as the present to identify the killer and identify George’s killer. Hunter also finds a new supply of cocaine from Peru flooding HMP Edinburgh and the city. The courier leads Hunter to the criminal gang but Hunter requires the help of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable, Sir Peter Myerscough and local gangster Ian Thomson to make his case. Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this taut crime thriller.

 Author pic Edinburgh

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ and Hunter’s Revenge are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The third book in the series, Hunter’s Force, follows shortly.


Author contact details







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… the film Albatross – elegy to beauty & grief for love lost …

This wonderful film lasts 90 minutes – spare the time, and be moved by what you see.

Course of Mirrors

Truly witnessing the tragedies on our planet is not the same as passive looking,  witnessing expands and transforms consciousness. As an individual I feel helpless, unable to solve the overwhelming problems, but by witnessing and accepting the sad truth of what is happening, and by grieving the losses, I, each of us, in a small way, can contribute towards a necessary and crucial paradigm shift.

Chris Jordan’s film about the Albatross, a labour of love that took eight years of intense collaborations – is a gift to the world, free to watch or download.

When you find a quiet hour, click here to watch the film.

The unusual documentary reveals stunningly beautiful, poignant and intimate openings into the life of these ancient bird families. The spellbinding scenes, shot on the lone Pacific island of Midway halfway between America and Asia, touches way, way deeper into our psyche than any factual…

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Dreaming – That’s The Secret.

I just love Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony….  As a child I used to sit and dream on the window seat gazing out over the hills of Africa, humming to the beautiful music.

DREAMING…. that’s the Secret!

CIMG0112Do you love to dream? I do as I sit on a bench looking over the South Downs. I sometimes bring a notepad and pen with me.

It’s also the secret of how to succeed in business, through thick and thin, rain and sun. And if you don’t have a business, nor would ever want to own one, you can just apply my little secret to your own life.

First – you need to forget about business or work or whatever and identify what motivates YOU PERSONALLY.


What would you like to do, be or have, if there were no boundaries? Think up ten dreams and picture them in your mind. It doesn’t matter how large, trivial, or outrageous they are. Just have a go…

 Indulge yourself…. if it’s a home of your own, imagine a specific place, how many bedrooms, size of the garden… if it’s a car. What make? Model? Colour? Interior?…


Bryce Canyon, US

Maybe an experience, travel where – how – for how long – what time of year? Go to a show, which one? Take family out to a meal somewhere special – what’s on the menu?

And then – make a realistic costing, and a time frame for each dream, as described in the book.


I did this exercise sixteen years ago when, after a wonderful “walk” round the world, my life hit rock bottom. That happens to people sometimes, after having an amazing experience. I was encouraged to conjure up ten dreams and write them down.

tortoises01283I dreamed of going to the Galapagos Islands: I am a keen amateur bird-watcher, and that’s the place for birds, and tortoises.


I wanted to go to Petra.

I wanted to finish my first book, which I’d started way back in the 1980’s, and I wanted to find a publisher for it.

I dreamed an impossible dream of providing a travel fund for my grandkids on their gap years, ten years on.

Next week – find out what happened with my dreams!



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Exploring, Notebook in Hand

Jennifer Wilson has written an intriguing series of unique historical novels with loads of atmosphere, and her first, based on the Tower of London, held me in its thrall. She researches the best way: by physically visiting her settings, and this is what she has to say…

Setting is absolutely vital for me. I’ve heard many writers say that it can be another character in a novel, and I believe that. I was particularly aware of this when I was writing Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, set in the Tower, a place which still resonates in the imagination for its terrifying reputation as a prison and site of executions. When somewhere is so well-known, I think you have to get it right if you’re going to start writing about it, so I spent two full days wandering about, doing the official tours, then just getting a bit lost, nosying into all the various nooks, crannies and half-forgotten rooms that not all tourists bother with.

At the other end of the scale, my latest book, Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey explores another famous location for British history; a site which has seen the hatching, matching and dispatching of our great and good for centuries, and of course, so many coronations. Given its importance to the nation, I was keen to get it right, so again, another trip to London, and a whole day of wandering and experiencing.

I love this bit of the research, physically walking in your characters’ footsteps, especially in historical sites and buildings, where often so little has changed since their day, and in some cases, you’re seeing their own designs and plans, like Westminster Abbey’s Lady Chapel, built at the command of Henry VII. It’s important geographically and logistically too, making sure that when a character walks from A to B (or in my place, passes through walls from A to B), that B is actually where you say it is, and shouldn’t instead be C. That can be jarring to readers who know a place, and even when you’re writing about ghosts and time-travel, things still need to be realistic enough not to pull people out of the moment.

WestminsterAbbeyVisiting also gives you a real ‘sense’ of a place, again, so important when you’re setting your story in a real location. For Westminster Abbey, I thought my biggest challenge was going to be the ban on photography inside; how was I possibly going to record everything to use when I got home? Instead though, I found it almost liberating, forcing myself into making reams of notes on architecture, the wording on tombs, and the beautiful features. I filled half a notebook with scribbles, filling up most of the rest over the remainder of the weekend, with scenes popping into my head, or notes on existing scenes, making it come to life in a way I could never have achieved without having spent the day there. It also meant I got to attend Evensong in the Abbey, sat in the stunning wooden stalls which we’ve all seen filled with politicians and religious leaders during services such as the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, or more sombre occasions like Remembrance Sunday. Sitting there, imagining what the likes of Anne Neville, Elizabeth Woodville or King Charles II would have felt during their visits, or how their ghosts might view things now, was an incredible experience, and one I would love to relive when I visit again in the future.

I think visiting a place as a writer can also bring about a different experience for people. For years, my parents and I used to pop down to York on a weekend, and meander about, visiting the shops we didn’t have in Darlington, enjoying a cup of tea and a cake in a nice café, and generally enjoying the day. This year, I’ve visited three times on research trips, and it’s like seeing the place with new eyes. I’ve discovered historical sites we simply never knew existed, such as St Margaret’s Chapel, right in the heart of the Shambles, and the Bar Convent, just beyond the city wall, but a beautiful chapel, totally hidden from view. Without having decided to set the next Kindred Spirits book in York, I doubt I would ever have found these hidden treasures. But I’m so glad I did. Again, wandering about, notebook in hand, taking down those little details which will hopefully bring the book to life, gave me a new perspective on somewhere I thought I knew.

And I think that’s the heart of it for me. Selfishly, I’m starting to work on projects starting with a location, rather than a person, these days. Either somewhere I know really well, so can enjoy spending time there in my head, or somewhere I want to know really well, so I have the perfect reason to jump on a train and get exploring, notebook in hand!

About Jennifer

Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for historyJenniferCWilson-NEW-January2018 whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating.

Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. Her Kindred Spirits novels are published by Crooked Cat Books and available via Amazon, along with her self-published timeslip novella, The Last Plantagenet? She can be found online at her blog, and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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The Location Chose Me

I am delighted to introduce new author Rosie Travers in my series on settings for books.

I thoroughly recommend the read, which took me away from my trials and tribulations into a wonderfully contrived, fast-moving story with all the ingredients of love, intrigue, endeavour.  Over to you, Rosie.


My debut novel, The Theatre of Dreams, is set in the fictional resort of Hookes Bay on the Hampshire coast and tells the story of an unlikely trio of characters who conspire together to save a neglected seaside pavilion from demolition.

Choosing the location for my story was easy, actually I think it chose me. Inspiration can sometimes strike in the most unlikeliest of places. Lee-on-the-Solent is approximately 8 km west of Portsmouth, in the borough of Gosport. As its name suggests, the town sits on the Solent, facing the Isle of Wight.  This is whole area is synonymous with Royal Navy activities – barracks, armouries, submarine stations, airbases. It’s not a holiday destination – or at least it isn’t today.

Lee on Solent today (1)

But Lee-on-the-Solent has a past – back in the late Victorian era, before the arrival of the Navy, the town attempted to establish itself as a resort. A pier was built, the railway line extended, and grand houses constructed along a marine parade. Then in the 1930s, an Art Deco entertainment complex comprising a ballroom, restaurant and cinema was added on the esplanade, topped by a 120 ft observation tower. Lee’s glory didn’t last long. The pier was destroyed after the second World War while the tower complex only lasted until the 1960s – the archetypical white elephant.

I knew nothing of any of this until a couple of years ago when taking a walk along the blustery and somewhat exposed seafront I came across a notice-board commemorating the site of the historic complex. Where once there was something quite unique there was now just a promenade and a car-park. How could they have let this happen? I thought. Why wasn’t this glorious Art Deco building preserved?  It seemed a travesty.

Lee Tower (1)

My imagination was well and truly captured. I conducted some online research, uncovering a whole bevy of Art Deco pavilions dotted across the country. I read about the De La Warr pavilion further along the coast at Bexhill-on-Sea in Sussex – restored into a contemporary arts centre after a public campaign and wondered why this hadn’t that happened at Lee.  Where was the vision, imagination, determination, ingenuity, oh, and the money of course, to conserve this little town’s slice of cultural history?

And so an idea was born, although I have downsized events for my novel. In The Theatre of Dreams my two leading ladies don’t need an observation tower and an entire entertainment complex to bring them together, just something small and meaningful – a family run theatre.

Hookes Bay is purely a figment of my imagination. Yes it does have some similarities to Lee – they share a pebble beach, they have a promenade, but Hookes Bay still has the remains of its pier, and of course, its Art Deco pavilion. Or at least it does at the start of the story…

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Musical Theatre actress Tara is down on her luck and in need of a job. When terminally ill octogenarian Kitty invites her to take over the running of her former dance academy in the old fashioned resort of Hookes Bay, Tara thinks she’s found her guardian angel. But it soon becomes very clear Kitty is being far from benevolent. Too late Tara realises helping Kitty will signal the end of an already tarnished career, unless she can pull of the performance of a lifetime.

Website: www.rosietravers.com

Facebook: RosieTraversAuthor

Twitter @RosieTravers

Instagram: RosieTraversAuthor

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Just Like Old Times

Kenya visit, Wed 7th March 2018

I’d been looking forward to the Museum Wednesday Bird Walk with Fleur Ng’weno and it was just like old times.

We meet at the Nairobi racecourse, about 18-20 people, mainly museum trainees and guides. We don’t move far from the cars, as sightings are continuous.

African green pigeons are spotted first, lovely colourful birds. We list about 60-70 birds altogether. Migrants are still around: black caps, European bee-eaters and warblers.

Familiar African weavers, golden, grosbeak and baglefecht; bulbuls (I remember on my first ever bird walk with Fleur way back in the ’80s, being so excited at my first bulbul spotting, and Fleur patiently showing me how to find it with my new binoculars). Bronze and collared sunbirds busy themselves among the flowering trees. A crested eagle, fish eagles (I’ve never seen them in the city before), swifts and martins. Fleur spots a yellow throated long claw near the home straight of the racecourse, pointing in her familiar pose. You can see it’s been raining.

I have to leave at noon as I’d inadvertently locked the maid out of Anthea’s house. I have a quick shower, then go off to join Fleur for a sandwich lunch at the Museum.

The new Chinese tangle of roads at the junction filled me with confusion. I missed the turning to the museum (needless to say, there were no signposts) so had to go a very long way round.

Fleur had lost weight, after a heart replacement in the US, and had missed a few bird walks as a result. But she was very chirpy as we sat in the museum cafetaria, exchanging news. Outside, a Women’s Day function was in full swing. She directed me to the smart new Kenya Museum Society offices and I offered them 4 books to sell on commission. Astonishingly, VAT is charged on books in Kenya.

Leaving the museum on the way back to Kenton College, I took a wrong turning before the interchange and found myself crawling up the dual carriageway towards the city centre, inch by inch. At church corner, I doubled back past the United Kenya Club, turned right down Arboretum Road and up to Kenton College.

Ben Kadima was waiting for me at the gate of Anthea’s block of flats. It was good to catch up with him and reminisce about old times when he was my valuable technician in the computer lab at Hillcrest Secondary School. He looks well. His wife died a few years ago leaving him to care for two sons and twin daughters of 15. After a fiasco at a parastatal when he was framed for fraud, and had to use a pro bono lawyer to clear his name, he’s been freelancing IT and networking services. The political situation, and nervousness at what the politicians are going to do next – has caused an anxious slow-down of business. The country appears to be on a knife-edge and nobody can guess what will happen.

Before he left, Ben had a text asking him to go to Ongata Rongai to talk about completing a paused contract to install IT links in a new housing estate – a government requirement. So maybe things are looking up.

Anthea meanwhile had taken the car for a veggie/fruit shop for the weekend. She makes a delicious chicken /manche toux stir fry with baked potatoes and avocado and tomato salad for supper.

My legs are beginning to ache and I look forward to an early night.



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Trails and Trials

Welcome to a long-standing friend Maretha Botha, author of lovely children’s books set in down-to-earth Africa. My mouth is watering at the thought of your delicious pasta dish, Maretha – over to you…


Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Jane. I would like to tell you a bit more about myself and “Trails and Trials: An African Adventure” – the fourth book in the Fauna Park Tales Series. I’m an Italian National who grew up in South Africa and lived in Botswana for several years. I love expresso, and of course, pasta – just with olive oil and a bit of grated cheese, or a tasty Pasta Vongole with a few clams, cherry tomatoes, sprinkled with olive oil – an easy dish when I’m busy illustrating. Stopping to cook a fancy meal for hubby, might destroy the image in my head.

However, when I hit a blank – either with illustrating or writing the next big adventure – gardening also gives me a welcome break. Simply taking photos of what the garden has on offer or getting down and dirty, and doing some digging do wonders to kickstart my rusty brain!



In a way, “Trails and Trials: An African Adventure”, demonstrates my writer’s journey since 2012 – also filled with all sorts of ups and downs after my post as an assistant librarian was localised at one of the schools in Gaborone, Botswana. When I got over the initial shock of not having a job to go to after the short Easter break, I began to unearth all the bits and pieces I’ve written through the years.

With so much inspiration everywhere – we lived on the edge of a game reserve nestling in a valley surrounded by low undulating hills on three sides and a small rural village on the other side – it was only a matter of time before a new world began forming in my head.

Most of the local villagers keep chickens, donkeys, goats and cattle, and many found a way into the stories told in Fauna Park Tales.

cowThe sand has an incredible ochre colour, and herds of cattle constantly move back and forth in search of new grasslands. Of course, the goat herds are very large, and they too, eat a lot. So, during the dry season, food and water often become scarce. Many times, we gave the cows water at night, because they would hang about our outer fence until we responded!

As unbelievable as it might sound, many villagers still regularly burn a ring around a tree – look how dry it is – and let the tree die to cut it up into firewood. Sometimes, such fires spread, causing large areas to be burnt to a cinder. So, there is a fire in book two –


and the hero Flame, aka as Jack Old Boy, rescues a young zebra and her foals during their migration when they are trapped by fires.

Book description: Four trails one destination, “Trails and Trials: An African Adventure”, is written from four different viewpoints, combining four smaller books into a complete book of 148 pages – each with its own title and subtitles, illustrations, descriptions and footnotes of foreign words – based on “African Adventures of Flame, Family, Furry and Feathered Friends”, a HarperCollins Authonomy Writers’ Website GOLD MEDAL WINNER.

Life continues to take strange turns for Flame, a working dog on a free-range cattle farm. He and three of his furry friends follow the trail of Tall Leader and his gang of poachers into the desert, after they kidnapped their beloved orphans and stole all the villagers’ cattle. To follow their enemies’ trail, the brave friends jump on and off trains, sleep under the stars, and find friends and foes while on their dangerous mission. Their loyal feathered friends – a martial eagle and a female eagle owl – are their scouts, helping them when they get lost, which is often.

All the characters – both human, and furry and feathered – strive to reach the last waterhole at the Tukani River as soon as possible. Here, a cattle stampede, heroic deeds, finding long-lost family and solving secrets happen in quick succession.


“Hope’s Memories” is a backstory summary of book three, “The Orphans’ Plight: An African Adventure” and gives the reasons why Flame and his friends are on this risky mission.

marshall eagleBirds of prey – martial eagles and eagle owls are both endangered in many parts of southern Africa, especially martial eagles who have been mercilessly persecuted because of their ‘reputation’ to hunt smaller farm animals. You may have noticed the pylons in the photograph above. To protect their young, martial eagles often have nests high up on these pylons – also a dangerous situation. In the story, the martial eagle – Mars – keeps an eye on the movements of the cattle thieves while sitting high up on the pylons.


Author Page – https://amazon.com/author/marethabotha

Blog 1 – https://marethabotha2013.com/

Blog 2 – https://marethmbotha.wordpress.com/

Fauna Park Tales Facebook Page – https://facebook.com/flameandhope.co.uk



Should you wish to add the short links to the other books in the series, they are:









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A Colourful Presentation of Memorabilia

During my visit to Kenya earlier this year, we called in to say jambo to old friends Tim and Wendy Davis.

Nothing had changed, as we drove through the gates of their Langata property, and climbed the familiar steps to their house. We exchanged family news while settling down to a cup of coffee on the veranda overlooking the sparse lawn.

Tim’s labour of love had come to fruition. His East African Safari Scrap Book, commemorating fifty years of competition, was published. I wanted to buy a copy for my brother-in-law, Robin Hillyar, who  won this prestigious event with his friend Jock Aird way back in the mists of time.

Tim's bookTim produced a copy of the coffee-table sized book and signed it, leaving a thoughtful message for Robin. It is a colourful presentation with snippets of interest on every double page, representing one year. Tim had been responsible for the news and press during the rally for many years, and was able to draw on his vast store of information.

Controversies are recorded, amusing incidents revealed, and facts faithfully reported. Drivers have been happy to come forward to offer anecdotes and correct perceived misconceptions before the book finally went to press. There are always several viewpoints to an event, and Tim has been careful to represent the truth as near as he possibly could.

Tim DavisAfter coffee, he led us into the house and showed us his pride and joy: a glass cabinet filled with carefully prepared memorabilia. Each of the fifty years has a separate section. The display contains models of the Safari start/finish ramp for every year, complete with miniatures of the winning cars. It was a privilege to be photographed with him beside it.

Tim’s dream is for the whole cabinet eventually to become a museum piece.

Tim's model cars


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