A trip over to Barnstaple for coffee and cake with my writing friends to discuss our book – Mosaic – which is a compilation of short stories.  I enjoy the drive from West to North Devon through pretty countryside via several villages and the moor looked spectacular yesterday in the sunshine.  We threshed out the format for the book marvelling at the different way we each approach writing – there is no right way of doing it just your way.

Spent a glorious sunny day in Dartmouth but the highlight was a ferry trip up the river to visit Greenway, the holiday house of Agatha Christie and family. The sparkling estuary of the Dart is glimpsed through the trees from the house, the interior of which is firmly set in the 1950′s.  What a wonderful setting for a writer although I can understand if she was distracted by the views from almost every window.

Roses and honeysuckle round my front door – the scent is glorious. Writing-wise I am back in the 30′s/40′s trying something new. It is fascinating doing the research in an effort to be authentic but of course there comes a time when you have to just get on with it. Mill life in Lancashire, a move to London, a river cruise down the Nile and lots of drama – at least that is what I am aiming for. Loving doing it and that’s all that matters.

I did not realise at first but the three short stories of mine coming out in the MOSAIC collection by our writing group in Barnstaple are all written from the male point of view.  I feel comfortable doing this and have done this in my novels although they are essentially from the female angle.  In one of the short stories, Come the First of July, I was taken back to my childhood when a scary aunt used to visit on Boxing Day and take my mother into the privacy of the sitting room to read her tea-cup.  My mum would reappear sometimes looking shaken but never admitting what she had been told. And that’s where that idea came from!

Had a break from writing although lots of ideas for a new batch of short stories coming through. I have two included in the short story e-book our Barnstaple writers are producing shortly. Short story writing is completely different calling for a tightly reined in story where every word has to count.  Am  just back from a mini-cruise on P&O Ventura from Southampton to Bruges which was an opportunity to try out the idea of cruising.  Glitzy ship with good entertainment and food – lovely to meet new people and especially our group on Table 7 in the Bay tree restaurant – much laughter, an unfortunate knocking over of red wine, sharing brief histories and just a general getting to know people.  Cocktails including my first Singapore Sling on Deck 18 on the final night was a delight.

My littlest granddaughter Millie is in reception class and I went along to their Nativity Play. Considering that for two thirds of the class, English is not their main language – being mainly Eastern European – it was a joy. Millie had a speaking part which she managed beautifully. There were the usual hilarious moments with Joseph finding a loose thread on his sleeve and picking at it intently throughout but for the mums and dads it was a delight. The little ones are picking up the language in that easy way of the young and within a few months I expect their English will be faultless.

Decided on my last shopping visit to Plymouth that I wouldn’t bother going shopping again until after Christmas. The panicked look is already appearing on people’s faces. Why do we allow it to get to us? I started a book years ago ‘Family Secrets’ with my character Josie doing some last-minute shopping in the supermarket on Christmas Eve – it was fun to write.  We – myself and my writing friends from Barnstaple – have decided to produce some short stories to be published as an e-book. There is a resurgence in short stories apparently and I admire this tricky genre. I hope to include a couple of mine in it.

An eight and a half hour train journey from Plymouth to Edinburgh – we could have flown the Atlantic in that time. A few very pleasant days though and Edinburgh always stirs up special memories for me and it was the first visit for Daisy my 9 year old granddaughter. I am still bewildered by the architecture of the Scottish Parliament building which sits opposite Holyrood Palace with Arthur’s Seat looming in the background.  We spotted about six kilts in all mostly worn by tour guides and made ourselves feel a bit sick after consuming far too much delicious homemade fudge from a shop on the Royal Mile.  A critique was waiting for me on my return and I am looking forward to doing that. My writing friends in Barnstable are going to produce an e- book of our short stories so watch this space.

Dinner last night  in Bude at La Bouche Creole. Fabulous fish dishes and attentive staff. Today my son drove me to Lanhydrock, a magnificent National Trust  property with 40 or so rooms to wander through. Very Downton Abbey with servants’ quarters and huge kitchens contrasting with the splendour of the upper rooms. A maze of corridors and little flights of steps leading you here and there. A fascinating family history but just too much to take in all at once. Needs another visit another time. Off to Scotland again tomorrow. I don’t visit for years then it’s twice within a few weeks.

A return visit to my birthplace, Preston for The Park School reunion staying with an old friend I have known since primary school days and a catch up with family. The town, now city, has changed so much that sometimes I struggle to unearth a memory. My childhood house looks much the same in the middle of a redbrick terraced street, but there are now saplings growing along it (good thing) and the street is one way and packed solid with parked cars (not so good).  The old Dock area has been transformed into a Marina and we took a pleasant walk all the way round in lovely autumn sunshine. I can return to the north in my stories and in my head even though I now live so far away in Devon – that M5 motorway seems never-ending although we, my son and I, did the journey in just under 6 hours which is something of a record.