Monday, 16 December 2013

My Writing Process #mywritingprocess

Today is "My Writing Process" blog tour day, when writers answer questions about their writing process. Last week, fellow author Beth Elliott posted hers. You can check it out at
Beth writes Regency stories – but with a difference, as they are set in exotic places.
Many thanks for the invitation, Beth.
So, what is my writing process? I’ve converted one of the bedrooms in my house to a study (or office, or whatever you want to call it!) and my desktop computer sits in one corner. I probably spend 80% of my time here, except for the days when I go out for pub lunches and other visits with various friends.
When I first started writing, back in the 1960s, I wrote longhand, and then typed my manuscripts. Now I type my stories straight into the computer –so much easier to delete, change words and phrases, and move paragraphs around!
What are you working on?
My current ‘work in progress’ is one I’ve been working on longer than any other previous novel. I started it about 2 years ago, got about half way through, and realised it wasn’t ‘right’ somehow, so I put it on the backburner while I wrote another novel. I came back to it last September, hoping a fresh look at it would help, but I am still struggling with it! The main theme is the ‘Different Worlds’ in which a successful actress and a Lakeland vet live. Despite being attracted to each other, they think their lives aren’t compatible, and there are other factors which make them both wary of embarking on any new relationship. I’ll get there eventually, but in the meantime, it’s like carving granite with a teaspoon!
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I like to think it’s because I write about real people with lives that the reader can relate to. I don’t go for billionaires, or landed gentry. My heroes and heroines all have their own careers, and live in the ‘real’ world. My heroes are definitely not alpha males, who might appeal to some readers, but who (in my opinion) would be a huge turn-off in real life. Mine are what I call alpha-minus, beta-plus heroes, combining the best aspects of both alpha and beta, and losing the more negative aspects of each. They’re confident and self-assured, but at the same time caring and considerate. My heroines are intelligent and independent, willing to give and receive love in equal measure. One of my Amazon reviewers, to my delight, said that I “created likeable, interesting characters who lead life like real people.”
Why do you write what you do?
The easy answer to that is because it’s what I’ve always written! As a child, I wrote school stories, but once I got to my teens, I was writing romances. Very cheesy romances, I readily admit, but when I was in my 20s, I turned one of those stories into a full-length romance which was accepted by Mills and Boon. Since then I’ve always written romances. Maybe one day I’ll stray out of my comfort zone, but at the moment I’m quite happy with it.
How does your writing process work?
The best way to describe it would probably be haphazardly! I’m a pantser, not a plotter. I get a basic idea (sometimes from what I've seen or read) and have a vague notion where the story will go. In that sense, I have the beginning and the end, but most of the time I rely on my characters – and my own sudden flashes of inspiration –to fill in the middle of the story.
I agonise over the first draft, which usually takes me about six months, but once that is done, I really enjoy revising, polishing, and detailed editing – which probably adds about another three months to my writing process.
Next week the following three authors will be telling you about their writing process:
Jennifer Wilck - contemporary romance writer of love, laughter and happily ever after.
Sherry Gloag - author of regency and contemporary romance - with a dash of suspense.
Viola Russell - author of contemporary and historical romance

Friday, 22 November 2013

November 22nd, 1963

It has been said that everyone who was over about 10 at the time can remember where they were when they heard Kennedy had died. Ask anyone over 60 now and they could probably tell you.

50 years ago today, I was a student living in a small room in an old Victorian house in Manchester. I can still visualise it vividly. We called it a bedsit, which was short for a combined sitting room and bedroom, and it also had a tiny gas cooker and a sink, so it was a kitchen too. Maybe today you would call it a studio apartment.

I didn’t have a TV, just a small radio. I can’t remember what I was listening to when they broke into the programme with a newsflash. Shots had been fired at the motorcade in Dallas and the President had been injured. Half an hour or so later came the news that he was dead.

I remember feeling a sense of total shock. It was the first major assassination in my lifetime (I was too young to remember Gandhi’s death) and it felt like the end of an era. After growing up with older Presidents (Truman and Eisenhower) and even older Prime Ministers here in the UK, Kennedy had been a charismatic – and young – world figure. I remember watching his inaugural speech on TV, and also the famous ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ statement. Okay, we all held our breaths for a week in October 1962 when he challenged the Russians in the Cuban Missile Crisis, but he (and Jackie too) really was different from anything we’d known in the political scene.

All the controversy following JFK’s death has fascinated me ever since. Different theories continue to appear. The most recent one I heard was that the 3rd shot came from the Secret Service car behind the President’s car. Most people, it seems, reject the 'lone gunman' theory. Jack Ruby's killing of Lee Harvey Oswald adds credence to this, in my opinion, as well as so many other unanswered questions surrounding Kennedy's death. Maybe eventually the truth will be revealed.

Despite the inevitable later criticisms of different aspects of Kennedy’s political decisions and personal life, the fact remains that he is still seen as a symbol of change and hope at the start of the 1960s. Because his presidency was cut short, we can never know just what he would have achieved in the spheres of civil rights and other social issues during what almost certainly would have been his second term of office. We don’t know, either, whether he would have embroiled America in a long war in Vietnam.

All we do know, those of us who lived at the time, is that the world changed on November 22nd, 1963.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

We Will Remember Them

In 1918, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns fell silent along the Western and Eastern fronts in Europe. An armistice had been signed, and the Great War had ended, after over four years of the bloodiest warfare ever.

There is an almost cruel irony in the fact that the first and also some of the last shots of the war were fired within fifty metres of each other.

4th Dragoon Memorial,
Casteau, Belgium
On August 22nd 1914, a British cavalry troop, the 4th Dragoon Guards, were involved in the first skirmish with the Germans at a small village called Casteau, near the Belgian town of Mons. During this short battle, Captain E Thomas fired the first shot at the enemy, and killed a German cavalry officer.

Canadian Memorial at Casteau
On the morning of November 11th, 1918, a Canadian Infantry Battalion were on the trail of retreating German soldiers, and after firing their final shots, they stopped firing at 11 o’clock at the village of Casteau.

In the four years between those first and last shots in the small Belgian village, hundreds of thousands lives had been lost in the trenches and battlefields on the Western and Eastern fronts.
August 22nd, 1914                      November 11th 1918
In 1915 Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote a poem after presiding over the funeral of a friend who died in the Second Battle of Ypres:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
The references to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the poppy becoming one of the world's most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in conflicts.

In Britain, a Festival of Remembrance is held at the Royal Albert Hall in London on the Saturday nearest to November 11th. It commemorates all who have lost their lives in conflicts. Part concert, part memorial service, it concludes with a parade of representatives of all the armed forces as well as the uniformed volunteer organisations. Once they are all in place in the large arena, there is a two minute silence, and thousands of poppy petals are released from the roof. It is said there is one poppy petal for each person who has died in conflicts.
Image by Sgt G Spark, RAF
The following morning, another service is held at the Cenotaph in London’s Whitehall, and at the same time, similar services are held at hundreds of war memorials in every part of the country, and also wherever British troops are serving overseas. If  November 11th doesn't fall on a Sunday, a two minute silence is observed 'at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day'.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
(Lawrence Binyon)
My great-uncle's grave in a small cemetery
in the Somme area of France.
He died in March 1918, aged 20.
Stanley Charles Garnar
1897 - 1918



Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Dublin's Fair City

I’m continuing to feature some of the places that appear in my soon to be published new novel ‘Irish Inheritance’ –and today we're visiting Dublin. Jenna and Guy first meet at Dublin airport, visit a lawyer on St. Stephen’s Green, and then spend the rest of the afternoon and evening together.

In such a short time, they don’t see a lot of Dublin, but they do go to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College. The illuminated manuscript, considered to be Ireland’s finest national treasure, was created by Irish monks about 800 A.D. It contains the four Gospels in Latin, and is a wonderful example of medieval calligraphy and illumination.

On the way from Grafton Street (the main shopping street in Dublin), Jenna and Guy would have passed one of the city’s many statues. It’s unlikely that this one represents a real person (although some would argue differently) but she features in one of Ireland’s most well-known songs – ‘as she wheels her wheelbarrow, through streets broad and narrow, crying ‘Cockles and Mussels, alive, alive-oh’. Of course, it’s Molly Malone – or, as this statue is sometimes called, ‘The Tart with the Cart’.

They spent the evening in Temple Bar, known as Dublin’s ‘cultural quarter’, due to the photographic and artists’ studios in the area. However, it has become more of a tourist centre, regarded by the locals as having ‘ye olde Irish’ pretensions. There are plenty of bars and nightclubs in the area, as well as street performers and musicians.

On a later visit to Dublin, they crossed the River Liffey on Ha’penny Bridge, a cast iron footbridge which was built in 1816, and known originally as the Wellington Bridge (after the Duke of Wellington). Before the bridge was built, William Walsh operated seven ferries across the river. They were in bad condition, and Walsh was told either to repair them or build a bridge. He chose the latter, and was allowed to charge half a penny from anyone crossing the bridge. The toll was later increased to a one and a half pennies, but was finally dropped in 1919. Officially, the bridge is the Liffey Bridge, but is known to everyone as the Ha’penny Bridge.

What did Jenna and Guy miss seeing in Dublin? The list is probably endless, but here are some of the places I have visited in this wonderful city:

The Guinness Brewery, founded by Arthur Guinness in 1759, has an excellent exhibition (including a tasting experience!) and also one of the best views of Dublin from the Gravity Bar at the top of the building.

Kilmainham Gaol, built in 1796,  has held many famous people involved in the campaign for Irish Independence, including the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, some of whom were executed here. It has also been used as a location for several films, including The Italian Job.

Licensed under  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike
2.0 Generic license.
Attribution: Stephen Sweeney
O’Connell Street is Dublin’s main thoroughfare, named after Daniel O’Connell, a nationalist leader in the early 19th century, whose statue stands at one end of the wide street. Part way along the street is the large Georgian General Post Office, which served as the headquarters of the 1916 Rising. Near the Post Office is the Spire, a stainless steel monument almost 400 feet high, erected in 2002-3, and sometimes referred to by Dubliners as ‘The Spike’ (or even ‘The Stiletto in the Ghetto').

This post would go on forever if I added all the other interesting places in Dublin. Maybe I’ll write about them in a later post.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Finding the person behind the name

After a month’s break from my blog, I’m back again. I shall be posting more photos of Ireland later this week, in honour of my next release ‘Irish Inheritance’ (next February). I’ll also be challenging myself to click ‘Random Article’ in Wikipedia and trying to write something about whatever topic appears there.

For today’s blog, I’m going to share something about which I’ve already written briefly on Facebook. Many years ago, my father picked up an old book in a second-hand bookshop (not sure where but probably in Preston, Lancashire).


It is an old leather bound book, about 6 inches by 4, and over an inch thick. The spine and covers are worn, but all the pages are intact.
It is a History of France, evidently the third volume, dealing with the monarchy in the years 1270 to 1380 and it was published in MDCCXXIV – which, according to my calculations, is 1724.
Interesting enough in itself, of course, even though it is all in French! However, what makes it doubly interesting, is the inscription on the first page.

This says it was picked up at Martinsarte on the Somme Front from a ruined house in 1916, and goes on to say it was just before the advance of the tanks and before the fall of Thiepvalle and Beaumont Hamel.

Thiepval Memorial
This meant nothing to me when my father first gave me the book, but since then I have visited both Thiepval and Beaumont Hamel. The former is the major war memorial to those who died in the Somme area and whose bodies were never found or identified. There are 72,000 names on the memorial; over 90% of these died in the battle that lasted from July to November 1916. There are also 600 British and French graves close to the memorial.
Trenches at Beaumont Hamel
Beaumont Hamel is now the site of the Newfoundland Memorial Park, because the Newfoundland Regiment attacked the Germans here on July 1st, 1916, and suffered appalling losses. In the park some of the front line trenches have been preserved.

But back to the book and its inscription: a few years ago I made a few attempts to trace the Captain Herbert J. Robson who originally found the book, but couldn’t find anything about him, nor could I make out the letters under his name. To me, they looked like R.G.L.C, but I couldn’t get any further than that.

Until yesterday evening! My daughter and I were chatting about the book, and she did an internet search and found a Captain Herbert J. Robson in the London Gazette, May 12, 1908.

Northern Command: Leeds Companies;
Captain Herbert J. Robson resigns his commission.
Dated 31st March, 1908.

This was the breakthrough we needed – because a closer look at the letters in the book inscription showed that they actually said R.A.M.C (not RGLC). So our man was in the Medical Corps. The letters T.F. stand for Territorial Force (later the Territorial Army, which was the volunteer reserve force in peacetime). One assumes he resigned his commission with the Leeds Companies and rejoined the new Territorial Force which was established on April 1st, 1908.

I then found the Forces War Records for the RAMC – and there was Captain Herbert Robson. The record gave his home address as Vernon House, Hillary Place, Leeds. Also, as well as the British War Medal and Victory Medal (which were presented to all those who served in the 1st World War), he received the Silver War Badge in 1916, issued to personnel who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness.

Having found the man and his address in Leeds, I turned to the census and other records, and as a result, I now know that Herbert John Robson was born in 1862 in Filey, Yorkshire, where his father was a chemist on Queen Street. In 1881 Herbert was a medical student in London, and in 1891 he was a surgeon and general practitioner in Leeds. He married Jane Sanders in 1893, and by 1901 they had three children, Arthur aged 7, Olive aged 4, and Robert aged 3.

The only other thing I’ve been able to find out (so far!) is that both Herbert and his wife died in 1931 – Jane first, and then Herbert, less than 6 months later.

Most of this information has been gleaned in the past 24 hours which is a great testament to the value of the internet for research. Perhaps more important, the name at the front of an old book has now become a real person to me. 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

'Irish Inheritance' - The Burren

I’m continuing to feature some of the places that appear in my soon to be published new novel ‘Irish Inheritance’ –and today we're visiting The Burren.

The Burren (from the Irish Boireann meaning ‘great rock’) is a region in County Clare in the west of Ireland, covering approximately 250 square miles. It is composed of limestone pavement with deep cracks called grikes. The separate rocks formed by the criss-crossing of the grikes are known as clints, and support a wide variety of plant life, ranging from Arctic to Mediterranean. There are also some rare species of butterflies and moths.


The area is also rich in archaeological and historical sites. There are more than 90 stone age tombs and portal dolmens, and several ring forts dating from about 500AD.

Polnabrone dolmen is a portal tomb from the New Stone Age (approximately 3,000BC), It consists of a 12 foot capstone, supported by 2 portal stone, about 6 feet high. The tomb chamber was excavated in the 1980s and contained the remains of between 16 and 22 adults, and 6 children. Also in the tomb were a polished stone axe, a bone pendant, quartz crystals, weapons, and pottery. It’s thought the dominating position of Poulnabrone on the Burren probably made it a centre for ceremony or ritual until the Celtic period.

Caherconnell stone fort dates from Celtic times (about 1500 years ago). Its position overlooking the surrounding area suggests it was built for defence, not necessarily military, but against raider and wild animals. It is circular, about 140 feet in diameter, and the walls are about 12 feet thick. They consist of stone blocks, many 3ft long and 2ft 6inches high. It is the best preserved of all the ring forts on the Burren.

At the south western edge of the Burren region are the Cliffs of Moher, rising to 700 feet above the Atlantic at their highest point. They are named after an old fort called Moher which stood at the southernmost point of the cliffs. There are an estimated 30,000 birds on the cliffs, including gulls, guillemots, and Atlantic puffins.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

"Irish Inheritance" - Galway Bay

I’m continuing to feature some of the places that appear in my soon to be published new novel ‘Irish Inheritance’ –and following on from telling you about Galway City last week, here are some views of Galway Bay for you.
The first time I went to Galway, I stayed at a hotel about a mile from the sea. If you stood on a chair in our hotel room, and peered through the top of the window over house roofs, you could just make out the bay in the distance! The next time I visited Galway, I stayed at a hotel right on the sea front at Salthill, the seaside resort part of Galway City – and didn’t have to stand on a chair to see the bay. This was the view from our window.
Galway Bay is one of the largest inlets on the west coast of Ireland, about 30 miles long, and between 6 and 19 miles wide. It separates County Galway in the north and County Clare in the south. From the Galway side, you can see the hills of the Burren.
In one sense, the coast road on the Galway side is a little disappointing, as the road is some distance from the shore, and if you’re driving, you only catch glimpses in between the trees and also the holiday properties that have been built all along the bay.
There are places, however, where you can reach the shore – here at Spiddal, for example.
And also from one of our favourite restaurants, we saw a rainbow over the bay.
And here, near the western end, is where the bay meets the Atlantic. If you sailed due west from here, you’d reach Goose Bay in Labrador.
One of my favourite Irish songs starts:
If you ever go across the sea to Ireland
Then maybe at the closing of your day
You will sit and watch the moon rise over Claddagh
Or see the sun go down on Galway Bay.”
One evening we hoped to see the sun go down on Galway Bay, but got stuck in a traffic jam on the way. Watching the sun go down on the Galway Ring Road isn’t quite the same! But the next evening, we reached the small beach at Furbo to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.
In 'Irish Inheritance', Jenna and Guy stop for a short time at the beach at Furbo. Here's a short excerpt:
When they reached the coast road, Guy strained to catch a glimpse of Galway Bay, but new houses between the road and the shore blocked their view of the sea.
“I didn’t expect it to be like this,” he said. “When we looked at this road on the map, I thought we’d have a great view of the bay.”
Jenna heard the disappointment in his voice. “Maybe the road will run alongside the sea as we get nearer to Galway City.”
A few miles later, their wish was granted, and Jenna pulled off into a parking area overlooking a small beach. As they got out of the car, she took a deep breath of the salt-scented air.
“And this,” she said, with a dramatic flourish of her arm, “is Galway Bay for you, Mr. Sinclair.”
He caught hold of her hand as they went down the stone steps to the beach, strewn with brown seaweed and grey pebbles. The waves lapped gently on the sand, and they stood for several minutes, drinking in the view of the wide expanse of the bay and the low hills on the far side.
“For some reason all I can think of is the Christmas song about the boys from the NYPD choir singing Galway Bay,” he said eventually, “but I don’t know what the choir was actually singing.”
“I’ve always assumed it was the one about the sun going down on Galway Bay.” She sang the words softly. “If you ever go across the sea to Ireland...” After she’d finished the verse, she glanced apologetically at him. “Sorry, I don’t know the rest.”
Guy bent forward to kiss her lips, and rested his forehead against hers as he grasped both her hands. “This will be my abiding memory—you, me, the sound of the waves on the shore, and your lovely voice singing about Galway Bay.”

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Books that changed the world?

My weekly challenge to myself is to click ‘Random Article’ on Wikipedia, write about whatever topic comes up, and link it in some way to writing.
This week’s article was about an Australian TV programme called ‘Jennifer Byrne Presents’, a series of specials from the Tuesday Book Club. Having never seen the programme, all I can do is look at the list of episode titles, which seem to cover everything from Fantasy and Erotica, to Writing with Food and War Stories. A very eclectic mixture!
One episode interested me in particular: Books That Changed the World. I wonder what was included in that? It reminded me of a question on one of my university exam. papers. ‘Revolutions are caused by books. Discuss’. If I remember correctly, my essay answer covered the effects of books like Thomas Paine’s ‘Common Sense’, the writings of Voltaire and Rousseau, and Marx’s ‘Das Kapital’, and how they influenced the revolutions in the American colonies, France, and Russia.
In a sense, these books changed the world, or at least led to important changes in some countries. But what about other books? Obviously the main books of each world religion have had a major impact on the world: the Old and New Testaments of Judaism and Christianity, the Muslim Qu'ran, the Hindu Vedas, the Sikh Adi Granth, and the various Buddhist writings, as well as the scriptures of other religions.
And what about Darwin’s ‘Origin of the Species’ which was the foundation of the evolution theory? Or Mary Wollstonecraft’s ‘Vindication of the Rights of Women’, one of the earliest defences of women’s rights? Or ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, which helped the anti-slavery lobby prior to the American Civil War? We could even include ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ – tame by today’s standards, but the release of the unexpurgated edition in Britain in 1960 could be considered a significant event in the sexual revolution which  followed in the sixties.
There are many other books I could name, but I’ll leave it to you now. What books do you think have changed the world?

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

"Irish Inheritance" - Galway City

Continuing with some of the places featured in my soon to be published new novel, 'Irish Inheritance' - here are some of the sights which Jenna and Guy see when they visit Galway City.

Galway City lies on the River Corrib where it enters Galway Bay. The Irish name for the river is Gaillimh, meaning ‘stony river’, and the original settlement was called DĂșn Bhun na Gaillimhe, ‘fort at the mouth of the Gaillimh.
One of Galway’s nicknames is ‘City of the Fourteen Tribes’, which refers to the merchant families who controlled the city in the Middle Ages. They are remembered in the flags which fly in Eyre Square in the centre of the city, and also in the names of the many roundabouts (traffic circles) on the Galway ring road.
The city thrived on international trade in the Middle Ages, especially with France and Spain, and the ‘Spanish Arch’ was constructed near the harbour in the 16th century.
There is also a legend that Christopher Columbus visited Galway. Several years later, he wrote a note in his copy of Imago Mundi, saying, “Men of Cathay have come from the west. We have seen many signs. And especially in Galway in Ireland, a man and a woman, of extraordinary appearance, have come to land on two tree trunks.” It is said this is what persuaded him to sail across the Atlantic, having seen the signs of a land beyond the ocean. This monument was presented by the city of Genoa to Galway on the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America.
Galway is also known as Ireland’s Cultural Heart, and there are various music and arts festivals during the year, as well as the International Oyster Festival, and Galway Races.
There are two main churches in Galway, St Nicholas Church of Ireland, and the more imposing Roman Catholic cathedral, with its copper dome, which was built on the site of the city jail in 1958.
Adjacent to the city is Claddagh, originally a small fishing village outside the city walls. The thatched cottages were demolished in the 1930s, and colour washed stone houses now line the quayside.

Finally, what better than to sit outside one of the pubs or cafes on Quay Street (even in the rain!), watch the world go by, and maybe listen to some street musicians?  

Sunday, 15 September 2013

What kind of (Irish) road are you on?

My weekly challenge to myself is to click ‘Random Article’ on Wikipedia, write about whatever topic comes up, and connect it in some way to writing. At the moment I’m awaiting the publication date for my next novel, ‘Irish Inheritance’, and I’m wondering if it’s coincidence that last week’s random article was about some Irish islands, and this week’s is about an Irish road!
The article was about the R694 road in County Kilkenny, a 10 miles stretch of road between two small villages. Although I’ve been to Kilkenny, I don’t think I’ve been on this road. However, the article did make me think of various roads I have travelled on in Ireland.
On my first visit about 6 years ago, it seemed that practically every road had roadworks! The M50 motorway around Dublin was one set of works after another with the traffic diverted either to the right or left, depending on where the work was being done. It wasn’t just the major roads either. We were held up for ages on this small road in County Tipperary, when a large truck tried to squeeze past road works there!

Linking the topic of roads to writing is an easy task, because whenever we’re writing we’re on some kind of road. Here are some of my ‘road’ photos taken in Ireland to illustrate what I mean.

Connemara with the Twelve Bens ahead
When all’s going well, we’re on a clear road with a good view of our destination:

Road across the Burren in County Clare

Sometimes, however, we’re passing through barren land, when ideas are in short supply.
Other times we meet something that blocks our way, until we find out how to get through.
(Not easy to see but there was a barrier blocking the way here, in Galway City)  
It’s easy to be distracted from the view by something unexpected but maybe that distraction is just what you need for your next chapter!
(BTW What was this Garda man doing at the end of the deserted Sky Road in County Galway? Maybe waiting for the seagulls to start a riot?)

Sometimes you set off down a road with no idea where it's going or what you'll find around the next bend.
Near Croagh Patrick in County Mayo

And of course there are plenty of times when we simply have no idea which way to go next! 

But here’s wishing you a good straight road with no problems, and a clear view ahead.

What kind of road are you on right now?

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

'Irish Inheritance' - Connemara

Continuing with some of the places that feature in my new novel, ‘Irish Inheritance', today we’re visiting Connemara.

Connemara, on the west coast of Ireland, is a beautiful, unspoilt part of County Galway. Its name comes from Conmhacne Mara, meaning “descendants of Con Mhac of the Sea”. It is a broad peninsula, surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean, and stretching from Killary Harbour in the north to Kilkieran Bay in the south. Connemara is renowned for its inspiring scenery, ranging from the Twelve Bens to Roundstone Bog. The coastline is broken by many small inlets and narrow peninsulas, and there are numerous small islands off the coast.
The Twelve Bens or Twelve Pins is a range of sharp peaked mountains, none of them higher than about 3,400 feet, but still stark and dramatic. Hundreds of streams run down the steep mountain sides, joining up with other streams to form larger streams in the valley.
Roundstone Bog, in the south of Connemara, is a wilderness area with dozens of small lakes.
Killary Harbour, almost 16 km long, forms the natural boundary between County Galway and County Mayo. It’s said to be Ireland’s only true fiord, with the mountains rising up on both sides.
One can’t mention Connemara without mentioning Kylemore Abbey, built in the 19th century by a wealthy Manchester manufacturer. In 1920 it was bought by the Irish Benedictine nuns, who opened an international boarding school for girls, which only closed a few years ago. The Abbey and its large estate, including a Victorian walled garden, have been open to the public since the 1970s.
Last but not least, remember ‘The Quiet Man’, with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara?. Much of that was filmed in Connemara or at least nearby. Here’s the bridge which was used in the film.
And here’s the excerpt from ‘Irish Inheritance’ when Dan, the lawyer, is driving Guy and Jenna through Connemara to Clifden:
“We’ll be on an ordinary road between Galway and Clifden, so I won’t be able to drive as fast,” Dan said. “Quite apart from which, I’m sure you’ll want to admire the scenery.”
Not long afterwards, Guy let out a low whistle. “Hey, you’re right. It’s as if we’ve crossed an invisible line into a completely different landscape.”
Jenna agreed. After the gentle green fields of central Ireland, they were now driving through the wild open countryside of Connemara, uninhabited apart from sheep and lambs. New vistas appeared at every twist and turn of the road—clusters of bright yellow broom, small brooks rippling over stones, breeze-whipped lakes at the one side of the road, low green hills with rocky outcrops on the other, and the occasional ruins of stone cottages. A range of sharp peaked, green-grey mountains dominated the view ahead of them.
“What are those?” she asked Dan.
Na Beanna Beola, the Twelve Bens. Ben means mountain here, the same as in Scotland. None of them higher than two and a half thousand feet, but they’re quite dramatic, aren’t they?”
Guy nodded. “They sure are. It’s an awesome view.”