Country Mouse in Town

Exhausted Footwear

Country mouse made another expedition to the Big City this week. Starting at my favourite London Hotel (that’s my secret) to check out the distances from and to the wonderful new venue for the Romantic Novelist Association’s Winter Party, One Birdcage Walk, involved a walk along Sloane Street from Sloane Square underground station. Now I know I could have caught the No 22, but I also know, I can make it on foot.

Then out to meet the London mouse in Catherine Street – Ha! She now knows how abysmal are my map reading skills. We now know that her smart phone can log onto my (decidedly non-smart) phone and track my movements. She followed my progress out of Covent Garden to Russell Street and along into Catherine. How very scary is that? Excellent meal in Loch Fyne Restaurant after the pre-theatre rush.

Hence the shoes looking much as I felt. They had more to come as, for the first time since the Bholgatty Island Palace Hotel incident, I left the premises with the keys. Had to go back. Have you any idea how far they’ve made the distances between bus stops in London? No? A lot.



Country Mouse was Back in Town

DSC00429Country Mouse was back in town after a gap of, oh, 10 days since an earlier trip. This time glad rags were a necessity and I hope you like my sparkly number in fetching midnight blue. Joining me in the picture is the RNA’s Hon Secretary, Julie Vince. Julie’s dress sported a witty take with its all over writing through the fabric.

The occasion bringing Country Mouse back to the big city was the annual awards’ night celebrating the best in romance writing and featuring the presentation of the best in category crystal stars and the Goldsboro Books Romantic Novel of the Year Award sponsored by David Headley. Held in the auspicious surroundings of the Gladstone Library in Whitehall Court, there was a great turnout of writers, readers, other halves and our delightful guest presenter, Fern Britten.

IONA GREY won best historical and The Main Award. Congratulations. I’m looking forward to reading Letters to the Lost

Tuesday morning saw Country Mouse rising a little late and enjoying breakfast in the room from a tray. Lovely boiled egg with a glass of orange and a pastry to follow. Then off out before meeting my Town cousin for lunch.

And what did I find around the corner – having stayed in this hotel now many times and not seen it before – this lovely Blue Plaque


Confirms my choice of location.

Then off to Harrod’s for a nosey around. Bet you don’t know where this is:DSC00294The only one outside UK and opened in 1915 – don’t google. Oh well, why not? I would.



Where do You Get Your Ideas From? No 4 The Natural World

Where do you get your ideas from must be the question that most puzzles the non-creative. I watched a programme recently featuring a female artist whose technical skill is taxidermy – Polly Morgan. The works of art she creates have a strange quality as they are a mixture of the dead bird or animal and her setting of it. Not pieces I had thought I would like, but I was wrong. They are in many cases both beautiful and mysterious.

The anne feb 2013 220natural world is not simply animals. Place, the sense of a place is a strong prompt for me. My first ever published story was inspired by an over-grown garden just up the road. I took several photographs of the laundry at a big house outside Manchester and they have evoked story-lines and characters in ways I didn’t foresee, but wasn’t surprised by. There was a shiver of recognition when I walked around. I wrote about the photos, below at Pictures.

Many writers have made natural features the basis or even the star of their output. I’m thinking of a moor – Wuthering Heights; a built environment – Sex In The city; a county – Dorset in Thomas Hardy; a river – the Thames in much of Dickens – to name a few. You’ll have your own ideas and your own favourites.

As a late teen and young adult, I was enthralled by the quiet fiction of Black Isle author, Jane Duncan. She wrote a long series of books with titles starting, My Friend… Even as I write, phrases and scenarios from those books pop into my head. I’ve always been delighted to visit Scotland’s Black Isle in a vain attempt to spot the fictional places in the real world.

My recent guest, Kate Blackadder used her knowledge of Scotland’s far north west for the fictional background of Family At Farrshore. Ian Rankin has Edinburgh, Michael Malone Glasgow, Chris Longmuir, Dundee. Regency writers use London, but also Bath. American writers have long exploited the far south – William Faulkner, New York – many, the West – many more and Theodore Dreiser used Chicago.

Landmark creation

Landmark creation

In many cases, the writer leaves the reader with the belief that the story could not have taken place anywhere else. In lots of the stories the nature prompts or causes the events to the extent it is a character in the work. Think about the hot, hot summers lived in a NY brownstone or southern slave hut. Walk the cobbled streets of Edinburgh’s old town in a gale. Are these weathers malevolent? Struggle through a London fog. Listen to the fog horn on a battered cliff-edge. Think how the writer is heightening your emotional experience by making you live through physical discomfort.