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Day 70 Bushy Park to Olympic Stadium


It’s here. Both the big day and the torch, taking a last leg that included Hampton Court Maze and sailing down the Thames in a spectacular flotilla. I just hope the opening ceremony is as classy as that!

Today I’m going to celebrate the torch relay itself and the games to come. It seems a million years ago that it was cold and damp and the torch was wending a wet way through the country:


One of the things which has made me proud of my country is that the torch bearers have been such a varied bunch – young, old, able bodied and disabled, many of them chosen because of things they’ve done to serve the community. The guy in the second pic is a Paralympic triathlete. And, hopefully, the Paralympics will be just as big a thing over here as the Olympics themselves.

There have been lots of things going on to mark today including, at 08.12 this morning, three minutes of bell ringing all over the country, including Big Ben (which is the bell not the clock so not technically visible here. I was out in my front garden, rining some sleighbells we’d found in the Christmas box. Alas, I think I was the only person in Rownhams doing it…

So now to the games. I’m not sure which sport I’m most looking forward to (so many to choose from) although this is a fairly big clue. Thighs and lycra.

And I can’t leave without a mention of a story I’m really proud of, which takes place partly within Olympic Park itself, Tumble Turn. It’s set in the run up to and during the Paralympics (with me hoping like hell as I wrote it months back that I’d predicted all the details correctly!) and concerns Ben Edwards, a chunky S9 swimmer who might just be based on some of the hunky S9/S10 swimmers I’ve seen down the years.

Fate’s a cruel mistress. Or master. Or something. I got to my seat-eventually, after battling through crowds and then signing autographs for some real swimming fanatics-and I was settling in when something slapped the back of my head.

“Ben!” It was Matty, of course, looking pleased as punch and plonking his backside in the seat behind mine and two to the left. “That’s a stroke of luck. I’d forgotten I hadn’t got your number on my new phone.”

That made me even more angry. Matty pulling the “long lost friend” thing on me when he hadn’t bothered to keep my number. I scowled at him, and at the weasely looking bloke sitting to the left of him, who was evidently the ghastly Nick and every bit as horrible as I’d imagined him. There was another bump to my head and I spun round one hundred and eighty degrees, about to give some clumsy sod a mouthful. There was gorgeous-guy-withthe- coffees smiling at me and being terribly apologetic.

“Sorry, did I thump you?” He smiled, revealing the sort of set of lovely teeth that would have been all the better to eat me with, if I’d been lucky. “My fault. I’ve always been clumsy. I think it’s dyspraxia but Jenny just says I’m a prat. With dys-prat-sia.” He grinned.

This horrible hot flush-remember my habit of blushing?- started to clamber up the back of my neck, which is hardly my best look given that there’s more than a trace of ginger in my hair.

I managed to stammer something like, “No worries,” although I could have been spouting gibberish, for all that I was aware. All I could think of was that I’d nearly gone and cocked everything up with my, “Ring me but I won’t answer the phone” ruse. At least fate had saved me, and redeemed itself at the same time.

Unless I was buggering things up again by making an assumption too many, this must have been Jenny’s brother, and he wasn’t the spotty nerd I’d expected.

“I’m Nick.” This gorgeous vision of tall, dark handsomeness stuck out his hand. “You must be Ben.”

“Yeah, that’s right.” I managed to shake his hand without shaking too much myself. Sometimes I get a bit clumsy if I’m overexcited.

“We saw you on the telly-Paralympic World Cup, earlier this year. You won.”

“You don’t half state the bleeding obvious,” Matty chipped in, grinning. “I suspect Ben remembers that for himself.”

“Just a little.” I was hoping the red flush was starting to subside.

“Matty was so proud of you. Kept pointing at the screen and saying that was his best mate from school days. He started to cry when you won.” Nick rolled his eyes. “Great Jessy.”

I was starting to well up, too. Maybe Matty had redeemed himself a bit. “We said we’d be here, being a part of it. Even back when we were horrible, spotty schoolboys, we knew we’d have to

make London 2012 happen.”

Photos thanks to Bigfoto and me!


Day 69: Camden to Westminster – A Yank in London


Hi everyone, Charlie here! Today the torch is traveling from Camden to Westminster, and there are just so many amazing places in those few boroughs that I’d need a whole blog just to cover them. I won’t get into the big monuments scattered about, but instead chat a little about what it was like for me– a Yank, living in London, and as it so happens, in some of those very boroughs.

I was in my early twenties when I first moved from the States to England, having never so much as set foot outside the US. Talk about culture shock. I had recently graduated college, was incredibly shy, and most definitely green. To say that living and working in London opened my eyes, would be an understatement. It changed my life, and certainly had a great deal of influence on my writing and who I am now.

There were always two questions I was asked when I met someone in London. One was, “Where are you from?” Which was never a straightforward answer since I was born in one country, migrated with my folks when I was just a baby to New Jersey, and then in my teens my folks moved to Miami. I come from a Hispanic background, so I’ve never had what folks abroad believe to be a prominent America accent, and for the most bizarre of reasons always lead folks to believe I was Canadian. Mostly, they just couldn’t figure out where the heck I was from. After I told them where I had moved from, the second question was always, “Why the hell would you leave Miami?” A lot of my friends were under the misconception that I had sacrificed some sort of tropical paradise for gray skies and tube strikes. At least until I schooled them.

After a few years of living there, I sounded British to Americans, and to the British… well, I still somehow sounded Canadian.The first year, I understood nothing. I was so accustomed to the loudness of folks in Miami, that I literally could not hear some English folks speak.

One of my very first jobs was on Oxford Street working for Virgin Megastores. I was working in retail in the middle of the melting pot that was London on one of the busiest streets in London. I had just gotten the hang–somewhat, of the English accent, and then oh my god, I discover that there’s more than two types of accents. Wait, are you saying that not all English people sound like Jude Law or Vinnie Jones? Where was I when this memo was passed? What the hell is a Liverpudlian accent? You’re from where? Manchester? East London? Oh my god, you’re Irish! I have no idea what you just said! I spent a great deal of time just staring blankly at folks trying to decipher the words coming out of their mouths. To their credit, they were exceptionally patient, especially when I said I was sorry, that I was new, American, and was having trouble understanding them. I think they honed in on the ‘American’ part, because suddenly they all looked like they just wanted to pet my head, and go ‘awww.’

Okay, so I was slowly learning to understand Irish folks, and Scottish folks, and folks from Wales, and every other part of the British Empire and beyond. Then… then, I discovered there were different names for things! Suddenly I was self-conscious because I had my very not English accent and had to say words like ‘chips’ when I meant ‘fries’, and ‘boot’ when I meant ‘trunk’, and ‘braces’ when I meant ‘suspenders’, and ‘what the hell is taking the Mick?!’ I didn’t know what to call things anymore, but if I used American words, people would either not understand what I was talking about, or think I was a tourist. After a while, I grew more comfortable,and started learning what was almost a new language. Even when I started sounding more English, there were still certain words I couldn’t say. My friends loved to hear me say ‘naughty’, because I just couldn’t say it without it coming out as ‘naudy’, and they found that hilarious. I learned that the English beat Americans in a swearing contest hands down, because they do it with such flourish, it should be a competitive sport.

So I worked on Oxford Street for a few years, and it was awesome. I wasn’t much of a club or bar person, and I can count on one hand the number of clubs I went to in Miami during my teens and early twenties. I think it was a goth club called The Church. That was about it. I was a sit-in-Barnes-&-Noble-with-a-latte-and-a-book kind of girl. I know, riveting. Anyway, so I was swept up in the Soho nightlife. I spent a great many evenings in G-A-Y Bar, G-A-Y Late, The Astoria (when it was still there), went to Heaven and Candy Bar a few times, and I have no idea the names of all the others. Being a newbie in London, I just sort of went along with friends, and had a great time. (Steve, *kisses* wherever you are, I hope you’re keeping out of trouble, you naughty thing).

Sadly, I pulled back from the night scene a few years later. Barnes & Noble girl remember? My friends were, for the most part, a few years younger than me, so once I hit my thirties, it was harder for me to keep up. I just couldn’t do the drink and stay out until 5am or until it was time to go to work thing, but I still continued to have fun. Having spent most of my years in London working in management for music retail, I was constantly surrounded by folks who were musicians, artists, movie makers, writers, craft folks, designers, photographers, everything creative you can think of. They were my people. I worked for a few years in Fulham in the Broadway Shopping Center where every morning on my way into work, I stopped at the Starbucks across my job, and the folks in there knew my order the moment I stepped in. I miss the Sushi and Japanese food especially. London has some amazing Japanese restaurants. I would even be chuffed to have a Yo! Sushi here!

The last place I worked in wasn’t music retail, and it was rather heartbreaking seeing the Virgin Megastore knocked down. So many wonderful memories in that place.I worked on Charing Cross Road, just behind Leicester Square (which took me a few months to work out how to pronounce) next door to the National Portrait Gallery. I really enjoyed working there because I could always escape into all the lovely little shops on all those wonderful little side streets. I think that’s what I miss the most–aside my friends of course, all the amazing little shops and markets. Can you imagine, me with my obsession for all things vintage surrounded by tea shops, vintage clothing shops, trinket shops, all encased in their original Victorian architecture? I lived in Ealing, and the house I lived in was Victorian having been converted into several flats. On my walk home form the station there was the Hare & Tortoise where they served my favorite: Chicken Katsu Curry and Pumpkin Croquettes. At one point I lived in Fulham, in a lovely enclosed community behind Chelsea Stadium. I also lived in Hammersmith not far from the Station and the Apollo.

It didn’t take me long to become a Londoner, because if you live in London, you better well adapt. I think while living there, I was able to appreciate a lot of what my friends took for granted. I didn’t care about the rain or snow. England has atmosphere, history coming out of nearly every pebble, and yeah America has history, but when you think about it, America is just a youngster in comparison. I would walk through Central London just gazing up at buildings in awe, wondering what they might have been at some point. I love that folks proudly work on their gardens and there’s greenery everywhere. Living there expanded my world, opened my mind, and fed my spirit. I like to think it of it as a special journey I needed to have taken. Without those experiences, I don’t think I’d be where I am now. It helped me become the person I am, and to that I am grateful. So I raise my pint glass to you, and say, stay awesome. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be back, and we can share one at the pub.

How about you? Has your life lead you on a life-altering journey? Or perhaps you’ve had your own experience with culture shock. Let’s put the kettle on.


To find out more about Charlie and her writing, you can visit:

Charlie’s Website




Twitter: @charliecochet

Day 68 Harrow to Haringey – a London life


When I left University many aeons ago now, I moved to London, not too far from Haringey actually, and started work in my first permanent job. The city was a complete culture shift for me and even now I’m not really certain I ever found my feet. I’d been brought up in the countryside, and then in the suburbs outside Colchester, so finding shops that were open to 11pm and people who didn’t dress or even act like everyone else was a real eye-opener.

And, my dears, so many buses and all going to a hundred places I’d never heard of, at least!

I enjoyed the few years I spent there (and also met my husband in the Big City, so it was so definitely worth it!), but I was always very conscious of the dark and gloomier sides of city-life. It didn’t shock me at all but it had a huge effect on me. Looking back, I think I’d led a very sheltered existence in the countryside and suburbia.

So when it came to writing my second novel, gay psychological thriller A Dangerous Man, I found the deeply disturbed voice of my main character Michael was inextricably linked with his London setting (and the way I’d reacted to it) and there was no way I would ever be able to separate the two of them. In some ways, the city developed a voice and character of its own as I wrote the book.

Here’s the blurb:

Michael Jones, a young gay artist and part-time prostitute will do anything to stage his first exhibition. When he falls in love with rich financier, Jack Hutchinson, he seems set to achieve his goal. But as Mikey becomes caught between the unforgiving territory of smoky-bar Hackney and the green-garden luxury of upper class London, he finds himself having to fight for all he holds dear and in the only way he knows how …

And here’s an extract for you:

The quickest way to the City from Hackney was by bus, though given a choice I would have preferred to walk. It always cleared my head. But I had no time for doing what I wanted so I jumped onto the first bus that came along, finding a seat by myself and staring hard at anyone who looked as if they might want to join me. While the London pavements and people flowed past the window, scaled down through the streaks of dirt on glass to impressions from the side of my eye, I went through in my memory what was in my portfolio—it was way too big to open up on the bus—and tried to think what might work best.

It mattered so much. Drawing was the one thing I’d been able to do all my life. It had got me through some bad times, and some not so bad times, and I wasn’t intending to let go of what I spent long nights and longer days dreaming of. Not ever. So I considered in my mind the pictures I’d done, one by one.

First, a street in Hackney, near where I lived. I’d drawn it as if I was on fire, I remembered, hand ranging over paper as I sat in the tiny box garden at the front, the breeze making me shiver, and brought into the tips of my fingers the road I walked so often. Wild pencil strokes showing the untamed boundaries of tarmac, litter shifting in the acrid spin of traffic fumes, here and there a hunched figure shuffling towards an unknown destination, and always and everywhere the cars. So many cars, sometimes I felt as if they’d never stop. You could always hear them, even at that point in the night between today and tomorrow. Other London scenes followed as I continued to track my portfolio, such as it was; the South Bank, Westminster Bridge, the Embankment on a night when I’d got lucky twice and gone home richer than when I’d arrived.

Sometimes London could be easy money if you were prepared to flaunt it a little. More so on a Friday night with commuters spilling like wild dogs out of the late bars and heading home to their wives and families. Some of them had no idea what they were doing, but who cared? As long as they paid for it, and I always made sure they did, that was fine. Probably most of them didn’t remember me the next day they were so rat-arsed. Then I thought again of that night at Embankment. No, some of them would remember. No matter what they liked to tell themselves in the morning.

You can find out more at:

In the meantime, enjoy the London torch parade!

Day 67: Kingston to Ealing – with sunshine and Lycra


… or for me, a familiar part of the 65 bus route. But of course, the Olympic Torch bearers won’t be taking the bus today – they’ll be running in the sunshine as the Torch comes to my town 🙂

I’ve lived in Kingston since the early 1980s, but have known it all my life. My maternal grandparents lived here, and in fact my family now lives in the same house – proud owners of the house since it was built in 1935 for £750!

Kingston Market Place today and in 1906

Kingston has its fair share of attention, with one of the Royal Parks nearby, a coronation stone, and an architectural history to rival many cities (apart from the torturous one-way system, but we’ll draw a veil over that).

It was the market town where Anglo Saxon kings were crowned – see the coronation stone on the right c 1893 -, was built on the first crossing point of the Thames from London Bridge, and was the earliest royal borough. In the Domesday Book, its assets were: a church, five mills, three fisheries worth 10s, 27 ploughs, 40 acres (160,000 m2) of meadow, woodland worth six hogs. It rendered £30. Maybe that’s what the policitian meant who scorned it as a rich, complacent, “leafy borough” :).

Nowadays it has some of the best secondary schools in the country, both state and private, a shopping centre that’s second-tier to the West End, riverside developments (where my family’s £750, even in current inflationary rates, wouldn’t buy you a garage door), and a new theatre – where Son#2 does voluntary ushering now and then!

Its famous “children” include John Galsworthy, Eadweard Muybridge and Jacqueline Wilson. Mr Knightley in Jane Austen’s Emma regularly visits Kingston (!) and Nipper – the dog in the HMV logo – lived with his owners in Kingston and is buried in town under Lloyds Bank. 

There’s much excitement in town this weekend due to the Olympic Bike Trials, which will run over Kingston Bridge, out past Hampton Court and on to Walton. Bradley Wiggins will be whizzing through my town! Son#2 and I are trying to work out the best place to stand to catch that glorious 6 seconds of Olympic glory :).

So, in celeration of Kingston’s involvement in the Olympics, here’s some free fiction!


MAMIL by Clare London (2012 Olympics)

Frank looked at Vince and bit his lip. “I don’t know.”

“What do you mean, you don’t know?” Vince sounded belligerent. It was a difficult tone to carry off when clad neck to knee in yellow Lycra.

“I’m not sure.” Frank tilted his head and frowned. “You know I’ve always supported you and your hobbies.”

“But … what?”

“I didn’t say but.”

“Every damned mote of your being said but, Francis.”

Frank’s gaze ran over Vince’s form-fitting jersey, the sponsor slogan on his back from the local gay outreach scheme, the thigh-clinging leggings, the tight black fingerless gloves, then back up to his burly sideburns.

Vince pressed one of them against his cheek, a little defensively. “Is it straight? The sweat loosens the glue. All the fans are wearing them.”

“I know,” Frank said gently.

“The right gear makes all the difference.”

“I know,” Frank said again.

“I reckon twice around the park each morning and I’ll soon be fighting fit.”

“You’re pretty fit already.”

Vince scowled. “Finish it, Francis. Finish what you really want to say.”


“Oh for God’s sake… you mean pretty fit for my age.”

Frank frowned. “Ever consider that’s what you think, Vince, not me? You seem to go on about it a lot. We’re the same age, remember. But I don’t feel the need to wear Lycra and cycle with my arse off the seat and my head so far down on the handlebars I can barely see what I’m doing…”

“Just once,” Vince said, quickly. “Just once, I hit that lamppost. The bike was new, remember?”

Frank moved across the room to stand in front of Vince. He ran a hand almost aimlessly across Vince’s hip. Vince sucked in a breath.

“You must realise that Lycra is never going to be flattering,” Frank said softly.

“You mean my bum does look big?” A smile was tweaking the edge of Vince’s mouth. He turned his head so his temple rested on Frank’s forehead.

“Big and yellow, like a ripe quince.”


“And just as delicious.”

Slowly, a flush rose up Vince’s neck, peeking over the yellow turtle neck of his jersey.  “Pervert.”

Frank chuckled. “Thank God.”

Vince sighed. His hand trailed over Frank’s as if considering whether to push it away or fold his fingers around it. “I should get going.”

“You should. If that’s your plan.”

Vince swallowed. “Is that bacon I can smell cooking?”

Frank nodded.

“And the new Italian coffee?”

Frank nodded again.

“I suppose I could delay this morning’s session–put in double work this afternoon.”

“Or not,” Frank said.

“Get thee behind me–”

“You want ketchup on your bacon bap?” Frank interrupted, apparently innocently.

Vince growled and started to peel off his gloves. Frank turned and walked slowly towards the kitchen. His hips sashayed very slightly, though both of them knew he didn’t have the flexibility he used to.

Vince gave a little yelp. “Help.”

Frank turned, surprised. “What?”

“I can’t do this, Frank.”

Frank’s face twisted into a momentary expression of guilt. “I’m sorry. If you really want to exercise…”

“No, not that!”


Vince grimaced, and tugged at the Lycra crotch of his leggings.  “It took me 45 minutes to get this outfit on in the first place. Are you going to help me take it off again?”


 *MAMIL = Middle-Aged Man in Lycra – a new phenomenon spawned by the desire for fitness, and obviously encouraged by Britain’s great success in bike events!

Day 66 Lewisham to Wandsworth


Today could be described as

  • I grew up there  >> Beckenham.
  • My dad lived there >> Wandsworth.
  • And now I live near there >> Sutton.

Okay, finished now. What do you mean you need more? *sigh* If I must. Let me get coffee first.

Whilst the kettle boiled my friend and dog sitter phoned me in outrage. She was trying to get across Penge High Street to walk some dogs but the Olympic parade was in her way. How dare it!

I am a south London girl. I’ve lived here all my life bar a few years down to Crawley. Whilst my family have scattered to the four corners of the UK, I have stayed within a few miles of where I was born. I grew up in Beckenham and used to walk to Bromley for shopping. My first McDonalds was eaten  in Penge. I worked in Croydon after leaving school.

This is so boringly domestic, isn’t it?

Would you like something slightly different? For two glorious years I was a New Romantic. What do you mean – am I that old? Yes, yes I am.

David Bowie was born in Brixton but he moved to Bromley when he was six years old. Did you know that Bowie’s first hit in the UK – 1969’s Space Oddity – was used by the BBC in its coverage of the moon landing. No, nor did I. It’s amazing what trivia you find out.

Now I was a Japan fan, and my all-time fangirl crush, David Sylvianwas born in Beckenham. Do you know how special that made me feel? Well yes, I was a tinhat about Japan.

Oooh and changing the subject completely. Have any of you read The Buddha of Surburbia by Hanif Kureishi. That was set in Beckenham and Bromley. The characters drank in my local. As I read the book I could picture the roads. Incidently, that was one of the first books I read with openly bisexual characters.

My French teacher used to teach Nick Heyward from Haircut One Hundred. Not only was she gorgeous and slim (cow!) but she had street cred too. Teenage girls and pop stars – a lethal combination.

If you are from my era you might rememberPoly Styrene from X-Ray Spex, another native of Bromley.  Sadly she died last year.

Now, you may be thinking this doesn’t really tell me much about the area. I guess not. This is my Beckenham, where I went to school and where I got married. Where I went drinking on Friday nights and where I slowly read my way through Mills and Boon and sixties thrillers in the old library.

Beckenham was a sedate suburb. Beckenham High Street used to have a Wimpy and old tearooms. The smell of coffee grounds from Importers coffee shop permeated the atmosphere. I hated the smell. I hated coffee at that point. *shakes my head at old me*

The cinema under a ballroom was where I learned to dance. I still have the photos and the certificates. Beckenham Recreation Ground was where I tried my first cigarettes and last. I hated smoking.

I love Beckenham even though it’s not *my* Beckenham any more. The place has moved on, and so have I. I moved about 10 miles west and Beckenham got a Marks & Spencers Food Hall. I always promise myself I’d move back. Maybe one day.

This time I’m promoting Mr. Plum. It’s set on my local station, even down to the coffee shop. Kai is fictional though.

Mr. Plum published by Torquere Press

Dave picks up coffee every morning at the train station on his way to work. He can’t help but notice when the man in front of him is given a plum-colored cup holder, as it goes perfectly with his own tie. There are other things he can’t help but notice, like how hot “Mr. Plum” is.

When Mr. Plum hands over a cup of coffee, exactly how Dave likes it, the morning he’s late getting to the station, it’s the start of a beautiful friendship. Or is it?


It was the color of the sleeve that Dave noticed, a deep plum that matched the stripe on the tie Tom was wearing. Dave always noticed things like that. He had a keen eye for detail. Dave was green with envy; he had never been given that sleeve. Plum was by far and away his favorite color, and yet the world and the coffee shop on the station had never seen fit to give him a plum sleeve on Dave’s morning drink.

He didn’t get it this time either. His was red. It was a deep red and it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t plum and it made Dave grit his teeth in frustration. He could hardly demand that Kai, the barista with a huge smile who made him industrial strength coffee every morning at no extra charge, hunt through cardboard sleeves until he found a plum one. Yeah, he could just see how well that would go down with the queue of bleary-eyed commuters behind him. So he just smiled thinly and, clutching his coffee, followed Mr. Plum, for want of a better name, out of the tiny coffee shop on platform four, to await the 8:50 to London Waterloo.

The lucky man wandered farther up the platform than Dave normally stood, his nose buried deep in his Kindle. He didn’t seem to notice the covetous glances Dave had been casting at his coffee cup. The train arrived and they both got on, Mr. Plum in another carriage. Dave was lucky enough to find a seat, and he sat, sipping at his coffee, with the crimson sleeve around his cup. If the coffee tasted a little bitter to him, maybe that was just an added dash of sour grapes — plum colored, of course.

You can find Sue’s HEAs here – well, kind of HEAs.


Day 65 – Redbridge to Bexley


I must admit when I offered to fill in one of the gaps with the Carrying the Torch posts, I didn’t choose Bexley. But, in beginning to read about it in order to write this post, I’m beginning to think it chose me.

Being from New Zealand, it’s fitting that I’m the one carrying the torch from Redbridge to Bexley as Bexley is also the name of a suburb of Christchurch. Several generations ago my father’s family emigrated from England onboard the Zealandia and settled in Christchurch. That family link between the two countries is one of the reasons I set my series ‘Hidden Places’ partially in England, in a village outside London. While Oakwood isn’t a real place, it’s definitely taken some inspiration from the area.

St Mary’s Church (caption)

Bexley is a place of interesting landmarks, and a mix of old and new, with Old Bexley still giving the appearance of a village from older times in contrast to the more recent suburban sprawl that is the main town centre.

Two in particular caught my attention. Firstly St Mary’s Church with its distinctive shaped spire, and the Red House which was designed by William Morris. Interestingly I’d already done research on the Red House as its providing some inspiration for a house set in another world further on in the series I’m writing.

Red House

It’s also home to several other stately homes, including Hall Place, itself a mixture of two different time periods. Again, very apt considering much of what happens in ‘Hidden Places’.  I do love it when research comes together like this.

To finish I’m sharing an excerpt from Cat’s Quill – as the railway station in Bexley, reflects perfectly just how I imagined Oakwood Railway station would look like…

TOMAS watched the train pull out of the station, his eyes following it until it was a memory under the glare of the sun. The platform was almost deserted, save for two old ladies talking, nodding, and laughing as they walked toward the ticket office, disappearing through the old wooden doors into the unknown of the outside world. A breeze ruffled his hair, and he swatted at the invisible hand, tilting his head in response to a whisper just out of reach, a feeling of almost déjà vu. There was no one there. He was alone.

This holiday had been his sister Kathleen’s idea, a chance for him to get in touch with his inner self and find the elusive muse which seemed to have deserted him for a better place. Tomas was a writer, but he hadn’t written anything in months. He’d start, type one or two lines, delete them, and start again, repeating the process for hours at a time. Nothing felt right; the magic was gone. Two bestsellers and a publisher who wasn’t taking too kindly to the non-appearance of book number three. Yes, Tomas knew it was a three-book deal. Yes, he knew he hadn’t decided what this last book was about yet. Actually, that wasn’t exactly true, but the idea was only a seed, a kernel just out of reach, a rainbow with colors misty after rain, not quite solid, not quite real, just frustrating as hell.

Not quite real because he didn’t want it to be. This book would come from the soul, his soul, and he didn’t want that on display. The muse could go to hell. He was not writing this.

He shivered as a chill ran up his spine. Sighing, he bent to pick up his backpack. It was old, tattered, and comfortable, yet still large enough to carry everything he needed; with each journey he picked off more threads which had come loose, yet the fabric still managed to hold together. It had accompanied him everywhere over the last ten years and was something familiar to hang on to. He needed that right now. Tomas liked the familiar; it made up for the feeling of not belonging, of being on a journey that he wasn’t sure was ever going to end. He traveled light, and always had; it made leaving easier. If he left first, others would not leave him. Not that that was exactly a problem these days. He had very few friends; his habit of switching off and ignoring what he didn’t want to answer had alienated most, but he liked his privacy, and if people couldn’t deal with it, that was not his issue but theirs.

One last glance at the platform and he walked through into the ticket office and out the far door. Kathleen was wrong. Being stuck in the middle of nowhere was not going to do anything. However, it was a way of avoiding his publisher, especially as Tomas’s mobile was still broken and he had not bothered to get it fixed. Hopefully, Fraser would give up and find someone else to hassle. The man was persistent, if nothing else, and while Tomas had not exactly been averse to their few meetings over coffee, he also felt bad in having to tell Fraser he was still not writing. Tomas took his commitments seriously, but this was different, and a matter on which avoidance could only work for so long.

The street outside the station was empty apart from a long-haired grey cat which was lazily washing itself. It stopped, looked Tomas up and down, and then returned to what it was doing, obviously deciding that this human was not worth the effort. Tomas wasn’t sure whether that should be taken as a compliment or not. Not worth the effort also meant he was not considered a threat.

Tomas preferred animals to people. They didn’t bother hiding under a façade of polite disinterest while nodding and pretending to care about what he had to say. Expressing himself through the medium of print meant that he did not need to deal with people directly but could still speak his mind.

Dumping his backpack on the ground, the messenger bag holding his laptop still across his shoulder, Tomas found a shady spot and leaned back against the wall, arms folded. His ride was late. He would wait. It wasn’t as though he had a deadline to meet. It was quiet here. After London, the village of Oakwood felt like stepping back several decades in time to a world less complicated and slower. For the moment, at least, he’d embrace that illusion and focus on the thought that perhaps this place might have potential after all. He could just keep to himself, find a nice tree to sit under, and catch up with some reading.


Day 63: Maidstone to Guildford (a personal journey)


During my 20s, I lived in Chatham for a while, so Maidstone was my nearest big town, and I used to pop in for shopping now and again. One of the really fun things I remember was that over Christmas, instead of having a Park and Ride facility, they had a Park and Sail on the River Medway into town. It was bliss – so very relaxing and easy, and THE way to do your Christmas shopping if you can manage it.

Ah, happy memories!

Then, after two or three years, I met my husband-to-be and eventually we moved to Godalming, which is near Guildford, to start our married life. So while the Olympic Torch jogs along from Kent to Surrey, it’ll be following in my footsteps pretty closely.

We’ve been in Surrey ever since. Guildford’s got great shops, some fascinating history and some really haunting (ha!) ghost tours, so definitely somewhere to visit if you’re in the area. The cobbled High Street is a particular draw, though, believe me, in the snow and ice, it’s NOT good!

Part of my bisexual thriller, Thorn in the Flesh, is set in Guildford – my heroine Kate lives in Godalming (in my old house actually – well, it’s easier to describe …) and works in the University of Surrey in Guildford, so she’s a local lass through and through. The blurb for this particular novel is:

Bisexual Kate Harris, a lecturer in her late thirties, is attacked in her Surrey home and left for dead. Continuing threats hinder her recovery, and these life changing events force her to journey into her past to search for the child she gave away. Can she overcome the demons of her own personal history before time runs out?

It was longlisted in the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Awards 2006. Here’s a very brief extract:

As soon as Kate Harris closed the door behind her, she knew the house wasn’t empty. She dropped the students’ test papers on the hall table and all thoughts of marking them, or having the evening off and spoiling herself with a hot bath and a glass of Chablis, disappeared. It was not that the signs of another person were obvious; on the contrary, the narrow hall revealed no hint of disturbance. The telephone was in its usual place on the half-moon rickety table. Her address book was on top, open at the M slot where she’d left it in her rush to get to work and, underneath, she could see her soft green pumps nestling side by side in regimented innocence.

So she could see no physical clues of any intrusion, or even a surprise visit by her best friend, Nicky, but still she knew. It was a knowledge that tingled its way into her skin. As if an unseen but not unfamiliar presence were beside her, moving back each time she turned her head.

She took three steps along the plain blue carpet. As she passed the hall mirror, she realised that the sudden downpour had turned her hair a darker shade of red.

‘Hello,’ she called out. ‘Nicky? Is that you?’

Then she remembered. Of course it wouldn’t be Nicky. Her friend was, lucky indeed for her, away with her family on holiday in France for her usual spring break. So she took the remaining five steps down the hallway and pushed open the kitchen door.

The first thing she saw was the broken window pane. The second thing was the young man. He was sitting at the table. She couldn’t see his face, which was covered with a black mask, but his hands, long-fingered and elegant in a way she would always remember, were already stroking one of her own kitchen knives.

He looked up.

‘Hello, Kate,’ he said.


More details can be found at:

Happy torch spotting!