Secret Salisbury – September Staycation – Part One

Salisbury is a small city where we used to think not much happened. It lies in the county of Wiltshire, where you might think not much has happened since Stonehenge was built. Salisbury is a city because it has a cathedral. It is not large, but it is busy with a hospital, university and many places of interest to historians and tourists.

Since March this year it has been in the international news with the poisoning by novichok nerve agent of two Russians and a local policeman. Just when Salisbury was getting back to some normality there was the bizarre tragedy when two locals were taken ill and one became the first fatality. Two Russian suspects have been named and even appeared on Russian television to explain they visited Salisbury merely as tourists to see the cathedral with its famous spire and the oldest clock in the world.


You couldn’t make this story up; if these two men were ‘secret agents’ they certainly bungled the whole mission, their target was not killed, though he and his daughter only survived thanks to the National Health Service and skilled care. Before leaving Salisbury they dumped the novichok in a rubbish skip.  Through all these months, parts of Salisbury have been closed off and scoured for any trace of the nerve agent, a nightmare for businesses expecting a busy tourist summer.

We quite often go to Salisbury and went there last week after our morning at Stonehenge. Everywhere seemed busy, but perhaps they were locals.


I can believe the two suspects didn’t find the cathedral; though the famous spire can be seen for miles around, the first time we visited we stood in the main square and could not see it, we had no idea which way to go.

Through an arch you will find yourself looking at the cathedral green; fine weather shows the scene at its best. This area is full of interesting houses and museums and the expanse of grass is ideal for children to run and play and school parties to let off steam. There is too much for one visit, but whatever your plans just stand by yourself and look up at the spire.

The refectory, cloisters and smart toilets are free to wander in. Do you pay to go in the cathedral? There is a suggested donation. On our visit, late in the afternoon, I was just trying to read what we might ‘kindly be asked’ to pay when I realised Cyberspouse was already inside. We may have accidentally followed a coach party in. The house of God should be free to enter, but cathedrals need constant loving and expensive care. We always buy our refreshments at the refectory and there is a nice shop for tourists.


Cathedrals can be overwhelming, I guarantee most of us do not remember all the saintly and royal details in the leaflets. Take in the ambience and spend time with what takes your eye. Highlights include the clock, perhaps the Russians wanted to steal our cutting edge technology! Look carefully down the nave and see if you can spot the columns bowed at the centre of the cathedral under the weight of the spire. A model of the spire shows the original wooden scaffold still there. Another  model shows the cathedral being built; I had a nice chat with an American lady as we admired the model and the original builders. The biggest miracle of ancient buildings is the fact they are still standing and I love to wonder if those who built it could have imagined how far into the future their creation would be admired.


Cathedrals are living places and new art is added. I love the font, sculptor William Pye, consecrated in 2008.


On our brief stroll around the cathedral Cyberspouse met a woman from Iceland, tourists are still coming to Salisbury.

My Brief Encounters trilogy is partly set in rural Wiltshire and Salisbury also features, especially in Lives of Anna Alsop.





Sunday Salon – Nights in and a Night Out

Reviews of two very different novels and a murder mystery play by Francis Durbridge

I posted both book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads

Our Spoons Came From Woolworths

by Barbara Comyns

5 Stars

I read this as a paperback passed on to me and recommended. I had not heard of the author before.

Many of us love anything to do with the twenties and thirties; architecture, art, music and elegant young men and women capture wistfully the two decades between world wars. But we also know it wasn’t glamorous for most and for the British it was a time our parents and grandparents remember before the Welfare State and the birth of the National Health Service.

Sophia is young and naive and the novel is probably very close to the author’s own life. I love the way she tells us her story as if she was looking back and telling a friend, which indeed she does at the end. The book was published in 1950.

We have a vivid picture of life with very little money, renting rooms and sharing bathrooms. From details of what they eat to the realities of pregnancy and childbirth which will appall most women. Ironically it was also a time when new mothers who were able to afford a nice nursing home would have enjoyed two weeks of bed rest – unheard of these days! Love and poverty never go well together and being married to an artist who is never going to earn proper money is a recipe for disaster. Follow Sophia in a poignant story that has humour, very dark times and then hope.



Secrets    by Anita Dawes

4.0 out of 5 stars A deep dark look into childhood.

20 August 2018

Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase

I finished reading this in the middle of last night; though it is not unusual for me to turn my Kindle on in the early hours, this is not the sort of novel you should be reading in the dark watches of the night! It is a good paranormal thriller, but more than that it will make you reconsider all our childhoods. How responsible are children for what they do and what is really going on in their minds? In some ways I felt most sorry for Jack’s parents, a poignant back story gradually revealed, an event that ruined any chance of his father continuing the life he loved or his mother coming to accept their rural life. There is a lot going on in everyone’s lives, but Jackie is a reminder that those of us who have led ordinary lives cannot know what others have had to overcome. There were only a few things that jarred – I thought it was likely the social services would have got involved, Maggie did not guess an obvious pointer as Jack’s story was revealed and some dialogue and characters’ thoughts could be confusing in the pace of the story. But overall I really enjoyed this unusual novel.




Francis Durbridge’s  play Suddenly At Home

Thursday-Tuesday August 16-21

Durbridge won international acclaim as the creator of Paul Temple, one of the most famous of all BBC radio detectives. He also wrote nine stage plays, Suddenly At Home was first performed in 1971.

Shelley Manor

Percy Florence Shelley was the son of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley  (1792 -1822) and Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.

He bought Boscombe Cottage, near Bournemouth, Dorset for his mother to live in and had it rebuilt based on the Casa Magni in Lerici, northern Italy, the last home of Percy Bysshe and Mary. He renamed it Boscombe Manor. Mary died before it was completed and Percy and his wife Jane took residence.

Sir Percy had a timber theatre built in the grounds but replaced it with the current grander theatre which opened in 1870 with a public performance. Many of their friends acted and came to see shows including Sir Henry Irving and Robert Louis Stevenson (who wrote Jekyll and Hyde in Bournemouth).

Now this lovely pocket sized theatre has been restored and is a treat to visit. The volunteers give you a friendly greeting, there is a pleasant bar and the seats are very comfortable – they came from the much hated Bournemouth Imax cinema building when it was demolished, but that story is for another blog!

Small theatres are always fun, the audience are there to enjoy themselves for a play such as this which follows in the  long British tradition of  darkly comic murder mysteries.

The London Repertory Players were at the Shelley Theatre for a four play summer season. The action was set in one room; all that was needed were a few items of furniture and several doors. Door bells and ringing phones, always at the wrong moment, kept the cast and audience on their toes and guessing till the final curtain.


Silly Saturday – Surviving Self Publishers

Survival guide for friends and relatives of Indie Authors

How many of us recall being waylaid at the school gate by other mothers with Tupperware party invites or the friends for whom Amway cleaning products became a religion? Do Amazon Kindle Self Publishers pose a similar threat?

Spare a thought for friends and relatives of Indie Authors…

You probably were not even aware your friend or aunty was an Indie Author; you weren’t listening when they were telling you about their writing, or when they mentioned modestly that their first novel was available on Amazon Kindle. So here is a survival guide.

  1. Never reveal that you own any electronic device larger than a postage stamp.
  2. Never ask ‘How’s the writing going?’

If it is too late for the above, the following excuses may be helpful.

A. I’ve lost my Kindle charger.

B. I left my Kindle on the train.

C. WiFi not working.

D1. I’m going to buy your book when I go on holiday.

D2. LIE. I have downloaded your book and will read it when I’m on holiday.

E. I like to buy my books at the charity shop.

F. I have to finish reading the book for my book club.

G. I have an iPad, but don’t know how to download books and have to wait till my son/daughter/nephew comes round.

H. My Kindle is full, I already have 5,000 free classic novels by dead authors on there.

I. I’m just waiting till pay day. (This last excuse could be seen as rather feeble, especially if they are selling their book for 99p.)



Good luck, but don’t think you have escaped. Did you get an invitation to tea and cake round at your friend’s house, wondering what a Pop Up Bookshop is? Your local Indie author has now learnt how to create paperbacks on Kindle Direct Publishing. After eating some delicious cakes they expect you to wipe your sticky fingers and look at the pile of lovely new paperbacks that just arrived on the doorstep. They belong to Amazon Prime and get free deliveries, so they have saved you the trouble of ordering from Amazon yourself and there is the bonus of getting your copy autographed by them. …and if you don’t buy their latest novel you will probably get it for a birthday present.


Friday Flash Fiction -A Shot Rings Out

This week, flash fiction from an occasional guest blogger; my sister from down under takes you into the Australian Bush.


A shot rings out, a sharp pure crack across the cold night air. It is impossible to tell how far it has travelled, but I know it must be from somewhere within the bush conservation reserve only a paddock’s width away; somewhere within its 3,000 acres. I don’t know how to feel. Glad that someone has killed one of the wild pigs that root around the delicate orchids sheltering beneath the carpet of she-oak needles? Angry that someone has shot a kangaroo, going about its rightful business? Or scared? I have always said I felt safe alone in the shed.  A big shed, a home from home, lined with straw bales and furnished with beds and comfortable chairs. It was so isolated, why would anyone come down this road? But they have. They are near and I know nothing about them. Him? It will be a him, I’m sure. Not a her. Just him, or was he with friends? A disturbing thought. No, I’m letting my imagination run away with me. It’s probably just a local farmer, after foxes.

Another shot cracks the air, reverberating through the darkness. Stay calm, of course it’s a farmer. It all goes quiet and stays quiet. Ten minutes go by, nothing to worry about. Go back to sleep I tell myself, and I do.


Then, suddenly, I am awakened by the sound of tyres on gravel, not just driving, but ripping into the gravel, tearing around a corner and onto the road, my road, and coming nearer. I hear whooping, with the wildness of the inebriated, a sound that confirms my worst fears. This is no farmer, this is a group of men, and they are drunk. The most frightening animal on the planet, the human male, drunk and hunting in a pack. I lay still, like a frightened rabbit, as if they might hear me if I move. I tell myself to not be stupid. All the lights are out, they won’t be able to see the shed on this moonless night. Or so I thought, but the sound of the revving, roaring engine comes ever nearer, too near to be on the road; they have turned into my driveway. I remember the solar powered garden lights that line the long driveway, like runway lights, guiding a plane in to land. And now it is guiding them inexorably towards me, until I see another light splitting the darkness, the spot light fixed to the roof of the car, the spot light they use to dazzle their prey. Then the skid on the gravel as the car comes to a halt. They spill out with raucous laughter and joking.  One.  Two.  Three voices.

‘Here’s a place to stay!’  one shouts, and then the final act that completes my terror. The door handle moves. They are here. And I have no escape.

by Kate Doswell

Being In An Anthology

Anthologies, collections of various authors’ stories, are an attractive prospect for many new or not so new, but still aspiring authors. The chance to have your writing in print, your story chosen by strangers is an affirmation and you have something to show your relatives. Your story will be surely be read by all the friends and relatives of each writer who features in the anthology and perhaps one of them will be a publisher, head of BBC Drama or a film producer… The route to these exciting possibilities is often via a competition, you might also win some money and impress your family.

Back in 2009 I was browsing in Borders, a heavenly mix of music, books and magazines; lurking on a bottom shelf under writing and history magazines was a colourful monthly publication called First Edition. Get Yourself Published For Free it proclaimed. Of course that meant they would not be paying YOU for your stories, but that didn’t seem to matter and one of my stories, Reality, was accepted, my brief biography sent off and in due course my free November copy arrived in the post. I immediately rushed off to check the shelves of Borders and WH Smith to buy another copy to send to my mother. I then e-mailed friends and family who hunted in their local branches; I could say I was in print nationwide. Alas, that edition, only the ninth issue, was the last and by the end of that year Borders had suffered a similar demise in the UK. I wonder what happened to the second story I sent them?


The first time I won a prize was second place in Wrekin Writers’ competition, the cheque for £70 impressed Cyberspouse. The story, Darren’s Day Out, was the first I wrote for the writers’ group I still belong to. The subject was the door, I later added the second part. You can read that story and others at my website.

Dorset Voices was compiled by Poundbury Voices and published by Roving Press, foreword by Prince Charles.  Poundbury is an experimental new town on the outskirts of Dorchester in the county of Dorset, England. The development is built on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall.

Writers were invited to submit short stories, articles and poems, paying £6 to ‘encourage’ them to send their best work; they didn’t have to write specifically about Dorset, but I figured it would increase my chances. Photographers were invited to submit black and white photographs. My story ‘Four Days In June’ was accepted and the book was launched at Bournemouth Library. Those writers able to attend each read an excerpt from their work. By happy coincidence my sister was on holiday from Australia – Cyberspouse was happy as he didn’t have to come to the launch and my sister could take a copy back for my mother, thus saving on postage. I did get a free copy, but also bought several as gift ideas. Prince Charles did not come to the launch.


My favourite covers are those of the first two volumes of An Eclectic Mix. I have two stories in each.




Thanet Writers publish articles, stories and poems daily on their website and a dozen of mine have featured. This year my story ‘Thanephant an Elephantasy’ was included in Shoal, their first anthology, published as a paperback and on Amazon Kindle. It was launched at Turner Contemporary Gallery, Margate in May.




You can read Darren’s Day Out, Four Days In June and stories from Eclectic Mix in the  third collection of my own stories, Times and Tides.






Building communities.

I’m glad I took time to read this instead of bookmarking for later. Many of us may not have a community or be bound to the land, but we all were originally. Jim manages to encompass our long past and our ever changing present poetically and humorously.

Jim Webster


That’s what the meeting was about, although that wasn’t the title, that’s what it did and that was what drove people to attend.

And I drove up from the south, through St John’s in the Vale on a gorgeous September morning; the sort that you never get many of. The photo shows winter, still beautiful, but today the two crags at the front were bathed in bright sunlight. Blencathra behind was almost lost in a golden haze as the early morning sun burned off the last of the mist. It looked like nothing as much as a Chinese landscape painting.

And later in the day, travelling home, the good folk of the Vale were hard at work. Travelling up I’d seen one field that looked as if it might just bale today, and yes, they were hard at it. A tractor that was older than me pulling a baler which…

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Silly Saturday – Not More Air Festival Shots…


The Red Arrows flew over our road, but I missed the shot.


Some people alter their whole house to get a good viewing point.


Ice cream war?


You need the right lens if you want to get good shots of the aeroplanes.




Boats are easier to photograph.




So are buses.




Which ones are real?













This is as far as Spiderman got!



Which ride would you try?



I got some good pictures of smoke…



… and bikes.



Meet the pilots.

For actual pictures of planes see Wednesday’s and Friday’s blogs.


Oh how I love the British Isles – a humorous poem

Robbie’s home is in South Africa and she has just been on a whirlwind trip to the UK. Her light hearted poem is a reminder to appreciate how much we have.

Robbie's inspiration

Oh how I love the British Isles

what a splendid place to be,

there is an abundance of things to do

and countless places to explore and see.


I find it  absolutely wonderful

how Britain honours every contribution

by each and every person

who has provided some sort of solution.


You can visit Darwin’s House

and learn about the theory of evolution

or you can go to the Tower of London

and find out about an execution.

Did you know about Darwin’s granddad?

he was a notable doctor and inventor

while you are in the Lichfield area

you can explore his herb and plant centre.


You can explore countless cathedrals

or find out about Roman Gods and myths,

you can walk the path of paganism

or visit the shops and buy your gifts.


The weather can be a bit iffy

you have to carry a coat and brolly

if it…

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Friday Flash Fiction Flies – Per Ardua ad Astra

Edward was not unique in his obsession with aeroplanes, but he was fortunate that his wife understood, or at least didn’t mind spending the summer touring round all the air shows in their camper van. The boys didn’t always go with them these days, but they had enjoyed a childhood of camping and exploring the British Isles.

A slight autumnal melancholy would descend on the couple as the air show season drew to a close, but the winter months were still busy for Edward, visiting air museums and doing research. Josie did not mind him spending long evenings on the computer, at least he wasn’t looking at pornography and she was free to watch her favourite television dramas.


Winter also gave Edward time to spend in his man den at weekends; this was no ordinary garden shed, but the sanctuary where he tinkered with his inventions. If his wife and sons had paid more attention to what he was creating they would have been very excited… or very worried.


Josie and the boys did not share Edward’s obsession with World War Two and the RAF. His special love, the other woman in his life, as Josie teased him, was the Spitfire, the most perfect aircraft ever built, a beautiful bird that pilots did not just fly, but became a part of. Or so Edward had read and heard from those who had flown them. His six foot four gangly frame, poor eyesight and asthma had precluded any hope of joining the RAF, let alone becoming one of the special few who flew with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. He was a frequent visitor to the BBMF visitor centre at RAF Coningsby and all the tour guides knew him well, too well; they didn’t always appreciate him volunteering extra information to their polished talks.


Edward had no idea where his Spitfire dreams came from, nobody else in his family had been interested in flying. Josie said he should consult a medium, perhaps he had been a pilot in a previous life, helping to win the Battle of Britain. In his dreams at night he was always soaring up into the blue sky, not diving down to a violent death. But as his wife pointed out, he could have survived the war and lived on for a good many years; Edward was born in 1970.

But Edward’s thoughts and day dreams went far deeper than his family could imagine, in his den were creations nobody knew about. Talk of time machines was outdated, Edward’s calculations and research pointed to folds in time and certain frequencies. His plan was to tune into the frequency of the iconic Merlin engines and his dream was to save lives; the Spitfire was built to fly not die, not kill. If he could bring the Spitfires forward to the present, before their pilots perished in the Battle of Britain, their young lives would not be wasted.


His theory became reality when he realised he could tune his adapted radio to hear the past, even if he could not see it. Edward had plotted meticulously the dates and air bases of that summer of 1940, but all the planes would converge to one date, the final day of the Sandy Cliffs Air Festival. The spitfires would fly in formation above the fields of Kent they knew so well.

There were only two drawbacks to Edward’s grand plan; the weather might be bad and he could change the course of history.

If it changed so he had never existed then he would never have been around to change it… On the other hand if he was alive and well to witness the proof of time travel, he would also be able to observe if history had been changed. If the pilots were taken away the Battle of Britain would be lost, but that didn’t mean WW2 would be lost. Edward had given this great thought; historic events weren’t a matter of one way or another, there were infinite possibilities at the start of every day. Whatever happened, it should be a jolly good show for the year of the RAF’s hundredth birthday.


The weather was beautiful, Edward could hardly contain his excitement. Josie had a headache and decided to stay in the shade of the camper van, the boys had come along reluctantly and were mooching around glued to their smart phones. They should all be snapped out of their languor at three pm.

The commentator also had a headache, the extra hot summer and too many air shows were taking their toll on his health. Wearily he turned on the microphone.

…and don’t forget the finale of the show at four pm with the Red Arrows and a few surprises, but now here come the Spitfire and Hurricane; on a sunny day like this in 1940 the sky would have been full of these beautiful planes… but

He took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes…

On the cliffs the crowd gasped in awe as tiny dots became little planes and more and more filled the skies above them…



Edward thought his heart would burst with pride, the formation grew in the orderly fashion he had planned. The commentator was silent, but suddenly crackled back into life.

Once again we celebrate the strange events of 1940 when German pilots reported the enemy planes disappearing into thin air in front of their eyes, day after day until they all refused to fly for fear they too would evaporate. And so began the slow process of conciliation and the creation of our great empire Gaul.

Edward looked around at the crowds waving strange purple and green flags and wearing clothes that looked unfamiliar. He rushed back to the camper van to tell Josie what he had done; he needed her to confirm what he was seeing.

A strange woman flung open the door, two little girls ran up to him.

‘Daddy, Daddy did you see all the planes?’

‘They certainly put on a good show this year Ed’ said the strange woman.

Edward realised a factor he hadn’t taken into account, he still existed, but the great mixing of the gene pool that occurred after the war and brought Josie’s grandparents to Britain had not occurred, or had occurred in a different variation…



To The Pier

To organise a four day air festival with events on the ground and in the air, co-ordinating the military and private flight displays with the local airport, is a great feat. But that is nothing compared to the planning involved for families visiting or local households being visited.

Bournemouth Air Festival, now in its eleventh year, straddled the end of August and beginning of September, marking the end of the school holidays. With the generous four days there is a good chance of having at least one good flying day.

A clear day is perfect, heavy cloud means the Red Arrows doing a low level display and torrential rain grounds all the planes. This year we had four fine days and it was too hot at times. The only problem was where to watch from.


Wherever you are you will see some flying; young children on the cliff top will be happy just watching the planes fly by, some people sit in their garden, others go to Bournemouth Airport to watch planes take off and land. But to get the total experience you need to be between Boscombe and Bournemouth piers, on the beach or cliff top, to hear the commentary and see the centre of the display.

In Virginia Woolf’s novel To The Lighthouse, no one actually gets to the lighthouse and at the weekend I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get to the pier. Cyberspouse headed straight for the East Cliff with his camera and big lenses each day; as I only have a compact camera and missed all the best shots, I have borrowed some of his pictures.


For the rest of us Thursday was the beach hut day; convenient, a good view of passing planes or you can swim and watch them above you. There is one downside; every year the beach hut next to us is used by a family coming down to visit granny; she has lots of family, they are all odd and most of her grandchildren whine. The air festival family’s children have whined about everything in the eight years we have had our hut. Fortunately as they have multiplied they have spent more time spread out on the beach. The Red Arrows arrived at five thirty, the sun came out and the nine Hawk jets glinted high up in the sky as they made their graceful curves, swooped down for scary passes then signed off marking the one hundredth birthday of the Royal Air Force ( before that it was the army flying corps.)


Friday the visitors went into town to play crazy golf and enjoy the busy sea front. I didn’t even get to the cliff top as the garden needed to be watered and food cooked. I saw the Red Arrows from the back garden and got dinner early as Cyberspouse wanted to get back out for the after dark flying. Who is doing and seeing what and where has to be planned with military precision. The visitors went back to Bournemouth pier for the ten o’clock fireworks.


On Saturday the visitors were meeting friends and I went to the greengrocers and saw the Red Arrows from the front garden. I got to the beach hut for a late swim and on the way back up the cliff zig zag the Breitling Jet Team flew straight over my head. I stopped to watch their evening display and took pictures of smoke in the sunset. Dinner was late, but we had time to walk back to the cliff top to see the Saturday fireworks in the distance and enjoy the lights of Poole Bay all the way round to Swanage.


Sunday the visitors had to go home and I finally made it to the pier. The promenade was unrecognisable with fair ground rides, military stalls and food outlets; noisy and busy. It is worth hearing the commentary; what is flying, how fast, which manoeuvre.


Every year is slightly different; we always have at least one Spitfire, but the Lancaster wasn’t flying. Sally B was here again, but not the iconic Vulcan bomber or the Typhoon to deafen us. The Breitling team were on their first visit and they were terrific, at times within 3 metres of each other at speeds of over 430mph.















Friday Flash Fiction and Silly Saturday continue the flying theme.