Kitchen Nightmares


​ “The secret’s in the seasoning.”


 Compliments about her food were part of the language of  Cara’s  life.


 Her response always as ready as her legendary chocolate  cookies, mixing bowl to mouth in thirty minutes.


 “Cara should write a book.”


 “She should be on tv.”


 The chatter of the middle-classes at table. Wives moving  goose-  fat laden potatoes to husbands’ plates, masking  

 envy with cool smiles. Husbands licking sinful sauces from  overfilled spoons and wondering if Cara’s generosity  extended  to the bedroom.


 “Cara’s happy enough as she is.”


 That proprietary pat on her arm he always adopted in public.


 “She’s a wonder.”


 I’m your biggest asset. 


 The words, as always, unspoken; Cara’s smile, as always, in  place.

 

 Alan’s world remained as Alan’s world should: orderly, well-  run  and beautifully-catered. Cara could hardly complain: the  bargain  worked as well for her as it did for him.


“We’d be a  great team.”


 His first words, bestowed like a gift ten years ago when she  started catering for the company functions Alan starred in.  He’d  said it again when she’d poured out the truth of her  previous life  one exhausted, vulnerable night, her rule about  no third glass of  wine long broken.


 To read the rest and find out what Cara is really up to, click  here​​



Talking about Writing...

 In a listening mood? Here's my

 interview with Booked on Pulse, Pulse

 Radio's Sunday bookshow about the

 experience of writing my first novel: 

 Mixcloud





 

 

And an extract from my latest Blog for the History Girls

New Posts on 22nd of each Month  

http://the-history-girls.blogspot.co.uk/



​​​​​​

 The Next Chapter: Click Here for Updates on Book Two


​​

Scotland's Medieval Monasteries


Forget Park Run, Tough Mutha, Iron Man and triathlons. A few weeks ago we embarked on an endurance feat far more favourable to writers on the research trail: 4 monasteries in 24 hours or, as we fondly christened it, The Tough Monk Challenge.

Medieval monasteries and abbeys are an integral part of Scotland's historic landscape and many of them are rightly famous landmarks including Iona, Dunfermline, Sweetheart and Inchcolm. The Scottish monastic movement has its roots in the Celtic period and was a great influence in the way Christianity spread after the seventh century with abbots remaining far more powerful than bishops. The early monasteries themselves, however, bore little relation to what we now understand from the term and were often little more than isolated collections of wooden huts inhabited by hermits. It is not until the Normans begin to really impact on society after 1100 that we see a great wave of Scottish monastic building, promoted particularly by King David I (1124-1153). 


​Life in medieval monasteries was strictly organised and strictly run and, whatever

order the monks espoused, the principles were broadly in line with (or reacting to)

the rules written by St Benedict in c.530 AD. Not only was the internal life rigidly

structured, the external fabric (the buildings) also followed a set of ideals, known

as the Plan of St Gall. The plan, named after the Abbey in which it is still held, is

the oldest preserved visualisation of a medieval building complex. Five pieces of

annotated and sewn together parchment contain the plans for forty structures as

well as boundaries and roads and an orchard. Each building and its use is

identified in 333 inscriptions and include bake and brew houses, an abbot's

residence and a dormitory and refectory for the monks. It appears to have been

designed for Gozbert, the Abbot of St Gall from 816-837, and it is an idealization

of a monastery - no complex was ever built to its exact specifications and scholars

have described it as a meditation on monasticism. Most of us, however, who are

familiar with monastery layouts, would easily find our way round the plan and its

influence on the complexes that were built is clear.

 

The four we visited, Melrose, Dryburgh, Jedburgh and Kelso, are all in the

Scottish Borders. They were founded between 1113-1150 and all have close links

to David I. They are in varying states of preservation, with Kelso being little more

now than a massive gateway, but they are all visually stunning - especially if you

see them as we did in snowdrop season. With the exception of Kelso, each of the

four has its own claim to fame. Jedburgh, an Augustinian monastery founded in

1147 is an extraordinary marriage of Romanesque and early Gothic architecture

and is the best preserved in terms of its scale and its beautiful rows of arches. 

Melrose, Cistercian dating from 1136, is most famous for reputedly having the

heart of Robert the Bruce buried in its graveyard. That may or may not be true:

the Abbey words its claim that the casket, discovered first in 1921 and reburied

in 1998, is Bruce very carefully and the position of its discovery, under the Chapter

House rather than close to the high altar, makes the idea questionable. It is,

however, a nice story and Bruce was known to have had great affection for the

Abbey. What I loved most about Melrose, however, are the wonderful carvings

which cover the outside and include saints, gargoyles and, for no reason anyone

knows, a pig playing the bagpipes.



To read the rest, including Dryburgh's links with Walter Scott click here

               















 Blood and Roses: buy now for paperback & kindle at  independent bookstores & stockists including:

    





​​​​​Twisted Short Stories... As well as historical fiction, I have been  writing short stories -  all with strong female characters and (I  hope) unexpected  twists. I am delighted to say that a number  of these have now  won prizes and been published:

 Now You See Me runner up in the 2014 Prolitzer Prize,   


 Kitchen Nightmares 3rd prize 2015 West  Sussex  Short Story  Competition


​ Stolen Moments finalist Scottish Arts Club Short Story    Competition 2015


 Still Waters published in Jan iScot magazine


 Commendation Cinammon Press Short Story Comp 2016


 ​​Longlist Retreat West 2016


 Blood and Roses: buy now for paperback & kindle at  independent bookstores & stockists including:

    





 Stolen Moments 


 Alice Morgan liked to steal.


 “You’re such a little Magpie!”


 Her mother had been highly amused by the treasure trove  of  shiny trinkets she’d found burrowed into the tummy of  five

 year  old Alice’s teddy bear. A jumble of old coins and  broken  necklaces mostly and, yes, her eternity ring which  she thought  she’d lost for good, but nothing really  important. All children  did it and Alice would grow out of it  so no need for a scene.


 But Alice didn’t grow out of it and her mother’s laugh lost  its  sparkle when other parents muttered about ornaments  that  vanished and the party invitations began to dry up.


 “You do understand that this is wrong, don’t you dear?”


 Mrs Drake, the well-meaning head-teacher at Alice’s  Primary  School always smiled when she posed the  question but, as the  pile of hair slides and toys that Alice  acquired and other  children cried over, grew larger, the  smile gradually grew more  strained. It only reached her  eyes again when Alice’s parents  agreed with the gently  unmovable suggestion that, yes, a new  start would be best  for everyone.

 

“I know you know it’s wrong so why do you do it?” 

 

 A more direct question from the harassed form tutor as she  waved her hand across another heap of purses, watches  and  rings tipped out from Alice’s bag. But Alice merely  smiled and  eyed her teacher’s pretty brooch and the tutor  had too many  other challenging pupils to deal with to push  the matter.


​ To read the rest and find out why she does it, click here


​ Described by the judges as: "a brooding, disturbing, and  unsettling story...a picture of a  total sociopath."