Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A typing tale

When I was young, women's wisdom stated 'Never learn to type because you'll end up as a secretary and nothing more'. Yes, that was in the days when businessmen actually had secretaries. Nevertheless, having left the Royal Ballet School in June, I had months to while away before heading to the University of Cape Town at the end of February. So I spent three months learning to be a secretary and to touch-type. Boy, am I ever glad I did!

Believe it or not, the machines we learnt on in that secretarial college in downtown Johannesburg looked like this.

Also, we had a piece of green cloth covering the keyboard so we couldn't cheat by looking at the letters.

After twelve weeks I'd worked up to a decent speed and yes, I did spend a couple of years working as a secretary on and off. But I had no idea how thankful I'd be for typing skills when I became a writer!
My only regret is that I let my shorthand skills lapse. They would have come in handy when I attended workshops and lecture.

Anyhow, this is kind of by-the-way because what I want to do in this post is notify you of an upcoming hiatus. I'll be taking a technology break for at least the month of December, and plan to resume blogging around the middle of January. Hope to see you then!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Gratitude, as we know, opens the soul in a very special way. So today I looked through
photos taken over this year and relived some of the uplifting experiences Mother Nature brought to me. Self-indulgent, maybe, but I hope you enjoy these images.

First of all, lunch among the vineyards in Constantia last March:

Then there were spring lilacs in California... always good to gather those, right?

Summer days in a Group of Seven lake and landscape:

And lastly, the glory of autumn gold:

HAPPY THANKSGIVING. Remember, it's all about gratitude. Right now, I'm grateful to be feeling creative about my new story!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Did a fun interview!

This week, I'm setting aside revisions and starting to re-orientate towards 'Dance to Remember', Charmaine's story. But Alexa is still on my mind, and if you'd like to read a fun interview I did with Amberly Smith, here's the link:

To my surprise, being interviewed is something I really enjoy, especially when I have enough time to think about my answers. Off the cuff is not my forte. If you're interested, here's one I did back in 2012 after my novel 'Cape Town' came out.

And now, in my mind I'm gonna... not Carolina, (hums tune), but back to Cape Town. When I was there last February the great fire on Table Mountain and others had just died down. Here's a painting from Richard Ian Heys that depicts something of what they were like, even though it's titled 'Fire on the Moors':

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

From my Knysna Archive

I find myself reluctant to leave my main setting for 'Sailing for Trouble' and feel the need the linger in this lovely place... maybe because it's a gloomy day here, and the leaves have fallen... except for a few clinging onto the lilac in our garden.

So once again I have three photos to share with you. The first is for lunch time... here we are at the Heads cafe, a delightful and delicious place to eat such fare as bobotie, or fish and chips, and of course, carrot or cheesecake. In the pic you see across the waters of the lagoon to the Western headland. I leave it to your imagination to look left out to sea, over the bar where the waves crashing on rocks send spray high into the air. To the right you'd see Leisure Isle, and the town of Knysna with the hills beyond in the distance.

And now, talking of leaves, this is a view out the window of my room. My mother always claimed the weather was like in Camelot in that the rain usually fell at night.

And lastly, here's the waterfront and marina which Alexa explores soon after arriving in Knysna, and where she buys the wire chameleon. In the background is the restaurant she visits with Roger.

I'm sad that I didn't think to take a pic of the vendors who display their colourful and whimsical wares on cloths along the bricked pathway.

Imagine you're there right now, and about to head to the booth to buy an ice-cream cone... rum and raisin flavour. Yum!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Last look at Knysna and my last visit

So I've come to the end of this particular journey. Alexa's busy and well on her way to achieving her quest, while I'm deep in the process of discovering my new story. All this to say I hope to write something next week, but am not promising! What I am promising myself is this: next time I visit South Africa I'll take way more photos.

Here are a couple, the first gives you a glimpse of the elephant park, and yes, you can see one off to the left of the pic. Just.

Now some indulgence to show you why I love being there so much. First, the small balcony off the room at the lodge where I stay. This overlooks a vlei, i.e. a wetland, so there are many birds to be seen, including the Knysna loerie who features in 'Sailing for Trouble'... and does Alexa a good turn.

And lastly, my morning 'pozzie' complete with coffee and notebook. Yes, I still like to write quite a lot by hand, especially in the initial stages of a new book. Then there's the keyboarding in, revising, and a print out to read for more revising and editing... as you may be able to see.

May this pic bring a ray of sunshine into your life... the light in Africa is like nowhere else that I've ever been.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A fishy business

My own visit to Knysna and environs has just about run out of photos, so here are a last few which I hope will be of interest.

First of all... the treasure hunt! Here's where Alexa wanders, checking on the various boat markers. You can see a couple in the pic.

And now, back to the yacht club where members can enjoy a delicious and cheap curry and rice lunch. As for me, however, I was on the hunt for fish fresh out of the ocean because that's a real treat around the Cape coast. I turned off the causeway towards the marine right opposite this sign:

and parked in front of this sign, thinking a cup of latte would hit the spot.

It took me a while to realize Zak wasn't offering coffee, but fencing! An attractive solution, don't you think?

And here's the actual fish shop and restaurant, adorned with latte and genuine fishing nets. To the right you can get a glimpse of tables and benches where you can sit and enjoy a reasonably-priced and delicious fish dish... including that luxury crustacean of these waters, crayfish. And no, lobster isn't as tasty, believe me.

Lastly, here are the incredibly skilled workers who prepare the fish... and somehow manage to keep cheerful while doing it! I bought hake and man, was it good.      

So there you are, folks, some insider knowledge for next time you visit Knysna. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Flora and Fauna

The photos I want to share with you today have no direct bearing on 'Sailing for Trouble', but I hope you'll enjoy them anyway. Next week, Alexa and I will be back on Leisure Isle for a bit more treasure hunting. But here are some of the plants and creatures she will surely have enjoyed on her meanderings. First of all the 'March' lily... also mentioned in my SA-set novel 'Cape Town'.

and here are some guinea fowl with their babies, that I caught by the side of the road. These feature in my children's story about Grace in the Cape, still to be revised and published.

I think this is known as 'Pride of the Cape', but I'm not sure. Help, anybody?

And lastly, the pet donkeys at my nephew's small-holding. It's so fun, the way they look into the house over the bottom of the stable door! Pete is a master cabinet maker, and I 'borrowed' his profession for my story, but definitely not his character... nor his (good) looks, for that matter!

A question... when did you last see a donkey? Apart from these, I saw some when we visited New Zealand a couple of years ago. Other than that... few and far between.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Exploring Knysna

So here our heroine Alexa, and we, are happily settled in Knysna for a few weeks. To remind you, enjoy this view of the Heads showing the flats which feature in the story:  

In case you're wondering about that strange name, here's a short extract from 'SAILING FOR TROUBLE'.

     Knysna. Three hundred miles east of Cape Town, on the coast. Dad had learned to sail dinghies on the Knysna lagoon, that I knew. Grandpa had explained that the ‘k’ was silent, as in ‘knee’, a relic of a Bushman click sound... or San, as they were called these days. He’d described the town as a sleepy backwater with a history of logging and furniture manufacturing and not much else. The small amount of research I’d done before leaving Canada indicated things had changed, mostly because of tourism.

In the old days when it was a much smaller and sleepier town, we always had to call my grandmother through a telephone exchange. Then you would hear a crisp voice saying what sounded like 'Nays-nah', the population being more Afrikaans than English at that stage. But we preferred to think of it as 'Nice-ne?' which we interpreted as 'nice, isn't it?'

Well, this place is far more than simply nice. It has to be one of the most beautiful on earth.
So let's continue our trail around Leisure Isle. This pic shows part of the sea wall and steps leading down onto the lagoon flats, built, my dad told me, by Italian prisoners-of-war and still standing staunchly against tides and weather today.

And lastly for this week, let's follow Alexa over to the other, northern side of the island where she rescues.... Oh well, you'll have to read about that for yourself!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Heading to the Heads, Knysna

Knysna is the town on the Southern Cape garden route where much of 'Sailing for Trouble' is set. My last journey to this, one of my favourite places on earth, was different from my heroine Alexa, though, because I didn't arrive by sea. Instead, I drove from George airport, travelling a windy, up and down road, savouring each beautiful bend, the views of hills and lakes, all so familiar and yet so strange, living so far away as we do these days.

I don't have an image to show from Alexa's sea-side arrival, but you can read about that in the book. Here's the vista I used to enjoy very soon after setting foot on Leisure Isle, the place where she begins her hunt for an unknown treasure. You can see those imposing headlands in the distance.

and get a glimpse of the yacht club (on stilts) in the distance here:

When staying on Leisure Isle, as we used to do for many summer vacations, you live very much with the movement of the tides. They also impact Alexa's search, because she needs to explore the sand flats at very low i.e. ebb tide when the lagoon's plug has been pulled. So here's what that looks like:

I always used to feel as if my soul expanded to these wide horizons, sea and sky.

And don't forget, if you'd like to try an excerpt, go to

Happy reading!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

From Constantia to Kalk Bay

Alexa, our feisty heroine, has encountered a few surprises while staying in Constantia. Now her quest requires her to move on. In the garden of her great-uncle's house, she takes a last look at the Cape's signature flower, the protea. In this case, colloquially called 'Sugar Bush'.

Following a clue as to her half-brother's whereabouts, she sets off around the coast for Kalk Bay. Here's a view of the harbour (just!):

and one of the streets, although I don't have the exact one she has to visit. To give you an idea...

and of the steepness of the street she has to ascend:

but then she can descend again and enjoy that first beautiful view, or something like this:

And now her double-quest is well and truly underway.

See you next Wednesday!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Following Alexa's journey

In this new series of posts, I want to share some photos with you, mostly taken last February when I enjoyed a most wonderful visit to those parts of the Cape, South Africa, that are the setting for 'SAILING FOR TROUBLE'. Yes, I'm drawn to write about places that I love. Cape Town and the section of the Garden Route from George to Keurbooms are surely some of my favourites and the most beautiful on earth.

Alexa's story begins as she's sailing into Cape Town harbour. However,  I'm not giving you a view of Table Mountain. Rather, I suggest reading the description, either from the book or from the excerpt on my website

My editor advised me on no account to leave that out, and my daughter said the passage brought tears to her eyes. So there you go!

Today then, we'll visit the suburb of Constantia. Lots of lovely homes there, breathtaking views, and vineyards. Enjoy!

Till next Wednesday, 'Totsiens'!

Saturday, April 18, 2015


A sunny day in London town tra laaa... Actually, an afternoon. I took this photo as we walked from the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square to Piccadilly and the Royal Academy of Art. When I worked as a temporary secretary during the early years of my marriage, I had a job in this area and so enjoyed it. Yes, I love London!

After soaking up all that art, food for the soul, it was time to take in some food and drink for the body. We took a bus through the theatre district and walked along Neal Street towards Covent Garden. I was fascinated to experience this familiar part anew, as it has changed so much since the days I was a student at the Royal Ballet School and would often go to the Royal Opera House.

This photo shows the stage door. Certainly modernized!

But the facade of the Opera House is still the same. I must confess to feeling a pang of longing to be inside, sitting in the audience watching that wonderful ballerina Natalia Osipova when we passed by!  

Nostalgia can feel like an indulgence, but sometimes it's fun to visit old haunts, don't you think? My next blog entry will reverse my journey, in that I'll be back in Cape Town. See you there!

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Facebook tale (longish post, but I hope worth the read)

Recently I returned from travels, to South Africa in search of story and inspiration for my companion novel to 'Cape Town', tentatively titled 'Dance to Remember'. I'll be blogging about my experiences there, but first I want to tell you about what happened on the way back while I enjoyed a four day stop over in England (rest, recovery, filling the well with visiting London, the National Gallery and the Royal Academy of Art... more to come!

So I imagine many readers share my mixed feelings about Facebook. Every now and then I wonder 'is it worth the bother and besides, I'm suspicious about what's going on behind the screen'. I don't know about you, but my very restricted list of friends are a mixed bunch, some of whom post more personal updates about their doings, outings and thoughts, others who I'd class as more political. i.e. they post about the environment, organic or bio-dynamic farming, or new research about education, etc. This means that some of the posts I'm reading are more light-hearted, some are serious, some enlightening and so on.

A while back I accepted a friend request from a man who'd been a classmate of our elder son during the year we spent in Derbyshire in the late 'Seventies. He now works at Michael House School, so Waldorf education is our common interest. Also, his family took over our beautiful Edwardian house when we left Ilkeston.

Aware that I'd be in England for a couple of days on my way south, he posted how wonderful it would be if we could meet up. I agreed, all the while thinking 'not going to happen', because, after all, time was short. Plus, he'd be in the midlands and I'd be in Forest Row.

Anyhow, on my return journey, I went along with our daughter and son-in-law (http://www. to a fiftieth birthday party. Who should I see as I walked into the room but Christopher himself! He'd travelled down with his new wife to attend the celebration.

It's hard to explain how special this was for both of us, but maybe he summed it up when he said, "Seeing you made my day".

Now I wonder, have you experienced anything amazing through a re-connection on Facebook?