Harrogate, Literary Tours and Good Grub

This week, I…

Visited Harrogate! As any hardy British holiday-maker knows, sunny weather is never guaranteed but the gods of fortune smiled on us. The sun shone brightly. No jackets required. We did our fair bit of sitting out in beer gardens to support the local economy. I know. Aren’t we good ‘uns?!

Harry’s Free Walking Tours offers you a guided walk around the main attractions and explains the town’s history from Roman times to its best-known period, the late Georgian and Victorian era when it was THE choice for the hoi-polloi wanting to take the waters.

The Royal Pump museum details what a typical spa day might involve. No surprise to see that drinking lots of water and taking gentle strolls is the main point. For some patients, the advice stresses, massage might be better than exercise… Heavens, wouldn’t want the rich and far too privileged to over-exert themselves, would we?!

Haworth Museum

Yorkshire has plenty of literary connections; the best known being the Brontë sisters. The museum in Haworth feels perfectly preserved in its 19th Century past. This year is the bicentennial of Emily Brontë’s birth, and the original of Branwell’s famous painting (below) is on display.

Various theories abound about why Branwell painted himself out. The first is that he didn’t—his oldest sister ordered it years later because of his subsequent alcoholism and drug abuse, and the effect it had on the family. Experts at the National Gallery, however, have studied the painting and their view is that he painted himself out at the time.

So, perhaps he was too critical of his self-portrait. Or the composition didn’t work. If you step back from the painting, it’s easy to see that four people would make it crowded.

A Typical Teenager?

My husband’s theory is that having three teenage sisters pissed seventeen-year-old Branwell off sometimes. He painted himself with them, took a hissy fit one day and thought, “Sod it, I’m not immortalising myself with those b****es.”

Works for me…

Harrogate’s literary connections involve Agatha Christie, who turned up there in 1926 at the Old Swan Hotel following a brief disappearance and country-wide manhunt. She claimed amnesia. Most theories for the disappearance relate to her husband, whom she divorced two years later.

In 2006, biographer Andrew Norman said he thought her disappearance related to ‘fugue state’, a rare, deluded condition brought on by stress or depression.

Writing Festival

The Old Swan Hotel is still there, and in July writers will gather there for the annual Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. I’m willing to bet the room Agatha spent her week there in 1926 is booked months in advance, if progress didn’t demolish it.

In another (sort of) literary connection to my holiday, I met up with an online chum. Caron Allan edited my book, The Girl Who Swapped, last year, and we struck up an online friendship. As a writer you spend a lot of time in your own head, battling voices that tell you, why oh why oh why do you think you can do this? Fool! Email exchanges with someone who shares your plight are invaluable.

Caron has also been very successful this year, and her story is hugely inspirational. She’s done all the right things—she has a website, she’s writing a popular genre (crime) and a series, and she’s figured out what works on Amazon advertising. We met at the National Rail Museum café and the three hours flew past in no time.

Gorgeous Grub

Finally, Sandy and I are greedy guts one and two. And by ‘eck (to use a local expression) did Yorkshire serve our unregulated appetites well. Thanks to its spa past, beautiful location and many conferences and festivals, the town’s well-served for restaurants, cafes and pubs. If there was a doozy, we never saw it.

The most famous of Harrogate’s five-star places is Betty’s Tea Rooms, a fairy-tale looking place from the outside, its windows displaying rainbow-coloured piles of macaroons. We, er, didn’t go. However, my standout meal was from the Blues Bar on Montpelier Parade. Yorkshire tapas are new on me, but blimey it makes sense to offer folks a small sample of imaginative interpretations of local dishes, doesn’t it? If they over-order as a consequence, on their heads be it.

My favourite was their Yorkshire rarebit mac and cheese, carb heaven for someone who avoids them in daily life. The resultant high blood sugars were well worth it.

 

 

 

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Friday Flash Fiction – It’s A Holiday Theme

Ay yes, Cava was consumed. It helps with creativity, scientists have proven.

Ay yes, Cava was consumed. It helps with creativity, scientists have proven.

Dear reader, Friday 1 November finds me back staring out of windows as the rain lashes down. Autumn is here and it’s being shoved heavily from behind by winter, desperate to join the party too. How is 1 November with you?

It’s a far cry from my activities of last week which included spending the bulk of my time outdoors dressed in shorts and t’shirts. Did I fulfil my mission, did the lap top I took with me make an appearance out of the rucksack? Was it fired up? Were writing duties undertaken, despite the siren call of Cava, sunshine and walks on the beach?

Well reader dear, ahem – WRITING WAS UNDERTAKEN. Sorry for shouting, but it’s just that I did rather surprise myself. There is a lot to be said about sitting on a balcony to write. Since returning home, I’ve been Googling ‘living abroad’ and indulging in fantasies which involve six months of the year spent in sunnier climes and a little apartment, complete with bijou balcony, where I perch myself every day and tip-tap-type out words of wisdom. Or words that get me paid at least.

Anyway, back to the Friday flash fiction challenge! I’ve taken on a holiday theme for this one. Of course, it does not reflect anything that may or may not have happened last week…

Manners Maketh The Man

Penny bristled to herself – was it really that hard for holiday-makers to learn the words ‘por favor’ or ‘gracias’?

The group had been getting on her nerves all week. The loud singing, the crass remarks and the lack of manners particularly piqued Penny.

Tony, the biggest and loudest of them, was now at the bar. “Oi Manuel,” he snapped his fingers. “Six vodkas and cokes.”

As he passed Penny’s lounger, she stuck out a foot. Tony and his tray went flying. A nasty accident, but not one which could be blamed on the hotel. The waiter and Penny gave each other the ghost of a wink.

Words, Words and Superfluous U’s

Greetings friends. I wish you Friday felicitations from afar this week. As you read this, I am sunning myself and sipping on a Cava or two in Costa Teguisa, Lanzarote.

I have, as you may have guessed, scheduled this post well in advance. How organised of moi! As I write this, my intent is to take Katie and the Deelans (working title) with me and proof-read it, edit it and re-write the ending as per a friend’s excellent suggestions. Have lap top, will travel and will WRITE.

You are allowed, mes amis, to have a little bet to yourself. “Friend,” you may well be thinking, “you do kid yourself if you think an iota of work will be done when there is sunshine abounding and drinks a-pouring. C’mon, know yourself dear girl and know that little if anything will be done to that book.”

10 to one I do anything? Or would 100 to one be more accurate?

Anyway, in the mean time here is a teeny piece of fiction for you to enjoy…

Words, Words, Words

  • What’s with the z’s instead of s’s friend? I’m not a fan.
  • Hey, it makes sense. When you hear the word, the sound is closer to an ‘ess’ or a zed. Say it out loud for yourself.
  • I maintain the s’s rock. I’m not keen on all your missing u’s either. Neighbor, flavor etc. Urgh. And as for your missing o’s. Really, estrogen and celiac are vulgar.
  • Haven’t you heard about the world’s letter shortage? Our economic policies re letters will ensure that words never run out. Did you hear me? You’ve gone awfully quiet.