When art imitates life – a guest post by Mary Jayne Baker

I’m delighted to welcome author Mary Jayne Baker back to the blog with a great guest post, ‘When Art Imitates Life’. I’ve enjoyed Mary Jayne’s company in ‘real life’ a few times recently, so I’m always keen to read what she has to say on writerly matters!

Mary Jayne has not one but two books out this month and they both look fab, but before I allow you to drool over the gorgeous covers, let me hand you over to Mary Jayne …

 

 

When art imitates life

“Is the book autobiographical?”

“Oh, was that character based on me?”

“How does your partner feel about you writing sex scenes in your books?”

…are all questions I’ve been asked, and I suspect all authors get asked versions of them at some point (and the answers are no, no and pretty bloody impressed, if you’re interested).

When people ask if particular aspects of my life, relationships or people I know go into my books, I never really know how to answer, except with a noncommittal “It doesn’t really work like that”. Because, well, it doesn’t really work like that. I’ve never based a single character wholesale on a single real person I know, although tricks of speech, habits, life experiences and hobbies, both my own and other people’s, often inform my characters, many different “real people” mingling together into one fictional one. My heroines aren’t me, although there’s a lot of me in them, and we usually share a sense of humour, an outlook on life, and quite often a Yorkshire accent.

 When I write, I try to take myself, the me of me, out of that process. The reader doesn’t care about me: they care about the characters and the story, so I try to make my authorial voice as unobtrusive as possible. Any passage of writing that reminds the reader there is an author, creative writing tutors and Stephen King would tell us, should be rewritten. But the characters and story exist in the author’s head nonetheless, so it’s our own experiences and worldview that inform what we’re writing no matter how much we try to imprison ego.

I use the real world as inspiration all the time, because I think it makes my writing more authentic, and because as a writer I’m both research-lazy and time-impatient. When I need my character to experience a certain emotion, I cast about for a time in my life when I experienced that emotion with a degree of intensity so I can channel it. When my character needs a hobby, I very often give them one of mine. When my character needs backstory, I plunder significant and interesting incidents (or incidents that will seem interesting when rewritten for fiction) from my own life, the lives of people I know or people I’ve read about. Sometimes, an incident, location or person from life will inspire the whole premise of a book. With the addition of a generous dollop of fantasy, I’m then able to tell a story completely removed from the real-world thing that first inspired it, so that by following the well-worn advice to “write what you know”, the “what I know” becomes something new and original.

 I have two books out this month with different publishers, A Bicycle Made for Two (Mirror Books) and Runaway Bride (HarperImpulse), both of which have many real-world influences.

 In Runaway Bride, my heroine, Kitty, flees her wedding reception after secretly spotting her new husband being unfaithful. Destitute and with only a shaky grip on both her mental and physical health, she’s befriended by Jack, an Irish children’s author who picks her up hitch-hiking and offers her a bed in his vintage VW campervan until she gets back on her feet. The pair end up on a road trip that takes them from Lakeland to Scotland to Yorkshire to Dorset, encompassing delivering and raising a litter of puppies, Scrabble, mountain-climbing, skinny dipping and, um, musical theatre. While on the road, the two are forced to confront the problems they’ve been running away from – Jack’s grief over his wife’s death and Kitty’s fear of her abusive mother and husband – while, of course, falling in love…

 The fantasy that inspired this story was… Dr Who. Sort of. Or not Dr Who exactly, but the idea behind Dr Who. The dream that a charismatic and fascinating stranger might one day appear to take you away from all this, off to adventure in the great unknown. As wish fulfillment goes, that one’s pretty archetypal.

 That was the fantasy. The reality was the period of around nine months in my childhood when I lived with my mum in a tiny caravan on the Haworth moors and our dog Jessie had puppies. It’s one of my earliest memories.

 I can’t remember why we were temporarily homeless at the time. What I do remember is there were six puppies: one was stillborn, and one we elected to keep. I was allowed to name her (Pollyanna Firth, who lived to the ripe old age of 17). Siblings included Sooty, later renamed Ben by his new family, and Sweep, who became Bruce. The memory of this incident was the jumping-off point for the book that would become Runaway Bride.

 A Bicycle Made for Two, on the other hand, started with a setting. I had a very strong idea of the sort of Yorkshire community I wanted to create: a people who were stoical but supportive, gruff but wry, a landscape that was beautiful but harsh, and, although fictional, very much a part of my home here in West Yorkshire. I created a village called Egglethwaite, furnished it with rolling moors, a reservoir with a submerged hamlet beneath, a mighty but neglected viaduct, a medieval theme restaurant called Here Be Flagons and a cast of colourful characters. Then I put them against the backdrop of the 2014 Tour de France and left them to see what they’d do…

 Again, there’s a lot of real life mixed into this story. The heroine, Lana, is striving to get her village’s viaduct reopened as a footpath, just as my community did (and Hewenden Viaduct is now a proud part of the Great North Railway Trail). Lana plays trombone in a brass band, while I used to play the euphonium. The hero, Stewart, is a knitter and so am I. The plot is fiction, but a patchwork of reality binds it together.

 Another question all authors get asked is “where do you get your ideas?”, which I’ve tried to have a go at answering here in my weird waffly way. They come, more often than not, from life – our own and other people’s.

 So, never let anything go to waste. If something someone says makes you smile or brings a tear to your eye, jot it down. Read magazines, as diverse as you can (spend a day in your local doctor’s waiting room…). Watch daytime TV. Read widely, and outside your comfort zone. Eavesdrop. Empathise. Remember and reminisce. Let thoughts wander and go off on tangents. The germ of an idea can come from anywhere, and real life + fantasy is always a more authentic formula than plain old fantasy. Take up hobbies, join clubs. Go for long journeys on buses and trains, hide in the corners of pubs. Explore. Have experiences, all the time. The more you can live and observe and live some more, the more material you’ll have.

 Go on then, off you go.

Thank you, Mary Jayne. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughts on this! I too have never put a real character wholesale into one of my books, but many of my characters are made up of bits and pieces of people I have known, along with a large helping of imagination, until they take on a life of their own. And I have been known to ‘borrow’ events that people have mentioned to me in passing if they fit the bill and I don’t have an appropriate memory in my own repertoire 🙂

And now to feast our eyes on the covers and blurbs for Mary Jayne’s two new releases … 

The first in a new romantic comedy series, Love in the Dales, set in a beautiful Yorkshire village.

Chock-full of colourful characters, bawdy wit and a bit of love and passion for good measure.

In a lost corner of the Yorkshire Dales, Lana Donati runs a medieval theme tourist trap restaurant with her brother. As a distraction to help them get over losing the father they loved dearly, and as a tribute to his passion for the beautiful area they live in, Lana hatches a plan to boost business for everyone by having the Grand Départ route pass through their village.

But this entails getting the small community to work together to convince the decision-makers that their beloved village is Tour material. Not an easy task when the people involved include Lana’s shy, unlucky-in-love brother Tom, the man-eating WI chair Yolanda, bickering spouses Gerry and Sue, arrogant celebrity Harper Brady, and Lana’s (attractive) arch-nemesis, former pro-cyclist turned bike shop owner, Stewart McLean, whose offbeat ideas might just cost them everything.

Available as an e-book now (and in paperback on 5th April) at:

Amazon UK          Amazon US

 

Here comes the bride… but how long can she hide?

When Kitty Clayton flees her wedding with no money, no bank card and no phone, her life seems worryingly futureless. All she knows is, she’d rather sleep on the streets than go back home to cheating Ethan.

After picking her up hitch-hiking, widowed children’s author Jack Duffy takes Kitty under his wing, looking out for her until she gets back on her feet. And it’s not long before the two grow close…

But with Jack struggling to recover from the guilt he feels over his wife’s death and Kitty refusing to face up to the problems she’s running away from at home, will the two ever manage to share a happily ever after?

Pre-order for your Kindle ready for publication on 16th Feb (or paperback for 3rd May) at:

Amazon UK

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mary Jayne Baker grew up in rural West Yorkshire, right in the heart of Brontë country… and she’s still there. After graduating from Durham University with a degree in English Literature in 2003, she dallied with living in cities including London, but eventually came back with her own romantic hero in tow to her beloved Dales.

She lives with him in a little house with four little cats and a little rabbit, writing stories about girls with flaws and the men who love them. You can usually find her there with either a pen, some knitting needles or a glass of wine in hand. She goes to work every day as a graphic designer for a magazine publisher, but secretly dreams of being a lighthouse keeper.

More information can be found about MJ on her website at http://www.maryjaynebaker.co.uk. You can also follow her on Twitter, @MaryJayneBaker, or like her Facebook page by going to Facebook.com/MaryJayneWrites

 

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A week in and around Salisbury #2 – Salisbury, the cathedral and Old Sarum

Last week, I blogged about the first couple of days of our stay in Wiltshire last August. If you missed it, you can read it here.

With our daughter back with us after her weekend in London, we spent a very long day in Salisbury, starting with a brief peek into the the Oak Court in the Guildhall, built as a replica of the Old Bailey and used as a Magistrates Court until 2010.

We then strolled through the streets of Salisbury, getting our bearings. Keep your eyes above the ground floor shopfronts, and it’s amazing what you’ll see!

 

 

Our main goal was Salisbury Cathedral. Unfortunately, the weather was pretty dull that day, so my outdoor shots are nothing to shout home about, but these should give you some idea, at least. From a distance …

… and closer …

There was an older cathedral in Salisbury (more of that later), but this ‘new’ one is still ridiculously old, of course. The ground was consecrated in 1220 and the main body of the cathedral finished in 1258. The tower and spire were added in the 1300s. The spire has been the tallest (123m) in England since the 16th century! It’s had its problems, though – its weight began to distort the building, collapse was a real possibility, and reinforcement became a priority from the mid-14th century.

The cathedral got off relatively lightly during Henry VIII’s Reformation as it was not originally a monastery, although it suffered a few more traumas in the Civil War.

We were very taken by the new font, installed in 2008. It’s set so evenly on the ground that the surface of the water is as smooth as glass, the water flowing out at each pointed corner at exactly the same rate as the other corners. If you lean over and look into the water, you can see the cathedral above you reflected perfectly.  It’s not easy to capture it in a photograph, but I can tell you it really is impressive.

After the cathedral, my daughter went off on her own while hubby and I paid a visit to the National Trust’s Mompesson House, a Queen Anne townhouse in the Cathedral Close (and used in the 1995 film Sense and Sensibility). It was empty when the National Trust inherited it in 1975, but they have restored it to how it might have looked in Georgian times.

There was a pleasant garden at the rear, but the drizzle didn’t allow us to linger for long!

Rather weary now, we moved away from the Cathedral Close, discovering even more fantastic buildings along the way.

Would you believe this is the Odeon cinema?! …

The following day, we spent a quiet morning at our cottage. We needed to be at Heathrow airport in the evening to pick up our son after his year teaching English to novice Buddhist monks in Thailand, so we decided to fill in the afternoon with a visit to Old Sarum, enjoyable despite the dreary weather.

Originally an iron age fort, a castle was built there around 1070 by William the Conqueror.

 

There are impressive views across the countryside, and you can look down over what was Salisbury’s original cathedral, demolished when the new cathedral was built in the 1200s. The outline you can now see there was marked out in cement after excavations in the early 20th century.

And on to Heathrow. Our reunion with our 19-year-old was emotional to say the least. A whole year had gone by without seeing him, so he had to suffer a great many hugs and tears! We drove back to the cottage where he promptly crashed out after 24 hours travelling 🙂

The next day, our son was happy to delay travelling back to Yorkshire, so we took him into Salisbury. It was raining again, but  this time I really didn’t mind because it meant we couldn’t do too much. We had coffee at the cathedral; a drink at the New Inn, a gorgeous old pub built around 1380 …

… followed by lunch in a Grade II listed former arts college – all of which gave us a real chance to chat with him about his experiences. A lovely day.

And the next day, it was back home to retrieve the cat and see if she remembered her favourite jean-clad lap after his year away 😀

 

 

A week in and around Salisbury, Wiltshire #1 – Wilton, Stourhead and Shaftesbury

Our week in and around Salisbury last August (yes, I’m still behind with my travel posts!) came about more by accident than design.

My 22-year-old daughter (who doesn’t usually come away with us anymore) wanted to do some historical research in Salisbury, and I felt a little sorry at the idea of her going on her own. ‘Wouldn’t we like a weekend in Salisbury, too?’ I asked hubby. Daughter also wanted to spend a weekend with her friend in London. ‘It would be easier and cheaper for me to get there from Salisbury than Leeds,’ she pointed out. Mulling this over, hubby then had the bright idea that we could time this little jaunt to coincide with our 19-year-old son’s return from his year volunteering in Thailand, and so pick him up at Heathrow.

It soon became clear that it would be cheaper to get a cottage for a week, even if we weren’t going to use it for the full seven days, rather than stay at a hotel, so we booked a little place in the countryside a few miles outside Salisbury.

It had all seemed like a good idea at the time, and we did enjoy it, but the logistics were rather complicated … and, as ever, despite the time of year, the PPRC (Pollard Personal Rain Cloud) decided to follow us south, so apologies if the photos aren’t all as sunny as we would have liked!

On our first full day, we drove our daughter to Salisbury train station for her weekend in London. With her dispatched, we ignored Salisbury itself so that we could visit it together when she got back, and instead we drove to  Wilton, a small market town that was once the ancient capital of Wessex (and also lent its name to Wilton Carpets).

Here, we found the best surprise of our trip – the parish church of St Mary and St Nicholas.

As I may have mentioned in previous blog posts, I’m not one for churches, but this one really did capture my interest.

Built in the 1840s in Italian Romanesque style by the Hon. Sidney Herbert and his Russian mother, Countess Catherine Woronzov, the place is, quite frankly, a wonder. 

I mean, there you are,  standing in a quintessential English town, staring at an Italianate church that looks like it should be in some Mediterranean city, built by a Russian countess!

Once inside, it’s hard to believe that it was built relatively recently, as there are many older elements incorporated into it, from 16th century marble to glass dating back as far as the 12th century.

Considering I’m not overly-excited by churches, we spent quite a lot of time there, looking at all the detail and reading up about the place. It really was both beautiful and fascinating.

That afternoon, we took a walk around the National Trust lands at Dinton, passing the rather pretty church of St Mary’s …

The following day, we made use of our National Trust membership by visiting Stourhead, a house with extensive landscaped gardens dating from the 1740s.

It took us a fair part of the day to cover the grounds, the lake with classical temples …

… the areas of rare trees, and even a grotto …

It certainly helped that the sunshine decided to make an appearance for us!

The house itself  is not good-looking, but touring it was made more interesting by the National Trust having concentrated the information they provided on one slice of its history when it was owned by Sir Henry and Lady Alda Hoare, the story of a fire that ruined the house they had so lovingly renovated and had to restore, and following the childhood but then death of their only son Harry in the First World War. 

To fill in time before picking up our daughter at the train station in the evening, we went to Shatftesbury, a small market town dating back to Saxon times but probably most famously known nowadays for Gold Hill, used in the Hovis adverts. Ring a bell for those of you past a certain age … ?

And then back to Salisbury station to pick up our daughter and prepare ourselves for our onslaught on Salisbury over the next couple of days, which I will save until next time.

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with the music from that Hovis ad running through your head 😀 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year! Most popular posts of 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

WISHING YOU ALL THE VERY BEST FOR 2018!

2017 was once again a busy year for me. If you missed my recent news round-up, you can catch up here – Time for a news update: 2017.

I still managed almost 30 blog posts last year, alternating between writerly matters, places I’ve visited and welcoming guest authors. Thank you to all those authors who agreed to take part over the past year 🙂

And so … The most popular posts of 2017?

To do with writing . . .  

In June, as the edits for the third and final book in my La Cour des Roses trilogy were nearing an end, I blogged about The Ups and Downs of Writing a Series, which proved  be very popular. In it, I mused about the pros and cons of writing a trilogy versus standalone novels.

And it seems that the places I described in the books are as popular as ever! Weekend activities in Summer at the Little French Guesthouse gave a taster of some of the things Emmy gets up to in the book.

And reading …

A post I wrote near the beginning of the year, Books that have influenced me #3 – Laura Ingalls Wilder, in which I described my childhood love of her books and how they later influenced my writing, seemed to resonate with readers everywhere!

 

The most popular posts about places . . .

This year, besides blogging about some of the National Trust places we visited with our new membership, I wrote several posts about Devon and Cornwall, covering our previous year’s visit (yes, I was rather behind with my posts!) and later on, this year’s visit.

Cornwall is certainly a popular place, as suggested by the popularity of A week on the Roseland peninsula, Cornwall and A week near St Ives, Cornwall. I always find it so hard, when writing posts like these, to pick out the photos that best represent the trip … but I certainly enjoy the process!

And from visiting guest authors . . .

Fellow northerner Mary Jayne Baker got the most hits with her great guest post, On Not Giving Up the Day Job

 

 

 

Also popular was my interview with another northern writer, Kate Field, answering questions about writing and her latest release, The Truth About You, Me and Us.

 

 

 

As ever, thank you for taking the time to read this blog.

I look forward to sharing 2018 with you!

Merry Christmas 2017!

Well, it’s almost here  – and as usual, I’m barely ready for it! The house is decorated, the tree is up

… but the shopping isn’t all done and the presents are not yet all wrapped.

We’ve been busy decorating a couple of rooms of the house, something we started in October and should have been finished by the end of November. Ha! You know how it goes: one thing leads to a problem that leads to another problem that leads to another, in a domino effect. Hubby was still battling with Ikea furniture for our son’s bedroom up until a few days ago.

In the midst of all this, at the end of November my dad ended up in hospital with pneumonia. As my mother has severe dementia, that meant me living in with her 24/7 until he came back out, followed by the aftermath of making sure they were both coping (ish). So you can imagine why we’re a bit behind with our festive preparations this year!

We did manage to have a family day out in Haworth last weekend to try to get into a more festive mood. We started with a walk on the snow-frosted moors (very icy paths!) …

… then walked into the village to warm up with a coffee, mooch around the eclectic mix of shops on the cobbled main street while brass bands played carols, then enjoy lunch at a lovely cafe.

Last night, the kids and I settled down to watch White Christmas. Oh, how we love that movie! I say ‘kids’ – they’re 22 and 19 now, but they still enjoyed it immensely. I doubt there are many 19-year-old boys who know ‘The best things happen while you’re dancing’ off by heart!

It’s lovely to have my son home for Christmas. Last year, he was away on a gap year, volunteering in Thailand, and we missed him. Although come to think of it, we didn’t miss the arguments for the TV remote or his grubby socks festively decorating the lounge! 😀

On Christmas Eve, the four of us hope to have the day to ourselves and take our annual winter walk at Bolton Abbey …

If you missed it, you can read more about that in a post I wrote a couple of years ago here:

My Favourite Christmas Tradition

On Christmas Day, we’ll fetch my parents over to us for Christmas lunch, but they won’t manage more than a few hours. My brother will stay longer into the evening, and as he is very much a ‘Bah Humbug’ when it comes to Christmas, the kids will torment him with a fun kids’ film which he will claim to be rubbish but secretly enjoy.

At the end of next week, my other brother will drive up from Cornwall along with my niece to spend a couple of days. It’s our parents’ diamond wedding anniversary (!) so we’ll go out for lunch as a family to celebrate, although my mother doesn’t really understand what’s going on. Still, it will be lovely to all be together.

And so it only remains for me to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays, or Happy Festive Season …

Whatever you celebrate at this time of year, may you get a chance to relax a little and enjoy the company of your loved ones … if those two concepts go together 😉

Love, Helen x

 

 

 

 

Time for a news update: 2017

As the year heads towards its close, I thought it was time for a general update and plans for the future!

The beginning of 2017 saw me working hard on Book 3 of my La Cour des Roses series, Summer at the Little French Guesthouse.

The first draft was handed in with the usual trepidation at the beginning of February, and then came several rounds of structural edits, line edits and finally proofreading. Phew!

In desperate need of a rest after all that, hubby and I spent a lovely fortnight in Cornwall at the end of June/beginning of July. (If you missed the blog posts, you can read about that here and here.)

We arrived back home just a few days before publication day on the 12th July, when I received these gorgeous flowers from my publisher Bookouture …

… and then followed a flurry of social media and reviews to keep track of. I was thrilled that this latest book (and the last in the trilogy) was so well received, making all that hard work worthwhile 🙂

Writing the series has had its ups and downs (if you missed it, you can read my thoughts on writing a series here) but I can’t deny a sense of satisfaction – and of course a little sadness that Emmy’s adventures are over (on the page, anyway. In my head, she continues to live happily-ever-after in her French idyll!)

In the meantime, the earlier books have been taken on by foreign publishers, to be translated into Turkish, Hungarian, Czech and Italian, with other deals in the pipeline. This was something I never imagined!

The books seem to have gone down particularly well in Italy, and I’ve had some lovely messages … in Italian, which I’ve had to Google translate and then hope that I’ve replied appropriately! 😀

In August, we spent a few days in Salisbury (a trip I have yet to get around to blogging about!) before driving to Heathrow to pick up our 19-year-old son after his year volunteering in Thailand, where he was teaching English to teenage novice monks in a Buddhist monastery. I’m sure you can imagine how wonderful it was to have him back after not seeing him for a WHOLE YEAR!

However, there was no time to relax and enjoy his company as much as we would have liked. We only had four weeks to get him organised for starting university, so it was all rather fraught, trying to get everything bought and packed, get paperwork in order etc. We deposited him in Birmingham in mid-September, and he seems to have settled in well.

We’re still not empty-nesters, however, as my 22-year-old daughter who came back to live with us after finishing university last year is still here. She’s the perfect companion for watching old re-runs of Magnum P.I. and Starsky and Hutch! It’s not all vintage TV, though – she recently introduced us to Stranger Things which I wouldn’t have watched otherwise but thoroughly enjoyed.

In September, Book 1 of the La Cour des Roses series, The Little French Guesthouse, landed its 500th 5* review on Amazon UK!

I couldn’t believe such a milestone – it’s still hard to take in that kind of thing. A large glass of wine was required to celebrate 😉 

Deciding to fit in another break this year, hubby and I booked a couple of last-minute cottages in Scotland for the end of September/beginning of October. No doubt I will blog about that trip some time in the future, too, but suffice to say that the weather could have been kinder – hats, scarves, gloves, fleeces and cagoules were all needed most of the time. I look like the Michelin Man!

As for the writing …

I have had to make the decision not to commit to anything too big for a while. My elderly parents – who are not in a good way – take up a great deal of time and worry at the moment, and coping with them while facing so many deadlines over the past couple of years has not been easy. For their sake and for the sake of my own health and sanity, a break from major deadlines seems the only way to go for now.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be writing, though. You can’t keep me away from my keyboard for long!

I do plan to write – but at my own pace, when I’m able and in the mood, hopefully allowing the wells of creativity to refill.

I am committed to taking part in a collaborative project with a group of northern writers which I’m excited about but won’t reveal properly until it’s nearer completion in 2018.

And I have a couple of ideas for novels floating around in my head, one of which I started before The Little French Guesthouse took off, so I hope to take up where I left off with that. 

So, as they say, ‘Watch this space … !’

 

 

 

A week near St Ives, Cornwall

In my last post, I blogged about our week on the Roseland peninsula at the end of June. If you missed it and are interested, you can read about that here.

Our second week was to be spent in the area around St Ives. It was pouring with rain when we set off, but there were a couple of places we wanted to see en route and since our cottage wouldn’t be ready till late afternoon, we persevered with our plans.

Our first stop was Portloe, still on the Roseland peninsula. The road down there was nightmarishly narrow with the weather causing visibility problems, but once we’d parked, the rain let up enough for us to enjoy a stroll in and around the village, imagining how lovely it would be in the sunshine! 😀

After drying out with a coffee at the very posh Lugger Hotel (a base for brandy smuggling a long time ago, but quite a hit with the celebrity crowd nowadays, apparently!), we drove on to Mevagissey, an old harbour town popular with tourists. I last visited Mevagissey when I was in my twenties and remember thinking it very picturesque. I don’t know whether it was just the weather this time, but I didn’t enjoy it as much, although it suited us well enough as a place to wander around and have lunch.

And then on to our accommodation a few miles out of Hayle, and an evening trying to warm up! In July, for goodness sake! 

The next day was thankfully rain-free, so we drove to Godrevy on the eastern side of St Ives Bay for a brisk walk and to look out at the lighthouse at Godrevy Point.

Sitting admiring the view, I kept hearing a strange noise, rather ethereal and, I thought, a bit like whale music. When we walked further around the headland, we found the source – seals on the beach! That made my day 🙂

The following day promised to be sunny – yay! – so we drove to St Erth station and took the St Ives Bay Line train into St Ives – quick, easy and good value. 

We walked past Porthminster beach and into the harbour area, where we enjoyed a coffee in the sunshine and looked in the numerous art and gift shops there, then sat on the harbour beach to soak up a little Vitamin D. Moving on, we walked around to Porthgwidden beach …

… St Ives certainly has plenty of beaches! … and climbed up the headland to St Nicholas Chapel for a fabulous view …

After lunch, we wandered through the back streets, eventually finding ourselves on the main shopping street in town (Seasalt clothing, Jo Downs glassware, fresh fudge … my purse began to panic!) and finally back to the station, tired but happy.

The next day started out cloudy, but we hoped for the best and drove to Marazion, then took a boat over to St Michael’s Mount. I was disappointed that the timing of the tide didn’t allow us to walk across the causeway, which must be quite an experience.

Once on the island, the weather improved, and we walked up the hill to explore the castle – originally a priory, then fort, then castle and now home to the St Aubyn family. The room stewards were knowledgeable and interesting, which added to the visit. The property is run by the National Trust, so this was another occasion when our newly-acquired membership came in useful.

We particularly liked the little chapel at the summit which dates back to the 12th century and is still used. If you look at the photo below, you can see that this is at the highest point – the base of the chapel is the actual rock of the island …

From the terraces, you can look down over the incredible terraced gardens, although I struggled to appreciate them as I’m not good with heights. :/

You can only explore the gardens on certain days of the week and unfortunately this wasn’t one of them, so we took the boat back to shore, and I sat on Marazion beach to read while hubby pottered off to a nature reserve nearby.

That evening, we drove to Porthleven to meet up with my brother for a drink and fish and chips sitting on a bench at the quay (and just about managed it without being without being mobbed by seagulls!). As I mentioned last time, my brother moved to Falmouth at the beginning of the year, so it was lovely to catch up with him on several occasions this holiday. 

The next day was lovely and sunny, so we drove to Sennen Cove and set off on the South West Coast Path towards Land’s End. It was a very steep climb out of Sennen, but once on the level, we saw a shipwreck …

… and the views all along the path were simply breathtaking.

Just look at the colour of the sea here …

The only downside was that the path was so busy, what with it being July and a popular route. When I’d had enough, I turned around while hubby carried on to Land’s End.

At Sennen Cove, I had a coffee at the beach bar whilst admiring the view and a rather moreish barman who resembled a slightly older Tom Hiddleston and may well find himself in a future novel of mine! Hubby joined me for a drink at the end of his walk, and the people at a nearby table looked rather perturbed to hear me explain to my husband why the barman was so attractive and the perfect romantic hero, while my dear better half didn’t bat an eye!!

It was even hotter the next day. We drove to Mousehole, and hubby set off on a coastal walk to Lamorna which sounded too strenuous for my liking, so I relaxed with a coffee and orange-and-rosemary shortbread at the Rock Pool cafe …

… with a fabulous view across bright blue sea and sky. No complaints there!

By the time I’d explored the harbour and narrow streets and one or two tempting shops, it was getting too warm for me, so I plonked myself on a bench at the harbour to wait for hubby …

then dragged him back to the Rock Pool cafe for a cuppa so that he could enjoy the same view I’d had that morning.

The next day was our final day, and we couldn’t help ourselves – we went back to St Ives.

Our main objective this time was the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, which we very much enjoyed. I’m not particularly ‘into’ sculpture, but I did like hers.

It was fascinating to read about the artist’s life, knowing that she lived and worked there from 1949 until she died in 1975. You can look through windows into her studio, imagine her working, then admire the admire her sculptures in the garden.

Afterwards, we walked all the way through town to Porthmeor beach, which we hadn’t explored last time, and had lunch overlooking the sands where surfing schools were busy.

After walking back along Fore Street, we had tea overlooking Porthminster beach, then sat on the sands for a quiet goodbye to this gorgeous place.

Despite the inevitable crowds, St Ives is a truly beautiful place. The light and colours are incredible, and it’s easy to see why so many artists are drawn to it.

The next day was a goodbye to Cornwall itself … for now. We will be back, and now that my brother lives down there, we have every excuse!

 

If you’ve enjoyed these posts, a few months ago I blogged about our visit to a different area of Cornwall and Devon last year:

A week in Devon

A Week in Cornwall