Would you rather live in Handcock’s Bottom or is Marston Bigot more up your street?

I had a whale of a time when conniving the settings for my cosy crime series The Shires Mysteries. Truth be told, I nearly wet my pants.

To find a name for the village that would host all of the crimes I had in mind, I needed something memorable but authentic – something that would sit comfortably alongside all the real-life places in my county. Something that didn’t sound out of place in the Shires.

I reside in a place called Upper Studley. Upper is a common qualifier for an English village and it sounds immensely better than Lower or Little. They are equally common but less classy than my Upper. Then you have the Bottoms. They are, well literally, at the bottom of the ladder. For how would one feel dwelling in Handcock’s Bottom, or Scratchy Bottom, or Bottom Flash? How about Crinkley Bottom or Bottom Burn? If you aren’t into Bottoms, then would you consider buying a cottage in Buttock or a small bungalow in Great Butts? They are real villages proudly inhabited by real villagers.

I decided against setting my stories in the nether regions. I set my sights high – closer to Upper than Lower. Upton struck me as a possibility. There are a lot of Uptons around here. Think Upton Cow Down – yes, it’s a real place that can be found on a map, as can Upton Snodsbury. But they seemed too pretentious to me.

Tiddley Wink tickled my fancy. It’s a not a big village. In fact, it isn’t a village but a tiny hamlet. When I drove through it for the first time, I blinked and I missed it.

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My mother-in-law is now a resident in a residential home located in Limpley Stoke. Oh yes, she is! When we visit, we can pop over to the village pub called The Hop Pole Inn. Oh yes, we can! Here it is:

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The Hop Pole Inn in Limpley Stoke

Ultimately, I opted against naming my fictional village using an existing name, so Tiddley Wink and Limpley Stoke had to go, as well as Booby Dingle, Grope Lane, Farleigh Wallop and Clench Common.

Finally, I settled on Bishops Well. Not very imaginative, I hear you say. Life can be so much more out of this world than fiction!

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The Church of St John the Baptist in Bishops Well
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Paris in mugshots

Daughter and I embarked on a mother-child bonding adventure in Paris, France. It was a perfect setting for finding common ground for it took our joint breath away and it made us contemplate things greater in life than our daily squabbles.

Places to visit in mugshots for those wishing to soak in some culture, history and arts in one potent cocktail, shaken – and – stirred:

Basilique du Sacre Coeur

Chateau de Versailles

Jardin de Versailles

Cathedral of Notre Dame

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The Eiffel Tower

Cruising on the River Seine

The Pantheon

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Louvre

Palais du Luxembourg

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We were swept off our feet, humbled, elevated and so very proud to be European. Admiring the wonders of architecture, sculpture, paintings and arts, wondering about the great minds – philosophers, writers and thinkers who laid the foundation of the unique European culture which shapes us today, remembering the history our ancestors built together, the blood they shed and the blood we share as it curses through our veins and makes us all one and same people, we couldn’t shake the sense of loss that is Brexit.  Cutting Britain off the face of Europe is the proverbial cutting one’s nose off to spite the face, an act of self-harm.

A few snippets of what we are -metaphorically at least – leaving behind:

 

Have you ever worried a sheep?

On our annual pilgrimage to the Lake District, we stopped at Lancaster. Apart from the uplifting medieval architecture, I was swept by the language of public notices: the bizarre, the quaint and the outright hilarious.

Looking for somewhere to park, we were disheartened to discover that most of parking spaces were reserved for Residents Only. And I must say, the local residents squatted on the wall resolutely, giving us an evil -beady- eye. Pesky lot!

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Going deeper into the old-town centre of Lancaster, I uncovered that another lot of ‘residents’ was having a much better time than they deserved, serving it at Her Majesty’s pleasure in one of Her castles offering no doubt five-star accommodation. Yes, I am talking about the Lancaster Prison. Imagine, putting in your CV where you have spent the last fifteen years! Nothing to be ashamed of, I hear you say?

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I elected not to enter that establishment however and headed for the lush Williamson Park. Alas, a word of warning: the place is rife with all manner of peril and countless dangers. To name one: shallow water! Beware, oh random passer-by and wear your armbands!

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To escape the clear and imminent dangers of Lancaster, we drove all the way to Grasmere in the Lake District – only to find out that the roads there were NOT FOR CARS! And I have the proof:

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So, one has to walk, hike, trundle, trudge, trot and climb – anything but drive a car! But, while you’re on-foot travelling, mind the SPEEDING RED SQUIRELS! They are quite some devils on wheels, and they totally and utterly disregard all the signs telling them to SLOW the hell DOWN! Look out:

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But never you mind the squirrels. Worrying sheep is a criminal offence in the Lakes, and quite rightly so! Sheep are genteel and anxiety-ridden creatures – you would be too if your future as a piece of lamb or, if you were lucky to live longer, as a piece of mutton, was mapped out for you at birth! So do not worry them! Tread carefully and sing lullabies when you pass them by on your hikes. Shhhh…

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But then again, do these faces look worried? Do they? Do they?

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Then again, appearances can be deceiving, I am afraid… Very, very afraid.

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Marching for people’s vote

It was one of those London outings that I won’t forget in a hurry. It didn’t involve the West End theatre production or shopping, but it was 100% pure London: people’s power in action. We were marching with the estimated 1 Million ordinary people for peace, friendship and unity of our small continent, sending a clear message to Mr Putin and Mr Trump who are so keen to divide and conquer us.

It was crowded, it was hot, it was slow-going as the mass of people filled every nook and cranny of the main streets and every side alley. There were youngsters hanging from scaffolding and statutes, waving EU and British flags. There was a great sense of comaraderie and good humour all round. Husband brandished Danny Dyer’s famous quote about Cameron and his trotters up in Nice. I grabbed a photo with none other but the now iconic STOP-Brexit Man who camps on the doorstep of the House of Parliament day and night, rain or shine, to deliver his message.

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Canada in instalments: 5(and last) Wildlife

Canada is brimming with all manner of creatures, large and small. But mainly large. They have the capacity to stop the traffic, and they often do. It is as if the entire effort of our human civilisation has passed unnoticed in this wild part of our planet. Quite rightly so!

Last few images from Canada to enjoy:

Canada in instalments: 5(and last) Wildlife — the last chapter

Canada is brimming with all manner of creatures, large and small. But mainly large. They have the capacity to stop the traffic, and they often do. It is as if the entire effort of our human civilisation has passed unnoticed in this wild part of our planet. Quite rightly so! Last few images from Canada […]

via Canada in instalments: 5(and last) Wildlife — Anna Evans-Wylie

Canada in instalments: 4 Nature

God has created Canada in his image – no doubt about that.  The Canadian mountains carry themselves with dignity. They are simply magnificent: ancient, rocky, covered with a thick blanket of impenetrable forests. They sit in splendid silence, letting Nature do her talking.

The Canadian Lakes are equally majestic. They are filled with spirits and dead souls, hiding dark secrets within their depths. Legends are told about them, passed from generation to generation. Some are sacred and you don’t have to be told to know that. You can sense it.

But I will let the photos tell their story:

Canada in instalments: 4 Nature — my travelogue on Anna Evans-Wylie

God has created Canada in his image – no doubt about that. The Canadian mountains carry themselves with dignity. They are simply magnificent: ancient, rocky, covered with a thick blanket of impenetrable forests. They sit in splendid silence, letting Nature do her talking. The Canadian Lakes are equally majestic. They are filled with spirits and dead souls, […]

via Canada in instalments: 4 Nature — Anna Evans-Wylie

Canada in instalments: 3 Its People

As mentioned previously, size matters in Canada. People there have big visions and they live in huge log cabins (you could carve a Titanic-type cruiser out of one of those logs!). Inside their enormous homes, they drink lots of spirits out of gigantic bottles (photographic evidence to follow in the slideshow below). They are also biiiig party animals. Every night they hold five-course meals for themselves and the legions of their many friends. Did I mention that Canadians are extremely sociable, chatty and generally great mixers?

But when in Canada one tends to go searching for the Last of the Mohicans. As did we. We tracked them down in the end and, although they didn’t resemble Daniel Day-Lewis closely, I felt like I caught up with the ghosts of the land. And I felt honoured to speak to those amazing – and elusive – people. That brought back memories of my childhood when I would always be an Indian when we played Cowboys & Indians. I even had a bow with arrows and a feather headdress!

 

 

 

Canada in instalments: 3 Its People — my Canadian travelogue

As mentioned previously, size matters in Canada. People there have big visions and they live in huge log cabins (you could carve a Titanic-type cruiser out of one of those logs!). Inside their enormous homes, they drink lots of spirits out of gigantic bottles (photographic evidence to follow in the slideshow below). They are also […]

via Canada in instalments: 3 Its People — Anna Evans-Wylie